Television: Critical Methods and Applications

Television: Critical Methods and Applications

Television: Critical Methods and Applications

Television: Critical Methods and Applications


Television introduces students to the processes through which television tells stories, presents news, and sells products to its viewers. This accessible and student-friendly text explains how television constructs meaning and encourages readers to incorporate critical thinking into their TV viewing. Television contains hundreds of illustrations from current and classic TV programs, and a companion Web site ( supplements the text with color frame grabs and illustrative video clips. New for this second edition is a chapter discussing television commercials and updated examples from recent television programs. This text examines how videography, acting, lighting, set design, editing, and sound work together to produce the meanings that viewers take away from their television experience, while also providing critical and historical contexts to explain how critical methods have been applied to the medium. Television is intended for courses in television critical studies, and is also suitable for media and screen studies.


Should we take television seriously?

Should we take television seriously as a cultural or aesthetic medium, as a text capable of producing meaning? Should we take When Animals Attack seriously? Should we commission studies on As the World Turns' visual style? Should an interpretation of the discourse of The Beverly Hillbillies be permitted in an academic journal? And, most pertinent to this book, should there be college courses on these programs? Should The Simpsons be allowed in today's syllabi?

Yes, we should study television in school. And, yes, we should take television seriously. Why? Because television provides meanings, many meanings, as it entertains. There is little doubt that it is the predominant meaning-producing and entertainment medium of the past 50 years. As such it demands our scrutiny. In order to dissect the pleasures and meanings that television affords us, we need an understanding of how narrative is structured, and how sets are designed, and how the camera positions the viewer's perspective, and how sound interacts with image.

Television: Critical Methods and Applications supplies the student with a whole toolbox of implements to disassemble television. It explains how television works, how television programs and commercials are made, and how they function as fertile producers of meanings. Television does not attempt to teach taste or aesthetics. It is less concerned with evaluation than with interpretation. It resists asking, “Is Buffy the Vampire Slayer great art?” Instead, it poses the question, “What meanings does Buffy signify and how does it do so?” To answer this question brings viewers closer to understanding television as a meaning-producing phenomenon, and thus helps them stay afloat in a sea of frequently contradictory meanings.

The form of analysis stressed here asks the viewer, first, to explore the structures of narrative, non-narrative, and commercial television material. Second, Television questions how those structures emphasize certain meanings (and repress others) to viewers. And third, it considers how television's images and sounds work together to create its programs, commercials, and assorted televisual flotsam and jetsam. Thus, this textbook works from the very concrete . . .

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