Comments on other people’s posts

Comment 1 –  Alex England’s (http://alexenglandtvcultures.wordpress.com/) blog post titled “Whose cuisine will reign supreme? Iron Chef”:

I really enjoyed reading this post about Iron Chef. Having an introduction that summarises the show’s description and intention is something that I find very useful as it reminded me of what a great cooking show it was including how a show that originated in 1993 was able to remain popular throughout the world for a many years. The reasons behind Iron Chef’s global success were also well identified including the show’s English dubbing, presentation of curious dishes and the fact that it was enjoyable by any audience without a strong understanding of Japanese yet being a foreign show at the same time as mentioned has potentially influenced the creation of its International editions such as Iron Chef USA or UK. Perhaps even Master Chef Australia was inspired by such cooking shows.

(http://alexenglandtvcultures.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/whose-cuisine-will-reign-supreme-iron-chef/comment-page-1/#comment-24)

 

 

Comment 2 – Genevieve Day’s (http://tvculturesgd.wordpress.com/) blog post title “Mad Men and Fat Peggy”:

“The Wheel” episode of Mad Men is a perfect example of the complexity involved in the storyline. Concentrating on Peggy, this episode highlights significant character milestones, which I believe, are successfully recognised in this blog entry. As mentioned in the post majority of scenes containing Peggy were “office” scenes compared to “household” scenes with Betty Draper implying Peggy’s home is at work. The feminist movement and gender role representation on Mad Men were also acknowledged by Peggy’s confident and emotional lacking tone of voice compared to the use of femininity by her colleague Joan, Peggy’s copywriter promotion and finally Peggy’s weight gain being interpreted as her way of “desexualizing” and accepting masculine attributes (to which later we find out that her weight gain was due to a surprise pregnancy) – are the specific topics of this post that I appreciated the most.

(http://tvculturesgd.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/mad-men-and-fat-peggy/comment-page-1/#comment-16)

 

 

Comment 3 – Keiran Jones’s (http://latenighttvblog.wordpress.com) blog post titled “After work brain training”:

Entertaining and relatable blog right from the title! The number of these “complex” television shows available for us to watch are in plenty however like you said they do require a lot of cognitive implementations and exceptional background knowledge from previous episodes in order to understand what’s going on in the show. Particularly appreciating complex episodes that can be enjoyed without relying on other episodes for understanding as discussed in this post. Coming home from a busy day, watching an episode of such a complex narrative may be counterproductive at being able to help relax the mind but rather as the title says would provide brain training unless this is what the viewer desires. This is one of the reasons why I have the TV show “The Sopranos” untouched on my iPad and watch episodes of “The Simpsons” instead till I have time and motivation to dedicate into watching “The Sopranos” or other such complex narratives.

(http://latenighttvblog.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/after-work-brain-training/comment-page-1/#comment-11)

 

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Showcase Post #2: Defining Live Television

Live television can be defined as the broadcast of real events as it happens in the present time. Usually, live television includes news broadcasting, breakfast television shows and special events including sports. This post discusses the history of live television, challenges faced by the production of live television and its benefits to the viewers. It also expands to determining the true live nature of live television and the editing processes that it goes through.

An insight into the history of live television can enable the further development of its definition. In the thesis written by (Wright, 2007), he refers to the life of an American television director named Don Medford and his career in television including his transition from live television in New York at NBC during the 1940’s to the involvement of Hollywood dramas at Fox and Universal Studios in the late 1980’s – early 1990’s in order to present a historical description on the evolution of live television. (Strucken, 1990) as cited in (Wright, 2007) provides an older New York Times assessment of the live television format explaining its aspect of reaching a vast amount of viewers through various mechanisms, while ensuring that the content is presented immediately without any interruptions or inconsistencies. Live television is considered comparable to theatre like performance with truthful value features being accessible from the living room.

