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For each prompt (a prompt can be a term, phrase, or concept) given below, please write:

a) The author who wrote about the term/phrase/concept. (You only have to cite ONE author for each concept, but you can definitely cite multiple authors. Citing multiple authors may help you to give a fuller definition of the prompt than only citing one. But you do not have to cite all of the authors who wrote about a particular term.) (0.5 point)

b) The meaning of the term/phrase/concept, as it pertains to the topics covered in this course. (You should plan on writing at least a few sentences to give an adequate definition.) (1 point)

c) A television example that illustrates the term/phrase/concept. (You only need to write about one example: a television show OR episode, OR character, OR plotline from a TV show, OR a block of shows, OR an entire network. You may give more than one example if you wish but only one is required. Please note that you must write about a television example, not a film example – anything that is a serial program [that is, consisting of multiple episodes] on broadcast TV, cable TV, or streaming platforms that you view in your domestic space, like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO Go, CBS All Access, etc., counts as “television.”) (0.5 point)

d) How the television example relates to, and illustrates, the term/phrase/concept. Make sure to refer to at least one idea or argument made by the author (whom you named in part a). (You should plan on writing 1 to 2 paragraphs—6 to 12 sentences at least—to explain how your example relates to the term/phrase/concept.) (2 points)

You must format your answer according to parts a, b, c, and d, like this:

1. (term/phrase/concept)

a. (author’s name)

b. (definition of term/phrase/concept)

c. (name of an example, like “Game of Thrones”)

d. (how the example relates to the term/phrase/concept)

Points will be deducted for poor spelling, grammar, and/or punctuation (up to 1 point). Points will also be deducted for improper formatting – proper formatting = listing out the different parts of each answer as a., b., c., d. (up to 1 point).

Each response to a prompt is worth up to 4 points.

Assignment 1 Prompts:

how television is like theater

theater/live performance as a path to the authentic self

how reality TV relates to performance in the “neoliberal workplace”

