How To Watch Television

How To Watch Television

ETHAN THOMPSON
JASON MITTELL
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 432
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qght3
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    How To Watch Television
    Book Description:

    We all have opinions about the television shows we watch, but television criticism is about much more than simply evaluating the merits of a particular show and deeming it 'good' or 'bad.' Rather, criticism uses the close examination of a television program to explore that program's cultural significance, creative strategies, and its place in a broader social context. How to Watch Television brings together forty original essays from today's leading scholars on television culture, writing about the programs they care (and think) the most about. Each essay focuses on a particular television show, demonstrating one way to read the program and, through it, our media culture. The essays model how to practice media criticism in accessible language, providing critical insights through analysis - suggesting a way of looking at TV that students and interested viewers might emulate. The contributors discuss a wide range of television programs past and present, covering many formats and genres, spanning fiction and non-fiction, broadcast and cable, providing a broad representation of the programs that are likely to be covered in a media studies course. While the book primarily focuses on American television, important programs with international origins and transnational circulation are also covered. Addressing television series from the medium's earliest days to contemporary online transformations of television, How to Watch Television is designed to engender classroom discussion among television critics of all backgrounds. Ethan Thompson is Associate Professor at Texas AandM University - Corpus Christi. He is the author of Parody and Taste in Postwar American Television Culture, and co-editor of Satire TV: Politics and Comedy in the Post-Network Era. Jason Mittell is Associate Professor of Film and Media Culture and American Studies at Middlebury College. He is the author of Genre and Television: From Cop Shows to Cartoons in American Culture, Television and American Culture, and Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling (New York University Press, forthcoming).

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2946-5
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: An Owner’s Manual for Television
    (pp. 1-10)
    ETHAN THOMPSON and JASON MITTELL

    Imagine that you just purchased a brand new television, and inside the box, along with the remote, the Styrofoam packaging, and various cables, was this book:How to Watch Television. Would you bother to open the cellophane wrapper and read it? Sure, you might scan through the “quick start” guide for help with the connections, and the new remote control may take some getting used to, but who needs instructions for how towatchwhat’s on screen? Do-it-yourself manuals abound for virtually every topic, but TV content is overwhelmingly regarded as self-explanatory, as most people assume that we all just...

  5. I. TV Form:: Aesthetics and Style
    • 1 Homicide: Realism
      (pp. 13-21)
      BAMBI L. HAGGINS

      Homicide: Life on the Streets(NBC, 1993–1999), one of the most compelling and innovative cop dramas ever aired on U.S. network television, occupies a significant, if often overlooked, position in the history of television drama.Homicideis the “missing link” between the quality dramas of the 1980s, such asHill Street Blues(NBC, 1981–1987), and groundbreaking cable series unencumbered by network limitations, likeThe Wire(HBO, 2002–2008). WhileHomicidecontinues the “quality” tradition from its NBC dramatic forbearers—the multiple storylines, overlapping dialogue, and cast of flawed protagonists inHill Street Blues, and the cinematic visual style...

    • 2 House: Narrative Complexity
      (pp. 22-29)
      AMANDA D. LOTZ

      In the 2000s, some U.S. dramatic television entertained its audiences with increasingly complicated characters. Series such as FX’sThe Shield(2002–2008),Rescue Me(2004–2011), andSons of Anarchy(2008–present) and AMC’sMad Men(2007–present) andBreaking Bad(2008–2013) explored the complicated personal and professional lives of male characters and maximized the possibilities of television’s storytelling attributes for character development. While several of these series can be properly described as character studies, other narrative forms also provided compelling examples for thinking about characterization, narrative strategies, and television storytelling. Series such asCSI,Law & Order,and the...

    • 3 Life on Mars: Transnational Adaptation
      (pp. 30-37)
      CHRISTINE BECKER

      With the exception of the soap opera format, television dramas in Britain largely operate as short-run series, with as few as six episodes constituting a single “season,” and only one or a handful of seasons making up the entirety of a program’s run.¹ As a result, writers for such series can plot out prescribed endpoints to stories before launching production. In contrast to this “definite end” model, American network television generally operates through the “infinite middle” model, wherein writers for successful programs have to continually devise ways to delay the narrative endpoint in order to keep the show running for...

