Week 6 Cult TV

What role does Hill (2004) suggestive fans play in the construction of Cult TV? How is new media central to this?

In the TV industry, fans are one of the most important aspects in the success of a TV show, they not only support the continuous of a TV show but also supports each other in the process. According to Hills (2004) “cult arises ultimately from audience passion for a TV show”. Hills also suggest that cult TV not only depends on the fan’s devotion and support but also defending one’s fans passion, supporting each other means working together under their favorite TV show, resulting in their show being celebrated. Fans are also committed to write about their favorite shows, and in order to work together fans are able to critically analyze and appreciate each other’s favored text. Also, Hills (2004) suggests that cult TV fans depends on the shows because it identifies them as well as their lifestyles. All the fans gather for conventions, they share their interest with one another, it creates a sort of shared opinions through fans, the shows are also supported by the fans through their creativity, through fan fiction, commentaries and episode guides. The appreciation from fans as well as the conventions they set up can give the fandom a good view. The fans of cult TV creates props and other merchandise and is spread around or introduced to other cult TV fans by the web.


Hills, M. (2004). Defining cult TV; Texts, inter-texts and fan audiences. The Television Studies Reader. Retrieved from https://blackboard.aut.ac.nz/bbcswebdav/pid-4914230-dt-content-rid-10157821_4/institution/Papers/ENGL602/Publish/Hills%202004.pdf




Wilcox and Lavery (2002) identify 9 defining characteristics of ‘quality TV’ – can you apply (with justifications) any of the 9 characteristics on this list to another TV series (including those on Netflix, etc.) that you have viewed recently ? Are there any other characteristics that you could add to their list?

Atlanta (2016-present) is an American TV show created by comedian, actor and musical artist Donald Glover. It is a comedy-drama series set in Atlanta, Georgia and follows Earn, a college dropout, turned manager for his cousin Alfred, an up-and-coming rapper known as Paper Boi. Alfred’s best friend Darius and Van, the on-off girlfriend of Earn are the other mainstay characters of the show. 

Below are some of the characteristics of ‘quality TV’ defined by Wilcox and Lavery (2002) and how they can be applied to Atlanta

  • Quality TV usually has a pedigree

According to Wilcox and Lavery (2002) this characteristic refers to the credibility and calibre of the creator (or creators) of the series. Atlanta’s creator Donald Glover earned a degree in Dramatic Writing from New York University Tisch School of the Arts in 2006 and spent the next three years as a scriptwriter on NBC’s sitcom 30 Rock (2006-2013). Glover’s contribution in the third season led to the series earning the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Series. Glover then left the series to act in the sitcom Community from 2008-2014 before leaving to work on his own projects, including Atlanta. Glover’s formal training in scriptwriting as well as numerous years of experience in award winning television series add to Glover’s credibility as a creator as well as Atlanta as quality TV.

  • Quality TV has a memory

The characters of the Atlanta have memories as this is necessary to the progression of the overall arc. Although episodes contain a smaller story, it occurs within the overarching narrative of the entire season. In the first episode Earn shoots a man after an altercation resulting in both him and Earn being arrested. The next episode details their experience in the holding cells before being released on bail. Further in the season, the shooting actually gains Alfred notoriety and respect from others. Alfred’s actions are applauded by some characters as Alfred is a  “real gangster”.

  • Quality TV creates a new genre by mixing old ones

Atlanta combines many elements typical of drama, comedy as well as supernatural shows and juxtaposes them with a modern soundtrack influenced heavily by hip hop. “The series veers between deapan realism, existential melancholy, and wild absurdism.” (Press, 2018). There is gun violence, a prototype invisible car and even an episode shot entirely as a television interview show. The cast is majority African-American and this representation is important for telling some distinctly unique stories. However, just as importantly Atlanta tells stories that are relevant to all Americans, using the same characters, challenging attempts to as an African-American show.

