Television Cultures – Blog Post #4

For years, researchers have studied television audiences and viewing preferences. Advertisers, commercial broadcasters and even government policy makers care about audiences as they are the individuals who will bring profit to the industry. These ‘commodity audiences’ are reflected via ratings as they “reflect neither mass taste nor the taste of an intellectual elite” (Jenkins, 2013). Ratings give a small representation of the actual audience, making them only an indicator for companies using television as a way to make money.

But what about Fandoms?

Many television culture researchers have attempted to trace the emergence of an organized media fan culture, to the late 1960s efforts “to pressure NBC in returning Star Trek to the air” (Jenkins, 2013). In 1969, the show was cancelled after a lack of popularity shown in the ratings. The ratings only give a small representation of the actual audience, and perhaps this meant that the fans were excluded. However, reruns were then aired in over 150 domestic and 60 international markets, helping Star Trek develop a fan base greater than its popularity in the original run. As a result of large fan gatherings and conventions in support of the series between 1967 and 1972, the franchise was revived and is still thriving today.

Fandoms are stereotyped as cultural others – “as obsessive, freakish, hysterical, infantile & regressive social subjects” (Hill, 2007). Fans are often seen as ‘textual poachers’ who find pleasure in aspects of the text that are not necessarily valued by producers or those with institutional training. Pop cultures take on fandom has typically been one of distaste and critique, with fans’ emotional attachments to media texts and celebrities being viewed as “irrational” (Jenkins, 2013).

Yet despite all of this, fandoms have become an incredibly important tool for many television programs. Many producers have “employed fans as a base of support in their own power struggles with network executives” (Hill, 2007), in order to keep their programs on the air. Other producers have gone down the path of transmedia storytelling, providing extra content for fans, such as trailers, behind-the-scenes footage or webisodes in order to gain a larger fan following and to keep fans interested. At the end of the day, the fans enable programs to continue running as they are the ones that bring in capital for producers.

First being aired on May 31, 2000 on CBS, Survivor is an example of a “TV Phenomenon that sparked a multilayered convergence of media-based fan activity” (Taddeo and Dvorak, 2010). The reality television program follows a group of strangers, or celebrities, in an isolated location where they must provide food, water, fire and shelter for themselves, whilst also competing in challenges to stay on the island, in order to win the million-dollar prize. Viewers clamored to be part of the “Survivor experience through fan sites, discussion boards, mediated videos posted on YouTube, and a host of other online participatory” (ibid.). Survivor also has behind-the-scenes footage and other exclusive content, that fans are able to access via a website, promoting the concept of transmedia storytelling. It is also important to note that Survivor produced two seasons of ‘Survivor – Fans vs. Favourites’, created for fans who believed they could out-survive original contestants of the show. This suggests that producers took note of the conversations being had by fans stating that they could ‘do it better’, and thus created the program as a way of saying ‘prove it’.

It could be said that fandoms are a problem for so called ‘legitimate culture’, as they perhaps, muddy the boundaries of mass culture texts that otherwise wouldn’t be considered so highly. However, fandoms also enable important theory and criticism surrounding texts. Often their interpretations and evaluations go unheard despite the fact that they provide legitimate, negotiated ideas that may not necessarily be commonly represented. They also allow for an understanding of their own relationships to texts.

Whilst some people view fandoms to be full of individuals who are “obsessive” or “freakish”, we must consider the fact that they allow for a revival of particular popular culture texts, especially in the case of Star Trek. They enable texts to be interpreted in a deeper, more meaningful way and often become a tool for more enriching studies into the cultures surrounding television productions.


Jenkins, H. (2013). Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. New York: Routledge. (p. 28-33)

Taddeo, J. and Dvorak, K. (2010). The tube has spoken. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. (p. i-v)

Hill, A. (2005). Reality TV. London: Routledge. (p. 3-37).

Wikipedia, (2015). Survivor: Caramoan. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Oct. 2015].

Wikipedia, (2015). Star Trek. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Oct. 2015].

Wikipedia, (2015). Star Trek fandom. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Oct. 2015].


Television Cultures – Blog Post #3

What do you get when you cross a group of mid-twenties, female New Yorkers and Lena Dunham’s real life experiences? That’s right, the comedy-drama Girls, starring Lena Dunham, herself, as the main character, Hannah Horvath.

Girls is an American television series created by Lena Dunham, that premiered on HBO on April 15, 2012. The show centres around an aspiring writer, Hannah, and her three friends, Jessa, Shoshanna and Marnie, “who are as messed up as [Hannah] is” (Sheffield, 2012 pg. 32). Hannah gets a shock when her parents visit Brooklyn from Michigan to announce that they will no longer financially support her. She is left to her own devices where she must navigate her twenties alongside her closest friends. 

