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The Essential Cult TV Reader

The Essential Cult TV Reader

Edited by David Lavery
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 414
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  • Book Info
    The Essential Cult TV Reader
    Book Description:

    The Essential Cult TV Readeris a collection of insightful essays that examine television shows that amass engaged, active fan bases by employing an imaginative approach to programming. Once defined by limited viewership, cult TV has developed its own identity, with some shows gaining large, mainstream audiences. By exploring the defining characteristics of cult TV,The Essential Cult TV Readertraces the development of this once obscure form and explains how cult TV achieved its current status as legitimate television.

    The essays explore a wide range of cult programs, from early shows such asStar Trek,The Avengers,Dark Shadows, andThe Twilight Zoneto popular contemporary shows such asLost,Dexter, and24, addressing the cultural context that allowed the development of the phenomenon. The contributors investigate the obligations of cult series to their fans, the relationship of camp and cult, the effects of DVD releases and the Internet, and the globalization of cult TV.The Essential Cult TV Readeranswers many of the questions surrounding the form while revealing emerging debates on its future.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5020-8
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: How Cult TV Became Mainstream
    (pp. 1-6)
    David Lavery

    On Friday the thirteenth of February 2009, only five days after the manuscript of this book was delivered to the publisher, a new series calledDollhousedebuted onFOX.It aired afterTerminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles(T: SCC), a series (based on the successful movie franchise) that was already midway through its second season and in jeopardy due to weak ratings in its former Monday night time slot. Dollhouse had originally been slated to air on Monday as well, with the long-running (and probably on its last legs) 24 as its lead-in, but the executives atFOXdecided to...

  5. Absolutely Fabulous
    (pp. 7-14)
    Angelina I. Karpovich

    Absolutely Fabulouswas, on the surface, a fairly traditional BBC sitcom about the shallowness and superficiality of the fashion and public relations (PR) industries. Its creator, Jennifer Saunders, was the less prolific half of the BBC comedy sketch showFrench and Saunders(an early precursor to one of the central relationships onAbsolutely Fabulousappeared in aFrench and Saunderssketch titled “Modern Mother and Daughter”). Her comedy partner Dawn French enjoyed a high profile career, acting in the theater, creating two successful BBC comedy series (Murder . . . Most HorridandThe Vicar of Dibley), and having her...

  6. The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.
    (pp. 15-21)
    Bartley Porter and Lynnette Porter

    Long beforeSurvivor’s“outwit, outplay, outlast” motto, Brisco County Jr. uttered these words: “I can outshoot, outride, outspit, outfight, outthink John Bly or any one of his gang. . . . That’s all I’ve got to say on the subject.” In many ways, Brisco is the ultimate survivor of a once popular but nearly dead genre: the television Western. Brisco, however, has survived even TV cancellation to gain cult status by anticipating, in its first episode, “the coming thing”: “It’s 1893. We’re only seven years away from a new century, the 20th century. Don’t you sense it? The coming thing....

  7. Alias
    (pp. 22-27)
    Henrik Örnebring

    With the following words, the lead character ofAliasintroduced the rather complex premise of the first season and a half of the ABC show:

    My name is Sydney Bristow. Seven years ago I was recruited by a secret branch of the CIA called SD-6. I was sworn to secrecy, but I couldn’t keep it from my fiancé. And when the head of SD-6 found out, he had him killed. That’s when I learned the truth: SD-6 is not part of the CIA. I’ve been working for the very people I thought I was fighting against. So, I went to...

  8. Angel
    (pp. 28-35)
    Joyce Millman

    If a cult television series is, by definition, a show that only a select slice of the viewing public cares deeply about, thenAngelis one of the cultiest cults ever. Created by Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt,Angelwas spun off fromBuffy the Vampire Slayerand continued the stories of its supporting characters. This velvet-rope admissions policy—only die-hardBuffyfans could get in—ensured thatAngelnever climbed out of the ratings cellar. However,Angelwas a success in one important area: it enriched the mythology for those who had fallen in love with all thingsBuffy...