  • Quality TV is self-conscious

Atlanta is full of intertextual references to other texts and popular culture. In the episode Alligator Man, Earn learns his uncle is actually keeping an alligator in his house for protection. Darius makes joke saying “This n**** got a full-grown Caiman in here surrounded by chicken carcasses. It’s like an Azealia Banks Snapchat”. Two years prior to the episode airing, rapper Azealia Banks was criticized for cleaning up blood splatters in her house. The blood was from sacrificial chickens as part of her practicing witchcraft. 

  • The subject matter of quality TV tends toward the controversial

Many episodes have controversial subject matters and themes weaved throughout them. The episode Streets on Lock, where Earn is awaiting his bail touches on police brutality, homophobia, transphobia and mental illness. With a combination of humour and disturbingly raw interactions it brings these subjects to the forefront of the mind of the viewer. Other episodes like The Streisand Effect, touch on relevant subjects such as internet trolling and exploitation on social media by influencers. 

  • Quality TV aspires toward ‘realism’

The Hollywood version of the stories about record industry are often epic journeys of extreme highs and lows with an evitable commercial success being achieved. This is a stellar opposite to the journey to stardom within Atlanta.  “The slow-going, aimless nature of Paper Boi’s early career is precisely what makes this series the most realistic portrayal of the Atlanta music scene to date” (Lee, 2018). In The Streisand Effect, Darius tells Earn he can get more money for phone than pawning it. Earn agrees but is disappointed when Darius reveals it is an investment that would take some time to return the much higher profit. Earn understands the logic, but is frustrated because he needs money in the present, not the future, even if it means taking less money now.  The characters and their struggles are more relatable to everyday people than infallible characters that were always destined for success This is what gives Atlanta its sense of realism. 


Lee, C. (2018). What does Atlanta Hip-Hop think of ‘Atlanta’ the show? Retrieived from https://pitchfork.com/thepitch/what-does-atlanta-hip-hop-think-of-atlanta-the-show/

Press, J. (2018). Atlanta Is the Best Show on TV and Hiro Murai Is Its Visual Mastermind. Retrieved from  https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/08/atlanta-is-the-best-show-on-tv-and-hiro-murai-visual-mastermind

Wilcox, R., & Lavery, D. (2002). Fighting the Forces: What’s at Stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Cult TV Questions

What role does Hills (2004) suggest the fans play in the construction of cult TV? How is new media central to this?

Hills (2004) outlines three competing definitions of Cult TV but emphasizes that none of these are enough to understand the full extent of the term by itself, but a major factor in the second two definitions is the response of the fans and viewer to the work such as how they make create secondary texts/intertexts commenting on the show in some form, or how it inspires devotion and fan practices. With such a fluid definition Cult TV becomes largely defined by the circumstances and opinions surrounding the shows and their subcultural status. A large part of this is facilitated by the nature of these shows in that they are built  in a way which engenders discussion and long-term investment (often through a potential romantic pairing between characters, although this is not a requirement) and the creation of an interesting and varied world that is most often couched in “fantastic genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror” (Jones, as cited by Hills, 2004) allowing the audience to fill in the gaps with their own imagination.

A striking case study of how new media changed the status of Cult TV is Doctor Who, a show which has wildly fluctuated in popularity throughout the years, arguable falling in and out of cult status through these years. After a gradual decline that lead to ratings at an all-time low the show seemed to be picking up steam again when it was cancelled in 1989, leaving the franchise isolated from mainstream audiences. Due to the fact the show was not perceived one creator or team’s vision (as how Hills criticizes the discourse around shows such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Star Trek) and the fact that the format of a Doctor Who story allowed for various styles and genres, a novel series known as The New Virgin Adventures (NVA) became the de facto main timeline of Doctor Who in lieu of the show. This hardcore audience were generally older, and the writing changed to match them adult-oriented, and the series accepted both professional and amateur submissions elevating what would have been fanfiction into a near-canonical level. (Novitz, 2018) A stranger example of a venture by fans came from the obscure company “Bill & Ben’s Videos” – otherwise known as the BBV (possibly to create confusion about whether they were part of the BBC or not) which created straight-to-DVD films using the actors of Doctor Who as thinly veiled versions of their characters or using the show’s intellectual property. Much of this was of dubious legality or blatantly illegal. While it had been a staple of British television for many decades it was only in 2005 with the show’s revival spearheaded by Russel T. Davies, one of many authors who wrote for the NVA, that the show found a mainstream international success. The show also adopted many of the NVA’s such as story arcs and a greater focus on the personal lives of the Doctor’s companions. One of the show’s most critically acclaimed stories (Human Nature/The Family of Blood) is an adaptation of one of the novels.

