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Those Old Classics

9 Dec

Having been researching adaptation theory for my final project, I have come across many an adaptation that would fit the “norm” of televisual adaptation with which I would compare with the strange adaptation that is The Corner. There were very few that were from a non-fiction source like The Corner. What I did find interesting was how many were drawing from well established sources.

The first that comes to mind is the two adaptations of Sir Conan Arthur Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series. Holmes is a work that has often been adapted (particularly in movies), but what makes it interesting is that American television would choose to do one that was not in fact a reimagining of the British Sherlock, but would rather producing a series that would draw heavy comparisons with that critically acclaimed series. Particularly so soon after Guy Ritchie’s two offerings of the text so recently being released in theaters. On top of that, the producers of Once Upon a Time, which itself borrows heavily from well know fairy tales– having branched out recently to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein– especially of the Disney variety, were asked if they were thinking of including their own Sherlock Holmes. As if there weren’t enough readily accessible to the viewing public! These two adaptations are not the only ones currently airing that are drawing from other sources. What is interesting is how many of them are drawing from well established sources such as Beauty and the BeastMerlin (re-imagining the King Arthur myth), and Revenge (drawing on The Count of Monte Cristo). I realize that these might seem flimsy, but there is definitely something to be said about the fact that these shows are tying themselves so closely to these sources. Shows like Gossip Girl are constantly referencing these works, also. To me, this sort of with the trend of “teening” Shakespeare that happened particularly in the late 90s and early 2000s with 10 Things I Hate About You, o, She’s the Man, and the like films. I don’t understand it. Is it because there is nothing more interesting to make a film/show out of? Or is there some desire to share these works with teenagers by making them “cooler”? Has this now progressed to getting the common man to enjoy the classics by making a procedural Sherlock Holmes show?


4 Dec

**edit, I accidentally posted this to a separate blog of mine on Sunday rather than ours. Sorry about that**


I am writing my final paper, and my BA project, on the subject of adaptation, so I am finding the discussion of Lizzie Bennet Diaries particularly interesting. In my opinion, it is a cute and enjoyable adaptation, but that might stem from the fact that I am viewing as an adaptation that intersects with the original work rather than one that it trying to maintain fidelity to the original work. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is retelling the story of Pride and Prejudice, but in a different way than the BBC miniseries does. We are getting the story from a different angle and time period. The character of Lydia has been played with immensely and the two youngest Bennet sisters have been re-appropriated. Just as these are characteristics of an adaptation so is the fact that we do not really see most of the action play out. Instead, it is told practically confession style with the occasional scene playing out in front of the camera. Pride and Prejudice was not an epistle novel, but this might be how it was told if it were. 

There is also the fact that it is an adaptation of a work that will be celebrating its 200th birthday in January (I am praying that they do something adorable with this). Most people, even if they have not read the novel, have some vague idea about the plot. In the course of watching this for class, I was inspired to share it with my best friend (as I do with all shows that I enjoy). She marathoned it and the conversation we had afterward was pretty interesting. I have read the novel, for class and for pleasure, and have seen at least 3 adaptations outside of this one. She on the other hand, has done none of those things. She still knew enough to mention the fact that Kitty and Mary were not Bennet sisters in this adaptation, but rather a Bennet cat and a Bennet cousin. She did caution me not to spoil the nuances of the romance between Lizzy and Darcy, as many Youtube posters beg. This a 199 year old novel that no one wants spoiled. People know that Lizzy and Darcy end up together (as my friend commented), but no one seems to know exactly how and they are enjoying how it plays out in “real time” through these postings so much that it has reached “spoilable” status.



28 Nov

This showed up on the blog of Mary Kate Wiles (Lydia Bennet). I thought it was cute and wanted to share it with all ya’ll.

A Character

11 Nov




The thing that strikes me about The Wire and The Corner when watching them so soon after each other is how different they are. This might seem like an obvious statement, but I might be speaking in a way that you don’t think of right away. The big difference for me is the characters. The characters on The Wire are just that: characters. They might have basis in the life of a real person, but they have a made up life. On The Corner, these are real people that David Simon and Edward Burns talked to and wrote about. As we have seen, you can google them and find out what they are doing now, almost 20 years after the book is set. This fact changes how I view the show and the characters. They are more tragic to me. They seem more prey to fate at this point. No amount of letters to the show runners or network can change their fate. This is who they are. For me, this fact was more emotionally gripping. I cared more intensely about these characters and mourned them acutely. To go from that kind of program to The Wire caused me to chafe a little bit when introduced to the new characters. I didn’t care for most of them and questioned their motives constantly. West Baltimore was a place I had come to understand through the lens of The Corner and The Wire wasn’t going to revolutionize that world for me. At the same time, I recognize it as great television. I enjoyed watching it, in spite of barely tolerating most of the characters on the show. It didn’t affect me like The Corner did and I believe that is entirely a result of how I viewed the characters in each program.

