Narrative complexity in contemporary American television. Type: Article; Author (s): Jason Mittell; Date: ; Issue: 58; Page start: 29; Page end: 40; Web. The concept of ‘complex TV’, at various times also termed ‘narrative complexity’ by the author, has been a consistent feature of Mittell’s work. Narrative complexity in contemporary American television. J Mittell. The velvet light trap 58 (1), , , Complex TV: The poetics of.

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These moments of spectacle push the operational aesthetic to the foreground, calling attention to the constructed nature of the mihtell and asking us to marvel at how the writers pulled it off; often these instances forego strict realism in exchange for a formally aware baroque quality in which we watch the process of narration as a machine rather than engaging in its diegesis.

And even if people dont subscribe to it, they watch it cause its HBO. Lisa Jacobson June 27, at 4: Miklos Kiss March 27, at 5: Reply to Anders Fagerjord.

Narrative complexity, so on and so forth. | Me and TV

Complex programming invites audiences to engage actively at the level of form as well, highlighting the conventionality of traditional television and exploring the possibilities of both innovative long-term storytelling and creative intra-episode discursive strategies.

One of the more interesting ways that creators cmoplexity responded to these shifts is by creating a more self-conscious mode of storytelling than is typically found within conventional television narration. Yet Seinfeld offers a wealth of narrative complexity, often through its refusal to conform to episodic norms of closure, resolution, and distinct storylines. Like all fictional television, characters and storyworld on Sopranos were persistent, and certainly it complexoty more cumulative than typical s crime dramas like Law and Order or NYPD Blue.

Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television

As I discuss in the Genre chapter, soap operas were synonymous with television seriality for decades, but there are different elements of serial continuity beyond the model pioneered by daytime melodrama. Like all kernels, this event raises questions for the future Will Libby and Ana Lucia survive? Reply to Anthony Smith. Stacy Hartman June 25, at 8: Audiences tend to embrace complex programs in much more passionate and committed terms than most conventional television, using these shows as the basis for robust online fan cultures and active feedback to the television industry especially when their programs are in jeopardy of cancellation.

This manifests itself explicitly in videogames, where procedural mastery is a requirement for success, and web use, as we have come in a very short complexlty of time to accept linking, searching, and nafrative as naturalized behaviors. Complexity, especially in comedies, works against these norms by altering the relationship between multiple plotlines, creating interweaving stories that often collide and coincide.


As Miklos pointed out in a previous paragraph, I guess that here, in Europe, the change of paradigm has been caused by downloads legal or ilegal, that is not the point here much more than by DVDs. Similarly, Mittell highlights that popular shows are not necessarily all that complex, and complex narratives are not necessarily loved by all. Recordings are bound to an original time and place, marked by the station identifications and advertisements as belonging to a broadcast, with the flow between programs as a strategy designed to yield high ratings and audience continuity.

Clearly, these shows offer an alternative cimplexity conventional television narrative—the purpose of this essay is to chart out the formal attributes of this storytelling mode, explore its unique pleasures and patterns of comprehension, and suggest a range of reasons for its emergence in the s.

At its most basic level, narrative complexity redefines episodic forms under the influence of serial narration —not necessarily a complete merger of narratiive and serial forms, but a shifting balance. Peter Lang,for a discussion of temporal play in complex television. You could not be signed in. While reruns proliferated in syndication, typically reruns were shown out-of-order, encouraging episodic narratives that could accommodate an almost random presentation of a series.

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The Poetics of Contemporary Storytelling Jason. Cult hit The X-Files exemplifies what may be the hallmark of narrative complexity: One of the chief pleasures of Lost is the ludic sense of play that fills the gaps between episodes and seasons, with fans congregating in online forums and wikis to theorize, investigate, evaluate, and debate, as discussed in the Orienting Paratexts and Transmedia Storytelling chapters.

Jonathan March 28, at 3: Reply to Myles McNutt. For an example of the former, Alias complexiy a strong example of narrative complexity, juggling both ongoing and episodic stories of espionage with arcs of relationship dramas mapped onto both family and spy politics. I appreciate that the merging of serial and episodic forms has enabled much of the narrative complexity complexuty which narratve refer; but, as you say in para 8, nrrative complexity is not wholly dependent on the presence of jasob, and you demonstrate this further within the chapter — in some of your discussion of narrative spectacle, for example.

I think NYPD Blue is a hybrid show, certainly with less formal experimentation and long-arc storytelling than X-Files, but still groundbreaking in its own way.

For film and television, narration time is strictly controlled, as a two-hour film takes the same for all viewers, and television restricts narration time even further through its schedule of weekly installments and commercial breaks; even with the variability and control enabled by DVDs or downloaded videos comp,exity discussed below, it still takes the same amount of narration time for everyone to consume a given moving-image narrative.


Even when a highly serialized show strings its plots compldxity arcs across a full season, the producers always conceive each episode as a discrete narrative jittell following the established terms of screen time.

Reply to Fabrice Lyczba. Leave a comment on paragraph 3. Everyone can watch this morning via torrent or direct download the episode 3. Jason Mittell June 13, at 4: The system can’t perform the operation now.

Fabrice Lyczba August 14, at 5: One key distinction is between major and minor events, or what Seymour Chatman calls kernels and satellites—the major kernels are central to the cause-and-effect chain of a plot, while minor satellites are inessential to the plot and thus could be omitted without impacting narrative comprehension, but they provide texture, tone, and character richness.

August 14, at 5: Fantasy sequences abound without clear demarcations or signals, as The SopranosSix Feet UnderBuffyand Battlestar Galactica all present visions of events that oscillate between character jasoh and diegetic reality, playing with the ambiguous boundary to offer character depth, suspense, and comedic effect.

Many complex programs expressly appeal to a boutique audience of more upscale educated viewers who typically avoid television, as with programs like The West Wing or The Simpsons —needless to say, an audience comprised of viewers who watch little other television is particularly valued by advertisers.

Thus these complex comedies selectively engage serial norms, weaving certain events into their naerative while ambiguously discarding other moments into the more commonplace realm of forgotten episodic histories, a distinction that viewers must either overlook as inconsistency or embrace as one of the sophisticated traits of narrative complexity; evidence of fan practices online suggest that the latter is more common once viewers accept the shifting rules as one of the sophisticated pleasures offered by these complex comedies.

Reply to Fred Gooltz.

Programs whose narrative events do accumulate serially usually articulate this build up through the memories of characters—people reference previous occurrences like a romantic connection or personal discovery, expressing continuity through dialogue and character actions as discussed more in the Character chapter.

To purchase short term access, please sign in to your Oxford Academic account above. I should have kept reading! While none of these shifts in industry, technology, and viewing practices directly caused the rise of complex television, they all served as enabling conditions, helping to shape these storytelling strategies that have become more prevalent.