Thursday, October 1, 2009

WTF and OMG: James Franco on GH?

Figures that the one day all semester when I am so tied up in classes and meetings that I spend almost zero time on the internets is the day when mondo GH news breaks. "Film Star James Franco Checks into General Hospital"! So I finally find out, I'm all excited (who doesn't love Daniel Desario?), I'm all, "but doesn't he realize that no one thinks GH is any good these days?" And then I finally get to read all about it in the soap blogosphere and the entertainment industry sites and all. And I realize this is really interesting in many, many ways.

First is the shocked (SHOCKED!) reaction amongst all commenters. No one can believe it. No one can understand it. But these shocked reactions come in at least three versions: one is from in-the-know soap types, who pretty much echo my reaction above--the "but everyone knows GH is a shell of its former self these days" take. GH is not the place to go for a quality soap experience! Serial Drama's Mallory says it; Marlena DeLaCroix says it. And here and there a commenter says it on more general entertainment biz sites.

But those sites have the much more predictable comments, the why the hell would he go to a soap at all comments, the who the hell cares about those awful soaps comments, the NO ONE actually watches those things anymore comments. These, of course, come from a much different place than those from soap viewers. Soap viewers love soaps, but rue how far so many have fallen from their days of soapy goodness. The rest of the world simply picks up the discourse of denigration long linked to the genre. Boring, easy pot-shots. The soap viewers' criticisms are much more stinging.

Then there's category three of reaction--the attempt to explain. Rumor has it he's researching a film role. He shares a manager with GH actor Steve Burton. He knows lots of famous folks once worked on soaps and wants to be like them. A friend told him that soap acting is the hardest acting gig there is and he wanted to try it. He got stoned with Seth Rogen and lost a bet.

I'd like to think that it's all linked to the education he's been getting at Columbia and, reportedly, in a queer cinema course at NYU. A while back, zigzigger linked to an interview clip with Franco expressing his admiration for Carl Wilson's awesome book, Let's Talk about Love, a volume about a hipster music snob trying to understand the appeal of Celine Dion that does an amazing job of exploring questions of cultural hierarchy, taste, and gender. I'm thinking that a little queer theory, a little Bourdieu, maybe even a little soap scholarship in one of those college courses piqued his interest and encouraged the guy to explore the genre from the inside.

Let's call the story, "James Franco challenges cultural hierarchies!" or, alternately, stealing from Wilson (who borrowed it from Idolator) "James Franco Journeys to the End of Taste." I think I may love the guy.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

First Mad Men, now this?

Opening an email from my friendly neighborhood Banana Republic chain, I am greeted by this:

Why, it's Claire Fisher and Ted Fairwell, the young lovers we learn in the last episode of Six Feet Under (spoiler alert) will eventually marry and live happily ever after!

I can't quite believe that BR went to the trouble to get Lauren Ambrose and Chris Messina for this ad, given that the series last aired in 2005 and the characters (not to mention the actors) are no where near universally recognizable. But I love them, as I do the Mad Men characters, and I think BR may totally have my number. If I didn't have a big ole pregnant belly right now I'd be totally tempted to use their 20% off offer just because they acknowledged my somewhat obscure TV tastes.

I really miss that Claire Fisher. And Ted, what a guy . . .

Friday, June 26, 2009

Farrah, the 1970s, and me

I'm a bad blogger, or delinquent at the very least. Just wrote a little something about Farrah and the 1970s for the Duke University Press blog (publishers of my book on sex and 1970s TV). So read it over there--and maybe, maybe more here soon from me.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Busy, busy

Much to do of late, as I am teaching two new courses this semester. One, a large introductory lecture, the other a graduate seminar. Both are going well but extremely time-consuming. Plus lots of TV to manage--always a challenge in Idol season. Those of you in the teaching/learning biz might be interested in the website for my lecture course, Television and Radio in American Society, and the class blog for my seminar in Gender and Popular Culture. The latter is great thanks to my super duper students. Too tired after a rousing seminar today to say much of note, but here's a few recent, random-ish thoughts on TV and other media consumed:

-- The sexism and homophobia of Idol is really bugging me this season. The excessive discussion of the female contestants' attractiveness when their singing stinks? Ryan and Simon's homophobic taunts? Yuck.

-- But I join the bandwagon of excitement around hometown boy Danny Gokey. I just want him to make it to the top 3 so I can go to his home visit festivities! Though I am convinced I know that Adam Lambert from somewhere. Anyone know if he was a student at UW-Madison or Milwaukee at some point?

