Television Series: Narration, Engagement and Evaluation - FI622

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
6 30 (15) DR M Vaage


FILM3130 Film Style
FILM3150 Film Theory or FILM3160 Film Histories





The module explores storytelling in fictional television series, and how the long duration of these series changes the spectator's engagement, as compared to engagement in the relatively short fiction film. Furthermore, this module focuses on case studies in order to investigate their narrative, stylistic and thematic characteristics, their specific genre conventions and their background in television history. Case studies may include The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad and Madmen in an inquiry into the narrative as well as moral complexity of this recent, so-called quality trend of American drama television series, and the emerging genre convention of the antihero. The module also addresses how various types of television series have been valued in critical reception through the history of television. For example, in relation to the case studies mentioned above, the module may examine critically the implications of the oft-used label 'Quality TV’ and the HBO slogan ‘It’s not TV, it’s HBO’. In addition to introducing the students to current developments in television studies, this module takes a film theoretical, narratological approach to current television series, and trains students in various approaches to the study of television series in and beyond television studies proper.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Total contact hours: 60
Private study hours: 240
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Essay 1 (2500 words) (40%)
Essay 2 (3500 words) (60%)

Indicative reading

Dunleavy, Trisha. Television Drama. Form, Agency, Innovation. New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2009
Mittell, Jason. Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling. New York: New York University Press, 2015
Nelson, Robin. State of Play. Contemporary "High-End" TV Drama. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007
Newman, Michael Z. and Elana Levine, Legitimating Television. Media Convergence and Cultural Status. New York: Routledge, 2012
Polan, Dana. The Sopranos. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009
Thompson, Robert .Television's Second Golden Age. From Hill Street Blues to ER.Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1996

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

- discuss critically what the difference is between engagement in long-term narratives such as TV series and shorter, stand-alone narratives such as a fiction film;
- describe the historical trajectory of a specific type of television series and discuss its defining features critically;
- critically reflect on the cultural status of television, such as being able to devise arguments in order to reflect independently on the notion 'Quality TV';
- understand the different modes of analysis made possible by various methods of enquiry into television series in and beyond television studies proper, and the appreciation of the applicability and limitations of each methodological approach;
- describe and comment upon the forefront of television studies, including the ability to extend their knowledge of this field through independent research.

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