Friday, September 29, 2006

Not TV Week

So much for the planned blog series about my television viewing this week. I thought the task was going to be easier than it turned out to be; that’s what I get for underestimating the energy it takes to watch television and write about it critically. I think I got slightly overwhelmed thinking about a particular aspect of television in relation to my thesis work, so my attempts to write something about my everyday viewing pleasures during my leisure time resulted in a slight brain melt-down. More than slightly, actually. ‘It’s not that easy to explain’.

From Milkbar: An Australian Journal of Small Press

Anyway, I hear there are no rules when it comes to this blogging caper, so perhaps ‘TV Week’, the series will be published over a few weeks. Meanwhile, I’ve been inspired by Tim Sterne’s post at Sterne and cross-posted at Sarsaparilla about the books he isn’t reading at the moment. I do have a couple of stacks of books, mainly of the not-generally-interesting scholarly imprint variety, but rather than list those, I thought I’d stick with the medium of television and tell you all about the television I haven’t watched this week.

ABC News

I’m fibbing a bit by listing this one, because I did watch it on a couple of occasions—it is my preferred news bulletin—but the news often has the effect of infuriating me, and that wasn’t the best thing for me this week. My ire is usually raised when the news reports on John Howard’s pronouncements. For example, I see that Howard is capable of exercising his power against mining and environmental destruction when it threatens the sites which he holds to be sacred, like the Kokoda Trail in PNG. If only he so vigorously defended the values of all the citizens of Australia he represents.

The other news item that caused my blood pressure to elevate was the Qld Police Union’s reaction to the State Coroner’s finding about the Aboriginal death in custody that sparked the Palm Island riots. The sophistry they engaged in upon learning the coroner’s finding that the police were responsible for Mulrunji’s death is more than distressing. I was interested to note the ABC’s wording which went something like ‘the police officer blamed for the death of ...’. ‘Blamed’ seems to me to be a curious word in this context; doesn’t it suggests a hint of over-reaction and irrationality of behalf of the coroner? Why not say ‘the police officer was found responsible for the death of ...’. Wouldn’t that wording be far less emotive and therefore more appropriate for a news service?

Four Corners

I had a meeting with my supervisor this week and we spoke about how viewers come to define whether a programme is a ‘quality’ programme or not. I had just read a chapter of a book that discussed an audience survey where viewers were asked to select from the top-rating shows those that they nominated as ‘quality’ and those that they ‘appreciated’. There was a disjuncture between the figures attributed to each of the two categories, showing that viewers used different criteria for their nominations in the two categories. The author speculated that because the viewers made a judgement about the ‘quality’ programmes they therefore must have watched them. I expressed to my supervisor that I didn’t necessarily agree with the author’s assertion, and the example I used to explain my position was Four Corners. I have barely ever watched Four Corners, but I know it is ‘quality’ investigative journalism. I know this because of the way it is framed in the ABC’s promotions; the way, over the years, the reports have been used by other news’ services as a primary source; the way it has sparked Royal Commissions—in particular the Fitzgerald Inquiry in Qld and the AWB Oil for Food Inquiry; and the way it is discussed by intelligent and learned people around me. If I was asked, I would say unequivocally that it is ‘quality’ television, but I certainly couldn’t claim that I had ever ‘appreciated’ it.

Conversely, in view of the comments about Bones that have appeared on this blog over the last few days, I can unequivocally state that Bones is not ‘quality’ television, yet I would rate my appreciation of it quite highly.

Enough Rope

I’ve never been a regular view of this programme. I watched it in the beginning, but then it clashed with two other programmes I liked better. More recently, I’ve watched it when someone I’m particularly interested in has been interviewed: James Blunt, Lily Tomlin and Jamie Oliver, for example.

I’m not all that enamoured of Denton’s interviewing style, although, again, I know it’s considered to be very good, afterall he’s won a Walkley Award. I’ve also had the experience of being able to have a conversation with any academic sort I’ve ever encountered at the post-seminar coffee sortie, if I mention that week’s guest on Enough Rope.

If I had to articulate what makes me wary of the show, I would say it’s the sort of therapeutic probing of his guests that Denton undertakes. I feel slightly uncomfortable and embarrassed on their behalf, I think. Does a ‘good’ interview necessarily require this kind of messy, emotional surgery? I suppose for that reason, I’ve rather enjoyed it when, on the occasions I’ve watched it, his guests have refused to be drawn into what seems to be Denton’s therapeutic imperative. On the one hand, James Blunt’s refusal to provide the graphic details of his role in the British peace keeping forces in Kosovo was appropriate. On the other hand, Lily Tomlin was just delightful when she demonstrated she hadn’t even stepped foot on the psychotherapeutic planet that Denton’s interviews inhabit.


