Sunday, March 30, 2014

TV roundtable

Dona:  The history of television goes back to at least 1878 with the telephonoscope.  10,000 is the number of television sets in the United States in 1945.  By 1960, the number was 52 million, by 2007, the number was 219,000,000.  96.7% of US households own a TV set today.  At this site, Ava and C.I. cover TV.  Throughout the community, you have multiple sites covering TV.  Participating in our TV roundtable are  Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz); Ruth of Ruth's Report; Trina of Trina's Kitchen;  Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends;  and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. Some of this month's TV coverage in the community includes:  "scandal - the worst," "TV thoughts," "Arrow underwhelms," "Good for Jimmy Fallon," "Another show bites the dust,"  "The 100," "A ginger? For a ginger?," "does shonda rhimes have a thing for bad boys?," "revenge - the good,"  "The Following continues to sink," "Alicia and Peter are in the clear (The Good Wife)," "The Tomorrow People," "revenge - the bad and also the fiery," "Star-Crossed," "A sitcom is coming," "scandal - cyrus kills james," "The 'news' ratings battle," "community's all time awful episode," "Arrow and the CW don't like Black couples," "Revolution, just awful," "Fonda and Tomlin," "Nightline and other things,"
"Unforgettable, Mistress, Under The Dome, Extant, Rookie Blue, etc.," "Oprah's a big embarrassment," "revenge - the good," "The Originals," "revenge: the bad," "The Good Wife meets Crossing Jordan" and "The 100 is off to a sucky start."  I hope that gives you an idea of the scope of coverage.  Trina, you're not big on TV coverage -- you're mainly covering the economy and cooking but you do have a favorite show on the air, correct?

Trina:  Yes, 2 Broke Girls.


Trina (Con't): I think it's a very funny show and, honestly, I would have missed it if hadn't been noted here at this site.  My TV is pretty much just The NewsHour on PBS.  And I think coverage can highlight a show and match you up with something you'll enjoy.  It also lets you take a look at what others like, how they see a show.  With 2 Broke Girls, I love the chemistry of roommates Max (Kat Dennings)  and Caroline  (Beth Behrs) and Sophie (Jennifer Coolidge) is a classic TV sitcom character like Jim on Taxi, Karen on Will & Grace, Janice on Friends, etc.

Wally: I just want to note that I agree with Trina and that's actually a show -- it's a show for adults -- but it's a show that my mother and my grandather actually love as well so when I'm visiting, we can all watch that together and laugh our heads off.

Dona: That's Wally of The Daily Jot;.  I was going to note him and Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; at the end.  They're taking notes in the place of Ava and C.I.  They are more than welcome to participate -- as Wally just did -- throughout.  And we thank them for taking notes.  It is awful to type up a transcript piece via an audio recording.  You have to stop and start and sometimes go back because you're not sure of  the word or what was said.  So thank you to Wally and Cedric.  One show that we covered at this site and that was covered on many other community sites was The New Adventures of Old Christine.


Dona (Con't): When CBS cancelled it, it pissed off a number of people, including participants in this roundtable.

Ruth: Betty and I were among the pissed off.  We weren't the only ones but it led us to stop covering TV for at least a year.  

Betty: That was a hilarious show.  Julia, Wanda Sykes, the whole cast.  I looked forward to it every week and Christine and Barb were a great comedy team.  It really depressed me when CBS killed this show.  

Dona: Have you ever watched Veep.

Betty: No interest in it.  It's a bunch of men mocking women -- male directors, male writers.  Julia's basically a token in her own show.  

