Friday, May 31, 2013

May CommQuote

Getting May's CommQuote in under the wire here, lucky there's 31 days in the month or our string would be broken...Brett Siegel in the Spring issue (Volume 33, Number 1) of Spectator reviews Legitimizing Television: Media Convergence and Cultural Status by Michael Z. Newman and Elana Levine (Routledge, 2012). From the review:    

"In their most illuminating chapter, “Upgrading the Situation Comedy,” Newman and Levine point out the class associations tied to the two different styles of sitcom.  The single-cam series is hailed for its capacity to experiment both visually and aurally, specifically in its ability to mimic cinema with the deliberate construction of shots.  Meanwhile, the multi-cam sitcom is denigrated by its live recording in front of a studio audience: flat lighting, proscenium-style sets, entrances and exits.  Multi-cam shows like Two and a Half Men (2003- ) are more popular with the masses, but maligned by quality viewers for their unnatural laugh tracks and reliance on obvious punch lines.  Thus, discourses of legitimation that contrast the two styles allow the “sophisticated” elite to express taste in a manner that maintains and extends class-based hierarchies.

Newman and Levine move from insightful genre analysis to a thorough exploration of shifting formal elements linked to technological advancement.  In “The Television Image and the Image of Television,” Newman and Levine trace changes in the television image as fundamental to legitimation discourse.  Aspect ratio and widescreen formats, for example, were enlisted in order to make movies look better on television, effectively allowing the television image to evolve for the primary purpose of showcasing another, more respected medium.  Furthermore, the move to high definition has largely emphasized the picture quality of sports, action movies, and similar masculine fare as a way for men to regain control of a medium historically tied to femininity." --Brett Siegel

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