Money is a Choice: The Lessons from Ozark

Netflix has recently come through with yet another exciting, thought-provoking, enticing original series. Ozark, which was released on July 21, 2017, is a shocking drama about a well-to-do Chicago family that finds themselves caught in the middle of a Mexican drug cartel and a hillbilly heroin producer.

Sure, Ozark is chock full of drama and action, but it is instead the diverse array of character development and plot line that make this such an important series to watch. The series opens up by introducing the Byrde family. The Byrde’s are intentionally casted as the typical upper-middle class American family: a boy, a teenage girl, a homemaker mother, and a father who works as a financial advisor downtown.

ozark.jpg

Labeled for noncommercial reuse.

We quickly learn that the Byrde’s merely appear happy on the surface. In reality, Marty (the father) is consumed in a money laundering scheme, facing death threats from the cartel; Wendy (the mother) has been having an extramarital affair with a billionaire sugar daddy for years; and now, the family is being forced to uproot their lives and move to the middle of Missouri.

While Ozark follows the general narrative of a family on-the-run attempting to “stick together” through difficult times, we learn much more about our own society and humanity in general. The show features characters from contrasting walks of life: rich, urban “know-it-alls” and white trash, John Wayne country folk. While these factions clash at first, differences are set aside as the season progresses, offering hope for a more understanding and peaceful world.

Additionally, the show features four different gay characters (a closeted “redneck,” two FBI agents, and a Chicago boyfriend), a mother with a severe drug addiction, a dock worker who has a disability, and a character inflicted with depression.

The complexity behind each character, and the variety of the collective cast in general, makes Ozark a truly interesting series. The fact that these “differences” are cloaked in the shadow of the more exciting plot line—illicit activity, violence, and survival—works to normalize the complex and diverse world the Byrdes (and we) now live in.

-Jim Walton

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Lovable Buffoon

The Office, which aired on NBC from 2005 to 2013, continues to be popular today. This hilarious documentary-style series delves into the foolishness of a dysfunctional office in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Perhaps the greatest reason for its success is the lovable boss, Michael Scott.

Michael is that crazy, befuddling, lovable boss that most of us will come across at some point in our lives. Michael’s bizarre humor and unthinkable quests—and his employee’s reactions to the antics—brings us back to a nostalgic time.

michae-scott-quotes-5

Labeled for noncommercial reuse

Michael is the manager who spices up the monotony of a 9 to 5 job. All of his employees talk about him, grow into themselves around him, and ultimately create incredible relationships with one another in his presence.

Although Michael can draw the ire of his Dunder Mifflin employees more often than not, he is a character who truly cares about them and ultimately wants to feel loved himself. We can relate with Michael so easily because he embodies humanness. He is not perfect, but he is certainly a good friend and a loving individual.

Perhaps Michael’s most compassionate moment occurred in Season 3, in the famous “Pam art show” scene. At the end of the episode, Pam tries to convince the office to come to her art show. She receives little enthusiasm, although Michael says he will attend.

Pam’s boyfriend, Roy, briefly shows up to her exhibition, boasting about the fact that he and his brother were some of the only people there. Downtrodden, Pam is about to take down her art when Michael arrives.

Although Michael is often a buffoon, he used this moment to marvel at Pam’s paintings. He offers to buy one from her, exclaiming that he wants to hang it in the office. Michael fulfilled Pam’s dream—and any artists’ dream—of having their work displayed for many to enjoy.

Pam hugs Michael, who is seemingly unaware of his kind act. The lovable buffoon becomes entrenched in our hearts in that moment, and make Michael one of the best parts of The Office.

 

-Jim Walton

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Family Guy: Getting Away with Murder

Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy has elements of blatant racism that seemed to be accepted in the American home. Often, the minorities in the animated sitcom are the subject of ridicule or hyperbolic stereotyping, it is a familiar technique to prey on minorities for a cheap laugh. A prime example could be found in the episode “The Son Also Draws”, indigenous people of the United States are depicted as greedy swindlers, capitalizing off of their heritage and a casino.

Deals_with_Wrist

Family Guy “The Son Also Draws”

The surrealistic and animated nature of the show may allow the characters to partake in scenarios that would never happen in real life, and never be acted out by live actors on a set. In The Sitcom Reader, the chapter on magicoms discuss how even though these elements of certain shows may ‘detach’ it from reality, the topics discussed or how people are illustrated on shows such as these, are still detrimental to the ones being the subject of ridicule. Family Guy is this type of show.

