Mad Men – Complex Narratives


In week 9, the idea of the dispersal of quality TV and complex narratives was discussed in the lecture, focusing on the series Mad Men. Why is Mad Men is considered as a quality TV show? As mentioned, “Complex television employs a range of serial techniques, with the underlying assumption that a series is a cumulative narrative that builds over time, rather than resetting back to a steady-state equilibrium at the end of every episode” (Mittell, 2012). In Mad Men, the plot develops slowly over time and very character-centered. The show also emphasizes on building immersive storyworld. The three factors work together and create an incredible viewing experience of the show with a complex narrative.


In episode 13 ‘The Wheel’, the famous scene of the Carousel slide projector presentation by Don Draper has been many people’s favourite and an impressive end for season 1. He uses the wheel-Carousel as a time machine to go back to some of the most memorable and happy moments in his life. Don creates a relatable feeling that everyone in the storyworld and the audience can connect with, by sharing his very personal memories. In Mad Men’s complex narrative, each character is very centered that makes their actions and motivations a lot more valuable because we follow and understand their back-story over the time.


 “Since Mad Men‘s slow moving plot lacks the suspenseful cliff-hangers that often drive serial narratives … our investment in the storyworld is lodged in the characters’ struggles and motivations” (Mittel, 2010)


The ‘Carousel’ is a great example of the narrative complexity in Mad Men, as the characteristic of Don and his life untangles the most in the scene, let the audience know what makes him the way he is.

“Somewhere in the middle of that pitch, though, he realizes the place he longs to go is the place he’s already talking about, even if he won’t allow himself to feel that for more than a millisecond. He’s trapped by time, as we all are, forced to live our lives in sequence, as the same, flawed people who never really realize the truth of who they really are at heart, which is wounded and beaten and fleeting. But also, possibly, kind and good and capable of something outside of themselves.” (Vanderwerff, 2014)

 Through out the season, it transforms character development, emotion and an immersive storyworld into a powerful show on screen. In ‘The Wheel’, the pitch of Don Daper makes a very impressive scene for the episode as it recaptures and reminds the audience storylines of every character in the season as well as the themes of the show.


Mittell, J. (2010). On Disliking Mad Men.

Mittell, J. (2012). Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling, pre-publication edition.

Vanderwerff, T.(2014). Mad Men: “The Wheel”.

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One Born Every Minute & Reality TV

One born every minute.


One born is an UK reality show documenting a journey of giving birth in hospital environment. The show is captured by 40 rigged cameras, which give the audience the “real” moments, “real” persons without scripted. Besides giving insights of labour, it also brings some interest aspects of relationship between the fathers and the mothers, as well as between the mothers and the midwives.


In the screening of season 1, episode 4, we are induced to two mothers Joy and Kelly. Every part of the episode is very original and authentic as the characters tell their stories, situations through the episode and how they appear on screen via different fixed camera angles. The fact that everything is captured by the rigged cameras also support the “realness” of the show as some people are tend to not being themselves in front of TV crews, they hardly notice the camera operation and that they are being filmed. And to the fact that it’s about the journeys of labour and the starts of new lives, the authenticity factor of the show is really important to the audience; it explains why the show has such a high rating and success. The experience of labour and birth is so emotionally charged that the ability to capture every detail of a experience in this way makes for compelling television. The rigged cameras also give the audience a privileged position on sharing the very personal moment of the characters without being obtrusive.


With it unique format, One Born Every Minute can be considered as a ‘docusoap’ as it often brings up emotional moments to the audience witnessing the very moment of human’s life beginnings. One more interesting thing about the show is the way they edit all the footages together. Using different angles showing different personal perspective/ point of view during the conversation and what is happening around them.


This format of using rigged cameras has been using a lot more often now in reality tv shows. Big Brother can be considered as the very first one using the technique but not until OBEM, it really becomes popular and favorite as it can provide audience unmediated, voyeuristic but very ‘real’ and ‘authentic’ personalities, situations and narratives. With this format, it can be very cost effective with the economic shifts as it does not required a huge crew to produce the show as in traditional way. And with the development of technology, the producers now have more choices and more options with their rigged cameras which make it even more convenient and effective in capturing the moments.


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Geographies From the National to the Transnational

Several critical themes prove evident in the 2011 Swedish/Danish crime thriller, The Bridge, where the discovery of a body on the border between the two states leads to investigations. While remakes of the tv series in France/Britain and America are in existence, the idea of transnationalism and cultural imperialism is seen in how the detective agencies attempt to solve the mystery. However, what proves more interesting is how the Swede-Dane series itself avoids common tropes seen in American films, inarguably the precursor to the crime drama, and instead infuses their characters with cultural imprints of their own.