Studies in Theatre and Performance
ISSN: 1468-2761 (Print) 2040-0616 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rstp20
Methodology and praxis of the actor within the
television production process: facing the camera in
EastEnders and Morse
Kim Durham
To cite this article: Kim Durham (2002) Methodology and praxis of the actor within the
television production process: facing the camera in EastEnders and Morse, Studies in Theatre
and Performance, 22:2, 82-94
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/stap.22.2.82
Published online: 06 Jan 2014.
Submit your article to this journal
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Download by: [University of California, Berkeley]
Date: 13 April 2016, At: 11:42
Methodology and praxis of the actor
within the television production
process: facing the camera in
EastEnders and Morse
Kim Durham
Downloaded by [University of California, Berkeley] at 11:42 13 April 2016
This paper reviews, from an actor’s perspective, the demands of television performance that make it distinct from stage performance. The writer compares his
experience in the multi-camera shooting of EastEnders with that in the singlecamera Morse, drawing his conclusions on behalf of the acting profession.
There is an often-expressed assumption within the British acting profession that there is no fundamental distinction to be made between acting
on stage and before the camera. Speaking of film acting, the actress Janet
Suzman argues that ‘There’s no essential difference, you try and reach
the essential something of the character you’re portraying’ (quoted in
Zucker 1999: 26). This would suggest that an experienced actor can
exploit an underlying methodology for playing character that may serve
in both media. On one level, this seems surprising, for there are manifestly broad distinctions to be made between the circumstances in which
a stage performance is delivered and those in which a screen performance is given. We may identify three major differences:
1 The relationship of performer to audience, where he or she is mediated through a medium of mechanical reproduction, is fundamentally
different from that which pertains when the actor is in physical proximity to the audience. There can be no direct interaction.
Furthermore, the performer is dependent upon the decisions of others, both behind the camera and in their edit suite, to determine how
he or she will be perceived by the audience.
2 The means through which dramatic discourse proceeds differ from
screen to stage. This is evidenced both by a different aesthetic
emphasis and by a radically different process of narrative construction. Typically, on screen, narrative is constructed for the audience
through a progressive montage of individual shots rather than, as on
stage, the extended viewing of a broad stage picture. Aesthetically,
the impulse is almost constantly towards a spectacle of realism. An
early Associated-Rediffusion script-service booklet makes this quite
explicit, in particular identifying what is required of the television
actor: ‘The object of television acting, in so far as anyone has yet
been able to define it, is to make the viewer believe that he is watching something that he is not meant to watch, that he is, in fact,
“dropping in on something that was going on before he switched on
STP 22 (2) 82–94 © Intellect Ltd 2002
his set and which will continue after he has left”.’ (Quoted in
Hayman 1969: 155)
3 The production processes by which film and television drama are created
are substantially different from the one practised within theatre.
Originally, of course, television was a medium of synchronous transmission, whereas film was always a medium of record. This distinction made
for marked differences in their production processes. By the nature of its
being a ‘live’ event, early television drama retained some of the characteristics of theatre. However, by the late 1960s television drama had become,
through the development of electronic recording technology, an entirely
pre-recorded medium, and much of its output could consequently be
constructed like film. Each shot could be composed individually and discontinuously, using a single camera, and the narrative constructed
subsequently through the editing process. Nevertheless, for reasons of
speed of production and economy, many long-running drama series and
serials retain the use of the multi-camera set-up that was developed
specifically to meet the necessity of capturing ‘live’ performance.
What follows is an examination of my own experience of working as an
actor on just two television productions, one a multi-camera shoot, and the
other a single-camera. In analysing the task of the actor in these production
circumstances I attempt to assess the nature of any distinctive technique
that is required, and whether it is indeed true that one underpinning
methodology of acting can fit the demands of screen and stage.
EastEnders is the BBC’s most popular drama serial, its half-hour episodes currently scheduled over four evenings each week. Production is multi-camera,
using purpose-built sets for both interiors and for the main exterior site. At
the time of my engagement for two episodes, in 1997, the production team
was producing three episodes each week. With few exceptions, scenes are
shot in their entirety in single sustained takes with some editing taking place
simultaneously, through use of a vision-mixing desk, and final editing occurring in post-production. There is no time scheduled for off-set rehearsal.
Appearing in just two episodes of EastEnders,1 with a script delivered well
in advance of the shoot, line learning would not prove a problem. With
sufficient preparation, it was possible to be sure enough of the text for the
playing of dialogue not to involve any conscious effort of memory. On the
other hand, as a visiting actor there are issues of character that are different
to those faced by the regulars. In my brief appearance, I was to be a managing agent who had arrived in Albert Square to evict a regular character
from his flat. Although small – six comparatively short scenes – the part was
well written and on the page gave a clear sense of character. Without being
clearly stated, the writing sketched in an impression of background and
what the character’s preoccupations were. However, due to the speed of
production, there was no time for discussion of character with the director.
There had been some prior discussion between the director and the
Methodology and praxis of the actor within the television production process: …
1 EastEnders,
September 1997.
Downloaded by [University of California, Berkeley] at 11:42 13 April 2016
Costume Department, and a number of alternative costumes had been
selected for me and were presented to me on my arrival – principally three
overcoats were on offer, as well as a selection of ties. I was to make a selection and show the director. The three overcoats – two sheepskin jackets
and a camelhair coat – and the selection of lurid ties suggested, like the
script, a clear, broad depiction of character. The same could also be said of
my casting in the part. Having a thin, somewhat sharp-featured face, I am
frequently cast as mean-spirited, often ‘dodgy’ characters (see Figure 1).
My conclusion, in truth only reached whilst looking at my costumed self
in the mirror in my dressing room, was that no playing of character was
required from me. The creation of character had already been achieved, by
the combined talents of writer, casting director and costume designer. No
further conscious act of impersonation was needed from the actor.
The writer and director David Mamet takes the reductionist view that
character is never the actor’s concern. To the question, ‘What should happen
in the rehearsal process?’ He answers:
Figure 1. My Spotlight photo for ‘97 (to illustrate the point about my face and
casting on P5).
Kim Durham
1. The play should be blocked.
2. The actors should become acquainted with the actions they are
going to perform.
What is an action? An action is an attempt to achieve a goal. (Mamet
1997: 72)
For Mamet, ‘There is no character. There are just lines on the page’ (Mamet
1997: 52). Such an intentionally provocative statement is, I imagine, something of a deliberate generalization. It echoes, but goes beyond Stanislavski’s
view that ‘[a]rt begins where there is no role, when there is only “I” in the
given circumstances of the play’ (cited in Toporkov 1979: 156).
It is perhaps easier for Mamet to argue such a case from within a culture
where the casting of roles has been influenced, particularly on the screen, but
also, to a lesser extent, in theatre, by the concerns first identified by the early
Russian film-maker Lev Kuleshov that the actor should, of himself, be precisely the right type for the part.2 In this case, the character might not make
the same choices of clothing as I would, but, beyond wearing the clothes that
my character might choose and supplying a face that carries a certain iconic
significance, my responsibility towards the creation of character was simply to
play the text as if his goals were my goals. As the character had a simple functional dramatic purpose, it was easy to deduce his principal objective: to
repossess a flat. In preparation, it had been relatively straightforward to identify from the text a number of actions that the character performs in order to
attempt to achieve this objective and to overcome various obstacles that are
placed in the way of succeeding in this. In addition, in preparation, I had
examined the text for indications of the circumstances that influence the character’s behaviour. From the character’s perspective, at least in the early scenes,
he is performing a routine function. When that function is thwarted, it is a
frustration, but not a major setback. We may recognize from the above that
the task of character development has been carried out through the adoption
of an orthodox Stanislavskian methodology.
A First Day on Set
My first day’s shoot involved two exterior scenes, both taking place within
Albert Square. The usual EastEnders production schedule breaks recording
into an exteriors shoot day at the beginning of the week, largely on the
external Albert Square set, followed by a series of internal studio days. Thus,
a scene that concludes with an exit into a building from the street will be
recorded on one day, and the interior scene that follows chronologically in
the storyline will be recorded on a subsequent day. Similarly, an external
scene that occurs in the plot after an internal scene will be recorded prior to
that scene. Thus, the first day’s recording involved shooting both my first
scene and my last: my arrival and my departure from Albert Square.
One of the hardest aspects of acting for television is that one frequently
has to perform on one’s first day as a contracted player in an unfamiliar
production. This contrasts markedly with the normal practice in the theatre, where one’s first day on a production is given over generally to a
Methodology and praxis of the actor within the television production process: …
2 Kuleshov is very
clear that what is
required of the
screen actor is not
an act of
impersonation but one
of personification. In a
1929 article he
writes: ‘owing to
the technique of
film actors being
quite distinct from
that of theatre
actors, and because
film needs real
material and not a
pretence of reality –
owing to this, it is
not theatre actors
but “types” who
should act in film –
that is, people who,
in themselves, as
they were born, present some kind of
interest for
cinematic treatment’
(Kuleshov 1974: 57).
reading of the script and an opportunity to meet the rest of the cast informally. The anxiety of the actor amidst unfamiliar company is a factor that
most manuals on screen acting consider to be of substantial significance.
Leslie Abbott suggests that:
the making of films is so different in atmosphere from theatre that it is
no surprise that anxiety can strike at the heart of even the most experienced actor when he makes his first appearance on camera … You are
invariably surrounded by hordes of people who seem stunningly indifferent to your performance. They are preoccupied with so many other
activities essential to the making of the film that your acting seems
simultaneously of no importance and of the greatest importance … The
first day on the set is always a lesson under fire. (Abbott 1994: 1–2)
As a visiting artist on a long-running show such as EastEnders, such an experience is particularly acute, and calls upon resources of thorough preparation
and concentration, as well as what social skills and self-confidence one can
muster. In such circumstances, anything that can help to strengthen the inner
creative state is of particular benefit in drawing the attention away from external concerns and anxieties that might otherwise overwhelm the
performance. The exercise of the imagination in preparing a definite inner
reality for the character can act as a bulwark in such circumstances. In other
words, practice would suggest that the development of character internality
has the prosaic benefit of easing performance nerves.
In a television or film script, the notional time of day is given generally
at the head of each scene. This is to enable all concerned to deal with the
discontinuity involved in the actual shoot. It is certainly a useful guide for