Embedded in the humor and outrageous antics are a plethora of ideals and attitudes towards minorities that are not in the least productive towards reversing damaging images of minorities. Family Guy is the kind of show that prides itself on its’ offensiveness, most of it may just be for shock value, but this kind of tool cannot continue to be accepted as “OK”.

People may argue that it is only harmless jokes, but this representation and representations like this continue to be damaging to the image of a group of people. Perpetuation of these stereotypes are regressive. It is amazing to me that ridicule such as this can be depicted on television, and accepted, while accurate representation of minorities is often ignored or even combated in White US sitcoms.

The more authentic a show to a group of minorities, it seems the shorter it lasts, but racist elements will seem to be something acceptable in US sitcoms, especially when the characters are “not real”. This is something to think critically about. What makes this acceptable?

I do watch Family Guy myself, but I do find myself cringing and turning the channel when these offensive jokes make their way onto my TV screen.

Jordan Stackhouse

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Atypical or Completely Normal?

Netflix recently announced a new comedy called Atypical, the story of a high school student named Sam, who is on the autism spectrum, and his journey to find love and independence. This eight-episode first season of the original series will premier on August 11th.

MV5BMTkyMjg2NTUyOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzE5MTQ5MjI@._V1_SY1000_SX750_AL_

The coming-of-age sitcom Atypical is created by Robia Rashid, who brought us How I Met Your Mother, and features Jennifer Jason Leigh, Keir Gilchrist and Michael Rapaport as the leads.

We’ve seen a successful comedies about characters on the spectrum before, such as Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory or Abed Nadir on Community. ABC is set to release a new show, The Good Doctor, in the fall, which feature a young doctor on the spectrum. This network also recently released a comedy called Speechless about a family with a special needs member, a teen with cerebral palsy.

There have been many portrayals of characters with autism before, some more accurate than others. I lovingly recall Brick Heck from The Middle; although he was never diagnosed with anything specific, he attended an ASD-style social skills group. Or “Crazy Eyes” from Orange is the New Black. I know Sonya Cross from FX’s The Bridge was a favorite as wellIt’s exciting to see more and more diverse representations of characters with ASD on television.

Characters like Sam in Atypical make us question – what does it even really mean to be normal?

atypical-netflix-premiere-date-video-keir-gilchrist-3

No one is normal. Atypical creator Robia Rashid, says Sam is “This is a guy who’s just like all of us”. Brigette Lundy-Paine, who plays Sam’s sister Casey, adds, ““Atypical goes deep into the magical world of the mind of someone with autism… So much of the show is told from inside Sam’s head, so it’s this treasure trove of experiences”.

Read more about it here and watch the trailer.

 

By Emma Cooley

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Carmichael Show, The United States’ Racist Legacy, Gun Control, and what it means to/for you.

The Carmichael Show is a show on NBC that talked about ‘uncomfortable issues’ in the United States. The creator, Jerrod Carmichael is actually a native of Winston Salem, North Carolina, whose unscrupulous stand up has been becoming increasingly popular in the last couple of years. His standup is mostly popular with liberal Whites, then Black people. His style of comedy is to bring light to sociopolitical issues through dry fact-of-the-matters coupled with harsh criticisms from every angle.  NBC’s website even says that in the show he created, “nothing is too taboo to explore”… until it is. NBC made the decision to blank out whole sentences containing the n-word for viewing audiences in an episode which whole basis was around the use of the word. Another censoring move by the network was to not air an episode regarding a mass shooting, which is something that unfortunately happens way too often in the United States. The network said it was due to the mass shootings that had just occurred the day the episode was supposed to be aired. There are many things that go on in this country that make it far from being great, and this show put it in the forefront; too bad it’s being cancelled.  The ratings for this show were steady enough to keep it going, but the difficulty from the network that the creators had to deal with may have discouraged lead creator, Jerrod Carmichael to return for a fourth season. Many say that the no-holds-barred nature of the show was unique to the traditional sitcom format, and will be considered as something ‘special’ in the way these issues were presented.