Some of the problems with the media industry today revolve around a reliance on common themes and tropes. For example, the themes of post-colonialism and using active audiences are seen in a majority of films and television series to the extent there exists little in the way of originality. This in turn prompts the need for regional or national imprinting where the productions themselves adopt a more conciliatory effect in assuming a cultural stance; by remodeling the productions to represent a national outlook, the industries in question in effect adopt the norm in seeking audience-friendly productions with the aim of improving ‘ratings’. To solve this problem, we have characters involved in a common problem and seeking answers using their respective talents and areas of influence. That the problems are shared and common, i.e., the mysterious murder, is critical in bringing about the concept of the ‘deteriorization of the imagination’ where the common problem faced by both lead actors leads to a shared national conscience.

The idea of ‘soft-power’ is insidiously present as seen in the majority of programs produced out of the US. Here, audiences and viewers are ‘trained’ to have an appreciation for American values and products. In the 2013 version of The Bridge, the detectives in question are ‘American’ in the sense that they answer to popular tropes of attractive actors possessing worthy qualities such as determination, beauty, intelligent etc. in contrast, the Swede-Danish production revokes such forms of cultural imperialism whereby foreign productions, with attendant foreign ideals and goals in social modeling, transfuse across borders. This is true in the original production where the character Rohde possesses a beautiful home much at odds with his physical presentation. This in a way presents a national conscience where a preference for the ‘self’ as contrasted to a reliance on the ‘collective’ is seen in their private lives. In this way, we do not encounter the problem of social, economic or political domination common in transnational media or entertainment but instead have a shared conscience and problem.

In The Bridge, the main characters are flawed. Rohde seems emotionally insecure and dependant at the best of times while seemingly determined to wreck his career with his self-destructive nature. Noren lacks the stereotypical beauty common in crime dramas and instead evinces a lack of care for her features or character.  In a sense, the two adopt a spatial imagery different from the one the American world expects and instead comes across as unique. Is one were to attempt correlating national geographies, one would say the rugged, carefree natures the Swede-Danish actors adopt reflected on their own national geographies of lands covered in winter ice and bearing rugged terrain most of the time.

The question at hand is thus: what makes transnational television so important in the media and journalistic worlds? The importance is seen in the themes observed in the tv series, i.e., the idea of cultural imperialism. Each involved nation-state possesses their own national characters, problems and solutions. Cross-border broadcasting only goes so far in forging a shared transnational outlook popular and common to the involved countries. The supportive elements in the series are such that the actors not only share a common language but also a cultural resonance in their shared interests. As a result, in attempting to discover the nature of the incidents surrounding their spheres of influence, they come together to address a common goal/enemy that threatens the interests of both nations.



The Bridge, 2013-present. [TV series] Developed by Meredith Stiehm, et al. Directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton, et al. USA: FX Pro­ductions. FX network.

The Bridge (DK: Broen; SE: Bron), 2011-2013. [TV series] By Hans Rosenfeldt. Directed by Henrik Georgsson, et al. Sweden/Den­mark: Filmlance International/Nimbus Film

The Tunnel, 2013-present. [TV series] Developed by Hans Rosenfeldt. Directed by Hettie MacDonald, et al. UK/France: Kudos Film and Television. Sky Atlantic, Canal +.


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Live television

The Isle of Wonder, as the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony was coined, was stage managed by Danny Boyle on Friday 27 after its formal pronunciation by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The £27million spent for the event was later regarded as well spent considering the amount of global coverage and magnificence of the event in general. For close to two hours, the event is said to have had global television audience of over 900 million persons (Ormsby, 2012). Depending on the broadcaster, the event was transmitted on a live global audience with few commercial interruptions. With such a live audience, one would be drawn to try and interrogate the consequences and impact that the modern live television coverage has had to modern day lives. As such, this piece aims to examine some of the impact that the live television coverage has had to society; the paper will largely be examined from a journalistic point of view. Live television coverage offers an opportunity for a myriad number of people from various communities to be interlinked through space and time for a certain period. During this session, the interconnected audience will have the opportunity to experience a phenomenon simultaneously and have the chance to remit their perceptions on its through various means such as through social media. Taking the example of the London 2012 Olympics, almost all the nations of the world were presented in the opening ceremony implying the cultural ties that were born on that night where peoples from all over the world had a chance to learn something more about other nations. This has the desired effect of impacting peace loving attributes to global audiences as everyone who was viewing the event would be cognizant of the fact that their perceived enemy is no more human than they are and at that moment in time, they are able to have a shared experience through space and time. Moving from the larger societal level, live television coverage has had a firm imprint on family values. During such sessions, families that might be separated by geographical factors will be in a position to view a common item after which they will be in a position to talk more about it in length when they have the opportunity to meet up for a family function. Taking the example of the London 2012 Olympics, with the chances that many families that were separated by geographical factors still having a chance to watch it, suffice to say that they would individually have their key moments of the event to talk about. Whether it was the James Bond entry or the Mr. Bean performance, each will draw in their own liking that they will then share in a family gathering. In such a gathering, the family will as a unit form closer and stronger ties when they interrogate the likes and dislikes of the London 2012 Olympics. Participation in live television coverage has been aided by the increasing use of social media platforms at the global stage. In most of the live programs, hash tags would be designed to enable people to interact and share their experiences on it. The London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony was but another event that drew global support. The extent to which the global family was tweeting on the event was said to have been part of the reason for the delayed feed in transmitting the live event. For example, in the US alone, it was estimated that their were over 9.6 million tweets on the opening ceremony alone (Shearman, 2012). An example as to how live coverage draws in public participation will be seen from the heightened spike in tweets during Rowan Atkinson’s performance in the Chariot of Fire scene. It is important to note that the increasing use of social media will have the desired effect of taking live television coverage to the next level of human interaction. Lastly, it can be posited that the use of live television coverage has been used for a number of commercial reasons. With live coverage, sponsors are given an opportunity to have a look at a new product of commodity or in some cases, have a humanitarian broadcast message sent out to them. The key point to consider here is that the sponsor take note of the masses that might be glued in watching the event and as such, by placing the advert, they stand to attract a good number of people.


