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From Reeves and Mortimer to Psychoville

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.

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Film-maker Charles Crichton (1910–99) has a body of work that can be read as a microcosm of the British film industry across six tumultuous decades. He began his career in the thirties as an editor at Korda’s Denham Studios and ended it in the late eighties when, aged seventy-seven, he directed the blockbuster Oscar-winning comedy A Fish Called Wanda. But his reputation rests on the films he helped created for Ealing Studios in the forties and fifties, where he was a principal architect of such popular and acclaimed comedies as Hue and Cry, The Lavender Hill Mob and The Titfield Thunderbolt.

As this first-ever study of Crichton’s complete body of work reveals, his film-making skills extended way beyond just comedy. His versatility stretched to film noir and wartime drama as well as – when the domestic film industry contracted in the sixties – a seamless transition into prime-time television, including such popular programmes as The Avengers, Space: 1999 and The Adventures of Black Beauty.

Featuring the first-hand testimony of colleagues and collaborators ranging from Dame Judi Dench and Petula Clark to John Cleese and Sir Michael Palin, this anecdote-packed account of Crichton’s fascinating life in film, which also included a short-lived flirtation with Hollywood, will appeal to academics and film students as well as the general reader.

The moment of petrification in Children of the Stones
Peter Hughes Jachimiak

( 2010 ) Sinister resonance: the mediumship of the listener . London : Continuum . Wheatley , Helen ( 2006 ) Gothic television . Manchester : Manchester University Press . Wilcox , Rhonda V. ( 2010 ) ‘ The aesthetics of cult television ’. In Stacey Abbott (ed.) The cult TV book. London : I. B. Tauris , pp. 31

in Sound / image
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New Dawn, new moment
Brigid Cherry
Matt Hills
, and
Andrew O’Day

This begins by considering academic critiques of Doctor Who’s periodization – does it really make sense to divide the show into eras marked by showrunner and star? Despite some previous scholarly scepticism from Paul Booth, it is suggested that such eras can be treated as analytical devices rather than as claims over the essence of the series. An alternative academic approach set out by James Chapman, however, has sought to contest conventional fan discourses of ‘eras’ by instead analysing four major cultural-historical ‘moments’ of Doctor Who, namely Dalekmania of the 1960s; institutionalized ritual of the 1970s; the move from mainstream to cult TV in the 1980s; and reinvention as a global brand after 2005. Adding to this, it is argued that a new, fifth ‘moment’ can be discerned via Jodie Whittaker’s casting and Chris Chibnall’s role as showrunner – Doctor Who as a self-consciously inclusive brand. Using this concept to frame the edited collection’s central concerns, the Introduction then concludes by summarizing upcoming chapters in sequence.

in Doctor Who – New Dawn
Mapping post-alternative comedy
Leon Hunt

. ‘Cult television’, according to Jones and Pearson, is ‘often loosely applied to any television program that is considered offbeat or edgy, that draws a niche audience, that has a nostalgic appeal, that is considered emblematic of a particular subculture, or is considered hip’ (2004: ix). Pearson has more recently sounded a more sceptical note about the term because a ‘term that means everything means nothing’ (2010: 7). However, I would suggest that ‘cult TV comedy’ does mean something and that all the terms employed by Jones and Pearson’s catch-all definition do

in Cult British TV comedy
Tattoos, the Mark of Cain and fan culture
Karin Beeler

of tattoo and detective narratives. As Matt Hills indicates in his discussion of the science fiction and horror varieties of cult television, ‘cult texts must play with their own established rules and norms’ ( 2004 : 511) and this would also seem to apply to the way the tattoo functions in a self-reflexive manner in ‘The girl with the Dungeons and Dragons tattoo’ (7.20) episode. For example, the female character Charlie Bradbury (Felicia Day) is introduced as a hunter-hacker character who helps the Winchesters. The intertextual references to the blockbuster book

in Tattoos in crime and detective narratives
Lorna Jowett

and new ways of thinking. However, I would answer Sara Gwenllian Jones’s question ‘Is fantastic genre cult television perhaps inherently queer?’ ( 2002 ) very much in the affirmative. Discussing queer temporalities, Evangeline Aguas describes how Jose Muñoz ‘theorizes a queer futurity that is “not an end but an opening or horizon,” a vision of new worlds laden with potentiality. Within contemporary queer theory, then,’ she continues, ‘the queer experience is marked not only by a lingering in the past but also a pull towards

in Doctor Who – New Dawn
Zöe Shacklock

) ‘ Introduction ’. In Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin (eds) Third person: authoring and exploring vast narratives. Cambridge, MA : MIT Press , pp. 1–9 . Highmore , Ben ( 2010 ) Ordinary lives: studies in the everyday . London : Routledge . Jensen , Jeff ( 2005 ) ‘ Lessons from Cult TV Shows ’. Entertainment Weekly , 11 April

in Epic / everyday
Leon Hunt

proven to be equally, if not more, applicable to cult television because of the opportunities seriality provides to suggest a larger ‘universe’ than Eco probably had in mind. Sara Gwenllian Jones characterizes such a world as ‘a vast, multilayered cultural territory which is only ever partially mapped and partially available at any given moment and yet which constantly presents the promise of fulfilment’ (2000: 11). She suggests that it is more appropriate to see it as ‘incompletely furnished’, a quality that functions as an ‘invitation to imagine’ (ibid.: 12

in Cult British TV comedy
BBC America and transnational constructs of Britishness
Darrell M. Newton

racist stereotypes and shallow representations,9 the programming at least provided opportunities for writers and directors of colour to construct a different view of contemporary Britain; one in which black and Asian Britons are commonplace. It remains true that many of these shows hail from previous seasons, yet fandom and the zeitgeist behind ‘classic’ or cult TV has reminded us of the power of audiences, their chosen reception and the pleasure gained from personal viewing habits.10 This would include the viewing of perennial ‘favourites’ such as Doctor Who (BBC

in Adjusting the contrast