Being a Celebrity won’t get you a television role anymore

In the history of television, shows have been created due to the casting of a famous star, such as Reba, The Cosby Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and countless others. However, this is no longer the case for television shows and movies. The star power of a person is no longer the factor for landing a television role, the skills and training one has to recreate a character is what will now determine employment in television.

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In a NY Times Article, the importance of dialect coaches and dialect training was addressed. With the abundant supply of international talent, there is an increased demand for high quality television and high quality television is only created by authentic dialects to engage and interest the viewer.

Having the right dialect can transmit important information about a character, such as where the character is from, its background, its upbringing, and much more. The demand for skilled performers who can create these authentic and realistic voices has recently been acknowledged, and this has changed the job requirements for becoming an actor or actress.

This recent development of the importance of dialect has shifted the job hunt in Hollywood and around the globe. Dialect coaches and trainers will now have an increased demand and a more important place in society; as well as the actors present in the television scene may change as well.

I believe this article is significant because it recognizes the shift in viewer’s importance. No longer are viewers satisfied with television and movies just because a celebrity is present. The audience for media has become refined their taste and now desires high quality performances to stimulate their interest and intrigue them to continue watching.

Going forward I think this will affect the type of television available to society. New sitcoms and movies will arise that place focus on the talents of the individual actors, rather than pulling upon their star power and celebrity. I think this is a great thing society as an audience because it proves we will tolerate low quality television because celebrities have been hired for the show. Instead, we have stated our demands to view authentic and high quality television that showcases talented actors and their skills in recreating realistic characters in a media setting.67865829_18e7655583_b

Samantha Ostmann

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Psych and the Sitcom

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If you want a family-friendly series with incredible chemistry between its characters, witty banter, pineapples in every episode, and childish crime-solving between two best friends, do yourself a favor and watch Psych. Psych features Shawn Spencer, a crime consultant for the Santa Barbara Police Department who fakes being psychic. Shawn’s best friend Burton Guster (he’s usually referred to as Gus, but sometimes Shawn makes up fake names for him when they’re working a case) is the smarter of the duo, and he makes sure that Shawn doesn’t get into too much trouble. Psych has a comical premise, and it certainly relies on humor, but it doesn’t follow the typical sitcom format, so most people might be apprehensive to call it a sitcom. On some points, they are correct. Without spoiling anything, Psych shows the realistic struggles of relationships, the difficulty of parenting, and the struggles of keeping a secret from loved ones. I personally believe, however, that Psych fits the ideology of the sitcom while breaking the sitcom format.

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The Main Cast of Psych

Most sitcoms tend to be form-fitting. They are 20-25 minutes in length, feature a main plot and a subplot, and follow a three-act format. Characters rarely develop, and when they do, it only lasts for an episode or two. Although the content in sitcoms is vastly different, their form is almost exactly the same.

Psych has a different form to it. The show averages about 45 minutes per episode. A typical episode features an episode-based plot that usually centers around a crime, a subplot usually centered around character development, and an addition to a season-wide arc. Unlike sitcoms such as Seinfeld, all of the characters develop and mature throughout the series. By the end of the series, Shawn evolves from a childish faux-psychic into a somewhat more mature faux-psychic who has more empathy than his original self.

That said, Psych still holds true to the content in sitcoms. The banter helps drive the plot, Shawn’s “psychic visions” are accompanied by goofy motions or atypical props, and Gus’s romantic attractions to all types of women (that usually end up being suspects) always make for a good laugh. Despite its touching moments, the show would not exist without its comedy. It consistently references pop culture, and it regularly parodies iconic scenes from TV and film. A majority of the show’s recurring characters are also famous actors and actresses from other sitcoms.

Despite its departure from the standard format, I believe Psych is a sitcom that is filled with great jokes, silly gags, and fun crime-solving adventure.

 

Sam Bishop

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The Cosby Show: Guilty by association?

 

The Cosby Show is a family sitcom that has been around since the 1980s. The show has had much success in being a pioneer for black sitcoms that would follow such as: The Fresh Prince, A Different World, and most recently, Blackish. The show is also known for breaking many stereotypes associated with black families that can be found in shows like Sanford and Son.

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The Show has taught us all so many positive messages and has made most of us wish to be as witty and successful as Clair and as thoughtful, family oriented, and funny as Cliff. There is, however, an elephant in the room that cannot be avoided.

Over the past several years, many women have charged Bill Cosby with various sexual assault charges dating all the way back to the 1960s. Since the news of these charges began to circulate, Bill Cosby’s reputation has continued to be obliterated. He has been removed from many of the positions he has held and many of his shows, including The Cosby Show, have been taken off of channels that were still playing re-runs.

Recently I have spent a significant amount of time studying this sitcom for one of my courses. I, personally, am having a very difficult time separating all of the positives that the show brought to prime time television in the 1980s, from all of the sexual assault charges brought up against Cosby. Since several of the assaults took place during the time of the show and the name of the show is directly associated with Bill Cosby, does that make everything that the show did for American families null and void?