  9. The Avengers
    (pp. 36-43)
    Angelina I. Karpovich

    Among the dozens of spy adventure series that emerged in the United Kingdom and the United States in the 1960s,The Avengersis perhaps the most memorable. Though it had significant characteristics in common with other hit shows of the genre—for example, it shared some elements of surrealism withThe Prisoner,a playful lightheartedness withThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.,and a particular representation of Englishness withThe Saint—The Avengershad a unique identity rooted in its pioneering representation of women, its complex hybridization of genres, and its commitment to postmodern visual iconography.

    The origins ofThe Avengerslay...

  10. Battlestar Galactica
    (pp. 44-50)
    Ian Maull and David Lavery

    In 1977 the firstStar Warsmovie was released; a year laterBattlestar Galacticaappeared on ABC. The two were almost assuredly linked. The success ofStar Warshad shown that there was a market for space battles, quasi-religious sentiments, and good old-fashioned heroism. ThoughBattlestarwould last for only one season, it achieved a modicum of cult success that survived more than twenty-five years.

    During this time, attempts were made to resurrect the show. Richard Hatch, who had played Apollo, spearheaded the campaign for a continuation of the story line. His efforts failed, although he may have succeeded in...

  11. Blake’s 7
    (pp. 51-59)
    Steven Duckworth

    Blake’s 7emerged during a difficult period for British television. In the late 1970s crippling industrial action and spiraling inflation saw programs canceled midshoot, budgets slashed (Howe, Stammers, and Walker 169), and, for three months in the autumn of 1979, the entire ITV network taken off the air. The National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association was protesting loudly over TV violence, and in some cases these complaints were paid significant attention by television executives.¹ Elsewhere,Star Warshad both reawakened the notion that science fiction might be a marketable commodity and effectively redefined audience expectations of the genre. Given these obstacles...

  12. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    (pp. 60-67)
    Milly Williamson

    WhenBuffy the Vampire Slayeraired on American network television, it entirely upended the tale of the vampire. In this television series, it is not vampires who dominate the screen, nor is the power to defeat them possessed by a patriarchal figure such as Dr. Van Helsing and his male-dominated Crew of Light. Instead, it is wielded by an American girl named Buffy Summers (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar), a teenage vampire slayer—the “chosen one”—who possesses supernatural strength and who regularly saves not only her classmates from vampires but also the world from annihilation at the hands of...

  13. The Comeback
    (pp. 68-76)
    Joanne Morreale

    In 2005 Michael Patrick King, writer forSex in the City,and Lisa Kudrow, star of the sitcomFriends,createdThe ComebackforHBO,a comedy about aging ex–sitcom star Valerie Cherish, played by Kudrow. Kudrow was not, however, enacting a version of herself or her character fromFriends.She was virtually unrecognizable in an outdated, titian-red wig and a slight southern accent. The show’s conceit was that Valerie had been the star of an early 1990s sitcom calledI’m It!but since then had not had a successful series. Valerie has landed a role in a new sitcom,...

  14. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report
    (pp. 77-83)
    Sam Ford

    News parody is hardly new. Lampooning politicians has long been the job of political cartoonists. Publications such as theOnionhave been making a reputation for quality satire for decades now,¹ and parody news has been a staple on NBC’s cultural iconSaturday Night Livesince its first broadcast in 1975.² Those with a historical eye would point even further back, to the central role the court jester played in criticizing the decisions of monarchs in the Middle Ages.

    That Comedy Central’sThe Daily Show with Jon Stewartand its spinoffThe Colbert Reportfit firmly within a rich history...

  15. Dark Shadows
    (pp. 84-89)
    Jonathan Malcolm Lampley

    Of the many television programs that define the baby boom generation, few have inspired the sort of cult following thatDark Shadowsenjoys today. Indeed, among 1960s TV staples, onlyStar Trekis more popular in terms of the size and devotion of its fan base, a situation partially accounted for by its greater promulgation and reinvigoration through the success of later movie and TV incarnations.Dark Shadowsis also unique because it was developed as a daytime drama, becoming the first soap opera to incorporate genuinely supernatural elements into its story line. Furthermore,Dark Shadowsenjoys more fanatical devotion...

