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TV drama worksheets


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TV drama worksheets

  1. 1. SERIES TEACHING FILM AND MEDIA STUDIES Teaching TV Drama Jeremy PointsBritish Film Institute Series Editor: Vivienne Clark
  2. 2. worksheet 1 Thinking about genre Genre means a ‘kind’ or ‘type’ and is a way of categorising films and TV programmes. Before you start studying TV drama, a broad television genre, you need to think about the role genre plays in broadcasters’ and television producers’ thinking as well as in audiences’ viewing. This will help put into context your detailed work on the TV drama genre. Your television viewing G What are some of your favourite TV programmes? G Why do you like them? G Are you aware that you are looking at a programme in a particular genre? Look at extracts from at least three contrasting television genres. You might try watching one without sound and one with sound only. G Can you identify the genre you are watching/ listening to? G What features enable you to identify the genre? Look at examples of programmes and TV dramas which combine elements of different genres – called hybrids. Examples include Big Brother, The Sopranos, Extras, Doctor Who, Sea of Souls. G Which elements of different genres can you identify in each programme? G Why do you think programmes like these are produced? G How would you label programmes like these? G How do broadcasters label them?©British Film Institute 2007 What makes HBO’s The Sopranos a hybrid, and why?Page 1 of 2 TV Drama
  3. 3. worksheet 1 Thinking about genre G Do you think that broadcasters and producers consider the different programmes they produce in terms of genre? G How far are the generic features of a programme part of audiences’ viewing experience? In what ways? G In what ways do you think a programme’s genre affects the kind of programme which is produced? Audiences’ ability to recognise the genre of a programme almost instantly means that they have assimilated the ingredients (‘conventions’ – see Worksheet 2) of a genre without realising it. As you study TV drama, you should think about how far the genre affects the nature of the drama.©British Film Institute 2007Page 2 of 2 TV Drama
  4. 4. worksheet 2 What is TV drama? TV drama is a broad genre. At its simplest, it is fictionalised action in narrative form. It is important to gain some basic understanding of how and why TV drama splits into the different types broadcast today. G List as many examples of TV drama as you can. (Use a website, like the BBC’s, or a listings magazine to prompt you.) G Find examples of TV dramas which appear to be both a TV drama and something else, eg, a TV drama and a crime series like Prime Suspect. What is the reason for this kind of combination? G Name as many different kinds of TV drama as you can. What you have been doing is uncovering the various subgenres (genres within genres) of TV drama. G Genre means ‘kind’ or ‘type’. (Think of the way biologists refer to ‘genus’ to describe a type of plant or animal species.) G A television genre thus refers to programmes which can be categorised by the things they have in common – the conventions of a genre. G Many genres break down into subgenres. Crime drama is a TV drama which has become a genre in its own right. G TV drama has given rise to a number of subgenres. What started out as drama on television, single plays, quickly gave rise to different kinds of drama: costume dramas, children’s classic dramas, soap operas, crime dramas, hospital dramas, sci-fi dramas and historical adventures. This took place in the 1950s as the BBC was evolving and ITV first began broadcasting. Why do you think this happened? Why are there still so many different kinds of TV drama? (See the Is Prime Suspect a TV drama or a crime drama or both? What is the significance of these differnt ways of Timeline for further clues and examples©British Film Institute 2007 categorising TV drama? of the first ‘subgenres’.)Page 1 of 1 TV Drama
  5. 5. worksheet 3 TV drama conventions 1 The conventions of a genre are the ingredients which all examples of a genre share. They act a little like rules – not necessarily rigid rules but rules you need to follow in order to create something which audiences will recognise as part of a particular genre. Like other conventions – governing speech and behaviour, for example – audiences seem to assimilate the conventions of genres unconsciously. Establishing the conventions of TV drama Choose three or four contrasting TV dramas and look at short extracts from them. Here are some suggestions: a single drama like Yasmin, a crime or medical series like The Shield or Green Wing, a US drama series like 24 (2001), Lost or Desperate Housewives, a drama serial like the classic literary adaptation Bleak House (2005), a sensational drama like Footballers’ Wives or a teen drama like The OC.©British Film Institute 2007 What is different about the drama series 24? Did it establish a new trend?Page 1 of 2 TV Drama
