Sunday, September 30, 2012

Define "Productivity" (I Watch Too Many TV Series)

This month I've finished watching two tv series, and I feel quite good about that. I have very low productivity standards, I know, I know. Underachiever, try harder etc. etc.


One: The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I've been wanting to see this show ever since I saw the first episode of America in Primetime, "Independent Woman," in which The Mary Tyler Moore Show is cited as the show that paved the way for other women in television. It was around that same time that I saw Miss Representation as well. These two documentaries about representations of women in the media got me all excited about media criticism, especially at a time when I was doubting my own media criticism, my own writing on media representations from a feminist perspective. I actually haven't written anything that can qualify as media criticism since the end of last year, so... I guess that ship has sailed. Anyhow. So excited was I about media criticism after having watched these two docs that I completely forgot to watch them critically as well. It was this post at Masha Tupitsyn's Love Dog, back in July, that reminded me about America in Primetime's "Independent Woman" and opened my eyes about its shortcomings. Shortly before reading this I had seen The Hollywood Reporter Comedy Actresses roundtable and I was more disappointed than pissed off about how the conversation went when they finally got to talking about women in comedy, women on tv. Pretty much everything that upset me about this conversation is in MT's text. It's so sad to hear Julia Louis-Dreyfus say all she cares about is making a funny show. She's playing the American VP in Veep and she's not thought of the issue of women in politics before doing press for the show?! Seriously?! This roundtable just goes to prove why media criticism is necessary. If the actors haven't thought of the political implications of their shows, then it's the critic's job to make them think of that. I haven't seen the Drama Actresses roundtable, I guess I will at some point. But I don't have any high expectations. I'm pretty sure they play the same record: "I'm not a feminist." / "I only care about making a good show." etc.

At the time I saw America in Primetime, I couldn't find the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Then I sort of forgot about it. It was the Girls pilot that reminded me about it.

Lena Dunham: "The first scene that I thought of for the pilot was a shot that tracks up Hannah and Marnie's legs to their faces. I love the idea of a shot where you for a moment couldn't tell if these were lovers or friends. Hannah and Marnie are seeing guys but the true romance of the show to me is their relationship."

Girls (Pilot)

Marnie's boyfriend: "You guys fell asleep to The Mary Tyler Moore again, huh?" And: "It's a very odd show to hear through a wall."

Luckily for me, by the time I saw the Girls pilot, a kind stranger had posted the entire series on youtube. With the exception of a few episodes that were taken down before I got the chance to see them, I have seen all seven seasons of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The show is rather uneven, but I guess that's to be expected. The writing got better during the 5th season, the jokes were better. Unfortunately, they were not able to keep up the good work until the end of the show. Won't give any spoilers, but there was a particular story line right towards the end that I was not interested in at all, and I doubt anyone else was. A few other things I did not like about this show: the constant emphasis on Rhoda's need to lose some weight (this really pissed me off), Rhoda's sudden disappearance (I get it, she got her own spin-off, but there should have been some sort of transition instead of this "new season, no Rhoda" thing), and sometimes I didn't like Mary that much. Although I don't plan on watching the spin-off, I definitely liked Rhoda more than I liked Mary. But the one who truly made the show funny was Ted. Ted Baxter, the greatest worst anchorman in the history of television. If you've paid attention to The Newsroom, you'll remember the episode in which Will is compared to Ted Baxter. (Just to be clear: I've watched the entire first season of The Newsroom, but I am not a fan, oh no!)

So: Girls, The Newsroom and now The New Normal is the latest tv show to mention The Mary Tyler Moore Show this year. What is going on?
Bryan: "A question for you: are you sure I don't look like Mary Tyler Moore in these?"
Shop assistant: "Do you want to look like Mary Tyler Moore?"
Bryan: "Well, not the hair, obviously, but yes. Yes, I do."
The New Normal (Pilot)

Home Movies (season 4, episode 11: "Definite Possible Murder")

Two: Home Movies, about which I found out thanks to Lena Dunham. It took me a little while to get used to the oversimplified animation, but once I got past that I could not get enough of it. This show is sooo much fun. There's a ton of film references. Now that I think of it, the filmmaking process in Home Movies (especially during the 4th season) is a lot like the one in Be Kind Rewind. Basically, these 8-year-olds are (re)making hundreds of movies in Brendon Small's (the director) basement. It's a must-see for cinephiles. It would actually make a good pair with The Critic.

(One other thing I love about Home Movies is the hilarious kids-adults dynamic. Wondering if the soccer coach (btw: soccer in an American series?! how amazing is that?) is slightly based on the football coach from Ken Loach's Kes.)

Here's "Definite Possible Murder," in which Rear Window is spoofed:

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