Books About TV: What a Novel Idea Nickelodeon Had | Nickelodeon Nation Book Review

Books About TV: What a Novel Idea Nickelodeon Had

Books About TV: What a Novel Idea Nickelodeon Had

Did you know that people write books about TV? Crazy right? Well I’m enough of a TV nerd to have actually read a few.

Here’s one of my favorites, you know for when your TV shows go on hiatus or the power goes out or something.

Nickelodeon Nation: The History, Politics, and Economics of America’s Only TV Channel For Kids – Edited by Heather Hendershot

I don’t know about you but I grew up on Nickelodeon. Disney was alright, I mean I remember how excited I would be when we got to watch the free preview of the Toon Disney channel, but for me Nickelodeon was where it was at for cartoons, live action TV, and everything in between. (Seriously, how do you categorize Wild & Crazy Kids, KaBlam!, or Weinerville?)

Given how much I loved the network’s many shows and resident Popsicle stick – Stick Stickly, I was pretty excited to get my hands on this book. Broken up into four sections – ‘Economics & Marketing’, ‘The Production Process’, ‘Programs and Politics’, and ‘Viewers’ – there’s a little something for everyone.

Nick Is For Kids – Nickelodeon Nation Is For Kids At Heart

Interested in marketing or the television industry in general? Several of the early chapters provide insight into Nickelodeon’s carefully crafted orange logo, programming decisions, and general show development.

Growing up it always seemed that Nickelodeon was made just for me, but of course that perception was the result of many, very deliberate, decisions regarding the branding message of the network. Contributing authors helpfully provide the context needed to understand how Nickelodeon’s core principles differed from other children’s television shows and programming blocks of the time.

In the ‘Production Process’ section, I especially enjoyed “Diversifying Representation in Children’s TV: Nickelodeon Model” by Ellen Seiter and Vicki Mayer. Portrayals of gender and ethnicity are the main focus in this chapter, but for me the main takeaway was that Nickelodeon figured out pretty early on that girls and boys alike were willing to watch TV shows with girls in lead roles. Which is what led to Clarissa Explains It All, The Secret World of Alex Mack and later more ‘dramatic’ shows like The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo and Caitlin’s Way.

Strong female characters are probably one of the few unifying themes found throughout the many TV shows I watch, and Clarissa Darling and Alex Mack are partially to blame for that. Both characters were so cool yet completely relatable, that is if you exclude the little GC-161 accident.

From Nicktoons To Nick At Nite

If you’re thinking that’s really nice and all, but I only care about the shows, then hold your horses. The Ren & Stimpy Show, Rugrats, Spongebob SquarePants, and Blues Clues all get their own chapters too. As does Nick News, but let’s be real, did any kid really watch Linda Ellerbee on their own volition?

In a particularly engaging chapter, Linda Simensky, Nickelodeon’s former Director of the Animation department recounts the early days of Nicktoons, which includes Rugrats, Doug, and Ren & Stimpy.

In addition, Nick At Nite and TV Land have their own chapter, because kids can’t have all the fun and there’s also an in-depth and insightful interview with Geraldine Laybourne, Nickelodeon’s Network President from 1989 to 1996.

As with any anthology book, some sections will be more captivating than others, but overall Nickelodeon Nation offers an interesting glimpse into the origins of a network that so many kids grew up on.

If you like reading and love Nickelodeon, then here’s a few other books that might be of interest:

Kids Rule!: Nickelodeon and Consumer Citizenship by Sarah Banet-Weiser

Not Just Cartoons: Nicktoons! by Jerry Beck

Slimed!: An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age by Mathew Klickstein (Available on 9/24/2013)

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Marathoned: Game of Thrones

Marathoned: Game of Thrones

After my crazy Breaking Bad binge back in December I vowed to only marathon shows that were either over or had only aired 1-2 seasons. Thankfully that meant that Game of Thrones was fair game.game of thrones poster dinklage

Twenty episodes seemed like nothing, and even better yet I really didn’t know anything about the series (I’m clearly not a spoiler-phobe, but it is nice to be surprised). And surprised I was. Game of Thrones isn’t typically a show I would be inclined to seek out on my own, but it’s rich world and intriguing characters quickly sucked me in.

