Prime-Time Families: Television Culture in Postwar America

Prime-Time Families: Television Culture in Postwar America

Prime-Time Families: Television Culture in Postwar America

Prime-Time Families: Television Culture in Postwar America

Synopsis

Prime-Time Families provides a wide-ranging new look at television entertainment in the past four decades. Working within the interdisciplinary framework of cultural studies, Ella Taylor analyzes television as a constellation of social practices. Part popular culture analysis, part sociology, and part American history, Prime-Time Families is a rich and insightful work the sheds light on the way television shapes our lives.

Excerpt

This book grew out of an interest in television entertainment during one of the liveliest periods in its history, the 1970s, when major shifts in network policy, responding to broader cultural changes, helped produce some of the medium’s most innovative programming. I was interested in the dialogue between television imagery and other kinds of interpretation of the cultural life of the 1970s in the United States. My particular concern was with the light that changing themes in television could shed on certain issues that were preoccupying cultural critics and social scientists during this period: the tendency to describe America as a culture in crisis and to fasten on family life as the troubled center of that crisis; the relationship between family and work; and more broadly changing perceptions of the boundaries between public and private spheres of everyday life.

My aim was to explore the changing social psychology of family life with respect to changing definitions of “normal families” in a fictional medium whose imagery has always been fundamentally familial. The ubiquity of television and its intensely domestic character make it an ideal narrative form in which to observe changing ideas about family. It is watched by a vast number of people in their homes; its advertising is geared to both the parts and the whole of the family unit; its images, in both news and entertainment, are stamped with the familial. Even its workplace settings are shot through with domesticity. Given the sheer breadth of its appeal, television tends to address—and help create—widely held beliefs that permeate the culture rather than the minority views at its margins.

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