module specification

SJ5070 - Contemporary American Television (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Contemporary American Television
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Computing and Digital Media
Total study hours 150
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
105 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Group Presentation 30%   Group presentation
Coursework 70%   Essay 4000 words
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester North Thursday Morning

Module summary

This module considers contemporary American television in relation to industry shifts, stylistic innovation and its representation of American culture, society and politics. Studies will examine studios such as HBO and a variety of comedies and dramas as case studies of industrial issues and cultural representations.

Module aims

The module aims to:

• Explore shifting trends in the contemporary American television industry
• Examine and analyse developments in form, style and narrative
• Critically analyse a variety of series in relation to a number of cultural debates
• Develop students’ planning and presentation skills


The module will consider contemporary American television in relation to industry, style, representation and culture, exploring the significance of a variety of shows in terms of shifting industry trends and issues of politics, gender and identity. Topics covered may include the significance of HBO as an industry independent and in its development of narrative form and style in Six Feet Under and The Sopranos; television’s representation of cultural history through series such as Mad Men; the satire tradition updated via The Daily Show; small screen realism in The Wire, and sex and gender in Sex and the City.

Learning and teaching

Learning and teaching on the module will be conducted via lectures, seminars, screenings, blended learning and students’ guided independent study. Students will be expected to enhance their learning in scheduled classes through guided research. Student development weeks will provide students with the opportunity for individual feedback in tutorials with tutors to develop their assignments. Students will have the opportunity for personal development through group presentations.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students will be able to:

• Critically analyse contemporary American television series in relation to cultural debates
• Conduct and communicate their research effectively in group presentations
• Critically examine industry trends in American television
• Conduct close critical analysis of stylistic and narrative innovations
• Plan and develop research towards final essay work

Assessment strategy

The module’s strategy of assessment both promotes developmental learning and research and enables students to demonstrate key skills and engagement with module content. The first assignment provides the opportunity for students to demonstrate both research and presentation skills as well as transferrable skills evident in group work.  Formal feedback will be provided on this assignment. Through the final essay, students will have the opportunity to demonstrate the development of their research and planning, and their ability to critically analyse contemporary television series and the American television industry.


Kim Akass and Janet McCabe (eds.), Reading Six Feet Under: TV to Die For (London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2005).
Kim Akass and Janet McCabe (eds.), Quality TV: Contemporary American Television and Beyond (London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2007).
Rod Carveth and James B. South (eds.), Mad Men and Philosophy: Nothing is as it Seems (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2010) (e-book).
Glen Creeber, Serial Television: Big Drama on the Small Screen (London: BFI, 2004).
Critical Studies in Television,
Gary R. Edgerton (ed.), Mad Men (London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2011).
Michael Hammond and Lucy Mazdon (eds.), The Contemporary Television Series (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007).
David Lavery (ed.), Reading the Sopranos: Hit TV from HBO (London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2006).
Tiffany Potter and C. W. Marshall (eds.), The Wire: Urban Decay and American Television (New York: Continuum, 2009).