WBEZ | Television http://www.wbez.org/tags/television Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Comedy Writer Paula Pell Says You Don't Have to Go Far for Good Material http://www.wbez.org/sections/interviews/comedy-writer-paula-pell-says-you-dont-have-go-far-good-material-114238 <p><p><img a="" alt="" and="" can="" class="image-original_image" comedian="" fey.="" getty="" go="" john="" joke-writing="" just="" lamparski="" says="" she="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/gettyimages-470393952_enl-09be51c2816ec26a49bbd9397557c5d009032aaf-s1400.jpg" style="height: 406px; width: 310px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: left;" tina="" title="Paula Pell has &quot;a very toned joke-writing muscle,&quot; says comedian Tina Fey. &quot;She can just go and go and go.&quot; (John Lamparski/WireImage/Getty Images)" toned="" very="" wireimage="" />It isn&#39;t necessarily easy to make funny people laugh, but comedian Amy Poehler says Paula Pell can do it: &quot;She just has this very specific way of telling a joke and being in on the joke,&quot; says Poehler.</p><p>Pell has serious comedy cred: She&#39;s been a writer on<em>&nbsp;Saturday Night Live</em>&nbsp;for more than 20 years and has worked on&nbsp;<em>30 Rock,&nbsp;Parks and Recreation&nbsp;</em>and Judd Apatow movies. Pell was behind some popular SNL characters, like&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/spartan-cheerleaders-at-a-chess-tournament/n10803">the Spartan cheerleaders</a>, middle school teachers&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/photos/sketches/127341">Marty and Bobbi Culp</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/debbie-downer/n11879" target="_blank">Debbie Downer</a>. Though it may look like a lot of fun, SNL is not an easy gig.</p><p>&quot;You&#39;re under the gun at all times because it&#39;s live TV,&quot; says Pell. &quot;A lot of time between dress and air you&#39;re having to come with an entire ending to your sketch that gets an even better, bigger laugh &mdash; which is terrifying. ... People are filing into the audience and you&#39;re writing a new joke for the end of it.&quot;</p><p>But decades of practice have made Pell a pro. &quot;She has a very toned joke-writing muscle,&quot; says Tina Fey. &quot;She can just go and go and go. She&#39;s great at looking at a performer and knowing what they&#39;re good at and what they&#39;re going to be funny doing.&quot;</p><p>Pell was the screenwriter for the new movie&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/12/17/459996211/sisters-is-a-house-party-and-a-victory-lap">Sisters,</a>&nbsp;in which Fey and Poehler play sisters in their 40s, tasked with cleaning out their old bedroom in their childhood home. Fey plays a sassy, sexy, unemployed hairdresser. Poehler plays her buttoned-up, do-gooder sister who never dates.</p><p>Pell says she&nbsp;<em>was&nbsp;</em>the Poehler character growing up. All she had to do for material was re-read the journal she&#39;s been carrying around since she was a teenager in Florida.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2451_d027_00237r_crop_enl-0f989dc1ab79fd8436e7e45510b5dd40f99ea402-s1200.jpeg" style="height: 614px; width: 620px;" title="In 'Sisters,' Amy Poehler and Tina Fey come home to clean out their childhood bedroom before the family house is sold. They decide to throw one last party for their high school classmates. (K. C. Bailey/2015 Universal Studios)" /></div><p>For example:&nbsp;<em>February, 19, 1977: I&#39;m 13. I have bluish-greenish eyes, and have a heavy build, unfortunately. In May I&#39;ll be getting my braces out. I&#39;m very outgoing and I have a very strong sense of humor.</em></p><p>Her hobbies were her rock tumbler, houseplants and the&nbsp;<em>Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon</em>.</p><div id="res460181575" previewtitle="In Sisters, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey come home to clean out their childhood bedroom before the family house is sold. They decide to throw one last party for their high school classmates."><div data-crop-type="">&quot;Some children challenge themselves to maybe run a marathon or something,&quot; she says. &quot;I challenged myself to stay up for two days and make cinnamon toast and watch the Jerry Lewis Telethon and laugh and cry.&quot;</div></div><p>How people carry that teenage identity into adulthood is something Pell wanted to have fun with in the movie.</p><p>Whether you&#39;re the overachiever or the screw-up in high school, you bring some of that into adulthood, Pell says. &quot;And then they get to be about the age that Tina and Amy are in the movie and they realize that they need to kind of drop the story and rewrite it.&quot;</p><p>Pell says she tells young comedy writers to mine the specifics of their own lives for material &mdash; whether its rock tumblers, or a sister who&#39;s nothing like you. Pell says you don&#39;t have to go too far to find great material.</p></p> Sun, 20 Dec 2015 23:31:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/interviews/comedy-writer-paula-pell-says-you-dont-have-go-far-good-material-114238 The Next 'Law & Order?' 'Chicago' Series Take Over TV With New Franchise http://www.wbez.org/news/next-law-order-chicago-series-take-over-tv-new-franchise-113848 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/14914010415_f435470734_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>NBC&#39;s&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;franchise grew this week with the premiere of&nbsp;<em>Chicago Med</em>. NPR explores whether it can be the next&nbsp;<em>ER&nbsp;</em>and whether executive producer Dick Wolf, who built the&nbsp;<em>Law &amp; Order</em>&nbsp;empire, can do it again with the Chicago shows.</p></p> Wed, 18 Nov 2015 17:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/next-law-order-chicago-series-take-over-tv-new-franchise-113848 Bollywood mega-star crosses over to American television http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-09-29/bollywood-mega-star-crosses-over-american-television-113103 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/priyanka chopra.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Diversity on TV has come along way in the last couple of decades. Whether it&#39;s the issues on comedies and drama or actors taking on certain roles, it&#39;s a far cry from the milky white days of the 1950s.</p><p>The star of ABC&rsquo;s new drama Quantico is yet another example. She&rsquo;s arguably one of the most famous actresses in the world. But chances are, you haven&rsquo;t heard of her. That&rsquo;s because Priyanka Chopra is an A-list celebrity in India, not the U.S. Chopra&rsquo;s role as FBI recruit Alex Parrish in Quantico makes her the first Bollywood entertainer to make a serious run at American television.</p><p><a href="https://twitter.com/giteshpandya?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor">Gitesh Pandya</a>, editor of <a href="http://boxofficeguru.com/">BoxOfficeGuru.com</a>, joins us with his thoughts.</p></p> Tue, 29 Sep 2015 12:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-09-29/bollywood-mega-star-crosses-over-american-television-113103 Morning Shift: Mayoral candidates continue to debate http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-02-05/morning-shift-mayoral-candidates-continue-debate-111500 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/get%20directly%20down.