  6. 6. worksheet 3 TV drama conventions 1 What do they have in common? You will find that TV dramas all have the following ingredients: G Characters – even particular kinds of characters: eg, at its most simple, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters. G Stories – they all tell stories, whether those stories involve adventure, crime or romance and they often, but not always, end happily. G The stories are told against familiar backdrops: – eg, homes, police stations and offices (for crime dramas), hospitals (for medical dramas) – most of which are created in studios. However, most dramas also use outside locations to create particular effects. G Camerawork – particular kinds of shots are used: eg, sequences involving establishing shots followed by mid-shots of characters, shot/reverse shots to show character interaction and, in particular, close-ups to show the characters’ emotions. G Stories use dialogue to tell the stories. Occasionally, monologues are built in (as voiceovers, a character telling a story). G Music is used to punctuate the action, create effects (suspense, tension) and underline emotional moments. G Particular subgenres tend to have items which make them immediately identifiable – police cars, blue lights, operating theatres and scalpels, triage/reception areas in hospitals. Icons of the genre, they symbolise the (sub)genre.©British Film Institute 2007Page 2 of 2 TV Drama
  7. 7. worksheet 4 TV drama conventions 2 The conventions of TV drama revolve around: G Characters. G Narrative – both its overall structure and how it is constructed. G Sets and settings – locations against which the story unfolds and which frequently take on a symbolic significance. G Camerawork – particular kinds of camerawork are often associated with particular subgenres. G Dialogue, sound and music – sound and music create effects and often underline emotional content. G Icons – these tend to be associated with particular subgenres. Watching extracts from a selection of TV dramas, fill in the attached table. The key issue to identify is how these basic conventions are used in Six Feet Under: Character – a key the TV dramas you are studying. In several extracts, institutional and concept of TV drama audience issues will be raised. Aim to note these as well.©British Film Institute 2007Page 1 of 2 TV Drama
  8. 8. worksheet 4 TV drama conventions 2 Name of drama Broadcaster/ scheduling details Writer/director/producer Conventions Characters Narrative Mise en scène (particularly locations, sets, lighting and costume) Sound: key dialogue, sound effects, music Icons Industry G Production, broadcast channel, scheduling, sponsorship, marketing and promotion, other available platforms etc. G Do you think any of the elements you have listed have shaped the drama? Audiences©British Film Institute 2007 G Main target audience, male/female, different ways different audiences might respond to the drama, encouraging fandom etc. G Do you think the drama will shape audiences’ points of view about people, issues or events?Page 2 of 2 TV Drama
  9. 9. worksheet 5 Working with characters Characters (and the narratives which flow from them) are at the centre of audiences’ enthusiasm for TV drama. They are also key to influencing audiences, how they think of people and groups of people, or particular issues. It is therefore important to ask how audiences relate to characters in a drama. Look at extracts from three or four contrasting dramas like Charmed, Pride and Prejudice, Footballers’ Wives or House. G What kinds of characters appear in the dramas? Are there similarities between characters in different dramas? G Do you respond emotionally to some characters? In what ways and why? G What do you understand by ‘identifying’ with a character? G Do you think all audiences respond in the same way to characters? G Are the producers, writers and/or directors of dramas trying to get you to respond in a particular way to characters? How? You have probably already realised that many TV drama narratives feature characters who are the opposite of one another, and that they are frequently set up in conflict. The most obvious conflict is between the good and bad characters. This simple idea appears to underlie many narratives and is generally described as ‘binary opposition’, after the French writer Claude Lévi-Strauss (who used it in his explorations of myths). Look at extracts from two or three dramas to explore how these character oppositions work. Again, choose contrasting dramas like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Desperate Housewives, Blackpool or Spooks. Identify the good and bad characters. G How do you know which is which? G Are we as audiences being encouraged to sympathise with the good characters and be antagonistic to the bad? G How is this process underlined by editing and camerawork, mise en scène (like locations, settings, lighting and costume)? G Do the good characters succeed and the bad fail? Why is this? What effect does this have on audiences?©British Film Institute 2007Page 1 of 1 TV Drama
  10. 10. worksheet 6 TV drama conventions 3 In order for television producers to keep audiences interested, they frequently make slight variations on the standard conventions of the genre. This is often noticeable in the way mise en scène, camerawork and sound/music is used. These elements are also used to underline issues raised by the drama. Mise en scène Choose extracts from three contrasting dramas such as Lost, Doctor Who, Funland, Rebus and Tipping the Velvet. The opening of an episode is frequently revealing. G What are the connotations of the mise en scène? G Does the mise en scène underline any particular issues which the drama might be raising? Choose dramas which you consider are slightly unconventional examples of a particular TV drama subgenre (like medical dramas). In what ways is the mise en scène different from the conventional kind of mise en scène used in that subgenre. Here is an example based on medical dramas. Conventional mise en scène? Casualty, Holby City and ER G Do you think these dramas have a conventional mise en scène? What makes it conventional? Unconventional mise en scène? Bodies and House G How far is the mise en scène in Bodies and House unconventional? Give reasons for any variations on the conventional. Camerawork Explore the way camerawork is used in three contrasting dramas. Some innovative examples from the 1990s are: NYPD Blue, This Life and Cops. Interesting contemporary examples include: Messiah 4, Ghost Squad, Bleak House and 24. G What kinds of camerawork are used and why? Sound and music Sound and music have taken an increasingly prominent role in TV©British Film Institute 2007 drama, although they have always been significant. The most obvious role sound plays – in particular, but not exclusively, music – is in underlining emotional response and thus positioning audiences. In exploring this, play scenes without sound to highlight what you think sound will contribute and play sound without vision to explore what the sound suggests.Page 1 of 2 TV Drama
  11. 11. worksheet 6 TV drama conventions 3 For example (in key dramas from the past): G What role does the non-diegetic sound play at the end of a typical ER episode? G What role does the title music play inthe 2005 US drama Rome? G What kind of soundtrack is used in the different CSI series? Take one example and explore how and why it is used. G At the moment when Darcy and Elizabeth first exchange glances of love in Episode 5 of Andrew Davies’s Pride and Prejudice, the volume of the non-diegetic music increases. This is a common technique to position audiences and is frequently used in romantic dramas. Look for your own examples. G In a classic drama from 1982, ‘Yosser’s Story’ from Alan Bleasdale’s Boys from the Blackstuff, a repeated harpsichord phrase is used throughout the drama to underline Yosser’s psychological isolation and imbalance. Look for another example of where music underlines a psychological effect. Music is sometimes used in an ironic way to counterpoint the action. Martin Scorsese exploits music ironically in many of his films. In Six Feet Under, Series 1/Episode 2, a character dies following a diving accident in his own swimming pool (accompanied by Dean Martin’s ‘Ain’t That a Kick in the Head’.) G Explore how sound and/or music is used ironically in drama. Good examples can be found in the opening of the recent adaptation of Much Ado about Nothing, Blackpool, Doctor Who or (from the past) Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.©British Film Institute 2007Page 2 of 2 TV Drama
  12. 12. worksheet 7 Genre – Open to change Genre variations Genres are always open to change. G Producers aim to vary the standard conventions to maintain audience interest without departing from them so much that they alienate audiences. G Audiences do not want slavish imitations but subtle variations on the expected. They are attracted to the slight variation but gain pleasure from the genre’s expectations being fulfilled. Explore variations in the crime genre. Look, for example, at the different kinds of investigators in crime dramas. Find out about the ones you are unfamiliar with. Extracts from several are available on For example: Dixon of Dock Green, Z Cars, The Sweeney, Cagney and Lacey, Starsky and Hutch, Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, Homicide, Cracker, Prime Suspect, Linda Lee, Murder in Suburbia, CSI, Silent Witness, Waking the Dead, New Tricks, Ghost Squad, Murphy’s Law. G Name other variations used in crime drama. Consider, for example, narrative and mise en scène. Hybrids Another way of varying and extending a genre is by creating hybrids. It may be that hybrids are not a new phenomenon, as is sometimes claimed, but something broadcasters and film producers have always employed. G In what ways do you think the following dramas are hybrids? List the genres which are blended to create the hybrid. The Singing Detective Blackpool Sea of Souls Murder Prevention Buffy the Vampire Slayer Charmed Doctor Who Footballers’ Wives©British Film Institute 2007 Mayo G Why do you think broadcasting organisations commission and produce hybrid dramas? G Do audiences see these dramas as hybrids? Do you think audiences gain more pleasure from viewing hybrid genres?Page 1 of 1 TV Drama
