Sum up!

Showcase posts

1. Narrative Complexity and The Wire

2. Transmedia, what is it and where is it going?

Comments that I’ve made

1. Transmedia<yearingcat (Blake)

Hi Blake, I enjoyed reading the post. I agree your argument about how transmedia is not quite reaching the audiences in terms of storytelling – development of character/ expansion of narratives.
Like “Breaking Bad” webisode that we’ve watched during tutorial class, I found these transmedia are rather focusing on creating more access to the original series, attracting the audiences by being funny, humorous and lighter in narratives.
In terms of story flow, it has made the viewers to misunderstand the genre/mood of show. The audiences who haven’t watched “Breaking Bad” before (like myself), this webisode indicates people to think that it would be funny and comedic(which is completely different to its serious and heavy storylines) and raises the desire to watch the rest of it.
As you mentioned, some of these transmedias are successful commercially, but most of them are struggling to find a right direction in developing it to be their storytelling benefits. I think it is not just because of lacking active audiences but it matters more because the gap continues to widen between consumers who expect a quality television show and consumers who expect a quality multiplatform experience, television producers struggle to satisfy both sets of demands.
Transmedia storytelling is currently playing a crucial role in directing television into the era of convergence and I believe they are going to be more important in television’s future.
Thus, I think it will be important for the media industries to take the webisodes seriously from now on. Like what Matt mentioned in the class, most of these webisodes are created/produced from a big US companies such as HBO.
Overall, what I want to say is that there should be more “transmedia” artists who can specifically create high quality, distinctive and valuable stories outside the television box, not just tossing out useless scenes left on the cutting room floor or making “a single photograph with an eye- grabbing frame around it”
What do you think?

2. Week 9: ‘Mad Men’ – Episode:13, Opening Sequence <Tomorrow Comes Early (Kit)

Great critical review on “MAD MAN” season 1 final episode!
I was also inspired by the first sequence where it tracks out from the painting between two ladies discussing about the quality of “ART”, to the wider shot where it displaces female BEHIND the man.
This shot visually emphasizes 60s gender hierarchy system, demonstrating ‘good/wise wives’ as who always obey and serve their husband at home.
Additionally, as they fade out the female’s conversation and rather focus on “secret men’s business” talk, it portrays the female as not as significant and worth as the men, highlighting gender division as you said on the post.
Mad Men does not simply explore the character’s lives and their relationship with another, but they also tend to open the discussion about 60s-80s society issue in America throughout the story and by setting the scenes with mise-en-scene, props, costumes, location, camera/sound work..etc. The show effectively reminds the audiences of the past.

 3. Praise for Game of Thrones just a fantasy < tvculturesinthemorningyeah (sarah)

I really enjoyed reading your post, clear voice and easy to read! But it might have been more convincing and outstanding if you backed up your arguments with academic scholar’s statements.
However, I do completely agree with your opinion about genre and taste need to be differentiated from gender category. We should all understand that the time has changed where we cannot stereotype female as one feature, having restricted “taste”. Being female doesn’t mean that we have to watch “snow white” kind of princessy tv-series anymore. Now, the world is filled with people of taste(like Brian mentions in the lecture). All individuals have their own right to decide what to like/dislike.
I found quite a few of my female friends were fantasy fans. They were looking forward to Game of Thrones, not because of the sex, but because of the story complex, the characters and the fact that it’s based on books they’ve read.
In my opinion, I think it is more important for us to talk about “Game of Thrones” not in terms of gender but rather focusing on it’s tv qualities, such as narrative structure, character development..etc

Showcase post 2 : Transmedia, what is it and where is it going?

Television is now changing significantly. Faber(2011) claims that the declining interest of a young audience in the traditional form of television and the move toward more interactive and participatory channels, forces the industry to react. Although viewers are still watching traditional television content on domestic television screens in the living room, this is changing rapidly, especially in the 12- to 17-year old market. No longer it is realistic for networks to deliver programming at a fixed time and expect mass audiences to passively consume it. Instead, television executives must cater to a new audience—one that has fragmented into niche communities and one that is not satisfied in merely consuming, but also producing, sharing, and interacting as well. Now, the audiences are not just observers sitting behind the set/the screen.

