Smart Girls Who Do Stupid Things

Sometimes…

A Follow-Up: We Read Television’s Mind

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SCENE: STILL watching Parks and Recreation.

KATE: Why doesn’t he know what she’s doing?

(On the screen)

BEN WYATT: I know what you’re doing Leslie.

More Comments On Television

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SCENE: (Watching Parks and Recreation. Rashida Jones enters.)

KATE: Rashida Jones, go fly a kite.

(Next part to be read in a high squeaky voice)

EMMA: You really don’t like Rashida Jones? What is wrong with you? You like Rob Lowe but not Rashida Jones?

KATE: Coughing laughter (the meds are slowly working, don’t worry).

END SCENE

The real skinny: My theory about Rashida Jones is that she’s a really cool girl IRL and pretty attractive and has mad celeb connecks (purposely sic, let’s make “connecks” happen) and can apparently carry a tune and people just dig hanging around her, so they keep casting her in stuff, even though she isn’t that talented – not terrible, just not that talented – but she’s cool to kick it on set with.

“The Job A Million Girls Would Kill For” Includes Far Too Much Television

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Editor’s Note: This is the first of what should become a series of pieces that reveal an inside look at what it’s like to hold a mundane job at a hypothetically glamorous organization (you know, the job that “a million girls would kill for”, ala The Devil Wears Prada). Miss Moneypenny is a receptionist at a talent agency in California. Here are her thoughts and insights…and this week it’s (as it usually is around here) all about television.

12:28pm
This has been a week of ups and downs. Well really, every week is. I have come to terms with the fact that I work as a semi-purposeless peon in a company whose purpose is to get as much money as humanly possible for people in the film industry (I’m sure that there are other purposes of a talent agency, but that’s what it feels like to me). I also have come to terms with the fact that I will be answering phones, and nothing else, until I have been here for at least a year. It has been five months. I also know that the entire point of this job is to sit here doing really nothing important for a year and then be promoted to an assistant, where my life will be about making someone else’s life easier. This world and this industry is about working your way up from the bottom. Everyone does it, and that makes it a little easier to bear.

On the bad days, I feel my hypothetical brain tumor growing in my head from doing nothing but stare at a computer screen for 8 hours while doing nothing useful. For example, last week I watched the entirety of the series The League. Great show. Enjoyed every second of watching it. At the end of the week, however, I realized that I had done literally nothing but watch this show, check Facebook every 20 minutes, and search for every conceivable site that promised pictures of cute puppies on the internet. It was depressing. I was almost in tears by the time I got to my car. Then I remembered that I should probably go work out because a) I don’t want to get horrifically obese and b) exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy (and happy people just don’t shoot their husbands…they just don’t). And perhaps working out would make me feel better (it did, a little).

I do watch a lot of TV at this job. A lot of TV. There is nothing worse than certain days when nothing was on television the night before, or it was a bunch of reruns. Those are painful days, because it means that I don’t have two hours taken up by living vicariously through characters on a variety of programs, including, but not limited to: Family Guy, Modern Family, Mad Men, Glee, How I Met Your Mother, Law & Order: SVU, Criminal Minds, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (side note: CSI Miami absolutely sucks), Cougar Town, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, the aforementioned The League, The Big Bang Theory, The Office, True Blood, and Dexter.

Like I said, a lot of TV. But, I have 8 hours a day (at least) during which all I have to do is answer the phones. My multitasking skills have gone through the roof. I can (simultaneously) watch TV on my computer, answer the phone, chat with people at work on our intra-office IM system, chat with people on gchat, check Facebook, and play solitaire on my phone. This amazes my boyfriend, who is an assistant at a production company and therefore does something resembling real work.

And there are great parts to this job, which I remember on my good days. I get to see cool celebrities whom I genuinely admire for their talent walk around. I also get to occasionally talk to these people on the phone. I also have a year to sit around and be relaxed, with no real pressure. I have time to learn about my company and this industry in full, by reading every screenplay I can get my hands on (one of my New Year’s Resolutions that I haven’t really been as good about as I should) and watching films that our clients have been involved with. I can also learn about the history of Hollywood and watch classic films that I spent most of high school refusing to watch at my Dad’s request as my only real form of teenage rebellion.

So today I have watched last night’s CSI and Big Bang Theory. I have caught up on Deadline Hollywood, which posts all of the happenings of the industry. I have checked Facebook and gmail probably 10 times already. And this is allll before lunch. I have also talked on the phone to a certain “Pirate of the Caribbean”, who has a great voice and always makes me very happy when he calls. And I have leftover pad thai for lunch. So far, a good day. And for the major hooray, it’s Friday.

The Helen Mirren Hypothesis

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In Helen Mirren’s brilliant, moving, inspiring acceptance speech at a recent Women in Hollywood event, she delivered a forceful rebuke of Hollywood’s obsession with “the 18 to 25-year-old male…and his penis (quite small, I always think).” Mirren lamented the “fact that virtually every drama made for film, stage or television has 20 male characters to the one, two, maybe three if you’re lucky, female characters.”

