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kottke.org posts about television

The Moral Calculus of COVID-19

posted by Tim Carmody   Nov 20, 2020

deep-space.jpg

You may have heard that MSNBC host Rachel Maddow has been quarantining at home following close contact with a person who had tested positive for COVID-19. You may have also heard that last night, Maddow returned to her show (still filming from home) to reveal that this person was her partner of 20+ years, artist/photographer Susan Mikula. Mikula is recovering, but at at least one point, the couple genuinely feared for her life. Maddow herself is still testing negative; with Mikula in much less danger and Maddow nearing the end of quarantine, they felt it was time to open the curtain on their experience.

If you haven’t seen it already, I’d like you to watch the video of Maddow describing her experience of living with a loved one who is suffering from COVID-19, whom you have to care for but cannot touch without grave risk to yourself, and then to others. (It is about Mikula’s own experience, but it’s really much more about Maddow’s experience, for good reason.)

Here’s a quick excerpt, if you want a textual preview (via Vulture):

“Just believe me: Whatever you have calculated into your life as acceptable risk, as inevitable risk, something that you’re willing to go through in terms of this virus because statistically, hey probably, it will be fine for you and your loved ones, I’m just here to tell you to recalibrate that,” [Maddow] warned. “Frankly, the country needs you to recalibrate that because broadly speaking, there’s no room for you in the hospital right now.”

She cites hospitals being overwhelmed with a “50 percent” increase in patients “in two weeks.” While it may be easy to risk your own life, the virus doesn’t let you make the choice. “What you need to know is whoever’s the most important person in your life, whoever you most love and most care for and most cherish in the world, that’s the person who you may lose and who you may spend weeks up all night freaking out about and calling doctors all over the place and over and over again all night long, trying to figure out how to keep that person breathing and out of the hospital,” she said. “Whatever you’re doing, however you’ve calibrated risk in your life, don’t get this thing.”

Another moment worth noting in the video is shortly after she begins. Maddow is interrupted by a recurring beeping noise in a room off-camera. She has to attend to it herself, in the middle of a live television show, because there’s no one else at home who can do it. She takes off her microphone and earpiece, then has to put it back on. After already revealing at the beginning of the show that she’s not wearing makeup—she doesn’t know how to apply it herself, and no one can help her—it’s a nice peek behind the scenes.

I don’t know if everyone always understands how much work it takes it is to perform for live television: how many accessories you need, how much support is required. People don’t see what you have to look like, sound like, or act like; they don’t see the almost cyborg contraption you have to become in order to make a successful television appearance. Being good at television is a specific skill. It’s as different from writing, reporting, or public speaking as football, baseball, and basketball are from playing polo. It doesn’t matter if you have your words on a teleprompter (although that does help): you still have to deliver them, in time, no backsies, and look and sound good while you’re doing it.

The disruption of the show also happens in the middle of a charming metaphor Maddow uses to describe her relationship:

The way that I think about it is not that she is the sun and I’m a planet that orbits her—that would give too much credit to the other planets. I think of it more as a pitiful thing: that she is the planet and I am a satellite, and I’m up there sort of beep-beep-beeping at her and blinking my lights and just trying to make her happy.

Compare this to Farhad Manjoo’s essay in The New York Times today, “I Traced My COVID-19 Bubble and It’s Enormous.” Manjoo starts with a classic dilemma: they know it’s unsafe in general to travel for Thanksgiving, but they wonder if it might be safer for their family, given the size of their social circle and the precautions they’ve taken. They’d like to find out more, to replace their general intuitions, which pull them in both directions, with something more concrete. This is a time-honored journalistic premise (a rhetorical trope, really) for answering a question many people might have.

In researching their close contacts, and their own exposure to other people, Manjoo quickly has cold water thrown on the notion that their bubble is in any way contained to the degree they’d imagined it to be. (This part of the story is well-illustrated: I’ll give you the text excerpts, but it’s worth clicking through and scrolling through yourself.)

I thought my bubble was pretty small, but it turned out to be far larger than I’d guessed.