These changes in audiences and technology has certainly lead media practitioners to adjust their thoughts to the changing media landscape and weave stories outside the traditional TV platform and into the multiplatform environment, offering more ways to reach audiences.

Therefore, television executives have begun designing “Transmedia storytelling”, which is ‘a technique of telling stories across multiple platforms and formats, with each element making distinctive contribution to a fan’s understanding of the story world. By using different media formats, transmedia create “entry points” through which consumers can become immersed in a story world” (Jenkin, 2006). It is a new form of entertainment that interconnects cross-media stories, such as webisode/ mobisode and alternate reality games…etc.

The purpose of transmedia is to extend the narrative from original episodes, to offer more information which enriches the experience for the audience, to create a more detailed/immersive narrative spaces and to encourage participation from audience.

However, the concept of transmedia storytelling is so new to television that neither a concrete economic nor artistic model exists yet. As the gap continues to widen between consumers who expect a quality television show and consumers who expect a quality multiplatform experience, television producers struggle to satisfy both sets of demands. It’s been critiqued that transmedia is currently seen as a marketing buzzword and that complex transmedia stories are still not quite reaching audiences.

Örnebring states that transmedia storytelling is like “a single photograph with an eye- grabbing frame around it”. Particularly, in the case of webisodes, the public rather considered them as pure promotions/marketings for original TV series. This can be examined in “Breaking Bad” and “Lost”.

Lost – Mobisode/Webisode – Missing pieces

First, some of the Missing Pieces webisodes were well-received. The webisode “So it Begins” takes place before the very first scene of Lost, showing Christian Shepherd, Jack’s father who was presumably dead, telling Vincent to wake up Jack immediately after the plane crash because he has “work to do.” This suggests a host of questions: Is Christian dead? Was he responsible for bringing Jack to the island? Why does he have Vincent? The webisode sparked massive speculation about Christian’s role in the overall Lost mythology.

Another webisode assured viewers that the producers had not forgotten about lingering mysteries. In “Room 23” Juliet confronts Ben about Walt being “special.” We learn that Walt was in the brainwashing room named Room 23 and that his ‘gift’ had caused problems amongst the Others. E.g. Killing birds.

However as a whole, the significance of the narratives from Missing Pieceswas unclear. The webisodes avoided explicitly answering any mysteries introduced in the show and some scenes seemed completely irrelevant.

In “The Adventures of Hurley and Frogurt,” viewers learn that Neil “Frogurt,” a minor character in the show, had an interest in Libby and threatened to take her away if Hurley didn’t “close the deal.” This rather trivial scene avoided vital narrative information, frustrating many fans.

As the Lost blogger Jon Lachonis observes:

“Mobisodes(Webisodes) were a highly anticipated chunk of hiatus relief for island heads. Well, fooled you. The Mobisodes so far have most fans kvetching about the irrelevancy and down right LOST-lessness of the tidbits that are meant to traverse gaps in the story.”

Because they did not form a coherent story all their own, the fan community essentially understood the webisodes as deleted scenes rather than transmedia extensions(“The Envelope” was, in fact, a deleted scene from season 3).This made many fans feel like the producers were just tossing out useless scenes left on the cutting room floor.

Lost: Missing Pieces struggled to offer a stand-alone experience with a valuable narrative pay-off, as extensions seemed to focus on preserving the core mysteries of the show. Lost sacrificed their narrative value.

“Breaking Bad”

“Breaking Bad” webisodes are also another great example of downstream, failing to follow the initial purpose of transmedia. It rather makes strong focus on creating more access to the original series, attracting the audiences by being funny, humorous and lighter in narratives. In terms of story flow, it has made the viewers to misunderstand the genre/mood of show. The audiences who haven’t watched “Breaking Bad” before (like myself), their webisode indicates people to think that the show would be funny and comedic(which is completely different to its serious and heavy storylines) and raises the desire to watch the rest of it.

These transmedias might play successful roles commercially, but most of them are struggling to find a right direction in developing it to be their storytelling benefits.

