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Anti-Heroes in Television

It would be interesting to see a comparative character analysis of some of TV’s biggest anti-heroes (Walter White, Tony Soprano, Omar Little, to name a few). The analysis might consider a few similar traits amongst those heroes and explore the dynamic characterization that can oftentimes develop more gradually and organically in TV series than it can in film.

  • I've written extensively about TV antiheroes so this is a very attractive topic to me, but I would also maybe suggest discussing the cultural background of the antihero protagonist, i.e. how it reached a new epoch in the 2000s following Tony Soprano and gradually dissipated through the 2010s after Walter White. – GJWilson6 4 months ago
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  • Great feedback, GJWison6. Thanks! – JCBohn 4 months ago
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Doctors and Nurses on TV

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been a new spotlight shone on doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers. To show support for those in the medical field, it’s now time to evaluate the portrayal of both doctors and nurses in TV: particular tropes, harmful stereotypes, progress in the way women/LGBTQ/BIPOC characters are handled or portrayed. What are some examples of groundbreaking works in the genre? What are some terrible or offensive examples?
Some shows to look at are Grey’s Anatomy and Scrubs. Comparisons can also be made to non-American TV shows and how they approach the subject matter.

  • I think The Good Doctor should definitely be added to the discussion. The majority of the doctors are Black or Brown (although the main protagonist is white, which brings up other issues). There's also plenty to say about how female physicians are treated or portrayed, especially with the addition of Dr. Jordan. Check out the episode where Jordan treats a large Black female patient, and has to deal with the racial and weight-related implications of her treatment, as well as how her fellow doctors handle it. – Stephanie M. 4 months ago
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13 Reasons Why: helpful TV show?

TV series 13 Reasons Why depicted real-life challenges of American high school students. Bullying, rape, suicide, mental health, drug addictions and many others are included. Season 1 and 2 dealt with Hannah Baker’s 13 reasons to kill herself, and whether or not the school was responsible for failing to prevent this from happening. Season 3 focused on Hannah Baker’s rapist Bryce Walker’s accidental death and how Hannah Baker’s circle of friends covered it up. Lastly, Season 4 centered on how the friends of the "framed victim" investigated into finding out the real killer. It is often argued that TV shows/media of this sort are bad influences on young audiences, with examples include horror movies and heavy metal music. Why do you think, after all the accusations and criticisms, Hollywood/American television is still producing and promoting such contents? Is it because any publicity is publicity, and sensational contents are always good TV show materials? Should television be producing fewer of these shows or only to be broadcast on adult channels? Does demand for such contents create supply? Or, perhaps a little more positively, the show does alleviate real-life problems of high school students and young adults, and more of these are needed?

  • This is a solid topic. I would look into creator intent for this subject. As, some directors just do as you pointed out in your thesis; and they merely wish to create content that will get easy media attention. They do this because they know people will watch shows just because it is talked about and could careless about whether or not the press is positive, while others actually care for the taboo topic and want to do them justice. Netflix's cuties is another worthwhile thing to look into. Not trying to poison the well here, but I believe cuties was an example of individual who had a questionable understanding of the subject matter, and this lead to it possibly doing more harm then good. Beast with no Nation is also worth looking into, as it was received positively for the most part. – Blackcat130 4 months ago
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The Evolution of the "Family Sitcom"

Family sitcoms, also known as domestic comedies or dom coms, have existed since Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, and My Three Sons, which aired around the 1950s. In the ensuing 70 years, the family sitcom underwent plenty of growth and change. Simple domestic problems that could be solved in 22 minutes with commercials gave way to edgier and more realistic family-centered plotlines. Traditional nuclear families made room for single, adoptive, LGBTQ , and other "non-traditional" parents (ex.: Henry Warnamont of Punky Brewster, a bachelor senior citizen, or the grown-up incarnations of Stephanie Tanner and Kimmy Gibbler, who raise their kids while raising others’ in the same house as their patriarchs did before them.

Examine the evolution of the family sitcom using a few of your favorites. You can discuss changes in family dynamics or plotlines (e.g., plotlines about keeping virginity vs. plotlines about teen pregnancy, plotlines about avoiding racism vs. ones about becoming inclusive). You could discuss race, religion, disability, or other minority statuses as topics that are getting more attention. Other topics might include the parenting styles presented on different shows, how the humor has evolved, the expectations placed on adults and children, and so on.

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    Job Precariousness in Sitcoms

    In many sitcoms, characters often suffer the consequences of job precariousness. This includes being underpaid, taking jobs they hate, or losing their jobs altogether.
    Almost the entire cast of Friends, Jess from New Girl, Britta or Jeff from Community, or the Roses from Schitt’s Creek are just some examples.

    An article looking at how these scenarios play out in T.V. could be an insightful read. Are they accurate depictions of real life, or do they diminish the real-world anxiety of this aspect of life? Is it enough to simply allude to homelessness or not being able to make rent, or should a show force its characters to endure this? You could offer a comparison of shows that do this well and shows that, perhaps, do not do this so well.

    You could offer an assessment regarding the impact this has on viewers, and contextualise the shows within both their setting and time of release.

