Sunday, March 26, 2006

Quality T.V.

Lisa and I have many things in common, not least a love of high quality T.V. Now, Hustle just about sneeks into that category - bizarrely because it has become even sillier this series, and thus forging for itself a completely different course to its rather more staid older sibling, Spooks. As such I feel it my duty to flag up Adrian Lester's masterly Charlie Chaplin impression in Friday's episode which even rivals Johnny Depp's from Benny and Joon - and that's saying something. I think my absent host would have been very impressed.


Anonymous said...

If I was as nasty as Lisa thinks I am, I would point out that "quality TV" is an oxymoron; but I'm not, so I won't.

God, I'm good!

Matt_c said...

Even if you were nasty , you'd still be wrong.
Robert J Thompson's Television's Second Golden Age argues a powerful case for Quality TV and John Thornton Caldwell's Televisuality interrogates the dynanmic aesthetic qualities of modern American television.

That and the fact that Lost, Buffy, Arrested Development and Curb Your Enthusiasm are fucking cool. I've heard some people even like this Dr Who show...

Anonymous said...

We're in a weird time for TV at the moment as it's both the best and the worst it's ever been. If you sit down and try to find something to watch on any of 200 channels you're likely to struggle, but if you plan your viewing by taping or TiVo-ing the good stuff there's more than enough to keep you going:

The Sheild, The Wire, Arrested Development, The Sopranos and the new version of Battlestar Galactica (no, really) represent some of the best and powerful stuff ever seen on TV, with movie-like production values.
Meanwhile stuff like Lost, Spooks, 24, Prison Break, Scrubs, The West Wing, The Dead Zone, My Name is Earl and Dr Who provide wonderfully enjoyable shows that fantastically entertaining, if not quite as challenging as the afformented ones.
Even if that's all to much for you and you enjoy the simplicity and voyeuristic stylings of reality TV, stuff like Survivor, The Amazing Race and The Apprentice proove that 'reality' doesn't have to mean 'naff'.

It's just a matter of finding the good stuff within the rest.

Matt_c said...

Dean, I don't imagine that the current state of TV will change much soon, the number of channels neccessitating all the crap as well as the prestige products. We have to develop our hunter-gatherer techniques but now its for information rather than berries.

There's a book called Everything Bad is Good for You - which is really good; it discusses how popular culture is making us smarter. Just imagine... even reality TV.

How's Warwick going? They still a bunch of money grabbing bastards?

Anna Lowman (annawaits) said...

Oooh, I've been thinking of buying 'Everything Bad is Good For You' - now I certainly will. Anything that justifies my hours in front of the box has to be worth reading...! Thanks Matt. There's plenty of quality writing, acting and production on TV if, as Dean says, you look for it. Indeed, many people in theatre are annoyed at the fact that a lot of the best writers are turning to TV.

Anonymous said...

Well, I suppose, as in so many other discussions, the old phrase 'it all depends on what you mean by ....' comes into play. Thus, the word 'quality' begs the question, particularly in the context of TV. Allow me to set a severely high standard and ask what, if anything, will last? You lot are all younger than me, but try the thought experiment of asking yourself what you would like to see repeated when you're sixty? At the age of 66, myself, I could only name one and, happily, a good friend gave me a copy of it on video as a gift, so I was able to confirm its worth. What was it? "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy". Just *excellent* in every respect. That one might, just, last.

The Blind-Winger Jones said...

Television was only a rumour of course when I was living. The closest we got to TV were the captured midgets who did dance-routines in a large glittery box on the front at Blackpool during Wakes Week.

Anonymous said...

I remember them, and the very first 'remote control' (long before that new-fangled 'telly' thing) that went with them - a long, sharpened stick that went through a hole in the box and with which you could give them dwarfs a hard prod if they didn't dance fast enough. Them was the days! Kids today don't know how to enjoy themselves.

Matt_c said...

Anna - you might enjoy Steven Johnson;s blog too. It's here. I think I might decide to hate him though as he has a lovely family, is very clever, good looking, writes for money and lives in a New York brownstone.

David - your criterion for quality is of course the most important bit of any discussion. (Its worth saying that the books I quoted use the word 'quality' to denote a style of quality, eg. production values, rather than a categorical artistic value.) Longevity is a good criterion - but if you think about any art not much of it lasts. TV gets unfairly judged IMHO because its so ubiquitous, and when a good show is made it's generally only broadcast once.

I think TV's very structure goes against tradtional ways of valuing quality - which isn't to say that it is all good but that we might often miss it when it is. So you have to work harder - which takes us back to Dean's point.

What would I like to see when I'm 60? I could be cheeky and say I'd like to be down with kids and watching the new stuff but that's not your point. Probably documentaries and Alan Partridge. Seeing a man dressed as a zombie will (I hope) never fail to amuse me. But I don't know. Part of me sees TV as an inherently temporary form - it's not meant to last.
And that might be why you don't think it has any quality.

Anna Lowman (annawaits) said...

Wow, Steven Johnson really does need to be hated, doesn't he?! Thanks for the link.

Blind-Winger Jones... well, i'll just say hi for the moment, til I've worked you out a little more :)