Laura said...

I love that comic strip!

And I really like your point about viewers knowing a show fits in a certain category without necessarily havign watched it. A similar sort of osmosis applies with adapted movies - the promotional power of adapting a well-known & recognised book isn't limited to only people who have read the book. The Devil Wears Prada will be chosen at the cinema by lots of people who recognise it was a popular novel.

Galaxy said...

That comic strip got me through my Master's so I'm drawing on its considerable power to sustain me through the PhD. I especially like 'I have to smash this radio'. Yeah, that's about the extent of my rebellious moments too--I certainly wouldn't damage the television!(do you think there's anything terribly Freudian in the fact that I first wrote 'would' there?)

Anyway, if all goes to plan I'm off to see The Devil Wears Prada today with my sister.

Rachael Krinks said...

I wasn't particularly interested in seeing "The Devil Wears Prada" as I thought initially it was just aimed at the arty farty trendy vacuous types I left behind in Sydney.

However! - I read a review of it in the Australian I think a week or so ago, and the reviewer was similarly inclined, until a speech in the movie where the down to earth heroine sniggers at something The Devil says, and the Devil lets fly with a wonderful speech (which I can't do justice to, you'll have to see the movie), about how, there you sit in your blue top, you probably think it is turquoise blue or baby blue, it is Cerulean blue and do you know where that blue came from - designer x and designer Y put cerulean blue in x type of clothing on the runway back in 1988 (for eg), it had never been worn/used before, it filtered down to celebrities, then to x then to y then to ready to wear, then to the cheap polyester filled corner store you bought your cheap top at, thinking you chose that colour as it suited you, you are arrogantly independent of the fashion world etc etc, - the decisions you made yesterday about what to buy and today about what to wear WERE ALL MADE RIGHT HERE IN THIS ROOM!

Or something like that. Very powerful and made me want to see the flick.

! :)

Shado said...

I agree about Bones not being quality TV! (I couldn't resist slipping that in.) I also agree with you about Denton and am also only a sporadic watcher. I thought the interview with Anthony La Paglia was excellent especially for his tough and down to earth but still charming refusal to be drawn into the psychotherapeutic approach. Like you, I find all the breaking down into tears stuff somewhat uncomfortable.

On quality TV again: For example, West Wing is widely recognised as quality TV but I am unable to appreciate it. But something like Wire in the Blood however is both quality TV and highly appreciated by me!!

I am otherwise an avid consumer of both quality and trash TV as long as it is genre or cult tv of the sf, fantasy or police persuasions.

Galaxy said...

I did end up seeing The Devil Wears Prada, which I was interested in seeing because of Meryl Streep. I've always thought she has the most patrician, ethereal beauty and the ability to portray the most terribly repressed people, yet show glimpses of their humanity. She didn't disappoint. The appearance of Simon Baker, with his caterpillar eyebrows was a surprise. I didn't know he was in it. He's another one with a gift for playing repressed/extremely human types.

The quote you mention Rachel, is a particularly fine moment in the film.

We may never agree on Bones, Shado, but I am with you on The West Wing. I started off enjoying it, then when it moved to the ABC, I tried again. I do think the dialogue/acting etc is brilliant, but I feel terribly unsophisticated that I can't cope with the yawning abyss between the real President of the USA and Jed Bartlett. It's for this reason that I just can't enjoy it, not even as a kind of fantasy. It makes me feel queasy. There's a blog post in the archives somewhere title 'Presidents of the United States of America' where I worried over this conundrum.

David said...

The comic strip is by Ben... forget his second name, he was a planner in Hobart and did some very funny comics (not about planning or Hobart, really). I was thinking about him the other day - haven't seen anything he's done for quite some time.

Surely your knowledge that 4 Corners is quality comes from more than just ABC advertising.

David said...

Ben Ridder?

Galaxy said...

I'm not a hundred per cent whether it was Ben Ridder, or I seem to recall there was another Ben around at the same time, who I'm not sure isn't also a blogger, ben.h. (In fact I'm not sure whether half of the people I encounter in the blog world, I haven't already encountered in real life at the NYWF--f'r instance you've mentioned Amanda Kerley on your blog, who I have definitely met/hung out/argued with) I'm fairly sure that both contributed to the first Milkbar.

I will have to go through the zine boxes I've got at uni, that I always intended to donate to the Fryer Library, but I kept getting overcome by separation anxiety at the thought of never being able to re-read The Amazing Deludo at my leisure.

re: Four Corners and knowing that it's quality. Well there is the fact that Laura and dogpossum have watched it and blogged on it... But, no, I don't think you can underestimate the role of publicity as a kind of intertextual indicator of genre etc