Understanding Television OpenCourseWare: MIT's Free Bachelor Level Course on the Evolution of American Television

Published Jan 26, 2009

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Broadcast television may be under serious threat from cable networks and the Internet, but it may have a lasting place in academics. 'Understanding Television' is a free course from MIT that looks at the evolving history of television from a cultural viewpoint. This OpenCourseWare is part of a Literature and Film Studies undergraduate curriculum.

Understanding Television: Course Specifics

Degree Level Free Audio Video Downloads
Undergraduate Yes Yes Yes Yes

Lectures/Notes Study Materials Tests/Quizzes
Yes Yes Yes

Understanding Television: Course Description

While it was invented relatively recently, television has become a vital part of American culture. This free course on prime-time television programs moves students' perspective from the living room couch and into the lecture hall. The class began with the origins of television and the economic considerations behind broadcast networks and moved through the evolution of television and American culture, ending after the rise of cable networks. In other words, the class started with Leave it to Beaver, covered All in the Family and ends with The Sopranos. Other topics included genre shows, television commercials and made-for-television movies. This OpenCourseWare includes video of selected lectures by Professor David Thorburn. This lecture format course was intended for undergraduate students in a Literature, Film Criticism or Media Studies degree program.

This free OpenCourseWare provides video of selected class lectures, sample exam, a reading list and assignment guidelines. If you have watched TV all your life and like to know more about its evolution, then visit the cultural history of TV in the U.S. course page.

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