As this article by The New York Times states: “The show became the oasis that we needed. But real trouble has intruded. And now the oasis is condemned.” For me, the historic achievement and success of the show still remains and can continue to teach us invaluable lessons, but it can be extremely difficult to accurately examine and enjoy the show without at least thinking about the disturbing actions of Bill Cosby.

Shanice Street

 

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A New New Girl

 

I remember when first watching the commercials for New Girl, I was immediately drawn to the hilarious premise of an outgoing girl living with three men. I remember that in these commercials, the guys— Nick, Schmidt, and Coach (later replaced by Winston)—were embarrassed by her quirkiness, and they had mixed feelings about allowing a female roommate to live with them. Putting aside the fact that males and females do not usually move in together unless they are romantically involved, these reactions would be expected. Jess certainly has a huge personality which can be overwhelming at times, and she does not usually care what other people think. Her roommates differ in this aspect, so conflict arises in the course of just these commercials. However, also in the commercials, we see that the conflict is resolved quite quickly: all in the first episode. In my opinion, this all happened too fast. I think that while Jess is loveable, it is unrealistic that everything seemed perfect by the end of the first episode, and it is disappointing that the commercials alone revealed this abrupt happy ending.

 

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New Girl could have avoided this series’ predictable pilot, or at least made the commercials more enticing and less revealing, because the first episode and its accompanying advertisements do not do the show justice. In order to prevent possible misinterpretations of the series or potential dislike of the characters, the producers could have made the first episode mostly about getting to know Jess and the guys. For instance, it could have focused on Jess’s breakup while alternately demonstrating the drama that Nick, Schmidt, and Coach deal with in the apartment. Obviously, by the end, the pilot would expose the fact that the characters need each other— in different ways and for different reasons— but they need and love each other and nonetheless. Ideally, the first episode would set up the series by demonstrating that the lives of Jess, Nick, Schmidt, and Coach were lacking and that these voids could only be filled by a newly introduced character. The episode could have concluded with all of the characters meeting at the door of the apartment, shocked at who they found on the other side. This could have drawn in more viewers because the conflict between those we know to be the protagonists has not yet been resolved: we do not know if these people will get along, but because of the background we would get in the pilot, we assume and hope that they do.

Alex Buter

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‘Highlighting’ Stereotypes: How “Julia” Solidified and Destroyed Racial Perceptions in the ‘60’s

1960 was undoubtedly one of the most tumultuous decades in American history. Progress on hot-button issues such as racial equality and environmental justice were at the forefront of the American agenda. Although Americans were deeply divided on some of these issues, our society as a whole was riveted and horrified by high-profile assassinations of national leaders including President John F. Kennedy and civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.

Additionally, the nation thrust itself into one of the most unpopular and heart-wrenching battles to date: the Vietnam War. International and domestic trouble encompassed the lives of many average citizens, and these people took it upon themselves to underscore and solve the issues of their time.

One such venue that attempted to quell racial tensions in particular was a popular sitcom starring a single black mother, Julia. Although Julia may not have been intended to explicitly change American’s perspectives and attitudes on the black community, it certainly did just that.

As author Demetria Rogeaux Shabazz notes in her chapter of The Sitcom Reader, cinematography played a large role in casting Julia as a widely ‘accepted’ figure for many white Americans. The use of high-key lighting coupled with Julia’s (actress Diahann Carroll) naturally lighter skin helped to depict her as more of a ‘white figure’ than the African American woman she was.

While this highlighting upset some members of the black community (as they saw Julia as less authentic), the intentionality of the production practices was effective in ‘normalizing’ a different ethnicity for its predominantly white audience. While this may seem like a shallow practice in a more modern perspective, we must not forget the real racial tension that existed during the time period.

Julia effectively enthralled viewers, and in this way provided a necessary platform to break down various concrete negative stereotypes.

Julia confronted racism and discrimination head-on, and went as far as to ‘teach’ bigoted individuals what should be culturally and morally right and wrong.

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Still from “Julia.” Image from [https://vimeo.com/160753601]

In one episode of Julia, the main character overhears an old, prejudiced white woman (Mrs. Bennett) complaining that the black community turns every place into a ghetto. She remarks that, “it had to happen sooner or later…it always happens when ‘those’ people move in.”

Julia overhears Mrs. Bennett’s hateful remarks, and immediately confronts her about it. Julia’s friend, Mrs. Waggedorn (who happens to be white), becomes visibly outraged and pushes back against the old woman’s comments as well.

The scene highlights the shameful, outdated, and culturally unacceptable practice of discrimination and stereotyping, and Julia’s calm and pointed rebuttal acts as a gleaming example of integrity and pride for not only the black community, but the entire American community as well.

 

By: Jim Walton

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A Look on the Sunny Side

Family can come in all shapes and sizes and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia showcases this idea in the most extreme way possible as it follows the adventures and mishaps of “The Gang” consisting of Mac, a sexually confused and self-proclaimed badass, Charlie, a cheese loving illiterate, Dennis, a sociopathic womanizer, and his twin sister Dee, a foul mouthed aspiring actress. The success of their first season led to the addition of Danny DeVito as Frank Reynolds, Dennis and Dee’s wealthy businessman father.

