May 29, 2009
With the recent fuss over Britney's latest, 'If You Seek Amy,' her director took the media buzz and created what I think is the best Britney video, the irony is that using the news images before and after, only creates more of a buzz and in fact instead of detracting from the lyrics and the video, more and more people have become interested. Scandal = ratings! Another clever technique that Britney uses is the contrast between 'Party Britney' and 'Family Britney', with the media bombarding her at the end. The media have the power to make or break, as the new Gaga video shows.
Mixing the formula of 'If You Seek Amy,' a little of No Doubt's 'It's My Life' and massive dose of Gaga 'gaga' equals the amazing 'novella' type 'Paparazzi'.
Set in the style of 1950's Hollywood, it tells the tale of Lady Gaga, her rise, her fall and her immanent rise to the top again after a twist ending. The dancing is spectacular, the costumes are magnificent and the cinematography is reminiscent of some of the best music videos in the last decade (Fatboy Slim's 'Weapon of Choice')...
Without further ado...
May 16, 2009
The official announcement will not be made until Monday at the network's upfront presentation, but sources confirm a deal has been struck for another 13 episodes. Fox plans to continue the show on Fridays next fall.
The low-rated series was last seen given up for dead by the media in a field somewhere.
But the show's DVR numbers are huge (averaging a 40% bump), online streaming is strong. It’s a sci-fi show, which tend to bring in strong ancillary revenue such as DVD sales for sister-company studio 20th TV. And it’s said that Fox execs rather like the series, especially the latter half of the season. Besides, a show airing in the fall on Fox is a bit like running in midseason on most networks -- it’s not the network's strongest part of the year and maybe ... maybe ...
All right, fine.
The move is tougher to explain than most, especially based on the show's ratings. A “Dollhouse” pickup is a shock, an underdog comeback that blows away NBC’s will-they-or-won’t-they hand-wringing over “Chuck” (psst, they almost certainly will). In fact, "Dollhouse" might very well be the lowest-rated in-season scripted drama to ever get a renewal on a major broadcast network. Almost certainly if based on where the show concluded -- a 1.0 among adults 18-49.
Basically this is a case of a bunch of minor decision-making factors successfully ganging up on the biggest factor (ratings). In addition to DVD sales, streaming and DVR influences, Fox received some serious budget concessions from 20th TV and Whedon to continue the show, with 20th now shouldering a greater portion of the load.
Another factor was the show's unaired 13th episode, which Whedon shot on a shoestring budget for the "Dollhouse" first season DVD set. Whedon presented it to the network as an example of how "Dollhouse" can achieve a high-quality production with a lesser budget.
The renewal also means Fox is bringing back all three of its freshman dramas for a second season -- "Fringe," "Lie to Me" and "Dollhouse" -- which is a nice boast in challenging year for broadcasters.
Along with NBC renewing low-rated "Friday Night Lights," and strongly considering modestly performing "Chuck," and the CW stations considering bringing back very weakly rated "Reaper," there's seeming trend this spring toward networks looking beyond live-viewing ratings when contemplating the fate of shows with passionate fanbases that they can monetize in non-traditional ways.
Last year, in the wake of CBS canceling fan favorites "Jericho" and "Moonlight," the sense was that vocal minorities could no longer sway the suits.
This year, cult TV shows have been like creatures in a George Romero movie; you can never trust that they're dead.
May 07, 2009
Here's how we're going to do it, in FOUR simple steps:
Step One. Leave a comment below. Tell us exactly what it is that you love about Dollhouse. It can be anything. Is it the plot, the characters, the writing style, the suspense, whatever it is we want to know! The more specific the better. We will take all of the feedback from the comments and send it to the network explaining for our fans why Dollhouse needs to see a second season (and many more after that).