the actor to remind him or her of where in the course of events the scene
occurs. In this case, it enabled me to conclude that, as the first scenes were
taking place mid-morning, my character probably had made at least one
routine call elsewhere earlier that day. It is unlikely that the making of such
a decision made any discernible difference in the playing of the scenes.
However, from my perspective as the actor, it allowed me to deepen somewhat the fictional reality within which the character was operating at that
time. As part of my normal preparation, I had also created a simple, imagined, anticipated future for the character – in this case, a fairly straightforward
removal of occupant and the handing over of the flat to a prospective tenant. This corresponds to a practice attributed to Michael Chekhov:
For the actor, it is not enough to simply have an Objective – nor even to
feel a tepid desire for something. You must visualize the Objective as
constantly being fulfilled … It is the vision of the Objective being fulfilled
that creates the impulse for a strong desire. (Chekhov 1953: Afterword)
It is also, as I have discovered, a means by which reactions may be given greater
substance. The visualized objective may become thwarted, or potentially
thwarted, by circumstances. A clear sense of the desired objective will lead to
the opportunity for the mental adjustments of the character to be played out
internally at the point in the shooting schedule when such moments arise.
Kim Durham
As both scenes required a substantial amount of movement, there were several rehearsals, to enable the two camera operators to practise the precise moves
they would have to make in order to capture the action of the whole scene in
one continuous take. Typically, in marked distinction to theatre, this is the only
kind of rehearsal the actor has in television production. Although the director’s
notes to the three actors in the first scene were entirely concerned with physical positioning, the number of rehearsals gave us the opportunity to run the
dialogue a number of times and to make small adjustments to accommodate
how each other was playing the scene. In other words, in terms of the psychological dynamic of the scene, the actors directed themselves.
With first and last scenes shot consecutively, it was necessary for me to
make the appropriate adjustment, in terms of the energy and tempo of a
character who, by the last scene, has received a substantial change in his circumstances, having had, in the fictional time between the scenes, the
extreme physical condition of the flat revealed to him. As the flat would
not be seen, in real terms, until two days after the shooting of this scene, it
was, of course, impossible to use any genuine reaction to it in the playing
of the final scene. In such circumstances, my instinct is always to perform a
simple imaginative exercise. Extrapolating from the script the known facts
about the flat, I had sketched in a mental picture of it. This conforms to
Stanislavski’s injunction that:
We must have, first of all, an unbroken series of supposed circumstances
in the midst of which our exercise is played. Secondly we must have a
solid line of inner visions bound up with those circumstances, so that
they will be illustrated for us. (Stanislavski 1980: 63)
Reaction Shots and Spatial Awareness
The dramatic discourse of television drama is heavily dependent upon the
close-up shot of the face and the thoughts, emotions and reactions conveyed by that face, rather than, as is the case typically in theatre, through
words. In this case, following the receipt of a piece of information by my
character, the direction in the script for my character read: ‘WE SEE THIS
HIT’. The suggestion from the director was that, at this point, I should
angle my face away from the other actor and towards the camera. A peculiarity of the multi-camera set-up is that the camera capturing one
character’s face cannot be immediately proximate to another character;
otherwise it will be in shot from the second camera’s perspective.
Therefore, in order to be exposed full-face to the camera, the actor must
look away from his or her fellow. In this case, the adaptation required, in
order to justify such a turn away from the other actor and towards the camera, was not difficult and is similar to the requirement for the stage actor to
be able to adjust his or her position on stage for the purposes of blocking
and to provide a reason for such a move.
Similarly, in the interior scene concerning the discovery of the state of
the flat, it was clear from the script that the dramatic pivot was my character’s reaction. In this situation, it may be that there is an advantage in the
lack of rehearsal. One is not likely to become overfamiliar with the surroundings. Admittedly, the three or four rehearsals on camera, needed to
Methodology and praxis of the actor within the television production process: …
3 Such a process will
be familiar to most
actors, whether on
camera or on stage,
not least to the
actor Tommaso
Salvini: ‘ An actor
lives, weeps, laughs
on the stage, but as
he weeps and laughs
he observes his own
tears and mirth’
(Quoted in Delgado
1986: 199).
4 Carlton TV, 1998.
5 The episode ‘The
Wench Is Dead’,
unique for the Morse
series, involved
reconstruction, set
in the world of
Victorian bargees.
Morse, languishing
in hospital, uses historical records and
documents to reveal
a miscarriage of justice.
achieve the appropriate camera angles and eye lines, meant that there was
still something of an illusion of the first time to be created. In such cases I find
it helpful to prepare blocking somewhat mechanically, avoiding taking in
too much of the detail of the surroundings. Subsequently, during a take it
is then possible to focus on specifics and examine them for the first time,
hopefully achieving a genuine reaction. Here, there is a definite advantage
to playing within a multi-camera production process. The opportunity to
play the entire scene facilitates the exercising of the imagination and, at
least in this case, afforded an unobstructed view of graffitied walls and general squalor, offering real stimuli for the generation of a reaction.
A more challenging aspect of the multi-camera set-up was the extreme
spatial precision demanded in this scene. The use of three cameras
demanded that the actors achieve a very precisely defined final position. In
this case, myself and another actor had to be aware of our framing from two
camera positions, one viewing frontally and one viewing from the side.
The latter framing, of three faces in profile, each overlapping, but all visible, required very consciously employed spatial awareness. I found, and
continue to find, the concentration demanded to maintain, in such circumstances, the level of attention to both fictional reality and technical
requirement, a particularly challenging use of the actor’s split focus.3
Morse: The Wench is Dead4
Morse, unlike EastEnders, does not come into the category of fast-production television. It is shot on film with a single camera, each set-up
painstakingly composed. Because of the time allowed for production, dramas such as Morse tend to involve far more periods of inaction for the
actors than during the shooting of episodes of The Bill, EastEnders, and
other ‘fast turnaround’ programmes. In the latter, the sets are generally well
known to the crew and the whole technical process must operate slickly for
the production to function within its time constraints. With larger budgets,
much more time will be given to the preparation of each shot, in respect of
refining the lighting, and the setting up of more complex camera movement. As a production process there is little to distinguish the making of
high-budget television such as Morse from feature-film production. The
budget is reflected in every department, including artists’ fees and, crucially,
in the amount of production time – a six-week shoot for approximately
two hours of broadcast time, as opposed to the average soap allocation of
one week for one and a half hours of broadcast time.
Preparation and the Discontinuous Performance
My own commitment to the episode involved six days filming, spread over
a period of five weeks. This was due mainly to the fact that a number of the
scenes that I was involved with included a narrow boat that had to travel
through the English canal system to its various locations – a time-consuming business.5 As a perfect example of the discontinuous nature of filming,
the first day’s shoot for the whole production, included my, and a fellowaccused’s public hanging, a scene which takes place, as one might imagine,
towards the end of the drama. Although a substantial set-up in terms of setbuilding, the use of a large number of walk-on artists to act as crowd and
Kim Durham
militia, the laying of camera track and the use of a crane to create camera
movement, the scene was relatively short, involving only a few lines of dialogue and some action. While the actors knew, from the script, the incidents
that led up to this outcome, we had not had the experience of playing those
scenes. However, certain decisions had to be taken in order to play the
scene. What were the states of mind of the convicted men? How resigned
were they to their fate? What were their relationships to their fellowaccused, who was present but not destined to be hanged? The answers to all
these questions had some bearing on how the scene would be played and
needed to be decided in advance on the basis of clues from the script.
In the theatre, such decisions would usually have been taken only after
extensive rehearsals of the previous scenes, as well as of the scene in question. In this case each actor, preparing individually and privately, had come
to some provisional conclusions about how he would play the scene.
Although the cast for this scene had met briefly before, we had not
rehearsed together or discussed character. Meeting again in the make-up
trailer and subsequently over an extended breakfast while technical preparations were being made for the first shot, we were initially tentative in
engaging in discussion about the work of the morning. However, after
some time, during which comparative strangers became more familiar with
each other, the subject was raised and a discussion ensued. It is typical of
television production that, although the medium itself may mediate far
more between the performer and the audience, the work that actors do
between themselves, when such opportunities arise, is often less mediated
by the presence of a director.
When the actors were eventually called to the set, the director’s first
instruction was for us to ‘show the action’. In other words, he had assumed
that we had rehearsed the scene to some extent and could perform an
agreed representation of it. Additionally, in this case, the discussion
between the actors concerning previous events proved invaluable, as it was
discovered, once the scene was played with the prepared camera movement, that the timing of one of the shots required some additional
ad-libbed dialogue from the actors, which we were able instantly to supply.
Whereas in the theatre there is an assumption that the director will involve
him or herself substantially with the process of performance development,
here the working practice of television production demanded that the
director, as on EastEnders, focused almost solely on product. Far more than
in theatre, process became entirely the actor’s private concern.
A further consequence of a lack of rehearsal was evidenced by a discovery
made during the recording of a scene featuring the horse-drawn narrow boat
that was such a central feature of the narrative action. The mise-en-scène called
for a police constable to instruct the boat to pull into the canal bank, following which the crew were to be arrested. My character, in a drunken sleep in
the cabin, was to be ordered up on deck to be charged with the others. As
soon as we began to rehearse the scene we realized that there were fundamental problems with it. The script had a number of practical flaws. The
whole scene needed to take no more than about two minutes. However, a
Methodology and praxis of the actor within the television production process: …
6 This concept is frequently, though by
no means
consciously used
and referred to during theatre
rehearsals. While
individual actors
may use it in private
preparation, it is
rarely, if ever in my
experience, referred
to openly in
horse-drawn narrow boat, we discovered, takes considerably longer than two
minutes to be brought to a halt. The scene had to be rethought, partially
rewritten by director and cast, and re-rehearsed so that the whole scene
could be played to serve its dramatic function without the narrow boat coming to a standstill. New dialogue, new moves, new given circumstances, new
objectives, new actions – all had to be prepared within a few minutes. Such
rapid adaptation is not untypical of the demands of television production.
Stanislavski uses the term adaptation to describe behaviours that arise
‘naturally, spontaneously, unconsciously, at the very moment when emotions
are at their height’ (Stanislavski 1979: 113). In other words, these are behaviours that arise as intuitive responses to external stimuli. While on-stage
adaptation may be recognized as a lively attentiveness to the moment and the
subtle changes that may occur, the essential ability to adapt as described
