This book provides a full-length study of the screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin, whose work for film and television includes Z Cars, The Italian Job, Kelly's Heroes, The Sweeney, Reilly—Ace of Spies and Edge of Darkness. With a career spanning six decades, Kennedy Martin has seen the rise and fall of the television dramatist, making his debut in the era of studio-based television drama in the late 1950s. This was prior to the transition to filmed drama (for which he argued in a famous manifesto), as the television play was gradually replaced by popular series and serials, for which Kennedy Martin, of course, created some of his best work.
This pioneering study examines regional British television drama from its beginnings on the BBC and ITV in the 1950s to the arrival of Channel Four in 1982. It discusses the ways in which regionalism, regional culture and regional identity have been defined historically, outlines the history of regional broadcasting in the UK, and includes two detailed case studies – of Granada Television and BBC English Regions Drama – representing contrasting examples of regional television drama production during what is often described as the ‘golden age’ of British television. The conclusion brings the study up to date by discussing recent developments in regional drama production, and by considering future possibilities. A Sense of Place is based on original research and draws on interviews by the author with writers, producers, directors and executives including John Finch, Denis Forman, Alan Plater, David Rose, Philip Saville and Herbert Wise. It analyses a wide range of television plays, series and serials, including many previously given little attention such as The Younger Generation (1961), The Villains (1964-65), City ’68 (1967-68), Second City Firsts (1973-78), Trinity Tales (1975) and Empire Road (1978-79). Written in a scholarly but accessible style the book uncovers a forgotten history of British television drama that will be of interest to lecturers and students of television, media and cultural studies, as well as the general reader with an interest in the history of British television.
The factory-based drama series, Clocking Off, provided the BBC with an opportunity to return to its traditional strengths with a northern working-class drama intent on updating social realism for a new 'postmodern' television audience. The use of primary colours is one of the most distinctive features of Clocking Off and one of the several ways in which it 'updates' social realism for a new audience. Like the camerawork, editing and production design, the music in Clocking Off is designed to enhance the vibrancy and vitality of the drama. It provides an example of the way in which the series reworks and updates social realism for the twenty-first century. A concession to postmodernity in Clocking Off was the introduction of a number of stylistic changes which differentiate the series from its more sombre and sometimes pedantic social realist predecessors.
Television adaptations by Peter Cheeseman’s Victoria Theatre company
"The Victoria Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent, under the artistic direction of Peter Cheeseman, was one of the UK’s leading regional theatre companies from the early 1960s to the late 1990s. Committed to theatre in-the-round, dramatising local issues in a series of documentary dramas and adaptations of literary works by local author Arnold Bennett, the Victoria Theatre was firmly anchored in the local communities of the North Staffordshire region of the English Midlands. Between 1967 and 1974, this regional commitment was evident in the production of four plays for television, all by television companies based in the Midlands. This chapter explores these adaptations from short stories by Bennett and from his novel Anna of the Five Towns (ATV, 1971), as well as Fight for Shelton Bar (BBC2, 1974), a half-hour drama made for BBC English Regions Drama’s Second City Firsts series and adapted from a longer stage version of one of the company’s local documentaries about the struggle to prevent the closure of the steelworks in Stoke-on-Trent. The chapter draws on personal interviews with members of the Victoria Theatre to consider aesthetic and practical issues involved in transposing theatre plays produced in-the-round to the television studio for recording on multiple cameras or, in the case of Fight for Shelton Bar, on a single camera using long takes. This analysis is placed in the context of regional drama production in the 1960s and 1970s and of changes in the structure of British television in the 1980s and 1990s which had a profound effect on the production of regional television drama. "
John McGrath took up the challenge himself, returning to television after an absence of several years to make The Adventures of Frank, a non-naturalistic drama combining the agitprop music-theatre of Joe of England with new video effects. This chapter examines the product of that experiment, placing it in the context of McGrath's other work and his own 1979 'manifesto' for progressive television. It considers the production in relation to other radical and experimental television drama produced in the 1970s and early 1980s. The production is a rare example in British television of a drama that attempts to combine Brechtian ideas with experimental television techniques in order to explore socio-political developments in Britain at the beginning of the 1980s. Throughout The Adventures of Frank different forms are played off against each other in a dialectical strategy intended to produce a politically active viewer.