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Flickr/get directly down" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/189638713&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 24px; line-height: 22px;">Mayoral candidates continue to debate</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">The Illinois A</span><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">The five candidates vying for mayor are in full debate mode this week. Wednesday night, four of the candidates faced off for the first live, prime time debate of this cycle. Perennial candidate William &ldquo;Dock&rdquo; Walls was not invited - but he&rsquo;ll get a chance Thursday, as all five candidates will debate live on ABC7. Here to catch us up on WTTW&#39;s debate topics, and to preview what&rsquo;s ahead for round two is WBEZ&rsquo;s political reporter Lauren Chooljian.&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;"><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">Lauren Chooligan</a> is a WBEZ reporter.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/189638711&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 24px; line-height: 22px;">New report investigates where kids go when they drop out</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">When Chicago closed nearly 50 schools in 2013, Chicago Public Schools vowed to team up with the Illinois State Board of Education about tracking where displaced students go. Last summer CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett boasted that the district knew where almost all these displaced students landed when their schools closed. An investigation by education magazine Catalyst Chicago found that wasn&rsquo;t really the case. Deputy Editor Sarah Karp explains how many students are actually not accounted for by the system. Read the article <a href="http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/news/2015/02/03/66274/record-tracking-434-missing-students-after-closings">here.</a></span></p><p><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;"><a href="http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/author/sarah-karp">Sarah Karp </a>is the Deputy Editor of Catalyst Chicago.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><div><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/189638709&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></div><div><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 24px; line-height: 22px;">On the Table returns with city-wide conversations at the dinner table</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">During campaign season, it&rsquo;s easy to hear about the ills of our city that need to be corrected. Candidates tell us what&rsquo;s wrong and how they&rsquo;d fix it. But how do those problems and potential solutions align with the everyday issues that drive the people who live and work in the region? Last year, Chicago Community Trust offered residents an opportunity to discuss what they would want to see happen in Chicago at the place where so much of these discussions can take place-around a meal at the dinner table. <a href="http://www.onthetable.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/OTT_fact_sheet.pdf">On the Table </a>returns this year to continue those conversations. Chicago Community Trust Chief Marketing Officer Daniel Ash tells us what issues emerged from the series last year, and how that might be different from when groups gather this spring.&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;"><a href="https://twitter.com/danoash">Daniel Ash</a> is the <a href="http://www.cct.org/">Chicago Community Trust&#39;s&nbsp;</a>Chief Marketing Officer</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/189638707&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 24px; line-height: 22px;">Sikhs taking action to counter confusion, discrimination over religion</span></p></div><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">A national group of Sikhs (seeks) is starting a campaign to help increase awareness of the religion. Studies show discrimination against Sikhs, including bullying of their kids, is rising. With the rise of ISIS, Sikhs are starting to feel the same backlash that many Muslims do. That&rsquo;s because many Americans see a turban, and mistakenly assume the person wearing it is Muslim. We talk about the challenges facing Sikhs locally and nationally, and we&rsquo;re going to get a little Sikh 101. Read Green&#39;s article <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/01/the-trouble-with-wearing-turbans-in-america/384832/">here.</a></span></p><p><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Guests:<a href="https://twitter.com/emmaogreen">&nbsp;</a></strong><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;"><a href="https://twitter.com/emmaogreen">Emma Green</a> is the Assistant Managing Editor of <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/">TheAtlantic.com</a></em></p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Dr. Balwant Singh-Hansra is the Co-founder and past president of the <a href="http://www.srsofchicago.com/">Sikh Religious Society</a></em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/189638706&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><div><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 24px; line-height: 22px;">New sitcom centered around Asian Americans faces screens to Asian Americans</span></p></div><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Wednesday night ABC premiered a new sitcom called Fresh Off the Boat. It&rsquo;s the first Asian-American family sitcom to hit network TV since the ill-fated All American Girl with Margaret Cho. Fresh off the Boat was inspired by restaurateur and TV host Eddie Huang&rsquo;s memoir by the same name and Asian Americans have harbored some hopes that it may portray their experience with more nuance that they&rsquo;ve seen in past attempts. The Chicago-based Foundation for Asian American Independent Media on Tuesday night hosts a viewing event for the show and WBEZ&rsquo;s Monica Eng was there.</span></p><p><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Guests:&nbsp;</strong><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;"><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">Monica Eng</a> is &nbsp;WBEZ reporter.</em></p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;"><a href="https://twitter.com/soosieon">Susie An &nbsp;</a>is a WBEZ reporter.&nbsp;</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/189638705&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><div>&nbsp;</div><div><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 24px; line-height: 22px;">When it comes to television, can there be too much of a good thing?