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Repetition and Seriality in the Age of Television Studies 3.0

Final Report Summary - REPEAT (Repetition and Seriality in the Age of Television Studies 3.0)

The research project "Repetition and Seriality in the Age of Television Studies 3.0" (REPEAT) examines the current global and intermedial transformations of television series with regard to industry, audience, content and medial technology. The main focus lies on the challenges of repetition structures of television which has always been a basic feature of television and especially of television series. This most important character of television has been challenged recently by the new format of transnational adaptations of television series. They are a recent example of the general cultural principle of repetition and variation, because adaptations include the same story, told in a different way.
Television series are the paradigmatic form of television (Cavell) and therefore the main research objects to analyze the transformation of television today. TV series have been broadcasted in a daily or weekly rhythm and obeyed and structured the daily routine of the audience who watched television at home in front of a television set. Features like credits, characters and location have been the same in every episode and some television series have been repeated identical by television channels. Recent developments in media production and reception have challenged some of these main features of television: due to technical developments like TiVo, digital recording and the availability of television via streaming services, the audience is able to choose when and where they watch television and which medium they prefer. Television series of different countries are now available worldwide in their original language, which was impossible before, because they were bound to broadcasting time and place. But at the same time these series are adapted by national television channels. As a result the production and reception of television is more diverse and heterogenous than ever before, which has also a great impact on the European media landscape.

REPEAT explores for which reasons television series are adapted by national channels or imported and synchronized and which version is more successful. The project also analyzes the differences between the format, content and aesthetic of adapted series and their original versions.
Since the beginning of the project in Summer 2012 two television series have been analyzed: The US-American HBO series 'In Treatment' and the original version 'BeTipul' from Israel and has been adapted since then in more than 10 countries. The focus of the research so far lies on the comparison between the Israeli version and the US-American adaptation.
Further questions developed during the research: what happened with the Jewishness of the series and how is the Jewish identity related to psychoanalysis in general. Why was there a decision in the US not to portray the character of the therapist as Jewish? These points have been elaborated in a wider discourse of Jewish and Religious Studies.

The second series that has been analyzed is the series US-American 'Homeland' which started after the project began in Fall 2012 and has been added to the project, because of it's unique broadcasting in relation the Israeli original 'Hatufim'. The second season of each series started at the same time in Israel and the US. But even more unusual is the import of the Israeli version worldwide in the US via the provider Hulu, in France and Germany via arte and in Scandinavian countries via Netflix. In comparison to the series BeTipul, Hatufim and Homeland focus on political issues as terrorism, drone warfare and cultural identities.

Final results and their potential impact and use:
The broader media philosophical interest of the study was if the principle of repetition and variation still is a main feature of industrial production, serial narrative structures and reception of the television series or if transnational adaptations and intermedial distribution changed this principle.
The result of the study is that even the modes of consumption have changed, television series are still following serial patterns of repetition and variation. And even a global access is nowadays possible, the economic strategy lies in national adjustments and distribution.

This question also implies socio-economic impacts: Until today, European television channels were not able to produce a series that could conquer with the standards established by the American market. This gap became even more obvious because of recent quality series. REPEAT also offers a research that could be applied to business strategies of the European television channels. While some European channels offer web-based formats and are integrated into social networks, other channels ignore recent quality standards and new media developments and loose audience to web-based formats.
A good example in the right direction is the Israeli series 'Hatufim' which has been adapted as 'Homeland' in the US. ARTE broadcasted the Israeli original version during my research and has therefore demonstrated that the channel is open to the booming television landscape in Israel.
In comparison the German network 3SAT broadcasted just the American adaptation of "In Treatment", another series which is part of the research project. It has been discussed in German television production companies to produce a German version of the show, which twenty other countries did, but the German televsision industry missed the chance to be part of these higher quality adaptations.
Also the comparison between the American "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and the German adaptation "Pastewka" shows that German television still addresses a German audience only and is not able to reach international standards.

Also societals implications are situated in the comparative analysis: to what extend is the cultural specificity of a series compatible with a global audience? So far it has been interesting that 'Jewishness' situated in Israel for instance can't be adapted in a transnational context or better, the Jewishness is ignored in the transnational adaptation. The cause is partly Anti-Semitism, partly different political situations. For instance, the immense important aspect of Jewishness in "Curb your Enthusiasm" is completely ignored in the German adaptation, and there is not even a German version of "BeTipul" even there are fifteen adaptations worldwide and German speaking countries have been the origins of psychoanalysis before the Nazi Regime.

An overall result of the research is that national interests and ideas of homeland are still important in a context of global television, especially from the perspective of the industry. On the side of the audience there is a growing interest in transnational television and especially Israel became an important producer of innovative television formats.

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