(Wright, 2007) highlights the long progression of live television by stating incidents where live television production has broadcasted mistakes in the past. During Medford’s career in live television production, he has encountered numerous mistakes. Once during the production, the actors misinterpreted the live storyline. Medford attempted to overcome this by cutting into commercials. This was still not the solution as the commercial was also performed in real time, which caused the announcer to perform his dedicated role of presenting the commercial’s background narrative speech. The unexpected task flow resulted in the audio engineer failing to switch on the microphone, which meant that the audience was not able to hear the narration associated with the commercial. To add to this problem, the audio engineer forgot to turn off the actors’ microphones hence what the audience heard were the inappropriate language that was spoken by a confused actor criticising his career’s destiny. The show did continue however, only after Medford was able to solve all those issues. This scenario indicates how easy it is for mistakes to be made and how quickly they can escalate. With the live broadcasting, there is nothing that prevents these mistakes from immediately reaching a large number of viewers. Additionally, the presence of such awkward mistakes through the history of live television should allow present day live television to have the opportunity to put more effort into preventing historical mistakes from repeating themselves. Yet once again, the live nature of this format of broadcasting means the likeliness of on air mistakes from happening are significantly high.

(Wright, 2007) demonstrates the way in which television is produced in order to identify the differences between live television and film production. He states that the filming of live television has to be done by multiple cameras capturing videos from multiple scenes by switching simultaneously between each other while being undergone through editing in real time for live broadcasting. This process was considered unproductive for recorded film production; single camera shooting and post-production editing was deemed appropriate. The production and editing process of live television is discussed further on this post.

(Bolin, 2009) analysed the concept of liveness that is involved with live television in his thesis. He identifies that the definition of “liveness” of a television program does not always mean that the show is broadcasted in real time. He believes that even though many shows are broadcasted live, there also exist some shows, which are on recorded media but presented though they are live television programs hence referred to as “live-on-tape” programs. To present an impression of liveness, these programs contain events, which occur in real time including their duration. Events lack time leaps to ensure that they are synchronised with the linear clock time and unfold in real time even though the events are shot from multiple camera angles including the presentation of illustrations which are made to occur as it they were happening in present time. These give the viewer the impression of a live program according to (Bolin, 2009).

The broadcasting of live events often contains pre-recorded footage, which can trick the viewer into believing that what they are being presented with is real time footage. (Bolin, 2009) provides an instance where such a situation can occur by referring to a new broadcast program. Such a show can be presented live but also contain pre-recorded footage such as particular interviews, special events or even sports/games that has already been taken place. This means that the program’s actual live aspects were only its bare bone presentation and narration. The rest of the content was pre-recorded. (Bolin, 2009) also presents another example of the falsely simulated live nature that revolves around live television. He states that the game show format of programs contain components such as gift or price awards to the show’s guests are presentations which usually get pre-recorded even if the actual game show itself was broadcasted live. (Bolin, 2009) also states that during the Sydney Olympic Games, due to the time difference between Australia and the United States, the broadcasting of the game was recorded and presented to US viewers during an appropriate US time. This presentation gave US viewers the impression that the events were telecasted in the morning from their time while being filmed at real time in Australia thus given a false impression of liveness. These discussed examples prove that true live television is often rare and the combination of live and pre-recorded content presented is the most common form of this so called “live” television.

Furthermore, (Lawson, 2003) on his article suggests that the messages conveyed via true live television provide a natural experience when comparing to recorded content – which he refers to as dull and tasteless. (Lawson, 2003) believes that live television is mostly effective when it delivers political content, which can be identified as the actual unbiased message transmitted. However, recorded political messages can be edited by a board of people making it loose its intended original message or show only a single dimension of the story. (Lawson, 2003) praises the ability of live television to present the “adrenalin” of the show’s participants yet at the same time acknowledges that it can have the potential to be dull and boring if it is not setup correctly – such as if a talk show guest drifts into a never ending monologue tangent which is far from the main point of discussion.

