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The Brits are Coming … But Don’t Tell

September 15th, 2011 | Jonathan Gray

Of the new shows this Fall, three are American adaptations of British originals: The X-Factor, Free Agents, and Prime Suspect. What I find interesting, though, is that the promos don’t seem keen to admit to their origins.

It’s not as thought any of them are actively obscuring their origins. The trailer for Free Agents at YouTube, uploaded by NBC, explains below that it’s based off the “cult UK series,” for instance. But none of the three shows’ webpages advertise the fact, nor do any of the trailers themselves. The Brits, in other words, are good enough to copy from, but clearly FOX and NBC don’t feel it’s wise to build the success of the British originals into the promotions for the American shows. Read more…

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Creating Its Own World: Terra Nova‘s Website

September 9th, 2011 | Jonathan Gray

In my last post, I noted that the only truly interesting and innovative website for the new network shows this Fall belongs to Terra Nova. Why?

Well, first, let me offer a quick qualifier to the previous statement. Grimm’s website, while largely uneventful and de rigeur, includes what could become a neat little Production Blog, in which various production staff are offered a small amount of space to explain what they do in general and how that works on Grimm. It could provide yet another example of how paratexts teach production literacy, and are invested in a process of multiplying the number of supposed authorial geniuses working on any show … but they have three posts in one month, so perhaps they ran out of geniuses already? Anyways, go see it here.

Back to Terra Nova, though, while not wholly stepping (yet?) into the realm of being an alternate reality game, it does do a good job of setting up the alternate reality in which the show will be set. Almost buried away on the official webpage is a link to become part of the Eleventh Pilgrimage, and by clicking through, one is situated in the futuristic society from which our Terra Novans will depart. The show follows a “pilgrimage” of people from the future who are escaping that hostile future to try and reestablish the past and make better decisions in order to refashion the future (imagine if Wall-E won over the Terminator and the two started hatching ideas). Read more…

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New Shows, New Paratexts, 1: Online Quizzes and Polls

September 5th, 2011 | Jonathan Gray

I really need to blog more often. What better excuse than the imminent start of a new television season, complete with lots of yummy paratexts to analyze and criticize?

So, without further ado, let me start by discussing the websites for the new network shows.

Overall, they’re a pretty boring lot. You have the standard elements – cast information, character profiles, “sneak peaks” and “exclusive” video that actually seems to be everywhere online, and encouragements to “Friend us now on Facebook!” (when, sorry, Last Man Standing, I don’t want to be your friend) or to follow some or other cast member on Twitter. Most of the sites look like they were put together at speed, too, with little interest in doing anything other than saying, “Hi, look, there’s a show. Wanna watch?” So, overall there’s not too much to discuss.

Terra Nova proves the only true exception, and I’ll get to that in a future post. But in the meantime, I’ve been fascinated by the quizzes and polls that a few lone sites have (The Secret Circle, Playboy Club, Whitney, Prime Suspect, and Up All Night) in addition to the other elements. The quizzes and polls interest me, since they’re subtle ways of suggesting what the show is all about, disciplining our understanding and (since they’re quizzes) “knowledge” about the shows before they hit the air. What do they say?

Sub-dividing, Secret Circle has a “Which Type of Witch Are You?” quiz, in which your answers determine which character you’re most like; Playboy Club and Up All Night have quizzes with actual correct or incorrect answers; and Whitney and Prime Suspect have polls on favorite past shows and characters. Let’s take each in turn. Read more…

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Links and News

April 17th, 2009 | Jonathan Gray

1. Jacqueline Vickery has a neat piece on Flow about a memorial site and a Facebook page that FOX put up following Kal Penn’s character’s suicide on House, M.D.  It’s a really smart discussion of what’s in it for FOX, especially since they don’t plaster the screen with ads.

2. YouTube has signed a deal with Sony, Lionsgate, and others to make films and television available. How they plan to do so, and with what costs to YouTube and its community, we’ll wait to see.

3. Several journalistic outlets have reported on this US Dept of Justic memo from within the Bush Administration that allowed certain forms of torture, including “walling,” “facial hold,” “cramped confinement,” sleep deprivation, and others. Mind you, the Obama Administration should be roundly condemned for its own lax policy on torture, moving Gitmo to Loews and AMCs around the nation, and by allowing exposure to the equally heinous The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and The Hanna Montana Movie. May God save their souls.

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4. I’ve been remiss in announcing that the Internet Movie Poster Awards site of which I’m a fan has its 2008 award winners up. Best Poster went to this one from The Dark Knight, which also won the Best Poster to Display in a Bus Shelter award:

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Bringing up the rear, with Worst Movie Poster was Bangkok Dangerous, about which IMPAwards had this to say:

Now, the only thing that could possibly make sense with this poster is if he just suffered some kind of seizure (causing his right hand to cramp up) and is reaching for his medication (which he unfortunately dropped down his sleeve) with his other hand. In the meantime, he is being shot at and slowly melting in a pit of lava.

Bangkok Dangerous

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The New Show Promos, 1: Southland

April 12th, 2009 | Jonathan Gray

This is the first in a series of posts I hope to write, evaluating and discussing not the recent spate of new shows per se, but rather their promos, both on air and online. A good promo shouldn’t just get one turning on the television, but it should also start the text, telling us what to expect, creating characters, introducing themes, and so forth, and a good website should do likewise, while also reinforcing central themes and frames for those who visit after seeing the promo or the show itself.

I start with NBC’s Southland

While the clip above is an extended promo, many of the smaller ones underlined similar points, pushing three key points:

  1. It stars Ryan Atwood, of The OC fame
  2. It’s an edgy, gritty, warts and all depiction of the tough job of policing LA’s streets that promises to tell us what it’s “really” like for the city’s cops. Think Training Day meets Colors for television
  3. It comes to us from the folks behind ER

More after the fold …

Read more…

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