Saturday, January 11, 2020
January 11-12, 2020: Crowd-sourced TV Studying
[This fall I watched Netflix’s Unbelievable, one of the most compelling and important TV shows I’ve seen in a good while. The show opens up a number of AmericanStudies conversations, so this week I’ve highlighted and analyzed a handful of them. Leading up to this crowd-sourced post featuring the responses and TV recommendations of fellow AmericanStudiers—share yours in comments, please!]
Responding to the week’s series, Robin Field writes, “Glad you wrote on this great show! This topic is my passion. My 2020 book is Writing the Survivor: The Rape Novel in Late Twentieth Century American Fiction.”
Elizabeth Stockton comments on Wednesday’s post, “I think The Wire also makes for a nice comparison. It dealt with making cops' lives three dimensional—without sentimentalizing their personal lives or delving into soap opera. It also gave more depth to behaviors like drug use and insight into how systems can fail without any one person being a villain. It also is technically in the genre of a "procedural," but took risks in terms of pacing and exposition. Not a perfect show, but it seems to resonate with aspects of Unbelievable to me.” She also added another pre-show text to Friday’s post, sharing this Longform Podcast on the case and the “Unbelievable Story of Rape” article.
Troy Zaher writes, “Unbelievable was so powerful and thought provoking. I remember feeling like this event should’ve been recognized more. Things like this should bring about change. Though I also believe it did an excellent job at showcasing positive behavior towards assault victims, ie proper treatment of the case in terms of law but also in terms of interpersonal connection. I think this is the style of true crime that feels the most moral (not that other forms of crime documentation are immoral). It makes you squirm and understand the victim empathically.”
Donna Moody shares, “All I'm going to say about the series is that I loved it...it also infuriated me because it is exactly how women are treated when they report sexual assault by far too many male law enforcement officers.”
Shiladitya Sen writes, “I thought it was brilliant. And is also a perfect example of the benefits of having the topic presented largely via a female lens. The use of multiple female protagonists (and secondary characters) worked extremely well for it.”
And Kathryn Tomasek Tweets, “To my great embarrassment, when I decided to watch season 2 of The Sinner this week, I translated my recent viewing of Unbelievable into the first season of the show. I think there’s an actual connection there, especially since there’s so much emphasis on the “bad mother’s” attitude towards the Jessica Biel character in Sinner season 1. And the negative attitude of one of the foster mothers in Unbelievable was yet another of the difficult things to watch in that show. I say ‘yet another’ because the fragmentary memories of sexual assault were really difficult viewing for me, as I’ve been assaulted and took years to recognize the experience for what it actually was. I’m glad I made myself keep watching the series to the end because it was rewarding to see the dots connected and the women’s experiences validated.”
Other TV recommendations:
First, I’ll note that another 2019 favorite of mine was the final season of The Deuce, about which I’ll be blogging in a few months!
Elizabeth Stockton adds, “It seems like I've just got comedies to recommend right now: Shrill, Schitt's Creek, Derry Girls, and Bojack Horseman. And whatever genre Lodge 49 is in.”
Tim McCaffrey also highlights Derry Girls, writing, “The accents are bananas so we watched with subtitles.”
Veronica Hendrick goes old school, writing, “I have been watching Cheers—and except for the Diane/Sam screaming matches, pretty funny.”
Andrew Lipsett asks, “Have you seen the new Watchmen? Some of the best TV I've ever seen, and very much up your alley.” Michael Valeri Jr. seconds that recommendation, and Philip Opere agrees that “Watchmen was amazing!” [Ben responds: “I haven't yet but I know I have to check it out ASAP, thanks!”]
My cousin Ryan Railton recommends, “Travels by Narrowboat. It’s not going to push you to the edge of your seat or challenge your worldview or anything, but it’s mildly entertaining. Just a guy sharing videos of his journey across England on a canal boat.”
Andrew DaSilva writes, “I am a fan of the oldies, for something light with a good theme song there's always The Love Boat and or The Bob Newhart Show. For something that might be a bit thought provoking there's The Twilight Zone and All in the Family.”
Mark Rennella writes, “Something completely different is Call my Agent on Netflix, a French series. I loved the first three episodes.”
Jacquie Carter-Holbrooks shares a bunch of recommendations: “Ray Donovan, The Durrells in Corfu, Mrs. Maisel, Jack Ryan, Killing Eve, Luther, the first few seasons of Shameless, Top of the Lake, Mad Men, OK- I’ll stop now.”
And finally, my favorite TVStudier, Matthew Raymond, highlights, “Better Things created by, and starring, Pamela Adlon. An avant-garde comedy about a single mother with three kids. But also about the anxiety towards change that we all experience, and discovering moments of love even in our worst moments. Because this is stemming from a discussion about Unbelievable, I feel like I should mention Louis CK was involved in its production the first two season but was fired once he admitted to multiple sexual assaults. Its third season, the first without him, was entirely Pamela Adlon’s and it’s the best season by a large margin.”
Next series starts Monday,
PS. Thoughts on Unbelievable? Other TV shows you’d recommend and analyze?