Category: Television & Film

26
Jan

Mary Tyler Moore And Broad Girls: Why Culture Always Needs Funny, Strong Women

 

 

Broad City

This week saw the season finale of two different series about women whose story arcs have been surprising, fresh and appealing, not because they’re shocking in their bad behavior, but in how realistic it is, especially to a Millennial audience that desperately craves authenticity. HBO’s Girls and Comedy Central’s Broad City may not be on-air ratings smashes, but you can be sure that their target audience is binging — perhaps on their laptops or with their parent’s HBO Go passwords; most likely with a second screen in hand, but they are tuning in for the kind of authentic, experience-driven content that marketers should take note of.

Even as ad sales models are shifting in our ever-changing industry, audiences will always be drawn to television, so long as the content feels culturally relevant and speaks directly to them.


Forty years ago, America’s Sweetheart on the small screen was Mary Tyler Moore, a traditionally beautiful good girl, who’d risen to fame playing the eternally patient wife to Dick Van Dyke on his title show, before being granted her own namesake series, which lasted seven seasons and won, at the time, a record-breaking 29 Emmys. From 1970 to 1977,
The Mary Tyler Moore Show appealed to a wide audience of women, especially those who were young and working full-time, because it was one of the first shows to portray an independent, childless working woman who, on top of everything, was succeeding. Mary was smart, driven, hard-working, kind and gorgeous. She had the career, a love life on her terms and strong female friendships, to boot. Mary had it all.

But where Mary succeeded — in both her fictional life and the very real network ratings — by being aspirational, creating something today that appeals to this generation of young working women must be approached differently. Instead of searching for role models, today’s Millennials want authentic and complicated, experience-driven characters.

Which is why the girls of Broad City and the broads of Girls are so appealing to this generation.

They defy inherited expectations about career, clothes and relationships. Which isn’t to say  Abbi and Ilana are dismissive of looking good and having glossy ideal lives, they certainly want careers and love. In their sketch comedy humour is used to hilariously pick apart these expectations.

Unlike Mary, none of them are in truly successful careers, relationships or even necessarily well-dressed. On Broad City, Abbi, the straight-laced of the two, is desperately trying to work her way up at a SoulCycle stand-in that doesn’t fully embrace her, while Ilana, her sexually fluid, polyamorous best friend drifts from job to job as she’s asked to leave each of them. They drink, they get high, and they navigate dating in the era of Tinder and “Hookup Culture” in a way that all feels fresh, and, most importantly, real.

It’s no coincidencegirls that both series were developed by their stars, who took their real-life experiences to parlay them into fictional versions of themselves. In Girls, show creator and star Lena Dunham’s main character, Hannah’s, friendships are as dramatic, if not more than her romantic relationships, something Dunham has said was important to portray in contrast to shows like Sex in the City, which had previously set the standard for portrayals of female friendships among young working women.

Says Dunham, “I kind of also felt like it was aspirational about friendship… for me, that kind of friendship is elusive. I feel like a lot of the female relationships I see on TV or in movies are in some way free of the kind of jealousy and anxiety and posturing that has been such a huge part of my female friendships, which I hope lessens a little bit with age.”

Millennials defy our expectation. Their lives are complicated, messy, exciting and unique. They don’t want to be spoken down to, they don’t even want our encouragement; they want to see themselves, or at least recognizable version of themselves, in their entertainment and even marketing. And as the business of television and how we reach our audiences continues to change, now, more than ever, content of any type has to be more than just marketable and engaging. It has to be real.

29
Sep

Trust Me, I’m a Celebrity: BoJack Horseman and the Need to Trust Your Audience

BoJack Horseman may already have wrapped up its third season, an admirable feat in a television climate of shows where something as clever, melancholy and, well, different as the Netflix original often don’t make it through an entire first season. Still, it’s only 37 episodes (and one Christmas special) in — a little more than a season and a half in broadcast years — and it’s already taken leaps with how much it trusts its audience.

In season 3, episode 4, “Fish Out of Water,” the entire show takes a shift stylistically, with a muted, underwater color palette, and in tone and in dialogue (spoiler alert: the episode is mostly dialogue-free) in a stark series departure that New York Magazine’s Vulture vertical says, “plays out as if the iconic Looney Tunes director Chuck Jones were tasked with doing a Charlie Chaplin–inspired Fantasia segment.” It’s also been compared to Lost in Translation and what the A.V. Club calls, “nothing short of a masterpiece.”

