Drinking the LOST-Aid: The Mythology, Duality, & Significance of Cult Television

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The ABC television series LOST is one of the great success stories of the aughts. The show was deemed a colossal failure before it even began by advertising companies, was notorious for being the most expensive pilot ever shot at the time, and even led to the firing of the network executive who developed the idea. Yet the pilot would go on to amass 18.65 million viewers in the U.S. (Kissell, 2004) and soon became a world wide phenomena, airing in over one hundred and seventy different countries and being titled the second most popular show in the world by appearing in the most top ten in more countries than any other show other than CSI: Miami (BBC, 2006). With ratings like that, the question of whether LOST counts as a cult television series gets brought up frequently. While LOST may not work with the traditional definition of cult, when one takes into account the metamorphosis of the term cult and what it means in relation to the current state of television, it becomes intrinsically clear that yes, LOST is cult television. In fact, LOST is a quintessential example of modern network cult TV that provides a case for why cult TV matters as it brings fans together to create dedicated communities, while also serving as a model for the future of industry.

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Let’s Be Upfront 2012: FOX & NBC

This week is a special time for fans of television as each of the major networks roll out their fall schedules, announce what current series are being cancelled, reveal what new shows their picking up. So basically it’s Christmas morning, complete with the excitement of beautifully gift wrapped new toys, and the disappointment of said new toys once unwrapped and revealed to actually be a stack of tube socks. Thankfully this year few beloved series have been cancelled, albeit a handful will return with fewer episodes (most notably Community) and one had to jump networks (Cougar Town). But now that we know what shows are returning it’s time to change the focus to what new shows will be out come next season. The following are my first impressions from the short one to four minute previews the networks have made available online. There will be a handful of series I won’t cover as I no interest in spending any time on shows like Mob Doctor (she’s a doctor that has to work for the mob) and the majority of the discussion will focus around sitcoms as that’s my main area of interest. Without further ado here’s my thoughts on what FOX and NBC have to offer.

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Remotely Interesting Retrospective 2011 – First Tier

Today’s the last day of 2011 and all week long I’ve been looking back at my TV viewing for the year and writing my thoughts on every single episode I watched. To start things off we covered my Second Tier series aka my five “second favorite” shows of the year, then looked at Other Shows I watched, followed by all the various episodes I sampled in Bits & Pieces. To end 2011 I present to you my top five series of the year. Each of these series fully deserves the crown of “best show of the year”. Some might consider a five way tie a cop out, but I consider it a great year of television.

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Of Muppets and Men: Why the Muppets Matter Personally and Publicly

The following article is not critique or even really an essay, but rather it’s more of a  loosely structured musing on the nature of The Muppets and an exploration on why they matter so much to me. I typically don’t post personal details on this site, but this piece will fit outside that norm because really that’s the only way I can discuss a topic so dear to my heart like the Muppets.

I love the Muppets. In fact I more than love them, I’m obsessed with them. I’ve watched their various shows and movies countless times on repeat. Kermit the Frog was easily one of my top five role models as a kid. He was the perfect hero to look up to. Kind, caring, smart, funny, and always in control (well to the best degree you can with that gang). Muppets also played an important role in developing my sense of humor, as they were my very first introduction to meta comedy, a love affair that I continue today with the TV show Community. Even at a young age I was amazed by the very idea of an entire show being about putting on a show and that The Muppet Movie features the characters watching the movie themselves was revolutionary to me as a kid.

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Louie Louie: Comedian, Showrunner, And All-Around Auteur

This piece is less of a review or critic; it’s more of a brief look into what I love about Louie and what Louis C.K. has done with the role of a showrunner.  In the spirit of the show I didn’t preplan extensively what I was going to write and instead just put down whatever came into my head.

I love Louie for reasons I dislike many sitcoms.  It has no standard structure, no clear rules within the show’s universe, and an inconstant cast (many of which are reasons why Glee is such a mess).  And yet it uses all this qualities, which would normally be considered flaws and turns them into great assets.  With each episode of Louie you never know what you’re going to get.  One episode is almost entirely a flashback, another is a few laughs somber drama, and others can be just purely funny.  Community may play around with structure and the conventions of a sitcom, but Louie challenges the notion of what it means to be called a half hour comedy.  Sometimes a plot covers a whole episode, others may take up only a third, and then the episode plays out as a series of short films.

