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Sense of Place : Producers and Audiences of International Drama Format The Bridge

Hill, Annette LU (2016) In New Patterns in Global Television Formats p.281-294
Abstract
The Bridge is a television drama that is suggestive of the significance of place in understanding international formats. The specificity of place is built into the storytelling, as the format is located in the geo-cultural politics of border territories in three versions of the drama series set between Sweden and Denmark, Britain and France, and USA and Mexico (Filmlance International and Shine Group). These cross border territories provide the backdrop to a crime drama, where generic elements such as criminal detectives, or a melancholy mood, are interwoven with regional landscapes. In this way, the drama format works double time in engaging local and transnational audiences in a sense of place that is embedded in a cultural geography of... (More)
The Bridge is a television drama that is suggestive of the significance of place in understanding international formats. The specificity of place is built into the storytelling, as the format is located in the geo-cultural politics of border territories in three versions of the drama series set between Sweden and Denmark, Britain and France, and USA and Mexico (Filmlance International and Shine Group). These cross border territories provide the backdrop to a crime drama, where generic elements such as criminal detectives, or a melancholy mood, are interwoven with regional landscapes. In this way, the drama format works double time in engaging local and transnational audiences in a sense of place that is embedded in a cultural geography of cross border territories, and also connected to an aesthetic and emotional landscape of the crime genre. This multiplicity of place as geo-cultural, generic, aesthetic and emotional is perfectly encapsulated in the following comment by a viewer of Bron//Broen: ‘They put you in this place and give you a sense of magnitude and perspective. So it’s like they’re dropping you, like little human beings, in this massive story, these mysteries’ (58 year old American male web designer).

The Bridge addresses what Albert Moran and Karen Aveyard (2014) call the ‘geo-cultural paradox’ of international formats. This paradox refers to the inherent contradictions in the quintessential ‘go anywhere’ value of a global format that works alongside an appeal to local audiences. Moran and Aveyard (2014: 20) call on researchers to ‘explore the characteristics of these multi-layered geographic interrelationships.’ This article considers the geo-cultural paradox and aims to understand how television format producers attempt to engage both local and transnational audiences. The Bridge is uniquely positioned for a critical analysis of the geo-cultural paradox of international television formats. The ‘go anywhere’ value of a global format means a television drama risks being any place and no place at the same time. Producers of The Bridge strategically use the specificity of place by embedding the storytelling in geo-cultural politics. In this way, producers can attempt to engage local/transnational audiences through a sense of place that works in various ways, for example through distinctive landscape and locality, or genre, characters and emotions, that grabs viewers and keeps them in the here and now of specific stories.

The idea of sense of place is explored through the case study of production and audience research of The Bridge. The multi-method and multi-site data includes industry ratings and social media analytics, interviews, focus groups, and participant observations with executive and creative producers and audiences of this television format. This ongoing research is conducted in Sweden, Denmark, Britain, France, America and Mexico and includes a sample of 100 participants during 2013-2015 (see research note). Adrian Athique (2014) argues that audience studies fails to account for the specificity of place. He notes how transnational audiences and internet users wander anywhere and everywhere, but in doing so become placeless. Athique challenges audience researchers to empirically explore the specificity of place within global formats. This article takes up the call to consider place, both within production and audience studies. The benefit of looking at the specificity of place in production studies ensures researchers can critically examine television producers’ creative treatment of place as multiple points of connection with audiences. This mode of address is only one part of the picture, and the benefits of audience studies allow researchers to look through the construction of place to explore how audiences actually engage with this issue. The constitution of television and the international format trade ensure there is another notion of place as the actual placement of a format on public service, commercial, subscription channels, and online distribution platforms, and its performance in ratings and social media. Thus, in this article a sense of place is analysed from three perspectives, the producers’ construction of locality and storytelling, audience engagement, and the constitution of television. Such an approach helps us to understand the interrelations between modes of address and modes of engagement within production and audience research (see Hill 2007).

The overall aim of this article is to understand a sense of place as a complex, and at times contradictory, issue within research on global formats, production cultures, and cultures of viewing. We can describe producer and audience practices as entangled relations. There is no clear cut path to the ways producers of The Bridge construct a sense of place as a mode of address and the various ways audiences engage with this drama format. A problem that arises from the empirical research is the ambiguity of contemporary drama formats. Is The Bridge a drama format, an adaptation, or an original production? It is all of these things, and yet runs the risk of being neither one thing nor the other with audiences. This ambiguity creates problems for a format with a go anywhere quality. Although the specificity of place is one way for the format trade to overcome a geo-cultural paradox it can backfire with audiences. For example the international success of the original version of the drama format Bron//Broen as part of the contemporary wave of Nordic Noir (see Waade and Jensen 2013) was not replicated in the American-Mexican adaptation. The Bridge (FX 2013-2014) had a schizophrenic identity as a drama that was trying to be both a format with global appeal and a local adaptation with regional appeal, and was cancelled after its second season. The reasons for the success and failure of original drama and adaptations highlight the entangled relations between the production and reception of The Bridge and the complex notion of place within our understanding of global formats.
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keywords
Nordic Noir, television audiences, global formats, television drama, production studies
in
New Patterns in Global Television Formats
editor
Aveyard, Karina; Majbritt Jensen, Pia; Moran, Albert; ; and
pages
281 - 294
publisher
Intellect Ltd.
ISBN
9781783207121
language
English
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ea8bc62a-2086-4dfc-86eb-ff9319e74e14
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2017-02-19 13:09:38
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2017-02-21 14:50:40
@inbook{ea8bc62a-2086-4dfc-86eb-ff9319e74e14,
  abstract     = {The Bridge is a television drama that is suggestive of the significance of place in understanding international formats. The specificity of place is built into the storytelling, as the format is located in the geo-cultural politics of border territories in three versions of the drama series set between Sweden and Denmark, Britain and France, and USA and Mexico (Filmlance International and Shine Group). These cross border territories provide the backdrop to a crime drama, where generic elements such as criminal detectives, or a melancholy mood, are interwoven with regional landscapes. In this way, the drama format works double time in engaging local and transnational audiences in a sense of place that is embedded in a cultural geography of cross border territories, and also connected to an aesthetic and emotional landscape of the crime genre. This multiplicity of place as geo-cultural, generic, aesthetic and emotional is perfectly encapsulated in the following comment by a viewer of Bron//Broen: ‘They put you in this place and give you a sense of magnitude and perspective. So it’s like they’re dropping you, like little human beings, in this massive story, these mysteries’ (58 year old American male web designer).<br/><br/>The Bridge addresses what Albert Moran and Karen Aveyard (2014) call the ‘geo-cultural paradox’ of international formats. This paradox refers to the inherent contradictions in the quintessential ‘go anywhere’ value of a global format that works alongside an appeal to local audiences. Moran and Aveyard (2014: 20) call on researchers to ‘explore the characteristics of these multi-layered geographic interrelationships.’ This article considers the geo-cultural paradox and aims to understand how television format producers attempt to engage both local and transnational audiences. The Bridge is uniquely positioned for a critical analysis of the geo-cultural paradox of international television formats. The ‘go anywhere’ value of a global format means a television drama risks being any place and no place at the same time. Producers of The Bridge strategically use the specificity of place by embedding the storytelling in geo-cultural politics. In this way, producers can attempt to engage local/transnational audiences through a sense of place that works in various ways, for example through distinctive landscape and locality, or genre, characters and emotions, that grabs viewers and keeps them in the here and now of specific stories. <br/><br/>The idea of sense of place is explored through the case study of production and audience research of The Bridge. The multi-method and multi-site data includes industry ratings and social media analytics, interviews, focus groups, and participant observations with executive and creative producers and audiences of this television format. This ongoing research is conducted in Sweden, Denmark, Britain, France, America and Mexico and includes a sample of 100 participants during 2013-2015 (see research note). Adrian Athique (2014) argues that audience studies fails to account for the specificity of place. He notes how transnational audiences and internet users wander anywhere and everywhere, but in doing so become placeless. Athique challenges audience researchers to empirically explore the specificity of place within global formats. This article takes up the call to consider place, both within production and audience studies. The benefit of looking at the specificity of place in production studies ensures researchers can critically examine television producers’ creative treatment of place as multiple points of connection with audiences. This mode of address is only one part of the picture, and the benefits of audience studies allow researchers to look through the construction of place to explore how audiences actually engage with this issue. The constitution of television and the international format trade ensure there is another notion of place as the actual placement of a format on public service, commercial, subscription channels, and online distribution platforms, and its performance in ratings and social media. Thus, in this article a sense of place is analysed from three perspectives, the producers’ construction of locality and storytelling, audience engagement, and the constitution of television. Such an approach helps us to understand the interrelations between modes of address and modes of engagement within production and audience research (see Hill 2007). <br/><br/>The overall aim of this article is to understand a sense of place as a complex, and at times contradictory, issue within research on global formats, production cultures, and cultures of viewing. We can describe producer and audience practices as entangled relations. There is no clear cut path to the ways producers of The Bridge construct a sense of place as a mode of address and the various ways audiences engage with this drama format. A problem that arises from the empirical research is the ambiguity of contemporary drama formats. Is The Bridge a drama format, an adaptation, or an original production? It is all of these things, and yet runs the risk of being neither one thing nor the other with audiences. This ambiguity creates problems for a format with a go anywhere quality. Although the specificity of place is one way for the format trade to overcome a geo-cultural paradox it can backfire with audiences. For example the international success of the original version of the drama format Bron//Broen as part of the contemporary wave of Nordic Noir (see Waade and Jensen 2013) was not replicated in the American-Mexican adaptation. The Bridge (FX 2013-2014) had a schizophrenic identity as a drama that was trying to be both a format with global appeal and a local adaptation with regional appeal, and was cancelled after its second season. The reasons for the success and failure of original drama and adaptations highlight the entangled relations between the production and reception of The Bridge and the complex notion of place within our understanding of global formats.<br/>},
  author       = {Hill, Annette},
  editor       = {Aveyard, Karina and Majbritt Jensen, Pia and Moran, Albert},
  isbn         = {9781783207121},
  keyword      = {Nordic Noir,television audiences,global formats,television drama,production studies},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {281--294},
  publisher    = {Intellect Ltd.},
  series       = {New Patterns in Global Television Formats},
  title        = {Sense of Place : Producers and Audiences of International Drama Format The Bridge},
  year         = {2016},
}