The University Press of Kentucky

Essential Readers in Contemporary Media

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Essential Readers in Contemporary Media

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The Essential HBO Reader

Gary R. Edgerton and Jeffrey P. Jones

The founding of Home Box Office in the early 1970s was a harbinger of the innovations that transformed television as an industry and a technology in the decades that followed. HBO quickly became synonymous with subscription television and became the leading force in cable programming. Having interests in television, motion picture, and home video industries was crucial to its success. HBO diversified into original television and movie production, home video sales, and international distribution as these once-separate entertainment sectors began converging into a global entertainment industry in the mid-1980s. HBO has grown from a domestic movie channel to an international cable-and-satellite network with a presence in over seventy countries. It is now a full-service content provider with a distinctive brand of original programming and landmark shows such as The Sopranos and Sex and the City. The network is widely recognized for its award-winning, innovative and provocative programming, including dramatic series such as Six Feet Under and The Wire, miniseries such as Band of Brothers and Angels in America, comedies such as Curb Your Enthusiasm and Def Comedy Jam, sports shows such as Inside the NFL and Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, documentary series such as Taxi Cab Confessions and Autopsy, and six Oscar-winning documentaries between 1999 and 2004. In The Essential HBO Reader, editors Gary R. Edgerton and Jeffrey P. Jones bring together an accomplished group of scholars to explain how HBO's programming transformed the world of cable television and how the network continues to shape popular culture and the television industry. Now, after more than three and a half decades, HBO has won acclaim in four distinct programming areas -- drama, comedy, sports, and documentaries -- emerging as TV's gold standard for its breakout series and specials. The Essential HBO Reader provides a comprehensive and compelling examination of HBO's development into the prototypical entertainment corporation of the twenty-first century.

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The Essential Science Fiction Television Reader

J.P. Telotte

Once confined solely to literature and film, science fiction has emerged to become a firmly established, and wildly popular, television genre over the last half century. The Essential Science Fiction Television Reader provides insight into and analyses of the most important programs in the history of the genre and explores the breadth of science fiction programming. Editor J. P. Telotte and the contributors explain the gradual transformation of the genre from low-budget cinematic knockoffs to an independent and distinct televisual identity. Their essays track the dramatic evolution of early hits such as The Twilight Zone and Star Trek into the science fiction programming of today with its more recent successes such as Lost and Heroes. They highlight the history, narrative approaches, and themes of the genre with an inviting and accessible style. In essays that are as varied as the shows themselves, the contributors address the full scope of the genre. In his essay “The Politics of Star Trek: The Original Series,” M. Keith Booker examines the ways in which Star Trek promoted cultural diversity and commented on the pioneering attitude of the American West. Susan George takes on the refurbished Battlestar Galactica series, examining how the show reframes questions of gender. Other essays explore the very attributes that constitute science fiction television: David Lavery’s essay “The Island’s Greatest Mystery: Is Lost Science Fiction?”calls into question the defining characteristics of the genre. From anime to action, every form of science fiction television is given thoughtful analysis enriched with historical perspective. Placing the genre in a broad context, The Essential Science Fiction Television Reader outlines where the genre has been, where it is today, and where it may travel in the future. No longer relegated to the periphery of television, science fiction now commands a viewership vast enough to sustain a cable channel devoted to the genre.

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The Essential Sopranos Reader

edited by David Lavery, Douglas L. Howard, and Paul Levinson

The Sopranos is recognized as the most successful cable series in the history of television. The Washington Post has called the popular series, winner of twenty-one Emmys and five Golden Globes, “the television landmark that leaves other landmarks in the dust.” In every aspect—narrative structure, visual artistry, writing, intertextuality, ensemble acting, controversial themes, dark humor, and unflinching examinations of American life—The Sopranos has had few equals. Offering a definitive final assessment of the series, The Essential Sopranos Reader aims to comprehensively examine the show’s themes and enduring cultural significance. Gender and ethnicity, the role of dreams, the rebirth of HBO, the series’ controversial finale, and other topics come under scrutiny in this highly accessible, engaging collection. The book concludes with an interview with Dominic Chianese, who played Uncle Junior in all six seasons of the show.

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