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Posts Tagged ‘tv

“Commercials are about products… in the same sense that the story of Jonah is about the anatomy of whales”*…

 

760px-Television_commercial_1948

 

In a civilization organized primarily around the funneling of capital to corporations, commercials offer a space of transcendent communion with the objects of our dependence and desire. They take place in a realm understood to be ideational without quite being imaginary—existing not in any one person’s mind, but ambiently, on a level of reality we rarely think to question, encoded in the daily order of things as neatly as the peanut butter aisle of a suburban grocery store. (This bare proximity to capitalism’s exposed nerves, combined with a habitual callousness to human dignity, is I believe why, in the recent words of A.S. Hamrah, “TV commercials are the worst thing to see on hallucinogenic drugs.”) These commercials embody and transmit all kinds of cultural norms, declaiming on the career-destroying horror of “even one flake” of dandruff, the correct way to manage a labor force, how women should interpret cough syrup viscosity, and so on.

Commercials also encode and preserve basic aesthetic and narrative conventions. Musically, they’re a trove of low-rent original product psalms, in styles ranging from quietly sophisticated poultry rock to funky rugged simplicity jams that sound like a person in a boardroom frantically describing the inner life of a coalminer. They introduce stock characters from discomfiting gym teacher to comic book nerd. They offer an education in America’s throbbing corporate epiculture, whose dark world they echo in a thousand ways—through who gets represented and who not, portrayals of nations and cultures, depictions of idealized daily life, enshrinement of a particular commercial landscapestyle parodiesintimations of eternitymessages of warningmessages of beneficence, and more—all calligraphed into air and sent streaming through the walls of our homes by giant corporate antennas…

From Ian Dreiblatt, “Toward a Theory of the American TV Commercial of, Oh, Say, About 1990.”

[image above: source]

* Neil Postman

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As we take it all in, we might celebrate National Tooth Fairy Day.

In the mid-1920s fairies were used for all sorts of health education from bath fairies to fresh air fairies as a way to get kids to remember to eat their vegetables, wash behind their ears and get a good night’s rest. Unlike toothpaste today, that advertises fruity flavors and sparkles to get kids excited to brush their teeth, in 1925 it was probably quite a bit more difficult considering the pastes were mostly peroxide and baking soda. One advertisement was for a Fairy Wand Tooth Whitener. This product promised to brush away cigarette and coffee stains.  The ad was aimed at both children and adults, we hope!

Then in 1927, Esther Watkins Arnold printed an eight-page playlet for children called The Tooth Fairy. It was the same year Sir Arthur Conan Doyle “proved” his claim that fairies and gnomes are real and “verified” with pictures of two little girls surrounded by fairies. The world was ripe with imagination and primed to have a tooth fairy about to come collect the lost teeth of little boys and girls and leave a coin or two behind.

Arnold’s play began to be performed in schools the following year, and the tooth fairy has been slipping into homes ever since.  She (or he) started leaving nickels and dimes under the pillows of sleeping children. Over the years there have been variations on the theme.  In 1942, in an article written by columnist Bob Balfe in the Palm Beach Post, his children received War Stamps to put in their books when they lost a tooth…

National-Tooth-Fairy-Day-February-28-1024x512 source

 

Written by LW

February 28, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Life doesn’t imitate art, it imitates bad television”*…

 

And sometime, good television: full episodes of the frighteningly-prophetic Max Headroom at Dailymotion.com— watch ’em while you can!

* Woody Allen

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As we cope with blipverts, we might recall that it was on this date in 1959 that the legendary Edward R. Murrow aired his 500th and final Person to Person interview (with actress Lee Remick).  The series continued for another two years with Charles Collingwood as host.

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Written by LW

June 26, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Communism is like one big phone company”*…

 

The Beatles were big enough that even the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had to deal with it, somehow. In 1976 Soviet-controlled TV—the only available televised media in the entire country—played a peculiar Russian version of Paul McCartney’s deathless song “Let It Be” as an oddly baroque and defiantly un-glitzy bit of variety TV. Odd to say about television in the worker’s paradise, but the trappings of the proceedings seem to me somewhat … bourgeois?…

The totalitarian tale in toto: “Bizarre video of the Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’ from Soviet TV of the 1970s.”

* Lenny Bruce

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As we wonder if imitation is, in fact, the sincerest form of flattery, we might recall that it was on this date in 1961 that the Beatles, fresh back from Hamburg, played their first date at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. The band swiftly became a regular fixture at the Cavern, attracting a loyal audience to over 290 performances until their final appearance on August 3, 1963. For this first show, lasting from 1-2pm, they earned a £5 fee to share among them.

The Beatles (with Pete Best on drums) at the Cavern Club

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Written by LW

February 9, 2017 at 1:01 am

“There’s a good deal in common between the mind’s eye and the TV screen”*…

 

Not your correspondent… but might have been

It’s widely suggested these days that we’re in a “Golden Age of Television”… but hasn’t the history of the TV been one long Golden Age?

In case of fire, 82% of 20th Century Americans surveyed in the pre-Internet era would rescue the TV set. The other 18% would stay still watching the thing and ask, ‘What fire?’ America loved the magic box…

More glimpses of Americans and their tubes at “Found Photos: Mid-Century People Standing By Modern TVs.” Volume Two here.

* Ursula K. LeGuin

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As we tune in, we might recall that it was on this date in 1998 that Frasier set an Emmy record, becoming the first to take top honors for outstanding comedy series five years in a row (a record currently tied by Modern Family).  Frasier won a total of 37 Primetime Emmy Awards during its 11-year run, breaking the record long held by The Mary Tyler Moore Show (29).

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Written by LW

September 13, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind”*…

 

 

Bookworm: Movies

Search for trends in the dialogue of thousands of movie and TV shows, based on subtitles from Open Subtitles

Bookworm is like a lot of other word frequency sites. But unlike most, it directly incorporates links to every text searched, so you can actually see what drives changes; and it lets you customize the corpus so you can exclude texts that aren’t interesting to you. This particular instance looks at movies and TV shows. Genre, location and language information from the Internet Movie Database textfiles. Click to see the movies/TV shows where the matches are found.  For some caveats, explanations, and examples, see the accompanying blog post.

Hours of illuminating fun at Ben Schmidt‘s “Bookworm: Movies.”

* Rudyard Kipling

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As we marvel at multiplying memes and dynamic dialogue, we might recall that it was on this date in 1981 that Warner Bros. released The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie, a feature-length Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies compilation of classic Warner cartoon shorts and animated bridging sequences produced by Friz Freleng, hosted by Bugs Bunny. The new footage was one of the final productions of DePatie-Freleng Enterprises.

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Written by LW

November 20, 2014 at 1:01 am

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