Felix Brinker. “The Politics of Long-Form Storytelling in Contemporary American Serial Television”

Felix Brinker
Panel IV: Television (21. June 2013)

The Politics of Long-Form Storytelling in Contemporary American Serial Television: On Popular Seriality, Operational Aesthetics, and Audience Management

  1. Introduction
  2. Popular Seriality and Narratively Complex Television
  3. Operational Aesthetics
  4. Medial Self-Reflexivity in Fringes August
  5. Medial Self-Reflexivity in Homelands Marine One
  6. Conclusion(s)


The turn of American prime-time television dramas towards increasingly serialized storytelling during the last two decades seems to have coincided with an explicit politicization of their content. Especially shows discussed under the label of Quality TV’ have been repeatedly celebrated and/or dismissed for their openly political agenda—be it for their engagement with the anxieties connected to the War on Terror’ and the nebulous practices of intelligence agencies (as on RubiconHomeland and 24), or for attempts to tackle the social ills of contemporary urban America (as on The Wire or Breaking Bad). At the same time, other popular programs that at first glance seem to background political concerns in favor of more escapist content (e.g., mystery-centric sciencefiction or fantasy shows like Battlestar GalacticaFringe, or Heroes) increasingly engage with matters of power, politics, and political intrigue and develop these motifs in ongoing storylines. While recent cultural and media studies publications on these phenomena have easily connected this renewed interest in political subject matters to the emergence of what Jason Mittell has termed narratively complex television—that is, a (by now pervasive) shift in emphasis away from episodically contained storylines towards an ongoing serial narration that allows contemporary programming to construct richly furnished, expansive storyworlds and thus (among other things) opens up new possibilities for representing the complexities and intricacies of political systems and processes—less attention has so far been paid to the political dimensions of the increasingly active audience practices invited by such programming, and to the social aspects of popular seriality itself.


 Observer Appearance
Dennis Acevedo
 Narratively Complex Television Series and the Logics of Conspiracy: On the Politics of Long-Form Serial Storytelling and the Interpretive Labors of Active Audiences
Felix Brinker
 Androids with Suicide Belts: Political Allegory in Battlestar Galactica
Felix Brinker
 Hidden Agendas, Endless Investigations, and the Dynamics of Complexity: The Conspiratorial Mode of Storytelling in Contemporary American Television Series
Felix Brinker
 Animation as Theme and Medium: Frankenstein and Visual Culture
Shane Denson
 The Production of Presence: What Meaning Cannot Convey
Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht
 Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide
Henry Jenkins
 Populäre Serialität: Narration – Evolution – Distinktion: Zum seriellen Erzählen seit dem 19. Jahrhundert
Frank Kelleter
 Serien als Stresstest
Frank Kelleter
 The Wire and Its Readers
Frank Kelleter
 Autorisierungspraktiken seriellen Erzählens: Zur Gattungsentwicklung von Superheldencomics
Frank Kelleter; Daniel Stein
 The X-Files and Conspiracy. A Diagnostic Critique
Douglas Kellner
 Going Serial: Fu Manchu, the Yellow Peril, and the Machinic Momentum of Ideology
Ruth Mayer
 Die Logik der Serie: Fu Manchu, Fantômas und die serielle Produktion ideologischen Wissens
Ruth Mayer
 Marine One
Michael Cuesta
 The Ends of Serial Critcism
Jason Mittell
 Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television
Jason Mittell
 Orienting Paratexts
Jason Mittell
 All in the Game: The Wire, Serial Storytelling, and Procedural Logic
Jason Mittell
 The Politics of Form: Analyzing Post-Post ‘9/11’ Critical Texts
Greta Olson
 The Politics of Nostalgia: Gender Representation in Mad Men
Eleonora Ravizza
 What If?: Charting Television’s New Textual Boundaries
Jeffrey Sconce
Dennis Smith
 Storytelling in Film and Television11
Kristin Thompson