And for me that is the biggest indicator of whether or not I’m in for the long haul. If I care about the characters then I’m willing to ride out stupid plot lines, if and when they appear: Friday Night Lights season two murder, Buffy’s stint at the Doublemeat Palace, Lorelai and Christopher getting married on Gilmore Girls, etc…

But anyone who has seen or read Game of Thrones already knows how badass the series is and its many characters, so there is really no need to dwell on that fact. What I want to talk about is the actual act of watching – marathoning versus week to week.

Next Time On Game of Thrones…

Usually 20 episodes would be a breeze, especially since I started to marathon the series in the beginning of March; however, real life got in the way and I ended up watching the entire second season over the holiday weekend. I finished with just about four hours to spare before the season 3 premier.Game Thrones Season 3

After so quickly consuming 11 episodes of Game of Thrones I had to admit I was bummed when the end credits rolled and a preview aired. I didn’t want to wait 7 days to see more. With so many characters and plot lines, its not possible for the series to serve everyone in every episode, and they shouldn’t try to, but now that I’m all caught up I can’t just hit play on the next episode to get my Game of Thrones fix.

Marathoning or binge watching is great, its like the equivalent of reading a really good book and not putting it down until you’ve turned the last page, but in a medium like television where the story is parsed out over time there is also a benefit to the slow and steady method.

After all, marathoning is a rather time consuming proposition, once a week is much more manageable. Plus, for someone like myself who enjoys talking TV and dissecting it, a quick binge session doesn’t really lend itself to discussion or reflection, unless you’ve got a partner in crime.

Appointment viewing might be an antiquated idea, but for TV shows with a lot of social media activity (The Walking Dead, Pretty Little Liars, reality competitions) there aren’t many other options for the well connected viewer. If I don’t watch certain shows live I am almost certain to know about any major plot points before I actually have a chance to watch, thanks to Twitter, Facebook, and other entertainment sites I frequent.

With the “second screen” fueling the social TV phenomenon and still taking the “water cooler” effect into account, a decent argument remains for live viewing despite the obvious perks of marathoning. I know I can’t just wait around for all of my favorite shows to become available on Netflix. I don’t want to miss out on the conversations at work or the chance to see the next chapter of a story I am invested in as soon as possible.

Which is why I look forward to watching the new season of Game of Thrones each Sunday night, and tweeting while I do so. But perhaps that’s just me, how do you prefer to watch TV? All at once or one at a time?

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Entertainment Turned Tourist Attraction

Entertainment Turned Tourist Attraction

For vacation this year I happily left the cold weather behind for a few days and traveled south to Universal Studios and SeaWorld in Florida. And while I loved the roller coasters and warm weather – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was one of the main highlights. I read the books, saw the movies, and now I can say I’ve had Butterbeer, wandered through Hogwarts, and ate lunch at the Three Broomsticks restaurant in Hogsmeade.

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New Hope For The Veronica Mars Movie

New Hope For The Veronica Mars Movie

I know, I know, how many times have you seen this kind of headline before? As a Veronica Mars fan since the UPN days, I’ve seen countless headlines, tweets, and interviews with Kristen Bell and Rob Thomas about the possibilities of a movie sequel to the beloved series but very little forward momentum – until now.

EW.com broke the good news this morning: the Veronica Mars movie can happen if we, the fans, help in the form of a KickStarter campain. While Kristen Bell teased the announcement last night, she quickly took to Twitter this morning to start the hype.

Veronica Mars Movie TweetsSo why the new spark of hope? Well, apparently Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell recently met with some of the Warner Bros. bigwigs to pitch their new plan for getting the movie off the ground and were met with open minds.

