Understanding “Futurama”

So for my final project for my Language of Television class, I was required to pick a television show and criticize it based on it’s demographics, codes and context. I picked the animated TV series, Futurama! For my formal essay, I focused mainly on the writing of the show and how writers David Cohen and Matt Groening pulled in an audience following. Lasting ten seasons, I believe it’s safe to say that Futurama was a very successful show.

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Thoughts on the Final Project

For my final project, I think I’m deciding to head towards Futurama to analyze. The show is different from your typical animated comedy taking that it takes place in the future. It also has many underlying themes and crude behaviors for audiences of all sorts.

  1. The show initially attracted me because it took place in the future. No one in society truly knows what the future holds. With this show, it provides viewers with a creative reality on what life on Earth could be sometime in the future. It’s funny seeing inventions from our present talked about as garbage in the future and the many spin-offs of characters and Earth’s history.
  2. Specifically, the character “Bender” is very funny. Not that I an relate to him but his comedy and how he approaches situations are unlike how someone normally would. He’s rude, inappropriate and crude. He’s entertaining.
  3. Compared to Family Guy, both shows are very similar with their inappropriate humor and spin on present day figures. However, they both take place during separate time periods which allows Futurama to expand more and get creative with futuristic concepts and ideas.
  4. Within the show, there are a few relationships that I think are very interesting. For one, Professor with the entire gang is like a very thin one. Everyone loves the Professor but throughout many episodes they push him to the side or straight out ignore him. However, because he is so old and oblivious, he doesn’t care and continues to work with everyone. Another interesting relationship is the one between Leela and Fry. Fry has always liked Leela since the very beginning, however, nothing really comes of it. Fry continues to hit on Leela through episodes, trying to get with her or date her. However, the relationship never moves on and the two of them seem to be stuck in this awkward limbo of “almost better than friends”.

Overall, I like Futurama a lot and I think I would like to do my final project on it. However, I also believe I should maybe focus of a show that has more substance and plot.

Harambe and The Chainsmokers

So back in May of 2016, a 13 year old child fell into the enclosure of the gorilla exhibit of the Cincinattii Zoo. Here, the child was comforted and protected by the gorilla, Harambe. Unfortunately, the Zoo was in a panic about the safety for the little boy and decided to not tranquilize Harambe but shoot him, killing him instantly. Since the incident, many people around the country have been in an uproar in how the situation was handled.

The Chainsmokers, a current popular musical group recently came out with a song called “Closer”. The song has over 38 million listens on Youtube.com. With the recent death of Harambe and “Closer” coming out, it was time for a parody. “Not So Dank” went to work and created a song about Harambe’s uneventful death to the tune of “Closer” by The Chainsmokers.

This is a great example of Postmodern content due to the remake of the actual song, “Closer”. This song takes a subject that many feel strongly about. The original song’s score is in tact, however, the actual lyrics are changed, telling the story of Harambe and the incident instead. By having a very popular song as a platform, it draws in more people to watch the content to see what it is about.

There are numerous of parodies on the internet about Harambe and people singing songs over others. These projects reform typical content and put a postmodern spin on it. Old content that people were tired of watching soon becomes new, different content that intrigues audiences.

Original song: The Chainsmokers: Closer

Harambe Version: “Harambe” – Takka

Halloween for a “Modern Family”

In S:2, E:6, “Halloween” of Modern Family, everyone is getting together for Halloween in the hopes of putting on the scariest and creepiest house on display for tick-or-treaters. However, nothing really seems to go as planned and the plan to have the scariest house on the block goes another way. The episode sheds light on some interesting issues such as race, sexuality and family.

Gloria, a Spanish woman has a thick accent. Sometimes it’s hard for the family to understand what she is saying. However, in this particular episode, Jay continuously makes fun of her accent, telling her “I may have noticed some tiny little mistakes in how you [Gloria] speak”. Manny also begins to correct Gloria through the episode, almost making fun of her Spanish accent. She cannot help it as that it is how she talks. It is not normal for an episode to out front make fun of an accent. However, I believe it is to be awareness to the fact that it does happen.

