In “HBO and the Concept of Quality TV,” Jane Feuer’s main arguments center on two TV shows: The West Wing and Six Feet Under. The latter is a show on a subscription channel (HBO). The former is a show on a regular broadcast station (NBC). Both are hour-long dramas that have garnered a fair amount of critical praise. In her academic article, Feuer tries to figure out what makes these shows quality shows on their respective platforms.
When it comes to The West Wing, Feuer argues that the political drama follows in the footsteps of previous quality dramas on TV. She makes connections between The West Wing and acclaimed predecessors such as Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere. Like those shows, The West Wing mixes comedic moments with serious elements. It features an ensemble cast and overlapping storylines.
HBO’s Six Feet Under contains an ensemble cast and crisscrossing storyline. However, unlike The West Wing, Feuer claims that Six Feet Under points to a different tradition. While The West Wing acquires its quality designation due to its relationship to past quality TV dramas, Six Feet Under gets tagged as quality because of its association with European arthouse cinema. For Feuer, Six Feet Under can be linked to Ingmar Bergman and other iconoclastic filmmakers. Feuer seems to contend that Six Feet Under’s relationship to artistic European films separates it from normative quality TV dramas and reinforces HBO’s slogan that it's “not TV.”