Television drama canonized: critiques of Israeli tv dramas, a case of art field construction
Sociology and Anthropology Tel Aviv University and The Academic college of Tel Aviv - Jaffa Tel Aviv, Israel
This paper examines the formation of television as an art field. It uses the Israeli case of television drama series, as an example for the way artistic value is produced. One of the ways for examining the formation of an art field is by observing the construction of the artistic canon. As artistic criticism is a major way of granting artistic value to an art product, I analyzed reviews of three highly successful television drama series in Israel, these series were critically acclaimed and gained high rating, during the years 2000-2007. I analyzed reviews published in two daily newspapers and in two entertainment magazines. The series I focused on are: "Love Hurts", "The Bourgeoisie" and "In Treatment".
By focusing on discursive categories that designate artistic quality - such as "authenticity," "political content," "intellectualization," "the creators," and others - I found that there are no definite criteria for television dramatic quality. For example - a drama series can be defined as being "authentic" for dealing with specific Israeli cultural institutions such as the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. On the other hand, "authenticity" can also be defined as televising so-called "universal" human dilemmas, such as love and individualism. Nevertheless, a television drama series is defined as being of high quality when the money invested in it is more than the money its creators are making of it.
Another major finding emphasizes the fact that the field of television drama series production in Israel is dominated by Jewish-European men, who struggle over and hold most dominant positions in the field, including the ones with the power to consecrate and define the canon.