Shop Till’ You Drop – Dead Set (2008)
In week one, the screening to introduce us to Television Cultures course was Zeppotron’s Dead
Set (2008), which provided a reality television slant to the zombie apocalypse in a genre-mash of reality television and horror. Produced by same group that produces the actual Big Brother, the genre-mash of horror and drama with reference to reality television Dead Set goes about satirically making comparisons between the less intelligent, “mindless” zombie masses and the viewer culture of reality television, drawing reference to various other zombie productions such as Dawn of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead and their reflection of consumerism culture and the regime society conducts itself to. Like many films and programs in the zombie or horror genre, Dead Set promotes an alternative message or comment on modern society that would not have otherwise been so obvious without the personification or dramatisation of such complex or subtle concepts.
Episode one of Dead Set depicts the swift downfall of England at the hands of a fast moving virus by a genre-contrasting fast zombie horde, as the undead make their way through the television studio where the program Big Brother is taking place. Although established as more ‘serious’ than other genre favourites such as Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, Dead Set focuses more on the struggle for survival, and subtly makes satirical references to the effect of the constant exposure to television programming, particularly that of reality programs such as Big Brother. At the dawn of the outbreak depicted, the main setting – the Big Brother house and the studio surrounding it – already alluding to the connection between the epidemic and what television does to the viewer. Within minutes of the studio being overrun by the undead, the first instance of alluding to the viewer culture of the audience is made, with a zombie, only freshly turned, stares closely at a screen showing the Big Brother housemates, with its desire to gruesomely devour what is being displayed mirroring the audience’s desire for the ‘consumption’ of entertainment.
Black comedy, a comedic work that makes use of satirical and morbid humour, is used in programs and film such as Shaun of the Dead in conjunction with the cataclysmic impact of the end of the world to comment on real word observations of how society operates, the consumerism and capitalism that dictates the actions of society seeming very similar to a mass of zombies, both being a single consuming entity. The representation of the struggle to survive the zombie epidemic in media is a way to combat this concept of the relationship between the virus and consumerism, and separate ourselves from the timetables we as a community have set for ourselves. The creation of a target that the audience can perceive as an identifiable enemy makes it easier to see the issues with the way we desire to consume.
You’ve Got Time – Modern Scheduling
As technologies develop and the audience gains more and more control over the media they consume whether it be the platform of viewing or the place of viewing, the growing demand for programs to be available at the discretion of the audience has greatly impacted the means and times of which programs are released. The shift from scheduled television viewing that dictated the timetable of the viewer to the readily available programming – or lack of – has radically reshaped media institutions in the favour of the viewer.
Since the emergence of television in households some 50 years ago, much had not changed in terms of the approach to programming until approximately 1958, when videotape enabled a means of recording programs for later viewing. Take a step forward, and just today we are seeing the first generation of people without their viewing being dictated by predetermined programming, as the emergence of pay-tv such as Netflix, Stan, Foxtel and the like being commonplace in the household. Even more so, the evolution of the internet and the growing prevalence of torrenting has forced the hand of many media institutions to re-evaluate their method of release.
Orange is the New Black, a series owned by Netflix and available on other pay-tv, outlets such as Foxtel, gained immense success and gained a large following that helped sustained the program as it grew. The popularity of the program hence attracted a heightened demand for new releases, and as a result of how the fanbase continues to sustain it, each season released was done so in one day. As such, the response was enormous, and fuelled the commonplace practice of binge watching amongst viewers. The online streaming and torrenting communities took full advantage of the release, and despite the backlash concerning torrenting and copyright laws, the popularity of the program flourished. The success of the release, in the positive response in giving the audience what they want and fan-produced media that in turn helped promote the program, only further exemplifies the success behind shift from set timetabled releases to view at will programs, and gives an indication as to where success of a program will lie. After all, as media institutions begin to make the shift, any programs left behind in the old method of distribution will be sub-par to the new audience controlled standard. The supply and demand for media content has dramatically shifted since the popularisation of television, and the communities and imagined commented surrounding the fanbase of highly demanded shows further extends their influence over how media institutions operate and release programs for the benefit of the audience.