Before the advent of new media fan practices had a higher barrier of entry, and even re-watching the show was a challenge. Shows such as Star Trek only gained an appreciation society over a decade after it finished airing. (Hills, 2004) Now that social media and platforms such as Reddit, Tumblr, YouTube and 4Chan (each containing their own culture and subcommunities) have allowed fans from across the world to form fanbases, the type of discussion that was once limited only to diehard fans now finds itself played out by people who can afford to be more casually invested. No show is ever truly off air as streaming and pirating have allowed shows to disseminate in unlikely circles and reach a wider audience.

I think that Hills’ outlining of ways that a cult show can be manufactured has actually been achieved for the most part by the entertainment industries, as they realize the value of nostalgic properties (which have attracted those with a strong devotion to their work) and of cultivating a dedicated fanbase. However, that is not to say the idea of subcultures have died out completely, and in fact has allowed many shows to find their own audience. For example – the obscure and quite bizarre Lexx. And while it may not be sci-fi or fantasy I personally would have never been able to watch one of my favourite TV shows, Ikebukuro West Gate Park, if it had not been translated from Japanese by a dedicated group of fans.


Reference List

Hills, M. (2004). Defining cult TV; Texts, inter-texts and fan audiences, in R. C. Allen & A. Hill (eds) The Television Studies Reader. London and New York: Routledge.

Novitz, J. (2018). “Too broad and deep for the small screen”: Doctor Who’s new adventures in the 1990s. M/C Journal, 21(5), 1–3. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ufh&AN=134034472&site=eds-live

[QuintonReviews]. (2018, December 1). Doctor Who Knockoffs | Quinton Reviews. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acI7DRYFUPk



Wilcox and Lavery (2002) identify 9 defining characteristics of ‘quality TV’ – can you apply any of these to other television series that you have viewed recently? Are there any other characteristics that you could add to their list?

Buffy The Vampire Slayer (BtVS) made a huge impact on the landscape of television, providing a model for longform series that is still in use today. One example of it’s profound impact is the 2005 Revival Series of Doctor Who. Showrunner Russel T updated the show from a multi-part, 20 minute per episode serial format to the modern forty-five minute per episode show (with occasional two-part stories, similar to BtVS) which the show kept in use until 2018. Although the previous incarnations of the show had built a cast of characters over time they seldom appeared throughout the show. The Revival series which shifted a much of the emotional focus and the story arcs of the series onto the companions. In the first series of the revival this is through the Doctor’s companion Rose, and her relationship with her boyfriend and mother on Earth. This grounded the fantastic sci-fi premise of the show with “emotional realism” (Whedon, as cited by Wilxcox & Lavery, 2002), and saw the development of an ensemble cast – both elements the show shares with Buffy (Wilxcox & Lavery). The show was also writer-based in that Davies had great influence over the scripts (and ever since the show’s eras have been largely defined by the showrunners in charge) but he also created a team of writers that could bring their own voices to the forefront. Notably Steven Moffat was one of the episode writers and would go on to become the showrunner, as well as to create the BBC series Sherlock.


