Television Textbook Now Available

Cover for Television Visual Storytelling and Screen Culture, 5th edition.Television: Visual Storytelling and Screen Culture has been revised, renamed, and updated. Plus, a new chapter by Amanda D. Lotz has been added.

Television was released last month and is available for summer and fall classes. Examination copies may be requested here:

The marketing team says:

Under the title, Television: Critical Methods and Applications, this textbook has served as the foremost guide to television studies for over two decades. The new, fifth edition, offers readers an in-depth understanding of how television programs and commercials are made and how they function as producers of meaning. It shows the ways in which camera style, lighting, set design, editing, and sound combine to produce meanings that viewers take away from their television experience.


  • A new subtitle to reflect the broader scope of what qualifies as “television” in the 21st century: “Visual Storytelling and Screen Culture.”
  • An entirely new chapter by Amanda D. Lotz on television in the contemporary digital media environment. (Lotz’s next book, We Now Disrupt This Broadcast: How Cable Transformed Television & the Internet Revolutionized It All will be published by MIT Press this month.)
  • Discussions integrated throughout on the latest developments in screen culture during the on-demand era—including the impact of binge-watching and the proliferation of screens (smartphones, tablets, computer monitors, etc.).
  • Updates on the effects of new digital technologies on TV style.
  • A forthcoming companion Website with PowerPoint presentations, sample syllabi, and sample student papers for instructors.


“There is, quite simply, no more comprehensive resource for the student of television.” -Heather Hendershot, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“Instructors of undergraduate television studies courses know that Butler’s Television is a smart, accessible, and indispensable teaching tool, whether our objects of study are The Beverly Hillbillies or Breaking Bad, Monday Night Football or Meet the Press.” -Mary Desjardins, Dartmouth College

“Given television’s pervasive presence in our personal and political lives today, it’s vital to understand how TV works as an expressive form, a business, and a cultural force. Jeremy Butler’s updated Television proves more indispensable than ever before in exploring these facets of the medium.” -Christine Becker, University of Notre Dame

Television remains the best book out there for introducing students to the art, industry, and culture of television as we actually experience it. An essential guide to the stories television tells, yesterday and today.” -Michele Hilmes, University of Wisconsin, Madison


    • Chapter 1 An Introduction to Television Structures and Systems: Ebb and Flow in the Network Era
    • Chapter 2 Television in the Contemporary Media Environment, by Amanda D. Lotz
    • Chapter 3 Narrative Structure: Television Stories
    • Chapter 4 Building Narrative: Character, Actor, Star
    • Chapter 5 Beyond and Beside Narrative Structure
    • Chapter 6 The Television Commercial
    • Chapter 7 An Introduction to Television Style: Modes of Production
    • Chapter 8 Style and Setting: Mise-en-Scene
    • Chapter 9 Style and the Camera: Videography and Cinematography
    • Chapter 10 Style and Editing
    • Chapter 11 Style and Sound
    • Chapter 12 An Introduction to Television Studies
    • Chapter 13 Textual Analysis
    • Chapter 14 Discourse and Identity
  • Appendix I: Sample Analyses and Exercises
  • Appendix II: Mass Communication Research
  • Glossary

Further information:

New Edition of “Television” Coming in February 2018

Television Cover, Fifth EditionThe fifth edition of Television is scheduled to be released in February 2018.

A cover design has been selected, the copyediting is done, the figures have been collected, and indications are good that we’ll hit that date.

To acknowledge the turmoil in today’s television, we’ve adopted a new subtitle: Television: Visual Storytelling and Screen Culture. And we solicited a new chapter on television today by renowned authority, Amanda D. Lotz.

The new edition also has updated examples and screenshots throughout.

Updates will be announced on

New Book Project: The Sitcom

The Sitcom (A Routledge Television Guidebook) will analyze the genre’s position as a major media artefact within American culture and will provide a historical overview of the genre as it has evolved in the US. The Sitcom will examine discourses of gender, race, ethnicity, class, and sexual orientation that are ever always at the core of humor in our culture and it will interpret how those discourses are embedded in television’s relatively rigid narrative structures.

The Sitcom will be principally organized around roughly chronological sub-genres through which the sitcom has cycled: for example, the rural sitcom, the workplace sitcom, the family sitcom, the “ethnic” sitcom, and so on. However, full understanding of the sitcom goes beyond its discourses and narratives. A comprehensive consideration of the genre must also address the style of its sound and image—especially in programs that derive their humor from intertextual or self-referential play. The Sitcom will thus cover the mockumentary and what, after John Caldwell, might be called the “televisual” sitcom—programs that encourage the viewer to find humor in self-reflexive and intertextual gags.

The Sitcom is currently under contract with Routledge. Follow the book’s progress and read interesting tidbits about the sitcom on The Sitcom‘s development site.