  13. 13. worksheet 8 Challenging dramas At its simplest, an ideology is the way people think and feel – the views and attitudes people hold which influence the way they see the world. Questioning the way the majority of people think at any one time is therefore challenging a dominant ideology. Most TV dramas either reinforce dominant ideologies (encouraging people to think like the majority) or challenge them. G Do you think it is important for TV dramas to make people think about contemporary social and cultural issues like gender, ethnic differences, sex trafficking, unemployment or social class? G How do TV dramas raise these issues? G What do you understand by ‘challenging the dominant ideology’? G In what ways, if at all, do you think any three of the following challenge dominant ideologies? Queer as Folk and Six Feet Under (sexual orientation) Footballers’ Wives (gender, sexual orientation, ethnic difference) Yasmin (ethnic difference) Sex Traffic (prostitution and sex trafficking) Boys from the Blackstuff (unemployment) The Sopranos (gender and masculinity in particular) Shameless (social class, gender, sexual orientation, families and communities)©British Film Institute 2007 Yasmin: a challenging drama raising important issues about muslim people in Britian today, or just white-oriented stereotyping?Page 1 of 1 TV Drama
  14. 14. worksheet 9 Narrative construction Television narratives are created by placing images next to one another. The nature of the narrative – what it suggests to audiences – is affected by editing, camerawork and mise en scène. Select any short sequence from a TV drama to explore this. Here is an example from Lost, Series 1/Episode 4: Constructing a narrative shot by shot: Lost, Series 1/Episode 4 10:33–11:36 Denotation: What is the story (in one sentence)? Connotation: What does the story suggest? What is suggested by: Camerawork Mise en scène (setting/location, lighting and costume) Editing?©British Film Institute 2007 Lost: Series 1, Episode 4: 10.33–11.36: a story of two cultures ...Page 1 of 2 TV Drama
  15. 15. worksheet 9 Narrative construction Conventions of a complete narrative Here is the start of a simple narrative: a couple wake up and go downstairs to breakfast. They do not realise that they are being watched by terrorists. G What happens next? Create a narrative in no more than five sentences. G Which standard narrative conventions have you used? You might have come up with the following narrative conventions: G Beginning, middle and ending; G Characters – some good, some bad; G Probably a happy ending. Why do most stories end happily? Look at approximately the first five minutes of Series 3/Episode 10 of Spooks (which starts as outlined above). Which conventions are used? Prompts G This feels like the beginning of a narrative. Why? G What starts as an ordinary, everyday morning, is suddenly threatened – a standard way of beginning a narrative. Why? G Audience involvement through the danger that is set up. We are automatically being encouraged to take sides. Binary opposition? G Are any other binary oppositions established? Exploring narrative structures What are the different narrative structures associated with the following TV drama forms? Do they conform to Todorov’s and Lévi- Strauss’s outlines of narrative structures, which both have a fundamentally ideological significance? G Single drama/film: Yasmin; G Two-nighter: Sex Traffic; G Soap (continuing drama): EastEnders; G Serial: Bleak House; G Anthology series (self-contained episodes, each based on different characters): The Street; G Long-form series drama: Lost; G Long-form series drama with some narrative experimentation: 24.©British Film Institute 2007 Explore the beginnings and the conclusions of episodes from these dramas. What can you say about their narrative structure? G ER G West Wing G Clocking Off G State of PlayPage 2 of 2 TV Drama
  16. 16. worksheet 10 The conventions of realism Dramas do not provide windows on reality, but offer audiences versions of reality using codes and conventions designed to convince them of this. Realism is constructed and is essentially an effect. To explore this, choose two contrasting hospital-based medical dramas (like ER, House and Bodies). How do they convey the sense of the reality of a hospital? Think about the following: G What kinds of characters appear and what are they wearing? G What is the narrative about? How is it constructed? G What are the most significant features of the mise en scène? G What kind of camerawork is used? G Do you notice anything particular about the editing? G What sort of dialogue is used (any dialogue that you particularly associate with hospitals)? G What other sound is used? Ambient (natural)©British Film Institute 2007 sound? Music? Effects of any kind? House: A stage managed, promotional pose. How far are all dramas constructed?Page 1 of 2 TV Drama
  17. 17. worksheet 10 The conventions of realism ER: Creating the effect of reality? For what reasons? ER’s hard-wall, closed-ceiling emergency room sets [as opposed to traditional open-ceiling and three-wall stage sets to allow for cameras and lighting] … add another intrinsic element to the show’s realism … It is much harder to move around on these stages because of the ceilings that don’t move but that’s what makes you feel like you are really in the ER. The sets provide more interesting possibilities for us to choreograph scenes the way we do. We can shoot low and aim the camera up and see the great ceilings and architecture or wind around the multilayered hallways. You feel a sense of reality and immediacy ... I think it’s a very subconscious thing, but I think it’s one of the keys to the show. Director, Mimi Leder, quoted in Pourroy, 1996, pp 33–4©British Film Institute 2007 What does this extract tell you about the role of mise en scène and camerawork in creating the effect of the real?Page 2 of 2 TV Drama
