Strange TV: Innovative Television Series from The Twilight Zone to The X-Files

Strange TV: Innovative Television Series from The Twilight Zone to The X-Files

by M. Keith Booker


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In the years since World War II, commercial television has become the most powerful force in American culture. It is also the quintessential example of postmodernist culture. This book studies how The Twilight Zone, The Prisoner, Twin Peaks, and The X-Files display many of the central characteristics that critics and theorists have associated with postmodernism, including fragmentation of narratives and characters, multiplicity in style and genre, and the collapse of traditional categorical boundaries of all kinds. The author labels these series strange TV since they challenge the conventions of television programming, thus producing a form of cognitive estrangement that potentially encourages audiences to question received ideas.

Despite their challenges to the conventions of commercial television, however, these series pose no real threat to the capitalist order. In fact, the very characteristics that identify these series as postmodern are also central characteristics of capitalism itself, especially in its late consumerist phase. An examination of these series within the context of postmodernism thus confirms Fredric Jameson's thesis that postmodernism is a reflection of the cultural logic of late capitalism. At the same time, these series do point toward the potential of television as a genuinely innovative medium that promises to produce genuinely new forms of cultural expression in the future.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780313323737
Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Publication date: 12/30/2002
Series: Contributions to the Study of Popular Culture Series , #77
Pages: 200
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

M. KEITH BOOKER is Professor of English at the University of Arkansas. He is the author of numerous articles and books on modern literature and literary theory, including Dystopian Literature: A Theory and Research Guide (1994), The Modern British Novel of the Left (1998), The Modern American Novel of the Left (1999), Film and the American Left (1999), Ulysses, Capitalism, and Colonialism (2000), Monsters, Mushroom Clouds, and the Cold War (2001), and The Post-Utopian Imagination (2002), all available from Greenwood Press.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Television and the Novel

Television and Postmodernism

The Twilight Zone and American Society in the Long 1950s: Between the Modern and the Postmodern

The Prisoner: The Modern, the Postmodern, and French Poststructuralism in the 1960s

Strange Reaganism: Ludic Postmodernism as Cold War Allegory in Twin Peaks

Its the Libidinal Economy, Stupid: The X-Files and the Politics of Postmodern Desire

Conclusion: Television, Capitalism, and Postmodernism

Works Cited


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