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Moments in television

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.

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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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Steven Peacock

AFTERWORD This book has aimed to show how particular films and television programmes, all deriving from Swedish crime novels, convey the cultural, historical and psychological depths of which the form is capable. As has been demonstrated over five chapters, it combines considerations of adaptation, historical documentation, genre, and cultural critique with close textual analysis (or stylistic criticism). It’s my belief that a combination of these methodological approaches – of binding debates about history, industry, and form with the practice of interpretation

in Swedish crime fiction
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Sound / image
Jonathan Bignell
Sarah Cardwell
, and
Lucy Fife Donaldson

, in some perspectives it still does – for example, it often forms a primary focus in ‘stylistic criticism’, or ‘aesthetic’ approaches, which are broadly the approaches that inspired the Moments in Television collections. One of the aims of this book, therefore, is to benefit from existing, valuable work on sound, available within various areas of television studies, to further develop evaluative critical practice or ‘stylistic criticism’. The chapters gathered here share an interest in greater appreciative attentiveness to both sound and image: they weigh the impact

in Sound / image
Style, appreciation and the temporally prolonged problem of The Simpsons
Michael Clark

have focused their efforts not on stylistic criticism per se , but on aesthetic criticism, defined by Andrew Klevan as ‘the branch of criticism that prioritises the evaluation’ of style ( 2019 : 409; original emphasis). While this does not discount ‘moral, political, emotional, cognitive, or conceptual’ value, as such things are ‘important, and often essential, to an aesthetic evaluation’, the scholar practising aesthetic criticism will address such values primarily through the locus of ‘ the value of … expression through the form of the work ’ (Klevan 2019 : 410

in Substance / style
Alexander Bove

detailed piece of stylistic criticism to be found in any of the novels” ( Dickens and the Trials 141), and McGowan nicely concludes from this passage that “Micawber’s use of language, marvelous as it is, is finally seen as abusive, and he is banished to Australia” (“Bankruptcy” 75). These readings take the intrusion of Dickens into the text at face value, but if we push a little

in Spectral Dickens
Peter W. Graham

third canto objects to ‘occasional quaintness –​& obscurity –​& harsh & yet colloquial compounding of epithets –​as if to avoid saying common things in the common way’, a stylistic criticism that would be echoed and intensified in published form by William Gifford, John Wilson Croker and other foes of the ‘Cockney School of Poetry’.9 However, three issues further complicate this intertextual conversation with Rimini, all of which surface when one thinks about how Parisina both uses and departs from Italian historical precedent to serve Byron’s conscious purposes or

in Byron and Italy
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A post-Millennium phenomenon
Steven Peacock

-forms (books, films, TV programmes) and attends to significant intersections and distinctions. Its overarching methodology is one of a combination of approaches not normally united in the fields of Film and Television Studies. It brings together stylistic criticism – an interpretative examination of mise-en-scène and inherent expressive meanings coming from the works’ fusion of form and content – with socio-political readings. This approach aims to uncover the texts’ significance and appeals from both inside (in terms of points of style such as camerawork, performance, and

in Swedish crime fiction
Jack Clayton’s Room at the Top
B. F. Taylor

concerns to our attention. A more complicated and ambitious series of shots would be more likely to draw attention to the film’s construction and thus leave the film open to adverse stylistic criticism. At the same time, the simple pattern of looks and reactions used here might leave the film prone to accusations of limited ambition and achievement. Yet, just like the earlier ‘inserted’ shot, the status of these two examples is not as clear cut as might be suggested. Just like before, there is another interesting conjunction, this time between the apparent simplicity of

in The British New Wave
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I. S. Robinson

as a compilation but as the composition of a single writer, the pupil of Herman of Reichenau. He used the method of ‘stylistic criticism’ ( Stilkritik ) to demonstrate the stylistic unity of The Life of Herman – whose author identified himself as the pupil and friend of Herman – and the Chronicle . They were the work of the same author, that Berthold who, according to the bibliographer of

in Eleventh-century Germany