Complex TV


Television studies, as forged by the influence of cultural studies, has been loath to include critical evaluation in its toolbox, as television’s own spot on the receiving end of numerous aesthetic condemnations has pushed evaluative criticism off the field’s agenda. In this chapter, I explore a model of contextualized evaluation that does not re-create universal aesthetic values but rather looks at how a series can define its own terms and parameters of evaluation and how television scholars might productively engage with questions of value. Using the examples of The Wire, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men, all of which have been hailed by critics as among the greatest television series in the medium’s history, I discuss how we can enter into medium-specific debates over value without re-creating a canon or exclusionary critical practices, considering how complexity can function as an aesthetic asset in multiple ways.

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