Step Two. Spread the word. We want you to talk about it on twitter! Log on to your twitter account and tweet out this message (exactly as it appears):
Support Joss: Save Dollhouse. Fans get their voices heard @BuddyTV http://tinyurl.com/
Step Four. Download our official Save Dollhouse wallpaper. Use it as your own twitter background our wherever you choose. Your desktop, myspace, facebook, anyplace you can think of!
We need to hurry! Even though last week's episode gained ratings, it wasn't enough. Dollhouse's fate lies in our hands. We are coming to the final episode and Execs will be making their decisions soon.
May 05, 2009
What would one consider a rather uncanny two days?
Here's my second attempt at writing this jaunty, vivacious bubble of fun. It may be that Tori Amos is playing in the background or that the weather was generally good today but my mind seems unusually free flowing for someone who has spent the last 48 hours, in remote control related accidents, rebel fruit affairs, Network watching, sandwich stealing, Swine Flu Manners, institutional education, rope losing, surprise social photography, theatres in dire need of noiseless air conditioning, complicated racial equality during basketball and finally, a substantial tete-a-tete between my fellow confederates.
For years to come, people will be wondering what exactly happened in the stratosphere that caused such events, what caused the Earth to spin on its axis and for one moment, present an opportune moment for momentous occasion. If any blog post were relevant, in my eyes (being that of bias), this would be the one.
My question is simple and yet complicated at the same time, some may say that is an oxymoron, some may that simply my writing falls into the moronic category (or just sitting wondering who would read this therapeutic sense of the sublime?) but the question I want answered still remains.
(Currently Tori is telling me that I 'Can Bring My Dog'. Euphemism for something? You decide.)
What gives one person or set of people the ability to enjoy and marvel at the wonders of a piece of writing, a music, a film and yet fill another with anguish and fury at the lack of care in the piece. When a piece of music is played, does one person hear the same piece as another, or do our brains translate the piece in different ways, creating different stimulus and therefore creating different reactions to the piece?
Had any day been more relevant to this question, it would be now. The morning started, much like many other before and I am sure many to come, a muesli enthused ascension to some sort of consciousness before leaving for school 'late' (bearing in mind, that I still was the first person in, even though I went to the bank!). The rest is history so they say...
The talk at first was casual, "When is the new 'Lost' on?" "Tomorrow", but then to these unsuspecting talkers, a tyrant of the wing of the upcoming storm voiced his opinion, "'Lost' is (fill in what you expect was said)." Minutes passed. It was tense. Who would say what? Well, never allowing something I like being questioned, it was left to me to fight before being joined by R & R. "It's clever." "You clearly don't understand it." (My rebuttal) "It's amazing." The other side couldn't see the point, "It's unrealistic, a black hole with a hydrogen bomb, travelling in time, what is the point?" "IT's A TELEVISION SHOW, have an imagination!" What was a conversation between friends, became a vigorous discussion between friends which finally turned into a duel, myself, R & R versus, the rest of the sixth form in our house.
(Depeche Mode are telling me about how they are 'In Chains'.)
Apart from laughing at how heated people were getting (myself included), it did give me a chance to question what actually draws a line in entertainment, for example. When these people who didn't like 'Lost' were sitting down and watching wild polar bears have savage fights with black smoke during the few episodes they preserved through, why did they see the absurd instead of the astonishing? How does what they watched on screen translate in their heads differently to what I saw?
When not even our Housemaster could round up the squabble, "It's nothing that I haven't seen before, although I am sure, as Oliver said, if you watch more and more, it becomes more interesting." Which was translated by others like this - "If you watch something more, you get addicted, if you smoke more, you get addicted. Difference? Both bad for you."
It was registration... it seems that the 'Lost' debacle would have to be cleared up another time.
The stories of the afternoon approach farce, was I right in losing track of my team when everyone looked the same? They were fast. I wasn't. Simple as. I suppose, it didn't help that I was late, I was just getting over the fact that a tug-of-war rope couldn't be found... I suppose this is why people actually love my school, it's never fails to entertain.
