Visual Essay Project: Sitcom, Satire, Sketch
From these three perspectives, students will analyze one American sitcom, satire, or sketch comedy series (1990-present) NOT covered at length on our syllabus:
- industry or historical: Where does your comedy fit in television history? What are its historical predecessors? Is it unique to TV history in some way?
- cultural: What does your comedy say about race, gender, class, religion, politics, or sexuality? It's probably best to choose ONE of these.
- reception: How do audiences react to and make meaning from your comedy? Who watches your show, and who is the target audience? Are the fans active on social media? Do the showrunners or cast members appear at Comic-Con or SXSW and/or live-tweet their program?
This assignment consists of two graded parts:
- SELECTION FEEDBACK (0%): Due anytime before Friday, June 30. If you'd like early feedback, email Dr. Marshall the series you've selected and the direction in which you think you might want to go.
- INTRO/THESIS (10%): Due 11PM, Sunday, July 2. In the body of an email, send Dr. Marshall your intro/thesis — formatted similar to the sample thesis on Everybody Loves Raymond. No attachments please (I can respond faster if I'm not opening files).
- VISUAL ESSAY PROJECT (30%): Due 11PM, Sunday, July 16. Email Dr. Marshall the link to your project. Using Vimeo (over YouTube) is encouraged.
Ultimately, a visual essay for this class should
- focus tightly on an American sitcom, satire, or sketchy comedy series from 1990-present
- include a catchy title that draws the reader into the project and reflects the writer’s overall argument
- situate the film within the scope of our class, considering the three perspectives listed above
- contain an introduction and thesis that are a) arguable, meaning one could agree and disagree with it); b) able to be supported with evidence; and c) clearly stated. Read the SAMPLE THESES on Everybody Loves Raymond.
- refrain from providing a lengthy summary of the series; the author should assume her/his audience is familiar with it
- integrate multiple forms of visual media (clips, still images, screengrabs, tweets, clips, GIFs, stills, etc.) that function as supporting evidence for the thesis, with every piece supporting the project's goal
- hopefully possess a clear voice within the style of academic writing, e.g., funny, formal, snarky, colloquial, empathetic
- close with a conclusion that not only restates the thesis, but also makes the reader think further about the subject matter or American TV comedy in general
- include a formal Works Cited (either MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.), listing any sources cited in the project including our textbook, readings on D2L, tweets, images from Google, DVD screenshots, Tumblr posts, GIFs, message boards, etc.
If Using iMovie or Movie Maker
Your project should:
- not exceed 6 minutes in length
- include some form of narration to guide the viewer through the essay (e.g., voiceovers, intertitles, subtitles)
If Using Prezi or Sway
Your project should:
- clock in around 1,000 words (undergrads) and 2,000 words (grads)
- span at least 20 "cards" (Sway) or 20 "path points" (Prezi)
- be formatted for the web, e.g., short paragraphs, sections/divisions with headings describing content therein, varying fonts/sizes/colors to indicate titles and divisions, etc.
Sample Projects: Video Essays and Microsoft Sway