There has been more discussion about television in New Zealand in recent months than I can remember ever before. The discussion over the demise of TVNZ7, the last true space of public service television broadcast in New Zealand, the decision by the government to only fund content rather broadcast platform, and some of the recent funding decisions made by the national content funding authority, New Zealand on Air. However, one of the things that has come through very strongly to me has been a distinct strain of anti-Reality television discourse. I absolutely understand that reality television is not to everybody’s taste, but to my mind, there have been some distinctly knee-jerk reactions, and suggestions of causality from people who really should know better.
For me, there is a distinct pleasure in sharing items of pop culture with people. I love the act of introducing people to something they haven’t come across before, and then seeing them getting joy from it, perhaps discovering a new favourite. But when I was thinking about this the other day, I realised that the things that I often recommend are not necessarily my absolute favourites – there are things which I love that I would never think to recommend to people, because I assume that most people would have come across them already. But there are certain things, lesser known, indie, obscure, or just forgotten, that I find that I champion over and over again. So, I thought I’d put a list together. Please feel free to engage with this selection in the comments, or to recommend your own 🙂
I’ve tried to provide some sort of A/V material of each of my choices, obviously that’s not always possible.
I have a blog post on Hacktivision.org which was initially intended to discuss NZ’s impoverished position in the world of digital distribution. However, the announcement and launch of Quickflix in the past few days gave me pause for thought. However, I’m not sure that this offering, at least at it’s initial stage, is going to be the holy grail that we seek. In fact, I’m not sure that a holy grail is actually possible under the current global distribution systems, and they are showing no signs of changing!
A caveat, first up. A lot of my inspiration to discuss this came out of a Twitter discussion I glommed onto, between @ellenstrickland, @radiowammo and @paulbrislen. My thoughts are inflected by that discussion. I also don’t want to discourage people from signing up to this service. I will sign up just as soon as I can afford to (even $9.99 per month is a lot to an impoverished grad student), and I encourage any and everyone to do the same. Competition needs to be encouraged. Having said that, when you do sign up, make your voice heard. Let them know what you want.
Having just spent a stimulating couple of days in Portland at the What is TV conference, hosted brilliantly by the University of Oregon, I started to realise how little most of us, and I very much include myself in this, know about the realities of each other’s broadcasting systems. To try to mitigate this a little, I thought I would try to put together a quick post to provide the most basic of overviews of the shape of the NZ broadcast (specifically television) industry. By way of caveat, the NZ industry is not a direct area of expertise of mine, and so some of the details here may not be perfect, but hopefully it will be sufficient to serve as a snapshot.
This paper was delivered at the What Is Television conference at the University of Oregon on March 3, 2012. I believe video from the conference will be available at some point, and I will add the link here when it is easily available. As I mentioned to those present, I had a tech fail and was unable to provide the accompanying graphic – it can now be found inserted below. Although it has already been delivered, this forms a part of my ongoing work, and as such, any constructive criticism is always gratefully appreciated.
(Paper appears after the jump)
First time trying a blogpost from an iPad, so please excuse any typos/autocorrect issues!
I’ve been slack on my blogging, as many of my blogposts begin, but I get the feeling that the blog is going to be more functional than inspirational for the next 12 months. I am now into the last 12 months of my PhD writing, which means I have a whole heap of writing to do, and am steadily running out of time in which to do it. Having said that, it’s also hugely exciting, as all the work I’ve put into the last 2 years starts to come together!
I have recently begun the slightly odd project of watching Law and Order start to finish. Although I have watched the most recent several seasons of L&O, as well as the various spin-offs, the earlier 10-15 seasons really passed me by. I’m well aware that L&O is almost ubiquitous on US cable TV (I had a sick day in a US hotel where I watched nothing but), but in New Zealand, re-runs of earlier seasons have been fewer and further between. However, one of our PayTV networks recently started from season 1, episode 1, and seems to be intent on just running right through them. That, combined with a DVR, encouraged me to go back and experience the whole lot. A fool’s mission, maybe, but one I’m finding quite interesting.
What has struck me, 3-ish seasons in, is the way that L&O operates as an artefact, as a cultural historical record. Early seasons are filled with references to AIDS, to DNA, to mobile phones. Incident reports are being completed on type-writers, a foot cop runs to a pay-phone to call in a crime. Sexual harrassment seems to become a common trope as the series progresses. Females serving in the police force and the military becomes a theme. Homosexuality becomes more and more in the public eye, as does racism. I’m struck by the number of derogatory terms used in the show’s early seasons, especially n***er, which seems to be used in every second episode.
This is not the world’s greatest show. And as it is still a work of fiction, it answers more to the storyline than to culture. But I feel that the 20 years (running from roughly 1990-2010) saw massive shifts in technology and culture in the US, and L&O seems to be marking the importance of various issues as they come up. I expect to see more concerns around new technology, around the rise of the internet, around concerns of identity, around sexuality, race and gender, around politics and the rise of the religious right, around corruption, around terrorism. And I really feel that I am in some ways getting a glimpse back into the US’s cultural history, seeing the issues that were preoccupying people at a given moment, and seeing attitudes change and shift.