Friday, April 11, 2014

Some things die..A slow Horrible Death...and Others are Reborn Blessedly

So...I was reading EW's rather blase story on series finales this week...It struck me that there are so many shows we come to love (which is really to say that we come to love the characters)--yet the finales? I don't know so much. Murphy Brown? Roseanne? Brilliant series that I didn't see through to the end because they frankly overstayed their welcome. Much like How I Met Your Mother--which I don't think overstayed so much as it meandered into nothingness.

So here's how you wrap up a show--short-list style:

MASH (sort of)
Newhart 2.0
Lost (it stayed true to the core of the crazy)
Friends (wrapped up what we needed to be wrapped up, and made you forgive Monica's descent into shrill annoyance)
St. Elsewhere (say what you will, it set a template)

My still worst ending ever likely has to be Seinfeld...and oddly, HIMYM reminded me of this.

1) don't insert 20 minutes of depression (melancholy is ok--depression is not) for a sitcom finale.
2) divorce I can live with. A character who developed and grew emotionally over a few seasons suddenly regressing in fast-forward to "baby=love!" is a cop out. Daddies loving their babies is not "new." Daddies loving their babies of a woman we never see is retrograde.
3) Killing off the mom? REALLY?! You could have gone there if you'd led up to it sooner and more subtly. Don't give us a great actress and cool female character and then kill her off because you need to satisfy some fan quotient for a coupling. Let Robin stay single--AND HAPPY. Maybe Barney with the baby-momma in a couple would have been progressive and even "deep." I don't know--felt very "kill off the ladies" to me (both literally and symbolically)--which is weird for a show called How I Met Your MOTHER. Somebody has been watching too much Disney.

OK--on to more interesting TV items before my son's spring break starts...

1) I have watched Doll and Em. I enjoy Doll and Em. I am not blown away by Doll and Em.

2) Pilot of Silicon Valley?  LOVED IT! Remarkable cast, and curious to see what they'll do with the death of a lead actor. I could do without the tech gal who looks like she's shy of being a supermodel by a few inches--but I like the potential of her character. (Might be nice to see somehow Felicia Day--I know that's a different world, but still-there must have been some key women somewhere in this mix of SV...) I'll withhold final judgment though--I did like the hierarchies laid out and the dismantling of "I'm rich and uneducated" philanthropy at work.

3) Colbert as Letterman?  OK--I'm mixed. I love Stephen Colbert. He knows his pop culture and I want to see Fallon dump pennies on his head. But, I don't know him as anything but a character. Daily Show, Colbert Show--he's always been in some kind of character. Fallon was always Fallon, Kimmel was always Kimmel. And (not that I have any best replacements, but...) it might have been nice to see a lady. In 10 years, yet again, we''re looking at a lot of old hip but white men running the cool spot of late-night comedy...

4) Stray. For all that is holy, let's see what happens with Mad Men. Sopranos be damned, this show rocks my world better. And even more: WATCH ORPHAN BLACK!!! If you are inspired by either a) good acting for women, b) good roles for women, c)  messed up take on science and health and family...well, just watch it. Even if it only is good for one more season it will have been the best available to us in some time.

5) That being said, broadcast still rocks. The follow-up to The Good Wife rocked. And Brooklyn 99's season finale made me pee my pants pretty much. Andre Braugher is a god and any show that can end with warmth and hilarity and visual gags is going to make me take notice. It's like Community had a baby with Parks and Rec. WATCH IT!!!

OK-on to seeing what happens when my 5 year old and his buddy come to be guest speakers in my Nickelodeon class...

Friday, March 28, 2014

WTF?! Good Wife--you killed and impressed me in one fell swoop...

That's my still stunned reaction to The Good Wife. Let me wax historical and philosophic and industrial for a sec here. Coming off of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference, I am struck by the lack of attention to broadcast fare. Can we still remember that most folks watch the Big 4 (and any number of basic cable channels like USA, TBS, MTV...). Where were the panels on the fun and fan-glory of Cougar Town, Psyched, Teen Wolf, PLL? Where were the panels on the remarkable inclusion of ASL on Switched at Birth or the stunning (albeit melodramatic) inclusion of "other family structures" on The Fosters? So I'll end my brief rant on how SCMS TV Studies panels too often replicate "Film Best Of" approaches to move on to what I've been privy to over spring break... (except to say, after a chat with a British scholar, that we still don't have enough truly valuable workshop/panels pertaining to the harsh realities/what-do-I-do-nows of MAs. MFAs, and PHds, and adjuncts--to our own peril...)

