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12 May 2009 @ 08:08 pm
totally random question  
Shows about teaching and/or teachers: are there any?

It seems like a fairly common topic for films: setting aside my problems with films that only let the inner-city (read: minority) students have their lives changed by dance, or singing, or sports, because those modes of expression are already so hardwired into those kids' urban lives and because those minority kids, they're so good with their bodies, you do still have movies like Dead Poets' Society, and that movie that was basically Dead Poets' Society but with Kevin Kline, and of course my beloved History Boys.

So I'm wondering why that narrative doesn't seem to have crossed over successfully into television. I asked this question of someone who suggested Boston Public (which I never saw), but it was the only example either of us could think of. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that it's much harder to make a TV show (based on the American model, anyway; I think there are a couple of recent UK shows about teachers) about teaching because it's simultaneously finite and not finite at all. You could make a film that follows one group of students for a year, and could have a reasonable cut-off point. You could make a miniseries that follows a group of students from matriculation to graduation. But if you want to have a TV show that runs for more than four seasons with the same cast, then you have a problem. It's the problem with doing shows about teenagers, but from the other side; eventually, they graduate, and you'd have to tell whole new stories with the same teachers.

Though if ER can go on for ten years by slowly replacing its entire cast...
 
 
 
Neaneadods on May 13th, 2009 01:21 am (UTC)
Assuming that you're eliminating all high school shows because they focus on the students, I can still think of a couple before Boston Public, but all fairly old:

Welcome back Kotter
Room 222

There was a sitcom about a teacher, and I can't even remember the title I was so young - all I remember is a scene of the teacher character quietly singing Dickenson to The Yellow Rose of Texas, but it was, in its time, fairly popular.

tempestsarekind: posner plus bookstempestsarekind on May 13th, 2009 08:34 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't discount a high-school show out of hand, but you're right; most of them focus on the students rather than on the teachers. I just thought it was interesting that, given the spate of fairly recent movies about teaching, there hadn't been a corresponding attempt to do the same thing on TV.
Neaneadods on May 13th, 2009 11:03 pm (UTC)
TV's too full of forensics right now. The Great Five of entertainment seem to be SF, westerns, law, school, and forensics. So we're due to move to one of the others soon due to sheer saturation!
tempestsarekind: ten is a bookwormtempestsarekind on May 14th, 2009 07:43 pm (UTC)
Yay! I look forward to it.

Though I was amused by the attempts to do SF and forensics at the same time, like New Amsterdam: it's a show about an immortal! Great! Lots of potentially interesting stuff there... Oh, wait, it's a show about an immortal cop. Just carry on, then.
Neaneadods on May 14th, 2009 10:31 pm (UTC)
Oh, wait, it's a show about an immortal cop.

Just like Forever Knight, and True Blood, and... and... and...
tempestsarekind: gilmore couch potatoestempestsarekind on May 14th, 2009 10:42 pm (UTC)
Pretty much, yeah. :) I'm waiting for the show about an immortal lawyer. Though maybe the vampire lawyer jokes would just write themselves.
stoplookingupstoplookingup on May 13th, 2009 02:52 am (UTC)
On the subject of minority kids whose lives are changed by sports (and a noble white mentor) -- remember White Shadow?
tempestsarekind: your strange behavior puzzles marthatempestsarekind on May 13th, 2009 08:38 pm (UTC)
I just looked this up, and according to Wikipedia by way of Google, it was the third-longest running (prime time) drama on American TV featuring a prominently African-American cast. (The first and second being Soul Food and The Wire, apparently.)

I'm still waiting for the movie where minority kids have their lives changed by, I don't know, science class or something. I guess there was that TV movie where Matthew Perry taught some kids chess, but there's still that competitive edge. Better drama, I suppose...
unsingable namesaestina on May 13th, 2009 05:14 pm (UTC)
I can think of a few shows about teachers in the past few years, but they were all short-lived. Not sure if that's coincidence or some kind inherent difficulty in telling stories about schools.

It's funny you should ask this now, because I just finished watching the leaked pilot of Glee, which is about a high school glee club and is AWESOME. I really hope it gets picked up, I think it's got some serious potential. Don't tell, but you can download it here: www.megaupload.com/?d=GQBTX0CA.
tempestsarekind: posner and scrippstempestsarekind on May 13th, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that's what I wonder too: coincidence, or is there something about that kind of story that's just harder on the small screen.

I've been seeing commercials for Glee and have been really interested, so I'm glad to hear the pilot was good! I think they're airing the pilot early--maybe next week? They keep saying "after American Idol," but I don't really know when that is...
unsingable namesaestina on May 13th, 2009 08:53 pm (UTC)
I would think part of the problem might be how to focus the narrative. With school, you've got all the teachers in their own classrooms not interacting much and then their students are changing seven or eight times a day. So what exactly is the show about, where do most of your scenes happen, how do you get invested in characters? It seems to me that the only real obvious way to get around those issues is to focus on one class (which is I think why shows about minorities learning to sing/dance or shows about high school sports team are more prevalent and generally more successful). But then you're going to end up with a show that's a lot more student-focused.
tempestsarekind: bored history boystempestsarekind on May 13th, 2009 09:04 pm (UTC)
True. Alternatively, I think you could manage to do a show about one teacher, or about a group of teachers if you don't mind that whole improbable "and also, we hang out together all the time after work as well" thing (sort of like Friends). But it would be difficult to pull off.