Television as Time Machine

Two unrelated notes on television and time:

First, the new BBC series, Life on Mars (sort of) inspires Mark at k-punk to meditate on the nostalgic lure of time travel into the past. Life on Mars focuses on Sam Tyler, a detective from 2006, who is sent back in time to 1973 after a car accident.

Mark’s reflections on the series (which I haven’t seen) and his discussion of the logic of time travel inevitably raise questions for me about my own research on time-travel movies and television shows. First, I find the choice of 1973 interesting, especially given Fredric Jameson’s emphasis on 1973 as a point of major transition (Watergate, Vietnam, gold standard, etc), but I’m more interested in Mark’s comments about the “uncanny lure” of the past. Generally, I think he’s right that time-travel films and TV shows tend to involve time travel into the past rather than into the future, and I’d add that it’s certainly linked to fears of death. Thanks to Matt for passing along the link. I’d like to revisit this topic at some point, but with the new semester starting yesterday (Monday), I feel like I’m already in a full sprint.

Speaking of sprinting, David at GreenCine provides a pointer to Slavoj Zizek’s Guardian article previewing the new season of 24. Zizek’s analysis goes well beyond the expected observation that the show’s simulation of real time reproduces the sense of urgency that has become attached to the war on terror. Instead, drawing from Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem, Zizek analyzes the show’s depiction of torture.

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