Sunday, May 29, 2011

The TV roundtable

Ty: It's Memorial Day Weekend and my boyfriend and I went to my grandparents for the holiday. My plan was to take the weekend off but when I happened to text Jess and he told me there was some talk of a TV roundtable, I texted back, "I'll moderate!" If you'd like to e-mail, our e-mail address is Participating in this roundtable are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ava, and me, Ty; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Ruth of Ruth's Report; Wally of The Daily Jot; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; and Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends. Betty's kids did the illustration. You are reading a rush transcript. Ava and C.I. take the notes and that may be the bulk of what they do this roundtable.


Ty: Okay. A great deal to cover. First off, this edition, Ava and C.I.'s TV article is on The CW. They're providing an overview of it and Betty observed that it's "really an overview of the TV industry period." At which point, I hollered over the phone, "Stop! Stop! Save it for the roundtable." By the way, everyone participating is in DC except me and I'm participating by phone. Betty, why don't you start there?

Betty: Well The WB and UPN merged in 2006 to form The CW. The WB was one of the few, really the only, networks geared towards women. As Ava and C.I. establish in their piece, that was already changing at The WB by 2001 and that's really true of the whole industry. And this point, about how hostile TV has been to women in the '00s, it was a very hostile decade, isn't an observation I'm originating, to be clear, this is what Ava and C.I. long observed and long documented. Maybe it was the violence of the '00s, maybe it was a reflection of who was in the White House, maybe it was just the continued hatred of women, but women really were forced to the back of the bus for the bulk of the decade.

Ruth: Right. And Betty and my favorite TV show of the decade was The New Adventures of Old Christine. It was one of the few shows that starred a woman, one of the few shows that became a hit, and even so, the whole time, it had to battle to stay on the air. And, again, Ava and C.I. document that over and over, year after year, how CBS is trying to undermine that show until they finally cancel it. Find me one other show CBS treated the way in the last decade? You cannot. Now find me one other successful CBS sitcom that starred a woman in the last decade? Again, you cannot.

Betty: And while, as Ruth and I have said, Ava and C.I. documented the attacks on the show by the network repeatedly, for the two of us, they really drove it home in February 2007 with "TV: All just a bit of (CBS) history repeating."

Ruth: And, three years later, the show got the axe. After withstanding one assault after another. It also made me not really care about watching TV anymore. This was a funny show and I loved every character on the show. Old Christine, Barb, New Christine, Richard, Richie, Matthew. I loved the guest stars.

Betty: I really find it strange that CBS has so many sitcoms but they cancel the only one that my daughter can watch and see someone like herself. I'm referring to Wanda Sykes. My daughter loved Wanda. The first time she walked through the room while I was watching the show and Wanda was on, my daughter stopped cold, stared at the TV, let out this loud laugh, then turned to me and said, "Mommy, she's funny." And she was. Barb and Christine were the best TV pairing since Lucy and Ethel. But CBS couldn't stand it apparently and they can't apparently stand Black women. This season, they had Two and A Half Men, Rules of Engagement, How I Met Your Mother, Mad Love, Mike & Molly, the William Shatner sitcom and The Big Bang Theory. That's seven shows. Some of which take place in major cities, like How I Met Your Mother. But they didn't have one Black female actress starring or co-starring. Let me explain that I am not asking CBS to put a Black woman on every one of their TV shows. I wouldn't complain if they did, but I'm not asking for that. I am asking them why they had seven sitcoms and not one of them featured a Black woman in the cast? I'm damn tired of their sexism and I'm sick of their racism.

Ty: Betty, you've written at your site and spoken here over the years of shows like The Boondocks and others that might be a little too mature for kids but you'd let your oldest son watch anyway.

Betty: Right. Just because he is mature and there are so few shows that he can see someone like himselv in. I'm Black, my kids are Black, we've got color TVs that will show any color but the networks don't seem to want to put the color Black before the cameras.

Ty: There was Undercovers on NBC last fall --

Stan: Sorry. Not Black. Not in the sense that we had two Black Americans in the leads. Both of those people were from other countries. It was also a really bad show. But, yes, I will give NBC credit there for trying.

Betty: Both of my sons were really hoping on that show. They wanted it to be good. Then they watched the first episode and they hated it. They especially hated the woman. For the reasons outlined in Ava and C.I.'s "TV: It Takes Two" actually. They didn't buy them as a couple. But anyway, my daughter and I watched Ugly Betty for Vanessa Williams -- it was a great show but we watched it together for Vanessa. And now we watch Desperate Housewives together for Vanessa Williams. We also watch an A&E detective show because they have a Black woman in the main cast. I forget the name of the show.

C.I.: The Glades.

Betty: Yes, thank you.

Ty: And your kids watch Happy Endings.

Betty: Right. And there are sexual jokes in that ABC sitcom. My boys are both old enough that I really don't care. They're laughing at those jokes. My daughter might be a little bit young, maybe not, but Damon Wayans Jr. is on the show. And he's usually the one doing the sexual humor that they can all get -- because his is usually less a line and more of him dropping his pants. But I seriously hope ABC and Marc Cherry get the responsibility they have by having Vanessa in the cast. That doesn't mean she can't be stupid or bitchy or a victim or whatever. But it does mean they need to be sure she gets a spotlight as much as the other women.

Ty: Betty's youngest son had a favorite show, The Cape. That was also one of Stan's favorite shows. NBC gave it the axe. Stan?

