Unproductive finally got productive!

Well, it finally happened! And I have to say, that the final segments of Unproductive were my favorite because after all the break up drama between Ben and Cate, which catapulted the crew into squabbling and dismantling, we got to see them communicate effectively, come to a resolution, make up, and do their jobs. What’s more important is that after such an emotionally grueling semester with each other they grew, and character development (for me) is essential to any story line.

What I like about the show is the witty one-liners, the depiction of co-worker friendships, and the overall simplicity of the story. Another positive aspect to point out is that the actors seemingly have great chemistry, as though they could be the crew they are portraying. I also think the acting is pretty good – there are small awkward moments scattered throughout, but overall their lines and interactions flow naturally.

What I don’t like has more to do with characterization, for instance, Cate taking the blame for the group’s fall out in episode 10. Yes, she dumped Ben in a completely inconsiderate way, given how long they’ve dated and how things were going well during their time together, but the issue should have been a private one between her and Ben, not the entire group. Cate is in no way responsible for initiating the group’s meltdown, and as far as I remember, she makes one big blunder due to jealousy: bashing Bracha via the teleprompter. I think the group’s need to place the blame on someone else for their own behavior is beyond immature. They should checked their own emotions and conduct themselves like reasonable adults. So that’s just one of my qualms. I don’t understand the logic behind Cate shouldering the blame. She made a mistake, as we all do, but she thoroughly examined herself and apologized. Compared to most of the crew, she carried herself fairly gracefully throughout the entire fiasco.

One character I cannot stand is Ben because he acts incredibly immature about Cate breaking up with him. Understandably, he’s hurt but blasting their private situation in front of the crew is wrong of him. That to me was the catalyst for the crew’s fallout. He simply could have asked or spoken with Cate about why she broke it off with him in private. Had he taken the time to do so, the drama may have been avoided. Public venues and in the presence of others is not the way to go about it. Not to mention, he should have apologized as well for his part in the drama because he certainly went out of his way to keep it going. It honestly grates my nerves that Ben is portrayed as an innocent victim the entire time. In addition, while Ben is so heartbroken and constantly throwing a tantrum over his former relationship, he’s also hitting pretty hard on Bracha. I find it quite awkward and even distasteful that he pursues Bracha immediately after the break up (which he’s still whining about) and she happens to be the new girl in crew. Hmmm… it makes me question if Bracha was some sort of rebound for him, or perhaps an emotional band aid, which isn’t exactly a healthy way to start a relationship, or even end one. Basically, Ben didn’t develop at all. He didn’t apologize for being irrational and hauling his emotional baggage to work. He didn’t hold himself responsible for perpetuating the altercations. Quite frankly, he frustrates me and it’s exhausting to rant about him, so I’ll move on to one of my favorites: Sam.

Sam is usually reasonable, laid back, and somewhat “motherly” to her peers. The thing about Sam is that she has issues with her parents that run deep. She seems to be the type who suppresses her feelings until things boil over and the lid blows. Sam puts her friends and their interests before her own, and in order to obtain some sort of balance, her friends should do the same for her. Circumstances just pile on her without reprieve, which is probably the reason she turns to alcohol when she’s really down. Fortunately, the end of the series implies that she will receive the emotional support she needs from the crew. Other characters I enjoy are Cate for her inclination toward self-examination, Theo for his humor and the fact that he displays another side of himself with Sam in the end of the series, and David for his dry humor and growth in his leadership. Just a side note: Theo and David are annoying at times but show some layers, which makes them a little interesting. Although they are good people, I wouldn’t find myself within this circle of friends, but I’d possibly hang out with at least a couple of them separate from the group, namely Sam and Cate.

The show ended well, but predictable. Resolving their issues with each other and finally become productive was a foregone conclusion to the mess, and David was finally able to take the reigns as a producer, as was his main endeavor. Seems to me that they will all work together just like old times, but with their newest friend Bracha. Actually, I think they’ll be even closer due to their trials and sorting it out together. In the end, the rough experience brought them closer as friends and co-workers, and I believe they will know how to handle certain disputes among each other, should any more arise.

