TV Drama: The Case against Naturalism

John McGrath

in Television Policy

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780748617173
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671113 | DOI:
TV Drama: The Case against Naturalism

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In this lecture, the author, a socialist, playwright, director and founder of the 7:84 theatre company, shapes his recollections of working with James MacTaggart in London in the early 1960s into what Troy Kennedy Martin (1986) described as a ‘swingeing attack on naturalism’. He argues that naturalism imposes a certain ‘neutrality about life on the writer, the actor and the audience’: it presents a world that is ‘static, implied and ambivalent’. He claims that the television image is not conducive to naturalist drama because it lacks sensuality. Television images are situated in the context of reported reality: viewers watching television drama will have witnessed, ‘napalmed women in Vietnam running about on fire’. MacTaggart produced and directed a number of series called Storyboard, The Wednesday Play and Diary of a Young Man. There are three distinguishing features of the television image: its non-sensual informative nature, its lack of empathy and its situation in the context of reported reality. This lecture challenges people working in television to ask themselves why there is so much critical debate about film but so little about television.

Keywords: James MacTaggart; television drama; television image; naturalism; sensuality; reported reality; empathy; Storyboard

Chapter.  3814 words. 

Subjects: Television

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