In the 1960’s one of the top rated TV shows of the time was a comedy about the unusual subject of a prisoner of war camp in Nazi Germany. The show was the story was about a group of prisoners in Stalag 13 whose mission was to conduct secret operations behind enemy lines. It was known as Hogan’s Heroes. The film Auto Focus is not about this television show but about its star who found himself in the public’s eye and being held up to public as the example of the ideal family man. His life and his actions were anything but ideal. Read more »
“Here's how it is: The Earth got used up, so we moved out and terraformed a whole new galaxy of Earths. Some rich and flush with the new technologies, some not so much. The Central Planets, thems formed the Alliance, waged war to bring everyone under their rule; a few idiots tried to fight it, among them myself. I'm Malcolm Reynolds, captain of Serenity. She's a transport ship; Firefly class. Got a good crew: fighters, pilot, mechanic. We even picked up a preacher for some reason, and a bona fide companion. There's a doctor, too, took his genius sister outta some Alliance camp, so they're keepin' a low profile. You understand. You got a job, we can do it, don't much care what it is.” – Opening Credits
The television series Firefly is a show that many say was never really given a chance. I would have to agree. Produced by Joss Whedon for the Fox Network, the show was originally planned to have a seven year story ark. It was canceled after airing only 11out of 14 filmed episodes. It suffered from a variety of issues. Fox aired the episodes out of order and swapped the times that it aired in an ill-advised attempt to raise ratings. Those who found the show had trouble finding it again. Even with these issues, Firefly gathered such a strong fan following that with the release of the DVDs its popularity has continued to build over time. Read more »
This is an interesting book detailing the rise of what the author terms the "Third Golden Age of Television". He provides in-depth details on the development, reaction, and impact of several critically acclaimed television shows (The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Mad Men) and touches on others more peripherally (The Shield, Six Feet Under, Breaking Bad and various others). [Note: The Library may not, and probably will not, have the entirety of some of these shows, so check the catalog if you are inclined to (re-)watch any of them]. The author provides a context for how these new shows developed (going back to briefly recap the first two 'ages' on network television) and traces how this third Age was able to come about only on premium and basic cable stations. Read more »
In November a show which is perhaps the longest running television series in the history of Television celebrates 50 years. The show is BBC One's time traveling adventure Doctor Who. "Who" is more of a question than a name. Launched 1963 with William Hartnell as "The Doctor" a Time Lord from Galafrey who travels in time and space in a ship known as The T.A.R.D.I.S; a ship inexplicably larger on the inside than the outside and which looks exactly like a 1960's British police call box. Read more »
My last posting regarding the death of “The Adventures of Superman” star George Reeves resulted in my reminiscing about my childhood love of this particular Superman/Clark Kent. “The Adventures of Superman” is an interesting mix of adventure and plain silliness. The result is that there is something for almost everyone. The series started out as an adventure series aimed more at adults than children. In the beginning the series had an almost film noir quality about it; there were real mysteries and realistic (for the time) dangers. Superman may have saved the day, but the stories themselves would have fit well in almost any of the detective shows of the era. If you like a good story and don’t mind the cheesy special effects of the time, check out the first season of “The Adventures of Superman.” Once you get past the Superman origins episode you will find some good half hour mysteries. Read more »
Superman found Dead! I missed the headline blazing across newspapers all over the country. I'm not surprised, I was less than four years old in June of 1959 when George Reeves, the actor who starred as both Superman and reporter Clark Kent, was found in his bedroom, dead, apparently of a self inflicted gunshot wound. At four I wasn't interested in such things as Superman. At six and seven that changed and I was hooked on the television series "The Adventures of Superman." At some point after that age I found out that George Reeves, Superman, was dead. What I didn't know until much later in my life was that there were in fact many questions about the death of actor George Reeves. Enough questions to make one wonder did the actor really kill himself or was he killed? Read more »
Recently I've begun watching a CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) series called The Murdoch Mysteries. The program set in 1890's Toronto Canada features a young detective by the name of William Murdoch. Like Sherlock Holmes Murdoch is ahead of his time. He applies not only skill, but also new discoveries in science to his investigations. The mysteries are as good as any that have come out of the BBC and the show doesn't take itself too seriously. Read more »
"I think we are in a, indeed in a golden age of television. I think TV today, pound for pound, storytelling-wise is more interesting, dare I say it, than Hollywood movies."
Vince Gilligan , Producer, Breaking Bad
I stumbled across part 4 of this PBS documentary when I saw that they were featuring a segment including one of my favorite television characters- Omar Little from The Wire. This was episode 4- The Crusaders and the entire hour was engaging. Other characters discussed in this episode include Hawkeye from MASH, Dr. Gregory House of House MD and Det. Frank Pembleton from Homicide: Life on the Street, all characters whom I have found interesting. This part of the documentary examined characters who live by their own moral code and how that affected their lives. It also discussed why these types of characters are popular in American culture.
America in Primetime is a documentary focusing on the most compelling current shows on television, while looking at their evolution through the history of tv. It is comprised of four one hour episodes, each focusing on a very specific character type in television: the Independent Woman, the Man of the House, the Misfit, and the Crusader. These archetypes are discussed by the actors who play the characters, as well as the writers, creators and producers of the various shows. Characters discussed range from Mary Richards (the Mary Tyler Moore Show) and Jackie Peyton (Nurse Jackie) to Gomez Addams (the Addams Family) and Walter White (Breaking Bad). It's fascinating to hear the actors' insight into the characters they play, as well as the love they have for the characters they have created. The documentary also provides a unique way to look at the history of American television- through the creation and development of beloved (and sometimes hated) characters.
It's 1961 and I'm six years old. I've rushed home from school to plant myself firmly in front of the TV to watch a puppet show. But not just any puppet show. This was Supercar; real science fiction. Never mind that the puppets, Marionettes really, were a little jerky and you could see the strings. I didn't really care about the story. I wanted to own Supercar and to fly it. Supercar was Gerry Anderson's first science fiction series filmed in Supermarionation; a fancy name for a show done with puppets. Supercar wasn't a car at all, but what we would today call a vertical landing and takeoff craft able to fly, go into space and undersea; there was not a single wheel on it. Supercar was a beauty to behold. Even today I still would love to own it. It's my dream car second only to the 1960's Batmobile. Read more »
This BBC program from last summer (it aired last September on BBC America) follows the lives of three people who work for an newly created television news program at the BBC in 1956. While I did find it to be a bit slow in parts for a 6 episode series, I enjoyed watching the whole of it - especially the ending (no spoilers here, though). 'The Hour' is the name of the news program created within the show that attempts to challenge the then BBC standard of merely promoting the government's official viewpoint on current events. The plot also revolves around the mysterious death of a friend of the young journalist played by Ben Whishaw. He is, as usual, amazingly good in this, as are the two other leads; Romola Garai, who plays the head producer of the program, and Dominic West, the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time head anchor. If you are at all familiar with BBC programming, many of these shorter series can be standalone pieces, usually with all the episodes written by the same author (This one is actually coming back for a second series sometime later in 2012). The show creator here, Abi Morgan, seems to be an up-and-coming writer for theater, television, and film. Much of the newsroom work on the program gives some insight into Suez Crisis of the period, which I found interesting. For those not necessarily keen on a fictionalized history lesson, there is both a romance angle between several of the characters and some post-WWII, early Cold War espionage spy stuff going on here too. If you enjoy more modern-set period dramas of the BBC, give this one a try.