Choose one of the following topics (you may use or adapt one of the following questions and modify. Lectures and readings should clarify the significance of all the following):
1. Despite the abundance of available images across various media, due to its scale and cultural reach television continues to be seen as a powerful source of representations. Research the representation of any identifiable minoritized group (e.g. racialized, disabled, transgendered) in one or more shows and discuss the significance of the representations.
2. Television has become increasingly reliant on the Internet and social media for its economic survival. Research the fan activity associated with the show or genre of your choice. Analyze how a particular production company cultivate fan culture for its television show(s) using various platforms, forums, and social networks. Explore whether and how this activity helps to raise the show’s profile and therefore its profitability. Do you find it exploitative for the fans?
3. Using Lyle, and Winslow as models, do a close analysis of a reality-based program (other than Wife Swap or Extreme Makover Home Edition) to show how these shows, while they seem to reflect reality, actually represent particular values and ideologies (about crime, family, gender relations, class, etc.). How do such shows represent social contradictions (about family, marriage, interpersonal or social relations)?
4. Over the last few decades, there has been an ongoing, televised critique of mainstream news discourse and sustained satire leveled at politics, media and social elites. Shows like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart/Trevor Noah and the Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert take on Donald Trump and news in general. They also work to undermine authority and challenge politicians, pundits and policies. Why are Daily Show viewers more informed in poll after poll? What do these shows reveal about what is lacking in mainstream news? Geoffrey Baym offers an excellent introduction to the critical and democratic functions of the Daily Show. Zoe Druick extends this argument to the Canadian shows like This Hour has 22 Minutes and CODCO. Using Baym and Druick as starting points and conducting outside research offer an analysis and critique of a fake news show.
Some goals might be:
To recognize the value in humor, parody and satire;
to place these shows within the broader spectrum of politics and the public sphere;
to demonstrate how these shows function in relation to “legitimate” or “mainstream” news and political reportage.
Some questions you might ask:
Are these shows simply humorous “fake news” or can they offer serious political communication?
How do such shows interrogate power?
How do these shows interrogate or critique legitimate news with parody?
How do interviews function as deliberative democracy?
How does parody and satire operate together?
Druick suggests that Canadian shows offer only parody and a weaker, anti-everything take the news media. Can you find examples of hard-hitting satire on Canadian shows?
Baym covers The Daily Show well and Druick covers CODCO. Your paper would be more relevant and impressive if you could work on other examples like the Colbert Report and John Oliver’s new show Last Week Tonight or This Hour has 22 Minutes or The Rick Mercer Report.
5. Analyze one particular show (of any genre) – not a series but a couple of episodes. You will need to do some research regarding the show (through the websites, academic journal publications or books) in order to provide a context. The various sites on the internet will provide information about the plot, audience and characters. In your analysis, use some of the methodologies you have encountered in your course readings. Pay attention to:
How the show is structured in terms of the way in which the plot is constructed and how it unfolds temporally as the episode progresses and concludes. Is there a coherent pattern?
The different ways in which the characters interact with one another and how they contrast or complement each other.
The intended meaning/message of the show is encoded –what are the signifying moments and symbols used to communicate meaning.
The appeal of the show – how does it grab your attention and what desires does it speak to?
How does the visuality of the show interact with, complement and/or amplify the dialogue?
What about background music? Is there any? Does it shift over time?
Is there any product placement? Are there ads that are interspersed? What kind of ads and to what demographic is the show targeted?
At what time does the show regularly air on broadcast TV, or if it is available online, find out when it aired and the particular time slot it would have been aired? Pay attention to the ads accompanying the online version as these often provide an indicator as to the audience demographic, as well as the times during which such a show might be aired.
Is there a fan base? Check the net to see if there is an active blog or site that focuses on this program and outline some of the key issues that are being raised. Is there any indication that the producers are responsive to the fans’ demands?
In what ways does the show speak to contemporary political issues? Are these issues coded in specific ways?
What other observations can you make about the ideological messages embedded in this show? Your analysis should be presented in the form of a written essay, not in bullet point.
Read: O’Donnell’s Guidelines for Television Criticism (On Canvas) to make your analysis more detailed, organized, and rigorous. Answer as many questions as possible in your analysis.
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