Throughout the episode, Claire, the wife, is getting pumped for Halloween night. She almost gets so excited that she begins to not care about the family. Phil talks about how their neighbor’s wife just left their neighbor and how upset he is. Claire has him set to play as the scarecrow for the night, however, Phil doesn’t believe he really should, especially with such sad news. A normal person would take the neighbor’s condition into consideration and maybe not use him for the haunted house. Claire, on the other hand doesn’t seem to care, an abnormality of your typical and loving family. It shows the family is not your average one and operates on a different level than other stereotypical ones would.

Lastly, the show incorporates a gay couple which is great for an inclusive community. When the episode came out back in 2010, topics such as gay couples were very “out there” and “abnormal”. However, Modern Family wanted to not be your typical, modern family. By having such a diverse family, the episodes seem like they can go in any direction, really allowing for freedom to explore cultural differences.

Family Guy, An Animated Comedy (S:3 E:2)

Family Guy is an animated TV series that currently airs on FOX and releases new episodes every week. Family Guy is most known for its comedic take on very controversial topics and subjects, all of which that take place in the sitcom setting of a “typical” family home.

In this particular episode, Brian the dog, decides to move out to L.A. in hopes of landing a job in the TV and film writing industry. However, things don’t go as planned when he gets into directing pornography instead! The topic is comical and is very bizarre. Not to say that this sort of thing cannot happen but the topics are just out-of-the-world crazy! Parallel to Brian’s plot, the rest of the family decide that Stewie should audition for a show so they can be flown to L.A. to visit Brian. The TV interview is filled with curses and makes fun of how stupid the show is while referencing many different people like Jack Nicholson. After the interview, Peter, the father, exclaims how happy he is to go to L.A. and comically tells the family how “sexy and clever and funny everyone is there”.

Looking at this episode, the audience is already narrowed to those who can handle such crude topics such as porn, especially if it’s being vocally broadcast on their TV at home. A majority of the demographics are mid-20s to as old as late-50s. Typically males watch more than females, especially considering the show is called Family GUY. The crude topics and old famous people references are a lot for a younger crowd to handle; they just don’t understand the humor. With an older crowd, it allows the writers to expand their vocabulary of jokes and pull humor from just about anywhere and from any topic. With a show like Family Guy, many would assume the target audience is small. However, with a show so controversial, many are actually drawn into it. Not many shows tend to jump the shark or talk about such bizarre topics. Many want to see what the show is about and want to experience what is usually forbidden due to social norms in society.

“Grimm” Likes To Tell Fairy Tales With A Twist…

TV Series: Grimm Season 1, Episode 1 & 2 (via Netflix Prime)

Grimm seems to be one of those shows that like to date back to when you were young, laying at the feet of a grandparent, listening to old fairy tale stories like Hansel and Gretel and many others. With a modern twist added into the mix, each episode becomes a guessing game on which fairy tale will be in the spotlight this time.

In the pilot of Grimm, a female college student is seen jogging through the woods, wearing a red hood and listening to music. She stops running when something catches her eye and BAM, she’s attacked and slaughtered by some wolf-like creature. Later on in the episode, a mailman is seen delivering on his normal mail route when a little girl wearing a red hood walks past him on her way to school. He turns around and kidnaps her, taking the girl for his own. If you haven’t guessed, the two girls represent Little Red Riding Hood (LRRH). Slightly different from the original fairy tale, these LRRHs are out minding their own business, not out to visit grandma in the woods. Later on, the killer and kidnapper are found out to be a man, called a “Blutbad”, who identifies as a wolf-like person, wanting to kill anyone who looks like LRRH.