    • It would be worth expanding this topic to examine and analyse similar scenarios in sitcoms from around the world. In this way, a comparison could be made between varying cultural values and institutional attitudes towards low paid workers. – Amyus 10 months ago
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    • I think contextualizing the shows based on time of release is a good idea. Specifically, comparing the perception of unemployment in shows through every decade or during periods of financial downturn could be particularly interesting. – huiwong 10 months ago
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    • It is interesting how you pay attention to this specific feature in sitcoms. Writers might also look into how job precariousness help to develop the plot, to make the plot fitting to sitcoms. – Heather Ka Man Chung 5 months ago
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    • I have noticed that it seems far more of an element where the characters are if a grittier sort of Everyman: someone more working class. This would not be so much in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (for example). – J.D. Jankowski 5 months ago
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    • Good one! I just submitted a topic about how sitcoms evolve in general, and this could be part of that or an article on its own. – Stephanie M. 5 months ago
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    • This is so interesting. I think building off of Amyus and Huiwong's comment, it is really interesting to think of in the context of the working class. You could go at this through a lens of the levels of realism in character being fine without jobs, getting jobs easily, or living at a comfort level well of the range of their job. These are all obvious but it would be interesting to look at the way unemployment in the times of covid have given higher stakes for viewers watching this sitcom. – skruse 4 months ago
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    Moral choices in Resident Alien

    TV show ‘Resident Alien’ is new this year from Sci-fi. The premise concerns an alien who crashes to Earth in a remote Colorado mountain town and assumes the identity of the town doctor.

    The TV show on the surface is a wacky comedy-drama about an alien trying to pass as human and engaging in a variety of ridiculous endeavours, including a war with a 9 year old who sees through his from.
    However, beneath the surface are a number of discussions about adoption, Native American experiences, toxic relationships and abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, and the damage of lost dreams. All of this seems to fit within the scope of a small town and a dramedy, but the depth of consequence is sustained and examined in a very thought provoking manner.

    BIG SPOILERS:
    The other massive story plot point is "Harry’s" (the alien) original intention, which is to destroy Earth. The first half of the series centers around his need to find the item that will allow him to do this. An expectation is set forward that perhaps he will change his mind due to his relationships with the people of the town. However, it is revealed that Harry’s people have visited Earth for thousands of years, and the decision to wipe out humanity is in response to the degradation they have caused the Earth and the potential consequences of our refusal to make the changes the Earth needs. This framing poses the question about the right of life, the impact of choices and the issue that humankind will eventually need to face the consequences of inaction (although maybe not from alien threats!).

    QUESTION (Safe to read again):
    The moral questions being raised in the show are not simple, and the show is not offering easy, quick solutions, but rather examining the deeper impact of being trapped in toxic cycles and the roll on effect of consequences from choices.
    Once the show has finished I think it would be an interesting case study to explore the use of dramedy genres to raise important questions, and to evaluate the complexity of the moral decisions being raised that face humankind today (and with this the consequences of continued inaction).

    • Just to address the suggested Revision - I think it is important to not only look at texts from a structural (functional) perspective - this indeed has value, but I don't believe Resident Alien is actually innovating in the approaches to TV elements. Rather it is the choice of a very traditional approach to tropes and concepts but is actually addressing the issues rather than the usual "just a joke" approach of sit-coms. However, if someone wanted to delve into the stylistic choices they could but that would be a different topic. – Sarai Mannolini-Winwood 6 months ago
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    • Oooh, I love a good moral dilemma! Nice topic! – Stephanie M. 5 months ago
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    WandaVision: a Sitcom about Superheroes

    WandaVision seems to be one of the most unique TV shows ever, yet it pays homage to sitcoms throughout the decades. An analysis could include the aspect ratios, the laugh tracks, the archetypical characters, the wardrobe and set design, the special effects, and much more. Do these comparisons add extra depth or meaning to the show, or are they just fun references for older viewers who remember these classic shows?

    • Fun topic! WandaVision has a lot to analyze! While I was never a big sitcom fan, a lot can be said about the fact that it builds on a lot of tropes and plots from older shows like Bewitched. Another interesting analysis could be how it falls into the "Abnormal person trying to live a normal life" type of sitcoms and why those types of shows relate so well to audiences. – alittle 5 months ago
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    Is Queen Latifah Equalizing racism in her new show?

    The Equalizer is a new to TV series from CBS starring Queen Latifah.
    The show is a reboot from an original TV show in the 1980s, which was rebooted in film in 2014. It is not a hugely new concept – ex-CIA agent who felt politics constrained the ability to provide justice, but it is a concept audiences respond well to. What the new version brings is an older female lead who is also a Black American and the accompanying cast reflects a move to greater diversity. The plots of the first four episodes tend to focus on racial injustices as well as wider political discussions, such as wealth/white privilege, kidnapping, sex trafficking, financing terrorism and corrupt judges.

    The choice made in the lead and the messages within the stories tend to focus on racial experiences in USA are really important conversations to be had. However, there needs to be an exploration of the balance present: how well is the show representing equality and experience in America? How is gender and race explored? How does the show add to the conversations around Black Lives Matter and racial tensions in the USA?

    A discussion could also be made to examine how this genre of spy/crime tropes have been developed since the original and if this is contributing to wider concepts of new storytelling.