Activity: Participating in or organising an event types › Participation in conference
A Haunted Season: Seasonality and the Television Gothic
BBC Controller of Drama Commissioning Ben Stephenson stated, in relation to the 2009 broadcast of a new adaptation of The Turn of the Screw, ‘Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a ghost story for the adults to watch in front of the fire when the children are in bed’. The history of ghost story adaptations as part of the British television Christmas is a long one, particularly if adaptations of A Christmas Carol are included, and these productions frequently feature Nineteenth Century settings or associations, as with the adaptations of M R James stories that appeared in the 1970s and the 2000s, as well as Affinity (2008), The Turn of the Screw (1999, 2009) and even the Lark Rise to Candleford Christmas special (2008). This paper demonstrates the importance of television Gothic in relation to seasonality, and the cultural reasons for these connections. Focussing primarily on the long history of ghost stories and other Gothic tales which are broadcast specifically on British television at Christmas, it shows how these connect to traditions of family story-telling derived largely from the Victorian creation of the modern Christmas, and how the elements of nostalgia, heritage and taste play into concepts of national identity. It also raises questions as to how these considerations can be applied in other national contexts, and to other national television systems and their scheduling of Gothic specials, TV movies and similar programming which breaches the normal television schedules.