This influence extends to two of the shows spinoffs, which shares many of the same qualities but also lifts actual plot elements from the BtVS franchise, although few would argue the latter is an example of quality television – both Torchwood and Class feature rifts in time and space which spew forth aliens and monsters for the protagonists to defeat (functionally identical to the Hellmouth of Sunnydale) which act as metaphors for the themes of the episode. Class has a lot more obviously similar to BtVS as it takes place in a high school, and similarly attempts to deal with controversial and heavy issues facing teenagers (“the subject matter of quality TV tends toward the controversial”, (Thompson, as cited by Wilcox & Lavery, 2002, p. xxiv)), but it is fraught with problems in tone and presentation. Torchwood perhaps parallel’s BtVS’s own spinoff, Angel, in that it follows the exploits of an anti-heroic supporting cast member from the parent show on a quest for redemption – the show even goes so far as to cast James Marsters (actor of Spike) as a rival to Torchwood’s lead protagonist, similar to Angel and Spike’s rivalry in BtVS. Torchwood dealt with controversial issues with varying degrees of success, particularly in its early seasons (the second episode features an alien who is literally ) but eventually found great critical acclaim. However, the majority of the cast was shown to be openly bisexual and the lead character of Jack Harkness, originally from Doctor Who, entered into a relationship with another male cast member, giving representation to same-sex relationships on television in a manner similar to Willow and Tara’s relationship in BtVS. To it’s credit Class does the same with one of its main protagonist, although overall it is the lesser show.


Both shows are strange in that they involve much more sex and violence than their parent show, clearly being aimed at a different audience, although in Class’ case this audience may not have existed as the show varied wildly in tone (Jeffrey, 2917) while BtVS was clearly aimed at teens but had enough substance to crossover age demographics. Russel T. Davies was the showrunner for Torchwood and brought much of the same qualities over from that show with a consistent writing team, but Class is more surprising in it’s confused tone as every episode’s script is attributed to the same author – Patrick Ness. Here we see the idea of “high pedigree” as a characteristic challenged, or at least in need of further definition as arguably Ness may not be considered high pedigree depending on how well one likes his work. On paper Patrick Ness seemed perfect for the job – he had already written a hit Young Adult novel and written a screenplay for a fairly successful film. Class itself only had the surface appearance quality TV, stretching itself too thin to delivery on its ensemble cast (with five main characters in only eight episodes) and attempting to tackle controversial subject matter and emotional realism without a proper handle on tone – one particularly jarring scene occurs in the first episode as one of the characters’ girlfriends is murdered in front of him by an alien, showering him in her blood before The Doctor (protagonist of the family-friendly Doctor Who) arrives to save the day, robbing the show’s actual main characters of all agency and relevance to the solution of the episode’s plot.


Overall, while I think these characteristics identify many of the key aspects which make this kind of show good I think they are too narrow as they only describe a certain model of television which BtVS pioneered. Quality is largely a matter of taste, and it may be because I live in a post-Buffy world where this sort of discourse in normalized but I see no reason why BtVS needs to prove itself. While BtVS should be applauded for mixing lighter genre conventions with this level of emotional realism, this is not the only valid form of artistic expression television can take. Doing so discounts critically acclaimed shows such as Fawlty Towers or the surreal Monty Python, or the heightened theatricality of Twin Peaks (all shows which existed before BtVS). And while self-conscious television can refer to it’s lineage or other texts to allow extra enjoyment in it’s audience it can it can also be used a crutch to receive praise via association. The worst of form of this is simply name-dropping or referencing franchises with little to know real relevance, as in the film and book Ready Player One. A big part of BtVS’s success in the regard is the fact that most of the characters are teenagers naturally preoccupied with pop culture and references (although this sometimes leads to characters sounding too much like each other or more clever or knowledgeable than they should), but in a show such as Breaking Bad or the almost documentarian approach of The Wire leaning too heavily on the fourth wall in this way would simply compromises the believability of the world they portray. Wilcox & Lavery’s article does not account for the full breadth and depth of what the medium of television has to offer.


Reference List

Jeffrey, M. 2017. Here’s why the doctor who spin-off class just didn’t work. Retrieved from


Wilcox, R. & Lavery, D. (2002). Introduction, in R. Wilcox & D. Lavery (eds) Fighting the forces: What’s at stake in buffy the vampire slayer. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield.


Dominic McAlpine

4. Discuss how Hill’s three characteristics of Cult TV can be applied to a recent TV series Sherlock.

Hills (2004) defined cult TV as it “constructs immensely detailed, often fantastic, narrative worlds which we as viewers can never fully encounter, since much of this detail operates like a onscreen.” Sherlock (2010) created by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat had successfully contributed a very detailed and fascinating contemporary criminal cult TV in this decade.

