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Prime-Time Families

Prime-Time Families: Television Culture in Post-War America

Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Prime-Time Families
    Book Description:

    Prime-Time Familiesprovides a wide-ranging new look at television entertainment in the past four decades. Working within the interdisciplinary framework of cultural studies, Ella Taylor analyzes television as a constellation of social practices. Part popular culture analysis, part sociology, and part American history,Prime-Time Familiesis a rich and insightful work the sheds light on the way television shapes our lives.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91124-6
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. 1 Introduction: Cultural Analysis and Social Change
    (pp. 1-16)

    This book grew out of an interest in television entertainment during one of the liveliest periods in its history, the 1970s, when major shifts in network policy, responding to broader cultural changes, helped produce some of the medium’s most innovative programming. I was interested in the dialogue between television imagery and other kinds of interpretation of the cultural life of the 1970s in the United States. My particular concern was with the light that changing themes in television could shed on certain issues that were preoccupying cultural critics and social scientists during this period: the tendency to describe America as...

  6. 2 Television as Family: The Episodic Series, 1946-1969
    (pp. 17-41)

    Few contemporary forms of storytelling offer territory as fertile as American television for uncovering widely received ideas about family. First, the medium’s accessibility and the size and heterogeneity of its audiences make it the most truly popular (and populist) of modern cultural forms. Second, the language and imagery of family break obsessively through the surface forms of all its genres—comedy and dramatic series, daytime and nighttime soaps, made-for-TV movies, even news programming. Of all these it is the episodic series (which includes both the half-hour situation comedy and the one-hour action-adventure series) that fosters a gradual buildup of viewer...

  7. 3 Prime-Time Relevance: Television Entertainment Programming in the 1970s
    (pp. 42-64)

    In the years between 1963 and 1968 television news and entertainment were generating an oddly dichotomous social imagery that both touched on and contrasted with the political and social tenor of the period. Historians pinpoint the assassination of President John F. Kennedy as a symptom of, and a preface to, years of crisis and polarization at home and abroad. The escalation of the war in Vietnam and the slow buildup of the antiwar movement signaled the collapse of a consensus that perhaps had existed mainly in campaign speeches and policy statements—and in television families. At home urban poverty imprinted...

  8. 4 Trouble at Home: Television’s Changing Families, 1970-1980
    (pp. 65-109)

    In the 1970s, as I argued in Chapter 1, public attention was focused on changes in family structure, in particular on domestic distress. The television family in this period echoed these concerns, in sharp contrast to the relative harmony, unity, and integration within the wider society of television families in the 1950s and 1960s described in Chapter 2. Helped along by the self-conscious preoccupation with social problems of television producers committed to “relevant” programming, the 1970s television family became a forum for the articulation of social conflicts of all kinds. The vast majority of series with domestic settings offered viewers...

  9. 5 All in the Work-Family: Television Families in Workplace Settings
    (pp. 110-149)

    If the domestic hearth of television was becoming a repository for family anxiety, other, more benign images of family and community were surfacing in a subgenre designed, like the “relevant” domestic series, for affluent young urbanites within the mass audience—the television workplace series. The success ofThe Mary Tyler Moore ShowandM*A*S*Hin CBS’s Saturday night lineup early in the 1970s generated a wave of series with occupational settings, such asLou Grant, Taxi, Barney Miller,andThe Bob Newhart Show, which fell into three broad formulas. In action-adventure series police and (in smaller numbers) private-detective shows returned...

  10. 6 Family Television Then and Now
    (pp. 150-168)

    This book began as a recovery of the imagery of family produced by American network television series in the 1970s. I was interested in the light that symbolic representation in popular culture could shed on the changing social psychology of American family life in a period when family issues were being defined as both significant and troubling. Accordingly, I was comparing the television narrative not only with its own past and that of other popular cultural forms but also with other kinds of cultural interpretation, notably the work of critics and social scientists interested in the relationships between family and...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 169-178)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 179-186)
  13. Index
    (pp. 187-196)