Category Archives: Off-Site Learnings

The Recent Proliferation of Off-Site Learnings

So, you may have noticed that posting has slowed around these parts. This actually isn’t particularly bizarre, as the academic term is really kicking into gear, but the fact that I’ve been writing in some new outlets has sort of exaggerated this delay.

I sometimes forget that not everyone who reads the blog doesn’t use Twitter, and so I have been remiss in not making note of these off-site learnings (as I call them) more available to this audience. So, I’ve added buttons to the right hand side of the page, and will contextualize my contributions below (click the buttons to find all of the content discussed).

Antenna

First, I’ve been doing a considerable amount of work at Antenna, which is run out of Media and Cultural Studies here at University of Wisconsin-Madison. It’s a good outlet for topics of more academic consideration, often shorter pieces which identify and explain a concept before opening it up for discussion. It’s been a good exercise in more concise writing, and has led to some great conversations, so I’d definitely be bookmarking the site if you like this sort of discussion (which happens almost daily with the site’s myriad of highly intelligent contributors).

My posts have included two pieces on television showrunners on Twitter, a piece on Halloween episodes, another take on the Mad Men finale, and today’s piece on watching Twin Peaks for the first time as the initial entry in our new “Late to the Party” series.

The A.V. Club

You may know that I’m reviewing The Office for The A.V. Club this year, but this week saw a bit of expansion: I filled in for Zack Handlen on Sons of Anarchy last night, and I also offered my thoughts on Weeds’ sixth season on Monday. I don’t expect a huge expansion of my work for the site in the near future, but I certainly enjoy contributing and taking part in the subsequent discussions, so this is yet another space where you can find my work.

I will continue tweeting when these pieces go up, and may do a weekly roundup should it seem warranted, but the buttons on the sidebar (under “Off-Site Learnings”) will be your best way of finding this content in the future.

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Lighter, not Lesser: In Media Res confronts the Enigma of Summer TV

Whenever I write reviews of summer television, I always sort of rub up against society’s general conception of summer programming – for example, if I get around to reviewing Covert Affairs, my review will likely discuss how its low-impact spy environment feels like “Alias gone Summer,” which implies that there is something about Alias (a darker vision into the struggles facing a new CIA recruit) which is inherently different from summer programming. In these reviews I rarely offer an overarching glimpse of what summer television is, largely because it means something different to every network and every viewer, and its meaning changes from year to year. There is no definitive role which summer television plays, and this summer’s programming has us no closer to understanding the enigma which is television’s most maligned, and yet perhaps most fascinating, season.

Well, this week a Fellowship of Summer Television (ala the Fellowship of the Ring) has converged at In Media Res to confront this enigma, as a collection of professors, critics, grad students and even unaffiliated intellectuals have come together to discuss trends within summer television, or the historical or social context of some of the season’s most popular programs. The goal of the week, which I’m very proud to be a part of, is to better understand how viewers and the industry confront summer television: the pieces are short observations accompanied by a video or a slideshow which provides additional context, and our goal is not achieved through extensive analysis but rather through discussion and interaction. In fact, the pieces aren’t even as long as this blog post, which long-time readers will know made this project particularly challenging for me; however, the result was a greater focus on the core of my idea, and throughout the week as others pieces have been posted I’ve seen how clarity of purpose helps to create new avenues of discussion that even the longest of independent posts wouldn’t have been able to achieve.

So far this week, Charlotte Howell looked at the ways in which USA Network has formed their own genre, while on Tuesday Jaime Weinman looked at how the Summer’s breakout cable hit, TV Land’s Hot in Cleveland, is related to both 90s sitcoms and Disney’s efforts to target the tween demographics with similar fare. Yesterday, meanwhile, Jeremy Mongeau looked at how summer series use pleasure (or the appearance of pleasure) to create a ‘must watch’ series amidst a season very different from fall or winter. Tomorrow, Chris Becker is going to look at how DVD marathons are changing our summer viewing habits, which I’m very much looking forward to.

However, today is my day, and I am looking at something which nicely bridges the gap between Jeremy’s discussion of what makes a successful summer series and Chris’ discussion of the ways in which alternate viewing methods are changing those qualifications. I discuss what I call “Seasonal Synergy,” that being an inherent (and clearly understood by both network and viewer) connection between a series and the summer in which it airs, or premieres. I specifically look at Royal Pains and Burn Notice, and how the challenges the series have faced after becoming so synonymous with the sunniest of seasons.

The Rigidity of Seasonal Synergy – In Media Res

If you’re intrigued by summer programming and interested in discussing more about it (or hearing more about it), I truly suggest clicking through and reading these great pieces. Summer TV may be lighter than regular fare, but I do not believe it to be lesser, and discussions like this one (masterminded by Noel Kirkpatrick) are integral to better understanding what role it plays in our media consumption and in the industry as a whole. I’ll be reflecting on the week as a whole, including an elaboration on my own piece, early next week, so stay tuned for that as well.

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