  18. 18. worksheet 11 Different kinds of realism There are different ways to create a sense of reality. The codes of realism vary in different kinds of drama. Perhaps we should talk of ‘realisms’ rather than realism. Realism perhaps reflects points of view about ‘reality’ – sometimes the producers’ and sometimes audiences’. Choose three contrasting dramas which use different kinds of camerawork and editing to attract different audiences, such as Grey’s Anatomy (2005), Bodies (2003–6) and Casualty. Each conveys a sense of reality but in a different way. G Which different codes of realism are used in each drama? G Do you think that Grey’s Anatomy shows hospitals from a younger person’s point of view, while Casualty adopts a slightly more mature perspective? Why is that? G Do you think that Bodies shows a particular point of view about the ‘reality’ of hospitals in Britain today? Whose point of view is that? … The edge of television realism Research several classic, and to some extent, experimental TV dramas from the past like Alan Clarke’s Carousel, Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective or David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. G How far and in what way do you think each of these dramas uses the codes and conventions of realism? Do they convey a ‘sense of the real’? G In what ways do they ‘stretch’ the conventions of realism? And why? … Exploring with your own experimental narratives Take a scene from any drama you know.©British Film Institute 2007 G What have the director, director of photography and writer done in order to create a sense of the real? G Storyboard the scene as an alternative drama that stretches the conventions of realism. G Why do you think realism dominates An iconic image from David Lynch’s surreal Twin Peaks. television today?Page 1 of 1 TV Drama
  19. 19. worksheet 12 Contemporary representations of gender It is often claimed that women are represented as ‘sexual subjects’ rather than ‘sexual objects’ and that men are no longer represented in terms of power and force. The way gender is represented in the media seems to affect all audiences – it shapes people’s sense of themselves. Choose contrasting TV dramas and explore how women and men are represented. How are women and men represented in the following: Desperate Housewives or Footballers’ Wives Wire in the Blood or Ultimate Force Green Wing or Extras Doctor Who The OC or Totally Frank Desperate Housewives: Sexual subjects or G Do you think all audiences will respond in the same way to the sexual objects? representations? G What role does camerawork, lighting, editing and costume in particular play in underlining these representations? G How typical do you think that these representations are of (a) TV drama in general and (b) other forms of media you experience? Take one female and one male character from a TV drama who is represented in what, for you, are typical ways. Play the following roles: G As broadcaster: Justify why these characters should be in your TV drama and why this particular sequence/storyline should be included? If you had to change it, how would you do that? G As writer: Take a female character represented mainly in terms of sexuality and a male character represented as insensitive, self-oriented and potentially violent. Create an alternative character for your drama and the storyline she/he will be involved in. How do©British Film Institute 2007 they challenge dominant representations? Why challenge dominant representations of gender?Page 1 of 1 TV Drama
  20. 20. worksheet 13 Positioning audiences Dramas tend to encourage the majority of their viewers to take up a particular point of view to the characters and issues. This process is called ‘positioning’. Storyboard an alternative opening sequence to Spooks which just focuses on Fiona and Adam. In ten shots, try to encourage the Characters and binary audience to do one of the following: oppositions: How are audiences positioned to G Like both Fiona and Adam identify with Fiona and G Like Fiona and not Adam Adam and be G Like Adam and not Fiona antagonistic to Ahmed? G Dislike both Fiona and Adam Concentrate on how you will achieve this in visual terms, using minimal dialogue. G What kind of setting/location will you use? G What do the characters wear? G What lighting is used? G Will you use any particular camerawork? G What will be the key features of the editing? In what order do the shots come? What length of shot will you use? This exercise demonstrates how mise en scène, camerawork and editing, and their role in narrative construction, can position audiences. Looking back on your own sequence, explain what would be an ‘oppositional’ and ‘negotiated’ interpretation of it. Give reasons for those interpretations. Reading/reasons why audiences might interpret the sequences in this way Oppositional Negotiated©British Film Institute 2007Page 1 of 1 TV Drama
