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Moments in television

Substance and style have been attended to separately in different strands of television studies, from those who have sought to establish the discipline as serious and worthy of study, to the work of television aesthetics, which has taken stylistic achievement as a primary focus. This collection interrogates and overturns the typical relationships between the terms, instead setting them alongside one another and renegotiating their relationship through new perspectives and with reference to a range of television programming. Contributors draw attention to the ways substance and style inform one another, placing value on their integration and highlighting the potential for new meanings to form through their combination. In this way, the binary is used to re-evaluate television that has been deemed a failure, or to highlight the achievements of programming or creative personnel who are less celebrated. Chapters present style as a matter of substance, in terms of it being both part of the material constitution of television and an aspect of television that rewards detailed attention. Substance is developed through a range of interpretations which invite discussion of television’s essential qualities and capabilities as well as its meaningfulness, in conjunction with its stylistic achievements. Programmes studied comprise The Americans, Call the Midwife, Les Revenants, The Good Wife, Friends, The Simpsons, John From Cincinnati, Police Squad! and The Time Tunnel. Substance and style are evaluated across these examples from a wide range of television forms, formats and genres, which include series and serial dramas, sitcoms, science fiction, animation, horror, thrillers and period dramas.

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Substance / style
Lucy Fife Donaldson
Sarah Cardwell
, and
Jonathan Bignell

since its beginnings. The route for scholars establishing television's substance, and therefore worth as a discipline, was through establishing its political, cultural and social significance, and these areas have, for the most part, shaped conceptions of the medium's nature or essence. Accordingly, more often than not, television has been defined not through its style or aesthetic qualities, but in institutional and technological terms, audiences’ viewing practices, and, above all, its cultural and ideological impact. This is immediately evident from introductory

in Substance / style
Emilio Audissino

/style binary therefore, can be interpreted as the essence or the most important concern (substance) and the devices that are employed to realise and arrange it (style). As this chapter emphasises, all these manifestations of substance and style are contingent on ever-changing historical circumstances. Television's substance and style(s) at the time of Police Squad! differ markedly from those most recognisable in today's TV. Today we are used to television fiction with a ‘cinematic look’ and storytelling that relies on a range of audiovisual devices

in Substance / style
Josette Wolthuis

through style at television's substance. The term substance has multiple meanings – it can refer to character and narrative, i.e. diegetic content, or to wider frameworks of knowledge, ideology or representation – but in a metaphorical as well as in a literal sense, substance always refers to something that matters; something that has weight. A thick, sturdy fabric like wool has substance; a sheer, lightweight, flowing fabric like chiffon does not. Both textures are useful: wool keeps you warm, chiffon keeps you cool. Yet, chiffon is transparent and pretty, and the

in Substance / style