Tony Garnett

Tony Garnett

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 208
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    Tony Garnett
    Book Description:

    Tony Garnett is the first book-length study of one of the most respected and prolific producers working in British television. From ground-breaking dramas from the 1960s such as Up the Junction and Cathy Come Home to the 'must see' series in the 1990s and 2000s such as This Life and The Cops, Garnett has produced some of the most important and influential British television drama. This book charts Garnett’s career from his early days as an actor to his position as executive producer and head of World Productions. Drawing on personal interviews, archival research, contextual analysis and selected case studies, Tony Garnett examines the ways in which Garnett has helped to define the role of the producer in British television drama. Arguing that Garnett was both a key creative and political influence on the work he produced and an enabler of the work of others, the book traces his often combative relationships with broadcasting institutions (especially the BBC). Garnett's distinctive contribution to the development of a social realist aesthetic in British TV drama is also examined, from the documentary-inspired single plays of the 1960s and 70s to the subversion of genre within popular drama series of the 1990s and 2000s. Additionally, the study discusses the films he made for the cinema and considers some of the ways in which Garnett's experiments in film technology – 16 mm in the 1960s, digital video in the 1990s - have shaped his creative output. Tony Garnett will be of interest to all levels of researchers and students of British television drama, media and film.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-435-2
    Subjects: Performing Arts
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-vii)
  3. General editors’ preface (pp. viii-ix)
    Sarah Cardwell and Jonathan Bignell
  4. Acknowledgements (pp. x-xii)
    Stephen Lacey
  5. Introduction: telling the truth (pp. 1-10)

    Tony Garnett has been telling his truths for over forty year, as an actor, story editor and then producer, within the context of British television, film and Hollywood cinema. It is as a television producer that he is best known, of course, but his earlier experience as an actor was important to the particular working practices that he later developed when, as he put it, he became the one making the phone calls (2000a: 13). Garnett has been responsible for a considerable variety of work, including some of the most influential plays/films of British television history. His first play as...

  6. 1 From actor to producer: into the driving seat (pp. 11-33)

    On 15 June 1966, Sidney Newman, the Head of the Drama Group at the BBC, wrote a memo to Kenneth Adam, the Commissioner of Programmes, entitled ‘The Wednesday Play’. The memo, which Newman thought ‘short on fact and long on thought’ (Newman 1966b: 2), was an articulate defence of the anthology series (1964–70), with which he (and later Tony Garnett) had become closely identified. The memo is mainly about the need to attract – and keep – good writers committed to working in television, and stands as a clear statement of the unique conditions of drama production in the...

  7. 2 In the 1960s: social realism and The Wednesday Play (pp. 34-73)

    The Wednesday Play anthology series has acquired a pivotal role in the history of television drama, providing a showcase for drama that was formally experimental, distinctive to the medium of television and socially and culturally provocative. As such, it is often regarded nostalgically as a symbol of the kind of author-led, issue-based drama that is no longer on our screens. Many of the most widely-discussed plays of the decade – which were also amongst the most significant television events, plays such asUp the JunctionandCathy Come Home– were produced for it. As MacMurraugh-Kavanagh has observed, from the...

  8. 3 Plays for today: representing ‘managed dissensus’ (pp. 74-122)

    It was not only British television that was undergoing a period of upheaval; by the late 1960s, many of the tensions and contradictions that had been forming beneath the skin of British society broke to the surface. British society and culture opened up throughout the decade, epitomised by a programme of liberalising legislation initiated by the Labour governments of 1964–70 that saw abortion legalised (1967), theatre censorship ended (1968), racism criminalised (1968) homosexuality (partially) de-criminalised (1967) and capital punishment suspended, prior to abolition (1965). However, in the same period, the consensus that dominated British political and economic thinking for...

  9. 4 Independence and dependency (pp. 123-170)

    When Tony Garnett returned to Britain he did not go back to the BBC but entered the arena of independent production. He was approached by an old friend and associate, John Heyman, to become the head of a new production venture in British television, Island World Productions. Heyman, who has extensive film producing credits in mainstream cinema,¹ is head of the World group of companies, the first of which he founded in 1963. Island World Productions was established in conjunction with Chris Blackwell, who had founded Island Records in the 1960s. Blackwell continued to be associated with the company until...

  10. Appendix I: List of television plays and films (pp. 171-174)
  11. Appendix II: List of films for theatrical release (pp. 175-176)
  12. Bibliography (pp. 177-186)
  13. Index (pp. 187-190)


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