Author Archives: the_hitcher

Beck & Franklin

Not a long post, but I wanted to say that these articles were so great to read right at the end of the year. I feel like they really dismantled some of the assumed notions people have about creative authorship in television (in particular to David Simon) as well as shined a light on the transformations material takes as its moved up the production chain to television (especially when the material falls into the hands of someone who may not share the writer’s vision).

With that in mind, what kind of conflicts do you see arising for television in the future? Looking at these articles, it’s clear on a specific level the obvious issues between Simon (who comes off as pompously all-encompassing) and Wright, whose style got lost in the production process. This is only one example where, even though the issue didn’t stem from viewers in particular, their idea for what they wanted the viewer to experience differed greatly. Thoughts?

Pushing the COmedic Envelopes

Seeing David Misch speak today was a really great treat, but the point he made about pushing the envelope with “Duckman” before shows like “South Park” and “Family Guy” got me wondering: in another class I’m taking we read an article where comedy is described as the art which frees spectators and creators alike from fear of persecution and subjection.

When shows like the ones previously mentioned push the boundaries of “political correctness”, is it a testament to that idea? That we (as spectators and creators) should not fear those who threaten to crush an artistic vision? Does dramatic programming like we’ve studied so far have any type of similar purpose? Or is it more like the creators have a personal agenda and are simply out to tear down a society’s desire to maintain a safe and placid status quo?

Personally I like to think that the creators of these shows have some sort of bigger purpose than to just lampoon for the sake of proving another purpose wrong. But I believe with some programming (to me, particularly “South Park”) the creators invest so much of their personal interests and beliefs that, even though the material remains funny, there is an air of cynicism that takes away any other message that could be derived from the show.

Hood Awards

In Talbot’s “Stealing Life”, there is an anecdote about actor Andre Royo (Bubbles) while on set in Baltimore for “The Wire”. He was totally dressed up and ready for a scene when a guy off the street just walks up to him, passes him a small bag of heroin and says something to the effect of “You need this shit more than I do.” Later on, Royo reflected on this moment as a validation of him looking enough like an addict out of West Baltimore by calling the bag his “street Oscar”.

I remembered earlier in the semester when we talked about a similar situation on the set of “Homicide”. A criminal who had just robbed a store or bank ran away from the scene and directly into a collection of actors costumed as Baltimore cops on the set of the show. Flustered and defeated, the criminal handed over the cash and gave himself up before even realizing that the cops were fake (he was consequently turned in anyway).

Though I find both of these stories humorous, it is a little disconcerting that these incidents are mechanisms of validation for the realism present in Simon’s shows. If Simon was so intent on bringing the real Baltimore to television, I would imagine that the attitudes around these stories might be less about hilarity and perhaps a little more about the understanding of the gravity of the problems that have been plaguing West Baltimore. It’s a tricky situation to negotiate though because, ideally, one would hope that the show could be confused for real life (if that is Simon’s complete and total intention). Thoughts?

George Article

I loved reading this article. I had been wondering throughout the duration of watching the show how much the fact that two white men who had many experiences with black people were capable of writing a show that was dominated by black characters, let alone thugs. It didn’t really bother me to have that knowledge but I definitely questioned the authority with which they wrote about and for drug dealing in West Baltimore.

My favorite points George mentioned was Chris Rock’s “nigga vs. black people” categories. There is certainly a stigma about discussing these “subcultures” within race, and it’s an issue that is part of every racial category. What I find even more interesting is how “thug” subculture appears to be disparaged upon within other racial groups, while the focus on glorification of that lifestyle occurs primarily within Hispanic and Black racial groups. Is this an unfair claim about what gang members (and their portrayals) are like? Considering characters like Stringer Bell and D’Angelo Barksdale, what is The Wire trying to say about what the definition of a thug is?

