Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

TV Time

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Two recent TV series which, despite my low expectations, I have been watching, for “research purposes” are The Walking Dead and Being Human (UK version only).

The Walking Dead, on AMC, is based on a weekly comic series begun in 2003. It’s a zombie apocalypse tale set in the American South (Georgia), and better than a lot of zombie movies. The worst part is the first season had only 6 episodes and it’s been off now for many months. It shares a problem with a lot of high production TV: namely, suspense fades fast. I already forgot the characters’ names. I may have missed the undead for a while, but I got over it.

Being Human, decidedly more light-hearted, has a ridiculous premise: a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost shack up and try to pass as human in a working class Bristol neighbourhood. As embarrassing as this may sound, it is both funny and dramatic. Refreshingly, Mitchell the vampire, despite being abstinent and devastatingly handsome like his fellow male vampire stars Bill (True Blood) and Edward (Twilight) which I’ve mentioned before here and here, has no human ingénue to protect with his powers, and torture with his immortality. The worst thing about this series is the terrible and completely charmless American remake, hot on its heels and eager to capitalize on its success.

Vampire Diaries set in small town Virginia and currently in it’s second season on CW, is equally charmless. No amount of beautiful pouts can drag the teenaged characters from their dull lines and generic prettiness, and I lost interest long before the first diary entry (yes, the vampire does keep a diary, as does his human ingénue love interest).

Total Eclipse Of The Heart or You And Me Could Write A Vampire Romance (And Maybe We Should)

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010


This will be a summer of hot-blooded romance for vampire fans everywhere.

June 10th marks the release of Eclipse, the third in the Twilight series – and those folks don’t waste any time. If the trailer is any indication there will be much pouting and much swooping over majestic Northwestern mountain scenery. Edward’s perfect vampire eyebrows once again go head to head against werewolf-next-door rivalry. How is a (mere mortal) brunette to resist?


Hot on those heels on June 13th (coincidence?) the Southeastern variety vampire shapeshifting saga True Blood, starts up for season three and if you really can’t wait you can watch the production videos, which take the bite out of pretty vampire boys William and Eric fighting over the (fake) blond living object of their undying affections.

HBO Eric and William

Speaking of eclipses, Bonnie Tyler in her 1980s video Total Eclipse of the Heart, looks mighty vampirical as we storm through 2010.

And this just in via Flavorwire’s interview with Mary Gaitskill,

Why do you think vampires are so prevalent in popular literature right now? What does it say about our desires?

~I think they are perennially popular. They’re very sexual. I think people have a fear and fascination with sex as a form of devouring, especially psychic devouring. There’s also a feeling of people starving for deeper life, like blood. The feel empty and they want to find something to suck. Vampires express out need for substance, closeness, and intimacy.

Oh Nosferatu, you poor out-dated creepy monster.

Undead in the Night on Swedish TV

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

Undead in the Night thumbnail

The National Swedish TV Arts and Culture program, Kobra, featured my Undead in the Night performance in Malmö, Sweden as part of their Horror Ministry series about, yes, horror. The performance was a collaboration with Lilith Performance Studio in Malmö, Sweden and 100 non-professional actors, out in the forest in the middle of the night. It placed two undead creatures (hideous Zombies and stunning Vampires) in the same scenes along with their victims, violating the codes and boundaries of the horror genre, and creating an impossible scenario. The audience, transported 8 people at a time to an undisclosed forest location, became visitors in a living horror movie. Following a path in the dark various scenes came alive along a 3 km long horror path.

Also featured in the TV program which aired Oct 1 are Seth Grahame Smith, author of bestseller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Max Brooks author of The Zombie Survival Guide, and Freddie Wading, lead singer in several Swedish horror-themed punk bands. Most of the interviews are in English. Check out the whole horror series which is fascinating, or just scroll in this “Zombier” episode to 20:45 for the segment on Undead in the Night, created by Ulrik Petersson.

Watch Zombier online.

