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December 2004, Week 1


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Jeremy Butler <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 3 Dec 2004 10:31:34 -0600
text/plain (218 lines)
From:         Harper Cossar <[log in to unmask]>

I'm racking my brain here, but the character that emerges is that of JJ
(Jimmy Walker) on the series Good Times. His artwork is often portrayed as
a vehicle for transcending the ghetto and the Evans family's poor
surroundings. Therefore, while this artist and his art are not at the
forefront of the series, certainly there is much commentary and narrative
with regard to the importance and substance of JJ's art. Hope this helps ...


From:         Robert Hunt <[log in to unmask]>

I suspect that you're right about artists and writers not being represented
on tv. (Tv shows seem to be populated by a lot of people who work on tv).
But I'd suggest the very strange and short-lived "Elvis" series from about
10 years ago. It was about Elvis Presley in his youth -a year or so before
he made it big. In most episodes, he would have some strange premonition of
his later fame..

There was also "My World and Welcome To It", but that was definitely not
romantic. The hero was a Thurber-like cartoonist who turned the events of
his home life into cartoons... (In fact, there seem to have been more
sitcoms about cartoonists than writers....)


From:         Robert Hunt <[log in to unmask]>

Again falling short of the romantic image..., but the animated series "The
Critic" is wroth noting as a series in which the writer's work was actually
central to most episodes.. --


From:         Marty Norden <[log in to unmask]>

On Mon, 29 Nov 2004, Robert Hunt wrote:
  > There was also "My World and Welcome To It", but that was definitely not
 > romantic. The hero was a Thurber-like cartoonist who turned the events
of his home
 > life into cartoons... (In fact, there seem to have been more sitcoms about
 > cartoonists than writers....)

Another example of a cartoonist is Ted Knight's character on the 1980-85
sitcom TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT. He spent more of his time meddling in his
daughters' affairs than working on his strip, which had something to do
with a cow, as I recall... --Marty Norden ----------------


From:         chad <[log in to unmask]>

Right off the bat, JJ from GOOD TIMES comes to mind. There are also a few
episodes of ROSEANNE where she discusses giving up writing to raise her
kids and marry Dan. Joey from FRIENDS and JOEY is a struggling actor.
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT has Gob who is a frustrated and somewhat demented
magician. SIX FEET UNDER has Claire an art student. Eldon from MURPHY BROWN
paints houses instead of canvases. Caroline from CAROLINE IN THE CITY draws
a comic strip. Rodney currently on RODNEY is an aspiring stand-up comedian.
Finally, NORTHERN EXPOSURE has several characters you might consider Adam,
Even and Chris.

I'm not sure all of these fall into the tormented/demented category, but at
the very least they do seem to be pursuing artistic careers. -chad


From:         "Larsson, Donald F" <[log in to unmask]>

The things that come to mind are critically-acclaimed but short-lived
series such as as William Windom doing a Thurberesque writer in MY WORLD
AND WELCOME TO IT or Paul Sand as an orchestra cellist in FRIENDS AND
LOVERS. Of course, those series were also (mostly) comedies, with artists
who were ironic, not Byronic. That the series were short-lived speaks for

Aside from forays into high culture as one-shots or anthology series
(OMNIBUS, HALLMARK HALL OF FAME--before it produced the video equivalent of
greeting cards, MASTERPIECE THEATRE), I doubt that there's too much. At the
risk of overgeneralizing, network TV series would seem to favor exterior
behavior over interior soul-searching, promote low-brow over high-brow, and
have a skeptical attitude toward high culture (which used to be returned
mutually). (Consider Ernie Kovacs as Percy Dovetonsils.) There might be
more from the BBC or other state-produced TV with an eye on cultural heritage.

I do think that some of the impulses found in films and novels about
artists find have found relatively successful expression in two series
formats: 1) the Byronic hero is morphed into the Liberal Do-Gooder, in
PEOPLE, etc., where the hero fights for underdogs of various types while
going through his (usually) own torments of the soul (now multiplied in
ensemble shows from HILL STREET BLUES to ER and on and on); 2) the Teenager
as Artist-Manque: shows featuring young folk who watch their surroundings
and reflect on their place in life, nostalgically, ironically or

Of course, there's always the mystery-writer show--ELLERY QUEEN, MURDER SHE
WROTE, etc.

