Genre Theory

  1. Watch the assigned television show. 2. Read one of the following essays. 3. Read my notes. 4. Write a paper following the directions provided on this page.

This week’s TV show

This week’s assignment is Law and Order.

Watch an episode in syndication.

Here is some background on the show:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_%26_Order

DO NOT CHOOSE SUV OR CRIMINAL INTENT.

ESSAYS

TV Crime Shows

Wikipedia

MY NOTES

Genre theory began as a literary form of criticism. The theory was borrowed by film theorists and then by television critics.

Among the common television genres are:

situation comedy (How I Met Your Mother)
cop show (Law and Order)
hospital (Grey’s Anatomy)
western (Gunsmoke is the classic example)
reality (Survivor)
drama (Grey’s Anatomy)
game show (Wheel of Fortune)
news magazine (60 Minutes)
talk shows (Oprah)
night time soaps (Empire)

For this assignment, I want you to watch Law and Order. I do not care which episode and you will have to watch it in syndication. DO NOT CHOOSE SUV OR CRIMINAL INTENT. Assignment 3: Genre Theory

Here is a blueprint of how a STANDARD cop show is organized.

:Section 1: 00 to FIRST AD We see the bad guys being bad. We see the presentation of the conflict of good vs. evil. Credits run. The bad guys are introduced and/or the crime is presented. An explanation is provided for how the cops are going to become involved. The officers (recurring characters) are introduced.

3-4 minutes of advertisements

Section 2: The bad guys are winning and the cops are baffled by the crime.

3-4 minutes of advertisements

Section 3 (after the half hour): We see the bad guys in action; we see the cops in action. The bad guys might win. This is when there is most likely to be shooting, chases, etc.

3-4 minutes of advertisements

Section 4: the cops catch the bad guys or the bad guys die.

3-4 minutes of advertisements

Section 5: The good guys celebrate and the details are wrapped up, especially the personal story line..

Along with the story line about crime, there will usually be a personal story line so viewers have a chance to know the cops as characters. If there is a big guest star, then the guest star may be developed as a character.

The cop show genre is marked by its presentation of good vs. evil. The bad guys have to violate the law, which is supposed to make the audience members angry at the brutally of the crime and the violation of society’s values and ethics. The cops ultimately have to represent the dominant values of society. There is usually one officer in charge who represents the dominant values. The working cops struggle with their own evil tendencies brought out by the nature of the crime or the actions of the criminals. There are innocent victims, people who are too weak to defend themselves against the cruelty of the bad guys. The cops have to defeat the bad guys in order to save the innocent and society against the bad guys.

Law and Order

Law and Order is not the standard cop show. The first half of the show shows the detectives investigating the crime. Speed up what usually happens in a cop show and the format fits: crime, bad guys are winning, bad guys are arrested.

The second half of the show is about the prosecutors and the trial. Basically, the pattern still fits: (1) the attorneys for the bad guys are ahead, (2) the prosecutors figure out how to beat the bad guys, (3) trial begins and the prosecutors damn the actions of the bad guys, (4) the verdict, (5) the storylines are tied up.

Law and Order does not always convict the bad guys. So, the verdict section is unpredictable. However, usually the bad guys have to pay for their crimes in some way.

KEY POINT: Often the audience is the real jury that determines what should be law and order.

Questions

Examples of questions that could be answered with genre theory:

How bad were the bad guys? How did the creators of Law and Order expect the audience to react to the bad guys and their actions?

How good were the good guys? How did the creators of Law and Order expect the audience to react to the good guys and their actions?

Was the end result a natural consequence of the actions of the good guys and the bad guys?

Who was being protected against the bad guys? Were the protected ones people the audience could identify with?

Did this show fit the blueprint? Was the storyline forced or manipulated in order to fit within the time constraints of television?

Was this a good episode or a bad episode in terms of fitting the genre?

WHAT `TO DO

Paper 1:
Applying genre theory to Law and Order

Section 1: Summarize the plot in one paragraph, i.e., no more than half of a page. We all watched the show. 10 points

Section 2: Explain the theory. Tell me which parts of genre theory (the reading and my notes) you are going to use and how you are going to apply the theory to this episode. 10 points

Section 3: Critique this episode of law and Order from the perspective of genre theory. 20 points

Section 4: Your conclusion should be a logical result of what you have said in the first three sections of the paper. Specifically, what conclusions can you draw from your critique? Pull your logic together and tell me if this was a good episode, a bad episode, or something in between. 10 points

Your conclusion should not be a personal opinion, but a logically developed conclusion based on genre theory.

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