Transnational Television Aesthetics: National Culture and the 'Global' Prestige Drama

UoM administered thesis: Phd


Between 2010 and 2015, the emergence of global streaming platforms, and a marked increase in transatlantic co-ventures between broadcasters, popularised the notion of 'global' drama as a prestige category in Anglo-American television. That high-end drama might be considered by the industry, critics and policymakers as a 'cinematic' aesthetic object, operating outside of the structures and processes of national linear broadcasting, raises questions regarding the place of national and local representations within TV drama; how the industry imagines its audience(s); and how scholars conceive of television drama as a cultural form. Such questions are addressed here through a study of the prestige drama output of the BBC and Sky Atlantic during this period. Considering imported, 'homegrown', and internationally co-produced dramas, the thesis examines how ideas of national culture, belonging and citizenship are articulated on British screens. A close textual analysis is contextualised within the critical-industrial discourses that construct aesthetic value across different national, institutional and technological contexts. In this period, textual articulations of national and local specificity are increasingly framed as valuable markers of 'authenticity', and a textual address that foregrounds an ambivalent perspective on issues of national or cultural identity emerges as a common feature across these transnational flows. Drawing on sociological theories of mobility and taste cultures, alongside models of authorship, stardom and spectatorship adapted from film theory, the concepts of the tourist gaze and the transient gaze are introduced to rethink television drama's subjective possibilities, away from a nationally-specific mode of address towards one that is based on positions of 'insider' and 'outsider'. These gazes are conceptualised within an 'Atlantic' prestige field organised around various economies of value, an idea introduced as the basis of a relational transnational aesthetic framework, designed to embrace the tensions between form and function, and between the universal and the particular.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2020