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Monday, April 17

April 17, 2017

Poetry Workshop: Gave out comments (and prizes) for the speed round.

Gave out Round Seven packets. You had time to work on the first five responses, which are due Wednesday: McDanel, Smith, Erb-White, Duffy, Hill.

Fiction Workshop: Today we workshopped Ash and Cecil. Three stories were handed out: Hannah for Wednesday, Layla and Faith for Friday. A couple of these are a little longer than you’re probably used to (but it’s NOT unreasonable, lest you feel persecuted), so give yourself enough time to do them justice.

On Wednesday, we’ll talk about Round 4.

Family Values: I returned the “Ozzie and Ozzy” papers. We also took a quiz on the “Prime-Time Relevance” handout.

I gave you a list of 20 key events that occurred during the 1960s, with a little background on each, as well as the top-rated TV show of each quadrant:


When you combine this list with our handout from the week before last, about events that affected the family during the late ’60s and early ’70s, you should have a pretty good picture of how rapidly things changed during this decade.

Then we talked about the Nielsen ratings. The (Arthur C.) Nielsen Company was founded in Chicago in 1923, and began to survey audience composition for radio stations and advertisers, as well as for retailers. This is the birth of the term “market share”: Nielsen could let a business know what its “share” of a given market was, by comparing consumer habits to the pool of overall consumers.

By 1950, the company had shifted its research to television; in 1957, Arthur Jr. took over, and the company set the industry standard in figuring out who was watching what.

They did it through two ways: in written form, by distributing logbooks, or “diaries,” to selected households, and having family members track what they watched for certain periods, and electronically, through the use of Set Meters that would track what a TV was used to watch during a given period. (They still do both.)

There are two important Nielsen numbers to know:

  • Ratings refer to the percentage of households watching a given show, compared to the total number of households with TVs in the U.S. So, for example, there are currently about 118 million “TV homes” in the United States. If a show is watched by about 15 million households, it would have a Nielsen rating of about 13 — which is just about what the top-rated show of last year, NCIS, racked up. (It was actually 12.8.)
  • Ratings, then, are calculated by dividing the total number of households watching (15 million, in this case) by the TOTAl number of TV households (118 million).
  • That is a far, far cry from the kinds of ratings popular TV shows used to get: Throughout the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, the most popular shows regularly tripled those ratings numbers.\
  • Share is a more precise number, in the sense that it measures the percentage of households watching a given show, compared to the total number of households with TVs that are actually watching TV at that time. So, let’s say that NCIS got a rating of 12.8 last year. But let’s also say that during its time slot — 8 p.m. on Tuesdays — there are only 80 million of a possible 118 million TV households watching TV. Its Nielsen share would then be 18.75.
  • So share is calculated by dividing the number of households that watched the show (15 million, in this case) by the total number of households watching TV at that time (80 million, in this case).

For more info — and for Wednesday — please read a recent (February 2016) New York Times story I gave you about the ways in which Nielsen is struggling to keep up with the changes in TV watching (mostly through streaming video services).

BatCat: Think good thoughts. Hopefully we’ll have our materials for Wednesday…

Comedy: We watched two recent SNL clips:

Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer:

and a recent “Weekend Update”:

to illustrate the three terms we’ll be talking a lot about over the rest of the semester:

  1. Parody uses a form (whether it is a newscast, a song, etc.) to poke fun at some aspect of society, while reinforcing the importance of the source material.
  2. Critique uses a form (whether it is a newscast, a song, etc.) to poke fun at some aspect of society, while questioning the importance of the source material.
  3. Deconstruction uses a form (whether it is a newscast, a song, etc.) to poke fun at the form itself.

What we saw today was a combination of parody and critique; mostly the latter. Obviously, the Spicer clip is making fun of Spicer particularly; the Trump administration more generally. That’s all critique. (We could also call it satire, of course, because those things are persons/institutions in power.)

However, there’s also an element of parody. Parody copies things, usually very closely — that’s part of the humor — and the “straight” parts of this clip (the fact that it looks exactly like a White House news conference; the fact that it has reporters asking serious questions) does tend to underscore the importance of these things.

The “Weekend Update” clip is more problematic, because the news on TV has changed. Watching TV newscasters used to be like this:

TV newscasts were largely serious, sober, objective.

But now, a lot of people think that this is legitimate news reporting. (Including, of course, Jon Stewart.)

My point is that it’s easy to parody the first clip. It’s not easy to parody something that is already kind of a parody. Imagine yourself parodying a Weird Al song. You could…but most people would probably look at it as just a lame copy of the first parody.

So yes, the “Weekend Update” is certainly satirizing the people mentioned — Trump, Republicans, etc. But what’s NOT part of the joke is the newscast itself. It’s just two guys doing sub-Jon Stewart (yikes) standup. (Even down to the smarmy little looks at the camera after an unfunny joke.)

Tomorrow, we look at a film that will offer us elements of all three terms above — and really starts the modern era in film comedy.

Middle School Lit Arts: 

Survey: Screenwriting: Today I gave you a new assignment, due Friday (Screenwriting 4.17.17 – Story Dev. Part 3, Categories). I also gave you a tip sheet for improving your loglines (Screenwriting 4.17.17 – Logline Revision Tips).

Story Dev. Part 3 is due on Friday, and that is the day that you’ll read your loglines aloud yet again and get more feedback. In the interest of making this not only good but hopefully convenient, I am also giving you all of Wednesday to work with your partners. If you were absent today, PLEASE stay in touch with your partner(s), as you might want to do a little work between now and Wednesday.

See you then.

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