Author Archives: falafel

the wire–too real?

In the article ‘Secrets of the City,’ Lanahan describes a scene from the streets of Baltimore, then claims that “it could be a scene from ‘The Wire'” (24). Unlike Homicide and The Corner, The Wire is actually fictional, yet so much emphasis is placed on its reality. The elaborate contexts of the systems that drive people rather than the traditional character driven plot, the blurring of good guys and bad guys, the irresolution of problems…

According to Simon, good journalism should bring “”real life and real issues through the keyhole” in a way that leads to “meaningful thought, if not action”” (26). Does The Wire attempt to take on this aim? I find it difficult to believe that people would watch this show and be compelled to action. The reality of the problems presented seem overwhelming, systemic, and without any foreseeable solution. And is reality what people watch television for? Especially fake reality? Might it be possible that the somewhat low viewership numbers were there despite, rather than because of, the brilliantly gritty realism?

30 Rock Term Paper Annotated Bibliography

Dowd, Maureen. “What Tina Wants.” Vanity Fair (Jan., 2009).
This lengthy interview with Tina Fey reveals some of her own views on her work in comedy. This has provided various launching points for my investigations. For example, her comment that her show 30 Rock is aimed at a male audience has caused me to look in to some sources that explore gender and comedy and perhaps what differences it makes to make guy jokes versus comedy for women.
Hitchens, Christopher. “Why Women Aren’t Funny”. Vanity Fair, January 2007.
This controversial article which spawned Alessandra Stanley’s “Who Says Women Aren’t Funny?” and Hitchen’s followup article “Why Women Still Don’t Get It” along with various video responses to a slew of angry letters explores issues of women creating comedy and attempts to negotiate the stereotypes and politics of that powerful and subversive (?) role.
Lavery, David (Editor) with Sara Lewis Dunne. Seinfeld, Master of Its Domain:, Revisiting Television’s Greatest Sitcom. The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc., New York. 2006.
Marc, David and Robert J. Thompson. Prime Time, Prime Movers: From I Love Lucy to L.A. Law—America’s Greatest TV Shows and the People Who Created Them. Little, Brown. Boston, Toronto, London. 1992.
These two sources, as well as an I Love Lucy book and a Cosby show book that I have coming through Link + give a historical context to 30 Rock as a sitcom, and will help me situate Tina Fey relative to a legacy of television creators and producers to find what exactly makes 30 Rock so acclaimed.
Morreale, Joanne (Editor). Critiquing the Sitcom: A Reader. Syracuse University Press. 2003.
This reader includes a few interesting chapters on sitcoms for women, sitcoms by women, and how women have reacted to sitcoms. This book will help inform my conceptualizing an idea on the significance of Fey’s comment that 30 Rock is a show for men.
Rabinovitz, Lauren. “Sitcoms and Single Moms: Representations of Feminism on American TV.” Cinema Journal. Vol. 29, No. 1 (Autumn, 1989), pp. 3-19. University of Texas Press on behalf of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.

Scovell, Nell. “Letterman and Me”. Vanity Fair. October 27, 2009.
This article on the latest late night show scandal offers some interesting insights on the male dominated world of the TV comedy writer’s room, and I hope to extrapolate from it to inform my idea of Fey’s SNL working environment which she goes on to portray in 30 Rock.
Shales, Tom and James Anderw Miller. Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live. Little, Brown. Boston, New York, London. 2002.
I’m hoping that this lengthy tome will give me a good idea of the SNL environment and how comedy is produced there, which I can then hold up to 30 Rock’s representation to hopefully highlight what changes or satire have been created by Fey and her crew with regards to this world.
Stanley, Alessandra. “Behind the Scenes, and Above the Rest.” The New York Times. November 30, 2006.
This critique of 30 Rock in relation to other sitcoms including “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the show and provides for me a different perspective on a show that is known for its numerous Emmys and critical acclaim.
Walters, Suzanna Danuta. Revi. “Review: Receptive Women: Consuming and Contesting TV Culture.” Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 22, No. 5 (Sep., 1993) pp. 735-737. American Sociological Association.
A feminist approach to viewership and the effects of television on women as well as the ways that women consume television. I wonder if whether or not the television is made by women will have a particular impact.

