The Age of Static

Phil Harrison


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Melville House UK
28 May 2020
ISBN: 9781911545521
240 pages

From the publisher

“From Big Brother to Downton Abbey; from Detectorists to Top Gear and from The Apprentice to Adam Curtis, the recent history of British TV can be read as both a struggle with the past – and a series of signposts towards the future. How can modern Britain awaken from its nostalgic small-screen dreams and face the future? Brexit Island feels a long way from Craggy Island, and there’s no obvious route at hand. Perhaps, to move forwards, we first need to retrace our steps…”

You can tell a lot about British society by its television. More than any other country, Britain still gets a sense of itself from the output of its national broadcasters. So what can we learn from the TV of the last two decades?

Beginning in 2000, this book explores the televisual contours of Britain, via five themed chapters: Britain’s identity crisis; property and the class system; ‘banter’ and political correctness; the role of the BBC; and the impact of reality TV on politics. Over this period, Britain has become more divided, more fractious and less certain of its place in the world.

What did Jamie’s School Dinners tell us about our perceptions of the working classes? What does our love of Downton Abbey say about the national psyche under duress? And how did Top Gear help to ignite Britain’s culture wars?

In this lively and wide-ranging account of twenty tumultuous years, Phil Harrison asks how we got here—and the role television played in the process.