Monday, March 29, 2010

TV and Job Talks: What Do They Have In Common?

Narcissistic observers, perhaps?  When someone gives a job talk in an academic environment (or at least in the poli sci departments in which I have resided), the questions tend to be asked like this: if you were to do it the way I would do it, how would you do it?  That is, the audience would be pondering how the individual should completely change the project to fit into the narrow imagination of each member of the audience. 

Similarly, commentators on television shows, whether professionals or just amateurs (fans/non-fans) tend to ponder how the show they are watching would be better if it was done their way. 

In either case, one is being mighty unfair.  One should not be asking everyone do to whatever they do to fit an individual's own ideas of how the story/research would be best performed.  The right way to proceed is to ask: is this interesting and does the person/people execute their plan well? 

For someone's job talk, the question is not how I would have done it, but whether the person is asking an interesting question, whether their answer is at least plausible and whether they then test their argument well.

Obviously, for TV, this is partially about Lost.  Some people are upset with how the final season is progressing because Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof are not ending the story the way they want it to be ended.  I agree with Alan Sepinwall--is the show entertaining me?  Is it remaining consistent with what the show was designed to be?  I am withholding judgment on the final season until it is complete because I really will not know how well the producers put it all together.  All I can be is tremendously satisfied thus far with how they are doing it. 

So, I am pretty pleased with How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory, Chuck and Castle.  I have stopped watching Heroes and Flashforward--because they are inconsistent and indeed often painful to watch, rather than just merely doing it differently than I would prefer.  I have yet to see the third episode of the Pacific, but am willing to give these guys much faith that they will complete the series well even if it is not equal to or done the same way as Band of Brothers.  The question is whether they follow through on their intent, not whether it follows my imagination.  I guess that is why the Harry Potter films are so easy to enjoy--they are well executed and because they follow the books rather closely, they mostly follow my expectations as well.  The recent Star Trek reboot was wonderfully satisfying even if it had plot holes one could drive a starship through and it completely ran against my expectations. 

Anyhow, as people rev up their whine over Lost and other shows, keep in mind that the writers are following their imaginations and hopefully not anyone else's.

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