</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">According to a <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/fx-ceo-competition-for-tv-shows-is-now-literally-insane-2015-2">recent report</a>, there were over 370 scripted television series on broadcast, cable and streaming services last year. Back in 1999, there were 26. Having an abundance of anything good is never a bad thing. But even with DVRs and the ability to stream from mobile devices, are there enough hours in the day to take in your favorite shows? Does our tube runneth over? Chicago Sun-Times television critic Lori Rackl weighs in on that and more from TV Land.&nbsp;</span></p></div><p><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;"><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">L</a><a href="https://twitter.com/lorirackl">ori Rackl</a> is a TV critic for the </em><a href="https://twitter.com/Suntimes"><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Chicago Sun Times.</em></a></p></p> Thu, 05 Feb 2015 07:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-02-05/morning-shift-mayoral-candidates-continue-debate-111500 TV In 2015: The Brits are back http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/tv-2015-brits-are-back-111325 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/1224_downton-abbey-624x390.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>American television loves nothing better than a spot of tea, singing medieval knights, frightfully polite heirs and heiresses, and those delightful accents.</p><p>NPR&rsquo;s TV critic <a href="https://twitter.com/Deggans" target="_blank">Eric Deggans</a> joins&nbsp;<a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org">Here &amp; Now&rsquo;</a>s Lisa Mullins about a few of the British-themed shows we&rsquo;ll be seeing on television in 2015.</p><p><em>&mdash; <a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/01/01/television-2015-deggans">via Here &amp; Now</a></em></p></p> Fri, 02 Jan 2015 10:50:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/tv-2015-brits-are-back-111325 15 female TV writers you should know http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-11/15-female-tv-writers-you-should-know-109073 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" jordin="" of="" showtime="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Jordin%20Althaus%3AShowtime.jpg" states="" the="" title="Diablo Cody on the set of her Showtime series &quot;The United States of Tara.&quot; (Jordin Althaus/Showtime)" united="" /></div><p>Headlines about women in television can be confusing and contradictory. Some say progress for female TV writers is moving at <a href="http://blogs.indiewire.com/womenandhollywood/wga-releases-annual-writing-report-and-women-make-small-progress" target="_blank">a snail&#39;s pace</a>, while others&nbsp;say 2013 is a great year to be a woman breaking into Hollywood&#39;s &quot;cigar-chomping&quot; <a href="http://www.glamour.com/entertainment/2013/08/meet-the-women-who-run-your-favorite-movies-and-tv-shows#slide=1" target="_blank">boy&#39;s club</a>.</p><p>My take? We&#39;ve come a long way since Irma Kalish of &quot;All in the Family&quot; and Susan Harris of &quot;The Golden Girls&quot; first paved the road for women to be taken seriously as TV writers and showrunners, but we still have a long way to go.</p><p>The Hollywood Reporter&nbsp;just announced their&nbsp;annual list of Top 50 Showrunners, and only <a href="http://blogs.indiewire.com/womenandhollywood/the-hollywood-reporter-announced-the-top-50-showrunners" target="_blank">10 women</a> (many of them working in teams with men) made the cut.</p><p>Still, just a brief glance at the progress that&#39;s been made &ndash; from Chicago native Agnes Nixon creating the TV <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnes_Nixon" target="_blank">soap opera</a>&nbsp;in 1968, to Tina Fey becoming the first female head writer at &quot;Saturday Night Live&quot; in 1999, to Lena Dunham inspiring a million <a href="http://splitsider.com/2012/04/24-thinkpieces-about-girls/" target="_blank">Internet think pieces</a> with each zeitgeist-y episode of &quot;Girls&quot; &ndash; is enough to see that times are slowly but surely changing for the better.</p><p>And despite numerous sexist roadblocks that still need to be torn down (shows like &quot;Californication,&quot; and &quot;Veep&quot; <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa/2013/03/28/1787671/from-californication-to-veep-the-tv-shows-that-hired-no-women-or-writers-of-color-in-2011-2012/" target="_blank">did not employ a single female writer </a>during their 2011-2012 seasons), plenty of women in television are making waves by taking charge.&nbsp;</p><p>In no particular order, here are 15 groundbreaking female TV writers you should know:&nbsp;</p><p><strong>1. Jenji Kohan</strong></p><p>Kohan started out writing for shows like &quot;Will and Grace,&quot; &quot;Gilmore Girls,&quot; and &quot;Sex and the City;&quot; and in 1997, won an Emmy Award as supervising producer of the HBO sketch comedy series &quot;Tracey Takes On...&quot; In 2005, Kohan become the creator, executive producer, and showrunner of the dark comedy &quot;Weeds,&quot; starring Mary Louise Parker, which ran for eight seasons on Showtime. Today, Kohan is the co-creator and executive producer of the Netflix prison dramedy &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jenji_Kohan" target="_blank">Orange is the New Black</a>,&quot; which is gearing up for a highly-anticipated Season 2.</p><p><strong>2. Elizabeth Meriwether</strong></p><p>Meriwether is a Yale University graduate who got her start as a playwright before transitioning to film and TV. She got her big break writing the screenplay for the 2011 film &quot;No Strings Attached,&quot;landing her a spot in &quot;<a href="http://www.interviewmagazine.com/culture/liz-meriwether" target="_blank">The Fempire</a>&quot;&nbsp;next to fellow female screenwriters Dana Fox and Lorene Scafaria. Meriwether went on to write for the Adult Swim series &quot;Children&#39;s Hospital&quot; and is now the creator, executive producer, and showrunner of &quot;New Girl&quot; on Fox.</p><p><strong>3. Michelle Ashford</strong></p><p>Ashford has a long list of writing credits to her name, including two Emmy-winning television miniseries: 2008&#39;s &quot;John Adams&quot; and 2010&#39;s &quot;The Pacific.&quot; However, Ashford&#39;s most prominent role to date is as creator and showrunner of the new Showtime drama &quot;Masters of Sex,&quot; which premiered in September to <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masters_of_Sex" target="_blank">widespread critical acclaim</a> and has already been renewed for a second season in 2014.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>4. Amy Sherman-Palladino</strong></p><p>Sherman-Palladino is best known for creating the whip-smart and heartwarming series &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilmore_Girls" target="_blank">Gilmore Girls</a>,&quot; which debuted on The WB in 2000 and became a tentpole for the network. The show that would make huge stars of Alexis Bledel, Lauren Graham, and Melissa McCarthy later moved to WB&#39;s successor network The CW, where it ended after seven seasons in 2007. Sherman-Palladino went on to create the ballet dramedy &quot;Bunheads&quot; for ABC Family in 2012; but much to fans&#39; disappointment, the series was not renewed for a second season.