My only close contacts each week are my wife and kids.

My kids, on the other hand, are in a learning pod with seven other children and my daughter attends a weekly gymnastics class.

I emailed the parents of my kids’ friends and classmates, as well as their teachers, and asked how large each family’s bubble was.

Already, my network was up to almost 40 people.

Turns out a few of the families in our learning pod have children in day care or preschool.

And one’s classmate’s mother is a doctor who comes into contact with about 10 patients each week.

Once I had counted everyone, I realized that visiting my parents for Thanksgiving would be like asking them to sit down to dinner with more than 100 people.

They aren’t actually done counting yet: from themself, they’ve only gone to three degrees of separation. But presumably, the point in the headline is made. The author’s bubble is enormous, and presumably the reader’s is, too.

Then a curious thing happens. Manjoo decides that what they’ve learned doesn’t matter. They thinks their family and their contacts are special after all. “All of my indirect contacts are taking the virus seriously—none of them spun conspiracy theories about the pandemic, or suggested it was no big deal or told me to bug off and mind my own business.” (This is a very low threshold for “taking the virus seriously.”) And they would really like to take their wife and children to see their parents. An epidemiologist gives them some cover, saying their desire to see their parents is understandable, and it’s all a matter of assessing and evaluating risk.

So, they change their mind again. They make a few concessions (drive, not fly; an outdoor meal rather than an indoor one; staying off-site rather than sleeping over). And they’re going to travel five hours each way with their wife and children and their 100+ direct and indirect contacts to celebrate Thanksgiving with their parents.

This is contrarianism on a scale not usually seen in a newspaper article. (They’re usually too short to take this many turns.) It is one thing to counter received wisdom by posing a counterfactual. It is another to spend hours of reporting, gathering facts, calling in experts, putting everything on the record, and then deciding that none of that matters.

On Twitter, I called it “the full Gladwell”; only Malcolm Gladwell at The New Yorker can consistently pull this hairpin twist off and stick the landing, even if he frequently violates good sense and plain facts to do it.

It’s important, though, that this is not just a rhetorical trick. These are the real lives of real people, both in the story itself, and radiating out to its readers and their contacts in a global newspaper, the United States’ paper of record. And the reasoning and evidence that are considered but discarded gives the illusion that this is a choice motivated not by setting reason aside, but considering all options and maximizing one’s expected utility.

Not to “both sides” this, but I’m gonna “both sides” this: in some sense, both Maddow and Manjoo are putting their thumb on the scales, in opposite directions. For Maddow, the experience of almost losing the love of her life makes it so that she would take no willing risk that might endanger her or anyone else. (She acknowledges that a certain amount of unavoidable, unwilling risk remains.)

Manjoo is different. They acknowledge that they have no such experience. They are less concerned with the possible loss of their parents’ lives than the loss of their presence in his life and in their childrens’ lives. They see the willing assumption of risk as an open moral question, and something that can be calculated and appropriately mitigated.

Maddow has constructed a universe where she is a tiny satellite orbiting a much larger planet, whose continued health and existence is the central focus of her concern. Manjoo has drawn a map with themself at its center, where anyone beyond the reach of their telephone falls off the edges.

Maddow is also explicitly pleading with her viewers to learn what they can from her experience, and adjust their behavior accordingly. Manjoo is performing their calculus only for themself; they implicitly present themself as a representative example (while also claiming they and their circle are extraordinarily conscientious and effective), but each reader can draw their own conclusions and make their own decision.

At this point the balancing dominoes tip over. Maddow’s position, her argument, and her example are clearly more moral and more persuasive than Manjoo’s. Manjoo’s essay is worth reading, but the conclusion is untenable. It doesn’t do the work needed to arrive there or persuade anyone else to do the same. And at a time when many people are spinning conspiracies about the pandemic, or claiming that it’s no big deal, and in turn influencing others—when we haven’t even yet considered the virus’s impact on the uncounted number of people, from medical staff and many other essential workers to prisoners and the impoverished, who do not simply get to choose how to spend their holiday—it’s irresponsible.

