Tag Archives: Summer TV

Misdirected Scorn: Why 18 to Life Deserves Parole

Misdirected Scorn: Why 18 to Life Deserves Parole

August 3rd, 2010

I am not surprised to learn that critics, as a whole, are not jumping on the bandwagon for 18 to Life, the Canadian comedy which was recently purchased by The CW to fill out part of its summer schedule and which debuts with two back-to-back episodes at 9/8c. I watched and more or less enjoyed the show’s first season when it aired on CBC, but I did it without much emotional attachment, and certainly without any critical analysis (which is why reviews never materialized beyond the pilot). I appreciate some of the series’ choices, and am intrigued by the show it developed into, but it is unquestionably a simple pleasure rather than a complex reinvention of television comedy.

However, I was a surprised to see how many critics have been stuck on the series’ premise, and disappointed to see how many critics are unable to get past the stereotype of Canadian television and summer television as lesser entities in expressing their dislike of the show. It’s been a while since I’ve read pre-air reviews of a series which I’ve seen in its entirety, but most of the series’ reviews ignore the show itself and instead focus on attacking either its origins, its scheduling, or the apparent offensiveness of its premise – while I understand that these are all part of the series’ impact, that these critics have not bothered to watch closely enough to see the kind of show which 18 to Life is becoming seems a disservice to a show which is just trying to be an old-fashioned traditional sitcom.

Which doesn’t make it brilliant, but does make it something that doesn’t deserve this level of scorn.

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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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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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Season Finale: Royal Pains – “Wonderland”

RoyalPainsTitle2

“Wonderland”

August 27th, 2009

If you were quite a hawk-eyed reader of the blog, you might have seen a few weeks ago that I was convinced Royal Pains was ending its first season when Burn Notice ended the first half of its third, with a relationship-driven cliffhanger regarding the pairing of Hank and Jill. I was mistaken, of course – the show kept going, and this past Thursday it came to its finale and delivered something a little bit different. And “Wonderland” was a finale, of sorts, but one that is really strangely placed in terms of why I kept watching Royal Pains all summer.

It’s the show that really “broke out” in USA’s biggest summer ever, but the reasons it remained engaging for me as a viewer really has nothing to do with the show’s characters, at least for the most part. While some of these shows work due to the quality of their ensemble, the characters have felt ancillary to the premise and the aesthetic elements of the series. The show’s Hamptons setting is intriguing in the potential for us to meet recurring clients, and to embrace a world where the very rich and the very poor tend to interact on a regular basis – it opens up the potential for unique cases not seen on other medical shows, while in a breezy enough location to keep things from getting too serious.

However, this was a finale that went back to very basic procedural diagnosis drama, and that returned to the core relationship between the show’s regular characters which…well, I don’t want to be mean, but I don’t particularly care. I don’t dislike Hank, and I find Divya’s life quite interesting, but both Evan and Jill have been criminally underwritten, and the episode’s efforts to put roadblocks between their relationships is actually fundamentally false in terms of building suspense for a second season. The show has a stable of recurring players who I’ve grown quite accustomed to, and to put them into danger or to build suspense around them would actually feel final.

Instead, we’re putting roadblocks between characters who aren’t going anywhere, and whose divisions will be temporary before the show enters into its same comfortable rhythm next season.

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Canadian Idol – Finale – And the Winner is…

After Avril Lagine.

After Eva Avila.

After Bon Jovi.

After the Clip Packages.

After the Repeat Performances.

There was two Idols.

Brian Melo.

Jaydee Bixby.

Only one could become.

A Canadian Idol.

The Canadian Idol is…

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Canadian Idol – The Final Two – Why Jaydee Will Win Canadian Idol

Last week, I didn’t bother blogging about the results show, and I apologize to anyone who might have been using my recaps to gain such information. My reason is simple: with the departure of Carly Rae, I became disillusioned with Canadian Idol. She was my last hope, the last shining hope in a season filled with a host of mediocre singers. She epitomized everything an “Idol” should be: charming, original, and capable of musicianship. When she left, part of me left as well.

And it’s not because of dislike for the remaining candidates. Brian Melo is someone who has performed admirably, been fairly consistent, and surely isn’t someone that I would dislike hearing on the radio. And even if I can’t stand him personally, Jaydee Bixby does Jaydee-style very well.

No, my problem with Carly Rae leaving is that it essentially crowned Jaydee Bixby the Canadian Idol by default. And even though the judges did their finest to handicap the competition in Brian’s favour, I don’t think it will be enough to overcome an important fact:

No matter how good Brian might be, and how bad Jaydee might bomb, Brian Melo is still just an adequate performer who wears hats while Jaydee is the smiling honky tonk kid from Alberta.

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Canadian Idol – September 3rd – The Top 3 Perform

So it’s been awhile since I’ve actually been able to watch Canadian Idol live, and this week was to be no different. However, after a long day during Frosh Week, I’m in need of a break, and Canadian Idol should do just fine.

This week is a bit odd, to be honest, since we’re at the semi-finals and Sass Jordan is providing our tutelage. Were they unable to get someone, or was there a cancellation? Regardless, we’re here to listen to these three sing full songs, both from the judges and from us, the audience.

Jaydee Bixby – “Break it to them Gently” by Burton Cummings

The Good: His voice didn’t sound terrible, countrifying the song actually worked.

The Bad: Still warbly, to be honest, and I still felt not a bit of natural stage presence when he isn’t getting into his honky tonk groove.

Brian Melo – “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procul Harem

The Good: Sounds good on the major parts of the song, good choice for his voice.
The Bad: They left in the organ solo, which felt really unnecessary. And, Zack was right, certain parts of the song were sketchy.

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