Musings @musicandmeaning.com

Tell me, how do I feel? Tell me now, how do I feel?
"He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood." – E. M. Forster

Monday, 17 February 2003

If only Nielsen viewers cared about subtlety

Alias wasn’t on over the weekend, so I got to save some videotape and watched the third episode of Foyle’s War. The sort-of miniseries stars the wonderful Michael Kitchen (heading a great cast) and was created and written by Anthony Horowitz, who should be very familiar to PBS devotees (Poirot). It’s based on a mystery/detective story premise, but the plots’ meatier content revolves more around social and cultural observations of a side of WW2-era Britain not dramatized often — all presented in an interesting package. I’m not sure of the stories’ historical accuracy, but the shows are enough to get my attention. Coincidentally, I had just seen the film The Remains of the Day again (the seventh time? eighth?) and re-read parts of Kazuo Ishiguro‘s novel (see the "Literature" section) a few weeks ago, so the theme of pre- and post-WW2 politics in England had already propelled its way forward in my consciousness.

There’s one episode left, airing this Sunday as the feature of Masterpiece Theatre. I recommend catching it, on tape at least. I hadn’t really liked what I’d seen of the recent features, but two weeks ago I ended up taping Alias and watching Foyle instead. Foyle is perhaps the opposite of Alias. It isn’t exactly ratings bonanza fare: it’s not attention-grabbing in an obvious way, nor eye- or mind-bending. Instead, the show is quiet and can be subtle, yet surprisingly effective, much like its title character. I hope there’ll be more episodes in the future.

[Your Ad Here] Masterpiece Theatre: If you haven’t heard already, ExxonMobil announced in December 2002 that it will withdraw its funding from Masterpiece Theatre after the 2003-04 season. The corporation stopped sponsoring Mystery! in 1996 (back then it was still Mobil). (If you didn’t watch the show before then…you know the mostly black-and-white Edward Gorey-based opening and ending title sequences of Mystery! now? And the very prominent red umbrella? That umbrella was not there until Mobil left and Travelers Insurance began sponsoring the show…Travelers used the red umbrella in its logo. But although Travelers is no longer a sponsor — Looksmart is the latest underwriter — its red umbrella is still in the titles!)

Anyway, back to Masterpiece Theatre. What a shame to end over 30 years of a staple media sponsorship on public television. I do hope that there will be a “next” sponsor…not the stuttered sponsorships of Mystery since Mobil left. But in the age of corporate labeling (I really hope Comiskey Park will not be renamed U.S. Cellular Field), PBS is so desperate for underwriting that it is actually giving 30-second adverts to its show sponsors. Did you notice the proliferation of car spots before and after the shows recently? Sigh.

Posted at 9:55 pm | Filed under Television

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