CST online is a scholarly resource and critical forum for studying television, sponsored by the Department of Contemporary Arts at Manchester Metropolitan University. It is our mission to enrich television studies by providing comprehensive access to information, as well as to disseminate knowledge and stimulate debate.

Vol 1. Issue 1. Spring 2006 - FREE CONTENT

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by Janet McCabe

(pp 1-2)
Abstract: The editorial offers the rationale for Critical Studies in Television, outlining its mission statement. It also identifies the aims of the issue, focusing as it does on mapping out the field of contemporary television studies.
Keywords: television studies, Critical Studies in Television.
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Some Thoughts on Television History and Historiography: a British Perspective
by Stephen Lacey

( pp 3-12)
Abstract: This essay takes as its starting-point the renewed interest in television history, especially the history of television drama, which has been in evidence in the last ten years, and celebrates the hybridity and inter-disciplinarity of television scholarship whilst exploring some of the challenges that writing television history poses. At a time of considerable technological change, when the means of production and distribution are being revolutionised along with the conditions of television viewing, and when television's past is now a central part of its present, it is argued that `good enough' accounts of history and historiography are urgent.
Keywords: television drama, history, historiography, audiences, popular drama.
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The Television Archive: Past, Present, Future
by Jason Jacobs

(pp 13-20)
Abstract: The opening up and digitisation of archives offers many potential benefits for television historians. Drawing on the author's experience as a scholar, this paper explores the advantages and possible costs of this change.
Keywords: television, history, archives.
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Production Studies
by Maire Messenger Davies

(pp 21-30)
Abstract: Production studies, particularly the study of the individual contributions of different creative and craft workers, has not been a central strand of television studies in the past. Through two case studies carried out by the author - one of preschool TV, the other of Star Trek, both drawing on interviews with production personnel - this paper examines issues raised by the study of production - including agency, authority and value. It also addresses questions of methodology in terms of access to, and interpretation of, production processes and argues for reflexivity in the pedagogy of production.
Keywords: production, agency, creativity, value, methodology.
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Programmes and Canons
by Jonathan Bignell

(pp 31-36)
Abstract: Studying television relies on constructing canons of programmes that represent historical processes and turning-points, and this article considers that issue in relation to British television drama. The role of the programme as object and example in television scholarship and pedagogy is discussed, and parallels are identified with the status of the programme in the organization of television production. The article suggests critical approaches to segmentation within programmes, to the schedules that discipline their meanings but also produce significances between programmes, and the re-signification of programmes across spatial territories. These approaches prompt a reconsideration of the methodological centrality of programmes and the canons built from them.
Keywords: television programmes, television drama, canon, historiography, methodology
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In 'The Demon Section of the Card Catalogue': Buffy Studies and Television Studies
by Rhonda V. Wilcox

(pp 37-48)
Abstract: This article addresses the denigration of television in general and Buffy the Vampire Slayer in particular, arguing that Buffy has significantly added to the appreciation of the medium as an aesthetic form. The article provides a brief history and bibliographic overview of analytical work on Buffy (and to a lesser extent other work by Joss Whedon and company), focusing mainly on academic books, articles, conferences, bibliographies, and the Slayage journal, but also including some discussion of other analyses of the series, such as essays by fiction writers.
Keywords: Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies, Joss Whedon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, television history, television aesthetics.
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The Audience is Dead: Long Live the Audience! Interactivity, 'Telephilia' and the Contemporary Television Audience
by Deborah Jermyn and Su Holmes

(pp 49-57)
Abstract: A range of cultural, technological and conceptual shifts have made the idea of a `mass' audience for television increasingly fragile and problematic. This article looks at some of the reasons for, and repercussions of this shift, while reflecting on where the `TV audience' and the conceptualisation of it may go next. We focus on two key aspects of this context: the advent of the multi-platform interactive text (`event' Reality TV), to changing popular conceptions of the TV audience and their practices (the rise of personal DVD collections and the possibility of positing a `telephile''.
Keywords: audience, interactivity, `telephilia'.
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'Quality Television': 'The Sopranos is the best television drama ever… in my humble opinion …'
by Robin Nelson

(pp 58-71)
Abstract: This article re-visits the problematic of evaluation in the academy with particular reference to fictions for the small screen. It traces value positions informing approaches in everyday life and particularly in British television institutions at a moment when "American Quality TV" is much-vaunted. It reflects upon tensions between a perceived need for academic critical distance and the personal investment that scholars as fans might have in cultural products. It questions the tendency amongst intellectuals to dismiss television and re-affirms the possibility, even in relativist times, for shared values to be posited, outlining a role for scholars in this process.
Keywords: quality, value, culture, institution, judgement.
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Television Aesthetics
by Sarah Cardwell

