A Field Guide to Summer TV: Wednesday

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday! (Apologies for the delay. My to-do list expanded, as it often does when moving house is involved.) But I’m here now, (and on Los Angeles time, no less) ready to get back in our Jurassic Park style safari vehicle. I can feel that water surface vibrating right now. Let’s find some T-Rexes.

If "Falling Skies" had more dinosaurs, I'd like it a lot more.

8 PM – Those Adorable Dinos That Kind of Remind You of Littlefoot

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A Field Guide to Summer TV: Tuesday

So you’ve figured out Monday, set your DVR, Hulu queue, etc. And you got ready for Tuesday, only to find out that the USA network and ABC Family have jumped into the mix. And there are some hard hitters to deal with.

[Note: I’m only including new, narrative television, so I won’t be taking on Teen Mom. You’re on your own for that kids.]

Tuesday’s Child is Atmospheric and Sophomoric (In the Best Way)

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A Field Guide to Summer TV: Monday

Hello intrepid Lemoners! I see you’ve been crawling through the wilds of summer, swatting mojitos and drinking mosquitoes. Strike that. Reverse it. Anyhoo…

Yet another terrible heat wave has hit the Midwest and East Coast, and I want my readers to stay cool and entertained. How? Find some air conditioning, a drink with an umbrella, and watch some summer TV. The afternoon is easy. Either you’re by the pool or in the office or watching HGTV, but how do you decide when everything’s at 9 and 10 PM, set up against each other?  Let’s make sure you know what you’re getting into.

Monday’s Child Is A Little Bit Geeky, But Stronger Than She Looks

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Lillian Explains the Nielsen Ratings (Or How You Too Can Play “Charlie”)

At an industry panel at Carnegie Mellon, just before we graduated, someone asked why shows like The Beverly Hillbillies, American Idol, and Two and a Half Men remain on the air while more adventurous and artistic fare (anthologies, Pushing Daisies, Better Off Ted, etc.)  gets slowly shunted to the side and eventually canceled. The magic answer, folks, is advertising money, or rather, how those advertisers choose the shows they back: the Nielsen Ratings.

How It Works

You’ve probably heard the term “Nielsen Ratings” flung around at some point. It’s how networks claim the “#1 Drama on Television” “#1 Comedy Block on the Air,” etc. The Nielsen households are a set of about 25,000 homes throughout the nation that have “Set Meters” attached to their televisions. These Set Meters record what is watched by the household and send that data through the phonelines to the Nielsen company, an advertising consulting firm.

Not everyone has Set Meters. You would know if you did. When the Nielsen Company calls, the first thing they’ll ask is if you have a family member in the entertainment industry. They don’t want your family ties contaminating their data. Yet, even if you don’t have an uncle who’s a grip for Jerry Springer, think about how being a Nielsen household might affect your viewing habits. Compare how you watch television with your parents vs. how you watch when you’re alone. (They know you watch 90210 guys. Really they do.) Though there are lots of measures in place to try to keep Nielsen households from undue pressure, you behave differently when you know someone cares about what you watch. From an ion article about the Nielsens:

We weren’t to tell people or accept gifts or otherwise be persuaded to watch a certain show… We did make sure to watch Buffy and Angel in syndicated repeats, and made a special effort to watch the first season of the Venture Bros, which did need just another household or two to put it over the top. And it worked.

A partisan Nielsen voter? WHA?!?

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The Mad Menifesto

[Note: So many Mad Men spoilers.]

Last month, a friend sent me this open letter to men from Christina Hendricks. I’ve written about Ms. Hendricks before but I have to admit I’m endlessly fascinated by her and our cultures reactions to her and the show she now stars in, AMC’s retroporn Emmy winner Mad Men.

The first thing Hendricks offers us in this open letter is this little gem:

We love your body. If we’re in love with you, we love your body. Your potbelly, everything. Even if you’re insecure about something, we love your body. You feel like you’re not this or that? We love your body. We embrace everything. Because it’s you.

If that’s not real love, I don’t know what is. And let me be clear: I’m not discounting Dan Savage’s “you have the right to demand body maintenance.” mantra. But I do believe that when you’re with the right person, it’s their mind and personality that also turns you on, so that helps you love everything about them. Even what they don’t love about themselves. It’s also refreshing to hear a sex icon address male body issues so directly.

It’s funny, but there’s begun to be a backlash against Mad Men in papers like The New York Times and sites like Salon. The Times article justified the show’s success by the new Puritan and yuppie-ism of the upper class which distances the über rich from the messiness glamorized on Mad Men, a place they’d like to get back to. Salon explained that Mad Men was bad for women because “the women not only suffer but also do so with the clear message that the fault lies not in society, but in themselves.”

The argument of whether the men in Mad Men are acting as a result of societal pressures or personal flaws is a complex one, and you could really argue it both ways. But I must make the point that Mad Men‘s complicated feminism is actually a great guide for third and neo-second wavers because it illustrates a few complex but important maxims.

Maxim #1: Very few of us get to “have it all.” But you have the right to try. Continue reading

Doctor Who and the Plea for Unconventional Beauty

[Warning, this post contains spoilers for the Doctor Who episode “The Lodger.”]

I am going to say right now that “The Lodger” was one of the most enjoyable episodes of Doctor Who in a long time, especially for Matt Smith lovers. We got to see the Eleventh Doctor play football (soccer for those of us who are two weeks behind on episodes), come out of the shower, talk to a cat, and generally do good for fan service everywhere.

Fan service win!

So in general I loved it, but there’s something that’s been bothering me for a long time. Why does this dude,

Oh Craig...

end up with this chick?

Craig and Sophie

Don’t misunderstand me. There’s something really sweet and charming about Craig. He’s funny, he’s kind. I might even date him. But they’re not exactly the same level of conventional hotness.

"Are you really going out with him?"

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Denny Crane: A Feminist/Queer Studies Love Letter to Boston Legal

Okay, confession time. My first crush was Captain Kirk from Star Trek: The Original Series.

What am I looking at? Oh, just my ego's shadow.

Now here’s the thing about Captain Kirk. He’s a jerk. He’s xenophobic, expansionist, and a professional chauvinist. And he never really apologizes for it. As a feminist, I should hate him. But he also does stuff like this:

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Your Field Guide to Zomedies and the Possibility of “The Walking Dead” as a Series

The recent triumph of Zombieland, the little zom-com that could, has given the studios permission to greenlight other zombie products that don’t fully fit in the horror genre (i.e. the 28 ____ Later series and the Resident Evil trilogy.)

This is not to say that zombie comedies (or ZomComs or Zomedies, depending on who you talk to) haven’t been greenlit before. Shaun of the Dead is the most obvious example, but films like Canada’s Fido, a Lassie pastiche with a zombie as the collie (played brilliantly by Scottish comedian Billy Connolly), cannot be overlooked as part of the larger march toward “Zomedy” as a genre.

Further back there’s films like Zombies on Broadway and  King of the Zombies, which weren’t necessarily all that funny, but they did try. The zombie as a comedy device can be found in An American Werewolf in London and Idle Hands (with Seth Green as the reanimated corpse in question.) Overall, you don’t really get comedies set in a post-zombie apocalypse world until after Romero and Raimi, whose Army of Darkness set the precedent for horror comedy as a B-movie go-to. The genre doesn’t lean hard on the comedy side until Fido and Shaun of the Dead in terms of “Oh, the apocalypse. Isn’t this fun?” Continue reading