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YOUTUBE!

30 Nov

Is YouTube television?

I would personally not categorize it as such because formally it does not fit a television show. The videos are too short for the usual length of shows, there are no commercial breaks (even Hulu presents advertisements), and most do not convey an episodic focus on a particular plot line. For example, an episode in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries is just too short and did not have enough content for it to pass as a TV episode.

However, I believe YouTube, although not Television, is definitely rising in status as somewhat of an extension. It did start out as a way for anyone to upload their amateur videos and share with the world, but I believe it has grown into so much more. On YouTube, instead of TV Shows, you can have a series of “shorts” that almost function as the same – except each “episode” is perhaps 10 minutes long. An example is WongFuProduction’s collaboration with AT&T – “Away We Happened”. Not only does it have an official sponsor (instead of commercials, the new cell phone is key communicator in the series), but it takes audience participation one step further – each episode ends with a decision a character must choose between, and the audience can comment and share what they want to happen before the next episode airs. They are directly affecting the direction of the series. The waiting between each episode (at a pre-announced timeframe set by WongFu) emulates the waiting period we all experience when we watch TV on the air. I still would not call these series of shorts “television”, but I do recognize that it shares many similarities and should be considered a category of its own.

Away We Happened: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-18osIewxg

Also – many people in class have mentioned how YouTube videos cannot pass as TV because the visual quality is not comparable. However, since YouTube has provided videos to be seen in 720p and 1080p quality, some of its content can rise in status, even be called “art”.  In July 2010, Guggenheim and YouTube collaborated and created a global video contest, YouTube Play: A Biennial of Creative Video. Winning videos would be showcased at the museum alongside what is labeled “prestigious works of art”. Thus, YouTube can create works of art.  In my many years of browsing, I am always surprised to see videos that even seem to share cinematic properties and editing that I would expect to only see in films.

An example of this is this short concept video – which I would highlight the amazing shots of a breakdancer in slow motion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRWxoR-FJV0

YouTube seems to take elements of film and television, yet is a completely different category in my opinion. 

Technology and 24

22 Nov

All the talk about technology and its importance in communication in The Wire carried over with me when I watched season 5 episodes 3 & 4. In these two episodes, technology-enabled communication was paramount in connecting all the characters – when Jack is taking pictures of the terrorists through his cell phone to CTU, how the President’s right hand man stays on the cell phone so he can immediately tell him when the rescue has been successfully carried out, how Jack is able to set off a bomb via a cell phone signal, how CTU tries to negotiate with the terrorists, and how the terrorists use the mass media to send a message to the President. Without a doubt, technology is what drives the narration in a show like 24. That is why most of the shots in these episodes are not of someone just gathering information, but it is always the relaying of information over technology that is shown – for example, the dual split screens with people on both ends of the line, and how we always see shots either from the camera screen or the TV screen during the terrorist shooting scenes. Technology is what connects all the characters to a single piece of information, and we see how they react to it.

However, communication cannot always be received so easily. Technology is also used to impair communication. The terrorists force Jack to call the CTU team and give them false information in order to set them in a trap. Technology cannot always extract the truth – just relay information. Similar to the codes used by the drug lords in The Wire, Jack uses the code “flank 2” in his message to convey a distress signal. Once again, some can only understand Jack’s message at face value if they do not recognize the code- thus, the terrorists suspect nothing. To others, the message has hidden information that needs further extraction and understanding. Communication is extremely complex, especially in 24 because of the twists and turns of the plot. It uses “rapidly unexpected and changing narrative states [to evoke] an informatics pleasure” (Galloway, “24/7, 16.8”).  You never know when information is true or if there’s a double meaning, but this also lends to narrative, and is also what keeps the audience engaged with every piece of new information. A show like 24 is as much about the action scenes as it is about gathering information, monitoring communication, and deciphering its meaning.

 

 

 

 

Bubbles and the Corner Characters

13 Nov


When I watch The Wire, I keep making comparisons between the characters here with the ones from the Corner. Ever since we read in Linda Williams’ “Ethnographic Imaginary: The Genesis and Genius of the Wire”, the fact that she pointed out that viewers will “recognize in Gary more than a glimmer of one of the series’ most beloved characters, Bubbles” (217) stuck with me. Because David Simon created both shows about Baltimore, as I am watching these episodes, I can’t help but draw comparisons between the two. There are several moments when Bubbles reminds me of Gary – such as the metal capers, being duped and given baking soda instead of drugs, and being “intellectually and morally a cut above most of the people he hangs out with” (218). In this way, I see in Bubbles the intelligence of Gary and a certain moral code – Gary doesn’t do capers that will injure others. We can see that Bubbles also does not like violence as he is extremely upset when his friend is beat up mercilessly.

However, Bubbles also reminds me of Fran, especially in the scenes where he goes to the Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and later when he tells a friend that he wants to get clean. The scene at the meeting reminded me exactly of when Fran would go to those meetings. They both had the courage to go up and receive the pins for however long they were clean (even though Bubbles was not in the program, but he was moved to act). What I see in Bubbles is Fran’s desire to get clean, and also her fall back into drugs, as they are both addicts. I also see in Bubbles a certain tendency to nurture and protect the people they care about – Bubbles with his younger addict friend, and Fran with her children.

