Date of Award

Winter 12-7-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Alisa Perren

Second Advisor

Kathy Fuller-Seeley

Third Advisor

Ted Friedman

Fourth Advisor

Greg Smith

Fifth Advisor

Horace Newcomb

Abstract

In my dissertation entitled “The Critical Eye: Re-Viewing 1970s Television,” I argue that TV scholars would benefit greatly by engaging in a more nuanced consideration of the television critic’s industrial position as a key figure of negotiation. As such, critical discourse has often been taken for granted in scholarship without attention to how this discourse may obscure contradictions implicit within the TV industry and the critic’s own identity as both an insider and an outsider to the television business. My dissertation brings the critic to the fore, employing the critic as a lens through which I view television aesthetics, media policy, and technology. This study is grounded in the disciplines of television studies, media industries studies, new media studies, and cultural studies. Yet because the critic’s writing reflects the totality of television as an entertainment and public service medium, the significance of this study expands beyond disciplinary concerns to a reconsideration of the impact of television upon American culture.

This project offers a history of the television critic during the 1970s, a decade in which the field of criticism professionalized and expanded dramatically. Methodologically, I am incorporating three approaches, including historical research of the 1970s television industry, textual analysis of critical writing, and interviews with critics working during that decade. I’ve identified the 1970s for a variety of reasons, including its parallels with today’s significant technological and industrial transformations. My central texts will be the industry trade publications, Variety and Broadcasting, and national daily newspapers including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune. Viewing TV criticism as a profession, a historical source, and a site of scholarly analysis, this project offers a series of interventions, including a consideration of how critical writing may serve as a primary source for historians and how television studies has overlooked the significance of the critic as an object of analysis in his/her own right.

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