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How TV Explains Modern Britain

“From Big Brother to Downton Abbey; from Detectorists to Top Gear and from The Apprentice to Adam Curtis, the recent history of British TV can be read as both a struggle with the past – and a series of signposts towards the future. How can modern Britain awaken from its nostalgic small-screen dreams and face the future? Brexit Island feels a long way from Craggy Island, and there’s no obvious route at hand. Perhaps, to move forwards, we first need to retrace our steps…”

You can tell a lot about British society by its television. More than any other country, Britain still gets a sense of itself from the output of its national broadcasters. So what can we learn from the TV of the last two decades?

Beginning in 2000, this book explores the televisual contours of Britain, via five themed chapters: Britain’s identity crisis; property and the class system; ‘banter’ and political correctness; the role of the BBC; and the impact of reality TV on politics. Over this period, Britain has become more divided, more fractious and less certain of its place in the world.

What did Jamie’s School Dinners tell us about our perceptions of the working classes? What does our love of Downton Abbey say about the national psyche under duress? And how did Top Gear help to ignite Britain’s culture wars?

In this lively and wide-ranging account of twenty tumultuous years, Phil Harrison asks how we got here—and the role television played in the process.

Phil Harrison is a television writer and cultural critic whose work has appeared in The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Quietus, among others. He was formerly Deputy TV Editor for Time Out, and has interviewed and profiled many famous figures including Jon Hamm, William H. Macy, Jonathan Ross and Mark E. Smith. This is his first book.

”An invaluable guide to the post-Big Brother 21st century TV landscape.” —David Stubbs, author of Future Days

”This sparkling history of post-millennial British TV is also a perceptive analysis of cultural and political change over the last two decades.” —Joe Moran, author of First You Write a Sentence

”The Age of Static is a fantastic account of contemporary British history through the lens of television.” —Des Freedman, Professor of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London