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>5. Nahnatcha Khan</strong></p><p>Khan has written and produced a slew of creative shows, from the Saturday morning cartoon series &quot;Pepper Ann&quot; to the Seth MacFarlane vehicle &quot;American Dad!&quot; In 2012, Khan created her own ABC sitcom called &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don%27t_Trust_the_B----_in_Apartment_23" target="_blank">Don&#39;t Trust the B---- in Apartment 3</a>,&quot; which, despite its questionable title, turned out to be a shining example of truly great yet underrated comedic television. Unfortunately, not enough viewers tuned in to watch James Van Der Beek play a hilarious washed-up version of himsef, and the show was cancelled after two seasons in January.</p><p><strong>6. Shonda Rhimes</strong></p><p>Rhimes is a Chicago native and graduate of Dartmouth College. She also is the creator, head writer, and executive producer of the long-running ABC medical drama &quot;Grey&#39;s Anatomy&quot; and its shorter-lived spinoff &quot;Private Practice,&quot; as well as creator and showrunner of the current ABC smash hit &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scandal_(TV_series)" target="_blank">Scandal</a>.&quot; To date, Rhimes is the first African-American &ndash; man or woman &ndash; to create and produce a top-rated, one-hour series that has run for more than one season. &quot;Grey&#39;s Anatomy&quot; is now in Season 10.</p><p><strong>7. Julie Plec</strong></p><p>Plec graduated from Northwestern University in 1994, and went on to write scripts for Wes Craven&#39;s (&quot;Scream&quot; and &quot;Cursed&quot;) and the ABC Family sci-fi series &quot;Kyle XY.&quot; Plec hit the television big leagues in 2009, when she co-created <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Vampire_Diaries" target="_blank">&quot;The Vampire Diaries&quot;</a> with Kevin Williamson for The CW. The supernatural teen drama has become a domestic and international juggernaut, prompting Plec to create a spinoff called &quot;The Originals&quot; in 2013. Plec also co-created a third series for the CW this year: &quot;The Tomorrow People,&quot;&nbsp;based on the popular British science fiction TV series of the same name.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>8. Liz Sarnoff</strong></p><p>Sarnoff got her start writing episodes of &quot;NYPD Blue&quot; and &quot;Crossing Jordan&quot; before joining the crew of &quot;Deadwood&quot; in 2004 as an executive story editor and writer for Season 1. The following year, Sarnoff joined the writing team of &quot;Lost&quot; in the series&#39; second season, and won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Dramatic Series for her work. She was promoted to co-executive producer of &quot;Lost&quot; for Season 5, and executive producer in the show&#39;s sixth and final season. In 2011, Sarnoff co-created the Fox series &quot;Alcatraz,&quot; an ambitious <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcatraz_(TV_series)" target="_blank">J.J. Abrams-produced prison series</a> that lasted 13 episodes.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>9. Jane Espenson</strong></p><p>Espenson had a five-year stint as a writer and producer on &quot;Buffy the Vampire Slayer,&quot; followed by work on the sci-fi cult classic &quot;Battlestar Galactica&quot; and its prequel spinoff &quot;Caprica.&quot; In 2010, she wrote an episode of HBO&#39;s &quot;Game of Thrones&quot; and joined the writing staff for Season 4 of the British television program &quot;Torchwood.&quot; Espenson also has written episodes for Joss Whedon&#39;s &quot;Firefly,&quot; &quot;Angel,&quot; &quot;Tru Calling,&quot; and the ABC fairy tale series &quot;Once Upon a Time.&quot; Currently, Espenson is the co-creator, writer, and producer of a sitcom web series called &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Husbands_(sitcom)" target="_blank">Husbands</a>,&quot; now in Season 3 on The CW Seed.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>10. Mindy Kaling</strong></p><p>Kaling first joined NBC&#39;s &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Office_(U.S._TV_series)" target="_blank">The Office</a>&quot; as a writer at the age of 24, and as the only woman on a team of eight. She later took on the role of Kelly Kapoor, while still writing and directing episodes. In 2010, she received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series with Greg Daniels for the episode &quot;Niagara.&quot; After &quot;The Office&quot; came to end earlier this year, Kaling became the first South Asian-American woman to create, write, and star in her own network television show: &quot;The Mindy Project,&quot; now in Season 2. &nbsp;</p><p><strong>11. Ann Biderman</strong></p><p>Biderman won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing in a Drama Series for an episode of the police procedural &quot;NYPD Blue,&quot; and went on to become the creator and executive producer of the &nbsp;NBC/TNT series &quot;Southland.&quot; Now, Biderman is the creator and showrunner of &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Donovan_(TV_series)" target="_blank">Ray Donovan</a>,&quot; a powerful crime drama on Showtime starring Liev Schreiber and Jon Voight. A second season of &quot;Ray Donovan&quot; will air in 2014.</p><p><strong>12. Emily Kapneck</strong></p><p>Kapneck created the popular animated program &quot;As Told by Ginger,&quot; which ran on Nickelodeon from 2000-2009. She also has served as a consulting producer on NBC&#39;s &quot;Parks and Recreation&quot; and is currently the creator, executive producer, and showrunner of the ABC sitcom &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suburgatory" target="_blank">Suburgatory</a>.&quot;</p><p><strong>13. Kay Cannon</strong></p><p>Cannon received her B.A. in Theatre from Lewis University in Romeoville, Ill. and trained in improvisation at both The Second City and The I.O. Theater ( formerly ImprovOlympic) in Chicago. She went on to write for the NBC series &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kay_Cannon" target="_blank">30 Rock</a>,&quot; winning three Writer&#39;s Guild of America Awards and later a Peabody Award in 2008 for her work on the show. Cannon also wrote the screenplay for the 2012 sleeper hit film &quot;Pitch Perfect.&quot;</p><p><strong>14. Issa Rae</strong></p><p>Rae is the creator of the YouTube comedy series &quot;<a href="http://www.issarae.com" target="_blank">The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl</a>,&quot; in addition to the vlog series &quot;Ratchetplace Theatre&quot; and a collaboration with Black&amp;Sexy TV called &quot;RoomieLoverFriends.&quot; A new comedy series for HBO, co-written with Larry Wilmore and starring Rae, is currently in development.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>15. Diablo Cody</strong></p><p>Cody may be best known for writing the 2007 indie film &quot;Juno,&quot; but the Chicago native also has found a great deal of success in television. She created &quot;The United States of Tara&quot; in 2009, an Emmy-Award winning drama starring Toni Collette that ran for three seasons on Showtime. Cody also has recently been tapped to create a new &quot;<a href="http://www.avclub.com/articles/diablo-cody-and-josh-schwartz-are-developing-a-new,103923/" target="_blank">smart, sassy teen girl drama</a>&quot; for Fox, alongside &quot;The O.C.