Issue 19_European TV Series / Séries TV européennes

Edited by / Sous la direction de Alice Autelitano, Veronica Innocenti

Veronica Innocenti, Introduction

Bernard Papin, Nicolas Le Flochun bon produit « à l’export » ? Réflexions sur la diffusione et la réception internationale d’une série historique (très) française…

Are historical series strongly influenced by cultural references shared by the community of their intended viewers easily exportable TV products outside the borders of their original “media landscape?” The success obtained in France by made-for TV movies and series in the tradition of British “heritage film” might suggest so. However what about a series like Nicolas Le Floch, deeply rooted in French history and culture? This historical series, which narrates the investigations of a police superintendent in the France of Louis XV and Louis XVI, is similar in many respects to the genre of “heritage fiction:” sets and costumes are lavish, dialogues carefully written in a language reminiscent of the Age of Enlightenment. However, this quality series, where narrative efficiency is sometimes sacrificed to a finicky historical reconstruction, is exported to quite a number of countries abroad. Its few concessions to international standards or generic plasticity do not explain everything: it is precisely the French touch that appeals to spectators beyond national borders, as it depicts – certainly somewhat simplistically – the charm of 18th-century France as shared by collective imagination: luxury, voluptuousness and art of conversation. This is the paradox of a fiction which yet remains “heritage” at heart.

Paola Valentini, Whodonit? Rai Tv Fiction Production Between Detection and Giallo

Italian TV serial production is interesting not only in its peculiar, often paradoxical, production traits, but also because of its adventurously happy results, sometimes due to creative constraints by claustrophobic Italian television market. TV series have a physiognomy and an “Italianness” also evident in their language, since they show distinctive characteristics in terms of modes of representation and communicative pacts, in which to settle a whole television history and visual culture. This essay begins to outline this aspect from a particular vantage point: that of detective and crime series, whose history is deeply rooted in Italian culture and whose dominant traits are so different from most recent European TV series. Far from being a sign of recession, RAI public service broadcasting – in which Il commissario Montalbano naturally represents a relevant case – reveals the persistence of specific and well embedded traits, albeit evolved over time (a particular dynamic between opening and closure; an overwhelming and static narrative; a parataxis and accumulation of criminal performances, which closes continuously narrative development around the circle of the crime; a urban and landscape component which provokes and creates diversions, etc.). These traits are rooted and shaped in Italian culture, starting from the privileged relationship never exhausted with its literary matrix, but also from the complex and typically Italian interconnection in cultural and media domains created by giallo.

Gunhild Agger, Nordic Noir on Television: The Killing I-III

The Nordic Noir has been applied by many countries as a slightly distorting mirror of tendencies in their own societies. On the background of its international appeal, the article analyses the prevalent genre of The Killing – the thriller – and relates it to the genres of crime fiction, political drama and melodrama. The elements of the noir design in the introductory sequences – their common traits and the differences that match prevalent plots in each season – are highlighted. The developments taking place in the dominant points of view are traced, from the combination between the local politics and the domestic levels in the first season of the series, to the focus on foreign politics with domestic dimensions in the second season, and the reversion to domestic politics, this time combined to a global dimension, in the last season. Similarities and differences in the plots, and their relationship to (and interpretation of) events and phenomena in the modern Danish welfare state and in the Western sphere, are also investigated.

Stéfan Boisvert, La Notion de qualité télévisuelle dans la production frictionnelle britannique

This essay explores the notion of Quality TV, as it has been applied to British TV fiction. The quality of British TV fiction has often been associated with teleplays, adaptations and the movement of social realism. Through a study of TV productions, of the discourses of scholars and critics, and a comparison with the concept of American Quality TV, this article highlights some of the relevant criteria of Quality TV in the UK, most notably the educational, ethical or realist dimension of the programs and their visual sobriety. This particular definition of quality can be explained in part by the original public service mandate of the TV industry in the UK, similar to most European countries. The article ends with a study of contemporary discourses about Quality TV in the UK. Nowadays, there seems to be an important tension between a traditional conception of Quality TV and a newer one, which is more in line with the American model and is usually associated to cinematic and expensive TV series. This short study of fictional Quality TV underlines the evolutionary nature of the concept of quality and raises questions about the future of TV production in the United Kingdom.

Lucia Tralli, There’s Nothing Like an English Summer, Is There? Except an English Winter. Downton Abbey, a British Cult Tv Series and Its Fandom

The British TV show Downton Abbey is a significant case – with its unprecedented and unexpected worldwide success – in a more general evaluation of the contemporary media environment, and of European TV productions in particular. This article explores the Downton Abbey “phenomenon” through a survey of its fans’ online activities. The first introductory part of this essay focuses on the concept of Cult TV Show and its possible application to this peculiar product. The second part extensively discusses Downton Abbey fans’ online activities, monitored from August to September 2012. This part is focused on five different factors of the series identified as those that mainly raised the interest and approval of the fans. Finally, the last part of this article draws some conclusions about the global nature of Downton Abbey fandom and about the series status as “mainstream cult.”

