Screening Analysis

True Detective which was screened in week 8 is a great example of how a crime drama can be done. After many years of watching the same formula of a crime being committed at the start of the episode and after analysing the evidence and striking a deal with a reluctant key witness the perpetrator is caught and the case is closed.

Network shows such as Criminal Minds and CSI can become very predictable for audience that have seen this formula play out every week. That is why shows like True Detective can be so refreshing and it is to no one’s surprise that it is produced by HBO. In Christopher Anderson’s article “Producing an Aristocracy of Culture in American Television”, he argues that HBO can be seen, in some respects as the lead in turning American Television into a cultivated expectation (Edgerton, et al 2008, p.23). It was also HBO who produced The Sopranos which was the first cable show to ever win an Emmy. Anderson furthers this argument by stating that HBO gives Television an “aesthetic disposition”, which is usually revered for historical and contemporary fine art (Edgerton, et al 2008, p.25). Criminal Minds and CSI usually have twenty or more episodes in a season while True Detective only has eight. Despite the lack of episodes it still manages to tell a much more steadily are steadily unfolding mystery narrative since it’s not episodic as our two protagonist Rustin “Rust” Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) chased after the same killer for the entire series.

What set this show apart from most crime dramas is the aforementioned actors in Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as they are major Hollywood actors and provide True Detective with some star power. Their performances captivated audiences as each portrayed a different broken characters and how they contrasted in the 1995 and 2012. Audiences will then see how these characters evolved from what they were to what they are in 2012. The case and their partnership are seen “through the refining lens if the past, revealing thoughts and events (the detectives) have long kept hidden from the world, and sometimes themselves” (Gardner, 2014). The story progresses through the use of flashbacks as Foster Hirsch says that these flashbacks that are “non-chronological order” and deal with a “fractured time sequence” resemble classic noire films. (Hirsch 2008, p.72). By being set in two different timelines it can be hard to keep the two narratives to not reveal too much to the audience since the main narrative occurs in 1995, a full seventeen years before.

What was also interesting was how they differentiated between the two timelines through the use of mise-en-scene. Both main characters look vastly different from their former selves but the less obvious techniques that were utilised such as the colour correction subconsciously made the audience link the time line to a particular tone. The 2012 timeline was light with harsh, artificial lighting, while the 1995 one had more natural lighting with a sepia tone overlay. This was a subtle way to inform the audience about the timeline of the scene through the use of colour and a person’s ingrained reaction to the sepia tone. The use of space also helped distinguish the two timelines as they 2012 scenes were kept indoors and in restricted spaces while the very first shot in the 1995 timeline was a wide establishing shot showing the grand fields of Louisiana as Rust and Marty drive a seemingly never ending road. In saying this, the two are a stuck in a tight space (the car) and appearing uncomfortable with each other’s presence. True Detective breaks the trope of having the partnership where the characters are good friends, with two characters that have a very different outlook on life and contrasting ideals which causes a friction between the two as the narrative progresses.

This show is an example of why people say that this is the golden age of television as True Detective tries to break tropes and clichés to tell a story about good vs. evil and the grief/loss that the individuals often encounter in this line of work.


Edgerton, G. R, and Jeffrey P. J, 2008, “Producing an Aristocracy of Culture in American Television” in The Essential HBO Reader, University Press of Kentucky, pp.20-27.

Gardner, C, 2014, “Television Case History”, The, viewed 21 October 2015 <>.

Hirsch, F, 2008, “The Crazy Mirror” in The Dark Side of the Screen: Film Noir, Da Capo Press, pp.68-75.

TV Cultures Concept

In week 6 the concept of active audiences was brought up in the lecture in week 6 and to an extent I have discussed this topic as part of my presentation but there is one particular element that I have not spoken about yet.

The link between active audiences and piracy is quite interesting as opposed to waiting for local providers to distribute certain material; more ‘active’ members of the viewing public might opt for piracy instead. Mark Pesce argues that “Audiences are technically savvy these days; they can and will find a way to get any television programming they desire.– they just want to watch it. Now” (Pesce, 2005). As these members of the audience are engaging in an illegal activity it is perhaps not as black and white as some research suggests. Joe Karaganis claims that “What we know usually begins, and often ends, with industry sponsored research” (Karaganis, 2011, p.1). This shows a clear biased in the research presented as it understandable for these industries to want to eradicate piracy but there are more factors at play that can lead an individual to piracy. Karaganis points out some of these reasons as he writes “From multinational pricing strategies, to international trade agreements, to the waves of technological diffusion that are transforming cultural communities” (Karaganis, 2011, p.1). What can be certain is that not every county has the same factors that lead people of that nation to pirate these shows.

Australia’s piracy levels is among the highest in the world and the main argument for such a high level is the industrial/provider practices that are responsible for the slow release of foreign (mainly American) material in Australia. Graham Spencer highlights how out of date the Australian model really is as he says “House of Cards Season 2 did air within a day of its US release, except Foxtel aired just one episode a week” (Spencer, 2014). House of Cards being a Netflix original, on its original platform it is released all at once but it can’t be done of Foxtel is the platform it’s being shown on. What Spencer wrote is one year old and Australia has gone from one Video on Demand service to four, in the form of Netflix, Presto, Stan, and the longest running VoD in Australia Quickflix. The House of Cards issue is now resolved since it has made Netflix its new home but that is not quite true for Netflix’s other highly rated show Orange is the New Black. While it is no Netflix it simultaneously aired its new season on Foxtel as well, week by week. This was unexpected considering Netflix and Foxtel are direct competitors and will be interesting to see if happens for the next season or maybe it was just a final condition from their previous agreement. Whatever happens next it will be interesting to see of all these Video on Demand services will prove to be a legal option for consumers that previously relied on piracy to access their shows. What also has to be taken into account when gathering these statistics is the impact that Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act 2015 or more commonly known as the anti-piracy law will have on Australian pirates. It can prove to be a useful study to determine what the best method is to deal with Australia’s high levels of piracy. Whether it will be the heavy handed tactics by the Australian government or the rise of Video on Demand services on Australian shores, one thing is for certain, how Australians access their content will change for the better or the worst depending on the outcome of this experiment.


Karaganis, J, 2011, “Piracy and Enforcement in the Global Perspective” in Media Piracy in Emerging Economies,, pp.1-5.

Pesce, M, 2005, “Piracy is Good.” in New Models for the Distribution of Television Programming,, viewed 17 October 2015 <>

Spencer, G, 2014, Watching TV in Australia the Australian Delay Under the Microscope,, viewed 17 October 2015 <>

Television Viewing Habits Post

From what I recorded over the past few weeks I can clearly see that for the majority of the time I have viewed these shows in my room alone. That come to little surprise I like to watch at my own pace rather than having to wait for other. That being said there is also the fact that I watched a couple of shows with my brother. Most of the time it was planned but there were also a few instances where he walked in and started watching. I can also see that in the few instances where I actually watch ‘traditional’ Television I almost never watch in the scheduled time made by the station. According to John Ellis these schedules are based on the “assumptions about everyday life, about school hours, working hours, mealtimes, family togetherness and apartness, bedtimes for children” (Ellis, 2000, p.26). It is clear that my viewing habits are not in line with the imagined communities TV executives have made the schedules for. With either the use of the DVR feature on Foxtel and Netflix, I watch what shows I want at anytime I want. Whether this is because I simply don’t fit the target demographic of the network or I actively choose not to conform to their schedules is debatable but I do believe that both are a factor in how I watch TV shows.

As I stated above it is rare for me to watch TV in the living room but the one thing I always watch on the big screen is live sport. When it comes to live TV, sport is the only instance I actually watch something live. It is a real effort to watch something live especially if it’s from another time zone. There is something about watching a game live that is lost when watching a recorded one. Jonathan Feuer and James Kaplan argue that “It is possible that we perceive video to be more real because the industry tells us it is live” (Feuer, Kaplan, 1983, p.14) which might factor in the decision to watch something live. What is also interesting is that whenever I watch these games live, it is more of a social experience as I watch it with my brother and father. This is a great departure from my usual viewing habits as it is a more secluded and isolated experience

In terms of the actual shows that I have watched over the past weeks I can clearly see that the majority of the shows have been cable shows as Marc Leverette, Brian Ott and Cara Louise Buckley claim that “Today, pay television (and HBO in particular) is positioned as an alternative to network offerings, consistently regarded as the premier site” (Leverette, Ott, Louise, 2009, p.1). It is to little surprise that the shows that I regarded as “quality” shows, few are on any network channel. This can be credited to the “HBO Effect” as stated by Leverette, Ott and Buckley (Leverette, Ott, Louise, 2009, p.1) as these cable shows have replicated the HBO formula which in turn allowed them to produce texts instead of TV shows. This effect has now evolved on Video on Demand services as their original, content much like HBO broke new ground with producing various genre shows and releasing all of the episodes at the same time.

Viewers today including myself are spoilt for choice when it comes to what to watch and how to watch these shows. The greatest challenge today seems to be watch shows not to watch rather than the other way round as there is an overwhelming amount of quality content being produced by various companies.

Ellis, J, 2000, “Scheduling: The Last Creative Act in Television?” in Media, Culture and Society, Sage Publications, London, pp.25-38.

Feuer, J, Kaplan, E. A, 1983, “The Concept of Live Television” in Regarding Television: Critical Approaches-An Anthology, University Publications of America, pp.12-22.

