Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin is not alone in proclaiming that we are in a new golden age of television. Critically acclaimed shows like The Wire, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men tell stories that could only be told in the medium of television. A proliferation of cable networks and streaming services such as Netflix mean we have more content than ever before. But how did we get to this point? Because of the everyday place of television in our lives, it can be easy to forget that this medium has a specific history.
In this class, we will explore such history of one the most popular and accessible forms of entertainment. What is the relationship between the medium, producers, and audience? What interpretive practices might we utilize to make critical sense of television? What does television tell us about American identities? At what point does a viewer become a fan, and join a fandom community devoted to a particular show? These are just a few of the questions we will consider in this course. We will use television to approach the broader methodologies practiced in popular culture studies, considering television as both an art form and a producer of ideology. This class will primarily focus on US television.