Author Archives: wolfpack32

Response to Beck & the Series

After reading Beck’s interview with David Simon, I too felt he was overly defensive and simply incorrect. Generation Kill the series did not work for me for reasons both explainable and unexplainable. Firstly, it was boring. The Wire was sometimes too, but it was so complex and intricate, I couldn’t allow myself to get bored. In Generation Kill there is the unit and that is it. You either like it or you don’t. I liked the Marines and found them to be entertaining to watch and listen to, mainly because I have no idea what it is like to be a Marine. I was intrigued by their humor and found it funny that they made fun of these kids that were forced by their teachers to write letters to them. Cpl. Person his comedic monologues were undeniably funny, which David Simon in the interview with Beck was quick to point out were sometimes crafted by him. Although there was humor and intrigue, the lack of action and repetitiveness wore the series down, and overall, it wasn’t enjoyable to watch. I found myself extremely confused trying to keep up with all terms, resulting in me having no idea why they were invading a certain place or whether or not they would end up killing civilians. Even some of the realism that Simon talks about bothered me; “Godfather” was hard to hear and the guy with the intense accent was too much to handle. As Beck points out, there was a criticism that two of the characters looked too similar with Simon’s response being that there is disorientation in the unit and that the viewer doesn’t need to being holding a scorecard when watching to keep track of characters. As a previous poster said, this was a weird response, as this ultimately detracted from the viewing experience finding myself trying to figure one from the other in the first couple episodes. In the ensemble cast, I don’t think there is the luxury of not being able to distinguish characters. There were the four main characters in the Humvee, yet outside of it, it was hard to keep track of who was who and who was supposed to be important. With that said, Cpl. Person was very prominent, very funny at times, yet hard to embrace as a central character to latch on to, like a McNulty was, especially when everyone kept thinking about his character as Ziggy. Lastly, certain emphasis such as on the mustaches in the first couple of episodes was unnecessary and boring. More action was required ot keep the viewer interested as the weaving of plots that held The Wire together was not available to Generation Kill.

It was a unique perspective to take on the Iraq War and it worked in certain aspects, but overall Generation Kill did not match Simon’s craft in other productions. I don’t think we can expect him to admit that, but certainly we have the background to make the claim.

Cpl. Person & Ziggy

In watching the first two episodes of Generation Kill, I was intrigued by the choice in casting of James Ransone. Corporal Josh Ray Person is played by Ransone, who in the second season of The Wire plays Ziggy Sobotka. Watching the first two episodes I couldn’t help but find uncanny similarities in their characters, with both being very talkative, controversial and really just dominating every scene they were in. Cpl. Person is very prevalent in the first two episodes largely due to Evan Wright’s character being in Cpl. Person’s humvee. Wright’s character is constantly jotting down quotes from Cpl. Person, who is either informing the reporter on the blunt truths of the Marines or offering several different theories to fellow Marines. Cpl. Person has several memorable scenes including his theory that the war was about “pussy” instead of oil or WMDs, or his response to a letter received from a fourth grade student. Ziggy, of course, is equally controversial, with his own theories and his ability to search out trouble while carrying around a duck. There are also tones of homoeroticism exhibited by both characters as Ziggy often flashes his genitals in the bar, and Cpl. Person is quick to comment on the good looks of Rudy. The casting of James Ransone was my initial clear perception of David Simon and Ed Burns’ influence on Generation Kill, amongst the ensemble cast and depictions of Encino Man & Captain America.

