Preview of my Television & American Culture book


Update: The book is out – details on the Television & American Culture website.

A couple of people have asked me about my forthcoming book, Television & American Culture, which will be out this spring from Oxford University Press. Alas it may not be out in time for spring courses, unless it will only be used in the 2nd half of the semester. To preview its scope & approach for any interested readers, here’s a detailed table of contents, as well as the book’s introduction. I’m happy to answer any questions about it, and will certainly provide a link to the official website once it’s launched. So stay tuned!

Television and American Culture, forthcoming from Oxford University Press, copyright by Jason Mittell

Introduction: Why Television?
A Note on History

Section 1: Television Institutions

Chapter 1: Exchanging Programming
Production / Distribution / Transmission
The Web of Ownership
From Pitch to Hit

Chapter 2: Exchanging Audiences
The Advertising Exchange
The Audience Exchange
The Industry at Work: The Case of Reality Television

Chapter 3: Serving the Public Interest
Regulating the Airwaves: Television and the FCC
The Noncommercial Alternative: Public Television in America

Chapter 4: Televised Citizenship
Television Journalism: News for Public and Private Interests
Politics for Profit: Television and American Elections

Section 2: Television Meanings

Chapter 5: Making Meaning
Modes of Television Production
The Elements of Television Style

Chapter 6: Telling Television Stories
The Form of Television Narrative
Television Genres
Formal Analysis in Action: The Case of Lost

Chapter 7: Screening America
Representing the American Nation
Pushing the Limits of Representation Through Satire

Chapter 8: Representing Identity
Approaches to Studying Identity
Representing Race and Ethnicity
Representing Gender
Representing Sexual Orientation

Section 3: Television Practices

Chapter 9: Viewing Television
Television Viewers: Passive or Active, Effects or Influences?
Not Just Watching: The Cultural Practices of Television
Fan Cultures

Chapter 10: Television for Children
The Imagined Child Audience
Media Literacy Education
Educational Television and the Case of Sesame Street

Chapter 11: Television’s Transforming Technologies
The Culture of Television Technology
A Brief Cultural History of Television Technology
Television in Transition: Converging on the Digital

Conclusion: American Television in a Global Context
Exporting American Television and Cultural Values
Importing Global Television
Blurring National Boundaries and the Global Simpsons

Introduction: Why Television?

What is television?

At first glance, the answer might seem obvious, especially to anyone who has grown-up in a television-saturated society. But the question is trickier than it may appear, as television is far more multifaceted and complex than we tend to imagine it. For a useful parallel, imagine that you are on television—as a contestant on the popular game show Jeopardy! This show’s gimmick is that contestants must respond to a given statement by posing the correct “question” for that “answer.” So if faced with the statement “a domesticated bird known for laying eggs,” the correct response would be “What is chicken?” But you could provide this response to a range of statements, as the question “what is chicken?” actually has many potential answers, depending on the context or your frame of reference—chicken could be “the most popular poultry meat,” “a slang term for a coward,” ”a game where two people drive cars at one another,” “a mild form of pox common to children,” “a novelty dance popular at weddings,” “a kind of wire commonly used in gardens,” or “the mascot of the San Diego Padres.” All are potentially correct ways to answer the question “What is chicken?”

But this is a book about television, not chicken. So what Jeopardy! statement might prompt the question of “What is television?” Television could be defined as “the most powerful and prevalent mass communication medium in America (and the world),” but other more specific definitions show how television’s commonplace role masks its multiple roles and structures:

· Television is an enormously profitable industry, grossing over $100 billion annually through advertising, cable fees, DVD sales, and other sources of revenue.

· Television is part of democracy, informing American citizens and serving their public interests through news and electoral coverage, and governed by public policy decisions and regulations.

· Television is a unique creative form, with a distinct narrative structure and set of genres that distinguish it from other media.

· Television is a mirror of our world, offering an often-distorted vision of national identity, as well as shaping our perceptions of various groups of people.

· Television is a part of our lives, as viewing and talking about television plays a central but underexamined role in our everyday routine.

· Television is a technology, serving as the central screen for a number of digital entertainment and information media in the home, from DVDs to videogames.

All six of these definitions of television are central to its function in American culture—the main point of this book is to explore television in each of these crucial functions: as a commercial industry, a democratic institution, a textual form, a site of cultural representation, a part of everyday life, and a technological medium.