above is of a different order. What was required here was an ability to react
rapidly, but consciously and creatively, to changing circumstances in order to
adjust performances immediately prior to recording. Acting rehearsal, technical rehearsal and rewriting had all to take place contiguously. ‘Blocking’
was improvised in one pre-shot rehearsal, while preconceived notions of the
dynamics of interaction rapidly had to be replaced. To enable such rapid
adaptation, it was nevertheless vital that each actor had brought a clear, preprepared conception of the essentials of the scene and his character’s part in
it. Such a production process favours the actor who is able to prepare thoroughly in private, but who is flexible enough to be able to change what has
been prepared when it proves necessary.
The above example also highlights another distinguishing feature of much
screen drama. Because of the availability of practical props and real locations, there tends to be a greater incorporation of activity, as distinct from
physical action, into the dramatic action. By ‘activity’, I mean a series of
connected mechanical movements that are undertaken as part of a character’s everyday physical practice. They might be work-related or
play-oriented, and may or may not have psychological significance. I use
the term ‘physical action’ here specifically to refer to the Stanislavskian
concept of ‘a small achievable task with psychological reverberations
designed to affect a partner or situation’ (Stanislavski 1980: 233).6
Having a real, functioning, horse-drawn narrow boat in a sequence, suggests a need for the actors to be convincingly able to handle a narrow boat.
Many, if not most, stage plays, do have their moments where actors are
engaged in practical activity and, indeed, such moments are often peculiarly
engaging. However, it is in screen drama where such business really comes
to the fore. There are advantages for the actor in being in the real location,
the genuine place of activity, as so often happens with location shooting. He
or she does not have to create the illusion of the activity, as may often happen in the theatre. Albert Finney, describing his first experience of film
work during the shooting of Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, recalls that,
When I was being photographed working at that lathe, then I could
absolutely concentrate on what the character was supposed to do.
Kim Durham
There was no cheating involved, you know. On the stage it would
have been made of cardboard, and part of my job as an actor would
have been convincing the audience that the cardboard lathe was a real
one. (see Hayman 1969: 108)
On the other hand, it did mean that he had to learn how to use a lathe –
not just how to give the illusion of working a lathe, but genuinely how to
work it. For the character, this is an activity that has become second nature,
which can be performed almost without thinking. As much as it will
expose insincerity, the camera is equally unforgiving in revealing basic
incompetence. The film actor Michael Caine, describes his practice of
preparing activities thus:
I go through each scene and do my actions the same way, over and
over, exactly as I imagine I will have to do them on the set … If you’re
going to initiate an action, PLAN IT. Organize your physical actions
and tasks so that they are logical. (Caine 1990: 33)
We should be clear here that Caine is not using the term ‘physical action’
in the Stanislavskian sense. For him, much of his private preparation is simply given over to rehearsing business, or physical activity. Such prosaic
planning is of even greater priority where, as in the case of working with a
horse-drawn narrow boat, the activity is habitual for the character, but
completely unfamiliar to the actor.
In Stanislavskian terms, a facility with such activity is part of the given circumstances of a character and must be convincingly incorporated in the
performance. Such incorporation may require, of course, painstaking practice. My experience on Morse, I believe, was not untypical. On those
occasions where television productions have paid me for pre-shoot rehearsal
time, it has generally not been to rehearse dialogue or discuss character, but,
quite appropriately, to enable me to acquire the rudimentary ability to perform some essential activity. As part of the crew of the narrow boat, I had a
day of learning how to steer, lead a horse on a towpath, and hitch and
unhitch a horse from a narrow boat. All of these skills proved essential, not
only in enabling the actors to behave physically as their characters with
some small degree of conviction, but also it made possible the unforeseen
hurried adaptation of the aforementioned scene. There is little that is unique
to the screen actor as opposed to the stage actor here. However, there is a
distinction in how frequently one is called upon to incorporate convincingly an activity as a ‘given circumstance’ of character in television.
Acting without Support
As in EastEnders, there were key moments where my contribution to a
scene principally involved a reaction. In one sequence, one of the protagonists was to fall off the narrow boat into the canal and disappear, while my
character led the horse along the bank. In the multi-camera production circumstance of EastEnders, my reaction was recorded within the playing of
the whole scene. Here, on a single camera shoot, it was recorded in isolation. Thus my reaction, shot in close-up, and then in a medium shot, was
Methodology and praxis of the actor within the television production process: …
to an imagined, rather than a real stimulus. Such a situation is rare in the
theatre, where continuity of action gives one the opportunity for an unbroken progression of stimulus-response. Here, one had to create the illusion
of the stimulus. While the action of the actor hitting the water was
rehearsed, I was able to walk some distance along the bank and prepare in
private. My tendency, I believe, in such circumstances, is to offer an overreaction or an action that is too quick for the camera to register properly. I
find it easy to either ‘snatch’ at a reaction or, conversely, to overdemonstrate it. The script describes a character disappearing into the water, as an
eventual consequence of which my character is later to be hanged for murder. Of course, none of this is known to the character at the time. The
splash of an object hitting the water is likely to be a not entirely infrequent
phenomenon to a bargee. Thus, an initial reaction might be to be startled
but not immediately overconcerned, although this might rapidly descend
into panic as the possible cause of the splash is contemplated.
I consciously considered such a short logical development with its subtext of unspoken thoughts: A splash – ‘What was that?’ – ‘Can’t see
anything’ – ‘It was quite a large splash’ – ‘Why is no one visible on deck?’
– ‘What the Hell is going on here?’. While it is clear that to signal each of
these thoughts would be an absurd exhibition of mummery, allowing these
thoughts to pass through the mind as a subtext is necessary for a convincing and sufficiently sustained reaction. Stanislavski, writing of stage
performance, where the prime tool of communication is the spoken word,
describes subtext as that which ‘makes us say the words that we do’
(Stanislavski 1979: 113). Preparation that creates such subtext and engenders it during performance is perhaps even more vital where no words are
spoken and where the silent passage of such subtext through the mind of
the character is itself the actor’s major contribution to a reading of the
shot. Such private preparation, it seems to me, is made further necessary
by the fragmentary nature of single-camera television production.
Whereas in theatre rehearsal, and even in a multi-camera shoot, such
moments might be resolved organically and intuitively, my experience is
that for the single camera, frequently the actor, imaginatively and logically,
has to prepare these privately for him or herself.
Another incident in the shoot also illustrates the need for the television
actor to sustain performance in comparative isolation and without support
either from the sequence of events or fellow-actors. A short scene involved
my character lifting a hatch and, after the briefest of exchanges, being
invited into a female passenger’s cabin. The scene was shot from both my
character’s and the female passenger’s perspective. In both cases, the limitations created by the size of the cabin and the hatch meant that the camera
filled the space where the character out of shot notionally would be. Thus,
both the actress and I were required to perform without the presence of
the other. Although it had been possible to practise this short exchange
together earlier, using the location, for the performance on camera both of
us had to rely on the re-creation from memory of an exchange rather than
a real experience of one. With the camera in extreme proximity, the
demands on the imagination of the television actor are extreme. As an
added complication, this exchange, which took place at night, relied on
Kim Durham
very limited and very precise sources of light. My first take became an
exercise in finding my precise end-position within the frame. I needed two
further takes to be able to marry the technical requirements of the scene
with the necessary conviction for playing the scene.
The above accounts are by no means exhaustive, but illustrate several of the
concerns that are of significance when considering the circumstances of performance to camera as distinct from performance on stage. They would seem
to suggest that a methodology for screen acting should enable the actor to:
1) Prepare privately to performance level an appropriately developed character internality.
2) Employ conscious techniques of relaxation and concentration.
3) Develop a flexible approach to preparation which will allow for a fully
formed performance to be substantially adapted at short notice.
4) Have an awareness of the particular importance of convincingly incorporating activity into a character’s ‘given circumstance’.
None of these is incompatible with the broadly Stanislavskian methodology
which is the orthodoxy of British stage training. Indeed, they would appear
to suggest that the screen actor, who works so much of the time without
rehearsal or directorial input, needs just such a personal methodology to a
highly developed degree. There is, however, as illustrated by my experience
of characterization on EastEnders, a strong tendency for television, with its
intimacy of observation and iconic shorthand, to favour approaches that
emphasize personification over impersonation.
My experiences also suggest that there are certain technical requisites
for screen acting that are of a different order to those for the stage. In the
theatre, the actor requires a considerable spatial precision. However, on
these particular multi-camera and single-camera shoots, as on others, I discovered occasions where the degree of spatial awareness required for the
camera went beyond anything I have needed on stage.
One practitioner who did not underestimate the demands of screen acting, both in terms of a methodology of process and technique for
performance, was, indeed, Stanislavski. Late in his life he recognized that
‘[a]n actor in the talking films is obliged to be incomparably more skilful
and technically expert than an actor on the stage. Film actors need real theatre training’ (Stanislavski 1963: 15). The conclusion is not ill founded.
However the examination I have offered would seem to suggest that, while
such a methodology may be capable of meeting the underpinning need for
the development of appropriate character internality for the screen as well
as the (realist) theatre, dealing with the vastly different practical circumstances of television production requires some additional preparation. A
recent National Council for Drama Training report concluded that:
drama school graduates seem absolutely unanimous in their view that
their first television jobs were terrifying because they knew so little
of how the process works, of who was who in the crew, of what was
expected of them. (NCDT 2002: 9)
Methodology and praxis of the actor within the television production process: …
This must be a matter of some concern in a current employment climate
where, according to the same report, ‘it is in television that today’s graduates are most likely to get their first professional acting jobs’ (NCDT 2002:
7). A training that only provides a methodology coupled with stage experience, while failing to offer the experience of television production and an
opportunity to develop the technical craft associated with performance
before the camera, cannot prepare acting students for the profession as it
currently operates.
Works cited
Abbott, Leslie, Acting for Films and TV, Belmont, Cal.: Star Publishing Company,
Caine, Michael, Acting in Film, New York: Applause Books, 1990.
Chekhov, Michael, To the Actor – On the Technique of Acting, New York:
HarperCollins, 1953.
Delgado, Ramon, Acting with Both Sides of Your Brain, New York: CBS College
Publishing, 1986.
Hayman, Ronald, Techniques of Acting, London: Methuen, 1969.
Kuleshov, Lev, Kuleshov on Film: writings of Lev Kuleshov , trans. and ed. Ronald
Levaco, London: University of California Press, 1974.
Mamet,David, True and False: heresy and common sense for the actor, New York:
