Tag Archives: Jericho

On Zombies: Community and The Walking Dead

On Zombies: Community and The Walking Dead

October 31st, 2010

I’ve already written enough about Halloween episodes (both in my review of The Office at The A.V. Club and in my piece on Halloween-themed TV episodes at Antenna) that writing a review of Community’s “Epidemiology” in that context seems like a waste of time. In fact, part of me feels as if it’s too late to really add anything new to the discourse.

However, having now watched the first two hours of AMC’s The Walking Dead – which premieres tonight at 10/9c with a special 90-minute opener – I think that I want to talk about zombies, and their function as genre. In a movie, zombies are easy: you introduce zombies, chaos ensues, heroes emerge, a conclusion is reached (which is either the heroes proving themselves capable of subsisting within a zombie-infested nation or the zombie outbreak being contained, presuming a happy ending is desired). Admittedly, I’ve only watched a handful of zombie movies thanks to being largely averse to suspense, but the point I want to get across here is that there’s a clear timeline. There is a situation, there is a conclusion, and you move on from there.

When you move this notion into television, however, you’re forced to live in that space, which is a problem that The Walking Dead will have to face should it join the rest of AMC’s lineup. Community, of course, is a very different situation, but it is nonetheless interesting to note that seriality plays a pretty substantial role in how their zombie story is told, and so I think tackling them both simultaneously will speak to some of the things which impressed me about Community and some of what concerns me about The Walking Dead.

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Television, the Aughts & I – Part Six – “Reinventing How We See the Wheel”

“Reinventing How We See the Wheel”

December 18th, 2009

[This is Part Six in a six-part series chronicling the television shows which most influenced my relationship with television over the past decade – for more information and an index of all currently posted items, click here.]

I started Cultural Learnings in January 2007 for two main reasons. The first was that my brother Ryan had a blog, and thus its proximity to my life made it seem like a cool thing to do. The second was that I was in a “Politics of Mass Media” course and the idea of using a blog as a way of brownnosing extra credit appealed to me. So, in the early days (which, for the sake of my pride, have largely been purged), there were posts about a myriad of subjects, as whatever struck my fancy made its way under the collective banner of Cultural Learnings.

As noted throughout these pieces, a number of factors influenced the switch to a television blog, whether it was the return of Battlestar Galactica and Lost from their respective hiatuses or the false optimism engendered by Heroes’ first season. And in 2007, I wrote a piece that suggested (quite accurately, at the time) that the fan campaign surrounding Jericho was what made Cultural Learnings what it was in its first year. It made me realize that what I wrote had an audience, and that said audience could be enormously passionate about things in ways that I simply was not. It was what convinced me of the value of writing about television online in a blog format, and my experience in that community (despite my lack of affection for the show itself) was an important part of this decade.

However, if there were a single show that defined television criticism in this decade for me and quite a few others, it would have to be According to Jim

…wait, scratch that. Yes, I have to make a joke to distract you here, as I’m about to provide more praise for David Simon and Ed Burns’ The Wire, an epic tale of urban decay and personal tragedy that broke the hearts and captured the minds of critics and a relatively small number of viewers. It’s a show that will be near the top of almost every critical Top 10 list, and a show that until last summer I had never had the pleasure of watching. And that, if you look back in the archives, I’ve written about far less often than you might think, which isn’t entirely going to change here.

Rather than being the show that I’ve written the most content about, or the show that had the greatest emotional impact upon watching it, The Wire defines the past decade of television for me because it’s the show that has most made me want to be a television critic, to be able to not only analyze it more carefully but also spread the word and facilitate further discussion using the power of this blog. While I could probably get away with calling it the best television series of all time, my blind spots require me to simply say that no piece of television has had a larger impact on how I live my life than The Wire, both in terms of my choice to write television criticism and my aversion to hardware stores.

And I’m not sure there will be another show like it in the decade ahead.

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The Return of Jericho: Reruns, The CW, and the Audacity of Hope

jerichoad.jpgTonight, Jericho returns.

