Tag: television

Image via NBC

I’ve been thinking a lot about NBC lately. I’m directing Neil Simon’s Laughter on the 23rd Floor this semester (shameless plug: come see it this weekend!), a hilarious and partly-true comedy that discusses the network’s decision to cancel the 1950’s SNL-like sitcom Your Show of Shows. In the play, NBC is depicted as a money-hungry corporate machine, and I’ve wondered about this every night when I finish running the show with my cast and return to my apartment to watch one of my many shows on none other than nbc.com.

Is NBC still a money machine? Some evidence would suggest that this remains the case. Take Dick Wolf, the procedural drama king, for example. He’s best known for SVU and Law and Order, but when he created Chicago Fire five years ago, he tapped into a niche market. A show about heroic firemen and women had everyone’s attention, and I was right there with the masses as we rooted for everyone at Firehouse 51– for Severide to defeat his drug addiction, for Casey and Dawson to finally get together, for everyone at the firehouse to save another life. At its beginning, Chicago Fire was extraordinarily entertaining, heart wrenching, and even inspiring (in 2013, I witnessed a car crash, and the first thought that ran through my head was to call 911 because I felt like I trusted the fire department more than I ever had before).

But then Chicago Fire took on a ridiculous plotline– Lieutenant Matt Casey was in a constant fight with crooked cop Hank Voight– and I literally cringed every time Voight took the stage. His character was completely unlikeable, and even since his spinoff Chicago P.D. began that year, I have yet to find a single reason to root for this abusive policeman. But I’ve been forced to watch Voight every week because I want to keep up with Chicago Fire, and crossovers are happening too often to ditch one of the shows.

In 2015, Wolf, always one to build on a franchise, added Chicago Med to the mix, which has surprisingly turned into the best in the Chicago series. Med’s staff has some of the most insightful characters of the whole Chicago franchise, and by now I really only watch any of these shows to see how Sarah helps her mentally ill patients, how Will continues to defy hospital policy, how April deals with her tuberculosis. But again, if I ever want to keep up with Med, I have to watch Fire and P.D.

About a month ago, Wolf iced off the cake with Chicago Justice, of which I could only get through two horrifically written (and acted) episodes before finally giving up. I get it– Dick Wolf wants to make more money– but is it really worth sacrificing this much quality? Chicago P.D. and Chicago Justice are probably two of the worst shows on television right now, and it’s an embarrassment to NBC to continue airing them.

Then again, NBC isn’t all that bad. They still produce Saturday Night Live, the best sketch show to hit TV since Sid Caesar’s Show of Shows itself. They host Late Night with Seth Meyers, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and The Voice. They were home to some of TV’s greatest shows like 30 Rock and The Office. And their biggest hit this season, This is Us, was exceptionally well-done. They thrive when they air comedies and variety shows, and for years Dick Wolf has been their go-to drama man.

NBC’s newest show, John Lithgow’s Trial & Error, also holds promise. I’ve only watched the first episode, but it left me laughing and wanting more. Whoever’s idea it was to pair Lithgow with Glee’s adorable Jayma Mayes deserves an Emmy for that alone. I wasn’t floored with laughter, but I was left hopeful, and the artistry behind the show made it clear that the producers weren’t in this for the money.

So I don’t think NBC has a money problem– I think they have a Dick Wolf problem. Maybe this time he has pushed the line between quality and quantity too far– and is on the verge of ruining NBC for everyone.

 

The Must-Binge List: After learning about the foundation of Mormonism in my religion class, I’m now three seasons deep into HBO’s Big Love, which follows a polygamist family in their daily lives. It’s a relatively old show, made especially poignant now by lead Bill Paxton’s recent death, but its messages still hold true today. While it has its ups and downs (you’ll have to bear with them as they drudge through the middle of Season Two), the show’s overall depiction of true human emotions is definitely worthwhile. Paxton plays the role of father/ husband/ patriarchal authority perfectly, and his three wives (played by Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny, and Ginnifer Goodwin) are equally impressive. Where other actors in the show lack (see: Amanda Seyfried as the painfully whiny daughter), the four leads are fantastic. My Grade: B

 

P.S.– Laughter on the 23rd Floor is playing Thursday, April 6th at 9pm, and Sunday, April 9th at 2pm and 7pm in the Kraft Center!

 

Well, friends, it’s been a hell of a week. Last Thursday, I accidentally scheduled two super important meetings for the same time and had to reschedule. On Friday, I lost my wallet and found myself stranded at a downtown grocery store with bags of chicken I could no longer pay for. Add all that to the typical CU/BC student stress-level and I’m sure you can imagine how I was feeling on Sunday, when I finally sat down to watch my beloved Jane the Virgin.

[If you’re a fan of Jane’s (as well you should be) and have not yet watched the past two episodes, stop reading now. I repeat: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.]

For those of you who did watch, though, you’ll know that last week, the evil writers of television’s smartest comedy killed off Michael, Jane’s beloved, wonderful, sweet, cute, all-around-amazing husband. They were married for all of a few months, after they finally got back together at the end of last season and he survived a gunshot to the chest. And then, this happened.

I waited for the next week’s episode to cast judgement. Despite my heartbreak (and I’m talking literal crying on the subway), I still had hope that Jane the Virgin’s smart, funny writers wouldn’t let me down. The show had always been a satire of a telenovela, so I figured they might use this plot twist in a satirical, funny way to revamp the show’s lighthearted nature. (Of course, this was after I read countless interviews with the producer which assured me Michael was actually dead, because for a long time I was really hoping this was all just some kind of sick joke).