Don Larsson


From:         Ian McKay <[log in to unmask]>
Subject:      Re: Authors and Artists on Television Shows
Content-type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1

With regard to UK television: You could start with the British TV series
"Brideshead Revisted" (Granada Television, UK, 1981). The character Charles
Ryder is not exactly a tortured artist but certainly, in the first episode,
one who is at odds with much around him. I mention this largely for its
timeliness with regard to your publication. I believe production was to
start on a cinematic version a few months ago. Both are obviously adapted
from the Evelyn Waugh novel.

There was also an episode of Roald Dahl's "Tales of the Unexpected" (Anglia
Television, UK, 1979-1988) which - if my memory serves me correctly -
featured a stereotypical 'mad' sculptor. Not sure how you'd go about
sifting through the many episodes however, or if they are available at all

Finally, Jack Gold's "The Naked Civil Servant" (Thames Television, UK,
1975) dramatises the early art school years of Quentin Crisp along lines
that might prove worthy of investigation.

Ian McKay


From:         Jesse Kalin <[log in to unmask]>

Jeremy--There is, perhaps foremost, Dennis Potter's "The Singing
Detective", about a writer (perhaps it doesn't count for your purposes)
since it is a mini-series rather than a season-series. (If it does count,
there was the 6 part adaptation of Sartre's "Roads to Freedom", though its
hero--Matthieu--is more suspended in mid-course or distanced than
tormented.) Jesse


From:         david tetzlaff <[log in to unmask]>

The absence of tormented artists on TV hardly reflects a lack of influence
of Byronic Romanticism in American culture. I think Don Larsson is on the
right track in noting this perspective morphs into something else. I
wouldn't say it's a trope, the harried liberal professionals and
angst-filled teens of 'quality tv' are not metaphors for artists. For even
if the creators of these shows are working out their own demons, they don't
necessarily see themselves as artists, but more as harried liberal
professionals and angst-filled aging teenagers. So I think what we have
here is a kind of blending of the Byronic with a less Romantic strain of
good old fashioned American individualism, in which we see that being that
unique individual has its dark side along with its upside (genius!). Even
in movies, tortured artists are generally only the subject of films for the
art house crowd, not really the sort of mass audience fare one typically
expects on broadcast TV. Artists are, after all, like intellectuals the
sort of effete Euro-types mainstream American thought tends to denigrate.

Even when the Romantic artists morphs into something else and/or mates with
the rugged individualist the result still seems more appropriate for the
movies than for TV, where the old dictum of 'the people have to want to
invite the character into their home every week seems to apply.'
Nevertheless, tormented geniuses of one age/occupation do pop up on TV now
anad again: for example 'House' currently on Fox.

One show that featured creative workers and angst was 'thirtysomething',
though I don't think its view was all that Romantic, though one might
analyse the characters, especially Gary, as deflations of the Byronic ideal.


From:         Susan McLeland <[log in to unmask]>

Perhaps the reason you're having trouble finding these characters is that
you're only looking at leads and continuing characters. I can think of
dozens of examples where romantic artist-types have been brought in for
guest shots on popular series--particularly comedy series, where their
moodiness and highfalutin rhetoric is inevitably punctured by the "regular
folks" of the recurring cast. In particular, remember the experimental
filmmaker who was a friend of Rob Petrie's on The Dick Van Dyke Show? The
faux-Gaugin painter who the castaways found in residence on Gilligan's
Island? Any number of pretentious art-world denizens who met their
comeuppance on The Beverly Hillbillies?

You might be more likely to find such romantic/byronic/artistic characters
on teen serials (wasn't David on 90210 a musician?) or other soap-y fare
(and I use the term lovingly, not disparagingly) since these characters can
come in, entangle a more stable lead in a destructive affair, and then exit
without significantly changing the structure of an ongoing ensemble.

Susan McLeland


From:         Jesse Kalin <[log in to unmask]>

Then there's Lisa Simpson--smart, intellectual, a muscian, a romantic at
heart, and tormented.

Jesse Kalin


Jeremy Butler
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