Classed under ‘comedy-drama’, Girls provides audiences with just that, comedy and drama. Lena Dunham, a comedian herself, takes the audience on a comedic journey showing us the typical humiliations, disasters and rare triumphs of the four women. The show has been heralded as “frank and fearless” for it’s “gritty and straightforward approach to taboo topics like abortion, its naturalistic and frank take on sex scenes and the importance of female friendship the show celebrates” (Daalmans 2013, pg. 359). This ‘up-front’ approach is typical of HBO quality drama, known for seeking “discomfort” (Fuller and Driscoll 2015, pg. 258) and exploring “contemporary anxieties” (Johnson 2005, pg. 61).


However, the show adopts an interesting approach on women by suggesting that the girls are all “self-evolved, self-entitled and… unable to define themselves without male influence” (Daalmans 2013, pg. 359). There is a “notion that these women’s sense of self-definition only comes through their relationships with a man”. This provokes a sense of disconnect for women, especially as the show attempts to represent women aged in their 20’s. What is also surprising is that Lena Dunham herself is extremely successful, yet she is portrayed as a character who lacks self-direction. Overall, the show is deficient of the millennial, successful and multi-cultural women, especially in a time period when society is pushing for equality and a positive representation of women.

In saying this, HBO’s Sex and the City is quite similar, in that it explores “sexual content… and the importance of sexual expression to its females” (Fuller and Driscoll 2015, pg. 259) so it is no different to Girls. Evidently, Girls follows a similar storyline to Sex and the City featuring four central female characters who are concerned with their sex lives. Girls has been critiqued for its similarity with Sex and the City, albeit the obvious shift in time periods where the show encompasses ideas that are relevant to the time in which it was created.

However, “Girls includes in depth sexual stories that Sex and the City would “never canvass, entwined with different stories about aspiration and identity, including the looming possibility of complete life failure” (ibid.). Whereas in Sex and the City, the women were not as concerned about complete life failure. Girls seems to make a clear comment on the way women approach their sex lives within today’s society and suggests that women are more open to talking about it. It also makes a comment on the fact that there is potentially more pressure today, to be a ‘successful woman’, signified by the women in Girls feeling as if they will fail, compared to the time of Sex and the City.


Girls has also caused a lot of controversy due to its lack of racial diversity. The show’s characters are all white, middle-class females living in the highly multiracial New York City. Hadley Freeman (2014) states that “when it transpired that there were almost no people of colour in the first series of the show, critics cried racism in a way that no one ever did about the similarly New York-based and Sex and the City” (ibid.). This leads to the fact that “New York is much more segregated” than people think; Dunham is making a comment on what needs to change. It is also impossible for Dunham to “represent all life experiences of everyone in her generation”, as she doesn’t have an everyman’s “view of the world” (ibid.).


But despite the criticisms that come with the show, we must herald this “fresh” and “ground-breaking” (Daalmans 2013, pg. 359) programme that seems to be a part of the revival of successful female-lead shows. The show provides a reflection for many women in their 20-somethings especially within today’s society.




Sheffield, R. (2012), Girls! Girls! Girls!. Rolling Stone, p.32.


Daalmans, S. (2013). ‘I’m Busy Trying to Become Who I Am: Self-entitlement and the city in HBO’s Girls’, Feminist Media Studies, 13(2), pp. 359-362.


Fuller, S. and Driscoll, C. (2015). ‘HBO’s Girls: gender, generation, and quality television’, Continuum, 29(2), pp. 253-262.


Johnson, C. (2005). ‘Quality/Cult Television: The X-Files and Television History’, The Contemporary Television Series, pp. 57–71.


Dunham, L., Dunham, L., Williams, A. and Kirke, J. (2015). Girls (TV Series 2012– ). [online] IMDb. Available at: [Accessed 22 Oct. 2015].


Freeman, H. (2014). Not That Kind of Girl review – Lena Dunham exposes all, again. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 22 Oct. 2015].



Television Cultures – Blog Post #2 (Scheduling and Masterchef)

We often tend to overlook the power of scheduling even though the concept of it is right in front of us every evening, when we sit down to watch television at dinnertime.

“The television schedule is a form of media temporality that simultaneously disciples and is disciple to the conventions of western ‘human time’ as they take place through standardised patterns of work, sleep, eating and family life” (Cover, 2005, pg. 14).

Schedules are important as they break down patterned audience behaviour (it is important to note that audience behaviour is relevant, as the aim for commercial television is to ‘sell’ mass audiences to advertisers in order to gain a profit from their programs). Firstly schedules include the inscribed assumptions about everyday life regarding working hours or meal times. This means that the evening television schedules often mimic evening schedules for households as this provides more relevant television and brings in viewers (therefore higher ratings, more profit). Secondly they cater to the annual pattern of seasons, events and special occasions. Thirdly, traditional slots tend to be more habitual i.e. news programs scheduled between 5-7pm (catered for the 9-5pm working day model), as this reaches a wider and larger audience range. And lastly are the assumptions about what the competition does and might do. Schedulers take into account patterns of behaviour from other networks or look at what is coming up on other networks, in order to provide the same sort of programming to compete.

The first point is relevant in regards to Masterchef as the program is broadcast around the time when individuals are preparing/eating dinner (7:30pm). Advertisers can market products relevant to Masterchef, i.e. Coles (a major sponsor of the show). For example, they may advertise half-price chicken which leads audiences to consider buying that chicken for a future meal.