Dona:  Wally and Cedric wanted to note a scene from Will & Grace's "No Sex 'n' the City" which was written by Steve Gabriel.  Karen is played by Megan Mullally and Jack is played by Sean Hayes.  This is from a transcript of the episode that Rob Durfee did at his

SCENE II: Grace Adler Designs
KAREN: Oh, honey, where have you been? I've been waiting here at the water cooler for us to have our water cooler chat.
JACK: So did you start talking about "Sex and the City" yet?
KAREN: We just started. Oh. Honey, I am so glad that Carrie ended up with Big instead of that 70-year-old ballerina.
JACK: I know. [SIGHS] And when she walked into that coffee shop at the end and the other girl started screaming, I'm not ashamed to say I was crying like a little girl. Well, of course, I was piercing my ears too.
KAREN: [SIGHS] Oh, honey, I'm gonna miss my "Sex and the City."
JACK: Oh. Me too, Karen.
KAREN: But at least I've still got my "Frasier" and my "Friends."
JACK: Well, wait, didn't you hear? "Frasier" and "Friends" are going off the air too.
KAREN: Don't tell me that, Jackie! Not now. Not today.
JACK: Believe me, Karen, I know. It's tragic.
JACK: I went through some of the biggest changes of my life with those shows. Cargo pants came in, went out, came back in again.
JACK: I don't know whether they're in or out, but I bought 32 pairs of them with Will's money so I'm gonna wear 'em.
KAREN: You wanna talk about changes? I went through perhaps the most important milestone of my life: the tiny knapsack.
JACK: Oh, the tiny knapsack. How could a knapsack so tiny hold all my dreams?
KAREN: Oh, Jackie, what are we gonna do? What are we gonna talk about around this water cooler every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning?
JACK: I don't know, Karen. I mean, you hear about when other people lose their shows, but you never think it's gonna happen to you. It makes me sick to think how cruel I was to my own mother when "Barnaby Jones" got cancelled.

Marcia: That's perfect.  It's funny but it really does address the issue of your favorite show getting cancelled.  And I miss Will & Grace.

Mike: It really was a great show and it's hard to believe no sitcom has matched it or even come close since it left the air.

Dona: Why do you think that is?

Mike: Because so many sitcoms suck.  2 Broke Girls doesn't suck.  Why?  Because it's a real sitcom.  I watch Modern Family out of habit.  I've only laughed out loud once the entire time.  It was something a few seasons back that Cam said.  When they go single camera and no studio audience, they lose the funny, they start trying to moralize.  Whenever it's voice over time on Modern Family, I stop streaming.  I hate that part of the show.  Give me the funny, I don't need your crappy life lesson, I'm an adult thank you.

Marcia: I agree.  And Ava and C.I. somewhere made the point that Modern Family and the rest owe a huge debt, which the shows never acknowledge, to Christopher Guest and his mockumentary films.  I think it works for his films because he knows funny.  But the idea that's it going to be used for Parks and Rec and all these other shows, it's overdone and they don't have the skill to pull it off.  Give me funny.  And that means a studio audience because these cowards doing single camera 'sitcoms' wouldn't dare throw that crap onstage in front of an audience.  Michael J. Fox's show would never have aired as it was if it had to face a studio audience.  They would have been underwhelmed and made clear that the show lacked humor and a point of view.  

Dona: For many years, it was a given that if Marcia, Stan or Rebecca covered something, the show ended up cancelled.  The Cape, The Event, No Ordinary Family, Brothers & Sisters -- which Rebecca only covered in what ended up the show's last season -- are just some of the examples.  Rebecca, explain how that stopped to be true for you.  A lot of people don't know this story.

Rebecca:  Sure.  Every show I was covering got the axe.  I hated Community.  As I announced at my site, I started covering Community in the hopes that my curse would continue and the show would be cancelled.  That didn't happen, sadly.  Season four was actually funny.  Dan Harmon was gone and the show finally worked.  Then he came back and the result is the all time worst season.  No one watches this show.  And no one watches because it's not funny.  A tiny group of pathetic people who hate sitcoms and think they're hipsters watch this show.  They hate sitcoms and see the lack of actual stories and anything anyone could relate to as 'hip' and 'deconstructive.'  No, it's just awful television and now with Danny Glover gone, the show has lost even more that it couldn't afford to lose. Season four had actual stories.  It would be one thing if Dan Harmon's way delivered an audience but it doesn't.  It fails to.  The show needs to be cancelled.  

Dona: You cover two shows you love right now: Scandal and Revenge.