Attention to Detail

I thought the articles on David Simon were amazing. I really enjoyed reading them because they delivered what I hoped they would. With The Wire you expect the author to be unique and passionate and all these things in one, and my perception is that he is all I expected him to be. It was great to read about his strict attention to details, concern with realism over anything else, and his loyalty to things he believes in. His dedication to Baltimore is a little unbelievable, but he is committed to it being the focus of The Wire and from they way he talks about it, it is clear Baltimore really is. There was a lot to enjoy such as the point about not giving a shit about the average reader. Instead, Simon seeks someone that wants to immerse themselves in a show and let it develop a little more before everything becomes clear. Simon talked about his specific pitch to HBO and how he left out his somewhat lofty intentions for the show because they would be laughed at. His pitch focused around HBO’s slogan, “It’s not TV, it’s HBO,” stating that he had his own version of the police procedural and all the other ones on TV sucked. The Wire would illuminate this fact and it eventually did, despite average ratings. Ratings did not seem to discourage Simon and he acknowledged that people really started picking up on the show after the fourth season or so. All of this stuff was really cool to read about as was specific things addressing the show, in particular casting and music.

Simon talked about Idris Alba (Stringer) being English and that not mattering at all even though he was so focused upon the realism the show portrayed. He justified Alba’s casting by simply putting hat he nailed the roll and fit perfectly, which is hard to argue with, and that the realism would not necessarily be affected as Alba isn’t a recognizable face along with all the other characters. Sure I knew about the ensemble cast, but thought it was interesting how he latched on to particular actors from previous stuff like Homicide and placed them in The Wire. He clearly is very loyal to those he views as talented and his city. All of the writers appear to have come from The Baltimore Sun, where Simon previously worked, and also contributed to the uniqueness of the show, as none were pure television writers. The music aspect was interesting too. There is the montage in each season finale, but despite that the only music that is apparent is heard through in the setting of the show, through boom boxes and open windows in cars. Also there is the opening credits song, which changes each season, which is explained by Simon. Each version of the song fits in with the season theme such as having the song be sung by a Baltimore boys choir in season 4. These are aspects that I like hearing be explained and never really quite understood. Simon is committed to the detail and in turn the realness of the show.

I guess I am just spewing out the stuff in the articles that I like or that struck me, and haven’t formulated it into an argument. David Simon does come off as a smart ass or thinking he is smarter than the rest of us, but that is what I want and expect the author of The Wire to be like.

Wallace as an Example of the Ensemble Cast

Kinder’s essay discusses the ensemble cast in The Wire, which we have also certainly experienced in Homicide. The ensemble class allows for every character to in a way be expendable, whereas in a show like The Sopranos, there is no way the show could succeed if Tony gets shot in Season 3. Perhaps we do identify McNulty as the protagonist and see it hard for him to be removed with the show continuing on. But, McNulty isn’t constantly on the screen and there are so many characters and many more to be introduced.

Throughout the first season we are introduced to multiple character on the cop side and the drug side, and start to make our own judgments on each of them. Someone the viewer identifies with is Wallace, who is forced to spend time at his Grandma’s in the country after talking to the cops, but is desperate to return to his home in Baltimore. Wallace returns to Baltimore and D’Angelo allows Wallace to get right back into the game, while others including Stringer and Bodie have doubts. We see Wallace bring back Chinese food for a bunch of children he is supporting. In a sense, Wallace is one of the most likeable and moral characters on the drug side. Wallace is certainly beginning to be developed as a character amongst the ensemble cast, and just as this is happening, we witness his murder by his two closest boys. The viewer certainly then realizes that The Wire will be different in this sense, and even two of the most likeable characters on both sides, Wallace and Kima Greggs, are not invincible. The ensemble cast allows for this to happen, introducing new characters, which builds into the cyclical nature of The Wire that is discussed in both articles. Certainly, Wallace is replaceable and many other Baltimore kids can fill his roll or are waiting in the wings.

The Trend Following the DVD Box Set

Kompare’s article makes the point that the DVD Box Set allows for television to target consumers specifically, and not necessarily selling as much to advertisers anymore. The question is how long will this remain the case. Kompare states, “the DVD has rejuvenated the home video industry and has finally enabled television to achieve what film had by the mid-1980s, namely, a viable direct-to-consumer market for its programming.” (337) When television viewers hear about a television show that perhaps is in its third season, the viewer feels inclined to catch up. The DVD Box Set is a great way to do that, as you watch episodes at your own convenience. The box sets of course cost money, and often a lot of money, so for college kids this is an inconvenience. Also, I feel like adults with jobs don’t necessarily have as much time to watch multiple episodes in a given day, unless they are really into a particular show. There is no doubt that DVD Box Set is appealing as it the television show and authors are selling their product to the actual consumer, and if rating were bad for a season, but got great reviews, viewer can purchase the season on DVD.