(pp 72-80)
Abstract: Television aesthetics is a relatively new area within television studies, but it is now well-established and gaining ground in the field. This article argues for the strength and distinctiveness of the approach, sketches some of its particular characteristics, and examines shared points of methodology and philosophy amongst its key figures. Television aesthetics addresses some of the gaps and weaknesses within television studies. It offers a coherent basis, in particular, for criticism that rests upon close textual analysis, interpretation and evaluation. It proposes a kind of theorising that is inspired by television programmes themselves and that is closer therefore to a philosophy of criticism. Television aesthetics encourages a synthesis of feeling and analysis, allowing scholars to rediscover and express their pleasure in and engagement with television, whilst sustaining a rigorous and critical attitude to its object.
Keywords: television, aesthetics, evaluation, criticism, philosophy.
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The Joy of Text? Television and Textual Analysis
by Glen Creeber

(pp 81-88)
Abstract: This short article examines the strengths and weaknesses of textual analysis as a form of interpreting television. It begins with an examination of its historical place in television studies and its more recent rejection by certain methodologies and practices in the field, particularly audience and reception studies. However, it will also investigate its more recent resurgence and the lessons it has learnt from adopting a `post-structuralist' informed approach to the television text. In particular, it suggests that textual analysis should now be viewed as a `dialogic' process through which various `reading positions' can be viewed rather than universalised. In conclusion, it argues that the inter-disciplinary nature of television studies should remain and be encouraged in future research.
Keywords: textual analysis, post-structuralism, heteroglossia, inter-disciplinary, semiotics.
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A Fiction (Un)Like Any Other'?
by John Corner

(pp 89-96)
Abstract: This article, taking its cue from a comment by the distinguished film critic Bill Nichols, looks at the ways in which developments in film and television documentary can be seen to be grounded in changing ideas regarding the intensity of onscreen action, the organisation of narrative structure and questions of `characterisation'. To what extent, then, is it possible to see documentary as `fiction-like' in its offerings and to what extent are there important differences between documentary practice and forms of fictional media expression?
Keywords: documentary, drama, reality television, fiction.
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Climate Change: Television Books, The Series
by David Lavery

(pp 97-103)
Abstract: Over the last decade television studies has witnessed the development of books, often collections of essays, on significant television series. As the editor of several such books, I offer in this essay a personal history of their development, explore its role in a changing critical climate, and argue for the importance of critical pluralism in the study of television.
Keywords: television series, critical climate, pluralism, television books, Wayne Booth.
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Why Newspapers Should Stop Publishing TV Reviews
by Mark Lawson

(pp 104-107)
Abstract: This article personally reflects on current journalistic practices for reviewing television. Often denigrated, television is seen as a lesser object than film or theatre; and the author reflects on the reasons why.
Keywords: television criticism, journalistic practices.
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Feminist Television Criticism: Notes and Queries
by Janet McCabe and Kim Akass

(pp 108-120)
Abstract: This paper concentrates on the feminist inquiry into television. In particular it traces the wide-ranging and complicated knowledges produced by feminism since the 1970s, reliant upon diverse aims, separate objectives and different intellectual concerns. Charting feminist research, while situating debates in their socio-cultural context, it starts with discussions of representational politics before detailing the debate on female viewers and viewing pleasures relating in particular to soap operas and comedy. The second part deals with post-feminism, and how post-feminist debate has shifted the agenda and wrestles with contradiction and ambiguity in terms of representation, gendered subjectivity and sexual politics.
Keywords: feminist television criticism, post-feminism, third-wave feminism, representational politics, genre.
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From Crossroads to Wife Swap: Learning from Audiences
by Dorothy Hobson

(pp 121-128)
Abstract: This article reflects on my research and publications from early interest in women as audience at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, through the publication of Crossroads: The Drama of a Soap Opera (Methuen 1982), including other publications up to my recent book Soap Opera (Polity 2003). The paper also covers the period during the 1980s and 1990s when I worked as a broadcasting consultant and addresses some of the issues involved in this work. The academic development cites various audience studies: women, young unemployed men, young male offenders, black youths, and young schoolgirls. It highlights the findings of this research which has resulted in the evolution of my theory of individual readings of televisual forms. Finally the article cites Carey (2005) who concurs with my findings in 1982 of the supremacy of the audience in defining the popular as art.
Keywords: active audiences, soap opera, reality television, Channel 4, broadcasters.
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Women's Fiction Still? The Study of Soap Opera in Television Studies
by Christine Geraghty

(pp 129-134)
Abstract: This article looks back briefly at the development of work on soap opera and suggests that the argument that soap opera is a women's genre needs to be used with an understanding of what the concept meant in to feminist politics. Reviewing more recent work on international examples, the article suggests that while certain soaps have widened their address to other audience there is still much to be gained from seeing soaps as women's fiction.
Keywords: narrative, feminist theory, soap opera, television fiction, women.
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Book Reviews

(pp 135-149)
Glen Creeber, Serial Television: Big Drama on the Small Screen, reviewed by Robin Nelson
Jason Mittell, Genre and Television: From Cop Shows to Cartoons in American Culture, reviewed by Glen Creeber
Jason Jacobs, Body Trauma TV: the New Hospital Dramas, reviewed by Adrian Page
Jonathan Bignell and Stephen Lacey, eds, Popular Television Drama: Critical Perspectives, reviewed by Marcus Free
Louise Spence, Watching Daytime Soap Operas: The Power of Pleasure, reviewed by Dorothy Hobson
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