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The appeal of 'ensemble' tv shows

Friends, That 70s Show, Community, The Office, Modern Family, the list spans kilometres. These kinds of ensemble tv shows, where rather than being just one main character, the focus is on a main group of characters, are incredibly popular today.
Investigate WHY that is. Is it something to do with the kind of show – many shows with ensemble casts are comedy or sit-com? Can viewers better find someone to relate to within a group, rather than with a designated sole protagonist? Does it open more expansive avenues for story-telling, when the focus is on six different people as opposed to just one? Does this keep viewers more invested, less bored? Is it the relationship aspect that draws viewers in? Do they enjoy feeling part of the on-screen group’s little family? Arguably, within a group, characters can afford to be more flawed as they have their peers to keep them in check, does this make for more relatable characters? Or is it the opposite, do these shows create caricatures (the smart one, the funny one, etc.) and is that why people enjoy it?

This article should offer specific examples of TV shows and what it is about them that people enjoyed.

There is something about this TV show formula that just works, and an article offering an answer to ‘why?’ could be very interesting and insightful.

  • Interesting topic! The cool thing about ensemble casts is that it gives more audience members a chance to find someone they can relate to. If there's a single defined protagonist, you either relate to that person or you don't. If there's a large ensemble cast, though, then it's more likely you can connect to someone in a fairly major role. – Debs 1 week ago
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The Nature of Love in Sense 8

While still being a plot-focused show, Sense 8 offers an interesting look into what it means to connect on a deep level with another human, sharing sometimes violent or pleasureable experiences in equal measure. Examine the different relationships in the show and what they say about our experience of love and closeness, or alternatively, the lack of those qualities. What is the show trying to get at by telling the stories of these deeply interconnected people?

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    How do leaks affect both the audience and the creators?

    Recently some of The Last Of US II plot and gameplay leaked; a few months ago some elements of the new Star Wars The Rise Of Skywalker were released on the internet before the movie itself; and about a year ago, Game Of Thrones major plot’s elements of the last season were revealed before it aired. How could those leaks have affected or could affect the audience (or the gamer community), whether it is on its viewing (gaming) experience or on the decision to pay to see the movie/the tv show (or buy the game)? What do the reactions following such leaks may reveal about the ‘dark side’ of some fandom? And, on the other hand, how the risk of leaks impacts on the creators’ work? How those new threats are taken into consideration by directors, filmmakers, producers, etc.? How are they, then, received by the audience?

    • Tom Holland is supposedly never given the complete script as he is infamous for leaking plot details accidentally. – Dr. Vishnu Unnithan 4 days ago
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    The Simpsons predicted Covid-19: and other real life coincidences from the television show

    Many people have been circulating a meme that a 1993 episode of The Simpsons predicted a worldwide pandemic like the novel Coronavirus. There are plenty of other interesting coincidences that overlap in real life and “The Simpsons"

    • Interesting start. You might expand it into a commentary on what it says about our society, how humor helps us deal with crises, and/or life imitating art, especially in long-running TV shows. Are there other long-running programs where events have also been "predicted?" How do these types of shows offer general commentary on the real world? – Stephanie M. 1 month ago
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    • I tend to agree with Stephanie's comment. Also, playing Devil's Advocate here for a moment - how many times has The Simpsons failed to 'predict' a particular event? – Amyus 1 month ago
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    Police Propaganda in Cop Shows

    I think it would be incredibly insightful to fully delve into the propaganda that is commonly shown on our favourite cop shows so that they can be watched and enjoyed critically. I am not saying that cop shows are bad, I enjoy Brooklyn 99 and a few others. But it is really common to see tropes such as "good" cops breaking the law on a hunch because they really need to get the criminal but the bureaucracy in place to keep them accountable stops them. There is also a common theme of framing the police officers in charge of keeping other cops in line as the "bad guys" (e.g. The Vulture from b99). Always framing defense attorneys as evil, even though they are the only thing stopping cops from just arresting anyone on no evidence. And especially the theme of citizens invoking their rights (their right to counsel and their right not to speak to them without a lawyer, etc.) as things that are only done if you are guilty. All of these things are specifically framed to manipulate the audience into mindsets that would actively harm them if they actually were to interact with cops in real life. There is a lot of sources to back these sorts of things up but I don’t think I am the best at fully articulating the ways this is done subtly and pervasively in every cop show.

    • Ah, now this is a timely topic if I've ever seen one. You might do some compare/contrast. For instance, you say invoking their rights is something characters only do when guilty; is there ever a case on TV or in the movies where this isn't true? Are there examples wherein defense attorneys are protagonists, or wherein the lines between good cops and bad cops aren't as clear (e.g., Dark Blue)? I would also spend some time talking about how cops interact with majority/privileged vs. minority characters, and what that says about police forces and society. – Stephanie M. 1 month ago
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    The portrayal of feminism in Fleabag (2016)

    One of the topics that has appeared in BBC’s Fleabag is feminism. As a women-centered television drama, Fleabag focuses on the life of a woman who lives alone in London and the women surrounding her such as her sister, dead friend, and stepmother. What is the attitude of the director on feminism in this TV series? And how feminism is shown through the narrative, characters, and mise-en-scene?

