Contemporary Television

 

Television is dead; television is in a golden age. Can both statements be true? This course focuses on how the art and business of primetime television changed after the introduction of “new media,” from cable to the Internet. Readings will explore production, storytelling, identity and distribution of TV and web entertainment. Students will watch, analyze and have the option to pitch or produce television.

The goal of this course is to give students a deeper understanding of the complexity and ever-changing nature of a media business. Television is arguably the country’s most powerful medium, foundational to American culture and history in the post-WWII era. At first tightly regulated and controlled, television has fragmented, its networks folded into conglomerates and its programs spread across dozens of channels. Throughout the semester students are encouraged to question how changes in television production, regulation and distribution affects programming, culture and politics at large.

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WEEK 1: INTRODUCTION

Course overview: Syllabus

Introductory Lecture: How has television changed?

WEEK 2: NETWORK TO NETWORKED TELEVISION

Screening:

—         Mary Tyler Moore, “The Good-Time News” (3:1, 1972) (CBS, Hulu)
—         Sex and the City, “To Market, To Market” (6:1, 2006) (Amazon Prime, HBO)
—         Broad City, (season 1, 2010) (YouTube)
—         BKPI, (season 1:1, 2017) (SuperDeluxe)

Readings: 

—         Aymar Jean Christian, “Introduction: Independents Change the Channel,” Open TV: Innovation Beyond Hollywood and the Rise of Web Television
—         Amanda Lotz, “Understanding Television at the Beginning of the Post-Network Era,” The Television Will Be Revolutionized, pp. 27-48, 2014
—         Todd Gitlin, “The Problem of Knowning,” Inside Prime Time

Suggested Readings:

—         Aymar Jean Christian, “Indie TV: Innovation in Series Development,” in Media Independence: working with freedom or working for free?, pp 159-181, 2014
—         Bonnie Dow, “Hegemony, Feminist Criticism and The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” in Media Independence: working with freedom or working for free?, pp 159-181, 2014 —         Eileen R. Meehan & Jackie Byars, “Telefeminism: How Lifetime Got Its Groove,” Television & New Media, 1:1, 2000, pp. 33-51

 

WEEK 3: TECHNOLOGY

Screening:

--         Epic Rap Battles of History (most recent episodes, YouTube)
--         Got 2B Real, “Got 2B Trill: The Untold Story” (YouTube)
--         High Maintenance, “Jamie” and “Rachel” (2012, 2014) (HBO)
--         High Maintenance, “Meth(od),” (1:1, 2016) (HBO)

Readings:

--         John Caldwell, “Trade Machines and Manufactured Identities” (online via NUCat), Production Culture: Industrial Reflexivity and Critical Practice in Film and Television, pp. 150-196, 2008
--         Aymar Jean Christian, “Developing Open TV: Innovation for the Open Network, 1995-2005,” Open TV Innovation Beyond Hollywood and the Rise of Web Television
--         Wendy Chun, “Big Data as Drama,” ELH, 83(2), 363-382
--         David Gurney, “Auto-Tune the News: Remix Video,” in Thompson and Mittell

Suggested Readings:

--         Max Dawson, “Television’s Aesthetic of Efficiency: Convergence Television and the Digital Short,” Television as digital media, 204-229, 2011
--         Louisa Stein, “Gossip Girl: Transmedia Technologies,” in Thompson and Mittell
--         Chuck Tryon, “TV Got Better: Netflix’s Original Programming Strategies and Binge Viewing,” Media Industries 2(2): 104-116, 2015

WEEK 4: AUDIENCES

Screening:

--         Looking, “Looking for Now,” (1:1, HBO)
--         Empire, “Pilot,” (1:1, FOX)
--         Gay Of Thrones, (6:1-3, Funny Or Die)
--         Kyle Humphrey & Graydon Sheppard, “Shit Girls Say” (YouTube)
--         Franchesca Ramsey, “Shit White Girls Say…to Black Girls” (YouTube)

Readings:

--         Henry Jenkins, “Introduction: Why Media Spreads,” Spreadable Media: creating value and meaning in a networked culture, pp. 1-46, 2013
--         Suzanne Scott, “Battlestar Galactica: Fans and Ancillary Content,” in Thompson and Mittell
--         Gayle Wald, “The Black Community and the Affective Compact,” It’s Been Beautiful: Soul! and Black Power Television, pp. 70-103, 2015
--        Kristen Warner, “’I’m glad no one was hung up on the race thing:’ Grey’s Anatomy and the Innovation of Blindcasting in a Post-Racial Era,” The Cultural Politics of Colorblind Casting, pp. 62-94, 2015