  21. 21. worksheet 14 TV drama – Its role for broadcasters It is important to ask what role TV drama plays for broadcasters. Is it still a flagship genre? Does it still anchor terrestrial schedules? With more and more platforms for viewing TV drama becoming available, are we moving from ‘broadcasting’ to ‘narrowcasting’? What role is TV drama playing in that possible shift? Do all these industry issues affect the nature and kinds of TV drama audiences see? What do the following reveal about the importance of TV drama for terrestrial broadcasters in Britain? G BBC trailers like ‘The One for Drama’ (now ‘The One to Watch’) G Promotion of autumn schedules G Radio Times marketing G Sponsorship on ITV – Sainsbury’s and Leerdammer Look at the websites for each of the major terrestrial broadcasters. G How do the different broadcasters use their websites to market TV drama? G What differences are there between the major terrestrial broadcasters? G What does each website reveal about the significance of TV drama for terrestrial broadcasters? Choose three contrasting channels. G How far does TV drama contribute to the identity and brand image of each of the major broadcasters and their channels? Read the following extracts from an Observer article, 25 November 2005: G On the BBC and TV drama ‘… the sparkling array of new work on BBC1 coincides with the corporation’s charter renewal. Having Poliakoff alongside Shakespeare Retold and Bleak House on your flagship channel ticks that ‘public service’ box rather better than Groundforce.’ G On family drama: the Doctor Who effect ‘[Doctor Who showed that] drama can trump both light entertainment and reality pap in the ratings …’©British Film Institute 2007 ITV are going to compete with Doctor Who. They have commissioned a sci-fi drama Primaeval. Dan Chambers: ‘Reality TV probably peaked last year and what will fill the gap is drama.’ G What do these comments suggest about the significance of TV drama to broadcasters?Page 1 of 2 TV Drama
  22. 22. worksheet 14 TV drama – Its role for broadcasters Websites Explore the homepages from the BBC’s websites for Spooks and Doctor Who. What do you think they are aiming to achieve? Consider, for example: G The design of the homepage (image and typography) and its connotations; G BBC logos; G The links (including to other programmes); G The language used; G The purposes of ‘Your reviews’ and the ‘Messageboard’; G Other ways, such as games and screensavers, in which audiences are encouraged to get involved, interactively or otherwise. The homepage puts across three basic points: G It is likely to appeal to a younger, internet-oriented audience; G It is encouraging audiences – particularly younger audiences - to become more actively involved and develop into (loyal) fans; G It is therefore promoting the BBC, hoping to provide a more dynamic image, which would appeal to younger audiences, who might be tempted to feel that they are part of it (and prepared, therefore, to pay a licence fee).©British Film Institute 2007 Broadcasters’ websites involving audiences or indirect promotion?Page 2 of 2 TV Drama
  23. 23. worksheet 15 Programme supply and digital rights Downloading, on-demand viewing and podcasting Read the following extracts from Emily Bell’s article for the Media Guardian, 9 January 2006. It deals with just one aspect of the way television viewing is changing. What are some of the other ways in which viewers will be able to watch TV drama in future? … Microsoft and Sky [have] agree[d] last week This is a model which has emerged after major to a historic union which will allow viewers to interventions in the programme supply market download Sky programmes on to their PCs. to correct the power of broadcasters over The scary union of Bill Gates and Rupert teeny independents. Now these independents Murdoch … is just the latest reflection of how have made millions out of stock market floats broadcasters are increasingly making their and broadcasters are wondering where their programmes available over platforms other next centime is coming from, the picture looks than television. Whilst in many parts of the slightly different. Indeed, the fight between country many still struggle to get a clear signal broadcasters and independents over what for Five, the industry is charging ahead with a happens to rights is not a dead issue but the future which involves receiving your audio- most pressing concern in the industry today. visual entertainment through a number of Lucky Ofcom, the regulator, is producing its household devices. The strong rumours are own thoughts on the issue of programme that Steve Jobs, head of Apple, is about to supply and digital rights tomorrow. announce a hang-it-on-your-wall high On the one hand you have Gates and Murdoch definition television with a computer built into and the BBC, claiming that it is uneconomic to it – a kind of giant iPod Nano dangling above commission programmes unless this includes the fireplace – which will accelerate the the opportunity for the exploitation of process of watching what were once TV electronic rights, and on the other hand you programmes as computer downloads. have the independent producers worried that But behind the scenes this amazing vision of a having finally garnered some power they are new world is a knotty problem for the potentially about to lose it to muscular mega regulators … at the moment you are allowed to corporations. Then you have Channel 4, which sell programmes but retain the ‘other’ rights owns no original production facilities, because [which include making money from other forms that is how it is configured, and which faces a of distribution, including electronic]. If you sell fairly miserable future without some retention to the BBC, which has a website it is proud of, of residual and electronic rights. it has the electronic rights for seven days but Who owns a programme and for how long is then they revert to you. the pressing question to be answered. G What are the main sources of income for (a) the BBC (b) ITV and©British Film Institute 2007 (c) independent producers of TV drama? G Set out the main ways in which downloading will affect (a) broadcasters like the BBC and ITV and (b) independent producers of TV drama like Kudos. G Why do you think downloading TV drama might pose more of a threat than recording TV drama off-air? G What are the main commercial ways in which broadcasters are hoping to benefit from downloading and podcasting? G Who owns a programme and for how long?Page 1 of 1 TV Drama
