This semester I’ve been following two blogs related to television criticism.
One of the blogs I’ve been keeping up with is Antenna, which is about media and culture. It’s based out of The University of Wisconsin- Madison and is updated by a group of people, not just one. Each post has a compelling and clear argument. In general the topics in the posts in the past few months revolve around reality shows and issues affecting Wisconsin, with a few media industry stories in between, including a few posts reporting about the SCMS Conference. The analysis, however, tends to favor issues of gender and narrative. This is especially prevalent in the posts on the Jersey Shore (an MTV reality show), The Bachelor (an ABC reality show), and a post on political unrest in Egypt. In the post on the Jersey Shore the issue of “compulsory masculinity” is brought up and an inevitable discussion on gender roles ensues. In the post about The Bachelor the author fleshes out this ongoing narrative in the series about heartache and the associated “ruins of patriarchy.” A post on political unrest in Egypt unveils a discussion on the developing narrative in Egypt, where the author attempts to use the analytical techniques and diction associated with works of fiction to discuss and understand real history in the making. One thing this blog really seems to be doing (and this probably an unintentional consequence of real enthusiasts) is fleshing out cultural narratives in the media. Perhaps The Jersey Shore is the narrative of uber masculine guidos (maybe just part of it). Perhaps political unrest in Egypt is more than a conflict overseas, but part of the ongoing narrative of anyone that can dream of a different of life.
The other blog I’ve been reading is called Cultural Learnings. It is updated pretty regularly by a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The blog largely focuses on show reviews in which the author basically recalls the shows last episode and where it falls short. This is his main focus in posts pertaining to specific programs: to show how these programs are succeeding in fulfilling promises and how they fall short. Promises here include those of premise, storyline, and obligations to their genre. For the most part he seems to look at things with a very critical eye, but makes it a point to mention where the show is being successful. He does however seem to frequently mention his personal opinion as whether or not he would watch the show. This is evident in one of his posts on the NBC sitcom “Perfect Couples”. The overall analysis of the episode leads the viewer and reader to conclude the show is not keeping its promises, but the author of the blog still claims he would watch it. The show he included in posts were mainly: Glee, Community, Perfect Couples, Parks and Recreation. Those are all comedies that run a half hour, with the exception of Glee. There was also little attention paid to reality shows. The show choices right now though are limited, because he stick to programs that show new episodes right now. In the time I have been keeping up with the blog he has devoted some posts to issues related to television criticism and media industry issues, a refreshing change from the show-centered posts (especially a post on Television Criticism).
The two blogs offer different approaches and styles of television criticism. They tend to cover vastly different topics and have quite different analytical discourse. While one would approach the analysis of a television show by placing it in the context of a broader narrative the other would agree to analysis it on its own terms and leave it at that. There’s utility in both.