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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Monday (9/17/12) 12:02am - ... wherein Peter posts a Weekly Media Update.

[Missed a couple weeks, due to travel.]

Movies:  <none>
TV:  Parks and Recreation [2x21-2x24], Frontline: Digital Nation
Books:  <none>

Parks and Recreation [2x21-2x24]
I don't have much to say about the close of season two, largely because I got so caught up in travel preparations that I don't remember what I saw in much detail.

I do know that they keep neatly balancing the heightened comedy against the warmhearted character moments.  It's an impressive skill, and it's nowhere near as easy as it looks.  At the same time, sometimes I wonder if it feeds into something Mo Ryan has pointed out: that entertainment assumes that everything in the U. S. that's not on a coast is, basically, The Shire.  Any town anywhere in the Vast Flyover is a goodhearted, salt-of-the-earth type -- perhaps eccentric, perhaps irascible, but basically too limited, powerless, and poor to do much damage to the world.

I do notice that the show is starting to play a bit with "schmuck bait" -- i.e., they'll set up a storyline wherein "OMG Leslie might be able to build the park RIGHT NOW!"  But at least here in season two, it feels like actually building the park would sort of kill the point of the show.  So you sit and patiently wait for the plot to invent a reason why Leslie has to, on principle, derail this easy solution.

Finally, I love the development of bringing in the budget-cutters from Indianapolis.  Yes, Adam Scott is a painful reminder of how much I'd like to have seen a third season of Party Down, but oh well.  Mostly, I'm happy to see such a natural plot development lead us into season three.  Of course government services are getting starved for money.  Of course in anything like reality, the Parks and Rec deparment of a small town would get hit hard.  And now we know the characters well enough that we delight in knowing how they'll react to this.  Of *course* Ron Swanson will act like it's every birthday and Christmas rolled into one.

And it gives the showrunners a perfectly natural way to shuttle Mark Brendanawicz out of the show (so he could pursue a film career).  They'd patiently built the groundwork by having Ann break off her relationship with him.  And now they were cutting staff, and... well, sure Mark would take the buyout.  He could recognize the civic idealism of somebody like Leslie, but... he never really felt it.  And he knew that someone with his skills could do better in the private sector.

And so we get one last touching scene, Mark and Leslie looking out at the lot.  It was great to come back to a mirror of the end of season one, reminding us of the episode where the show really found its emotional footing, even as it put a neat coda on a bittersweet friendship at the heart of the show.

I'm told season three is stronger still than season two, and I look forward to it.

(Side note: so happy to see Natalie Morales guesting on the show.  Hooray for Middleman alums!)

Frontline: Digital Nation
This is the Frontline special about the Internet and how it's affecting our lives.  It's mostly a grab-bag of social-media related topics: using Second Life for business meetings; WoW players meeting IRL for the first time at BlizzCon; and of course the smattering of South Korean dudes that died after marathon StarCraft sessions.

It's all presented from the point of view of "I'm a middle-aged parent who's kind of scared of new things", which I suppose reflects the audience of Frontline.  So we see positive things -- like couples who fell in love via WoW and are now happily married -- presented with a sort of surprised bemusement.  And we see neutral things -- like a study that reveals how, when we search the Internet, we use different parts of our brains from the ones we use while reading -- presented with a sort of fear/uncertainty/doubt paradigm.  Could it be that we're using less useful parts of our brain while doing Google searches?  And what does this mean for THE CHILDREN?!

Ironically, for a show that championed deep thinking, cohesive arguments, and lengthy works of prose, Digital Nation doesn't have much of a through-line.  Its main strengths are in the surprising nuggets of information that even people familiar with social media might not have heard of: the classes in netiquette for South Korean pre-schoolers, say, or the fact that somebody who creates a tall avatar for themselves online will do better in negotiations with associates -- even when they meet those same associates in real life.

But still, it's nothing that powerful or affecting.  It's more like mildly interesting newsmagazine fodder that you leave playing while you fold your laundry.

For next time:  I'm watching series one of That Mitchell and Webb Look, and reading more H. P. Lovecraft.

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Mood: [mood icon] contemplative · Music: none
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