Friday, September 23, 2011

Television scrapes the bottom of the barrel....

Recently, the Emmys were held in Los Angeles and the industry fawned all over itself and slapped itself on the back for alleged " excellence" in programming....America's reaction to this display of mediocrity ? It yawned as more Americans tuned in Sunday Night Football than watch the "dreck" that was being lauded on the Emmys....small wonder.

The key issue is that the current state of what is offered presently as programming on TV is terrible. As the Brits would say, it is

Reality TV is the most unreality you can imagine - Shows that highlight the worst in human behavior and glamorize those who should be shamed for their actions. Shows like "Jersey Shore" and " Survivor " have only highlighted the worst of human interaction and how low morals have sunk in this country.

The Sit-Coms shown are mainly rehashed toilet humor and pale in comparison to some of the great shows from the past when a Sit-Com was something that made people think not just sit there and be disgusted.

Drama's still hold some degree of what made TV great but the hype for the next big series is overdone and all the shows produced are not worthy of praise but they still get hyped as if the show is on the same level with Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, etc. Too much of what is shown is unwatchable.

The bottom line is that the "product" produced by Hollywood is sub-par on many fronts. The studios put it out and the consumers buy it but there are many other venues and TV viewing is on the decline. Too bad that the decline doesn't spur the producers to make better could hardly get much worse.

The writer for the LA Times gives her overview of why the TV writers are focusing on the past with shows like MAD MEN, PAN AM, etc. The viewers (mainly females according to the author) are looking for something that doesn't exist in American society and wonders if we have made any real progress or were things better back then ? All that is left up to the viewer to decide.

Daum: Chick flick TV
Sure, the shows glamorize jobs that sexually exploited women in the early 1960s. But for many women, they may be entertaining as well.
By Meghan Daum / OPED LA TIMES

September 22, 2011

Perhaps it's been brought to your attention that this is a big week for retrograde representations of women on television. Monday marked the premiere of NBC's "The Playboy Club," a noir-ish look at Hugh Hefner's flagship Chicago club in 1963, and Sunday will see the launch of ABC's "Pan Am," a stylish, soapy paean to those proto-feminist archetypes known as stewardesses. With their curling cigarette smoke and hourglass-shaped, not-necessarily-Pilates-toned actresses, these shows suggest we're in a moment not just of "Mad Men" withdrawal (it won't be back until March) but out-and-out fetishization of the 1960s (make that the early 1960s, before things got complicated).

It's feminist backlash, right? How else to explain why, in an era where real-life women are running for president and running men off the road of life by any number of measures, women in serious dramatic television roles are still wearing girdles and gloves? Why else would producers set two much-hyped shows with female-driven ensemble casts in places where mile-high ass grabs are company-sanctioned and bunny tails are company policy?

Whatever the reason, don't blame men. For starters, men make up only 40% of TV viewers, according to recent figures. And lest you think that story lines rife with antiquated gender roles are a network ploy to appeal to that 40%, think again. According to Nielsen data, the No. 1 television show watched by men is "American Idol."

In other words, unlike the movie business, where the conventional wisdom is that male audiences call the shots (hence our current period of film history, which, thanks to auteurs like Judd Apatow, we might call la cinema de fart joke), television programmers have long paid close attention to female viewing habits.

Depending on your tastes, that could be a damning accusation because it suggests that women are responsible for, well, most of what's on TV. But it also raises some interesting questions about how women — perhaps especially those who've come of age since the women's movement — view their place in the world.

Can any situation depicting some kind of all-women institution automatically have feminist undertones, no matter how retrograde? Is it possible to glamorize oppressive, exploitative work while also offering a critique of it?

What are we to make of "Pan Am" star Christina Ricci's comment that the show will "send a message of how these women were free and in charge of their lives"? Moreover, how reliable a narrator is Hugh Hefner (yes, the one and only) supposed to be when, in a voice-over at the end of the first episode of "The Playboy Club," he declares that "the bunnies were some of the only women in the world who could be anyone they wanted to be"?

Plenty of evidence has accrued to suggest that Ricci and Hefner's views may be more than a little revisionist. Sociologist Arlie Hochschild famously studied the workplace of flight attendants and noted the demands of "emotional labor" as well as physical labor. Even more famously, Gloria Steinem went undercover as a Playboy bunny and revealed in a 1963 magazine article that the pay was lousy, the work physically grueling and the opportunities for advancement negligible. Last month Steinem called for a boycott of the NBC show, claiming that "it's just not telling the truth about the era."

That's undoubtedly true. But in fairness, these programs aren't claiming to tell the truth. They're telling stories — fairy tales, even. And just because they're set in a particular historical period doesn't mean they should be held to any higher standard of accuracy than any other ridiculous thing on television. After all, who complained that "Little House on the Prairie" minimized the hardships of 19th century pioneers?

Pioneers, of course, aren't a big market segment these days. On the other hand, women and their many roles, their sexual agency, their dollars and their votes matter. Or at least we're asked to evaluate TV shows in that light. But, let's face it, not every show is capable of being a cultural touchstone. Some are just entertainment — the sort that women, for better or worse, can be counted on to watch.

Sisterhood is powerful, sure. But sometimes only in terms of ratings.

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