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November 2004, Week 5


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"Larsson, Donald F" <[log in to unmask]>
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 29 Nov 2004 20:29:30 -0600
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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 itself.

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 shows from EAST SIDE WEST SIDE to JUDD FOR THE DEFENSE and SLATTERY'S 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 otherwise--I REMEMBER MAMA, DOOGIE HOUSER, MY SO-CALLED LIFE, etc.

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

Don Larsson

"Only connect!"  --E.M. Forster
Donald F. Larsson
Department of English
Minnesota State University
Mankato, MN  56001
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From: Film and TV Studies Discussion List on behalf of Jeremy Butler
Sent: Mon 11/29/2004 2:29 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [SCREEN-L] Authors and Artists on Television Shows

I'm currently working on a revision of the textbook, Television: Critical
Methods and Applications.  Specifically, I'm revising/enlarging the chapter
on critical methods.  Although I think the auteur theory has very limited
application to television, I have a small section discussing it.

This has led me to thinking about the Romantic, Byronic conception of the
artist--meaning both painters and poets, novelists, musicians, et al.--as a
tormented and usually demented individual.  While it's easy to come up with
dozens of examples of FILMS about such poor souls (e.g., POLLACK, BASQUIAT,
etc. etc. etc.), I'm struggling to think of a single television series.

I suppose there's THE MONKEES and FAME.  And LOVE, SIDNEY did cast Tony
Randall as an artist.  But surely there are better examples than that.

Or does episodic television not favor the Romantic artist as a stereotype
the way that the cinema does?

I have been thinking mostly of U.S. television since that is where the
textbook is principally distributed, but I'd be curious to hear about any
instances of television series (and not just one-time documentary-style
biographies) centered on an artist, author, or musician.


Jeremy Butler
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