Parody and Taste in Postwar American Television Culture: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Parody and Taste in Postwar American Television Culture

1st Edition

By Ethan Thompson


180 pages

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In this original study, Thompson explores the complicated relationships between Americans and television during the 1950s, as seen and effected through popular humor. Parody and Taste in Postwar American Television Culture documents how Americans grew accustomed to understanding politics, current events, and popular culture through comedy that is simultaneously critical, commercial, and funny. Along with the rapid growth of television in the 1950s, an explosion of satire and parody took place across a wide field of American culture—in magazines, comic books, film, comedy albums, and on television itself. Taken together, these case studies don’t just analyze and theorize the production and consumption of parody and television, but force us to revisit and revise our notions of postwar "consensus" culture as well.


"Parody and Taste in Postwar American Television Culture tackles important questions regarding how politics, power, culture, and the subversion of each works. A superb history, and a vital corrective to any who believe that subversion started with Comedy Central." - Jonathan Gray, Professor at University of Wisconsin Madison

"Parody and Taste in Postwar American Television Culture is not only a fascinating critical exploration of some comedic early TV programs starring Shelley Berman, Ernie Kovacs, and Oscar Levant. It is also an impressive engagement with a key moment in the history of taste in popular culture, considering ways in which the culture industry -- not only television broadcasters but also magazines like MAD and Playboy -- produced opportunities for critical engagement with mass media's forms and meanings. This book is an important contribution to early television history, and to studies of post-war American culture."- Michael Newman, Associate Professor at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

Table of Contents

Introduction. The Parodic Impulse in the (Not-So) Fabulous Fifties 1. The New, Sick Sense: The Mediation of America’s Health and Humor at Mid-Century 2. What, Me Subversive? MAD Magazine and the Textual Strategies and Cultural Politics of Parody 3. The Parodic Sensibility and the Sophisticated Gaze: Masculinity and Taste in Playboy’s Penthouse 4. Ernie Kovacs and the Logics of Television Parody and Electronic Trickery 5. Black Tie, Straightjacket: Oscar Levant’s Sick Life on TV Conclusion: Television for People Who Hate Television?

About the Author

Ethan Thompson (Ph.D., University of Southern California) is Associate Professor of Communication at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. He is co-editor of Satire TV: Politics and Comedy in the Post-Network Era.

About the Series

Routledge Advances in Television Studies

This series presents cutting-edge developments and debates within the field of television studies. It covers a variety of topics, theories, and cases from around the world.


To submit a proposal for this series, please contact:
Suzanne Richardson, Commissioning Editor for Media, Cultural and Communication Studies
[email protected]

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / United States / 20th Century
HUMOR / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies