The analysis papers were every bit as sophisticated, well-developed, and insightful as papers about more traditional narratives. This wasn't surprising, really, as I have read a lot of smart analysis about television in both popular and academic venues. But, it was validating as to the value of television as a text-producing medium for the classroom. Also, I got more surprising observations about television than I tend to get about books or other traditional written texts. I don't know if it's their familiarity with the medium, the wealth of information available to them on the web about these texts, or some other factor, but they had some things to say.
Comedies worked better than dramas, overall. They each wrote one paper on an episode of a half hour comedy, and an episode of a hour-long drama. I got strong papers on each, and at least one strong paper about each single episode, but overall the comedy papers were better. I suspect it has to do with the tremendously fast pace of joke content in contemporary sit-coms. There so much to unpack there that it's easy to find enough to say. Also, the dramas tended to require more context in order to make sense, which was a limiting factor for some
- Best episode for class discussion, comedy "Return of the King," The Boondocks
- Best episode for class discussion, drama: "Man on the Street", Dollhouse
- Strongest overall papers: "Diversity Hire", Archer and "Jaynestown", Firefly
- Wouldn't teach again: "The Pain in the Heart", Bones
- Surprised it still works: "Cherokee Hair Tampons," South Park
For my next TV challenge, this semester I will be teaching Season 4 of Jersey Shore, in which the cast goes to Florence, Italy. We will watch and analyze a full season, rather than individual episodes from multiple shows. My own students are travelling to Florence, so it's relatable. It's relatively recent, but also fading from the cultural awareness quickly, as tends to happen with reality television. Most importantly, it affords a great opportunity to examine identity construction (with the cast self-identifying with the "Guido" sub-culture, and many of the cast members espousing strong but mixed ethnic identities), the editorial process and narrative framing, and cultural dislocation. In December, I'll update with how it went.