Friday, August 6, 2010

my summer of television

my summer these days is usually sharply and neatly divided into two parts. part one begins late spring when i return from my netherlands semester, tired and happy--and tired. between then and mid july, i have no classes, so the time is devoted to resting a lot, working on whatever writing project i'm involved in [this summer began with the later drafts of the new edition of DR SUSAN LOVE'S BREAST BOOK, and continued with working on and exploring this blog], and various catchup projects involving doctors and dentists and my very messy apartment. mid-july my two U. Mass summer classes begin, pretty much consuming my life until late august.

for all their drastic differences, both components of my summer involve lots of watching TV. the courses are both related to tv--Television in American Life, and Women in Media. so tv watching counts as a large part of my work.
There are worse jobs in the world, and not many better ones, though my semester abroad each year certainly qualifies.

anyway, summer tv has radically changed in the age of cable tv. i have never minded the old summer-rerun season, since i get to play catchup with my favorites missed while i'm away. but i have been charmed by the medium-tier cable season-- TNT, USA, and now Fox and Lifetime have originals series that are aired only in summer, in what one of them advertises as "100 days of drama."

okay, melodrama is more like it. but why not? tv has evolved good formulas over the years, and variations on a theme can show a  lot about current american culture.

they can also be a whole lot of fun.

so for the next few days, i'll focus on those series, especially in terms of my favorite themes, women in tv, and fun.

let me start with the one you won't ever see, except if you're lucky in reruns. SAVING GRACE began last summer, and began filming for this season before they found out they were being cancelled. sadly it wasn't even because of ratings: the ratings were good. but the overseas sales and DVD rights sales weren't. so we got half a second season, mostly not a very good one. but its one full season was amazing. first of all, it played with the freedom you usually see only in expensive cable. that in itself isn't a sign of quality, as 'sex in the city' illustrates. i'm not sure that either nudity nor grittiness in themselves are particularly virtuous, but they do lend themselves to a larger range of material than network drama usually gets by with. it also helps the reduction of cutesiness in presenting sexuality. 'grace' never provided a naughty-wink opportunity. and nothing was gratuitous. grace was a mixed character whose strengths and weaknesses were often the same--independent, honest with herself and usually with others, promiscuous, loudmouthed, crude, and loving.

oh dear, it's 8 p.m., time for dinner and 'countdown.' and since i'm sick this weekend, bed soon afterward. more on 'grace' and a bunch of others tomorrow....

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