Widening landscapes of TV storytelling in the digital media environment of the 21st century

Milly Buonanno


In this paper I intend to revisit from a critical perspective some issues related to the contemporary landscape of fictional TV storytelling: scripted shows whose consumption and reputation have witnessed significant changes in the 21st century. My interest focuses on what I call “narrative plenitude”, the exceptional profusion of serialized fictions that are now available, anytime, anywhere, on the myriad of channels and platforms in the ever-expanding media environment. In this context, priority attention will be given in the article to the case of Netflix. In particular, I will try to unravel the coexisting mixture of gains and losses embodied in key aspects of the modus operandi embraced by the world’s leading streaming platform.

Then I will address the problematic readiness of contemporary television studies to concentrate a great deal of scholarship on just a select body of scripted shows, which come under the category of ‘prestige TV’. I join the dialogue among others in the field who take issue with patterns of choice largely based on the questionable cultural divide between quality niche TV and ordinary broadcast programming. Furthermore, I make the claim that this tendency fails to account for the unprecedented amplification of the contemporary landscape of storytelling, as if television studies “can’t see the forest for the trees”. 


storytelling system; narrative plenitude; Netflix; prestige TV

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