  16. Dexter
    (pp. 90-96)
    Michele Byers

    In 2004 little-known American crime novelist Jeffrey P. Freundlich—under the pen name Jeff Lindsay—publishedDarkly Dreaming Dexter,the first of what would become a series of popular novels about a serial killer named Dexter Morgan.¹ The novel was adapted and developed for television by James Manos Jr., an Emmy-winning writer-producer onThe ShieldandThe Sopranos.The series first aired in early October 2006 on the Showtime network. Although Showtime has been airing original programming for more than two decades, its profile as a purveyor of high-quality series has risen exponentially since 2000 in the increasingly fragmented world...

  17. Doctor Who
    (pp. 97-103)
    Matt Hills

    Doctor Whomight seem to be a textbook example of a cult TV series: it falls into the genre of “telefantasy”; it has a well-established and vocal international fan base (the Doctor WhoAppreciation Society was formed in 1976); it has run, with lengthy interruptions, since 1963; and, as such, it arguably occupies a place in British TV history as a cultural institution in its own right (Hills, “Doctor Who”). The show concerns the adventures, across space and time, of a time lord known only as “the Doctor,” an alien with two hearts who can “regenerate” or change his bodily...

  18. Farscape
    (pp. 104-110)
    Jes Battis

    Farscaperemains one of those impossible shows: too strange and vast to conceive of, too weird and idiosyncratic to make, and too outrageously wonderful to be canceled. An idea for the show—which was almost calledSpace Chase—flowered secretly in the minds of creator Rockne O’Bannon and producer Brian Henson throughout the early 1990s until it became a viable product in 1999. The blueprint forFarscapedestined it for either instant cult status or total oblivion: a living “biomechanoid” starship (Moya), designed through a mixture of costly computer generated images and intricate set building, populated by aliens who really...

  19. Firefly
    (pp. 111-119)
    J. P. Telotte

    Every cult text is an “accident,” a disruption in our normal experience, a work that, for various reasons, should not have retained its following. But as Paul Virilio observes, such disruptions of the norm and of our expectations can offer something important, a glimpse of “symmetry,” a possible payback for other, less resonant texts: “The beginning of wisdom would above all mean recognizing the symmetry between substance and accident, instead of constantly trying to hide it. Acquiring a tool, any new piece of equipment, industrial or otherwise, means also acquiring a particular danger; it means opening your door and exposing...

  20. Freaks and Geeks
    (pp. 120-126)
    Jonathan Gray

    Writing of his doomed show in its DVD liner notes,Freaks and Geeks’ creator and co–executive producer Paul Feig observes:

    Everything about this show from the very beginning has been like the characters who populate it. BecauseFreaks and Geeksis about outsiders. It’s about people who don’t tend to get the respect of the “normal” world, who are individuals no matter how hard they try to fit in. And, from the start, this show has been like a freak or a geek who has moved to a new school district. It showed up, hoping to be accepted, was...

  21. Heroes
    (pp. 127-133)
    Nikki Stafford

    “Save the cheerleader; save the world.” It sounds ridiculous, like a tagline made up bySaturday Night Live,but when it became the mantra of NBC’s newest sci-fi series,Heroes,it became a pop culture phenomenon.

    Heroesdebuted on September 25, 2006, riding a new wave of sci-fi programs that had become mainstream, withLostleading the way. The surprise success ofLostled to many copycat shows, and the fall 2006 season was full of pilots that owed a debt to it. These includedThe NineandSix Degrees(stories told through flashbacks that show how the characters are...

  22. The League of Gentlemen
    (pp. 134-141)
    Leon Hunt

    Part sketch show, part sitcom, part “northern grit,” part Gothic horror,The League of Gentlemenis one of British television’s most innovative and unusual comedy series. Critically acclaimed and much awarded, it is one of the benchmarks of a period from the early 1990s to the early 2000s that has been celebrated as a “golden age” of British TV comedy (Thompson,Sunshine). But it also belongs to a longer tradition of “alternative” TV comedies that includesMonty Python’s Flying Circus,with which it shares a penchant for cross-dressing and the grotesque, and the work of Vic Reeves, whose surreal reinvention...

  23. Life on Mars
    (pp. 142-148)
    Robin Nelson

    Life on Marsis a British series made by the independent producer Kudos for BBC Wales.¹ Like a number of groundbreaking television programs,Life on Marscame to be produced somewhat by chance. Some seven years prior to production, the writers came up with the idea for a different kind of cop show with the working titleFord Granada.They had developed the script for what was now calledLife on Marsto quite an advanced stage when Channel 4 summarily decided that it was too risky. By chance, the BBC had a vacant slot for an innovative cop show,...

  24. Lost
    (pp. 149-158)
    Marc Dolan

    It is a commonplace of television criticism that all truly great achievements in the medium have emerged from the successful battle of a core group of brave, romantic creators against the evil machinations of multinational media conglomerates.Lost,however, which is one of the most creative programs in the history of regularly scheduled broadcast television, has been, from first to last, an organic product of the American entertainment industry. It even began with an entertainment executive’s four-word pitch: “Plane Crashes on Island.”¹

    The question, of course, is what to do with a pitch like that. With very little time to...

  25. Miami Vice
    (pp. 159-165)
    Jon Stratton

    Starting in September 1984,Miami Viceran for five seasons on NBC, finally ending in May 1989. By then, 107 episodes had been screened. In addition, there were four so-called lost episodes, three of which were screened in June 1989. The fourth episode, “Too Much Too Late,” aired on cable’s USA Network in January 1990; NBC considered its subject matter, which included child abuse, too strong. In 2006 the show was remade as a feature film with the same title, cowritten by Michael Mann and Anthony Yerkovich and directed by Mann. Both had been instrumental in the creation of the...

  26. Monty Python’s Flying Circus
    (pp. 166-173)
    Marcia Landy

    TheFlying Circuswas indeed “something completely different,” and it remains one of “the great classics of television comedy” (Wilmut 230). It used television to satirize television, along with other social institutions—medicine, psychiatry, the family, the state’s administration of social life, and the disciplining of the sexual body.

    The Pythons—John Cleese, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin—were educated at Oxford or Cambridge and had written for and appeared in university revues before turning to television. Similarly, American Terry Gilliam abandoned academic work for a career in TV and film. Carol Cleveland’s participation was critical...

  27. My So-Called Life
    (pp. 174-180)
    Michele Byers

    There is no question thatMy So-Called Life(MSCL) should be counted among the series we call cult TV. Like so many series that have become cult classics, it enjoyed the brief, dramatic life of a holiday sparkler, going out too fast and leaving us blinking our eyes against the spots of light left in the empty space of its absence. The cult status ofMSCLis solidified not only by the avidness of its fans (now as then)¹ but also by the moment of its introduction into the world of popular culture. That is,MSCLis not only a...

  28. Mystery Science Theater 3000
    (pp. 181-188)
    Robert Holtzclaw

    Poor, unlucky Joel Robinson. A hardworking custodian at Gizmonic Institute, he is seized by his diabolical bosses and rocketed into space. As if that isn’t traumatic enough, once in orbit he is forced to watch really bad movies while his villainous captors monitor his mind and his reactions. Their demonic goal? To determine the effects of horrible films on a person’s stability and, ultimately, sanity, as part of their plot to take over the world. Joel’s only hope for survival is to poke fun at the movies and banter back at them in an attempt to weaken their power to...

