Episode 26 – Steven Seagal: Lawman

 

This episode: Steven Seagal: Lawman, Season 1, Eps. 1-8.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next episode: Foxy Ladies, Season 1.  Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

This month your hosts go down to Jefferson Parish, Louisiana and watch as 80’s action ‘star’ Steven Seagal fearlessly stands around and watches Louisiana cops harass young black men hanging out around past their ‘curfew’ while he assists with his slo-mo ‘hyper-vision’ and monologues about the importance of ‘Zen’ and how criminals ‘prey upon the weak’ while his chauffeur…er, co-worker drives him around and (presumably) swallows his tongue.

After the usual breakdown of the show’s concept (which is strangely reminiscent of another, more popular television show), we discuss Seagal’s background and long history of criminal behavior (that he has gotten away with because he is rich and powerful, unlike the people he ‘busts’ on this show) and the irony thereof.   We also delve into the show’s ‘law-and-order’ worldview and its treatment of race, as well as comparing its appeal to other crime TV narratives that have become popular in the past 20-30 years and how the presence of the camera and the pressure of ratings affects the quality of police work portrayed on the screen in this show and others like it.  Finally, of course, there are the requisite potshots at Seagal’s bloated ego and his hypermasculine persona, as well as a brief treatment of how that egotism and hypermasculinity might nevertheless appeal to a certain demographic.

Show Notes and Links

1:23 / Our resolution for this podcasting episode to be more like our show’s “hero”

2:05 / JS’s longstanding fascination with Steven Seagal

2:38 / Introducing this month’s show

3:21 / Our varying levels of enjoyment for this show (and the varying number of episodes we watched)

4:18 / The concept and structure of the show

6:30 / JS loved the show’s ‘slo-mo’ rendition of Seagal’s ‘hyper-vision’

8:04 / Mike didn’t catch the more serious cases that JS saw in the later episodes, which coloured his view of the show

9:02 / Discussing Steven Seagal’s background as an Aikido martial artist and action movie star (we mention Under Siege and Above the Law)

10:14 / Steven Seagal’s long history of allegations regarding physical and sexual assault (a rundown of his antics, from the possibly questionably reliable Internet page Looper is here)

11:19 / Seagal’s Putin and Trump fanboy-ism

11:45 / Taking a Google Image break to laugh at Seagal’s recent photos

13:00 / Seagal’s ridiculous Southern ‘accent’ and colloquialisms

13:49 / A further clarification on Seagal’s ‘credentials’

14:35 / Segueing towards the derivative nature of this show and our prior experience with COPS (our first episode is here, the COPS theme song)

16:00 / Comparing this to other police-themed television shows (the aforementioned COPS and fictional shows like Law & Order)

17:22 / The curated nature of this style of show – JS was surprised to see some of the more severe crimes that were responded to in this show (Mike mentions the low clearance rates for murders)

19:15 / Moving into the show’s Hobbesian and authoritarian law-and-order worldview

20:42 / JS mentions some instances that go against the grain and show some ‘community policing

23:20 / Why Mike wasn’t buying the ‘softer’ human-interest segments

24:38 / Delving into how the Seagal-specific segments differentiate this from other police reality shows in its implied advocacy of ‘vigilante’ self-defense

26:35 / Talking about the elephant in the room – this show’s (and others like it) treatment of race

28:11 / The show’s contradictory views on carrying guns (often according to the race of the person carrying it)

29:01 / A lot of the crimes (particularly in the first half that Mike saw) really didn’t seem to matter all that much

30:30 / The demographics of the criminal suspects portrayed in the show

31:50 / Mike discusses the police response to the fight in the parking lot and how he thought it could have been handled better

33:17 / Discussing the choice between force and diplomacy in these shows

35:01 / Steven Seagal is not calling the shots on these police calls – in case it wasn’t clear

35:48 / The question of authenticity and how the presence of the camera affects the actions of the participants

36:49 / The propagandistic quality of these types of shows (Mike mentions the Charm City series done by the NYT’s Daily podcast)

38:25 / Segueing to the article we read for this month:  “Armed with the power of television: Reality crime programming and the reconstruction of law and order in the United States” from the book anthology “Entertaining Crime: Television Reality Programs” by Pamela Donovan.

39:07 / JS thought the article’s emphasis on the police’s ‘lack of control’ was interesting

40:09 / Mike thought this show stressed that aspect even more with the ‘vigilante’ self-defense message

40:52 / Talking about the article’s treatment of Foucault and spectacle in relation to these shows

42:16 / Article even (appropriately) mentions the 80’s action angle (Death Wish) and how popular fictional media also dovetails with the ‘law-and-order’ message

43:15 / Why does this narrative persist in its appeals even as violent crime levels have fallen over the past 20 years?  (Mike mentions Trump’s lies about crime levels, shows like Lockup, which used to run weekends on MSNBC)

45:12 / JS highlights the role of media narratives in stoking fears of crime

46:14 / The appeal of crime fiction narratives in modern Western culture – gives the world a sense of agency

47:35 / The ‘comfort’ of ‘law-and-order’ scapegoating – there is a readily identifiable source of disorder and an easy remedy (Our Monica the Medium episode is mentioned)

48:38 / This show also taps into the popularity of the ‘vigilante’ narrative in American society

49:55 / Is there a genuine appeal to Steven Seagal outside the unintentional comedy?

