The soap opera originally emerged from radio soap operas in the 30’s and 40’s in the States and currently stands as the most popular form of television programming in the world. The term soap originates from the detergent manufacturers that use to sponsor the earliest forms of the shows and the term opera is used to highlight the dramatic appeal of the genre.
Originally targeted at stay at home lower-class housewives, they were designed to be mindless distractions from a harsher reality. As the stay at wife has slowly began to vanish the soaps have still remained popular for over 50 years. They can be regarded as some what of a guilty pleasure today.
Soaps are slow moving, poorly written and generally have an atrocious standard of acting. So how has this formula remained so successful over time? It comes down to a number of things. They are generally centred on relationships and families which are relatable topics to everyone. The production costs are low, so they are easy to produce in bulk amounts for a cheap budget. Their time slots are early so they become almost a daily routine. With this routine comes a loyal fan base. In a sense the characters almost become like family members or friends. They are there everyday for you after a hard day at work. And of course there is always the cliffhanger that leaves the viewer in suspense for the following night.
Here is a hilarious clip of the English due Fry & Laurie impersonating an Australian soap: Fry & Laurie
Blockbuster stores are closing permanently
I walk to work each day and pass a video store. Or maybe a DVD store is more appropriate. Or maybe a blu-ray store is actually. Well it doesn’t matter what format they are selling, the important thing is that they are selling physical copies of movies and T.V. shows. Each time i walk past i look at the people leaving the store and wonder why they are still practising this ancient tradition of hiring movies. Well actually my first thought is i can’t believe they are paying for movies but that’s a whole other debate.
So why are these video stores failing to survive? It’s pretty simple really, they’re an inconvenience. Why would we venture into the outside world, search through aisles of movies and pay ridiculous prices when we can just jump on Netflix and be watching a show within seconds. Why would people pay money to multi million dollar franchises when they could just download a movie for free?
The final nail in the coffin came with the announcement late last year that all of the American Blockbuster stores were closing down. It is only a matter of time until the smaller stores are no longer. Although i am one of those people downloading shows, I am still genuinely sad that the video store is leaving us. Like picking up a newspaper, like buying a CD, it seems as though my childhood is dissapearing around me.
Here is an interesting related article published in The Wire: Blockbuster’s Death
The anti-hero is unquestionablly the norm for today’s popular protagonists. As viewers we can relate to a flawed character. They are believable. They are selfish and lustful. They are human. These ant-hero protagonists seem to question the boundaries of morality and social norms. Within this questioning there are philosophical issues being presented and shows have begun to embrace them.
None more so than True Detective, a bleak and gritty crime drama currently taking the world by stall. Rust Cohle is nihilistic in many ways. He calls for the mass extinction of the human race and claims religion to be moronic. Here is just a little snippet of Cohle’s nihilistic mindset:
The complexity of Cohle makes him an intriguing character. He is a pessimist and utterly hopeless but at the same time boldly heroic. We are drawn to him and want him to succeed. As the story progresses we learn of the death of his young daughter and resulting failed marriage. We start to understand why Cohle has become so Nihilistic. Cohle almost becomes a guardian angel, sacrificing himself to rid the world of “bad men.” Nothing cements our sympathy for Cohle more so than his monologue about his daughter:
“I think about my daughter now, and what she was spared. Sometimes I feel grateful. The doctor said she didn’t feel a thing; went straight into a coma. Then, somewhere in that blackness, she slipped off into another deeper kind. Isn’t that a beautiful way to go out, painlessly as a happy child? Trouble with dying later is you’ve already grown up. The damage is done, it’s too late.”
Never before have we seen television shows so sophisticated. The depth and complexity of characters is currently unparalleled. Venturing further into Rust Cohle’s psyche is an article published in Vulture: Rust Cohle and True Detective’s philosophies
Are we all just becoming bad people? I ask myself this as i think about my favourite shows. It seems that today’s central characters have more than just a few moral flaws. So do we now expect our protagonist to be a murderer, drug taker or sexual deviant? The answer is yes. Most likely yes to all three things and that’s the way we like it! Delving into this issue a little deeper is an article published in Refinery: The Anti-hero
Today’s generation is desensitised to gratuitous violence and hardcore sex scenes as everything is visible via the net. Every child from the age of five or younger seems to be connected to the net through some device. Through this desensitisation we can see there has been a general shift in want is considered socially acceptable to show. Sex scenes have become far more graphic, verging on soft core pornography, whilst violence is staggeringly realistic.
Today’s protagonist generally has a moral goal that appeals to the audience and justifies their heinous acts in some way. This could be centred in providing for their families, Such as Walter White or Tony Soprano, or maintaining a sense of societal justice, such as Dexter or Omar from The Wire. However…..there is an exception.