Indeed, while it is still difficult to pinpoint exactly what constitutes a successful multiplatform narrative or how to monetize its various extensions, transmedia storytelling will likely play a crucial role in directing television into the era of convergence. Undoubtedly, many television shows will follow in Lost and Breaking Bad’s footsteps, pushing the level of complexity and difficulty in narrative comprehension and cross-media navigation.

Mark Warshaw, a transmedia creator on Heroes, believes the role of a transmedia producer/writer will be even more important in television’s future.

Overall, It will be significant for the media industries to take the webisodes seriously from now on and even consider expanding “transmedia” artists who can specifically create high quality, distinctive and valuable stories outside the television box, not just tossing out useless scenes left on the cutting room floor.

References.

  • Jenkin, Henry. “Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide”.  New York: New York University Press. 2006
  • Lachonis, Jon. “Lost Mobisodes Unraveled.” Ugo.com.<http://www.ugo.com/ugo/html/article/?id=18038&gt;
  • Örnebring, Henrik. “Alternate reality gaming and convergence culture: The case of Alias.” International Journal of Cultural Studies. 10.4 (2007): 445-462.

Showcase post 1 – Narrative Complexity and The wire

Shifts in the television industry and technology since the 1990s have enabled the creative possibilities of television to expand in interesting new ways that would have been unthinkable in earlier eras.

HBO series are now known as “exclusive brand, not just TV”.  It has branded itself as the preeminent site of quality television, most neatly encapsulated in its claim to not be TV at all, producing ‘quality shows’ like The Sopranos, Lost, 24, The wire, Sex and the city, Game of Thrones and True blood…etc.

In contemporary US TV Series, “Quality TV” is frequently being described as disorienting established televisual forms and the audience expectations that go along with them by the means of complex narrations (Mittell 2006; Booth 2011), ambivalent characters (Eick 2008) and cinematic aesthetics (Nelson 2007)

The complex narrative structure is usually used to add interest by complicating the story in television shows. It can occur when the show uses casually unrelated narratives to work together to bring thematic unity. This would usually involve two or three more narratives, each with their own set of characters. There is usually little or no interaction of characters or narrative events, simply two or three narratives existing alongside each other.

This can sometimes be a problem for some viewers as it is common that they might lose track of what’s going on. Because there are so much more characters and so many stories happening at once, there is a lot more attention needed from the audience to keep track of the various narratives. In order to give the audience some sort of closure, there is usually an event of some sort at the end of the story that brings all the characters to one location or at least effects them all in some way.
Another way narrative complexity is shown to us is by interlaying many flashbacks, or introducing stories within stories to make the story diverge from a central plot line while maintaining thematic unity. “The Wire” is a great example of this narrative complexity.

“The Wire”

The Wire – in terms of show’s narrative – it has often been addressed as a work of literature rather than just a television show. For example, in a documentary included with the fifth season’s DVD box-set, Joe Klein of Time Magazine argues that ‘The Wire deserves a Nobel Prize for literature’ (2008). In addition to this, author John Williams argued that ‘TV show … was taking bigger risks than anything I’d … encountered in the world of fiction, especially anything in crime fiction’ (2008).

The Wire, its frequent references to literature aim to highlight the programme as a ‘serious’ artistic text and one cultural and social worth, not a television show designed for entertainment.

Nennicelli states that ‘critics … usually have in mind the show’s narrative complexity, its depth of character development, and its astute sociological insight’ (2009:190). By this, Nennicelli reminds the open-ended, complex narrative of The Wire, which features innumerable characters and subplots throughout. He highlights The Wire’s ‘lack of explicit story-telling ‘signposts’ or elements of narrative redundancy’ (Nennicelli 2009:192), and suggests that the show ‘regularly refuses to offer viewers any sort of episodic narrative closure or even the promise that dangling questions will be answered in the next episode’ (Nennicelli 2009:193). Here, we can identify a ‘neo-baroque’ narrative at work in The Wire – a narrative that ‘resist[s] classical attention to linearity and closure’ (Ndalianis 2005:86) – which is often utilised in ‘intellectual’ television drama.