    • 4 Mad Men: Visual Style
      (pp. 38-46)
      JEREMY G. BUTLER

      Much has been written about the look ofMad Men(AMC, 2007–present)—and not surprisingly, as the program has vividly evoked mid-century American life—the hairstyles and clothing, the offices and homes, and, of course, the chainsmoking and four-martini lunches of a particular, privileged segment of American society. However,Mad Menis more than a slavish reproduction of a bygone era. It sees that era through a contemporary filter that recognizes the despair and alienation that lay just beneath the surface. And it implicitly critiques the power structures of that time, which both casually and brutally subordinated working-class people,...

    • 5 Nip/Tuck: Popular Music
      (pp. 47-55)
      BEN ASLINGER

      Nip/Tuck’s (FX, 2003–2010) pilot episode featured an extended sequence in which The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” plays as Sean McNamara and Christian Troy perform a facial reconstruction on a man who they find out later is a child molester trying to mask his identity. Most reviewers of the pilot (July 22, 2003) drew attention to the importance of popular music to the program’s style, noting “the eerie use of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Paint it Black’ to dramatize a facial reconstruction even before mentioning the plot or the performances.”¹Nip/Tuck’s emphasis on surgery, style, and music was even reinforced...

    • 6 Phineas & Ferb: Children’s Television
      (pp. 56-64)
      JASON MITTELL

      One of the primary ways that people think about television is in comparison to other media, with television typically serving as a cultural “bad object” when viewed next to literature, film, or other media regarded with more respect and legitimacy. When held up to such cross-media scrutiny, television is frequently dismissed as crass, hyper-commercial, formulaic, and catering to the lowest common denominator. Of course, those who make such dismissive generalizations rarely take the time to look closely at television programming, differentiating among distinct shows and genres that might challenge such conventional wisdom. Instead, television is regarded from afar and painted...

    • 7 The Sopranos: Episodic Storytelling
      (pp. 65-73)
      SEAN O’SULLIVAN

      When Jennifer Egan discusses her inspirations forA Visit from the Goon Squad, the winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, she often citesThe Sopranos(HBO, 1999–2007). Egan’s book has nothing to do with mobsters or federal agents. Rather, it is a loosely connected series of thirteen chapters, tracing over several decades a group of people affiliated with the music business. When it came out, there was considerable debate about whether the book should be called a novel or a collection of short stories. The style and point of view can vary drastically from chapter to chapter;...

    • 8 Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job!: Metacomedy
      (pp. 74-82)
      JEFFREY SCONCE

      In the fall of 1975, the premiere episode ofSaturday Night Live(NBC, 1975–present) featured a somewhat puzzling performance in the show’s final half-hour, an “act” befitting the program’s ambition to showcase comedy generally considered “not ready for prime time.”¹ As immortalized in the unlikely biopicMan on the Moon(1999), comedian Andy Kaufman stood alongside a portable record player on an otherwise empty stage, remaining more or less inert for some fifteen seconds after his off-camera introduction by house announcer Don Pardo. Kaufman then dropped the needle on a record—a scratchy 45rpm of the theme song from...

  6. II. TV Representations:: Social Identity and Cultural Politics
    • 9 24: Challenging Stereotypes
      (pp. 85-93)
      EVELYN ALSULTANY

      Since September 11, 2001, a number of TV dramas have been created with the War on Terror as their central theme, depicting U.S. government agencies and officials heroically working to make the nation safe by battling terrorism.¹ Although initially created prior to the 9/11 attacks, 24 (FOX, 2001–2010) became the most popular of the fast-emerging cycle of terrorism dramas. The program centered on Jack Bauer, a brooding and embattled agent of the government’s Counter-Terrorism Unit, who raced a ticking clock to subvert impending terrorist attacks on the United States.

      In 2004, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) accused24...

