TV.com Summer School: 5 Assignments to Prepare You for Fall

School isn't out for summer, despite what Alice Cooper might tell you. Mastering television is a year-round endeavor, and to make sure your minds stay sharp during what is mostly a lull, I've put together an academic summer curriculum for you. Please write a 20-page paper on each topic, and because I'll be busy drinking beer on the beach, go ahead and grade them yourself.

American Imperialism and Television

Courses: Wilfred 101 (FX, June 23), Free Agents 101 (NBC, this fall), Prime Suspect 101 (NBC, this fall). But you can also earn credits for The Office 301 and other classes.
Assignment: Watch the original version of an upcoming adaptation for American TV. Recommended: Australia's Wilfred and the U.K.'s Prime Suspect.
What You'll Learn: American television execs often think they can buy the rights to a beloved international show and tweak it for the better, but 10 times out of 10 those American television execs are morons and nine times out of 10 the result is a spectacular disaster. For this assignment, students will keep track of what's been retained and what's changed from the original series in order to analyze possible correlations between the American adaptation's success or stinkitude. In other words, why do so many American versions of other countries' TV shows suck? As an added bonus, students will also be able to smugly declare, "the original was so much better" to their uncultured friends whilst sipping mochaccinos and reading something by an up-and-coming writer from France who was mentioned in The Week.

Fairy Tales in Primetime

Courses: Grimm 101 (NBC, this fall), Once Upon a Time 101 (ABC, this fall)
Assignment: Read Grimm's Fairy Tales or Charles Perrault's versions of popular fairy tales.
What you'll learn: You probably know the stories of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Little Red Riding Hood, but years of retelling these famous tales has twisted the originals. If the two new fairy-tale based shows slated for this fall (ABC's Once Upon a Time and NBC's Grimm) have any respect for themselves, they'll use Grimm's Fairy Tales or Perrault's versions as source material rather than basing their takes on the stuff that airs on the Disney Channel. Plus, once Snow White, Cinderella, Hansel, and the other popular folks get their share of screentime, a whole lotta lesser-known tales will be thrown at you; consider Frau Trude, Jorinde and Joringel, King Thrushbeard, and several others that I just learned about on Wikipedia. Impress your friends at your Once Upon a Time viewing party by correctly identifying these under-the-radar fairy tale subjects.

Going By the Book: The Modern Translation of the Page for the Screen

Courses: Game of Thrones 201 (HBO, currently airing), GCB 101 (ABC, this fall), pre-requisite for Powers 101 (FX, in development), pre-requisite for Chew 101 (Showtime, in development), The Walking Dead 201 (AMC, October), True Blood 301 (HBO, June 26)
Assignment: Read books or graphic novels that have already been adapted or are currently being adapted for television.
What You'll Learn: You've always heard snobs cry about how "the book was better!" But as television has become more and more sophisticated, so too have adaptations for television. For this assignment, students will broach the subject from two angles: reading a book for a show they've already seen, and reading a book for a show they haven't seen yet. We'll take a look at what producers feel they need to keep, what they change, and how fans react to the adaptation. And when I say "we'll," I mean "you." Teachers like to ride banana boats in Jamaica, too. Suggested reading: Game of Thrones for those who haven't read it yet. For something that's currently in development, I'd go with Chew—a funny, unique comic about an FDA agent who can learn the history of anything he eats—that's being groomed for TV by Showtime.

International Relations: How Does the U.K. Think a U.S. Audience Thinks?

Courses: Torchwood 301 (Starz, July 8)
Assignment: Get on Netflix instant streaming and watch the five-part series Torchwood: Children of the Earth. No reading involved, thank God.
What You'll Learn: Mainstream American media, particularly in the film and TV world, dominates the global landscape. Hollywood blockbusters packed with special effects, explosions, and brawny men and sexy babes are as American as leveling a country for its oil. But what happens when the new season of an established British series is targeted toward an American audience and co-produced by an American cable company that's known for boobs and violence? Torchwood: Miracle Day has upped its budget and starpower for its Stateside debut, but will that mean a higher-quality of what we've seen in the past, or a facelift with the side effect of dumbing things down for a new country? In this assignment, we'll draw a conclusion about what a largely British crew thinks works for a Yankee audience.

A Critique on Spielberg: Is He Any Good Anymore?

Courses: Terra Nova 101 (Fox, this fall), Falling Skies 101 (TNT, June 19)
Assignment: Watch (or, more likely, rewatch) Jurassic Park and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Skip that War of the Worlds and Jurassic Park II crap.
What You'll Learn: In this critical analysis of film legend Steven Spielberg, we'll see how two of his landmark films stack up against two of the new TV shows that he's producing: the dinosaurs-meet-and-eat-man drama Terra Nova and the alien-invasion thriller Falling Skies. Why has Spielberg's perception of aliens changed over the years, from lovable candy-eating critters to bloodthirsty human haters? Is that T-Rex in Terra Nova the exact same one from from Jurassic Park? Is Spielberg's stamp really on either of these shows, or is he just putting his name on something to make an extra buck? When will he make a TV show


That's all for now, University of TV.com students; I'll be back for the Freshman Week keggers. For extra credit, please create your own TV curriculum in the comments.


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

Comments (21)
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i tried wilfred,but i am not tuning in every week for a farting, humping englishman sorry...
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Torchwood needs to get Capt John, James Marsters, back, he was a great character.
Being Human is an example of US taking a fun UK show and doing an OK job with it. My only complaint is they are using mostly the same scripts, so when watching the Syfy version I can already know what happened from the 3 years of the BBC show.
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I can't wait for torchwood.
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I'm really excited about Torchwood, I just hope that it can live up to its previous awesomeness, particularly in the vein of CoE.
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In all my years of telly watching, and that is a lot of years, the USA has only managed to take one UK show and make a better version than the original - Eleventh Hour. Shame the morons then cancelled the show after only 18 episodes :(
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My main assignment is working out how to record all the conflicting shows on digital cable (with one digital tuner) on Sundays and Tuesdays. Luckily, the shows are repeated often, although often they are still conflicting. I shouldn't need to do this but the TiVo algorithm can't be trusted to properly resolve the conflicts.
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I must admit I don't read books but that's about to change.I don't exactly know yet what I should start with...Anyway I think I'll read 'Persy Jackoson' series by Rick Riordan, after all I'm 17.Could you guys help me out by choosing next books to read?I'm a begginer at this an' I prefer light books to demanding books to read for now.Thanks in advance.
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The true blood books are better so are the pretty little liars ones. While I love the TV show Gossip Girl it should not have been called that considering the only things that the book and the TV sow have in common are the names and the website.
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@jekyll i believe they want to be more credible in the storyline. As it become too big to not put the strongest nation in the world in the middle of it, instead of Wales xD (not saying it wasn`t good the story in wales, but....). Coming to America will give strenght to the show and maybe to Doctor Who too...

I hope they achieve, without losing the amazing storylines they already have...

For me they only can improve going to the states, but....
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Talking about Torchwood, u need to watch the first 2 seasons (yes, u will see somethings u don`t want, but apart of that, it`s non stoping action and funny) and don`t forgett to watch Doctor Who 2005 TV show since the begining, because Torchwood starts in Doctor Who 1st/2nd Season if i`m not mistaken...

I myself prefer Doctor Who, but Torchwood is not that bad at all...

But i know that it won`t be well accepted in USA, because it can`t... xD

Like poor Cheryl Cole on X-Factor, but she`s far worst in talent than Torchwood :P
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Insted of the first assignment "American Imperialism and Television", you could just rewatch the first season of "Episodes" a funnier way to learn the same thing. :-)
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Now that Ianto is dead on Torchwood (Praise White Jesus), the show actually seems MORE palatable and hopefully, it will follow in the foot steps of RTD's other Americanized show Queer As Folk) and surpass its British predecessor. Excited about Wilfred. Looking forward to True Blood and hoping that it will get back to its roots. Most book to TV/movie adaptions are decent but True Blood hasn't been. The writers have pretty much wiped their a**es with Harris' novels and have strayed far from the source material, much to the fans of the novels dismay. But so far, the previews seem to suggest that the show will start following the books a little more. *crosses fingers* So here's hoping!
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This new Torchwood will certainly be "a facelift with the side effect of dumbing things down for a new country". Every American actor added makes me cringe to the point that I almost have no interest in the show anymore. It's supposed to be British, and I want it to stay British, but Russell T. Davies seems hellbent on finding as many ways as possible to destroy the show. Killing off 60% of the starring cast within five episodes wasn't enough apparently, so letting us American get our hands on it will surely finish the job. It was perfectly fine when I just waited for it to come on BBC America; I don't need this Starz! idiocy. Such a shame.
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wanna see terra nova
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None of those look even remotely good. I'm out.
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Isn't Spielberg also executive producer for United States of Tara?
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I will definitely watch falling skies, torchwood and true blood. Terra Nova I seriously doubt I will watch.....what more can be done with Dinosaurs? Anyway it sounds really boring.
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i will be watching falling skies, torchwood and true blood :D
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I haven't liked anything Spielberg has done live action for TV. So I'll be checking out Falling Skies and Terra Nova (and Smash, as well as Locke & Key if anything ever happens with that) but I won't have too high expectations. And I'd watch Torchwood, if it wasn't for the fact that the first season looks really not-me and I feel weird not having watched every single episode of the series I'm following, so skipping ahead to Children of the Earth would feel weird.
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So basically it's doing a lot of reading and watching British versions of the shows. I generally prefer not to read the books the shows are based on because I find I don't enjoy the show as much and keep mixing up the versions. Although in the case of Grimm's it's more background material. And it's a good idea to watch all seasons of Torchwood, however I suspect most who will watch the US show will have been watching the British show. I happened to watch the UK version of Life on Mars before the US version and it was interesting to see how they varied, although practically all the scripts for the US version were reworkings of the UK version. However, the ending was very different.
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School's Out is an Alice Cooper song.
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