Louis C.K. – Antenna http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu Responses to Media and Culture Thu, 30 Mar 2017 23:48:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Tweets of Anarchy: Showrunners on Twitter http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2010/09/17/tweets-of-anarchy-showrunners-on-twitter/ http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2010/09/17/tweets-of-anarchy-showrunners-on-twitter/#comments Fri, 17 Sep 2010 12:29:38 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=5979 While there have always been strong personalities behind-the-scenes in television, including recent examples such as David Milch and Aaron Sorkin, until recently there were very few outlets in which the general public could directly bear witness to the character of television showrunners; stories were written about their personalities and how they influenced the creative process of their respective series, but it was predominantly second hand information. Outside of award show acceptance speeches, occasional interviews, DVD commentaries, or (in Sorkin’s case) run-ins with the law, the television showrunner was a largely private figure during the day-to-day airing of their series.

However, showrunners are now becoming active participants in conversations surrounding their shows, both formally (Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse’s Lost podcasts) and informally (Louis C.K.’s decision to wade into comment threads of Louie reviews); combined with their more prominent role in DVD bonus features and the proliferation of television journalism online, showrunners are becoming veritable celebrities among viewers of television. This is perhaps no more apparent than on Twitter, where showrunners (including Lindelof, Cuse, ,C.K., and numerous others) gain tens of thousands of followers who desire to know more about who is behind their favourite series.

In many ways, Twitter is a fantastic opportunity for showrunners. The Big Bang Theory’s Bill Prady has been using his Twitter feed to remind viewers that the show is moving to Thursday night, while Community’s Dan Harmon has been using his Twitter feed to help bolster the show’s viewers against the insurrection of Prady’s series to their timeslot (the two even collaborated on matching avatars, each featuring “THU 8/7c,” to build hype for their impending battle). With this sort of behaviour, often done in conjunction with answering fan questions or offering insights into the production of the series, showrunners directly facilitate fan community.

However, as most showrunners have discovered, Twitter can be a double-edged sword. While BonesHart Hanson is an active participant on Twitter in promoting his series, he also bears the brunt of the attack when fans become frustrated with the series (in particular the drawn out romantic tension between its leads). And while Lindelof and Cuse were showered with praise when Lost hit its high notes, they were inundated with frustration following the divisive series finale.

By putting their reputations on the line – and online – showrunners open the door to potential rewards (viewer loyalty, new viewers, professional transparency), but as they also face definite risk. There is perhaps no better example of this risk/reward principle than Sons of Anarchy’s Kurt Sutter, who one would likely classify as television’s renegade showrunner. Giving voice to every showrunner’s id, Sutter uses Twitter and his personal blog to criticize the television industry and his critics through a mix of cogent analysis and four-letter words; where other showrunners avoid calling out the Emmy Awards when their show is ignored, or resist responding to critics who write negative reviews, Sutter has made a conscious decision to present his own perspective without any sort of filter.

The question, at this point, is whether or not his “larger than life” personality has become larger than the show itself. While his notoriety has been a source of promotion for the series, which has only grown in popularity since he began blogging and tweeting in earnest, there is a risk that his actions could overpower the series’ narrative; the Los Angeles Times, for example, chose to profile Sutter rather than his series ahead of its third season premiere.

Some would argue this is actually valuable: the brash masculinity of Sutter’s online persona is heavily echoed within the series itself, meaning that the association could be seen as an effective (and novel) way to market the series. However, if Sutter’s extra-curricular activity becomes a primary association for potential viewers – which is happening more as his Twitter feed and blog posts are extending beyond social media to a more general audience (as the L.A. Times profile and mainstream coverage of his criticism suggest) – it is possible that the series’ subtleties, which include strong female characters, could be obfuscated. What fans could read as refreshing honesty could be read as outright arrogance by others, and while Sutter would likely argue that those put off would be unlikely to watch the show in the first place there remains the potential for lines to blur between the series and its creator.