How is one episode of an (admittedly) charming, hilarious and sweetly bleak series about a talking washed-up B-list celebrity horse trying to find happiness enthralling audiences and critics alike? Because series creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg and his team did something we don’t see nearly enough in media anymore — they trusted their audience. It’s the reason critics were so fond of the first three seasons of NBC’s “Community” when showrunner Dan Harmon was firmly in place and made it clear that his goal was to entertain those already invested in his show and not worry about making it broad and palatable for new fans to jump in. This may not have won him great ratings, but it did win him the loyalty of his fans, such that even after being replaced in season 4 (for a number of reasons), NBC still brought him back for season 5, and Yahoo! was willing to take a chance on season 6. Six seasons and a movie became the rallying cry of the “Community” fanbase, and they may still get their wish.

While it’s unwise to ignore a wider or untapped market, especially for those of us whose jobs it is to create dynamic campaigns that draw in, hopefully, larger audiences for our clients, there’s a greater value to an engaged, invested consumer or viewer who appreciates that the brand is talking directly to them and is investing in their relationship. One rabid BoJack fan is more likely to insist to their friends that they have to watch all three seasons of BoJack just to get the full depth of “A Fish Out of Water” vs. three casual viewers who may tune in to just that one episode and think “eh, this is just a visually beautiful, silly cartoon.” If you’ve been invested since the beginning, the full pathos, aching regret and beautiful rays of hope that pierce through the underwater depths are a full payoff.

16
Jan

The Future of Television

Image Credit: Creative Commons, Jiri Zraly

Image Credit: Creative Commons, Jiri Zraly

Television was once lauded as a groundbreaking medium, but as we’ve entered an age of seemingly exponential growth in media technology, that status has become questionable. Surrounded by competition being broadcast on every screen imaginable – from sources that were previously unimaginable – to some, the perception today is that television has become slow to adapt to technology, and media companies are more interested in competition and gobbling up competitors, or monetizing views rather than charting the future of entertainment.

There are glimmers of truth in these observations, but gleams do not illuminate the totality of change going on in broadcast and cable television. Let’s step back for calculated pause. Perhaps the issue isn’t television’s tepid use of technology, but more our FOMO and impatient mindset as it concerns digital media. Our impatience is blocking our full appreciation of market conditions.

We are bombarded with hourly news about the latest digital and television content deals. We attend industry conferences where everyone is busy speculating about digital and television competition and convergence. And the question on the tip of everyone’s tongue is, “when will television catch up with new models of distribution?”

But by focusing on this question, we’re not appreciating the fact that television’s history is still active and ongoing. Also, in our excitement to move forward, we may be overestimating the success of new distribution platforms. Netflix has not shared ratings for its hot shows House of Cards or Orange Is The New Black, but the buzz nevertheless, quickens the tempo of conversations. Our impatience tells us that the content is out there, but . . . what? The buzz amplifies our impatience, which feeds our prevailing mindset.

There are two ways of understanding the future of television, first from the technology side: how to best deliver content whether through VOD, SVOD or over-the-top services. Secondly, through the targeted content side: understanding what type of programming people want to consume. Most consumers are not deeply concerned with the hardware companies that control the physical gadgetry; most would also rather consume interesting and meaningful programming.

From this perspective, it’s the content that seems everywhere, and media companies are the competitive foot-draggers. At a recent New York Television week, a panelist said that there’s endless programmable content out there, but this may be a bit of an overstatement. What is out there are silos of niche audiences. The prevailing logic is that the mother brand, the larger company where television’s legacy still makes it king, is what ties them together.

And while we’re placing so much emphasis on the evolution of digital media, i.e. the second-screen, studies show that, so far, at least, viewers are using new technology either as supplemental or in partnership with traditional viewing, not as a replacement. If we look back in American economic history, during every epoch of industrial transformation, the successful companies made strategic moves while the losers acted too quickly. Caution is not always a losing strategy.

From a brand perspective, television shouldn’t lose sight of audiences, who they are and what they want. Media empires, broadcast and cable companies must forge relationships with audiences, create conversations for smart and busy viewers using new demographic, trends and ethnographic research.