The larger moral tragedy is that because our leaders have failed, and too often actually worked to damage the infrastructure, expertise, and goodwill accumulated over generations, we have no consistent, authoritative guidance on what we should and should not do. We do not know who to trust. We have no money, no help, and no plan but to wait. We have no sense of what rules our friends and neighbors, colleagues and workers, are following when they’re not in our sight; we don’t even know what practices they would even admit to embracing. We have no money; we have no help. We are left on our own, adrift in deep space, scribbling maps and adding sums on the back of a napkin. We are all in this together, yet we are completely alone.

Update: An earlier version of this post used incorrect pronouns for Farhad Manjoo. Manjoo uses they/them pronouns. I regret the error, which, compunded, led to many errors. —TC

Second Update: Actually, Farhad uses both they/them and he/him pronouns. I am relieved I didn’t inadvertently offend the subject of my post with the first version, and since this one is still correct, I am not changing it back.

The end of Key and Peele

posted by Tim Carmody   Sep 10, 2015

Wesley Morris expertly examines the show’s achievements:

American television has always been fundamentally white. Its points of view emanate from the vantages of those who control the industry and create its content. If it deals with race as a problem, it typically can do so only if it believes there’s a solution. But as a black viewer, I’m never looking for contrition, simply an acknowledgement of a condition; I don’t need television — or American culture — to provide a remedy. Black America has tended to see the discrepancy between the cultural importance to diagnose and the delusion to attempt to cure. Merely giving a nonwhite person a speaking role is not absolution. That contradiction is visible to a black audience almost anytime it sees itself chauffeuring, housekeeping, mammying, best-friending, sidekicking, saying everything about white characters while saying nothing about itself. That was the biracial brilliance of Key and Peele. It understood race as real and racism as inevitable, and never lost sight of the way in which individual white people can be agents of change but also of offense, wittingly or not supporting a system of demoralization.

Kwame Opam discusses how the show lived and grew across the world wide web:

Key & Peele’s greatest strength and weakness was its format; as a sketch show, it’s best remembered for its bite-sized bits — most of which wound up online. “Substitute Teacher,” which first aired in 2012, is one of the show’s earliest highlights. It quickly went viral, and right it now boasts more than 80 million views on YouTube. Earlier this year, Paramount even announced it plans on turning it into a feature-length film. But the episode it premiered on only pulled in 1.16 million viewers at the time, a drop in the bucket compared to its online views. And it makes sense, especially for a huge swath of the population that doesn’t have cable. Why wait for the show when you can watch the best clips on the internet?

This is a complex but not unique irony: how a slice of pop culture in 2015 can be popular enough for the President himself to take notice (and embrace it), and to seem to have zeitgeist-defining properties, but not be quite popular enough to sustain a half hour in basic cable.

Maybe that’s tied to something Morris and Opam touch on but don’t quite name. More than any show on television, to my mind, Key and Peele felt young. Not young in the shallow way that all media, maybe especially television, seem to exploit young talent; not young in the same reckless, juvenile way Chappelle’s Show or vintage Saturday Night Live was; young in the open, searching, insouciant, absurdist key that’s so important to sketch comedy.

That’s what’s in the mix of what Morris rightly identifies as the show’s blend of sadness and acceptance. It’s youth knowing that this is not forever, that it would be wrong to linger, that the future (and everything good, bad, and unchanging that comes with it) is inevitable.

Slow TV

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 04, 2014

Slow television is the uninterrupted broadcast of an ordinary event from start to finish. Early efforts included burning Yule logs on TV around Christmas and driver’s views of complete British rail journeys (not to mention Andy Warhol and the pitch drop experiment), but Norwegian public television has revived the format in recent years. The first broadcast was of a 7-hour train trip from Bergen to Oslo, which was watched at some point by ~20% of Norway’s population. You can watch the entire thing on YouTube:

Not content with that, in 2011 an entire ship voyage was broadcast for 134 continuous hours. The entire voyage is available for viewing, but you can watch a 37-minute time lapse of the whole thing if you can’t spare the 5½ days:

As the show progressed and the ratings climbed (half of the Norwegian population tuned in at some point), the show became an interactive event, with people meeting the ship along to coast in order to appear as extras in the cast. Some even followed in smaller boats, filming as they went along in the ship’s wake.