What is most interesting to discuss is the trend in television. I have a fair amount of seasons of various shows on DVD, roughly five or so shows, but I never got to into it as I’d rather not re-watch a show when I could watch a new different one. With regards to cable, specifically DVR and On Demand, how the television series is selling its product becomes a little more blurred. If a viewer records a particular series weekly, they most likely skip past the commercials, upsetting the advertisers whose commercials do not get seen. The On Demand feature is best on HBO like stations in which the viewer has to pay to receive the channel. On Demand allows the viewer to have a DVD Box Set in their cable box, which is really cool. Not every season of a show is going to be available, but still a viewer can re-watch or catch up on one season at a time.

Apart from DVR and On Demand, is the ability to watch a show online, which brings watching a show normally on television at a specific time full circle in a certain regard. Online the viewer has to watch a brief 30-second commercial at breaks or at the beginning of a show, but again the television show is selling to the advertisers and not the consumer. I’d argue that DVR and watching online are the trend and DVD Box Sets will become less popular because of their cost. It is interesting that the DVR way of watching a show does not allow the television show to sell itself to the advertiser or consumer, but instead increases the demand for TiVo or Comcast DVR. As the quality continues to improve online, the increase in viewers likely will too. Still, the comfort of watching a show on television every Sunday at 8 will continue to remain, as a true fan of a show always is the first to see the new episode.

Annotated Bibliography | Dr. Katz

In examining the first two seasons of an animated television series called Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, I will discuss how the authorship of it changed and strengthened the animation genre. There is a lot to work with as the co-creator of the show, comedian Jonathan Katz, also serves as the main figure. The show was different from in that it did not fit the typical mold of an animated series of being a family sitcom like The Flinstones. Instead, it used new technology called “Squigglevision,” and introduced new stand-up comedians in every episode, some famous and others not so much. The show fit perfectly on Comedy Central, and really it seems as if there was no other network it would work as well on.

Annotated Bibliography

Booker, M. Keith. Drawn to Television: Prime-Time Animation from the Flintstones to Family Guy. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2006. In this book, Booker examines the history of animated television, examining particular shows that have thrived in primetime and those that have become successful because of cable and syndication. Booker discusses how animated television delivers unique and clever perspectives to normal programming. Dr. Katz is discussed primarily in how it broke the typical animation family sitcom mold, and fit right in on Comedy Central with its stand-up comedians.

Fease, Rebecca. Masculinity and Popular Television. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008. The book interestingly focuses on how masculinity is spread out upon different television genres. In animated television, the father figure is the overly masculine character whether it be Homer Simpson or Peter Griffin. I think this chapter will be helpful in laying out how Dr. Katz separates itself from other animated series, and how it helped branch out from the family mold in television series. In the show Dr. Katz is a father and how is he different from Homer Simpson is something I can explore.

Milvy, Erika. “For Him, Laughter Was the Best Therapy.” The New York Times, 14 December 2008. The article is all about the series and how it is different from many other animated comedy series. The show does not move in rapid motion, with Squigglevision didn’t look overly fancy, and that “it rejected the adult cartoon tradition of high-impact irreverence, snarkiness and raised voices.”

Murray, Noel. “Interview with Jonathan Katz.” The A.V. Club, 14 June 2006. http://www.avclub.com/articles/jonathan-katz,13993. The interview hits on a range of topics about Katz’s life, but the most pertinent stuff is about the idea behind Dr. Katz and his retelling of how it was created and his relationship with co-creator Tom Snyder. My paper will talk a good deal about Katz as he is a creator and central figure on the show, so hearing first hand from is helpful. He talks often about his relationships with the other comedians that were on the show and getting them to come on, which is interesting.