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Good Night and Good Luck

While not necessarily entertaining, the film Good Night and Good Luck offers a history lesson in investigative journalism and McCarthyism. One of the main points of the movie is journalists vs the government, and journalists being the watchdog they should be. Reporter Ed Murrow and CBS co-producer Fred Friendly fear the possible consequences of challenging the witch hunts led by Republican Senator McCarthy. McCarthy’s method of investigation was, quite frankly, horrible in that he did not have evidence in his accusations of certain American government workers being a member of the Communist Party. The irresponsible and accusatory actions that derived from hearsay and misinformation came to be known as ‘McCarthyism’. With integrity, Ed Murrow delivered the news and established trust with his audience. In having the public on his side, his broadcasts, which rebuked McCarthy, lead to a nationwide disapproval of the Senator.

In relation to today, journalists have outed, through mass media, the unsettling actions of the government, including the National Security Agency’s program that intrudes on every individual’s privacy. I took time out to watch Citizen Four, where former NSA and CIA employee found that the NSA was impeding on the rights of the American people without their consent. Snowden sought out journalists to pass the information to, which was a brave move, and the journalists were brave as well to get directly involved with Snowden. Director Laura Poitras and investigative journalists, such as Glenn Greenwald feared the repercussions of their direct involvement with Snowden and reporting the sensitive information. But they felt it needed to be done. They felt the people should be warned of their rights being infringed upon.

Another thing I thought was good about the movie was how it incorporated the clips of the real Senator McCarthy instead of having an actor play his role, and it flowed rather seamlessly. Although not related to the main focus of the movie, I thought the overall casting was pretty good and the married/co-worker relationship between Joseph and Shirley Wershba was a nice touch. When they were told that one of them would have to leave their career due to the network’s regulation against married couples working in the same job, both took it rather well. Their near flawless communication with each other, and their closeness was nice to see (are my shipping tendencies showing?). And yes, I do not care much for viewing movies and television in black and white, but it brings some sort of authenticity, as if I were a viewer in the 1950’s. It was actually pretty clever of the director and actor George Clooney to film this way, which was clearly both an artistic choice and a financial one, apparently.

Again, it was not at all an entertaining movie for me, but he history behind the film is just interesting enough for me not to dislike it, therefore my initial response is more along the lines of “meh.” But it actually piqued my interest enough to read on the history of McCarthyism, and learning is always a plus.

TDS with Trevor Noah

I was going to go with the word “energetic” to describe The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, but then figured that it would be a much better term for someone like the vociferous satirist John Oliver, instead. Although there is an energetic, yet easygoing vibe about the new host Noah, I think a better word is simply “fresh”, which encompasses a range of qualities such as his newness, his inexperience, his pleasant tone, accent, and youthful face.

Willa Paskin, a writer for slate.com Browbeat blog shares her views on Noah in his first few episodes: “Whatever else Noah’s first episode as host of The Daily Show did, it demonstrated why Comedy Central hired him: the guy could not be more comfortable on television. His first night in a very high-pressure situation, Noah seemed entirely at ease, starting with a little earnestness, segueing into material that he capably handled even though it still felt built to Stewart specs, and finishing with an entirely toothless interview with Kevin Hart.”

Although The Daily Show is fundamentally the same with Trevor Noah continuing  the show’s “War on Bulls**t”, there is a certain tone he gives different from his predecessor Jon Stewart, even with most of the old creative team at the helm. There has always been an edge to Jon Stewart, but his fiery, progressive rage developed over the years. In knowing this, it is possible that Noah can develop and become more of a challenger to our government and new watchdog for the people. Noah’s temperament is not at all like Stewart’s, nor is it close to that of John Oliver’s, but he still managed to make me laugh in the few segments I have seen. He is definitely amicable, yet does not have the “in your face” mic-drop deliverance of punchlines like the aforementioned hosts, but I doubt anyone expects, or even wants Noah to be a replica of Jon Stewart. He has his own persona and given time we may see some development in his role.

An article on http://www.indiewire.com by Liz Shannon Miller discusses Noah’s performance so far, and the possibility of the comedian taking the show to uncharted territory. In the article, President of Content Development and Original Programming, Kent Alterman says, “I think if any show launches in its fully matured form, that’s not necessarily a good sign because it won’t necessarily keep evolving, and I think the best shows do evolve.”