Polan on “The Wire”

Polan argues that the transient nature of The Wire allows the material of the show to transcend time and people. This is often seen as a trait of good cinema where, due to the time limitations of a full-length feature, the material must be able to cover a lot of time without leaving the audience feeling like they’d been ripped out of time or rushed through a story. I believe for The Wire to have a similar ability is a mark of David Simon’s appreciation for work that is meticulous and representative of the real world. Nonetheless, his focus on one particular part of Baltimore life through many facets (police & dealers, the media, the docks, etc.) makes The Wire seem less adaptable to other locations (though it is often attributed to being an honest representation of urban life in the US in general). It also takes away from the credibility that Simon is giving an honest and comprehensive portrait of Baltimore and its inhabitants.

Is there any place that The Wire could be transplanted to? What do you think the viewership of the show would think if suddenly white suburbia popped up in the show? Or more interestingly, more of the black middle class? Would that open up a whole other world of race issues in the show or do you think it would reiterate in some way the race and class issues already prevalent in the Baltimore of The Wire?

The Bane of my DVD experience

By now, the novelty of the gag reel on a DVD, film or television, is kind of a staple. I know that for me, it’s really hard to watch a show or movie without looking for (or viewing) the collection of flubs from behind the scenes. Though I don’t always go looking for them, my family (notoriously my brother and father) always must see them and are disappointed when they are missing from the menu.

After discussing the Kompare reading and analyzing the pros and cons of the extras on DVD box sets, what do you feel is the place of something like the gag reel? Or other features that are similar/connected? I feel like it’s truly is harder to create comedy than drama, but the gags are to me only the funny mistakes that happened on set. Viewing them before or after the programming can definitely change the perspective of how the media in interpreted.

super long annotated bibliography (freaks and geeks)

Aubrun, Axel and Joseph Grady. “Aliens in the Living Room: How TV Shapes Our Understanding of ‘Teens’”. The Frameworks Institute. 18 September 2000.

The article explores the different expectations and definitions of viewership and how they are applied to the teenage audiences. There is also consideration of how these definitions determine what portrayals are seen of corresponding characters and demographics represented on television. It will contribute to the discussion in the essay of what teens are seeing when they view themselves on television, and in particular what type of teenager was displayed on Freaks and Geeks as compared to other teen television fare.

Berger, Arthur Asa. Narratives in Popular Culture, Media and Everyday Life. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications Ltd, 1997.

The work of Berger generally concerns the decoding of any type of media text down to a fundamental storytelling core. This book emphasizes the presence of narrative in every aspect of a person’s life, from entertainment capacities to conversation and personal recollections. Its primary purpose within this paper is to provide meaningful literary examples that can be compared to storytelling tactics that were effective in Freaks and Geeks. It also features (and defines) terminology that is useful in breaking down the creative technical components of the show’s story.

Bowe, John. “The Trouble with Paul Feig.” New York Times Magazine 26 September 2008.

The subject of interview in this article is Paul Feig, co-producer and writer on all 18 episodes of Freaks and Geeks. Written in 2008, Feig elaborates on his potential projects and current chief job as co-executive producer of NBC’s The Office. However, there is a lot of reflection on his open dedication to Freaks and Geeks, the influences of his personal experiences on the creation and content of the show (and all of his material in general), and his personal disappointment at the cancellation of the series. This different take on the series from someone who could be considered “auteur” of the show as much as Apatow offers a more intimate perspective on the meaning and message of the material, as well as the profundity of personal experiences invested during creative development.

Conaway, Sandra B. “Lindsay Weir Doesn’t Give a Damn About a Bad Reputation.” Girls Who (Don’t) Wear Glasses: The Performativity Of Smart Girls On Teen Television. Dissertation: p. 152-158.

Conaway examines the importance and influence of gender roles on teen television. As varied as girls can be (and as uniform as they tend to appear) it is important to distinguish what is perceived as the “smart” girl from the other teen female portrayals on television. Discussed in the paper will be the significance of choosing a female lead in Freaks and Geeks despite having a strong male presence (both creatively and in production), and what that reflects on the “auteurs” of the program, Judd Apatow and Paul Feig.

