Chapter

‘A professional’s contest’: procedure and bureaucracy in Special Branch (ITV, 1969–74) and The Sandbaggers (ITV, 1978–80)

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/9781784994150.003.0003
‘A professional’s contest’: procedure and bureaucracy in Special Branch (ITV, 1969–74) and The Sandbaggers (ITV, 1978–80)

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This chapter analyses two series which aimed to present a more authentic portrayal of intelligence activity, embracing a new ‘realism’ grounded in documentary detail and procedure. Special Branch (ITV, 1969-74) focused on the Metropolitan Police unit of the name whose remit centred on issues of national security, the series incorporating the thematic interests of the spy genre into the less heightened generic trains of the police procedural. This chapter explores how this focus converged with a concurrent trend in single plays towards increased location filming on ‘gritty’ 16mm film, with Special Branch’s adoption of this style from its 1973 revamp by Euston Films enhancing to a new narrative interest in international terrorism. This is contrasted with The Sandbaggers (ITV, 1978-80), a series focused on the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or MI6) which made an alternative claim to ‘realism’ through mounting an unprecedented examination of the bureaucracies underpinning intelligence activity.

Keywords: Special Branch; Sandbaggers; Secret Intelligence Service; MI6; Realism; Procedure; 16mm film; Euston Films

Chapter.  9792 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Television

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