  24. 24. worksheet 16 TV crime drama: Broadcasters’ approach to genre The popularity of crime drama on TV Crime drama is probably the most popular drama subgenre on television outside soap opera. The following should give you a rapid overview its popularity. Look at a listings magazine and count roughly how many TV dramas are shown in one week, and how many of these are crime dramas. Exclude soaps and sitcoms. G During the week of 20–8 October 2005, 15 out of 27 TV dramas, excluding soaps, were crime dramas – around 55%. If one includes the five soaps, the percentage is just below 50%. Look at the table of a September week’s Top 10 drama, based on BARB (Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board) figures and reprinted in Broadcast’s weekly look at ratings (Week ending: 25 September 2005, Broadcast, 14 October 2005). Top 10 Drama Title Day Start Viewers Channel Last (millions) week 1 A Touch of Frost Sun 20.25 10.28 ITV1 – 2 The Bill Thu 20.00 8.19 ITV1 8 3 Casualty Sat 20.20 7.57 BBC1 2 4 Waking the Dead Mon 21.00 7.56 BBC1 – Scruffy police detective 5 The Bill Wed 20.00 7.50 ITV1 6 Jack Frost in A Touch of Frost. 6 Holby City Tue 20.00 6.93 BBC1 3 7 Spooks Thu 21.00 6.50 BBC1 4 8 Taggart Fri 21.00 6.35 ITV1 10 9 Afterlife Sat 21.10 6.00 ITV1 – 10 Waking the Dead Sun 21.00 5.96 BBC1 1©British Film Institute 2007 G What does this table tell you about the popularity of crime drama on television? G Are there any similarities in the scheduling of these crime dramas? What role does scheduling play in the popularity of a TV crime drama?Page 1 of 3 TV Drama
  25. 25. worksheet 16 TV crime drama: Broadcasters’ approach to genre The industry’s approach to genre Below is a selection of crime dramas commissioned in Britain within the last few years. Each newly commissioned drama or drama series seems to display slight variations on the standard conventions of crime drama. In the right column of the table, identify the key features of each drama. Drama Broadcaster details Key features Marple ITV Murder in Suburbia ITV Donovan ITV New Tricks BBC1 Waking the Dead BBC1 The Long Firm BBC2 55 Degrees North BBC1 Ghost Squad Channel 4 Life on Mars BBC1©British Film Institute 2007 Conviction BBC3 and then BBC2 Murder Prevention Five Blackpool BBC1Page 2 of 3 TV Drama
  26. 26. worksheet 16 TV crime drama: Broadcasters’ approach to genre G What is the ‘unique twist’ (Tom Toumazis) for these dramas, or the ‘unique selling point’ for audiences? G Why do producers want this ‘unique twist’? G Why do audiences want some, but not too much, variation on the familiar? G Only a relatively small proportion of US crime drama reaches British television audiences. Why do you think the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 acquired the following? – BBC1: The Medium – BBC2: 24 – Channel 4: The Closer, The Sopranos – Five: CSI (in its various forms), Columbo (series from the 1970s now shown during the daytime), The Shield©British Film Institute 2007 Why do you think Channel 5 acquired the US crime drama The Shield?Page 3 of 3 TV Drama
  27. 27. worksheet 17 Representation of the police Endings and police procedures The endings of crime dramas are very revealing. They generally provide audiences with a satisfying conclusion where criminals are captured and crimes are solved. G Do you know, for example, what percentage of crimes, including murders, are solved in Britain today? G What view of the police and the legal system do most crime dramas provide? Look at the conclusions of three crime dramas you are familiar with. Test out what you know about Todorov and Lévi-Strauss. G Do you see a restoration of equilibrium (Todorov) and a resolution of conflict between good and bad (Lévi-Strauss)? G What does this suggest about the ideologies being conveyed to the audience. Do they conform to dominant ideologies about the police and criminality or challenge them?©British Film Institute 2007 Quentin Tarantino’s grave ending: Is the audiences’ confidence in forensic science – and law and order – being maintained?Page 1 of 1 TV Drama