Fast forward onto the late afternoon. The A Level English Literature classes were due to go to a school trip to London. We were going to The Old Vic Theatre to see 'Dancing at Lughnasa' by Brian Friel which the classes had studied (or were due to study) as dramatic context for our upcoming exams and seen as F was such a large advocate for the play, when he found that a performance was happening, he couldn't let that sort of opportunity pass by. So picture this, a group of about ten teenagers, three teachers and a mini bus, of course seeing it written down looks comical, almost 'Carry On' like. Anyway, F had taken his mini-bus license so that he could take this trip. Yes, each person did get on the coach with a little trepidation, especially seen as within about 30 seconds we had backed up over the curb by the school grounds, nearly onto the grass. Okay, laughing and slightly scared for our lives, F went forward and out of the school gates, we were on our way...
... We arrived... early... well that wasn't going to be a worry. Believe me, I was happy to be out of the bus, my friend had come and sat next to me because he didn't like sitting in front as the row ahead of that had large seats which were making him sick. It was a squeeze, you could say that. But it was a school trip it was fun, the banter especially, "Do you know what I think?" "I think you should be quiet." "Go B, telling him." (Token posh toff laughter) "Well we have comedians here don't we?"
Once we got of the coach, the teachers made a decision en route to Cafe Nero, "Be back by 7.15." So with that, it was decided, we needed to find somewhere to get a drink (hot don't worry). Myself and A coerced the group into finding a Starbucks (commercial whores, I know), we were in London, there had to be one around here somewhere. B looked like a mental escapee, dashing down the streets using his spidy senses to find what turned out to be the Waterloo Station branch of Starbucks. Once inside, we all sat in relative relaxation until another friend sneezed, "SWINE FLU!" Possibly slightly childish... let's get past it...
I haven't mentioned yet, those who had read the play (minus one person) hadn't really had the best experience with this play. The script was short, the characters seemed rather one dimensional, the plot was monotonous but what I had enjoyed was the metaphor for change, social upheaval and bringing in another culture which the traditionalist doesn't want to accept (themes which I feel are just as important today than ever). When my English class had read the play we adapted it ever so slightly with an array of our own characters, Mrs Doubtfire (D), Clint Eastwood (O), Cybill Fawlty (A) and a meercat (the mischievous W). That was a good way to get through the play but we did it for the betterment of others.
So. Here we were. Sitting in The Old Vic, staring down at the staging (which was in the round), a very realistic garden and open plan kitchen (Kirsty Allsop would be pleased). This short play, we found out, before it was due to start had been stretched out for two and a half hours. WE HAD ONLY GOT OURSELVES PSYCHED FOR A TWENTY MINUTE RENDITION!
The first act started... and continued... and still hadn't finished... I didn't have a watch to check... the heat started to rise... the hard board chairs started to get uncomfortable... and down, way down, on the stage, the story of the Mundy sisters was told. Michelle Fairley beautifully suggests the prim and proper nature of schoolmistress Kate, bossy, kind and full of foreboding about the future. Niamh Cusack wonderfully captures the buoyant humour and resilient life-force of the Woodbine-addicted Maggie, and in a notable stage debut Andrea Corr, best known as a pop singer, touchingly conveys the love Chris still feels for the feckless travelling salesman who abandoned her.
Then the interval was called...
F told me what he thought, "They aren't Irish enough!" Outside, people discussed the themes, the performances, the staging and the distinct feature of our seats... the heat. S was telling us that he was waiting for a death, an explosion... I am guessing if The Terminator drove out on his motorcycle, S may have been a little more content. This was my chance, something to cool me down. Oddly I choose a drink which could have done anything but, tomato juice with Tabasco... N looked as if I had ordered a hammer and nails, "I've never seen anyone have anything that exotic at the theatre... does Tabasco even go with a drink?" And then my favourite drink related comment, "Tomato doesn't exist... it can't... tomatoes... juice?" As I followed D back into the theatre, I wasn't even thinking and said, "At last, a drink I can understand." In hindsight, this make me look ever so slightly alcoholic like, considering I was talking to the glass... D laughed... and asked if he could use that quote in the future, he said it sounded like something Noel Coward would have written... I think I'll remember that for the future...
