panel 4a | 11.11.2011 | 15:00-16:00 | room 1 | english

Re-orientieng the Familial. Televisual Domesticity in Contemporary US Serial Drama.

Commonly dubbed "Quality TV", contemporary US TV Series are frequently being described as disorienting established televisual forms and the audience expectations that go along with them by the means of complex narrations (Mittell 2006; Booth 2011), ambivalent characters (Eick 2008) and cinematic aesthetics (Nelson 2007).
Putting these assertions into perspective, I shall argue that Serial Drama as the dominant current dramatic form only challenges televisual conventions insofar as its genuine processuality (Schabacher 2010; Maeder 2011) problematizes temporal rather than topographical patterns of orientation. Therefore Serial Drama does not negate established televisual themes and aesthetics, but reevaluates them with (re-)orientation in time taking the place of visual and narrative conventions focusing on spatial orientation.
I shall show this with regard to the discursive as well as visual genesis of domesticity in the HBO series Big Love (2006-2011): Portraying a Utah-based polygamous Mormon family, the series dramatizes the conflict between a pastoral model of familial domesticity and competitive public life. However, both spheres are not depicted as being topographically separated but rather woven into a dynamic "Telepistemology of the Closet" (Chambers 2003), thereby transforming TV's classic theme of domesticity (Hartley 1999) into a process-oriented figure of emergence.


Lost in Narration

Currently, there is a variety of television series, which are apparently designed differently than ever before and that may be considered innovative. Most recently a further developement in serial narrative has become very clear: an innovative transformation of the complex serial narrative evokes a new generation of U.S. television series. But what are the main difference to conventional forms of television series?
Based on these latest changes, I will analyse the reconceptualisation of storytelling under the term „Narrative Complexity“ coined by Jason Mittell.
In my paper I work out specific characteristics of narrative complexity, which include the importance of visual style, a paradoxical time structure, the complexity of the plot- and story arcs, self-referentiality and the dramatic feature of unfolding a narrative transmedia universe crossing television boundaries.
Furthermore, I want to discuss the implications of this paradigm shift in TV-presentation and in narration for the ongoing reconceptualisation of (self-)understanding of the viewer. The focus will not be on a viewer behavior that leads to an abolition of the binary opposition of media text and consumer as well as to a culture of participation because of transmediality. Instead I want to argue the effect of the dissolution of traditional narrative structures and a viewer concept based on (dis)orientation in intraserial narrative complexity: The loss and recovery of oneself.