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MATV - Cult TV Drama

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Catriona Miller

on 22 October 2018

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Transcript of MATV - Cult TV Drama

MA TV Fiction Writing
Cult TV Drama

Repertoire of Elements?
? A non-starter...?
'Cult' from the Latin 'cultus' meaning worship.
'Fan' from the Latin 'fanaticus' meaning devotee.
According to Stuart Hall, media texts were designed, constructed, ENCODED in certain ways, but it didn’t GUARANTEE that the audience would understand, received DECODE what was intended, because the audience did have some free will of their own. So they might decode in a number of different ways...
Dominant-Hegemonic Position or the Preferred Meaning– where the viewer accepts the encoded meaning – takes a news story straight.
Negotiated – ‘a mixture of adaptive and oppositional elements’; the dominant meaning is understood but the viewer may decides it’s not applicable to them.
Oppositional – dominant reading is rejected in favour of another not intended. Someone viewing a news story might ‘read’ every mention of ‘the national interest’ as ‘class interest’.
Encoded as macho action heroes?
Decoded as gay romance?
At its loosest the term cult television can be applied to any programme that is "offbeat, edgy, that draws a niche audience, that has a nostalgic appeal, that is considered emblematic of a particular subculture, or that is considered hip." (Gwenllian-Jones & Pearson, 2004: p.ix)
? Another non-starter...? Maybe. But you can talk about STYLE and STYLISATION.

These programmes can be playful, oppositional, alternative, adventurous, innovative and even kitsch and camp. Not a 'classic realist text'.

The Avengers (1961-69)was a crime hunt with kinky, eccentric characters and a cool pop humour which involved dialogue inappropriate to the situation. Plots included robots, aliens, spies, murder, country houses and fox hunting.
The rise of cult tv really requires video/DVD; multi-channel environment where old shows get replayed; internet for fan interaction with the show's producers and each other.
but maybe really what we need is...
Cult TV fans then are devotees of the show, who commit to it and develop an extensive expert knowledge.
But what is the audience actually doing?
okay, but why should the industry
care what fans do?

A fan community behind a show is a valuable commodity (to sell to advertisers).
A niche audience isn't big, but it tends to make up for this in terms of quality (younger, upwardly mobile, disposable income) and they're attracted to quality dramas. Plus Cult TV can to bring together a number of niche audiences.
The high style of much Cult TV creates a BRAND that allows for cross promotion across media platforms and merchandising.
BBC3 tried to build a passionate fan base from scratch (the main characters were themselves 'sci fi geeks') and almost succeeded... but their demographic was too old for the overall branding and target audience of BBC3... oops.
(Some have called this TVIII.)
Cult TV shows "permit non-linear narratives that can go backward and sideways as well as forward, encompassing multiple time frames and settings to create a potentially infinitely large metatext and sometimes the seemingly infinite delay of the resolution of narrative hermeneutics."
(Gwenlian-Jones & Pearson, 2004: p.xii)
A bit too vague to be helpful?
But we also need to add
A TV audience can watch inadvertently, distractedly or avidly. A cult tv audience always watches avidly.

They are also an ACTIVE audience who often resist the closed nature of mainstream programme texts and open them up to other readings. They are also drawn to more open texts in the first place.

They are often TEXTUAL POACHERS too. Textual poaching occurs when fans actively seize the text (someone else's property) and turn it to their own ends (Jenkins, 1995). They become nomads poaching their way across fields they do not own. (Henry Jenkins has several books on fan inter-activity). Fan fiction and Slash fiction are examples of textual poaching. But fans are more technologically savvy now too so they take the texts and rewrite/edit them.
The Fades (2011)
Cult TV Audience and Commercial Potential
Today we'll consider:
What is Cult TV?
The role of the audience
The appeal for industry
Dating from mid-1950s till early 1980s – channel scarcity, mass audience and a three network (channel) hegemony. A big audience is a good audience!
Dating from late 1990s till present – era of proliferating digital distribution platforms, further audience fragmentation and a shift towards the prosumer (producer/consumer).
Dating from early 1980s to late 1990s – channel/network expansion, quality television and network/channel branding strategies. Broadcasters start targeting 'niche audiences' who might be small but who were the most desirable for advertisers.
The furnishing of an entire narrative world which the fan can return to as if it were a private, sectarian space.
detachability or non-organic ‘ricketiness’ such that phrases, scenes and feelings can be lifted out of the text… [one might say 'meme-ability'?]
‘living textuality’ by which Eco means that the cult text exists beyond the legislation of an author, being a ‘text of texts’ which has no origin other than pure textuality. (Which is where he begins to discuss
Umberto Eco (1985) "Casablanca": Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage
Discusses 3 primary conditions of the cult text.
Matt Hills (2002)
Fan Cultures
Doesn't think Eco’s essay has aged well… for example the assumption that a film is watched all the way through in one sitting. Eco doesn’t like
Star Wars
, which seems to Hills a ‘generational taste thinly disguised as theoretical distinction’.
- Cult TV recuperates the ‘author function’ for television, with all its romantic ideology, and assumptions about associated 'quality'. Show runners can fill this slot. Fans like the idea of the ‘intense private vision’ of the auteur.
Perpetuated Hermeneutic
: endlessly deferred narrative. “The cult form… typically focusses on its endlessly deferred narrative around a singular question or related set of questions” (Hills, 2002: p.134). i.e. Dr Who - a question as well as a title: the question addressed throughout the programme’s history in a variety of ways. S/he is a mystery, or unfinished/unknown. Thinks
Star Trek
is about Spock.
Hyperdiegesis: “the creation of a vast and detailed narrative space, only a fraction of which is ever directly seen or encountered within the text but which nevertheless appears to operate according to principles of internal logic and extension” (Hills, 2002: p.137).
and then get hired by the show to translate....
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