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Swords, sandals, blood and sand

TV antiquity explores representations of ancient Greece and Rome throughout television history. It is the first comprehensive overview of the genre in television. More specifically, the author argues that serial television set in antiquity offers a perspective on the ancient world quite distinct from their cinematic counterparts. The book traces the historic development of fictional representations of antiquity from the staged black-and-white shows of the 1950s and 1960s to the most recent digital spectacles. A key argument explored throughout the book is that the structure of serial television (with its focus on intimacy and narrative complexity) is at times better suited to explore the complex mythic and historic plots of antiquity. Therefore, the book consciously focuses on multipart television dramas rather than made-for-TV feature films. This enables the author to explore the specific narrative and aesthetic possibilities of this format. The book features a range of insightful case studies, from the high-profile serials I, Claudius (1976) and Rome (2005–8) to lesser-known works like The Caesars (1968) or The Eagle of the Ninth (1976) and popular entertainment shows such as Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1995–99) and STARZ Spartacus (2010–13). Each of the case studies also teases out broader issues of the specific decade under consideration. Consequently, the book highlights the creative interplay between television genres and production environments and illustrates how cultural and political events have influenced the representations of antiquity in television.

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This is a critical work on Jack Rosenthal, the highly regarded British television dramatist. His career began with Coronation Street in the 1960s and he became famous for his popular sitcoms, including The Lovers and The Dustbinmen. During what is often known as the ‘golden age’ of British television drama, Rosenthal wrote such plays as The Knowledge, The Chain, Spend, Spend, Spend and P'tang, Yang, Kipperbang, as well as the pilot for the series London's Burning. This study offers a close analysis of all his best-known works, drawing on archival material as well as interviews with his collaborators, including Jonathan Lynn and Don Black. The book places Rosenthal's plays in their historical and televisual context, and does so by tracing the events that informed his writing – ranging from his comic take on the ‘permissive society’ of the 1960s, to recession in the 1970s and Thatcherism in the 1980s. His distinctive brand of melancholy humour is contrasted throughout with the work of contemporaries such as Dennis Potter, Alan Bleasdale and Johnny Speight, and his influence on contemporary television and film is analysed. Rosenthal is not usually placed in the canon of Anglo-Jewish writing, but the book argues this case by focusing on his prize-winning Plays for Today, The Evacuees and Bar Mitzvah Boy.

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The British television director Alan Clarke is primarily associated with the visceral social realism of such works as his banned borstal play, Scum, and his study of football hooliganism, The Firm. This book uncovers the full range of his work from the mythic fantasy of Penda's Fen, to the radical short film on terrorism, Elephant. The author uses original research to examine the development of Clarke's career from the theatre and the ‘studio system’ of provocative television play strands of the 1960s and 1970s, to the increasingly personal work of the 1980s, which established him as one of Britain's greatest auteur directors. The book examines techniques of television direction and proposes new methodologies as it questions the critical neglect of directors in what is traditionally seen as a writer's medium. It raises issues in television studies, including aesthetics, authorship, censorship, the convergence of film and television, drama-documentary form, narrative and realism.

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This is a book-length study of one of the most respected and prolific producers working in British television. From ground-breaking dramas from the 1960s such as Up the Junction and Cathy Come Home to the ‘must-see’ series in the 1990s and 2000s such as This Life and The Cops, Tony Garnett has produced some of the most important and influential British television drama. This book charts his career from his early days as an actor to his position as executive producer and head of World Productions, focusing on the ways in which he has helped to define the role of the creative producer, shaping the distinctive politics and aesthetics of the drama he has produced, and enabling and facilitating the contributions of others. Garnett's distinctive contribution to the development of a social realist aesthetic is also examined, through the documentary-inspired early single plays to the subversion of genre within popular drama series.

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Paul Abbott is one of the most profound, passionate and political television screenwriters and showrunners of the twenty-first century. At the 2004 British Academy Television Awards, Abbott was presented with an honorary Award for Outstanding Writing in Television and later stated as 'the Most Powerful People in Television Drama'. This book presents an aesthetic analysis of televisual case studies. It elucidates, decodes and discusses key examples of Abbott's output, exhibiting a vital evaluation of Abbott's work over the past three decades and assessing his contribution to British television. Demonstrating both Abbott's career development and his early talents, the book considers Abbott's early life. The three projects that saw Abbott work for the first time as a television writer, television-series drama creator and finally, a television producer were: Coronation Street, Children's Ward and Cracker. The book explores Reckless: a drama written by Abbott broadcast on ITV in the UK and on PBS in the USA. It then illuminates the televisual aesthetics of Clocking Off, looking at the exploration of space, place and location to highlight personal perspectives and the extraordinary nature of ordinary lives around the northern English Mackintosh Textiles factory. Abbott created a text that critiques and partially refuses (via comedic undermining) traditional gender expectations in relation to the thirty-something single British woman in the comedy serial Linda Green. Next, the book explores the spectacular drama series State of Play and the ongoing and highly successful drama series Shameless. Finally, Abbott's production company 'AbbottVision' is considered.

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This is the first book-length study of one of the most significant of all British television writers, Jimmy McGovern. The book provides comprehensive coverage of all his work for television including early writing on Brookside, major documentary dramas such as Hillsborough and Sunday and more recent series such as The Street and Accused.

Whilst the book is firmly focused on McGovern’s own work, the range of his output over the period in which he has been working also provides something of an overview of the radical changes in television drama commissioning that have taken place during this time. Without compromising his deeply-held convictions McGovern has managed to adapt to an ever changing environment, often using his position as a sought-after writer to defy industry trends.

The book also challenges the notion of McGovern as an uncomplicated social realist in stylistic terms. Looking particularly at his later work, a case is made for McGovern employing a greater range of narrative approaches, albeit subtly and within boundaries that allow him to continue to write for large popular audiences.

Finally it is worth pointing to the book’s examination of McGovern’s role in recent years as a mentor to new voices, frequently acting as a creative producer on series that he part-writes and part brings through different less-experienced names.

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Joss Whedon explores the televisual texts that have been worked on by Whedon, from his earliest days as a writer on Roseanne to this involvement with S.H.I.E.L.D. In doing so it engages in and challenges a range of important questions about these works, but also about the broader recent history of television in the USA and the UK, and the studies of it. The Part I looks at three periods of Whedon’s career (up to the end of season 3 of his iconic Buffy the Vampire Slayer; the years covering the full run of Angel; and the time between the ending of Angel and the present day). Looking at changing modes of production, distribution and viewing, this section offers Whedon in the context of the recent history of television, as well as locating his contribution to other media such as comic books, internet series and films. It also looks at his involvement in liberal politics and assesses the politics of his shows.

Part II provides readings of each of his most important television shows through the lens of his narrative choices. These range from the importance of the exposition scene in Buffy to questions about the very possibility of serial narrative in Firefly; the significance of narrative complexity in Angel and the empty slate narrative of Dollhouse.

Throughout, it uses textual analysis, historical assessment, scholarly sources, as well as my own unique correspondence with Whedon collaborator Jane Espenson, and the exceptional store of draft scripts for the episodes that she wrote. A transcript of the correspondence is included as an appendix.

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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.

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This is the first full-length study of the career and achievements of David Milch, the US writer who created NYPD Blue, Deadwood and other ground-breaking television dramas. It locates Milch’s work in the traditions of American literature while tracking his career from academic research assistant to leading Hollywood screenwriter of his generation. It draws on behind-the-scenes material in order to evaluate the nature and significance of authorship, intention, collaboration and performance in his shows, and in doing so provides a major contribution to the study of television art.