Random Books, 1997.
National Council for Drama Training (NCDT), Report of the Recorded Media
Working Party, 2002.
Stanislavski, Constantin, An Actor Prepares, trans. and ed. E.R. Hapgood,
Glasgow: Glasgow University Press, 1980 (first published, 1936).
Stanislavski, Constantin, Building a Character , trans. and ed. E.R. Hapgood,
London: Eyre Methuen, 1979 (first published, 1950).
Stanislavski, Constantin, An Actor’s Handbook: an alphabetical arrangement of concise
statements on aspects of acting, trans. and ed. E.R. Hapgood, New York: Theatre
Arts Books, 1963.
Toporkov, V.O., Stanislavski in Rehearsal: the final years, trans. and ed. Christine
Edwards, New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1979.
Zucker, Carol, In the Company of Actors: Reflections on the Craft of Acting, London:
A. & C. Black, 1999.
Kim Durham
Drama is the Cure for Gossip: Television’s Turn to Theatricality
in a Time of Media Transition
Abigail De Kosnik
Modern Drama, Volume 53, Number 3, Fall 2010, pp. 370-389 (Article)
Published by University of Toronto Press
DOI: 10.1353/mdr.2010.0003
For additional information about this article
Access Provided by University of California @ Berkeley at 01/11/13 4:46AM GMT
Drama is the Cure for Gossip:
Television’s Turn to Theatricality in
a Time of Media Transition
abigail de kosnik
Theatricality as a plot element and narrative device is appearing with some
frequency on prime-time television. On a number of contemporary TV
dramas and comedies, including Gossip Girl, Mad Men, and Glee, characters repeatedly put on performances that closely resemble stage and
street theatre. They spontaneously dance in burlesque shows, play-act
using made-up identities in public, sing solo and in choruses onstage,
and declaim their innermost secrets to strangers via intense monologues
in stylized settings.
Not only do TV characters engage in theatrical performance regularly,
but when they perform, they also transform themselves. That is, primetime television programs of the past few years have been rife with instances
of individuals achieving self-realization (“finding themselves”) through
acting, singing, and/or dancing in front of audiences – not just for television audiences at home, who watch their antics from a distance, but for
audiences who exist within the narratives of the show and who are the performers’ immediate witnesses. In other words, these (fictional) people consciously make spectacles of themselves in the eyes of others, and by
exposing themselves in this way, they realize and reveal core truths about
This article will not argue that there exists a “real” or “authentic” inner
self that precedes and can be uncovered by the performing self; following
post-modern theorists such as Judith Butler, I posit that there is no “authentic” self, only the subject constructed in speech and actions. Rather, this
article is concerned with the question of why it has recently become a priority for U.S. television to depict the existence of a “true” self, which is, for
the most part, hidden or concealed (sometimes even from the characters
themselves), a self that is then exposed through theatrical performance.
Modern Drama, 53:3 (Fall 2010) doi:10.3138/md.53.3.370
Drama and Gossip: Television’s Turn to Theatricality
Why has TV begun to make use of theatricality as a Foucauldian “technology of the self”? What motivates present-day television producers and
writers to populate their fictions with scenarios in which stage- and street
theatre enable individuals to find out and/or display who they “really
are”? This article will propose that a significant reason for TV’s interest
in theatrical performance is the rise of Internet gossip culture. Because
the World Wide Web now allows independent users collectively to
build, and destroy, individuals’ reputations, the postmodern crisis of
identity, the question, “Who am I?” that is so problematic in a fluid,
mobile, and constantly shifting society, has become largely a crisis of
network technology: originators and disseminators of the information
and rumours that help or harm specific people’s reputations can be
anonymous and so remote from those they discuss that “Who am I?”
becomes a question whose answer is not entirely, or even mostly,
within the individual’s control. Rather, individual identity is constructed
in, and by, the network. Television’s present turn to theatricality offers
media consumers the fantasy that they have a chance of finding out
who they really are, that, indeed, there is a true, authentic self that
remains somewhat stable beneath all their permutations and adaptations
and that live dramatic performance (the operational opposite of networked technologies, which, by and large, render users anonymous and
interactions untraceable) can offer them an opportunity to connect
with this authentic self. In a time when Web-based social media define
who we are by constructing (and potentially destroying) our reputations
and public personae, television attempts to reassure us that we each
have a “real self” that we can access and communicate to others by engaging in dramatic performance. In television narratives today, drama is the
cure for gossip.
The first part of this article analyses several contemporary TV dramas
and comedies (Gossip Girl, Mad Men, In Treatment, and Glee) to illustrate
how such programs treat performance in front of live audiences as a tool
of self-realization, what Michel Foucault would call a “technology of the
self” and Jerzy Grotowski might describe as finding the truth in art. The
second section references the work of Ronald Burt, Judith Donath, and
Daniel Solove to discuss how Web-based social media determine reputations. The third section builds on the writings of Lynn Spigel and Mimi
White to suggest why contemporary television might be using theatricality
as a curative for the “gossip culture” of the Internet. The final part of the
article argues that postmodern society’s pervasive uncertainty about identity has been exacerbated by online social media and that television is
attempting to establish its ongoing relevance in a time of media transition
by depicting stories of individuals who are able to authenticate their identities by performing live. TV seems to be aligning itself with the positive
Modern Drama, 53:3 (Fall 2010)
attributes of theatre in an effort to strengthen its ability to compete with the
Internet as a mode of entertainment.
The CW series Gossip Girl (2007 – present) concerns a specific sliver of high
society, a group of super-rich youths in Manhattan’s Upper East Side
(UES), who plot and scheme with and against one another as they struggle
with issues of family, friendship, sex, school success, and social standing. In
a plot device that recurs in each episode, the title character, Gossip Girl, an
anonymous blogger who operates as a clearing house for all the rumours
that swirl around the UES crowd, posts blog entries and sends out
mobile device “blasts” that make public the characters’ secrets and
expose any falsehoods they have constructed. Despite all of the money
and power wielded by Gossip Girl’s privileged characters, therefore,
gossip is the most important currency in their world: the UES teens who
artfully deceive adults and peers alike in order to further their own interests
can be brought low instantly by a Gossip Girl blast; they can also ruin one
another by sending Gossip Girl some insider information.
Viewers are asked to identify with the UESers who are the series’ main
focus, and what we learn, episode after episode, is that they are not reducible to their intrigues. The gossip that circulates about them does not tell the
complete story of any of them. Gossip Girl illustrates a predicament increasingly common today: people who have online reputations find that, while
Internet rumours circulated about them tell some portion of the truth, it
is never the whole truth. Celebrities are closely analysed on various
Hollywood Web sites (TMZ.com, justjared.buzznet.com, People.com, or
EW.com, among others), university instructors are reviewed on
RateMyProfessors.com and various review sites, and managers at all levels
are ranked in a wide range of employment-related Internet forums. While
readers of the gossip posted on these sites have a sense that they are
privy to many facts about the people discussed, they do not really know
them. A superfluity of online rumours can coalesce around almost
anyone, with the result that all of us need to be watchful custodians of
our reputations. If we do not craft our online personae carefully, we risk
allowing Internet gossip to define “who we are.”
Using theatrical performance as a plot device, Gossip Girl dramatizes the
conundrum of how to establish who one “really is” in a gossip-saturated
society. In fact, the characters never successfully combat Gossip Girl’s
rumour mill or win the right to define their public reputations, but their
consolation is that, through the show’s narrative, they can at least discover
their true selves for their own sakes. On the one hand, the main characters
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Drama and Gossip: Television’s Turn to Theatricality
on the show are constantly engaged in performance: their machinations
typically involve a great deal of artful dissembling. On the other hand,
these planned performances generally end in disappointment or crisis, as
Gossip Girl, drawing on the surveillance of anonymous tipsters who track
every movement of the UESers, uncovers all of their ploys. But the main
characters also put on different kinds of performances, which are wholly
improvised and through which they surprise even themselves.
The most prominent examples of improvised drama leading to a character’s self-discovery involve Blair Waldorf, who is equal parts heroine and
villainess in the Gossip Girl universe. Blair, the queen bee who reigns
over the social scene of her elite private high school, strives for excellence
in all of her activities and plans out in great detail most of her life’s major
events. Her own deflowering is no exception. In the series’ early episodes,
Blair sets up several scenarios that she thinks will encourage her long-time
boyfriend, Nathaniel (Nate) Archibald, to finally seduce her, but Nate (who
is secretly in love with Blair’s best friend) balks at each of these carefully
orchestrated productions and leaves Blair untouched.
In episode “Victor, Victrola,” Blair finally accepts that Nate does not love
her and breaks up with him. Her first stop after the break-up is the burlesque club Victrola, owned by Nate’s best friend, the debauched and
rakish Chuck Bass. There, on a dare from Chuck, Blair takes the stage alongside the scantily clad burlesque dancers and spontaneously performs with
them. She sways seductively to the music as she strips down to her slip.
“Who is that girl?” a waiter asks Chuck, gesturing at Blair on the stage,
who is earning cheers and catcalls from the mesmerized club-goers. “I
have no idea,” Chuck replies, a look of awe on his face, as he stands and
raises his champagne glass in a toast to Blair.
Later that night, Blair loses her virginity to Chuck in the back seat of his
limousine. Blair’s “first time” is completely unplanned (unlike all of the
“first times” she tried to coordinate with Nate). That she should choose
Chuck as her partner and that he should desire her comes as a great surprise to both of them. What Blair’s impromptu performance on the
Victrola stage has revealed to both is herself, the core of personality,
which is far more daring, sensual, and risk-taking than her rigid, carefully
controlled façade would suggest. Until the moment that Blair literally and
metaphorically strips off her outer covering, Chuck “has no idea” who
she is. Chuck falls hard for the Blair who suddenly reveals herself to him,
and the night in the limousine is the start of a tumultuous affair that continues to be Gossip Girl’s central love story into the show’s third season.
When Blair performs spontaneously on Victrola’s stage, she finds not
only her true self but also her true love.
Blair also finds her innermost self via performance in other episodes. In
“Bad News Blair,” for instance, Blair’s mother, a famous fashion designer,
Modern Drama, 53:3 (Fall 2010)
fires Blair as the model for her new collection’s ad campaign and attempts
to replace her with her best friend, Serena. In retaliation for Blair’s mother’s
cruelty, Blair and Serena abscond with the clothing collection and wear the
stolen dresses in the streets of New York City, taking photos of each other in
dramatic poses. In effect, the teen girls stage their own impromptu fashion
shoot, mugging for the camera and using exaggerated expressions and gestures that draw the stares of passers-by. Their parody of a fashion shoot,
performed in front of bewildered onlookers, can be regarded as street
theatre. Blair, who in previous episodes is shown to suffer greatly from
her mother’s inattention and disapproval, realizes through acting-out in
public that she is capable of shrugging off her mother’s harsh judgements.
She discovers that she is her own person, independent of her mother and
willing to oppose her if necessary.
Gossip Girl is not the only TV show currently airing that uses improvised
performance to facilitate characters’ self-knowledge. On AMC’s Mad Men
(2007 – present), Don Draper and his wife Betty put on a show every day
for each other and the world. The “show” that Betty enacts is meant to