Other shows included 12 hours about firewood (including 8 uninterrupted hours of a burning fireplace), 18 hours of salmon swimming upstream (which some felt was too short), 100 hours of Magnus Carlsen playing chess, a 30-hour interview with a noted author, and several continuous hours of sweater production, from shearing to knitting.

Shows currently in the planning stages include A Day in the Life of a Snail and “a 24-hour-long program following construction workers building a digital-style clock out of wood, shuffling planks to match each passing minute”. The slow TV concept might soon be coming to American TV as well.

P.S. Does this 10-hour video of Tyrion Lannister slapping Joffrey count as slow TV? Either way, it’s great.

Twelve Monkeys TV adaptation is in YOUR FUTURE

posted by Tim Carmody   Aug 26, 2013

Looks like Syfy has ordered a “cast-contingent” hour-long pilot for an adaptation of Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys, with an eye to make it into a proper TV series. One of the producers of Gilliam’s 1995 film is on board, and Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett, who both worked on Terra Nova and Nikita, wrote it. The model here is Battlestar Galactica: a movie reboot that could be a mini-series that could be multiple seasons.

Syfy’s Mark Stern talked about it with The Hollywood Reporter, back when the pilot was 90 minutes long and still waiting to be approved for production while the network and producers figured out what the whole series would be about:

It’s a return to our roots in terms of science fiction: cool, interesting push-the-genre science fiction. Some we’re looking at doing straight to series, because you really want to give them the flexibility and do a closed-ended, arced run. Some of them are going to be traditional pilots, and then we’ll decide and they may be a bit more episodic.

Given the time-travel theme, the fact that the source material (both Twelve Monkeys and La Jetée) are well-known, and the way TV’s changed over the last ten years with jigsaw-puzzle series like LOST and the revived Arrested Development, I’m curious to see if the showrunners might mess around with the timelines a bit, jumping around, giving the audience previews of things the story doesn’t explain right away, and generally making Doctor Who look like it’s for precocious kids (which, really, it kinda is).

Via Adi Robertson at The Verge.

Mad Men coming

posted by Aaron Cohen   Mar 23, 2012

Season 5 of Mad Men starts on Sunday. It’s been on hiatus for 12 years, and it might be hard to remember season 4 without some of the Mad Men related info linked below. With such a long break, there’s been quite a bit of Mad Men news floating around. In order to cut it down a little, most of this stuff is from the last week or so. Don’t try to eat it all in one sitting you’ll get a stomach ache and have to sleep off your hangover on your office couch.

-Here’s where we left off in Season 4.

-Everything Don Draper Said in Season 4.

-Although, Matthew Weiner has asked reviewers with advanced copies of Sunday’s premier not to discuss key details in their previews, such as the year this season takes place, Weiner is changing a song featured in the episode because it wasn’t released until 6 months after the episode takes place. ‘Look of Love’ was released at the beginning of 1967 placing the episode in, or around, the summer of 1966. This is about a year after Season 4 ended. Maybe this is subterfuge?

-George Lois is still mad.

-Newsweek recently had an issue celebrating the return of Mad Men where the ads were all retro. Here are all those ads.

-The psychotherapist who consulted on Mad Men’s development talks about why the characters feel so real.

-Some (spoiler free) previews of what to expect on Sunday.

Imagine if Mad Men was a Nintendo game…

Magnetic Attitude, Community’s teenage prodigy

posted by Tim Carmody   May 05, 2011

NBC’s Community has a minor character (nick)named Magnitude, who overwhelmingly speaks in just a single catchphrase — “Pop Pop!” Both the character and the phrase have unexpectedly taken off. Here’s their first appearance:

The Wrap’s John Sellers has written an oral history of Magnitude where show creator Dan Harmon (along with actor Luke Youngblood and staff writer/character creator Adam Countee) fills in the character’s surprisingly rich backstory. Highlights:

Harmon: In the end, I really liked Magnitude because I realized that the reason he calls himself Magnitude is because it stands for Magnetic Attitude.