Sylvia Szostak, Imitation, Borrowing, Recycling. American Models and Polish Domestic Drama

The history of post-1989 Polish serialized fiction falls into two periods. The first, from the 1990s to the mid-2000s, was characterized by heavy American imports. The second, from the mid-2000s up to 2012, is characterized by the gradual disappearance of American productions from the prime time schedules of Polish terrestrial broadcasters, as they turned to domestic products. Despite an increasing self-sufficiency in generating original television fiction content and the erosion of the hegemony of American imports on Poland’s TV screens, American programming still plays an important role in shaping Poland’s television industry and the fiction programming it produces. This article explores the impact of American programming on the Polish television market in terms of genres of domestic fiction, their narrative conventions and aesthetic qualities. American television, however, is not just mechanically transplanted, as Polish producers adjust foreign ideas to local structures of feeling. The genres that Polish broadcasters produce, as well as the narrative strategies and aesthetic canons of the domestic shows, become a site of negotiation between the American influence and the domestic Polish televisual culture. This article not only explores the myriad ways in which Poland’s television professionals borrow iconic elements of American television culture and its programming ideas, but it also illuminates how those foreign elements are transformed into the Polish context.

Cem Pekman, Selin Tüzün, Turkish Television Dramas: The Economy and Beyond

Following the break-up of the state monopoly on audiovisual media in Turkey in 1990, the commercial television industry quickly became aware of the audience’s demand for domestic productions and home-made dramas. Throughout the 2000s, a television drama sector emerged, supplying a substantial amount of dramas not only to the domestic market, but also to a regional audience in the Middle East, Central Asia and Balkan countries. Although the lively market fosters an expanding “drama economy,” it still has some structural problems and weaknesses. Yet, the actors of the sector and the authorities are becoming more aware of what the market promises, culturally and politically, in addition to its economic value. Now, the drama industry is often assessed in terms of its “geo-cultural” significance or “soft-power.” Big producers even argue that the sector has become a global actor competing with Hollywood and Bollywood. It is a fact that Turkish dramas affect masses in neighbouring regions, reinforcing the “image” of the country and stimulating regional tourism. However, the claim that Turkish drama industry has become a competitive power in the international media market needs further and thorough research.

Patricia Diego, María del Mar Grandío, The Production of Tv Fiction Adaptations in Spain (1950-2012)

The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the most significant TV adaptations in Spain from 1956 to 2012. First of all, the following article comprises a brief overview of a number of the most significant fiction adaptations produced by the public television network TVE, rounded out with a more in-depth account of the TV adaptations developed from the 1990s onwards, when commercial television networks, such as Antena 3 and Tele 5, entered the audiovisual market. Recently, the adaptation of TV series based on foreign programmes has become widespread in Spain. One special category encompasses programmes adapted to the Spanish television market from foreign series formats (US, Latin America and Europe). Television networks and production companies turn to such major television markets in order to identify successful series and formats that may be remade into the buyer’s context.

New Studies

Miriam De Rosa, Image, Space, and the Contemporary Filmic Experience

The article tackles the current debate dealing with the possibilities of expansion of contemporary cinema, trying to provide theoretical tools in order to build a framework, which takes into account the delicate relationship between space, image, and cinematic experience. Based on the background of researches devoted to cinema’s medium-specificity, the author identifies some possible contribution from Cultural, Media and Visual Studies, with the aim of formalizing some key-concept for the study of contemporary “cinematic forms”.

Projects & Abstracts

Nicolas Appelt, La jeunesse a l’éprouve des séries télévisuelles syriennes : modes de production, réception et répresentations (2000-2010) (Université del Lausanne / Ph.D. This Project)

Paola Brambilla, American TV Series: How the Economic Network Shapes Content (Università di Bologna / Ph.D. This Project)

Jean-Marie Cherubini, La théâtralité au service de la représentation des identités et des rapport hommes-femmes dans le « Nouveau Cinema Suisse » (Université del Lausanne / Ph.D. This Project)

Elena Gipponi, «It’s Much More Beautiful!». Colour in the Amateur Italian Cinema: History, Discourses, Social Uses (Libera Università di Lingue e Comunicazione IULM, Milano / Ph.D. This Project)

Delphine Wehrli, Le réalisme cinématographique : débats culturels et théoriques dans les revues italiennes de cinéma (1945-1960) (Université del Lausanne / Ph.D. This Project)

Reviews / Compets-rendus

Catherine Johnson, Branding Television [Deborah Toschi]

Anikó Imre, Timothy Havens, Katalin Lustyik (eds.), Popular Television in Eastern Europe During and Since Socialism [Francesco Pitassio]

Miriam Bratu Hansen, Cinema and Experience. Siegfried Krakauer, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno [Luisella Farinotti]

Jaques Aumont, Que rest-t-il du cinema? [Luca Malavasi]

Download Introduction and Abstracts and Contributors’ bios

Vol. XII, No. 19, Fall 2012

This issue on RivisteWeb

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