 

What might it mean for/to you? Ultimately, it depends on what side you’re on, either it means nothing to you, something that is un-empathizable, things that you can laugh at that you’ve never experienced. Maybe you’re offended at these serious topics being presented in a satirical nature. On the other side of the coin, it could be something that bares relentless truths that mirror your life experience as a citizen of the United States, maybe it is a mix of the two. A viewer might watch this show and say “well that’s not true”, but to someone it is, and there are things that happen every day to people this particular viewer may never experience in a lifetime. Some citizens turn a blind eye to the fact that race or gun control or gender or any other controversial aspect that comes with being an American in 2017 makes a difference in people’s lives, it would be ignorant to think that these factors do not influence daily life. Controversy should not be ignored or avoided; it should be addressed.

carmichael show.png

The Carmichael Show Season 1

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

That ’70s Show: Forever in Syndication

That ’70s Show is timeless classic. This is a show that you can watch in syndication after you get home from work, or binge watch on Netflix. The show follows the lives of 6 teenagers in rural Wisconsin in the 1970s. The cast is packed with talent, but at the time they were all rookies. The show aired on August 23rd, 1998 and ended on May 18th, 2006. After 8 years together, the cast members of That ’70s Show did not know the stardom that would come from the successful comedy series.

Arguably the most famous to come from the bunch is Ashton Kutcher. He plays Michael Kelso, a ditsy pretty boy who is best friends with main character Eric Forman, played by Topher Grace. Mila Kunis plays the part of a sassy young girl named Jackie, who has a few romances among the group, but is now married to Kutcher. Main characters Eric & Donna, neighbors and lovers, have an on and off relationship throughout the series. Donna is played by Laura Prepon, who now has a leading role in Netflix’s powerhouse, Orange is The New Black.

Image result for that 70s show

Labeled for noncommercial reuse

Similar to popular comedies like Friends, That ’70s Show is in syndication on Comedy Central and previously TBS. There are often marathons of the show featured throughout the summer months. Seasons 1-8 are also available on streaming services like Netflix. The simple comedy that comes from a small town in Wisconsin is what makes That ’70s Show so special. The young group of friends is appealing toward audiences because they appear relatable and easy-going. This is far from a drama, but the viewer still feels a personal relationship with each of their favorite characters.

An article written by E News last year revealed what it has been like for the cast members post-show. Unlike many other sitcom series like Friends, the cast members of That ’70s Show have remained close despite all of their fame and differentiating schedules. One of the reasons behind this may be that the cast legitimately grew up together on the set of the show. Mila Kunis was casted as Jackie at the young age of 14, and experienced her first kiss with now husband, Ashton Kutcher. The chemistry between the cast is noticeable, and one of the main reasons the show reached such success.

Kat Huber

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

How I Met Your Mother: The Underrated Sitcom

How I Met Your Mother was one of CBS’s most successful sitcoms, that aired from 2005-2014. Personally, this is one of my favorite sitcoms that I spent a semester watching on Netflix. This is one of the most underrated sitcoms on television. Before I started watching the show, it had been recommended to me by one of my friends for a “feel good” show you can watch at any time. After I completed the series, I was surprised at how good it really was, and why it hasn’t gained as much attention in comparison to a show like Friends. 

Image result for how i met your mother

Labeled for noncommercial reuse

The similarities between the two shows are evident. How I Met Your Mother group of friends consists of 2 girls and 3 boys, and Friends consists of 3 girls and 3 boys. Both of the sitcoms take place in New York City, and have a hang out that is featured in every episode. For Friends, it is the Central Perk Coffee Shop, and for How I Met Your Mother, it is McGee’s Pub. The two friend groups in both shows go through experiences that bring them closer together. They go through breakups, marriages, divorces, and even have romance between each other.

How I Met Your Mother is different than Friends for one specific reason. It is narrated, and from beginning to end, there is a goal. The goal of the show is centered around Ted Mosby meeting his wife. The show is narrated by Ted, as he tells it to his two children in present time. I think that this is one of the most interesting ways to set up a sitcom, and it often overlooked by other successful sitcoms.

How I Met Your Mother totaled 9 seasons, just under the 10 seasons that Friends reached. How I Met Your Mother is now in syndication on FX and streaming services including Netflix, which contains all 9 seasons. After I watched this show, I was pleasantly surprised by the light-hearted content and consistent entertainment of the series. It’s a show that I recommend to my friends if they are fans of Friends, The Office, Parks and Rec, Modern Family, and many other network television sitcoms.

For more information about the show, here’s an article written by Vanity Fair about reactions to the series finale.

Kat Huber

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments