School of Film and Television Studies
FTVF3F28 / FTVF3F30: Television Sitcom
Spring 2009 Module Organiser:
Brett Mills, A2.54, email@example.com, x2094
This unit explores key topics relevant to understanding and examining television sitcom, primarily – though not exclusively – focussing on British, contemporary examples. We consider the status of the genre in television culture and broader debates associated with TV Studies. We also map the ways in which the genre responds to and reflects social and historical milieux, and the relationship between British and American programmes, as well as those from other countries. The social functions of comedy – and how these relate to the societal roles of broadcasting – will be examined. There are several themed case studies such as representations of the family, upset and offence, and issues of ethnicity, gender, class and sexuality. Incorporated screenings may include Hancock’s Half-Hour, Only Fools & Horses, Men Behaving Badly, The Office, The Cosby Show, Brass Eye, Green Wing, I Love Lucy, Roseanne, and Friends.
All students on this module are expected to dedicate at least the following time each week to their studies for this module specifically: Lecture/Screening: 2 hours per week Seminar: 2 hours per week Private Study (including required reading, secondary reading, additional viewings and preparation of written work): 14 hours per week.
Total amount of time dedicated to module: 12 hours per week Aims and Objectives
The unit aims: • to introduce students to key debates about television sitcom, in terms of its history, its relationship to genre, and its social functions; • to place those debates within broader topics such as Television Studies, the social role of humour, and the entertainment functions of broadcasting; • to encourage students to critically examine those debates and the relevant programmes, placing them in appropriate contexts; • to develop skills in research, analysis, and presentation, especially those of writing and reading.
Knowledge and Understanding By the end of the unit students should be able to: understand key issues concerning television sitcom; understand sitcom in terms of a range of
a critical summary of a reading (25%).20814!f41%20csewrkextpenalties.ac. understand key theoretical debates about the relationships between television and society. and their relationships with society. Professional Skills The unit will develop students' ability to: select.
. You must sign for the Reader and will be charged.: 1. If you think you need an extension. closed book exam (50%). Computer problems are not regarded as a valid reason for needing an extension. use IT to word process their assessed essays. undertake their own independent research of relevant literature. Extensions can only be granted for medical or personal reasons for which you can provide the appropriate documentation. construct and present coherent and independent arguments. discuss your circumstances with your seminar tutor and complete one of the extension forms available from the School Office. Penalties for late submission are at <http://www1.pdf>.uk/polopoly_fs/1. Transferable Skills The unit will also develop students' ability to: manage a large and disparate body of information.
Coursework and Assessment
There are 3 assessments for this unit. Intellectual Skills By the end of the unit students should be able to: apply ideas and concepts in the discussion of television and comedy. a small-group assessed discussion in Week 6 (25%).relevant theoretical and empirical debates. All work should be submitted via the FTV School Office (Room A2. sift and synthesize information from a variety of primary and secondary materials.uea.
The module uses a Reader which can be collected from the School Office. an unseen. 2.40) using the usual essay booking-in system. speak and write cogently about a chosen subject area. write accurately and grammatically and present written material using appropriate conventions. 3.
ac. involving unauthorised co-operation between at least two people.ac. temporary suspension or expulsion from further study at the University if the case comes before a Discipline Committee of the University. and the punishment may extend to failing their degree. Also. offenders shall be punished. while ‘affect’ is a verb. media. amongst other criteria. It can take the following forms: the reproduction (or ‘quotation’). and is in the Undergraduate Student Handbook. and others are. and the Learning Enhancement Service’s ‘Plagiarism Awareness’ Factsheet (http://www1. your work should have. and “excellent” presentation.uk/polopoly_fs/1. The university’s full definitions of plagiarism and collusion are provided below. collectively. which will be taken into account during marking: • ‘media’ is the plural of ‘medium’. of the work of others (including the work of fellow students). Plagiarism and collusion. “sophisticated use of examples”. Note that these criteria suggest that: • It is unlikely you’ll get above 59% unless your work has “accurate and full citation and bibliography”. with the intent to deceive).
Plagiarism and Collusion
The University takes very seriously cases of plagiarism (the unacknowledged use of another person’s work) or collusion (a form of plagiarism. television. please note the following. essays. and there are no such words as ‘mediums’ or ‘medias’. so you write ‘television affects people’. • It is unlikely you’ll get above 59% unless your work is “directly addressed to the question”.uk/cm/home/services/students/let_service/let_plagiarism _aware). Students who deliberately plagiarise or collude threaten the values and beliefs that underpin academic work and devalue the integrity of the University’s awards. whether discovered before or after graduation. Plagiarism is the unacknowledged use of another person’s work. without acknowledgement. It can occur in ‘open-book’ examinations and/or coursework assessments which may take a variety of forms. we’re available for consultation about both of these assessments. or book an appointment for a convenient time. published or unpublished. presentations. while film. • To get above 69%. will be investigated and dealt with by the University. • ‘effect’ is a noun. including material downloaded from computer files and the Internet.uea.pdf). See the University’s Policies at (http://www1. what you watch on television is a ‘programme’.uea. ‘program’ can only ever be used to refer to a computer program. which you are expected to use. • in British English. “a wide range of sources”. • It is unlikely you’ll get above 59% unless your work has “careful assessment of evidence” and a “good use of examples”. this means television is a medium. Of course. at any stage of a student’s course.
