Comments I have made to other TV Cultures blogs:
1. ‘Mad Men does the time warp’ – written by Ashley Anderson
“Hi Ashley. I agree with your comments about the use of the setting of the 60s in ‘Mad Men’. It definitely seems as if the setting is used to highlight a significant era in US history – that which sits right on the cusp of civil change in the country, which necessarily brings about a plethora of conflicting agendas, values and subsequently personalities (though of course like you mentioned in your post, in ‘Mad Men’ this notion of historic place and change is seen mostly through the eyes of the conservative “old world” male, and is challenged subtly through “underdog” characters like Peggy.) I think that Jason Mittel’s comment in, ‘On Disliking Mad Men’ really sums up the significance of this era in American history, and the strangeness of our looking on at these characters from a contemporary standpoint. He writes:
“There is an interesting dynamic inherent in watching characters who experience themselves as modern, but, inevitably, feel dated to us – from our privileged perch in the 21st century, the characters of Sterling Cooper will be forced to adapt or become extinct.”
However I think there could be many readings of the meaning of this 60s setting. It could be read as merely making the audience realise how far American society has progressed since this seemingly prehistoric era. However this representation of the past unfolding in our present day mindset perhaps suggests that despite our advances we still have a way to go in terms of social change.
I really think that your last point that ‘Mad Men’ “somehow… manages to make us look past this and focus on the mysterious, glamorous and appealing side of the 60s” sums up the perception of the show well, in that despite the obvious and sometimes confronting conservatism represented in the show, people ultimately remember it for its dazzling use of set and costumes, and subsequently even long for this bygone, glamorous era, which I can’t help but think is a pretty reductive way for the audience to read the show and understand the past, as well as really reducing the difficulties that minorities in America faced in the 1960s. So yeah. I definitely agree with most of the points in your blog, and I’m sorry for this ultra-long comment! Steff”
2. The Genre of Reality TV – written by Georgia Haywood
“Hi Georgia. I really liked your description of the “docu-soap.” In my blog, I focused on the fact that reality TV often removes the contestants from their natural environment and puts them into a fabricated one (like on Masterchef.) But I completely disregarded this other kind of reality TV format, even though I watched One Born Every Minute in the lecture!
I think that the fly-on-the-wall style docu-soaps are really interesting as an obvious alternative to what most people think of when they consider reality TV. My first notion of reality TV is of course Survivor or Big Brother type shows whereas something like An American Family though still focusing on the emotional experience of the subjects, is a starkly different format to the “reality game show” which most people immediately think of as defining the genre.
I also really liked your point that “it doesn’t really matter if the programs are real or not. What matters is if the shows are entertaining or not.” I think this is a key example of the difference between reality TV and documentary, in that ultimately the most important feature of reality TV is entertainment – and this will always be placed ahead of information, “quality” or even, as you said, “reality”. Steff.”
3. Big Love – written by Spencer Kelly
“Hi Spencer. I agree with your comments about Big Love in that features of the show are definitely “drawn out and exaggerated” as well as it having an “overwhelming investment in melodrama.” Big Love and Mad Men actually strike me as very similar types of “quality TV” shows in that they are both very deliberate and slow paced, with high production values, and that the camera lingers on every movement and change in dynamic within a scene. This is in contrast to other “quality TV” shows on HBO such as Game of Thrones, which you mentioned, or even The Wire which are much more heavily reliant on action and plot progress rather than subtle character developments or shifts in tone and mood.
Despite Big Love’s obvious focus on melodrama, which does make it seem a bit soapy, I think it still it has a lot to offer within the “quality TV” genre. I agree that personally, its slow pace isn’t particularly appealing, but I definitely recognise that the show’s approach to theme, character and narrative development make it an interesting case study for the genre. Steff.”