Making Television: Authorship and the Production Process

Making Television: Authorship and the Production Process

Making Television: Authorship and the Production Process

Making Television: Authorship and the Production Process

Synopsis

This collection of essays on television authorship includes work of some of the most prominent scholars in television studies. Rather than assigning one author to individual television texts, the contributors probe the relationship between the various authors at work within the institutional, cultural, and economic settings that characterize the television industry. The book analyzes and defines the unique methods of television authorship and suggests numerous candidates for authorial accountability allowing the media to enter the realm of contemporary criticism.

Excerpt

The Author is dead and contemporary criticism has written the obituary. Once we recognize that every text--whether it be a novel, a painting, a poem, a symphony, or a TV show--is generated in and by a complex web of cultural, social, political, and formal conventions and expectations, it is irresponsible to continue to look at those texts in the simplistic way they used to be looked at. The old idea that the lone artist-genius is the exclusive source of meaning in a text, and that the role of the critic is to find and explicate this meaning, is no longer tenable in light of the critical theory developed in the past twenty years. To the extent that we cling to the notion of one work/one artist, we become blind to the complexities of how meaning is generated in works of art, and we confine our attention too readily to a specific canon.

While contemporary criticism required a complete retooling of traditional academic industries (such as literary studies), it also assisted in the development of new industries (like TV studies) where the identity of the author had never been clear in the first place. Textual analysis of TV could never be accommodated by traditional criticism partly because TV appeared authorless (or, to be more precise, so confusingly polyauthorial). Questions like "Who is the author of this TV show?" were very hard to answer and contemporary criticism has to some extent let us off the hook.

Nonetheless, the study of TV is suffering because it has announced the death of an author that it never acknowledged in the first place. While we--as readers, users, and teachers of contemporary criticism--certainly do not suggest that the study of TV should regress back to the one work/one artist approach, we do think it is worthwhile to study the human agents who work in the production of television as part of a complex system of communication. It is not our goal to . . .

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