Suggested readings:

--         Mark Andrejevic, “Watching Television Without Pity: The Productivity of Online Fans,” Television & New Media 9 (24), pp. 24-46, 2008
--         Eve Ng, “Reading the Romance of Fan Cultural Production: Music Videos of a Television Lesbian Couple,” in Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Critical Reader, eds. Gail Dines, Jean M. Humez, pp. 553-562

 

 

WEEK 5: FINANCING

Screening:

--         Breaking Bad, "Box Cutter," (4:1, 2011) (Netflix)
--         Whatever this is, "Reality," (1:1, 2013) (Vimeo)
--         RuPaul's Drag Race (2:7, 2010) (Logo)

Readings:

--         Amanda Lotz, “The New Economics of Television,” Television Will Be Revolutionized, pp. 167-206, 2014
--         Ted Magder, “Television 2.0: the Business of American Television in Transition,” Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture, pp. 141-164, 2009
--         Kevin Sandler, “Modern Family: Product Placement,” in Thompson and Mittell

Suggested readings:

--         Aymar Jean Christian, “Web TV Networks Challenge Linear Business Models,” Media Industries Project, http://www.carseywolf.ucsb.edu/mip/article/web-tv-networks-challenge-linear-business-models, 2014
--         Amanda Lotz, “How to spend $9.3 billion in three days: examining the upfront buying process in the production of US television culture,” Media Culture Society 29, 549-567, 2007
--         Chad Raphael, “The Political Economic Origins of Reali-TV,” in Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture, pp. 123-140, 2009

 

 

WEEK 6: DISTRIBUTION

Screenings:

--         Insecure, “Hella Blows,” (2:6, 2017) (HBO)
--         Maude, "Maude's Dilemma," (1:9-10, 1972, CBS) 
--         Brujos (season 1:1-4, 2016-17) (Open TV)
--         Kids React (YouTube)
--         Ratchetpiece Theatre, “Rasheeda (Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta)” (YouTube)

Readings:

--         Stuart Cunningham, David Craig, & Jon Silver, “YouTube, multichannel networks, and the accelerated evolution of the new screen ecology,” Convergence, 22(4): 376-391, 2016
--         Aymar Jean Christian, “Open TV Distribution: Struggling for an Independent Market,” Open TV: Innovation Beyond Hollywood and the Rise of Web Television
--         Aymar Jean Christian, “Scaling Open TV: The Challenges of Big Data Television,” Open TV: Innovation Beyond Hollywood and the Rise of Web Television

Suggested readings:

--         Jennifer Fuller, “Branding blackness on cable,” Media, Culture and Society 32(2): pp. 285-305, 2010
--         Melanie Kohnen, “Cultural Diversity as Brand Management in Cable Television,” Media Industries, 2(2)
--         Patrick Vonderau, “The video bubble: multichannel networks and the transformation of YouTube,” Convergence, 22(4): 361-375, 2016

 

 

WEEK 7: PRODUCTION

Screening:

--         All in the Family, “Cousin Maude’s Visit,” (2:12, 1971) (YouTube)
--         UnREAL, “Relapse” – (1:2, 2015) (Hulu+, Amazon, iTunes)
--         The Lizzie Bennett Diaries (1:1-3, 2012, YouTube)
--         Joanne the Scammer (Instagram) https://www.instagram.com/joannethescammer
--         Joanne the Scammer (SuperDeluxe, 1:2+7, 2017)

Reading:

--         Aymar Jean Christian, “Open TV Production: Revaluing Creative Labor,’” Open TV: Innovation Beyond Hollywood and the Rise of Web Television
--         Miranda J. Banks, “I Love Lucy: The Writer-Producer,” in Thompson and Mittell
--         Amanda Lotz, “Making Television: Changes in the Practices of Creating Television,” The television will be revolutionized, pp. 81-118, 2007 (online via NUCat)
--         Beejoli Shah, “In the White Room With Black Writers: Hollywood’s ‘Diversity Hires,’” Defamer, December 20, 2013, http://defamer.gawker.com/in-the-white-room-with-black-writers-hollywoods-dive-1486789620

 

Suggested readings:

