How To Watch Television

432 pages

62 halftones

September, 2013

ISBN: 9780814763988



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Ethan Thompson is Associate Professor at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi. He is the author of Parody and Taste in Postwar American Television Culture, and co-editor of Satire TV: Politics and Comedy in the Post-Network Era.

All books by Ethan Thompson

Jason Mittell is a Professor of Film & Media Culture and American Studies at Middlebury College. He is the author of Genre & Television: From Cop Shows to Cartoons in American Culture, Television & American Culture, and co-editor of How to Watch Television (NYU Press, 2013).

All books by Jason Mittell

Forty original contributions on what we should all be watching next. 

We all have opinions about the television shows we watch, but television criticism is about much more than simply evaluating the merits of a particular show and deeming it ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Rather, criticism uses the close examination of a television program to explore that program’s cultural significance, creative strategies, and its place in a broader social context.

How to Watch Television brings together forty original essays from today’s leading scholars on television culture, writing about the programs they care (and think) the most about. Each essay focuses on a particular television show, demonstrating one way to read the program and, through it, our media culture. The essays model how to practice media criticism in accessible language, providing critical insights through analysis—suggesting a way of looking at TV that students and interested viewers might emulate. The contributors discuss a wide range of television programs past and present, covering many formats and genres, spanning fiction and non-fiction, broadcast and cable, providing a broad representation of the programs that are likely to be covered in a media studies course. While the book primarily focuses on American television, important programs with international origins and transnational circulation are also covered.

Addressing television series from the medium’s earliest days to contemporary online transformations of television, How to Watch Television is designed to engender classroom discussion among television critics of all backgrounds.
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  • "What happens when you give 40 smart television scholars ten pages each to write about a television show that interests them? You get a delightful book that is sure to become a favorite of television scholars and students alike. Thompson and Mittell have brought together authors who provide thoughtful criticism in an engaging style and cover just about every genre, historical period, and lens of analysis. Each essay's combination of brevity and detailed analysis makes the book likely to work well as both a course reader for undergraduates in television studies and a reference resource for those wanting to dive into research on individual shows. Though every essay adds something valuable to the collection, essays on Mad Men, Glee, M*A*S*H, I Love Lucy, Modern Family, NYPD Blue, The Twilight Zone, and The Walking Dead are worth the price of this fun, informative, and useful book, even for seasoned television scholars. Summing Up: Highly recommended."

    —S. Pepper, Choice

  • “There’s not a single dull page in this book.”

    —Jose Solis, Popmatters

  • "[I]t is a damn good collection, featuring 40 different contributions from American scholars, plus Matt Hills from Aberystwyth and Roberta Pearson from Nottingham. Their contributions are organised under five main themes: Aesthetics and Style; TV Representations: Social Identity and Cultural Politics; TV Politics: Democracy, Nation, and the Public Interest; TV Industry: Industrial Practices and Structures; and TV Practices: Medium, Technology, and Everyday Life. As with television schedules, it is easy to flick and pick and read—indeed, the editors in their Introduction actively encourage ‘readers to go straight to a particular program or approach that interests them.'"

    —Geoff Lealand, CST Online

  • “This book, unlike the manual that comes with your TV set, is utterly readable, highly engaging, and worth referring back to, long after you’ve switched on your favorite channel. . . . Regardless of which essay one chooses to tune in to, How to Watch Television is an accessible and impressive group of essays by a powerhouse cast of television scholars.”

    Journal of American Culture

  • "With their urging in the introduction about how the essays serve as models for writing your own criticism, the editors seem to be addressing media studies students. But because of its well-commissioned and well-balanced tone and diversity/specificity of texts, it is just as instructive for a wide range of burgeoning or established TV scholars as well as inquisitive fans of the various programs. The collection manages to be potentially enjoyable and useful to scholars and TV fans alike."

    —Kathleen Collins, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly

  • "There’s quite simply no book out there that can match this in scope and quality. The contributors are a 'Who’s Who' of contemporary television studies, and the prose is engaging and highly readable. If you’re looking for models of how to think about television from a range of perspectives, you need look no further."

    —Greg M. Smith, author of Beautiful TV: The Art and Argument of Ally McBeal

  • "Ask anyone in Hollywood and they’ll tell you the movies are dead. TV is where it’s at, and this book will show you why. Thompson and Mittell offer an essential guide to television today, featuring the most insightful critics writing about the most creative and engaging shows. Whether student, fan, or TV professional, it belongs on your bookshelf."

    —Michael Curtin, co-author of The American Television Industry