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New Book Project: The Sitcom

The Sitcom (A Routledge Television Guidebook) will analyze the genre’s position as a major media artefact within American culture and will provide a historical overview of the genre as it has evolved in the US. The Sitcom will examine discourses of gender, race, ethnicity, class, and sexual orientation that are ever always at the core of humor in our culture and it will interpret how those discourses are embedded in television’s relatively rigid narrative structures.

The Sitcom will be principally organized around roughly chronological sub-genres through which the sitcom has cycled: for example, the rural sitcom, the workplace sitcom, the family sitcom, the “ethnic” sitcom, and so on. However, full understanding of the sitcom goes beyond its discourses and narratives. A comprehensive consideration of the genre must also address the style of its sound and image—especially in programs that derive their humor from intertextual or self-referential play. The Sitcom will thus cover the mockumentary and what, after John Caldwell, might be called the “televisual” sitcom—programs that encourage the viewer to find humor in self-reflexive and intertextual gags.

The Sitcom is currently under contract with Routledge. Follow the book’s progress and read interesting tidbits about the sitcom on The Sitcom‘s development site.

Tentative table of contents:

  • Introduction: Taking Comedy Seriously: An Argument for the Study of the Sitcom
  • Chapter 1. A TV Genre Is Born: Comedy in the Golden Age of Broadcasting
  • Chapter 2. Comedy, Family, and Small Towns
  • Chapter 3. Comedy, Work, and Class
  • Chapter 4. Comedy, Sex, and Gender Identity
  • Chapter 5. Comedy, Race, Ethnicity, and Religion
  • Chapter 6. Comedy, Televisuality, and Genre Mixing
  • Conclusion: TV Comedy in Convergence Culture

New Article on Statistical Analysis of Television Style

A new piece I wrote on the statistical analysis of television editing has been accepted by Cinema Journal and is forthcoming in its fall 2014 issue:

  • Butler, Jeremy G. “Statistical Analysis of Television Style: What Can Numbers Tell Us About TV Editing?” Cinema Journal 54, no. 1 (forthcoming). Update 2015, full citation: Cinema Journal 54, no. 1 (2014), 25-44.

A companion Website with full-sized, color illustrations and the data sets used in my analysis is now online:

Here’s the article’s abstract:

This article assays the value of splicing together humanities-based analysis of television style with digitally generated statistical data. The editing style of the situation comedy, Happy Days (1974-1984), provides an intriguing test case for such analyses’ utility as it made a radical shift in its mode of production after its second season—switching from single-camera to multiple-camera (with a studio audience). Using data collected on ShotLogger.org, this article measures the cutting rates correlated with each mode of production and finds there is a statistically significant difference between the two. Additionally, this article examines the general acceleration of cutting rates on American television since 1951 and it comes to a perhaps surprising conclusion about the impact of individual editors upon television style.

 

New Mad Men Chapter

How to Watch Television coverMy obsession with Mad Men‘s visual style continues in Ethan Thompson and Jason Mittell’s fine new anthology:

  • Butler, Jeremy G. “Mad Men: Visual Style.” In How to Watch Television, 38-46. Edited by Ethan Thompson and Jason Mittell. New York: NYU Press, 2013.