&quot; producers Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz.</p><p>To end this list: an adorable video of Amy Poehler interviewing her TV idol, pioneering comedy writer Irma Kalish:</p><p style="margin-left:.25in;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/5seuoKvXvSc" width="560"></iframe></p><p><em>Leah Pickett writes about popular culture for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett" target="_blank">@leahkpickett</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 05 Nov 2013 09:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-11/15-female-tv-writers-you-should-know-109073 The future of Chicago film, TV http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-10/future-chicago-film-tv-109048 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" flickr="" spencer="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Flickr%3ASpencer%20Hughes.jpg" title="Filming an explosion for &quot;Transformers 4.&quot; (Flickr/Spencer Hughes)" transformers="" /></div><p><a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/meet-the-new-bossyou-get-what-you-pay-for/Content?oid=924074" target="_blank">Illinois Film Office head</a>&nbsp;Betsy Steinberg recently told the <a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/illinois-film-industry-booming-tax-breaks-expiring/Content?oid=11339369" target="_blank"><em>Chicago Reader</em></a> that while studios are making fewer films, &quot;a huge influx of episodic television&quot; has been great for job security. &quot;We love our movies,&quot; she adds, &quot;but one season of &#39;Chicago Fire&#39; could easily outspend a blockbuster movie.&quot;</p><p>Steinberg says that six TV series are currently filming in Chicago:</p><ul><li>NBC&#39;s &quot;Chicago PD&quot;</li><li>NBC&#39;s &quot;Chicago Fire&quot;</li><li>ABC&#39;s &quot;Betrayal&quot;</li><li>ABC&#39;s &quot;Mind Games&quot;</li><li>USA network comedy &quot;Sirens&quot;</li><li>NBC&#39;s &quot;Crisis&quot;&nbsp;</li></ul><p>Meanwhile, the blockbuster films that used Chicago as a backdrop in 2013 include:</p><ul><li>the Wachowski&#39;s &quot;Jupiter Ascending&quot;</li><li>Michael Bay&#39;s &quot;Transformers 4&quot;</li><li>the Bollywood musical &quot;Dhoom 3&quot;</li><li>the dystopian thriller &quot;Divergent&quot;&nbsp;</li></ul><p>When asked for comment on this record-breaking year for film and television in Chicago, Steinberg said the success is due in large part to the <a href="http://www.illinois.gov/dceo/whyillinois/Film/FilmTaxCredit/Pages/default.aspx" target="_blank">Illinois Film Tax Credit</a>, which offers producers a credit of 30 percent of all qualified expenditures.</p><p>&quot;As much as people love to be in Chicago, and as much as Chicago is such an excellent setting for film and television, we wouldn&#39;t have any business without the tax credit,&quot; Steinberg explained, &quot;In today&#39;s climate, with many states competing in the very lucrative film and television industry, our 30 percent tax credit has been instrumental in attracting business.&quot;</p><p>But what will happen when Section 181, the federal film tax benefit that guarantees investors will get back up to <a href="http://dakdan.com/investor_relations.html" target="_blank">75 percent</a>&nbsp;of&nbsp;their investment before a film is even distributed, expires at the end of this year?</p><p>Section 181 has expired before,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/illinois-film-industry-booming-tax-breaks-expiring/Content?oid=11339369" target="_blank">most recently in 2011</a>, and been reinstated. Plus, according to Steinberg, the Illinois Film Tax Credit is much more integral to productions at the state level than Section 181.&nbsp;</p><p>&quot;I&#39;m sure there are plenty of producers, especially those who are in a certain range of $15 to $20 million films, who have been relying quite heavily on Section 181,&quot; Steinberg says, &quot;But the type of business that we have been seeing, both in television and with studio movie blockbusters, aren&#39;t really the productions that depend on Section 181.&quot;</p><p>The evolution of <a href="http://www.chicagofilmstudios.com" target="_blank">Cinespace Studios</a>&nbsp;also has played a major role in elevating the Chicago film and TV industry to new heights. Adds Steinberg: &quot;Cinespace has increased the square footage that projects can now use to build huge sets. So basically, because of all this increased space, we can now hold a volume of work never before possible.&quot;</p><p>Still, in a city crammed with raw filmmaking talent and increasingly creative means for distribution, do other alternatives for film and TV production exist?&nbsp;</p><p>Future success may lie in the web series, which has formed a kind of underground scene in Chicago that also has been rapidly gaining traction online.</p><p>&quot;Easy Abby,&quot; a lesbian romcom web series from Chicago-based writer/director Wendy Jo Carlton, recently hit <a href="http://easyabby.com/2013/05/11/easy-abby-hits-5-million-views/" target="_blank">5 million views</a>&nbsp;and has garnered substantial audiences in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, France, Germany, and the UK.</p><p>Other popular web series filmed in the Chicago area include the <a href="http://funemployedchicago.com/about-us/" target="_blank">millennial comedy</a> &quot;Funemployed,&quot; now in Season 3;&nbsp;&quot;Kam Kardashian,&quot; written up by the Chicago Tribune as &quot;<a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-04-25/entertainment/ct-mov-0426-chicago-closeup-20130426_1_minority-status-web-series-kardashians" target="_blank">a web series worth watching</a>;&quot; and &quot;Celestial Bodies,&quot; a live-action&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/CelestialBodiesTV" target="_blank">space adventure</a> show for all ages that features a bevy of Chicago writers, artists, actors, and athletes.</p><p>Coming soon:&nbsp;a new project from award-winning local writer/director <a href="http://www.jasonknade.com/about/" target="_blank">Jason Knade</a> and &quot;My Block, My Hood, My City&quot; from Chicago author&nbsp;<a href="http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/738632684/my-block-my-hood-my-city" target="_blank">Jahmal Cole</a>.</p><p>As much as I hope that big-budget TV shows and features will continue to be made in Chicago for many years to come, I&#39;m also excited to see which Kickstarter-funded local web series and indie films will catapult their creators to national or even worldwide stardom.&nbsp;</p><p>After all, wouldn&#39;t it be nice if the resounding refrain from industry professionals was not &quot;You have to move to L.A. to make this happen,&quot; but rather, &quot;Why move to Hollywood when you can do it here?