    • I think you should flesh this topic out a bit by adding one or two sentences about how you feel about it and why you think this topic is relevant. Have a look at other topics that have been approved. – danivilu 1 month ago
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    Taken by MaeveM (PM) 1 month ago.
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    The Portrayal of Small Towns in TV Shows

    I’ve been watching That 70s Show recently and noticed that their small town has a bad reputation, the after-graduation goal is to get out of the dead-end town. ‘Being someone’ means moving away from home. Then, I got to thinking, there are elements of this thinking in many other shows I have seen, Daria, Gilmore Girls, Community.
    Is this prolific enough in TV shows to be considered a trend? Is there reason for this? Does the same ‘I need to get away from here’ thinking occur in characters born and raised in the city? Is this specific to American TV shows, or other countries’ shows too? Perhaps an article on this topic could offer a suggestion as to why the city is so romanticised?

    • "I'm gettin' out of this hick town!" Yes, I think this is an interesting phenomenon in film and TV. That 70s Show is a good example because I think it was much more prevalent to make those statements back in the 70s, 80s etc. The forces of urbanization meant that better jobs could be found in cities, but also there were lots more cultural waves going on that were focused in cities. If you wanted to be a punk or a hippie or anti-establishment like Hyde for example, that was something that you couldn't find many like-minded people for in small town America. Many high school and college movies of the last few decades had a dynamic that set the "interesting, alternative" type main characters against the jocks and cheerleaders of small town life. (Juxtapose this with something like Riverdale which only slightly criticizes jocks and cheerleaders, and ultimately upholds them as kind of the social rulers of high school). I think the 21st century has maybe seen a re-romanticization of small town life, in contrast to urban life which isn't idolized so much anymore. – Claire 1 month ago
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    • Another tidbit: I think, to make this a more recognizable-sounding topic, you should frame it as something like "Leaving Small Towns as a Coming-of-age Milestone for American Youth." – Claire 1 month ago
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    • Not sure how far back you want to go with this, but you could also do some research on the Industrial revolution as well since it caused one of the first big population shifts in history. It might be worth looking into as a short paragraph before you get into everything else as it frames the mindset a little. – MaeveM 1 month ago
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    • I feel like some of this has to do with the cultural biases of the content creators, who usually live in big cities like Los Angeles and NYC. People in those kinds of places tend to look down on small towns and consider them "boring" or "old-fashioned" and that comes through in the stories. – Debs 1 month ago
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    • I feel like everyone has the American Dream to some extent, and probably especially those in small towns. Boredom, bad entertainment, dull nightlife... of course they'd want to escape and live it up somewhere culturally (and literally!!) rich. Cities are centers of progress and wealth. Maybe it's easier for people in small towns to believe that that wealth is accessible/available to everyone. – Sophia Tone 1 month ago
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    • Nice topic. You might also want to check out The Middle, where living in the fictional town of Orson, IN is central to how and why the Heck family does a lot of what they do. Narrator and mom Frankie is very up front about the fact that Orson is *not* romanticized, that her family is just doing the best they can.Additionally, you might check out some older sitcoms like Family Matters and Full House. They take place in cities--Chicago and San Francisco, respectively--but there is almost no sense of urban life except in select episodes or arcs, such as FM father Carl Winslow being a cop. The "small town," cheesy feel is very much still existent. Just a thought. – Stephanie M. 1 month ago
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    Taken by AshTrenwith (PM) 1 month ago.
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    Are Competition Shows Inherently Against Minorities?

    The impetus for this topic started because, during the pandemic, I’ve become rather hooked on Chopped and its iterations. One thing I’ve noticed about Chopped though, is a dearth of female competitors and winners. Many episodes have male chefs outnumbering females 3-1, and many episodes have the female chef eliminated in round one. Some fans have noted this happens even and especially if female judges outnumber male ones.

    Then I started noticing this trend in other competition shows. For instance, I am a huge Jeopardy fan, and have noticed that men win much more often than women. Also, women can have winning streaks–some, like Julia Collins, have won as many as 20 games in a row. But this is nothing compared to the streaks of Ken Jennings (74), James Holzhauer (30 ), and other male players.

    This got me thinking, women aren’t the only ones getting shortchanged. It’s fairly common, for instance, to see persons of Asian descent on Jeopardy or Who Wants to be a Millionaire, but not other POCs. It’s becoming more common to see LGBTQ people in competition shows, but not as common as it could be (and those contestants also often lose). Also, while people with learning disabilities or "invisible" diseases such as celiac or diabetes do appear on cooking competitions, trivia competitions, and athletic competitions, it is completely unheard of for people with visible, physical disabilities or disabilities like autism to appear. (Of course, in the case of athletics, the argument is, "Well, we have Special Olympics/Paralympics," but that’s problematic in itself).

    Is this trend as prevalent as it appears? Is it changing in a positive or negative way? What could competitions, from sports to cooking to trivia, do to be more inclusive and welcoming? Discuss.

    • I think this is a really interesting topic to discuss. Perhaps, an article on this topic could take into account - if possible - the demographics of those who apply for such shows, are individuals belonging to minority groups applying and just not getting selected? Or are they choosing not to apply for such programmes? Is there any reason/research for this? Also - another possible angle, is this prejudice the same across several countries? For example, does the American 'Masterchef' look the same as the Australian or British iterations of the show? Is this a problem intrinsic across the globe, or just pertaining to certain countries? – leersens 1 month ago
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    Taken by John Wilson (PM) 1 month ago.