The TV debut of Vic Reeves Big Night Out on Channel 4 in 1990 is often seen as marking a turning point for British TV Comedy, ushering in what is often characterised as the ‘post-alternative’ era. The 1990s would produce acclaimed series such as Father Ted, The League of Gentlemen and The Fast Show, while the new century would produce such notable shows as The Mighty Boosh, The Office and Psychoville. However, while these shows enjoy the status of ‘cult classics’, comparatively few of them have received scholarly attention. This book is the first sustained critical analysis of the ‘post-alternative’ era, from 1990 to the present day. It examines post-alternative comedy as a form of both ‘Cult’ and ‘Quality’ TV, programmes that mostly target niche audiences and possess a subcultural aura – in the early 90s, comedy was famously declared ‘the new rock’n’roll’. It places these developments within a variety of cultural and institutional contexts and examines a range of comic forms, from sitcom to sketch shows and ‘mock TV’ formats. It includes case studies of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer and the sitcom writer Graham LInehan. It examines developments in sketch shows and the emergence of ‘dark’ and ‘cringe’ comedy, and considers the politics of ‘offence’ during a period in which Brass Eye, ‘Sachsgate’ and Frankie Boyle provoked different kinds of media outrage. Cult British TV Comedy will be of interest to both students and fans of modern TV comedy.
This book addresses the aesthetics of British television programmes, charting some key examples of experiment and formal or stylistic innovation, drawing mostly on arts documentaries and drama productions. It turns to the work of the little known Langham Group. In contrast to the populism of Armchair Theatre, the group emerged from a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) initiative to consider 'the problem of experimental television programmes'. The book discusses very varied examples of experimental television that flourished during the 1960s. It also introduces Channel 4 with an insider's account of a world of utopian hopes and the snares of the schedule. The book then looks at two series that attempted to experiment with the presentation of art to British television viewers: New Tempo and Who Is?. It explores the relationship between the series and Troy Kennedy Martin's 'Nats Go Home' manifesto, a polemic against naturalism in television drama which provided a theoretical rationale for the experimentalism of Diary of a Young Man. The book further examines the product of that experiment, placing it in the context of John McGrath's other work and his own 1979 'manifesto' for progressive television. It argues that Dennis Potter's drama, and particularly The Singing Detective, contributes to experimental television through systematic comment on, and elaboration of, the medium's inherent polysemic nature. Finally, the book focuses on the presentation of pop music on television, specifically the pop promo, rather than the dedicated music television programme.
The iconic ghetto on Britishtelevision:
Black representation and Top Boy
Top Boy is an eight-part British drama, which ran over two series in
2011 and 2013. The show follows the rise of Dushane up the ranks of
drug dealers on the fictional Summerhouse estate in London. Alongside
his story is an ensemble cast of characters and narratives that explore life
on the estate. The focus on drugs and gangs in the inner city led to the
show inevitably being dubbed the ‘British answer to the Wire’.1 Like the
Wire, the show was written by a white writer
The origins of ethnographic film sponsorship by Britishtelevision
Prior to its sponsorship by television, ethnographic film-making in Britain was almost non-existent. Since the pioneering work of Haddon and Spencer at the turn of the twentieth century, the number of British anthropologists who had taken moving image cameras with them to the field had been very few, and even those that had done so, had generally used them not to make documentaries as such, but rather for documentation purposes. Facilities and support for
make for better television.
The retreating tide of ethnographic film on television
But even as Banks and Turton were offering these criticisms and suggestions for rebooting the marriage of academic anthropology and television, the first signs of a separation were already apparent, and these would eventually lead to a full-scale divorce. Over the course of the 1990s, the presence of ethnographic film on Britishtelevision would be like an ebbtide: although
The hostile waters of Britishtelevision in a deregulated age
Since Edge of Darkness Troy Kennedy Martin has had relatively little
work produced. In the twenty years since that award-winning serial he
has been credited for just four screenplays, two of which were scripts
where he helped out with re-writing or made a minor contribution, and
one was an adaptation. Yet in this period he has worked on at least
ﬁfteen other projects, some screenplays, some television drama serials
and single dramas. The ratio of work written to work produced in this
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.
This book focuses attention on a particular aspect of the British Broadcasting Corporation's (BBC) remit. It examines how the concepts of both 'public service' and the 'popular' were interpreted by the BBC. The book also examines how their relationship changed over time, moving across the early history of radio and television, up until the advent of Independent Television (ITV). It explores The Grove Family, which has secured a certain visibility in British television history due to its status as "British television's first soap opera". By focusing on a number of programme case studies such as the soap opera, the quiz/game show, the 'problem' show and programmes dealing with celebrity culture, the book demonstrates how BBC television surprisingly explored popular interests and desires. The book details how the quiz or game show, or to use the dominant term from the time, the "give-away" show, has been used to map sharp differences between the BBC and ITV in the 1950s. It focuses on the BBC's 'problem' or 'private life' programme, Is This Your Problem? ( ITYP?), in which members of the public asked the advice of an expert panel. The book explores television's relations with fame in the 1950s. It details how This is Your Life (TIYL) became a privileged site for debates about television's renegotiation of the boundaries of public/private, particularly with regard to audiences' cultural access to famous selves.
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.
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.