For example, in the episode ‘Reformation’ from season three, the character of Brother Mouzone is reintroduced to the narrative, as he and his accomplice stand outside the now-demolished ‘towers’ of West Baltimore – the ex-pinnacle of the Barksdale drugs empire. Mouzone is given no formal reintroduction and no reference is made to his significance. The viewer learns his reason for being in Baltimore as he searches for Omar Little, but his motive is left for the viewer to recall: in season two, Mouzone was betrayed by the Barksdale organization, as Little was deceived into shooting him by Stringer Bell. Mouzone is returning to Baltimore to find Little and take his revenge on the Barksdale empire, but none of this is signified to the viewer. This is just one example of how The Wire demands that ‘viewers follow narrative threads not only across multiple episodes but across multiple seasons’ (Nennicelli 2009:193).

The Wire’s complex narrative strands and subplots expect their audience to keep in track of all the characters and storylines. As Nennicelli argues, ‘dialogue in The Wire is more likely to hold subtext than it is to recap narrative details’ (2009:197), and this makes the narrative almost impossible for unfamiliar viewers or even those who have missed a single episode. When I watched season 3, “Time to Time” for the first time, without understanding any characters or storylines from first and second season of the show; i actually fell in sleep, I could not find any point where I could possibly be engaged with.

Newman states that ‘in serialised narratives recapping is especially important because of the large quantity of data about the story world that forms the background of any new developments’ (2006:18). HoweverThe Wire rather chose to focus on its authentic televisuality, narrative complexity, social realism and literary ambitions, than trying to attract and maintain general audiences in the context of a TV schedule.

Overall, The Wire is not  just an entertaining cop show,  but it promotes itself as ‘the show [that] somehow transcends its art-form’ (Nennicelli 2009:190) and that ‘serves as a corrective – not just to cops-and-robbers shows but also to ideologically regressive attitudes about justice and crime – in the mind of its viewers’ (Lebesco 2009:218).

References.

  • BOOTH Paul (2011): “Memories, Temporalities, Fictions: Temporal Displacement in Contemporary Television”, in: Television & New Media, 12(4)/2011, S.370-388
  • EICK, Dennis (2008): “Dexter: Das Wesen des Bösen”, in: Seiler, Sascha (Hg.): Was bisher geschah. Serielles Erzählen im zeitgenössischen amerikanischen Fernsehen. Köln: Schnitt, S.148-159.
  • Klein, J. 2008. ‘The Wire Odyssey’ on The Wire (Season 5). [DVD]. HBO.
  • Lebesco, K. 2009. ‘”Gots to Get Got”: Social justive and audience response to Omar Little’ in The Wire: Urban Decay & American Television. Marshall, C. W. & Potter, T. (eds) 2009. London: Continuum.
  • MITTELL, Jason (2006): “Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television”, in: The Velvet Light Trap, 58/2006, S.29-40.
  • NELSON, Robin (2007): “Quality TV Drama. Estimations and Influences Through Time and Space”, in: McCabe, Janet/Akass, Kim: Quality TV. Contemporary American Television and Beyond. London/New York: I.B. Tauris, S.38-51.
  • Nennicelli, T. 2009. ‘It’s All Connected: Televisual Narrative Complexity’ in The Wire: Urban Decay & American Television. Marshall, C. W. & Potter, T. (eds). 2009. London: Continuum.
  • Newman, M. Z. 2006. ‘From Beats to Arcs: Toward a poetics of television nature’ in The Velvet Light Trap 58. Fall 2006. University of Texas Press.

Mad men – Season 1 “The wheel”

Synopsis.

Betty Draper learns that her friend’s husband has been having an affair making her wonder about her own situation. Meanwhile, Duck Phillips orders the mad men of Sterling Cooper to bring new business to the company, the way he is about to with Kodak. Don Draper works on the ad for Kodak’s new product called The Wheel, while Peggy Olson starts to climb up the ladder having given the authority to choose the right girl for the weight loss ad. Pete Campbell is being pressured by his in-laws to start a family, and uses his measly salary as an excuse not to have child.

