The production staff diligently spent hours selecting clips from their favorite television series for inclusion in this week's program with Diane Winston. We've even got a title: "TV and Parables of Our Time." Somehow, I am told, downloading and watching 24 and Lost and Battlestar Galactica and The Wire is really hard work. Ah fellow producers, "you suffer for your soup." *grin*

The professor of religion and media at USC appealed to the heart of Krista's eclectic consumption of TV series on DVD. After all, they actually have sat together and watched the tube. This enthusiasm spilled over into our search for actualities from these episodes.

And, this passion bore itself out in last week's cuts and copy session. The script was extraordinarily rough. There were at least five spots for audio clips from some of those series. Then it really got messy — two or three clips with an average length of 3-5 minutes (one more than 8 minutes) were included in the listen. Heads were spinning.

What I experienced was an insider's perspective. Script was trying to explain too much of each plot, and the opening scene from 24 ("8:00 AM–9:30 AM" - season 2, episode 1) was heavy. So we sussed out the needs of various listeners and focused on illustrating or accentuating a point made at the out-cue. The result: a much better, more listenable production.

What I realized is that I don't watch that much TV — well, except for my utter obsession of the Tour de France on Versus — and felt a bit sheltered, out of the loop actually, when talking about these dramatic series. Not being part of these conversations and the larger culture is isolating. I'm an outsider who can only politely smile and lean in when Krista and Mitch and Colleen and Nancy start discussing characters like Snot Boogie and McNulty, or Cylons and Caprica, or Jack Shepard and John Locke.

My hope is that an unknowing perspective helps those of you who are in the same boat that I'm in. That Thursday's podcast clues you in rather than leaving your face pressed against the window watching the family sit in front of a toasty fire, chomping on popcorn and sodas, with a 42" HD screen glowing in the background.

So, here's a list of the episodes and scenes we considered. I've flagged in bold the clips we're using.

Scene from The WireThe Wire. The vernacular of the characters is difficult track at first, but somehow your ear tunes in after a while and you get the gist. Nevertheless, the distinct dialects and slang used eliminated a lot of great scenes from consideration for the radio.

  • "Misgivings" (Season 4, episode 10) - In the scene we chose, Colvin meets with Miss Shepherdson to seek permission to continue the alternative class.
  • "Final Grades" (Season 4, episode 13) - This scene presents Colvin meeting with Wee-bay in prison and asks if he can adopt his son Namond.
  • "Corner Boys" (Season 4, episode 8) - Colvin gives speech about corner boys to the alternative class.
  • "Refugees" (Season 4, episode 4) - Here, Mr. Prezbo (Pryzbylewski) tries talking to his class after a student has been slashed.

Scene from Battlestar GalacticaBattlestar Galactica. Probably Krista's favorite series. And so we found a place for three clips in the program.

Scene from LostLost

  • "White Rabbit" (season 1, episode 5) - We used two scenes from this episode: one where Jack Shepard tells the group that they have to learn to live together or die alone, and the other in which John Locke speaks dramatically about looking into the eye of the island and seeing its beauty.
  • "Exodus part 2" (season 1, episodes 24/25) - A rich discussion between Jack and Locke on science and faith.
  • "There’s No Place Like Home, parts 2 & 3" (season 4, episode 13) - Locke says the island is a place where miracles happen and tries to persuade Jack to stay on the island.


Scene from HouseHouse. A late entry to the production process that wasn't part of the first cuts and copy session. A clip from this series was selected because it's a different genre of drama and it is a popular series still in production.

  • "Informed Consent" (season 3, episode 3) - Here we have multiple scenes featuring a patient who wishes to die and not be treated while Dr. House tricks him into continuing testing/treatment.
  • "Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don't" (season 1, episode 5) - A scene where Dr. House and a nun with a mysterious ailment debate God and faith.
  • "The Socratic Method" (season 1, episode 6) - We strongly considered this scene with Dr. House and his nemesis Dr. Cuddy about the ethics of using unapproved protocols to shrink a patient's tumor so it could be operated on.


