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Monday, March 20

March 20, 2017

Poetry Workshop: Today: Smith/Bett/Koscinski/Ohlund.

For Wednesday: the last four in the packet.

For Friday: your Round 5 poem is due on the blog by 8 a.m.

Fiction Workshop: Today we workshopped Becca. Four new sets of stories were handed out: Cecil and Cassidy are for Wednesday, Henry and Bailey are for Friday. Annotations were kind of on the lame side today, so maybe think about kicking it up a notch (on the other hand, though, online comments have been getting better, so keep it up!!).

Family Values: Today we talked about your observations of Friday’s two shows:

  • Make Room For Daddy, which combined the brashness and show-biz (Lebanese-American Danny Thomas was a real-life comedian) of I Love Lucy and (to an extent) The Honeymooners with kids, including the bratty (though not incredibly annoying) Rusty.
  • Bonus points: the maid, Louise, helped pioneer a familiar TV archetype — that of the wise, knowing butler/maid/servant.
  • The Bob Cummings Show, AKA Love That Bob, by contrast, featured Bob Cummings as a former Air Force pilot-turned-photographer who spends all his time chasing models, trying to live out the Playboy dream. (Playboy magazine, remember, had just debuted in 1953.)
  • Bob “helps” his widowed sister Margaret raise her teenage son, Chuck, but as you can probably see, he’s not the greatest role model. The nicest thing we can probably say is what someone offered today: that is the forerunner of the “cool uncle” we see on shows like Full House. For its time, this was a surprisingly sex-filled show.

Then we watched the first episode of Leave It To Beaver from October of 1957, “Beaver Gets ‘Spelled.”


We also talked about what made this such a different show:

1. It was, for the first time, a show about childhood — where the kids and their problems took center stage. Wally is as much a surrogate parent as he is an older brother; he tries his best to “raise” Beaver the right way.

2. But it was also a depiction of a much more realistic family than we’ve seen before. Ward and June Cleaver aren’t equals, exactly. (Beaver is surprised when his mother is planning to go out, remember.) They are, however, partners in raising their two sons. (See: the scene where they’re doing the dishes together.)

3. This is also a small-town, suburban comedy, unlike most of the shows we’ve seen so far. The small, close-knit town plays a role in why people don’t panic when Beaver goes missing, but it also mirrors the suburban lifestyles that more and more TV viewers (as TV use kept expanding) were living.

Later this week, we’ll see some other examples of what made this show so significant.

We talked briefly about historical context: the show debuted just as Sputnik was going into orbit; it came at the end of a decade of unprecendented — and unequaled — growth in TV usage. To compare, the US went from 150 million cell phone subscriptions to more than 300 million between 2003 and 2013. But between 1947 and 1957, the number of TVs in the US increased from less than 100,000 to more than 40 million.

BatCat: Another busy day.

Comedy: Today we introduced our next film — and first from the 1960s — with three short clips of contemporaneous movies:

1955’s Oklahoma!

1956’s The Ten Commandments (the parting of the Red Sea; watch this version instead of the one I showed in class):

and 1959’s Ben-Hur (the chariot scene; in Panavision):

What you should notice (besides the color) is that in each case — and these are three of the most well-known films of this era — the widescreen treatment is utilized and justified. Each of these iconic scenes packs characters and action from corner to corner. Combined with color (remember that color TVs were very rare at the time), this was an experience you just couldn’t get at home.

That sets up It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), a comedy that checks three boxes:

  • It’s an ensemble comedy. The thinking that a guest-star-filled movie would appeal to a variety of moviegoers — and they still do it today — started around this time.
  • It’s a quest comedy. Not a new idea by any stretch, but one that continues to be used today.
  • It’s a chase-filled comedy. And by that, we mean car chases. This movie starts with one, and there’ll be plenty more before we’re done. Which will probably be Wednesday. So pay special attention to the cars — how they’re used, and how they compare to current chase comedies.

Middle School Lit Arts: 

Survey: Screenwriting: Today you handed in Assignment 6 – Scene with Dialogue. You were assigned groups and each group got two scripts to prep a table read for. We have one more group that needs to read. To those of you that went today – both the readers and the screenwriters: nice job! Seriously.

See you Wednesday.

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