Post-Network Era: Nothing Kompares to Reruns

“Goodnight, Mary Ellen. Goodnight, Jim Bob”

On September 14, 1972, in coherence with the Broadcast Era, these words echoed in living rooms across the United States for the first time. This was the sound of The Waltons’ bedtime routine, a fictional family that Americans tuned in to watch for a subsequent nine years after the airing of the first episode on CBS. The show was set in the midst of the Great Depression and World War II, spanning from 1933 to 1946. More specifically, the show follows the struggles of The Walton family to make a decent living during such hardship, but they never fail to end the day with their famous goodnights.

I remember the first time I heard about The Walton family. I was staying in a hotel room with my mom and siblings when we turned out the lights, said goodnight, and shut our eyes in hopes of a good night’s rest. However, my mom seemed to have a different plan, as she proceeded to recite the closing scene of The Waltons. She began, “Goodnight, Mary Ellen…” and my siblings and I questioned, “Mom, what are you doing?” Sure enough, she was nostalgically recalling the days when she would rush home from school to watch The Waltons with her family.

However, they were not watching the original nine seasons of the show, as was characteristic of the Post-Network Era. Instead, my mom and her family were the perfect example of a “family-orientated slate” audience that The Family Channel hoped to attract to their reruns of The Waltons in the 1980s. Originally, these reruns aired with the intent to seek familiar and popular programming that The Family Channel could afford, as pointed out in Derek Kompare’s article, “TV Land: Cable and Satellite as Boutique Television.” Not to mention, this increased the amount of income from advertising and their subscribing base, meaning the channel could meet distributors’ prices.

Additionally, the hopeful intentions of The Family Channel were met with even more successful results. One of which was that reruns served as a large component in the formation of cable networks’ strong identities. These identities were the result of The Family Channel being a boutique, meaning it had specialized audiences that were dedicated to their shows. This audience included those such as my mother and her family, proving that even forty years later, the boutique function of The Family Channel sold itself to its family-oriented audience quite well.


Full House : Safe, Nostalgic, & Impactful

Full House, a classic show that made its debut on ABC in 1987 in the center of the Post Network Era it was a courageous take on what we had all known the traditional family to be. It is evident that with the ever booming rapid growth of cable television, networks such as ABC were scrambling to find something that would stick, re-imagine how we viewed family, appeal to core audiences while still being universal thematically at the same time. Each character on the show was crafted with a particular audience in mind. When you look back you can see that the cult following for Full House consisted of a majority of females. Women swooned over heartthrob Jesse Katsopolis, girls could identify with the daughters as they grew up and dealt with teenage struggles, boy problems, and who could forget the cute and funny moments with adorable baby Michelle. With this revised idea of what we deemed the nuclear family, networks such as ABC drove family narratives in their sitcoms that didn’t rely on style to captivate audiences.

Life lessons were the core of Full House which made it timeless. The scene below demonstrates how social issues were tied with relatability. You had 3 male parental figures that presented themselves as non-threatening. Whenever an emotional scene took place the adults would address it. In the scene below DJ is dealing with body issues and her father speaks to her encouraging her. Scenes like the one below exemplify family struggles, which is why from a narrowcasting perspective one could see why this show was a hit with its core audience.  Teen girls specifically ,could identify with DJ and her struggles.

Narrowcasting induced a wave of nostalgia that we see today. Full House is the phenomenon that it is because of its hit success back then and its current rerun syndication viewership today with females in the 18-34-year-old range. Nickelodeon still airs it every night and is remembered because of the societal issues. Where other TV shows in the post-network era had style and outrageous graphics, ABC struck gold with a different kind of sitcom and different kind of family. Full House was safe wholesome television that touched on issues without pushing the envelope. It was a show that would teach life lessons in households for years to come.

Ends: 13:23

Televisuality – KUWTK

Keeping up with the Kardashians is one of the most talked about reality shows in the world. It debuted on October 14th 2007—12 years later and the Kardashians remain being the most discussed family in US (if not worldwide). KUWTK is a reality tv revolving around Kardashian/Jenner “clan”—a family of 6 women—and their dramas. The show has brought an incomprehensible amount of fame and money to all of the members; they have millions of followers on social media, a plethora of merchandise, their own make up line, and so on. The show is on its 15th season and it still manages to remain prevalent in conversation and society.

The show’s 2016 promo is a prime example of modern world’s televisuality. There are many ways it’s similar to post-network era of televisuality. Just like then, style is still the foreground and there is a large emphasis on it. Today most openings are short—nobody’s going to watch it if it’s too long. The brief introduction holds the audience’s attention while maintaining the Kardashian’s signature style. In this promo background music entices the audience, growing more upbeat as the promo progresses. The whole background is black, yet it still manages to be very distracting. From the beginning, the audience can see flashy graphics in the background of main characters’ close-ups. The camera never focuses on just one face—we either see one central person and others in the background or same person’s different shots paralleled throughout the canvas.

