History

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American Gods

Watch on Prime.

Based on the awardwinning novel (published in 2001) of one of the world’s most loved authors, Neil Gaiman. American Gods is a dark and suspenseful spec fic TV series. The book and author has a cult following and it’s not hard to see why.

American Gods review on prime

With a promising opening credit sequence, it sets the scene for dark fantasy and neon horror. And yes, it’s intriguing as it sounds. 

The rich and complex scenes are concurrently fast paced and slow burning. Which develops the fullness of all the characters (based on deities), mainly the protagonist, Shadow. Who is every bit as his name suggests, in the best possible way. The story is told in a series of vignettes. Which are slowly revealed as connected by the main character (bad guy turned good). 

Each scene in American Gods is highly visual and palpable stories in and of themselves. From the elderly babcia who tells fortunes with tea leaves to the futuristic leader called Technology Boy. To the sexual representation of goddess Ishtar who literally devours her subjects with her genitals. The details are complete and thick. And provide a great mattress for the obvious tension in every scene between at least two of the characters. 

american gods review

American Gods is heavy with mythology and historical legend and how the universal learnings apply to all humanity in today’s world. And it’s all complemented with an evocative gothic soundtrack. 

Gaiman is one of the executive producers which gives comfort that there is some authenticity in regard to the novel. 

american gods gillian anderson
Gillian Anderson as Lucille Ball

Should I watch it American Gods?

Yes. Especially if you love your mythology. Also yes just to see the incredible Gillian Anderson play Lucille Ball-Riccardo,  Marilyn Monroe and David Bowie.

If you like TV shows based on books, read the Alias Grace review.

Binge watching is the new black

Binge watching TV is an actual official thing according to this 2015 survey carried out by TiVo where ninety-two percent of the respondents admitted that they usually watched multiple episodes of a television program in rapid succession. Australia is the eighth highest binge watching country in the world.

Most of us are guilty (don’t feel guilty!) of this, getting our snacks lined up and settling into our most comfortable position to complete an entire series in a single night. 

‘60% of all TV viewers report watching two or more episodes of a show in a row.’

binge watching tv

But why do we binge watch TV? 

Binge watching TV is a relatively new phenomenon (well, some of us have been doing it for way longer than we should have) which is mostly driven by the ease at which these TV shows are offered up to us. Over the years, there have been several advances in technology that have changed the way we react to media. The introduction of recording devices like the VCR and TiVo allowed people to record shows and movies without having to rely on a TV schedule. It also allowed people to share these shows with their friends and create playlists of popular shows. Seems so retro now, doesn’t it?

DVD and streaming services took this a step further by giving users to entire seasons without having to wait for weekly episodes. This level of access to lots of episodes of the same show, which were originally intended to be viewed once a week is the major starting point for our binge watching.

I remember the first time I seriously binge watched a show. It was about eight years ago and I was housesitting a friend’s house. I told myself I might as well watch twenty minutes of Breaking Bad. This is not hyperbole when I say that I watched it for six hours straight. And thus my love of binge watching was born. 

binge watching

For the love of binge watching

Another reason we love it so much is that binge watching TV actually makes us feel more relaxed. People take solace in the world they choose to tune into and feel more tranquil when viewing this alternate world. However, this relaxed feeling disappears as soon as you turn the TV off and we are subconsciously aware of this. This keeps us watching episode after episode to keep that relaxed feeling going. Can you relate to this relaxation addiction? 

Finally, scriptwriters have caught on to the fact that most viewers binge watch their shows and have begun writing for it. This is why I love the entertainment industry. Unlike many other industries, they adapt to their demographics’ behaviour as soon as they notice trends in data. 

Most modern TV shows now feature engaging storylines with complex and surprising cliff-hangers to keep their viewers glued. And as we’ve looked at, TV shows are varying their length to suit all sorts of viewers.

Do you remember your first binge watch? What was it?

Murderess… Netflix’s Alias Grace series

‘All the same, Murderess is a strong word to have attached to you. It has a smell to it, that word— musky and oppressive, like dead flowers in a vase. Sometimes at night I whisper it over to myself: Murderess, Murderess. It rustles, like a taffeta skirt across the floor. Murderer is merely brutal. It’s like a hammer, or a lump of metal. I would rather be a murderess than a murderer, if those are the only choices.’ Quote from the novel, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood.

Alias Grace review

Alias Grace is a six part Netflix series adapted from Margaret Atwood’s (one of my favourite authors, who also penned such game changers as The Handmaid’s Tale) bestselling novel. Atwood previously wrote about Miss Marks in her 1970s play The Servant Girl. What’s intriguing is that it’s based on the 1843 true story of Grace Marks and Jason McDermott. Written for the screen by award winning screenwriter, Sarah Polley, who is reported to have spent a couple of decades— first approaching Atwood at age seventeen— trying to bring Alias Grace to life. ‘People know they need to look brutally and honestly at the world,’ Polley says about the appeal of Atwood’s work.

The series, starring Sarah Gadon, is a well constructed and haunting story. It details the murder of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery by Marks and McDermott. It has been a popular watch. After only a few weeks on Netflix and Rolling Stone dubbed it ‘…the most relevant show on television.’

Author of Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood

Atwood, who is a celebrated feminist writer, highlighted throughout the novel the differences in the way female and male murders are treated. And how they are perceived and regarded by society (then and now). And, of course, takes an intimate look at The Woman Question

Atwood has stated about the protagonist and real life Grace ‘…The interesting thing is the way everybody projects their ideas onto Grace.’