I refer to him as the ultimate anti-hero. Fuelled by a lust for power and domination, Frank Underwood appears to hold no strain of morality. Here are a few lessons in ruthlessness by Mr. Underwood
Interestingly, I found a video of the top 10 television anti-heroes and they are the central characters of 10 of the most succesful television shows of the last decade:
Breaking Bad Meme
There is a steady growth of television shows being viewed online via piracy or online streaming websites, so concordantly there has been a surge in online advertising. Social media leads the way as shows now have Facebook pages that provide information on upcoming episodes, previous episodes and interviews with actors/writers.
The evolution of ‘the meme’ is also upon us (pictured above) which is basically a comedic picture with a caption related to the show. There is not much to it really but for some reason it adds another form of engagement for the viewer, often a lighter way of looking at heavy topics.
Youtube provides the viewer with trailers of episodes, certain scenes and occasionally full episodes. If we are still starved for information we can jump on our twitter accounts (which are accesable via smart phone). Twitter is constantly providing us with updates from the show, characters or even the actors themselves. It seems the days of the giant billboard and T.V. add are over.
An Article published in Social Media Explorer further explores this issue: Social Media Changing Television Forever
In this bustling world we find ourselves in today technology is continiously improving to create a more convinient lifestyle for us. So as I work most nights of the week to pay my rent do I have time to tune into my favourite television shows as they aired? Or do i have enough money to afford full cable allowing me to watch the quality television shows i actually care about?
The answer is no to both questions. Well this is now no longer a problem it seems. As a poor student i tend to illegally download television shows, but in the more regulated countries such as America this is not as easily done. So we see a new trend occurring. Netflix began as a DVD rental by mail-service but has transformed itself into one of the largest sources for streaming media. Understanding the need for convinience, Netflix is eliminating the need for television as it is a purely internet based, streaming website. It’s subscription is cheaper then high level cable prices and its accessibility is unrivalled. It has now taken it one step further by releasing entire seasons of original shows straight to the website without appearing on a television network first. As a serial binger releasing all episodes at once is a tantalising but scary notion.
Netflix received 14 Emmy Award nominations in 2013 after its release of the critically acclaimed political drama House of Cards. Netflix also boasts ownership of the fourth season of the highly celebrated comedy Arrested Development and one of my new favourites, Orange Is The New Black. We might as well throw our televisions in the bin now!
It seems even President Obama can’t get enough of the convinience of Netflix, calling for House Of Cards to be aired a day early due to a snow day: Obama Wants House Of Cards Now!
The Groundbreaking Sopranos
1999 Saw the creation of what i consider one of the greatest television shows of all time, The Sopranos. Ground breaking in production and writing, Sopranos took an almost movie format, cramming 50 minutes of breath-taking acting and storytelling into a single episode. An all star cast, lead by the brilliance of James Gandolfini, for the first time presented a show that was realistic, showcasing humanity in all of its glorious flaws and triumphs. The Sopranos did not win over all viewers as some people still preferred a more sugar-coated approach to television, but what it did was bridge the gap between cinema and television. This has never been more evident then today as a number of celebrated cinema actors are starring in television shows, such as Kevin Spacey in House Of Cards and the recent Oscar award winner Matthew Mcconaughey in True Detective. The Sopranos paved the way for shows such as The Wire and Breaking bad, which are just as thought-provoking and brilliant.
Spine-Chilling Scene From The Sopranos
Detrimental Effects Of Reality Television
There seems to be a formulaic approach to television in our world today. We are still stuck with the mindless crime shows and comedies that seem to draw an absurdly high amount of viewers daily. After the pioneering sopranos in 1999, there has been a string of stylised sophisticated dramas being released on the competing AMC and HBO. It was also the late 90’s that saw the birth of two of the largest reality T.V. shows of all time and signified the death of humanity as we know it. After the Real World was a success in the early to mid 90’s, survivor and big brother were created and were met with unparraleled success. The majority of current prime time is filled with a litany of reality shows, which also consume social media forums and create the possibility of ‘audience participation’. Viewers ares now allowed to vote for their favourite characters via SMS, get constant updates on Facebook and follow everyone involved on twitter. Although there is a golden age of television occurring , there is an overwhelming stream of reality television that are actually heavily scripted and seem to celebrate and reward idiotic behaviour. An article published in Elite Daily highlights the detrimental effects of reality television:
I Love Television #goldenage
If you are like me at all then you love to waste a bit of time…ok a lot of time. Some people indulge in exercise, some people like to raise money for charities, for me it’s all about sinking into the couch and forgetting about my mundane reality for an hour (or several) with a riveting T.V. show. Luckily for me, I have grown up in what can be considered “a golden age” for television. Ignoring the barrage of reality T.V. shows and predictable poorly written crime shows that stranglehold the prime time on free to air, I sift and search else where for the good stuff. What i attend to achieve with this blog is to create a better understanding of how television has changed over time. I want to explore how social media has affected it and how piracy threatens it, but at the same time talk about some of the great television shows of the modern era. So stay tuned in!