On Friday, CBS picked up CSI: Cyber, the newest installment in the long-lasting Crime Scene Investigation franchise. Unlike its predecessors, CSI: Cyber isn’t limited to solving crimes in just one region of the United States, instead it will take on the nefarious ‘under-world’ of the Internet. So that should be plenty terrifying to CBS’s technology-weary older skewing audience.
Even though I enjoy many forms of pop culture and have been to New York Comic Con twice in the last two years, I still haven’t picked up a comic book in a very very long time. (I used to buy Animaniacs comics and other random issues of X-Men and Wonder Woman from a local flea market circa 1995.)
With TV being a visual medium and all, it’s not surprising that many shows utilize some sort of promotional poster for advertising purposes.
You’ve seen them before – as magazine ads, on billboards, or plastered on the side of a bus. I always notice them most often in the late summer, right before the kickoff of the traditional broadcast TV season.
And while most of these ‘posters’ are perfectly adequate in creating brand awareness or taking up ad space, many don’t strive for anything beyond mediocrity. The standard seems to be a heavily photo-shopped cast shot, a seemingly clever tag line, and the title of the show. (See the Chicago Fire poster to the right.)
Some series however have really embraced the art of the TV promotional poster, creating visually striking images or clever homages:
And then there’s a few marketing departments that go above and beyond.
Community has always been one to do things differently, so its no surprise that the series has inspired some amusing artwork over the years from its fans and marketing departments alike.
Remember the first time NBC tried to remove Community from their schedule? That led to these cool posters from graphic artist Jon Defreest.
More recently, Sony Pictures Television created a bunch of parody posters to nudge NBC to renew the series in order to help the Greendale gang fulfill their destiny of #sixseasonsandamovie.
And then there’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a show that had a stereotypical promotional poster and an equally lackluster start.
But boy have the tides changed.
Despite a disjointed airing schedule in the beginning of 2014, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. began to find itself, just in time for Captain America: The Winter Soldier to shake things up and let it’s Marvel Cinematic Universe #itsallconnected promise payoff.
And with its new found momentum came a consecutive airing schedule and “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Art of Level Seven” – a new piece of art for each of the remaining six episodes, each by a different popular comic book artist.
Which is not only a cool way to tease what’s to come, but also an intelligent way to connect it back to it’s comic book roots.
Bottom line, I know that for all intents and purposes these works of art are advertising based, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the few that go above and beyond the bare minimum to create something clever.
It’s hard to talk about MTV without someone inevitably chiming in that the network was better when it was all about music. If that person happens to be you, then I really recommend reading this book:
I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution
– By by Rob Tannenbaum & Craig Marks
A quick disclaimer of sorts before I continue: I enjoy music and try to get to a handful of concerts every year, but I’ll be the first to admit that the music industry is something I know very little about. I don’t know producers, labels, probably haven’t heard most of those ‘quintessential’ albums, and I really can’t even name the individual members of bands I do listen too. All of this is my not-so-short way of saying that while I picked up the book because it had to do with a television network, those who are seriously into music will probably get much more enjoyment out of it.
That’s not to say I didn’t like the book, because I did, but all of the stories about, and from, various artists and other major players (video directors, network brass, and early MTV VJs) probably mean a bit more when you’ve got some more background knowledge or context than what the book provides.
Regardless of your music ‘cred’, you’re going to want to have YouTube* handy while reading I Want My MTV. What would otherwise be a quick read thanks to its conversational recounting from a variety of sources is slowed down a bit by the overwhelming desire to watch every music video ever mentioned.[*Someone awesomely put together a playlist of music videos mentioned in the book – enjoy!]
Multiple contributors also make for an unreliable narrative. If you’re looking for facts or an accurate timeline of events, you aren’t going to find it in this book. The saying, “Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll” accurately describe MTVs early days (even in the offices) so you can’t really blame anyone for their fuzzy memories or contradictory accounts.
Overall, I was most surprised by how directly the book’s conclusion handled the whole ‘MTV doesn’t play music anymore’ elephant in the room. After all, we all know how the story ends. And while a good portion of the book is spent reminiscing about the ‘golden days’, the final four chapters actually address the network’s transition to scripted and reality series head on.