. “some originality”. while ‘television’s effects are noticeable’. In proven cases. either verbatim or in close paraphrase. including. the internet.The University’s marking scheme applies to both assignments. Come and see us during our office hours. reports.20813!f40%20plagcollpolicy.
John (1983) Taking Laughter Seriously. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. David (1983) The End of Comedy: Sit-Com and the Comedic Tradition. London: British Film Institute. Hamden: Archon. projects. Mills. Murray S. 2. they should indicate what these are in accordance with the appropriate convention in their discipline. even when group exercises are carried out. In cases where there is unauthorised co-operation between a student and another person in the preparation and production of work which is presented as the student’s own. pp9-15. Grote. involving unauthorised co-operation between at least two people. 3. in order to place the programmes that will be discussed in the appropriate societal context. and where it should be evident to the student lending the work that by so doing an advantage is conferred on the other student.dissertations. Jerry (1987) The Logic of the Absurd: On Film and Television Comedy. In this case both students are guilty of collusion. The reasons why examining sitcom matters will be discussed. Week 2 Sitcom in Britain and America The two globally dominant sitcom producing countries are Britain and America. Brett (2005) Television Sitcom. in circumstances where the former has willingly lent the latter the work. and society. Collusion is a form of plagiarism. The submission by a student of the work of another student. In so far as students rely on sources. All work submitted for assessment by students is accepted on the understanding that it is the student’s own effort without falsification of any kind. The conspiring by two or more students to produce a piece of work together with the intention that at least one passes it off as his or her own work. as will problems of generic definition.
Week by week schedule
Week 1 What is Sitcom? This session will introduce you to the study of television sitcom. (1993) What’s So Funny? The Comic Conception of Culture and Society. pp2639. with the intent to deceive. 2. Various forms of collaborative assessment undertaken in accordance with published requirements evidently do not fall under the heading of collusion. and this session will explore the similarities and differences between
. Set Readings 1. Albany: State University of New York Press. It can take the following forms: 1. London: BFI. broadcasting. Key here will be the relationship between comedy. Palmer. Students are expected to offer their own analysis and presentation of information gleaned from research. Morreall. Other Readings David. which will raise issues to be explored over the subsequent four weeks. and raise a series of key themes which will run throughout the unit.
and London: Rutgers. In addition. in Gary R. Brook. Tise (eds. Other Readings Epstein. This session will explore exactly what this means. (2000) Something Completely Different: British Television and American Culture. Martin’s Press. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Gerard (1992) Honey. Hamamoto. London.) Thinking Outside the Box: A Contemporary Television Genre Reader. David (2003) The Jews of Prime Time. New York: St. and examine particular examples of sitcom which exemplify it. New York and London: New York University Press. Michael (2005) Laughter and Ridicule: Towards a Social Critique of Humour. London: British Film Institute. Hanover and London: University Press of New England.their outputs. such content will be compared and contrasted with British sitcom. Vincent (2003) Something Ain’t Kosher Here: The Rise of the ‘Jewish’ Sitcom. New York: Transaction Publishers. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. Set Readings 1. Christie (2002) The Mirth of Nations. pp111-135. or industrial – will be explored. Kerr Paul. Oxford: PublicAffairs. Janet (2000) Blockbuster TV: Must-See Sitcoms in the Network Era. New Brunswick. Miller. Billig.
. and the contemporary consequences such comedy might have. (2002) The Haunted Smile: the Story of Jewish Comedians. New Jersey. New York: Praeger. Darrell Y. I’m Home! Sitcoms: Selling the American Dream. The reasons for such changes – whether social. Week 3 American Sitcom: Jewish Comedy A key focus of much analysis of American comedy is its ‘Jewish’ component. in order to explore the changes which such programming goes through in order to appeal to different markets. Jones. and New Delhi: Sage. Butsch.) (1984) MTM: ‘Quality Television’. historical. 2. pp37-56. Set Readings 1. Lawrence J. London: Routledge. in order to see whether such comedy is primarily American in the manner which is commonly argued. Simon (2002) On Humour. Zurawik. pp79-91. Edgerton and Brian G. (1989) Nervous Laughter: Television Situation Comedy and Liberal Democratic Ideology. The session’s main focus will be American remakes of British series. Feuer. Questions will be raised concerning the historical factors which have led to this. 2. pp1-20. Thousand Oaks. Other Readings Davies. Jeffrey S. and Vahimagi. Rose (eds. Critchley. Richard (2005) ‘Five Decades and Three Hundred Sitcoms about Class and Gender’. Jane. Staiger.
