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Event TV: The production and inhabited resistance of images of control

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By Wendy Davis


Exploring a selection of television images from the 1920s to the present day, including Graham Kennedy, Norman Gunston, Roy and H.G. and Kath and Kim, Event TV examines an intersection between some Australian television comedy and the work of certain poststructuralist thinkers, highlighting a connection between televisual liveness and the technology's articulation of operations of control.  The book discusses the potential for televisual liveness to produce and accommodate particular resistive capacities as part of the operation of control through developing the concept of 'inhabited resistance'.  In doing so, Event TV examines television's role in contemporary culture through its operations of control, together with its potential mobilisation of a politics of resistance.

Dr Wendy Davis is a lecturer with CQ University's Skills for Tertiary Education Preparatory Program (STEPS). In 2010 she received a two year Early Career Research Fellowship at CQ University to further her research into the television mockumentary.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments

Introduction: The Question of the Televisual Event

Chapter One: Looking at Television: Past Practice and Points of Departure

  • Television and British Cultural Studies
  • Williams: Flow
  • Image problems
  • Fiske: The audience
  • Television: History and the archive
  • Television: Genres and texts
  • Television: Industry and policy
  • Television: Technological qualities and capacities
  • Television: Liveness
  • Television: A historical engagement with the image
  • Television: Theory
  • Conclusion

Chapter Two: The Image as Event: Conceptual Perspectives for Encountering Televisual Control

  • Events - virtualities - machines
  • The qualities of the event
    • Irreducibility
    • Repeatability
    • 'Effective' history
  • Events of discipline and events of control
  • Deleuzian control
    • Waves and modulation
    • Smoothing the boundaries
    • Control and capitalism
    • Resistance
  • Tactics, humour and everyday life
    • De Certeau and Deleuzian control
  • Inhabited resistance
    • Comedy as inhabited resistance: Self-reflexivity and carnival
  • The television image, the televisual event: A mode of analysis
    • Sign-image-event
    • Deleuze and Foucault: Striking scenes
  • Becoming-surface/Becoming-scene
  • Conclusion

Chapter Three: Liveness, the Emergence of Control and the Televisual Potential for Inhabited Resistance

  • Early appearances
    • France, 1894
    • United States of America, 1929
    • Scotland, 1927
  • Television and cinema: Comparative histories
  • Images of liveness: The televisual-cinematic nexus
    • Scanning and transmission: Technical principles
    • Techno-materiality, televisual liveness and the event of control
  • Workers leaving the factory: Flickers of liveness
  • Discipline: The cinematic event
  • Televisual liveness: Between the lines
  • Felix the Cat
  • The emergence of control
  • Stookie Bill
  • Conclusion

Chapter Four: Televisual Faces: Direct Address and the Production and Inhabited Resistance of Control

  • Bruce Gyngell
    • Facialization and direct address
    • A speaking face: The construction of direct address
  • Graham Kennedy
    • Transgressive television?
    • Graham Kennedy as televisual face
    • Inside-outside face
    • Self-reflexivity: The inhabited resistance of control
    • Live ads: The smooth space of capitalism and control
  • Conclusion

Chapter Five: The Comedy of Resistance

  • Norman Gunston: The little Aussie bleeder
    • Political joke
  • The Dream with Roy and HG: 'When too much sport is barely enough'
    • Clowns, rogues and cranks
    • 'Hello boys'
    • The battler's prince
  • Kath and Kim: Foxymorons from Fountain Lakes
    • 'The joker is me'
    • 'Look at moi ploise: Oim noice, different and un-ewes-ual'
    • The television mockumentary
  • Conclusion

Conclusion: The Television Mockumentary and the Future of the Television Event

  • Watch this space





MIA August 2011 No. 140, pp. 173-174 – Jim Harris, Griffith University

Davis, Wendy, Event TV: The Production and Inhabited Resistance of Images of Control
Post Pressed, Brisbane, 2010, ISBN 9 7819 2121 4776, A$59.50

This book is a thorough investigation into the relevance of critical theory to the study of television in general, and to the interpretation of Australian television comedy in particular.

Investigating Australian televisual productions, such as Graham Kennedy's IMT, The Norman Gunston Show, Roy and H.G.'s The Dream and Kath and Kim, Davis argues that such productions exemplify a relationship between the nature of televisual 'liveness' and its capacity to maintain and articulate a technologically determined status quo.

Extending on the post-structuralist theories of Deleuze and Foucault, Davis argues that television occupies a position of 'power' and 'control' that may be resisted by the ironic and carnivalesque vagaries of comedy. The four chapters of the book closely situate the study as a departure from traditional theoretical frameworks of television studies, encompassing historical approaches, policy studies, audiences, and textual and aesthetic analysis. In this evaluation, Davis explicates Deleuze's notoriously complex ideas in an easy-to-read format, and extends on them to adapt their use successfully to the field of television studies.

The scope of the publication is commendable, and covers considerable ground in an economical and well-organised manner. Although undergraduates may find some of the more abstract terms bewildering, those interested in the study of critical theory and its conciliation with the diverse array of approaches to studying television will find the publication most useful. Each of the chapters focuses on significant developments in the history of television, through which Davis supplies some insightful observations about television's 'operations of control'. Davis's analysis of early television programs, such as Stookie Bill and Felix the Cat, serves as a particularly compelling interpretation of television's technical principles, exploring the philosophical nature of scanning and transmission in contrast to cinema and video.

The later chapters offer a close analysis of the Australian comedy programs, and reveal some interesting observations about how their 'carnivalesque' nature transgresses televisual conventions. Davis's exploration of the transgressive within the televisual frame is especially poignant, as she discusses programming transformations that have occurred recently and become rapidly influential, such as the mockumentary. Other points of interest are the examination of 'direct address' in Chapter 4 and the historical overview of liveness in Chapter 3. The contribution of this scholarship will advance the understanding of Australian television comedy, and the use of critical theory in television studies.

- Jim Harris, Griffith University


Australian television comedy has long been a rich source of entertainment and innovation. From Graham Kennedy's irreverent subversion of the tonight show format in In Melbourne Tonight to Roy & HG's colourful reinterpretation of the conventions of sports commentary at the Sydney Olympics and Kath and Kim's peculiarly Australian take on the mockumentary, our TV comedians have demonstrated a spirit of rebellion that has used humour as a means for breaking open mainstream genres and imagining them in new and fresh ways. Event TV presents an erudite and scholarly exploration of these iconic figures, highlighting how besides being very funny their programs offer a culturally significant practice of comic resistance.

Geoff Danaher, CQ University

One of the real strengths of this work is the way Wendy has adopted the difference post-structural notions such as abstract machines, becoming-surface/becoming-scene, the face, and the grotesque to open up and peer inside television.

Jennifer Elsden, Clifton RMIT University

By drawing on the philosophical and theoretical insights of various structuralist and poststructuralist thinkers this book is able to propose what is in effect a new apparatus theory of television....this is a bold and striking move: its very ambition in breathtaking and it is no small achievement....to carry this through in a sustained and detailed manner.

Jason Jacobs, The University of Queensland

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