The speculative controversy around the “Fixer Upper” stars

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Photo (cc) 2015 by chumlee10

“Fixer Upper” has been a staple of the home renovation world since its premiere. But the HGTV show has been in the news for a more controversial reason this week.

It started with a Buzzfeed article on the Gaineses, the stars of the show. The article stated that the pastor of their church preaches that homosexuality is a sin. The author was not able to get a comment from HGTV or the Gaineses when it was originally published, but posed this question: 

So are the Gaineses against same-sex marriage? And would they ever feature a same-sex couple on the show, as have HGTV’s House Hunters and Property Brothers? 

Two days later, the Washington Post published an opinion piece called “Buzzfeed’s Hit Piece on Chip and Joanna Gaines is Dangerous,” written by Brandon Ambrosino. In the article, Ambrosino, who is both gay and Christian, defended the couple and condemned the Buzzfeed article:

The entire article is an elaborate exploration of that hypothetical question. And yes, it is very much hypothetical, by the reporter’s own admission: “Emails to Brock Murphy, the public relations director at their company, Magnolia, were not returned. Nor were emails and calls to HGTV’s PR department.”

But that does not stop Aurthur from writing almost 800 more words about the non-story. Her upshot seems to be: Two popular celebrities might oppose same-sex marriage because the pastor of the church they go to opposes same-sex marriage, but I haven’t heard one way or the other. (I can’t imagine pitching that story to an editor and getting a green light, by the way.)

He goes on to accuse Buzzfeed of being manipulative and deliberately targeting conservatives.

It’s no secret that part of Trump’s success is owed to how skillfully he invalidated the media’s authority in the eyes of his conservative followers. The message was very clearly: The media doesn’t like me because I’m conservative, and they don’t like you because you’re conservative, and they’re going to try to ruin all of us, so let’s just ignore them.

And then, like clockwork, BuzzFeed published a story proving him right.

The Gaineses was trending on Facebook into Friday and had released no public comment on the topic.

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Journalists respond to Rory’s failed career on “Gilmore Girls”

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Alexis Bledel (Rory Gilmore). Photo (cc) 2008 by Jason McELweenie

Netflix’s new series, “Gilmore Girls: A Year in a Life,” has brought journalism and entertainment together, something that certainly peaks my interests and makes it perfect for this blog. The four episode program, a continuation of the WB/CW series that ran from 2000-2007, follows young and often comedic mother Lorelei Gilmore and her friendship with her daughter, Rory. Throughout the original run, Rory dreams of being a journalist, and given her intelligence and admission to Yale’s journalism program, it looks like she’ll be successful.

It therefore came as somewhat of a kick in the gut, at least to me, that the 32-year-old Rory in “A Year in a Life” is a fairly unsuccessful freelancer whose limited career implodes over the course of the year, ending with her jobless and living with her mother. 

Perhaps the most meta and entertaining response to the reveal came in the form of an online piece by The Atlantic. In an episode of “A Year in a Life,” Rory tells her mother that the publication bumped one of her stories. Even though the decision was fictional, The Atlantic still wrote a rebuttal, titled “Turns Out, Rory Gilmore is Not a Good Journalist.” 

The posts goes on to outline not one or two but 21 journalistic missteps Rory makes during the four episodes, from taking David Carr’s image in vein to sleeping with a source. The article, by Megan Garber, doesn’t cut the younger Gilmore much slack:

Amy Sherman-Palladino, Gilmore Girls’s creator, writer, and executive producer, once expressed her annoyance that so many of the show’s fans seem to care more about Rory’s romantic fate (Dean? Jess? Logan?) than about her professional one. “It’s just such a small part of who Rory is,” Sherman-Palladino told Time, of her character’s romantic life. “I don’t see people debating ‘Did she win a Pulitzer yet?’”

Spoiler: She didn’t. And the show has now provided a pretty good explanation of why.

Mashable published a similar article, “Rory Gilmore is not a good journalist,” by Los Angeles-based reporter Saba Hamedy. Armed with the knowledge of Rory’s career failure, she takes a retrospective look at the signs in the original run that Rory’s career wasn’t going places, including her not knowing about her high school’s newspaper and being bad a networking.

