Monday, March 25, 2013

Jillian Sandell
I'll Be There For You: Friends and the Fantasy of Alternative Families

"The promise of the show is that in the face of heterosexual failure and familial dysfucntion, all you need are good friends."  (p.142)

I.  Must See TV
  • Actors endorse consumer products and a way of life
  • Depicts "alternative families"
  • Excludes racial/ethnic 'others'

II.  Primetime Families

    • Ella Taylor (1989)
      • TV reflects the social shifts in society and speaks to our collective worries and yearning to improve
      • Transitions
        • 1950s - TV focused on family OR work
        • 1970s - TV focused on family AND work ("work families")
        • 1990s - the "Alternative Family"
          • focuses on a synthetic family comprised of mostly non-familial persons, relationships with friends, neighbors

III.  The Personal is Ironic
    • Jane Feuer (1992)
      • Sitcom: develops by reacting to and against previous sitcoms (p.146)
        • Identities tied to locations (couch, apartment)
      • Trauma is funny
        • Dealing with negative life events is a shared (funny) experience
        • Dealing with "                              " is more fun with friends
      • Alternative families can substitute for support where 'real' families or 'work' families have failed
IV.  Families We Choose
  • Kate Weston (1991)
    • Families "of choice" remain the focus of affective life
      • Families of choice: groups of people with common social and economic needs and resources, and with a personal past and a shared sense of future (p.147)
      • Creates a family environment, emotionally and materially supportive, with people of a close, special relationship
  • Stephanie Coontz (1992)
    • Myth of the white, middle-class family
    • Access to create "alternative families"
V.  The Fantasy of Incest
  • Failures of the members within the "alternative family" to hold relationships
    • Group does not approve
    • Lifestyle of "alternative family" does not support
      • Lack of support or disapproval of interpersonal relationships within and outside of the group
        • Both disrupt the balance and dynamic of the alternative family

VI.  The Whiteness of the Hail
  • Presented as white, consumed by white viewers
  • Difference/diversity represented by "sexual minorities"
    • Carol
    • Joey and Chandler
    • Rachel and Tad
  • White friends,... white lovers?
    • Julie vs Emily
Conclusion:  Sandell seems to be supportive of the premise of the show in regards to alternative families, but less supportive in the content of the Friends family, and how their existence is established by the absence or presentations of 'others'.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Upgrading the Situation Comedy

Sitcom Comedy and Taste

Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men

Modern Family and 30 Rock

Traditional Style-Multi Camera style

·         More economical

·         Faster

·         Requires bright, flat, even lighting to make shots from angles workable ( a look generally considered visually cheap, uninteresting, and non-naturalistic by cinematographers and craft professionals)

·         Follows typical norms of storytelling and scene construction

·         Dramatic development depends on the pattern of “setup-punch line,  setup- punch line” where the actors have to wait for audience laughter (or laugh track)- low brow humor

The basic sitcom structure

·         Showcases verbal and physical comedy

·         Encourages broad theatrical performances style (gestures/facial expressions/loud-obnoxious voices)

New Sitcom Style- Single Camera style

·         Artistically distinguished

·         More aggressive use of sound and image

·         Camerawork and editing as sources of humor

·         Realistic awkward silence verses laugh tracks

·         Prefer to be smart and observant rather than never-ending streams of jokes and gags

·         Seek to expand the range of stylistic and narrative options available to American television comedy-upgrade? (sophisticated and cinematic qualities)

“Like a Movie”- Single Camera   -The cultural status of film adds prestige to the new sitcom style when it’s understood as cinematic and anti-televisual

·         Each shot has own set up

·         Shooting schedule

·         Multiple day shooting

·         Editing and music signal humor in a mire cinematic way than verbal jokes and pratfalls

Class vs. Mass: Costs and Benefits of Up scaling

·         CBS v. NBC- Fan cults or ratings

·         New style limits the target audience


Do you feel that a sitcom that utilizes a laugh track is an insult to the audience intelligence?

·         Kind of informs the audience if the joke is merely funny or down right hilarious

Do you all watch sitcoms for pure enjoyment, or do you watch for the style and aesthetic appeal?

Good article on Modes of Sitcoms

Here's a good article from CNN on comedy and modes of production.

Heat Vision and Jack

Part One

 Part Two Embed Disabled? Go to

 Part Three

Action Family!

Part One Part Two Part Three

Monday, March 4, 2013

Robot Chicken meets George Lucas

I'm Gonna Git You Suker

Uncle Josh at the Moving Picture Show

Directed by Porter for Edison.


Bakhtin explores Rabelais’ folk humor during the Middle Ages and Renaissance era.  He argues that Rabelias concepts were misunderstood.  Explores two concepts based on Rabelais's humor.

I.   Carnivalesque humor
  • There are no hierarchical existing in religious, political and moral values  during carnival; allows for atmosphere of humor and chaos. The time of carnival everyone is seen as equals
  • Through costume and mask, individuals are allowed to temporarily exchange their  bodies or images to reflect that of another.  Fools become wise and royalty become beggars.
  •  Examples: clowns, jugglers, giants, and dwarfs
II.  Grotesque realism
  • Rabelais works displayed scatological humor.
  • Essential principle is the lowering of all that is high, spiritual, ideal, abstract. (Bakhtin)
  • Parodies during the mid evil period involved grotesque body concepts.
  • Focus was on the lower body and midsection; involved discussions and images of devouring,    defecation, urination, eating drinking and birth.
  • Use of unrealistic characters were seen as humorous.

 Modern examples of Rabelias' images and characters.