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Broadcast Radio Tv

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I have chosen to evaluate a review of the new sitcom ‘Modern Family’. It is established that genres act as shortcuts and are ideological in nature. They serve to organise particular programs by providing artists with an understanding of its rules and conventions, audiences with an interpretative context, and institutions with a means to facilitate the sale of a particular media text to an audience. However, particular genres continually develop in an attempt to invent fresh concepts. Michael Idato’s review of ‘Modern Family’ highlights to a degree the traditional conventions of a sitcom, and examines how this program alters such a traditional framework in order to establish itself as unique. He also highlights the specific techniques used by the program to both capture and maintain an audience which involves a consideration of both program content and celebrity.
Michael Idato highlights that ‘Modern Family’ consists of all the elements typical of a sitcom whose comic premise and structure revolves around a dysfunctional family. He recognises that its program content is derived ‘straight from the comedy playbook’ (Idato, 2010) as it explores the challenges of parenting, marriage and teenage romance which are so frequently touched upon. The diversity of the characters portrayed in ‘Modern Family’ inevitably allows for its interpretation as a traditional ‘character com’ (Aaronson, 2000, p.13). Its form therefore allows for the creation of opposing comic perspectives within particular characters, and thus comic conflict between them. For example, ‘Modern Family’ creates comic conflict between the suburban married couple Claire and Phil Dunphy by creating her as a straight woman, whilst her husband as a ‘goofball’. Idato thus labelled the program as something of an ‘enigma’ given its huge critical and commercial success despite the use of such traditional and familiar subject matter.
Despite the adherence to several traditional sitcom conventions, Idato (2010) does draw attention to those features of the program which represent advances in the sitcom genre. He first highlights that ‘Modern Family’ is not filmed in the traditional sitcom form of a ‘three camera set up’ as utilised by big commercial comedies such as ‘Two and a Half Men’. Instead, ‘Modern Family’ presents a ‘new hybrid’ (Bode, 2007, p.140) comedy which favours the use of a single mobile camera, and is filmed in a mockumentary style similar to that of ‘The Office’. The adoption of said documentary conventions therefore serves to ‘comically and narratively frame the characters.’(Bode, 2007,141).Like the employees of Dunder Mifflin in ‘The Office’, the characters of ‘Modern Family’ acknowledge the presence of the camera and partake in a form of confessional which ranges from Claire Dunphy’s views on motherhood, to her husband’s declaration of real estate prowess. Overall, such techniques act to embed ‘Modern Family’ within a more ‘believable social and media reality’ (Bode, 2007, p.141) than is usually afforded by most sitcoms. Furthermore, ‘Modern Family’ appears to adopt an ongoing serialized narrative as opposed to one which in which equilibrium is constantly restored. A serialized narrative is one in which the character’s problems are not neatly resolved at the end of each episode. By adopting this unconventional narrative structure, the producers are able to achieve their wish of preventing the program from becoming ‘predictable and formulaic’ (Idato, 2010) as it allows for issues and storylines to unfold ‘in surprising a pace that is more true to life.’ (Bode, 2007, p.140)Thus ‘Modern Family’ challenges the notion that sitcoms are incapable of any forward movement in the form of character and plot development. The ‘blossoming affection’(Idato, 2010) between Jay and his stepson Manny as the episodes progress is testament to this.
Television audiences are ‘conceived by broadcasters as a market and a commodity’ (Bignall, 2008, p.278). As such, it is incredibly important that broadcasters capture an audience in order to ensure garner the ratings which will ultimately lead to greater advertisements and increased funding. Idato (2010) proposes that ‘Modern Family’ captures its audience primarily through the diverse family stereotypes it portrays. It has been highlighted that fans seek ‘sympathetic characters’(Williams, 2010, p.283) with whom they can relate. In line with the Uses and Gratification approach, audiences use television as a way to ‘gratify inner needs’ (Burton,2000,p.215) which includes the need for identity and ontological security. Hence audiences use particular personalities and enacted roles in order to confirm ‘our sense of self.’(Burton, 2000, p.215) Rather than treat the audience as a single mass who share only one interest, Modern Family recognises the diversity of an audience’s composition and attempts to cater for a greater proportion of specific needs. By allowing for the fulfilment of such needs, whether you’re a gay parent or someone caught in a mid life crisis, Modern Family provides incentives to continue one’s viewing.
The issue of celebrity is touched upon by Idato (2010) when he notes that Modern Family features ‘no bankable TV stars’ amongst a relatively ‘unknown ensemble cast.’ Celebrity is defined as the contemporary state of being famous. It must be established that both stars and celebrities are regarded by the media industry as ‘bankable commodities.’(O’Shaughnessy & Stadler, 2008, p.426) They are essentially marketing devices for the entertainment products, including the television they appear in. Hence the bankability of a star or celebrity involves a guarantee that their own popularity will ensure garner ratings or profit for their respective media text. Celebrity is often ‘judged by achievement’ (O’Shaughnessy & Stadler, 2008, p.428) Many people base their choice of TV program upon its particular genre. Like genres, celebrities generate certain expectations, and can often guarantee quality. Thus the greater the expectation and guarantee of quality, the greater the appeal of a particular program. Hence considering that the only cast member to have really achieved recognised success is Ed O’Neill (Jay) through his role in Married with Children, it is plausible that Idato considered the overnight success of the sitcom as a surprise.
Michael Idato’s review reflects a good understanding of the way Modern Family conforms to and advances broadcast genre traditions in relation to technology and character development, whilst his understanding of what makes a successful sitcom is challenged through an examination of its program content and the issue of bankable celebrity.
Reference List * Aaronson, L 2000, ‘Television Writing: The Ground Rules of Series, Serials and Sitcom’ NSW: AFTRS * Bignall, J 2008, ‘An Introduction to Television Studies (2nd Edition), London: Routledge, pp. 268-289. * Bode, L 2007, ‘It’s a Joke, Sir’, Metro Magazine 157, pp.138-143. * Burton, G 2000, Talking Television, Oxford University Press Inc, New York. * O’Shaughnessy, M & Stadler, J 2008, Media and Society Fourth Edition, Oxford University Press, Sydney NSW. * Williams, R 2010, ‘Good Neighbours?: Fan/producer relationships and the Broadcasting Field.’ Continuum 24:2, pp. 279- 289.

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