Opening Credit analysis

The opening title sequence to Mad Men sets forth the tone and style for the entire series. The creator Matthew Weiner does not waste the first thirty-seconds to tell the viewer who Don Draper really is. This opening matches the visual style of the show, sets meaning in the advertisements Don travels through that coincide with Don’s life, and takes the viewer to the ultimate conclusion that Don always lands on his feet.

The character of Don is represented by a black silhouette in a suit. It is highly stylized, very much like the show. It gives the viewer the same modern feel that encompassed the 1960s. The entire series is built upon perfecting every set piece, wardrobe and prop.

Don falls through a series of advertisements, that in some part represent the American dream: a family with kids, wedding ring, and an attractive female. Visibly noticeable is an ad for a Kentucky Bourbon called “Old Taylor 86” which comes with the tag line “Enjoy the best America has to offer.” Don specifically falls through these advertisements for a reason. His main motivation in the series involves finding that American dream. He wants a perfect family with children and a perfect smiling wife. However, Don is tempted by a darker side of booze and mistresses.

Additionally, he falls over the glass of whiskey, the liquid ripples and when he falls over the woman’s naked leg it moves up and down. This could be symbolic of how he will continually give into liquor and affairs with other women, and how powerful their impact is on Don’s life.  These distractions cause his life to crumble and fall out from beneath him, just as in the first ten-seconds of the title sequence when the office falls apart.

At the very end of the sequence we have the iconic image of Don sitting in a chair with a cigarette in one hand. This image of Don has come to represent the entire series. It depicts the buoyancy that Don is capable of and the reason viewers come back each week to watch. No matter how crazy things in Don’s life become-Betty divorcing him, the agency being bought out, the death of Anna-he continually bounces back gracefully. Although everything is becoming the most intense, the viewer is still there with Don fully aware that he is capable of beating the odds.

Cinematography/Music analysis

I found their choices of opening shot very interesting. As the camera tracks out from the painting between two ladies discussing about the quality of art, they have portrayed stereotypical femininity culture here, then the shot comes wider and shows two men sitting in FRONT of females talking about business and places the women BEHIND the men. In this way, the show visually emphasizes 60s gender hierarchy system, demonstrating ‘good/wise wife’ as who obeys and serves their husband at home.

Mad Men paints an effective portrait of emotionally isolated people. As this episode shows Don’s complicated life between his work and his relationship within the family, it creates potential meaning behind the scene, where the audiences realize the importance of family.

After delivering his most memorable pitch to date (in which he waxes poetic on the nature of nostalgia to sell Kodak’s Carousel), Don hops on a train home just in time to join his adoring family for Thanksgiving—or so we think. After that alternate reality in which Don isn’t completely married to his work plays out, we see what really happened: our hero returns home to an empty house, plops himself down on the staircase and, consumed by guilt, stares longingly into the distance as this Dylan classic helps close out season one. The scene is Don in a nutshell: he wants to be better, but he just can’t, and it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why.

The way that they have created two contrasting moments highlights his loneliness and regrets about his decision, as we see different lightings and shot length, setting opposing mood. In first sequence, the footages are filled with warm lights and there are more close up shots between him and his family interacting – showing close relationship. Here, he is been greeted by his children and wife with the exhilaration for thanksgiving holiday. However, the audiences are immediately reminded that it was all his imagination as we’ve been shown the same opening shot of him walking into the house and saying “hello” to check if anyone is at home. This time, his voice sounds excited and nervous as we’ve already seen his happy ending thoughts. However, wide angled shot from up on the stairs isolating him in the middle of darkness directly gave us the idea of failure in his expectation. The dim lighting on his face, creating dark shadows on his half of the face reflected his emotion – sad and lonely.

All these carefully selected cinematography, background set-up, props, costumes, lightings and music successfully reinforced the story and meaning behind them.

Link to video

Big Love and Narrative complexity

Commonly dubbed “Quality TV”, contemporary US TV Series are frequently being described as disorienting established televisual forms and the audience expectations that go along with them by the means of complex narrations (Mittell 2006; Booth 2011), ambivalent characters (Eick 2008) and cinematic aesthetics (Nelson 2007).

