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From studio realism to location realism in BBC television drama
Author: Richard Hewett

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.

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Richard Hewett

-​wise; he has learned the grammar’ (1982: 105). This grammar was also understood by audiences, yet there was still room for those who did not entirely conform to its rules; the more stylised, gestural acting of Talfryn Thomas in Survivors proved just as acceptable to viewers in 1975 as that of Van Boolen two decades earlier. However, the uniform scaling down among actors working on the programme makes it clear that studio realism was now arguably at its zenith. If the majority of television actors understood the ‘grammar’ of small screen performance, the foundations for a

in The changing spaces of television acting
Abstract only
Richard Hewett

Acting aims to address that lack, utilising a selection of science fiction case studies from the world of BBC television drama to investigate how small screen performance and its various determinants have altered since the days of live production. Television science fiction provides a particularly useful starting point, this being a genre that is almost as old as the medium itself, and –​ as will be demonstrated –​one that is arguably less inflected by genre-​specific performance tropes than other styles such as crime drama or period adaptation. While a multi

in The changing spaces of television acting
Richard Hewett

of director Ken Loach and Tony Garnett for The Wednesday Play (BBC, 1964–​70) and later Play for Today (BBC, 1970–​84), social realism in fact had far wider implications in terms of small screen performance, its influence extending by osmosis into all areas of television drama. Pre-​ recorded ‘as live’, Doctor Who’s opening episode ‘An Unearthly Child’ can be taken as representative of the latest production process. However, as will be seen, this differed remarkably little from the live era in terms of performance pressures. What is notable, however, is the extent

in The changing spaces of television acting