So, last Sunday, I turned on my computer, hoping desperately for another lighthearted episode to put me in a better mood. But I was disappointed. Instead, it was three years later, and Jane suddenly had a new life with her son Mateo and her baby daddy Rafael. Michael was gone, Jane was fine, Mateo was fine, Rafael was fine– everyone was FREAKIN’ FINE. And here I was, staring at the screen helplessly, desperately crying for Michael to come on screen and remind everyone that it was NOT FINE. The show had lost its sweetest, most genuine character, and they thought they could just move on? Skip ahead three years as if their fans weren’t still reeling from the loss of their number one guy?

Now, maybe I’m a little bit more invested than your average TV watcher. From day one, I’d always been Team Michael (Rafael is hot and all, but he was no match for Michael’s love for Jane). He made me cry, he made me laugh, and he felt so genuine that I found myself falling in love with him too. I saw traits in him I see in the people I love in real life, and in the hilarious but non-believable satire that was Jane the Virgin, he often felt like the only real person on the show. He had faults, but they weren’t overly dramatic, like the embezzlement cases Rafael was swept up in, or the premise that Jane was accidentally artificially inseminated. Michael was a normal guy, desperately in love with a woman, living a normal life.

As I watched this week’s episode, my heart ached for the one vein of normalcy I had experienced in this show. I cried for Jane’s sorrow, but I also cried because I felt the show had lost something– and I fear it’s something they can never get back.

The Must-Binge List: This week, I encourage you to watch Amazon’s new original series, Z: The Beginning of Everything. It’s a show about F.Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and their epic and completely insane love story. Christina Ricci is fantastic as Zelda– she’ll catch your ear with her electrifying Southern accent and hold your attention with her dazzling performance of the emotionally torn and conflicted woman who tried desperately to hold the attention of one of the greatest writers in our time. David Hoflin’s F. Scott has some trouble holding his own against Ricci, but when she’s on screen, who needs him anyway? Booze, dancing, and sexual exploits galore, this show is definitely worth your time. My grade: A-

 

By Yael Turitz (BC ’19)

I have a confession to make. I’m an addict.

No, I don’t struggle from alcoholism, or drug addiction, or even the newly psychologically recognized video-game addiction. I’m addicted to television.

I don’t mean to delegitimize the mental illness that is addiction. Thank God, I have never suffered from drug addiction or anything of the like and do not begin to claim I know what it feels like. And yet, I believe I too am an addict.

Addiction: “An unusually great interest in something or a need to do or have something” (Merriam-Webster).

It’s 1AM on a Tuesday night and the man is turning his back on the only person who’s ever cared about him. His friend catches on, and suddenly it’s a brawl through the abandoned warehouse in Manhattan. With one knockout punch, it’s over. The screen turns black. I look over at my clock. 1:06AM. ABC’s Castle is over. My body is exhausted, but my mind is just getting started.

“Television is the bane of this generation.”

“The problem with today’s teenage population is that they spend too much time with their eyes glued to the television and never do anything productive with their time.”

“Studies have shown that people spend more time watching television today than they do working, or exercising, or having personal interactions.”

I’ve heard it all before. Grumbles of the men in my synagogue, the professors in my history class, my grandfather. But it can’t stop me.

My imagination thrusts into action. I take each individual character, major or minor, and imagine her background, his family life, his career plans, her goals. I forge relationships between characters, and I create new characters, to establish new bonds or to wedge distances between old ones. I get lost in my own mind.

I want to be a writer. Not a journalist, not an editor—a bona fide fiction writer. I know it’s crazy, idealistic, naïve- but nothing gets me going like a well-crafted story. My idols include people like Jane Austen and Aaron Sorkin.

When I watch an episode of the West Wing, I’m not aimlessly watching a laptop; I’m actively engaging with Josh and Donna and imagining just how beautiful Sorkin’s banter looked on a page. When I watched Downton Abbey each week (oh boy, here comes the loss-of-Downton tears), it wasn’t a time-waster; it was a gateway into a world of characters and story-lines I could mold in my mind. Episodes inspire me to do what I love.

It’s an addiction because it’s a need. Once I get going, there’s no stopping me. I need to see how my imagination from last week measures up against The Good Wife’s professional writers’. There’s an incredible satisfaction when I get it exactly right, and I get a bit smug if I think my story was better. Of course, many times I’m awed when the plot takes a twist I never saw coming. But I am only fully content when I’ve resolved this creative discourse going on in my head. Only then can I peacefully fall asleep.

Am I wasting my time? Sure, I could exercise more. (Actually, I probably should exercise more, but that’s beside the point.) And sure, sometimes I watch TV while procrastinating from doing work. But you know what? I resent the bad rap television has gotten. There are definitely shows out there- think Keeping Up With the Kardashians- that are a mindless waste of time. But quality television is not pointless. An episode of Homeland is just as gripping as Stephen King’s latest novel. Gilmore Girls’ script is as smart and creative as any Oscar Wilde play. And you can learn from shows like The Big Bang Theory or The Newsroom. I know many will hound me for attributing such greatness to the medium of modern television—but honestly, TV writers are some of the greatest creative minds of our time. And it’s not fair to them when we blatantly characterize their work as a “waste of time.”

I’m addicted to fiction, to plot-lines, to characters, to twists and turns. I get a high, all in my own mind, off of stories. Stories spark the creativity inside of me, and my passion for stories is fueled by shows on television. One day, I dream of being the one sitting behind the scenes as the cameras roll and the actors speak the words I’ve written. And one day, when you insult the medium of television, you’ll be insulting my hard work. TV writers deserve better than that. Our openness to creativity deserves better than that.

Also, if you need any series suggestions—hit me up.