    • 10 The Amazing Race: Global Othering
      (pp. 94-102)
      JONATHAN GRAY

      American television was never just American, but in recent years, its production, distribution, and reception have all globalized in a more concerted way. In terms of American television’s onscreen representations, though, its interest in and use of the rest of the world are still starkly limited. Vancouver and Toronto stand in for American cities when Canadian tax breaks help Hollywood out.Law and Order: SVU’s Elliot Stabler takes a trip to Prague to bust a child pornography ring and spy or military shows jaunt around the globe to capture nefarious evil-doers, portraying the globe as a problem to be fixed...

    • 11 The Cosby Show: Representing Race
      (pp. 103-111)
      CHRISTINE ACHAM

      On April 30, 1992, I tuned in to watch the last episode ofThe Cosby Show(NBC, 1984–1992). The LA riots had begun the day before, and news coverage of the ongoing chaos was broadcast during the commercial breaks. With the Rodney King verdict and the reaction of African Americans to continuing racism in American society televised twenty four hours a day, why would anyone choose to watch what seemed in 1992 to be an antiquated sitcom about a wealthy black family? I grew up withThe Cosby Showand could recall vividly the earliest of episodes, such as...

    • 12 The Dick Van Dyke Show: Queer Meanings
      (pp. 112-120)
      QUINN MILLER

      Like many narrative forms, television deploys a hierarchy of characters. In addition to crafting main roles and a supporting cast, actors in minor appearances portray stock types. Comedy conventions allow secondary characters to deviate from norms in ways that main characters seldom do. With more minor parts, writers and actors have more freedom. As media scholar Patricia White has shown, such narrative conventions can produce queer meaning in popular texts.¹ The term “queer” describes energies that protest norms and trouble conventional ways of thinking. A queer approach to television texts exposes the simplified understandings of gender and sexuality that make...

    • 13 Eva Luna: Latino/a Audiences
      (pp. 121-129)
      HECTOR AMAYA

      The telenovelaEva Luna(2010–2011) marks a new direction for Univision’s primetime programming and a relative departure from its narrative traditions. Since its inception in 1961, Univision, originally named Spanish International Network (SIN), has relied on telenovelas from Latin America to fill its primetime schedule. The majority of these telenovelas, often from Mexico’s Televisa, are conventionally conservative, rags-to-riches stories that scholars in Latin America have criticized for reconstituting traditional gender, racial, and class prejudices. Because Univision relies on these problematic shows, Latino media activist organizations argue that Univision cannot possibly meet the cultural and ethnic demands of Latinas/os living...

    • 14 Glee/House Hunters International: Gay Narratives
      (pp. 130-138)
      RON BECKER

      In 2010, syndicated advice columnist Dan Savage and his partner, Terry Miller, posted a video to YouTube in an effort to reach out to teenagers dealing with anti-gay bullying and thoughts of suicide. The fortysomething couple shared their own painful experiences being consistently harassed and feeling ostracized at school. Their main goal, however, was to provide hope for gay teenagers by assuring them that things will improve. “It gets better,” Savage avowed, “and it can get great and it can get awesome. Your life can be amazing, but you have to tough this period of it out and you have...

    • 15 Grey’s Anatomy: Feminism
      (pp. 139-147)
      ELANA LEVINE

      Contemporary entertainment television often tells stories of professionally accomplished women who, despite their successes, lament the missing men, children, or home life that would make them feel complete. Whether in Ally Mc-Beal’s dancing baby dreams of the 1990s or Carrie Bradshaw’s boyfriend troubles in the early 2000s, female characters have frequently expressed frustration with the lack of “balance” between their personal and professional lives. At the same time as they have faced such struggles, many of these same characters have found empowerment, whether by embracing a (hetero)sexually attractive appearance and the command it allows them over men, or by enjoying...

    • 16 Jersey Shore: Ironic Viewing
      (pp. 148-156)
      SUSAN J. DOUGLAS

      On December 8, 2009, MTV unveiled another “reality” TV show with a highly conventionalized format: select a group of male and female twentysomethings, put them in a house together, make sure the bar is fully stocked, mount cameras everywhere, see what happens, and edit for maximum drama. This was a formula that, since the premiere ofThe Real Worldin 1992, had served the network quite well. But while the formula remained roughly the same, the cast didn’t. UnlikeThe Real World, which over the years had come to traffic in juxtaposing different “types”—the naive country bumpkin, the urban...

  7. III. TV Politics:: Democracy, Nation, and the Public Interest
    • 17 30 Days: Social Engagement
      (pp. 159-167)
      GEOFFREY BAYM and COLBY GOTTERT

      In 2004, Morgan Spurlock’s filmSuperSize Meachieved a rare combination for a documentary film: commercial success and sociopolitical influence. The film became the fourth-highest grossing feature documentary ever at the time, earning over $10.5 million in ticket sales.¹ At the same time, it drew attention to the potential public health problems of fast-food consumption, and undoubtedly played a role in McDonald’s subsequent decision to discontinue the “supersize” option from its menus.² Two years later, Spurlock would try to recreate on television what he had achieved with film, launching the reality TV show30 Days(FX, 2005–2008), through which...

    • 18 America’s Next Top Model: Neoliberal Labor
      (pp. 168-176)
      LAURIE OUELLETTE

      America’s Next Top Model(UPN, 2003–2006; CW, 2006–present) is a reality series in which ten to twelve young women take part in a “highly accelerated boot camp to see if they have what it takes to make it in the high-profile modeling industry.”¹ Fusing the conventions of the televised makeover, the internship, and the talent competition, the show immerses the women in lessons, tests, and challenges deemed integral to their success in the competitive modeling business. This skill set includes posing for the camera, improvising and performing scripts, body management, self-stylizing, and emoting on command, as well as...

    • 19 Family Guy: Undermining Satire
      (pp. 177-185)
      NICK MARX

      TheFamily Guyepisode “I Dream of Jesus” (October 5, 2008) begins with the type of scene familiar to many fans of the series. Peter and the Griffin family visit a 1950s-themed diner, one that accommodates a number of parodic references to pop culture of the era. In a winking acknowledgment of howFamily Guy(FOX, 1999–2002, 2005–present) courts young adult viewers, Lois explains to the Griffin children that 1950s-themed diners were very popular in the 1980s, well before many of the program’s targeted audience members were old enough to remember them. As the Griffins are seated, they...

    • 20 Fox & Friends: Political Talk
      (pp. 186-194)
      JEFFREY P. JONES

      It just feels like high school all over again. There’s the intellectually challenged and dim-witted jock wannabe, the guy who still refers to women as “babes” and “skirts,” yet who is clearly outclassed by all the women around him.¹ Then there’s the popular and attractive mean-girl who thinks she needs to show her legs first and her smarts second, whose viciousness and bitchiness are exceeded only by her ambition.² And then there’s the gay guy, always exhibiting a smirk wrapped in smarm, the go-to guy for the group’s requisite mean-spirited put-down or latest innuendo and salacious rumour. Brian Kilmeade, Gretchen...

    • 21 M*A*S*H: Socially Relevant Comedy
      (pp. 195-203)
      NOEL MURRAY

      Though we hold the ideal of the free press as sacrosanct in the United States, the supremacy of the First Amendment is sometimes challenged when it comes to television. Music, movies, fine art, and printed material can be produced and distributed independently by anyone who has the means, but there are only so many notches on a television dial and so much space on the broadcasting spectrum, which means that the major broadcasting conglomerates have to be licensed by governmental agencies with the authority to squelch broadcasting they find offensive or seditious—or at least to apply enough pressure that...

    • 22 Parks and Recreation: The Cultural Forum
      (pp. 204-212)
      HEATHER HENDERSHOT

      In their landmark 1983 essay “Television as a Cultural Forum,” Horace Newcomb and Paul M. Hirsch argue that television provides a space to express collective cultural concerns. To put it simply, TV’s stories gravitate to issues in which we are all interested. This “we” might at first sound a bit fishy to someone reading the essay today. After all, in a fragmented, post-network environment, most TV targets rather specific, narrow interests: cooking, travel, pets, home improvement, classic films, and so on. But in the pre-cable days, programs did generally seek out large groups of viewers, not atomized constituencies. The American...

