This article addresses how television narratives create psychologically rich situations, those moments where viewers are able to make many distinctive and sophisticated inferences about the mental states of characters. Focusing on season five of Mad Men, it examines the extent to which individual episodes create rich situations through the information established within an individual episode, versus the degree to which rich situations are created by relying on information accrued over the course of previous episodes, as well as the extent to which these two kinds of information are blended together in a given situation. While it is easy to assume that serial narratives routinely call upon accumulated character knowledge in order to enrich viewer inferences, somewhat surprisingly, most episodes in Mad Men season five are actually largely enriched through episodic rather than serial information. The article also analyzes interesting patterns that emerge in these qualities across the entire season.
Jason Gendler holds a PhD in Film and Television from UCLA, and is an adjunct professor of film and television at Chapman University and a lecturer at UCLA and Otis College of Art and Design. Previously he has published various film-related articles in Projections, Nebula, and the American Film Institute Reader Colour and the Moving Image. He is currently revising his dissertation for publication as a book, titled “In the Beginning: The Narration of Beginnings in Classical Cinema.”
Blanchet, Robert, and Margrethe BruunVaage. 2012. “Don, Peggy, and Other Fictional Friends? Engaging with Characters in Television Series.” Projections 6(2): 18–41, doi: 10.3167/proj.2012.060203.10.3167/proj.2012.060203)| false