Television and media links

23rd June 2019

John Wyver writes: I’ve been pre-occupied with other stuff for the last few weeks, but I want now to offer two or three ‘links’ posts rounding up articles that have engaged me recently – to start with, here are pieces about the past, present and possible futures of various media, including the one we persist in calling television.

Crisis at the BBC – Roger Mosey on why it’s facing its biggest threat yet: from The Times a few weeks back, but still a very acute analysis of the problems faced by the BBC.

Introducing the BBC Box: Bill Thompson and Rhianne Jones at BBC R&D offer an initial glimpse of a prototype device that pulls together your personal data into one place – and that could be deployed in a public service context; my sense of this is that it could become very important – and for background see Matthew Postgate’s ‘Looking at the BBC’s role in data-led services’, also from BBC R&D.

Sundown on Deadwood – David Milch, battling Alzheimer’s, finally finishes his TV Western: a remarkable piece by Matt Zoller Seitz for Vulture

• David Milch’s Third Act:… and this from Mark Singer, for The New Yorker (the header image is from the film, courtesy HBO Films).

The roots of Trumpian agitprop: from mid-April, this is excellent from Todd Gitlin for The New York Review of Books blog.

How When They See Us and Chernobyl make us look: Emily Nussbaum is predictably good on two of the must-see ‘true life’ dramas of the moment; she also takes on her colleague Martha Nussbaum’s criticisms of the latter show, in ‘What HBO’s Chernbobyl got right, and what it got terribly wrong’: ‘the truth is, hers is an argument that I agree with and also don’t care about. No one tells a story straight—they’re all distortions.’ Chernobyl, incidentally, absolutely has to be seen – here’s the trailer that already has more than 19.5 million views:

• … and the Chernobyl podcast is a really excellent companion to the series.

Opinion – Chernobyl shows how modern Russia’s propaganda machine is falling apart: … and this is really good by Georgy Birger for BuzzFeed.News about the resonances of – and official response to – the series in Putin’s Russia:

Since it dares to take responsibility for the truth and combat lies, it can’t help but crash up against modern Russia, with its troll factories, election interference, and fake news. The plot of Chernobyl goes on a kind of truth offensive, which can be viewed by Russian authorities as its own form of foreign interference. The fact that so many viewers accepted the show’s truth and approved of this foreign “interference” in Russian history is an alarming sign to some — a brazen challenge for the system.

Maggie Gyllenhaal on The Deuce, Sex Work, and falling in love with Fleabag: terrific interview by Kathryn VanArendonk for Vulture with the star and co-producer of another of the series that makdes the current moment of television so rich.

The making of a millennial woman: Rebecca Liu for Another Gaze is great on Fleabag and much more.

Television in the cinema before 1939: an update from the television scholar Doron Galili:

In 2016, Richard Koszarski and I composed an international annotated filmography of television in motion pictures from before 1939. The filmography, with Koszarski’s introductory essay, was published in The Journal of E-Media Studies – right here. The filmography [is] intended to be a work-in-progress, as more research on the topic continues to produce new finds. In this page, I post new entries we have discovered since the original publication, as well as corrections and added information on films we have discovered along the way.

Among his new finds is this 1925 episode of the Italian series about Maciste in which ‘the legendary strongman goes to hell to fight demons who attempt to corrupt him. In one of the scenes, a she-devil takes Maciste on a flying dragon to watch a television projection of events that that take place at the same time back on earth.’    

Wade in the Water: a glorious 26-part radio series produced by 1994 by NPR and the Smithsonian Institution about the history of American gospel music and its cultural and social impact, now freely available as a podcast.

The day the music burned: a brilliant feature by Jody Rosen for The New York Times about a catastrophic fire in the vaults of Universal Studios back in 2008; only now do we know that thousands of invaluable tape masters by many of the greatest music artists of the twentieth century were destroyed.

Here are hundreds more artists whose tapes were destroyed in the UMG fire:… and a Jody Rosen follow-up with further startling details, including this:

Last week, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Hole’s lead singer, Courtney Love, spoke bitterly of [Universal Music Group]’s response to the fire. “No one knows for sure yet, specifically what is gone from their estate, their catalog,” she told me in an email. “But for once in a horrible way people believe me about the state of the music business which I would not wish on my worst enemy. Our culture has been devastated, meanwhile UMG is online with cookie recipes and pop, as if nothing happened. It’s so horrible.”

[In]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film & Moving Image Studies 6.2, 2019: read the Introduction to this special issue ‘focusing on academic thought that takes the form of digital sound’, and then listen to some of the pieces:

Audiography as we understand it means using recording and mixing as intellectual tools, as essential components in the act of making an academic argument with the audio form in mind; as opposed to using sound as an afterthought. Audiography negotiates making sound work and making sound think, and so links an evolving scholarly discourse with an evolving genre of audio. 


  1. Jamie Medhurst says:

    Thanks John – some fascinating material. The television in cinema pre-1939 is particularly interesting, I think. And very timely for me!

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