Divine programming : religion and prime-time American television production in the post-network era
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This dissertation addresses how religion weaves through industrial practices of prime-time American television including programming, marketing, and content creation in the twenty-first century. Through a focus on the exponential growth of this one subject, religion, across the television landscape since 9/11, I am able to illustrate how a range of industry practitioners have responded to technological, cultural, and political forces in the post-network era. This study consists of interviews with industry executives and creative figures as well as analysis of trade/journalistic discourses and network marketing materials. Using these interviews as well as both genre and ideological analysis of more than a dozen programs (e.g., Friday Night Lights, Supernatural, and Daredevil), my research charts how religious discourses—and specifically, Christian discourses—are produced, marketed, and often discursively displaced in diverse genres across the contemporary primetime dramatic American television landscape. In particular, I analyze the paradoxical situation in which, even as religious representations multiplied in contemporary American prime-time dramas, writers, producers, executives, and marketers continued to regard religion as ideologically risky. As a result, these creatives have used a variety of containment strategies to distance themselves from the idea that they or their work might be religious. The year 2015 marks the potential beginning of a new stage, illustrated by a few case studies that offer examples of an accelerated openness among creatives discussing religion in their work.