Tag Archives: Disability

Huge – “Parents Weekend – Part One”

“Parents Weekend – Part One”

August 23rd, 2010

In “Letters Home,” which was, like “Parents Weekend – Part One,” scripted by Gayle Abrams, we ‘met’ the parents.

Sure, we only met each camper’s parents through letters they wrote to them, but we got a sense of how each of them related with their parents. Trent, instead of writing to his father, writes to his deceased mother, while Will writes a scathing letter to her parents which she promptly rips up when she realizes it’s too honest for her standards. We didn’t actually meet their parents, but we saw enough to understand that family relationships play an enormous role in the larger psychological issues at play in the series.

Over the weekend, I watched the pilot to Winnie Holzman’s My So-Called Life, which is available on Hulu and which was pretty fantastic. That series was similarly interested in the relationship between teenagers and their parents, but what sets Huge apart for me is how many diverse scenarios its camp setting allows it to present. Whereas more dramas would be content to follow a few pairings, the sheer depth of this cast means that there are a good half dozen parental scenarios which unfold in the span of the episode, each connecting to the same basic themes while presenting an entirely different set of circumstances.

It doesn’t exactly have as much of a cliffhanger as it thinks it has, and treads water in a few too many areas, but there’s some really great subtlety here which continues the series’ trend towards greatness.

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Glee – “Dream On”

“Dream On”

May 18th, 2010

I made a case a few weeks ago that Glee would work better if it wasn’t so concerned about plot or character development: if each individual episode were allowed to serve as a standalone story about high school students overcoming adversity through the powers of song and dance, I think the show would feel less rushed, less burdened by the need to maintain something approaching momentum. By focusing on ongoing character arcs, it means that the show’s whiplash storytelling feels like the show is being pulled in fifteen different directions, and characters who appear only occasionally in the “main” narrative feel objectified when they’re given the “spotlight” on rare occasions.

“Dream On,” I would argue, works in a bubble: if you choose to take an entirely anachronistic view to this series, then there are inspirational moments, some decent jokes, and some strong musical numbers, all of which is well directed by Joss Whedon and bolstered by Neil Patrick Harris’ presence. However, once you start thinking about these characters as something more than archetypes and think about where they’ve been in the past and how they came to be in these situations, you start to realize that something doesn’t add up. We’ve seen these stories before, and in some ways we’ve moved past these stories, and the expectation of character development feels betrayed by the apparent regression.

I want this show to be able to show me growth in its characters, and I want it to work harder at developing ongoing storylines that make sense and which enrich the show’s storytelling, but I feel like they don’t have the execution or the vision to pull that together, which makes me wary of the show’s long term prospects amidst the hype surrounding its more successful (and more popular) elements.

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Excellence on Selective Terms: Rewarding Series Television at the Peabody Awards

Excellence on Selective Terms

March 31st, 2010

The criteria for earning a Peabody Award, a prestigious honour in the area of electronic media, is listed as follows on the awards’ website:

The Award is determined by one criterion – “Excellence.” Because submissions are accepted from a wide variety of sources and styles, deliberations seek “Excellence On Its Own Terms.” Each entry is evaluated on the achievement of standards it establishes within its own contexts. Entries are self-selected by those making submissions and as a result the quality of competing works is extraordinarily high. The Peabody Awards are then presented only to “the best of the best.”

There’s a whole other post to be made about whether such a blatantly subjective criterion earns the awards the sense of objectivity that they hold, but for the sake of this post I think we can presume that the Peabody Awards have a pretty good track record. They have feted dramas like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Lost, and The Sopranos, while acknowledging comedies like 30 Rock, The Office and South Park; they are not limited to only mainstream fare, with cult hits like Battlestar Galactica getting recognition, nor are they beholden to narrative-driven series television, as reality shows like Project Runway and satire like The Colbert Report have been singled out.

This year, the Peabody Awards added four television series to their ranks, and on the surface there’s some nice diversity: Glee and Modern Family are mainstream hits that made a substantial impact on the television industry this year, while In Treatment and No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency are shows with smaller followings but with some substantial value in terms of performances (in the case of In Treatment) and (in the case of No. 1 Ladies’) a unique relationship with an emerging film industry in Botswana.

However, rather than simply listing the shows awarded and letting us figure out our own reasonings, the Peabody folks have written short and succinct reasons why the shows in question are being awarded. And it is in these brief distillations of their worthiness that the flaws of this process become apparent, as the qualities they point to for Glee and Modern Family demonstrate a selective gaze into multi-faceted, and still developing, series which fails to capture their true appeal in order to focus on their most hyped, and in some cases divisive, qualities. In the process, we start to understand the challenge of rewarding entire series alongside standalone news reports, and we start to wonder why they would so willingly call attention to those challenges with these short and imprecise justifications.

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