What an interesting perspective you’ve offered here, Aviva! Admittedly, it’s one I haven’t considered (or perhaps didn’t want to consider?) as thoroughly as you’ve done here.
I’m interested particularly in your final question re: the presumed stereotypical situations into which the central female characters find themselves and whether they actually do "evince ‘bad’ gender politics on the part of the show"? I wonder, with a show entitled The Good WIFE, if some of these storylines are virtually unavoidable (for the record, I think the Kalinda/Alicia/Peter plotline could’ve been handled much differently). In other words, how else could the show have moved its narratives forward without involving Peter Florick, again the BAD husband to Alicia’s GOOD wife?
Thanks for a wonderful post, Aviva, and this enlightening sequence that you have edited. (I couldn’t help but notice that the picture of Hillary appears in two of the three clips!) Your post in some ways answers some of the comments that Noel made on mine yesterday, and I appreciate your suggestion that the complications between the women have taken the show into thornier—and possibly ickier—territory. I wonder if we need to go back, also, to the formulas of family melodrama, as Charlotte suggested at the beginning of the week. As Alicia has gotten professionally more competent, she has also suffered more visibly. The first time I remember seeing her cry on the show is at the end of last season, which makes me wonder if the loss of friendship with Kalinda is as (or more?) traumatic that the dissolution of her marriage. We also see her kids suffering from the breakup, another telltale melodramatic trope.
Hi Suzanne. Thanks for a great post.
I’m curious if you’d be willing to expand a bit on the idea of "professional power imbu[ing] resiliency" within the show. While Alicia’s growing confidence within the her professional life has helped her exert more power within her personal life, I think there are points where the two are coming into increasing conflict that still cause anxiety for her, particularly in "The Death Zone" when Diane shows up at her door and in last Sunday’s "Get a Room" when Owen calls her out for using work to avoid addressing her personal problems.
And, if you can, I’d also be curious as to where (if at all) you’d place Kalinda in this configuration of work, resiliency, and scandal.
First, Charlotte, thanks for organizing this excellent week! I’m very excited about it, and the upcoming posts. Now to your question.
I’m glad you bring up the genre issues, as it’s another aspect that I think leaves the show underestimated or somewhat dismissed by some critics, in particular the procedural elements.
The show’s ability to balance its genres, including the ones you mention and all its others, is what makes it more deft and engaging than some other more revered cable programs. It’s hard to tell a narratively complicated story; it’s harder still to service different story demands as well as TGW is able to do.
I’ll also add that the two genres you mention help give the show a sense of timeliness and immediacy that could otherwise get lost if it was just about a woman’s search for herself. For instance, the show’s procedural aspects earned it an award from Human Rights First for focusing on various contemporary human rights issues.
Likewise the show’s family melodrama plots help point to economic issues (though in a way that isn’t totally on-target) and the challenges parents face in raising two kids who are dealing with a strain on their household and the outlets that the family seeks to deal with it (religion, rebellious girlfriends, improtu-dancing tutors) that speak to current societal trends.
Ultimately, the show is able to do these things because of its broadcast home, because of the broadcast network’s desire to speak to multiple audiences within a single show. In this sense, the very thing that Goodman uses to provide a snobbish dismissal, is one of the show’s greatest strengths.
In my opinion, of course.
You raise some important issues in this post, Noel, particularly the sliding scale of "quality" regarding broadcast and cable. I appreciate your attention to the constructedness of the discourse of cable quality by pointing out some cable channels that don’t necessarily market to the quality audience. The Good Wife is a problematic show to characterize on this sliding scale for all the reasons you suggest as well as due to some of its major genre characteristics: particularly its family melodrama foundation and its procedural-like episodic plots. Can we separate out the show’s acting (certainly the area in which it has thus far been most recognized as "quality"), from its broadcast home and its genre(s)?
Thanks for your feedback and questions, Karen. I’ll post a brief response and try to come back later. (I’m in a bakery waiting for my family to come so we can have lunch!)
Most of the Canadian programs distributed to the United States, at least that I know of, have been either sketch comedy or kids’ programs — or both, such as You Can’t Do That on Television in the 1980s. Canada has historically subsidized the production of kids’ programs, making them inexpensive to export, which is how Nickelodeon — which needed inexpensive programs to launch its network in the early 1980s — ended up with YCDTOT. What’s remarkable, there, however, is that the networks on both side of the border were commercial.