(Bolin, 2009) believes that the primary editing process used by the live television can be expanded into three forms. “Simultaneous Live Editing” which is a process that is least likely to be post edited when compared to live-on-tape formats. Simultaneous editing involves editing the content as it happens during the broadcast. There has to be proper planning practices that need to be put in place so that the editing process can effectively keep up with the show’s progress. The next editing technique involves the use of multiple cameras to shoot the event in a range of angles and capture different levels of movements, which are impossible to film with a single camera. Generally, the number of cameras placed increases with the size of the event that is being broadcasted. This is referred to as “Multi-Camera Settings.” The final editing technique (Bolin, 2009) mentions is known as “Multistage Settings.” This editing process uses a combination of several stages. A stage is dedicated for the host of the program including the guests of the show. Another stage is used to house the audience. The host’s stage faces the audience. This method is primarily used for talk shows. Depending on the characteristics of the show, additional stages can be added like a stage dedicated for performing if requested by the show.

 

Reference:

Bolin, G. 2009, Television Textuality: Textual Forms in Live Television Programming. Nordicom Review, vol. 30(1): 37-53.Accessed 7 October 2012, <http://www.nordicom.gu.se/common/publ_pdf/279_bolin.pdf&gt;

Lawson, M. 2003, Television: The merits of broadcasting live, as opposed to the safety of pre-recording, have long been weighed by programme- makers. But the Iraq war has made this a crucial issue, London (UK), United Kingdom, London (UK). Accessed 7 October 2012, <http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/docview/245937460/139A012324E6AB1E75/3?accountid=13552&gt;

Wright, J.D. 2007, Midnight Medford: A case study of dramatic television direction, from live to film, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Accessed 7 October 2012, <http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/docview/304809941/139A012324E6AB1E75/15?accountid=13552&gt;

 

Showcase Post #1: The power of webisodes.

The influence of webisodes can be extended by many aspects which can positively impact its corresponding parent television show. As discussed in this post, there is a strong demand for webisodes by viewers of particular shows. The level of pressure placed by the audience in terms of the desire for a specific webisodes varies depending on the show it relates to. The power of webisodes is not just restricted to the use of television shows, it is also been an area of interest for organisations who seek an effective medium for advertising campaigns. A side effect of webisodic widespread can be identified as a TV show spoiler however; this challenge can be mitigated with an appropriate structure being prepared during the process of constructing the webisodes.

The article titled “TV series branch out to ‘Webisodes’” by Rob Owen originates with a short description of what a webisode is. (Owen, 2006) states that a webisode consists of a short episode with a length of three minutes, being accessible online along with additional online material including character blogs and chat conversations with the cast members – all of which corresponds to a particular television show.

(Owen, 2006) expresses the level of importance placed on constructing webisodes by networks when he states that networks demand the availability of additional material online. Presently, the demand for webisodes is greater than the demand for full length episodes. (Owen, 2006) provides evidence where according to a poll held by Associated Press America, when networks made full length episodes available online, viewers only watched 1 out of 5 videos. He believes that the reason behind this is that currently, individuals are in an era where short user constructed media are popular through online video services such as YouTube hence the aspects of webisodes have the ability of being merged and complements with such online videos. At the same time, (Owen, 2006) believes that the future looks brighter for the availability of full length episodes online when gradually online media viewing and traditional television mix into a unified home entertainment mechanism. The continuing need for webisodes by viewers recognises the online media’s influence that is present today with the strong importance of the Internet.

The choice of television shows which the webisode is derived from can influence the amount of demand placed on the webisode by its viewers. (Owen, 2006) states that TV shows that are popular amongst younger individuals who have a technology friendly background may find online content including webisodes to be greatly appealing. He cites network Fox Entertainment’s Peter Liguori who provides examples of such programs like “American Idol”, “24” and “Prison Break” where the existence of extensive web content is an appropriate decision. Furthermore, he cites NBC Universal’s president of digital media and market development, Beth Comstock who claims that viewers are not interested in the origins of the webisode as long as it is capable of keeping them entertained. Thus requires online short videos to be interesting and presentable at the finest. The online media hosting service which maintained webisodes for the TV show “Battlestar Galactica” received 1.2 million streams within one week as compared to the streams received on the previous month which further indicates the rapid rising of the demand of webisodes. (Owen, 2006) claims that extending the television show “Lost” into various components online which was directly related to the storyline such as spin offs, games and also websites relating to organisations which exist in the story line has massively elevated the marketing aspects of the show which further signifies the importance of web based media such as webisodes.

