The Wrap has a provocative column by Domnic Patten about the impact of reality television programs on the children who participate in them.
One problem is a loophole in the law. If children are working as actors on a film or television show, there are very strict limits on how many hours they can work. They are required to have a teacher and a parent or guardian with them. But if it is a “reality” show, it is not considered a job; the theory is that they are just going about their lives and being filmed.
“Jon & Kate Plus 8’s” treatment of the Gosselin children is now being investigated by the Pennsylvania Labor Department.
At the core of the investigation is whether the Gosselins’ Wernersville, Penn., home constitutes a formal TV set, where the children are being instructed and directed. If so, it would bring the production under the state’s child labor laws.
If not — if it’s considered merely a domestic environment where they are being observed and filmed with little direct interaction with producers and crew – the state would have no grounds for violation and the investigation will be closed.
Therapist Drew Pinsky (better known as “Dr. Drew”), put it directly:
“Children can’t give informed consent by definition, only the parents can do that — and reality shows generally don’t cast adults who have the highest level of mental health. They are severe narcissists who are obsessed with celebrity.”
The very best American miniseries I have ever seen is the HBO production from Tom Hanks, From the Earth to the Moon. Instead of a chronological run-down, each episode takes on the space race from a different angle. One gives us the perspective of the wives, another tells us the challenges faced by the contractors, and another is from the perspective of the press. One tells us about the experience of turning astronauts into geologists so that they could be as effective as possible in bringing home the rocks that would help scientists the most. The last episode focuses in part on a man whose only connection to the moon landing was that he made a fanciful silent film (and invented special effects) in France decades earlier. Brilliantly written, acted, and directed, this is outstanding viewing for ages 10 and up, for space nuts and for those who don’t know their Apollos from their Geminis.
Forrest J. Ackerman is credited with coining the term “sci-fi” at UCLA in 1954. It is the perfect way to describe the wide range of astonishing, imaginative, mind-expanding works of fiction that are grounded in some element of science, often taking what we know and projecting ideas about future consequences or technologies.
The Sci-Fi Channel, owned by NBC Universal, includes straight-on sci-fi like “Battlestar Galactica” and “Stargate Universe” and some non sci-fi programming that appeals to their audience as well. And now they are renaming and rebranding the channel as “Syfy,” infuriating the geeks and bloggers who are their core fan base.
The Chicago Tribune reported:
But the news hit the blogosphere with such fervor that it was as highly searched Monday afternoon on Twitter as the AIG bonus controversy. Reaction on Twitter fell along the lines of: “My instinct is to pronounce it Siphee which sounds like a certain disease. Fail.” Groups have already sprouted on Facebook, including: “Hey ‘SyFy,’ Geeks ARE your audience. Change it back to SCI FI!”
The network says they did this to have a name that could be trademarked. “Sci-Fi” is a generic term in wide use and cannot be owned by anyone. But that does not mean that this is the best they could do. It looks like it should be pronounced “siffy.”
Thanks to my beloved James Robenolt for inspiring this post!