Countee: This guy has a nickname within a nickname. The layering of the character, I thought, was so funny and so brilliant. That little nuance spoke volumes about who this kid is and who this kid is trying to be.

Harmon: At some point, we had to give Magnitude a birthdate. And someone decided that he was 16 years old. We were like, “That’s hilarious.” He’s, like, some kind of weird prodigy. There is also a deleted couplet from the election episode. Magnitude is up there talking, and the dean applauds his bold urban flavor. And in response to that, Shirley, in the audience, says, “Bold urban flavor? Please. That boy’s from Barbados. His father’s a cardiologist.” So, there’s some biographical information to add to the canon.

Weirdly, when I lived in Chicago, my roommate Bob:

  1. looked surprisingly like Magnitude (same haircut, same glasses, same attitude)
  2. BOTH his parents were cardiologists
  3. the family wasn’t from Barbados — they were from Nigeria.

He disappointed the entire family by getting an MA in psychology, then dropping out and spending all day listening to Gang Starr, drinking brandy, and reading books about conspiracy theories and the paranormal. He was easily the best roommate I ever had.

Reality on television

posted by Tim Carmody   May 03, 2011

Kelefa Sanneh offers a little history of reality television’s transformation from public documentary to commercial game show:

On January 6, 1973, the anthropologist Margaret Mead published a startling little essay in TV Guide. Her contribution, which wasn’t mentioned on the cover, appeared in the back of the magazine, after the listings, tucked between an advertisement for Virginia Slims and a profile of Shelley Winters. Mead’s subject was a new Public Broadcasting System series called “An American Family,” about the Louds, a middle-class California household. “Bill and Pat Loud and their five children are neither actors nor public figures,” Mead wrote; rather, they were the people they portrayed on television, “members of a real family.” Producers compressed seven months of tedium and turmoil (including the corrosion of Bill and Pat’s marriage) into twelve one-hour episodes, which constituted, in Mead’s view, “a new kind of art form”—an innovation “as significant as the invention of drama or the novel.”

“An American Family” was a hit, and Lance Loud, the oldest son, became a celebrity, perhaps the world’s first openly gay TV star. But for decades “An American Family” looked like an anomaly; by 1983, when HBO broadcast a follow-up documentary on the Louds, Mead’s “new kind of art form” seemed more like an artifact of an older America. Worthy heirs to the Louds arrived in 1992, with the debut of the MTV series “The Real World,” which updated the formula by adding a dash of artifice: each season, a handful of young adults were thrown together in a house, and viewers got to know them as they got to know one another. It wasn’t until 2000, though, that Mead’s grand claim started to look prescient. That year, a pair of high-profile, high-concept summer series nudged the format into American prime time: “Big Brother,” a Dutch import, was built around surveillance-style footage of competitors locked in a house; “Survivor,” a Swedish import, isolated its stars by shipping them somewhere warm and distant, where they participated in faux tribal competitions. Both of these were essentially game shows, but they doubled as earthy anthropological experiments, and they convinced viewers and executives alike that television could provide action without actors.

The essay includes this tidy and maybe prescient quote from Mark Andrejevic’s 2004 book Reality TV: The Work of Being Watched:

The Illinois housewife who agrees to move into a house where her every move can be watched by millions of strangers to compete for a cash prize exhibits more than an incidental similarity (albeit on a different scale) to the computer user who allows Yahoo to monitor her web-browsing habits in exchange for access to a free e-mail account.

Here’s another thought. Traditional game shows are spectacles of consumption, plus luck. Think “The Price is Right” or “Supermarket Sweep,” where you try to win household and luxury goods based on your knowlege about household and luxury goods.