OK--my confessions. I don't watch Walking Dead--too much other good TV and I adore the novel. Behind on True Detective (too new, and sorry--and I am a former Austinite--McConaughey be crazy ego boy so I don't expect him to stick with the series...)

So--I stick to my tried and trues. Broadcast TV--especially when you ponder the limitations--is doing a variety of ass-kicking. Brooklyn 99 is hysterical and chock-full of stellar comedic acting at its best. Big Bang is holding its own and worthy of its renewal for 3 years. Why is no one discussing Parenthood's crazy survival (or doing a panel on Katims)? And please, why has there not been an almost-plenary on what Community has been from so many different perspectives?! Or Parks and Rec?

OK--enough about how SCMS shuns broadcast. Now my random Spring Break reactions to the finales I've seen.

1) Switched at Birth. Sorry, this is landmark TV, plain and simple. Can you recall, outside of appointment series, the last time a series (let alone a teen series), necessitated that you look full-on at the screen? I'll leave aside the compelling story lines and just go with the fact that ASL means you have to WATCH to catch the nuances and tremendous acting (both by deaf and hearing actors). And Community  and Big Bang fans-- Katie LeClerc, a hearing impaired actress from this series, did time here. It's great teen drama, showcasing ASL actors like Ryan Lane (also in Veronica Mars--the movie) and Marlee Matlin. Watch it. It will make you happy. OH--and Sandra Bernhardt--nuff said?

2) The Fosters. J-Lo's involved--and it might be the most truly meaningful work she's attached to. We seldom see the foster care system examined from a variety of angles, let alone the ins-and-outs of a lesbian couple doing the fostering. This is, simply put, the stuff I'd like any teen kids I know to be watching.

3) PLL (if you don't know what that stands for, you can move on). This is my most totally fun show. It's like Sex and the City set in some weird supernatural suburb of teen girls. One of the best serial mysteries out there with remarkable production values--and I know I ain't the only viewer over 15 who is slavishly addicted to it. Lesbians, body issues, ethics, mean girls, nice girls, smart girls--I really do think this is the epitome of "Millennial Girls TV"...Any show that makes me alternately love and hate the teacher sleeping with the student gets props for making me question "easy moral decisions"--but mostly, I love the interplay of guessing and predicting that occurs online across such a wide and diverse swath of ages and sexualities and races...Aside from Degrassi the Next Generation, this show figured out social media and TV first. We should be studying it more.

4) Cosmos--I just gotta' give props here. My 5 1/2 year old loves this reincarnation and it is captivating and informative. Do yourself the bizarre favor of watching something produced by Seth McFarlane and FOX and dive into this miniseries. It will make you fall in love with all things science and wondrous.

5) Veronica Mars--ok.  I finally got around to it after my American Airlines flight lost wi-fi. This was perfection (although really--can anyone explain to me what happened to Duncan, really?). I stopped watching the series towards the end (the rape storyline pissed me off), but was pleasantly surprised that I didn't feel in the dark because of that. Leave aside the genius of the Kickstarter campaign (and if you want to "see that coming," read my book Beyond the Box for how Rob Thomas predicted such an endeavor pre-Kickstarter)...This was just a fun movie, with cameos done even better (dare I say it?) than Muppet movies. Gratifying, true to characterization, felt like TV and a movie at once. Question (for next SCMS maybe)~ would it have been as gratifying without the Kickstarter element?

6) Good Wife--ok. Last but not least. I won't expound too long. But this really is one of the best dramas on TV (including cable--think of the restrictions). The episode was not so much clunky as pointing to several possibilities (we all knew that amazing Hunter Parrish was headed for something "just not right")...I thought he was going to just book or shoot himself or the professor (kind of love that we don't know if that professor was guilty). Maybe I'm tired as a mom-scholar, but I didn't see Will's death coming. And I am floored by the fact that no one spilled Josh Charles' departure--tat's rather epic. Maybe I'm also old, but the issues this show raises, both personal and professional, for women continues to make me happy to watch this show--and I'm pretty sure it's ratings would be higher if CBS HADN'T INSISTED ON PUTTING IT AFTER LIVE EVENT TV!!!! (and ergo, late all the time...) . Students of mine seeking drama writing (and directing and editing and music consultation--the show rocks in all these forums) this show.

OK--now on to other more "teacherly" things...

Monday, February 10, 2014

Is it Spring Yet?!