The Wire: the Musical

29 Oct

The Wire: the Musical

I just stumbled upon this and thought to share it with you guys.

It’s Not TV, It’s HBO

25 Oct

ImageIn his essay on the Aristocracy of Culture, Christopher Anderson talks about this idea of escalating television to the level that it is not just something to consume and forget about, but as art: not only art, but art worth consideration. He points to the emergence of HBO and its critically lauded dramas as a turning point in the idea of television as art. This is important to distinguish from say an art form. Television is not an art, but it is art itself like a painting or a sculpture. When speaking of this standard that HBO created, Anderson says, “against the profane flow of everyday television, in which the run of the mill runs with metronomic precision of commercial necessity, HBO stands alone” (p.3 of PDF). While this is certainly  true, I think there is another reputation that HBO has that is worth considering. There is a 50-50 chance that when asked to describe what is a common characteristic of HBO shows, the common man (who does not discuss television in the way we are doing for this class) would either mention (A) high caliber dramas or (B) plenty of nudity.

The first example that comes to mind is True Blood. That show is not on the same level as The Sopranos when it comes to storytelling. I don’t mean this as an insult to the show; in fact, I enjoy watching it. It is more of a light, fluffy supernatural drama rather than the intense psychological drama that the Sopranos or Homeland is. The show demonstrates rather remarkably the tendency towards cable channel shows to veer into the smut territory. I have not done any official research, but my rather reliable memory is telling me that there is at least one graphic sex scene per episode of True Blood. And with the territory of it being a supernatural show, the increased strength/durability/whatever-you-wish of the characters has led to very disturbing sex practices that would be humanly impossible. There are less restrictions on what cannot be shown or said on channels like HBO. This can mean something like profanity or it can mean strange townwide orgy scenes like True Blood had in its third season. I think this happens in shows that are more narratively complex. I think it is a symptom of shows being on HBO and people loving to titter at how ridiculous it is or write it off as classy because “it’s not TV, it’s HBO.” Or in this case, it’s not porn, it’s HBO. Girls, for all the interesting things that it is saying about being young, living in the city or being a girl, has had many sex scenes that were extremely uncomfortable and way too detailed. I think an argument can be made for how Lena Dunham and Co. can make a totally reasonable argument as to how they are using that capability to further their storytelling, but that doesn’t mean I don’t squirm every time it gets too uncomfortable.

It is not just the sex though. The pure violence shown is on a whole different level. For this, I thought of Sons of Anarchy which shows on FX, but that channel is one that is following the trend that HBO started along with others like Showtime and AMC. Sons of Anarchy has its share of sex scenes, but as a motorcycle gang is the heart of the show, it is incredibly violent. In a recent episode, a character was forced to watch as his daughter was burned alive as retribution for an accidental murder he committed. Not only did he see this, but the viewer did also.

These scenes are incredibly powerful, not only in terms of storyline. These scenes have a greater capability to get an emotional reaction out of the viewer. This is both a defining trait and a potential pitfall for these kinds of programs. They are able to better tell certain stories because of this, but when is too far? I would just like to point out that sometimes there is great power in denial and having to be clever about certain themes. Here I call to the front Ren & Stimpy which was enjoyed by children for whatever reason that children enjoy cartoons and enjoyed by adults for being bawdy and inappropriate while still getting things approved for children’s television. Once it moved to Spike TV and was able to be completely vulgar and dirty, the audience lost their love of it.

Additional Resources

11 Oct

So, 5 minutes is not really a long time to try and explain broadcast technology. I think knowing might help a little bit or at least be interesting to some of us so I am including the websites I used to research my presentation on the topic.  There is a lot here, but it is broken up nicely if you know what you are looking for.

My focus was on the pre-1990s section of the technology so I don’t have anything on cable or internet tv. What is interesting about what I did find is the amount of variation that I did find from 1930-1960. This seemed to be the phase where television sets were still in flux and the industry was trying to decided what direction it would ultimately go in. There was also some very fascinating stuff on the history of Japanese television that is mostly absent from the view that gives, but it seemed outside the scope of the class. The big takeaway from that would be how technology was not universal and standardized, but that each country was working through the process individually. There is also a remarkable resemblance of televisions worldwide to radios, for what it is worth.