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MATV - Cult TV Drama

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Catriona Miller

on 17 October 2016

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Transcript of MATV - Cult TV Drama

MA TV Fiction Writing
Cult TV Drama - Identifying Trends

Repertoire of Elements?
? A non-starter....
'Cult' from the Latin 'cultus' meaning worship.
'Fan' from the Latin 'fanaticus' meaning devotee.
Media texts were designed, constructed,
in certain ways, but it didn’t GUARANTEE that the audience would understand, received
what was intended, because the audience did have some free will of their own.
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." (Gwenlian-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 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?
Stuart Hall
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. 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.
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