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Six Shows To Catch Up On This Summer

With the 2010-2011 television series having officially ended last week most shows are now on break till the season starts back up again in September.  While there are a handful of good summer series that you should be watching (FX’s Louie, AMC’s Breaking Bad) I thought I’d put together a list of three dramas and three comedies I’d recommend watching this summer to keep your TV busy during a season that tends to be a scripted series drought.  I’ll personally be catching up on HBO’s The Wire and hopefully Deadwood, along with rewatching LOST with my girlfriend.  I’ll be writing about those shows periodically throughout the summer and maybe a few more if I finish those quickly, but till then here’s what I recommend you should be catching up on.

Justified

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“Seinfeld, You Magnificent Sitcom!”: Seinfeld’s Impact On The Sitcom From The Minutiae To The Meta

In 1989 the NBC sitcom Seinfeld aired its pilot episode, then under the title The Seinfeld Chronicles, in a dump slot during the middle of the summer. The ratings were low and the show seemed to go almost unnoticed to all, except for a single executive at NBC who believed in the series enough to convince the network to produce four more episodes to round out what would be an unusually short first season. Nine years later its series finale would air, reaching the staggering number of 79 million viewers. In the course of a nine-season run Seinfeld became one of the most influential sitcoms and a true cultural phenomenon, continuing its comedy dominance even over the ten years since it ended.  With the obsession of the minutiae, an increased focus on story structure, and love of meta, self-referential humor Seinfeld changed the notion of what Americans knew to be a sitcom and helped pave the way for the single camera comedies of today.

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One Community Under Gaga: An Interpretation of Modern Emerson Culture

The following is a paper I wrote that identified the culture of Emerson College.  It’s not directly about TV, but includes many references and one of my main points revolves around Community.  Also I figured I’d post it if only for the fact that in the part about Community I go meta within the essay.

Communities are often identified by the culture that forms around them, but the question of what defines the term “culture” is one of much debate. During a speech to the World Congress, poet, author and politician Aimé César claimed, “Culture is everything. Culture is the way we dress, the way we carry our heads, the way we walk, the way we tie our ties – it is not only the fact of writing books or building houses.”  This is a working definition that can easily be applied to help classify what exactly is Emerson College culture.  Emerson College is an institution greatly known for its acceptance of a wealth of different lifestyles, a place where everyone is encouraged to be unique and create a name that makes them standout from the crowd.  And as a student at the college, I can testify to the truth of that statement.  In a population that is meant to be so greatly diverse it may at first seem hard to label what exactly is Emerson culture, but the college’s dedication to media, communications, and the arts makes it an easy pick.  Emerson culture is essentially the same as general popular culture.

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Branding The Cattle: Assessing Product Integration In Modern Television

Community (NBC)- “Basic Rocket Science”

Preface: The following is an essay I wrote in October for my Intro To College Writing course with the topic of advertising and branding. I focused on product placement and integration talking about areas such as The Office and KFCs October advertising on Community, Running Wilde, and The Good Guys.

Coke or Pepsi? At first this might come off as a seemingly simple question, but rather it is one that can tell a great deal about a person.  Someone who drinks Coke relishes in nostalgia, it takes them back to being a little kid and grabbing an icy cool Coca-Cola bottle out of the fridge.  On the other hand a Pepsi drinker is someone who enjoys being hip and staying up to date with modern trends.  The product is essentially the same, yet the market and advertising is completely different.  It’s not the product that matters much, but rather the brand.

In 2002 the UK business magazine The Economist ran an article titled Who’s Wearing The Trousers? that directly captures this style of marketing, “The new marketing approach is to build a brand not a product – to sell a lifestyle or a personality, to appeal to emotions.”  Advertisements try to convey this in quick thirty-second spots, attempting to derive emotion from situations with little or no context.  Needless to say this is a difficult task and one that is becoming less and less important when compared to rising use of a tactic known as production integration.  Product integration, also known as product placement, involves placing existing merchandise into a TV show to help further get a brand’s name out. By directly incorporating products into television shows the item becomes apart of a character’s life and can be a factoring point in creating their fictitious personality.  An ad can sell a product, but it’s product integration that can truly help sell a lifestyle brand.  And if done right, product placement can be an exceptional way to get an item on consumers’ mind without them even noticing.

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