This Week’s Questions: Legitimate or Not?

I post the reading questions now because this week all hell is going to break loose and overrun me with its armies of papers and undergrad’s midterms to grade. Enjoy!

1) When explaining the concept of “legitimate” television in the conference paper, Newman concentrates on how viewers (and which viewers) define a show as “legitimate.” He speaks of how “legitimate” television is accessed (through the DVR, the TiVo, the DVD, on demand, downloads) underlining the ability of its audience to break the established broadcasting practices and skip ads. Newman explains that “good TV is routinely described as ‘cinematic” and that the difference in genres and production technologies is often what distinguishes it from “ordinary” television.

What in the content of a show makes it “legitimate”? Can we learn more about the workings of the society from the HBO dramas and House than from guess-the-price type of shows? If this is not the case, what makes the former “legitimate” and the latter “ordinary”?

2) Chapter 2 begins with an overview of the criticism directed against the mass culture of television. Critics accuse television of being directed to “the most vulnerable and manipulative members of society,” to those that “do not fit the model of sophisticated taste,” and to people of “lesser faculties.” These statements assume that the critics of television (and those who value “quality” programming and culture, as opposed to pop shows and culture) consider themselves to belong to a higher class or are in some way different and better than the “uneducated masses.”

We can look at this criticism as an attempt by the critics to define their own identities. The definition of identity itself, the distinct characteristics of an individual, suggests that identities are created by finding the differences between people. Thus, the debate of what is “quality” television maybe has less to do with television and more to do with a crisis of identity in society. If we assume this is the case, how television contributed to this crisis?

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