And, Kackman pushes the concept of melodrama (historically a female aesthetic) as a crucial player in the development of television shows now considered “good,”  like “Lost” and “The wire” successful HBO series.

However, narrative complexity does not always make “GOOD TV”. Sometimes, less is more.

This week, in tv-cultures lecture, we looked at the theory of HBO quality tv in different angles. Brian talked us  about relationship between soap drama and quality TV, screening “Big Love” as a typical example of “bad TV”.

What kind of show is Big LOVE?

“BIG LOVE” is American TV drama that aired on HBO between March 2006 and March 2011(for 5years). The show is about story of a man, Bill Henrickson, and his complex family drama. In terms of narrative, it is a bit of  mess and is too complicated… It owns the relationship with melodrama but they often seemed to be stepping over the line of plausibility. They combine all the complicated fascination of a multi-plot structure (love, religion and politics..etc) with the crazy unreality of a melodramatic romance. Its characters get blurred in the onslaught of plot lines and there’s a great confusion and struggle to understand its theme/genre – what is their focus? – soap drama or tragedy drama?  it seems like they were trying to be creative and experimental, but it definitely did not turn out well.

Their concept is outstanding and is very inspiring – three wives and one husband – this one sentence description immediately hooks the audiences. However, I feel like this story might have worked out much better in a 2hours film. When I watched the pilot and few series, i felt like too many issues are going on at the same time and repeating themselves. Because this small story concept has been expanded too long, I think the writers were struggling to find any new subjects for next episodes.

As Mittell argues in his interview,

– Soaps spend much more time talking about events that have happened rather than showing them, while primetime serials show events more frequently than talking about them.
– Soap dialogue includes the names and relationships of characters more frequently than on primetime.
– The amount of narrative change that happens over one week of a soap opera is less than one episode of a primetime serial.
– The amount of narrative change that happens over one year of a soap opera is less than a season of a primetime serial.
– Soaps involve more interwoven characters than primetime, where separate storylines have less interactions.
– Individual episodes of primetime have much more defined boundaries and distinctive features than on daytime.
– Individual storylines on primetime serials are introduced and concluded far more quickly than on daytime, with the exception of major plot arcs & mythologies (as onLost).
– Narrative events have far more emotional and character repercussions, both for an individual character and the community at large, on daytime versus primetime.
– Missing a week of a soap opera would cause less confusion than missing a week of a primetime serial (assuming the viewer does not watch the “previously on” recaps on primetime), because daytime incorporates far more recapping into the dialogue than on primetime.
– A published “recap” of an episode on a fansite is far more likely to focus on character reactions to information and events on daytime, versus the actual events themselves on primetime recaps.

Soap viewers are less likely to watch an episode straight through with their full attention aimed at the screen than for primetime viewers. The audiences did not want to care about new subject/event being introduced in the story but rather wanted to use recording devices to timeshift and fast forward through plotlines or characters they don’t care about. They were rather desperately wanting to know how their interestingly complicated love triangle relationship was going to end.

In my opinion, Big Love series might have been more successful if they focused on improving their narration – its character/ environment/ relationship..etc, rather than focusing to be a creative art form. Keeping the story simple, digging for details, would have gained more interest from the soap drama fans rather than struggling to add new contexts to the story. Every episode need to uncover the story one by one and make the audiences understand about it better, not make them confused and frustrated every time.

HBO, is it good to be aesthetic TV?

At first, HBO primarily programmed unedited feature films, making it a desirable way to see movies at home before VCRs were widespread across America. HBO earliest original programming featured sports programming, especially boxing, stand-up comedy shows full of raunchy profanity, and titillating “documentaries” like America Undercover and Real Sex. Such programming made HBO a popular option for many cable subscribers, but established its reputation as a fairly lowbrow channel catering to prurient interests.

However, Shifts in the television industry and technology since the 1990s have enabled the creative possibilities of television to expand in interesting new ways that would have been unthinkable in earlier eras.