Stephen (1992) ‘You’ve Never Had it so Silly: The Politics of British Satirical Comedy from “Beyond the Fringe” to “Spitting Image”’. Week 5 Adult Animation This week we will explore another recent (primarily American) development in sitcom. In addition.F. This will be placed within the context of early television forms as a whole.
. Peter (1991) ‘Hancock’s Half-Hour: A Watershed in British Television Comedy’. Cook. pp139-155. to look at how the genre developed. Rebecca (2003) ‘From Fred and Wilma to Ren and Stimpy: What Makes a Cartoon ‘Prime Time’’. 2.I. Goddard. London: British Film Institute. a key focus is the social role of comedy and television. in both Britain and America. London: British Film Institute. in John Morreall (ed) The Philosophy of Laughter and Humor.Week 4 The Origins of British Sitcom This week’s work will involve examining early examples of sitcom. Set Readings 1. that of animation made for adults. pp75-89. Dossier 17: Television Sitcom. Michael (1987) ‘Humor and Incongruity’. London and New York: Routledge. pp147-164. Albany: State University of New York Press. Albany: State University of New York Press. Kevin (2001) ‘Adult Animation’ and ‘The Simpsons and South Park’ in Glen Creeber (ed. in John Corner (ed) Popular Television in Britain: Studies in Cultural History. because of this. London and New York: Routledge. Farley. and relate this to debates about the social role of entertainment covered in week 1. Wagg. Other Readings Donnelly. Such programmes question high/low culture distinctions. London: British Film Institute.) (1982) B. as well as raising questions about adult/childish pleasures. in Carol A Stabile and Mark Harrison (eds) Prime Time Animation: Television Animation and American Culture.) Popular Television in Britain: Studies in Cultural History. Peter (1991) ‘Hancock’s Half-Hour: A Watershed in British Television Comedy’ in John Corner (ed. in Come on Down? Popular Media Culture in Post-War Britain. these series have often caused concern over their representational strategies and the effects they may have on audiences. Set Readings 1. pp20-37. John (1983) Taking Laughter Seriously. as well as the radio and theatrical origins of the genre. Jim (ed. James (2003) Teaching TV Sitcom. London: British Film Institute. 2. Other Readings Baker. You will look at how the genre has developed (if at all) since its inception. London: British Film Institute. Goddard.) The Television Genre Book. Morreall. Clark.
Parody and Intertextuality. Week 8 Representation and Race Because of the history of stereotyped and negative representations of certain ethnic groups. Chris (2004) Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Defined a Generation. Rowe. pp125-137. Patricia (1992) High Anxiety: Catastrophe.
. Cambridge: De Capo. comedy has been a key area for debates about the depiction of race. 6th Edition. Coleman. London: Routledge. Scandal. Mellencamp. and discuss whether the specifics of comedy and comedic performance might offer different opportunities for portrayal compared to other genres. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Gail (ed. pp54-60. Differences between British and American portrayals will be explored. Robin R. Kathleen (2003) ‘Roseanne: Unruly Woman as Domestic Goddess’. Jonathan (2006) Watching with the Simpsons: Television. Rowe Karlyn. as will the relationship between entertainment and race. and Charlton D. Dalton and Laura L. Other Readings Finney. 2. in Mary M. Kathleen (1995) The Unruly Woman: Gender and the Genres of Laughter. Cambridge: Polity.) (1994) Look Who’s Laughing: Gender and Comedy. Gurevich. Kellner. Aaron (1997) ‘Bakhtin and His Theory of Carnival’. we are entering debates which have often been at the core of the analysis of comedy. Austin: University of Texas Press.Gray. in particular in terms of representations of black people and culture. Gray. In this session we will examine the relationship between representations of race and sitcom. Langhorne: Gordon and Breach. Douglas (2000) ‘Beavis and Butt-head: No Future for Postmodern Youth’ in Horace Newcomb (ed. Set Readings 1. Basingstoke: Macmillan. in Jan Bremmer and Herman Roodenburg (eds) A Cultural History of Humour. McIlwain (2005) ‘The Hidden Truths in Black Sitcoms’. in Joanne Morreale (ed) Critiquing the Sitcom: A Reader. Week 6 Tutorial Week – Assessed Discussions There will be no class this week. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. Age and Comedy. Week 7 Representation and Gender In moving on to look at sitcom and representation. Frances (1994) Women and Laughter. Linder (eds) The Sitcom Reader: America Viewed and Skewed. Means. Albany: State University of New York Press. Syracuse: Syracue University Press.) Television: the Critical View. This week we will look at how men and women have been portrayed in sitcom. Set Readings 1. Turner. pp251-261.
