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CSU’s TV Professor

Mark Saunders gets paid to watch—and tell us what it all means.

Mark Saunders has carved out a media studies niche helping Generation Z learn to evaluate pop culture, television and film. And, according to the media expert: never has there been a more intriguing era to be analyzing TV.

Whether he’s discussing Game of Thrones, Louie, or House of Cards, Saunders says it’s exciting to have such quality content to evaluate with students. The one thing those shows have in common, he observes, is that none of them are on a traditional network. Is it necessary to have nudity and swearing to create quality TV?

No, he says. This approach is more about profit. “These great dramas come in 10- to 13-episode chunks. Major networks don’t want to do a 13-week run because that limits their ad revenue.” Cable and streaming outlets don’t have those constraints, he explains; they’ve already got your monthly subscription fee.

This new way of consuming shows also changes the viewer experience. For one, it’s primarily a solitary affair these days where families might all be wearing headphones, watching something different. We can also binge watch now, which allows viewers to catch complicated plot connections that were originally sprinkled across five years of programming.

For all his classroom enthusiasm, Saunders admits to a bit of head shaking over “kids these days” to whom everything is available on demand. “I liked it the old way, but I think it’s ’cause I’m old.” (He’s 40.) “When House of Cards drops, I try to limit myself to one episode a day or every other day. Because [otherwise] you’re not letting it soak in, you’re just racing to the finish line.”
—C.R.

Saunders’ Best New Show Picks

  • Designated Survivor with
  • Kiefer Sutherland (ABC)
  • Roadies written by Cameron Crowe (Showtime)
  • Great Indoors with Joel McHale (CBS)
  • Lethal Weapon (FOX)
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