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Law and Popular Culture

A Course Book (2nd Edition)


Michael Asimow and Shannon Mader

Both law and popular culture pervade our lives. Popular culture constructs our perceptions of law and changes the way that players in the legal system behave. Now in its second edition, Law and Popular Culture: A Course Book explores the interface between two subjects of enormous importance to everyone – law and popular culture.
Each chapter takes a particular legally themed film or television show, such as Philadelphia, Dead Man Walking, or Law and Order, treating it as both a cultural text and a legal text.
The new edition has been updated with new photos and includes greater emphasis on television than in the first edition because there are so many DVDs of older TV shows now available.
Law and Popular Culture is written in an accessible and engaging style, without theoretical jargon, and can serve as a basic text for undergraduates or graduate courses and be taught by anyone who enjoys pop culture and is interested in law. An instructor’s manual is available on request from the publisher and author.
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7. Law on Television: Assigned Material: Boston Legal, Season 1, disk 1 (episodes 1–4)


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Law on Television

Assigned Material: Boston Legal, Season1, disk 1 (episodes 1–4)1

7.01 Television—Business and culture

Television is enormously important. It is a big part of almost everyone’s daily life from early childhood to old age.2 We consume massive amounts of TV programming and discuss it with friends and family. Television can be analyzed from many angles—as a profitable (but regulated) business, an important facet of American democracy, a unique creative form, a mirror of our world, and a rapidly evolving technology (Mittell 2010, Introduction). Space limitations preclude us from discussing many facets of television economics, culture, and technology. We will focus on the legal television genre—its history (¶7.02), and its narrative conventions (¶7.03 and ¶7.04). We then turn to a closer look at the first season of Boston Legal, particularly to the issues of the representation of lawyers on television as well as sexual harassment and ethical problems (¶¶7.04 to 7.07).

7.01.1 Commercials3

Most American television shows are commercially sponsored and are frequently interrupted by commercial announcements. Commercials take up from one-quarter to one-third of the time available for programming. In a real sense, TV programs ← 124 | 125 → are simply the material that has to be supplied to keep the audience around to watch the commercials. Sponsors paid upwards of $71 billion in 2006 to buy commercial time; individual commercial spots may cost $350,000 or more just...

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