Few people would disagree with the claim that television functions in these six ways. The stickier point involves relative importance—which aspects of television are most vital to study, and which might be downplayed or ignored altogether? Different academic traditions emphasize various facets—economists focus on how industries generate profits, political scientists look at democratic institutions, anthropologists foreground everyday life, and film scholars analyze media texts. But even interdisciplinary approaches to television have their points of emphasis and blind spots—mass communications researchers examine institutions, politics, and the quantifiable effects media have upon audiences, while cultural scholars of media generally focus on representations, texts, and audience practices. This book tries to bridge these gaps, highlighting how each facet of television is vital to a broader understanding of the medium, and no single point of emphasis takes priority over others to understand the complex functioning of television in American culture.

But how does such a multifaceted examination of television work in practice? Take for example a recent and rather notorious televised moment: Janet Jackson’s so-called “wardrobe malfunction” during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. A brief review of the infamous events: at the end of a series of pop musical performances, Jackson and Justin Timberlake performed a duet to conclude the show. Just after Timberlake sang the lyrics, “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song,” he ripped off part of Jackson’s bustier, exposing her right breast for less than a second before she covered herself and the video cut to a distant shot of the stadium. The exposure was barely visible, yet the cultural uproar was intense: blame was passed around, apologies were made, protests were filed, fines were levied, and laws were changed—all in reaction to a micro-second of television that was hardly visible to the naked eye. Why did this event happen like it did, and why was there so much furor in reaction to it? To fully understand the reasons behind these events and their cultural significance, we need consider all six facets of this brief moment and its cultural aftermath, highlighting the key aspects of television that each chapter will detail—in doing so, we will mention some specific details of television might be unknown to you now, but should be quite familiar by the end of the book.

Certainly the television industry created this moment and is thus a good place to start analyzing. The Super Bowl always ranks among the highest rated programs of the year, so CBS relished the opportunity to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising revenues, as well as to promote its regular programming to an enormous audience. CBS tapped MTV to produce its halftime show—both were owned by media conglomerate Viacom at the time—to appeal to a youthful audience using flashy production values and hip contemporary performers. However the sensibility of MTV’s youth niche market contrasted with the mass audience of 143 million who tuned in to at least part of the game—the halftime show featured dancing, costumes, and lyrics that many viewers found offensive even before Jackson’s reveal. Although CBS and MTV both fell under the same corporate umbrella, they function differently within the television industry—most importantly, CBS uses the public airwaves to broadcast its programming, while MTV’s location on cable and satellite places it outside many government regulations. Even though CBS claimed to have no advance knowledge of the duo’s choreographed disrobing, CBS’s owned stations were ultimately held responsible and fined over $500,000 for broadcast indecency by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), the government agency that regulates television. Thus, although the goals of both CBS and MTV were the same—drawing an audience to sell to advertisers, and promoting their own Viacom-owned brands—the structure of the television industry treats broadcasting and cable differently, as do audiences who tend to be more fragmented and selected for cable channels. These differences in both attitude and regulatory scope concerning cable versus broadcast television had direct impacts upon the ensuing scandals.

The industry’s conception of its audience relates to the specific cultural representations offered by the broadcast. Super Bowl broadcasts always assert a set of ideas to unite viewers in their national identity as Americans, with frequent use of flags, anthems, and other icons of patriotism. The halftime show was similarly suffused in nationalism, as it focused on the pro-voting message of “Choose or Lose” in the year of a hotly-contested presidential election taking place during a controversial war. However other identity differences disrupted the patriotic celebration, fragmenting the audience along lines of age, gender, race, and moral norms. MTV promoted their youthful brand with pop stars like Timberlake, Jessica Simpson, Nelly and Kid Rock, a departure from more traditional halftime shows that had previously tended toward non-controversial mainstream acts from country music like Shania Twain, and an older generation of R&B and rock performers like Stevie Wonder and Aerosmith. Additionally, the actual breast-baring resonated with certain norms of identity in America, with the image of a white man ripping the clothes off a black women tapping into deep-seated assumptions about female sexuality and the history of racially-charged sexual content—Jackson was generally framed as the perpetrator of indecency and took most of the blame, even though Timberlake was the one ripping her clothes off! Even if these gender and racially charged notions were not made explicit in viewers’ reactions, such images have histories that make certain ideas resonate more significantly than others in American culture and fuel the ensuing scandals. The event also triggered a moral debate over decency and censorship—even though over 3/4 of Americans polled found that the action was not worth government prosecution, a vocal minority inflamed sufficient public outrage to prompt the FCC’s largest fine in history.[1] While the Super Bowl often tries to unite a nation around shared American icons like football, advertising, and beer, this event highlighted and sustained divisions in American identity, helping to foster the uproar and justify the political reaction, especially during an election year.

Another crucial aspect of the event’s presentation was a component of its textual form: live broadcast. Had the Super Bowl been taped for later broadcast, there would have been no issue, as CBS would have edited out the offending moment. But television features a broad mix of production modes, from live broadcast to filmed programming, in-studio to on-location production. Most of these modes of productions are linked to specific genres—sporting events are nearly always broadcast live, capturing surprises as they happen but also running the risk of airing unforeseen content. Even though live broadcasting raises the risk of airing such unexpected material, television’s production mechanisms both enabled the offending exposure to be seen and then removed it from the air. The presence of dozens of cameras allow television producers to provide images to viewers that simply could not be experienced in person—no one in the crowd at the Super Bowl saw the wardrobe malfunction, except as it was presented on the Jumbotron television screen at the stadium. But just as television can provide perspectives unavailable in real life, the medium ultimately controls what viewers see. When producers realized what Timberlake had just done, they cut to a wide shot of the stadium and fireworks, disabling our close view of the action and leaving viewers to ponder what they had just seen. Although broadcast live, television’s form encourages the replaying of live materials—hence the numerous replay angles on every play of the Super Bowl. Yet the replays of this halftime highlight would never air again as it had first been seen, as subsequent replays (generally on news programs) would obscure the details of Jackson’s exposure through digital blurring or a similar effect. One of the aftermaths of the controversy was a shift in television’s production modes, as many special event programs like sporting events and award programs instituted a few-second delay to monitor for potentially offensive content, changing the meaning of a “live broadcast.”

The industry’s textual control of visual access has been offset to some degree by media technologies. Had this event occurred in the 1970s or before, the television industry would have maintained complete control of the offending image—most people wouldn’t have realized what they had seen, and CBS would have buried it to hide evidence of the potentially divisive moment. But a number of technological innovations from the 1980s and onward have changed the balance of power controlling broadcast images. The popularity of the VCR in the 1980s allowed viewers to tape programs as they were being aired, and certainly this moment could have been archived and studied via videotape. But digital technologies of the 21st century give viewers even more immediate power to replay and redistribute images—households with digital video recorders like TiVo replayed this moment in record numbers, viewing it repeatedly in slow-motion to discern what had really happened. Technologically savvy viewers digitized their video recordings and distributed still images and movie files on the internet, quickly becoming the most frequently searched-for image online. Due to these technological shifts, CBS was not able to control the image they had broadcast, as viewers used technologies of recording and distribution to turn a live broadcast into an archived moment that long outlived its split-second origins.

Clearly these technologies impact the role of television within everyday life, as viewers were able to seize the image for their own purposes. These purposes ranged from the prurient to the parodic to the prudish, as the so-called “nipple-gate” overshadowed what was seen as one of the most exciting Super Bowl games ever played. Online discussions raged about the aesthetics of Jackson’s nipple-adorning jewelry, and parodies surfaced online as well as in other media outlets. Television events often become the content of public debate and discussion, with these “water-cooler” moments arising outside of the industry’s planning or control. In this instance, the discussion moved well beyond water-coolers—special interest organizations that regularly complain about the immoral quality of television content, like the Parent’s Television Council, quickly seized upon Jackson’s breast as the symbol of everything wrong with the medium. They filed complaints with CBS, Viacom, and the FCC, sending their outrage via online petitions and angry letters. One Tennessee viewer even went as far as to file a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all viewers against Viacom, CBS, MTV, Jackson, and Timberlake, claiming that the “outrageous and lewd acts” caused viewers emotional distress and unspecified “serious injury”—not surprisingly, this lawsuit was dropped mere days after it was filed. While all accused parties both apologized and attempted to pass blame onto others, the FCC took the views of this vocal minority of viewers quite seriously by acting upon the over 500,000 complaints it received, most through organized online petitions and email campaigns. As this example attests, the industry’s control diminishes as soon as material is aired, as viewers can reuse images, circulate interpretations, and send feedback into the media system in a range of ways that surpass the limits that the industry imagines for its own broadcasts.

