Abstract

At the same time the 1960s sitcom Bewitched aired in reruns next to drag queens on LOGOtv, a cable channel targeted to LGBTQ viewers, it also aired on the former National Christian Network channel (FamilyNet) immediately preceding a lineup of church programs featuring far-right, anti-gay hosts. Bewitched's ability to appeal to these very different channels’ brands and audiences underscores a textual vigor and sustainability for success in syndication that even the best so-called quality shows today lack. While some may deride a study of syndication (and reruns especially) as irrelevant and passé, syndicated programs are neither of those things if their continued popularity assures our familiarity with them. As a text, Bewitched is already supple enough to motivate two politically opposing media brands to pick it up, but the context of each of these channels’ flow, including commercials, station IDs, and edits to content, can make the experience of watching the same episode of any show on different channels a wholly different textual experience. This article returns to foundational theories of TV flow and intertextuality to propose retextuality as a theoretical and methodological intervention in studies of television. It argues that in syndication, the production labor of syndicators, executives, programmers, and marketing departments effectively retextualizes shows like Bewitched, offering scholars opportunities for new textual analyses and new insight into the marginalized and queer audiences syndicated programming often serves.

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