More in regards to the word “fresh”, there are only 10 episodes under Trevor Noah’s belt – an incredibly small number in the world of television – but he has shared some of his knowledge and experiences of life in South Africa, and can offer different viewpoints when delivering the news. He has already incorporated his country in a few jokes, like Donald Trump being America’s African President, in which he compares Trump’s arrogance to the Presidents of various African countries. Unfortunately, it turns out they are very similar, hence the joke “America’s African President.” Another example of implementing his culture into the show are the jokes about his “confusion” on American customs. In one episode, he asked “Why do you let the baby lions sh*t in a sandbox in the bathroom?” which was in reference to Americans keeping litter boxes for cats.

My main question, or concern would have more to do with Trevor Noah’s depth of knowledge on American politics and social issues. I would also like to know what is it that makes him tick. What sort of issues will arise that could send Noah into somewhat of a tirade against the decisions and actions of the United States government? He might need to display a bit of fire and toughness when it comes to tackling some of the countries biggest issues. Satire’s Brew explains how satirists such as Stewart and Oliver established trust with their audience, and a couple of ways is to have something to say without sugar-coating, and taking a firm stance on certain issues. I have yet to see this with Noah, although in the early stages it is quite understandable. But in order to maintain a significant facet of what The Daily Show is, he will need to show some passion about the concerns of the people every now and then. My premonition is that Trevor Noah will bring more to the table in the near future (he is certainly capable), which will power the show long-term. But right now, he is only in the beginnings of his career and doing well considering.

 

Edward Snowden: Surveillance and Internet Freedom

Before I begin rambling my thoughts about Ed Snowden and his actions, I should forewarn my readers that this post will be utterly adorned with nothing but positive opinions about him because quite frankly, I believe Snowden is a hero.

When Edward Snowden leaked classified data from the NSA it was not an act of betrayal to America. It was the exact opposite. Snowden is one of the most perfect examples of true patriotism, in that he has the public’s interest in mind and this is why I fully back his decision to leak information on the NSA’s overreach in the surveillance of the American public. Interestingly, Snowden iterates exactly what we have been learning throughout this course: the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution’s freedom of the press, and that we should have “an adversarial press to challenge the government and also work with it.” It is a fact that the NSA is deliberately violating the Constitution and our privacy. The decision and act should not have been made without the consent of the public. As a basic human right, we all deserve to have options.

The NSA’s justification for domestic surveillance is national security and terrorism, but Snowden says this is not true and no threats have materialized from their snooping. One of the reasons that the NSA has grown in power is because no one is looking over their shoulder and regulating them, which only hands them the freedom to do as they please. They should not be able to spy on every American citizen going about their daily lives. It has unfortunately become too easy to intrude on the lives of average Americans, and to do so is a threat to democracy because in losing our privacy we lose the right to have open discussions on many important things we agree and disagree with. We are being stripped of our agency, our freedom to express what we think, and if this continues we will lose our freedom of speech and freedom altogether. This is not only a threat to the U.S., but to democratic countries across the globe.  There must be a way to have open government without having our civil liberties infringed upon. We have every right to a private life and a right to know what the government is up to, namely when it comes to a situation such as this.

All of the aforementioned mostly applies to the internet, telephone calls, and text messages because in this information age, they are both a window to, and storage for the lives of its users. It is frightening and appalling that the government has access to intimate phone calls, emails, and photos that have been shared online. They can also see what we purchase, where we go, who we are with and so on. Personal communications should not be intercepted. This sort of data should remain private and investigations should be based on probable cause and individualized suspicion, as Snowden points out. It only makes sense. In addition, the internet contains a mountain of information we can use to educate ourselves, but under the NSA’s watch, our searches can be misinterpreted as something nefarious. For those who are writers or creators in any capacity, this can limit our research and intellectual exploration of our work. Honestly, my search history would horrify anyone who isn’t one of my writer friends.

Snowden’s suggested solution that “companies need to work very hard to guarantee represent the user and advocate for their rights”, is on point, but on that same note we, the average hard-working citizen, need to advocate for our rights as well. There are unfortunately many Americans who are not in the know about our government and what they are doing for various reasons, including disinterest, therefore a vast majority of the populace don’t speak up, but this sort of knowledge is imperative if we want to have the freedoms we were originally granted and deserve.

