Time in Television NarrativeExploring Temporality in Twenty-First-Century Programming

Time in Television NarrativeExploring Temporality in Twenty-First-Century Programming

Melissa Ames

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9781617032936

Publisher: University Press of Mississippi


This collection analyzes twenty-first-century American television programs that rely upon temporal and narrative experimentation. These shows play with time, slowing it down to unfold the narrative through time retardation and compression. They disrupt the chronological flow of time itself, using flashbacks and insisting that viewers be able to situate themselves in both the present and the past narrative threads. Although temporal play existed on the small screen prior to the new millennium, never before has narrative time been so freely adapted in mainstream television. The essayists offer explanations for not only the frequency of time play in contemporary programming, but the implications of its sometimes disorienting presence. Drawing upon the fields of cultural studies, television scholarship, and literary studies, as well as overarching theories concerning postmodernity and narratology, the book offers some critical suggestions. The increasing number of television programs concerned with time may stem from any and all of the following: recent scientific approaches to quantum physics and temporality; new conceptions of history and posthistory; or trends in late-capitalistic production and consumption, in the new culture of instantaneity, or in the recent trauma culture amplified after the September 11 attacks. In short, these televisual time experiments may very well be an aesthetic response to the climate from which they derive. These essays analyze both ends of this continuum and also attend to another crucial variable: the television viewer watching this new temporal play.

Table of Contents

Time In Television Narrative


Melissa Ames

Part I Promoting the Future of Experimental TV

3 “It’s Not Unknown”

Jordan Lavender-Smith

4 Zero-Degree Seriality

Norman M. Gendelman

Part II Historicizing the Moment

8 Lost in Our Middle Hour

Sarah Himsel Burcon

Part III The Functions of Time

10 “Did You Get Pears?”

Gry C. Rustad, and Timotheus Vermeulen

12 Freaks of Time

Frida Beckman

13 The Discourse of Medium

Kristi Mcduffie

Part IV Moving Beyond the Televisual Restraints of the Past

14 Making Sense of the Future

Casey J. Mccormick

Part V Playing Outside of the Box

21 Lost in Time?

Lucy Bennett

End Matter