In episode two, Grimm decides to pull a different fairy tale into play; Goldilocks and the three bears. In the fairy tale, Goldilocks enters an empty house, only to eat their food and sleep in their beds. Almost identical in Grimm, Gilda (Goldilocks) enters an empty house with her boyfriend, Rocky, where they drink and make love, only to find out that the “bears” or homeowners are arriving back home. This follows true to the story. The writers then add their own twist of having a ritual for the bears when they turn 18 involving chasing down prey and unfortunately for Gilda, she seems to be the main prey, along with her missing boyfriend, Rocky.

Grimm really seems to have a good grasp on their fairy tales. The incorporate them well into their writing while still putting an entertaining twist to it.

Camera Shots in Sitcoms & Dramas

The Office (U.S.) S:7 E:6 and Game of Thrones S:2 E:2

This episode of The Office consisted of the team dressing up for Halloween and throwing a costume party in the office. In Game of Thrones, multiple stories are happening. Majorly, Tyrion takes over as head of the council, Arya tells her true identity to Gendry and Jon Snow finds out the true motive of Craster.

The Office, only about 30 minutes, is very fast paced, constantly cutting back and forth between dialogue. Looking at the types of shots, The Office is very unique in how the camera moves and pans with different characters. Different from most sitcoms, the camera is handheld and is more shaky than usual, giving it a more ‘realistic’ feel. Jokes are being cracked left and right, causing quick camera movements back and forth with cutting back and forth with each character speaking. The significant amount of long shots set up the scene and allow more than one character to interact and react to speed up the comedy and pacing. Very few close-ups are arranged, most likely because the audience doesn’t care to see a character’s feelings. The characters are there to deliver the humor and keep the action going, not be emotional.

Looking at Game of Thrones, the action was for the most part very slow for the episode. There were many long shots to set the scene, unlike in The Office where long shots were primarily used to incorporate as many people into the scene. The amount of mediums were around the same for both shows, however, there were far more close-ups here. Dramas involve the audience into what a character is feeling and want the audience to get a true sense of the emotion that gets involved with the plot. With a significant amount of close-ups, the audience could truly connect with characters and get an understanding of the emotions they’re experiencing. As a writer for dramas, you want the audience to feel a special connection to various characters so they’ll come back and watch more. Not laying out each shot of the show perfectly will result in poor emotion portrayal causing you to lose the show.

More importantly, lose money.

 

Below are the tallies I took for The Office (U.S.) Game of Thrones…

sitcom-vs-drama-shot-tallies

PRODUCT PLACEMENT in “30 Rock” S:5 E:1

If you were too engulfed into the episode, you most likely didn’t catch the 15 or so product advertisements. From publicizing the Harry Potter theme park to The Food Network to LifeAlert and Geico, the product placement was everywhere.

However, 30 Rock took a little spin on their product investors. It wasn’t a Coke bottle in the background with an actor standing next to it. 30 Rock did a little bit more and addressed the product in a comical but truthful way. For example, in one scene Liz Lemon is sipping water when Tracy approaches her to sniff her hair. She turns  and exclaims, “Come on! This is a woman’s blazer from a very expensive shop called “Rico’s”, telling him to back off to not mess it up. The writers play around with the advertisement and jokingly poke fun with the fact that indeed, they are advertising a blazer. However, it isn’t overbearing where it pulls the audience away from the story. If anything, it adds humor to the story that this IS an advertisement AND we’re going to have fun with it’.

Looking at other shows such as Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, every product that’s showcased in the remodeled house is broadcast to the audience with its’ large logo showing; sometimes coming with a hands-on demonstration. Sometimes the show even gets a spokesperson from the company to speak about their product. This gets annoying for an audience to see a product thrown in their face, especially when they’re watching the program for most likely another reason (not to hear some guy talk about a fridge).

With 30 Rock, they put their advertising into the show with a funny twist. Not so it annoys its’ audience but to poke fun at the fact that it’s a necessary piece of television entertainment. It’s sly, quality writing with some funny humor added to it. If 30 Rock didn’t add this entertaining twist to all of the products they showcased in this episode, then after the 5th one it would be overwhelming and would irritate the audience.

