The S.S. Minnow is Back in Shipshape

Posted on August 24, 2008 at 8:00 am

Anyone for a 3-hour tour? If you get on the S.S. Minnow and the other passengers are a movie star, a professor, a millionaire and his wife, not to mention Mary Ann, you might want to check to make sure you’ve packed enough to wear for a long vacation.
Yes, the S.S. Minnow from Gilligan’s Island is being restored and will be available for tours. More than one boat was used on the show, but this is the one in the opening credits.
I have special affection for this boat because it was named after my father, Newton Minow, whose famous speech to the broadcasters calling television a “vast wasteland” annoyed “Gilligan’s Island” creator Sherwood Schwartz. So Schwartz named the sinking boat after him! My dad got a huge kick out of it and later had a very cordial exchange of letters with Schwartz. It is a great point of pride for our family. cast-of-gilligans-island.jpg
Thanks to Zeke for bringing me up to date on this story!

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Television

Parents Television Council Report on Sex on TV

Posted on August 5, 2008 at 1:45 pm

The Parents Television Council released a new report on the way sex and marriage are portrayed on prime time television this afternoon.
Today’s prime-time television programming is
not merely indifferent to the institution of marriage
and the stabilizing role it plays in our society, it seems
to be actively seeking to undermine marriage by
consistently painting it in a negative light. Nowhere is
this more readily apparent than in the treatment of sex
on television. Sex in the context of marriage is either
non-existent on prime-time broadcast television, or is
depicted as a burdensome rather than as an expression
of love and commitment. By contrast, extra-marital
or adulterous sexual relationships are depicted with
greater frequency and overwhelmingly, as a positive
experience. Across the broadcast networks, verbal
references to non-marital sex outnumbered references
to sex in the context of marriage by nearly 3 to 1;
and scenes depicting or implying sex between nonmarried
partners outnumbered scenes depicting or
implying sex between married partners by a ratio of
nearly 4 to 1.
(emphasis in the original)
Most likely due to the competition from cable, DVDs and online media, broadcast television is spending more time on edgy, exotic, transgressive, and disturbing depictions of sexual behavior for the purposes of entertainment, not on a sympathetic or illuminating manner but usually as the source of humor or in the context of law enforcement dramas.
…Even more troubling than the marginalization
of marriage and glorification of non-marital sex on
television is TV’s recent obsession with outré sexual
expression. Today more than ever teens are exposed
to a host of once-taboo sexual behaviors including
threesomes, partner swapping, pedophilia, necrophilia,
bestiality, and sex with prostitutes, to say nothing of
the now-common depictions of strippers, references
to masturbation, pornography, sex toys, and kinky or
fetishistic behaviors. Behaviors that were once seen
as fringe, immoral, or socially destructive have been
given the imprimatur of acceptability by the television
industry — and children are absorbing those messages
and in many cases, imitating that behavior.

(more…)

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Commentary Television Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Comic-Con 2008

Posted on July 23, 2008 at 6:00 pm

comic-con logo.gifI’m getting ready for one of my favorite events of the year, Comic-Con in San Diego.
It began in 1970 with a few dozen comic collectors swapping comics and stories. This year, all 125,000 passes were sold out long before this evening’s opening night. I always refer to it as the Iowa caucuses of popular culture and the LA Times calls “the World’s Fair for pop-culture aficionados” and “the Super Bowl of popcorn cinema.” This is where everything that will be cool a year or two from now in comics, gaming, movies, television, and music begins. The people who buy comics are a tiny fraction of the entertainment marketplace but they are hugely influential because they are fiercely independent — they don’t wait to see if something is considered cool before making up their minds — and even more fiercely passionate — if they like something, they will get the word out. I am always touched and inspired by the way so many of the attendees are completely comfortable in their fanboy geekdom and wear it proudly, knowing that next year the people who didn’t talk to them in high school will be following whatever trends they help to determine this year. But that may be because I am such a fangirl myself. HPIM2104.jpg
Everyone will be there — from Deepak Chopra with his Virgin comics line to the people who come dressed up as superheroes and movie characters and collectors of arcane memorabilia to the stars of the new Watchman movie and the scholars from universities who write about what it all means and the people behind and on screen from all the biggest upcoming movies (including “The Hobbit.” “Clone Wars,” Disney’s next big animated release “Bolt,” and “City of Ember”) and television shows. Celebrities in attendance include the Mystery Science Theater guys, Seth Green, the original voice talents from top cartoons including the original Charlie Brown kids, Tori Amos, author Dean Koontz, Bill Murray, Steve Coogan, Method Man, Matt Groening (of “The Simpsons” and “Futurama”), and Triumph the Wonder Dog.
Keep checking, because I’ll be posting about my adventures. In the meantime, check out my pictures from 2006 and 2007.