--         Joseph Adalian & Maria Elena Fernandez, “The Business of Too Much TV,” Vulture, May, 2016, http://www.vulture.com/2016/05/peak-tv-business-c-v-r.html
--         John Caldwell, “Industrial Auteur Theory (Above the Line/Creative),” Production Culture: Industrial Reflexivity and Critical Practice in Film and Television, pp. 197-231, 2008 (online via NUCat)
--         Louisa Stein, “Collective Authorship and the Culture of Feels,” Millennial Fandom: Television Audiences in the Transmedia Age, 154-170
--         John Vanderhoef, “Guilds Struggle to Organize Reality TV,” Carsey-Wolf Center: Media Industries Project, December 2, 2013,  http://www.carseywolf.ucsb.edu/mip/article/guilds-struggle-organize-reality-tv-labor

 

WEEK 8: REPRESENTATION

Screening:

--         Brown Girls  (1:1-2, 2017) (Open TV)
--         Transparent, “Man on the Land,” (2:9, 2015) (Amazon)
--         Her Story  (1:1-6, 2016) (YouTube)
--         The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl (1:1-2, 2011) (YouTube)
--         White Fetish (1:1-4, 2014) (YouTube)

Readings:

--         Aymar Jean Christian, “Open TV: Representation: Reforming Cultural Politics,” Open TV: Innovation Beyond Hollywood and the Rise of Web Television
--         Herman Gray, “The Politics of Representation in Network Television,” Watching Race: Television and the Struggle for Blackness, pp. 70-92, 2004
--        Susan Stryker, “Biopolitics,” Transgender Studies Quarterly, pp. 38-42, 2014
--        Rebecca Wanzo, “Precarious-Girl Comedy: Issa Rae, Lena Dunham, and Abjection Aesthetics,” Camera Obscura, 31(2) pp. 27-59, 2010

 

Suggested readings:

--         Phillip Maciak, “Kill the Leading Man: Two Histories of 21st Century Television,” Los Angeles Review of Books, August 13, 2013, http://lareviewofbooks.org/review/kill-the-leading-man-two-histories-of-21st-century-television
--         C. Riley Snorton, “Referential Sights and Slights,” Palimpsest, 2(2) pp. 175-186, 2013
--         June Thomas, “Why Did Maura Pfefferman and Her Daughters Go to a Trans-Exclusionary Wimmin’s Festival?,” Slate, December 14, 2015, http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2015/12/14/writer_ali_liebegott_on_transparent_s_women_s_festival_episode.html
--         Kristen Warner, "Girls: HBO and Insecure's Risky Racial Politics," Los Angeles Review of Bookshttps://lareviewofbooks.org/article/home-girls-insecure-and-hbos-risky-racial-politics

 

WEEK 9: NARRATIVE

Screenings:

--         Arrested Development, “SOBs,” (3:9, 2006) (FOX)
--         Louie, “Daddy’s Girlfriend, Part 2” (3:5, 2012) (FX)
--         Bojack Horseman, “Fish Out of Water” (3:4, 2016) (Netflix)

Readings:

--         Bambi Higgins, “Homicide: Realism,” in Thompson and Mittell
--         Jason Mittell, “Complexity in Context,” Complex TV: the poetics of contemporary television storytelling, 2015, pp. 17-54
--         Jeffrey Sconce, “Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job!: Metacomedy,” in Thompson and Mittell

Suggested readings:

—         Aymar Jean Christian, “Netflix’s Arrested Development Will Not Change TV. Web TV Already Did,” Televisual, January 11, 2013, http://tvisual.org/2013/01/11/netflixs-arrested-development-will-not-change-tv-web-tv-already-did.
—         Richard Butsch, “Ralph, Fred, Archie, Homer, and the King of Queens: Why Television Keeps Re-Creating the Male Working-Class Buffoon,” in Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Critical Reader, eds. Gail Dines, Jean M. Humez, pp. 101-110
—         Michael Kackman, “Quality Television, Melodrama, and Cultural Complexity,” Flow, October 2008, http://flowtv.org/2008/10/quality-television-melodrama-and-cultural-complexity%C2%A0michael-kackman%C2%A0%C2%A0university-of-texas-austin%C2%A0%C2%A0
--         Eric Thurm, “How BoJack Horseman Created the Boldest Cartoon Episode in Decades,” Esquire, July 27, 2016, http://www.esquire.com/entertainment/tv/a47069/bojack-horseman-season-three-silent-episode