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...

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