Thursday, March 31, 2011

McCabe and Akass - Quality TV

McCabe, Janet, and Kim Akass. Quality TV: Contemporary American Television and Beyond. London: I.B. Tauris, 2007.

This book of essays features critics and academics agonizing over how to describe the changing characteristics of television (mainly American TV: this was created out of a conference at Trinity College, Dublin in April 2004 called "American Quality TV") without falling into the trap of making inherent value judgments. Ultimately, such a task requires a book of essays by not only professors but media and industry members, as well as interviews with David Chase and composer W. 'Snuffy' Walden (thirtysomething, among others scored).

The authors use the phrase TVIII to describe the TiVo, 21st century version of television, while TVII seems to refer to the cable version. TVIII is what Lotz might call Post-Network television. The note on page 266 confirms this: Behrins (1986) coined TVI and TVII as shorthand for network (1948-75) and post-network (1975-95). TVIII is the post-1995 version, as dubbed by Rogers, Epstein and Reeves (2002)

Robert Thompson, oft quoted throughout for his 1996 book Television's Second Golden Age, introduces the book by repeating his simple phrase "not regular" and though many characteristics are identified throughout, that remains as complete a definition for quality television that the authors can muster.

HBO looms heavily over the collection for the distance it has pushed the envelope of Quality TV first established on networks. McCabe and Akass argue that part of the pleasure of HBO comes from the power of watching a program that viewers know is naughty, even as TV watchdog groups derive pleasure from the act of critiquing HBO for its naughtiness. HBO finds it must explain the naughtiness of its shows based on artistic rationale.

Another more intriguing essay by Feuer refutes the suggestion that HBO's programming like Six Feet Under is remarkable because it has no predecesors in culture. She argues that HBO's programming is rooted in art cinema, and has developed out of quality TV. Further, she argues HBO's programming is no more original than reality TV, exploding at the same moment. The reason why it gets more artistic credit is its relationship to art cinema.

The final essay is about Lost, and also acknowledges that show's dept to film. It anticipates network dramas following in Lost's footsteps. However, we now know that Lost and 24 were anomalies in the latter half of the decade. They were never matched on the network. Instead, the quality TV revolution lives on in 30-minute comedies, not hour-long dramas.

No comments:

Post a Comment