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  1. Summarize in your own words what Gabler means by saying, “The basic unit of television is the flock” (para. 2).
  2. How does Robert Putnam’s research on friendship in America inform Gabler’s argument?
  3. Why does Gabler say that “being ‘friended’ is an ironic term” (para. 5)?
  4. How does Gabler use concession to strengthen his argument?
  5. In your own words, explain what Gabler means by “simulacrum of community” (para. 7)?
  6. After reading Gabler’s essay, “The Social Networks”, discuss a television show that you have watched that seems to follow the same idea of being a “wish fulfillment” for its audience. You could focus on the same type of wish fulfillment of friendships that Gabler discussed, or you could identify some other type of wish fulfillment.The most fruitful types of shows you could discuss are the 30-minute situation comedies (sit-coms) that tend to offer characters who are, on the surface, realistic, but then tend to be unrealistic when you scratch that surface – just as Gabler discussed with the show Friends. For instance, you could discuss the way Modern Family seems to be a generally realistic depiction of an upper-middle class American family on the surface, but beneath that surface it fulfills the desires of its audience to experience a family that is aware of each member’s faults and/or differences and loves them and stays connected to them anyway. Or you could discuss the way Fresh Off the Boat shows a generally realistic depiction of an Asian-American immigrant family, but beneath that surface it fulfills the desires of an audience to experience a family that holds on to its ethnic heritage with little to no backlash from the racist or xenophobic elements of the society in which they live. Feel free to discuss either of those examples, or even better, choose one on your own from another TV show.

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