Paranoid visions

Spies, conspiracies and the secret state in British television drama

By Joseph Oldham

Paranoid visions
Hardcover +
  • Price: £21.00
  • ISBN: 9781784994150
  • Publish Date: Jun 2017
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Paperback +
  • Price: £21.00
  • ISBN: 9781526152534
  • Publish Date: Dec 2020
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    eBook -
  • Price: £21.00
  • ISBN: 9781526116147
  • Publish Date: Jun 2017
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Book Information

    • Format: eBook
    • ISBN: 978-1-5261-1614-7
    • Published Date: June 2017


    Paranoid visions explores the history of the spy and conspiracy genres on British television, from 1960s Cold War series through 1980s conspiracy dramas to contemporary 'war on terror' thrillers. It analyses classic dramas including Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Edge of Darkness, A Very British Coup and Spooks. This book will be an invaluable resource for television scholars interested in a new perspective on the history of television drama and intelligence scholars seeking an analysis of the popular representation of espionage with a strong political focus, as well as fans of cult British television and general readers interested in British cultural history.


    'Jo Oldham's very readable book explores two of the most popular, but relatively neglected, forms of television drama: the spy drama and the conspiracy thriller. Generically related but epistemologically distinct, the changing nature of the two forms and the waxing and waning of their appearance on British television screens has much to do with the historical context of their production, as Oldham illustrates very well in a diachronic study [.] Such changes may not bode well for the radical potential of spy and conspiracy drama to stir things up in the future but it is to Oldham's credit that his well-researched and persuasively argued book makes us want to revisit some of the key "paranoid narratives" of the last 50 years'.
    Lez Cooke, Royal Holloway, University of London, Critical Studies in Television, Vol. 13, No. 4 (December 2018)

    'Paranoid visions is a welcome addition to studies of television genres and to emerging work on the spy genre on British screens. It is well-written, thoughtful and engaging, and should be read by students of quality British television drama as well as those drawn to narratives of intrigue, conspiracy and national security.'
    Alan Burton, Journal of British Cinema and Television, Vol. 16, No. 1 (2019)


    1 'A balance of terror': Callan (ITV, 1967-72) as an existential thriller for television
    2 'A professional's contest': procedure and bureaucracy in Special Branch (ITV, 1969-74) and The Sandbaggers (ITV, 1978-80)
    3 'Who killed Great Britain?': Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (BBC 2, 1979) as a modern classic serial
    4 Conspiracy as a crisis of procedure in Bird of Prey (BBC 1, 1982) and Edge of Darkness (BBC 2, 1985)
    5 Death of a master narrative: the battle for consensus in A Very British Coup (Channel 4, 1988)
    6 The precinct is political: espionage as a public service in Spooks (BBC 1, 2002-11)


    Joseph Oldham is Associate Fellow in Film and Television Studies at the University of Warwick

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