50:50 / Discussing Seagal’s persona and how it relates to a traditional idea of masculinity

52:47 / Our final thoughts and recommendations

53:19 / Announcing (officially this time) our listener’s choice poll (Mike mentions the various shows on the new – at least to him – TV app Nosey and our Blind Date episode)

55:02 / Don’t worry, Springer will happen eventually, but go vote on Maury or Geraldo

55:21 / Announcing our next episode (You can bone up on our Highway Thru Hell episode here)

57:04 / The usual stuff: contact us, rate/review us, and subscribe

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Episode 20 – Blind Date

 

This episode: Blind Date, Season ???.  Watch it on YouTube.

Next episode: 90 Day Fiance, Season 4, Eps, 1-6, 14.  Watch it on TLC.com (cable sub required).  Purchase it on Amazon Instant Video.

We make our triumphant return for Season 2 with another First Love episode, this time from Mike – Blind Date.  However, the love might not be mutual this time, as JS is left a little bit cold.  We delve into the usual topics: structure, concept, etc, before looking at the show’s humor and its reliance on stereotypes (with an assist from an excellent cultural studies article that examines how the show’s humor enforces cultural norms).  We then end with a discussion of the show’s appeal and how our differing expectations and dispositions may have shaped our enjoyment (or lack thereof) of this one.

Show Notes and Links

1:15 / Mike gets in one last joke about the dumb ‘War on Christmas’ while it is still seasonally appropriate

1:30 / Introducing this month’s episode

2:39 / Mike’s memories of the show as a kid (callback to Episode 1); here’s a ‘review’ of the porn site Mike mentioned for all you pervs (NSFW, obviously)

4:01 / JS had not experienced this show before, his first impressions

5:12 / A brief digression into the quality of the recordings on YouTube; Mike mentions the Fox Reality Channel and the sexual harassment scandal at Fox News

5:54 / The concept and structure of the show

6:50 / Mentioning the host, Roger Lodge

7:47 / The main strategy of the show – setting up incompatible couples; Mike mentions the dating service eHarmony

8:45 / The big draw – the animations and graphics

11:36 / The length of the segments and discussing the actual structure of the televised show (as opposed the curated YouTube version we watched)

13:29 / Transitioning into the humor of the show and its reliance on various stereotypes

15:25 / The stereotypes are often shorn of context – heavy amount of editing in these dates

16:36 / The people on this show are damned if they do, damned if they don’t by the producers

18:25 / Discussing the show’s usage of racial/ethnic stereotypes

19:05 / A lot of these jokes would get someone fired today

19:35 / JS lays out his main problem with the animations – too heavy-handed and intrusive

21:00 / Mike enjoyed the animations, but agrees some of the humor was problematic and offensive

22:22 / We liked the humor more when it made fun of people for what they did rather than who they were

23:52 / Mike was surprised by how many personal questions came up on these dates

24:55 / Talking about the heteronormativity of the show; Mike mentions Jerry Falwell and the term metrosexual

25:45 / Segueing into the article – Pop (Up) Goes the Blind Date: Supertextual Constraints on “Reality” Television by Justin DeRose, Elfriede Fürsich, and Ekaterina V. Haskins

26:47 / JS gives a quick summary of the article’s thesis, which references the concept of cultural hegemony

28:02 / Mike thought this article did a good job honing on the relationship between the stereotypes and the production humor

29:08 / Other stereotypes mentioned by the article beyond gender and race, how it narrows expectations to the median of a standard bell curve

30:40 / JS selected two lines he enjoyed from the article on the role of consumerism in the show

32:41 / Even with the consumerism, the show comes back to the idea of conforming to the norm (don’t be gaudy or a ‘gold-digger’)

33:39 / JS thought humor was too obvious or easy to be funny, but Mike offers a (qualified) defense of the humor as being a channel for genuine anxieties

35:32 / Delving into the specific dates and how they depart or conform to the mold

37:56 / JS goes into his favorite segment – was OK with show making fun of people who seemed terrible

39:54 / Talking about the selection of the contestants; we mention Survivor: Borneo as a contemporaneous reality show

41:45 / One episode where the ‘racial’ humor kind of worked – the Asian who thought she was ‘hood’

42:42 / Transitioning to the appeal of the show and why it was successful

44:07 / Mike thought the ‘lowest common denominator’ aspect of the show was a strength; gives additional context in the form of the show’s original time slot (aka not primetime)

45:00 / Comparing the humor of the show to Bridezillas

48:10 / How our different expectations shaped our enjoyment of the show (or lack thereof)

48:52 / Revisiting the success/failure dichotomy – Does JS gravitate more towards shows that celebrate success as opposed to relishing failure? (JS mentions America’s Most Smartest Model)

51:03 / Mike is probably the opposite – more forgiving of the trashy, mean-spirited humiliation fests

51:50 / Pitching the article again – we are hoping to incorporate something like this going forward (although we may not find specific articles for the likes of Paris Hilton’s My New BFF Dubai)

52:35 / Introducing next month’s episode

53:52 / The usual announcements: contact us, rate/review, and subscribe

Episode 8 – Bridezillas

 

This week’s discussion: Bridezillas, Season 10, Eps. 1-3, 19-20.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next week’s discussion: Kitchen Nightmares, Season 5, Eps. 1-6, 16.  Watch it on Hulu.