For the most part, of course, these kinds of issues will largely remain confined within a small subsection of the viewing public – Sutter has 12,000 followers on Twitter, compared to Sons of Anarchy’s 4.1 Million viewers. However, the active participation made possible by Twitter and other forms of social media has changed the dynamics of audience/showrunner relationships, and as showrunners like Sutter test the boundaries of this new dialogue we learn more about where this relationship may be headed in the future.

Editors’ Note: a reminder that we like to keep comments civil and constructive here at Antenna. Those comments that seek to insult or vent, or that don’t materially contribute to the discussion, will be withheld.


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Louie, Luckily http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2010/07/02/louie-luckily/ http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2010/07/02/louie-luckily/#comments Fri, 02 Jul 2010 13:00:01 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=4993 Louie and new possibilities for half-hour television comedy.]]>

If you’ve watched television comedy in the last 15 years, you’ve seen the work of Louis C.K.  In addition to writing for The Dana Carvey Show (most notably, the program’s very first sketch, which allegedly drove it straight to cancellation), The Chris Rock Show, Late Show with David Letterman, Saturday Night Live, and Late Night with Conan O’Brien, C.K. is widely regarded as one of the top stand-up comedians working today.  In between stand-up specials and onscreen roles in The Invention of Lying and Parks and Recreation, the comedian has been courted by the major broadcast networks to develop his own half-hour sitcom.  C.K. turned down the bigger-money offers and went to FX instead; the first two episodes of his new show, Louie, premiered on Tuesday night.

This isn’t C.K.’s first starring role on television, though.  In 2006 HBO ignominiously made Lucky Louie, a multi-camera, live studio audience parody of/tribute to the ’70s Lear sitcoms, their first and only original series to be canceled mid-season.  The network’s leadership fought with C.K. over how the show fit its brand of “quality,” a struggle exacerbated at the time by HBO’s inability to replenish its stock of not-TV-like programming that had defined it for much of the 2000s.  Despite taking full advantage of HBO’s lack of restrictions on content, Lucky Louie just didn’t look right.  It was so, well, TV:

While FX’s Louie retains much of the comedian’s mordant sensibility, its visual aesthetic and narrative structure are refreshing changes of pace for the half-hour format.  Stand-up segments from C.K. provide interludes between vignettes that hew more closely to short films than to the A-plot/B-plot structure of sitcoms.  The technique isn’t entirely new (Seinfeld tried something similar before abandoning Jerry’s stand-up bits altogether), but its use in Louie is indicative of a different industrial moment.  C.K. took far less money up front from FX than he would have gotten from NBC or Fox so that he could maintain more control.  The resultant product feels like it comes from a much more personal place than a writers’ room tasked with shoehorning the stand-up’s persona into the jolly patriarch mold AND penning sassy quips for his kids.  To hear C.K. tell it:

“[FX President John] Landgraf is a very smart guy that he’s willing to do that. He has, whatever, $10 million to develop with. He’d rather break it into little pieces and try with a bunch of different people and let them do whatever they want and see which monkey with a typewriter comes up with a good show than to have this corporate science go into making two pilots that nobody wants to watch.”

Would Louie have worked better for HBO in 2006?  The program is certainly more akin to the single-camera docu-coms that have recently reigned as critical darlings than it is to the much-maligned multi-camera sitcoms, but so what?  As Michael Z. Newman notes, single-camera sitcoms are positioned discursively as “quality” against “primitive” multi-camera ones, a relationship that relies on hoary progress narratives.  Louie doesn’t represent another step towards the ultimate sitcom; instead, it adds to what Christine Becker calls “a range of available choices” in sitcom aesthetics.  We might think of Louie’s ebb and flow of stand-up to sketch-like segment as yet another possibility for a genre that has proven itself to be both dynamic and resilient over the years.  It’s comedian comedy for the post-network era.


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