Before Act 2 started, F was struck with fear, "He has builder's bum," I laughed internally, I agree, it's a sight for sore eyes especially when sitting behind it in the theatre, it seemed to sum up the entire experience. It was uplifting to hear and postulate that wasn't the first time he has said that.
Act 2 began... it got hot... quickly... But funnily enough, this second act seemed to sum up the contrast between Catholicism and the pagan ritual which is a constant theme of the play. What Friel’s genre-defining play does beautifully is to hear the rhythms of life around the kitchen table and, by implication, far beyond. This is a community which lives by the church but still raises all sorts of pagan fires in praise of Lugh up in the back hills. In the play’s most celebrated scene the sisters break free from the strict protocol of the eldest, Kate, and dance to their wireless with a wild gusto that smacks of pure lust as much as lust for life.
... Then it finished... but the trip wasn't over yet, we still had to return to school... in the coach... which F said, "Is still there," almost expecting it to have disappeared into the ether of London. The main conversation back, I have aptly titled 'The Tea, Coffee, Lasagna Debacle'. Mainly is self explanatory, are you a Costa, Nero or Starbucks person? The cake or coffee? The beans or the sandwiches? Locality, price, commercialism... believe me it was all covered before suddenly turning down a strange road, who believed their were a lasagna connoisseur...
At the end of the day, this is what I had learnt. Although F was an advocate for the play which many of us were not looking forward to, he still had criticisms and wasn't impressed by the overall effect of the production. But then, how did his reading of the play differ from ours? What was it that caused F to enjoy the writing but was a great repellent for others?
I believe it to be the most interesting question of all, is it down to taste, interpretation, understanding or is there something much more chemical about the entire experience... or for that matter am I making a big deal out of nothing... is the process something much more simple. When I look at my friends, the people I spend my day-to-day life with, I see that my taste very much interprets who my friends are. Is this a microcosm for something much larger, we all have our own belief systems which may be different to someone else's, why are people so opposed to others systems? Does conflict come from this? Is there anyway to turn back? I suppose not, we are not all the same, we never have and never will... but that keeps us on our feet, it's exciting, it's always changing... there is always new stuff to learn about, but remember keep your minds open to others voices, experiences and suggestions (I, one day hope that I can practice what I say). It's fun, that's all.
May 03, 2009
Caring about characters is relatively new phenomena, which really got going in the 90’s, with sitcoms such as Friends, Cheers, Frasier and Ellen. Studies show that audiences no longer would just flick onto a channel but instead knew that for one day every week, a set of characters that the audience would have come to care about would be put into a new situation, a story for the writers to tell. Since then the craze for character development has grown and almost is as important as plot, no more are the days where soap operas rule the evening schedules, where cheap thrills and over dramatic storylines kept people happy, instead audiences wanted to know what drove the characters and how they would deal with a situation. The idea grew and is still seen today in sitcoms such as Scrubs where not only does the rather surreal life and story of Sacred Heart come to life but also the gratification that the audience receives by watching characters grow with time, it’s reality television without the reality, it’s all scripted and yet over the years characters have to weather storms much like you or me.
So the idea grew, so large that writers understood what the audience wanted. The idea moved throughout the 90’s into comedy dramas such as Ally McBeal where creator, David E. Kelley, took reality and the surreal and made the blur between the both so endearing that audiences were hooked for years on the adventures of Ally (Calista Flockhart) while working at Cage & Fish Law Firm. Then in 2004 serial dramas and stories such as Lost and Desperate Housewives grew, audiences were finally getting realised, no more did they have to succumb to soaps like Days of Our Lives (USA) or Eastenders (UK) but instead were getting character development in the midst of stories that were so strikingly written that institutions such as FOX and NBC were actually afraid of showing this new material and it lay on ABC’s door to produce one of the most expensive pilots of all time for Lost, without even having the confidence that it may get picked up for one season, let alone another five since then and Desperate Housewives which has since become one of the most watched television shows in the entire world with an approximate audience of 120 million people in the target demographic.