Another comparison I drew between the two shows is between DeAndre and Wallace. Specifically when Wallace told D that he wanted to stop dealing and go back to school, it really resonated DeAndre’s continuous struggle to do the same. They are both young boys who have their feet in both worlds, and are both capable of redemption. I especially like the scenes where Wallace takes care of the younger kids he lives with – helping them with homework or packing their lunch boxes.  Reminiscent of DeAndre taking care of DeRodd or when DeAndre plays with the little girl at the youth center, they are both portrayed as people who want to do right but unfortunately get caught up in the drugs.

With so many parallels between The Wire and The Corner, and with both shows written by Simon, I wonder if he expected viewers to have seen both, and if so, if there is a specific purpose for making these characters so similar? For me, these connections make me like Bubbles and Wallace even more because I see the optimistic characteristics transferred over; in my head, I am hoping that these characters will turn out just as well or even better.  (I have not seen the rest of The

Brand Name Directors

24 Oct

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Caldwell’s “Excessive Style” article, along with television and cinema focusing more on stylist and aesthetic factors of the medium, it started to matter which names were attached with these styles.  In a sense, besides network names, directors now held the power of giving a television show or a movie its “brand name” quality. Like Caldwell said “Television was no longer simply anonymous as many theorists had suggested. Names of producers and directors assumed an ever more important role in popular discourses about television” (14). I believe this to be very true within the past decades as famous directors have loyal followers who will see anything they make.

The best example that comes to mind is the famous James Cameron, who is best known for directing the tragically beautiful Titanic in 1997. Twelve years later, he wrote and directed the long anticipated Avatar. I believe that the excitement for this movie was not based on its having an amazing narrative or innovative plot, but mainly because it carried the names James Cameron, who had not made anything very major since Titanic. I remember the hype around this movie, but at the same time, not knowing what it was about at all. What I did remember was how everyone was excited about the amazing visuals of the fictional universe of Pandora, the striking special effects, and the technology to make it a spectacular 3-D viewer’s pleasure. In fact, the greatest detractor of the movie was its cliché plot similar to Pocahontas, yet the movie was still such a success. What was so special about Avatar are its stylish excesses attributed to James Cameron’s name. The success of his name is evident in its nomination for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won three for Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects and Best Art Direction. It also became the top-selling Blu-ray of all time, which also reflects on the evolution of technology and the audience’s emphasis on style in the 21st century. Consumers today are satisfied with nothing less than high definition or better, and now if we can get our hands on blu-ray, we must have it.

This is also links me to another great director of our time, Christopher Nolan. He is famous for Memento, which was mentioned in Mittell’s “Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television” article. This movie illustrates complex narrative form in a “puzzle film” that requires the audience to learn particular rules of a film to comprehend its narrative (38). The name Christopher Nolan, thus, carries a brand of creative complex narrative strategies that the audience is willing to participate in, as well as stylish cinematography that he has demonstrated in recently popular movies:Inception, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises. Speaking for myself and many of my peers, if I know that Nolan is directing a movie, I automatically expect a certain standard of film- narrative with plot twists and beautiful visuals. Names like Nolan are “signature banner-carriers” that carry “aesthetic badges and trophies of distinction”, whom to the networks, any financial risk that comes with them (Caldwell mentioned Lucas, Speilberg and Stone), is apparently, worth it (16).  The two examples are of films, but the same principle applies to television as well, especially when film directors do television as well (such as J.J. Abrams).

Family Guy

10 Oct

In the most recent episode of Family Guy titled “Ratings Guy”, the Griffin family is chosen to be a Nielsen family – they are given a Nielsen box which will monitor their viewership, and it will be used to generalize program ratings and determine what shows to put on TV. Soon Peter discovers the power he holds as a Nielsen family when the local news-anchor is willing to do silly things to get Peter to watch Channel 5 news. He then steals hundreds of Nielsen boxes to hold the power to affect national broadcasting television.  He obsesses over how his ratings can affect the industry- commentary that reflects upon the TV medium itself. This episode makes fun of how the networks are slaves to mass ratings, and they care about making profitable shows over quality television. Peter convinces Mad Men to include a lightsaber battle scene, and to somehow put Breaking Bad on roller skates, all because the network wants higher ratings. In the Spiegel article, it says how “NBC continually tried to channel the movements of the audience. Not merely content to fit its programming into the viewer’s rhythms of reception, the network aggressively sought to change those rhythms by making the activity of television viewing into a new daily habit (82). This is interesting because Spiegel makes it sound like the networks are controlling the viewer habits, but in this episode, Peter (representative of audience) is pulling the strings on the programming content and making fools out of the networks. At the same time, when the TV shows have become too ridiculous (in fact, a character references Mashall McLuhan and calls it a “vast wasteland”), the whole town, who is dependent on its regular programs, is in an uproar, so in that sense television does control them, and the television greatly affects daily life. This just brings up the question- who truly controls what is shown on TV?

Brian then blames the networks because they “pander to the lowest common denominator” and for profit, instead of having standards. He suggest to Peter to use the Nielsen boxes to put a positive influence on ratings by watching quality programming such as PBS. This reminds me of how Minows wanted to use broadcasting for the public interest through educational and quality programming.

However, when Peter gets the chance to fix television at the studio, he ends up perpetuating the same “wasteland” type programs- such as reality shows, office comedies, Law & Order clones and talent shows. It makes one wonder what kind of influence would be able to actually change what is on TV? Or if the everyday American, given a chance, would change the programs we have already been accustomed to watching as a culture.