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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.

Lez Cooke

which can re-create the direction, the fire, and the ideas which TV used to have. Something which can provide, for the first time, an area of theory, experiment and development which TV drama has never had and which it needs so badly. (Kennedy Martin, 1964: 21) Troy Kennedy Martin’s famous polemic, ‘Nats Go Home’, subtitled ‘First Statement of a New Drama for Television’, was published in the theatre magazine Encore in March 1964. Its opening paragraph set the tone for an article which was to stir up a hornet’s nest in television drama circles at the time and which has

in Troy Kennedy Martin
John McGrath’s The Adventures of Frank
Lez Cooke

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 drama

in Experimental British television
Sylvie Magerstädt

The ancient world as serial television drama Part I When Samsung introduced its new curved television screen in 2014, I was struck not by the technology but by its official television advert. Rather than using science fiction or another ultra-modern environment to showcase this innovative new gadget, the advertisement featured a father and son in their pyjamas in the middle of a gladiatorial arena. All the tropes of screen antiquity were represented in the 30-second clip: the crowds, the arena, the evil emperor and of course the gladiators with their swords and

in TV antiquity
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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.

Television drama and the politics and aesthetics of identity

This book poses the question as to whether, over the last thirty years, there have been signs of ‘progress’ or ‘progressiveness’ in the representation of ‘marginalised’ or subaltern identity categories within television drama in Britain and the US. In doing so, it interrogates some of the key assumptions concerning the relationship between aesthetics and the politics of identity that have influenced and informed television drama criticism during this period. The book functions as a textbook because it provides students with a pathway through complex, wide-reaching and highly influential interdisciplinary terrain. Yet its re-evaluation of some of the key concepts that dominated academic thought in the twentieth century also make it of interest to scholars and specialists. Chapters examine ideas around politics and aesthetics emerging from Marxist-socialism and postmodernism, feminism and postmodern feminism, anti-racism and postcolonialism, queer theory and theories of globalisation, so as to evaluate their impact on television criticism and on television as an institution. These discussions are consolidated through case studies that offer analyses of a range of television drama texts including Big Women, Ally McBeal, Supply and Demand, The Bill, Second Generation, Star Trek (Enterprise), Queer as Folk, Metrosexuality and The Murder of Stephen Lawrence.

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Contemporary “high-end” TV drama
Author: Robin Nelson

This book updates and develops the arguments of TV drama in transition (1997). It sets its analysis of the aesthetics and compositional principles of texts within a broad conceptual framework (technologies, institutions, economics, cultural trends). Tracing ‘the great value shift from conduit to content’ (Todreas, 1999), the book's view is relatively optimistic about the future quality of TV drama in a global market-place. But, characteristically taking up questions of worth where others have avoided them, it recognises that certain types of ‘quality’ are privileged for viewers able to pay, possibly at the expense of viewer preference worldwide for ‘local’ resonances in television. The mix of arts and cultural studies methodologies makes for an unusual approach.

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Author: Steve Blandford

This is the first book-length study of one of the most significant of all British television writers, Jimmy McGovern. The book provides comprehensive coverage of all his work for television including early writing on Brookside, major documentary dramas such as Hillsborough and Sunday and more recent series such as The Street and Accused.

Whilst the book is firmly focused on McGovern’s own work, the range of his output over the period in which he has been working also provides something of an overview of the radical changes in television drama commissioning that have taken place during this time. Without compromising his deeply-held convictions McGovern has managed to adapt to an ever changing environment, often using his position as a sought-after writer to defy industry trends.

The book also challenges the notion of McGovern as an uncomplicated social realist in stylistic terms. Looking particularly at his later work, a case is made for McGovern employing a greater range of narrative approaches, albeit subtly and within boundaries that allow him to continue to write for large popular audiences.

Finally it is worth pointing to the book’s examination of McGovern’s role in recent years as a mentor to new voices, frequently acting as a creative producer on series that he part-writes and part brings through different less-experienced names.

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Author: Jason Jacobs

This is the first full-length study of the career and achievements of David Milch, the US writer who created NYPD Blue, Deadwood and other ground-breaking television dramas. It locates Milch’s work in the traditions of American literature while tracking his career from academic research assistant to leading Hollywood screenwriter of his generation. It draws on behind-the-scenes material in order to evaluate the nature and significance of authorship, intention, collaboration and performance in his shows, and in doing so provides a major contribution to the study of television art.

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Theatre plays on British television
Editors: Amanda Wrigley and John Wyver

In this edited collection, scholars use a variety of methodologies to explore the history of stage plays produced for British television between 1936 and the present. The volume opens with a substantial historical outline of the how plays originally written for the theatre were presented by BBC Television and the ITV companies as well as by independent producers and cultural organisations. Subsequent chapters analyse television adaptations of existing stage productions, including a 1937 presentation of a J. B. Priestley play by producer Basil Dean; work by companies including the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stoke-on-Trent’s Victoria Theatre and the Radical Alliance of Poets and Players; the verbatim dramas from the Tricycle Theatre and National Theatre of Scotland; and Mike Leigh’s comedy Abigail’s Party, originally staged for Hampstead Theatre and translated to the Play for Today strand in 1977. Broadcast television’s original productions of classic and contemporary drama are also considered in depth, with studies of television productions of plays by Jacobean dramatists John Webster and Thomas Middleton, and by Henrik Ibsen and Samuel Beckett. In addition, the volume offers a consideration of the contribution to television drama of the influential producer Cedric Messina who, between 1967 and 1977, oversaw BBC Television’s Play of the Month strand before initiating The BBC Television Shakespeare (1978–85); the engagement with television adaptations by modern editors of Shakespeare’s plays; and Granada Television’s eccentric experiment in 1969–70 of running The Stables Theatre Company as a producer for both stage and screen. Collectively, these chapters open up new areas of research for all those engaged in theatre, media and adaptation studies.