“Of course, Warner Bros. still owns Veronica Mars and we would need their blessing and cooperation to pull this off. Kristen and I met with the Warner Bros. brass, and they agreed to allow us to take this shot. They were extremely cool about it, as a matter of fact. Their reaction was, if you can show there’s enough fan interest to warrant a movie, we’re on board. So this is it. This is our shot” explains Rob Thomas on the Veronica Mars KickStarter campaign page.

Money Speaks Louder Than Marshmallows


So come on Veronica Mars fans, its time to put our money where our mouth is. The initial monetary goal for the project was $2 million dollars, but as of this post that number has already been surpassed! In fact, the Veronica Mars movie is the fastest Kickstarter Project to hit $1 million dollars, according to Mashable.

But of course, more money equals a cooler movie so let’s show Warner Bros., Kristen Bell, Rob Thomas and everyone else attached to this project that the fans do in fact want to see a Veronica Mars movie!

Want to donate, just click here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/559914737/the-veronica-mars-movie-project

In addition to helping fund the project, there are also a lot of really cool reward levels to choose from. Even a $10 donation will get you a copy of the shooting script upon the movie’s release along with behind the scenes stuff and updates. More goodies come with more money, but that choice is yours.

So what are you waiting for, if you want to revisit your favorite private eye and return to the town of Neptune then click on the link above or the handy widget to the right.

And if you haven’t already, check out this hilarious video Rob Thomas, Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni, and Ryan Hansen made for the occasion.

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It’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s 16th Anniversary!

It’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s 16th Anniversary!

Buffy 16th AnniversaryLast year I celebrated Buffy‘s 15th Anniversary by sharing 15 reasons why I loved, and continue to love, Joss Whedon’s series about a girl destined to fight demons.

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NBC’s Hannibal – Who Should Be Scared?

NBC’s Hannibal – Who Should Be Scared?

Hannibal TV Series NBC

Bryan Fuller’s newest TV creation, Hannibal, is set to premier on Thursday, April 4th 2013 at 10pm. And although the show is about a serial killer and appears to be dark and stylized – in a creepy fantastical way, I’ve got a feeling that the show has more to be scared about than the audience.

The Frightening TV Landscape On NBC & Beyond

NBC may have had a banner summer and fall season, courtesy of The Olympics, Sunday Night Football, Revolution, and The Voice, but ever since the new year the network has been in a ratings free fall (see: all Thursday night comedies, Smash, and Deception). NBC is clearly behind Hannibal in some capacity – I mean they did order it to series, but from my understanding, it’s only appearing on the schedule because they’ve basically run out of all other options (example: NBC is already airing re-runs of SNL on Saturdays right before new episodes).NBC Hannibal Cast

In the fall, Rock Center with Brian Williams aired in the Thursday 10pm slot, but it was shuffled to Fridays in order to make room for the quickly cancelled Do No Harm, which is only memorable to TV nerds for having the lowest-rated in-season scripted premier ever. With Do No Harm disappearing off of the schedule after just 2 episodes, NBC has gone to their workhorse – repeats of Law and Order: SVU – to fill the gap.

Many mid-season shows on the other networks aren’t fairing much better. ABC’s new high concept series Zero Hour was just cancelled after 3 episodes. CBS’s Golden Boy premiered to modest ratings (keep in mind that CBS has much higher standards). The CW’s new show Cult was bumped to Fridays (airing repeats of other series on Tuesday night is apparently a better alternative) and even though season 2 of Touch has yet to air on FOX, I’d wager that it’s not going to see a third season.

Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s other problem: he isn’t the only serial killer / notoriously insane person on TV right now. Besides the standard murder-fare from CSI, Criminal Minds, and Law & Order, FOX has the new Kevin Bacon series The Following, which has not been the breakout hit everyone was hoping for, Bates Motel is coming soon to AMC, and from what I can tell The CW’s Cult is likewise going for the dark twisted tone. So the real question is, does America really want to see more murder and another iteration of Hannibal?

