Revision for June 2012 Exam - AQA TV Crime Drama - Preliminary Material Commentary
Whilst a range of resources and schemes of work are currently being delivered and refined to be posted in July 2012, the pre-release for the unit has arrived.
Summary (more resouces and ideas to follow):
As ever, AQA encourage you to respond in role. Regan Carter, a commisioning editor, is seeking ideas for a new TV Crime drama with family appeal for his new cable and satelite channel: The Crime Channel. Tell him how great he is!
Most likely scenarios - you will be asked to pitch your ideas for a new TV Crime Drama and show how much you know about the genre. This might include discussion about how the genre has evolved over the years and why it remains popular amongst audiences. Your idea must be targeted for a pre-watershed, family audience.
The examiners (or Regan Carter) will be really interested to hear ideas backed up with examples (past and present) and for those of you aiming for As and A*, how TV Crime Dramas might look like in the future. I suggest that you see what other crime drama channels on cable and satelite, like Alibi and FX, are currently showing. Watch the video below for Alibi, the UKs most popular dedicated crime drama satellite channel. There is a revision worksheet to accompany this and examples for other channel idents to analyse.
And then there's the barb.co.uk where you can find out information like viewing figures. The main thing to remember with the Crime Channel is that they want something that will appeal to family audiences, so you'll need to find examples of TV crime dramas that have already done this and think about the features of the genre (codes and conventions) which appeal to a family audience's needs. Remember that your channel is probably funded by advertising, so who might want to invest in your program? Magnum icecream, Boursin soft cheese? They've both done it, perhaps an insurance company for those little mishaps? Perhaps your characters will endorse or use a specific brand of car, watch, use a Mac or a PC?
If you get tired of revising, why not design your own logo for the Crime Channel to appear on the website or poster you will probably design, or the logo for the TV spot trailer advertising your 2013 crime drama release. You might also get asked to draw some publicity photos for use in Radio Times or a more commercial TV guide. Then chose a colour scheme and select imagery/iconography that symbolises the mood and atmosphere of your crime drama. Remember that there are loads of good crime dramas out there to analyse. Examples:
Oh yes, the debate question:Some critics argue that most TV detectives are the same and offer boring stereotypes. How far do you agree with this statement? Well, I suggest you talk about how diverse representations of gender, ethnicity and age are now compared to how they used to be. You will need examples from most decades to present to support your argument. You will be expected to demonstrate how representations, values and attitudes (ideology) changes over time, this means using lots of examples (remember we're a multi-cultural society and examiners don't want xenophobic rants). And think about what might be represented in future - will there be more of a reversion to hard, toughened cops like Gene Hunt to reflect society's view that the police lack the force and brutality needed to deal with hooded yobs?
You might then get asked to talk about your main characters and how you've represented them. Consider also how having different characters and ensemble casts is a good way of appealing to wider audiences. What are the benefits of 'guest stars' or 'known personalities' appearing in various episodes. Perhaps you need to consider how family audiences might relate to characters of TV drama (uses and gratifications) and explain your choice of actor and how they dress and act. Be sure to mention inspirations and good examples of characters who are successful and popular for a reason. Below is a great example of Columbo, the forgetful, messy, cross-eyed, cigar smoking (although we never seen him do this) police detective who outwits the villains. These are all action codes (Barthes) which signal to the audience what is about to happen and help drive the narrative forward.
You should, at this point, start to consider theory. What narrative functions do your characters have? Propp identified the hero (protagonist), false hero (villain in disguise), villain (the antagonist), princess (crime victim male or female), dispatcher (hero's boss or the murderer/perpetrator of the crime who motivates the hero's quest), donor (someone who provides the hero with a clue that solves the enigma - think forensic experts in CSI or important witness), and the helper (sidekick - Lewis, Watson, etc.).
Audiences: why do they love TV Crime Drama so much? It may seem like a rhetorical question, but it's one you will need to answer using a range of good examples and theory. A good TV crime drama can attract viewing figures in millions, Murder, She Wrote enjoyed audience figures of upto 26 million at its peak in America, and even modern day Uk crime dramas like Silent Witness and Whitechapel can attact anything between 7 - 11 million viewers. Audiences expect to see conflict, binary oppositions of good vs evil (hero vs villain), law vs criminality, morality vs immorality; they also like to see certain themes operating within the story or series, for example: power struggles between ranks within the police force; the conflict of policing styles (the cop who is unorthodox in their approach versus a very loyal, straightforward thinker); the sacrifice of personal life to aid their love of the profession. Overall, audiences want to feel rewarded from watching these programmes, enforcing the ideology that the police are good at what they do and catch the smartest of criminals.
Uses and Gratifications. Audiences like diversion, an escape from their everyday, normal lives; identification with characters, consider how viewers might relate to a victim or a cop; personal identity, how we can discuss and share our own values about right and wrong; and finally, surveillance - audiences are curious and want information. Crime Dramas from overseas are a way of looking at another culture, think about some of the American imports we have in the UK. Other pleasures audiences get from watching TV Crime Drama are excitement from 'gazing' at the hero/heroine to seek identity; there are often moments of high drama, comedy or romance between the detective and their sidekick; crime dramas appeal to the detective within us, wanting to become a sleuth and solve mysteries; most of all, audiences like familiarity and repetition of elements. Why is CSI still so popular with audiences, even though Horatio Caine pulls out nothing but the same pensive one liner at the start of each episode.
Promotional materials will rely upon new e-media and web 2.0 strategies, so know your hash tag # from your @ symbol and understand the importance of likes, views and cross platform distribution methods (apps, competitions, video virals). It incourages user interactivity during programmes and encourages user generated content like fan trailers, parodies and even fan websites, music videos (yes!).
Remember, keep it in role and think about the narratives of the most successful pilot episodes. Read the accompanying glossary and try and demonstrate an understanding of these concepts. Perhaps come up with some original twists over the course of six episodes, who is the main protagonist and antagonist, what's the role of the sidekick? And remember to revise 'what makes a good pitch to a commisioning editor'. Oh, so much to revise people - see the resources below that will slowly appear over the coming weeks.
Great revision guide to help you prepare to formulate your new TV crime drama
Creativity and originality with a focus on responding accurately to the questions will put you in good stead. Remember to answer the exam question properly and use the glossary to help you.
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