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Spies, conspiracies and the secret state in British television drama
Author: Joseph Oldham

This book explores the history of the spy and conspiracy genres on British television, from 1960s Cold War series through 1980s conspiracy dramas to contemporary 'war on terror' thrillers. It analyses classic dramas including Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Edge of Darkness, A Very British Coup and Spooks. The analysis is framed by the notion that the on-screen depiction of intelligence services in such programmes can be interpreted as providing metaphors for broadcasting institutions. Initially, the book is primarily focused on espionage-themed programmes produced by regional franchise-holders for ITV in late 1960s and 1970s. Subsequently, it considers spy series to explore how many standard generic conventions were innovated and popularised. The relatively economical productions such as Bird of Prey demonstrated a more sophisticated treatment of genre conventions, articulated through narratives showing the collapse of standard procedure. Channel 4 was Britain's third and final broadcaster to be enshrined with a public service remit. As the most iconic version of the television spy drama in the 1960s, the ITC adventure series, along with ABC's The Avengers, fully embraced the formulaic and Fordist tendencies of episodic series in the US network era. However, Callan, a more modestly resourced series aimed more towards a domestic audience, incorporated elements of deeper psychological drama, class tension and influence from the existential spy thrillers. The book is an invaluable resource for television scholars interested in a new perspective on the history of television drama and intelligence scholars seeking an analysis of the popular representation of espionage.

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Joseph Oldham

 drama. As the most iconic version of the television spy drama in the 1960s, the ITC adventure series, along with ABC’s The Avengers (ITC, 1961–69), fully embraced the formulaic and Fordist tendencies of episodic series in the US network era in order to maximise global distribution. However, Callan (ITV, 1967–72), a more modestly resourced series aimed more towards a domestic audience, took advantage of this specificity and incorporated elements of deeper psychological drama, class tension and influence from the existential spy thrillers of le Carré and Len Deighton. As it

in Paranoid visions
Callan (ITV, 1967–72) as an existential thriller for television
Joseph Oldham

hardboiled tradition and reapplies it to interrogate specifically British class tensions. Ironically, this American influence was undoubtedly a key factor undermining the possibility of exporting the series to the US during the network era. The spy who came in to the studio: the production and aesthetics of Callan Unlike The Avengers or the ITC adventure series, Callan was recorded on videotape, retaining the as-if-live production style developed at the turn of the 1960s. Indeed, with the exception of productions designed with an eye on sales to US networks, British

in Paranoid visions