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.
The last decade has seen a diffusion of the Gothic across a wide range of cultural sites, a relative explosion of Gothic images and narratives prompting a renewed critical interest in the genre. However, very little sustained attention has been paid to what we might term 'Gothic television' until this point. This book fills this gap by offering an analysis of where and how the genre might be located on British and US television, from the start of television broadcasting to the present day. In this analysis, Gothic television is understood as a domestic form of a genre which is deeply concerned with the domestic, writing stories of unspeakable family secrets and homely trauma large across the television screen. The book begins with a discussion on two divergent strands of Gothic television that developed in the UK during the 1960s and 1970s, charting the emergence of the restrained, suggestive ghost story and the effects-laden, supernatural horror tale. It then focuses on the adaptation of what has been termed 'female Gothic' or 'women's Gothic' novels. The book moves on to discuss two hybrid forms of Gothic drama in the 1960s, the Gothic family sitcoms The Munsters and The Addams Family, and the Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. Finally, it looks at some recent examples of Gothic television in the United States, starting with a discussion of the long-form serial drama, Twin Peaks, as the initiator of a trend for dark, uncanny drama on North American television.
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.
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.
This collection brings together work on forms of popular television produced within the authoritarian regimes of Europe after World War II. Ten chapters based on new and original research examine approaches to programming and individual programmes in Spain, Greece, Czechoslovakia, Romania, the Soviet Union and the GDR at a time when they were governed as dictatorships or one-party states. Rather than foregrounding the political economy of television or its role as an overt tool of state propaganda, the focus is on popular television-everyday programming that ordinary people watched. An editorial introduction examines the question of what can be considered ‘popular’ when audience appeal is often secondary to the need for state control. With familiar measures of popularity often absent, contributors adopt various approaches in applying the term to the programming they examine and in considering the reasons for its popularity. Drawing on surviving archives, scripts and production records, contemporary publications, YouTube clips, and interviews with producers and performers, its chapters recover examples of television programming history unknown beyond national borders and often preserved largely in the memories of the audiences who lived with them. Popular Television in Authoritarian Europe represents a significant intervention in transnational television studies, making these histories available to scholars for the first time, encouraging comparative enquiry and extending the reach – intellectually and geographically – of European television history.
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.
Until recently, little work had been conducted on television acting per se, let alone the various coalescing factors that underpin and help shape it. This book addresses that lack, utilising a selection of science fiction case studies from the world of BBC television drama to investigate how small screen performance has altered since the days of live production. This then-and-now comparison of performing for British television drama focuses on science fiction case studies to provide a multi-perspectival examination of the historical development of acting in UK television drama. By the mid-1970s, studio realism might be expected to have reached its apotheosis, yet it was by no means all-encompassing as a style of television acting. A new approach was therefore required, with much of the performance preparation now taking place on location rather than being perfected beforehand in a separate rehearsal space: the seeds of location realism. One of the most notable contrasts between early television drama and the modern day is the shift from multi-camera studio to single camera location filming. Comparing the original versions of The Quatermass Experiment, Doctor Who and Survivors with their respective modern-day re-makes, the book unpacks the developments that have resulted from the shift from multi-camera studio to single camera location production. Examining changing acting styles from distinct eras of television production, the book makes a unique contribution to both television and performance studies, unpacking the various determinants that have combined to influence how performers work in the medium.
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.
music video and television
populist Top of the Pops (BBC1, 1964–2006) to the more ‘serious’ The Old
Grey Whistle Test (BBC2, 1971–87); from the mixed appeal (and video-only
format) of The Chart Show (Channel 4/ITV, 1986–98) to the more specialist,
lo-fi aesthetic of Snub TV (BBC2, 1988–90). This chapter attempts to trace
the development of the pop promo (which developed out of music television) and focus on some of its more experimental moments. In particular, it
focuses on its links with the avant-garde and the implications of translating
months of 1979, prior to the election of Thatcher,
McGrath gave a series of six talks, mainly about theatre, to students at
Cambridge University, demonstrating his concern to provide a theoretical
basis for his theatrical practice. In the final talk he discussed ‘The Challenge
of Film and Television’ for those writers and directors wanting to make a
progressive intervention within these media. Together with his 1976
MacTaggart Lecture, ‘TV Drama: The Case Against Naturalism’, this talk
represents the nearest McGrath came to providing a manifesto on television