The potential which revolves around the power of webisode based programming formats at gaining popularity amongst its audience resulting in greater benefits for its matching television show has further expanded in terms of its functionality. Various organisations are adopting webisode style media for product and service advertising purposes as explained by Graham Jefferson on his article titled “Webisodes return, now as advertising.”

The amplified level of viewer interactivity and participation with the web content promote further discussions between viewers and the message being presented to them thus raising awareness. (Jefferson, 2005) states that the increased Internet usage denotes the evolution of webisodes from evolving since TV show purposes to advertising uses including the marketing of products such as motor vehicles and services such as insurance. He provides an example of an advertising campaign done through the use of webisodes by the automaker Chrysler’s Jeep brand during the promotion of their 2006 Jeep Commander. The webisode based advertising campaign consisted of web-shows (including blog entries and interactive games) of a fictional yet live action adventures of a family who went of a vacation in the Jeep Commander. Even though Jeep’s vice president Jeff Bell cited by (Jefferson, 2005) stated that he is surprised by the overestimated benefits combined with disappointing results nature of online blog based advertising as it is difficult to determine the relationship between the online media and its ability to promote their products; The campaign provider Organic’s chief officer Colleen DeCourcy cited by (Jefferson, 2005) states that online webisode based advertising significantly involves increased consumer interaction and participation, further emphasising the power of webisodes in advertising purposes.

The role of advertising involved in webisode style media is complimented with the lower costs which are associated by it. Gary Lauer who is the CEO if an insurance company called eHealth Insurance as cited by (Jefferson, 2005) states that the webisode based advertising campaign was 500,000 US Dollars in cost which if the television medium was to be used, would not be sufficient enough to even buy a decent spot in the network. He admires the friendly yet effective attributes of webisodic advertising.

The association of webisodes to their specific television show should be properly ensured to prevent it from having a negative effect on the parent show. A downside aspect of the existence of webisodes is its potential to spoil the content of the show that it represents. This issue is often identified by fans of a particular TV show and it is discussed in detail by Adrian McCoy’s article titled “Webisodes won’t ‘spoil appetite’.” (McCoy, 2006) mainly emphasises on the webisodes of two TV shows “The Office” and “Battlestar Galactica.” He describes the aspects of “The Office” based webisode as being brief (around four minutes in duration) and self-contained however, can work together so that the web series can flow in a serial pace. This prevents it from crossing into the actual TV show and “spoiling” it. Similarly, (McCoy, 2006) mentions that the brief “suspenseful” and “eventful” nature of Battlestar Galactica’s webseries does not reveal a great deal of information in relation to the actual TV show thus is not considered to be a spoiler of the parent show. (McCoy, 2006) defines webisodes as an extra piece of media to prepare the viewer and get the viewer ready for the presentation of the actual TV show. The webisode being designed appropriately while taking self-contain aspects and seriality into consideration, it would ensure the webisode from being a spoiler and eliminate this issue hence reinforcing the power of webisodes.

Reference:

Jefferson, G. 2005, Webisodes return, now as advertising; Short animated films back from Internet bubble’s pop, McLean, Va., United States, McLean, Va. Accessed 5 October 2012, <http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/docview/408967263/139943768014151AD21/20?accountid=13552&gt;

McCoy, A. 2006, Webisodes won’t ‘spoil appetite’, Washington, United States, Washington. Accessed 6 October 2012, <http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/docview/459766964/1399A2ACD863B12901D/10?accountid=13552&gt;

Owen, R. 2006, TV series branch out to ‘webisodes’, Washington, United States, Washington. Accessed 6 October 2012, <http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/docview/459767930/1399A2ACD863B12901D/6?accountid=13552&gt;

Key defining features of reality TV as a television genre

Reality Television can be described as an unscripted and lightly edited style of television programming consisting of ordinary everyday non-actor individuals placed in actual live humorous, challenging and competitive situations.

Features associated with reality television is identified and explored further in this blog entry by gathering supportive ideas from two articles. In the article titled “Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture,” by Kang consists of a brief analysis of a reality television text by Susan Murray and Laurie Ouellette which also has the same title as Kang’s article. Kang’s article commences with him outlining the aspects of reality television that are significantly noticeable in the eyes of the viewer. He claims that several viewers of reality television consider it to display a documentary style formatting. Hirschorn further supports Kang’s claim in his article “The case for reality TV” where he suggests that reality television has taken its own form of identity by its nature of combining documentary with scripting style programming. It was able to filter the best elements of scripted television and documentaries while keeping out the issues associated with each form. The structural management of scripted television apart from the reproduced storylines and characters joint with the natural coverage aspect of documentaries while leaving out it’s exaggerated dismal features is what makes reality television so popular.

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Documentary style programming can be steered towards reality television by altering it’s formatting to incorporate elements of realness and aliveness. (Hirschorn, 2007) uses Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” as an example to additionally indicate reality television’s combination of documentary features. This program was about the lifestyle of real life fishermen in fishing vessels who go out to fish in the Bering Sea during the Alaskan fishing seasons. The show featured 8 seasons totaling to 117 episodes. The writer states that the formatting done on the show to include events such as “race-against-the-clock” or having “crab tallies” for each boat creates a sporting theme that is blended with the program to guide the documentary into a reality television show.

Another important feature reflected in reality television is the capability it has to provide a space designated for the participation of individuals who are not actors as outlined by (Kang, 2006). The lack of professional acting involved in reality television greatly reduces its production costs. (Hirschorn, 2007) outlines the lower budget costs involved in the production of reality television where the cost of producing a typical scripted television show would be twice as much as producing a reality television show. In a way he criticizes reality TV shows as being low quality and an inexpensive time filler used by television networks in an attempt to save money. For example the ABC network created a reality TV show such as “Extreme Make Over: Home Edition” (derived from Extreme Make Over original series consisting of personal make overs of certain individuals with the use of plastic surgery) in order to pay for the special effects like the ferry boat accident scene in the television show Grey’s Anatomy.

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(Kang, 2006) states that reality television’s non-scripted presentation of events makes it an unpredictable source of entertainment for the audience. This idea is extended by (Hirschorn, 2007) who believes that reality shows which place people in artificially simulated environments including competitions that end in eliminations are investigations where the instinctive behavior of individuals are displayed. He uses the reality TV show “The Apprentice” to demonstrate how the theory of natural selection (Darwinism) is dominant within a business environment when a group of job candidates fight for a dream job position offered by the wealthy American business magnate Donald Trump in an elimination style competition.

The sense of aliveness is not the only aspect presented in reality television. (Hirschorn, 2007) identified more serious issues addressed in reality television including American political debating. Shows such as ABC’s Super Nanny or Fox’s Nanny 911 presents issues regarding the proper parenting of children. Reality television includes highly emotional scenarios such ABC’s reality TV show Extreme Make Over (Personal Edition as well as the derived Weight loss Edition) that include extremely emotional stories of individuals who begin their transitional journeys from difficult challenging to more positive healthy lifestyles. (Hirschorn, 2007) states that reality television can demonstrate the real emotions that flow through real individuals when they find themselves in artificially constructed environments. Moreover, (Kang, 2006) supports the existence of serious issue addressing through reality television. He cites Ouellette’s example of the way in which reality TV shows can be designed to influence the behavior of viewers. By using shows such as “Judge Judy” where daily life drama is combined with legal issues in order to somewhat attempt to train the audience into being law abiding citizens of the state by using self discipline.

 

Reference:

Kyoung-Lae Kang 2006, “Reality Tv: Remaking Television Culture”, Journal of Popular Film & Television, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 94-95. Accessed 01 October 2012, <http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/pqrl/docview/199389802/139704A9DD129DB057A/1?accountid=13552&gt;

Hirschorn, M. 2007, The Case for Reality TV, Atlantic Media, Inc, Boston, United States, Boston. Accessed 01 October 2012, <http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/pqrl/docview/223086406/abstract/139704A9DD129DB057A/9?accountid=13552&gt;

Role of Peggy Olson in the representation of feminism on Mad Men

In the 1960s era, the struggle against existing social issues was in transition with the rising of social and political movements such as the African-American civil rights movement, Gay rights movement, Anti-war movement and the rising feminism movement. The representation of the presence of such social challenges can be seen in Mad Men. The show consisting of those activities that takes place in the advertising agency named Sterling Cooper located on Madison Avenue in New York during the 1960s represents the lifestyles of middle to upper class white Americans who displays significant views with regards to these issues. Importantly, the movement of the feminist power is exposed in Mad Men using the character Peggy Olson.

Peggy_1

The Sterling Cooper working environment comprised of important senior roles being strictly controlled and dominated by white American male personnel. These individuals strongly opposed to allowing these roles from being handed down to people who were considered “inferior” at that time including females. Peggy Olson, a humble, innocent yet strong-minded individual, commenced her career at the advertising agency as a secretary for the company’s creative director Don Draper. With the advertising campaign for the exercise machine “The Relaxerciser” that was targeted towards a female audience, Peggy Olson was assigned to test drive the device and write a review about it. This incident can be identified as somewhat a starting point for Peggy’s career transition from the secretary position to a superior copywriter position. The scenes, which contained Peggy Olson working with Ken Cosgrove on conducting an audition for selecting an appropriate female narrator to advertise the relaxerciser demonstrates the influence Peggy as a female has in having a voice in the male, based working environment. Her independent decision to choose Annie due to her displaying confidence at the audition instead of Rita even though Ken preferred Rita’s voice shows the decision making power assigned to Peggy. Peggy ultimately rejects Annie when she realised that Annie failed to display the amount of confidence in her voice that lead to Annie leaving the studio in tears. Peggy commands Ken to go after her and comfort her, which further emphasises her decision-making powers that was followed by her male co-worker.

Peggy_2

Don Draper being satisfied with Peggy’s ambitious attitude and valuing her feminist input into numerous advertising campaigns, becomes a supportive mentor in her process of becoming the first female copywriter of Sterling Cooper since the second world war. In season 1’s last Episode (13), After Don presents an inspiring presentation about Kodak’s slide projector, all the men meet and congratulate him; Followed by them discussing about Peter Campbell’s father-in-law’s campaign for “Clearasil” when Don decides to allocate Peggy to be the campaign’s copywriter. Peter Campbell angrily rejected that idea, as he believed that Peggy is lacking in experience to work on such a serious campaign. Nevertheless, Don ignores Peter’s remarks and continues assigning Peggy for that role which emphasises Don’s support towards guiding Peggy through her career. Peggy’s growth in the organisational role and responsibilities associated with it demonstrates the way in which the male dominant working atmosphere present in higher organisational roles is gradually on the path of being diminished hence the movement of the power of feminism in gaining equality in such environments looks forward to an faster increasing path as time goes on.

Identify the kind of show “Big Love” is by evaluating the nature of soap opera and narrative complexity

Distinguishing the importance of soap operas and narrative complexity including the identification of which particular genre the show “Big Love” falls under is what is discussed in this blog.

big-love

An interview style article titled “More thoughts on soap operas and television seriality” by Jason Mittell outlines the way in which he differentiates between soap opera and complex narratives while somewhat criticizing aspects that involve soap operas. Mittell mentions that from the past, the centre of serialized television has been instituted with the role of soap opera. Serialized television and soap operas share common grounds. He says that generally, soap operas have a sitcom based environment (which Big Love is strongly not) but at the same time attempts to establish a sense of seriality which is forced into prime time television. A number of network expectations have been altered with the success of soap operas. The ideas around soap operas such as the inability of audience to be committed enough to follow a weekly serial, viewer inconsistency when it comes to watching serials in prime time, and the method of releasing serials during day time which typically is viewed by an audience that is not male dominating.

He also indicates that cultural differences has resulted in the formation of values and prescribed norms between daytime and prime time dramas. He claims that soaps are looked down upon in terms of visual principles due to its factory style and fast production processes. The show Big Love distances further away from being recognized as a soap opera and moves in the direction of being identified as a complex narrative as it lacks the “open ended” drama nature which is a key aspect of a soap opera therefore also causing the whole factory style fast production aspects to be absent. Soap operas are also accused of being targeted towards a narrow audience segment consisting of older, lower-class, less educated females. He separates the level of truth in the previous statement with regards to the reality yet at the same time states that it is the view that is predominant with his students. A vast amount of fan support and involvement through the internet has been directed towards prime time series including the emotional attachment to characters in the series leading to its popularity which soap operas lack (And this is regardless of the negative assumptions that circulate around such a genre).

Mittell then moves on into answering about the differentiation between primetime and daytime serials. The capacity of narrativeness involved in a soap opera is much greater in comparison to a prime time complexity (which links to how the story is presented to the viewer) he claims. Furthermore, he briefly outlines extra distinctions between the two genres. Soaps would emphasise largely on the description of incidents that took place in the storyline where as primetime serials would actually present the events instead of discussing about it. The dialogue to a soap opera would regularly mention the names of the characters and the relationship level they have with each other compared to prime time narratives. The movement of the storytelling that is presented in a prime time serial are faster progressing than that of a soap opera. Soap operas lack strong and bold boundaries in the storyline, contains a slow paced commencing and conclusion of narrative while containing a broader level of emotion between character interactivity in comparison to a complex narrative. He mentions that slow moving and repetitive nature of soap operas allows viewers to multitask while watching the show as they are more likely to keep track of the story easily. Viewers also skip various proportions of episodes that they do not find interesting using PVR/DVR devices. This viewing behaviour is unlikely to happen with a show like Big Love as it is fast progressing when it comes to the events in the story line which further transitions the show to a narrative complexity destination.

Another article titled “Quality Television, Melodrama and Cultural Complexity” written by Michael Kackman is used in this discussion to identify the show variety to which Big Love belongs to. He begins his article by stating that HBO identifies itself as a channel for presenting quality television consisting of popular narrative complexes such as X-Files, Buffy the vampire slayer and Lost. He also identifies that over the past two decades, there has been a growth in the cultural capital and acceptance which has revolved around television and the study of it. The once negatively referred medium has transformed into a genuine form of cinema art.

Kackman refers to Mittell’s article where he defines complex narratives as shows that combine episodic and serial narrative styles which is further expanded with the use of plot and character back stories while being appealing experimentally resulting in viewers experiencing pleasure in the narrative’s mechanisms.

The indexical quality – the relationship between the media and reality that the narrative is assumed to have is a foundation that is expected to be reflected by quality television. The complex narratively found on quality television through representational complexity can generate cultural and political complexity. This is some extend is demonstrated with Big Love’s primary representation of polygamy where the viewers of the show are most likely to discuss the on the issues that took place in the show. Kackman has described the melodrama aspect of soap opera as a narrative form with a desire for culture hence it includes issues such as cultural tensions, insecurities and anxieties. Its parallel nature of displaying social issues which are unresolvable makes them perfect for serial narratives – to which Kackman believes is an essential component of quality television.

While considering the positions signified by soap operas and complex prime time narratives, the Show “Big Love” would most likely be classified as a complex narrative.

The evolution of complex narrative television and its relationship with technology

Complex narratives or television storytelling is a recent variety of television that is emerging since the early 90’s. This blog outlines the key points discussed in the article titled “Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television” by Jason Mittell. The application of narrative complexity distinct itself from the general episodic and serial structure that is commonly seen in typical American conventional television and the story telling aspect of it is also quite different from feature films. However, conventional television has not yet been taken over by narrative television.

