module specification

SJ5070 - Contemporary American Television (2020/21)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2020/21
Module status DELETED (This module is no longer running)
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 Assessment Preparation / Delivery
105 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Group Presentation 30%   Group presentation and Written Report
Coursework 70%   3,000 Word Essay
Running in 2020/21

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
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. The module will examine studios such as HBO and a variety of comedies and dramas as case studies of industrial issues and cultural representations.

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 the development of contemporary American television from the 1980s onwards in relation to a variety of issues, for example new industry approaches of studios such as HBO and streaming companies such as Netflix. LO3

Changes in narrative structure and visual style and their relationship to changing modes of viewing such as binge-watching will be considered. LO4

A variety of cultural issues, including in relation to gender and race, and their representation in shows from various periods in contemporary American television will be explored. LO1 

Students will critically analyse shows that may include Hill Street Blues, The Sopranos and The Handmaid’s Tale in relation to the above. LO2,5

Students will conduct analysis through both a group presentation and an essay. LO2,5

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

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. Group presentations provided students with the opportunity for personal development through group work and presentation skills. Students will have the opportunity to reflect upon feedback in order to engage effectively and developmentally with the final assignment.

Learning outcomes

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

(1) Critically analyse contemporary American television series in relation to cultural debates

(2) Conduct and communicate their research effectively in group presentations

(3) Critically examine industry trends in American television

(4) Conduct close critical analysis of stylistic and narrative innovations

(5) 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 to students as both groups and individuals so that they might reflect on all aspects of this developmental assessment. 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.


 Identify core and additional reading

Liaise with Library Services to confirm availability of on-line licenses in academic year

Where possible, the most current version of reading materials is used during the delivery of this module.  Comprehensive reading lists are provided to students in their handbooks.  Reading Lists will be updated annually.

Core Text:

Kim Akass and Janet McCabe (eds.), Quality TV: Contemporary American Television and Beyond (London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2007).

Christopher Bigsby, Viewing America: Twenty-First Century Television Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Michael Hammond and Lucy Mazdon (eds.), The Contemporary Television Series (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007).

Other Texts:

Kim Akass and Janet McCabe (eds.), Reading Six Feet Under: TV to Die For (London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2005).

Dean J. DeFino, The HBO Effect (London: Bloomsbury, 2013).

Trisha Dunleavy, Complex Serial Drama and Multiplatform Television (New York: Routledge, 2017)

Gary R. Edgerton and Jeffrey P. Jones, The HBO Reader (Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 2008).

Mittell, Jason, Genre and Television: From Cop Shows to Cartoons in American Culture (New York: Routledge, 2004).

David Lavery (ed.), Reading the Sopranos: Hit TV from HBO (London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2006).

Susan Murray and Laurie Ouellette (eds.), Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture (New York: New York University Press, 2009).

Jonathan Nichols-Pethick, TV Cops: The Contemporary American Television Police Drama (New York: Routledge, 2012).

Tiffany Potter and C. W. Marshall (eds.), The Wire: Urban Decay and American Television (New York: Continuum, 2009).


Cinema Journal
Television and New Media
Feminist Media Studies
New Review of Film and Television Studies