I decided to test Mirren’s supposition against the recently released Golden Globe nominations. This is obviously not a cross-section of all that TV or film has to offer, but The Golden Globes represent an industry standard of perceived quality. Consequently, Mirren would be more likely to find roles of substance in these nominees, than in, for example, The Bachelorette90210 or The Back-Up Plan.

A word on methodology: The statistics below are based on the official cast lists presented on each show’s network website. Rather than using my own judgement (or the judgment of IMDB, Wikipedia, etc) to decide which characters merit inclusion, I wanted to see how each network officially depicted its cast. For example, AMC’s Mad Men site names 27 characters, 12 of whom are female, netting a “score” of 44%.

Best Television Series (Drama):

Boardwalk Empire (27% of listed characters are female)
Dexter (29%)
Walking Dead (33%)
Mad Men (44%)
The Good Wife (50%)
Best Television Series (Drama) AVERAGE: 37%

Best Television Series (Comedy):

The Big Bang Theory (20%)
30 Rock (33%)
Modern Family (40%)
The Big C (43%)
Nurse Jackie (44%)
Glee (64%)
Best Television Series (Comedy) AVERAGE: 41%

Yikes. One drama achieves gender parity in its casting, The Good Wife, a project from husband-wife team Robert and Michelle King. Michelle King is the only female “creator” of the five drama nominees. Even shows created by women (30 Rock, The Big C, Nurse Jackie) favor roles for male actors. Although the comedy category average is not quite as dire as the dramas, this average is hugely helped by Glee, the only nominated show with more female characters than male (without Glee, the category averages 36%).

On to the big screen:

Best Motion Picture (Drama):

Black Swan (80%)
The Fighter (40%)
Inception (22%)
The King’s Speech (22%)
The Social Network (29%)
Best Motion Picture (Drama) AVERAGE: 39%

Best Motion Picture (Comedy):

Alice in Wonderland (75%)
Burlesque (44%)
The Kids Are All Right (60%)
Red (33%)
The Tourist (14%)
Best Motion Picture (Comedy) AVERAGE: 45%

The differences in category averages between big and small screens are only a few percentage points, but the distribution within categories don’t line up. Film, it would seem, allows for one or two female-driven pictures. Black Swan, set in a dance studio, starring 4 women and 1 man, would be this year’s entry.

The point is not for all productions to reserve exactly half of their roles for women (or minorities, the elderly, or any other oft-neglected demographic). Some shows are aimed at women (SATC) and others at men (Entourage) and their casting reflects this fact. The problem is that what we identify as quality, via awards shows like the Golden Globes, distinctly favors male actors. This creates a cycle in which male-dominated productions are considered the “norm,” and gender-neutral casts or female-heavy casts are relegated to niche markets or less popular networks.

One could argue that Hollywood reflects reality…most police departments are male-dominated, as are boxing rings, and tech-start ups. That is both true and problematic. Yet, the question remains; why are the male-dominated arenas the ones in which people prefer to play creatively? Because women (self very much included!) will watch a show or movie set in a “male world,” but men will not reciprocate? Projects set in traditionally female worlds (say a preschool or an ice skating team) either don’t get made, don’t get made well, or get made well and don’t get recognized. Any way you cut it, Helen Mirren has a point.

Shit My Mom Says (While Watching TV With Me)

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Some people might think my sister and I grew up in a household where television was celebrated and appreciated, due to our love for it. Quite the contrary. Despite working in television, my mother seems to have an intense distaste for watching it. What follows is a collection of some of her best quotes as she tries to force herself to enjoy the medium:

In which Mom has a difficult time following Chuck:
“I thought he just had this other person – what happened to the blonde?”
(after scene change): “What are we watching now. It’s not even the same show.”
(during the recap): “Didn’t we already see this?”

In which Mom gets less and less polite as an episode of One Tree Hill progresses:
“This is stupid.”
“This is so lame.”
“This show is just getting creepier and creepier.”
“This is getting boring. It’s the same thing over and over.”
“That’s one of the most horrible things I’ve ever seen on television.”
BONUS – (during the zit commercial): “I guess they know their audience.”

In which Mom has a difficult time comprehending the unrealistic nature of dramatic television on One Tree Hill:
“WHY WOULDN’T SHE CALL THE POLICE?”


In which Mom attempts to emulate the inner monologue of Brooke, a fictional character on One Tree Hill:
“Get rid of Peyton so I can hook up with the guy.”

In which Mom is incredulous over the failure of Booth and Brennan (on Bones) to consummate their relationship:
“Wait, they aren’t having sex?”

In which Mom attempts to be insightful with regard to horrendous RomComs such as Made of Honor:
“At this point I can’t even figure out what’s depressing and what isn’t.”

In which Mom reacts viscerally to exciting moments:
*Cannot be fully explained in dialogue. Filled with many “OMIGOSHes” and loud screeches of laughter over things she doesn’t quite get out of context.*

In which Mom has no sympathy for secondary characters on One Tree Hill:
Owen: “I haven’t had a drink in 8 years.”
Mom: “Now is a good time to start.”

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