SPCM 341 - Evaluating Contemporary Television

  • 3 credits

Despite its ubiquity and influential power as a cultural form, television has often been overlooked and even dismissed as little more than a diversion in our everyday lives. As a result, the experience of watching TV has frequently been compared to other “leisure activities” in which participants—far from being mentally engaged—can let their minds rest (or wander) and momentarily “escape” the real world. However, it is because of its ubiquitous presence in our lives that television demands scrutiny, particularly with regard to the means by which it generates both consensus and debate about matters of great political and social importance. In this course, we will take television seriously as a popular and, indeed, persuasive force, one that is capable of narrative complexity and thematic profundity as well as artistic preeminence in this age of digital media, mobile viewing, online file sharing, and instant Internet access to classic programs of yesteryear.

At the heart of this so-called “Third Golden Age of TV” or moment of "Peak TV" is a host of critically lauded programs that will receive special attention in this class, including House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Master of None, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, BoJack Horseman, Jessica Jones, and Stranger Things. These shows share something in common: they are all examples of Netflix original programming, available for online streaming via the world’s most popular on-demand media provider/distributor. In addition to watching episodes from each of these and other Netflix programs, we will employ five main approaches or methodologies to better understand the cultural significance and ideological role played by this misunderstood medium. Those five approaches—historical analysis, institutional analysis, textual analysis, audience/reception studies and critical/cultural studies—together comprise the theoretical framework that we will use throughout the semester.

This course can be applied toward:

Textbooks and Materials

Textbooks and materials can be purchased at the CSU Bookstore unless otherwise indicated.


  • The Netflix Effect: Technology and Entertainment in the 21st Century (2018)
    McDonald, Kevin and Smith-Fowsey, Daniel (eds.)


Scott Diffrient

(970) 491-7898 | scott.diffrient@colostate.edu

David Scott Diffrient is Professor of Film and Media Studies in the Department of Communication Studies at Colorado State University. Since 2015 he has served as the Director of Programming for the ACT Human Rights Film Festival. His articles have been published in Cinema Journal, Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, Journal of Film and Video, Journal of Popular Film and Television, New Review of Film and Television Studies, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, and Velvet Light Trap, as well as in several edited collections about film and television topics. He is the author of M*A*S*H (Wayne State University Press), Omnibus Films: Theorizing Transauthorial Cinema (Edinburgh University Press) and the co-author of Movie Migrations: Transnational Genre Flows and South Korean Cinema (Rutgers University Press), as well as the editor of Screwball Television: Critical Perspectives on Gilmore Girls (Syracuse University Press).