-- Mamma Mia is quite absurd, isn't it? But I was amazed to see a Hollywood product so baldly designed for the pleasure of middle-aged women.

-- I liked the Hugh Jackman-hosted Oscars. The individual tributes for the acting awards were nice, but I found those for the actresses way more moving and genuine than those for the men. Better acting or just greater comfort with the emotional display?

-- Fascinated with the new Disney XD channel for boys and its flagship series Aaron Stone. I may a have a paper in me on this one.

-- Finally finished watching last season's episodes of Lipstick Jungle. Gotta say, I really like that show. I think it's a case of a show one may watch but is not supposed to discuss.

-- I was so saddened by the "special" GH reflecting on what would have happened if Maxie had died and B.J. had lived woe those many years ago when the show was THE AWESOME. Kirsten Storms gave it her all with her sassy commentary but too much of it just made no sense for those with any awareness of the show's history. Carly got involved with Tony only AFTER BJ had died. Bobbie and Tony were as solid as soap couples come before losing their child. Makes no sense that Carly would have been married to Tony in the scenario they offered. And why no recognition that Lulu and BJ were cousins? And why did Maxie's absence have anything to do with Johnny becoming a jr. Sonny? So lame. The show just makes me sad, sad, sad.

-- To end more hopefully, do you know how many free magazines one can acquire by agreeing to free trial issues with no-obligation cancellations? And once you're in the system, they just keep offering you more free issues every time you cancel.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Video catalog hits 1000!

Today I enter the 1000th dvd into my video catalog. As I have described previously, I am at work on a continuous dubbing and cataloging project, recording off-air shows to DVD and transferring my large collection of videotapes to DVD, as well. I know that DVD is an imperfect archival medium but the ability to save (at least for a while) my stuff in a compact form, cataloging it in the process, is too good to pass up.

What is the 1000th disc, you ask? Why, four episodes of The Nanny from the late 1990s. I wrote a paper about the show once upon a time, still kind of love it, and will perhaps return to it again someday. Sure, the show is available on commercial DVDs, but here I have some of my favorite episodes, with original commercials, and I don't have to pay the MSM to receive them. Or maybe I'm just a pack rat.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Back to business

What I have done so far today:
1) Made lunch for boy, got him to school
2) Took clothes to Goodwill
3) Assorted correspondence
4) Finished notes for this week's grad seminar
5) Reading for lecture class next week
6) Wrote lecture for said class
7) Wrote reading questions for said reading
8) Wrote exam questions for said lecture
9) Dubbed a bunch of shows to DVD and entered into video catalog
10) Finished last season's Entourage finale during lunch

What I have left to do today:
1) Create Powerpoints for above said lecture
2) Write conference proposal
3) Make dinner
4) Work out
5) Pick up boy and his dad
6) Watch TV or Netflix movie
7) Figure out what to wear for first day of teaching tomorrow

Oh dear.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Soap news

I was super-excited yesterday to hear that ABC has finally made General Hospital available as a streaming video feed on its website. This is the first of ABC's soaps to be available in this format, something the network has resisted, presumably, in order to shore up their Soapnet ratings. Well, it becomes increasingly clear that Soapnet is doing all it can to jump the soap ship, and that web-based distribution is a part of the other nets' soaps game.

I began to fantasize about all of the ways this streaming video would improve my life: easy, fast GH screen caps! catching bits of episodes while eating lunch at my desk! keeping up while traveling! This may be Too Much Information, but this morning I experimented with watching a streaming ep on the laptop while getting ready in the bathroom. Even put the flat iron down for a minute to watch the intense Maxie/Spinelli scenes from the 1/9 episode.

My fantasies aren't coming true so quickly, however. The combination of my crap-ass computer (past its ideal replacement age), so-so internet connection, and the vagaries of streaming video players in general made the episode stop and start throughout, offering a not-particularly-pleasant viewing experience, even if that viewing was distracted by the putting in of contact lenses and moisturizing of face.

Plus, the soap news is so gloomy these days that it's hard to get too excited about all of the ways a streaming GH will benefit me. This piece includes some pretty devastating quotes from industry bigwigs, such as "No format has been hit harder [by the recession] than daytime serials" and that Guiding Light "isn't even treading water. It's sunk below the waves." Sad times indeed.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Showtime wants me

Showtime has been trying out a new strategy for hooking in subscribers,previewing the first episode of new series The United States of Tara on over 100 different platforms over a week prior to the show's debut on the premium network. I caught it the first day it was available via the Netflix streaming video service, but it is now available much more broadly. It's a smart move, I think, in that it allows the viewer to sample what s/he might be buying if they subscribe to the service. As someone who subscribes and unsubscribes to premium channels as shows I want to watch come and go, it is particularly effective for me.