Alright y'all--we're going to"think spring" by focusing on the great opportunities that are on the horizon for students this semester, starting with tomorrow's visit from Gregory Van Horn of Chicago PD at the Portfolio Center.  Get ye there!
(And I make no promises but if you're a fan of Big Brother at all, keep an eye out for possible guests this spring--or next Fall...)

I know you are all struggling back into your groove after a brutal winter that just won't quit, but getting busy early and often will energize you, I promise! Good things come to the hard-working--like the TV students who created and produced Film Fridays, which just advanced to a finalist round at the New York Festivals World's Best TV and Films (which had the good taste to also advance my favorite show, Orphan Black.)  See FF here:

Need some fresh TV before Orphan Black returns? There's tons out there that's yummy right now! I'm indulging in my ABC Family diet of The Fosters, Switched at Birth, Pretty Little Liars and Ravenswood (silly plot but insanely creepy and scary). Fellow fans, you know who you are (and hopefully caught the Community visit from our lead on S@B). I want Ezra to go down and need Callie to get her act together. Girls has been treating me well (which I did not think would be possible after last season's underwhelming finale). I will let you know if any of the mid-season replacements catch my fancy, but do check out Amazon Prime's foray into original TV with Bosch. And in a pinch, re-watch Veronica Mars to prepare for the movie arriving March 14th!!

Now, stop watching TV and get busy applying for internships (see Christy LeMaster) and fellowships and scholarships--tis the season!  I'll tell you a weird secret--every year, the TV Department has to struggle to find enough people to apply for scholarships--get busy and apply, no matter how much of a long shot it seems. If you're "young," it's good practice at learning how to ask for money, something you'll need to do well in this industry! Visit:

Two more things: WaterCooler (our TV student journal online is assisting with a really cool event at DePaul this May focused on celebrating the work of Joss Whedon. Visit here ask me if you have any questions--and support WaterCooler!!!

Last--and pass it on: I'm on a team this spring that is looking at how the School of Media Arts can better prepare students for working in the complexities of the media industry today by working better across departments--especially in the area of non-fiction and in the area of online production. Tell me: What are we not teaching you that we should be? You should know where to find me...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Getting Through These Last Few Weeks...

Just some words of late-night advice (see? Teachers stay up late, too! :D) Most of you out there in Columbia-land are alternately planning travel home to see family and friends, cramming in pre-production on a shoot/script/paper/presentation, and wondering how you'll EVER get through to week 15.

You will. I promise. Here are some friendly tips, rooted in my own schedule right now and vague memories of my college days...

1) if you've been stellar with attendance and have room for that day off, now is a good time to take it. Cash in on the sleep, or dive into that assignment. CAVEAT: DON'T SKIP OUT IF THERE ARE PROJECT PRESENTATIONS AND SUCH--your peers need you there when they're (literally) showing their stuff.

2) Beaver's Donuts. Any other food trucks. If you must be out and about in the cold Chicago-street-wind-tunnels, get ye some hot grub and coffee from a truck.

3) Really--if you're struggling and panicking, please talk to your teachers. Don't wait until week 15. Ask that question--I promise it's not a stupid one--and own up to both your limitations AND what you're capable of doing. The silent student is the student we WANT to hear from the most. And do a solid to your friends and roommates--if you see THEM struggling, pass this on and give them support instead of judging. You just never know what someone might be facing and feeling.

4) Embrace Thanksgiving, for at least one full day. If you're with family and friends, practice "the Columbia speech" that explains why you're pursuing a degree in the arts and how that can in fact land you a viable career and a happy life. If you're "stuck" here in Chicago, make the most of it--there are TONS of good movies out, ice rinks are opening, and watching the tourists on Michigan is actually genuinely comical. And give real thanks, even if you're facing crazy uncles and old friends you are struggling to connect with and final projects that seem doomed to failure. (If there's anything that irks us teachers more, it's giving up in the home stretch. IS THERE EXTRA CREDIT? FIND THE TIME TO DO IT! REMAINING OFFICE HOURS? MAKE AN APPOINTMENT!) You are in college, pursuing your true goals (or figuring out what those are), and somebody somewhere hopes you're headed for happiness and fulfillment; there are many worse scenarios you could be facing. (Take another kind of walk down Michigan Avenue...)

