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A 'new wave' in British television drama

Cooke, Lez (2005) A 'new wave' in British television drama. ISSN 1329-878X

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Abstract

In recent years, American television drama series have been celebrated as ‘quality television’ at the expense of their British counterparts, yet in the 1970s and 1980s British television was frequently proclaimed to be ‘the best television in the world’. This article will consider this critical turnaround and argue that, contrary to critical opinion, the last few years have seen the emergence of a ‘new wave’ in British television drama, comparable in its thematic and stylistic importance to the new wave that emerged in British cinema and television in the early 1960s. While the 1960s new wave was distinctive for its championing of a new working-class realism, the recent ‘new wave’ is more heterogeneous, encompassing drama series such as This Life, Cold Feet, The Cops, Queer as Folk, Clocking Off and Shameless. While the subject-matter of these dramas is varied, collectively they share an ambition to ‘reinvent’ British television drama for a new audience and a new cultural moment.

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