HBO has long marketed its programming under the moniker “original,” suggesting that it is both unique and innovative. To understand how the essays in this section afﬁrm, revise, and sometimes challenge this claim, it is useful, ﬁrst, to reﬂect brieﬂy on the textual dynamics of commercial network programming. Network TV is, by all accounts, a medium that trafﬁcs in what Todd Gitlin (1983) calls recombinancy, or the endless recycling of well-worn (and proﬁt-proven) formulas and genres. Conforming to a logic of safety, commercial network TV is risk-adverse, a practice that has generated an array of easily recognizable and popular genres such as soap operas, daytime talk shows, game shows, situation comedies, hour long dramas, and reality programming. The appeal of commercial network TV lies, at least in large part, in the comfort and security offered by its predictability and reproduction of prevailing cultural norms and values. Network television texts are in a word conservative, not in a political sense so much as in an aesthetic sense. Their well-rehearsed visual conventions and banal narrative tropes function rhetorically to create
and fulﬁll audience appetites in a manner that paciﬁes and placates, rather than shocks and unsettles.