Ormsby, A. (2012, August 7). London 2012 opening ceremony draws 900 million viewers. Retrieved August 21, 2014, from Reuters UK Edition: Shearman, S. (2012, July 30). Olympic Opening Ceremony tweeted about 9.7 million times. Retrieved August 21, 2014, from MediaWeek:

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Television in a Post Broadcast Era


The accountability of broadcast media is paramount. Jon Stewart and his Show, “Daily Show” seeks to emphasize accountability in journalism. This is in line with the principles in journalism that requires media and media practitioners to be accountable to the public. The provisions in The First Amendment curtail the government’s ability to enforce media to be accountable for what it broadcasts. The Show by Jon Stewart tries to enhance media accountability through four different ways. The first Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (Painter & Hodges 2010, p. 258).

It is imperative to note how other professional disciplines like medicine are held accountable for their actions. This should be applied to the media. You find that a physician can be summoned to explain his or her subscription for an ailment, and when proved culpable for misconduct may be punished by the government upon recommendations from the Physician’s board of inquiry. This suggests that the media must also establish a way of self-regulating to ensure accountability in broadcast. Journalists are protected from professional regulation by the “Free exercise clauses in the first amendment.” This lack of accountability in journalism have prompted various democracies to establish bodies like press councils, Op-Ed pages, code of ethics, Ombudsmen, Journalism reviews, public  and civic journalism initiatives, and media critics like the case of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, to hold media outlets accountable to what they broadcast (Painter & Hodges 2010, p. 258).

Jon Stewart’s Daily Show seeks to regulate to enhance accountability in the news media by interrogating the content that is broadcasted to the public. Jon Stewart uses humor and jokes to provide a counterbalance in the media reporting by the staid traditional news reporter. The show indicates that journalism involves role-playing, just as Stewart plays the real reporter’s role in his show. He employs press satire to critic media. These includes That Was the Week That Was by David Frost; Saturday Night Live show called the Weekend Update, and Murphy Brown. Film examples are also included in the Stewart’s show like Anchorman and Network (Painter & Hodges 2010, p. 259).

It is imperative to note the significance of comedy employed by Stewart to critic media. This approach enhances accountability of the media broadcaster’s to the public. He uses laughter to point out significant issues in journalism. Stewart seeks to enhance accountability of the media by ensuring that journalism gives room to democracy that created it. The humor gives a clear view to the public of what journalism entails. Stewart also puts it clear to the public the editing and creation of news and stories.

Jon Stewart’s Daily Show also suggests the manner in which a media outlet can help bring other media outlets to be accountable to the public. Most people in the field of journalism have argued that objectivity is too demanding for the journalist. For this reason, they have often referred to objectivity as a myth that cannot be questioned but can only be written about.  Similarly, the scholars from this school of thought have argued that even if it were possible to practice objectivity in journalism, it would be too undesirable since it confine the writers to a restricted format. It does not give a chance for the person critical and creative thinking in the presentation of data.  For this reason, they have argued that objectivity encourages superficial reporting of official facts thus the final presentation by the journalists, fails to provide the readers with analysis and proper interpretation.  It ignores the functions of the press, which revolve around commenting, campaigning and acting as a public watchdog.  From this school of thought, it is also argued that objectivity in journalism restricts the freedom press.  It restricts the ability people to share out there opinions and points of views about ideologies.


Painter, C & Hodges, L 2010, “Mocking the News: How The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Holds Traditional Broadcast News Accountable,” Journal of Mass Media Ethics, vol. 25, pp. 257–274.


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