A year and a half ago, this was a revelation. Today, it feels quite different, an odd and unexpected consolation prize for fans who worked so hard to get the show back on the air. Tens of thousands of pounds of peanuts were enough the get the show a second season, but not enough to convince CBS that it should run consistent reruns of the series in every available setting. In other words, the renewal came with a caveat: the fans, who provided such a great grassroots campaign, were responsible for pulling their weight to grow the show’s audience.

But now, in an ironic turn of events, Jericho returns in an unexpected capacity as the lead-off for The CW’s new Sunday nights. After the Media Right Capital deal, which saw the production company program its own lineup to enormously middling results, fell through, The CW had a lot of options of what to program in the slot. Repeats of their struggling comedies could help their audience, the MGM movies are cheap and always decent counter-programming, but then came the kicker: Jericho reruns, starting from episode one of the first season, at 7/6c every Sunday into the foreseeable future.

For fans, this is a sign of hope: a sign that there is an off-chance of the fanbase growing, of the show pulling a Family Guy and making its way back onto the schedule. And while I remain skeptical that this is in the cards, and feel that The CW (And Viacom) have more subtle motives with this particular move, one cannot remain pessimistic in the presence of the fans who changed network television’s definition of cancelled with a whack of peanuts and sheer determination.

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Emmy Nominations: How They Work and Who They Benefit (2008)

[The following is a post I wrote last year around this time, explaining how the Emmy Awards nomination process works. Tomorrow is the deadline for the first stage of the process, where the popular vote will be completed and the Top 10s will be tabulated. Look for more coverage here at Cultural Learnings of the various categories as the process continues, but in the meantime enjoy this updated explanation.]

Tomorrow, June 20th, the first stage of the Emmy Nomination process ends. Getting nominated for an Emmy Award is not an easy task, and the entire process was recently made even more complicated in an effort to create fairness. To help you follow the process as it unfolds over the next month, here’s a rundown on how the decision is made and who benefits from each stage.

Stage One: The Popular Vote

How it Works: Voters select their favourite candidate from all individuals who have submitted themselves for nomination. They read For Your Consideration ads, watch screeners, but in the end likely just pick who they like, allowed to vote for as many as Ten candidates who gets more points the higher they are on their list.

Who it Benefits: Shows that are either perennial nominees or extremely buzz-worthy, and actors that are well-known in Hollywood. Thus, voters don’t really even need to see what these candidates have to offer, they just assume they’re really good. Examples of shows that perform well at this stage are big winners last year like 30 Rock, current awards season sensation Mad Men, or highly rated shows like Grey’s Anatomy, while perennial Emmy favourites like Julia Louis-Dreyfus (New Adventures of Old Christine) or William Shatner (Boston Legal) will place highly based on their past acclaim.

Who it Harms: Ratings-deprived, critically acclaimed programs without any of the above, and actors or actresses who lack star power or past Emmys attention. Friday Night Lights and The Wire are generally the two best examples, shows that so few people watch that their unquestioned quality (Mostly unquestioned, anyways) goes unrecognized when they can’t make their Top 10. Performers, meanwhile, have an even tougher time even on hit shows; multiple Lost performers will make it onto the next part of the process, but for relative unknowns like Yunjin Kim standing out amongst over 100 other names is tougher. It also does nothing for fan favourite shows, as Emmy voters don’t tend to watch recently canceled shows like Jericho or Moonlight, and therefore they have very little chance of emerging out of this round.

Stage Two: The Top 10 Run-Off

How it Works: The Top 10 series from the popular vote are isolated and screened in front of a blue ribbon panel. Each show/actor/actress selects an episode that will be screened for the panel if it makes the Top 10. They also prepare a short written statement explaining their show and the episode in context with the show. For example, should Mad Men make the Best Drama Series panel (Count on it), they will be screening the shows’s pilot, “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.”

Then, each member of the panel will rank the shows from 1 to 10, and a final ranking will be decided.

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Upfronts Analysis: CBS 2008-2009 Fall Schedule

“Highest Standards in Television”

CBS 2008-2009 Fall Schedule

Last year, CBS’ Upfronts were a shock to fans of Jericho, a drama that had struggled mightily in the face of scheduling woes and was upended by a network with extremely high standards; heck, that year they even got rid of Close to Home, a show with much higher ratings but just not enough balance between buzz and Nielsens for the network to continue on that path. They wanted things to be a little hip, but not too hip, with good ratings as well. In other words, they’ve got an idea of what they want.