As for Little Mosque, I got the impression from Mary Darling, one of the show’s executive producers, that most networks abroad that had picked up the program were public broadcasters. (I’ll send her a link to this post — perhaps she’ll weigh in!) She said that network executives would approach her and describe how the program addressed issues they were facing in their country as well. Its specificity to the Canadian context (for instance in its setting, in the different ethnicities represented by both Muslim and non-Muslim characters, etc.) was outweighted by the themes it raised, which executives saw as translatable into their national context, too.
I’m still looking into questions of unauthorized modes of distribution, although most of the episodes are available on YouTube. The CBC’s website posts episodes, but they’re not available to people with IP addresses outside of Canada.
Your attention to when global flows ‘stop or are non-existent’ is well taken, especially in the scope of David Harvey’s recent work on the housing market bubble and China’s international investments. For ‘capital’ to work, he argues, it has to continuously circulate.
On this point, your post does raise a pretty difficult question—if most historical formulations of ‘the public’ have arisen from a nation/state structure as means to promote homogeneity and a greater imagined community, then what does it mean when transnational production cultures contribute to circulate ‘public’ broadcasting (such as with recent BBC/CPB attempts)? Is this a logical expansion of public broadcasting into global distribution, or a dramatic shift from the early modernist need for public media?
Thanks for this terrific post, Kyle. This is indeed an important question. What is the relationship between PBS and the CBC? Has PBS distributed Canadian programming in the past?
Global flows fascinate me for what they reveal, particularly when flows are stopped or non-existent. I am also endlessly frustrated as a regular ol’ viewer because the U.S. seems rather narrow in the types of foreign programs it will distribute. The BBC has long been in partnership with the US (from remakes like "All in the Family" to imports like "The Avengers" in the 1970s) but I’m not familiar with a similar free exchange between Canada and the U.S.
Your post highlights how Canadians define themselves partly in reference to the U.S. Does the US have a similar relationship with Britain that might preclude a consideration of the similarities with our neighbor to the north?
Of course, I’d like to know much more about how industry structures operate with this example. Which networks have the producers of "Little Mosque" approached and why have the terms never been satisfactory? Have the producers ever approached Netflix or another streaming site? Does the possible lack of a historical relationship with U.S. distributors continue to block the flow of Canadian television to this day?
Of course, the next question is whether it matters any more. "Downton Abbey" is airing now in England but won’t arrive to the U.S. for many months. That is not stopping many American fans of the program from keeping up with it right now along with the British audiences. Is the flow of "Little Mosque" similarly reaching beyond traditional (read: legal) distribution methods? What does the by-passing of traditional network distribution cycles suggest about the persistence of national models of television production?
More to the point, is there an opportunity here for public broadcasting networks to form closer alliances with other national systems to eliminate these barriers amongst themselves?
Patrick: Thanks for your comments. I agree the animation takes something away from the audio-only version. It also gives it something unique. Only a few were animated, including some quite emotional 9/11 stories. (And I had to come up with a visual for the post. This was a practical way of doing that).
I think it’s interesting to read a transcript of Terkel’s StoryCorps submission. To me, the words alone are somehow different than the audio. It’s fascinating how the same words take a different color based on how they’re presented.
I don’t think you’re a curmudgeon, but I think one must be realistic: people expect to consume media when, where, and how they want. At the heart remains quality content, but NPR must keep up with the times. A web break-out often allows reporters to include more information. As I mentioned to Karen, I think NPR (and PRI, APM—other public radio program distributors) know their core audience and strengths. The question becomes is that core strength sacrificed in the name of being all things to all people?
You’re absolutely correct. When people go into the StoryCorps booth, not only is there not a camera, there’s no one but the people speaking. Curators who record and engineer the audio remain outside the booth. There is a soft table lamp, and the microphones. That’s it. The idea is to limit external distractions so people can let their guards down and simply share their stories.
I think there are numerous factors that make public television more difficult to sustain. One, TV is an expensive proposition. Few public television stations can offer local programming to the same degree radio stations can. Only a handful have local newsrooms. PBS does what it does exceptionally well, I think. But for whatever reason—and I’m not sure I have the answers—public radio offers something unmatched in any medium. (Bias admitted!)