During the 1950's, Wernher von Braun served as technical adviser for three space-related television films produced by Disney: Man in Space, Man and the Moon and Mars and Beyond. [more inside]
The most-watched show in the history of the National Geographic Channel isn't Wild, Taboo or even the longest-running documentary series on cable tv: Explorer. It's Doomsday Preppers, a show that documents the "lives of otherwise ordinary Americans" as they prepare for the end of the world. [more inside]
'Homeland,' Obama’s Show. The award winning TV show does little to alleviate the myths and misconceptions about Arabs and Muslims, writes Joseph Massad, a scholar at Columbia University. "The racist representation of Arabs is so exponential, even for American television [..] that one does not know where to begin." [more inside]
There has been a noticeable uptick in the use of the word "vagina" in network TV shows, reports the NY Times.
From 1935 to 1951, Time Magazine bridged the gap between print & radio news reporting and the new visual medium of film, with March of Time: award-winning newsreel reports that were a combination of objective documentary, dramatized fiction and pro-American, anti-totalitarian propaganda. They “often tackled subjects and themes that audiences weren’t used to seeing — foreign affairs, social trends, public-health issues — and did so with a combination of panache and subterfuge that today seems either absurd or visionary.” (Previous two links have autoplaying video.) By 1937, the short films were being seen by as many as 26 million people every month and may have helped steer public opinion on numerous issues, including (eventually) America’s entry to WWII. Video samples are available at Time.com, the March of Time Facebook page and the entire collection is available online, (free registration required) at HBO Archives. [more inside]
Eyes of a Generation is a "virtual museum of television cameras, and the broadcast history they captured," curated by actor and radio DJ Bobby F. Ellerbee. The site has hundreds of photos of cameras and of television sets backstage. It also includes vintage articles and a neat look at how the moon backdrop on the Conan set works. [more inside]
The Personal Photographs of Dr. Vladimir Kosma Zworykin, Television Pioneer. The screen images are time exposure photographs of the picture on the kinescope in the monitoring rack in the main control room. Some were taken with stationary frames of moving picture film projected upon the iconoscope by a standard moving picture machine. Others are actually the pictures transmitted with the iconoscope camera in the studio and outdoors.
Sure, we all know that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is broadcast every year in the US as a Christmas tradition, and that Sweden basically closes every year from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. on December 24th to watch Donald Duck, but what about other countries? [more inside]
Mock the Vote: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert interviewed.
The Wire is dissent; it argues that our systems are no longer viable for the greater good of the most, that America is no longer operating as a utilitarian and democratic experiment. An already-quite-good discussion about The Wire, originating in Mark Bowden's Atlantic article ('The Angriest Man in Television') and continuing through Mark Bowden's post on the show's nihilistic bleakness gets even more interesting on Matt Yglesias's blog, where the creator of the show stops by to give his opinion on what it's all supposed to mean.
"A fedora hat worn by me without the necessary protective irony would eat through my head and kill me." Goodbye to George W.S. Trow, one of the strangest, wisest, disturbingest writer ever to gape at, marvel at, and love his fellow Americans. His 1980 essay "Within the Context of No Context" (which shared with J.D. Salinger's last published story the distinction of taking up an entire issue of the New Yorker) placed television, irony, and distance at the center of the new United States. He also wrote the less well-known (but equally beautiful) short story collection Bullies, along with a novel and several screenplays, helped found National Lampoon, and was a staff writer at the New Yorker from 1966 until 1994, when he quit in protest of Roseanne Barr's guest-editing stint. He died on November 24, in Naples, at the age of 63. Appreciations from the New York Observer, Slate, and Gawker.
Little visual miracles. For more than forty years that most American of photographers, Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters Lee Friedlander, has recorded modern American urban life -- with its jumble of people, signs, buildings, and cars, and television sets. He likes to turn a common blunder of amateurs -- photographing something nearby with one's back to the sun -- into a leitmotif. His shadow plays the role of alter ego, sticking to the back of a woman's fur collar, clinging to a lamppost as a parade of drum majorettes passes by, reclining like a stuffed doll on a chair. Clever jigsaw puzzles, his pictures frequently reveal themselves to be laconic, austere poems to what Friedlander has termed "the American social landscape',' meaning mostly ordinary places and affairs. "Friedlander," an exhibition of more than 480 photographs and 25 books covering decades of work, runs at MoMA through Aug. 29, before traveling to Europe until 2007. More inside.
The end of an era? The Miss America crowning had just 12 million viewers tune in this past Saturday, the lowest viewership in the history of the pageant. Are people turned off by this type of competition? Or are there just better things to do on a Saturday night?