5.15 - The Joker

Rate The Joker

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Total votes: 28

Lhbizness

Post by Lhbizness »

I still don't think that the series lost any depth when it went to the American market! God, it's not like the American public has to be spoon-fed media any more than any other nation, and The Avengers was one of the smartest shows of the 1960s from its very inception. That carried on right to the very end.
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Post by Frankymole »

Lhbizness wrote:I'm objecting to the implicit use of authority to justify your perspective and dismiss an alternative one, not whether or not those production circumstances existed (I know they did). As I said, regardless of whether The Joker was an Americanized version of Don't Look Behind You or not, it still has merits (or lack thereof) as an episode.

It also seems that you're claiming that those kinds of changes resulted in turning the series into something with less depth than previous seasons - that appealing to American audiences meant a reduction of the intellect or layers of the series. I disagree with that and I do find it an insulting conclusion to come to, from a personal perspective. But again, it does not matter what the production circumstances were. In terms of an opinion or analysis of an episode, they're trivia.
Nice try at derailing things into your preferred arena, but my criticism was mainly about the worse direction and lighting, as well as the more telegraphed "acting" of the strange young man and girl.

As to your "spoon-fed" thing, you didn't address my points about American media moguls assuming Yanks were too dumb to understand the words "revoked" and "Philosopher's", which is what their very own film buyers said. If anyone thinks Americans are dumb it's the American studio bosses/distributors!
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Post by Lhbizness »

Beg pardon? You said that The Joker was less subtle and less layered than Don't Look Behind You, and then claimed that you're supported in this assertion via a reference to production circumstances: "maybe it's because of trying to appeal to a broader, international audience, and so having less British underplaying and hints of subtlety (that might be missed or construed as woodenness)." My problem was the use of authority ("appealing to a broader, international audience" and then later "a lot of the British subversive elements got toned down at the US backers' request") to imply your criticism was objectively supported and therefore more correct than another interpretation/opinion. My problem was not with what you criticized within the episode, which I believe I did address in my initial response. We can debate the latter up one side and down the other. I was not derailing the conversation, I was responding to what had been stated. If I mistook what you were saying, I'm sorry.

As I said much earlier, I think The Joker depends more on a surreal style of filmmaking than does Don't Look Behind You. Emma is placed in an Alice Through The Looking Glass position, faced with dealing with a "sick" house populated by odd and outlandish characters who do not seem quite real. It has an ephemeral madhouse quality to it. The Gale episode is more down to earth, more noir (again, Carol Reed's films spring to mind), and the danger less discombobulating but, in another sense, more immediately realistic. So the differences between the two "strange young man" characters are in keeping with the styles in each. The noirish tone would not have worked in the technicolor world of Emma Peel, and the surrealist color saturation would not have worked in Gale's world (indeed, would have bee impossible). There's an inherent difference between the two. I personally prefer The Joker, which is entirely my own sensibility, but I don't think either contains less layers, intellectually or cinematically, than the other.

Beyond the cinematic limitations of the Gale season, I also like the scene between Steed and Emma for its very poignant but understated affection. This indicates the difference in the relationship between Steed/Emma and Steed/Cathy, for the latter accuses him of manipulating her, while Emma is purely grateful and relieved to see him.

Yes, American distributors have a tendency to underestimate their audience ("It won't play in Peoria") and always have. But that was not the issue at hand, as far as I'm concerned. It was the contemporary diminishing of the American audience in retrospect. Based on what has been said in this thread, that seemed to mean a reduction in the intellectual matter or layers of the series. Which, as I've said, I don't see in evidence within the episodes. The Avengers remained a layered and multi-facetted show throughout its run.
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Post by Timeless A-Peel »

Frankymole wrote:
Lhbizness wrote:That's exactly what I mean - you're implying that due to American backers, the show was made more pedestrian and that American audiences would miss the subtlety. You cited an authority (the "well-known" demands of American backers) which reinforced your view of the episode as the "correct one", rather than actually looking at the episode as an episode. In the end it should really not have any bearing on whether or not one subjectively views the episode as successful in its project. Americanized or not, The Joker can stand or fall on its own merits. Weirdly enough, I'm an American and I love the Cathy Gale series. I know many Americans who do. I've always enjoyed those kinds of homegrown British things.
* sigh *, never mind.

