TCF 311
Critical Studies in Television

Fall 2000
Instructor: Jeremy Butler
Office: 430C Phifer Hall, 348-6350
Office hours: TT 3:15-4:45, & appt.
3 credit hours

Grades Online:

Course Objectives:

The objective of this course is to introduce the student to television critical studies, or what is commonly called, within academics, "television criticism" (a parallel with literary criticism).

We will seek, first of all, to understand television as a unique meaning-producing medium--dissecting television's narrative and non-narrative structures and its uses of mise-en-scene, cinematography/videography, editing, and sound. Second, we will confront the critical methods that have been applied to the medium over the past 20 years: semiotics, genre study, ideological criticism, cultural studies, and so on.

Our goal is to become more intelligent, alert, critical viewers of television.

Course Requirements:

The student's grade will depend upon two separate components:

  1. Three critical analyses of TV programs, based on the principles presented in Television: Critical Methods and Applications. Worth 25 points each.

    Each student will choose his/her programs, but Analysis One must be on a fictional drama (soap opera, police show, etc.), Analysis Two must be on a nonfiction aspect of TV (sports program, commercial, news program, etc.), and Analysis Three must be on a fictional comedy show (a sitcom, probably).

    Analysis One will be discussed in class. Each student must bring a videocassette of the TV program he/she analyzed to class.

    These analyses must be wordprocessed and will be graded based on conceptual rigor and fluency of writing style. Any use of outside sources must be properly cited (that is, use footnotes). A bibliography and the credits (principal cast and crew) for the programs analyzed must be provided. (One online source for TV credits is the Internet Movie Database: . See links below to credits for programs used in class.)

    Search IMDb for:
    TV Program
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  2. An open book, open note final exam--worth 25 points. It will cover Channels of Discourse, plus chapters 9, 10, and 11 in Television. The final exam period is Friday, December 15, 8:00-10:30 a.m. (No early exams will be given.)

    Please note: This is a seminar class which depends heavily upon students having done the readings and being prepared to discuss them in class. If the majority of the class fails to do a reading assignment then an in-class essay may be assigned and factored into the grading as part of the final exam score.

Posting of Grades:

If you give us written permission, your grades will be posted on the TCF Department's Website by the last four digits of your student ID number.

Current grades are available here.

Attendance Policy:

Each absence beyond four for the semester will result in one point being deducted from your final total. (Up to five points may be deducted.)

Course Schedule
Subject to changes announced in class.
= illustrations available online

Date Topic/Screening Readings
8/24 Introduction to the Course
The Andy Griffith Show (1960-68)
8/29, 31 TV Structure, Narrative Structure Butler, chs. 1, 2
9/5 Characters, Actors, Stars Butler, ch. 3
9/7 Beyond and Beside Narrative
Cops (1989-), Who Wants to be a Millionaire, CBS/NBC news
Butler, ch. 4
9/12 Mise-en-Scene
Northern Exposure (1990-95) Click for illustrations
Butler, ch. 5
9/14 Cinematography/Videography
He Said, She Said (1991), The Larry Sanders Show (1992-98) DVD illustrations Focal length illustrations
Butler, ch. 6
9/19 Editing: Single Camera ModeClick for illustrations
Northern Exposure (1990-95)
Butler, ch. 7
9/21 Editing: Multiple Camera Mode
Seinfeld (1990-98) , All My Children (1970-)
Butler, ch. 7
9/26 Sound
Movie Magic (1994-)
Butler, ch. 8

A History of TV Style
The Jack Benny Show (1950-65), Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1968-73)
Special Topics I: Music Television
The Buggles, Guns N Roses, Peter Gabriel

Butler, ch. 9, 10

Special Topics II: Animation
Steamboat Willie (1928), Gerald McBoing-Boing (1951),
Pigs Is Pigs (1954), Crusader Rabbit (1949-51,'57-69),
The Flintstones (1960-66)
The Making of Toy Story (1995)

Butler, ch. 11
10/5 ** Analysis One Due in Class** Butler, ch. 13
10/10 Critical Methods: An Overview Butler, ch. 12;
Allen, Introduction
10/12, 17 Semiotics
The Wonder Years (1988-93)
Allen, ch. 1
10/19 Narrative Theory
Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (1997-)
Allen, ch. 2
10/24 Audience-Oriented Criticism Allen, ch. 3
10/26, 31 Genre Study
Roseanne (1988-97), Sports Night (1998-2000)
Allen, ch. 4
11/2, 7 Ideological Criticism
Designing Women (1986-93)
Allen, ch. 5
11/9 Psychoanalytic Criticism Allen, ch. 6
**Analysis Two Due: 4:45 p.m., TCF Office**  
11/14 Psychoanalytic Criticism, Cont.  

11/16, 21

Feminist Criticism
The Real World (1992-), Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991),
Justify My Love
On the Madonna controversy (Laurie Schulze)
(username/password: tcfuser)
Allen, ch. 7
11/23 Thanksgiving Holiday  
11/28, 30 Cultural Studies, Ethnography
My So-Called Life (1994)
Allen, ch. 8
12/5 Postmodernism
The Simpsons (1989-) Click for illustrations
Allen, ch. 9

Postmodernism, cont.; Course Summary
Twin Peaks (1990-91)

**Analysis Three Due: 4:45 p.m., TCF Office**  
**Final Exam: 8:00-10:30 a.m.**  

Reading List:

Available at Local Bookstores:

Channels of Discourse cover Television Cover
  1. Robert C. Allen, Channels of Discourse, Reassembled, second edition (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992).
  2. Jeremy G. Butler, Television: Critical Methods and Applications (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1994).

(Note: The above listings follow the guidelines for footnotes specified in Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. Citations in a bibliography use a slightly different format. You must use Turabian or another recognized style guide when creating citations in your papers. For Web or other online citations, use a guide such as The Columbia Guide to Online Style by Janice R. Walker and Todd Taylor [Columbia UP, 1998].)

Academic Misconduct Policy:

All acts of dishonesty in any work constitute academic misconduct. The Academic Misconduct Disciplinary Policy will be followed in the event of academic misconduct.

Disabilities Accommodation Policy:

To request disability accommodations, please contact Disabilities Services (348-4285). After initial arrangements are made with Disabilities Services, contact Jeremy Butler.

Last Revised: November 16, 2000 8:18