Art, Architecture and Visual Culture
The book concludes with an assessment of the different approaches taken to the production of regional television drama by Granada and BBC English Regions Drama in the period under consideration. It is argued that while the representation of regional culture and identity was an important part of Granada’s television production from 1956-82, providing representations of the region for both local and national audiences, this was only one part of the company’s remit within a federal, commercial broadcasting network. BBC English Regions Drama, on the other hand, was established in the 1970s specifically to produce ‘regional’ television drama for the BBC network, although the conceptualisation and realisation of ‘regional’ drama in the department’s work varied considerably within this remit. The second half of the conclusion considers the decline of regional broadcasting since the early 1980s, assessing the impact of the 1990 Broadcasting Act, the consolidation of the ITV network, the emergence of independent production companies which have, to some extent, revitalised regional drama, the preference among regional audiences for local representations, the BBC’s outsourcing of its drama production to regional production centres in Cardiff and Salford, and the new possibilities for regional drama afforded by digital television and the internet.
Chapter 3 provides an extensive case study of Granada Television, considering the major contribution made by Granada, one of the original Big Four ITV companies, to television drama in general, and regional television drama in particular, from 1956-82. The chapter discusses in detail the vast output of this important and influential regional ITV company during its first 25 years, before changes in the broadcasting culture gradually eroded its regional identity. Included among the many dramas discussed in this chapter are single plays, including adaptations of the Manchester Plays, anthology series such as The Younger Generation, The Villains and City 68, plays and series by Northern writers such as John Finch and Jack Rosenthal, and popular series such as Coronation Street and A Family at War.
The introduction sets out the case for a study of regional television drama, at a time of significant change in the ecology of British broadcasting, and considers perspectives on regional broadcasting, in the light of the impact of global media culture on regional and local broadcasting. It defines regional TV drama, making a distinction between dramas set in the regions (but produced in London) and dramas produced in the regions. It outlines the aims of the thesis: to examine the representation of regional culture and regional identity, to examine the policies of regional broadcasters, to analyse the aesthetic strategies adopted by the makers of regional drama, to explore the relationship between regional theatre and regional TV drama, and to consider the current situation and future possibilities for regional TV drama.
Chapter 2 examines the history and development of regional broadcasting in the United Kingdom, from the beginnings of the BBC in the 1920s to the arrival of Channel Four in 1982, paying particular attention to the regional organisation of the ITV network and the development of regional broadcasting at the BBC. This chapter concludes with a case study of one aspect of regional broadcasting in the 1960s-70s: the structure and organisation of regional television in the Midlands, explored through the example of the Victoria Theatre Company in Stoke-on-Trent which produced TV dramas for four different Midlands TV companies from 1965-74.
Chapter 1 explores the ways in which regionalism, regional culture and regional identity have been defined and discussed by historians, geographers, economists, sociologists and cultural historians, from the Middle Ages to the present day. The aim of the chapter is to provide an overview of these concepts and a theoretical and historical foundation for the discussion of regional broadcasting and regional television drama in subsequent chapters.
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.
This chapter is concerned with understanding the contribution that animation has made to comedy in film and television since the early twentieth century through an examination of specific cartoons and focuses on American animated comedy. Animated comedy is often targeted at a family audience. This trend has become very evident in contemporary comedy both on television, with series such as The Simpsons, and at the cinema with Toy Story, Shrek and a host of other computer-generated (CGI) films. Toy Story was the culmination of a series of increasingly sophisticated computer-animated shorts produced by Pixar Animation Studios from 1984 onwards, and marked a landmark in the development of animated comedy. The dominance within the American cartoon tradition of Walt Disney and other American studios including Warner Bros and MGM has influenced the aesthetics, technology and commercial production of animation, and the ways in which animation is perceived and viewed.
This chapter examines some films and programmes which raise questions about taste and about cultural values. It looks at some detailed examples of comedy in radio, film and television that raises issues of taste. The chapter begins by looking at the Carry On films and the work of Benny Hill, examples primarily located in the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s. It then moves on to trace the origins and development of the gross-out movie from the abandonment of the Production Code in 1966 to the present. The chapter considers Borat, a film that pushes at boundaries of 'good taste' and 'political correctness' but which has enjoyed considerable critical and commercial success, and the controversial Four Lions. In addition to national and even regional determinants, it seems clear that class and gender are important factors influencing attitudes towards comedic taste.
This chapter attempts to examine how genre and generic hybrids have been mobilised and appropriated for comic effect across the decades in radio, film and television. It examines some examples including comedy westerns, the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby Road series. The chapter also examines the more recent tendency, both in film and on television, to engage with genres associated with 'realism' such as news, current affairs and documentary in order to produce comedy. Comedic parodies of the documentary genre, often called 'mockumentaries', are now an established format in film and television comedy in which documentary techniques are imitated for comic effect. One of the most popular and successful mock-rockumentaries has been This Is Spinal Tap. It was Rob Reiner's spoof which purported to chart the comeback of 'England's loudest heavy metal rock group' Spinal Tap as they tour America to promote their album Smell the Glove.
This chapter focuses on the ways that film and television comedy have presented gender and sexuality. To examine what comedy tells about Anglo-American attitudes to gender and sexuality, it also focuses initially on the representation of femininity in film romantic comedy, picking up on the genre after the Second World War. The chapter discusses masculinity and representations of sexuality in film and television comedy. Having decided that homosexuality is a defective version of masculinity, homophobic culture prescribes against it by representing it as effeminate. Mainstream Hollywood's ongoing ambivalence towards male homosexuality can also be seen in American Pie 2. Like male homosexuality, lesbianism should not be reduced to a single approved version but understood as 'a space of overlapping, contradictory, and conflictual definitional forces'. Rather than adding entertainingly positive depictions of homosexuality to their attractions, mainstream comedy films have remained largely ambivalent about gay characters.