This chapter explores the ‘known’ Kennedy Martin, organised according to the following categories: the single play, the theory and practice of experimental and non-naturalistic television drama and the creation of and contributions to popular drama series. Television, like the film industry, is a collaborative medium and through interviews with some of the people with whom Kennedy Martin has worked, in addition to the analysis of individual productions, this chapter reveals the ways in which the work of Troy Kennedy Martin is the product of collaboration with other writers, producers, script editors and directors. The main objective is to explore the work of one writer in relation to historical developments in British television drama. The book therefore adopts a largely chronological structure, starting with Kennedy Martin's early television scripts, which were broadcast live, and tracing his involvement in the aesthetic debates that accompanied technological and institutional changes in British television.
This chapter explores the biographical sketch of Francis Troy Kennedy Martin, who was born on Bute, an island on the Clyde, on the west coast of Scotland, on 15 February 1932. It provides a brief description of the route by which Troy Kennedy Martin arrived at his name. In 1964, Kennedy Martin wrote his first scripts for an ITV company including the first of six episodes for Redcap, an ABC Television series about the military police. Two years later, Kennedy Martin was involved with another BBC drama documentary when he assisted Andy McNab with the dramatisation of his book, Bravo Two Zero. Troy and Ian Kennedy Martin were ranked twenty-seventh in a poll of the fifty most influential figures in British television. Troy Kennedy Martin's contribution to British television extends far beyond these three programmes.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the single play was the most prestigious form of drama on British television. Throughout the 1950s, Sunday Night Theatre provided the dramatic highpoint of the week on the BBC, and from 1957 the BBC Television World Theatre offered an additional showcase for classic literary adaptations. This was traditional BBC territory onto which ITV had begun to encroach, and this was despite ITV's commitment to more populist programming. The single play became an important part of the commercial network's schedules. The three ITV anthology play series, Television Playhouse (1956–64), Play of the Week (1956–67), and Armchair Theatre (1956–74), leant prestige to the ITV schedules and provided stiff opposition for the BBC. In addition to the work that was produced while Kennedy Martin was working as a scriptwriter/adapter at the BBC from 1959to 1961, there were several other projects that never went into production.
This chapter provides description of various television dramas. Troy Kennedy Martin's famous polemic, ‘Nats Go Home’, subtitled ‘First Statement of a New Drama for Television’, was published in the theatre magazine Encore in March 1964. Its opening paragraph set the tone for an article which was to stir up a hornet's nest in television drama circles at the time and which has become one of the most cited articles in the history of television studies. ‘Nats Go Home’ was the product of debates, which had been going on in the Drama Department at the BBC for some time, involving the new generation of scriptwriter/adapters recruited in 1959–61. This chapter states that several months before Storyboard and before MacTaggart's arrival, Kennedy Martin had already demonstrated an interest in experimenting with the form of television drama in a short script written as an exercise for a BBC training course. The course was one in which all new staff in the Drama Department were required to complete and it was designed to teach the basics of television production.
By the early 1960s, series drama was the most popular form of drama on British television. ITV had largely been responsible for this, for while the BBC had two very popular series, Dixon of Dock Green and Maigret. This chapter explains that Z Cars not only led the BBC fightback against ITV in the weekly ratings charts, it also marked a significant departure for the BBC in terms of popular programming. Launched on 2 January 1962, the series marked the arrival of a new kind of police drama, one conceived and developed in response to the cosy, reassuring image of policing represented by the BBC's own Dixon of Dock Green. This chapter states that the origins of Z Cars within the Documentary Drama Unit, together with Jones' insistence that it be set in the north, were key factors in the success of the new series. The combination of documentary realism and Kennedy Martin's fictional characterisation of the police undoubtedly contributed to the critical and popular success of Z Cars.