Fall 2019 - CMNS 220 D100

Understanding Television (3)

Class Number: 3485

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 3 – Dec 2, 2019: Fri, 10:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 7, 2019
    Sat, 11:31–11:31 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    CMNS 110 and 130.



This course examines television, both as a medium of communication and an element of culture.



Considered by many to be one of the defining social, political and cultural features of post-war mass consumer culture, television is undergoing a series of transformations.   No less central to cultural life, it is fragmenting and morphing into something more expansive and diverse than ever before.  In this course, we will focus on developing critical analytic tools as a way to approach TV today as a complex institution, text, and set of viewer practices.  This course will provide a set of critical concepts to come to a sophisticated understanding of its communication processes and its larger cultural and social functions.  We will consider how social forces shape television, and how TV represents the social world.  Students should be able to apply these concepts in their assigned work.  In this course, we will explore a variety of forms such as: HBO, reality TV, animation, news parody, etc.  We will learn to think critically about social representation; we will consider audiences, taste and class.  By the end of the course, students will be familiar with some of the basic debates and critical frameworks of current television studies.

Lectures, readings and tutorials are required for this course.  Students are expected to do the readings each week in advance of the lecture, and come to tutorial prepared to participate.


  • Short Paper 20%
  • Term Paper Proposal and Peer Review (5% each) 10%
  • Final Essay 30%
  • Final Exam (Take-Home) 20%
  • Tutorial Attendance/Presentation 20%
  • Details will be posted on Canvas. Assignments handed in late may be penalized.


The school expects that the grades awarded in this course will bear some reasonable relation to established university-wide practices with respect to both levels and distribution of grades.  In addition, the School will follow Policy S10.01 with respect to Academic Integrity, and Policies S10.02, S10.03 and S10.04 as regards Student Discipline.  [Note: as of May 1, 2009, the previous T10 series of policies covering Intellectual Honesty (T10.02), and Academic Discipline (T10.03) have been replaced with the new S10 series of policies.]



All readings will be available on Canvas.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html