Tag Archives: Fans

Re-Serializing Sports Entertainment: Jeff Katz’s Wrestling Revolution

Professional wrestling is a storyteller’s medium.

Case in point: I spent my middle school years running a fictional wrestling federation on the internet, writing out extensive recaps of fictionalized wrestling events complete with matches, promos, and everything else in between. Using a combination of real WWE wrestlers and characters of my own making, I saw the world of professional wrestling as a place to explore my creativity (and, given the length of many of these pieces, teach myself how to type). None of these documents have survived, at least as far as I am aware, but I remember one particular pay-per-view I wrote was something like 70 pages long, an early sign of my long-winded nature.

This notion of fantasy storytelling remains quite common within the space of professional wrestling, enabled by programs such as Extreme Warfare and often influenced by frustration with the WWE and other available products. Extreme Warfare has no actual wrestling, instead putting the user in control of who wins, who fights whom, and how much time is given over to promos, etc. The user becomes the “booker,” the person responsible for deciding which stories to tell, which wrestlers to push or bury, and what kind of product they will sell to their virtual audiences. For any wrestling fan who has been frustrated with a booking decision (which is likely every wrestling fan in existence), fictional federations and simulators were a way to take over the role of storyteller and imagine a more satisfying narrative experience.

Earlier this week, one particular booking decision (which is airing tonight on WWE Smackdown) set off a firestorm of controversy within a subsection of professional wrestling viewers, and one of those viewers has taken an honestly fascinating step. Jeff Katz, a Hollywood producer, has started a Kickstarter campaign to create a tightly-serialized wrestling program that eschews the 52-week model of the WWE entirely. Specifically comparing it to shows like Dexter and The Wire, Katz is arguing that what wrestling needs isn’t just better decision-making, but an entirely different storytelling model which offers a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Katz has given the project 90 days to raise $100,000, and I find this whole idea to be incredibly fascinating. However, I’m not sure that Katz has provided any clear image of just what this “Wrestling Revolution” might look like. While he throws around a lot of comparisons that would excite fans of serious drama, and suggests that is what the WWE would be if it were written by Shawn Ryan, I have my doubts about whether professional wrestling is conducive to the kinds of stories he is imagining (and which I imagined back when I was a teenager).

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Achieving Authenticity: Unboxing (the Unboxing of) Game of Thrones‘ Maester’s Path

Achieving Authenticity: The Maester’s Path

February 27th, 2011

Map of WesterosThis week, an assortment of critics and bloggers received what is considered the first part of an ongoing “experience” called the Maester’s Path, a transmedia initiative to support the April 17th debut of HBO’s Game of Thrones. The fairly intricate wooden box features a collection of maps and other scrolls meant to be artifacts of Westeros, as well as a collection of scents that when merged together capture the olfactory essence of different locations.

I was lucky enough to receive one of these boxes from HBO, and I spent yesterday morning mixing scents, taking pictures and poring over the scrolls. This was, after all, what I was instructed to do by the scrolls within the box, and so I journeyed to King’s Landing (which smells of summer fruit and parchment) and the Dothraki Sea (which smells of campfire and “Khal’s herd,” which smells as you would imagine).

However, while this level of personal experience is encouraged by the hands-on nature of the activity, there is another step to this process. That step is telling all of you about my experience, sharing my pictures and detailing my impressions: it’s the step which is encouraged by the letter from HBO which sat on top of the box, rather than the scrolls from Westeros which were found inside, and it has manifested as a large collection of extensive “unboxings” which allow fans who did not receive a box themselves to still experience this “first link in the chain.”

The question now becomes at which point these fans will be able to walk the path themselves, rather than living vicariously through a chosen few.

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Save this Premise?: The Premature Campaign to Save Lone Star

Save this Premise?: The Premature Campaign to Save Lone Star

September 25th, 2010

When I realized that there was an online campaign to save Lone Star, I had two thoughts.

First of all, I was bolstered: rallying around Kyle Killen’s inspired support of the series, journalists and fans began to voice their support with Twitter hashtags and Facebook campaigns, and as someone who saw promise in the series I was pleased to see the show getting attention.

However, I was also struck by the fact that people are not really campaigning to save Lone Star. The majority are campaigning to save the idea of Lone Star, the notion that complex drama series not about policemen or lawyers have a place within the context of network television.

While I think this is a battle worth fighting, and I certainly am in support of the series continuing (despite my concerns over its longevity), I have some serious concerns about how this campaign relates to the text itself. When we have seen only a single episode, and when there were legitimate concerns of where the series goes from here, is this metric level of internet-related hype surrounding the series not simply creating expectations that the episode will need to live up to? Does this level of support not seem premature for a show that hasn’t even become a show yet?