&quot;</p><p><em>Note: A previous version of this story misstated the expiration date of a film tax credit. The text has been updated to correct this error. Additional comment from the Illinois Film Office have also been added to further clarify. </em></p></p> Fri, 01 Nov 2013 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-10/future-chicago-film-tv-109048 Don't ignore the "diversity factor" http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-10/dont-ignore-diversity-factor-109000 <p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-3d52e672-ebd7-3d0f-e479-6ae2ed2d58a6"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1398363_540486319363338_1251593255_o.jpg" style="height: 429px; width: 620px;" title="(Facebook/Sleepy Hollow)" /></span></p><p dir="ltr">I won&rsquo;t say that the only reason why I first tuned into &quot;Scandal&quot; was because there was a character &ndash; the lead character &ndash; that looked like me, but that was certainly a major factor. Television, despite its fluctuating ratings and successes from network to network, has become a larger medium. Its influence and storytelling capabilities have become more influential and more important than films.</p><p dir="ltr">In fact, as the film industry moves closer and closer to a formula that avoids &quot;risk&quot; (whether risk means original storytelling, romantic comedies, or stories featuring women), television &ndash; with its abundance of channels and numerous options available at any given moment &ndash; has become more experimental in its presentation.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-3d52e672-ebd7-3d0f-e479-6ae2ed2d58a6">On the surface, it is ridiculous to say &ldquo;adding diversity&rdquo; is a risk. With ensemble casts, it is easy to throw in a black or East Asian face and call it a day. Whether or not the character is interesting or relevant to the show&rsquo;s structure as a whole matters little. Their presence should presumably be enough. But visibility can only go so far. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-3d52e672-ebd7-3d0f-e479-6ae2ed2d58a6">It&rsquo;s not a matter of just adding new faces. It&#39;s a matter of showing that these faces are here for a reason, that they matter, that the show could not function without them there. That is a true sign of diversity. That the faces and bodies are different, yes, but also that they are just like anyone else: flawed, charismatic, and central to what makes a show &ldquo;click.&rdquo; </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-3d52e672-ebd7-3d0f-e479-6ae2ed2d58a6">Few television creators are bucking this trend, but there are noticeable, successful exceptions. Shonda Rhimes, the creator of &quot;Grey&rsquo;s Anatomy,&quot; recently cancelled</span> &quot;Private Practice,<span>&quot; and still rising &quot;Scandal,&quot; has found a formula that works: cast based on talent rather than physical appearance. Her shows regularly feature leads of a variety of different races and ethnicities (not just &ldquo;black,&rdquo; which many lazy executives recognize as the only type of diversity necessary). And by sticking to this formula of casting for quality over race, Rhimes&rsquo; shows have found a home with millions of viewers. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-3d52e672-ebd7-3d0f-e479-6ae2ed2d58a6">&nbsp;<a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/176301651/Hollywood-Diversity-Brief-Spotlight-2013" target="_blank">A new study</a></span>&nbsp;from the UCLA Bunche Center for African American Studies reported television shows that featured a cast of 40-50% people of color performed the best in median household ratings in 2011-2012. To boot, casts that were more than 90% white performed the worst, both cable and broadcast television.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-3d52e672-ebd7-3d0f-e479-6ae2ed2d58a6">According to a </span><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/08/arts/television/08foge.html?pagewanted=print&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">New York Times article</a>, Rhimes &ldquo;didn&#39;t specify the characters&#39; ethnicities,&quot; in the pilot of &quot;Grey&#39;s Anatomy,&quot; her first show, &quot;so her casting process was wide open.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><span>Sandra Oh reportedly shaped her character </span><span>Christina Yang when she walked in the door: </span></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-left:36pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-3d52e672-ebd7-3d0f-e479-6ae2ed2d58a6">&ldquo;Even though some network executives assumed Ms. Oh&#39;s hypercompetitive character would be white, Ms. Rhimes did not - in the pilot&#39;s script she wasn&#39;t even given a last name - so all it took was one &quot;fabulous&quot; audition from the &quot;Sideways&quot; star to christen the character Cristina Yang.&rdquo; </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-3d52e672-ebd7-3d0f-e479-6ae2ed2d58a6">The success of Rhimes&#39; shows have given ABC much needed life. Outside CBS, the remaining three major networks are struggling to create a new hit, yet Rhimes has managed to produce one with nearly every new show.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-3d52e672-ebd7-3d0f-e479-6ae2ed2d58a6">More recent examples include FOX&rsquo;s &quot;Sleepy Hollow.&quot; It features black, Hispanic, and Korean-American actors, and was the first new show of the 2013-2014 television season to get an order for a second season. This same formula can be found in movies, such as the &quot;Fast and Furious&quot; films which have become more successful as they get more diverse.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Many young black adults of my generation consider the &#39;90s to be the golden era of diverse TV. It was a time when shows featuring black actors with agency, hopes, fears and character development was a reality. Our childhoods made shows like</span> &quot;Living Single,&quot; &quot;Family Matters,&quot; and &quot;The Fresh Prince of Bel Air&quot; <span>seem like the norm rather than the exception. It seems now our golden era was merely a fluke, a series of network decisions to capture the trend of black people on television and ride it to a final conclusion in which there would be none at all. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-3d52e672-ebd7-3d0f-e479-6ae2ed2d58a6">In 2013, the issue is not just about blacks on television, but about a variety of different races, ethnicities, genders, and bodies on television. Our understanding of diversity has expanded since then. Blacks are used as the default because of our history as the country&#39;s largest minority population, but &ldquo;the black factor&rdquo; and the&ldquo;diversity factor&rdquo; remain at issue. If the &#39;90s were the golden era, then the aughts were the draught. In this new decade, let&#39;s reverse the damage.&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Britt Julious is the co-host of&nbsp;<a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbezs-changing-channels" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Changing Channels</a>, a podcast about the future of television. She also writes about race and culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow Britt&#39;s essays for&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr</a>&nbsp;or on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank">@britticisms</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 24 Oct 2013 14:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-10/dont-ignore-diversity-factor-109000 White characters as 'Trojan Horses' for TV diversity http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-08/white-characters-trojan-horses-tv-diversity-108438 <p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-231c139d-8733-7479-2986-b505fa4ff1f8"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1004764_368545756606882_2083732640_n.jpg" style="height: 422px; width: 620px;" title="(Facebook/ABC Family)" /></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>As film increasingly becomes an isolating medium, it is through television &ndash; with its numerous channels and multiple platforms for viewing &ndash; that audiences can find actual characters, people with compelling stories that speak to the dark, the somber, the beautiful, and the lovely aspects of what it means to be human.