What is a television series? A widespread answer takes it to be a totality of episodes and seasons. Luca Bandirali and Enrico Terrone argue against this characterization. In Concept TV: An Aesthetics of Television Series, they contend that television series are concepts that manifest themselves through episodes and seasons, just as works of conceptual art can manifest themselves through installations or performances. In this sense, a television series is a conceptual narrative, a principle of construction of similar narratives. While the film viewer directly appreciates a narrative made of images and sounds, the TV viewer relies on images and sounds to grasp the conceptual narrative that they express. Here lies the key difference between television and film. Reflecting on this difference paves the way for an aesthetics of television series that makes room for their alleged prolixity, their tendency to repetition, and their lack of narrative closure. Bandirali and Terrone shed light on the specific ways in which television series are evaluated, arguing that some apparent flaws of them are, indeed, aesthetic merits when considered from a conceptual perspective. Hence, to maximize the aesthetic value of television series, one should not assess them in the same framework in which films are assessed but rather in this new conceptual framework.
Luca Bandirali works at the department of cultural heritage at the University of Salento.
Enrico Terrone is associate professor of aesthetics at the Università di Genova.
List of Figures
1. The Problem: Supersize Narratives
2. The Solution: Conceptual Narratives
3. The Upshot: Engaging With Conceptual Narratives
"This innovative study is an informative and thought-provoking read, especially for the many of us who have greatly enjoyed watching multi-season television series and who have pondered their artistic merits and defects. The authors provide impressive, detailed discussions of a wide range of series. They broach intriguing philosophical questions about long television series and present their own positions on these matters with admirable clarity."