Email Roundtable #51: TV in Fits and Spurts, or what we watch when we are busy

Kerri and Jane attempt to discuss how they fill their down-time during busy times.

Jane: So, full disclosure, Kerri and I are both fully immersed and crazily busy with the Winnipeg Fringe Festival. Obviously, we still have time for TV; meaning we have some things to say this week. We’ve discovered that both of us turn to cooking shows during those hectic, busy days when we have a bit of time to ourselves. Kerri, why are cooking shows so important to your down-time and what are the favourites that you rely on? Continue reading

Deal With It: Kid Nation and the Strange Case of the Television Oddity


As much as I love television for the way it often allows you know shows intimately and characters inside and out, as I discussed a few weeks ago, I’ve also been known to become obsessed with the television oddity. Shows that are too strange, too complicated, too expensive or too under-loved to last. These shows are on the air for a season or maybe, if they’re lucky, two and live on via DVD or Netflix or YouTube. And they also live on in memory where they often turn into something more special, more exciting, more daring than they ever were to begin with. This happened to me with My So-Called Life and Freaks and Geeks, which I’ve talked about ad nauseam, in those early days before I could re-watch them on VHS or DVD. It happened more recently with the incredibly strange, indelible and wholly unique Magic City, which I can’t bring myself to re-watch yet, the death of the show too new and my memory of it, almost surely incorrectly, too glowing. Or, even Ebert Presents: At The Movies, a show that attempted and failed at bringing back duelling film critics to TV (although I loved it), and one that I was reminded of this past week when one of the reviewers, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, published an excellent and sad take on the demise of the show. But these shows, despite their one-hit wonder and cult status in the world of TV-lovers, are not true-blue oddities in the purest sense.

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A Very Special Episode: TV Tonal Shifts on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Louie

At their best and luckiest, television shows can do something that other most other art forms cannot: allow us to spend hours, days, weeks, months, sometimes years with our favourite characters, watching them grow, learning intricacies and patterns about them and the show itself that we often don’t even know about the people in our real lives. Television has the luxury of time. We learn shows rather quickly, we fall into the unique rhythms and patterns of these shows, we know how they should look and sound and feel and over time this solidifies and crystallizes our viewing experience. We find friends with these characters, we know their worlds, we begin to understand what makes them tick.  Continue reading

I was wrong, It’s Freaks and Geeks and The Wire.

freeks and geeks and mcnulty

A few months ago at the height of my love affair with Damages I proclaimed that “the first five minutes of [its] pilot episode are as good as any television pilot I’ve seen.” While Damages is darn good TV and its opening is stylish and well shot, I was completely wrong. After some distance and an obviously much needed cooling off period, I came back to my senses. I now proclaim that the first five minutes of Freaks and Geeks and The Wire are the among very best minutes that TV has to offer. For real this time. Continue reading

How I Spent My Women’s Prison Vacation: The First Season of Orange is the New Black


Few “pilot” episodes of a TV show have ever made me cry. The problem with pilots is that they are supposed to cram a whole pile of information into 22 minutes or 42 minutes and don’t usually do a very good job of developing characters. I can think of three shows where the pilot made me weep: Freaks and Geeks, Enlightened and now Orange is the New Black. These three shows actually have quite a bit in common, but their biggest common element is that the pilot episode spends a lot of time introducing and then developing their central character: a nice, young, white woman who seems to have her shit together but doesn’t. I have to say after watching the whole season, I feel like I was duped in that first episode, and I’m all the happier for it.

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