Tag Archives: Skins

The 2008 Television Time Capsule: The Ones That Didn’t Make the Cut

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If you’ve been following along with Cultural Learnings’ 2008 Television Time Capsule [Full links available at the intro post], you will have surely noticed that there are shows I watch that didn’t make the list. I could have just ignored this fact, but in writing the various pieces that comprise this epic journey through the year in television I had to, for my own benefit, justify my decisions.

Here are my reasons for not including various shows on the list, and feel free to comment with any shows you think I unfairly left out of the time capsule for one reason or another.

The Shield (FX)

Last year, it was The Sopranos that had me left behind as the rest of the world of television criticism discussed its ending and the show’s role in shaping a decade of television. This year, I missed out on The Wire and The Shield both, and at a certain point I had to make a decision about which one I wanted to rectify first. The Wire won, which leaves the Shield’s highly acclaimed seventh season, and the six which came before it, on my catchup list for 2009. I reserve the right to dig up the time capsule, should its genius not be overstated.

Breaking Bad (AMC)

I fell behind on a fair few shows last year, but Breaking Bad is the one that feels like the biggest mistake: I could take not finishing off the first season runs of Reaper or Eli Stone, but this is a show that won Bryan Cranston an Emmy, had a really compelling pilot, and has earned a great deal of critical acclaim. The show is returning in 2009, and I do hope that I’ll find time to watch the shortened first season in time to see if season two might find a spot in 2009’s time capsule.

Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)

After starting out with a great deal of promise, Grey’s Anatomy’s fifth season quickly devolved into a bizarre experiment on how far Shonda Rhimes could push her audience. It wasn’t just the scandalous departure of Brooke Smith, or even Denny’s ghost rising to bring Izzie to a point of emotional breakdown, but rather that the show has at the same time introduced some elements (like the arrival of Kevin McKidd to the cast, or the guest appearance by Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica)) that should have made a difference and have been either squandered or terribly conceived. I’m willing to put a show that shows potential but doesn’t live up to it in the time capsule as a lesson, but right now I don’t want anyone following Rhimes’ example.

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It is Written: Slumdog Millionaire, Reality Television and the Power of Inevitability

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It is Written:

Slumdog Millionaire and the Power of Inevitability

Around these parts, it usually takes two things to make me write about a piece of cinema: first it has to be really, really good, and the second is that it has to have some connection to television as a medium. This is a self-imposed standard: I know that there are very few “pure” television readers of this blog (and comparatively “few” readers period), and that everyone is usually interested to hear about a great film. But I’m not a film reviewer, and my critical eye for it hasn’t really been developed, so being able to link it back into the world of television gives me a bit of a comfort level.

It was a comfort level that was in full effect as I watched my first “awards season” film of the year, the powerful and stunning Slumdog Millionaire from British director Danny Boyle. The film is about a Mumbai slumdog on the Indian version of “Who Want’s To Be A Millionaire?”, and diverges throughout the film into how Jamal got to the point wherein he could be on this show, answering these questions, and placed in this position. The structure of the film is clear within the first few minutes: you nod your head, accept what the film is trying to accomplish, and then begin the process of appreciating the stunning cinematography, the wonderful direction, the great child acting performances, and the stunning music.

The film’s conclusion is inevitable, not in terms of result but in structure: you know how the film will progress, and by the time you reach that moment you are capable of choreographing every step of the way. But by the end, presuming you’ve been watching all along, Slumdog Millionaire will rouse an audience like few other films. It is about the smallest of realizations, the broadest of events, and a fine example of how very powerful a film like this can be.

What struck me in that moment is that the film owes more to the trivia game show at its center than just a convenient setting for this tale: its storytelling operates in much the same fashion as does a reality show, introducing a fairly simple structure and following it to the point there the structure is secondary to character, to personality, to humanity. Reality shows in general are only as good as their contestants: every game of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was entirely the same, and every season of Survivor is really the same basic game outside of a few different twists and turns.

I know that some will view this comparison as something almost sacreligious, but it should be seen as a compliment: what takes most reality shows 13 episodes to accomplish is done here in only two short hours, less a rollercoaster than a steady climb up a lift hill. You know what’s about to happen: it is inevitable that you are going to reach the top and rush down the hill to the inversion below. But when this is all happening in such an emotional, engrossing and highly compelling environment crafted by Danny Boyle and the entire team who worked on the film, it feels like something so much more: by the time you’re rushing down, you’re caught between enjoying the ride and looking back with nostalgia on the climb itself.

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Series Premiere: Skins – “Tony” and “Cassie”

“Tony” and “Cassie”

Season One, Episodes 1 & 2

It’s not abnormal for British series to be imported to the states these days: in fact, Showtime’s recently wrapped Secret Diary of a Call Girl was one example, having aired its entire first season in Britain before it started airing in North America. This presents the problem that the series is readily accessible to those who want to find it when it starts airing on a weekly basis here, and thus plenty of people who know how things turn out.

With Skins, two seasons are done before the series has stated airing, but BBC America intends on airing them back to back leading into this fall. I decided to give the show a shot since I figured there is always a place in my television rotation for a show about teenagers doing teenage things. I’m extremely excited that we’re only a week away from the return of ABC Family’s Greek, and this promised to be an edgier alternative.

And it certainly is edgy, putting Gossip Girl to shame in its frank depiction of this particular age segment. More importantly, though, it does something that neither Greek nor Gossip Girl has accomplished, viewing these characters through a lens that is actually unique and focused on character as opposed to sheer exploitation or, in Greek’s case, slightly sugar-coated ensemble plotting. The first two episodes of Skins’ first season feel almost entirely different because they are: they’re stories about two very different people, about two very different types of life which exist in this world.

So while the show is certainly not perfect, there is a definite sense that there is something to be offered here, and that this diverse group of young students exists not to offer a picture of diversity but rather to guarantee an actual diversity in narrative perspectives in the episodes to come.

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