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Sem Telecommunications: Humor in American Television

TCF 553 Section 001

Spring 2014, Seminar

Dr. Jeremy Butler

Student Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Comprehend significant theories of humor and use them to analyze humor on American television;
  2. Understand the shaping of television genres and the impact of diverse groups on that history;
  3. Write correctly and clearly (evaluating their work for accuracy and fairness, appropriate style, and grammatical correctness);
  4. Evaluate concepts and apply theories in the use and presentation of images and narratives, including feminism, race theory, structuralism and semiotics; and
  5. Think critically, creatively, and independently about humor in American television.

Exams and Assignments

The student's grade will depend upon four separate components:

  1. Leading the class discussion on one "part"  of The Sitcom Reader (5 points) and posting an outline of its essays' key points on Blackboard (5 points).
  2. A 20-minute oral presentation (conference-paper style) analyzing a TV comedy or comedian (25 points). 
  3. A research paper--4,500 word minimum (40 points). In preparation for this paper, the student will also submit a one-paragraph proposal (2 points) and a proposed bibliography (3 points).
  4. An open-book final exam (20 points). No early exams will be given.

Policy on Missed Exams & Coursework

Make-up tests/exams will be given at the discretion of the instructor. No tests/exams will be given before their scheduled dates.

Grading Policy

Grades will be posted on Blackboard Learn.

Grading scale:

A+ 97-100   C+ 77-79    F  59 and below
A  93-96    C  73-76
A- 90-92    C- 70-72
B+ 87-89    D+ 67-69
B  83-86    D  63-66
B- 80-82    D- 60-62

Outline of Topics

Please refer to the online course schedule for an outline of lecture topics, screenings, reading assignments and various course resources (including lecture/discussion notes):

Required Texts

UA Supply Store Textbook Information


Required textbook:

Mary M. Dalton, Laura R. Linder, eds., The Sitcom Reader: American Viewed and Skewed (Albany, NY: State University Press of New York, 2005).

Required course readings -- in addition to the textbooks -- are available in the C&IS Reading Room and on Blackboard. See the Outline of Topics for specifics.

Attendance Policy

Each absence beyond two for the semester will result in one point being deducted from your final total. (Up to five points may be deducted.)

Other Course Materials

All films will be shown on DVD and Blu-ray disc in class. There will be no other class screenings of the programs, but copies of most films will be placed on reserve in the CIS Reading Room. Also, many titles are available through Netflix, and two or three of them are included in the audio-visual section of the Gorgas Library.

Credits are available from the Internet Movie Database. Follow the links in the outline of topics to find credits.

Digital Devices Policy

Cell phones/tablets/laptops or other digital devices may be used for reference to class texts or for online research, but they may not be used during screenings. Text messaging is not permitted at any time during class. Any use of digital devices during exams will be considered academic misconduct.

Severe Weather Guidelines

The guiding principle at The University of Alabama is to promote the personal safety of our students, faculty and staff during severe weather events. It is impossible to develop policies which anticipate every weather-related emergency. These guidelines are intended to provide additional assistance for responding to severe weather on campus.

UA is a residential campus with many students living on or near campus. In general classes will remain in session until the National Weather Service issues safety warnings for the city of Tuscaloosa. Clearly, some students and faculty commute from adjacent counties. These counties may experience weather related problems not encountered in Tuscaloosa. Individuals should follow the advice of the National Weather Service for that area taking the necessary precautions to ensure personal safety. Whenever the National Weather Service and the Emergency Management Agency issue a warning, people in the path of the storm (tornado or severe thunderstorm) should take immediate life saving actions.

When West Alabama is under a severe weather advisory, conditions can change rapidly. It is imperative to get to where you can receive information from the National Weather Service and to follow the instructions provided. Personal safety should dictate the actions that faculty, staff and students take.

The Office of University Relations will disseminate the latest information regarding conditions on campus in the following ways:

  • Weather advisory posted on the UA homepage
  • Weather advisory sent out through UA Alerts to faculty, staff and students
  • Weather advisory broadcast over WVUA at 90.7 FM
  • Weather advisory broadcast over Alabama Public Radio (WUAL) at 91.5 FM
  • Weather advisory broadcast over WVUA-TV/WUOA-TV, and on the website at WVUA-TV Home Team Weather provides a free service you can subscribe to which allows you to receive weather warnings for Tuscaloosa via e-mail or cell phone. Check for more details and to sign up for weather alerts.

In the case of a tornado warning (tornado has been sighted or detected by radar; sirens activated), all university activities are automatically suspended, including all classes and laboratories. If you are in a building, please move immediately to the lowest level and toward the center of the building away from windows (interior classrooms, offices, or corridors) and remain there until the tornado warning has expired. Classes in session when the tornado warning is issued can resume immediately after the warning has expired at the discretion of the instructor. Classes that have not yet begun will resume 30 minutes after the tornado warning has expired provided at least half of the class period remains.

Disability Statement

If you are registered with the Office of Disability Services, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible to discuss any course accommodations that may be necessary.

If you have a disability, but have not contacted the Office of Disability Services, please call (205) 348-4285 (Voice) or (205) 348-3081 (TTY) or visit 133-B Martha Parham Hall East to register for services. Students who may need course adaptations because of a disability are welcome to make an appointment to see me during office hours. Students with disabilities must be registered with the Office of Disability Services, 133-B Martha Parham Hall East, before receiving academic adjustments.

Policy on Academic Misconduct

All students in attendance at The University of Alabama are expected to be honorable and to observe standards of conduct appropriate to a community of scholars. The University of Alabama expects from its students a higher standard of conduct than the minimum required to avoid discipline. At the beginning of each semester and on examinations and projects, the professor, department, or division may require that each student sign the following Academic Honor Pledge: “I promise or affirm that I will not at any time be involved with cheating, plagiarism, fabrication, or misrepresentation while enrolled as a student at The University of Alabama. I have read the Academic Honor Code, which explains disciplinary procedure resulting from the aforementioned. I understand that violation of this code will result in penalties as severe as indefinite suspension from the University.”

See the Code of Student Conduct for more information.

UAct: Ethical Community Statement

The University of Alabama is committed to an ethical, inclusive community defined by respect and civility. The UAct website ( provides extensive information on how to report or obtain assistance with a variety of issues, including issues related to dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, sexual violence or other Title IX violations, illegal discrimination, harassment, child abuse or neglect, hazing, threat assessment, retaliation, and ethical violations or fraud.