Experimental British television

Author: Jamie Sexton
Editor: Laura Mulvey

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.

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