American Crime TV Drama: a PhD Project

At some level, this is also a very personal blog; a diary, a record of my encounter of a fascinating world. A ‘project’ that helps me temper my thinking process as well as help me keep my sanity through the journey as a graduate student. Informal, discursive thoughts and ramblings on things that demand more serious contemplation. This is a place to raise questions, both rhetorical and sincere. A way of sharing some ideas, but also a way of learning from others – by seeking to respond and seeking response. But it is also an invitation to begin conversations, collaborate and participate.

One of the recurrent features of this blog would be shared fragments of my work on the topic of American Crime Television series in the 2000s. My primary texts are The Wire (HBO 2002-08), The Shield (FX 2002-08) and Breaking Bad (AMC 2008-13). I am looking at these three critically acclaimed series as the pinnacle of American Crime Television drama which goes back to the earliest days of TV in the 1950s. My selection of the texts are geographically and historically very narrow, as is the expectation from a graduate thesis. However it is also that much interesting to go back and forth in time to see how a confluence of genres and other media forms have shaped these shows from the past, as well as how they have come to influence the current crop of TV shows in significant, if subtle ways. I am not going to assert that no cop show can get away with just a simple procedural approach after The Wire and The Shield, but only that the viewing audience are suddenly aware of the gaps in those procedural shows.  Of course, the important issue to be addressed about the focus of the project is the exclusion of shows from other cultures, which is ironic considering the exceptional quality of Crime Dramas from Europe just within the past ten years. On a side note, I think that some of these recent European Crime shows like Broen (The Bridge, Sweden/Denmark, 2011-), Forbrydelsen (The Killing, Denmark, 2007-12), Borgen (Denmark, 2010-), Engrenages (Spirals, France, 2005-), Broadchurch (Britain, 2013-) to name a few, have been outpacing their American counterparts (and tiring remakes) for quite a while now. These ground breaking and revolutionary TV shows defy the standardization of American TV so much, that they are constituting their own genre of quality TV that has no parallel in the American mainstream. My research sticks closely to an English-speaking diegetic and receptive worlds, for the sake of convenience and avoiding negotiations with issues of language and subtitling. So, such comparisons between shows and cultures are very important to this discussion, and will be introduced in the due course.

At present, I intend to post reflections, discussions and reviews of the shows and responses to existing critical conversations about them. These posts will also at other shows to construct a narrative about the genre and its variations. But the core of the blog will remain an ethical project, that raises questions about the good’ in Television. Is there any ‘good’ in TV at all? Is it good, for you? How do these shows that portray some of the absolute worst moments of humanity help us in any way? Is our cynicism in response to these programs, an expression of our morality? What are the differences between ‘good’,  ‘evil’ and ‘bad’ characters? The intersection between moral philosophy and spectatorship is not a new one, but is something that constantly renews old questions in the light of changes arising from new technologies, different authorial styles, social attitudes, and political contexts. In this sense, this site lies between a fansite and a project blog, as these posts are my way of reflecting on my thesis, as well as sharing them with those who really enjoy crime television.

-Mani, 30 April 2016.


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– Mani, Editor,
22 April 2016.

Writing for Screen Ethics.

One of the aims of this blog is also to begin conversations about arts and entertainment. You, the reader, are welcome to contribute your thoughts about things that you find interesting in both, either or adjacent of these fields of screens and ethics. Observations could range from movies, TV shows, books and internet programs, to broader trends, themes and patterns in arts and entertainment as long as they raise questions about ethics.

The blog welcomes posts of any length, but generally a review runs about 500-700 words, while a comparative or analytical post could go longer (700-1000). Topics of interest are not restricted by historical or geographical lines, as long as the pieces are in English. Creative pieces or projects would be curated in a case-by-case basis. Send in your entries in Microsoft Word format (.docx or .doc), typed in 12-point, Times New Roman/Garamond, double-spaced pages. If your article uses sources, please cite them in the MLA style. This blog accepts images that are in public domain or user-generated. If your images are sourced from elsewhere, please cite them. It is the writer’s responsibility to get required permissions for any additional materials. If you want to write about something and are not sure how to go about it, drop an email with a short abstract of your proposed post, and we can discuss how to develop it.

So if you have a piece that you want to share through this blog and start a discussion, please submit your pieces to Mani Saravanan.

Mani, 11 April 2016.


Screen Ethics.

The title is not a limiting of the scope of the blog, but a gesture towards an intersection that I find fascinating. From the palm of our hands, to our living and working environments, screens mediate our experience of the world. You, the reader, at this very moment, are reading these words through a screen. Wherever you are, these words become a voice in your head for a moment. Yes, screens can bring us together. They present encounters that are beyond our immediate experience, and they also prevent us from fully entering them. Screens are not windows, but neither are they walls. When we live in a world where every wall is a screen, and every window a frame – how do we seek and value the good of this experience? What is good on a screen? What good is a screen?

This is a small blog. A blog about small things that invite curiosity and reflection. This is a blog of words. I would like it to have illustrations, images, sounds, discussions and actions among other things, but it begins as a blog of words.

Click here to go to the latest posts page.

If you are interested in writing for us, click here.

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Mani Saravanan, Editor
10 April 2016

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