Television Style

A book by Jeremy Butler, released by Routledge in December 2009.

Television Style cover

Style signifies and has significance.

The lighting in a scene shapes our understanding of a character's moral values. A cut in a commercial juxtaposes images of a car being driven down the road and a young girl running through water sprinklers—generating a visual metaphor. Slow motion shots of runners paradoxically signify their heightened speed. Through these and myriad other techniques, television relies on style—setting, lighting, videography, editing, and so on—to set moods, hail viewers, construct meanings, build narratives, sell products, and shape information. Television Styleexamines this process. It dissects how style signifies and what significance it has had in specific television contexts.

More specifically, Television Style answers the charge that programs such as soap operas lack style and it analyzes how their presumed stylistic "lack" can come to construct meaning. At the opposite stylistic extreme, Television Style considers how excessive, exhibitionist style, or what John Caldwell calls "televisuality," influences meaning production and viewer positioning in stylistically bold situation comedies. Television Style also addresses the impact upon television of stylistic elements from outside the medium proper—as when film noir visuals appeared inMiami Viceand ER attempted a "virtual reality" Website. Television Style looks at how non-fiction forms—particularly the commercial—rely heavily upon particular stylistic conventions.

Television Style draws significantly upon articles published in ScreenCinema Journal, and Journal of Popular Film and Television, and on one book chapter from Television: Critical Methods and Applications. Although it is not an anthology of Jeremy Butler's work of the past 30 years, many of the chapters have evolved from previous essays.


Jeremy Butler has written about television style for over thirty years, publishing in ScreenCinema JournalThe Journal of Popular Film and Video, and Jump Cut. His textbook, Television, contains the most comprehensive overview of style in television studies. He has taught television, film, and new media at the University of Alabama since 1980.


Jeremy Butler
JCM Department
Box 870172
The University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
Television Style cover