Though I found Newman’s article “From Beats to Arc” interesting, I couldn’t help but conclude that, though informative about the structure of television, and the relationship between commercialism and entertainment in television, it really serves no greater purpose. Much like I felt after the Mittell articles, I am beginning to feel more and more distanced from the content of television, as we continue to read essays that concentrate solely on the construct. I have slowly begun to realize that the biggest problem with television analysis is that the few who do it, such as MIttell and Newman, constantly feel a need to justify the medium, often causing them to spend a majority of their time doing so, and thus failing to offer any type of insight.
First, let me address my irritation with this constant justification of television: After giving an excruciating long list of vocabulary in his essay “Telling Television Stories,” Mittell explains that this vocabulary is useful because “understanding television’s form can increase your appreciation of the nuances of the medium, and make clear how programs can be engaging or boring, artful or manipulative” (p.266). However, I have a serious problem with the notion that we need to be taught how to appreciate television. Like books, or even film, an appreciation of television as an art form ought to be assumed. One does not need to read hundreds of pages of text and vocabulary to appreciate F Scott Fitzgerald – they do so because the novels he writes are pleasurable to read. Where did the assumption that the same is not true for television, come from? Why does Newman feel that we cannot truly appreciate the Prime-time serials he describes, until we understand what beats, episodes and arcs are?
Don’t get me wrong, I found both writer’s interesting (though, when comparing the two, it is amazing that Newman was able to say in 14 pages what Mittell took over 50 pages to say). Being interesting, however, is not the only thing theorists should be concerned with. They’re supposed to have a point. My question is, what’s their point?