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A television play is a television programming genre which is a live drama performance broadcast from the television studio or, later, put on the tape.
The term "television play" is a partial misnomer. Although the earliest works were marked by television drama drawing on its theatrical roots, with live performances telecast from the television studio, a shift towards shooting on film occurred in the late 1970s, utilising techniques and working methods common in the cinema, but use of the term has persisted.[ citation needed ]
From the 1950s until the early 1980s, the television play was a television programming genre in the United Kingdom. The genre was often associated with the social realist-influenced British drama style known as "kitchen sink realism", which depicted the social issues facing working-class families.[ citation needed ] Armchair Theatre (ABC, later Thames, 1956–1974), The Wednesday Play (BBC, 1964–1970) and Play for Today (BBC, 1970–1984) received praise from critics for their quality.
Armchair Theatre was a British television drama anthology series, which ran on the ITV network from 1956 until 1968 in its original form, and was intermittently resurrected in the following few years until 1973. The Canadian producer Sydney Newman, who was ABC's Head of Drama from 1958 to 1962, turned Armchair Theatre into a vehicle for the generation of 'Angry Young Men' who tackled many difficult and controversial subjects in the realistic 'kitchen sink' style.
The programme was networked nationally on ITV on Sunday evenings, and often drew large audiences. Over 450 plays were made and broadcast under the Armchair... banner from 1956 to 1980. Among the best-known plays were No Trams to Lime Street (1959) by Alun Owen, and A Night Out (1960) by Harold Pinter.
Armchair Theatre was an important influence over later similar programmes such as the BBC's The Wednesday Play (1964–1970). This latter programme was initiated by Sydney Newman as a deliberate attempt to echo the success of Armchair Theatre after he had moved to the BBC in 1963.
The Wednesday Play ran on BBC1 from 1964 to 1970 originated by Sydney Newman, by now the head of BBC Drama, with the policy of commissioned plays being "relevant to the lives of a mainstream popular audience." The goal was to find or commission work that "would be fast...telling an exciting narrative sparely" using material "that would more accurately reflect the experience of the audience." The series' producers, including James MacTaggart, hired "fresh new writers", whose new ideas led to the series gaining "the reputation for 'controversy' and 'outrage'."He also wanted to get away from the BBC's reputation of producing very 'safe' and unchallenging drama programmes, to produce something with more bite and vigour.
The series gained a reputation for presenting original contemporary social dramas, although adaptations from other sources also featured, and brought political issues to the attention of a mass audience. Director Ken Loach made two highly regarded plays for the series: an adaptation of Nell Dunn's Up the Junction (1965) and Cathy Come Home (1966), the documentary-style drama of a homeless young couple's attempt to keep their children. The Wednesday Play came to an end in 1970 when the transmission day changed, and the series morphed into Play for Today .
Play for Today was a British television anthology drama series, produced by the BBC and transmitted on BBC1 from 1970 to 1984. Over 300 original plays, most between an hour and ninety minutes in length, were transmitted during the fourteen-year period the series aired. Play for Today featured gritty contemporary social realist dramas, historical pieces, fantasies, biopics and science-fiction. Most pieces were written directly for television, but there were also occasional adaptations of novels and stage plays.
Some well remembered plays from the series included Mike Leigh's Nuts in May (1976) and Abigail's Party (1977), which examined the dysfunctional interactions between neighbours and married couples. Some plays, such as Rumpole of the Bailey , were later made into series.
Television plays became less common from the 1980s, because of a trend in 1980s television drama towards the television film which might receive limited cinema screenings before being shown on Channel 4. Another factor was a greater reliance on continuing series of the police or medical genres in a growing multi-channel environment. Nonetheless, television plays were regarded as a benchmark of high-quality British television drama.
In the United States, television plays were seen mainly from 1948 to 1961, the period of live TV dramas which framed the Golden Age of Television.
In the Soviet Union the broadcast-only TV plays were produced since 1938 until early 1950s,later they started being recorded via kinescope.
The genre was abandoned in mid-1980s.
An attempt to revive the genre was made by the Russia-Culture TV channel in early 2000s by producing several small TV plays and one full-time play, Leonid Zorin's "Copper Grandma" ("Медная бабушка"). Similar efforts within the same time frame were made by a local state TV company of Nizhny Novgorod.
Radio drama is a dramatised, purely acoustic performance. With no visual component, radio drama depends on dialogue, music and sound effects to help the listener imagine the characters and story: "It is auditory in the physical dimension but equally powerful as a visual force in the psychological dimension." Radio drama includes plays specifically written for radio, docudrama, dramatized works of fiction, as well as plays originally written for the theatre, including musical theatre and opera.
Out of the Unknown is a British television science fiction anthology drama series, produced by the BBC and broadcast on BBC2 in four series between 1965 and 1971. Each episode was a dramatisation of a science fiction short story. Some were written directly for the series, but most were adaptations of already-published stories.
Verity Ann Lambert was an English television and film producer.
Sydney Cecil Newman, OC was a Canadian film and television producer, who played a pioneering role in British television drama from the late 1950s to the late 1960s. After his return to Canada in 1970, Newman was appointed Acting Director of the Broadcast Programs Branch for the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC) and then head of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). He also occupied senior positions at the Canadian Film Development Corporation and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and acted as an advisor to the Secretary of State.