Stabile, Carol, et al. Prime Time Animation: Television Animation and American Culture. London; New York: Routledge, 2003. This book looks at the history of television animation and how it obviously ties into American culture. What I am most interested in are sections such as how the authors examine quality in animated television series, as well as the mold for animated television series set by The Flintstones and The Simpsons.

Tueth, Michael V. Laughter In The Living Room: Television Comedy And The American Home Audience. New York: Peter Lang, 2005. The book as a whole looks into how television figures have gone about entertaining the American home audience, through many genres and years. It’s section on animation discusses how the authors have freedom to invent as many characters as they want, as they don’t have to worry about actors, and the multiple jokes and plot lines can challenge the viewer in ways non-animated shows cannot. Dr. Katz certainly introduces multiple comedians, yet also has an underlying plot surrounding Katz himself. Tueth argues that animation allows for a lot of freedom and experimentation.

Wright, Jean Ann. Animation Writing and Development: From Screen Development to Pitch. Amsterdam: Boston Elsevier, 2005. The book is intended to teach writers and students really the basics of writing and developing animated material. There is a chapter, however that is particularly useful as it discusses comedy in animation, and really how a creator is to go about making animation funny. The chapter talks about how comedy in animation separates itself and how to go about properly executing it. Also, especially pertinent, is how Wright talks about developing a specific animated character and having their personality become funny. In my paper I will focus on Katz as a comedian/central character in the show and author of it, so this should be helpful.

Bashing Clockers

The experience of watching Spike Lee’s Clockers was a totally different one than I have had with what we have watched all semester. I agree with mostly everyone that has blogged so far, it was just kind of bizarre watching Clockers compared to everything else. The music was what first made it clear to me that the film was not going to fit the same mold of The Corner, The Wire or Homicide. In The Wire, no music whatsoever is added to the show, the viewer only hears music that is actually being played out of the cars on the streets. It seemed like in Clockers the music didn’t fit, as the genres were wide ranging, and there simply was just too much music being played. The film was enjoyable, but I didn’t feel like I got much out of it, as I really didn’t learn anything about Strike or Rocco’s character or the life of a clocker. The film centered around their relationship, and their interactions were believable, but nothing substantial really came of it. As has been mentioned, the plot was rather simple and normal, trying to figure out who committed a murder. There were insignificant subplots, like the one with Tyrone, but their relationship did not hold a lot of value to the viewer. I wasn’t very impressed with Mekhi Phifer’s performance either, as he never really grabbed me even though he was always on camera. The deliverance of his lines fluctuated, as at times it was hard to watch Strike as if he had the stutter that is in the novel, but most of the time it is not apparent at all.

There were a lot of familiar faces, too, which is something we haven’t experienced in the shows we’ve watched. The actors in The Wire and The Corner are actors we have never seen before, and only see in those shows. It was strange being able to recognize all of the major figures even Strike’s boys including familiar rappers like Stickay Fingaz as Scientific.

Clockers appeared to be more about the production of the film than about the overall quality. I think it was helpful to the course to view it, and for us to recognize how it is different, clearly bashing the entire film. Spike Lee is obviously very well respected as a director, but his role as an author in the adaptation seemed to take away greatly from Richard Price’s novel.

Term Paper Proposal – Dr. Katz

At the moment, for my term paper I would like to write about the animated television series, Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist. A friend recommended it to me and I have only seen a couple of the episodes, so for the paper I will focus on the first two seasons. I wanted to focus on a show a little more obscure. It aired on Comedy Central from 1995 to 1999, and had six seasons. It is a half-hour show with commercial breaks and follows a similar format each episode. Dr. Katz has actors and comedians as his patients, and has an unemployed 25-year-old son. It was sort of the precursor for Adult Swim type animated shows. It is a style of show that would seem to fit well on HBO and its production has ties to HBO, so that is something I could explore definitely. I am worried there is not a lot of scholarly material on it, but I would like to give it a shot.

