Fall 2020 - CMNS 220 D100

Understanding Television (3)

Class Number: 6918

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Fr 10:30 AM – 12:20 PM

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 11, 2020
    11:50 PM – 11:50 PM
    TAKE HOME-EXAM, Burnaby

  • 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 radical transformation. No less central to cultural life, it is apparently fragmenting and morphing into something more expansive and diverse than before. In this course we focus on developing critical, analytic tools with which to approach TV today as 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 both how social forces shape television and how TV represents the social world. Students should be able to apply those concepts in their assigned work. We will begin with an exploration of television realism(s) and students are asked to conduct a close textual analysis of a realist program. We will apply that work to an ongoing discussion of the ideological implications of a variety of TV forms like HBO, reality TV, drama, late night comedy, indigenous TV, crime and procedural drama, etc. We will learn to think critically about social representation; we will consider issues of gender and class, taste and so on. 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 and 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


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).