Editor, Missouri Policy Journal, Lindenwood University.
Science Explained Through Television: From Watching Mr. Wizard to Bill Nye the Science Guy
From Don Herbert who starred in “Watch Mr. Wizard” (1951—1965) to Bill Nye who starred in “Bill Nye the Science Guy” (1993-1998), we see that science could be explained in ways which do require a degree in science. How do we look at the impact of these shows? Both Herbert and Nye have had some degree of prominence beyond their shows. In the case of Herbert, by the mid 1950s, there were several thousand Mr. Wizard science clubs, and, in the case of Nye, besides appearances on TV shows such as “The Big Bang,” and “Dancing with the Stars,” Nye has been prominent in addressing creationism and global warming. The legacy of these two individuals can be studied to address making science a topic that is not simply left to scientists.
How Widows are Seen and Portrayed in America through Movies
This is an outgrowth of a few comments I noticed on my article about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel–the issue of widows was raised. It might be interesting to see how widows have been presented in movies, say, a movie from each decade from the 1950s to the present (or beginning before the 1950s). Movies can reflect the values and norms of a period in time so what changes are seen and how do they reflect changing values? A 1947 movie, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, starred Gene Tierney (as a widow) and Tex Harrison (as the ghost). Or, the 2018 movie, Widows, starring Viola Davis and Michelle Rodriguez. What impact did and do these movies have on how the public looks upon widows?
Harry Potter: Reading versus The Movies
Character development, something that movies do not have the time for, but books do, allows for the creation of a more complex environment. In the case of the Harry Potter books, it was possible to develop an appreciation of the difficulties of learning magic and of the slow process of social interaction among a wide cast of characters. As a result, as one works their way through the books, characters develop more substance. What gets lost, glossed over, or just mentioned in passing in the movies, can be understood and appreciated when watched after having read the books. An essay can focus on the contrasts between understanding Harry Potter from the books versus watching the movies, without having read the books. This can be useful as a way of highlighting the importance of reading but also the difficulties of writing for the big screen.
Animation and Political Satire
"Pinky and the Brain" and "Rocky and Bullwinkle" were two series that often contained subtle and, at times, not so subtle jabs at politics. An example is an episode of "Pinky and the Brain" where the Brain found a Rush Limbaugh record where Limbaugh sings and the Brain is going to use it to "try to takeover the world." There may be other series that can be added to this essay, these are included here as examples. The broader theme is that political satire can be found weaving itself through several animation series. An essay can address the writers and what they said. In addition, did viewers pick up on the satire? Did the satire reach beyond the viewers? So, several issues, perhaps others, can be addressed in a well-developed essay.
"American Pickers" and Reality TV: The Real from the Staged
“American Pickers” on the History Channel is fun and enjoyable to watch. The problem, however, is how real is it actually. Reality TV shows need to keep the audience entertained and want them to come back for more, this show is no different. By focusing on this specific show an essay can address staged from real and the impact the show might have on people who begin to believe the stuff they have in a garage, a storage bin, a loft (probably junk they long forgot about) is worth anything of real value. In the case of this show watching people call their stuff “collecting” when it looks more like hoarding can contribute to a good essay.
Binge-Watching and TV Criticism
“Happy Valley” (Season 3), “Stranger Things” (season 3), “Lost in Space” (Season 2), “Queen of the South” (Season 3), or “Into the Badlands” (Season 3). There are other series out there. Sure, some come from the BBC or AMC, but the convenience of quickly seeing as many episodes as one can enjoy in a short period of time, is so different than watching “Davy Crockett” on “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color,” spread out over three Sunday evenings, eventually getting to Davy dying at the Alamo.
Hopalong Cassidy and Sky King save the Day: A Time when Saturday Morning TV Mattered
This topic requires a look back at the early days of TV, which might not seem to matter but still has an influence. TV, at one time, was an experiment and it might end up being a surprise that certain shows became popular and had a following. Looking at the early days of children’s shows and how they contrast with the present provides an insight into how far TV has come–not necessarily always for the better, just a reflection on how far we have come. Contrasts or evolution or maybe it is just development are a way to measure change: What is different about the present and whether it is better or just different from the past is useful. An historical perspective is a good way to look at the present. In this situation, looking at children’s TV shows can provide that perspective. Change should not always be seen as an improvement, sometimes it is just change–we do things different than they were done in the past just not necessarily better, just different.
Is it Possible to develop a good "feel" for a TV show from the first few episodes?
It is possible to look back after the first season of a show and develop a feeling that it was a good show, or even after several seasons. But, when a show first appears on TV and all that exists are those first few episodes, maybe no more than the first two or three, then what type of opinions can develop about it? It is possible to talk about a "tipping point" what something starts to take off, but here, at the beginning, the tipping point might not yet have been reached. Early on character development, character interaction, plots, story lines might be seen in different ways then might be the case after the show has been on for a longer period. When a show has been on for a season or more, the audience has more of a history to draw upon in how they see character interaction and plots develop, that is not there with only a few episodes. Those first few episodes can begin to lay the foundation for what is to come and, perhaps, it is how the audience speculates about where they think the show and its characters might be headed that matters in determining if viewers see a show as having the potential to be a good show.
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