Electric Company revisited

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

I’ve been watching the Best of the Electric Company, a TV show from The Children’s Television Workshop that ran from the early 70s. One of my favourite clips so far, featuring Morgan Freeman and watchable on repeat, is worth sharing.

Diarama drama – another review (sight unseen)

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Off the radar for the past four months, I’ve probably missed a lot of important information. Waiting at the Greenpoint G train station last night I was ill prepared for a poster advertising the upcoming TV series, Vampire Diaries. Reading later about the main characters who are either “beautiful and popular” or carrying “dark, deadly secrets of their own”, two thoughts raced through my mind:

1) how refreshing, it’s high time someone made melodramatic books and motion pictures about beautiful young vampires.
2) Dear Diary, I am beautiful and in love with the dangerous vampire next door – it’s complicated, what shall I do?

Vampire Diaries is based on a series of young adult novels. For those who can’t get enough of Twilight and True Blood – hold your breath; here comes more of the same.

As much as I disliked Diary of the Dead, Romero’s recent zombie film (2007), at least the zombies have some character, albeit rotting and unpleasant. I might actually read their diaries.

Monstrous Swedish TV Spot

Monday, May 25th, 2009

The full article from SVT, Zombievandring i mörkret is online! The TV spot features my ever-frightening vampiric and zombified friends Märta and Clara (V’s), Tom and Amanda (Z’s). Notice Tom’s vacant hungry stare, you wouldn’t want to meet him alone in the dark forest…

Say Something Meaningful

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

1944 new yorkers

I don’t expect all advertisements to be truthful or even transparent – no ma’am. I am not easily fooled by animated cars that are made of skin, reflect the landscape, chase down wildcats, and fold into my pocket. Fooled – never; enchanted – absolutely. Jeanne Randolph in Ethics of Luxury: Materialism and Imagination points out smartly that in advertising, “reasoning is assailed by unique rhetorical charms: Cherry, Strawberry, Grape. Three reasons to buy Froot-Loops” (pp 9 – 10).

But who does the MTA think they are kidding? 1,944 people saw something and said something, meaning 1,944 incidents – some percentage of which were non-incidents – were reported and processed and counted. It’s reassuring that there are people watching out for us, or at least themselves, here in the Big Apple. But cradled in this false assurance are only more questions – how many saw and said something the year before this snitch campaign urged commuters to remain ever vigilant? Did any of those sightings and sayings avert disaster, or do we simply have a tiny army (1,944 is not that many in this city) of slightly paranoid individuals who reported suspiciously abandoned plastic bags and soda cans to the already harassed MTA workers? [An asside: I assume they are harassed since they are so nearly impossible to locate when I am lost and need answers to why the L, G, and 7 trains are simultaneously not running, and how I can get home from my stranded position. Far be it from me to criticize the MTA - I know their employees are very hard at work strategically posting informative signs about transit changes in the most clever hiding spots.]

“If you have nothing useful to say, say nothing at all!” – That’s my proposal for next year’s campaign.

Speaking of advertisements, I am mesmerized by the animated ads for the current roster of anxiety drugs – the animations are so inert and relaxing as to lull me into a dreamy state where I do not hear the speedily spoken list of side-effects including death, stroke, and heart attack. I feel the drugged sleep of poppies coming on, à la Dorothy en route to Emerald City. I feel myself slowly curling up on the train tracks with a speeding train hurtling towards me – i’m…just…so….sleepy……
sometimes it is all I can do to change the channel before I start to drool and mumble incoherently.

Artist Justine Cooper, whom I blogged about before, has a great piece called Havidol which is itself an ad campaign for a fictional drug using the methodology, language, and gentle imagery favoured by the pharmaceutical industry. Also check out this group who wants to end such pseudo-educational drug campaigns.

Title This

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

better living through reality tv

The title Better Living Through Reality TV, by Laurie Ouellette and James Hay, drips of sarcasm in the ears of those like myself who inherently harbour suspicion of the media, especially TV and advertising.

I am not a fan of Reality TV programming, but I am interested in the enormous fan base and the genre as an example of expanded (though controlled) participatory viewing – the new model of media entertainment. I am also fascinated by the compulsion to participate in the game of voting, and the more complex game of contestant-hood, where the stakes are high and the 4th wall increasingly thin. The variety and discomfiture is enormous in Beauty and the Geek, Joe Millionaire, Tila Tequila, The Biggest Loser, and The Swan – to name just a fraction of Reality TV’s offerings, each upping the ante on the next.

Beyond voyeuristic impulses, viewers have long desired to participate, to be the star of TV drama – however tawdry and brief. Talk shows like Oprah and Phil Donahue in the 80s and 90s aired a nation’s laundry, never wanting for guests with dirty secrets and viewers with eager appetites. Artist Bjorn Melhus’s operatic installation, Primetime from 2001 dissects this drama brilliantly and with uneasy humour.


The book, which I have only just begun, delves head first into the political, educational (yes educational), economic, social, and ideological affects of the phenomenon that is Reality TV. TV as a privatized and homogenizing body now purports to speak to the public good. The TV shows and their agendas essentially become a replacement for the government’s interest in social programming, providing entertainment and a resource for self-improvement, albeit with the hefty price of commercial endorsements. In the introduction the authors write, “It is a sign of the times that, in the absence of public welfare programs, hundreds of thousands of people now apply directly to reality TV programs for housing, affordable health care, and other forms of assistance”. Sign of the times? Sounds like high time to petition the government and vote in a candidate who truly stands for public good before the poor are washed away in the next natural disaster -slash- act of god. I’m not sure that a designer wardrobe, liposuction, jaw implants, and dental veneers (a modest example of The Swan contestants’ prizes) are going to help the public good.

House makeovers, the perfect mate, and extreme elective surgery are not beyond the reach of the disenfranchised, but only the precious few are awarded a chance at the prizes. American Idol was for a time America’s #1 TV show in the ratings – the prize there a recording contract awarded for the performance of unoriginal music. Anyone can do it!

Reality TV is presided over by moderators, consultants, and experts – the authors argue that they are patronizing yes but empowering too. These roles champion an active, self-possessed, and entrepreneurial citizenry – “at a time when privatization, personal responsibility, and consumer choice are promoted as the best way to govern liberal capitalist democracies, reality TV shows us how to conduct and “empower” ourselves as enterprising citizens”. TV has become “the quintessential technology of advanced or “neo” liberal citizenship” (17). The authors weave In Foucault’s view of government and the self-governing model. TV takes governance into the home through a hard-hitting educational stance – but there is no place in this model for individuals who wish to reject femininity or masculinity as presented on screen, or who prefer a subcultural lifestyle (p 116).

Some shows speak to the political process – your vote counts. Polled by Pursuant Research, Inc, 35% of American Idol voters in 2006 believed their vote counted as much or more than their vote for the president (p 215), and an Idol moderator claimed that the 2006 winner received more votes than any president in history. Maybe the government should take notes – this is what the people want – voting at home, popular (generic) music, and big self-improvement prizes. The media pays attention – fans are the customers.


Another TV genre that lets contestants dream big, financially if not cosmetically, is the game show. In related news, Mark Kostabi’s latest vanity project, Title This. For those unfamiliar with Mark Kostabi, he is a New York artist whose Kostabi World factory workers churn out endless dime-a-dozen paintings. He’s infamous for this factory approach to art making (not unlike artstar giants Jeff Koons or Damian Hirst), lack of originality, selling works on eBay, and his media persona.


Said Kostabi, “My paintings are actually more interesting than the conceptual hijinks [which he is famous for], but you’d have to be a painter to understand that. It’s much easier to be entertained by anti-establishment intellectual slapstick than it is to understand what’s going on in a painting.” Unfashionable championing of painters as the pinnacle of fine artists aside, Kostabi’s Public Access variety TV show, Title This, is in my opinion, the most interesting thing he does.

To the tune of his own piano playing, he invites celebrity and artworld friends to title his paintings, rewarding them with $25 for successful titles. I have some ideas for the (untitled) image above.