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-231c139d-8733-7479-2986-b505fa4ff1f8">But despite the power and desire to experiment, most television show creators still rely on the same gendered and racial structures that inform and manipulate the mainstream. Audiences find mostly narratives presented through the perspective of white leads (and most often, white male leads), even if people of color are prominent characters or the basis of the show&rsquo;s plot.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-231c139d-8733-7479-2986-b505fa4ff1f8">The ABC Family teen show <a href="https://abcfamily.go.com/shows/twisted" target="_blank"><em>Twisted</em></a> is a murder mystery structured around three leads: Danny Desai, the prime suspect; Lacey Porter, one of Desai&rsquo;s childhood best friends and the most popular girl in school; and Jo Masterson, Desai&rsquo;s other childhood best friend and a social outcast. The show begins on Desai&rsquo;s first day back at school after spending five years in a juvenile detention center for killing his aunt. Desai begins to assimilate with his old friends and within his new school, but is once again the town pariah when a fellow classmate winds up dead the next day.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-231c139d-8733-7479-2986-b505fa4ff1f8">Although the show is about the mystery and whether or not Danny committed the crime, the creators of the program frame the narrative around Jo. Precious screen time is wasted on conversations between Jo and her parents, or Jo and her best friend Rico. Instead, the show should focus on (and is greatly lacking without) its initial premise: whodunit? </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>As of this week&rsquo;s episode, the show&rsquo;s creators have yet to offer a reason the show must focus on Jo. However, looking at the cast may answer the question. Danny is half-Indian with distinctly dark features. Lacey is black. Jo is blonde and white.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-231c139d-8733-7479-2986-b505fa4ff1f8">By focusing on Jo, the show not only does its two other main characters a disservice, it does its audience a disservice. I was drawn to the show because of the murder mystery. Taking time away from that core plot element reduces the show to a whiny drama about how one girl handles her life. As a structure, it&#39;s not compelling and risks turning off viewers.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-231c139d-8733-7479-2986-b505fa4ff1f8">From a business sense, it makes some sense. If ABC Family knows that shows with a white female leads do well in ratings, it only makes sense for them to continue to pursue this storytelling structure. However, it is disingenuous to present a show about three people and spend the largest amount of time focused on one.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-231c139d-8733-7479-2986-b505fa4ff1f8">In a recent NPR interview, Jenji Kohan, the creator of <em>Orange is the New Black</em> confirmed the idea that her show about the rich characters within and the culture of a women&rsquo;s prison could not sell without a white woman as the protagonist. On the show, Piper is sent to prison for her minor role in a drug conspiracy. Especially during the first episodes of the show, the prison is seen through Piper&rsquo;s eyes. Although this is understandable based on the show&rsquo;s memoir source material, it becomes evident as the show progresses that the most compelling characters and stories have little, if anything, to do with Piper.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-231c139d-8733-7479-2986-b505fa4ff1f8">In the interview, Kohan <a href="http://www.npr.org/2013/08/13/211639989/orange-creator-jenji-kohan-piper-was-my-trojan-horse" target="_blank">said</a>:</span></p><blockquote><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-231c139d-8733-7479-2986-b505fa4ff1f8">In a lot of ways Piper was my Trojan Horse. You&#39;re not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of black women, and Latina women, and old women and criminals. But if you take this white girl, this sort of fish out of water, and you follow her in, you can then expand your world and tell all of those other stories. But it&#39;s a hard sell to just go in and try to sell those stories initially. The girl next door, the cool blonde, is a very easy access point, and it&#39;s relatable for a lot of audiences and a lot of networks looking for a certain demographic. It&#39;s useful.</span></p></blockquote><p>Unlike most creators, Kohan has acknowledged this structure and how she had to simply work within it in the beginning in order to tell the stories that could never &ldquo;sell&rdquo; on their own.&nbsp;</p><p>Whiteness is the neutral storyteller. Through the prism of whiteness, creators can focus on people of color.&nbsp;<em>Orange is the New Black</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>Twisted</em>&nbsp;are not part of a new trend. Rather, they are merely new shows to add to a long list of shows that have employed this same technique.&nbsp;</p><p>It is important then to recognize the significance of Issa Rae&rsquo;s (creator of <em>The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl</em>) recent&nbsp;<a href="http://www.deadline.com/2013/08/hbo-developing-comedy-series-from-larry-wilmore-issa-rae-to-star-rae/" target="_blank">development deal</a> with HBO. In partnership with Larry Wilmore, Rae would write, produce, and star in a show. As a black woman, a black creator, this sort of creative freedom is unparalleled on television period, let alone a premium cable network as prestigious as HBO. Although no show has been ordered for a series run or even to pilot, this news is hopeful in what it says is possible: creators of color can tell their own stories through their own eyes.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Britt Julious is the co-host of <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbezs-changing-channels" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Changing Channels</a>, a podcast about the state of television. She also writes about culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow Britt&#39;s essays for&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr</a>&nbsp;or on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank">@britticisms</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 19 Aug 2013 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-08/white-characters-trojan-horses-tv-diversity-108438 For television, Twitter is the new live water cooler conversation http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-08/television-twitter-new-live-water-cooler-conversation-108332 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1017181_141685442694900_462625651_n.jpg" style="width: 600px;" title="(Facebook/Orange is the New Black)" /></div><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-7475917e-5df9-bb31-a78e-f85bbf5b22fb">The only thing busier than my Twitter timeline during a live airing of MTV&rsquo;s &quot;Catfish&quot; is my Twitter timeline during a live airing of ABC&rsquo;s &quot;Scandal.