This Issue on Flow (27 May 2005)

by: David Gurney / FLOW Staff

Boy and TV

This Issue on Flow

After weathering a torrent of season finales, it seems that as an American TV watcher, I should be able to breath a sigh of relief and take a break from the rigorous schedule of shows to which I have held myself over the past months. While there is plenty of programming in the summer, I can free myself from the shackles of “must see” new episodes of the primetime serials that regularly command my attention. However, precisely at this moment, I find myself quite anxious and unable to relax. How can I have any relief when I have no idea what Jack, Locke, Kate, and Hurley are on the verge of confronting in the mysterious, now opened, hatch on the island of Lost?

As an aspiring TV scholar, I feel compelled to maintain some critical distance from the medium, yet I still find myself helplessly swept up in the constant flow of narrative strategies. Fully armed with the knowledge that ABC’s Lost is just another ploy on the part of the Disney Corporation to pull me in as a young consumer to offer to their advertising clients, shouldn’t I be able to resist the cheap device of the cliffhanger? Can critical media scholars allow themselves to be susceptible to the wanton pleasures of TV?

In this issue of Flow, the columnists find room on both sides of this question – some more polarized than others. On the more distanced critical side, Aniko Bodroghkozy, Dana Polan, and Kallol Bhattacherjee offer their respective views. Bodroghkozy, painting the 1990s’ cultural studies approach to TV texts as too decadent, challenges media scholars to get involved in media reform and recognize the political economy involved in production. In a more frustrated state of mind, Polan throws the book at TV, pointing to its failure to present any meaningful critical information of the world in which we live, instead diverting us with the inanity of Michael Jackson trial reenactments. Bhattacherjee offers a critical rundown on the monocultural state of television in the pluricultural Indian state.

More engaged with texts and enjoyment, Daniel Marcus, Walter Metz, and Jason Mittell offer some great observations as well. Finding an instance of TV advertising running counter to the presumed goals of the advertiser, Marcus explains how Citibank attempted to promote its brand name by dissociating itself from corporate greed through their Live Richly campaign. With unabashed appreciation for the fictional universe of TV, Metz laments the end of Star Trek: Enterprise, pleading for another spin-off in the near future. Mittell denounces the unwillingness of academia to evaluate the aesthetics of TV programming and promises to make such an evaluation of Lost in his next column for Flow (now there’s a cliffhanger).

Happy reading folks, and don’t forget to comment where you see fit!

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One comment

  • Cliffhang…

    In my talks w/ people about TV, many echoe your resentment at being left up in the air so much. Too much of this cliffhanging business seems like a breach of the tacit contract between producer and viewer that gaurantees SOME narrative closure for these long summer months. If nothing else, it increases demand for leaked new episodes online. There’s nothing new about the cliffhanger, but maybe in today’s media environment, it doesn’t work as well as it used to.

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