Leaves us questioning (as many of the characters are also) is she a victim of the situation and ‘… a good girl with a pliable nature…’ [page 25] (and trying to make the best of) or is she a cold blooded murderer and ‘…cunning and devious…’ [page 25]. It also highlights how a murder is not in and of itself. That people, especially women, are three dimensional, even if they commit what are considered to be evil acts. 

Atwood said in this interview with her publisher, Penguin Randomhouse: ‘Other people took the view that women, when they got going, were inherently more evil than men, and that it was therefore Grace who had instigated the crime and led McDermott on. So you had a real split between woman as demon and woman as pathetic.’

Who will like Alias Grace?

It holds something for most audience members. It comprises history, feminist overtones, mental health, supernatural, domesticity (specifically quilting is used as a prominent leitmotif) and— of course— romance. And whilst it may be historical, the themes and concerns are just as present today. Solidifying the necessity to storytell and excavate these themes until the light that touches them to perpetrate radical change. Building on the increasing popularity of flawed female characters and unreliable narrators that we are equally harrowed by and empathetic towards. In the vein of Gone Girl, Girl on a Train, Fates and Furies and Jessica Jones. We are now embracing the idea the women are more multifaceted and whole than they have ever been depicted and that even the most determined murderess still has the capacity to love, feel empathy, create long lasting and meaningful friendships.

Additionally I found the recent series of The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace both pleasingly true to the novels. The details, the same mysterious atmosphere, ambiguous ending and pertinent premises come across exactly as I anticipated.

Alias Grace is an easier watch that the harrowing The Handmaid’s Tale. And whilst it will question your sensitivities and will haunt you for at least a week afterwards, it will not leave you in terror like The Handmaid’s Tale. Knowing it’s in the past and not a probable speculative fictional future.  

What’s more, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for a cameo appearance by Margaret Atwood herself.

You’ll love Alias Grace if you liked…

Making a Murderer
The Handmaid’s Tale
The Sinner
Top of the Lake

The glorious history of television

‘Good evening and welcome to television.’

Television is surely the most amazing and influential invention of the modern age. Television (TV) is one of the most beloved telecommunications medium that transmits coloured or monochrome moving images, accompanied by matching audio. The word television is derived from an ancient Greek word τῆλε which means “tele”. And from Latin word “visio” which means sight.  The history of television is an important one.

The first television

The first television (as we know it) was invented in 1927. It was first used in Australia in 1928 but introduced into homes in September 1956 by some dude in US (who grew up without electricity mind you). This same fellow banned his own kids from watching television! Stating that…

‘there’s nothing on it worthwhile, and we’re not going to watch it in this household, and I don’t want it in your intellectual diet,’ Philo T Farnsworth

Despite the nineteen twenties release date, some of the technology used (such as the Nipkow disk) was invented back as far as 1884. In line with the release of the television, of course, had to come the release of the video camera.

What’s even more fascinating is that the first colour and even the first 3D television began to emerge all the way back in 1928. But it wasn’t until after some initial tests, NBC made its first field test of colour television in February 1941.
The invention of television became a part of human life in the late 1920s but as an experiment only. But this was several years before the real technology and invention of television were marketed.

Television was poised as ‘so important in its implications that it is bound to affect all society,’ by David Sarnoff, RCA President during the 1939 unveiling.

‘…a new art so important in its implications that it is bound to affect all society.’

history of television

The first television remote control

The world’s first remote control, Tele Zoom A few years later came the world’s first remote control. Of sorts. It was known as the Tele Zoom and its only function was that it could zoom in and was attached by a cord. The remote control that we are more familiar with, a wireless one that can change channels etc, was released in 1955.

In Australia during the mid fifties, after ABC, Channel Nine and Channel Seven had launched ‘…only 1 per cent of Sydney residents and 5 per cent of Melbourne residents owned a TV, a luxury that cost six to 10 times the average weekly wage,’ Sydney Morning Herald

It was around the mid sixties when television started to surpass other mediums as a more trusted, reliable and turned to source of information and entertainment. During the late 1950s, television was considered as an important medium to sway and promote a public opinion and it continued to increase in influence.

History of flat screen television

Flat screens hit the market around 2005. And from there, TV units, broadcasting and the way we consume television briskly morphed into an all encompassing consumer fest. At the end of the 2000s, digital television transmissions gained some serious popularity across the world. Additionally there was more serious (and pleasing) development including the SD TV (standard definition TV) to HDTV (high definition TV). The developments and range in definition meant that resolution became much, much higher (and the picture incredibly clearer).

2010 saw a rise in use of the smart television and incorporated one of the best inventions to man, the internet. With this revolutionary development saw a big shift in the way we consumed, created and experienced television.

Some of us who were born in the early eighties or earlier might even remember a time when a television had a test pattern after midnight. And to “warm up” when it was switched on it made that glorious “zip” sound. Plus as you turned it off and it looked like someone had pulled the entire screen into a small hole at the back of the appliance. Fun times! Thankfully, television has twenty four hour programming or on demand capabilities these days.

It’s predicted that by 2021 (that’s actually only two years away) there will be 1.68 billion TV households worldwide. And with that a thousand billion dollar industry will continue to burgeon and shapeshift before our very eyes, literally.