Rebecca:  Revenge is the big improvement this year.  Scanadl, with its shortened schedule and other issues, including shooting around Kerry Washington when Olivia is the main character, is losing its way this season.  When you have Olivia laughing at the deaths of Daniel Douglas and Supreme Court Justice Verna, both of whom were murdered, you may even have jumped the shark.  She was in shock?  Yeah, so what.  And the gladiators become the bad guys.

Dona: Stan, you cover Arrow on The CW.

Dona (Con't):  Ava and C.I. asked me to note your "Arrow and the CW don't like Black couples."  As they pointed out, you made an important observation that no one else has noted.

Stan: I don't see any Black couples on The CW.  I see interracial couples.  As I pointed out, I have no problem with interracial couples.  But I do have a problem with White couples on The CW when every person of color is paired with a White person.  There's a reason for it and it's not 'social engineering.'  The reason is that there are two few African-American actors on The CW.  White couples and White characters with person of color characters are possible because they're mainly hiring White actors.  Now I'm not asking for very much here.  I'm not demanding that X number of actors be Black, for example.  But as an African-American male, I don't think I'm wrong to expect that a network with multiple couples on nearly every show should be able to provide one couple where both characters are Black.

Dona: It is strange and it does need to be addressed.  Anyone else want to comment?

Mike: I'm not planning on covering The 100 but I have covered the first two episodes.  For those who haven't seen the show, it's post-nuclear, set in the future.  To survive the nuclear war, a number of people are in space on an arc.  It can't support the population.  So 100 young adults are sent down to earth to see if the radiation has reduced or gone away and if it's capable to live there.  The landing kills 2 so you've got 98 people.  Why is it that only one, out of 98, is African-American?  The son of the president.  It's a real problem with The CW and Stan was right to note it.

Dona: Along with race, there are also issues of gender.  Marcia, would you like to talk about that?

Marcia: Sure.  I love science fiction.  I love it because it can take us to places we might not see.  It can imagine different worlds.  Revolution airs on NBC and it repeatedly reduces women to nothing.  Nora was a fighter.  Not only is she dead at the end of season one, they've failed to find anyone to replace her.  Because of criticism of the lack of women in roles of power in season one, they brought on a woman president briefly at the end of season one.  She's gone.  Charlie is too often damsel in distress.  Currently, the main characters are Miles, Monroe, Charlie -- who is female, Rachel, Aaron, Tom, his son Jason, Gene Porter, Monroe's son Connor, Truman and, I'll be generous, Priscilla.   Priscilla does nothing and she's probably the character they are going to kill off this Wednesday.  I won't include Julia.  She's been on too few episodes.  She hasn't even been on half the episodes this season.  So what you've got is eleven main characters and only three are women.  Only one really qualifies as a fighter, Charlie.  It's shameful.  And you've got dialogue about "men" when there are fights even if, due to criticism, they've remembered to hire a woman as an extra in the battle scenes.  It's disgusting.  In this sci fi, women can and do sell their bodies over and are victimized over and over.  Why the f**k is this s**t on TV?  They should be ashamed of themselves.

Dona: Ann, Kat and Elaine haven't spoken.  Everyone should feel free to comment but I want to toss to them.  Let's start with Elaine.  You covered Smash for both seasons.  That's really it besides Alpha in the second season.  

Elaine: I would have covered a third season of Smash but the show was awful in the second season.  In both seasons, it deserves credit for being unlike anything else on TV.  But season one was about adults and season two discarded adult characterizations and went for tweeners.  I have no idea why you'd do that.  It's as though The Golden Girls ends one season and returns with Lindsay Lohan and David Franco living with Blanche, Rose and Dorothy and the focus is on Lohan and Franco every episode while Blanche, Rose and Dorothy are treated like extras.  They knew nothing in season two, Anjelica Huston's character had no real storyline.  With Debra Messing, they tried one storyline after another.  She was with her husband, then she was with a script doctor and then she was with an old friend and . . .  Each one of these was portrayed as a serious relationship but they lost interest in all of them.  Maybe if they'd paired her with an 18-year-old they would have had interest.  If there's something I'm going to cover, it's going to have to be different than everything else on TV.  That's why I liked Alphas.  

Dona: Kat, when you write about TV, you tend to go with older shows that are out of production.  Examples would include The Rockford Files and McMillian and Wife.

