CFP: Living-Room Wars: American Militarism on the Small Screen

full name / name of organization: 
Stacy Takacs and Anna Froula
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The television industry in the United States was born of the early military-corporate alliance that resulted in the formation of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in 1917. A quasi-private entity created at the behest of US Navy as a means of centralizing control over the emerging medium of radio, RCA was a major player in the development of television technologies and forms. Its broadcasting arm, the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), would be run for years by “General” David Sarnoff, a wireless wiz-kid who served on General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s communications staff during WWII. The historical connections between the US military and the otherwise privatized television industry have ensured that war and militarism would be popular subjects for television programming.

As early as 1951, the ABC network (one of two split from NBC by decree in 1943) was showing syndicated programming provided by the US Army Signal Corps via the series The Big Picture. In 1956 and 1957, the Department of Defense and the US Military and Naval Academies collaborated with Ziv Productions on the creation of two series centered on the life of young cadets and seamen in training (The West Point Story and Men of Annapolis), and the US Navy co-produced a series focused on submarine warfare called The Silent Service. Syndicated by Ziv, these series aired on NBC, CBS and ABC affiliate stations throughout the country and even overseas. Since the 1950s, military programming has become legitimate entertainment fare, waxing and waning in popularity as American foreign policy fluctuated. Most recently, a spate of scripted and unscripted military series have focused on the conduct of the War on Terrorism.

Despite the historical and social prevalence of military-themed programming on US television, there has been no thorough scholarly investigation of this phenomenon. This anthology seeks to rectify the omission and to identify what television, as a cultural medium, has added to the depictions of war and militarism in the US. Chapters will explore the following questions: What are the conventions of the war series? How do fictional depictions of war on US TV operate in dialogue with existing war films? How do they relate to the broadcast news coverage of war? Is there anything unique about the way television series, as opposed to films, documentaries or news items, depict issues of nationalism and militarism? How do issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality play out differently in the war series, for example? How have the conventions of television production, distribution and reception affected the form, content and influence of the war story?

Ultimately, our concern is to better define the contribution of television to the militarization of American culture. How does the medium--through its depictions of war--reflect and shape audience concerns about nationalism and militarism? We seek essays of 6,000-8,000 words that explore television series about war. Please send proposals (no more than two pages) to both Stacy Takacs ( and Anna Froula ( by May 30, 2014 with a one page CV. You may direct questions to either of us. Papers may examine one or more of the following series or tackle questions related to the inquiries above:

• The West Point Story (1956-7)
• Men of Annapolis (1957-8)
• The Silent Service (1957-8)
• The Phil Silvers Show (1955-1959)
• Combat! (1962-1967)
• Rat Patrol (1966-1968)
• Hogan’s Heroes (1965-1971)
• McHale’s Navy (1962-1966)
• Gomer Pyle, USMC (1964-9)
• M.A.S.H. (1972-1983)
• Baa Baa Black Sheep (1976-8)
• Winds of War (1983)
• Tour of Duty (1987-1990)
• China Beach (1988-1991)
• Private Benjamin (1981-3)
• JAG (1995-2005)
• Band of Brothers (2001)
• NCIS (2003-present)
• E-Ring (2005-2006)
• The Unit (2006-2009)
• Over There (2005)
• Generation Kill (2008)
• Army Wives (2007-2013)
• The Pacific (2010)
• Combat Hospital (2011)
• “Reality Militainment” like American Fighter Pilot, Military Diaries, Profiles from the Front Lines, Surviving the Cut, Special Ops Mission, etc.
• Others???

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