‘A balance of terror’
Callan (ITV, 1967–72) as an existential thriller for television
in Paranoid visions
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The arrival of the spy genre on British television came initially in the form of a cycle of adventure series focused loosely on themes of international intrigue which occupied a prominent place in the schedules of the 1960s. For the most part, this strand was overwhelmingly associated with the commercial ITV as product of its popular appeal to the growing working-class viewership and embrace of a mass public beyond that of the more paternalistic BBC. This chapter traces how the two areas later converged into the cynical, anti-heroic spy series Callan (ITV, 1967-72). This reworked the existential spy thriller tradition associated with novelists such as John le Carre and Len Deighton into an ongoing television format, adopting their tone of institutional alienation and moral ambiguity in the face of the Cold War. Production of a single episode of Callan typically lasted for a period of ten working days.

Paranoid visions

Spies, conspiracies and the secret state in British television drama


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