be representative of the falseness of many American housewives’ lives
during the 1960s: Betty fakes happiness; she costumes herself in beautiful
clothes and takes great care with her hair in order to maintain her worth
in her husband’s eyes (“As far as I’m concerned, as long as men look at
me that way, I’m earning my keep,” she tells a neighbour in “Red in the
Face”); and she pretends to all outsiders that she and Don have a perfect
marriage, while in private, she is full of rage and despair. The “show”
that Don habitually puts on is much more complex, for unbeknownst to
Betty, Don is an imposter: born into poverty with the name Dick
Whitman, he took on another man’s (Don Draper’s) identity following
his stint in the army during the Korean War, and he used the freedom
from his past that change allowed to create a new, successful, and prosperous life for himself in New York. So both Don and Betty are constantly
acting in their daily lives. But a few times in the course of the show, both
characters perform spontaneously rather than in their usual, routine
ways, and these improvisations force both of them to confront buried
In “My Old Kentucky Home,” Don flees from a stifling garden party into
an empty country club bar, where he meets an elderly gentleman who, like
him, is looking for a drink. In the absence of a barman, Don hops behind
the bar and begins to mix two Old Fashioneds, and as he does so, the
older man begins to speak of his humble beginnings, from which he has
evidently ascended to great wealth. In response to the man’s story, Don
delivers an impromptu monologue. The subject of this monologue is
Don’s own origins, the misery and deprivation in which he was raised.
This is quite remarkable, as Don never discusses his past with his wife or
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Drama and Gossip: Television’s Turn to Theatricality
colleagues for fear of being found out to be a fraud. Framed by the long
wooden bar and by the large mirror behind the bar, performed with a bit
of stage business (mixing drinks) that all theatre actors know to be one of
the greatest challenges of live performance as he gives away details of his
fiercely guarded past to a complete stranger, Don’s speech can be interpreted as a theatrical performance, but one that is unplanned, unlike all
of the crafted performances he gives every day at home and at his office.
While the acting that Don does habitually helps him keep his real self
buried, the monologue he delivers to the stranger at the country club bar
(who turns out to be hotel magnate Conrad Hilton) connects Don to his
true identity. His spontaneous performance leads him to remember who
he really is; not Don Draper at all, but a poor farmer’s son named Dick
Whitman. This incident of improvisation at the bar sets the stage, as it
were, for Don’s secret past finally to be revealed to his wife in later episodes; and when that secret emerges in “The Color Blue,” Don and
Betty’s apparently perfect marriage crumbles, although it is hinted that
Don feels as much relief as pain when the charade of his relationship to
Betty comes to an end.
Another moment in the slow tearing-down of the illusion of the Drapers’
ideal union comes in “Souvenir,” when Betty accompanies Don to Rome on
a business trip (to visit one of Hilton’s hotels). One evening, Betty dresses
herself in Italian high fashion, so that she looks more like a star in a Fellini
film than an American beauty. While waiting for Don at an outdoor bar, she
attracts the flirtatious attention of two Roman men, and because she had
spent some time modelling in Italy in her youth, she is capable of conversing with the men in Italian. When Don shows up to take her to dinner, he
realizes that the Romans are trying to pick up his wife, and he and Betty
pretend to be strangers to one another. Betty easily falls into the role of
the alluring and mysterious object of several men’s desires, a cool sex
goddess who has the power to pick and choose from among her suitors.
In the end, Betty chooses Don, as if she truly had a choice to make. The
two Italian men moan their disappointment when Betty walks off with
the handsome American. But after Betty and Don return from Rome and
Betty drops back into her stifling housewife role, she realizes that the
witty and cosmopolitan woman in Rome that she had spontaneously pretended to be was much closer to the truth of who she is than the contented
wife and mother that she pretends to be in her New York life. The
unplanned performance that Betty gives in Italy forces her to become conscious that her authentic self is very different from the part that she plays
every day. And after the return from Italy, and her discovery of Don’s real
identity, Betty ends her marriage to Don.
HBO’s In Treatment (2008 – present) similarly shows people entering into
performance without premeditation and discovering who they really are.
Modern Drama, 53:3 (Fall 2010)
The series features a psychotherapist, Paul Weston, in sessions with his
patients and in sessions with his own therapist. With very few exceptions,
each episode takes place in a single room (either the living room where
Paul delivers treatment or his therapist’s living room where he is treated)
and consists of non-stop dialogue among two or three people. Numerous
critics have remarked upon the close kinship between In Treatment and
theatre, calling it “a television show that [feels] . . . more like a stage play”
(Harrison), “a series of one-act two-handers – stage plays where just a
pair of actors face off” (Wertz), “essentially a chain of two-person, oneact plays without action, sets or pop-music cues” (Stanley), and “like a
two-character play pared down into one critical scene [in each episode]”
(Buckley). Although the formal qualities of In Treatment prompt comparisons of the episodes with theatre plays, within the diegesis of the television
show, every performance given by the characters is unscripted. Paul plays
out scenes with his patients in which he only knows the questions and
can’t predict the answers, and the patients themselves certainly cannot
foresee the responses they will give to Paul or the effects that their replies
will have on their own thinking. The narrative pattern of In Treatment consists of the patients’ repeatedly putting on dramatic, emotionally charged,
wholly improvised performances in their therapy sessions through which
they become aware of deep truths about themselves and the personal histories that they have repressed. In Treatment is not a documentary of psychotherapy by any means, so it is important to note that depicting therapy
as theatricality was the creative choice of the series producers. Real-life
therapy does not usually resemble unrehearsed, unscripted “one-act twohanders,” replete with dialogues and monologues that peak at dramatic climaxes where patients are struck with sudden, clear insights into their own
subconscious minds.
The FOX musical comedy series Glee (2009 – present) similarly equates
stage performance with self-realization. Glee operates on the premise
that, when an individual performs before a live audience, she is exposing
her truest self to the world. The high school students in the universe of
Glee can be either misfits on the lowest rung of the social ladder or the
rulers of school society, but when they perform as members of the gleeclub, the overlooked coolness of the pariahs is revealed and the often suppressed egalitarianism and open-mindedness of the football players and
cheerleaders come to the surface. The message of Glee is that, no matter
how awkward or cynical you may appear in everyday life, you can slough
off your outer skin – your social persona – and show off how smart, fair,
kind, brave, and talented you are if only you dare to sing show tunes in
front of witnesses.
Glee also showcases theatrical performance as a means by which its gay
and disabled characters can express their innermost selves, which are often
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Drama and Gossip: Television’s Turn to Theatricality
invisible in everyday social settings. One member of the glee-club, Kurt,
blatantly marks himself as queer whenever he sings and dances, but (at
least, for the show’s first few episodes) must conceal his homosexuality
from his father and make excuses when his father catches him practising
routines. Another glee-club member, Artie, is confined to a wheel-chair
and is a social outcast in the high school; however, in glee-club, Artie is
able to dance (by performing choreographed, energetic moves in his
wheel-chair), sing, and play instruments, revealing to audiences his extroverted nature. In the halls of the school, Artie’s charisma and talents go
unseen; onstage, Artie’s virtuoso movements and musicality are often the
focus of attention.
Television’s current trend of privileging theatricality recalls Foucault’s
concept of “technologies of the self.” Television today depicts escape
from routine as a move towards authenticity and self-realization, a move
accomplished through a particular type of action: dramatic performance.
Performing is, therefore, a kind of work that individuals must do in order
either to attain self-knowledge or to communicate successfully to others
who they “really are.”
Foucault points out that the ancient Greek injunction, “Know yourself”
[gnothi sauton], “was always associated with the other principle of having
to take care of yourself” [epimelesthai sautou] (19– 20). Caring for oneself
can mean acquiring self-knowledge (it is not a given that each of us has
a secure and thorough knowledge of ourselves), and it can also mean engaging in acts that keep us true to our innermost authentic selves. Greeks and
Romans who accepted these principles engaged in numerous activities in
order to arrive at self-knowing and align their actions with their truest
selves; these activities were what Foucault calls technologies or techniques
of the self (18 – 20). Foucault enumerates several techniques of the self
employed by Stoic philosophers: letter-writing (in order to disclose one’s
secrets to another person), examination of one’s conscience (in order to
compare what one did to what one should have done), meditatio [meditation] and gymnasia [to train oneself ] (34 –37). While many techniques of
self are purely mental exercises, gymnasia “is training in a real situation,
even if it’s been artificially induced” (37). Foucault points to “rituals of
purification” as instances of gymnasia.
In contemporary TV narratives, theatrical performance seems to function as this last type of technology of self, as gymnasia. Some television
characters apparently engage in live performance as a ritual of purification,
a means by which they can “know” themselves; as Foucault, interpreting
Plato, puts it: “[O]ne must discover the truth that is within one” (35). For
Modern Drama, 53:3 (Fall 2010)
Gossip Girl’s Blair and the patients on In Treatment, theatricality serves as
gymnasia in the sense that they do not know their authentic selves intuitively; they must discover the truths within them by actively doing something, by acting in a heightened manner that allows them to escape
momentarily the social roles they inhabit in their everyday lives.
Performance is a technology of self in a slightly different way for Mad
Men’s Don and Betty and the high school students of Glee, who improvise
performances as a means of manifesting in the real world who they feel
themselves to be on the inside – their latent, unrealized potential – and
as a means of communicating the truth of themselves to others. In Glee’s
early episodes, Kurt allows his sexual orientation to “come out” when he
performs for audiences to a much greater extent than he allows when he
is at home with his father; on Mad Men, Betty’s almost-forgotten sexual
power and self-confidence emerge when she adopts a fictional persona
for strangers. Mad Men’s Don and Betty and Glee’s Artie know who they
are on the inside, but they generally refuse, or have no opportunity, to
show their inner selves in public. Performing allows these characters to
reveal the repressed aspects (which are the most authentic, core aspects)
of their personalities. The artificiality, the constructedness, of theatrical situations somehow works as gymnasia and allows these characters to expose
their hidden, authentic selves. Performance is a technology of self-care in
such a case just as psychoanalysis is a “talking cure” for troubled psyches.
One of the core tenets of psychoanalysis is that disturbed individuals can
heal by expressing, in the constructed situation of therapy, their secrets.
The idea that art leads to truth can be found in the writings of many philosophers and artists, such as Martin Heidegger (2000), Victor Shklovsky
(1965), and Grotowski (1968). Heidegger claims that the primary operation
of the work of art is to reveal, or to “unconceal,” truth (88). Shklovsky argues
that art’s primary purpose is “defamiliarization” (13), for too much of life
becomes habitual to the point of being meaningless to most people, and
we need art to wake us up from our dull familiarity with what makes up
our existence. Applying Shklovsky’s perspective to television today, one
might say that TV characters must participate in art making, in the form
of live performance, in order to defamiliarize their very identities.
Grotowski, the renowned philosopher of acting, takes a Shklovskian
