PRELIMINARY NOTES ON FRESH PRINCE: MISTAKEN IDENTITY
If I were going to write a 10-page critical analysis of today’s screening, these would be my preliminary notes. I would organize these notes as a kind of launch for my writing project, keeping in mind that multiple drafts would be in my future. Good writing is re-writing, yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s TRUE! Some of these notes would help lead me to my final draft; some of these notes would be discarded along the way. I am sharing this with you as a model for your own preliminary notes.
· What production company produced the series?
· Who are the principle personnel on the production and creative side? What are their professional track records? What happened to them after they finished with the series? Is their current status important?
· I need to make sure I have the episode’s end credits in my notes.
· Date of original broadcast.
· What was happening in the U.S. at the time of the original broadcast? What’s the original political and social context of the episode?
· Can I find out what the ratings were generally for the series?
· Can I find out the specific audience rating for this episode when it first aired?
· Looks like standard multi-camera sitcom live production; flat sitcom lighting; can I contact somebody on SCM’s production side for info?
· Can I find out the budget per episode?
· Who are the principle actors and their track records? What happened to them after the series?
· Who currently owns the series?
· Is there anything in the trade press that deals with the production of the series? Is it relevant to my argument?
· What network originally broadcast the series? Did the series stay on that network throughout the entire run?
· Can I figure out how this series fit into the overall network programming schedule in its original run?
· Can I track down hard audience data about demographics? What demographic categories were the original audience?
· Can I find out anything about the off-network syndication deal that propelled the series into TV markets throughout the country? Does the series have international off-network distribution?
· Besides off-network syndication, what are the other distribution channels for the series? I know there are DVDs; you can buy the entire run. Any other options?
· Is it possible to accurately estimate how much profit this property has generated?
CRITIQUE / INTERPRETATION / USE
· Maybe rhetorical analysis is the way to go on this; it seems to be trying to persuade, but what specifically is it trying to do? How does it instruct the audience? What’s the audience take-away? What is the rhetorical strategy of the episode?
· What are the chronological segments of the episode? It’s clearly the standard sitcom narrative structure, but I need to break it down and identify what happens in each segment.
· Should I bother to apply Todorov’s Equilibrium-Disequilibrium-Equilibrium narrative formula? That might help me to identity the rhetorical strategy. Yes! I should do that; maybe use it in the paper. What IS the problem to be solved? Is it solved? Is Equilibrium actually restored? In whose interest?
· OK, it’s about race and social class. How are race and social class visually coded? Are the aural codes important in this regard? I have to ID the codes! Start there and build.
· Stereotypes; got to ID them.
· Crazy white dude in the jail cell; HUH? What is the function of this character? I need to know about the specific songs he sings; why those choices? What’s with the minstrel thing?!
· Can I identify how this episode serves somebody’s political / social/ economic interests? That’s the key to understanding the ideological component of the episode.
· Has anybody else written about the series, or better—- has anybody else written about this episode? What did they say?
· Any relevance to current political / social issues in 2019? Black Lives Matters? Any campus contacts? Community contacts?
· So, it looks like I will deal with ideology, codes of race and social class, rhetorical strategy, narrative structure—- more complicated than I figured!
· Can I figure out what swag accompanied this series in its original network run? T-shirts, action dolls, games?
· If I move quickly, I can organize a screening for a few people (fellow majors, residence hall types, family members, etc.) and then pick their brains about their reactions; kind of low-end ethnographic audience analysis that Haines says is legit. 3 to 5 people only, otherwise it’s too much to handle.
· Reminder to self: This series has a long shelf life. It’s still around, so it’s clearly important cross-generational. There’s got to be some social reproduction going on; probably will surprise me.
· Start following up now on the questions I’ve jotted down.
· Develop some sense of the time line for the project; most important, focus on at least one of the four segments, and start writing a draft, even if it’s the “s*it” draft. Run it by Haines. He says he’s my editor.
· Got to track down APA Style Guide ASAP; check Google for free on-line summary of basic APA Style; format of paper must comply.
· I may not be able to answer all the questions, so what’s my triage plan? Also, what relatively challenging things can I accomplish in order to demonstrate ingenuity, self-direction, etc., because I DO want the A!