Hatcher, Thurston. “’Freaks and Geeks’ leaves NBC with three-hour finale.” 2000. 28 October 2009
Hatcher’s article was published in 2000, the year that Freaks and Geeks was officially cancelled. It features excerpts from interviews with executive produce Judd Apatow and cast member Samm Levine, who both offer insights as to why the show, despite being a critical darling, couldn’t gain enough ratings to remain in production. The opinions from members of the show who worked in its creative and business aspects are relevant to this paper in understanding what the importance of the show was, which consisted of providing a sense of comfort and familiarity rather than, as Apatow puts it, “escapist fare” that is so popular in the format of the teenager/family show. Additionally, there are sentiments about the network’s apparent lack of interest in promoting the show, which assured the early conclusion of the series.

Poniewozik, J. “Save This Show!”. Time Magazine. 1 May 2000: p. 68-9.

This article provides an assessment of Freaks and Geeks from the perspective of a critic rather than a regular viewer or person involved with the show. There is also a comparison of this show to two competing (but similarly styled) programs that were on at the same time and suffered the same fates, Felicity and Roswell. According to the author, it is important to consider that the climate of television at the time is relevant to determining success, and the paper will discuss the notion that a show may fail not only because of time slot or lack of promotion but what the viewers are demanding at that time in a general sense.

Rodrick, Stephen. “Judd Apatow’s Family Values.” New York Times Magazine 27 May 2007.

This interview of Judd Apatow during the filming of Knocked Up offers a perspective into his personal and professional lifestyles. There is a huge emphasis on Apatow’s appreciation of hard work and practice over just luck and talent, and how this attitude has afforded him not only great success but respect among his peers and admiration from his co-workers. It offers great insight also on his close relationships to a particular group of actors and writers who he has simultaneously influenced and been influenced by, including members of the cast form his first major production Freaks and Geeks (especially Seth Rogen). This article highlights the techniques and experiences Apatow developed over the years that contributed to his transformation into an auteur of sorts.

Mekhi Phifer: Hottest Hooldum Ever

After watching The Corner, Homicide and beginning The Wire, I had gotten used to a particular presentation of the drug dealer. Not necessarily ugly, I saw them as usually being weathered and intense in their gaze or presence (unless, like DeAndre in The Corner, they are younger and not completely accustomed to the lifestyle). This changes a bit from series to series, and there are certainly some very good-looking actors who portray dealers in the shows. But in the film adaptation of Clockers, despite Mekhi Phifer’s talent as an actor, it was hard for me to get past the fact that it was Mekhi Phifer I was watching.

Understandably, films need people with strong, handsome features to bring in audiences. I know that in 1995, Phifer was not a big name by any means (he only had one other major credit to his name and it was for a TV film). Still, his youth and attractiveness was, for me, a somewhat distracting factor in watching his portrayal of Strike. Of course, it serves as a visual reinforcement of the lack of maturity and street savvy he has in the film as opposed to the novel, but all same it caused me to take him a little less seriously in the role had they chosen a harder-looking actor. At the same token, it probably would’ve been disastrous if there had been a bigger name cast; that would be completely distracting.

Freaks and Geeks

I’m thinking about writing my paper on the series (or season) of Freaks and Geeks, focusing on it’s particular definition of the American family, characterization of high school, and the transformation of Judd Apatow as an underrated TV auteur into an absurdly successful filmmaker. I probably won’t focus on all three in the paper, but those are concepts that I’m definitely exploring. I was also considering comparing it to a conventional sitcom (which I haven’t settled on yet) but I’m leaning more towards looking at the show by itself.

After starting the book and watching 3 episodes of The Corner in a row, I couldn’t make any senses of my feelings about the meaning of the show, primarily David Simon. Clearly he invests a lot of time, consideration and respect for others in these projects he took up (that’s counting this and Homicide) but I really wondered where he was going with this particular work.

I felt that at times that, though Simon and Burns turned out phenomenal work, the authors were kind of pretentious in their writing. Going back to what we were saying in class today, I just can’t tell is there is a message to be derived, if this is just about having the knowledge that places like West Baltimore exist (though I believe that places like that are exposed so much that to see this now is less shocking than even until a couple of years ago), or if they’re just out to prove that they now have two halves of a story. Do you think that either Homicide or The Corner have anything to prove? Or is it just about knowing? And does just knowing make the audience passive, as had been earlier assumed in television studies, or because they are so immersed in this world is it too much to ask the viewer for a solution? I know that this was touched on in class but I wanna hear more answers.