American Studies 2022
   Winter 2011
    Mon: 1:00-3:55 pm (includes tutorial)
    Rm: KK 501a

For secured files:


   Dr. Kendall Johnson
     kjohnson [@]
     Office Hours: Wed. 2-4 pm, and by appointment
     Office: 819 K.K. Leung Building
Course Description and Primary Texts| Course Requirements | Learning Outcomes | Schedule | Electronic (PDF) Files |

NOTE: Links jump to points further down on this page

"Television: chewing gum for the eyes."
    ~Frank Lloyd Wright, American architect

Whether we think of television as an empty way of merely passing time or as a respectable form of artistic expression, it has undoubtedly had a profound impact on American society. This course considers the depiction of men, women, and families in American television over the past sixty years. As we watch these popular and award-winning tv shows, we will consider how television programming has reflected changes in American society regarding the gender of work, love, and sex in the twentieth century. How does television use and revise stereotypes about race and culture? How do historical events show up in the fictional worlds? Does the drama, humor, and suspense of these shows hold up over time and does it translates to audiences outside the United States? We will also consider the coverage of United States presidential election, thinking about ways that the TV industry writes our news stories as it reports on them.

In order to develop a historical context for our discussions, we will read Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin: Or, Life Among the Lowly (1852), whose political themes, character stereotypes and techniques of narrative development have proven greatly influential for the small screen.

PRIMARY TEXTS (Available in the bookstore; please note specific editions):
Please note: Screenings will often take place during the time allotted for tutorials. You do not need to purchase these.

PDF and Microsoft Word Files:

Please note: These are books to which I will refer during lectures. Sections of these books are assigned during this semester and are available in excerpted forms as PDF files (above). They are not available at the bookstore, but you can find them at the HKU Library or on


Your final grade will be an average of these four requirements. The tentative breakdown is: in-class participation (20%), short-response papers (20%), midterm paper (30%) and final paper (30%).

Note: When writing your essays it is important for you to acknowledge through proper citation any secondary sources that you have used. If you borrow someone else's words or ideas be sure to mention this in the body of the essay or in a footnote. Regarding my plagiarism policy and citation procedure, see


A Short History of Television:
Response Paper #1
Due at start of next class

The Honeymooners (1955-56)
Husbands and Wives in Twentieth-century Television Readings: Response Paper #2
Due next class

The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-66)


Husbands and Wives, continued...

Response Paper #3
Due next class

All in the Family (1970-79)


2008 Presidential Election

  • Mary Ann Watson, "Television and the Presidency: Eisenhower and Kennedy,"
    in The Columbia History of American Television, edited by Gary R. Edgerton: 205-234.
Response Paper #4:
Choose a passage from Uncle Tom's Cabin that captures a stereotype about being a man or a woman in the nineteenth century United States. Relate this passage to a character in a television show that we have watched this semester.

Due next class


No Class: Holiday-- Continue reading Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852)


Racial Stereotypes and American TV

  • The National Association of Colored Persons (NAACP) versus Amos 'n Andy
    ["Call Lehigh 4-9900" (21 February 1952)]

  • The Beulah Show (1950-52); The Jack Benny Programme (1950-65); Julia (1968-1971)

  • All in the Family (1970-79),
    Season 1, Episode 8: "Lionel Moves into the Neighborhood" (2 March 1971)

  • The Jeffersons (1975-1985),
    Season 1, Episode 1: "A Friend in Need" (18 January 1975)

  • Good Times (1974-1979),
    Season 1, Episode 1: "Getting Up the Rent" (8 February 1874)

  • The Cosby Show (1984-1992),
    Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot episode(20 September 1984)

  • continue Uncle Tom's Cabin: Or, Life Among the Lowly (1852)

    Suggestions for your Midterm Essay (essay due by Friday March 11 by 5 pm)

    Useful terms: from Timonthy Corrigan and Patricia White, "Glossary" of The Film Experience: An Introduction (2004)

  • The Jeffersons (1975-1985)

    Good Times (1975-1985)
    The Cosby Show (1984-1992)

    WEEK 6

    Racial Sterotypes II

  • Bamboozled (Spike Lee; 2000)

  • Finish Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852)
  • Reading Week
    M. February 28:

    No Class: Reading Week

    WEEK 7

    The TV Western

  • Gunsmoke (CBS; 1955-75)
    Season 1, Episode 1, 10 September 1955: "Matt Gets It", Part 1 | Part II Part III

  • Bonanza (NBC; 1959-1973),
    Season 1, Episode 1, 12 September 1959: A Rose for Lotta (part 1)

  • Little House on the Prairie(NBC; 1974-82)
    Season 1, Episode 21: "Survival" (26 February 1975)

    • Louis Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Appartatuses..." (1970): Part I and Part II
  • Captivity narrative
    episode of Little
    House on the Prairie

    WEEK 8

    Sex, Gender, and the Single Women
    • The Mary Tyler Moore Show,
      Episode 1: "Love is All Around" (19 September 1970)
    • The Mary Tyler Moore Show
      Episode 2: "Today I am a Ma'am" (26 September 1970)
    • Sex and the City,
      Season 1, Episode 1: "Sex and the City" (6 June 1998)
    • Sex and the City,
      Season, 1, Episode 3: "Bay of Married Pigs" (21 June 1998)


    The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-77)

    WEEK 9

    Sex, Gender and Single Men

  • Seinfeld,
    Season 4, Episode 11: "The Contest" (18 November 1992)
  • The Office,
    Season 1, Episode 6: "Hot Girl" (26 April 2005)
    Season 3, Episode 7: "Branch Closing" (9 November 2006)


  • Seinfeld (1989-1998)

    Titian, Manet, Beaux, Magritte

    WEEK 10

    Saving the Cheerleader to Save the World: Globalizing Patriotism after 9/11

  • Heroes (2006-present)

    • Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle (1967; New York: Zone Book, 1994), p. 153
    Suggestions for your Final Essay (essay is due on Friday April 29 by 5 pm)

  • Heroes (2006-2010)

    WEEK 11

    Remembering New York: the National Melancholy of Post 9/11 TV

  • Mad Men (2007-present)

  • WEEK 12

    Saving Baltimore: Post-Industrial Segregation and the American City

    The Wire (David Simon and Ed Burns; 2002-08)

    Dragnet (Jack Webb; 1951-59)
    Season 1, Episode 1: "The Human Bomb", 16 December 1951
    Season 2, Episode 4: "The Big Seventeen" (6 November 1952)
    Season 4, Episode 3: "The Big Crime" (9 September 1954)


    The Wire (2002-2008)

    WEEK 13

    Wrap up class and brainstorming for the final.