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4Reflections

Reflections

Your quote, "...you suffer for your soup,” is certainly apt if one watches the show 24.
After enduring the entire first season, my viewing dropped off precipitously through the following seasons. While the show’s concepts were certainly well-crafted in expected television dramatic form, they were superficial enough for the masses, to infer credence to its messianic focus with ludicrous methodologies of government agencies. With little gray is offered---the good (mostly white Americans) could battle evil (swarthy terrorists), whose sole purpose is to destroy the American way-of-life on our own soil(!).
Concepts in the other shows identified: Battleship Gallactica (BG), Lost, and The Wire are anything but gray. Referring to 24 and The Sopranos on the same plane with those shows, offers an alignment of shallow, simplistic ‘reality’ with series entertaining through thoughtful scholarship and superb writing. (I do concede that The Sopranos did have great dialog, unfortunately conveying a pretentious ‘goodness’ in the heart of evil, vile and narcissistic people. The day-to-day Sopranos were proven true in the only slightly-less sociopathic Housewives of New Jersey.)
My point about the citically acclaimed (BG), Lost, and the Wire and the popularly acclaimed 24, The Sopranos, and the highly pop-praised The Shield is particularly apparent on the subject of violence. Violence in former series is a by-product of their storylines. Yet the stories of the latter revolve around violence offered for visceral effect as necessary and triumphant. As a combat veteran, I’m not reticent about portraying violence, so long as it’s shown realistically, not in the faux versions exciting and acceptable by viewers in most movies and television programming.
The current television wasteland is far more vast than Newton Minnow could ever have imagined in the early 1960s. So-called ‘reality shows’ and many of the most popular dramatic shows are watched by millions who want to believe weighty day-to-day issues are being tackled and examined (medical and police dramas)…in a triumphal manner by prime characters, who are ‘good’ or even ‘good-bad, but not evil’ heroes.
Actual long-tailed stories portrayed in a form of ‘docudrama’ by The Wire or ‘fantasy drama’ by BG and Lost is considered “too confusing,” or difficult to “get into,” by many who instead choose to watch less intellectually taxing series offering bimbos attracting bimbettes or washed-up rock stars choosing the most pathetic wench as the most loveable groupie to be his love interest.
I find it interesting that in her concluding remarks, guest Diane Winston made reference to Max Weber’s concept of the ‘Iron Cage,’ obviously not referring to the current all-out street fighting phenomena in the guise of ‘sport.’ The reality is that this entertainment is fast becoming one of the most popular forms of sports, a par with baseball and professional football. That indeed is an interesting perspective on the spirituality of television entertainment.

Listened to the podcast today. When you asked about TV shows from childhood, I, too, thought of "I Dream of Jeannie" and "Bewitched." But then I remembered watching "That Girl" and one particular episode that I watched with my mother where Marlo Thomas is turning down her boyfriends' proposal of marriage and my mother saying, look at her - it is important to her to be independent - it is important to her to find herself by herself, not through him. I've never forgotten that.
Anothe show that is socially pivotal - and I am surprised you didn't mention - is the original Star Trek series. So many civil rights issues emerged in that show! The half-black/half-white people, the first interracial TV kiss, what it means to be human, on and on.

Thanks so much for this episode and this show!

Just finished Season 4 of the Wire. How heartbreaking to see the cycle the kids are caught in...and probably moreso to see the hopelessness that some of their prospective 'mentors' are facing. the image at the end of Carver looking at the Graffiti with the boys' names was classic.

I have become a big fan of Jason Katims shows - Friday Night Lights and, currently, Parenthood. I think these shows do a tremendous job of creating drama within relationships, rather than developing drama by breaking up relationships (though there is some of that too). The characters are flawed but likeable, and the storylines touch on the real life issues that I think many people struggle through (i.e. Parenthood has a child character with aspbergers and portrays the struggles that both the child and his parents experience). I also appreciate that in both of these shows the kids are actually kids, not 16 years olds living like adults with no parents around.