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WIP Series: TV Series and Uncertainty: COVID Narratives, Audiences, Methods (Presentation)

GEM Lab Events

APR. 22. 2021

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021 (Online Event)

Marta Boni (Université de Montréal.) Moderated by Lola Remy and Ylenia Olibet.


Introduction to Series and Speaker

Lola Remy and Ylenia Olibet

TV Series and Uncertainty (Presentation)

Marta Boni

Q&A Start

Q&A 1

Topics: Capaciousness of the concept of uncertainty, all the topics gathered under the umbrella. (Finance, contracts, narratives, production strategies, health, current events, etc.) The intensity of the moment and it’s handling. How do you think across the capaciousness as well as the specificity and focus of given elements? Where do you see the possibility of uncertainty in your subject?

The temporality, the long running series, and how they deal with current events. That seems like a really focused aspect of current television production, that is becoming more generalizable, but isn’t perhaps that well understood by the audience. Very interesting.

Q&A 2

Topics: Thinking about Drag Race and the focus on the pandemic as part of the series. Have you looked at non-fiction or reality TV in your work?

Q&A 3

Topics: The overall nature of the evolving discursive analysis of fans of the series. How is that changing the way the show is looked at? How is the fandom changing? Whether the fans discuss the change in production, as it is also used for the marketing, that is determined by the production?

Q&A 4

Topics: The concept of renewal, in the context of uncertainty. The reboot culture of modern production possibly meaning that even if a series ends, it is likely that it will return in another form. How do you think this element of production interacts with the concept of uncertainty?

Q&A 5

Topics: Thinking of the statistic that younger audiences are gravitating to older “canonized” shows. (Friends, The Office, Grey’s Anatomy, etc.) Do you think it’s possible these younger audiences are gravitating this way that fits into the topic at hand. That these shows provide that certainty, it lasts a certain amount of time, you know where it begins and where it ends. You may even be entering it with culturally engrained knowledge about the show, or about the production of the show (actors leaving and returning.) Do you think this has an aspect of comfort versus a new series where it is very possible that the narrative may be cut off unceremoniously and never provide a sense of closure?

Q&A 5 (Comments)

Topics:  As one of those “young” groups that started watching Grey’s Anatomy on streaming services, the experience of binge watching it, versus it’s original release schedule, is so different. It provides that certainty within the uncertainty of the suspense, and that the suspense always is resolved in the episode, the arc, the season or the run of the show. This feels good considering all of the uncertainties around being able to see family, friends, travel, etc. The controlled uncertainty may be more enjoyable than the uncontrolled uncertainty.

Is there a marked difference in the viewers that are watching the older seasons and those that are currently invested in the newer or current seasons?



Link to original event post.

Uncertainty, or painfully yearning for information about the future, is a state that people tend to avoid; however, it is also a powerful pleasure engine when it comes to the experience of serialized fictional worlds. In this talk, we’ll highlight how, during the pandemic, uncertainty has become a “structure of feeling” observable in the current TV landscape. Taking the 17th season of the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy (ABC, 2005-) as our case study, we’ll explore how COVID (along with contract negotiations) has affected its production, therefore its structures, narratives, representations, and images. From a pragmatic standpoint, uncertainty emerges both as a reason to keep watching and a symptom of the crisis. Fans enthusiastically speculate whether this season will be the last or not, but they are also having a hard time coping with such an overflow of doubt, in a time of economic, political, and social crisis. In order to understand the impact of such transformations, we’ll present a mixed methodology, based on the analysis of sequences and on the digital mapping of traces of online discourses.

Marta Boni is Associate Professor at the University of Montréal, Department of Art History and Film Studies. She is specialized in TV fiction, fan studies, and world building. On these topics she leads the Labo Tele, at UdeM, has organized and co-organized conferences, and edited World Building: Transmedia, Fans, Industries (Amsterdam University Press, 2017) and Formes et plateformes de la television à l’ère du numérique (Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2020). She is currently working on a manuscript on uncertainty and awkwardness in TV series.

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