The Burden of Good Television

Trent Gilliss, online editor

The production staff diligently spent hours selecting clips from their favorite television series for inclusion in this week’s program with Diane Winston. We’ve even got a title: "TV and Parables of Our Time." Somehow, I am told, downloading and watching 24 and Lost and Battlestar Galactica and The Wire is really hard work. Ah fellow producers, “you suffer for your soup.” *grin*

The professor of religion and media at USC appealed to the heart of Krista’s eclectic consumption of TV series on DVD. After all, they actually have sat together and watched the tube. This enthusiasm spilled over into our search for actualities from these episodes.

And, this passion bore itself out in last week’s cuts and copy session. The script was extraordinarily rough. There were at least five spots for audio clips from some of those series. Then it really got messy — two or three clips with an average length of 3-5 minutes (one more than 8 minutes) were included in the listen. Heads were spinning.

What I experienced was an insider’s perspective. Script was trying to explain too much of each plot, and the opening scene from 24 (“8:00 AM–9:30 AM” - season 2, episode 1) was heavy. So we sussed out the needs of various listeners and focused on illustrating or accentuating a point made at the out-cue. The result: a much better, more listenable production.

What I realized is that I don’t watch that much TV — well, except for my utter obsession of the Tour de France on Versus — and felt a bit sheltered, out of the loop actually, when talking about these dramatic series. Not being part of these conversations and the larger culture is isolating. I’m an outsider who can only politely smile and lean in when Krista and Mitch and Colleen and Nancy start discussing characters like Snot Boogie and McNulty, or Cylons and Caprica, or Jack Shepard and John Locke.

My hope is that an unknowing perspective helps those of you who are in the same boat that I’m in. That Thursday’s podcast clues you in rather than leaving your face pressed against the window watching the family sit in front of a toasty fire, chomping on popcorn and sodas, with a 42” HD screen glowing in the background.

So, here’s a list of the episodes and scenes we considered. I’ve flagged in bold the clips we’re using.

Scene from The WireThe Wire. The vernacular of the characters is difficult track at first, but somehow your ear tunes in after a while and you get the gist. Nevertheless, the distinct dialects and slang used eliminated a lot of great scenes from consideration for the radio.

  • "Misgivings" (Season 4, episode 10) - In the scene we chose, Colvin meets with Miss Shepherdson to seek permission to continue the alternative class.
  • "Final Grades" (Season 4, episode 13) - This scene presents Colvin meeting with Wee-bay in prison and asks if he can adopt his son Namond.
  • "Corner Boys" (Season 4, episode 8) - Colvin gives speech about corner boys to the alternative class.
  • "Refugees" (Season 4, episode 4) - Here, Mr. Prezbo (Pryzbylewski ) tries talking to his class after a student has been slashed.

Scene from Battlestar GalacticaBattlestar Galactica. Probably Krista’s favorite series. And so we found a place for three clips in the program.

Scene from LostLost

  • "White Rabbit" (season 1, episode 5) - We used two scenes from this episode: one where Jack Shepard tells the group that they have to learn to live together or die alone, and the other in which John Locke speaks dramatically about looking into the eye of the island and seeing its beauty.
  • "Exodus part 2" (season 1, episodes 24/25) - A rich discussion between Jack and Locke on science and faith.
  • "There’s No Place Like Home, parts 2 & 3" (season 4, episode 13) - Locke says the island is a place where miracles happen and tries to persuade Jack to stay on the island.

Scene from HouseHouse. A late entry to the production process that wasn’t part of the first cuts and copy session. A clip from this series was selected because it’s a different genre of drama and it is a popular series still in production.

  • "Informed Consent" (season 3, episode 3) - Here we have multiple scenes featuring a patient who wishes to die and not be treated while Dr. House tricks him into continuing testing/treatment.
  • "Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t" (season 1, episode 5) - A scene where Dr. House and a nun with a mysterious ailment debate God and faith.
  • "The Socratic Method" (season 1, episode 6) - We strongly considered this scene with Dr. House and his nemesis Dr. Cuddy about the ethics of using unapproved protocols to shrink a patient’s tumor so it could be operated on.
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