Thursday, January 10, 2008

Happy (Sniffle) New Year

I'm at home today, feeling sick and miserable. I was at home yesterday too, but then I only felt sick with a sore throat. I managed to get some work done yesterday, watching a couple of telemovies on DVD it's true, but I made copious notes afterwards and entered the characters' details into the spread sheet I've created for the purposes of content analysis and comparison.

I'm a bit pleased because I've managed to hire these DVDs for free. I've signed up to have DVDs delivered to my home and the introductory offer gives the first 10 free, which is a good start on the series of telemovies that is Halifax f.p. It's not exactly ground breaking television or anything, but it's 'quality' in that British sense with top notch Australian actors starring throughout. Yesterday I saw an episode, 'Lies of the Mind' that had Jacqueline McKenzie and Richard Roxburgh in it. Angela Punch McGregor was no slouch in it either.

My point of interest in Halifax f.p. is that it started in the mid-90s around the time that Cracker did in the UK. It's psychiatrist as detective, a type of character that emerged as a way to reinvigorate the police/detective genre. It's not so much whodunnit but whydunnit.

Hey, did I tell you that I got accepted into a masterclass being held by Charlotte Brunsdon? She's one of the early Birmingham School people. I've engaged with her work quite a bit over the course of my thesis. She wrote some papers urging academics to engage with the concept of 'quality' in television rather than leaving the term to be hijacked by more conservative forces. She was writing in the context of a debate around new broadcasting policy in the UK. She noted that the term 'quality' was being used in the legislation, but it was rarely defined. She challenged cultural studies academics who had spent about two decades interrogating the ideological bases for value judgements to counter the common sense understanding of the term (generally historical and educational) with definitions of their own, suggesting that 'quality' television could be innovative television that pushed the boundaries of the medium. In the context of cultural studies it was quite a radical suggestion.

In other television related news, I got an email yesterday from someone for whom I'm supposed to be reviewing a book about television criticism. It's true I've had the book a long time, longer than is acceptable, but I'm not so sure about being called 'uncool' because of my lateness. Perhaps I'm reacting badly because I suspect it is really uncool. I took the book on in the context of the public lynching I got over at Sarsaparilla by various middling members of the writing staff at the national daily newspaper for daring to suggest that one of their colleagues was patronising towards the television audience, especially the viewers of confessional talk shows and lifestyle television.

Looking back, I rather suspect that I stumbled into some kind of pre-existing intra-office feud because their response was entirely out of proportion to what I had actually written. Another clue was the suggestion by one of writers that I should have revealed that I was acquainted with the member of the writing staff who was on leave at the time. The suggestion was a bizarre misreading of a follow up comment I had made about that writer contacting me privately in response to my original post.

I probably shouldn't have agreed to review any book in such a context. I hate that I'm still talking about it, but I have to say that the whole experience was a real punch to the guts. If I use the lynch mob metaphor then it's because it felt like I was being pursued by a torch-wielding mob who delivered blow after blow on the basis of some kind of unfounded prejudice. Their response wasn't logical, it was highly emotional and uninformed by anything I had actually written, and one writer in particular clearly sought blood, stalking me to my university email address when she could easily have emailed me through the address I've provided on this blog.

Even though logically I know that their behaviour was appalling and their fabricated accusations bore absolutely no relation to my work, I think I can pinpoint that moment as a turning point in the year, where I began a slow downward slide into paralysing insecurity about my work. I hate admitting it lest it give them some kind of creepy satisfaction. But of course they're not reading this blog, in the same way that I haven't read their paper since.

I still really like my thesis project however. I think it's worthwhile and I've had conversations with various people whose opinions count in the broader world of television studies that confirm this independently. It's the writing. It takes very little for me to be insecure about my writing, even in the face of praise about it. I procrastinate beyond deadlines. It's very frustrating.

And 'uncool'.

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