Needless to say, broadcast and cable television is cautiously charting its future, and that future it is happening right now. At this moment, companies are thinking, planning and iterating how to deliver content to anyone, anywhere and across any screen. Amazing opportunities exist. You’ve got to know where to look.

11
Jul

Television and The Modern Family Mash-Up

Image courtesy of Hapticgeneration.com

Image courtesy of Hapticgeneration.com

Audiences gravitate towards stories about families because they capture the quirky, imperfect, and often hilarious dynamics of our own lives, and as a content creator, television is uniquely positioned to mirror our changing families and to help audiences navigate what it all means. Only recently, however, has the story been so colorful, and crowded. Here’s a look at how the changes in American families and their continually complicated stories get played out in entertainment.

In the 1950s, the family was viewed as one cohesive functional unit and the need for conformity was a recurring theme in programming. Demographically speaking, television reflected the fact that American households were primarily white, and on TV, white families stood in for other ethnic groups. After World War II, US consumers had more discretionary income and the population was growing. With more money and bigger families, people began moving to the then-new suburbs. Television telegraphed these demographic changes, turning raw data into stories that fueled shows as The Real McCoys, The Donna Reed Show, Bewitched and Father Knows Best.

By the 1970s, the American family had begun a process of dramatic change. Divorce rates doubled, we saw the development of blended families, and the face of the American public was becoming a true melting pot, a multicultural mixture of ethnicities, races and religions under a single American identity. Again, television reflected these changes, now playing off family tension in such popular shows as the ground-breaking All In The Family and its spinoffs Maude, Good Times and The Jeffersons.

Recent demographic changes have further upended American society and culture. We are more diverse than ever, and in a demographic first, immigrant families accounted for the majority of births in 2010. Census data also indicates that there is no longer a “typical” American family as they are headed by divorced, married, single parents, married couples and a rising number of same-sex married and unmarried couples.

This new data reflects our changing attitudes about families and the ways parents and kids should live and love. It is opening up a new canvas on which we can write stories and create meaningful content that is truly modern and celebrates everyone in the household. I have no doubt that television will continue to play a critical role in shaping and depicting family stories and in doing so, attract more audiences.

This is an edited excerpt of Oishii Partner Kate Canada Obregon’s article “Television and The Modern Family Mash-Up,” which appears on Cynopsis Cynsiders. You can read the full text of the article here: http://www.cynopsis.com/cyncity/television-modern-family-mash/

 

05
Jul

PromaxBDA: The Conference 2013 Recap In Photos

PromaxBDA Elite Member Party, co-sponsored by Oishii

PromaxBDA Elite Party
L – R: Our fabulous rep, Astra Dorf of Astra Reps!, Sterling Hawkins (Oishii Consumer Experience Specialist & Business Development) & Ish Obregon (Oishii President/ Creative Director)

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Photo courtesy of PromaxBDA
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Photo courtesy of PromaxBDA
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Photo courtesy of PromaxBDA
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Photo courtesy of PromaxBDA

When Drinks, Hijinks and Photos Mix…
The Oishii-branded photo booth at the Elite Member Party, courtesy of technology partner SOOH Media

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Photo courtesy of PromaxBDA

The results!

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The Kid In The Wild

The Oishii Kid leaves his mark around the PromaxBDA Conference, including the opening night party at the Science Center with the Endeavour Space Shuttle, a decadent dinner at Wolfgang Puck at LA Live and a view of Staples Center.

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The Conference

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Photo courtesy of PromaxBDA

Keynote with Larry Flynt, interviewed by Cindy Gallop
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Photo courtesy of PromaxBDA

Creative Keynote by Gary Baseman
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Photo courtesy of PromaxBDA

“State of Design” Talk by STASH’s Stephen Price
PromaxBDA State of Design
Some of the most mind-blowing design & animation work from around the world… makes us inspired to get our hands dirty!

“Beauty Is Embarrassing” Documentary
Wayne White & Ish Obregon
This irreverent documentary, directed by Neil Berkeley, takes us into the brilliant and prolific mind of one of America’s greatest artists / puppeteers / illustrators – not to mention a truly kind and friendly spirit — Wayne White. Here posing with Oishii’s Ish Obregon!

The Awards Show
Hosted by the ever-funny Jay Mohr
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Photo courtesy of PromaxBDA

Mark Hamill accepting the Don LaFontaine Legacy Award recognizing his work as a voice actor.
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Photo courtesy of PromaxBDA


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