Today, HBO isn’t just a television network anymore, it is an exclusive brand! When we walk down to local JB hi-fi or any DVD shops, we usually see that there’s a separate section for HBO TV-series. HBO has branded itself as the preeminent site of quality television, most neatly encapsulated in its claim to not be TV at all, producing ‘quality shows’ like The Sopranos, Lost, 24, The wire, Sex and the city, Game of Thrones and True blood…etc. 

Here, I’m particularly interested in responding how the trend toward narrative complexity in shows like “Lost” have given television new standing as a creative art form.

Mittell’s discussion of Narrative Complexity was really interesting.. He makes few key points about “narrative complexity”, that television engages the viewer in ways that film dos not.

  1. Fan Culture
  2. Well-craftedness
  3. Rewatchability
  4. Longer story archs
  5. Self-awareness
  6. Operational Aesthetic
  7. Operational Reflexivity

Mittell is interested in what he terms complex narratives, those that blend episodic and serial narrative techniques, build upon extended back stories of both plot and character, are often self-consciously aesthetically experimental, and which promote a particular kind of spectatorial pleasure in the mechanisms of narration itself.

He argues that one of narrative complexity’s chief pleasures is an operational aesthetic,

“calling attention to how the machinery of storytelling works as an additional level of engagement beyond the storyworld itself.”

Complex storytelling is something film very rarely can offer because it requires a certain knowledge of back story, character development and “terms” that the show is created on, which can only be established through consistent viewing.

Complex narratives have to “earn” or establish the distortions, twists and often far-fetched occurrences, in order to be “true” to the show, in order to be justifiable within the context of the show’s terms and to the characters involved.

A show has to be complex enough, so that viewer is obligated to watch every frame in order to be competent enough to engage in the story, be captivating enough to keep the viewer interested without resorting to melodrama, and still make sense.

Television can offer this level of density and complexity because of the extensive amount of time the viewer has to engage, now, rewind, discuss, watch again and fully comprehend the series, which simply, for the most part, cannot be done in two hours with a film.

Complexity isn’t just something we find in a text; it’s something we bring to a text …

Lost is a great story!

Lost‘s operational aesthetic offers particular expressive possibilities that only become available to a serialized form like television narrative. The show develops intrinsic norms over time, establishing conventions and rules that viewers internalize as defining the show’s storytelling strategies-for instance, each episode features a flashback of a single character intercut with island life.Episodes that violate these norms stand out as exceptional, either in violating fan expectations or providing unexpected pleasures.


‘Maternity Leave’ (2.15) and ‘Three Minutes’ (2.22) feature flashbacks internal to island life, which signals a narrative mode of filling in crucial story gaps during Claire and Michael’s respective absences from the main group of protagonists, and thus escalates viewer expectations for crucial plot revelations rather than character backstory resonances typical of flashbacks.

‘Flashes Before Your Eyes’ (3.8) offers a more ambiguous temporal rupture, with Desmond reliving and potentially altering moments from his past, rather than presenting such moments as temporally distinct as in a typical flashback.

To understand this episode and its larger narrative importance, viewers must be operationally attuned to the show’s intrinsic storytelling norms and consider the significance of such a violation upon its broader formal narrative system, positing questions about the show’s treatment of temporality that have yet to be answered.

Lost tells its stories using formal techniques a typical of mainstream genre programs, providing its dedicated forensically-minded fans an additional level of pleasure to be explored via the operational aesthetic, simultaneously invested in the story and analyzing how it is being told.

Overall, the show’s aesthetics certainly build on a multitude of influences that offer options to both the creators and the industry. In this golden age of television era, we should not be afraid to be experimental with the narrative complexity but encourage ourselves a new branch of possibilities for television creativity, looking ahead to the future.

“Game of Thrones” and question of TASTE…

I never watched “Game of Thrones” tv-series before, but when I watched it in the lecture, it was shockingly violent and erotic – all I saw were blood, sword, nudity and sex…etc. I was feeling awkward from the start to the end of episode.

The show clearly is part of the fantasy genre which has historically been positioned  as a ‘low culture’ form. However, here it is as a flagship production on HBO, the home of serious drama and the supposed renaissance in ‘quality’ television. What’s happening?

