Tag Archives: Royal Pains

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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Off-Site Learnings: More Reading on Idol, Summer TV

Off-Site Learnings: Idol, Summer TV

June 5th, 2010

As you may know, I’ve been writing some columns for Australia’s Jive TV as of late, which you’re now able to find in the convenient sidebar of the blog’s many pages should you be interested in reading the latest column. However, since I haven’t been linking to them directly, here’s my most recent columns.

As promised, I wrote up some of my thoughts ahout Simon Cowell’s departure from American Idol and its likely effect on the series, in particular whether the series can remain the phenomenon it is in light of both Simon’s absence and this season’s tepid offerings:

Across the Pond: Does Idol Need to Change Its Tune? [Jive TV]

I don’t want to suggest that Simon’s final moments weren’t honest, as he was quite emotional and heartfelt as he said goodbye to the show which he helped turn into a phenomenon, but I feel like Simon is (surprisingly, considering his supposed narcissism) underselling his importance to this series. As a Canadian who cannot actually vote for American Idol, I lack the sense of ownership which he emphasizes here: his argument, implicit in his statements, is that people will keep watching because they want to be able to say that the winner is “their” American Idol, and it’s hard to do that if you’re not tuning in.

This week, meanwhile, I took a look at the ways in which we perceive summer television, a bit of an elegant restatement of my “I have no bloody clue what happened on Royal Pains last summer” argument from my review of that show, but also some thoughts on whether good summer programming (like Burn Notice) is unfairly lumped in with summer burn-offs or reality shows (which didn’t make it into the column due to space concerns) that often define the season as inferior to the fall or midseason periods of the schedule:

Across the Pond: Lazing into TV’s Summer Season [Jive TV]

What I will say is that summer television is often different than fall television in terms of how we perceive it. When shows come back in the fall, we’re going to be waiting anxiously to see how cliffhangers are resolved, or how new storylines will unfold, but with shows like Burn Notice and Royal Pains I don’t quite see them in the same light. While Burn Notice [has serialized elements]…it took me a good five minutes of thinking about it before I remembered what happened at the end of the show’s third season (which just finished in March). Royal Pains…relies less on serialized storytelling and ended its first season last summer, so I could spend a good two hours and likely be unable to come up with where the show ended off.

Watch the sidebar for future columns, and I’ll likely post again in a couple of weeks with the next few articles (as I’m going to be away next weekend when the next one is posted).

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Royal Pains – “TB or Not TB”

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“TB or Not TB”

June 25th, 2009

That’s really not the question, Royal Pains.

This won’t be a particularly long review, but I do want to make note that the show is on better footing now that it’s back in chronological order, although it’s still a little bit all over the place with some of its developments. While the show has never seemed to aspire to much beyond its premise, it’s heading into a couple of directions both serialized and procedural that could prove interesting, but won’t quite commit to them enough to make them really stand out.

In the end, though, this one feels like it’s answering some more pressing questions about the show’s format than just the titular Shakespearean medical concern.

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Royal Pains – “There Will Be Food”

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“There Will Be Food”

June 11th, 2009

Ah, the ol’ sophomore check-in. Entering its second week, I still wasn’t entirely on board with Royal Pains, as its pilot was clumsily competent in a way that seemed as if it would set up an interesting show but didn’t yet give an indication (outside of our ability to extrapolate from its setup) of how that show might operate.

It’s really a question of pacing more than anything else, along with how it will handle its recurring elements intermingled with new “cases.” The tension from Hank’s life is pretty much gone at this point; he has a place to live and a job to do, and that lack of stress allows him to sort of float along both noble and romantic paths in “There Will Be Food,” an episode certainly devoid of any blood or any serious ailments. This isn’t surprising, as this is a procedural series without murders or anything of that nature, but there will be a point when the “Robin Hood” of the Hampton’s is going to have to face something legitimately threatening.

Overall, though, it was a solid second outing. I have some concerns over the use of romance, but considering how much I prefer it to some of the show’s other options I’m ultimately content, if not wholly satisfied, with the show’s direction.

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