The extraordinary characters or details are not served in highlight rather they were portrayed in daily life. Sherlock applied his ‘magical’ mind-palace to exercise his brilliant detection and to store memories. In fact, fans were already introduced his intellective abilities in the first seasons in order to let them adopted and contextualized the 21st Century Sherlock Holmes by modern background and digital technologies. For example, Afghanistan War, the Science of Deduction blog, the Blog of Dr. John H. Watson, science lab, texting and weather check on mobile phones, CCTV, modern weapons, new institutions, x-ray, blood test, visual effect of floating text etc. Audiences experienced same cases/narrations such as, “A Study in Scarlet”, “A Scandal in Bohemia” and “The Final Problem”. Significantly, we followed the daily life of the consulting detective and his assistant because creators had depicted their fight with high intelligent criminals and celebration of friendship through their daily life in 221B Baker Street. We had reduced the distance between well-known genius and ordinary people as we witnessed the normal interactions between Sherlock and the ordinary. Sherlock had impressed and won the global TV phenomenon due to the production such as creative writing, casting, cinematography and various effects. These details had successfully completed the narration form that defined cult TV.

Media had significantly played a role for the promotion and advertisement in order to attract their readers, fan base and worldwide popularity. Despite the productivity of global fandom, cultural advertisements had advanced the promotions of this Emmy awards winner and BBC’s source of income.  For instant, fashion magazines and websites like GQ studied and commented on the stylish costume of 21st Century Holmes and other characters, from coach, hat, shoes and accessories like pin. One of the reasons was due to the cliffhanger in final scene of season two when Holmes was revealed was alive. This encouraged media engaged preoccupation in order to fulfill audiences’ imagination and deductions regarded of his survival and Watsons’ reaction in the upcoming season three. Hills (2004) also highlighted “Spoiler zone” as another feature of media service. It’s specifically a friendly warning for those fans who hadn’t catch up the latest episode, consider them to stop reading the rest of the article. Meanwhile, the competition between BBC Sherlock (2010) and American CBS Elementary (2012) had controversially gain mass attraction for a long time since both modern detective series were originally adopted by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and both series premiered within two years. Articles from both countries had been studied their relationships based on contextual and cultural differences and similarities, global success and the reactions from audiences.  Consequently, the fan activities were hugely fed and impacted despite by the TV series but also various secondary tests from online and printing resources which were widely shared.

Stein and Busse (2012) “This version of Sherlock Holmes could not exist without the Holmes fandom.” Especially the relationship between Sherlock and Watson was particularly famous across the fan base around the world. It’s because both writers had purposely questioned the audience regard the existence of their “queer sexuality” through many conversations between different characters and even the protagonists themselves. “Everyone around the two men seems to assume that they are, including Sherlock’s brother, their landlady, and various strangers.”(Stein and Busse, 2012) Romanticized their relationship and other characters had become the contemporary trend. Hill (2017) analysis two types of fannish imagination approaches: the one who “favor the analysis of sociohistorical ‘moments’ of Holmes, where screen adaptations play out the preoccupations, themes, and social/political forces of their era. And there are those who focus on a transhistorical “mode” of reading Holmes, where the character is treated as a real person by “believers” who play the “Grand Game” over time, as a kind of mutated scholarship with cultural legitimacy.” Although arguably these accumulative ancillary (or even commercialized )fan fictions and fan art had ironically misrepresented the original plots but it’s no doubt that such digital communities and global interactions encouraged by the BBC producers have extended the popularity and become a well-known label of fan culture and Cult TV.

Sophie Tse 16912888


Stein L. E., and Busse K. (2012) Sherlock and Transmedia Fandom : Essays on the BBC Series. McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/aut/detail.action?docID=928937.

Hills, M. (2017). Sherlock “Content” Onscreen: Digital Holmes and the Fannish Imagination. Journal of Popular Film & Television45(2), 68–78.  Retrieved from https://doi-org.ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/10.1080/01956051.2017.1319200

Hills, M. (2004). Defining cult TV; Texts, inter-texts and fan audiences, in R. C. Allen & A. Hill (eds) The Television Studies Reader. London and New York: Routledge.