  29. The Prisoner
    (pp. 189-200)
    Douglas L. Howard

    Before people were ever lost on the island or caught up in the Matrix, before the truth was out there, beforeThe Truman Show, Nowhere Man, Twin Peaks, or Burn Notice,there wasThe Prisoner,Patrick McGoohan’s short-lived 1960s series that continues to capture viewers’ imaginations and influence network television and feature films alike. For almost forty years, critics and fans have been trying to make sense of exactly what they saw onscreen when the thunder crashed and McGoohan’s Lotus 7 sped down the highway for the final time. Was it a science fiction show? Was it a spy thriller?...

  30. Quantum Leap
    (pp. 201-207)
    Lynnette Porter

    In February 1996 I attended what I assumed would be one of the lastQuantum Leap(QL) fan conventions. The North Hollywood, California, Leap Con boasted appearances by many actors (including Daniel Roebuck, better known for later roles onNash Bridges and Lost) who had played memorable but often only one-episode roles on the NBC series. The crowd enjoyed chatting up the actors and hearing what it was like to make their episodes. But they were really waiting for one man: Scott Bakula.

    The actor is so closely identified with his TV character that one of the first lucky ones...

  31. Red Dwarf
    (pp. 208-213)
    Dee Amy-Chinn

    Red Dwarfwas the most successful and long-running comedy on BBC2.¹ First broadcast on February 15, 1988, the show was celebrated ten years later at aRed Dwarfnight hosted by Jean-Luc Picard himself, Patrick Stewart, a die-hard Dwarfer. The content of that evening stands as testimony toDwarf’ sachievement of cult status, demonstrating many of the key features—quizzes, trivia, shared expertise—of cult TV (Gwenllian-Jones and Pearson ix). The evening began with a spoof of the then popularCan’t Cook, Won’t Cook,in which the cast was challenged to cook chicken vindaloo (a mouth-burningly hot curry)—the...

  32. Roswell
    (pp. 214-220)
    Stan Beeler

    Roswellappeared on American television during a period in the life of the nation (1999–2002) that paralleled the coming-of-age represented by this teen drama. This coincidence ofRoswell’syoung-adult themes and a new world” ushered in by the cusp of a new millennium, the Columbine incident,¹ and the events of September 11, 2001,² may be why the series has such a strong impact on its audience and whyRoswellgarnered the obsessive viewers that characterize cult television. For example, on Facebook, “Everything I Need to Know I Learned fromRoswell” is an ingenuous mixture of humorous, political, and personal...

  33. The Simpsons
    (pp. 221-228)
    Jonathan Gray

    In July 2007The Simpsons Movieopened to much fanfare: across the United States and Canada, twelve 7–Eleven convenience stores were converted into Kwik-E-Marts, and the multiple Springfields were invited to take part in a video contest to determine which would be the “real” Springfield and host the premiere of the film, which grossed $74 million its opening weekend. Meanwhile, in November 2007, theSimpsons Gamewas released for various video consoles; a British entrepreneur began a business that hired Kenyan soapstone carvers to fashionSimpsonscharacters; and, back on television,The Simpsonsbegan its nineteenth season on network...

  34. South Park
    (pp. 229-236)
    Jason Jacobs

    Matt Stone and Trey Parker’sSouth Parkis one of the more notorious examples of the success of adult animated television series over the past decade. Its popularity on Comedy Central, in syndication, and as an international export, as well as the regular controversies it provokes, means that it has attracted a considerable amount of critical, academic, and media attention. Indeed, its influence even reached the political sphere, with conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan coining the phrase “South ParkRepublican” in 2001, which was widely adopted by other commentators (see, for example, Anderson).

    Stone, the son of a college professor, and...

  35. Stargate SG-1
    (pp. 237-243)
    Angela Ndalianis

    Stargates and interplanetary wormhole travel, interstellar wars, galactic warlords controlled by parasitic evil aliens, mercenary android replicants bent on annihilating anything in their path, wisecracking ex-MacGyver hero extraordinaire—this is the world ofStargate SG-1.It ran for ten seasons, outlastingStar Trek andThe X-Filesas the longest consecutively running U.S. science fiction–fantasy series on television (its 214 episodes outperformingX-Files’202) . Created by Jonathan Glassner and Brad Wright, the show first aired on Showtime in 1997 and migrated in 2002 to the Sci-Fi Channel for its final five seasons. Produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the series was filmed in...

