Televisuality: Bstyle, Crisis, and Authority in American Television

by John Thornton Caldwell; Rutgers University Press, 1995

It is commonly understood in industry parlance today that each show should have its own "look."

Even relatively traditional-looking and visually restrained shows like Cagney and Lacey postured an identifiable visual stance. The show's DP explains how taking over the show also meant taking over the burden of its established look. "They wanted a more visual look, and to me that meant they wanted more contrast."

After choosing a film stock that gave them this contrast, the company also intentionally used long lenses in "over half of the shots" in the 1986-1987 season in order "to flatten space." In addition to the practical effect of making downtown L.A. look like New York, both devices (long lenses and contrasty stock) helped to stylistically individuate the show. In competition with other prime-time shows, this artificially constructed sense of place and geography were merely part of the overall effect that resulted from the show's distinctive stylization.

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