Demographic Vistas: Television in American Culture

Demographic Vistas: Television in American Culture

Demographic Vistas: Television in American Culture

Demographic Vistas: Television in American Culture


In Demographic Vistas, David Marc shows how we can take television seriously within the humanist tradition while enjoying it on its own terms. To deal with the barrage of messages from television's chaotic history, Marc adapts tools of theatrical and literary criticism to focus on key personalities and genres in ways that reward serious students and casual viewers alike.

This updated edition includes a new foreword by Horace Newcomb and a new introduction by the author that discusses the ways in which the nature of television criticism has changed since the book's original publication in 1984. A new final chapter explores the paradox of the diminishing importance of over-the-air broadcasting during the period of television's greatest expansion, which has been brought about by complex technologies such as cable, videocassette recorders, and online services.


“A most confusing thing in American History,” observed William Carlos Williams, “is the nearly universal lack of scale.” Television is very much at home in this history. Inviting nothing but superlatives (“dullest,” “greatest opportunity,” “most asinine,” “quickest,” etc.), it has generated more cash and less prestige than any other activity that could be even loosely described as having a collateral relationship with art. But the extreme reactions and predictions that are easily heard in casual and critical discussions of the medium stand in stark contrast to the processional flow of recognitions, appreciations, and evaluations that continue to characterize normal viewing. This is a book about living with television in the culture that turns it on, creates it, rewards it, despises it, forgets it, and remembers it. There is no posture that honestly separates the author from that culture.

In Reading Television, the British critics John Fiske and John Hartley write:

the tools of traditional literary criticism do not quite fit the
television discourse. At best they can be used in the way a
metaphor works—the unknown tenor of television might
be apprehended by means of the known vehicle of literary

By “traditional literary criticism,” I take it, the authors refer to . . .

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