In this case, the public outcry had profound and serious impacts upon the industry and democratic regulation of the airwaves, serving as the “tipping point” for government intervention into cultural norms, a common occurrence during the Presidential election years. The FCC pursued the complaints against CBS, levying the largest fine in broadcast history over a single incident. This event called attention to an often-ignored and rarely-enacted role of the FCC in regulating broadcasting: the agency cannot censor or pre-judge content prior to its airing, but it can levy fines or even revoke licenses of broadcasters who air material deemed “indecent” by its commissioners. Congress responded to the event by further empowering the FCC, proposing bipartisan bills to drastically increase fines for indecency. Although these actions certainly follow the democratic tradition that the airwaves are a public resource used by private industries to serve the public interest, there are underlying political agendas at work, as with most things in Washington. Taking place within a Presidential election year, both parties used the incident as a way to promote their own “traditional morals” and condemn a perceived “Hollywood elite.” Likewise the FCC was coming off of a particularly rough 2003, as its proposed lifting of ownership caps triggered an unprecedented wave of public activism in favor of media regulation, resulting in Congressional action attempting to limit media consolidation—beleaguered FCC chair Michael Powell gleefully pounced upon Jackson’s exposure to reposition himself and his agency as champions for decency and the public interest. The immediate impact of this government clampdown on decency was an overreaction by the industry to self-regulate, resulting in broadcasters either editing out potentially questionable content, like the partially nude body of an 80-year-old woman on the operating table in ER, or avoiding airing controversial material altogether, as 66 ABC affiliates chose not to air the network’s unedited Veteran’s Day broadcast of the graphic WWII drama Saving Private Ryan in fear of FCC rebukes. In this instance and its aftermath, television programming exists at the crossroads of competing democratic impulses: using the airwaves to serve public interests and community standards, while protecting the dual freedoms of speech and the press to present controversial ideas without government interference.

Hopefully this brief account of how a split-second moment of live television had such wide-ranging and politically vital impacts on American culture demonstrates the complexity of television as a medium. Any one of the six facets explored above might be seen as the most important aspect of this example—you might feel that ultimately it boils down to the public protecting itself from immoral broadcasters, or view this case as a demonstration of the power of new technologies to empower viewers. However, to understand the full story of how television impacts American culture, we need to explore how the medium functions within all six of the facets described above. The rest of this book seeks to do just that, exploring each aspect of television in depth—including clarifying some of the concepts briefly alluded to about the Super Bowl broadcast—while emphasizing that none of the six facets operate in isolation from the other five. For instance, examining television’s representation of identity leads us to the industry’s construction of audiences, which react to and shape viewers’ own practices. Likewise, regulations of television help determine technological standards, which in turn mold production norms and textual forms. We can consider all six facets of television as individual points in a broader circuit of culture model, in which all parts are interconnected to comprise American television.[2] Any approach that excludes or over-emphasizes one part of the circuit cannot account for the complexity of television, and thus this book promotes a multi-disciplinary approach that considers all six facets of television both on their own terms and interwoven within a larger circuit.

The Janet Jackson case points to a second distinctive feature of this book: it does not offer a “neutral” or objective survey of key facts and historical moments in American television, but rather makes explicit arguments about the politics, meanings, and practices involving television. This book offers its own distinctive arguments about how television works and how it impacts American society, while recounting key facts and historical moments. You may notice some explicit arguments against particular “common-sense” notions about television that many people assume to be true because they’ve heard them so many times: Television is bad for you. The television industry simply gives viewers what we want. Television content is predominantly liberal—or predominantly conservative. Watching television is a passive pastime. Televised violence causes violent behavior. Television is not worth taking seriously. All of these assumptions, which should sound familiar even if you don’t share them yourself, will be debated throughout this book, asking you to think carefully, critically, and deeply about that screen sitting in your living room and beyond. After reading this book you will have absorbed a lot of information about television, but hopefully you will have learned even more about how to look at television, and its assumed place in American society, in a new way. You may disagree with some of the book’s arguments, politics, and interpretations, but a thoughtful reader will be able to rebut its arguments with more engaged and nuanced thinking about television than just common sense.

A third way that the Janet Jackson case models the rest of the book is its reliance on a number of academic traditions, but without getting bogged down in scholarly jargon or name-dropping. To understand the multifaceted realm of television, you have to be able to think across disciplines, dabbling in economics, political science, sociology, aesthetics, social history, psychology, and mass communication theory. The book draws upon these disciplinary traditions to explore complex ideas, but avoids language that makes them only comprehensible to experts—or at least explains unusual terms when used. Some discussions are rooted in advanced theoretical concepts like poststructuralism and subjectivity, and the theoretical writings of authors like Louis Althusser and Michel Foucault, but this is the only time these terms and names will be used—the end of each chapter offers a guide to further reading if you wish to dive into the more specialized literature about specific topics. Likewise, the book is influenced by a number of theoretical traditions, such as feminist criticism and critical race theory, but attempts to foreground the core ideas emerging from these traditions, rather than explaining their academic origins and theoretical nuances. By exploring each of the six facets in depth, using a range of academic traditions, this book tries to demonstrate how to think critically about television with sophistication, but using ideas and language accessible to interested novices. Thus it should prepare you for more thoughtful insights into the various roles that television serves within American culture and your own life—and get you ready in case you need to respond with “What is television?” on an upcoming appearance on Jeopardy!

A Note on History

This book does not offer a survey of television’s history—there are many other high-quality books providing a chronological account of American television’s development and evolution—but neither is it ahistorical. Underlying the book’s cultural approach is the belief that we can only understand media in their historical contexts, placing them within a specific set of circumstances tied to a particular moment. Although each chapter explores a particular facet of how television works, we need to avoid the temptation of thinking of television as a timeless essence, remaining unchanging across its multi-decade history. It is useful to consider the history of television as typified by distinct eras, with each offering a general outline of how television fits into American culture within a specific period. Although the history of television is more complex than this simple periodization, this book will focus on three specific eras of American television, with each chapter considering specific ways that television has transformed over the following three periods:

The Classic Network Era. Starting with the emergence of television as an outgrowth of the radio industry in the mid-1940s and lasting until the mid-1980s, this era established norms that still persist today for all facets of television. The defining structure of this era is the network system, in which nearly all programming was presented by three national networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC), and audiences watched shows en masse simultaneously across the country. The classic network era set long-lasting standards for television programming formats and advertising-supported channels, while heralding the rise of television as a central outlet for political and public affairs information. The various ways viewers engage with television and television’s role as the primary medium that defines American culture were all established during this period, setting norms that remain today. While many of these roles have diminished, the possibility of television’s role as a mass medium with one program resonating throughout American culture still persists in rare instances, as exemplified by the Janet Jackson instance.

The Multi-Channel Era. The 1980s were a transitional decade, as television shifted from being dominated by national broadcast networks to new technologies of cable and satellite programming. In the multi-channel era that defined the 1990s, mass audiences were supplanted by demographically-defined market segments, as channels emerged to reach a wide range of target audiences in a system often termed narrowcasting. The television industry developed new formats and strategies to reach valued audience segments and new networks like Fox and Univision to compete with the Big Three, yet the basic system of advertiser-supported television remained in place. Technologies like remote controls and VCRs redefined people’s viewing habits, and households became more likely to have multiple sets, changing the domestic role of television. As the mass audience gave way to smaller market segments, television’s cultural function transformed, structured around more diffused audience groups and programs appealing to niche groups. However, the multi-channel era still saw television as the central information and communication medium for the American public.

The Convergence Era. Television’s third era is still emerging, with the medium under transition as this book is being written in 2008. As digital media have grown in importance, the role of television is evolving as it is challenged by a range of technologies like the internet and videogames. Television still remains central in American homes, but it is no longer experienced only as dictated by national networks or cable channels; rather, the television set is emerging as the centerpiece of a range of video-based technologies. This technological convergence forces us to question the underlying economic models of both broadcast and multi-channel television, as viewers are taking control of schedules and using digital distribution technologies to offer alternatives to television programming and to resist advertising as the primary source of income for the television industry. While certainly any claims of the death of television as a medium are exaggerated, there is no doubt that we are entering a new era in which the norms of the past fifty years will be challenged and redefined in unforeseen ways.

