Television Outside of the TV Screen

28 Nov

In her introduction to The Television Will be Revolutionized, Amanda D. Lotz discusses the idea of our generation existing in a “post-network era”, where television is not only displayed on a TV screen but in combination with the Internet, taking on many new innovative forms.  This idea is something we have discussed frequently in class, particularly with the emergence of Netflix and Hulu.  Still, much of what we see on Netflix and Hulu has already been broadcast on television networks before being aired on these websites (until the emergence of something like Arrested Development’s fourth season, which is to be aired exclusively on Netflix, with all the episodes arriving at once).  However, in part due to an increased interest in using different technologies to display television, and in part because viewers simply could not get enough of certain series, it is often that television series will arrive on the Web in ways that have not been seen on television, and so if you just watch the series, you may not know the whole story.

An example of a television series which has embraced multimedia formats is 24.  One such example was the 24 video game, whose plot timeline placed it in between the second and third seasons of the show, although it was released during the fifth season’s run.  The game was endorsed by FOX, published by 2K Games, and used the real characters’ voices and personas, and what makes it interesting in this discussion is that it paid particular attention to ensuring that it placed itself in such a time period that it would be accurate to the timeline of the series, thus becoming a part of the overall 24 story.  However, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  There are webisodes made available online which take place in between seasons, comics which fill in some details that we don’t see on TV, 24 novels which take place in between seasons and before the series begins to explain some background on Jack Bauer (some of the information of which was published on FOX’s 24 website), and prequels to various seasons which are only made available on the 24 DVDs and cannot be seen on television, serving to give background on Jack’s story to those who are willing to dig a little deeper (or purchase the DVD set).  Of course, some of the details of the timeline are quite hazy, but attempts to compile all of them together in the order in which they occur, in case anyone wants to check it out: (beware of spoilers though).

24 is of course not the only television show to use different types of media to further its story, a notable recent example being Community, which had so many fans anticipating its third season that it threw us a bone by announcing that there would be three webisodes aired exclusively on Hulu two weeks before the series was set to restart.  In general, it is clear that Amanda Lotz was correct in declaring this a post-network era, and not just because a web series like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries can exist, but because television series displayed by networks can also display separate things all over the Internet and across many different media.

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