If it doesn’t work out then I would write about Curb, another show I do not have a lot of experience with, but find to be quality and entertaining and on HBO.

Rooting for the Bad Guy

What intrigued me about The Corner was the devotion in each episode to one character. We have talked about intersecting arcs in particular episodes of Homicide. Within each episode we would learn a little more about Detective Bolander’s love life or how Detective Bayliss is dealing with the Adena Watson case, but no episode was strictly devoted to one character. The first episode, “Gary’s Blues,” was devoted to Gary, and he was rarely off the screen. There were a few scenes focused solely on DeAndre and his drug dealing, but DeAndre is his son and important to Gary. Throughout the first episode we learned all about Gary; he buys cigarettes individually so he doesn’t have to share and that he is a rather moral person as he has second thought in stealing someone else’s fridge. Also, Gary respects his mother’s request for him to go to the store to pick up potatoes and Hamburger Helper even though he is desperate for his fix of coke & dope. We experience his far from perfect relationship and are encouraged when he breaks it off, but end up discouraged that he runs away with his girlfriend at the end, instead of playing basketball with DeAndre. The Corner offers us the complete opposite perspective that Homicide does as we are following around the criminal. This comes when just a week ago we were rooting for the cops to catch the bad guy, now, we find ourselves rooting for the bad guy to avoid the cops. It’s pretty cool.

The documentary to fly on the wall style of The Corner did not bother me because Charles S. Dutton was only present in the very beginning and end of the episodes. Throughout the show the characters were not aware of the camera so it did not affect how the viewer experiences the show.

The Aura of HBO

From the first fifteen minutes of Six Feet Under, it is undeniable that what the viewer is going to experience with this series is unlike any other TV show one has watched before. Six Feet Under, form the start, already gives you sex, drugs, and death. You get various reactions to a father’s death while one daughter is experimenting with Crystal Meth, and a son is returning home, but learns of his father’s death after having sex with a stranger in a closet in the airport. And this all happens on Christmas Eve

Anderson illustrates that HBO’s charismatic ideology, “the belief in the artistic vision of a sole creator,” (37) allows for a television series to take on these intense, deep plotlines. HBO needs to prove to subscribers that what they offer is the highest quality of television, and worthy of “aesthetic appreciation.” Clearly, what a viewer experiences during the pilot is not something one can see on a network television show. One may not get a Fear Factor larvae competition, but will instead become immersed and get something out of the show. There is the standard of taste that Anderson discusses, and it relates to the Bourdieu quote at the beginning of the piece – watching a series on HBO is like being in a museum, everything is labeled as art. HBO both has that privilege and disadvantage as they must uphold the grand impression bestowed upon them, but also know that when they introduce a new series it will likely be embraced because it is on HBO. The subscriber will at least will give the new show a chance because, well, they are paying for it. HBO definitely benefits from the water cooler discussion too, as people can both boast about how the TV they are watching is of such high quality and question why others aren’t watching.

Returning to charismatic ideology, Anderson talks about the praise David Chase received for The Sopranos and once that had been bestowed upon him, the viewers and the public believed Chase could do know wrong with his show. Especially since there is no denying that it is his show and his vision. When Journey started playing in the series finale, lots of viewers were left astonished and wanting some sort of closure, while others just attributed the decision to Chase’s brilliance and accepted it. I’m not saying there is a right choice, but it is hard to get upset with Chase and the way he decide to end his series because he is the sole author. Anderson discusses this point, “HBO promotes the creators of the drama series and encourages reporters to flesh out their biographies so that the public learns to identify the artistic vision of a single creator behind each series.” (36)

Six Feet Under and The Sopranos deserve their praise and their high quality TV status because they are a step above cable television series. Charismatic ideology allows for this with the freedom HBO provides of not being restrained to cable television. By paying extra for television the viewer expects more, and HBO delivers with the model they have in place. Anderson nicely says, “HBO has contributed a measure of legitimacy and cultural authority to those who would speak about television series as works of art.” (38)