30 rock

I would like to use my term paper to take a look at the series 30 Rock and how issues of authorship and television production are portrayed in the show, especially given the created/ written/ produced, and starring Tina Fey dynamic. Does this qualify as an auteur piece? I also want to research what discrepancies there may be between the how the show is actually made and how the show depicts a show being made, and what is made of that self-reflexivity in the show. Hopefully, this research wil also help me develop and understanding of why 30 Rock, though nominated for, and having received numerous critical awards, has received relatively low ratings here in the US, yet relatively better viewership overseas. My thoughts on this are still somewhat scattered since I have never actually watched the show, but the premise has always been interesting to me.

against flow

It is surprising to me that Williams’ concept of ‘flow’ became “so important to the development of television criticism” (8) when even Thompson claims that it is “neither self-evidently useful nor true” (8). While the scheduling of programs and pace and timing of commercials is very important to the networks in terms of profits and competition, as evidenced by the various strategies employed (hammocking, tent-poling, etc) I don’t think that it should play such a big role in the study of television itself. Some may argue that flow greatly impacts the viewer’s experience of the shows, and Williams goes so far as to suggest that audiences watch television as a whole and may only “register” commercial breaks as “interruptions” (10). Thompson tears at this notion by giving examples of how real life interruptions affect our behavior and ability to consume an ongoing narrative. I think that studying flow and program blocks as the focus of television studies is like studying is like studying the lighting and framing of a portrait instead of the painting, or the binding of a book and the environs of a library instead of the literature itself. Certainly, context and access help us frame how we view works of art, but I do not think that study of context should replace study of the art itself. This tendency in television studies to study the effects and context of television rather than the works themselves goes back to the general trend towards “cultural studies,” people dismissing or feeling threatened by television as a medium, or studying it “symptomatically in terms of their reflections of modern society,” (5) rather than aesthetically and analytically. Perhaps another one of the reasons, why flow became such a common element of television studies is that flow is “the effect that TV executives hope will result from their rescheduling” (12). The concept of flow seems to give weight to the order and control that programming networks hope to create and study in an otherwise very random and unpredictable world of viewer behavior.
I was also intrigued by Thompson’s setup of the contrasting “Classic Hollywood” versus “European Cinema” dichotomy of ‘character driven events’ versus ‘event driven characters’. In a show like Homocide, it definitely seems as though the characters are more situationally driven. They have goals to solve the crimes and other personal agendas, but it still feels as though they are largely reactionary to the turns of events and whatever evidence pops up. While the detectives may actively pursue certain paths, they so often meet with dead ends and frustrations due to circumstance. I’m not sure where exactly this occurs but one of the detectives makes the analogy that working in homocide is like mowing the lawn: you work to accomplish something, mow the lawn, but next week you have to do it again, which really emphasizes the uncontrollable circumstances that force the characters to keep moving.


I would like to write about the scene from episode 2 when Detective Bayliss goes to visit Idina Kisha Watson’s family and reveals to her mother that her daughter has been stabbed. I’d like to compare it to the scene in the book between Edgerton and Latonya’s mother and explore the changes in detail, story, dialogue, and emotionality and how they are changed or embellished when adapting from the book form. I will try to determine whether the television form necessitates and /or allows for certain kinds of storytelling and expression that are unique to that medium and different from the original literature.

I think that it is very interesting that Peter Wollen distinguishes auteur theory from the art cinema theory by claiming that “auterur theory does not limit itself to acclaiming  the director as the main author of a film” (520). He sees the auteur theory not as a way of attributing creative authorship to a single person, but rather as a means of reading a film which can reveal certain insights and details that might otherwise be overlooked. He describes it as an “explanatory device” (532) which can be applied to some, but not all, films. This method of film analysis proposes to ‘decode’ meaning from a finished film by an “operation of decipherment” (520). Wollen’s emphasis that a film is “associated with a single director, an individual, not because he has played the role of artist, expressing himself or his own vision in the film” (532) undermines our usual assumptions about authorship and attempts to attribute creative authority. The “force of ‘a director’s’ preoccupations that [leave] an unconscious, unintended meaning …in the film” (532) departs entirely from the notion of an artist’s willful construction and creative vision. Given Wollen’s version of the auteur theory, it would be virtually impossible to distinguish an auteur’s personal, unconscious influence from the “lots of voices” (Caldwell, 212) involved in television.

This doesn’t mean people don’t try to leave their individual marks though. A television director I worked with over the summer told me that he tries to put the image of a cat into every program that he does. He was hired to produce 2 / 13 episodes for the show.