Broadcast drama and the problem of television aesthetics: home, nation, universe

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This essay is intended as a response to those who would separate judgement of what is good in television from an understanding of the medium’s general social, cultural, affective and cognitive possibilities, and those who would detach drama from the daily flow of ideas, meanings, images and discourse that are esteemed (or derided) in national broadcasting services. It contrasts the conveniently globalizing abstraction of ‘the aesthetic’ with the situated expectations of popular culture that is of, and about, ‘home’. In the first part, the concept of the aesthetic and its ramifications for indigenous European television drama are unravelled, with particular reference to the three broad possibilities for a project of television aesthetics as invoked by recent contributions to the topic. The second part addresses the continued prominence and continuities of national and public service broadcasting in Britain, with particular reference to visual strategies of space and place in generic drama. It concludes with recommendations for a more catholic sense of value than currently inferred by aesthetic discourse, and for the rigorous and open ethical debate of underlying criteria, in the form of a defence of ‘principled positions’.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberhjw021
Pages (from-to)163-183
Number of pages20
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2016


  • broadcasting, television, drama, series, aesthetics, national, ethics, cultural value, Happy Valley,

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