approach to the dramatic arts. He writes,
Why do we sacrifice so much energy to our art? . . . [T]o free ourselves from the lies
about ourselves which we manufacture daily for ourselves and for others . . . We fight
then to discover, to experience the truth about ourselves, to tear away the masks
behind which we hide daily . . . Theatre only has a meaning if it allows us to . . .
experience what is real and, having already given up all daily escapes and pretences,
in a state of complete defencelessness unveil, give, discover ourselves. (48)
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Drama and Gossip: Television’s Turn to Theatricality
In Grotowski’s view, acting allows us to access what is real inside us by
“tearing away the masks behind which we hide daily.” This uncovering of
our true selves is the point of theatre. Grotowski’s approach to acting
maps precisely onto television’s current approach to theatricality: in contemporary television, the individual performs before an audience in order
to “experience what is real” and “unveil, give, discover” himself. There
may be other ways to know oneself, but for Grotowski, theatrical performance is the highest and most effective technology of the self.
Why does contemporary TV so frequently offer a Grotowskian take on theatricality and show characters discovering who they “really are” through performing live in front of audiences?
One possible reason is television’s desire to respond to the Internet,
which is regarded in some corners of the television industry as a formidable
threat to TV as it competes for media consumers’ attention and advertisers’
dollars. Recent research indicates that increasing use of the Internet has
not, in fact, decreased television viewing (Nielsen), and television and the
Internet do converge at points: TV fans participate in fan communities
online; increasingly, TV viewers watch TV at the same time as they surf
the Web; many people watch television content on Web sites such as
Hulu and Fancast; and most TV networks produce Internet-specific
content, such as supplementary “webisodes” or interviews with actors
and writers of popular shows. Nevertheless, even as the TV industry
strives to expand its consumer base and revenue through the Internet, television and the Internet are undeniably rivals on at least one level: for five
decades (from the 1950s through the 1990s), television was what Philip
Auslander calls “the cultural dominant” (xii), and since the millennium,
it has appeared increasingly likely that the Internet will supplant TV in
that role. At present, Auslander states, “[T]here is an ongoing, unresolved
struggle for dominance among television, telecommunications, and the
Internet. The principal players behind each of these would like nothing
better than to be your primary source of news, entertainment, art, conversation, and other forms of engagement with the world” (xii). The television
industry may partner with the Internet in many ways, but it also struggles
to prove that TV offers media audiences benefits that the Internet does not
and that TV will continue to be relevant to mass society even if the Internet
displaces it as the cultural dominant.
In light of this rivalrous, or at least complex, relationship between
contemporary TV and the Internet, we can interpret television’s persistent
equation of theatricality with self-authentication as a serious critique
of Internet culture. One common criticism of the Internet is that the
Modern Drama, 53:3 (Fall 2010)
anonymity of online communications enables people to be uncivil and
dishonest, far more so than they would be in face-to-face interactions,
and that, as a result, Internet culture is largely gossip culture. Solove
[A]nonymity can make lying easier . . . Anonymity also facilitates deception . . . As
sociologist Robert Putnam observes: “Anonymity and fluidity in the virtual world
encourage ‘easy in, easy out’ ‘drive-by’ relationships . . . If entry and exit are too
easy, commitment, trustworthiness, and reciprocity will not develop.” In other
words, anonymity inhibits the process by which reputations are formed, which
can have both good and bad consequences. Not having accountability for our
speech can be liberating and allow us to speak more candidly; but it can also allow
us to harm other people without being accountable for it. (141)
The Internet, whose content is largely user-generated, facilitates rumourmongering far more than television does, as it is a one-way broadcasting
medium and is hence closed to viewer contribution or participation. A
great deal of what the Internet offers media consumers as entertainment
is gossip, primarily concerning celebrities but also concerning average
people, whose colleagues, students, family members, and acquaintances
can post gossip about them on review sites, blogs, and message boards
without encountering any negative consequences.
Somebody you’ve never met can snap your photo and post it on the Internet. Or
somebody that you know very well can share your cherished secrets with the entire
planet. Your friends and coworkers might be posting rumors about you on their
blogs . . . You could find photos and information about yourself spreading around
the Internet like a virus. (Solove 2)
Internet gossip culture can build up or ruin individuals’ public reputations.
People who have online reputations, which is anyone whose name has been
mentioned on any Web site and who can, therefore, be “Googled” or
looked up on Internet search engines, must take care to defend those
reputations, which can be difficult, given how vulnerable they are to anonymous users in the network. “Few things are more valuable than
reputation, or more consequential for the success of new ventures,” Burt
writes. “[R]eputations emerge not from what we do, but from people
talking about what we do. It is the positive and negative stories exchanged
about you, the gossip about you, that defines your reputation” (1).
Human societies have probably always given rise to fears about possible
differences between individuals’ public and private identities, and the question of how to ascertain the nature of one’s true self has been a problem for
philosophers, as we have seen, ever since at least ancient Greek times, but
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Drama and Gossip: Television’s Turn to Theatricality
the Internet may be generating new levels of anxiety about personal identity. If anonymous others can define my public reputation, and if my public
self seems foreign to me, if I am often confused with my online double but
do not feel identical to that persona, who exists only as a collection of bits
of fact and rumour, then how do I determine who I “really” am? Who is the
“real me”? And how do I connect with that person? When, where and how
can my identity be firmly within my control, and mine alone, rather than
subject to shaping in and by the network?
Constructing and safeguarding one’s online reputation depends on a
multitude of performances. Donath calls the actions that one takes in
order to communicate one’s identity to another “signalling,” and she enumerates several costs of signalling, including “production costs” (“some
energy must be expended in the production [of the signal] and some
other activity could have been pursued in that time”), “predation or risk
costs” (“being observed by an unintended third party” who might use the
information you communicate to your disadvantage), and “efficacy costs”
(“the costs needed to make the signal perceptible”) (12). We might also
call these signals technologies of the self: in the case of tending to one’s
online reputation, “technologies” can be taken quite literally, as social
media sites and Internet forums become the technological means for
“being concerned with oneself” and “taking care of oneself.” We must
exert ourselves in order to define who we are to others. Human beings
have always had to perform, signal, or work in this way, but the amount
of identity signaling required by each of us today is greater than before,
and there is a higher risk of failure, for, in addition to safeguarding our
real-life identities, we must do the same for our online identities, and
those identities are susceptible to sudden, anonymous attacks.
Responding to this climate of anxiety around identity, contemporary
television offers viewers the fantasy of not having to work to construct
themselves. Characters on fictional television shows, as they engage in dramatic action, breaking away from their ordinary routines in order to
perform before a “live” audience, appear on viewers’ TV screens as instantaneous and seemingly effortless, or at least “natural.” Getting up on a stage
to perform reads on these shows as a kind of doing-without-thinking, and
the connection with self that results is produced automatically, without
conscious effort on the part of the performer. Don and Betty Draper,
who so painstakingly craft their personae in everyday life, seem to fall
into performing their “real selves” in the scenes described above without
any difficulty: Don reels off his life story (which he has carefully kept
buried, even from his wife) to a stranger without forethought, and Betty
inhabits the role of worldly temptress in Rome without a moment’s hesitation. For Paul Weston’s patients in In Treatment, the act of uncovering one’s
authentic self is effortless, for the show presents psychotherapy as working
Modern Drama, 53:3 (Fall 2010)
by making patients speak before they can think. The patients hear Paul’s
probing inquiries and reply quickly, talking even if they resist Paul’s line
of questioning, and before they know it, they have spoken aloud their
deepest, most secret truths. Even the Glee students, who might be suspected of practising their performances more intensively than any other
characters referenced here, often break out into their routines spontaneously, as if their innate talents allow them intuitively to perform elaborate choreography and pitch-perfect harmonies without rehearsals.
Thus, television shows today acknowledge the substantial costs of our
having to produce/perform/signal our identities online, under threat of
being undermined by the gossip culture that is endemic to the Internet,
and present media users with a fantasy of easy identity. In television narratives, one does not have to create one’s identity, for one’s most real and true
self is buried deep inside; one does not have to work hard to communicate
one’s identity to others, for they are present in the room at the moment of
one’s greatest self-revelation; and one does not have to labour at deciding
or shaping one’s identity because, even if the “true self” seems difficult
to reach, one need only be willing to make a sudden departure from
one’s usual routine. That departure is portrayed as literally and affectively
dramatic – happening in an instant, requiring no planning, frictionless
and spontaneous and simple, and coded as theatrical performance. After
engaging in these dramatics, the individual has self-knowledge: she is in
full possession of her identity.
Of the television series discussed above, Gossip Girl gives the fullest illustration of the juxtaposition of online identity performance (laborious, requiring attention, prone to failure) and improvised identity performance (easy,
requiring no thought or planning, wildly successful). Blair Waldorf performs
every day of her life as queen bee and as a deceiver and manipulator, and she
tries to keep her darker acts from pinging Gossip Girl’s radar, but she never
succeeds at staying out of the constant stream of online rumours. However,
when she dances for Chuck Bass onstage at his burlesque club, she naturally
and easily manifests her authentic self. In that performance, she shows the
real Blair; in her everyday life, she is a dissembler and pretender, she
works hard to keep her reputation safe, and still has to suffer its being constantly demolished through Gossip Girl’s blasts.
In addition, the Internet’s entertainment value for mass users resides
largely in its consistent and voluminous provision of gossip. As I have
argued elsewhere (De Kosnik), insofar as the Internet is a medium that provides entertainment (and not just utility), much of its entertainment
content consists of celebrity gossip sites and Web sites that encourage
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Drama and Gossip: Television’s Turn to Theatricality
participants to post gossip about acquaintances, relatives, neighbours, and
Gossip on the Internet, while diverting to many, is not without realworld ramifications. On opinion sites like Yelp, users post detailed
reviews of service providers, such as doctors, dentists, shopkeepers, and
therapists, that influence the client base of those business owners and
affect their revenues. In January 2008, a chiropractor filed a lawsuit
against a former patient who had posted a negative review of him on
Yelp; the patient’s attorney claimed that the patient’s posting was “clear
opinion that falls squarely within constitutionally protected speech,” and
the chiropractor’s attorney claimed that “if someone, even on Yelp or the
Internet, publishes a false statement of fact as opposed to an opinion,
then that person can and should be held responsible for their words”
(Mills). A waiter at a Beverly Hills restaurant who wrote about his interactions (both positive and negative) with famous actors on his Twitter
