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Spies, conspiracies and the secret state in British television drama

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.

British television and constructs of race

Adjusting the contrast National and cultural identity, ethnicity and difference have always been major themes within the national psyche. People are witnessing the rise and visibility of far-right politics and counter-movements in the UK and USA. Simultaneously, there is an urgent need to defend the role of public service media. This book emerges at a time when these shifts and conjunctures that impact on and shape how 'race' and racial difference are perceived. They are coinciding with rapidly changing media contexts and environments and the kinds of racial representations that are constructed within public service broadcasting (PSB), specifically the BBC and Channel 4. The book explores a range of texts and practices that address the ongoing phenomenon of race and its relationship to television. Policies and the management of race; transnationalism and racial diversity; historical questions of representation; the myth of a multicultural England are also explored. It interrogates three television primarily created by women, written by women, feature women in most of the lead roles, and forcefully reassert the place of women in British history. The book contributes to the range of debates around television drama and black representation, examining BBC's Shoot the Messenger and Top Boy. Finally, it explores some of the history that led to the belated breakthrough of Black and Asian British comedy. The book also looks at the production of jokes about race and colour prior to the 1980s and 1990s, and questioning what these jokes tell us about British multiculturalism in this period.

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A Channel 4 experiment 1982–85
John Ellis

3049 Experimental British Tele 16/5/07 08:02 Page 136 8 Visions: a Channel 4 experiment 1982–85 John Ellis Any experiment in broadcast television is forced to come to terms with the overarching structures of television as it is lived at a specific time. The broadcast model has dominated television since its inception. So any work that seeks to further another form of television (that is, not that of broadcasting) is, by definition, an experiment. The structures of broadcasting are those of the schedule, intimately linked to the rituals and habits of the

in Experimental British television
UK artists’ film on television
A. L. Rees

3049 Experimental British Tele 16/5/07 08:02 Page 146 9 Experimenting on air: UK artists’ film on television A. L. Rees With the birth of Channel 4, artists’ film and video began to appear more frequently on British television than ever before. From the early 80s and through into the next decade, complex films such as Videovoid (David Larcher, 1991, tx.1992 C4) and Chronos Fragmented (Malcolm Le Grice, tx.1995 C4) were shown – and paid for – by major channels. Shorter work, from the UK and internationally, was first bought in and then newly commissioned by

in Experimental British television
Evidence for negotiated and oppositional coverage
Piers Robinson
Peter Goddard
Katy Parry
Craig Murray
, and
Philip M. Taylor

across both television and press – three subject areas that generated a good deal of media criticism. Because of their particular importance with respect to the representation of casualties in television news coverage, we integrate our analysis of visuals with our discussion of negotiated and oppositional television reports. We then consider specific media outlets, starting with an examination of Channel 4 News which departed from the pattern set by other television news programmes in adopting a largely negotiated stance in its coverage of the war. Following this, we

in Pockets of resistance
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Christopher Meir

these changes have been much more profound than the simple establishment of culturally oriented devolved funding bodies. As significant as Scottish Screen, the Glasgow Film Office, BBC Scotland, Channel 4 and others have been in supporting Scottish film-makers, their agendas have never been as noble or indeed clear as other writers have implied. Indeed, when comparing the actions of these institutions to private sector companies discussed in these pages, including financiers such as Goldcrest Pictures, Alliance Atlantis or Bianca Films (an Italian distribution

in Scottish cinema
Queer As Folk and the geo-ideological inscription of gay sexuality
Peter Billingham

In this essay I explore the ways in which, within a geo-ideological analysis of the controversial Channel 4 drama series Queer As Folk, one may view fundamental issues regarding the politics of the representation of gay sexuality. My use of a popular cultural colloquialism, ‘kinky sex’, is deliberately, ironically provocative. Within that term are potent subtextual signifiers of erotic otherness and exotic marginalised positions: the ‘kink’ is simultaneously ‘bent’ (a diminutive pejorative of homosexuals) whilst, as a deviation from a restrictive normative

in Popular television drama
Continuity and change
Erin Bell
Ann Gray

Queen. In this chapter, we therefore focus on the ways in which two British broadcasters, the BBC and Channel 4, handled coverage of the monarchy during a particularly sensitive period for the Windsor family of ageing and generational change. These events culminated in the commemoration of Queen Elizabeth’s sixtieth year on the throne, the speculation surrounding Prince Charles as the oldest heir

in The British monarchy on screen
The battle for consensus in A Very British Coup (Channel 4, 1988)
Joseph Oldham

5 Death of a master narrative: the battle for consensus in A Very British Coup (Channel 4, 1988) The 1980s had seen the development of a new kind of serialised conspiracy drama demonstrating great anxiety over the growing hegemony of Thatcherite politics. In the final years of the decade, however, a new conspiracy drama would take a somewhat different approach, beginning instead with the apparent defeat of Thatcherism. A Very British Coup (Channel 4, 1988) opens with the coming to power of a radical socialist Labour government in an imagined General Election of

in Paranoid visions
Beckett on Film
Jonathan Bignell

its makers, the Blue Angel production company, the Irish broadcaster RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann) and the British Channel 4 television channel, framed Beckett on Film . The chapter addresses its genesis, production, scheduling for cinema and television screenings aimed at specialist, general and then educational audiences. It also considers how the project's adaptation into the ‘new’ media of DVD and online video framed the DVD as a cultural asset and a prestige collectable, aligning it with discourses of taste and connoisseurship. The

in Beckett’s afterlives