South Park and the American Experience (Satire’s Brew)

Satire’s Brew “American Experience” discusses the general and personal experiences Americans face in their daily lives. One of these aspects is freedom of speech and the price that must be paid for it. Another focus is the ever growing division of opinions between the populace in regards to politics and society, in which media plays an exponentially large and leading role. At times, the show South Park touches on some of the hypocrisy, controversy, and overall ridiculousness of the media, politics, and the general population’s thought processes.

In the Crack Baby Athletic Association episode, South Park satirizes the argument of whether or not the NCAA should pay their collegiate athletes, especially considering they are all at risk for injuries. The athletic program brings in hundreds of millions annually through TV and marketing, yet the athletes do not receive a dime since the money goes to administrative expenses, staff and coach salaries, grants-in-aid, and student assistance. Eric Cartman creates a similar association with ill babies and rings in cash for it, yet the babies who need medical help and an improved facility for recovery are not benefiting from the association’s earnings. The association is down right horrific for exploiting babies, but Kyle tries to remedy this by “at least” distributing the earnings to the babies health care and new facility. Again, this episode is a mirror to the NCAA’s exploitation of unpaid student athletes, and it suggests a “gray area” solution.

Obesity is an American epidemic which South Park shed light on in Raising the Bar, along with American’s penchant for “trashy” entertainment, such as reality shows. The show clearly voices its opinion on the obese and how many have abused the health care system, even claiming that the condition is a disease (which in few cases it is). On the other hand, everyone is aware of the health risks that comes with being massively overweight, and Kyle expresses concern for Cartman. Within the episode, the show Honey Boo Boo is picked apart for glorifying obesity, and is an example of how low America’s standards have lowered as a society.

South Park keeps to date with current events and controversies, and the show does a fine job at conveying the ever widening perceptions of left and right. It also does a fine job of mirroring the absurdity of both extremes and offending the extremists, all while remaining neutral. Such is stated in Satire’s Brew: “This quick turn around makes the commentary on current events possible, and when they do weigh in on such controversies, they become the middle voice in the cacophony of left versus right.”(Dunphy 138)

It has been years since the last time I’ve watched South Park. I remember enjoying it thoroughly, but I think the character’s assessment has made the show more than what it actually is: crude entertainment. South Park as a trusted voice that “educates, informs, and entertains”… well sometimes yes, but is this the show’s overall intent? I doubt it. Unadulterated entertainment its main intent. And while the creators are “satirists holding up a mirror to society in hopes of improving it,” (Dunphy 138) I also can’t help but think that this is South Park we are referring to here. The episodes are meant to make us laugh and even offend, although sometimes information and education arises amidst the fart jokes. Again, I believe that some episodes end with the hope of improving society, but most other times the show is simply poking fun at America’s buffoonery.

For what it’s worth, I do agree that it is a better show than the heartless, formulaic Family Guy.

