I’ll get to the regularly scheduled links in a bit, but I wanted to lead off with some recommendations from my 2019 media diet (a term I’ve borrowed from Jason Kottke, whose blog always makes for tasty consumption).
I suppose it was inevitable that the 2018 post-apocalyptic horror film A Quiet Place, which was shot on a relatively small budget and subsequently made a boatload of money, would require a sequel. And so it has come to pass that A Quiet Place Part II will open in theaters in March. (Tiny spoiler: There’s more out there than the noise-hating creatures.)
As I watched the trailer I started thinking about (a) the unimaginativeness of the title, which suggests an unimaginative sequel; and (b) how popular the word place is in movie and television titles. And it isn’t just a recent fad: the trend goes back decades.
Long-time listener here, but I’m the first to admit to some gaps in my knowledge of radio history. Oh, sure, I knew that US radio and TV call letters begin with “W” for stations east of the Mississippi and “K” for stations west of the Mississippi*, and that Canadian stations’ call signs begin with “C.” I recognized many call letters as representing the networks that owned or operated them: KABC, WCBS, KPBS. I knew that the call signs of many public-radio stations include the initials of the colleges and universities that house their studios: KFJC (Foothill Junior College), KCSM (College of San Mateo), KPCC (Pasadena City College), WBUR (Boston University Radio). And I appreciated the Bay Area references in many local stations’ call letters: KABL, KFOG, KOIT (for Coit Tower, one of the city’s quirkier landmarks).
I also knew one call sign whose initials stood for a phrase: Chicago’s WGN, for “World’s Greatest Newspaper,” aka the Chicago Tribune. But it wasn’t until I started watching Ken Burns’s excellent eight-episode Country Music on PBS (that’s Public Broadcasting System, in case you didn’t already know) that I learned how many other early call signals—though randomly assigned—took on extra character as initialisms for slogans and phrases used as commercial gimmicks or mnemonics.
Undated ad for WSM, which began broadcasting from Nashville on October 5, 1925.
I’ve been watching The Boys on Amazon Prime, and along with enjoying the clever conceit (superheroes as corrupt bad guys controlled by an evil mega-corporation) and the dash of Brit slang and swearing (shufti, dekko, chuffed, lots of casual cunts), I’ve been thinking about the title. The show is based on a graphic-novel series that I’ve never read, and maybe “boys” is more overtly explained there, but on the show we’re left to infer that The Boys are the good-guy squad, even though one of their number is a young woman.
They aren’t the only capital-B Boys trending in popular-culture titles right now. Although less robust than the ongoing Girl/Girls title phenomenon (see my posts from 2015 and from 2018), “Boy/Boys” is still a trendlet worth noting.
The news that Tiny Pretty Things, the 2016 YA novel about ballet students by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton, is being made into a 10-episode Netflix series sent me into a free-association reverie.
“Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars.” – Amazon. The sequel (2017) is titled Shiny Broken Pieces.
One recently created job, however, depends not on technology but on psychology and stagecraft. Intimacy directors—the title appears to have been invented around 2016 by the founders of Intimacy Directors International, although the discipline was developed about 15 years ago—work with theater actors to choreograph “moments of staged intimacy in order to create safe, repeatable, and effective storytelling,” according to IDI’s website. (Their counterparts in television and film are called intimacy coordinators, and play similar roles in “scenes containing intimacy, simulated sex, nudity or high emotional content.”)
I had not expected to be sent to the dictionary by “Schitt’s Creek,” the Canadian comedy series starring Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara as temporarily embarrassed multimillionaires Johnny and Moira Rose, who’ve been divested of all their assets except their fabulous wardrobes, their helpless adult children, and the town of the title, which Johnny had long ago bought—yes, the whole town—as a joke gift for his son. But the show, which originated on CBC, is full of surprises. (You can catch the first four seasons on Netflix; the fifth is currently airing on the Pop network.) It’s “a comedy sleeper hit” (Rolling Stone), “Canada’s kindest and wiggiest sitcom” (Vulture), and “so much more than its title” (Vox).
I’ve finally gotten around to watching “Unforgotten,” the British detective show, now on Netflix, starring Nicola Walker (whom I liked a lot in “Last Tango in Halifax” and the National Theatre’s brilliant Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time). Something about the title jogged my memory: It felt like I’d been seeing a lot of un- titles and names lately. So I did some digging. And I was right.