4) Build in a break post-Thanksgiving week...Watch The Sound of Music live on NBC with Carrie Underwood. You know you want to. And at the very least you might catch a live mishap. Take part in the Holly Jolly Trolley event run by Radio and being distributed through the TV Department

5) Please, as a teacher and mom here, for the love of all that is holy, get at least ONE decent night of sleep.

Catch you on the after-tryptophan side...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Busy October in TV Land!

Alright folks--especially student-folks!  It's a busy month in October for TV stuff, so here are some tidbits first about upcoming events:

Cinema SlapDown--Girls!--on October 9th, at Film Row (8th floor of the Film Bldg), Chair if TV Michael Niederman and Huffington Post TV critic Maureen Ryan will debate the pros and cons of HBO's Girls, screening a few episodes. You get to ask them questions and offer your 2 cents! EXTRA CREDIT HISTORY STUDENTS: Attend and write up 2-pager that summarizes the debate and ties it to what we've discussed about gender so far (due week 9)

Bethany Rooney, acclaimed TV director--visiting on October 10th at 6pm,  room 1301 of the TV Dept. Bldg.

Parents' Weekend--weekend of October 18th...I'll be around somewhere :D on Saturday morning and happy to meet with any parents. Let me know if yours are coming so we can try to meet up!

RESOURCES: The Workroom

Located on the third floor of 916 S. Wabash, The Workroom is a multi-purpose construction/fabrication/open studio resource space. It is open to all students, regardless of department. Students are able to use the Workroom to work on projects and gain creative advice or support from the Workroom Staff if needed. The Workroom offers basic tools and materials used for construction, such as, scissors, glue (wood and white), rulers, hammers and screw drivers, and much more. The Workroom also offers some storage for in-progress projects. If the Student knows they will be using the space for a specified time frame, students are able to reserve space to ensure a place to work.

The Workroom also offers Workshops each semester that are free and open to all Columbia College students. Each Workshop is offered twice and varies in topic.  

To access the Workroom, students can walk in during our office hours, Monday through Friday, 12pm-7pm.

Emmy Thoughts:

Generally blah...still miffed that Tatiana Maslany didn't get nominated. And love Modern Family but enough already! Dead people montages never work, nor really does song and dance at the Emmys (or Oscars). Mayim Bialik (sp?) was robbed--though the lady from Nurse Jackie had the best acceptance speech ever.

New Show Thoughts:

I'm abysmally behind...but have liked Brooklyn 9-9, though maybe I'm just a little in love with Andre Baugher? :D EXTRA CREDIT HISTORY STUDENTS: watch any episode of a NEW fall BROADCAST show this term. Then write up a 2 pager that describes your episode and the show and relates it to the history of TV in some way. (Due last week of class.)

OK--off to more HIMYM catchup and such...Parenthood at the top of my list (though Parks and Rec made me cry a little this week too--in a good way...)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

School is Starting...

All right, folks--school starts in about 1 week!

My first blog of the academic year is mostly aimed at newbies (both firsters and transfers). If you're old school or alum, simply stay tuned her for my random TV thoughts (and alum per a fundraising event at Second City)...

NEW TO COLUMBIA IN ANY WAY? Please attend Convocation this Friday (there's food!) Give yourself time for the following:

1) book buying/finding

2) seek out where your classrooms are (not on paper--I mean physically go find the rooms because the first week is a crazy mess of students and slow elevators and hidden rooms). BEST TIP: show up 10 minutes early the first 2 weeks. If you're TV, ask John or Avery (our security guards) where to go and tell them I (Sharon Ross, TV) sent you.

3) get on your class pages--likely Moodle. See what's there. Ask about what isn't there. IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT MOODLE IS, SEND ME AN EMAIL AT

4) Figure out your nutritional needs ("nutritional" here used lightly--but hey--I AM a teacher!): There are some really amazing food trucks in the Chicago Loop that can broaden your horizons fairly cheaply beyond Dunkin (though they are quick on Harrison and Wabash), DQ, etc. Start here: South Loop is you. "General Loop" is walkable. West Loop will likely take too much time. My recs: and Also, when you need a slightly nicer lunch (parents in town?)--go to Hackney's and when you're jonesing for Mexican in-between classes go to Flaco's Tacos (next to Hackney's--they're quick and cheap)

5) The Dean of the School of Media Arts, Robin Bargar, knows his caffeine. And you should try to meet him once by start of Junior Year if you are in the School of Media Arts. Deans have taught and their job is to serve student development.