Characters such as Bree van de Camp and Blair Waldorf became household names within weeks of the shows premièring and since then have only grown larger and larger. New York Magazine called Gossip Girl, ‘The Best Show Ever,’ and that’s taking into consideration the fact that it only gets around 2-3 million television sets tuning into The CW for the latest drama from the Upper East Side but it’s not taking into consideration the fact that groups of people watch the show together, it’s consistently the highest bought television show on iTunes US (Lost on iTunes UK) and millions watch the show online, these numbers do not affect the Nielsen rating, although if they did Gossip Girl, again would far excel numbers.
Now, it doesn’t make a difference these days whether drama is well written or not, reality television is the forefront of what to expect each television season from both sides of the Atlantic with American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance (from the Strictly Come Dancing franchise- now the most watched television franchise in the history of television) consistently getting the highest numbers in ratings. The same thing is seen in the UK, despite the decreasing favour to shows such as Big Brother, people seem to enjoy Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor far more than any other show, with record breaking numbers (as long as a national treasure such as Doctor Who isn’t on).
But put these exceptions aside, the Simon Cowell’s of the world have enough written about them everyday (especially because most the time, music mogul Simon Cowell is putting these shows out there!), the names Whedon, Abrams, Hirst, Schwartz, Kessler and Zelman, Rhimes and Cherry are all highly recommended by my standards. Shows like Damages and The Tudors take writing to a level, which was rarely seen before the 90’s, shows like The Sopranos and The Wire started this trend of what I like to call clever TV. The aforementioned Damages and The Tudors are very simple concepts, a lawyer who doesn’t like to lost and fiction based on fact respectively but the writing teams on these shows have gone far beyond the mark of good writing, they have exceptional writing. Stories, which will keep you on the edge of your seat, yearning for the next episode and really getting involved with the story.
Damages, created by Todd and Glenn Kessler and Daniel Zelman is the story of Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) who has her own law firm, Hewes & Associates, she is a tough cookie, usually with more balls than the men she is bringing down. She is brilliant, yet ruthless and a fascinating teacher to Ellen Parsons (Rose Bryne), she blows hot and cold and don’t get in her way, her bark is worse than her bite. Clichés aside, the debut season finds Hewes attempting to win a class-action lawsuit against the former CEO of a corporation (Ted Danson) on behalf of his former workers. The second season revolves around Patty's relationship with a man from her past (William Hurt) and how she is thrown into a new cutthroat case against a big energy company, while Ellen seeks revenge against Patty. Damages has received critical acclaim and numerous television awards, including a Golden Globe and three Emmy Awards for its first season. The show is noted for its nonlinear narrative, frequent use of plot twists, technical merit, season-long storylines and the acting ability of its cast. You’re going to have to watch it to find out more, season three is currently in production.
The Tudors, created by Michael Hirst is a historical fiction television series based upon the reign of English monarch Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), and is named after the Tudor dynasty. Season One chronicles the period of Henry VIII's reign in which his effectiveness as King is tested by international conflicts as well as political intrigue in his own court, while the pressure of fathering a male heir compels him to reject his wife Katherine of Aragon (Maria Doyle Kennedy) for Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer). He also has a string of affairs, and fathers a son, Henry, by Elizabeth Blount. Season Two finds Henry as the head of the Church of England, the result of his break with the Catholic Church, which refused to grant him a divorce from Katherine. During his battle with Rome, he secretly marries Anne, who is pregnant. Anne's own failure to produce a son dooms her as Henry's attention shifts toward Jane Seymour. Season three started in April in the USA and is due over the summer to start on BBC 2. The acting from Meyers shows the King in a new light, no longer the fat old man who ate all day but instead the jouster, musician, lover and father which not too many know of King Henry VIII.