Fans today are not the mass audience sold to in the 1960s, btw. For a start, the Americans chose not to buy the Gales (I'm not sure about Canada). They also chose not to buy lots of other British VT drama, which Canada did buy. US buyers often underestimate their audience, like the ones who claimed "Licence Revoked" would not be understood as Americans would get the word "revoked", and why "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" had to have its name changed for US audiences. If anyone's underestimating them, it's the American studios/channels/distributors.

Lots of US buyers also claimed The Prisoner would be hated in America unless the central character won every week. "Americans don't like a loser", it was claimed. As I said, cultural differences. That's why the American studios commented on the colour episodes' scripts and suggested changes. It wasn't done for giggles!
Canada bought the Gales. It was one of only a handful of countries that picked up the series that early (Australia was another early subscriber). And the US title of Randall and Hopkirk was My Partner the Ghost, often cited as a reason that it didn't do well in the States.

It is indeed a matter of record that the American networks had a lot of influence on the series in colour seasons. Whether or not that made the series more or less successful in the States is debatable, but I agree with Franky that there seemed to be a disconnect between what American (and British) networks thought would appeal to an American audience, and what actually did appeal to those audiences. Lew Grade cast brilliant American leads--Tony Curtis, Richard Bradford, Stuart Damon--in his series, reasoning that they would boost the appeal of their respective series to the American market. All three shows did well in Britain and other markets (like Canada), but failed to draw an audience in the US. Meanwhile, the British series that did do well in the US in that period had all-British leads, like The Avengers (bar Linda, but she played Tara British, so it hardly matters), The Saint, and even Danger Man (McGoohan was American by birth but raised in England and Ireland). Maybe American audiences were less keen on the series when the American networks had more influence--the unadulterated Britishness of it was one of the things that made them love it. There`s no doubt that the show was different than it would have been without ABC`s involvement, but the networks on both sides of the Pond seemed to think their audiences wanted different things than the actually did.
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Post by Timeless A-Peel »

Lhbizness wrote:But again, it does not matter what the production circumstances were. In terms of an opinion or analysis of an episode, they're trivia.
Er, that`s one method of interpretation, but by no means the only one. Other theories regarding aesthetics and philosophy of art would argue that the circumstances surrounding production are extremely important when analyzing a work. I understand and accept completely that you subscribe to an interpretive theory that focuses on the work alone, but it`s incorrect to unilaterally state that production circumstances are always completely irrelevant, and that it`s wrong to consider them during analysis. It depends on the theory or method of interpretation.
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Post by Lhbizness »

Looking back, I suppose I misunderstood what was being said. It seemed to me that the claim was that the show lost subtlety and layers due to American backers - and that's the element that bothered me. It seemed a backhanded slur on American viewers.

There are certainly things that appeal to different demographics. It's been widely proven (even if distributors still don't get it) that American audiences like homegrown British products, and have for years. The popularity of Doctor Who, Sherlock, BBC miniseries/theater productions, The Avengers etc. etc. seems to bear this out. American and British cultures have a curious affinity for each other - I honestly feel greater understanding of British culture than I do of Canadian, but that's partially because I lived in Britain for six years.

Perhaps Don't Look Behind You is less "American" than The Joker - although I would again point out that the noir tones of the early seasons of The Avengers are far closer to American film noir and police procedural than the later seasons. In any case, I don't think it's a particularly bad thing
Lhbizness

Post by Lhbizness »

Timeless A-Peel wrote:
Lhbizness wrote:But again, it does not matter what the production circumstances were. In terms of an opinion or analysis of an episode, they're trivia.
Er, that`s one method of interpretation, but by no means the only one. Other theories regarding aesthetics and philosophy of art would argue that the circumstances surrounding production are extremely important when analyzing a work. I understand and accept completely that you subscribe to an interpretive theory that focuses on the work alone, but it`s incorrect to unilaterally state that production circumstances are always completely irrelevant, and that it`s wrong to consider them during analysis. It depends on the theory or method of interpretation.
It was the melding of interpretative method - the claiming of authority to establish that an opinion was correct and, by extension, that the opposite opinion was therefore invalid or, at least, of lesser value. It kills discourse because it makes a claim for an authoritative view based on production circumstances. It also entails leaps of faith - because there were American backers, therefore the episode is more American and by extension less layered, etc. etc. How can one possibly establish that or support it? Argue that the episode is less layered by examining the episode itself, and we can have a debate. But argue that the episode is less layered because production circumstances say it is, and we've lost any chance for debate or disagreement. You've established that one interpretation, and only one, is correct. What more is there to be said?

But you're right - there are other modes of interpretation, and other theories with much to be said for them. This is merely the way that I choose to approach analysis. My one claim would be that production circumstances are not the final word on an episode - they are not the ultimate arbiter of correctness. Far too many times I've seen arguments that boil down to "Brian Clemens says it, therefore it must be so" (not in this thread, obviously). In any case, personal preference is still personal preference, and opinion is different from interpretation (I realize that I may have used the two interchangeably, which I should not have done).

So, yes, I think in future I'll choose to disregard production circumstances when it comes to a discussion of the merits of an individual episode. That's fine with me - it avoids the conflicting modes of interpretation.
Last edited by Lhbizness on Mon Apr 28, 2014 5:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Timeless A-Peel »

Lhbizness wrote:
Timeless A-Peel wrote:
Lhbizness wrote:But again, it does not matter what the production circumstances were. In terms of an opinion or analysis of an episode, they're trivia.
Er, that`s one method of interpretation, but by no means the only one. Other theories regarding aesthetics and philosophy of art would argue that the circumstances surrounding production are extremely important when analyzing a work. I understand and accept completely that you subscribe to an interpretive theory that focuses on the work alone, but it`s incorrect to unilaterally state that production circumstances are always completely irrelevant, and that it`s wrong to consider them during analysis. It depends on the theory or method of interpretation.
It was the melding of interpretative method - the claiming of authority to establish that an opinion was correct and, by extension, that the opposite opinion was therefore lesser. It kills discourse because it makes a claim for an authoritative view based on production circumstances. It also entails leaps of faith - because there were American backers, therefore the episode is more American and by extension less layered, etc. etc. How can one possibly establish that or support it? Argue that the episode is less layered by examining the episode itself, and we can have a debate. But argue that the episode is less layered because production circumstances say it is, and we've lost any chance for debate or disagreement. You've established that one interpretation, and only one, is correct.
Yes, I understand all of that. My issue is with the statement, “it does not matter what the production circumstances were. In terms of an opinion or analysis of an episode, they're trivia.” It’s very unilateral and seems to advocate only one method of interpretation by disallowing the use of the work’s production as a means by which to interpret the work, i.e., if it’s not onscreen, you can’t use it. There are many theories of interpretation that argue the exact opposite of that and are equally valid methods. Preferring one method over another is fine. Insinuating that there is only one method of interpretation, and that means of production can never play a part in interpretation, is incorrect.
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Post by Lhbizness »

Which is, absolutely, my opinion on interpretation. It gets far too thorny an issue, because you begin having to delve into intentionality, the mode of production, the psychologies of those involved, what is known (or assumed) about distribution, marketing, etc. You begin setting out to solve the "mystery of the text" in an authoritative manner, which is why I don't agree with or subscribe to that kind of interpretation and take issue with it.

But again, you're right. I should not have made such a blanket statement, even if that is my approach.

I guess I should have just said that I don't care what the production circumstances are and tried to guide the debate back to the episode, rather than taking issue with the interpretative method. My bad.
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Post by Timeless A-Peel »

Lhbizness wrote:Which is, absolutely, my opinion on interpretation. It gets far too thorny an issue, because you begin having to delve into intentionality, the mode of production, the psychologies of those involved, what is known (or assumed) about distribution, marketing, etc. You begin setting out to solve the "mystery of the text" in an authoritative manner, which is why I don't agree with or subscribe to that kind of interpretation and take issue with it.

But again, you're right. I should not have made such a blanket statement, even if that is my approach.

I guess I should have just said that I don't care what the production circumstances are and tried to guide the debate back to the episode, rather than taking issue with the interpretative method. My bad.
Yes, absolutely. No quarrel with any of that. We can accept or ignore the show`s backstory at will, and come up with a valid interpretation in either case. :)
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