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Invasion of the Fan Perspective: So You Think You Can Dance’s Top 8

Invasion of the Fan Perspective: SYTYCD’s Top 8

July 7th, 2010

You could argue that tonight’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance is, in itself, fan service: after some have complained that the series’ switch to an All-Star format has taken away from the audience’s engagement with the dancers, the series took an opportunity with the Top 8 in order to bring back the old format as dancers performed two dances (one with an All-Star, and one with one of their fellow competitors). As someone who has been underwhelmed by the supposed benefits of the All-Star format, I was pleased to see the series return to its roots, and I actually quite liked the balance between the individual and paired performances – it was a twist of sorts on the “Paired Dance + Solo” structure the show has worked with in the past, and I preferred it to those episodes as I’ve always found the solos to be pretty uniformly boring.

However, fan response to the show’s seventh season invaded the series in another, less formal, fashion in this week’s episodes, as the fans were acknowledged within both the rehearsal packages and critiques for a number of the dancers. The series has acknowledged its fans before, but I’ve rarely seen them viewed as such a force within the competition in both explicit and implicit fashions, which is contributing to what has been a very intriguing (if not necessarily even) season for the series.

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The Lost Weekend: Reflections on Reviewing Lost

Reflections on Reviewing Lost

May 22nd, 2010

There are a lot of articles floating around the internet right now about Lost’s legacy (including a great one from my brother), but I don’t necessarily know if I’m prepared to contribute to them.

This comes from the fact that I’ve already written about nearly every facet of this series. Because of my recent “Television, The Aughts & I” series, I’ve written extensively about how Lost was part of my initial initiation into the world of being a television obsessive. Due to the complaints piling up even before this past season began, I already wrote my lengthy diatribe against those who believe that Lost “owes” something to its fans. Since we were also already in a list-making mood before Season Six, I’ve done my list of key episodes as well. And not only has the mysterious nature of Season 6 kept the series’ conclusion almost entirely unpredictable, but reviewing every episode along the way means that I’ve already analyzed much of the season’s narrative in great detail.

However, I feel like I’m letting the haters win if I don’t write something “broad” ahead of the finale: I’ve been arguing for weeks that the people who believe that a finale could fundamentally change their opinion of the series are a bit nuts, so to avoid writing about the series’ legacy (definitively speaking) until after the finale would be conceding defeat on that particular argument.

So, taking all of this into account, I figure the best way to write about Lost is to write about the experience of writing about Lost, which feels especially timely considering the attack on Lost criticism in Mike Hale’s New York Times piece I responded to on Thursday. I am not paid to write about Lost, nor are paid critics necessarily required to write as much about the show as they do. If we ask why myself or my fellow critics write about the show with such passion, the answer would be part reflection on the show itself, part reflection on the fan culture surrounding the show, and part reflection on the ways in which television criticism has evolved over the past six years.

Critics write about Lost for reasons beyond its popularity, just as bloggers write about Lost for reasons beyond blog stats, and their reasons offer an interesting glimpse into Lost’s legacy and an explanation for why so many of us will be burning the midnight oil long into Monday morning and still writing about the show in the months ahead.

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The Scourge of Fandom: Why Lost Owes Us Nothing

The Scourge of Fandom: Why Lost Owes Us Nothing

January 28th, 2010

If you haven’t seen it yet (which seems unlikely, but whatever), The Onion’s fantastic bit of satire surrounding the final season of Lost making fans more annoying than ever is a wonderful piece of work. With the help of executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, they capture the sense of obsession that surrounds the show’s fans, and there’s just enough nods to the show’s mythology (and to other fandoms: check out the ticker for a shout-out to The Wire that slayed me) to make even the most obsessed crack a smile.

Final Season Of ‘Lost’ Promises To Make Fans More Annoying Than Ever

However, I believe that the Onion has failed to represent an even more annoying segment of Lost viewers that will threaten to destroy the internet as we know it come February 2nd (which is, let’s remember, only five days away). These are the viewers who have either predetermined how producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse must end the show or predetermined that they absolutely cannot end it to their satisfaction. These are the people who believe they deserve to have their questions answered, and that they are in some way owed a finale that lives up to their precise expectations.

And they’re the real problem here.

[Before reading the remainder of this particular article, you are required (okay, okay - urged) to go check out Maureen Ryan's fantastic, spoiler-free interview with Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, which I'll be referring to liberally throughout the piece. You can find Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 at her blog]

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