Stan: I don't know. Both of my favorite shows got the axe: The Cape and No Ordinary Family. Maybe there's just not a place for a super hero show on TV? I really was surprised to see them both bite the dust. I was prepared to lose one but to lose both?

Wally: Okay, Stan, when you say you were prepared to lose one, what do you mean? You were preparing yourself?

Stan: Right. I was preparing myself for losing one. Some days, I would think it was The Cape, some days I would think it was No Ordinary Family. But I never thought it would be both. I'm pretty much where Ruth was after they cancelled The New Adventures of Old Christine, feeling like maybe I won't even bother to watch anymore.

Ty: Both of those shows, Stan, were new shows, this was their first season. Any shows that are already on that you'd consider watching?

Stan: Well I'll probably watch The Good Wife online. But that's the other thing. Like a lot of people, I had to look at my finances due to the bad economy and I dropped cable. Even with the converter box, I can't pick up CBS so any of those shows I would watch, I'd have to watch online.

Ty: Mike, you were in a similar position to Stan. The two shows you follow are Chuck and Fringe and they were both at risk.

Mike: Right but they both got brought back. Fringe got brought back despite having lower ratings than No Ordinary Family and The Cape. Chuck will be in its last season. They've ordered 13 episodes and told the producers that this is the last season. If Fringe's ratings don't go up, I wouldn't be surprised if this time next year we're learning it got cancelled too. And I do know what Stan's talking about because I thought one of the two would get the axe. And I was trying to prepare myself too. I had actually gone further than Stan because I had picked which one I could deal with losing more and that was Fringe. If one had to be kicked off screen, I decided I could handle it being Fringe better.

Wally: And then after the season finales you really felt that way.

Mike: Right. I mean Fringe basically evaporated Joshua Jackson's character. Not that Chuck was much better. Looking like they've put the intersect into Morgan. If that's the new season, don't air 13 episodes. Air one and then cancel the damn thing. But in a lot of ways, Stan and I, in both our situations are better off than Marcia.

Stan: Right because she doesn't know what's happening to her show.

Ty: Marcia's show is The Event. What's going on there?

Marcia: NBC gave it the axe. That should be the end of it. But there are all these rumors that someone -- maybe Netflix -- will pick it up. The last episode of the show -- or of season one -- aired Monday and I still haven't blogged about it. I did watch it. I just don't know what's happening. In a way, I'm sad for Stan that both of his shows got the axe but I wish I knew what was going on with The Event.

Ty: The Event, Fringe, No Ordinary Family and The Cape can all be seen as sci fi shows. And of them, only Fringe will be returning. Marcia, you're a big sci fi fan.

Marcia: Right. That's my favorite actually. I watch the Star Gates and the Star Treks and the Galaticas. I just find the genre interesting. And another sci fi show got the axe, ABC's V. Stan was talking about how he has to catch CBS online and I think that's a point that really has to be made. If you can't get the show online, it's not going to find the same kind of audience. V ticked off viewers by not being online.

Ty: A good point. Do you see things changing for sci fi?

Marcia: Well there's The CW. But I'm not really into teen shows. However, the Sarah Michelle Geller show, The Ringer, I will be watching the first episode of that to see where it goes. I wish, since The CW has tried to bring back 90s hits 90219 and Melrose, they would make an attempt to bring back The X-Files.

Ty: Interesting. Rebecca, we're nearing the end of the roundtable. At your site, you covered Heroes until NBC cut that show --

Rebecca: It needed to get the axe. That show just got worse and worse with each episode of that last season.

Ty: And this year you picked up Brothers & Sisters which ABC cut. You weren't surprised that they cut it. Or it didn't seem to me you were.

Rebecca: I wish it had come back in that I would watch it if it did. But it was the end of my world or anything. I enjoyed the show and thought Sally Field was amazing. I feel bad for her. But otherwise, it's not that upsetting. Probably because it got a real ending. The season finale that ended up being the series finale worked well as an ending for the show.

Ty: You were the first in the community to start blogging about a TV show, I think. It might have been Mike, but I think you were doing TV flashback posts before Mike started. I know Mike started blogging about Chuck in the show's first year. Why do it?

Rebecca: I think it was 2005 when I did a post about Dynasty. And it really brought in some readers. And what I found was that if you write about a show you like, you'll find others who like the show. And Mike was the first to blog about a TV show each week at his site.

Mike: Yeah, with Chuck and then I added Fringe. What I like, and what I think readers like, is that each week they know -- while new episodes air, that you're going to be blogging about that. It gives it a bit of a schedule. They know, "Oh, it's Tuesday, Mike's going to blog about Chuck." And there's also the fact that someone who is a big fan of, for example, No Ordinary Family and reading Stan's stuff has the chance to read the Iraq snapshot that day. And they might otherwise not get exposed to anything to do with the Iraq War.

Ty: Okay, we're wrapping up but, Wally, when Rebecca went to London to do some work for the Labour Party in the elections, you filled in for her and grabbed Heroes, what was it like to blog about the TV show.

Wally: A pain, actually. I had to figure out what to include and what not to. And no matter what I included, I knew there would be e-mails -- and there were, always -- about what I had left out.

Betty: I get that too. And I'll just end up doing another post on the episode of Desperate Housewives.

Wally: And that's fine because it's your blog but I was always thinking, "I'm doing it wrong and I'm going to run off everyone of Rebecca's readers."

Ty: Alright, so that's what it's like to blog about the shows, and we talked about what it was like to lose your favorite shows and even offered a bit of hope for the fall via Marcia's hope for The Ringer. So that's going to be it for this roundtable. This is, again, a rush transcript.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }