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How To Watch Television by Ethan Thompson
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How To Watch Television

by Ethan Thompson

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With no irony intended, How To Watch Television is structured just like a television series. Every essay starts with a third person abstract. The author then follows a framework of describing what will s/he will describe, and there are notes and further reading lists after the conclusion. They use conventions like citing the network year-span of any tv show they mention. The essays are all compact – maximum ten pages - so you know you won’t get too deeply involved. This makes them easy to get into, easy to get out of and easy to follow – just like tv.
With essays on forty shows, the book does not build (it is “non-episodic”), so you can skip around, safe in the formal structure. You can even ignore shows you never heard of, because the references might mean very little, and dig into the shows you hate, or glory in the shows you love, because the authors look at details, trends and references that most likely never occurred to you while you were watching. They impute race and sex and culture themes where story is paramount, find significance where none was intended, and higher purpose when all the network wanted was entertainment.
Not all the essays critique episodes. Some look at the impact, some the production process, some the context. They all exhibit a passion, not to say neurosis, for the specific show under the microscope.
From I Love Lucy to Star Trek to Modern Family, and touching on “news” (Fox & Friends) it’s clearly a labor of love as each author gets to extol the virtues of whatever show s/he is passionate about. I particularly enjoyed the analysis of MTV’s Jersey Shore. And many thanks for the examination of Prisoner, which shows clearly once and for all why American remakes of British and French cult classics are totally and irrevocably doomed to fail if not completely alienate. The original Prisoner remains way ahead of its time (now) despite, not because of the updated, unfaithful remake.
For anyone writing a paper on a favorite show, How To Watch TV is a most excellent starting point. ( )
  DavidWineberg | Jul 19, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0814763987, Paperback)

We all have opinions about the television shows we watch, but television criticism is about much more than simply evaluating the merits of a particular show and deeming it ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Rather, criticism uses the close examination of a television program to explore that program’s cultural significance, creative strategies, and its place in a broader social context.
           
How to Watch Television brings together forty original essays from today’s leading scholars on television culture, writing about the programs they care (and think) the most about. Each essay focuses on a particular television show, demonstrating one way to read the program and, through it, our media culture. The essays model how to practice media criticism in accessible language, providing critical insights through analysis—suggesting a way of looking at TV that students and interested viewers might emulate. The contributors discuss a wide range of television programs past and present, covering many formats and genres, spanning fiction and non-fiction, broadcast and cable, providing a broad representation of the programs that are likely to be covered in a media studies course. While the book primarily focuses on American television, important programs with international origins and transnational circulation are also covered.

Addressing television series from the medium’s earliest days to contemporary online transformations of television, How to Watch Television is designed to engender classroom discussion among
television critics of all backgrounds.

Ethan Thompson is Associate Professor at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. He is the author of Parody and Taste in Postwar American Television Culture, and co-editor of Satire TV: Politics and Comedy in the Post-Network Era.

Jason Mittell is Associate Professor of Film & Media Culture and American Studies at Middlebury College. He is the author of Genre and Television: From Cop Shows to Cartoons in American Culture, Television and American Culture, and Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling (New York University Press, forthcoming).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:08 -0400)

"We all have opinions about the television shows we watch, but television criticism is about much more than simply evaluating the merits of a particular show and deeming it 'good' or 'bad.' Rather, criticism uses the close examination of a television program to explore that program's cultural significance, creative strategies, and its place in a broader social context. How to Watch Television brings together forty original essays from today's leading scholars on television culture, writing about the programs they care (and think) the most about. Each essay focuses on a particular television show, demonstrating one way to read the program and, through it, our media culture. The essays model how to practice media criticism in accessible language, providing critical insights through analysis--suggesting a way of looking at TV that students and interested viewers might emulate. The contributors discuss a wide range of television programs past and present, covering many formats and genres, spanning fiction and non-fiction, broadcast and cable, providing a broad representation of the programs that are likely to be covered in a media studies course. While the book primarily focuses on American television, important programs with international origins and transnational circulation are also covered. Addressing television series from the medium's earliest days to contemporary online transformations of television, How to Watch Television is designed to engender classroom discussion among television critics of all backgrounds." --Publisher information.… (more)

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