Brian mentions that “It is all matter of taste”, we live in a tasteful world, we are surrounded by people of taste… which means we do not have to watch “snow white” kind of princessy tv-series because we are girls. I think it is such a traditional thought. If we are talking about difference between two genders, what does it really mean by being a male and a female these days? Now, all girls are wearing pants and they watch action/fantasy films like “Batman”, then what’s wrong with watching “Game of Thrones”. Does the society still expect the females to be house wives, take care of their children, be pure, vulnerable, fragile and innocent – being controlled by man? I don’t think so.

TV IS NOW ABOUT OUR TASTE, NOT ABOUT GENDER. you cannot say that “Game of Thrones” is boys fiction, you cannot say that HBO TV shows must be “generalized” for all genders and ages, because taste is more important than anything else – it represents our true identity.

Taste 

Taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier -P.Bourdieu in Distinction (1984/1979)

In New York Times article, “A Fantasy World of Strange Feuding Kingdoms”, Gina Bellaeante criticizes the amount of sex and violence involved in every episode of “Game of Thrones”, and arises the question of gender, saying that…

“Game of Thrones” is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half.”

“…is the sense you get that all of this illicitness has been tossed in as a little something for the ladies, out of a justifiable fear, perhaps, that no woman alive would watch otherwise.” 

“While I do not doubt that there are women in the world who read books like Mr. Martin’s, I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to “The Hobbit” first.”

Gina found “Game of Thrones” extremely problematic in terms of gendering the series from a male perspective. This tweet by IGN is another example, he rather chose to highlight the series’ depiction of sexuality than its interesting storyline or character – trying to make it humorous and eye-catching to male readers, ignoring female readers.

I agree that its feature of frontal nudities, and a lot of blood specifically aroused a large interest from male viewers. The show could be seen as dismissive of female audience.

However, all female audiences are not the same. 

I found quite a few of my female friends were fantasy fans. They were looking forward to Game of Thrones, not because of the sex, but because of the story, the intrigue, the swordplay and the fact that it’s based on books they’ve read.

Amy Ratcliffe, who blogs as “Geek With Curves”, also wrote: “She didn’t like the show, so what? But reviews are not for making sweeping generalisations about women. It is not just possible to paint all women the same color with one giant brush. It’s presumptuous for anyone to think they can do so. Every single human has different identities. Does all Australians eat Kangaroo steaks? Obviously not, it is not just fair to stereotype whole bunch of people with one looks. Apparently, all girls are not melodrama/love story fans (Twilight/Gossip girls), some girls are fan of sci-fi shows(Startrack), actions (24/prison break)…etc

The article, “Game of Thrones: Girls want to play, too” from the Guardian, sees New York Times review of the show as a lack of research. A cursory glance of the blogosphere shows that there are many female fantasy fans existing out in the world and that they are currently increasing fast – some of the most vocal UK ones are Liz de Jaeger at myfavouritebooks, Amanda Rutter at floor-to-ceiling-books, andUn:Bound team-member Adele Wearing.

Overall, it is true that “Game of Thrones” is not a genre that appeals to all viewers, but the commenters were focused more on the question of gender than on the question of quality TV.

I agree with Gina that the show is problematic in a way (too much violence and eroticism – E.g. used a prosthetic head on a stake, left, that resembles former President George W. Bush – bad taste, disrespectful). However, it is also very successful HBO tv-series like always – with spectacular special effects, sounds, costumes…etc.

In my view, none of tv-shows can be perfect, there will always be negative comments,critiques from the anti-fans, accusations of incompetence, and I am sure that there will be some intelligent dissection of the arguments in question.. Yet, these shows can reasonably satisfy everyone by looking at both ways, fixing their problems step by step, slowly reducing the critiques/anti-fans.

“Game of Thrones” should consider the negative reviews in a critical eye, and see how they can improve their problems. I think it is important to keep the balance between genre, taste and gender. As audiences, we also need to think beyond the pre-existing issues relating to gender and carefully consider our true identity, our taste, our likes/dislikes, who we are…