Now, game shows/reality TV are overwhelmingly about work — “American Idol,” “Survivor,” “The Apprentice,” “America’s Next Top Model.” The incentive at the end, if you win, is that you’ll get enough fame and exposure that you’ll win the right to continue to work.

The aspiring model/singer/washed-up celebrity who agrees to go on stage and engage in cutthroat competition with other aspirants to satisfy the whims of mercurial judges exhibits more than an accidental similarity to unpaid interns and at-will employees who can likewise be cut loose at a moment’s notice.

We’re all in the prize economy now.

PS: I still think Chappelle/Puffy’s rant starting around 4:20 is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

Words to live by

posted by Aaron Cohen   Aug 02, 2010

“So here’s some advice I wish I would have got when I was your age… Live every week like it’s shark week.” - Tracy Jordan

In its 24th year, the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week is really coming into its own on the internet. At least on the meme-filled internet of Tumblr/Twitter/Reddit etc. Add in the clever guerrilla marketing of having sharks appear off the coast of Cape Cod and NJ this past week, and you’ve got the makings of a media phenomenon I can hardly bear.

Live 30 Rock Episode

posted by Aaron Cohen   Aug 02, 2010

In case you missed it on Friday, NBC announced that the October 14th episode of 30 Rock will be performed live. In fact, they’ll be performing 2 shows, one for the East Coast and one for the West Coast. (Pro tip: Air the opposite coast’s episode before the next week’s show.) I am, of course, excited to see the Tracy Morgan/Tracy Jordan combo live.

Incidentally, the Wikipedia entry for Live Television is jam packed with interesting nuggets such as an incomplete list of notable live television episodes (West Wing, 2005. ER, 1997). Also, the last scripted series to “do it live” regularly was Roc in 1992.

Lost finale roundup

posted by Aaron Cohen   May 21, 2010

I get giddy around big television events. The Lost finale this weekend certainly qualifies and a big question is, “Will fans of the show be satisfied with how it ends?” From Seinfeld to the Sopranos (for different reasons), series finales have a history of being disappointing. In this way, it’s almost easier when a show is canceled because then we get to blame the network as opposed to the writers. That said, I want to be satisfied Sunday. LOTS of other people are talking about Lost this week. Here’s what some of them are saying:

Doc Jensen

I’m ready for the final chapter, ready to see how it sums up the season and brings the series to a close. I’m ready to watch meaning (which, to be clear, is different than answers)… But will the meaning leave us in despair, or take us into happily ever after?

TV Guide Magazine

What makes Lost so special is that it never spelled things out for us the way a normal TV show does. It defies formula in a medium that regularly rewards it. Lost asked us to get lost within the show and to be satisfied with being lost for most of its run. TV almost never operates that way.

NYTimes.com:

The show had one good season, its first. It was very, very good …but none of the seasons since have approached that level, and the current sixth season, rushed, muddled and dull, has been the weakest.

NPR

To me, some of the trick of Lost has been that some things are important and some things aren’t…And that doesn’t bother me at all, because that’s part of constructing a convincing universe.

Newsweek.com

I’m not saying there aren’t major mysteries of Lost that I don’t want solved…But I’ve accepted at this point that the running tally of questions I’ve had about the show will likely never be answered…I don’t want them to be. Why? Because the answers would probably suck.

3 Lost Links: Lost Re-Enacted By Cats and I’ll Never Be Lost Again, a hip hop homage, and this from the National Post.

Slate Magazine

Or perhaps the message will be that we should all find meaning in one another, instead of in some mystical riddle. (A swipe at religion? An affirmation of personal agency? A meta-critique of fans who take the show waaaay too seriously?)

The Atlantic

It’s all going to come down to this: is this a story about fate or choice? All along, many clues left us thinking it was a matter of fate: the numbers, the crazy mainland connections, Jacob’s touch…

Jezebel

The show really had a lot of ground to cover this season in order to satisfy its loyal fans, but I think we all knew deep down that we’d never really know everything. Still, we were thrown several bones of juicy Island lure…

io9

If you think of Lost as being one big novel…then the stuff that happened in Chapter Five ought to be meaningful in the final chapter. There ought to be a sense that everything was leading towards this ending…

NYMag

Nothing that was key in the early seasons…is even in play. Even the ambiguities of “Across the Sea” now seem like attempts to shade the battle between mustache-twirling, murderous Smokey and his limp, Jesus-y antagonist.

