MDSC 203 star, story, structure, style (2019)

 As we have discussed, television is a commercial enterprise. The history of television includes information and artifacts that refer to discrete television programs as well as its stars, its stories, its structures, and its style. For this assignment, you will follow a particular programming stream (sports, drama, variety, comedy, news or advertising) through the major eras of American television by researching those eras’ stars, stories, structures, and style.

You will work with a group of students assigned to the same programming stream to create four presentations: each presentation presents material drawn from 20 years in television history. You will write essays on both the midterm and the final exam that engage with student-presented material: take notes!

For each of the four presentations you will work on a different category (star, story, structure or style), but you will continue to research the same programming stream (sports, drama, comedy, variety, news, advertising). For example, a person in the news group might do a star newscaster from the 40s-50s; a style of news program from the 60s-70s; a news industry structure from the 80s-90s; and a story that was big in the news in the 00s-10s.

The presentations are meant to give you an opportunity to share what you have learned when exploring archives, videos, books, promotional materials, ephemera and etcetera that cover American television’s history, and to share interesting examples from the breadth and depth of that history. 20 years is a long time, so we will not be making comprehensive presentations about those eras. We will, instead, be doing research aimed at finding fascinating representative examples.

The cumulative effect of learning about all these research finds will be to provide us with a sense of television’s developing style, stars, structures and stories, but the individual presentations will function primarily as opportunities to share research.

Presentations are meant to be a sharing of interesting research finds. You are not trying to summarize the era or to analyze materials: you are presenting archival information about your genre in a specific era. Your group will not have a coherent theme in their presentations beyond that you are working on the same programming stream in the same era: you will, however, need to collaborate to research and construct the presentations.

presentation guidelines

star, story, structure, style

You are looking for information that will capture our interest and uncover facets of American television history that we did not previously know much about. You will be using library resources to ask: Who are the people who worked in television at that time (Star)? What stories were circulating in programs or in the industry at that time (Story)? What developments or advances were happening in the industry at that time (Structure)? What did television look like and what visual trends were being reflected in television at that time (Style)? Do not present on programs, people, or issues we cover in class: look ahead on the syllabus or ask me if you have questions about a particular topic.

Star Who were the people whose faces and voices folks experienced on TV in that era? What made those particular people popular at that time? What notable things did they do and why are they especially interesting? Do not focus on giving biographical information like you could find in an Encyclopedia – when someone was born is not intrinsically interesting. Bring them to life with well-chosen images and the most compelling information that links them to television of their time and place and programming stream. ex. News/Star (40s & 50s): Edward R. Murrow’s reports on the red scare lead to censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Story What storylines from TV dramas captured the nation’s attention? What types of stories were popular on particular networks? What national news stories dominated the era and how were those stories presented? Your sense of what a story is will change depending on your programming stream: for some it may be describing the plot of a TV series that dominated an era; for others it might be the behind-the-scenes story of how a particular TV phenomenon came to be.  If you’re describing a plotline, be sure to explain why this particular story captured peoples’ attention in its own era, give context for your choice. ex. Variety/Story (80s & 90s): In the “Diet Dreams Come True” episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah wheeled a red wagon piled with 67 pounds of fat on it to represent the weight she had lost.

Structure How did the television industry function for your programming stream in the era you’re researching? What notable advances, changes, and shifts are characteristic of the era? How did the technology that drives TV change what we saw or heard on the programs in your stream? How did programs in your stream take advantage of changes in industry regulation or technological advances? ex. Comedy/Structure (00s & 10s): cast and crew on The Office took to the picket lines during the 2008 Writer’s Strike to protest not being paid for creating digital content for the show.

Style What did television look and/or sound like in your programming stream in the era you’re researching? What visual trends or sound trends were dominant? What did the sets look like? What did the logos look like? What kind of music were people hearing? What did dialogue sound like? What were people wearing? Connect these observations to the era by contextualizing with images: harnessing imagery is one of the primary ways that televisuality functions: give us context and examples that define style in your era for your programming stream. Ex. Sports/Style/60s & 70s: The fascinating evolution of the NFL player jersey from 1960-1980.

