Chapter

‘A balance of terror’: Callan (ITV, 1967–72) as an existential thriller for television

Joseph Oldham

in Paranoid Visions

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print July 2017 | ISBN: 9781784994150
Published online January 2018 | e-ISBN: 9781526128379 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.7228/manchester/9781784994150.003.0002
‘A balance of terror’: Callan (ITV, 1967–72) as an existential thriller for television

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This chapter examines Callan (ITV, 1967-72), an early television reworking of the ‘existential’ strand of spy thriller associated with John Le Carré and Len Deighton. It characterises the series as converging of two areas in which ITV had previously played an innovative role, specifically plays which placed a new focus on the realities of working-class life and glamorous, escapist adventure series, using the former to partially subvert the latter and develop a much more pessimistic incarnation of the spy genre. Through close analysis, it examines how Callan was able to utilise its predominately studio-based style to create a psychologically intense drama rooted in continuous performance. Finally, it describes the circumstances in which the series became an unexpected break-out hit in 1969, attributing this to its innovative use of serial narrative techniques. Though this it illustrates the power of the shared culture of broadcasting in a period of limited channels.

Keywords: Callan; Class; Existential thriller; Studio; Serial narratives; Cliff-hanger; ITV

Chapter.  10382 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Television

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