    • 23 Star Trek: Serialized Ideology
      (pp. 213-222)
      ROBERTA PEARSON

      From the very beginning, theStar Trektelevision franchise—Star Trek: The Original Series(NBC, 1966–1969),Star Trek: The Next Generation(syndicated, 1987–1994),Star Trek: Deep Space Nine(syndicated, 1993–2000),Star Trek: Voyager(UPN, 1995–2002), andStar Trek: Enterprise(UPN, 2001–2005)—addressed some of the major social and cultural issues of the times, ranging from race and gender to war and terrorism. For example,The Original Series featured the first interracial kiss on network television (“Plato’s Stepchildren,” November 15, 1968) as well as a racial conflict that destroyed an entire civilization (“Let That Be Your...

    • 24 The Wonder Years: Televised Nostalgia
      (pp. 223-232)
      DANIEL MARCUS

      The Wonder Years(ABC, 1988–1993) recounts the adolescence of Kevin Arnold and his friends as they confront school bullies, early romance, and social tumult in middle-class suburbia of the late 1960s and early 1970s.¹ The intermittently serious comedy was part of a reevaluation of “the Sixties” that occurred after the conservative electoral success of the Reagan era and its call for a return to “Fifties” values.² The production was the first television series to find popularity by reaching back to the late 1960s as a historical touchstone and relied on viewers’ knowledge of events of that time in telling...

  8. IV. TV Industry:: Industrial Practices and Structures
    • 25 Entertainment Tonight: Tabloid News
      (pp. 235-243)
      ANNE HELEN PETERSEN

      Until the early 1980s, “first-run” syndicated programming—that is, programming created for initial airing in syndication, not reruns—was limited to a “ghetto of game shows, talk shows and cartoons.”¹Entertainment Tonight(syndicated, 1981–present) gentrified that ghetto, changing the way that both television producers and stations conceived of first-run syndication and its potential profitability. Indeed, if you flipped through the channels between the evening news and the beginning of primetime during the 1980s, you would almost certainly happen upon a now-familiar sight: the wholesome face of Mary Hart, reporting on the latest happenings in Hollywood. As the host of...

    • 26 I Love Lucy: The Writer-Producer
      (pp. 244-252)
      MIRANDA J. BANKS

      In 1953, Lucille Ball made history by giving birth to two boys in one night, 3,000 miles apart. One, Desiderio Arnaz, arrived by Caesarean section in Los Angeles; the other, Little Ricky Ricardo, was the first child to arrive via television airwaves into homes across the country from a fictional New York. By celebrating rather than shying away from showing the first pregnant woman on television,I Love Lucy(CBS, 1951–1957) and the arrival of little Ricky secured the Ricardos as a television family.¹ The series was globally adored for its comedy and its star—althoughI Love Lucy...

    • 27 Modern Family: Product Placement
      (pp. 253-261)
      KEVIN SANDLER

      “Game Changer,” a first season episode of ABC’sModern Family(2009–present), begins with Phil Dunphy all set to wake up early the next day—his birthday—and get in line at 6 a.m. at the Apple Store to buy an iPad. “It’s like Steve Jobs and God got together to make this the best birthday ever!” he says. His wife Claire, thrilled to have a handle on what her husband Phil actually wants for his birthday (her previous idea was light-up barbecue tongs), offers to camp out at the Apple store to get him the iPad. Alas, she falls...

    • 28 Monday Night Football: Brand Identity
      (pp. 262-270)
      VICTORIA E. JOHNSON

      Early in the fall 2011 season of ESPN’sMonday Night Football(2005–present), a controversy threatened to shift attention from the field of play to a multi-mediated arena where country rock music, politics, and talking-head news programs meet. Hank Williams, Jr., the singer of theMonday Night Footballopening anthem, “All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night,” had appeared onFox and Friends(Fox News Channel, 1998–present), where he referred to Adolf Hitler when speaking of President Obama. ESPN immediately removed Williams’s song from theMNFopening and, within a week, permanently severed ties with him. ESPN’s...

