Wednesday, January 17, 2007

TV Land

The flu kicked my ass. Or maybe it was food poisoning. My wife says I have the eating habits of a coyote.

So, about four days at home. Reading (finished "The 33 strategies of War"; "Secret Weapons of Jujutsu" and several manuals on labor law and investigative procedure for the new assignment). Also put in some closet shelving, cleaned up.... whole bunch of boring domestic stuff.

In the process, I also watched a lot of TV. One of the cool things about modern technology is that you can sit down and watch an entire season of a television show on DVD and really follow the plot lines. And really be annoyed by the tropes and writing techniques (K and I were giggling about what the parallel plot line would be in this episode of Smallville).

Here are some observations. They aren't about the fantasy world of television so much as about the way the writers see the world. In their commentaries the writers sometimes talk about how hard they work to make the characters real and believable... and in their world maybe some of this stuff is.

TV heroes don't do anything else. They don't seem to do anything to get their families fed or pay the bills or pay the rent. They talk about being poor, but they go through more vehicles and do more property damage in their own homes than I could ever pay for. Most of them pay lip service to having another obligation- school or work- but it never takes any time, certainly not the 10-12 hours out of the day that many of us spend. And poor 18 year olds with no jobs and an unemployed single parent ride around in $30,000 brand new convertibles.

Does this mean something? Maybe. Maybe Hollywood writers live in a world where they do what they love (writing) and get paid for it and the writing takes up the time that their heroes would have to split between heroing and everything else. Maybe with expense accounts and insurance paid by someone else and stage handymen to fix the sets who are on salary they don't realize that for normal people, this would cost and the price would come out of everything else.

I don't get about the $30,000 dollar car, though. Willful stupidity? Or do they really think that cars are just accessories? (And about cars- there are sports cars, personality cars, upscale SUVs, classic muscle cars and panel vans. That's it. No one drives an economy sedan. Or a dirty jeep.)

In TV land, rich people can do anything they want. The evil head of a corporation can poison an entire small town and cover it up. Just by being rich and evil. The CDC, EPA, state agencies, media, local lawyers (who all live for a high profile and deep pockets target) just... cease to exist. Rich people can wire transfer 57 million dollars instantly. The world is not a cartoon and a rich person's billions are not kept in a vault ala Scrooge McDuck- they are invested to make more money, and invested well, not in a passbook savings account or a checking account.
(Which could lead to two asides- why trickle down economics and the widening gap between rich and poor are mathematical inevitabilities- but not today). They are purposely difficult to access and 57 million leaves a spectacular paper trail.

Perhaps in the insular world of Hollywood, the heavy hitters, the producers and directors, can do anything they want. It seems to be the one industry that actually has the bad habits and snobbish disdain for the common man that they ascribe to all industry. Maybe. I'm an outsider.

In TV land, people don't learn. They do the same things with the same people over and over and over again. It's supposed to be sexual tension, maybe, when the protagonist and the female lead(s) almost get together and then are side tracked by the mission or the villain or the secret in every episode. Real people don't put up with that shit, except in the most abusive of relationships. After a certain time of being jerked around, you move on. Not just emotionally, physically. You quit spending time with that person.

In Hollywood maybe it is an enclosed community and you wind up working with essentially the same people throughout your career no matter how badly they suck. Maybe this really stupid excuse to repeat the same plot lines over and over again is a reflection of their reality. Or maybe it's just easier than originality.

I should just stick to books.


Molly said...

The repetetive plot problems are easier to ignore if you only catch the show a couple of times a year; and realistically poor people don't sell advertising space.
At least you didn't spend the time watching soaps - that would have been an interesting post. Anyway - feel better, the world needs you!

Kai Jones said...

Wow, now I'm really glad I didn't see you on Saturday--I don't want the flu!

Anonymous said...

Rory, Get the one and only season of Firefly or the new version of Battlestar Galatica.

Hope you're feeling better.

Mike K

Anonymous said...

Or "The Unit". But every show has to have stupid sub-plots that sell products. It's really all about the 'electronic flicker' - how fast scenes change on the screen - the human psyche is hard-wired to perceive and process change. Look at commercials - they have the loudest sound tracks and the quickest 'flicker' (scene changes) of any programs on TV. This begs the question why soap operas are so popular - they have very slow flicker. Is it because they tug at our emotions? And why (one reason among three) is education failing our kids? Because the media has conditioned them to the flicker, and educators make them sit still in class and listen, not see.

C. Jane Reid said...

I totally agree with this quote:

"After all, there are shows that don't even assume we're familiar with the contents of the previous scene."

From Jane Espenson, a scriptwriter who was recommending the HBO series "Rome" as decent tv to watch. Apparently, the episode she was speaking about assumes the audience is familiar with famous Shakespearan speeches. Not something you find in most television shows.

Hope you are feeling better!

The Moody Minstrel said...

I remember not so long ago a French movie producer put out what was probably the most realistic romance movie ever made. In it two very normal, not very rich, and not very attractive, middle-aged people discover they have some chemistry and have a fling. The dialog is what you would probably expect from two suddenly-lovestruck, middle-aged people: awkward, silly, nothing profound, nothing memorable, just, well, normal.

And the love scenes show what typical middle-aged bodies really look like.

The director said he wanted to depict two perfectly normal, realistic people in a perfectly normal, realistic situation. He did just that.

Guess what? When the movie was shown at an international film festival it just made everybody mad.

"I don't want to see these horrible people!" railed one woman.

"This is not what I give my time and money to see at the cinema," said one man.

Bottom line: people don't watch movies, TV, etc. to see reality. They want to see an idealized world where everything is beautiful...or ugly in an ideal sort of way. Even "reality" shows are only a carefully-staged and edited version of reality if there really is any reality to them at all. With that in mind, don't expect to see things that make sense in a realistic way in TV-land.

Anonymous said...

If you're debating whether it was the flu or food poisoning, then you probably had Norwalk.

Anonymous said...

PS Norwalk is fecal-oral. I ain't gonna lie, technically you got it by eating s....

Rory said...

Probably not Norwalk, Drew. No vomiting. 2 days of fever (102+) 8 days of dysentary level runs ("rice water stools" in David Werner's immortal phrase).