Schedulers attempt to find the ‘best slot’ for particular programs especially when they are successful. This leads me to think about many popular cooking game shows that are manipulating ratings at the moment across quite a few networks including Channel 7, 9 and 10.

Channel 10 is definitely catering to my tastes with its hit television program ‘Masterchef’, an Australian reality television game show. The show features three main judges, Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston who are all highly regarded within the food industry. The first episode of season one aired on the 27th of April 2009 at 7pm, with the following seasons airing half an hour later (at 7:30pm). The first episode of season one attracted an average of 1.42 million viewers (cited in Wikipedia 2015), making Masterchef Australia the most watched show in the 7pm time slot. Six years on after moving to the 7:30pm time slot, the 2015 series averaged 1.168 million viewers each episode maintaining its spot as the number one program on television at its timeslot from May-July.

According to Paul Venzo (2009), “Masterchef was successful for a number of reasons. It coincided with the media’s focus on the global financial crisis… as it taught Australian’s how to prepare food that many of us could no longer afford to eat out.” Julie Goodwin (winner of season one) “embodied a key convention of reality television… a journey followed by a transformation into the more ‘ideal-self’.”

By playing on the stereotypical conventions of the family schedule, the producers of Masterchef are able to maximise viewing statistics and revenue through scheduling themselves around the typical family timetable.



Ellis, J 2000, ‘Scheduling: the last creative act in television?’, Media, Culture & Society, no. 22, vol. 1, pg. 25-38.

Wikipedia, 2015, MasterChef Australia. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Aug. 2015].

Venzo, P 2009, ‘Reality Really Does Bite: ‘Dead Set’ and the Development of Reality TV’, Metro Magazine: Media & Education Magazine, no. 163, pg. 92-97.


Television Cultures – Blog Post #1 (Deadset)

When reality television and zombies combine, the British television show ‘Deadset’ comes into play. The show is essentially a spoof on reality TV set both on the inside and outside world of the UK version of ‘Big Brother’. A zombie apocalypse rocks Britain and the last people standing happen to be the participants of Big Brother.

The show was premiered on October 27, 2008 on E4 and was shown consecutively for the five days leading up to Halloween. The ‘scary hype’ that surrounds Halloween, perhaps suggests the reason for this “flesh-eating genre for the smallscreen” (Clarke, 2008, pg. 30) raking in E4’s biggest audience since 2002 with 1.4 million viewers for the 10pm premiere. According to E4, the show had an average audience share of 5.8% compared with an average of 1.8% at the time slot. And perhaps the fact that this show was approached like a “feature film” according to Charlie Booker and featured the real host of the U.K. version of Big Brother, Davina McCall (which is interesting considering the real meanings behind the show), is the reason it was a success.

Deadset encompasses everything that falls under the horror genre with the use of “rapid edits and a range of shots that cut back and forth between the ‘threat at a distance’ and the abstracted close-up of the bloody attacks” (Venzo, 2009, pg. 95) providing the audience with a “gore-fest” (Venzo, 2009, pg. 95). But the show delves further than a typical horror drama, where it begins to explore the idea of audience consumption (represented by the zombie apocalypse).

Charlie Booker has called the audience to question the concept of reality TV and to consider the “capacity of humankind to consume itself, via the media’s obsession with representing back to us the (supposedly) everyday experiences of the Western middle classes” (Venzo, 2009, pg. 93). This is shown through the reality television genre where we see the use of stereotypical and highly constructed characters that express their common human emotions and are faced with ‘un-scripted’ situations which are often relatable to audiences. Therefore, these characters and situations can teach us important things about the society in which we live.

The use of zombies, which can be seen in a typical fantasy and/or horror genre production as well as the combination of the already built-up reality television drama ‘Big Brother’ (made out to be based on real life events), prompts the audience to begin questioning the difference between what is imagined and what is real life. We are essentially faced with an entertaining yet typical and familiar story, whilst also being shown something incredibly different to what we have ever seen before, leading us to question whether the consumption of hyper reality has been taken too far.

But I also think beyond this, the use of zombies in this television program leads us to consider what audiences see as their own ‘threats’ within the real world. It is not just their own consumption of reality TV and whether what we are shown is real or not, but the threats we are faced with every day on our news whether it be to do with terrorism or natural disasters. I think it is also important to consider the fact that within Deadset, it is not only the audience who become the zombies, but the producers of this spoof version of Big Brother, which perhaps suggests that the threats we are faced with are often home-grown and the people we believe give us reliable information, are perhaps also ‘threats’ to audiences. It becomes a question again, linking back to the idea within Deadset, of what is real and what is imagined and can we truly believe everything that we see on television?



Clarke, S 2008, ‘Television: Brit Auds Eat Up E4 Zombies’, Variety, vol. 413, no. 3, pp. 30.

Venzo, P 2009, ‘Reality Really Does Bite: ‘Dead Set’ and the Development of Reality TV’, Metro Magazine: Media & Education Magazine, no. 163, pg. 92-97.