Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Is Anything On TV?

This was a question I used to ask when the choices at my childhood home were very limited.  We didn't have cable while I was growing up and there were only the "Big Three" networks.  (I know, it sounds like I spent my childhood drawing pictures of a mastodon hunt on the walls of a cave.  I didn't.  The earth was still cooling and was too hot for organized hunting trips.)  Nowadays, there are many more choices.  More networks on "regular" broadcast television, plus "netlets" like the CW, plus basic and premium cable, plus DVR technology, as well as watching-on-demand streaming technology.  But there's still that basic question -

Is anything on?

Well, yes.

Over at the Rewatch, Season Six of Buffy ends with Buffy digging her way out of a grave - her second that season.  But the world she emerges into is one that has both radically changed and one she wants to actually live in.  An excellent write up to conclude what is often a dark and unfairly derided season.

The film class took a break from watching feature-length films to look at what television can do.  I wanted to mix things up, so I included a stand alone from a classic show ("The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" from Twilight Zone), an example of "what if we broadcast through the Internet instead of waiting for a green light from the suits?" (Whedon's Dr. Horrible which also sparks good discussions on role expectations and the use of sound, which is the focus for next week) and an episode from a longer narrative arc ("Ballad of Fallen Angels" from Cowboy Bebop).  This is a hard week to winnow down the viewing - in its infancy, television was viewed as stage and film's not-quite-up-to-snuff little brother, but I'd argue (along with others, such as New York Magazine's Emily Nussbaum) that certainly isn't the case nowadays.

Wait, you say.  There's a lot of trash out there.  Indeed.  And there always has been, whether the "out there" is TV facing your sofa or the widescreen at the local multiplex.  Here's a simple plan to work around that - if it's trash, either don't watch it, or watch it KNOWING that it's trash.  (I, myself, have occasionally gotten sucked into so-called "reality" TV featuring supremely starved and toned women who wear flip-flops that retail for more than my good china.  A little bad can be good for you - just don't think it's real.)

And look for the good.  I'm finally doing an organized watch of Straczynski's Babylon 5 which looks quite promising (despite the late 80s synth pop that will apparently come back in the future, along with shoulder pads) as it asks the Big Questions - "Who are you?"  "What do you want?"  Important questions to ask, and to answer, as you go along in life.

I'm also impressed with Ringer (although I'm behind in my watching of it) which I'm finding to be a fun show with some unexpected twists.  But the one I'm really hopeful for is Grimm.  The pilot episode sets up what seems to be a solid framework - there's at least one strong female character (who hopefully will pull through and be an ongoing force; fairy tales have too many passive women), some great comic relief, and a pervasive tone of darkness that really ought to be in fairy tales, which originally were (after all) cautionary tales for adults, not bedtime stories for sleepy children.

We'll see, but until then, don't leave the path!

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