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September 08, 2014 - Image 5

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0 The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, September 8, 2014 - 5A

MOVIE RTV/NEW MEDIA MN
Summer's 'Extant' effect

MAGNOLIA
We all wear masks, metaphorically speaking.
Frank' challe ges
Social Media Age

If you're anything like me,
there's a slew of TV series that
premiere in the warmer months,
after school ends and responsibili-
ties fall by the wayside, that you
wait around
all year for.
"True Blood,"
perhaps?
"Orange Is
the New.
Black?"
Maybe it was
"Weeds" or
"The Closer?"
Or maybe it ALEC
will be "The STERN
Leftovers" or
"The Strain?"
To some,
summertime equals vacations,
beaches, sunshine. But to us, it's
all about television.
It wasn't always like that.Years
ago, the months between Mayand
September were a TV wasteland,
back during a time when the
broadcast networks - the likes of
CBS, NBC,ABC and FOX - were
all that existed and people would
actually go outside and enjoy
what the season hadnto offer.
Since the advent of cable - and
with it, quality summer offerings
from dozens of providers - the
old fashioned broadcast nets have
been forced to play catch-up. But
as I watched the latest episode
of "Extant," perhapsthe biggest
investment a broadcast network
has ever made in the lower-rated
season, I couldn't help but think...
this is the best they can do?
"Extant" is CBS's expensive
13-episode sci-fi epic, executive
produced by Steven Spielberg and
starring Halle Berry in her first
regular television role since 1989.
That sentence alone is enough to
make any TV executive drool, so,
notsurprisingly, the dramawas
ordered straight-to-series, bypass-
ing the pilot stage and ensuring a
comfortable launch date accom-
panied by a significant market-
ing campaign. However, when
"Extant" finally hitthe screens
on July 9, its critical and commer-
cial receptioiwas more or less a'
resounding shrug. By episode four,
the series' timeslot had already
been shifted and its ratings were
losing outto "Sharknado 2: The
Second One."
This from the man who gave

us "ET,
Third K
underrz
ligence,
made h
Best Ac
cable-si
mer lau
winnin
in front
is just f
broadca
struggh
of FX, A
grow m
to havir
tations:
year alo
Throne
Men,""
and the
Bad" bo
storytel
tion is e
just doe
Thi
th
The
broadca
gle forr
a defini
BecausE
first and
the stan
much h
White v
on a fre
a schoo
hard fot
wholesc
neighbo
mercial
creative
lotmorE
the brow
Com
ate thei
is to say
worst. T
withina
show ha
engage:
can feel
up halft
favorite
to write
mini cli
over anc

""Close Encounters of the hour. If you're not a "Scandal" or a
Kind" and the perennially "Blacklist," on which the constant
ated "AI: Artificial Intel- crazy twists and turns are justi-
," and the woman who fied, the forced frenetic pacing and
istory as the first black artificial story lines can be a deal
tress recipient. Despite a breaker. (Looking at you, "Nash-
zed episode order, a sum- ville.") For a series like "Masters
nch and Academy Award of Sex," consistently breaking the
gtalent - both behind and narrative would hinder its slow-
:of the camera - "Extant" build, making its tense writing
urther evidence of the seem boring or eventless
ast network's continued It also doesn't help that the rat-
e to compete with the likes ings expectations are stillmuch
!MC and HBO. And as we higher on a network like CBS or
ore and more accustomed ABC. Even the critical successes
ng our televisual expec- on broadcast - that are few and
shattered - in the last far between - are marred for
ne we've seen "Game of failingto attract the massive audi-
s," "True Detective," "Mad ences a series like "ER or even
Fargo," "Masters of Sex" "Desperate Housewives" once
final season of "Breaking garnered. The best broadcast
ldly push the bounds of series (see "Hannibal," "The Good
ling- broadcast's situa- Wife," "Hannibal," "Parenthood,"
ven more dire. Middling "Hannibal") aren't rewarded with
sn't cut it anymore. undying network support, but
rather labeled as "bubble" series
on the chopping block every year.
(Seriously, watch "Hannibal.")
is is the best Thegeneral message sentto audi-
ences: agreat show with bad rat-
1ey can do? ings on cable is still a great show,
but agreat show with bad ratings
on broadcast is a failure.
"Extant" isn't agreat show.Far
biggest hurdle facing the from it. At best, it teetersthe line
ast networks in their strug- between entertaining and some-
elevance is unfortunately thing marginally more substantial
ng piece of their DNA. than that. Despite the caliber of
e broadcast networks cater talentand early enthusiasm from
d foremost to advertisers, the network, it'sproven to be
edards and practices are nothing more than a product of
arsher - after all, if Walter its environment. The sophistica-
were slinging crystal meth tion is half-baked, the storytelling
e network at 9 o'clock on is impatient and creator Mickey
4 night, it would be pretty Fisher's vision seems to have been
r Applebee's to sell their meddled with. It's even more dis-
ome, eatin'good in the appointing to think how good this
rhood routine at the com- series could have been.
break. Rather than let the Instead of forging its place
s simply create, there's a somewhere in the heightened zeit-
ecorporate intervention at geist, "Extant" seems destined to
adcast level. exitquietly after just one season.
mercialbreaks also cre- (Ironically, the definition of extant
r own challenges. Which is to continue to exist.) But if it has
, commercials are the just one lasting impact, the series
'he more interruptions has simply highlighted broadcast
a program, the harder the television's quality free-fall - and
is to work to keepviewers how powerless the networks
I. On broadcast, where it might be to stop it. Because ulti-
like advertisements eat mately, if Steven Spielberg, Halle
the running time of your Berry and mysterious alien preg-
show, writers are forced nancies can't do it ... what can?