  36. The Star Trek Franchise
    (pp. 244-259)
    Rhonda V. Wilcox

    The opening voice-over by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) intones: “These are the voyages of the starshipEnterprise.Its five-year mission: To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before.” The enterprise of Gene Roddenberry’sEnterprisewas both shorter and far longer than five years. The original series was canceled after three years (1966–1969), but now, more than forty years later, we are still talking about and seeing Roddenberry’s world ofStar Trek.In addition to the fiveStar Trekseries and eight movies that...

  37. Supernatural
    (pp. 260-267)
    Alison Peirse

    In “The Changing Face of American Television Programs on British Screens,” Paul Rixon suggests that a new approach is needed for analyzing the international borders of televisual flow. He suggests that this approach should take place at three interconnecting levels: “at the macro, focusing on the international flow of programs and the changing relationships between national systems, broadcasters and producers; at the meso level (middle), where the focus will be on the schedule, the flow of programs as constructed by particular organizations and broadcasters; and at the last level will be the micro—here there is a need to understand...

  38. This Life
    (pp. 268-274)
    Stephen Lacey

    It was hard to be indifferent toThis Life.One writer in theDaily Mailstated, “I did not regularly watchThis Life,but caught the final episode and was appalled at the drugs, booze and, worst of all, simulated sex between homosexuals. . . . We should complain more often and perhaps our comments would have some weight in preventing such trash being shown” (quoted in McGregor 128). But according to theEvening Standard, “This Life. . . dominate[s] conversation at every smart dinner-party in London” (quoted in McGregor 128). By the time the second season concluded in...

  39. Torchwood
    (pp. 275-281)
    Matt Hills

    Cult television sometimes appears to be an accident, consolidated by unpredicted and unpredictable fan audience activity, as was arguably the case for the originalDoctor Whoseries (BBC, 1963–1989). And it may occasionally appear to be intended, programmed, and designed as such—a matter of targeting specific fan and niche audiences with material deemed culturally “nonmainstream” or challenging.Torchwood(an anagram ofDoctor Who) can reasonably be described as the latter type of cult TV. It is aWhospin-off; its lead character, Captain Jack Harkness (played by John Barrowman), first appeared in the 2005 BBC Wales reimagining of...

  40. 24
    (pp. 282-290)
    Steven Peacock

    If ever (American) television could lay claim to the cultural zeitgeist, then surely 24 would storm the ranks, blow away the opposition, and seize the prize by any means necessary. Ever since its eerily timely arrival on the FOX network in September 2001, this techno-spy thriller has shadowed a nation’s spirit, haunted by the omnipresent “war on terror.” Creating and courting ever more controversy, 24 pulses with political fear and loathing, gleefully weaving ghoulish tales of global provocation. Many recent films and television series position themselves, in story and style, as manifesting post-9/11 concerns (of the latter,Lost, Heroes,and...

  41. The Twilight Zone
    (pp. 291-298)
    Jonathan Malcolm Lampley

    In many respects, it may seem odd tofind The Twilight Zonein a book devoted to cult TV shows. Generally, that phrase suggests programs that failed to find critical or popular success during their initial (usually short-lived) runs; in most cases, these programs are embraced chiefly by relatively small, cultlike bands of devotees and are not recalled by the public at large.Max Headroom and Twin Peaksexemplify this kind of traditional cult TV show, beloved by faithful fanatics but few others. Yet every now and again, a TV series inspires both a mainstream and a cult following and...