Luckily for everyone, Rory ends the new season with the decision to refocus and write a book. Perhaps it will suit her better.

Good News! It’s now easier to watch Netflix.

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Photo (cc) 2015 by Uditha Wickramanayaka

Long car and bus rides just got a lot better for Netflix users. The streaming service announced yesterday that it had launched an online viewing option for its subscribers. The service is available on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets on the Netflix app.

Some titles cannot be streamed offline, include the recently released “Gilmore Girls: A Year in a Life,” but the company has promised to make additional content part of the program at some point. 

“While many members enjoy watching Netflix at home, we’ve often heard they also want to continue their ‘Stranger Things’ binge while on airplanes and other places where internet is expensive or limited,” Netflix’s Director of Product Innovation Eddy Wu wrote yesterday.

Amazon Prime Video, YouTube Red and Starz’s mobile streaming app already offer this service.

This decision also follows Pandora’s addition of offline music streaming through its new Pandora Plus service, which was announced on September 15.

“Will and Grace” may be coming back into your lives

 

Photo (cc) by David Shankbone
Photo (cc) by David Shankbone

We live in an age where death is no longer permanent. That is, if you’re a TV show.

Following the long, long line of recent revivals in reboots in TV and film, TVLine reported  yesterday that NBC is considering bringing back sitcom “Will and Grace.”

The NBC reboot would be have a limited run. An online reunion video for the show came out in September.

Yesterday, star Debra Messing tweeted a picture of herself and her former cast mates reuniting for a Hillary Clinton event.

Meanwhile, fans were using Twitter to respond to the rumor:

Other recent revivals include “Arrested Development,” “The X-Files” and the upcoming “Gilmore Girls” films.

Is HBO forming a legacy of sexual violence?

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Photo (cc) 2014 by twipzdeeauxilia

“Game of Thrones” has become popular for a number of reasons. It is, in my opinion, a well-written and well-acted show. It looks, and is, expensive, and gives television a narrative and visual complexity that is rare in the medium. Plus, there are dragons. Everyone loves a good dragon.

But it’s undeniable that a lot of the show’s success can also be attributed to its shock value. HBO has never been the network rainbows and kittens, and plenty of their previous shows like “True Blood” and “Rome” have had a whole lot of sex and violence. But “Game of Thrones” seems to have reached a new level, with its unusually creative violence that can befall even the most major characters and its appallingly twisted sex scenes. And people have eaten it up. It’s become known as the show that will kill anyone and will go to any lengths to gross out its eager audience.

Though we can argue for days about the merits and negatives of mature content in media, these shock value cinematics are relatively harmless and are easily avoidable for those who don’t like them. But a reoccurring theme in “Game of Thrones” criticism is that, in its attempt to be as violent as possible, the show has very often turned to sexual assault.

Including sexual assault in media is obviously a hot-button issue.”Thrones” has angered fans with many plots, including a rape scene that inspired Lena Headey, who played the sexual assault  victim, to defend the show.

“Thrones” is hardly the only show to include controversial depictions of sexual assault, but it’s perhaps the most visible, with its multiple related storylines and general popularity as a program.

That’s why it’s interesting that HBO’s newest show, “Westworld,” seems to be taking cues from “Thrones.”

The show is a “Thrones” wannabe in many ways. It’s a large-scale, big-budget science fiction show with a complicated ensemble of characters. It’s pretty easy to see it as HBO’s attempt at the next “Thrones.” It’s noteworthy, then, that HBO has taken more then just the big picture ideas of “Thrones” for “Westworld.” They’ve also taken the unabashed violence and sexual assault. 

“Westworld” star Evan Rachel Wood, who plays one of the show’s sexual assault victims, spoke to the Hollywood Reporter about the storylines:

“I don’t like gratuitous violence against women at all, but I would wait for the context in which it’s being used. As the show progresses, the way it’s being used is very much a commentary and a look at our humanity and why we find these things entertaining and why this is an epidemic, and flipping it on its head. The roles for the women on this show are going to be very revolutionary. It’s very gender-neutral. I would ask, as somebody who is an advocate against any kind of abuse or violence and is outspoken about it, to give it a chance and wait to see where it’s going. I think it will surprise people.”