But it's really effective because I just loved, loved, loved the show. I know it's only been one episode but I am already quite impressed with its feminist sensibility. This doesn't much surprise me, as it was created and written by Diablo Cody, whose Juno script was also one of the more feminist pieces of mainstream culture I've seen of late. Unlike Juno, however, Tara jumps right into its progressive vision (I think it takes Juno until she tells her parents about the pregnancy for the tone of the film to shift and for me to start feeling really into it).

Tara seems particularly resonant with what I think of as third wave feminism. By this I mean that it is acutely aware of the multiplicity of identity. Now, that may seem way obvious, given the fact that the show's premise is our protagonist's multiple personality disorder. But that seems to serve more as metaphor than anything--it allows the show to experiment with different dimensions of Tara's identity in ways that a non-mentally ill character in a realist program could not. What stood out for me in ep. 1 was how very much the dimensions of Tara's identities served to explore dimensions of gender identity (and this before I've even seen Alice, the hyper-feminine '50s housewife alter). Hypersexual teen alter T and male Vietnam vet Buck already exemplify gendered extremes, though Alice will surely help make clear that those extremes do not appear on a linear continuum but rather a three-dimensional series of planes, with multiple versions of femininity, at least, vying for dominance.

Even better is the attitude of Tara's family toward her alters and thereby to her range of gendered identities. In the first episode they are totally and comfortably accepting. This is just the way things are for them. In fact, they seem to sort of benefit from the different identities Tara takes on, as if no singly gendered self can be the all things to all members of the family that many would wish. Whether this will turn out to be a critique of the multiple demands placed upon women, or whether it will remain an acceptance, even embrace, of the many selves we all might be if given the chance remains to be seen.

But I'm pretty sure that Showtime is going to get my subscription dollars so I can find out.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Am I a bad media scholar?

Just canceled our lone print newspaper subscription--to the Sunday NY Times. We read a fair bit of it online anyway, plus we just joined Netflix and I wanted to justify the expense by cutting something else out. The media budget is just too big as it is. Sigh. Hastening the demise of print media. I feel so guilty.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Available at Target, Walgreens, and CVS

Leo is quickly approaching his 5th birthday and his grasp of the world around him continues to expand. Latest on his horizon is the world of TV commercials. The kid has been a TV fan for much of his life, reared primarily on Noggin, the Nickelodeon networks' commercial-free pre-school channel. In the last year or so he has picked up some Disney Channel shows, but those, too, run in largely commercial-free blocks. I'm not kidding myself that any of this is non-commercial, despite the absence of conventional commercial spots appearing throughout the shows. This programming has well prepared him to participate in American consumer culture, chock full as it is of Dora games and Mickey Mouse nightlights and Backyardigans CDs. But until very recently the boy had seen very, very few commercial spots. Not only were his shows commercial-free they were also watched via DVR and so could be fast-forwarded, stopped, etc. at parental will.

But now he has discovered commercials. AND HE LOVES THEM.

He's been encountering conventional commercial messages in several ways: during the football games he has taken to watching with his dad, during shows in the Qubo block of programming that runs on Sunday mornings on NBC, even during some of his long-time faves I recorded to DVD off of Nickelodeon (rather than Noggin) in order to bring them along while traveling. The first signs of his fascination with actual commercials--those 20 or 30 second spots I spend much of my life fast-forwarding in my own TV vieiwng--was his use of the phrase "for real." As in, "I really like these chicken nuggets. For real." So cute, I thought, then I began to hear the phrase repeated ad nasuem on the Chucky Cheese sponsorship message running before many Disney Channel shows.

Increasingly, he has asked us to leave the commercials playing rather than fast-forwarding them (as on the home-burned DVDs I mentioned) and often seems more intrigued by the commercials than the football during his sports-bonding time with dad. But I really knew how very enamored he was of commercials when, a couple of days ago, he announced, apropos of nothing, "Available at Target, Walgreens, and CVS."

What did you say?

Available at Target, Walgreens, and CVS.

To M: Did you hear what he said?

Leo: Available at Target Walgreens,and CVS.

Yes, this delightful turn of phrase comes straight from the Chia commercial (as in Chia pets) running during Turbo Dogs, his fave of the NBC-run Qubo block, and a show during which he now expressly forbids fast-forwarding of ads.

The next day we got another of these, this time, "Canada and Puerto Rico!" As in, available for shipping to the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

There is only so long one can shield one's children from the horrors of the world.