Bryan Fuller’s Grim World of Television

Of course with all of that said, I’m still really looking forward to Hannibal. If anyone can find a new take on an existing story, especially one involving death, it’s Bryan Fuller – creator of WonderfallsDead Like Me, and Pushing Daisies. He also wrote for Heroes and was behind the one-off Halloween special Mockingbird Lane (aka the failed Munsters reboot).

There’s no question that Fuller can create quality TV, but longevity has yet to be his strong suit. Dead Like Me, which aired a decade ago on Showtime still remains his longest-lasting series with just 29 episodes (2 seasons). Hopefully Hannibal will be different. And on the up-side, NBC is in such a state of disarray that their definition of success is a bit more liberal than most.

So get in the cannibalistic spirit with the newest Hannibal preview:

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We’re Just Friends: Fandom & Shipping

We’re Just Friends: Fandom & Shipping

According to Wikipedia, ‘shipping’, which is derived from the word ‘relationship’, “is the belief that two characters, fictional or non-fictional, are (or will be, or should be) in a romantic relationship”.*

Other definitions I found online say about the same thing. A few made mention that shipping could be platonic, but typically its romantic in nature, and that’s what I don’t get. Why can’t fans be content with friendships?

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2013 Marks The 20th Anniversary of Power Rangers

Power Rangers 20 Years

Whaaaat! Yeah, that was my first reaction upon learning that Mighty Morphin Power Rangers debuted 20 years ago. I mean mathematically that all makes sense, twenty years ago I would have been the right age to think that teenagers in dinosaur inspired fighting machines battling interplanetary bad guys with minions called Putty Patrollers was awesome.

Despite Power Rangers ability to retool and recast for a new set of kids every couple of years, its original version does not stand the test of time (and I can’t vouch for the others). Between the borrowed footage from the Japanese Super Sentai franchise and the incredible 90s fashion everyone is sporting, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers doesn’t tend to be a show that most people rewatch.

Regardless of its quality, now or then, back in 1993 I was totally obsessed with the series. Now I know me saying I was obsessed doesn’t really have much weight to it since I’m frequently obsessed with a TV show, but I watched all of the episodes, had the action figures, owned a set of Yellow Ranger pajamas (Pink Ranger ones were impossible to find), and even had my own morpher/gloves/gun set.

My brother and I, along with many of the other neighborhood kids even played Power Rangers after school. And I’m not just talking about the video games or with the action figures – I mean acting out our own version of Power Rangers. Looking back, I’ve gotta say that The Karate Kid films and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were responsible for a lot of terrible backyard karate moves.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Turn 20!

But besides filling my Saturday mornings and after-school hours for a handful for years, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers remains memorable to me for two specific reasons:

1.) I guess you can say I had a ‘Santa Claus isn’t real moment’, because after reading an interview with the cast members I learned that many of the actors were not in fact teenagers, but in their mid-20s. Of course Mighty Morphin Power RangersI know this is normal now, but at the time it was mind blowing. It’s not that I thought everything on TV was real, but I guess I thought a bit more of it was authentic, you know the human elements anyway. It was the first time I felt betrayed by TV, and, well, it wouldn’t be the last. (See I do know the difference between reality and fantasy.)

2.) For all of its flaws and ridiculous plot lines, Power Rangers really resonated with me because the female characters got to kick ass too. And there wasn’t just one token tomboy either. Kimberly, Trini, Aisha, and Kat were tough, but girly. They weren’t perpetually getting themselves kidnapped or knocked out either, and in comparison to a lot of shows, past and present, that’s a pretty big accomplishment.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers might not be the best example of a TV show that created strong female characters (it’s not, I’m a Buffy fan remember) but it was certainly good enough for my 8-year-old self.

The original incarnation of Power Rangers lasted for 3 seasons, until 1995, and that’s about the time I moved on to Disney and Nickelodeon programming. But Power Rangers has lived on, the newest season – Power Rangers Megaforce – just premiered on February 1st on Nickelodeon.

Apparently the Power Rangers really are an unstoppable force.

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