Fas
1:

"Fr
confr
main
tive,
cy a
avant
and
ist
edgy
rock
Jon
nall
"Abo:
uncor
ern s
"fit in
to the
borin
with,
cute,
quirk
Jon
a pa;
spont
volati
Soron
then
secluc
wood
while
leader
patie
head
Fassb
Thi
act o
band
ing at
mome
- Jon
of th
motiv
"crest
YouTi
blog p
of the
the o
a tree
one is
doesn
Jon
view
(Magi
Knigh
mean

Gleeson and Experience (and the Music)
lies in the hearts and minds of
sbender succeed the band members, or else the
Soronprfbs collectively. When
n indie drama she learns that Jon has been
publicizing the Soronprfbs
By ZAK WITUS via "behind the scenes" You-
DailyArts Writer Tube videos and blog posts,
she feels betrayed. For her, the
ank" is a film about the voyeurism of the masses vio-
ontation between the lates the sanctity and beauty
stream and the alterna- of their "creative experience;"
normal- the "peeping" undermines its
nd the value and meaning by entering
-garde the public space.
ohe bor- Frank Frank is the standard "rmad
eyboard- The Michigan genius. He is at once messi-
and an anic and psychotic. He saves
punkish Theater a German tourist (in the bibli-
band. Magnolia cal sense) by showing her "the
(Domh- new truth;" Jon and Don (Scoot
Gleeson, McNairy, "Argo"), lorig-time
ut Time,") represents an member of the Soronprfbs,
mfortable element of mod- worship him as a prophetic
ociety - the obsession to musical virtuoso; but, then
" and striving to conform again, keep in mind that Frank
e norms. Jon would be a wears a weird papier mach6
g person to be friends head everywhere he goes (even
but as a character he's in the shower).
endearing and funny in a Frank's head is his "symbol
y/awkward kind of way. of individuality and belief in
, a lame keyboardist with personal freedom," like Sail-
ssion for social media, or's snakeskin jacket in David
aneously joins a cool but Lynch's "Wild at Heart." The
le punk band called the head signifies what psycholo-
:prfbs for a.concert and gists sometimes call the prob-
goes off with them to a lem of the "black box;" that
ded cabin in the Irish is, not being able to directly
s to "cut an album," all the observe how the mind (e.g.,
led by the eccentric band Frank's mind) works, but hav-
r/prophet/former mental ing to infer its hidden process-
nt with a papier mache es by less direct means. But the
named Frank (Michael head also signifies the prob-
ender, "12 Years a Slave"). lem of the underspecification
roughout the second of identity, by which I mean
f the film, while his that we're never given enough
mates focus on creat- information to actually know
n album - they're "in the a person, so that we have to
rnt," creatively speaking largely imagine or create who
,unbeknownst to the rest they are by making guesses
e band, pursues ulterior based on our learned expecta-
es of publicizing their tions.
tive experience" through Speaking of expectations,
ube videos, tweets and the movie as a whole can be
osts. Jon is the archetype viewed as the gradual unpack-
social media generation, ing of Jon's expectation of what
nes who believe that if being in a band is like. From the
falls in a forest and no first time the Soronprfbs's van
there to tweet about it, it door opens, Jon has to begin
't make a sound. facing his preconceptions and
's view clashes with the prejudices and start revising
of his band mate, Clara his naive worldview. It turns
gie Gyllenhaal, "The Dark out that most of the answers
it"), who believes that the supplied to Jon by his society
ing and importance of the in order to fill in the blanks

about "what the world is like"
have to be corrected.
The film is about radical
individuality in an age of social
media conformism. For some
people, like a couple of gum-
chewing, hair-twirling music
festival representatives that
the band encounters, main-
stream conformism works just
find and they're happy being
material girls in a material
world. But one thing this movie
does is show that being "indie"
or "alternative" is OK and
sometimes better. In our soci-
ety, we're told that we should
want Fame and Fortune: we
define success on these terms.
But this movie suggests that
Fame and Fortune sometimes,
maybe most of the time, don't
mean success. Sometimes they
mean failure. The movie seems
to be arguing that success (and
by extension happiness) ought
to be defined more individually
and that we should be wary of
the answers that our culture
pushes on us.
What's radical and rebel-
lious about the Soronprfbs
is that they don't care about
what anyone else thinks. They
make music and do their thing,
not strictly or necessarily for
themselves. They do it for the
sake of doing it, not for per-
forming for others. The film's
central conflict is the charac-
ters' (Jon excluded) disinterest
in the approval of others versus
civilization's push to make the
individual subordinate to the
opinion of the masses.
In the final scene, watching
the Soronprfbs improvise in
a lonely, godforsaken bar, Jon
realizes that the band is in its
right place. Without sacrific-
ing their individuality or com-
promising their genius, they've
found where they fit in. Jon
sees that the Soronprfbs don't
belong on YouTube or Twitter,
they belong in the grungy bar
with a handful of "regulars"
half asleep and barely paying
attention. The band doesn't fit
the paradigm of success that
Jon's mainstream ideology pre-
scribed, but they fit their own
paradigm, and that's what's
important.

for interludes, delivering
ffhangers and climaxes
d over throughout the

Stern still loves Halle Berry. If you
do too, e-mail alecs@umich edu.

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