&quot; Both shows illicit the sort of rabid fan response that can turn outsiders into insiders. </span></p><p dir="ltr">The same thing also recently happened with the release of Netflix&rsquo;s &quot;Orange is the New Black.&quot; Despite breaking the format of traditional network television by releasing a complete season at once, for a few days after, #OITNB was a trending topic.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-7475917e-5df9-bb31-a78e-f85bbf5b22fb">Not every show can create this sort of fire. Nielsen recently released a study called <a href="http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/newswire/2013/the-follow-back--understanding-the-two-way-causal-influence-betw.html">&ldquo;The Follow-Back&rdquo;</a> that analyzed TV ratings and accompanying tweets. It found&nbsp;</span>Twitter messages were shown to cause a &ldquo;significant increase&rdquo; in ratings 29 percent of the time.</p><p dir="ltr">This was especially true for competitive/reality-based television shows, sports, and comedies. &quot;Catfish&quot; corresponds with their findings, but why do shows like &quot;Orange is the New Black&quot; and &quot;Scandal&quot;&nbsp;also have such significant representation in the Twittersphere?</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-7475917e-5df9-bb31-a78e-f85bbf5b22fb">Unlike other network dramas, both &quot;Orange is the New Black&quot; and &quot;Scandal&quot; inhabit a special quality often missing: the ability to aggressively interact with viewers. With &quot;Orange is the New Black,&quot; the interaction lies in the ways in which we can view it.&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr">Its release is made for binge watching. But rather than discovering the show on one&rsquo;s own time, it&rsquo;s calculated release and critical acclaim escalated its appeal. Consumers could read a positive review from <em>The New Yorker</em>&rsquo;s Emily Nussbaum, and then curl up with all 13 episodes.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-7475917e-5df9-bb31-a78e-f85bbf5b22fb"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/BCjXolgCUAAnFlq.png" style="height: 241px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="(Twitter/darbystnchfld)" />With &quot;Scandal,&quot; the interaction lies with the wild plot lines that dive from one extreme to the next. But like &quot;Catfish&quot; and &quot;Orange is the New Black,&quot; this show&#39;s&nbsp;plot lines make you want to talk about them.<br /><br />In <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=185534670" target="_blank">an interview</a> with Michelle Martin about &quot;Scandal&rsquo;s&quot;&nbsp;Twitter popularity, Gene Demby of&nbsp;NPR&#39;s Code Switch said, &ldquo;It&#39;s like watching the Super Bowl on DVR, right? You want to be in the room with everyone kind of yelling at the screen and rolling their eyes and throwing their hands up and saying all kinds of snarky stuff.&rdquo;<br /><br />There is information to decipher, but unlike a show like &quot;Mad Men&quot; that often requires research to understand its layers of references to things like &quot;Dante&rsquo;s Inferno&quot; or &quot;Rosemary&rsquo;s Baby,&quot; these shows keep you glued to their characters&nbsp;</span>&mdash; what they do and don&rsquo;t say and what will ultimately happen to them. It&rsquo;s almost impossible to not engage.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-7475917e-5df9-bb31-a78e-f85bbf5b22fb">The fever of their fandom inspires other people to both start watching the show and to participate in the discussion. I only watched a handful of prior episodes before I started watching the current season of &quot;Catfish.&quot; But while scanning my Twitter feed during the premiere of the first episode, I noticed most people were talking about only one thing: what was happening on their screens. Soon enough, I began participating at well. There was no desire to try and &ldquo;fit in&rdquo; with the discussion at hand; rather the action of the screen was so compelling that there was little I could hold back.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-7475917e-5df9-bb31-a78e-f85bbf5b22fb">We consume television in a fractured state. The UK drama &quot;Skins&quot; ended on Monday after seven seasons. I have never watched an episode on my television. Instead, I relied on illegal streaming websites to fuel my passion for a show that perfectly encapsulates the confusion, desire, and melancholy of being a young person. </span></p><p dir="ltr">Other shows I save for massive DVR viewings. If I miss an episode of a favorite series, I can wait until the next morning to find a clear stream on the network&rsquo;s website. And for shows that slipped between my fingers during the regular television season, there are always rentable DVDs. This is Netflix&rsquo;s bread and butter.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-7475917e-5df9-bb31-a78e-f85bbf5b22fb">In that sense, social media as a place of community helps fuel the lost group aspect of television watching. Twitter connects TV to its live, collective habits. It is a reminder that entertainment can be even greater when matched with others who equally care about it. </span></p><p dir="ltr">My family and I often watched shows together in my parents&rsquo; bedroom. When we got older and busier, this fell away, but my sister and I still found time to watch our favorite shows together and pause our viewings to comment on the situations before us.</p><p dir="ltr">I live alone now and I didn&rsquo;t realize I missed this social interaction. But with the release of shows like &quot;Scandal&quot;&nbsp;or &quot;Orange is the New Black,&quot; I am finding that the social (with family, with friends and strangers, too) is merely a few clicks away.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">What is your favorite TV show to engage with online? Let us know in the comments section. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><em>&quot;Catfish&quot; airs Tuesdays at 9pm CST on MTV. &quot;Orange is the New Black&quot; is available on Netflix Instant Streaming. &quot;Scandal&quot; returns in the fall to ABC on Thursdays at 9pm CST.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Britt Julious&nbsp;writes about culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow Britt&#39;s essays for&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr</a>&nbsp;or on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank">@britticisms</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 08 Aug 2013 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-08/television-twitter-new-live-water-cooler-conversation-108332