account was fired in 2009. The Los Angeles Times’s “Brand X” blog reported
that the waiter “doesn’t believe what he was doing was wrong. It was more
documentation than slander, he asserted.” However, the waiter conceded,
“[I]f I didn’t write anything, I would still have a job” (qtd. in Milian).
Celebrity gossip Web sites were correct in their reporting on Tiger
Woods’s numerous affairs but wrong about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s
supposed break-up; in early 2010, Pitt and Jolie sued a British tabloid for
initiating “false and intrusive” claims that were “widely republished by
mainstream news outlets,” such as latimes.com (Gaskell).
Whether or not Internet gossip is true or false, it complicates people’s
professional and personal lives in ways that are difficult to predict. Just as
it takes time, energy, and thought to maintain one’s online reputation
and safeguard one’s online identity, it takes a similar amount of effort to
recognize and navigate the grey zones of Internet gossip. What counts as
entertainment, and what might be slander, defamation, or indiscretion
that damages oneself or others, are complicated questions. The Internet
promises a form of entertainment, therefore, that, while enjoyable for its
participatory and collaborative aspects, also has the potential for real-life
negative consequences, often unintended. Writing Internet gossip,
however pleasurable, can be dangerous, not only for the individuals who
are the subject matter, but also for the writer. Reading Internet gossip,
although fun, is often confusing, in that discerning fact from fiction can
be nearly impossible and one’s consumer behaviour, voting habits, and
employment can be the subject of rumours that may or may not be true.
Television dramas and comedies today offer fantasies not only of easy
identity but also of absolute certainty. The concepts promoted by these
TV shows – that each of us has a core self that we can know, be completely
sure of, and effectively display to others and that exposing that self yields
Modern Drama, 53:3 (Fall 2010)
only happy outcomes (all of the characters mentioned in this article derive
fantastic benefits from revealing their inner selves) – may currently have
mass appeal because of the confusions, complexities, and even dangers
inherent in Internet gossip. Television characters know, for sure, what constitutes their “real selves,” and they meet with positive results every time
they express this certain knowledge. Internet users rarely know what
gossip is real and can never be certain of the ramifications of their
writing or reading online rumours. As the Internet has established itself
as the provider of entertainment comprised of gossip, television has
become increasingly a provider of entertainment comprised of fantasies
of authenticity and security.
So far, I have explored the possibility that television is currently foregrounding self-discovery through improvised performance as a way of
critiquing the Internet for giving rise to great anxieties and confusions
over identity and veracity. I have suggested that TV shows today offer
viewers the fantasy of “finding themselves” through a type of performing
that is quick, simple, and effective, unlike the constant, repetitive, and
often ineffective signaling that Internet culture requires. One might say
that, in this fantasy, TV privileges theatre and face-to-face interactions
that are, in several ways (historically and affectively), the opposite of computer-mediated communications. But this does not entirely explain television’s choice of theatricality as the centre-piece for its fantasy of
authenticating the self in the real world rather than constructing one’s
identity online.
In fact, television has a long history of aligning itself with theatre. As
Brian G. Rose, Auslander, and Spigel note, the earliest TV programs borrowed both their formats and their mode of presentation from theatre.
Variety TV shows were modelled on vaudeville, burlesque, and nightclub
comedy, while anthology dramas were based on stage plays (Rose
192 –99; Auslander 11 – 24; Spigel 136 – 39). The first generation of TV executives, stars, and journalists emphasized television’s ability to broadcast live
events and performances in order to draw attention to TV’s resemblance to
theatre. A 1951 TV-production manual states that television variety shows
“possibly owe their success . . . to the feeling they give the home viewer of
having a front row seat among the members of a theater audience at a
Broadway show. That’s a good feeling to have in Hinterland, Iowa or
Suburbia, New Jersey” (qtd. in Spigel 139). Spigel links the traits that
have become closely associated with television – intimacy, immediacy,
spontaneity, liveness, presence – with television’s explicitly framing itself
to consumers as a form of theatre; that is, theatre brought into people’s
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Drama and Gossip: Television’s Turn to Theatricality
homes electronically. “You are there” is the promise made by television to
its consumers (136– 42), as if TV, by the act of transmitting pictures and
sounds from performance halls into living rooms, were, in actuality, transporting people from their living rooms into performance halls.
Thus, early in its existence as an entertainment medium, television
located much of its value in its ability to amplify theatre. In contemporary
television narratives of self-realization through theatricality, it seems that
TV is harkening back to its initial self-definition as a medium that can
bring theatre’s benefits to mass audiences. One of theatre’s great advantages, if one shares Grotowski’s outlook on acting, is its ability to make
the self present to the self, to facilitate self-discovery. TV, which has
always presented itself to consumers as a technology of presence, can
make present to today’s viewers this feature of theatre: the live performer’s
becoming present to himself. In calling on its historical affiliation with
theatre and its oldest definitions of its own features, television may be
attempting to instil in audiences a sense of TV’s specialness and worth. A
medium that can bring live theatrical performance into the home and
that can display live performances of the most important of intimacies –
the character’s intimacy with her truest self – has value even among
today’s rapidly proliferating options for media consumption. Theatre has
always provided television with ways to sell itself, and theatre is once
again helping TV articulate its relevance in the media marketplace today,
a marketplace that is increasingly dominated by the digital.
Besides theatre, there is an additional genre of performance with which
television has long allied itself: therapy. As White explains, nearly every television program can be regarded as reproducing a therapeutic model:
I understand confession and therapy to be privileged and prominent discourses in
contemporary television, engaged by a variety of modes and genres. Problems and
their solutions are narrativized in terms of confessional relations. Material prizes
and personal advice are sought and won by those who demonstrate a willingness
to confess on camera, in public . . . [T]he private exchange between two
individuals – in a church or a doctor’s office, for example – is reconfigured as
a public event, staged by the technological and signifying conventions of the
television apparatus. (8–9)
In White’s view, the most common television narrative, whether in fictional
or non-fictional programs, is the individual who confesses some truth
about himself in public. The confession is assumed to be therapeutic to
the individual and to help to heal his psychic wounds; but, at the same
time, a scenario in which an expert listens to the confession of a person
and advises him, a scenario that might be regarded as therapy-like (or
resembling a Catholic confessional) and that would normally take place
Modern Drama, 53:3 (Fall 2010)
in private, now takes place, instead, in the public eye; that is, in the eye of
the television camera.
White’s description of the function of therapy and confession on TV
matches closely the fantasy of self-authentication through theatricality so
popular on television shows today, which I have been investigating in
this article. In all of the shows discussed previously, the protagonist
exposes his or her most private self, the core of his or her being, to an audience. This act of self-exposure takes the form of a verbal confession, in
some cases, but in other cases it is a dance, or a song, or a performance
of an invented role. Although spoken language is not always involved, all
of these acts can be interpreted as confessions, for they all are personal revelations. They are also therapeutic, in the sense that all of the individuals in
these TV narratives are able to improve themselves and their lives dramatically by connecting with their innermost selves through performing. Of all
the shows discussed, In Treatment, of course, dramatizes the therapeutic
nature of confession most literally. In Treatment illustrates White’s claim
that television puts on public display the most sacrosanct forms of oneon-one counselling.
White’s writing dates to the early 1990s, but she traces the history of television’s structuring its narratives as therapeutic discourse to television’s
beginning. Advertisements and soap operas, especially, emphasized the
healing benefits of confessing, of unveiling one’s deepest secrets to a
watching public. Just as television has always classified itself as similar to
theatre, but better than theatre, because TV brings theatre to so many
more people than could fit into a theatre space; so, too, has television
always presented itself as resembling the confessional and the therapy
session, but better than therapy, because TV shows the viewer many
more intimate self-disclosures than the viewer could ever encounter on
his own, in that way feeding his hunger for gossip about strangers while
simultaneously modelling for him what “healthy” behaviour is (telling
the truth, or displaying the truth, to others). The gossip promoted by television is, therefore, nobler than that offered up by the Internet because
watching television confessions may spur one to begin a self-help/selfimprovement project.
The television industry has attempted for decades to convince audiences
that watching TV is, itself, a form of therapy. White mentions a number of
articles published in TV Guide during the 1980s that promote “the idea that
television functions therapeutically within a familial and interpersonal
context. Watching television can help or hinder your relationship with
your spouse and children. Television can speak a therapeutic discourse”
(25). She quotes one TV Guide author who writes, “TV can provide
current information on common problems. It can, while respecting
privacy, encourage the discussion of feelings” (29). All of the equivalences
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Drama and Gossip: Television’s Turn to Theatricality
to therapy that belonged to TV in the past – the structuring of the television
narrative as a confession, the making public (televising) of the therapist’s
interaction with patients, the theory that the act of watching TV can lead
one to undergo therapy – are seemingly combined in the theatricality-asauthenticity convention that recurs on various TV shows currently.
What contemporary television producers appear to be aiming at, then, in
highlighting TV’s closeness to both theatre and therapy and in making
theatre-as-therapy a central trope in their narratives, is a link to TV’s historically successful value propositions. Television is currently in a highly
transitional phase of its evolution. If it does not want to disappear as a
business and lose its mass appeal, then it needs to prove to media consumers that it has worth that cannot be duplicated by the Internet. In depicting theatricality as a technology of the self, the TV industry falls back on its
kinship to theatre (television’s ability to make present what appears to be
distant, its evocation of intimacy and liveness and immediacy) and on its
kinship to therapy (television’s capacity to show viewers the most personal
selves of its characters, their most private moments of confessing and
receiving counsel, and television’s potential for inspiring viewers to experience for themselves the benefits of confessing and therapy).
Television, which was the cultural dominant for fifty years, finds itself, in
the twenty-first century, in the position of having to defend its relevance,
having to rally and broadcast the reasons why it still matters. To this end,
TV is calling up arguments that it has used since the 1950s, arguments
that add up to the fact that television is theatre and therapy all at once.
Television narratives display people’s most intimate journeys – their
inward journeys, their diving into their innermost core to discover their
authentic selves – as public performances, and this is simultaneously a critique of anonymous Internet gossip culture, with its lack of intimacy and
cool distance from its subjects, and an attempt to proffer much better
gossip than the Internet can, in the form of high personal drama.
Ultimately, television uses drama, a technology of the self, as both a cure
for Internet gossip culture and as a serious competitor to it.
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