Invisible Mikey: Lessons From TV

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Mass media impacts lives, and each generation adopts current technology for the sharing of information, communication and entertainment. Five years ago, during my last round of college, I realized how differently my younger colleagues in class were experiencing media than I had. I use the Internet, but I’m a different animal. I was part of the first television generation. During my formative years, it was only available in black and white, and there were no remote controls.

Sometimes I read opinions written by columnists and bloggers who state unequivocally that television can have no positive influence, especially on children who watch. I don’t care what the studies say. I am living proof that TV could influence in meaningful, positive ways. You may prefer to believe I was just lucky, but I learned many important things from watching TV. Here are three:

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The Joke’s On You. Learn to Enjoy It.

When I was a boy in Iowa, Duane Ellett and his dog puppet, Floppy, hosted one local show. Duane and Floppy showed cartoons and performed before a live audience of children. Throughout the show, the kids were invited to come up and tell jokes to them. Predictably pleasant, right? Something unexpected and wonderful happened. The kids would tell the SAME EXACT JOKES over and over. Floppy would laugh and toss his ears around every time, while Duane (the straight man) would look more and more miserable. Floppy would stop and look back at Duane like “Why aren’t you laughing, man? This is great!” Duane would be rolling his eyes and growing visibly older by the second. This is the yin-yang of comedy, and in many ways, of life itself. Sometimes you are Floppy. Sometimes you are Duane. And life will keep playing the same jokes on you. Because I had watched The Floppy Show, I understood Waiting for Godot when I read it many years later.

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Big and Small are Defined by Context.

Half my life has been lived in big cities and half in small towns. Small towns are more entertaining. That’s because every small town pretends that it’s a big, important place. There’s a recent movie called Cedar Rapids, a fish-out-of-water comedy about a man from a very small town trying to adjust to opportunities in the “big city” of the title. The in-joke is that Cedar Rapids isn’t big. It’s just bigger than where he was from. I lived in Cedar Rapids for years and found it hilarious that Cedar Rapidians took their town so seriously. I knew they weren’t all that. After all, I was from (ahem) Des Moines!

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By the time I moved to Cedar Rapids at age 14, I had been fully prepared for small town pretense by watching TV. I was a fan of The Andy Griffith Show, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres – shows that exploited the inflated pride people have about their small towns for comedic effect, but that also portrayed the virtues of living more simply. Now, in the autumn of my years, I love Last of the Summer Wine, the world’s longest-running situation comedy. It was a British show about pensioners with attitude, and it echoed the themes of those American shows that came before.

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Everyone is Still a Child.

I was a very angry teenager. The Vietnam War was going on, college students were being gassed and beaten at peaceful demonstrations, my parents were heading for divorce and life was grim in general. My inner child was dying from neglect. An honest embrace emerged from TV in the afternoons, in the form of a show for very young children that I needed as much as they did. Fred Rogers understood that children of all ages need reassurance in uneasy times. He showed us an improved world in miniature, one we could live in if we treated each other better. It was Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

The show was on Public Television. Back then, just like now, there were those in government who wanted to cut funding for non-commercial TV, because they thought it was “too liberal”. Mister Rogers didn’t believe in war. He suggested more money should be spent on the education of children, including through television, instead of spending it on weapons. I know this is a long clip, but it’s an example of how powerful authentic gentleness can be. In this excerpt, you can see Mister Rogers melt the hard heart of a real U.S. Senator, just by talking to the child inside him. I can’t watch this without crying.

Mister Rogers died in 2003, a month before the U.S. invaded Iraq. His show began during one war based on lies. His life ended as another war based on lies began. I remember telling Mary at the time that I felt as if the world wasn’t good enough to have someone as kind as Fred Rogers living in it. I’m sorry he’s gone, but I’m glad his TV show helped me to change. I’m not an angry adult.

TVWriter™ gives big thanks to Invisible Mikey’s Very Visible Blog

What Have We Learned from the 1st Week of the 2012 Season?

Some interesting bits, actually:

After One Week, Which TV Shows Look Good and Which Seem Doomed? – by Josef Adalian

Congratulations, fellow TV viewers: We’ve survived another premiere week! The networks threw all manner of new shows our way and forced us to fill our DVRs to bursting with returning favorites. It seems only fair that we repay their kindness by rushing to judgement about how their new lineups fared out of the gate, from the obvious winners to the Romney-esque losers. Yes, yes: One week does not a season make, particularly in an era when shows debut year-round and many viewers watch shows on their own damn schedules. But that caveat aside, we still think there are some early lessons to be drawn from the early days of the new season.