    • 29 NYPD Blue: Content Regulation
      (pp. 271-280)
      JENNIFER HOLT

      The critically acclaimed seriesNYPD Blue(ABC, 1993–2005) had a remarkably long run, particularly for a program noted not just for its gritty aesthetic and ensemble of complex characters, but for pushing boundaries in the areas of profane language and nudity on primetime broadcast programming. The show’s language and “adult content” inspired protests from religious groups, letter-writing campaigns to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), citizen boycotts, and blackouts by more than fifty ABC affiliates in its first year.NYPD Bluewas also embroiled in a long-standing battle with regulators, which heated up at the end of the show’s run,...

    • 30 Onion News Network: Flow
      (pp. 281-289)
      ETHAN THOMPSON

      On October 4, 2011, a giant asteroid hurtled through space on a path certain to end life as we know it. NASA launched a mission to destroy the asteroid, but the shuttle blew up shortly after takeoff due to the crew’s complete lack of aeronautical experience—they were, after all, a single mom, a dancer, an unemployed steel mill worker, and three other “dreamers with heart.” Anchor Brooke Alvarez presided overOnion News Network’s (IFC, 2011) coverage of “Doomsday 2011” with élan, telling the audience she hoped the segments distracted them from their impending deaths, and imploring them to spend...

    • 31 The Prisoner: Cult TV Remakes
      (pp. 290-298)
      MATT HILLS

      How should we analyse TV shows that have taken on cult status? Often science fiction/fantasy, these programs typically have devoted fan followings. Perhaps, then, it is important to consider not only the textual qualities that may have incited a cult following, but also the activities of dedicated fans. However, viewed from a contemporary perspective, cult television is not something created by audience activity alone. It is a label, and a phenomenon, with a televisual history stretching back at least to the 1960s. For example, Sue Short has suggested that British seriesThe Prisoner(ITC, 1967–1968) “serves as a …...

    • 32 The Twilight Zone: Landmark Television
      (pp. 299-308)
      DEREK KOMPARE

      As with any other art form, television history is in large part an assemblage of exemplary works. Industrial practices, cultural influences, and social contexts are certainly primary points of media histories, but these factors are most often recognized and analyzed in the form of individual texts: moments when particular forces temporarily converge in unique combinations, which subsequently function as historical milestones. Regardless of a perceived historical trajectory towards or away from “progress,” certain programs have come to represent the confluence of key variables at particular moments:I Love Lucy(CBS, 1951–1957) revolutionized sitcom production;Monday Night Football(ABC, 1970–...

  9. V. TV Practices:: Medium, Technology, and Everyday Life
    • 33 Auto-Tune the News: Remix Video
      (pp. 311-319)
      DAVID GURNEY

      Amidst the sights and sounds of Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” Usher’s “OMG,” and other bubbly hit songs of summer 2010, one unique single and its accompanying video experienced an unexpected moment in the spotlight with its Auto-Tuned chorus of lines including “Hide yo kids / Hide yo wife” and the repeated “We gon find you / We gon find you” becoming instant catchphrases in the pop lexicon. “Bed Intruder Song” by The Gregory Brothers and Antoine Dodson was not novel in terms of its use of synthesizers, drum machines, or even Auto-Tune pitch-correcting software, but rather because of the original...

    • 34 Battlestar Galactica: Fans and Ancillary Content
      (pp. 320-329)
      SUZANNE SCOTT

      Most weeks, the opening credits sequence of the Sci-Fi (now SyFy) Channel’s cult hitBattlestar Galactica(2003–2009) featured title cards that read: “The Cylons were created by man. They evolved. They rebelled. There are many copies … and they have a plan.” These lines were designed to summarize the premise of the show for audiences, but they also provide a useful allegory to explore the shifting relationship between the television industry and fans within media convergence. When the first studies of television fans emerged in the early 1990s, scholars focused on the transformative works (fan fiction, fan vids, and...