Week 5-6

4. Discuss how Hill’s three characteristics of Cult TV can be applied to a recent TV series (including those on Netflix, etc)

Cult TV is a term used to describe movies or television programs that have dedicated or fan following. The audience for such programs is so committed to watching them that they would not want to miss even a single episode. According to Hills (2004), Cult TV has three characteristics, the first being that their definition may be based on textual analysis. The second is that the programs can be defined inter-textually by analysing secondary texts. The third is that the definition of Cult TV can emanate from an analysis of the practices and activities of its audiences. A recent TV series upon which these characteristics can be applicable is Stranger Things.

The first characteristic, as stated above, implies that Cult TV programs share certain qualities. They can thus be considered a group of texts coming from such genres as horror, fantasy, and science fiction and can, therefore, be referred to as cult texts (Jenner, 2015). Stranger Things fits into this description as it as it is based on supernatural horror as a boy goes missing mysteriously. Those watching the series can easily develop a feeling of nostalgia just like they would do while watching any other horror film. The series is thus a cult text hailing from the genre of horror. It, therefore, deserves to be considered a Cult TV program.

The aspect of intertextuality, on its part, essentially means that a program passes as a Cult TV if it is labelled so by publicity or journalistic coverage. The implication is that the program has to be discussed and analysed as a Cult TV by commercial fan magazines and other popular press (Hills, 2004). These media texts discuss the programs as primary texts. Journalistic coverage has portrayed Stranger Things as a Cult TV by analysing and comparing it with other past series of the same genre, including Stand by Me, Predator, and Commando. The secondary texts consider how the series “borrows” from these past movies in terms of costuming and such other production elements.

In the third characteristic, how fans treat or receive a television program determines whether or not it may be considered a Cult TV. This has to do with fan passion, views, and reactions towards the program. One way or another, the show has to appeal to the passion of an audience (Hills, 2004). Stranger Things is one such television program. Its fans have developed so much passion for it to the extent of thinking that they can guess who particular characters in the series refer to in real life. For instance, as pointed out by Michallon (2019), they think they know “the American” in season 3.

Overall, as seen, Stranger Things fits well into what may be deemed Cult TV. The three Cult TV characteristics, as described by Hills, are easily applicable to it. It can be defined by subjecting it to textual analysis. It has also been analysed through inter-texts, or secondary texts, which have gone ahead to classify it as a Cult TV. Finally, it has a dedicated and passionate fandom, a characteristic expected of any Cult TV program. 


Hills, M. (2004). Defining cult TV; Texts, inter-texts and fan audiences, in R. C. Allen & A. Hill (eds) The Television Studies Reader. London and New York: Routledge.

Jenner, M. (2015). Binge-watching: Video-on-demand, quality TV and mainstreaming fandom. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 20(3), 304-320.

Michallon, C. (2019). “Stranger Things fan thinks they have guessed who ‘the American’ is in season three”. Independent. Retrieved August 25, 2019 from https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/stranger-things-three-the-american-who-hopper-billy-death-watch-a9063026.html

Week 6

4. Discuss how Hill’s three characteristics of Cult TV can be applied to a recent TV series (including those on Netflix, etc)

According to Hills (2004), there are three factors that illustrates the definitions of cult TV. First, most cult TV series are based on the literatures. Most cult TV series share the same textual attributes, constructing detailed, fantastic and narrative worlds. This kind of constructed world is out of the reach of the audience, because it is beyond what is known on the screen. Cult TV can be distinguished by their expansive, expansive narrative worlds. Cult TV often define and develop magical existence through their own vast amount of detail over a long period of time. Through its repetition, familiarity and narrative iteration, fantasy takes on a daily quality. The transition from bizarre or extraordinary to ordinary is one of the keys to attracting an audience. In order to keep its wonderful fresh sense of wonder, cult TV series follow their own rules and norms. Thus, there is a delicate balance between establishing narrative continuity for the audience to enjoy, and breaking that continuity to maintain the audience’s interest. This kind of TV can also produce a kind of “serial memory”, which plays a role with unique narrative rules, providing the audience with narrative fun and making it easier for the audience to remember the TV series.