It goes without saying that many people miss the days when MTV was all about music, but it’s obvious, especially with the luxury of hindsight that the channel did what it needed to do in order to survive, even thrive. MTV was ahead of the curve when it came to music and again when it came to reality programming. The Internet would have killed MTV, and in the age of instant gratification no one in their right mind would watch several hours of TV just to see their favorite band’s newest music video.
Maybe at it’s inception MTV was really all about the music, but a lot happened in its first decade and by the early 90s there was no denying that MTV was a business. In the end, MTV went mainstream – they sold out, and that’s a pretty universal story in the music industry.
Odds & Ends:
- Select TV markets in New Jersey were some of the first to see MTV upon its debut.
- The brief story of why and how VH1 was created was amusing, I actually wanted to know more.
- Because labels wanted nothing to do with music videos, but saw them as necessary evils, a lot of women who were generally lower on the pay scale were put in charge of the videos.
- Michael Bay and David Fincher were two of the top directors in the music video / MTV hayday. They didn’t like each other, and I’m betting even back then their visual styles differed greatly.
Still nostalgic for the early days of MTV? Here’s an hour of MTV from 1981:
I was super pumped for the premier of the fifth season of Community. After all, “Repilot” (5×1) marked the return of Dan Harmon and after a ‘weird’ fourth season, I was eager for the series to go back to normal. Or at least back to what I knew and loved, even with knowledge of Donald Glover’s impending departure looming above the otherwise gleeful occasion.
Perhaps that was a silly thought though – normal or status-quo only equate to average TV. And Community has always been one to aim higher. Or aim for a different target although. Yet I distinctly remember thinking around episode three of this season (“Basic Intergluteal Numismatics” (5×3), you know the one with the ‘Ass-Crack Bandit’), that it seemed a bit too soon for a concept episode. The gang had just gotten back together.
I had a similar thought just before watching “G.I. Jeff” (5×11) the other night. I kind of just wanted to see the group hangout at Greendale, of course that’s before I saw the excellent G.I Joe themed and stylized episode. It was then that it finally occurred to me that there probably is no such thing as a ‘normal’ episode of Community.
Five seasons in and it would seem that nothing in pop culture is off-limits. Below are just some of the more creative places Community has gone. And while that list is certainly not comprehensive of all of Community’s homages, parodies, and escapes from reality, they do account for approximately 30% of all aired episodes. So, is it misguided to assume that there is a normal?
What do you consider to be a standard episode of Community? Or is that the beauty of the show, that there is no predictable and formulaic entry in the series?
A Film Within A Show
“Introduction to Film” (1×3)
“Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples” (2×5)
“Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking” (2×16)
“Documentary Filmmaking Redux” (3×8)
“Advanced Documentary Filmmaking” (4×6)
Mafia Movie Homage
“Contemporary American Poultry” (1×21)
“Modern Warfare” (1×23)
“A Fistful of Paintballs” (2×23)
“For A Few Paintballs More” (2×24)
Apollo 13 / Space Travel Movie Homage
“Basic Rocket Science” (2×4)
“Cooperative Calligraphy” (2×8)
A Conspiracy Theory
“Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design” (2×9)
“Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” (2×14)
“Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” (5×10)
“Remedial Chaos Theory” (3×4)
“Advanced Introduction to Finality” (4×13)
“Digital Exploration of Interior Design” (3×13)
“Pillows and Blankets” (3×14)
“Regional Holiday Music” (3×10)
“Digital Estate Planning” (3×20)
“Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” (2×11)
“Paradigms of Human Memory” (2×21)
“Intro to Felt Surrogacy” (4×9)
Law & Order / Detective Procedural Homage
“Basic Lupine Urology” (3×17)
“Basic Intergluteal Numismatics” (5×3)
The Floor Is Lava
“Geothermal Escapism” (5×5)
Parody of Internet & Mobile App Games
“App Development and Condiments” (5×8)
G.I. Joe / 80s Cartoon Homage
“G.I. Jeff” (5×11)
Wonderfalls premiered on March 12th 2004, on FOX, at a time when the network was quick to cancel anything with less than stellar ratings (this Family Guy scene sums it up best). Admittedly Wonderfalls was hard to promote, as it dabbled in a variety of genres, but no worries, the show’s been off the air for 10 years and if you’ve been waiting for an invitation to check it out, well here it is.