'Strange Visitor From Another Planet': Genre, Corporate Identity and the Arrival of American Telefantasy on British Television

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    Abstract

    While the BBC had been broadcasting television Science Fiction productions from as early as 1938, and Horror since the start of television in 1936, American Telefantasy had no place on British television until ITV’s broadcast of Adventures of Superman (1952-1958) in 1956. It would be easy to assign this absence to the avoidance of popular American programming, but this would ignore the presence of Western and adventure serials imported from the US and Canada for monopoly British television. Similarly, it would be inaccurate to suggest that these imports were purely purchased as thrilling fare to appease a child audience, as it was the commercial ITV that was first to broadcast the more adult-orientated Science Fiction Theatre (1955-7) and Inner Sanctum (1954). This article builds on the work of Paul Rixon and Rob Leggott to argue that these imports were used primarily to supply relatively cheap broadcast material for the new channel, but that they also served to appeal to the notion of spectacular entertainment attached to the new channel through its own productions, such as The Invisible Man (1958-1959) and swashbucklers such as The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-60). However, the appeal was not just to the exciting, but also to the transatlantic, with ITV embracing this conception of America as a modern place of adventure through its imports and its creation of productions for export, incorporating an American lead into The Invisible Man and drawing upon an (inexpensive) American talent pool of blacklisted screenwriters to provide a transatlantic style and relevance to its own adventure series. Where the BBC used its imported serials as filler directed at children, ITV embraced this transatlantic entertainment as part of its identity and differentiation from the BBC.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)7-26
    Number of pages20
    JournalNetworking Knowledge
    Volume5
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012

    Keywords

    • Americanisation
    • Television History
    • Telefantasy
    • Science fiction
    • British television

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