Second, cult TV series create in terms of inter-texts. Intertextuality activates the key meaning of the text, rather than trying to control reading. This suggests that audiences are interested not only in narrative discovery, but also in whether industrial economic and institutional factors prevent or undermine development. Intertextual synchrony also activates the specific relationship between the audience and the original text, and clarifies the standard for the reality of television programs. Intertextuality is useful. It sets the standard for television as a cult TV. This is necessary. Intertextuality defines cult TV through audience activity, media organization context, and textual attributes.

Third, fan audience affects cult TV’s creativity. The creation of cult TV is based on fan audience. Cult TV is important to the lifestyle and identity of its fans. Audience have a general role in cult TV. Cult TV in the United States, for example, can inspire speculation about a plot, support or inspire fan works. The audience has created a cult status in many aspects of television creation. The audience uses the word “cult” to reveal the uniqueness of the textual network. As time goes by, the audience is attracted by the cult TV, thus becoming fans. To keep fan groups unique, as a community, fan audience produce reviews, fan fiction, series guides, and production histories.

The three characteristics of cult TV have certain connection with current TV series. As for the TV series created in terms of the literature, Happy Planet is a good case to illustrate it. Happy planet is a children’s science fiction TV series in China. Happy planet used the content of the novel to create four TV series, the author of novel is Yang Peng (Yang Peng, 2019). Every TV series revolves around the main characters, the people in the happy planet, helping people on earth solve their difficulties and enlightening their psychological problems. At the same time, the people of happy planet have solved their own problems by helping earthlings (Happy Planet, 2019).


Happy Planet. (2019). Retrieved Aug 26, 2019, from: https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E5%BF%AB%E4%B9%90%E6%98%9F%E7%90%83/557313?fr=aladdin#5

Hills, M. (2004). Defining cult TV; Texts, inter-texts and fan audiences, in R. C. Allen & A. Hill (eds) The Television Studies Reader. London and New York: Routledge.

Yang Peng. (2019). Retrieved Aug 26, 2019, from: https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E6%9D%A8%E9%B9%8F/15313#3_1

Rick and Morty as Quality TV

Question 1 – Show how any of the 9 aspects of Wilcox and Lavery’s “Quality TV” apply to a recent show.

The Case for a Nihilistic Doc and Marty

If you’ve been living under a rock for the last five years, you’ll probably still have heard marty-doc_12about Rick and Morty. The nihilistic cartoon perversion of Back to the Future’s Doc Brown and Marty McFly is three seasons of science-fiction based, drunken, abusive, absurdist fun. From episode one, Rick and Morty’s thesis is made clear: there is no God, so we make up meaning the only way we know how- going on crazy science adventures. Creator Dan Harmon is a passionate storyteller (Time, 2017), having worked in television writing rooms for much of his life. Rick and Morty, although only 3 seasons long thus far, is his biggest success. Fans go absolutely crazy for Rick and Morty (Bauer, 2015).  Wilcox and Lavery (2002) identify some defining characteristics of ‘quality TV’ and through these, I’m going to present the case for Rick and Morty’s massive success.


  1. Quality TV has a quality pedigree

community_dan_harmon_insetThis basically means there are names behind the show that have a reputation for good storytelling. While this isn’t necessary, it certainly helps people to trust they’ll get a good story. Dan Harmon has written for Community – another show with a large cult following, (Time, 2017) The Sarah Silverman Show and Monster House, among others.  Justin Roiland, the shows co-creator, has voice acted in Gravity Falls, Adventure Time and various other roles. The show features a host of celebrity appearances too: John Oliver as a Doctor who is also an amoeba, Danny Trejo as an assassin, Nathan Fillion as an Alien Government Interrogator, and so many more (Fandom TV, n.d.).


  1. Quality TV Creates a new genre by mixing old ones

Rick and Morty is indeed a Frankenstein’s monster of genres. It parodies The Simpsons, Anatomy_Park_7Back To The Future and almost every single sci-fi movie, book and trope it can fit into its 22minute episodes (Bauer, 2015).   The result is a sort of nihilistic cosmic-horror cartoon comedy. And part of the reason it works is that although it parodies beloved stories like Jurassic Park, A Wrinkle in Time, and even Jack and the Beanstalk, is because the creators have genuine love for them (Time, 2017). If Rick and Morty were entirely satirical without any joy, the humour would be wildly different and I suspect, a total failure.

  1. Quality TV is self-conscious

Rick and Morty knows what it is – and while some shows can self-destruct or get preachy once their audience begins to respond directly to the creators (i.e: Game Of Thrones, Westworld, Lost), Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland are very careful to stay true to the core pull of their show (Time, 2017). For example, they were aware of the fan-base’s belief that Rick had to have a tragic backstory – So they wrote one in… and then immediately dismissed is as a made up story to help Rick take down the galactic federation (Fandom TV, n.d.). Plus, it was released on April Fool’s Day, a month before the scheduled release date. The result of a move like this is a clear response to the fans, but in a sort of backhanded way; Harmon will give the baby it’s candy, and promptly steal it back. This type of plot development happens often, when Rick and Morty grazes the surface of something that may fundamentally change the dynamic of the show, it deliberately pulls an about turn, and is not ashamed that the audience can see the cogs turning behind the scenes. The reason for this is an aversion to taking the road of The Simpsons and other shows that have experienced serious changes in the fabric of their worlds, but try to continue without properly acknowledging the glaring differences. (Garkawe, 2016). Harmon has even mentioned his hope that “If we got to a point where we thought the show absolutely stunk because of our insistence on continuing to make it, I’d hope that we would be wise enough to stop making it.” (Time, 2017)


  1. Quality TV aspires to realism.

This isn’t literal. The meaning of realism here is emotional realism- genuine humanhqdefault reactions to real human issues (Bauer, 2015).  Of course Rick and Morty isn’t about literal realism- a multiverse travelling grandfather who builds spaceships in his garage is clearly fiction. The parts where the grandfather and mother are alcoholics, however, and the grandson deals with PTSD; or where his sister wants to run away after discovering her parents only had her because they had a flat tyre on the way to the abortion clinic – these are the realistic elements Wilcox & Lavery, (2002) are talking about.. These emotions are based on true pain experienced in real life. The show is a cynical response to TV’s need to give every episode a wrapped up happy ending to every 22minute dilemma. Harmon and Roiland are dedicated to exploring difficult themes through humour (Time, 2017). Themes like suicide, nihilism, divorce and self-hatred are commonplace in the world of Rick and Morty – that’s the draw. Audiences love Rick and Morty immensely, the fanbase is famously insufferably obsessed with the show and its deeper themes.

While it’s not necessary to have an IQ of 155 or higher to watch Rick and Morty, it certainly has clicked with audiences. Fans of this show are people who want more from their entertainment than frivolous silliness, but don’t want to let go of said silliness either.


Time. Eadicico, L. (June, 2017) Dan Harmon on the Future of Rick and Morty and That Community Movie. Retrieved August 20th 2019 from https://time.com/4863924/rick-morty-season-3-dan-harmon-interview/

Bauer, J (December, 2015) The Philosophy of Rick and Morty – Wisecrack Edition. Retrieved August 26, 2019 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWFDHynfl1E&list=PLghL9V9QTN0jve4SE0fs33K1VEoXyL-Mn

Wilcox, R. & Lavery, D. (2002). Introduction, in R. Wilcox & D. Lavery (eds) Fighting the Forces: What’s at Stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield.

Fandom TV. (n.d.) Characters. Retrieved 26 August, 2019 from https://rickandmorty.fandom.com/wiki/Category:Characters

Garkawe, J. (April, 2016) New Simpsons Suck. We Take a Look at What’s Changed.. Retrieved 26 August, 2019 from https://www.digitalfox.media/explained/new-simpsons-sucks-heres-why