  28. 28. worksheet 18 Literary adaptations: Reaching new audiences Labelling the ‘classic literary adaptation’ The way the ‘classic literary adaptation’ has been described by broadcasters has changed considerably. Currently, several terms are used and most of them are employed interchangeably by reviewers, commentators and academic writers. G What are the connotations of the following labels used by broadcasters for the ‘classic literary adaptation’? G What do they suggest about the way broadcasters are trying to appeal to audiences? The classic serial (used particularly in the 1950s, 60s and early 70s) – the BBC used a curtain-raising ident with classical music (a Schumann symphony) for this in 1970s Historical drama – used in 1980s Costume drama – used in 1990s Period drama – used more recently Literary adaptation – used mainly by academic writers. Treatments, stars and audience identification Bleak House was notable for the way it used popular television actors not usually associated with classic drama. Think, for example, about: Johnny Vegas (Krook) the comedian, Gillian Anderson (Lady Dedlock) from The X-Files, Liza Tarbuck (Mrs Jellaby) from Linda Green, Warren Clarke (Boythorn) from Dalziel and Pascoe … G What do these actors bring to the roles? G Do you think they bring new audiences? Compare Bleak House with the more conventionally filmed TV series Pride and Prejudice. Start with the openings of each drama, where the major characters are introduced. G List the features of Pride and Prejudice which you think make it conventional, and would appeal to the ‘traditional’, classic drama audience. G List the ways in which Bleak House attempts to reach new audiences.©British Film Institute 2007Page 1 of 2 TV Drama
  29. 29. worksheet 18 Literary adaptations: Reaching new audiences Preparing a treatment Choose a synopsis from a well-known classic novel. Prepare a treatment for Jane Tranter, Head of Drama at the BBC, with ideas on how to reach a new audience for your adaptation. In your treatment you should consider: G Whether to update/set the novel in a contemporary context and if so how; G Visual style (camerawork/editing); G Mise en scène (key locations/sets/lighting/costume); G Stars/key actors, with reasons for your choice; G Length of each episode, scheduling, channel and reasons for your choice; G Ideas for possible interactive features (website/‘red button’). You could find a synopsis of a novel like Wuthering Heights, Silas Marner, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations or Tess of the D’Urbervilles, all of which have been the subjects of films or TV dramatisations in the last ten years.©British Film Institute 2007Page 2 of 2 TV Drama
  30. 30. worksheet 19 Representations in Bleak House How far is Bleak House relevant to society today? Explore how some of the issues it raises are represented. How far do you think audiences relate these issues to society today? For each topic, some suggested extracts are listed to help navigate your way around this 15-part drama. Social class Look at the following extracts. G What are the dominant views of society and social class conveyed by each extract? How is the audience positioned to adopt that dominant point of view? Consider dialogue and mise en scène. Ep 6: 04.40 – Sir Leicester Dedlock, Lady Dedlock and Mr Rouncewell Ep 1: 44.08 – Mrs Pardiggles, Esther, Ada and Richard visit bricklaying family Ep 4: 17.50 – Mr Bucket seeks out Jo Ep 6: 14.51 – Mrs Woodcourt visits Bleak House Ep 6: 17:26 – Jo ill, Tulkinghorn protecting the interests of a great family, Lady D and Guppy G What view of society do the representations suggest? G In what ways do they suggest that these images are competing for audience attention? G How far do you think they are similar to society today? G Do you think audiences of the recent series made such connections? G What are the implications of that? Law Look at the first and last view of the court: Ep 1: 1.30 and Ep 15: 18.10–20.13 (the final judgment); Ep 9: 11.24 – Vholes G What image of law and the legal system is suggested by the drama? Tulkinghorn (notably the power he displays over Lady Dedlock) Ep 1: 1.30 – Court scene where we are first introduced to his power and reptilian appearance©British Film Institute 2007 Ep 2: 18.38 – Where he is shown to respond manipulatively to what he senses is some hidden secret which might damage Sir Leicester Ep 2: 24:03 – Scene which ends with cross-cutting between Tulkinghorn and Lady Dedlock suggesting menace and power Ep 9: 24.46 – Now fully aware of Lady Dedlock’s secret, Tulkinghorn displays complete power and control over herPage 1 of 2 TV Drama
  31. 31. worksheet 19 Representations in Bleak House The power of the gaze: What do the characters of Tulkinghorn and Lady Dedlock suggest about the representation of social class and gender in Bleak House? G What do you think Tulkinghorn’s character suggests? G What does his character suggest about the law? G How far do you think he is merely a functional ‘bad’ character – one who is exploitative, manipulative and ruthless? Women and society Look at the following scene between Lady Dedlock and Esther, Ep 8: 17 G Lady Dedlock’s secret is exposed approximately halfway through the drama. It is signalled to audiences early in the narrative. G What does that suggest about audience interest? G Do audiences watch to have their (narrative) expectations fulfilled/confirmed? G Are audiences more interested in seeing how the drama unfolds©British Film Institute 2007 rather than what happens next? G Is a critical point being made about a society in which position and what people say and think is more important than what people feel? Is this an exposure of a class-bound society in which ‘women’ are tainted whereas men are not? Is this still the case in today’s society? An interesting contrast is with the representation of ‘shame’ in Paul Abbott’s Shameless.Page 2 of 2 TV Drama