In August, Huffington Post wrote an article about an HBO executives’ inability to justify their sexual assault stories. The author, Zeba Blay, included this passage:

“An over-reliance on rape plots is simply a symptom of lazy storytelling. So often, when a TV show wants to give a female character a tragic backstory, or put her on the path to redemption, or punish her, it uses rape to achieve that end.”

A few days later, the Salt Lake Tribune published an article called ‘From “Game of Thrones” to the new “Westworld,” Does HBO have a rape problem?’ The article included a quote from “Westworld” executive producer Lisa Joy:

“Violence and sexual violence have, sadly, been a fact of human history since the beginning of human history.”

Sexual assaulted storylines aren’t always universally panned by fans. Revelist wrote an interesting article earlier this year about movies and shows that have handled the topic well. But it’s worth noting that the article is almost written as a response to “Thrones” doing a bad job.

Is there a pattern forming here on America’s edgiest station? It’s probably to soon to say, but the channel found a formula that worked for it with “Thrones,” and it can be seen repeating in “Westworld.”

Personally, I think it’ll be very telling to see how “Westworld” unfolds. The question that the new show has to answer is this: is the treatment of sexual assault a specifically “Game of Thrones” problem, or, more disturbingly, is it a reoccurring theme on one of the world’s most beloved channels?

A Look at TVLine

tvscreen.jpg
Photo (cc) 2007 by Arnold Chao

I’m very fortunate, as someone who operates an entertainment news blog, that there are so many well-respected, trusted publications that focus on my topic. It makes for a lot of competition, but also for a lot of major sources.

Of all the major entertainment news publications out there, the one that I’ve spent the most time reading is probably TV Line. I discovered TV Line when it first started in 2011. I’d been reading writer Michael Ausiello at TV Guide and discovered that he was leaving to found a new site, so I followed him. The website has a relatively narrow focus. Unlike something like Entertainment Weekly, it just reports on television. It is and always has been online-only.

As can be ascertained from the bottom of the site, it’s published and owned by the Penske Media Corporation, or PMC, which is also responsible for media like Deadline, Variety, Hollywood Life, BGR and FN.

On PMC’s website, they describe themselves as “a leading digital media, publishing, and information services company” and say that they publish over 20 digital media brands. PNC has headquarters in both Los Angeles and New York City.

According to the TVLine profile on Whois.com, their domain name is registered through Enom, Inc. It’s registered to PMC at 11175 Santa Monica Blvd in L.A.

There is not print version of TVLine, so they generate no revenue from print advertising. There is also no paywall; the entire site is free. I have never seen native advertising on the site. The only revenue source I have been able find and confirm is traditional online advertising. They often have large themed ads that take up the sides and top of the page and focus on one particular show. The ads on the site are almost exclusively for television shows. 

I like it because they have a good variety of types of content, from recaps to interviews with notable stars to breaking news. I like that they seem to always have the story. When something happens in the television world, it’s always on their website quickly. There’s strong journalism at TVLine in terms of writing and interviews. When they do interviews, they’re able to get access to the kinds of people readers care about, which doesn’t always happen on smaller sites. However, they are small enough that you can easily read everything that gets published. That makes the site seem manageable and focused.

They could do better in terms of focusing on shows and networks equally. They tend to pick certain TV shows that they like and focus a lot of coverage on them. Some shows get disproportionate amounts of coverage, sometimes because they’re on more major stations or are more popular shows, but sometimes for no discernible reason. 

I think TVLine does a good but fairly average job engaging with readers. The writers and editors share the stories on their social media accounts, and there’s a comments section on all stories that usually has hundred of replies. I don’t think they TVLine anything particularly above and beyond the norm for digital news sites. However, writers and editors do sometimes reply directly to comments to answer questions or discuss aspect of the story, which I think is a nice step towards encourage dialogue.