Thousand Oaks: Sage. Cambridge: Polity Press. pp111-127. This will be explored related to ‘camp’. ‘The Unruly Woman Sitcom’. Medhurst. Karen (1996) Black and White Media: Black Images in Popular Film and Television. Ross. and how they differ from performers in other genres. London: British Film Institute.) The Television Genre Book. Mitchell. and ‘Will and Grace’ in Glen Creeber (ed. Other Readings Dines. Thirdly. pp41-57. Ron (2006) Gay TV and Straight America. Keller and Leslie Stratyner (eds) The New Queer Aesthetic on Television. Week 10 Comic Performance This week’s session will involve looking at acting and performance in sitcom. Becker. Andy (2007) A National Joke: Popular Comedy and English Cultural Identity. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield.) Television Studies. pp85-98. sexuality has often been a topic of comedy because of its ‘deviant’ nature in the majority of white. London: British Film Institute.2. Firstly. Fred (2000) ‘Making a Gay Masculinity’. New Brunswick and London: Rutgers University Press. Jefferson. Critical Studies in Media Communication 17 (1) 113-6. for multiple reasons. Gail. London: Routledge. 2. we will examine the nature of sitcom actors and stars. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
. Gillespie. and Jean M. Race and Class in Media: A Text-Reader. Western societies. Humez (eds. Danielle (2006) ‘Straight and Crazy? Bisexual and Easy? Or Drunken Floozy? The Queer Politics of Karen Walker’. Jane (2004) Television and Sexuality: Regulation and the Politics of Taste. Oring. and the differences between British and American portrayals of sex and sexuality. we will see how the comic intent of sitcom is signalled by performance. Maidenhead: Open University Press. giving this analysis an historical aspect. in James R. Jane (2001) ‘The “Gay” and “Queer” Sitcom’. like race. Set Readings 1. Secondly. and the nature of performance and theatricality. Stephanie Greco (2006) Media and Minorities: Race and Politics in News and Entertainment. Week 9 Representation and Sexuality It has been argued that. Elliott (2003) Engaging Humor. North Carolina and London: McFarland and Company. Larson. This session will explore the ways in which heterosexuality and homosexuality have been portrayed in sitcom. Marie (2002) ‘Television and Race in Britain: Comedy’ in Toby Miller (ed.) Gender. Other Readings Arthurs. Fejes. Feuer.
Jane.we will discuss the consequences and origins of comedy’s particular performance style. London: BFI. London: Wallflower Press. Seidman. London: Sage. Frank (ed) (2003) Hollywood Comedians: the Film Reader. London and New York: Routledge. and Michael Pickering (1998) ‘Heard the One About the White Middle-Class Heterosexual Father-in-Law? Gender. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. London and New York: Routledge. protest groups. Steve (2003) ‘Performance. Set Readings 1. often resulting in complaints. Week 11 Comedy and Offence This week’s session will involve looking at what happens when audiences are offended by comedy. and Self-Reference in Hollywood Comedian Comedy’. from Vic Reeves to The Office. Geoff (2002) Film Comedy. There will be no screening this week. and Social Difference. Jerry (1994) Taking Humour Seriously. Michael (2005) Laughter and Ridicule: Towards a Social Critique of Humour. Politics. Other Readings Dale. pp63-77. Thompson. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Sharon. Littlewood. London: Fourth Estate. pp21-41. in order to prepare for the forthcoming exam. however. and how these relate to issues such as representation. London: Routledge. King. 2. in Frank Krutnik (ed) Hollywood Comedians: The Film Reader.
. and historical changes in offensiveness. Christie (1990) Ethnic Humor Around the World: a Comparative Analysis. Palmer. Considering the social role comedy is often required to fulfil offence may be an unsurprising effect of the genre. 2. pp291-312. Krutnik. This session will engage with debates about the consequences of such humour. Ben (2004) Sunshine on Putty: The Golden Age of British Comedy. Davies. and Michael Pickering (eds) (2005) Beyond a Joke: the Limits of Humour. Enunciation. Ethnicity and Political Correctness in Comedy’. Lockyer. in Stephen Wagg (ed) Because I Tell a Joke or Two: Comedy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Week 12 Summary and Exam Revision In this session we will draw together all the key issues which have been covered throughout the unit. scheduling. the social role television is required to play may place limits on sitcom’s offensiveness. pp161-173. and explore issues such as regulation. Alan (2000) Comedy is a Man in Trouble: Slapstick in American Movies. Set Readings 1. Other Readings Billig.
.NOTE: All content in this handbook is subject to change.