Dr Helen Piper

B.A.(Lond.), M.A.(N.S.W.), Ph.D.(Bristol)

  • BS8 1LN

Personal profile

Research interests

  • television drama
  • television quality and aesthetics
  • collective viewing and cultural memory
  • reality television
  • entertainment theory
  • British light entertainment television
  • public service broadcasting

I have particular expertise in how television engages, moves and makes meaning in key programme genres: notably crime drama, social realism, light entertainment and reality TV.  Typically, my writing takes the form of contextualised aesthetic criticism of key forms of television programming,  and reflections on the implications of the radical changes that grip the television industry.   An early intervention in scholarly debates about reality television (2004) received the annual Screen award for excellence in Screen Studies.  More recently, my monograph on The TV Detective: Voices of Dissent in Contemporary Television was given the Best Book 2016 award from the British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies.  Other recent publications have engaged with questions of aesthetic value, class identification and the cultural resonance of representations of crime, particularly murder.

Aside from criticism I am also interested in the cultural and emotional significance of television and in the nostalgic affection that often surrounds it.  In 2014 I developed a creative approach to audience research for my ‘Remembering Television’ project, which was awarded British Academy funding, and resulted in a journal article, a short film, a public exhibition, and a subsequent invitation to exhibit at a British Academy Soirée.  The project explored questions around affect, collective memory and materiality in relation to the ways in which viewers remembered watching British television light entertainment during the 1950s, '60s, and '70s.

Currently I am writing another monograph which explores the connections between hope, aspiration, care and entertainment of all forms on the small screen.  I am interested in the under-exploited possibilities of entertainment as a critical lens (one largely obviated during the formation of key academic disciplines such as Drama, Film and Television Studies), not least as a way to renegotiate the often vexed questions of value which attend popular culture.




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