Leverette, M, Ott, B L, Buckley, C, L, 2009, “Introduction” in It’s Not TV: Watching HBO in the Post-Television Era, viewed 14 October 2015, <>

Television Cultures Post 2

This whole idea of ‘one to the many’ and imagined communities affect the way programs are scheduled as John Ellis claims that “just as editing involves a formidable activity of selection that is fundamental to the construction of any programme, scheduling defines the basic choices which define a broadcast television service” (John Ellis, Scheduling: the last creative act in television?, Pg. 25). With the very basic and simple fact that programmers can’t physically meet every single one of their viewers they rely on their beliefs of what a typical house hold would be doing at what time. Ellis insists that at the inception of Television broadcast, programmers were “providing people with the programmes when they were perceived as wanting or needing them, without much thought to the fact that they might want different kinds of programmes to those on offer” (John Ellis, Scheduling: the last creative act in television?, Pg. 25). The question of what to put on and what time has plagued programmers since the very beginning and there have many strategies to get the most accurate information as possible to rate the success of their scheduled shows. Perhaps the most well know one is the Nielsen rating system in America or the BARB (Broadcasters’ Audience Research Bureau) in the United Kingdom. Ellis outlines that the BARB “is based on a panel of nearly 4500 homes, selected from an annual ‘large-scale random probability survey of 40,000 homes” ” (John Ellis, Scheduling: the last creative act in television?, Pg. 28). That might seem like a lot of homes but according to the Office of national statistics, in 2014 there were 26.7 million homes in the UK.

This is an issue when a show such as Hannibal is still under a system that still supports this kind of thinking. This program isn’t made to appeal to the general masses as its content can only interest a niche market. The fact that the show was moved around every season and twice in its latest season, demonstrates how unsuited this kind of program is under this broadcast system. Hannibal suffered from poor viewer ratings from the first episode because the show is simply a bad fit for the network and no amount of scheduling could solve this issue which is way the show was ultimately cancelled. This idea of imagined communities appears once again as the few dictate what will be available to the many but in its essence this is flawed. It is true that the relationship between Broadcast Television and its audience is to appeal to as many people as possible in order to sell mass audiences to advertisers. What many seem to overlook sometimes is that these Networks are business and their main aim is to make as big a profit as possible, the same as any major corporation. It is more suited to their interests to produce a relatively inexpensive show that has the potential to get the attention of the ‘average’ viewer rather than a critically acclaimed show that may only appeal to a niche audience.

Ellis, John. “Scheduling: the last creative act in television?” Media, Culture & Society 22.1 (2000), 25-38.–2014.html

Television Cultures Post 1

I am a big fan of satirical news shows as they inform the general masses about important issues but deliver it in a way that keeps the audience engaged throughout the entire discussion. For years I have been watching shows such as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report that share a similar presentational structure of getting as many topics in a short half an hour segment daily, but more accurately it would be twenty four minutes due to the commercials.

Last year a new breed of satire news was born and it’s called Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and that is what we watched in the week 2 screening. Instead of having a show that airs on a daily basis, the producers of Last Week Tonight opted to have a one show a week format where the presenter John Oliver recaps the week’s biggest stories. Unlike The Daily Show, which was also displayed in the screening, this is not a parody news program with comedians pretending to be correspondents. This can be notices instantly just through the opening sequences of the two shows. While The Daily Show tries to emulate all the conventions of an actual news program, Last Week Tonight displays many iconic artifacts from history and pop culture with John Oliver at the center of it all, conveying to the audience the variety of topics that the show covers.

Perhaps the biggest difference between this show and the others is its long form segment, which is deemed as the main story of the week. After giving a summary of the week’s major news stories, Oliver moves on to discuss a single important issue for an average of fifteen minutes. John Oliver himself said in an interview with national post “in commercial TV there is literally a point at which you have to say, ‘We’ll be back after this’ and then Doritos will talk for 45 seconds. So as soon as we realized that we don’t have to be done after nine minutes, we can go for 18 if we want, then we thought that once a week we’ll do one story in significant depth and we would build the show around that.” This is unthinkable for other shows due to a more restricted scheduling on their network but Oliver thoroughly analyses an issue and not just skimming over it. This gives him time to explain what the issue is and why it’s important for the viewer to be well informed about the subject in the first place. The level of investigative reporting is shown when they present a historical context and a multitude of examples that help the audience solidify their understanding.

Unlike its Comedy Central counter parts, Last Week airs on HBO and there are no ad breaks and the censors are much more lenient. Perhaps the most important fact about the show airing on HBO is that since the network doesn’t have to rely on money from selling ad space to corporations to finance the show, this virtually eliminates any conflict of interest on what stories are presented. If a show is sponsored by a major corporation that are in the news for negative reasons the show has no choice but to not report the story. This combination of non – biased, creative freedom that is given to the show’s producers make Last Week Tonight with John Oliver a unique show that instead of rapid firing breaking news stories at the audience, it takes a ‘quality over quantity’ approach to news stories as it takes its time to ensure that after the credits roll the viewer has a much better underrating of the world they live in.