What a refined description, what a provocative image – the figure of flexible resistance to both theory and experience – emerges in this last sentence. ‘Slippery’ could be another term, and it could describe well the encounters experienced by anyone who has attempted to study television in any comprehensive manner. How, how in the world, can any ‘theoretical imposition’ capture the rowdy complexity of television? Put another way, why would there be any compulsion to ‘fully’ explain it, to suggest that our experience of it could be defined or described as ‘fixed, innate and unchanging?’ Yet, as Buonanno knows well, such attempts have been repeatedly made. Some have attempted to wrap theory around the entire enterprise of television while others have ‘merely’ tried to ‘determine’ key features. Gracefully, then, and with great scholarly generosity toward work that has gone before, she leads us through the terrain of television, as experienced and theorized, forgotten, recalled, and anticipated, always with its flexibility immediately before us.
In covering this ground the book becomes a map. For a while the surroundings seem familiar. Then Buonanno begins to explore from different perspectives, changing vantage points. We begin to see new angles. The shifting angles allow light to fall in different directions. Old corners are illuminated, colours are changed, shadows altered. The subtlety of these steps requires of us a kind of modesty in our movements, a sense that what may lie ahead is already prepared by the turns we have just taken.