You don’t want to irritate the audience…

CSI: Miami “Urban Hellraisers”

QUESTION: Observe and describe how the forensic scientists in CSI: Miami Season 4 Episode 9 (“Urban Hellraisers”) use evidence and proofs (artistic and inartistic) to locate the criminal(s).

In the criminal analysis, I believe there was a good mix of inartistic and artistic material throughout the episode. When it comes to CSI, there’s a lot that goes into it, most of which everyday people are not aware of. I’ll start off with the inartistic content.

Cotton swab tests are the glorified way of solving the case (at least it seems) in this episode. These tests are always done in society, either for HIV testing, picking up foreign materials or testing DNA. At one point, Mr. Wolfe, the forensic specialist, notices a watermark on the bottom of the duffel bag that contains the tampered cash. He takes a cotton swab, rubs it on the crystallized area and runs a test on the make up of the crystals. All of which are factual and true. They run the test and find out that the water is actually a coolant that’s used in ice rinks. The plot thickens.

For the most part, this episode does a good job sticking to factual and realistic material such as cotton swabbing evidence or scanning the robbers mask to identify its’ facial structure. However, in the beginning after the robbery, the team takes a look at the surveillance video outside of the bank. They see the car and the robbers getting out. However, through the pixelated footage, they notice a sticker on the windshield of the car. Now, normally this would be impossible to make out, especially considering the fact that the robbers look like pixelated people, almost like Minecraft characters. The detectives zoom in on the camera footage and somehow, like finding an needle in a haystack, they can read exactly what it says on the sticker. This is where it jumps the shark.

I’m sorry but that scene was completely designed by the writers to advance the plot and make the story compelling. It was a wise artistic move, especially considering it would be their only advancement to find the robbers. Without that little “jump”, the episode would probably have to be rewritten.

Then again, this is TV and I don’t want to point out how unrealistic an episode is. That’s no fun.

NOTE: Grasping work that involved artistic and inartistic material was a bit tough. However, I decided to challenge myself and see what I could come up with. Enjoy!

Mad Men, S:1, E:1

I’m not too sure what to think after watching the pilot of Mad Men. Personally, the costumes were well put together and the overall 1950’s? look really made the show stand out. However, the writing was awful.

I read both articles on the first episode and I’d have to agree with the reviews from The Washington Post. Intentionally, author Tom Shales didn’t flat out say that if you enjoyed the episode, you’re stupid, but essentially, that’s what he meant.

The Washington Post doesn’t necessarily flat out say that the pilot was awful and that no one should watch it. However, by the choice of Mr. Shales’ language, it infers the writing was boring and slow and not enjoyable, especially for a first episode. He writes, “the stories unfold in a dry, drab way and the pacing is desultory”. The story was slow and the plot went nowhere within the hour. Shows, especially pilots, are supposed to be compelling and thought-provoking. Unfortunately, I heard more about how cigarettes were bad for you than I saw Mr. Draper take any action to change it.

After watching this pilot, the only plot I can really see continuing on is the affair between Miss Olsen and Pete. Otherwise, the story seems wrapped up with the relationship mended with Miss Siff and the Lucky Strike clients pleased with Mr. Draper’s “It’s Toasted!” pitch.

Anyway, The Washington Post made it very clear that this pilot was not of any high-brow material stating, “the people in and around them spoil the show, gum up the works and shatter veracity”. The setting and scenery are too forced and it seems that Mad Men is shooting for the “Best Scenery” award rather than “Best Performance”.

The way the Mr. Shales presented his thoughts made it seem that if you liked it, you were fully accepting what you saw for face value and did not look any deeper into the actual show itself. If I heard someone tell me that, I would be quiet upset. Essentially, Mr. Shales was bad mouthing the show while also bad mouthing the audience that accepted it.