Tentative table of contents:

  • Introduction: Taking Comedy Seriously: An Argument for the Study of the Sitcom
  • Chapter 1. A TV Genre Is Born: Comedy in the Golden Age of Broadcasting
  • Chapter 2. Comedy, Family, and Small Towns
  • Chapter 3. Comedy, Work, and Class
  • Chapter 4. Comedy, Sex, and Gender Identity
  • Chapter 5. Comedy, Race, Ethnicity, and Religion
  • Chapter 6. Comedy, Televisuality, and Genre Mixing
  • Conclusion: TV Comedy in Convergence Culture

New Article on Statistical Analysis of Television Style

A new piece I wrote on the statistical analysis of television editing has been accepted by Cinema Journal and is forthcoming in its fall 2014 issue:

  • Butler, Jeremy G. “Statistical Analysis of Television Style: What Can Numbers Tell Us About TV Editing?” Cinema Journal 54, no. 1 (forthcoming). Update 2015, full citation: Cinema Journal 54, no. 1 (2014), 25-44.

A companion Website with full-sized, color illustrations and the data sets used in my analysis is now online:

Here’s the article’s abstract:

This article assays the value of splicing together humanities-based analysis of television style with digitally generated statistical data. The editing style of the situation comedy, Happy Days (1974-1984), provides an intriguing test case for such analyses’ utility as it made a radical shift in its mode of production after its second season—switching from single-camera to multiple-camera (with a studio audience). Using data collected on, this article measures the cutting rates correlated with each mode of production and finds there is a statistically significant difference between the two. Additionally, this article examines the general acceleration of cutting rates on American television since 1951 and it comes to a perhaps surprising conclusion about the impact of individual editors upon television style.


New Edition of Television Released

Television: Critical Methods and Applications has been called the “best textbook on television available today” (Ellen Seiter, USC). Its main goal is to encourage readers to think critically about TV. Written by Jeremy G. Butler and originally published in 1994, its fourth edition was released in December 2011.

Cover for the fourth edition.

Videography, editing, acting, set design, lighting and sound are analyzed and explained in terms of how they are used to tell stories, present news, and sell products to TV viewers.

This student-friendly text provides critical and historical contexts, discussing how critical methods have been applied to the medium and highlighting the evolution of television style through the decades.

Television is illustrated with hundreds of frame grabs from TV programs. A companion Website, hosted by Routlege, presents color versions of these black-and-white figures and augments them with video clips, sample student papers, syllabi, and other material. It is available at:

Highlights of the fourth edition include:

  • New chapter and part organization to reflect the current approach to teaching television—with greatly expanded methods and theories chapters.
  • An entirely new chapter on modes of production and their impact on what you see on the screen.
  • Discussions integrated throughout on the latest developments in television’s on-going convergence with other media, such as material on transmedia storytelling and YouTube’s impact on video distribution.
  • Over three hundred printed illustrations, including new and better quality frame grabs of recent television shows and commercials.
  • companion website featuring color frame grabs, a glossary, flash cards, and editing and sound exercises for students, as well as PowerPoint presentations, sample syllabi and other materials for instructors. Links to online videos that support examples in the text are also provided.

With its distinctive approach to examining television, Television is appropriate for courses in television studies, media criticism, and general critical studies.

Mad Men Anthology Due To Be Released

I’ve just heard from Gary Edgerton, the editor of the Mad Men anthology to which I contributed, that it will be released by I. B. Taurus in December 2010. It’s been retitled Mad Men: Dream Come True TV and is currently available for pre-order.

My essay is on the visual style of the program and is rooted in an In Media Res piece I put together: “The Oppressive Rectangularity of the Fluorescent Light.”

Gary developed the anthology from an entire week of IMR pieces.

Update 1/10/11: The anthology has indeed been released in the UK. I’ve even been sent my author’s copy. I don’t think it’s available in the US yet, however.

Television Style: Released 10 December 2009

Television Style was officially released 10 December 2009!

Television Style, front cover.
Television Style, front cover.

I’m pleased with how it looks and I hope readers will be, too. We chose an image from the Bettmann/CORBIS archive for the cover which we believe speaks to the notion of style and TV–albeit a stylized television set from 25 September 1952. According to CORBIS, the original caption reads:

“Designed to meet the ‘space-saving’ need for a handsome, fully equipped compact unit, F. B. Arthur presents the ‘Modernaire’ [!] television-AM-FM radio phonograph (3 speed) unit. Contrast of the cordovan finish on mahogany with light texture of perforated Masonite is set off by an accent of persimmon in the free form [!] speaker opening.”

Television Style contains nearly 200 illustrations, mostly taken from DVDs and video files of television programs. Although the paper stock is not coated, we were able to work some digital magic and the illustrations are quite respectable. Plus, we decided to bleed them into the margins, allowing us to reproduce them at a good, legible size. Of course, all of those illustrations are reproduced here–in color and enlarged from the book’s black-and-white images.

Now that Television Style has been released into the wild, we’re eager to hear readers’ thoughts about it. Please feel free to contact us with your comments and questions.

More information is available on the companion Website: