Teen TV Meets T4: Assimilating The O.C. into British Youth Television

Here at FTT we thought we’d make use of the blog from time to time to point out new publications by members of the department.

This month sees the publication of my article that shares the name of this post in Critical Studies in Television (paywall warning), bringing together my longstanding interest in US Teen TV and my developing mapping of the field of contemporary British Youth Television. Teen TV has built a solid scholarly foundation in the wealth of Buffy Studies texts and the fine edited collections bringing together essays on Teen TV largely from the US. However British Youth Television is still finding its feet in the academic waters – partly due to its slow roll out in international distribution, but many texts are now appearing in the US via online platform hulu – thus i’m currently embarking on a larger project setting out its academic stall.

There’s nothing about them in the article, but Ryan and Taylor Forever.

Offering a study of what happens when US Teen TV meets British Youth Television the article uses a case study of The OC‘s airing on Channel 4’s weekend ‘hangover’ slot T4 to explore the assimilation of the US form into the British flow of programming. As T4 has recently been cancelled as part of a ‘rethinking’ of Channel 4’s ‘youth’ provision, and with my analysis focused on a era when E4 was still fumbling its way into its eventual purple identity previous to digital TV’s tipping point (and also, was still not free-to-air) the case study forms a time capsule of British Youth TV at the edge of change, the last gasps of niche focus within the broadcast era.

Part of the article includes a close analysis of the sometimes charming, sometimes cringeworthy ‘Schwartz Reports’ which occasionally accompanied The OC‘s Sunday afternoon airings. Here T4 presenters Steve Jones and Miquita Oliver reenacted modified scenes from that episode of The OC. These were framed by the device of showrunner ‘Josh Schwartz’ (Steven Jones playing the nerdily handsome Schwartz as a puppetlike strangely Nosferatu-esque figure) talking us through a sequence from The OC before explaining how he originally wanted the scene played – queuing up the amateurish skit which presented the scene in a new light. Not wanting to unveil more of my own analysis (As River Song would say, spoilers sweetie), as Critical Studies in Television 8.1 can be found in all good academic libraries, I thought i’d put up the screen grabs that copyright prevented me from including in my original article. As a taster, and as an added extra for those who read the article!

Here’s the abstract, below, the screengrabs, completely decontextualised!

This article explores the presence of imported US teen TV in the schedules of British youth television and the relationship between the two national forms. Focusing on the broadcast of The O.C. on the Channel 4 youth strand T4, it considers the role of the spaces ‘in-between’ programmes in framing the audience’s experience of the imported US text. It demonstrates how the T4 supertext employed presenter performance, critique and parody to assimilate the glamorously aspirational US teen TV text into the cynically engaged flow of British youth television.