Shonda Rhimes is one of the most powerful players in contemporary American network television. Beginning with her break-out hit series Grey’s Anatomy, she has successfully debuted Private Practice, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, The Catch, For The People, and Station 19. Rhimes’s work is attentive to identity politics, “post-” identity politics, power, and representation, addressing innumerable societal issues. Rhimes intentionally addresses these issues with diverse characters and story lines that center, for example, on interracial friendships and relationships, LGBTIQ relationships and parenting, the impact of disability on familial and work dynamics, and complex representations of womanhood. This volume serves as a means to theorize Rhimes’s contributions and influence by inspiring provocative conversations about television as a deeply politicized institution and exploring how Rhimes fits into the implications of twenty-first century television.
Although we tend to think of television primarily as a household fixture, TV monitors outside the home are widespread: in bars, laundromats, and stores; conveying flight arrival and departure times in airports; uniting crowds at sports events and allaying boredom in waiting rooms; and helping to pass the time in workplaces of all kinds. In Ambient Television Anna McCarthy explores the significance of this pervasive phenomenon, tracing the forms of conflict, commerce, and community that television generates outside the home. Discussing the roles television has played in different institutions from 1945 to the present day, McCarthy draws on a wide array of sources. These include retail merchandising literature, TV industry trade journals, and journalistic discussions of public viewing, as well as the work of cultural geographers, architectural theorists, media scholars, and anthropologists. She also uses photography as a research tool, documenting the uses and meanings of television sets in the built environment, and focuses on such locations as the tavern and the department store to show how television is used to support very different ideas about gender, class, and consumption. Turning to contemporary examples, McCarthy discusses practices such as Turner Private Networks’ efforts to transform waiting room populations into advertising audiences and the use of point-of-sale video that influences brand visibility and consumer behavior. Finally, she inquires into the activist potential of out-of-home television through a discussion of the video practices of two contemporary artists in everyday public settings. Scholars and students of cultural, visual, urban, American, film, and television studies will be interested in this thought-provoking, interdisciplinary book.
The first in-depth look at this pioneering "reality TV" documentary.
Before 1973, the Loud family of Santa Barbara, California, lived in the privacy of their own home. With the airing of the documentary An American Family, that "privacy" extended to every American home that had a television in it-and there was no going back to the happy land of Beaver, Donna Reed, and Father Knows Best. This book is the first to offer a close, sustained look at An American Family-the documentary that blurred conventions, stirred passions among viewers and reviewers, revised impressions of family life and definitions of private and public, and began the breakdown of distinctions between reality and spectacle that culminated in cultural phenomena from The Oprah Winfrey Show to Survivor.
While placing Craig Gilbert's innovative series in the context of 1970s nonfiction film and television, Jeffrey Ruoff tells the story behind An American Family from conception to broadcast, from reception to long-term impact. He reintroduces us to the Louds as intimate details of their daily lives, from one child's dance recital to another's gay lifestyle to the parents' divorce proceedings, unfold first before the camera and then before American viewers, challenging audiences to think seriously about family, marital relations, sexuality, affluence, and the American dream. In the documentary's immediate impact-on both producers and viewers of media-Ruoff uncovers the roots of new nonfiction forms including confessional talk shows like Oprah, first-person documentary films like Ross McElwee's acclaimed Sherman's March, and reality TV programs such as The Real World, Survivor, and Big Brother.
A comprehensive production and reception study, Ruoff's work restores An American Family to its rightful, pioneering place in the history of American television.
Jeffrey Ruoff is a film historian, documentary filmmaker, and assistant professor of film and television studies at Dartmouth College. He is co-author (with Kenneth Ruoff) of The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On (1998).
America’ s First Network TV Censor: The Work of NBC’ s Stockton Helffrich is a unique examination of early television censorship, centered around the papers of Stockton Helffrich, the first manager of the censorship department at NBC. Set against the backdrop of postwar America and contextualized by myriad primary sources including original interviews and unpublished material, Helffrich’ s reports illustrate how early censorship of advertising, language, and depictions of sex, violence, and race shaped the new medium. While other books have cited Helffrich’ s reports, none have considered them as a body of work, complemented by the details of Helffrich’ s life and the era in which he lived. America’ s First Network TV Censor explores the ways in which Helffrich’ s personal history and social class influenced his perception of his role as NBC-TV censor and his tendency to ignore certain political and cultural taboos while embracing others.
Author Robert Pondillo considers Helffrich’ s life in broadcasting before and after the Second World War, and his censorial work in the context of 1950s American culture and emerging network television. Pondillo discusses the ways that cultural phenomena, including the arrival of the mid-twentieth-century religious boom, McCarthyism, the dawn of the Civil Rights era, and the social upheaval over sex, music, and youth, contributed to a general sense that the country was morally adrift and ripe for communist takeover.
Five often-censored subjects— advertising, language, and depictions of sex, violence, and race— are explored in detail, exposing the surprising complexity and nuance of early media censorship. Questions of whether too many sadistic westerns would coarsen America’ s children, how to talk about homosexuality without using the word “ homosexuality,” and how best to advertise toilet paper without offending people were on Helffrich’ s mind; his answers to these questions helped shape the broadcast media we know today.
When Andy Kaufman succumbed suddenly to lung cancer in 1984, some of his fans believed that his death was yet another elaborate prank. Over the previous decade, Kaufman had achieved improbable fame for his bizarre antiperformances—lip-synching the Mighty Mouse theme song, reading The Great Gatsby aloud in its entirety when people expected comedy, asking audience members to touch a boil on his neck—that perplexed, annoyed, or offended his viewers.
In Andy Kaufman, Florian Keller explores Kaufman’s career within a broader discussion of the ideology of the American Dream. Taking as his starting point the 1999 biopic Man on the Moon, Keller brilliantly decodes Kaufman in a way that makes it possible to grasp his radical agenda beyond avant-garde theories of transgression. As an entertainer, Kaufman submerged his identity beneath a multiplicity of personas, enacting the American belief that the self can and should be endlessly remade for the sake of happiness and success. He did this so rigorously and consistently, Keller argues, that he exposed the internal contradictions of America’s ideology of self-invention.
Keller posits that Kaufman offered a radically different—and perhaps more potent—logic of cultural criticism than did more overtly political comedians such as Lenny Bruce. Presenting close readings of Kaufman’s most significant performances, Keller shows how Kaufman mounted—for the benefit of an often uncomprehending public—a sustained and remarkable critique of America’s obsession with celebrity and individualism.
Florian Keller is a fellow at the Institute of Cultural Studies, School of Art and Design, University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Zurich.
From the bachelor pad that Jack Lemmon's C. C. Baxter loans out to his superiors in Billy Wilder's The Apartment (1960) to the crumbling tenement in a dystopian Taipei in Tsai Ming-liang's The Hole (1998), the apartment in films and television series is often more than just a setting: it can motivate or shape the narrative in key ways. Such works belong to a critical genre identified by Pamela Robertson Wojcik as the apartment plot, which comprises specific thematic, visual, and narrative conventions that explore modern urbanism's various forms and possibilities. In The Apartment Complex a diverse group of international scholars discuss the apartment plot in a global context, examining films made both within and beyond the Hollywood studios. The contributors consider the apartment plot's intersections with film noir, horror, comedy, and the musical, addressing how different national or historical contexts modify the apartment plot and how the genre's framework allows us to rethink the work of auteurs and identify productive connections and tensions between otherwise disparate texts.
Contributors. Steven Cohan, Michael DeAngelis, Veronica Fitzpatrick, Annamarie Jagose, Paula J. Massood, Joe McElhaney, Merrill Schleier, Lee Wallace, Pamela Robertson Wojcik
Rethinking the significance of films including Pillow Talk, Rear Window, and The Seven Year Itch, Pamela Robertson Wojcik examines the popularity of the “apartment plot,” her term for stories in which the apartment functions as a central narrative device. From the baby boom years into the 1970s, the apartment plot was not only key to films; it also surfaced in TV shows, Broadway plays, literature, and comic strips, from The Honeymooners and The Mary Tyler Moore Show to Subways are for Sleeping and Apartment 3-G. By identifying the apartment plot as a film genre, Wojcik reveals affinities between movies generally viewed as belonging to such distinct genres as film noir, romantic comedy, and melodrama. She analyzes the apartment plot as part of a mid-twentieth-century urban discourse, showing how it offers a vision of home centered on values of community, visibility, contact, mobility, impermanence, and porousness that contrasts with views of home as private, stable, and family-based. Wojcik suggests that the apartment plot presents a philosophy of urbanism related to the theories of Jane Jacobs and Henri Lefebvre. Urban apartments were important spaces for negotiating gender, sexuality, race, and class in mid-twentieth-century America.
Archie Bunker’s America discerns what was “in the air” as television networks tried to accommodate cultural and political swings in America from the Vietnam era through the late 1970s. Josh Ozersky’s spirited examination of the ways America changed television during a period of intense social upheaval, recuperation, and fragmentation uncovers a bold and beguiling facet of American cultural history. From the conflict-based comedy of All in the Family and such post-sixties frolics as Three’s Company to tendentiously apolitical programs like Happy Days, Ozersky describes the range and power of television to echo larger schemes of American life.
Around 1968, advertisers who were anxious to break into the lucrative baby-boomer demographic convinced television networks to begin to abandon prime-time programming that catered to universal audiences. With the market splintering, networks ventured into more issue-based and controversial territories. While early network attempts at more “relevant” programming failed, Ozersky examines how CBS struck gold with the political comedy All in the Family in 1971 and how other successful, conflict-based comedies turned away from typical show business conventions. As the 1970s wore on, the innovations of the previous years began to lose their public appeal. After Vietnam and Watergate, Ozersky argues, Americans were exhausted from the political turbulence of the preceding decade and were ready for a televisual “return to normalcy.”
Straightforward, engaging, and liberally illustrated, Archie Bunker’s America is peppered with the stories of outsider cops and failed variety shows, of a young Bill Murray and an old Ed Sullivan, of Mary Tyler Moore, Fonzie, and the Skipper, too. Drawing on interviews with television insiders, trade publications, and the programs themselves, Ozersky chronicles the ongoing attempts of prime-time television to program for a fragmented audience—an audience whose greatest common denominator, by 1978, may well have been the act of watching television itself. The book also includes a foreword by renowned media critic Mark Crispin Miller and an epilogue of related commentary on the following decades.
From the painting-by-numbers fad to the public fascination with the First Lady's apparel to the television sensation of Elvis Presley to the sculptural refinement of the automobile, Marling explores what Americans saw and what they looked for in the 1950s with a gaze newly trained by TV.
The production, distribution, and perception of moving images are undergoing a radical transformation. Ever-faster computers, digital technology, and microelectronic are joining forces to produce advanced audiovision -the media vanishing point of the 20th century. Very little will remain unchanged.
The classic institutions for the mediation of film - cinema and television - are revealed to be no more than interludes in the broader history of the audiovisual media. This book interprets these changes not simply as a cultural loss but also as a challenge: the new audiovisions have to be confronted squarely to make strategic intervention possible.
Audiovisions provides a historical underpinning for this active approach. Spanning 100 years, from the end of the 19th to the end of the 20th century, it reconstructs the complex genesis of cinema and television as historically relative - and thus finite - cultural forms, focussing on the dynamics and tension in the interaction between the apparatus and its uses. The book is also a plea for "staying power" in studies of cultural technology and technological culture of film.
Essayistic in style, it dispenses with complicated cross references and, instead, is structured around distinct historical phases. Montages of images and text provide supplemental information, contrast, and comment.