    • 35 Everyday Italian: Cultivating Taste
      (pp. 330-337)
      MICHAEL Z. NEWMAN

      American television is, with rare exceptions, a commercial medium supported by advertising that pays for the programs. A TV show’s audience is not only a collection of a large number of persons (a million viewers may not be that many, depending on the network and time of day), but also a commodity whose attention is sold by the TV station or network to the advertisers who want to reach those persons with commercial messages. Making meaningful and entertaining television content may be the agenda of those who create it, but to succeed commercially, TV shows need to attract audiences who...

    • 36 Gossip Girl: Transmedia Technologies
      (pp. 338-346)
      LOUISA STEIN

      According to my Social Climbing agenda, I have a busy few days ahead of me. I’ll be attending a charity fundraiser, the Bass Industries Anniversary Party, and the launch of Eleanor Waldorf’s fashion line. At these events, I’ll be eavesdropping for pieces of scandalous information that I can send to the anonymous blogger, Gossip Girl, to help my pursuit of upward social mobility, and at the same time I’ll be hoping to be captured in a cell phone snapshot doing something scandalous, like knocking over a champagne bottle and blaming the mess on someone else. With any luck, I’ll earn...

    • 37 It’s Fun to Eat: Forgotten Television
      (pp. 347-354)
      DANA POLAN

      On the web, there survives a curious bit of early local television programming: a short clip (little more than eleven minutes) showing Latina chef Elena Zelayeta from her 1950s cooking show,It’s Fun to Eat. Aided by her teenage son Billy, with whom she engages in light comic banter, Elena prepares pickled tuna and cheese biscuits. Billy ends the segment with a plug for the sponsor’s product, the Fresherator.¹

      In many ways,It’s Fun to Eatis typical of the unassuming fare that filled up daytime hours at local stations in the first years of postwar commercial television. This was...

    • 38 One Life to Live: Soap Opera Storytelling
      (pp. 355-363)
      ABIGAIL DE KOSNIK

      In 2012, only four U.S. daytime dramas, or soap operas, remained in production, while as recently as 1999, twelve soap operas were broadcast daily. The last decade has witnessed a wave of cancellations of soaps, most of which enjoyed tremendous longevity, especially in comparison to primetime TV programs, which rarely reach a tenth season. In recent years, four of the most venerable soaps were terminated:Guiding Light(CBS, 1937–2009) ended after seventy-two years of continuous broadcast (fifteen years on the radio and fifty-seven years on television);As the World Turns(CBS, 1956–2010) concluded after fifty-four years;All My...

    • 39 Samurai Champloo: Transnational Viewing
      (pp. 364-372)
      JIWON AHN

      Watching an imported or translated text on television is an increasingly ordinary experience in the current state of globalization. But what unique critical questions should we consider in order to make sense of such viewings? To understand our desire for and pleasure in viewing imported television texts, we need to consider how texts produced for overseas distribution are designed differently for international audiences, and how this design may inflect (or not) our viewing of them. Anime offers a productive example in that the format’s long history of international circulation inevitably involved the development of textual strategies suited to transnational consumption,...

    • 40 The Walking Dead: Adapting Comics
      (pp. 373-382)
      HENRY JENKINS

      The comic book industry now functions as Hollywood’s research and development department, with a growing number of media properties inspired by graphic novels, including not only superhero films (Green Lantern, X-Men: First Class, Thor) and both live-action and animated television series (Smallville, The Bold and the Brave), but also films from many other genres (A History of Violence, American Splendor, 20 Days of Night, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World). There are many possible explanations for Hollywood’s comic book fixation:

      1. DC and Marvel are owned by Warner Brothers and Disney, respectively, who cherry pick what they think will satisfy mass audience...

  10. Contributors
    (pp. 383-390)
  11. Index
    (pp. 391-396)