We are back with our usual twosome, after another close shave with our schedules, to bring our loyal listeners the long-teased episode on Bridezillas we’ve been talking about. To summarize the show in a sentence, it was, quite frankly, probably the most entertaining show we’ve watched for the podcast so far.

We start out by hitting the highlights of the individual episodes and reliving our favorite tears and tantrums before going into why we believe this show may not quite be a completely faithful representation of ‘reality’ and talk about its overall evolution from playing it relatively straight to going over the top.  We then praise the gonzo and hilarious sound design and graphics post-production as well as the snarky narrator, who has a near endless supply of catty one-liners.  Finally, we wrap up by going beyond the humorous aspects of this show’s appeal and explore what it has to say about our modern conceptions of gender and marriage.

Show Notes and Links

1:03 / JS makes his triumphant return

1:45 / Introducing this week’s show

2:46 / The ritual summary of the ‘high concept’

3:35 / The typical bride’s story is divided into two episodes (which we thought was brilliant)

4:37 / We were surprised that more reality shows didn’t adopt this format

5:35 / Identifying the larger tropes and stereotypes of the show

6:48 / Typical Bridezilla – is super demanding, but not in an efficient way, has to be incompetent as well to be on this show

8:05 / We both found this show highly entertaining

9:30 / Briefly covering Haley and her in-laws

10:16 / Summarizing Ariel and Brook

12:34 / Ariel and sexual ‘TMI’

13:40 / Talking about a questionable piece of ‘creative editing’

14:08 / A detailed breakdown of the episode as a template for the show

16:28 / Mike gives an example of a minor variation

16:56 / Transitioning into Dezjuan’s arc

17:26 / A ‘romantic’ dinner gone wrong when Mom shows up

19:00 / Talking about Dezjuan’s grandma – who we both thought was great

20:11 / Discussing Dezjuan’s trainwreck wedding

21:14 / The show’s tendency to try to tease us into thinking weddings will fall through

21:37 / Amanda from Texas – where JS began to suspend his disbelief

22:46 / She was pretty frank to the producers about faking an illness

23:38 / Making a jump to Episodes 19-20 and going over Angela’s arc

25:44 / The main theme of her story – conflict between the bride and the groom’s sister

26:13 / The highlights from the second half of Mai-Lee

26:55 / JS liked the more laid-back, carefree grooms on the show

28:02 / Mike’s favorite Mai-Lee moment

28:25 / Breaking down Adrienne and Waylon’s episode

29:15 / Waylon was a highlight – zombie weddings and waxing

30:18 / This show may not be meant to be taken at face value

31:09 / The interview with Angela that Mike references

31:48 / The show sets up moments and does retakes

33:15 / How the show has evolved since its perhaps more ‘realistic’ beginnings (We both mention a lawsuit)

34:45 / By Season 10, everyone is clearly in on it

35:52 / Discussing the financial compensation

36:46 / The weddings filmed for the show are based on the optics of the narrative being pushed (particularly around social class)

38:00 / Mike noticed a reoccurring character who shows up at opportune times

39:05 / The fights seem to be patched up rather quickly for ‘reality’

39:45 / A call back to our discussion of ‘scripted reality’ in Episode 2 (This is how it’s done, TOWIE!)

40:35 / Segueing into the topic of humor and the show’s post-production

41:10 / Going over our favorite sound production moments

42:45 / This show has an awesome narrator

44:10 / Mike relives his favorite quips

45:04 / The music and graphics are also really funny

46:50 / Discussing an unfortunate Bridezilla who got into legal trouble because of the show

48:27 / Mike found Angela’s reaction to the final product amusing

49:36 / Mike’s theory of this show’s appeal: It deals with our cultural anxieties about marriage

52:43 / By taking these insecurities and blowing them up in a humorous way, this show achieves a type of catharsis

53:25 / JS thought the relationship between bride and groom reminded him of the relationship between husband and wife in traditional sitcoms (JS mentions the show The King of Queens)

55:55 / Talking about how this show reflects real-life anxieties and stresses about wedding planning

57:20 / The sexist nature of the ‘Bridezilla’ stereotype and its relationship to our gendered expectations around weddings

59:13 / How this show both subverts and reinforces our idealized views of weddings

1:00:43 / Mike’s ‘wedding planning’ experience and JS’s actual wedding planning experience

1:02:07 / A perennial 42 Minutes of Reality observation: Watching these trainwrecks can make us feel better about our comparatively milder shortcomings (Is this a public service?)

1:03:39 / Introducing the show for our next podcast

1:04:55 / A quick scheduling announcement (actually posting more like Sunday evening, though Mike said Monday)

1:06:00 / The usual announcements: email, rate and review, (and also subscribe, even if Mike forgot to say it)