Each of these eras intersects with all six facets of television, and thus every chapter will consider how historical transformations impact the issues pertinent to that particular facet. Since each era is predicated on a technological shift—from over-the-air broadcast to cable and satellite transmission to digital convergence—many of the larger issues about how television has transformed across these eras will be considered in most depth in Chapter 11. Yet as historical changes weave through every facet of television, it should be clear that technology alone does not cause or trigger such broad transformations—just as we need to understand how all six facets of television operate to make sense of television’s cultural role today, we need to consider how all facets respond to and often stimulate historical change as well.

Finally, the book’s historical and analytic scope is focused tightly on American television. In some ways this is easy to justify, as television has been defined since its beginning as a national system, governed by national legislation and regulations. Additionally, American viewers have few opportunities to see television from other countries—the United States exports a great deal of media around the world, but imports almost none onto its television schedule. These boundaries are starting to erode in recent decades, as the multichannel era opened up possibilities for more imports on cable channels like BBC America and many digital technologies are more global and unbound by national regulations. Thus while the book focuses on American television programming and its circulation within the United States, the conclusion briefly widens its scope to consider a more global context, considering how American television circulates throughout the world and the influence of imports on American culture.

[1] “Poll: Janet’s Revelation No Crime,” Associated Press, February 21, 2004.

[2] See <!–[if supportFields]> ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {“citationItems”:[{“itemID”:529}]} <![endif]–>Paul duGay et al., Doing Cultural Studies: The Story of the Sony Walkman (London: Sage Publications, 1997)<!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> for an influential account of the circuit of culture.

15 Responses to “Preview of my Television & American Culture book”

  1. Thanks for posting this, Jason. I’m really looking forward to using the book in class!

  2. 2 Felix Treguer

    Really interesting intro! Of course it reminds of your “theory of popular culture” class and how enlightening and enabling this course was!

  3. Jason,

    First, this seems like an awesome book–I really look forward to it. I’m really interested in these 6 facets that you point out. I lately enjoy writing about television, and to consider which of the facets I’m using when analyzing is another way to add texture to the process.

    The Janet Jackson example is a wonderful moment in terms of analyzing the culture’s reaction to the event. You mention that in order to fully understand these reactions, we need to look at these six facets. For the single event and the reactions to it, I agree. Not all significant “moments” in television are mere moments though. For example, if I write about a show and the show’s cultural significance, I may not be able or feel it necessary to include reference to the commercial aspect of the show. I recently wrote about “All in the Family.” I don’t have access to information about the commercial relevance of the show. Am I missing out on some essentially important discovery of the show if I don’t include that commercial facet in my discussion? I may be able to speculate that there were some limitations due to advertising. But this is a general comment that can be made and it still is speculation.

    The main point that I’m making is in the question, do you think any analysis of television is incomplete if it doesn’t incorporate all six facets?

    A little off topic, but not exactly, these six facets make me think of Sorkin’s Farnsworth Invention–I wonder, what do you think that play’s message is regarding the nature of television?

    Lastly, I can see the assignments now in college courses, to analyze a media event with these six facets. I’m no longer a student, but I may self-assign this. If I were to reference this in my own writing on my blog, would a link to the post be sufficient, or is there some citation I should use?

  4. Adam,

    Thanks for your note. I’d say that all moments of television potentially involve all 6 facets, but certainly some are more pertinent than others. All in the Family, for instance, clearly foregrounds cultural representation and viewer practice, but there are important ways that industrial strategies (CBS programming it to target urban younger audiences for their O&O stations), regulation (that put limits on what could be said/shown), form (the theatrical staging, production design), and technology (its videotape production, airing in the pre-home video era demanding synchronous viewing) all deepen our understanding. I’d encourage students (and readers) to always consider the range of facets, while allowing focus on one or two.

    Haven’t seen/read Sorkin’s play yet, alas – I need to do that. And citing via link and the name/author of the book would be great.


  5. Jason,

    Thank you for replying. I see what you mean. And this gives me some other ideas to think about when analyzing television. I didn’t consider the theatrical staging of shows vs. the other ones that don’t have theatrical staging(like “Scrubs” or “30 Rock”is there a term for this?). The presence or lack of a studio audience is a wonderful topic to consider. Additionally, your point about the technology requiring a synchronous viewing reminds me of a post on Michael Z. Newman’s blog —– where he explains the distinction between ephemeral and collectible media.


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