The series was renewed renewed for a thirteenth and fourteenth season, which will tie it with The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet as the longest running live-action sitcom in American TV history. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, despite its low budget production origins, has always tackled hot button issues that continue to be relevant to American society such as racism, gun control and religion, all within the crazy schemes “The Gang” gets themselves in.

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The first season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia was shot on a digital camcorder and is said to have only had a budget of $200. It is a prime example that in the end all that matters in a television show is the content and by shooting it with a digital camcorder it gave a more authentic point of view for the audience. Regardless of how much it costs to create the show, The Gang manages to teach a lesson even if it is on exactly how not to handle a situation.

From the very first episode, “The Gang Gets Racist”, to “Gun Fever: Too Hot”, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has never been afraid to touch seemingly taboo topics. In the pilot, “The Gang Gets Racist”, the tone of the series is set as Mac, Dennis and Charlie uncomfortably fumble around the fact that Dee’s new boyfriend is black. After finally overcoming this, there is then a debate as to whether they wan’t to keep using Dee’s boyfriend as a promoter for the club once they find out he’s gay.

In “Gun Fever Too: Still Hot” The Gang explores both sides of the gun control debates as Dennis and Dee both think guns are too easily accessible while Charlie and Mac both believe there aren’t enough guns on the street. Both sides eventually flip sides on to the other’s views as they come to the conclusion that gun control is a complex issue that has no quick fix.

The Gang are a lovable bunch that get into all sorts of crazy shenanigans, usually at a fault of their own. However in doing so, they address issues that you wouldn’t be able to freely do so and we laugh at their misfortune while learning in some way. If you can handle the vulgarity and slurs they like to address each other by, you’ll find that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia manages to address a variety of taboo issues with a dark sense of irony.

 

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20 Years Later: A Look Back at Ellen’s Coming Out

In this course, we have been shown repeatedly how sitcoms have a multi-faceted relationship with the culture of the time that they were produced in. It is easy for us to look back on popular television shows of the 1950s and 60s that reveal the societal issues of the time and identify how far we have come as a society in the past 60 to 70 years.

We have watched sitcoms like The Cosby Show of the 1980s or Roseanne of the 1990s that served to reflect the cultural climate of the time, but also push society towards a more progressive mindset. While these case studies are important for historical context, it wasn’t until I stumbled across a YouTube clip in my Facebook feed of Ellen coming out as gay on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1997 that I truly understood the impact of sitcoms on our culture.

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For me, Ellen has only ever existed in the realm of my Facebook feed. Almost every day, I see her fun fluff pieces about children with amazing skills and segments of celebrities playing guessing games for the audience’s viewing pleasure. As a talk-show host and a public figure, she exudes confidence, brings joy and hope to her viewers, and never ceases to push positive messaging on her show – her sexuality has never been a consideration in my mind as I digest her content. A seemingly short 20 years ago, however, Ellen served in a completely different role.

On April 14, 1997, Ellen came out as gay on a TIME Magazine cover titled “Yep, I’m Gay.” For months prior, Ellen had been teasing out the homosexuality of the character Ellen Morgan on her popular sitcom Ellen, making jokes in response to gay rumors about her, but had never addressed her own sexuality.

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On April 30, 1997, Ellen DeGeneres also had Ellen Morgan (played by DeGeneres) also came out as gay on Ellen. The episode, titled “The Puppy”, garnered 42 million viewers and received widespread backlash, both from the public and advertisers. Though it ultimately led to the cancellation of Ellen, the episode is still “widely hailed as the moment that helped usher in a more inclusive era of television” according to the Hollywood Reporter. The afternoon before that premiere, DeGeneres joined The Oprah Winfrey Show as a guest to discuss her coming out for the first time on air and that episode is one that revealed to me so clearly how impactful sitcoms can be on our culture.

What makes this piece such a valuable historical text, in my opinion, are the questions from the audience that are so telling of the public perception of television’s handling of controversial issues and how powerful of a medium sitcoms can be to address such issues. As an example, one audience member stands up in an outrage shouting:

“I feel like if the ‘families’ out there had the PR person that the gay and lesbian community does, they’d be great for families too. Because I feel like right now we’ve got the lesbian weddings on Friends, the lesbian relationship on Relativity, and I just found out there’s a lesbian relationship on NYPD Blue and now you, I just feel like we are being stuffed with this right now – down our throat and I want to know why.”

This is so important because it speaks to how the public reacts to what they are consuming through media and the power sitcoms have to influence and shape public perceptions. In a piece looking back on the 20 years since this monumental moment, Vanity Fair quoted Mark Driscoll, an executive producer of the fourth season of Ellen, saying that the staff hoped this episode would “break ground on a hot-button social issue.” He goes on further to say that using Ellen Morgan’s character was so pervasive because Ellen was so popular with audiences, “Ellen was so loved by audiences; she was so much the girl next door and so sweet. She was the perfect person to dispel people’s fears about what a gay woman might be like.” In this way, Ellen Morgan’s character was functioning for lesbian women nationwide in the way that Bill Cosby’s character functioned for black men across America – they humanized and broke down preconceived notions about a certain demographic, paving the way for not only more progressive television, but a more progressive America.

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