Saturday, August 2, 2014

Disability.TV Podcast - Ep. 1, Introduction

Here it is, at long last … my first podcast episode!

Photo of an old style tv set with four disability symbols on the screen. Title reads Disability.TV web address disability

This introductory episode is different than most of the regular episodes will be. For one thing, I plan on making each episode a more casual, less scripted discussion. And, as I mention in this introduction, I hope several episodes will include guests, so we can have real conversations. This first episode lays out my plans for the podcast, and starts to explore some of the themes and ideas I hope to talk about.

As promised in the episode, I have pasted a tentative schedule of TV shows and characters I plan to discuss below. Please do send feedback, on the podcasts themselves, and on episodes and topics to come. Most importantly, if you have a favorite disabled character or show … or least favorite … and would like to co-host a discussion about it with me, let me know.

One other technical note … In the podcast I mention using SoundCloud. I had some trouble with it, so for now I have switched to a different hosting service, Podbean. I still plan on submitting to iTunes for easy subscribing.

Disability.TV - Tentative Schedule

August 15 - Ironside (Original Series)

August 29 - Ironside (New Series)

September 5 - Friday Night Lights

September 19 - Game Of Thrones - Tyrion Lannister

October 3 - Game Of Thrones - Jaimie Lannister, Bran Stark, and Others

October 17 - Glee

October 31 - My Gimpy Life

November 14 - Big Bang Theory

November 28 - Parenthood

December 12 - Sherlock

December 26 - Red Band Society (New Fall Series)

January 9 - Breaking Bad

January 23 - Star Trek - The Menagerie 1 & 2

February 6 - Star Trek: The Next Heneration - Ethics

February 20 - Star Trek: Deep Space 9 - Melora

March 6 - American Horror Story

March 20 - ER - Dr. Kerry Weaver

April 3 - ER - Mental Illness on ER

April 17 - Downton Abbey

May 1 - The West Wing - President Josiah Bartlett

May 15 - The West Wing - Joey Lucas

May 29 - Life Goes On

June 5 - I, Claudius

Buy It: "The Man He Became"

This book is great history and biography. At the same time it offers scores of insights into what it is like to experience new disability, both the pain and fear of the conditions themselves, and the social dimensions that become even more important. I found my admiration for Franklin Roosevelt deepen and take unique shape after reading this book.

Earlier this year, I wrote a three-part review which you can read at the links below:


Christopher Shinn, The Atlantic - July 23, 2014

I’m not too bothered by non-disabled actors in disabled roles. By which I mean that seeing non-disabled actors play disabled roles doesn't spoil the experience for me, as long as they do it well. What matters most to me is whether portrayals are believable, and that depends mostly on writing and acting talent.

This article describes an interesting idea ... that audiences prefer seeing non-disabled actors in disability roles because it sort of protects them from seeing too much of a feared reality. I don’t think I quite buy it, though. I feel like most audiences are pretty game for raw authenticity, including seeing real disabled people playing disabled characters in TV, movies, and plays. If anything, I suspect it’s writers and directors who maybe fear the reality check their work will be subjected to by disabled actors.

"What if a real paraplegic tells me that my writing of the paraplegic character is crap? What if they notice that I only know, like, three story ideas for disabled characters?”

1. Bitter cripple drives away the people who love him.

2. Inspiring cripple teaches selfish non-cripple a valuable lesson about gratitude.

3. Cripple takes a chance on an experimental treatment and is cured.

On the other hand, I sometimes worry that casting disabled actors in disability roles can become too much of a “trick” in itself, when understood and promoted in a sensationalistic way. Not that disabled actors might do a poor job of it ... most disabled actors I’ve seen who have made it into mainstream productions are terrific ... but that viewers will pay more attention to the “wow factor” of casting a disabled person, than to the quality of their performance.

Of course, once you consider how most people feel today about white actors portraying African-American characters ... or a male actor playing a woman ... it's hard to escape the idea that it's pretty outrageous that most disabled characters are played by non-disabled actors. Here's a great article from that point of view at the website.

I wonder if I would feel differently about, say, Daniel Day-Lewis playing disabled Irish poet Christy Brown, if the situation were reversed ... if most disabled characters were, in fact, played by disabled actors, and non-disabled people playing them were the exception rather than the rule?

I’m sure a lot of these issues will come up, as I get into my Disability.TV podcast.