Armchair Sociology, TV edition

Michael Newman has a terrific post up on the cultural legitimization of television. Or rather a post up arguing that television very possibly is not facing a watershed moment of legitimization in quite the way the popular press sees it. He makes the valid point that it's a little odd (if not offensive) to say that TV is only now being talked about, in polite society no less.

I will say in Alessandra Stanley's defense that her observations about the (Northeast Corridor) bourgeoisie's shifting attitude toward television jive with my own anecdotal observations.... that the New York Times' annoying tendency to universalize its narrow class position shouldn't obscure their remarkable capacity for un-self-reflexive social self-diagnosis. Further, my years at Brown convinved me that in some bourgeois circles at least, disdain of television is now seen as a middlebrow attitude.

In any case, I really appreciate Michael's readings of the class (and gender) politics behind the new cultural legitimization drive. Since my own work is on the moment in American cinema (late 1940s) when cultural legitimization of the medium reached a tipping point, I'm struck by the similarity of the process, even given different circumstances and different details... I think the true parallel to today's cultural upgrade strategy is not the Famous Players but Otto Preminger and Stanley Kramer. That of course, entails no prediction about the future direction of televisual legitimization. (Will the "discourse of legitimacy" that Michael argues for define itself against Sopranos-mania in the way the auteurists did against Stanley Kramer?)

On a side note, I was struck by how overwhelming the advertising for television shows was in Los Angeles. Billboards, murals, and busstop ads for the fall shows were everywhere. Of course, much of that may be designed primarily to convince talent and industry players that their shows are being promoted.


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