ponder the fate of Jon Snow, who had apparently met his demise in a cold betrayal. Even before it was back on US screens, Game of Thrones ’ return was a cultural and political event, with commentators discussing the show and using it as a way to understand America’s contemporary world politics. Most pertinently to the moment, The Daily Show ’s Trevor Noah asked who would win ‘the game of who wants to be president’?
One month previously, the US HouseofCards had ended its fourth season in dramatic fashion. Viewers, seemingly unanimously, concurred that the season
central to HouseofCards (Netflix, 2013–18) and the focus of much critical debate. We have been inducted, moreover, into the conflicted audience position that the text creates for us, largely by means of this same device, which makes us the confidants of a morally abhorrent protagonist. The device works here on a number of levels. On one level it provides a simple and effective introduction to his character: we see both the kind of man he is and the kind he pretends to be (with his expressions of condolence to the owners). On a rather more complex level, it allows
American television was about to be revolutionised by the advent of video on demand in 2007, when Netflix, having delivered over one billion DVDs, introduced streaming. This book explores the role that fictional television has played in the world politics of the US in the twenty-first century. It focuses on the second golden age of television, which has coincided with the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald J. Trump. The book is structured in three parts. Part I considers what is at stake in rethinking the act of watching television as a political and academic enterprise. Part II considers fictional television shows dealing explicitly with the subject matter of formal politics. It explores discourses of realpolitik in House of Cards and Game of Thrones, arguing that the shows reinforce dominant assumptions that power and strategy inevitably trump ethical considerations. It also analyses constructions of counterterrorism in Homeland, The West Wing, and 24, exploring the ways in which dominant narratives have been contested and reinforced since the onset of the War on Terror. Part III considers television shows dealing only implicitly with political themes, exploring three shows that make profound interventions into the political underpinnings of American life: The Wire, The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad. Finally, the book explores the legacies of The Sopranos and Mad Men, as well as the theme of resistance in The Handmaid's Tale.
political role played by fictional shows as the US transitioned into a new television age at the start of the twenty-first century. The examples drawn upon to begin to unpick the interweaving of America’s politics and television are Friends – as a seemingly apolitical show that preceded television’s second golden age – and HouseofCards – as an explicitly political show which helped to define the new era through its format, content, casting, release, and popularity. This introductory discussion of television and politics sets up Chapter 2 ’s more detailed overview
A series of first female presidents from Commander in Chief to House of Cards
Lady Macbeth in the Oval Office
Frank Underwood realises that his houseofcards is finally about to topple when two Democratic senators visit him in the Oval Office. Because the Judiciary Committee is about to send articles of impeachment to the House of Representatives, they have come to ask him to resign. Rather than complying with their suggestion, he insists that dirty hands were always part of Washington’s politics, even if history has a way of looking better than it was. Then, no longer addressing the two congressmen and, instead, looking squarely
Holmes and The West Wing . White goes on to explain that one key element in the story of history is the concept of plot or what he calls ‘emplotment’. This concept is considered in the next section , in conjunction with The Second Best Marigold Hotel and HouseofCards . Emplotment can only be successfully achieved by use of tropology and culture, elements of rhetorical style necessary for history. In the third section, Frozen and The Railway Man serve as examples.
Hayden White, Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Santa Cruz, enters
This collection appraises an eclectic selection of programmes, exploring and weighing their particular achievements and their contribution to the television landscape. It does so via a simultaneous engagement with the concepts of complexity and simplicity. This book considers how complexity, which is currently attracting much interest in TV studies, impacts upon the practice of critical and evaluative interpretation. It engages reflectively and critically with a range of recent work on televisual complexity, expands existing conceptions of complex TV and directs attention to neglected sources and types of complexity. It also reassesses simplicity, a relatively neglected category in TV criticism, as a helpful criterion for evaluation. It seeks out and reappraises the importance of simple qualities to particular TV works, and explores how simplicity might be revalued as a potentially positive and valuable aesthetic feature. Finally, the book illuminates the creative achievements that arise from balancing simplicity with complexity. The contributors to this collection come from diverse areas of TV studies, bringing with them myriad interests, expertise and perspectives. All chapters undertake close analysis of selected moments in television, considering a wide range of stylistic elements including mise-en-scène, spatial organisation and composition, scripting, costuming, characterisation, performance, lighting and sound design, colour and patterning. The range of television works addressed is similarly broad, covering UK and US drama, comedy-drama, sitcom, animation, science fiction, adaptation and advertisement. Programmes comprise The Handmaid’s Tale, House of Cards, Father Ted, Rick and Morty, Killing Eve, The Wire, Veep, Doctor Who, Vanity Fair and The Long Wait.
write about the recent Netflix production HouseofCards (Netflix, 2013–18), but their focus is the use of direct address – a televisual device with a long history and only rarely used in twenty-first-century TV. James Zborowski's chosen programme, The Wire (HBO, 2002–8) fits neatly into the category of recent, acclaimed US long-run serials, but Zborowski situates the programme within broader and longer-established aesthetic and critical contexts. Similarly, Cardwell's consideration of The Long Wait draws upon a wide range of historical conceptions of simplicity
contrast screen portrayals of American politics and politicians, especially the American president, which often tend to the extremes of human nature. On the one hand, films such as Clear and Present Danger and Absolute Power , as well as television’s HouseofCards , reflect a ‘Watergate sensibility’ of the president as corrupt crook, motivated by personal gain and desire. 4 On the other hand, films such as Independence Day and Air Force One , like television’s The West Wing , present a much more hopeful and/or heroic vision of the president. 5 The contrast
being discussed. It should also be kept in mind that almost any of the films and television selections could be used to exemplify other theories than those I have chosen.
The fact that movies and television are independent works of art with their own goals also serves my purpose, for they thereby suggest that the ideas contained in them are arrived at independently, demonstrating the general presence in the culture of these ideas. For example, the HouseofCards episode used to illustrate White’s notion of how fiction and fact join to make history could also