The Post-Network Era: Understanding Contemporary US Television Culture

Here’s a syllabus for a 10-week course on contemporary U.S. television.

The Post-Network Era:
 Understanding Contemporary U.S. Television Culture

Course Description

Over the past decades, shifts in media policy, industry, and technology have precipitated vast transformations in the visual, cultural, social, and commercial dimensions of US entertainment television. The term “post-network” television marks the historical emergence of a new television culture where the “big 3” networks and mass audiences give way to the multi-channel digital landscape, portable screens and content, interactive viewers, and niche audiences. The post-network era accommodates both reality TV and “quality” dramas, as media conglomerates seek out new ways of making television (and revenue) in a converged global media culture. This course will begin by remembering the network era, revisiting earlier television texts and culture and considering their role in shaping US society. However, the majority of this course will be spent investigating the post-network era from a number of different angles. Together, we’ll develop a multi-faceted view of contemporary television programming that includes historical, industrial, institutional, aesthetic, and cultural perspectives. We’ll work together to understand television’s refashioned place in our social world, thinking through post-network TV’s contributions to broader discourses surrounding identity, citizenship, audiences, democracy, globalization, and power. Along the way, we’ll also wrestle with important critical theories of television and key concepts in media studies.

Remembering the Network Era

Week 1: Critical Theories of Television
Raymond Williams, “The Technology and the Society”
Raymond Williams, “Programming: Distribution and Flow”
Nick Browne, “”The Political Economy of the Television (Super) Text”
Todd Gitlin, “Primetime Ideology: The Hegemonic Process in Television Entertainment”
John Fiske, “Some Television, Some Topics, and Some Terminology”

Week 2: Television and Domesticity
Roger Silverstone, “Television and a Place Called Home”
Lynn Spiegel, “Television in the Family Circle”
Patricia Mellencamp, “Women and Situation Comedy”
Tania Modleski, “The Rhythms of Reception: Daytime Television and Women’s Work”

Week 3:  Television, Culture, and Hegemony
George Lipsitz, “The Meaning of Memory: Family, Class and Ethnicity in Early Network Television Programs”
Aniko Bodroghkozy, “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and the Youth Rebellion”
Herman Gray, “Television, Black Americans, and the American Dream”
Jane Feuer, “The Yuppie Spectator”

Producing TV in the Post-Network Era

Week 4: Defining Post-Network TV
Amanda Lotz, “Understanding Television at the Beginning of the Post-Network Era”
William Uricchio, “Television’s Next Generation: Technology/ Interface Culture/ Flow”
Amanda Lotz, “Advertising after the Network Era: The New Economics of Television”

Week 5: Market Segmentation and Niche Audiences

Joseph Turrow, “Tailoring Differences”
Joseph Turrow, “Mapping Profiles”
Arlene Davila, “Knowledges: Facts and Fictions of a People as a Market”
Lisa Parks, “Flexible Microcasting: Gender, Generation, and Television-Internet Convergence”

Week 6: Cultures of Post-Network Television Production

John Caldwell, “Convergence Television: Aggregating Form and Repurposing Content in the Culture of Conglomeration”
Jennifer Holt, “Vertical Vision”
Henry Jenkins, “Buying Into American Idol: How We’re Being Sold on Reality Television”

Week 7: TV and Global Media Culture
Edward Herman and Robert McChesney, “The Rise of Global Media”
Michael Curtin, “Media Capitals: Cultural Geographies of Global TV”
Silvio Waisbord, “McTV: Understanding the Global Popularity of Television Formats”
David Morley, “Where the Global Meets the Local”

Consuming TV in the Post-Network Era

Week 8: Post-Network Aesthetics and Politics

John Caldwell, “Excessive Style: The Crisis of Network Television”
Ron Becker, “Gay-Themed Television and the Slumpy Class: The Affordable, Multicultural Politics of the Gay Nineties”
Dana Polan, “Cable Watching: HBO, The Sopranos and Discourses of Distinction”
Jeffery Sconce, “What If? Charting Television’s New Textual Boundaries”

Week 9: Post-Network Brands
Baretta E. Smith, “Now That’s Black: BET Entertainment”
Amanda Lotz, “Women’s Brands and Brands of Women”
Laurie Ouellette and James Hay, “Charity TV: Privatizing Care, Mobilizing Compassion”
Sarah Banet-Weiser, “We Pledge Allegiance to Kids: Nickelodeon and Citizenship”

Week 10: Post-Network TV: New Rhythms of Reception

Henry Jenkins, “Spoiling Survivor”
Mark Andrejevic, “iMedia: The Case of Interactive TV”

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