Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mah Stories: America in Primetime

 Did you watch America in Prime Time? I loved it. It's a 4-part documentary about TV with interviews from TV writers and actors. Each one of the four episodes focuses on a TV archetype: The Independent Woman, The Man of the House, The Misfit, and The Crusader. The writers and showrunners have the most interesting insight about their characters and stories, but it is also really fun to hear Hugh Laurie, Edie Falco, and Michael C. Hall weigh in. The series touched on many intriguing points that I like to think about such as,

Where is feminism now? I maintain that TV is doing a better job of exploring this than movies. And Mary Tyler Moore, you are Laura Petrie and Mary Richards? That's like how Sir Ian McKellen gets to be Gandalf and Magneto.

And what about men? Do they need their own specific movement to rescue them from ineffectual apathy and meaninglessness? Or will Madmen and it's romanticizing of misogyny forever mire the sexes on different planes: Men yearning for their manly, button-downed past while women look forward with hope to an egalitarian and humane future?

I think Hawkeye Pierce was as formative an influence on me as some of my teachers were. As one writer explained, you can't watch two thirty-minute episodes of M*A*S*H every day of your life and not be affected by it. It's true. Ima get real here: I've spent more time with Alan Alda than I've spent with my dad. I almost voted for him when he ran against Matt Santos to replace Josiah Bartlett! Almost. But YOU KNOW Hawkeye would have voted for Matt Santos. (Bleeding heart. Sigh. Me too.) (Which is why Barack Obama is now president.) It was a baby, not a chicken!

And one of the writers from Freaks and Geeks basically explained the meaning of life to me. He (a freak or a geek, presumably) said, "If you were popular you were in the center of the action and you weren't observing it and you weren't having thoughts about it really because you were living it." This explains everything that doesn't make sense on Facebook about why people don't remember that they don't know me and that I hate them! This explains everything.

He went on to say, "The envy and resentment and all these emotions make the creative person want to do a satirical take on it." Thank goodness for these unpopular TV writers. Feeling shunned gave them time to make some pretty interesting observations about life. Not being a joiner frees up a lot of time. Or so I hear.

Also, the guy who writes for The Wire can't abide the violence in Dexter. Is this similar to how I can't bear to watch Law and Order SVU but The Walking Dead doesn't phase me? I don't think so.

And finally, interviews with Carl and Rob Reiner pretty much prove the 80/20 Principle which would indicate that 80% of the best TV comes from 20% of the Reiners.


  1. No comments? Your regulars must be busy in the center of the action.

  2. So I just wrote a long comment but then deleted it because what I really want to say is: "Do you take notes while watching so you can get the quotes right? Or do you pause and rewind?"

  3. Anonymous9:05 PM

    I didn't click the link about the baby/chicken because I caught that reference without help. Even though I've only watched a small portion of Mash episodes, I did watch that last one, along with every other living soul.

  4. These four episodes have been the greatest hours of tv I've spent in quite a while. Here's my revelation: HOW DID I NOT KNOW THAT CARL REINER IS ROB REINER'S DAD?!?!? Especially since knowing this kind of thing is one of my talents. After some consideration, I've decided it's because each of them are so iconic, I never considered their last name to be a connection, only a part of themselves: RobReiner. Might as well be one word. Like CarlReiner.

  5. I'm curious - which TV shows would you point to as good examples of feminism? I'm trying to think of some and am drawing a blank, which probably says more about my viewing choices (Top Chef, etc.) than the reality of what is on TV. Of the shows I watch I'd list Parks & Rec and - and - hmmmm...

    Thankfully the full episodes of American In Prime Time are available online, so I'm adding it to my TV to do list.

    (Also, currently reading The Illumination. Found myself at the library yesterday with no clue what to check out, pulled up your blog, PROBLEM SOLVED.)

    Ditto everything you said about Hawkeye.


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