Wehr in the World: 30+ hours of TV later…

Justin Wehr on how Community is awesome and so is TV but…

I don’t mean to be another pretentious I’m-above-TV guy, because I’m not. TV is above me. It dominates me, it makes me want to do nothing but sit in front of its glowing glory. In a real way, it scares me, because it shows me how powerless I am. […] The danger of TV and of passive entertainment more generally is not just that it takes time away from better things. The real danger is that it makes better things seem harder.

A couple months ago I set aside Sunday mornings as a sacred, no-interference-allowed time for books and nerdery. It’s a guaranteed 3-5 hours of learning. No regrets whatsoever. And then on Sunday afternoons I watch/play sports because that’s what you do.

Wehr in the World: 30+ hours of TV later…

Upping the Antihero – The New Inquiry

The old cop who chafed at institutional limits has undergone a neoliberal transformation: The result is a new kind of series that we might call the consultant procedural. A derivative of the cop and private investigator procedurals, the consultant procedural starts with some sort of institutional disqualification and follows the central character as he or she ports unmatched professional skills from job to job.

The consultant procedural! This is brilliant.

Upping the Antihero – The New Inquiry

The Gollum Effect

Extreme couponers, if you count the value of their time, basically make a modest living doing below-minimum-wage marketing work for the coupon-based marketing universe that welcomes them as raving fans.

From the point of view of the stores, far from being hostile opponents in some asymmetric game of chess, these are merely cheap and committed marketers. They are encouraged to model, in extreme ways, the very couponing behaviors that the marketing machine wants others to emulate in less extreme ways.

Which is exactly what happens. So long as you and I casually clip and use coupons, inspired by the extreme couponers in our midst, the grocery stores still comes out on top. If the extreme couponers’ leadership behavior were to actually lead to large-scale loss-driving sedition by too many customers, the store could easily staunch the losses overnight, by making minor changes to coupon-redemption rules.

I hadn’t thought about it this way.

The Gollum Effect

Rural purge


The “rural purge” of American television networks (in particular CBS) was a series of cancellations between 1969 and 1972, the majority of which occurred at the end of the 1970-71 television season, of still popular rural-themed shows and shows with demographically-skewed audiences. (via sleevia)


Rural purge

The Mad Men Account by Daniel Mendelsohn | The New York Review of Books

Although I can’t vouch for anything beyond the second season, Mendelsohn’s critique seems fair. (via)

Worst of all—in a drama with aspirations to treating social and historical “issues”—the show is melodramatic rather than dramatic. By this I mean that it proceeds, for the most part, like a soap opera, serially (and often unbelievably) generating, and then resolving, successive personal crises (adulteries, abortions, premarital pregnancies, interracial affairs, alcoholism and drug addiction, etc.), rather than exploring, by means of believable conflicts between personality and situation, the contemporary social and cultural phenomena it regards with such fascination: sexism, misogyny, social hypocrisy, racism, the counterculture, and so forth.

A few years ago, I read a collection of Mendelsohn’s criticism, most of it anyway, and found it quite enjoyable.

The Mad Men Account by Daniel Mendelsohn | The New York Review of Books

Explaining Wagner’s Relevance To Soccer | The New Republic

A soccer game is a Wagner opera. The narrative sets up, the tension builds, the music ebbs and flows, the strings, the horns, more tension, and suddenly a moment of pure bliss, trumpet-tongued Gabriel sings, and gods descend from Olympus to dance—this peak of ecstasy. During these moments, I no longer am my usual self, no longer human. I am connected to life. Call it bliss, call it ecstasy, call it what you will. In that moment, I not only see God, I am God. I am not only connected to life, I am connected to my TV!

Explaining Wagner’s Relevance To Soccer | The New Republic

I think Jones suffers from a common problem some good actors have: the character she has created is so individual that you don’t really realize it isn’t a cliche. You know her, so you feel like she’s a type, even though she’s not. If this is a cliche, who was the last Betty Draper before Betty Draper? I’m not sure there was one.

Complexity, Beauty, and the Underappreciated January Jones. Most interesting character on the show so far, but then I’m only halfway through the second season.

TV is the epitome of Low Art in its desire to appeal to and enjoy the attention of unprecedented numbers of people. But it is not Low because it is vulgar or prurient or dumb. Television is often all these things, but this is a logical function of its need to attract and please Audience. And I’m not saying that television is vulgar and dumb because the people who compose Audience are vulgar and dumb. Television is the way it is simple because people tend to be extremely similar in their vulgar and prurient and dumb interests and wildly different in their refined and aesthetic and noble interests. It’s all about syncretic diversity: neither medium nor Audience is faultable for quality.

…David Foster Wallace in his essay E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction [pdf], collected in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, which I am loving so far.

Nick Hornby interviews David Simon, of The Wire fame:

There are two ways of traveling. One is with a tour guide, who takes you to the crap everyone sees. You take a snapshot and move on, experiencing nothing beyond a crude visual and the retention of a few facts. The other way to travel requires more time—hence the need for this kind of viewing to be a long-form series or miniseries, in this bad metaphor—but if you stay in one place, say, if you put up your bag and go down to the local pub or shebeen and you play the fool a bit and make some friends and open yourself up to a new place and new time and new people, soon you have a sense of another world entirely. We’re after this: Making television into that kind of travel, intellectually.