slide style & presentation parameters

  1. Presentations will be 11 minutes in length and include a maximum of 40 slides. You may begin with a 30 second introduction, and your last slide will be a bibliography of all sources used in the presentation, using Chicago Manual of Style citation style for bibliographies.
  2. Each person presenting will present for exactly two minutes. You can use a minimum of two slides and a maximum of four slides: the slides must be timed at either one minute or thirty seconds each.
  3. The only text on the slides should be citations of the images on the slides or quotes from archival material. Images may not be promotional material unless you are talking explicitly about promotional material. The slides may not include bullet points of keywords or summaries of anything the presenter is saying. Citations should be in Chicago style and should be under the image in a visual style that is consistent across all slides. All elements of presentations must include citations and no citations from Pinterest or Google Images are allowed.
  4. Slides should have either a white or black background: no colors or styles. Text must be readable and consistent across all slides.
  5. Video clips are required, but can take up only one minute of the presentation. You may use a maximum of two clips per presentation and they can be a maximum of thirty seconds each, or you can do one one minute clip. I suggest deciding who has the best topics for clips from each presentation and distributing them accordingly. Clips must be embedded in presentation: no clicking to another site to watch clips.

group task breakdown

I will provide each student with a handout that assigns groups and presentation numbers, so you always know what category you are responsible for during which presentation.


  sports drama comedy variety news advertising
40s-50s star S1

story S2

structure S3

style S4

star D1

story D2

structure D3

style D4

star C1

story C2

structure C3

style C4

star V1

story V2

structure V3

style V4

star V1

story V2

structure V3

style V4

star A1

story A2

structure A3

style A4

60s-70s star S2

story S3

structure S4

style S1

star D2

story D3

structure D4

style D1

star C2

story C3

structure C4

style C1

star V2

story V3

structure V4

style V1

star N2

story N3

structure N4

style N1

star A2

story A3

structure A4

style A1

80s-90s star S3

story S4

structure S1

style S2

star D3

story D4

structure D1

style D2

star C3

story C4

structure C1

style C2

star V3

story V4

structure V1

style V2

star N3

story N4

structure N1

style N2

star A3

story A4

structure A1

style A2

00s-10s star S4

story S1

structure S2

style S3

star D4

story D1

structure D2

style D3

star C4

story C1

structure C2

style C3

star V4

story V1

structure V2

style V3

star N4

story N1

structure N2

style N3

star A4

story A1

structure A2

style A3

submitting & presenting

  1. Slides must be exportable into a PDF that will be uploaded to Canvas before class begins on the date of the presentation. Assign this task to one person for each presentation.
  2. The presentation, itself, must be complete and uploaded to the class Box before class begins on the date of the presentation. The presentation must follow a naming standard: 4S(programming stream)(presentation number) space fa19. Ex. 4SVariety1 fa19 or 4SSports4 fa19. Assign this task to one person for each presentation. You cannot upload a link to a Google presentation, you need to upload a fully functional PowerPoint or Keynote presentation.

basic tips

  1. Write your presentation text on notecards. Do not read off your phone or computer.
  2. Rehearse enough so you can look at us while reading from your notes.
  3. Practice so you have your timing correct & do not forget to turn on timing for your slides.

 grading rubric

group grades:

Did the presentation follow the guidelines for presentation format?

The presentation followed the guidelines for format. (8)

The presentation did not follow the guidelines for format. (0)


Did the presentation correctly use Chicago style citation on all quotes and images?

The presentation used Chicago style citation correctly. (8)

The presentation used Chicago style citation incorrectly. (0)


Did each person present within the time allotted?

Each person presented within the time allotted. (8)

Each person did not present within the time allotted. (0)


Was the style of the slides consistent?

The style of the slides was consistent. (8)

The style of the slides was not consistent. (0)


Did the group submit the presentation as directed?

The presentation was submitted as directed. (8)

The presentation was not submitted as directed. (0)


individual grades:

What is the quality of the cited sources? The sources:

Demonstrate significant research. (20)

Demonstrate adequate research. (15)

Demonstrate minimal research. (10)

Do not appear in the presentation. (5)


What is the quality of the presentation information? The information:

Is fascinating and demonstrates a firm grasp of the topic. (20)

Is interesting and demonstrates a grasp of the topic. (15)

Is underwhelming and demonstrates confusion about the topic. (10)

Is barely comprehensible or does not exist. (5)


What is the quality of the presenter’s presentation style? The presenter:

Was clear, extremely engaging and very interesting. (20)

Was clear, engaging and interesting. (15)

Was clear and had some ideas. (10)

Was not clear and had no ideas. (5)


starting points for research

Pioneers of Television Timeline:

Television Academy Foundation: The Interviews

Museum of Broadcast Communications

Lantern: Media History Digital Library

Writer’s Guild Foundation Library

Vanderbilt Television News Archive

Critical Studies in Television

American Comedy Archives

Library of Congress Digital Collections/television

Moving Image Source


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