BBC Four biopics: Lessons in Trashy Respectability

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Between its launch in March 2002 and 2013, BBC Four, the BBC’s niche arts and culture digital channel, broadcast a cycle of biographical dramas, largely about the unhappy personal lives of British cultural and political icons of the 20th century. Alongside stylish European drama imports, world cinema, and documentary programmes, biopics became a key marker of the BBC Four brand, and its dominant original dramatic output. In scholarly work on television biopics to date, the genre has been seen as akin to tabloid newspapers, a trashy cultural form that reduces the importance and seriousness of biographical narrative. However, in recent years biographical drama has been used by upmarket television brands like HBO, Showtime or, indeed, the BBC as a mark of distinction and respectability. This article analyses this dynamic in relation to BBC biopics, exploring how a specific dramatic genre is used to support the brand of a niche digital channel. It attends not only to the benefits of such material for marshalling audiences both within and beyond the channel’s intended demographic, but also to some of the ethical and legal challenges intrinsic to a genre that exploits the personal stories of real people.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of British Cinema and Television
Early online date30 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016

Fingerprint

BBC
Television
drama
genre
television
cinema
broadcast
import
newspaper
Drama
Respectability
Biopic
art
narrative
Niche

Keywords

  • BBC Four
  • biopic
  • quality television
  • television branding

Cite this

@article{b8a75234007945129f2e64cdd532cd1a,
title = "BBC Four biopics: Lessons in Trashy Respectability",
abstract = "Between its launch in March 2002 and 2013, BBC Four, the BBC’s niche arts and culture digital channel, broadcast a cycle of biographical dramas, largely about the unhappy personal lives of British cultural and political icons of the 20th century. Alongside stylish European drama imports, world cinema, and documentary programmes, biopics became a key marker of the BBC Four brand, and its dominant original dramatic output. In scholarly work on television biopics to date, the genre has been seen as akin to tabloid newspapers, a trashy cultural form that reduces the importance and seriousness of biographical narrative. However, in recent years biographical drama has been used by upmarket television brands like HBO, Showtime or, indeed, the BBC as a mark of distinction and respectability. This article analyses this dynamic in relation to BBC biopics, exploring how a specific dramatic genre is used to support the brand of a niche digital channel. It attends not only to the benefits of such material for marshalling audiences both within and beyond the channel’s intended demographic, but also to some of the ethical and legal challenges intrinsic to a genre that exploits the personal stories of real people.",
keywords = "BBC Four, biopic, quality television, television branding",
author = "Hannah Andrews",
year = "2016",
month = "7",
language = "English",
journal = "Journal of British Cinema and Television",
issn = "1743-4521",
publisher = "Edinburgh University Press",

}

BBC Four biopics: Lessons in Trashy Respectability. / Andrews, Hannah.

In: Journal of British Cinema and Television, 07.2016.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - BBC Four biopics: Lessons in Trashy Respectability

AU - Andrews, Hannah

PY - 2016/7

Y1 - 2016/7

N2 - Between its launch in March 2002 and 2013, BBC Four, the BBC’s niche arts and culture digital channel, broadcast a cycle of biographical dramas, largely about the unhappy personal lives of British cultural and political icons of the 20th century. Alongside stylish European drama imports, world cinema, and documentary programmes, biopics became a key marker of the BBC Four brand, and its dominant original dramatic output. In scholarly work on television biopics to date, the genre has been seen as akin to tabloid newspapers, a trashy cultural form that reduces the importance and seriousness of biographical narrative. However, in recent years biographical drama has been used by upmarket television brands like HBO, Showtime or, indeed, the BBC as a mark of distinction and respectability. This article analyses this dynamic in relation to BBC biopics, exploring how a specific dramatic genre is used to support the brand of a niche digital channel. It attends not only to the benefits of such material for marshalling audiences both within and beyond the channel’s intended demographic, but also to some of the ethical and legal challenges intrinsic to a genre that exploits the personal stories of real people.

AB - Between its launch in March 2002 and 2013, BBC Four, the BBC’s niche arts and culture digital channel, broadcast a cycle of biographical dramas, largely about the unhappy personal lives of British cultural and political icons of the 20th century. Alongside stylish European drama imports, world cinema, and documentary programmes, biopics became a key marker of the BBC Four brand, and its dominant original dramatic output. In scholarly work on television biopics to date, the genre has been seen as akin to tabloid newspapers, a trashy cultural form that reduces the importance and seriousness of biographical narrative. However, in recent years biographical drama has been used by upmarket television brands like HBO, Showtime or, indeed, the BBC as a mark of distinction and respectability. This article analyses this dynamic in relation to BBC biopics, exploring how a specific dramatic genre is used to support the brand of a niche digital channel. It attends not only to the benefits of such material for marshalling audiences both within and beyond the channel’s intended demographic, but also to some of the ethical and legal challenges intrinsic to a genre that exploits the personal stories of real people.

KW - BBC Four

KW - biopic

KW - quality television

KW - television branding

M3 - Article

JO - Journal of British Cinema and Television

JF - Journal of British Cinema and Television

SN - 1743-4521

ER -