Sepinwall

And now we see that the writers have saved the explanation of the sideways universe for the finale. Even with all that extra time to play with, that seems like an awful lot to squeeze into the finale…I still find myself oddly trusting that they know what they’re doing with this finale.

TIME

Inevitably, any answers we get from this point on will satisfy some people and not others.

The Watcher

Did their deaths have meaning or were they just more victims of the seemingly endless battle between the Man in Black/Smockey and Jacob? This episode started the process of claiming that their deaths did indeed have meaning…

The Boston Globe

For a drama that traffics in philosophy, religious allegory, physics, and literary references from Jane Austen to Kurt Vonnegut, “Lost” has a decidedly B-movie feel. After the remarkably cinematic 2004 pilot episode, set immediately after the Oceanic 815 plane crash, the adventure has been pretty schlocky.

Zap2it

With only two and a half hours to go, there’s simply no way for the show to answer every lingering mystery still up for discussion. I’m not entirely sure that’s a bug as a much as a feature.

WSJ.com

If we give the writers a little grace and extend some patience, the suspense leading up to the finale of this television show could teach us something about faith in general.

Defamer

We propped up the show with our eyeballs, our blog posts, our participation in those agonizing summertime internet Easter egg hunts. They created the whole thing, out of nothing…Let them end it their way.

LATimes.com

For years series were canceled and disappeared without ceremony, but nowadays…it is more usual to aim for some sort of closure. (Just as it’s become more common, in life, to think we need it.)

KansasCity.com

If we were to do a poll on which of the three retiring shows will have the longest and strongest afterlife, I’d bet the winner would be “Lost.” Of course, the poll would be conducted on the Internet, which is sagging under the load of commentary…

Best Week Ever

What They Died For Better Not Be That Stupid Light

PopMatters

Now I’m just holding on for whatever may come. As long as it isn’t a snow globe in an autistic child’s hand, I’ll be okay.

USATODAY.com

Fates will be decided, questions will be answered, and one of TV’s greatest series…will come to its conclusion. Not since The Fugitive, one suspects, has a series finale been greeted with such anticipation, and such dread.

Bart Simpson’s blackboard

posted by Aaron Cohen   May 19, 2010

Recently, Mat Williams hand wrote 288 of the lines Bart Simpson writes on the blackboard to open every episode. He used 20 white markers over 2 days to complete the work on the 22m long blackboard at Work Club, a London based ad agency. Clicking here will allow you to zoom in on any part of the blackboard, while clicking here will allow you to watch a video of Mat skateboarding through London and writing on the blackboard in a Bart Simpson mask.

Incidentally, there have been 463 episodes, and Bart doesn’t write on the chalk board in the opening to all of them. To read a list of all the openings, go here. To SEE a list of all the openings, go here. There’s an electrical outlet in front of Bart’s knee in every season except season 1 and season 21. This might only be interesting to me.

(via nerdcore + thedailywh.at)

Television stimulus needed

posted by Aaron Cohen   May 17, 2010

NBC announced on Friday that Law and Order would be canceled after 20 years.* As the New York Times ably put it, “the wheels of TV justice will soon grind to a halt.” City officials estimate that the show pumped about $1 billion into the New York City economy. And won’t someone think of the actors.

Several casting directors for theater, film and television estimated on Friday that the majority of actors’ resumes that came across their desks included “Law & Order” credits. Some actors who worked chiefly in New York theater, drawing weekly salaries of $500 to $1,500 for their stage roles, supplemented those paychecks by playing judges, jurors and police officers on “Law & Order.” Pay for those jobs ranged from a few hundred dollars to $1,000 or so a week for only a few moments of screen time.

*They also announced that Heroes would be canceled, but I didn’t know that was still on.