The BFI TV 100 is a list of 100 television programmes or series that was compiled in 2000 by the British Film Institute (BFI), as chosen by a poll of industry professionals, with the aim to determine the best British television programmes of any genre that had been screened up to that time.
William Theodore Kotcheff is a Canadian film and television director and producer, known primarily for his work on British and American television productions such as Armchair Theatre and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. He has also directed numerous successful films including the Australian Wake in Fright (1971), action films such as the original Rambo movie First Blood (1982) and Uncommon Valor (1983), and comedies like Weekend at Bernie's (1989), Fun with Dick and Jane (1977), and North Dallas Forty (1979). He is sometimes credited as William T. Kotcheff, and resides in Beverly Hills, California. Given his ancestry, Kotcheff has Bulgarian citizenship.
Play for Today is a British television anthology drama series, produced by the BBC and transmitted on BBC1 from 1970 to 1984. During the run, more than three hundred programmes, featuring original television plays, and adaptations of stage plays and novels, were transmitted. The individual episodes were between fifty and a hundred minutes in duration. A handful of these plays, including Rumpole of the Bailey, subsequently became television series in their own right.
The Wednesday Play is an anthology series of British television plays which ran on BBC1 for six seasons from October 1964 to May 1970. The plays were usually written for television, although adaptations from other sources also featured. The series gained a reputation for presenting contemporary social dramas, and for bringing issues to the attention of a mass audience that would not otherwise have been discussed on screen.
Armchair Theatre is a British television drama anthology series of single plays that ran on the ITV network from 1956 to 1974. It was originally produced by Associated British Corporation. Its franchise successor Thames Television took over from mid-1968.
Theatre 625 is a British television drama anthology series, produced by the BBC and transmitted on BBC2 from 1964 to 1968. It was one of the first regular programmes in the line-up of the channel, and the title referred to its production and transmission being in the higher-definition 625-line format, which only BBC2 used at the time.
BBC television dramas have been produced and broadcast since even before the public service company had an officially established television broadcasting network in the United Kingdom. As with any major broadcast network, drama forms an important part of its schedule, with many of the BBC's top-rated programmes being from this genre.
Kitchen sink realism is a British cultural movement that developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s in theatre, art, novels, film and television plays, whose protagonists usually could be described as "angry young men" who were disillusioned with modern society. It used a style of social realism, which depicted the domestic situations of working class Britons, living in cramped rented accommodation and spending their off-hours drinking in grimy pubs, to explore controversial social and political issues ranging from abortion to homelessness. The harsh, realistic style contrasted sharply with the escapism of the previous generation's so-called "well-made plays".
The Stone Tape is a television play directed by Peter Sasdy and starring Michael Bryant, Jane Asher, Michael Bates and Iain Cuthbertson. It was broadcast on BBC Two as a Christmas ghost story in 1972. Combining aspects of science fiction and horror, the story concerns a team of scientists who move into their new research facility, a renovated Victorian mansion that has a reputation for being haunted. The team investigate the phenomena, trying to determine if the stones of the building are acting as a recording medium for past events. However, their investigations serve only to unleash a darker, more malevolent force.
Dennis Vance was a British television producer and director.
No Trams to Lime Street is a 1959 British television play, written by the Welsh playwright Alun Owen for the Armchair Theatre anthology series. Produced by the Associated British Corporation (ABC) for transmission on the ITV network, the play was broadcast on 18 October 1959. The original version no longer exists.
British television science fiction refers to popular programmes in the genre that have been produced by both the BBC and Britain's largest commercial channel, ITV. The BBC's Doctor Who is listed in the Guinness World Records as the longest-running science fiction television show in the world and as the "most successful" science fiction series of all time.
Out of This World is a British science fiction anthology television series made by the ITV franchise ABC Television for ITV. It was broadcast on ITV in 1962. A spin-off from the Armchair Theatre anthology series, each episode was introduced by the actor Boris Karloff. Many of the episodes were adaptations of stories by science fiction writers including Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick and Clifford D. Simak. The series is described by the British Film Institute as a precursor to the BBC science fiction anthology series Out of the Unknown, which was produced by Out of This World creator Irene Shubik after she left ABC.
Irene Shubik was a British television producer, known for her contribution to the development of the single play in British television drama. Beginning her career in television at ABC Television, she worked on Armchair Theatre as a story editor where she devised the science fiction anthology series Out of this World.
Richard Harris is a British television writer, most active from the early 1960s to the mid-1990s. He writes primarily for the crime and detective genres, having contributed episodes of series like The Avengers, The Saint, The Sweeney, Armchair Mystery Theatre, and Target. He has helped to create several programmes of the genre, including Adam Adamant Lives!, Man in a Suitcase, and Shoestring. Despite a career which has been largely spent writing for the crime and detective genre, in 1994 he won the prize for best situation comedy from the Writers' Guild of Great Britain for Outside Edge, a programme he had originated as a stage play. Though the majority of his work has been for television, a substantial amount of his output has been for the stage.
David Andrews is a British television character actor, director and writer who from 1959 has worked almost continuously in television for more than 50 years, 40 of which were spent directing television drama and other genres.