  42. Twin Peaks
    (pp. 299-306)
    David Bianculli

    Start by throwing down the gauntlet: ABC’sTwin Peaksis the cult TV show to end all cult TV shows. It resonates more, without reaching too many, than any other. Exclude anthology shows such asThe Twilight Zonefrom the mix, and focus on weekly series with linear narratives, and what other program deserves the crown?Star Trek?Yes, the original was a cult TV show of the highest order, but with decades of TV and movie offshoots, it’s no longer a cult; it’s an established, heavyweight religion.The Prisoner?It was a brilliantly original vision, and as a model...

  43. Ultraviolet
    (pp. 307-313)
    Stacey Abbott

    Every new vampire movie or television series claims to have reinvented vampire mythology, but these changes are usually just minor variations. In the century since Bram Stoker wroteDracula,key examples from literature, film, and television have offered fresh perspectives on the vampire, including F. W. Murnau’sNosferatu,Anne Rice’sInterview with the Vampire,and Kathryn Bigelow’sNear Dark.In 1998 a British television series appeared whose makers clearly intended to reimagine the vampire genre by modernizing it for contemporary audiences.Ultraviolet—the brainchild of writer-director Joe Ahearne,¹ produced by World Productions, and broadcast on Channel 4—sits comfortably between...

  44. Veronica Mars
    (pp. 314-321)
    Sue Turnbull

    Creator, writer, and executive producer Rob Thomasintendedto introduce his teen hero, Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell), with a Chandleresque voice-over when the show premiered on Viacom’s UPN in September 2004:

    I’m never getting married. You want an absolute? A sure thing? Well there it is. Veronica Mars, spinster . . . old maid. Carve it in stone. I mean, come on. What’s the point? Sure there’s that initial primal drive . . . hormonal surge . . . whatever you want to call it. Ride it out. Better yet, ignore it. Sooner or later, the people you love let...

  45. Wonderfalls
    (pp. 322-328)
    Stan Beeler

    Wonderfallsis another shining example of FOX’s contribution to the ranks of cult television. LikeFireflybefore it,Wonderfallswas developed by a team with an impressive track record of producing critically acclaimed television series. Creators Todd Holland and Bryan Fuller both had substantial experience in television: Holland had worked onTwin Peaks, The Larry Sanders Show, Malcolm in the Middle,andFelicity.Fuller got his start with theStar Trekfranchise—Deep Space 9andVoyager—but is perhaps most famous for his metaphysical sitcomsDead Like Me, Heroes,andPushing Daisies.Tim Minear, who worked in various capacities...

  46. Xena: Warrior Princess
    (pp. 329-336)
    Carolyn Skelton

    The iconic image of Xena (Lucy Lawless) resonates beyond the program constructed around her character. With her distinctive leather outfit, swirling brass design on her breastplates, blue eyes, and dark flowing hair, Xena redefined the conventions of action heroes and women warriors. In popular memory, she wields a sword with apparent ease, performs athletic backflips, spins her chakram (her round throwing weapon) with deadly accuracy, and is usually accompanied by a small blond warrior woman. AlthoughXena: Warrior Princess(XWP) appeals to diverse sections of society, it is also renowned for its lesbian following.XWPachieved cult status due to...

  47. The X-Files
    (pp. 337-344)
    Mikel J. Koven

    With apologies to a certain vampire slayer,The X-Fileswas the American television series that defined the zeitgeist of the 1990s. It was one of the key series contributing to the rise of FOX, making it a viable “fourth network” and directly challenging the oligopoly of ABC, CBS, and NBC. Emerging at the time when “quality TV” (Thompson,Television’s Second Golden Age) was becoming the norm in the wake of groundbreaking series by the likes of Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law), David E. Kelley (Picket Fences), and Joshua Brand and John Falsey (St. Elsewhere),The X-Filespaved...

  48. Appendix: Series by Genre and Nationality
    (pp. 345-348)
  49. TV and Filmography
    (pp. 349-358)
  50. Works Cited
    (pp. 359-380)
  51. List of Contributors
    (pp. 381-386)
  52. Index
    (pp. 387-401)