Course Introduction: Television, according to one of its foremost scholars (Jason Mittell),
has long been “the primary medium that defines American culture,” (2008) both in the United States,
and arguablyabroad as well, since many American TV shows are exported, and thus help define
much of the nation’s image for hundreds of millions of non-Americans too.
Though this course will not neglect U.S. television as a business (actually a $100 billion
+ industry), and a rapidly-changing one at that (some analysts argue that on-demand/on-line streaming
has already changed the nature of the medium forever), the main focus will be on the last half century +
of U.S.television programming itself, and how television shows both responded to and also helped shape American “identities,”
particularly in the areas of family, race, class, gender and sexual orientation.
Given the complexity and volume of the subject matter, our major areas of analysis will be “limited” to the predominant
Situation Comedy (sitcom, including animated shows) and Drama genres, with shorter forays into children’s programming,
soap operas, variety shows, advertising and even sports and news programming where relevant and useful, seeking to address such questions as:
How did early Network Era – sitcoms like I Love Lucy (1951-1957), Leave it to Beaver (1957-1963) and The Flintstones (1960-1966) help
reflect and define gender and family in the post-WWII boom years, and how did those images change in light of the epochal social shifts of the 1960s and 70s
in shows like The Brady Bunch (1969-1974) and the Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977). And how did both network and cable TV shows “negotiate”
fundamental changes in race and class relations in the United States in the post-Civil Rights Era, particularly in landmark programs like All in the Family (1971-1979)
and The Cosby Show (1984-1992)? And how has the “new convergence” era (network, satellite, cable,
digital-streaming/on-demand TV) redefined the way America(ns) “sees” itself, in shows such The Wire (2002-2008), Mad Men (2007-2015),
The Good Wife (2009-2016), The Handmaid's Tale (2016 - present) or The Simpsons (1989-present).
Course Goals: This class should be particularly useful for all IKÜ students who want to augment their cultural understanding of U.S.
television programming in preparation for dubbing and sub-titling work (or for BA theses), but it is also a good vehicle to practice your general media
knowledge and text-production skills.