The New Yorker as TV
The New Yorker has condensed an issue’s worth of content into half an hour’s viewing time as one of a series of pilots commissioned by Amazon. The idea is that users will vote on which of the pilots (which range from comedies to dramas to children’s shows to The New Yorker Presents) will eventually be made into a series. So it’s up to us to decide whether the iconic magazine should get its own TV show, which is a complicated and strange responsibility to have. Included in the Alex Gibney-directed show is a documentary based on Rachel Aviv’s award-winning essay about herbicides, a conversation between artist Marina Abramovic and Ariel Levy, a poem performed by Andrew Garfield, cartoons, and a strange and whimsical skit starring Alan Cumming as God. It’s good stuff, and hopefully we’ll decide that we want more.
The opening sequence is set to the sounds of New York jazz, of course. It begins with an animated title sequence that brings some of the greatest New Yorker front covers to life. This cuts to the show’s ‘table of contents’, which has been designed using the elements of the magazine’s familiar icons.
Cartoons are interspersed between the separate stories in the same way that they are in the magazine. New Yorker regular Emily Flakes draws for the camera, which has been sped-up so we can see the process from pencil sketch to fully fledged ink drawing.
And a documentary based on Aviv’s essay ‘A Very Valuable Reputation’ delves into the complicated politics that have arisen as a result of biologist Dr. Tyrone Haye’s findings. The thoughtful piece ends with the scientist reading from the pages of Steinbeck’s ‘East of Eden’.
The show hints at intriguing future possibilities – my mind spins a little at the thought of James Walcott having his own film chat show on Vanity Fair, or The Gourmand creating their own cooking show (this might happen sooner than I think if they end up filming their series of events in London later next month). Could this be the future of television, where instead of tuning into a channel you stream from your favourite magazine, which brings you programs and documentary footage as well as essays and photographs and blog posts? It’s an interesting possibility, and with magazines making their own podcasts and beginning to commission more and more online video content, the future of many magazines is definitely interdisciplinary.
Review by Madeleine Morley