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Regional British television drama, 1956–82
Author: Lez Cooke

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.

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Author: Stephen Lacey

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.

Film and television

Previous studies of screen performance have tended to fix upon star actors, directors, or programme makers, or they have concentrated upon particular training and acting styles. Moving outside of these confines, this book provides an interdisciplinary account of performance in film and television and examines a much neglected area in people's understanding of how popular genres and performance intersect on screen. The advent of star studies certainly challenged the traditional notion of the director as the single or most important creative force in a film. Genre theory emerged as an academic area in the 1960s and 1970s, partly as a reaction to the auteurism of the period and partly as a way of addressing popular cinematic forms. Television studies have also developed catalogues of genres, some specific to the medium and some that refer to familiar cinematic genres. The book describes certain acting patterns in the classic noirs Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, Out of the Past and the neo-noirs Chinatown. British television drama in the 1970s had a special interest in the genre of horror. There is no film genre to which performance is as crucial as it is to the biopic. To explore comedy performance is to acknowledge that there is something that defines a performance as 'comic'. The book also examines drama-documentary, the western, science fiction, comedy performance in 'spoof news' programmes and the television 'sit com' and popular Bollywood films.

Critical perspectives

This book aims to provide resources for critical thinking on key aspects of television drama in Britain since 1960, including institutional, textual, cultural and audience-centred modes of study. It explores the continuing popularity of the situation comedy, and makes a convincing case for considering sitcom as a key popular genre. By offering a sense of how 'real' audiences respond to, and engage with, actual programmes in specific social situations, dominant conceptions of the social meanings of Carla Lane's Butterflies and Jimmy Perry and David Croft's Dad's Army are challenged and renegotiated. The book takes up Queer As Folk to focus on its status as an authored intervention in debates about the representation of homosexuality. It demonstrates that The Prisoner series inhabits contradictions by unpacking the complex question of the series's authorship, and the inadequacy of attributing its meanings to its creator, star performer or production team, for example. The book argues that The Demon Headmaster makes a significant contribution to the project of exploring and defining questions of ethics and justice in social organisation, in part, by claiming children's culture as a space of experimentation, resistance and subversion. It looks at the ways in which television drama embodies assumptions about its audience, and pursues this in a sophisticated way in relation to late twentieth-century television adaptations of 'the female Gothic'. The struggle between the BBC power-base in London and its satellite Departments in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales is also dealt with.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (BBC 2, 1979) as a modern classic serial
Joseph Oldham

most overtly Reithian categories of drama, the classic serial. 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. In its original context, it was a highly prestigious production, nominated for nine BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) awards and winning two, and it was successfully sold to over 30 countries. In retrospect it has often been cited as one of the finest dramas in the history of British television, with

in Paranoid visions
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Joseph Oldham

British television drama, alongside its cousin the conspiracy genre which also often focuses upon the world of intelligence but typically from an external and more critical perspective. The analysis is framed by the notion that the on-screen depiction of intelligence services in such programmes can be interpreted, to varying extents, as providing metaphors for the broadcasting institutions that create them. As such, it provides parallel and intersecting case studies through which it is possible to trace the changing roles of such large public institutions in British

in Paranoid visions
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Horror acting in the 1970s British television drama
Richard J. Hand

British television drama in the 1970s had a special interest in the genre of horror. Examples of horror television included works with a supernatural theme, such as the BBC’s A Ghost Story for Christmas series (1971-78), most familiarly featuring adaptations of the short stories of M. R. James, but also works by Nigel Kneale for both the BBC (The Stone Tape [1972]) and ITV (Beasts [1976]). Of

in Genre and performance
Blackpool, Casanova, State of Play
Robin Nelson

8 Singularity sustained Blackpool, Casanova, State of Play This final chapter considers three examples of recent British TV drama which reflect, notable strands in British television and develop them for new times. The first, Blackpool (BBC1, 2004), uses the device of popular songs both lip-synched and sung by the characters, as made famous by Dennis Potter. Like Potter, writer Peter Bowker uses pop music not only for its intrinsic attractions but also to add density to the drama, with lyrics commenting upon the action and inviting comparative reflection on the

in State of play
Experimentation and Armchair Theatre
Helen Wheatley

3049 Experimental British Tele 16/5/07 08:02 Page 31 2 ‘And now for your Sunday night experimental drama . . .’: experimentation and Armchair Theatre Helen Wheatley There was something different about ABC’s Armchair Theatre. . . There was an excitement . . . a bravery, an experimentation, a daring about it.1 Made in a transitional moment in the history of British television drama, Armchair Theatre (ABC, 1956–68; Thames, 1968–74)2 can be seen as an example of an anthology series which pushed the boundaries of television drama production, bringing together an

in Experimental British television
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Lez Cooke

, which makes the search for signs of individual authorship legitimate. Later chapters will explore whether the writer in television drama today can be said to be the author of the work to the extent that he or she might have been in the 1950s and 1960s. The main objective in this book has been 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

in Troy Kennedy Martin