Hill St. Blues in a Hospital

On October 26, 1982 NBC premiered its hit TV hospital drama St. Elsewhere. Known by some as NBC’s attempt to take its gritty police drama Hill Street Blues and place it in the context of a bustling hospital, St. Elsewhere contained many of the same elements that helped make Hill Street Blues standout such as its complex and more than often flawed characters, large ensemble casts, and overlapping serialized plots that would leave audiences on the edge of their seats with weekly cliff hangers.

Many of the characteristics of St. Elsewhere made it a prime example of a Post-Network Era television show, especially as it followed the lead of NBC’s other hit serial drama so closely. However, in Season 3 Episode 8 of St. Elsewhere, entitled “Sweet Dreams” we can see an excellent example of the Post-Network Era concept of televisuality where what is displayed on the screen is made to look cool or appealing to the audience. In the episode many of the staff and patients at Saint Eligius Hospital are suffering from a myriad of sleeping ailments. In particular, the hospital orderly Luther Hawkins falls asleep inside of a supply closet and slips into a vivid dream where he parades around the hospital wearing a flashy white suit and hat accompanied by a trio of beautiful women while hit 70’s Texas based rock band ZZ Top magically transports around the building and plays their 1984 single Legs. While the band plays, Luther and his entourage move from room to room in the hospital, taunting surgeons and security guards with impunity, dancing with patients, drinking glasses of champagne, being showered in money, and otherwise enjoying an extravagant time.

The inclusion of a hit band’s music, showing them on screen (although technically portrayed by members of the St. Elsewhere cast wearing elaborate disguises), having Luther strut around confidently in a stylish outfit, and the appearance of the women (portrayed by the actresses originally appearing in ZZ Top’s MTV music video for Legs) all work to improve the televisuality of the scene and make it seem more visually appealing to audiences.

-Anderson Bradshaw

The Post-Networking Era: Saved by the Narrowcasting!

Saved by the Bell is a classic television show that ran through the 1980s until the early 1990s. The show takes place at Bayside High School in California and is about a group of teenagers and their high school lives. Plots in the show revolve around the group of friends weaving their way through typical high school issues such as relationships, tests, school dances, and things of the sort. The main theme of the show is that the friend group always ends up making up and putting their friendship above everything else. The theme proves the show to be episodic since none of their issues carry into the following episodes.

Saved by the Bell is a prime example of Post-Network Era television, not only due to the years that the show was active, but also due to themes of the show. During this time in television history, the rise of hundreds of channels and the cable boom affected television forever. It was in this time period that producers and companies began to narrowcast or target specific groups or demographics with their productions and channels.

The show itself is a great example of narrowcasting since it appealed to high schoolers in the eighties and nineties. It was full of plenty of drama and it had a high school setting that would catch the eye of young adults, but not older family members. Teenaged girls would probably watch this show for the relationship drama and to see current fashion trends. On the other hand, teenaged boys probably watched more for the comedy and absurdity of the show. The show is narrowcast, and it is easy to see this simply by the setting of the show.

The clip I chose for this assignment is a great example. In this clip, we see that two of the main characters have gone through a high school breakup. Through my short clip, there is only one small scene change but all of the characters still remain in their school. There is also some witty humor, but it is easily understood by high schoolers and young adults. There are also snarky comments made towards both male and female characters in the show. We also see an awkward classroom scene where the teacher cannot understand her students. Overall, Saved by the Bell is a solid example of Post-Network television due to its narrowcasting through its humor and setting.

Sample In Media Res Posts

Here are some sample posts from the blog In Media Res, which your first assignment is modeled after:

1970s Masculinity and Media

We may decide to select our five best submissions to submit for our own themed week on the In Media Res blog. The call for a themed week coordinator is here.

As you write your blog post, think about how to make sense of your clip historically and theoretically. Your post should make reference to other screenings and readings we have done in this unit. It should have a good title that makes us want to read what you have to say. Make sure to select the tag In Media Res and another tag that matches the theme of your post.

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