The Golden Age of British TV: 1955 - 1980;

Course Dates: 11/01/23 - 08/02/23
Time: 19:45 - 21:30
Location: Online
This course explores a golden age in British television which ran from the 1950s until the early 1980s, when acclaimed anthology series appeared, which came to attract both critical and popular praise. This included series such as Play for Today and plays such as Cathy Come Home (1966) and Rumpole of the Baily (1975). The course will reflect on the form of these anthology plays, why many thought they were part of a golden age of British television and why they eventually disappeared.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Book your place
In stock
Full fee £99.00 Senior fee £99.00 Concession £64.00

Course Code: HF325

Wed, eve, 11 Jan - 08 Feb '23

Duration: 5 sessions (over 5 weeks)

Or call to enrol:020 7831 7831

Lines open Monday-Friday 12:00-18:00

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

This online film course explores the first golden age of British television which starts in the 1950s with acclaimed live television plays, though others also include other forms of television also broadcast at this time. By the end of the 1970s, this form of one-off drama, though often now filmed, had mostly disappeared, being replaced by filmed series and serials. These television plays were mostly offered as part of an anthology series, such as the Armchair Theatre, Wednesday Play or Play for Today, with different plays, cast and writers each week. For many, early live television had a form of excitement and suspense not found in later filmed programmes. It was nearer, in many ways, to theatre than film, with the script writer, rather than the director or editor, as the creative controlling force. This course will explore, over 5 weeks, the form taken by these (live, then filmed) one off plays, their reception and legacy for British broadcasting. It will end looking at how and why this way of making programmes was replaced by filmed series and serials and why, years later, some programmes have made homage to this earlier form by screening live one-off episodes, such as with EastEnders and Emmerdale.

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

To explore the appearance, impact and end of this golden period of British TV, this course will explore a number of topics. The first focuses on TV technology and how the lack of video recording meant that early TV was dominated by filmed material or live productions. Technology was important role in enabling these anthology series to develop, where the script writer was key in shaping the live production. As 16mm film cameras and video technologies developed, so the need to produce live drama lessened. The second topic relates to the competitive pressures broadcasters faced by the late 1970s and how these affected what they commissioned. For example, in the 1950s and 1960s competition between ITV and the BBC, was over the quality of programmes rather than audiences, while scheduling practices allowed the anthology series to find a place in primetime. But, by the late 1970s as competition led to new strategies to attract audiences, the problematic nature of a loosely linked series which worked against the competitive scheduling practices, led to filmed series replacing the anthology series.

The next topic will be the form taken by the series and the individual dramas. We will look at examples, such as Cathy Come Home (1966), and Up the Junction (1965), seeking to explore the form of the TV dramas, the use of editing, the script, the narrative flow, as well as the content, the stories and their social commentary. We will reflect on why many thought these forms of television theatre were part of a golden age of British TV. We will also look at the critical acclaim, how they were received by the critics and the public at the time. Our last topic looks at what replaced the play anthology series and questions whether the idea of a golden age is just one of perspective. Indeed, for some, the filmed series and serials which replaced the play anthologies were themselves part of a golden age of television.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

- Understand why live television became an important means for producing television output in the 1950s and what technological developments occurred leading to a shift towards most television being filmed or videoed recorded.
- Recount the underlying reasons which allowed the anthology series to appear and to prosper for nearly three decades on British television.
- Have knowledge of the key anthology series and their output, and the form these took.
- Express knowledge of the arguments about whether such anthology series were part of a golden age of British television or not.
- Understand what forms replaced these anthology series and why.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This is an introductory course on television for those interested in media history. No prior knowledge of television, or media history is required.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

The class will be taught online each week. Sessions will be run by way of interactive workshops, lectures and small discussion groups. Class outlines, PowerPoints and any reading of viewing will be made available through google classroom. Each week small tasks will be set in preparation for the following week, though the completion of these is not necessary to attend the class.
When taught online you will need:
- Computer/ table or smart phone – with working microphone and camera.
- Access to the internet.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

There are no required costs to attend the class. Though if you want to undertake reading to expand your knowledge, you could purchase the book by Lez Cook called British Television Drama: A History (2015). You can find second hand copies of this online for around £20.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Look for other Television and Film Studies courses under History Culture and Writing/Film Studies at

Paul Rixon

Dr. Paul Rixon is an independent media scholar and writer who has taught on Media, Television and Radio Studies courses at Universities around the UK for over 25 years. His research covers American broadcasting, British radio and television history, as well as work on radio and television critics. He has published three monographs, American Programmes on British Screens, TV Critics and Popular Culture and Radio and Popular Journalism in Britain, and numerous articles in journals such as Journal for Media History, Journalism, The Journal of Popular Television and the Radio Journal. He is currently finalising an article about radio criticism and The Listener and completing his first novel.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.