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American premium cable television provider HBO has a strong reputation for providing complex narrative forms of TV shows such as “The Sopranos”, “Six Feet Under”, and “The Wire.” Mittell to some degree suggests that television storytelling is influenced by cinema yet at the same time believes that terms of television storytelling can develop within television itself as a medium. Audience have a multi-dimensional and richer experience with complex narratives however, this is greatly dependent on the actual TV show rather than the narrative category. Looking at shows in a narrative way, Mittell was able to follow a historical pattern into art of poetry which positions the formal development involving the narration’s production, circulation and reception. He stresses the importance of the relationship between historical frameworks and its maintenance of particular norms that is reflected in narrative complexes.

Mittell cites Steven Johnson who believes that the complexity of Television storytelling provide a “cognitive workout” for the viewer’s mind which is supposed to increase the observational and problem solving skills of the viewer. Mittell questions this quote as it lacks theoretical research evidence, nevertheless, Mittell believes that the complexity in the storytelling is what encourages the audience to place a stronger effort into engaging with it and experience the satisfaction that is rewarded by the narrative – an aspect that conventional television lacks.

Plans for complex narratives have been supported with changes that take place in the television industry. Mittell mentioned that traditionally, it was thought that viewers lacked a sense of a consistent weekly schedule to follow serialised narratives and similar episodes of conventional sitcoms and procedural dramas were forcefully presented to them. Yet today, there is a growth in the number of television channels and the capacity of viewers for a particular show is decreased in size. This means that presently, a wide number of TV networks present a wide range of TV narratives for a smaller proportion of highly dedicated and committed audience. The fans of these complex narratives may avoid mainstream television and firmly focus on watching those respective programs by subscribing to premium cable channels thus making such services establish a stronger brand image for representing complex narratives.

With technologies that grown exponentially, the approach to television viewing has transitioned further away from a traditional medium, which was strictly, network controlled. This allows a wider choice in programming shows and a loosely defined scheduling with multiple methods to access content. The availability of popular complex narratives on storage mediums such as DVDs can promote fan fever for collecting such TV shows for the re-watching abilities. DVDs being produced in appealing portable packaging and an exceptional video quality promotes this new form of television viewing. Fans of particular TV shows would buy and collect seasons of TV shows every time it is released or even the whole DVD box sets of the whole completed show. This mode of viewing is taken to the next level with the arrival of high definition Blue Ray disc technology.

pvr_dvr

The use of Personal Video Recorders (PVR) or Digital Video Recorders (DVR) such as Foxtel iQ or TiVo has enabled viewers to record and choose the most appropriate time to fit their lifestyles in order to watch the complex narratives that they desire. Moreover, it also allowed viewers to re-watch episodes that they have missed or rerun complex segments of the episodes that they did not understand. This further contributes to building up the complexity of the narratives.

webisodes

The Internet is an out of the television medium revolution that has significantly impacted complex narratives. The ubiquity (the state of being present anywhere) aspect of the Internet allowed fans to appreciate cooperative and shared intelligence on information, interpretation, understanding and discussion of complex narratives. The traditional one-way communication flow has been diminished with the Internet’s feature of providing interactive communication options between the audience and the creators of the narrative complex. Web Applications has further extended the viewer’s interactions with television storytelling. Some of these narrative creators have also included additional arrays of media resources that can directly and indirectly relate to the featured narrative. These can be referred to as webisodes. TV shows such as “The Walking Dead”, “Dexter”, “Heroes” and “Offspring” are associated with series of webisodes that dedicated fans can access online for further involvement with the narrative. However, it is somewhat unsuitable to simply generalise the primary reason behind the success of complex narratives was due to the movement in programming formats because the great appreciation of the shows by the audience can also be the result as to why complex narratives continue with its popularity. The active involvement of audience in complex narratives with the level of interaction caused by modern technology such as the Internet, DVDs, Blue Ray Discs and PVR/DVR develops further audience passion towards the narratives compared to conventional television programs.