6) Now the teacherly advice: Make a point of meeting your teachers. Don't wait until you're frazzled...Find out their office hours and drop by for 10 minutes to say hi. Each of your teachers is busy with a gazillion things, but THEY WANT TO MEET YOU! We're not Gods/Goddesses, but we know an awful lot about Columbia that could be of use to you.

OK--Now on to my random TV thoughts (which is what most of this blog is):...

Teen Wolf (yeah, I know: "Teen Wolf?" you say?) is a great show. Think Buffy you Whedon fans...Everyone discounted that show, too, until it became hip. If you're into teen tropes, like Xander or Nathan Fillion--give Teen Wolf a chance on iTunes or Hulu...

Under the Dome-I've been enjoying but it seems crazily network slow.

ABC Family rocks my world. (I am learning a smidge of sign language, reveling in a depiction of a lesbian-led foster family, and [as all my past Teen TV students will attest to] ridiculously addicted to all things PLLiars. 

There actually look to be some new inventive broadcast series this Fall. Stay tuned for my reactions. I am still upset about the cancellation of The B#@$%* in Apartment 2-something..."

I'm over 40. The Good Wife is pretty much the best drama on broadcast (Parenthood a close second). If you're a true TV geek, you'll watch these shows for dialogue alone...

I am still (choose your word) "irritated" that Orphan Black got shunted in the Emmys. While it's relevant that NetFlix had nominations, Orphan Black kicks butt against those shows and actors. Did you like Fringe?  For the love of all that is holy to you, watch Orphan Black.

I like "Blurred Lines." I cannot explain why (musically, yes--video not so much.) Hannah Montana at the VMAs ruined it for me.

ALUMS--PALERMO SCHOLARSHIP EVENT 10/29/13. Long and short is a Second City event (bits of food, drink, silent auction, improv show just for us). Money goes to scholarships for TV students, the best of the best. We're aiming to offer 2 scholarships instead of 1. Tix are pricey in this economy, I know--but either consider the value of the event or donate what you can. Email me for more info.

So-check back!  Come see me!  I am (for TV students) your Associate Chair so don't be shy. And if you're not TV but just need some tips or advice, I am non-major discriminatory.

ps--I have a kid starting kindergarten...i.e., my posts don't come on a regular schedule! :D This may also result in the occasional Teen Titans Go review...:D


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pop Culture this Week: Death, Boredom, and Faux Hipness

What a wearying weak in media culture...Let's start with the Emmy noms, which bored me to tears. Most everyone (and show) is deserving--though I stake my claim that House of Cards--while not a bad show--is not all that great, either. Orphan Black was a better show, along with The Good Wife (once they took care of the Kalinda debacle)--and definitely Tatiana Maslany was robbed. There was more to like (or rather, less to yawn at) in comedy with Louie and Louis CK, Pohler (though Parks and Rec got robbed), and Mayim Bialik MUST win this year for Big Bang Theory, please! The only real surprise was Justin Bateman for Arrested Development. The award for faux hipness goes to the House of Cards could turn into a really great show, but it's not there yet and I think the nominations are the Emmys way of saying: "See! We're hip and not afraid of Netflix!" So, yawn...yet again.

Another Faux Hipness award goes to Rolling Stone magazine for its cover photo of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect. I don't buy their rationale that his age matches their readers' demos, and his image (pulled from one of his social media accounts) is important because it urges us to ask how someone "who looks like that" could potentially have done such horrible things. It's instead Rolling Stone seeking to garner a big buy by having a controversial cover. It very well may be that the story inside is a good and important one, but cover images matter and tell their own story. I'd chalk it up to bad judgement, but I think the editors knew exactly what they were doing when choosing this cover.

Faux hipness award extraordinaire goes to CBS and Big Brother. I've chatted about this on FaceBook so will just reiterate that an inability to publicly chastise the crazies in the house this year is tantamount to condoning the racism and homophobia. And the fact that it took too long for CBS/BB to even acknowledge on air that anything had occurred (reserving the vitriol for the paid web stream) is broadcast ostrich syndrome (head in sand! can't see it! doesn't exist!). It's not hip to hide behind "it's reality TV--a social experiment--" if you have to be publicly "made" to actually air the social experiment's most revealing moments.

Last, very sad news per Cory Monteith of Glee. It will be interesting to see if the producers decide to address his death's linkage to heroin in some way and not just write him out in a blase way. It's a chance for the show to address a serious issue--if they did gun violence last spring, they owe it to their viewers to examine the rise in heroin usage among teens and young adults as well.

Tune in...I'll likely return again right at the top of the semester!