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Comic book/Comic Strip/Graphic Novel Festivals Music Superhero Television Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Why is TV So White? (Entertainment Weekly)

Posted on June 22, 2008 at 2:00 pm

Entertainment Weekly has a very important article that asks a very important question. Why is it that the only minority character to anchor a new series is Cleveland Brown — an animated character voiced by a white guy?
The show is a Family Guy spin-off called “The Cleveland Show.”
After a period of making a public effort to focus on diversity in their casting — kickstarted by an NAACP outcry over the white TV landscape in 1999 — the networks have clearly started to lose that focus, and not just when it comes to African-Americans. Today the current prime-time lineup, including fall’s 14 new scripted shows, is looking alarmingly pale. According to an Entertainment Weekly study of scripted-programming casts for the upcoming fall 2008 season, each of the five major broadcast networks is whiter than the Caucasian percentage (66.2 percent) of the United States population, as per the 2007 census estimate. And all of the networks are representing considerably lower than the Latino population percentage of 15.2 percent, with The CW — whose only lead Latina star, JoAnna Garcia, will be playing a white character named Megan Smith on Surviving the Filthy Rich — registering just 3.8 percent. After the quiet and unceremonious departure this winter of eight-season hit Girlfriends (the No. 15 show in all prime time among African-American audiences), The CW’s black comedy block (inherited from predecessor UPN) has shrunk to just two sitcoms: critical darling Everybody Hates Chris (No. 29 among African-Americans) and The Game (No. 7 among African-Americans), which have both been relegated to the dead zone known as Friday nights this fall.
***
“Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes sees progress in her diverse cast and those of other established hits — namely Lost and Heroes. But she still cites room for improvement: ”Do I want to see any more shows where someone has a sassy black friend? No, because I’m nobody’s sassy black friend. I just want to see shows in which people get to be people and that look like the world we live in. The world is changing, and television will have to follow.” True enough: It feels downright regressive to have to point out that minorities can be stars too, at a time when Will Smith continues to dominate box offices, Oprah is the most powerful woman on television, and Barack Obama is running for the ultimate leading role (you know, of the free world).
The article ends on a note of hope:
olor-blind casting is something teen-focused networks seem to have down pat: Nary a show has passed through ABC Family or The N without an interracial coupling or a naturally integrated cast. (ABC Family’s Greek even has an interracial gay couple.) Those networks’ execs say it’s a simple matter of economics, that their Gen-Y viewers accept — nay, expect and demand — such a reflection of their multi-cultural lives. ”They’re completely color-blind,” ABC Family president Paul Lee says of younger viewers. ”We’ve done a lot of things wrong as a nation, but we’ve clearly done something right here. They embrace other cultures.”

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Television

American Dreamz

Posted on April 18, 2006 at 6:07 pm

The Roman rulers used to distract the populace from the problems of corruption and decadence with “bread and circuses.” Today’s equivalent might be junk food and television, especially “reality” television. It plays to our fascination with both “real people” and celebrities and especially with the magical moment of transformation — the magical possibility of our own transformation — from one category to the other.


This wild and wildly uneven satire imagines a dim and detached President from Texas, a bald, Machiavellian Vice President who calls the shots, and a television show in which contestants compete to be selected for stardom.


Sound familiar?


Writer-director Paul Weitz (American Pie, About a Boy) says he got the idea for this movie when he found that more people vote for “American Idol” than vote for President. He took those two things, combined them, cranked it up a notch, and tweaked it a little.


Dennis Quaid plays the distracted President, just re-elected and not able to grasp exactly what the world situation is and how he should respond to it. He just wants to stay in bed and read newsapers. Willem Dafoe is the Vice President, whose relationship with the President appears to be modeled on the relationship of a ventriloquist to his puppet.


“American Dreamz” (“with a z”) is the “American Idol”-equivalent and Hugh Grant is the Simon Cowell-equivalent, supercilious, arrogant, but looking like Hugh Grant and being on television so people let him get away with it. He hates just about everyone and everything, or he would if he had the energy to work up that much emotion. He’s more like bored and cranky.


But he’s clear on what he wants — a show everyone will watch. And so he has to make sure this year’s contestants are the most watchable ever, including Sally (Mandy Moore), a rapaciously ambitious small-town girl, and Omer (Sam Golzari), a show-tune-loving terrorist from a sleeper cell. Sally will do anything to win. Omer finds he may not be willing to do anything for his cause. And the President thinks he can improve his approval ratings by being a guest judge on the show.


The highlight of the film is Moore, a treat as Sally, clearly enjoying herself but clearly in control of the performance, so sincerely insincere that it’s almost appealing. The set-ups are better than the pay-offs, but the film effectively makes its points about celebrities — political and show business, and about American dreams (with an s), especially the foolish but endearing dream that we are all just a wish and a chance away from being a star.

Parents should know that the movie has some mature material, including some strong language and some sexual references and non-explicit situations. The subject matter, while satiric, includes terrorism and suicide. Characters drink alcohol. The movie includes diverse characters but some audiences may find the satiric exaggeration to be offensive stereotyping, or, with regard to the President, disrespectful.


Families who see this movie should talk about the appeal of “American Idol,” and why more people vote for the best singer than vote for in the presidential election. They should also talk about the role of satire as political commentary.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Wag the Dog, Saved! (with Moore), and Primary Colors (all with more mature material). They may also enjoy my interview with writer-director Paul Weitz.

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Comedy Musical Television
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