It’s more important than ever to pay attention to time-shifted viewing...

NBC has emerged from the Dark Ages

Fox is off to a rocky start...

We can already tell which shows are sticking around and which are doomed

TV’s grizzled veterans continue to defy gravity

Read the details

How “High Concept” Does Your Concept Have to Be?

No point in guessing. Just compare it to the premises for the shows below. Remember, regardless of what their ultimate fates may be, all these shows had premises that got them to the starting line…and scripts that took them beyond:

The Premise-O-Meter: Ranking the New TV Dramas – by Margaret Lyons (Vulture.Com)

ABC’s submarine drama Last Resort premieres tonight, and it’s a doozy: action, adventure, shouting, you name it. It’s great! But man, the show is heavy on concept: There’s a submarine, see, and it’s given an order to nuke Pakistan, but the captain doubts the integrity of the order, so he refuses to go through with it, and then they take over an island, and renegades, and the president, and a secret submarine prototype, and on and on and on. It’s a lot of premise. Not every fall show has this problem, though — there’s the other end of the spectrum, too, the premise-less end, the end where the show is about nothing and has nothing to say. Here are all your new fall dramas, ranked in order of complexity.

ACK! THAT’S A LOT OF PREMISE

Last Resort: See above.

Revolution: A close second. There’s a global blackout, and 15 years later, everything is run by scary militias, and there are freedom fighters and people who want to turn the lights back on, and a lady with a secret internet in her attic, and a girl whose parents are dead, and there’s sword-fighting and a few jokes. So far, the show is heavy on concept and light on character.

666 Park Avenue: An attractive young couple moves into the Manhattan apartment of their dreams, only to discover that the building and its residents are possessed by dark, supernatural forces. It’s sort of like Revenge, but with the devil instead of vengeance.

Nashville: A country music legend grapples with her fading stardom and there’s a young up-and-comer who’s trying to push her out of the spotlight. Enough of a hook to be a soap, but not so much nonsense that it feels like a bad episode of Melrose Place.

Elementary: Sherlock Holmes is now a British ex-pat living in present-day New York; Watson is now a woman and is Holmes’s sober-living companion. It’s fancy, but it’s still just a procedural.

Vegas: Just a ’70s cop show.

Chicago Fire: Dick Wolf made a show about firefighters. It’s sort of like Third Watch, except much dumber.

Emily Owens, MD: She’s a doctor. Mean girls exist.

The Mob Doctor: She’s a doctor. The mob exists.

Made In Jersey: She’s a lawyer. New Jersey exists.

ACK! THAT IS NOT ENOUGH OF A PREMISE

Yes, you’re right. The networks do not practice what they preach. Ask  your teachers in the film-TV department what that means. Let us know if they can even pretend to have an answer.

Learn How to Write by Watching Good Stuff

Amazon Prime wants everyone to know that it’s now streaming FRINGE and THE WEST WING. (And nobody else is, nah, nah.)

These are two of the best written shows ever on TV, yet written entirely differently. Inspiring this advice to new television writers:

  • Watch
  • Listen
  • Get hold of some scripts for the shows and compare so you can see what parts of the actual writing worked and what parts didn’t…and make sure you understand why

Viacom and DirectTV Kiss and Make Up

“Nobody’s right when everybody’s wrong.” (Some silly song lyric from back in the day.)

DIRECTV and Viacom Reach Agreement to Renew Carriage of Viacom’s Networks
by TeamTVWriter Press Service

New York, NY – July 20, 2012 —Viacom (NASDAQ: VIA, VIAB) today announced that the company has reached a long-term agreement to renew carriage with DIRECTV.

All 26 Viacom networks, including Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV, BET, CMT, Logo, Spike, TV Land, MTV2, VH1, VH1 Classic, Palladia, Nick Jr., Nicktoons, TeenNick, Tr3s and Centric, will return to DIRECTV’s channel lineup immediately. As part of the overall carriage agreement, DIRECTV has an option to add the EPIX service to its entertainment offerings.

Viacom is extremely pleased to bring its programming back to DIRECTV subscribers, and thanks everyone affected by the disruption for their patience and understanding during this challenging period.

Kinda terse, huh? Like the thing a kid says when his mommy makes him apologize. Hmm…