‘Who killed Great Britain?’
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (BBC 2, 1979) as a modern classic serial
in Paranoid visions
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At the end of the 1970s, however, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) would, for arguably the first time, take the initiative in spy genre with a seven-part serialised adaptation of John le Carre's novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In deciding to adapt a le Carre novel as a classic serial, the BBC by implication accepted his literary status albeit in a consciously bold and daring move. This chapter expresses Tinker Tailor as a key moment of intervention in both the television spy genre and British television drama. It provides a close analysis of the serial, adopting what Sarah Cardwell describes as a 'televisual' approach to the classic novel adaptation through considering how features specific to the medium shape textual characteristics. Whilst Callan and The Sandbaggers have been relatively marginalised in the history of British television drama as somewhat ephemeral texts, Tinker Tailor is a far more iconic programme.

Paranoid visions

Spies, conspiracies and the secret state in British television drama

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