This article makes a case for formal analysis of historical TV through close readings that demonstrate the ways in which postwar television unsettled the domestic sphere. While scholars of historical television have dismissed formal criticism for its ignorance of contexts of production and reception, I argue that the content and form of TV in its developmental years directly contextualize industry and society. In its first decades of mass use, television refigured spatial relationships by creating an uncanny liminality between the public sphere of commerce and entertainment and the private sphere of the home. These newly blurred boundaries had profound implications for postwar conceptions of gender, home, and family. Through both form and content, programs as wide-ranging as the science-fiction anthology The Twilight Zone (CBS, 1959–64) and domestic sitcoms The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (CBS, 1950–58) and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (ABC, 1952–66) developed modes of address to articulate and work through their viewers’ anxieties. In order to probe the wide-reaching implications of the new medium’s intimate address, I argue that scholars of historical television must be as attentive to program content, textuality, and form as they are to technological and industrial developments.
Sitting Closer to the Screen: Early Televisual Address, the Unsettling of the Domestic Sphere, and Close Reading Historical TV
Josie Torres Barth; Sitting Closer to the Screen: Early Televisual Address, the Unsettling of the Domestic Sphere, and Close Reading Historical TV. Camera Obscura 1 December 2019; 34 (3): 31–61. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-7772375
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