Now, if these don’t tempt you (much like maki roll in Yo! Sushi), why not try another well-written show. Medical drama’s don’t come much more popular than the Emmy Award-winning American medical drama series created by the late novelist Michael Crichton that aired on NBC from September 1994 to April 2009… haven’t guessed… ER. The show ran for 15 seasons, becoming the longest-running medical drama in American primetime television history. It won 22 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series (1996), and received 123 Emmy nominations, the most of any television show in history and fully launched the careers of George Clooney and Parminder Nagra (Bend It Like Beckham). Except I, personally think I could do one better, leaving where ER left off, Grey’s Anatomy has taken place. Set in Seattle Grace Hospital, Grey’s Anatomy tells the tale of a group of interns (season 1) turn residents (season 3-present) and how they deal with working in a hospital with their fellow attendings and the interns that they have to look after and teach. Some say more a soap opera than a medical drama, others would say a definite mix, but I feel this is what makes it unique, the show isn’t exclusively about medicine (although with cases like pipes going through two people, huge boat crashes and bombs going off inside of people, literally!), it also deals with the love lives, the emotional train wrecks and day-to-day adventures which they all go through. The casting is beyond a doubt one of the best on today, with names like Chandra Wilson, Katherine Heigl, Sandra Oh, Ellen Pompeo, Kevin McKidd and Patrick Dempsey, this is one class A act that I wouldn’t recommend you miss. Season Five is currently airing in the US.
Still haven’t found what you like? Try Joss Whedon’s new creation, Dollhouse starring Eliza Dushku. Remember him? He created the classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it’s spin- off, Angel and the recent online comedy musical, Dr Horrible. Come into 2009, the 21st century where anything technological is possible, enter (or watch), Dollhouse. This is the story of an underground facility called The Dollhouse, insider are actives or dolls who are blank memory slates, they walk around all day smiling, but they real people, these are people who have signed their lives over (or been persuaded by the very British, Adelle DeWitt played by the very British, Olivia Williams). Then when someone with a lot of money wants to ‘rent’ a Doll for an assignment, they have a memory imprinted into them, they fulfil someone’s fantasy or pretend they are FBI for the day before coming back for their ‘treatment’, a complete memory wipe back to their Doll form. The point of Dollhouse? It’s not just a chance for the actors to dress up as different characters each episode and have a bit of fun, oh no. Throw in a suspended FBI agent who has been tracking the Dollhouse, sleeper actives who could be anyone, inside moles, Dolls starting to recover memories from past assignments or from their former lives and you get just an inkling of what Dollhouse is about. Season One is about to start on FX on Sky in the UK and if you want to start watching any sci-fi show this year, I would recommend this. Preserve for the first few episodes, Whedon is simply trying to get the audience to learn about the House and the characters, what makes them tick and what could be lurking behind closed doors. Also, if you want the quirky humour of Buffy, it’s here but not as prevalent, there is a lot going for Dollhouse, people just need to give it a chance.
Finally, how about I throw in some Gossip Girl, Desperate Housewives and Lost. The only way you don’t know all about these is if you have been living underneath a rock for the last five years. Did you used to watch The OC? Then you surely started Gossip Girl. Watch Alias? Then I bet you started watching Lost for you JJ Abrams fix. Enjoy films like American Beauty, then Desperate Housewives is for you. Whether it be a guilty pleasure or are fascinated by what really happens underneath the sheen of suburbia, one of these shows will wet your appetites.
So, what have we learnt? Plot isn’t everything (although vitally important at the same time), character driven shows are becoming (or have become) all the rage and I watch just about everything on television. What do you watch? Maybe I’m biased but I feel that the gift of great writing, fantastic acting and beautiful cinematography is one of the best things you can be given. I thank these writers every week for granting me this gift, to be able to learn from them and they don’t even know it. It’s fascinating, slightly voyeuristic, but isn’t all television?