The Rural Upsurge -- A Brief History of Country Cool and Uncool

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 2, 2014 02:20pm | Post a Comment
Country Mouse and Town Mouse
Arthur Rackham illustration for The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse

Since the US's founding, Americans have steadily moved from the countryside to the city but the story of our pop culture has always been the product of a dialogue between the two worlds, with urban and rural fashions coming and going. While being country might not be cool again, it does seem that American television's landscape is once again overwhelmingly rural in character -- a world populated by catfish scammers, catfish hand-fishers, Sasquatch hunters, morbidly obese Mennonite mafioso, bootlegging bigamist Baptist beauty contestants, and other cryptozoological specimens. 43 years ago the television landscape was similarly dominated by rural caricatures when, at the end of March, the so-called "Rural Purge" resulted in a deliberate shift away from rural-themed shows to those set in cities.


Americans have long generally migrated to the cities and their environs, including the suburbs, and today the percentage of America's population who live in the country is at an all time low -- about 16%. However, it wasn't until the 1910s that America's urban population overtook its rural. 

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The short history of Asian-American television

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 27, 2012 05:30pm | Post a Comment
Since its earliest days, American television screens have never looked much like American reality. Network executives have apparently never been comfortable with too many Asians being on the small screen at one time. Asian sidekicks are cool, Asian guest stars too, maybe an Asian love interest (provided the character is female) There have been only a handful of television shows starring Asians and even fewer with primarily Asian casts. 

Hawaiian Eye

Meanwhile, the internet has become the great democratizer, allowing Asian-Americans (and Canadians) like 
Christine GambitoMichelle Phan, Freddie W, Fung BrosJessica LizamaKev JumbaKevin WuNikki LimoPeter Chao, Ryan Higa, Timothy Traphik DeLaGhettoWong Fu Productions and others to garner millions of followers each and in the process become internet celebrities, if not terrestrial television ones. Nowadays there are far more Asian-American (and Anglo-Asian diaspora) web series than network shows and while television slowly adapts, at this rate it may cease to exist before it even begins to resemble its audience. 

In one corner, consider the web series, which include Alfie the Office DogAway We HappenedAwesome Asian Bad GuysBaby MentalistBFFs, Boystown, Car Discussion with Sung KangChop Socky Boom, Flat3, The FoodThe Ho’s on 7th AvenueHome Is Where The Hans AreI Am Asian, How Are You?, Katana, K-TownKtown CowboysLumina, Manivore, Millions, Mixed Blooms, Model Minority, Mother Lover, Mythomania, Nice Girls Crew, Normal Gays, One Warm Night, On the Clock, Prison Dancer, Riley RewindSilent Terror, Slanted Show, SuperTwins!, The Switch, Trembling Void, That's What She SaidUrban Wolf, Video Game High SchoolWhen it Counts, and others. 

In the other corner, television, which though having existed for many more decades than web series, is rather more anemic. Consider this short timeline of Asian-American television, drawn from network, cable, and syndicated series:

Happy Birthday to Night Watch - radio's first reality show

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 4, 2012 10:00pm | Post a Comment
With a few, shining exceptions (Blind Date, COPS, ElimiDate, Jersey Shore, Joe Millionaire, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, Shahs of Sunset, The Bachelor, The Real World seasons 1and 2 (true stor-ay!), and maybe a couple dozen others, tops) I hate reality TV. To me most reality shows are endurance-defying and totally depressing in a consumerist dystopian way. My aversion to most reality TV is not  really out of some moral disapproval of schadenfreude nor a principled dislike of unscripted entertainment. No, I usually just find them painfully boring and unpleasant. I remember first hearing about Survivor and was rather excited by the concept, hoping for naked castaways with no common language forced to fight tooth and claw just to stay alive. Imagine my disappointment upon finding out it involved little more than people unpleasant from the get go undertaking a series of challenges for prizes in a tropical setting and talking about alliances. Yawn. The good reality shows (as determined by me) offer anthropological thrills, exposing the strange mating rituals of exotic subcultures and paint portraits of people in a way rarely seen in the stylized fictions of the day. 
One of the earliest reality programs was on the radio, Night Watch. It was preceded by the hidden camera prank TV show Candid Camera which debuted in 1948 but, though both reality shows, could scarcely be more different. Night Watch debuted on CBS on April 5th, 1954, a few years after the popularity of TV exploded, threatening film and radio's dominance. To compete with TV's popularity, film offered things not available on TV like widescreen, technicolor, married couples sharing a bed, and
  black people. Old Time Radio ultimately died out in 1962 but in its last days offered other things in short supply on TV, namely adult content, intelligence and exploitation that would never pass muster on the beloved family idiot box. Radio programmers seemed to be OK with a bit of gore and tawdriness since it all took place in the mind and because it was at least packaged as a cautionary public service rather than the exploitation which it really was. The first time I heard it was an episode involving a suicide attempt (there were several) and I was hooked.

(Wherein the author reviews the author.)

Posted by Job O Brother, January 24, 2011 04:33pm | Post a Comment

Don’t take this personally, but I totally don’t feel like writing this paragraph you’re reading. As grateful as I am to have a slot on the illustrious Amoeblog, and even though I have a great big crush on you, dear reader, there are times (they’re rare, but there) when I feel like I have nothing to give, and this is one of those times.
A week ago I was sick, and this week I had a brief but intense emotional breakdown; I cried so hard I dry-heaved, and gave voice to deeply personal and vulnerable psychological wounds in a tone not unlike Mary Tyler Moore when she got very upset with Rob Petrie or Lou Grant.

I mean really... what's the point of anything, anyhow?

As if all this wasn’t enough to render me limp, I discovered today that our young cat, Maybe, has a taste for new, unused garbage bags…

I am not a strong man. Well, physically I’m totally strong and could absolutely beat up your dad, but my heart is tender and prone to aching. This world often feels too cruel and complicated for the likes of me. Usually I can fake it, but every once in a while the stress and fear and sadness fills my holding tank to capacity, and there’s spillage.

Ce n'est pas un commercial

Posted by Job O Brother, May 12, 2009 04:46pm | Post a Comment
hedda lettuce

Everyone else not covered by the above catagories!

I've just been notified that my dear friend Hedda Lettuce is currently angling for a spot on Logo's hit reality TV show RuPaul's Drag Race.

You may remember Hedda from Season 5 of Project Runway when she had the misfortune to work with fashion no-no Suede.

Do humanity a favor, won't you, and take a couple seconds to vote for her? Thanks!

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