Orson Welles: War Of The Worlds

        The War Of The Worlds broadcast was interesting in that it was the first in mass media history to supposedly terrify the nation, and afterward became a legend, although I doubt anyone was fooled. How could they be? Mercury Theater On The Air was known for giving a new and creative take on literary classics, and the War Of The Worlds, a story derived from Great Britain, happened to be one of them. In addition, when considering the broadcast aired the night before Halloween, it makes it even more obvious that the play was a special meant to scare listeners in an entertaining way. My view could have something to due with the fact that in today’s modern media there are many falsified stories (e.g The End Of The World “prophets”), and that America generally seems to have evolved into a cynical society.
        Again, in the broader scope of the situation, I do not understand how anyone would have been fooled by this broadcast, and in reading the articles my assumption is correct. There was no mass hysteria. Most people were not even listening to CBS Radio during the time War of the Worlds aired, and were instead tuned in to NBC’s ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, who was quite popular at the time. Most households did not tune into Orson Welles’ program until Edgar Bergen’s episode ended, which means War of the Worlds listeners tuned in during mid-broadcast. In such a case, I can understand listeners having an initial curiosity as to what was going on on CBS, but as the broadcast continued, it should have been obvious that the martian invasion was just a play.
        The day after War of the Worlds aired, CBS commissioned a nationwide phone survey that proved only a few people were tuned in. For those who had heard the play, they realized it was a prank in celebration of Halloween. If millions of people ran out of their homes in a panic, how were they able to answer the phone surveys?  The nationwide hysteria is only a legend and an exaggerated myth that the newspaper’s dramatic coverage spurned on attempting to discredit radio as a legitimate news source, but the exaggerated headlines lasted for a fleeting two days. The entire occurrence is actually quite hilarious to think about.
        The most tense part of the broadcast where the audience possibly went into panic started around 14:07, when a meteor or space ship, making a frightening sound, was found. A martian emerges from the UFO and everyone can be heard panicking. At 17:22 police are at the scene, sirens and alarms are going off, and soon there is a shrill scream when the creature shoots a beam at the crowd, and the audio shuts off abruptly as a result. Silence ensues for a few seconds before an announcement begins at 18:35 claiming that there have been deaths and bodies burned beyond recognition. As the broadcast went on, the military intervenes and we hear fighter planes battling the martians, which is sounds over the top and makes the events seem even less real.
        I doubt this sort of panic will happen, because it never had in the first place. Even the 2k End Of The World scare did not affect most people going about their daily lives. What I find is that it is always the media hyping things, making mountains out of mole hills, in an attempt to control our emotions and what they think we should feel about a specific event. As for the media itself, there are plenty of tabloids online that print sensationalist headlines like Orson Welles broadcast, but hardly anyone is fooled. Such tabloids can also be found at the cash register of any grocery store, where I tend to roll my eyes and walk pass them.
        All that said, Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds is a prime example of media influence. Now can we dub Orson Welles as the original media “troll”?

Unproductive

Unproductive was…interesting. Initially, I was not sure of the premise, but soon realized the obvious correlation to the title, in that TV students are unproductive because they cannot seem to separate their personal lives from their professional life. The characters are incredibly quirky and outright strange, which, if I am honest makes for a fun production group, but they do not seem at all motivated to actually work, with the exception of the transfer student, Bracha. The break up of Ben and Cate is a hindrance to the team’s productivity, and an utter annoyance to Professor Parker. Their break up is not only affecting them negatively, but the entire team: the constant blow ups in front of the production crew, Ben’s best friend, Theo harboring a grudge on Cate and internalizing the break up when it has nothing to do with him. The list goes on. At any rate, productivity, teamwork, focus/concentration, and knowing one’s position on the job seem to be the key themes in the first four episodes.

There are a few backstories in the series, but Ben and Cate’s stand out most due to their effect on the team. Their break up is a focal point as to why the crew is failing to get any work done. Bracha is the new transfer student, who obviously knows her stuff as far as TV goes, but she does not know much about the break up and why it is heavily affecting the teamwork. She also seems to come from a traditional Jewish family. Dave is also Jewish, who is the producer of the crew, but clearly is not doing his job nearly as well as he should be. Theo is…well I am not exactly sure of Theo’s backstory, but as mentioned earlier, he is Ben’s best friend and aggressively sides by him on the whole break up fiasco.

So far, I have not connected with any of the characters. They are a bit over-the-top at times, but if anyone is close, it would be Bracha. She has her quirks, but is quite composed in comparison to the rest of the team. She has drive and focus, and knows that there is a time and place for everything. I like Professor Parker because even through her no-nonsense persona and threats to fire members of the crew, she sees their potential and keeps them around anyway. And the next would probably be Dave simply because of his witty humor. I am not necessarily discrediting the rest of the cast. I think they are smart and would be an exciting group to work with, but until they learn not to personalize things on the job, they will continue to have problems with productivity.

Episode 3 is the most interesting to me because we see Dave and Ben chatting with Bracha and possibly initiating a friendship, Ben in particular. It almost makes me wonder if their scene in the office is a precursor to a dating relationship, especially considering Ben’s current “vulnerability” (and petulance) after Cate broke up with him.

I have a premonition and hopes that Cate and namely Ben’s emotions over their break up will eventually settle, allowing the team will finally work effectively and cohesively once again. Cate does not seemed all that bothered except for when Ben causes a scene. I think there is a slight spark between Ben and Bracha, and although they might not have romantic feelings or enter such a relationship, Ben’s friendship with her might help him move on from the break up. Bracha is a focused student who I think will be essential to bringing the team together.

Or I could possibly be reading too much into their shenanigans, which is somewhat of a habit!