Though televisuality today still exists, it’s not entirely same as before. The KUWTK promo contains heavy graphics and it’s difficult to concentrate on one specific thing but it is not as heavy as TV show openings used to be before. In contrary to the televisuality of the past, today we see fewer title sequences. Words don’t just appear out of nowhere, often times we see title of the show, network, and airing time by the end of the promo/opening. Even though everything’s still flashy and visual, we still get a sense of one whole idea. Its black background creates a classy, sleek format to illicit an expectation that the upcoming show will be cool and influential. KUWTK’s promo is an ideal example of modern televisuality: it has everything from graphics and flashes to appealing and cool music background.

Excessive Gore and Violence in Game of Thrones

In this video you can see episode 8 of season 4 of Game of Thrones.The fourth season of the show was aired between april 6 and june 10 of 2014. In this episode there is a trial by combat between Oberyn Martell (the viper) and  Ser Gregor Clegane (the mountain). In the fight the viper needs to beat the mountain in order for Tyrion Lannister to be freed. The Viper tires out the mountain and has a clear victory, but he has his own agenda and tries to get the mountain to confess to the rape and killing of his sister Elia Martell. The viper puts on a display of cockiness by toying around with the mountain and refusing to kill him until he confesses. In the process, the mountain gets a hold off the viper and chokes him, he then goes on to pop his eyeballs before brutally smashing his head to pieces. In this clip it is very noticeable that there is a lot of brutality and gore that wouldn’t have been regularly allowed in an earlier television era given that there was a “code”. The code refers to a set of rules and regulations that are not official and have no penalty but the  tv networks would not have dared to cross. The code that I am talking about, encourages tv networks to avoid content that is very sexual, violent, or gory in its nature. In this clip it is quite visible that there is an excessive amount of gore and violence for a prime time television program. If this was another era, HBO would not have dared to invest so much money, time, and other resources into this show. However, because of the change in generation in television, this show is actually one of the top watched shows ever in the history of television. Although the gamble paid off, this risk would have been avoided if the time period was different.

-Victor Villanueva


Analysis of clips in Hill Street Blues

(end at 35:00)

This scene is the most impressive part of Hill Street Blues in my mind, because it is describing urban crime and life. The thing shocked me most is that children can also be part of crime in community, and they looked so young in the movie. I thought they are not supposed to think of how to rob. When I was at that age, there are only studies, basketball and video games in my mind. I never think of robbing or even steal since both my teachers and family always warn me not to do that. In fact, I am not going to blame those children, because no one wants to rob naturally. Thus, I tend to suggest their family or community to help them be better. I believe this idea are also accepted by the policeman in the clip, because he was trying to protect those children from being shoot even they are robbers.

Breaking Television Show on Orange is the New Black

The clip that I have chosen is from season four of the Netflix original series Orange is the New Black. The scene in the clip is of the death of Poussey Washington, one of the inmates at Litchfield Penitentiary, a women’s prison. In the scene, the inmates are protesting by standing on the cafeteria tables when one of the prisoners, Suzanne, has an episode from her mental illness. Upon seeing this, her friend Poussey jumps from the table and is pinned to the ground by a guard that views this action as dangerous. From the guard pinning her down, she loses her consciousness and then dies.

This scene is completely different from anything that one would see on television as little as ten years ago, and it goes directly against the Television Code that we learned about earlier in the semester. There are many aspects of this scene that are contrary to Television Code, especially the negative portrayal of law enforcement officers. The mere fact that there was a protest shows that there was some kind of negative portrayal earlier in the series (maybe even in the episode) that would cause an uproar in the prison (in this case, the prisoners were protesting their unfair treatment by the authorities in the prison). Later, when the correction officer actually does kill Poussey, he is portrayed very negatively because he murdered her, even if it was not on purpose. Murder is inexcusable and puts the correction officer in a negative light.

Another main part of the Television Code that is broken in this scene is the presentation of cruelty. Poussey’s death is an unusually cruel death. She is constrained under the knee and hand of the much larger correction officer. The scene shows her struggling to breath through her eyes widening and the audible, shallow gasps she makes. This is incredibly cruel and is also potentially quite disturbing to viewers. This obviously against the Television Code as part of the reason for the Television Code beginning was to protect viewers from disturbing scenes, especially the younger viewers that the show is aimed towards. These are only two examples from a very short scene of the evolution of television away from the Television Code, but it shows that television is a changing medium that is moving away from traditional family values.

-Annie Cohen

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