And now, a year later, things aren’t much different: Shark is getting the boot for not having enough buzz, and Moonlight is being tossed out with the bathwater because its ratings just aren’t enough to match its overwhelming and motivated fan base.  This news broke yesterday, but today we get to learn which shows are replacing them, and whether or not CBS’ high standards are going to just have more casualties in a year’s time.

New Shows

Eleventh Hour – Thursdays at 10pm

It gets the biggest lead-out in television amongst demo viewers, so there’s something to be said for the potential quality of this British import based on the BBC miniseries starring Patrick Stewart. It comes from Jerry Bruckheimer, who also produces CSI, and its real barrier is that is lacks star power (Rufus Seawell is not exactly a household name). It will be facing off with ABC’s import of Life on Mars, and I actually think that this show’s premise (Investigating abuses of science and scientific crimes) seems less intriguing at the end of the day. This is the first time the network has tested a show in the slot since Shark got moved from it, so we’ll see how it turns out.

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New Media in the Old Media: Considering the ‘Supernatural’ Official Magazine

Although I am but young in years, I seem to remember an age where official magazines were all the rage when it came to certain forms of entertainment. For my brother and I, it was all about Nintendo Power, the official magazine about all things related to the video games we loved to play. It was where we went to figure out how to get through that tricky dungeon, or see a first look at an upcoming game.

And then the internet happened.

My experience as a fan of great television has taken place entirely within the internet age, and there is no question that in recent years such fandom has emerged in an extremely unique fashion. Message boards, blogs and social networking have fundamentally altered the level of interaction we have with our favourite shows. Within hours of them airing, we are online chatting with other fans, or even reading blogs or websites run by the show’s producers. It is perhaps unsurprising then, considering how engrossed I am in that community, that I was wholly ignorant to the fact that Titan Magazines has been creating TV-focused magazines for a number of years.

The latest two entrants into their lineup are Heroes and Supernatural. While Heroes is an addition to be expected, I want to focus upon Supernatural. In perusing my copy of the magazine, I think back to the time I’ve spent interacting with their fan community, which is certainly both extremely pleasant and extremely enthusiastic. Unlike Heroes, or other shows with magazines like Grey’s Anatomy or Lost, Supernatural is not one of the top shows on television. However, Warner Bros. Television has a lot of faith in the series, and its fans, and this magazine certainly reflects that.

[To Subscribe to the Supernatural Magazine, CLICK HERE]

There are a lot of reasons why this is an extremely positive step forward: not only for Supernatural’s fan community, but also for other fan communities for low-rated but highly-loved series like Jericho or Gossip Girl.

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In Support of the Writers Guild of America

Over the past four weeks, my life has been dominated by labour action – on October 15th, the faculty at Acadia University (Which I attend) went on strike. This strike did not end until Wednesday, which meant three and a half weeks out of the classroom. In covering that strike, I maintained a neutral perspective: I felt the profs were striking for sound principles, but that the administration could never simply accept their demands thanks to shrinking enrollment. The landscape of the university was changing, and this crossroads was only inevitable. In the end, our second strike in 4 years was settled, this time with a resolution that should maintain the security of the institution for over a decade.

I mention all of this because I am not neutral about the recent Writer’s strike that has threatened the state of this year’s television season. If Acadia’s administration were facing dwindling enrollment and a grave financial position, Studios are facing a boon in the form of the ability to distribute content over the internet. Hollywood stands at a content-distribution crossroads, and the idea that the internet is “too young” to enter into contract negotiations is ludicrous. New Media is here, there’s no doubt about it, and something needs to be done to respect the work of writers within this medium.

In my time working with fans of CBS’ Jericho, the way many fans caught onto the show was through watching episodes online through the network’s Innertube service. In some cases, it was the only way they watched the show as they were unable to watch the series live thanks to other commitments. The idea that the writers of that episode, the individuals responsible for crafting those words, get nothing for every time someone watches it through this medium makes me wonder whether the service is really assisting the state of television in the long run. Because it should be: there lies amazing potential within the internet, but if it is being realized to the detriment of the writers I believe its value is primarily lost.

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