Kat: Like Elaine, I just am not someone with the time to commit to watching a show every week, sorry.  If there was a Saturday night block of programming -- new shows -- I'd be covering the first hour of TV.  Why?  Because that's the hour I do my make up and dress for the evening.  I do enjoy a lot of 70s television and, when we're on the road, it's easy to find something I used to love and watch that.

Dona:  Ann, you cover The Mindy Project.

Ann: Right.  I wanted to cover a show with a woman of color and I like sitcoms so the choice was obvious.  I was watching the show from the start and should have covered it then.  But I started with season two.  It's a funny show and I am glad that Fox has announced there will be a third season.  Mindy Kaling is funny and it's great to see a person of color in the lead.  I love all the characters and Xoha Roquemore plays nurse Tamra who is African-American. 

Dona: And, the big question, you want Mindy to be with who?

Ann: Danny.  I think most people want that.  That doesn't mean it has to happen but I think we all enjoy the anticipation and the hope that it might happen. 

Dona: Betty, you're not covering anything right now.  You dabble with Revenge but not really.

Betty: I love Revenge but I'm just burnt out on liking shows and having them cancelled.  The New Adventures of Old Christine, Whitney and 666 Park Avenue.  It's a lot of work to write about a show.  And I'm just not into putting in that kind of effort for a show I love only to see it get the axe.

Dona: Rebecca's had to do two posts each week on Revenge -- Monday and Tuesday -- because there are so many developments.  

Stan: And that's a plot based show with twists and turns.  So she has to note that.  I used to with Arrow which really isn't that complex of a show.  Then I really paid attention to Elaine's great posts on Smash and I don't worry about every detail and try to offer analysis.  Rebecca does that too, by the way, but she's got to cover so many events that you may not notice her analysis.  Elaine, more than any of us -- maybe because she does analysis professionally,  would sacrifice plot point coverage in order to offer analysis of what she did cover.

Dona: Interesting.  I've noted something similar with Mike in his posts this year.  Mike, is that for the same reason?  And you've covered Chuck, Fringe, Nikita and now Elementary.  You prefer action shows.

Mike: I do.  With Elementary, it's less complex plots so that helps. But, yes, you want to offer something more than "and then . . ."  It can be hard with a show like Fringe or Nikita because you have to cover the twists and turns because they're not just effecting that episode, they're effecting future episodes as well.  One show you left out is Dracula.  And I bring that up because I really hope NBC gives it a second season.  I really loved the first season.  And in terms of what I used to cover, I still haven't dealt with the end of Nikita.  To me it's still like it just wrapped up a season and will be back next fall.  Fringe?  That show haunts me.

Dona: Interesting.  Ruth, Betty was noting how she doesn't want to invest and I believe you feel similar?

Ruth:  The New Adventures of Old Christine was a great show that delivered an audience even when moved to a new night.  If it had been ratings, I could have lived with it, not been happy, but lived with it.  Instead, it just became why even bother?  

Dona: And then you finally found a show to cover.


Ruth: The Client List.  I covered season one and it was a great show with a great cast.  But season two?  Suddenly, just because Jennifer Love Hewitt fell in love with the actor, she demanded that this slime of a character the actor played be made a focus.  It ruined the show and it led to it getting the axe.  So there, the problem wasn't a network -- Lifetime -- the problem was an actress who couldn't be true to her character because her panties got damp over an actor.  Hope it lasts.  Hate to think that in 15 years when Jennifer Love Hewitt cannot get an acting job she is no longer with the actor and kicking herself for letting hormones dictate her show.

Dona: Cedric, we're winding down, do you want to say anything?

Cedric:  Sure.  I agree 100% with the need for sitcoms to be recorded before live audiences.  The timing is off without it.  It's like watching a film where the sound is out of sync. Like Mike, I loved Dracula and hope it gets a second season.  If I were covering TV, I probably would have written about Dracula and about Almost Human.

Dona: Okay.  Wally, anything to add?  And he's shaking his head "no."  Alright, thank you to everyone for participating, thank you to Cedric and Wally for taking notes.  This is a rush transcript.  Our e-mail address is  

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