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Something Completely Different

British Television and American Culture

1999
Author:

Jeffrey S. Miller

Something Completely Different

The first comprehensive study of the influence British programming had on American television.

Between Emma Peel and the Ministry of Silly Walks, British television had a significant impact on American popular culture in the 1960s and 1970s. In Something Completely Different, Jeffrey Miller offers the first comprehensive study of British programming on American television, discussing why the American networks imported such series as The Avengers and Monty Python’s Flying Circus; how American audiences received these uniquely British shows; and how the shows’ success reshaped American television.

“A lively and rewarding look at an extremely interesting topic. The author has imaginatively linked British television programs on U. S. screens to a number of significant social and political issues of the past three decades.” William Boddy, Baruch College, City University of New York

The first comprehensive study of the influence British programming had on American television.

Between Emma Peel and the Ministry of Silly Walks, British television had a significant impact on American popular culture in the 1960s and 1970s. In Something Completely Different, Jeffrey Miller offers the first comprehensive study of British programming on American television, discussing why the American networks imported such series as The Avengers and Monty Python’s Flying Circus; how American audiences received these uniquely British shows; and how the shows’ success reshaped American television.

Miller’s lively analysis covers three genres: spy shows, costume dramas, and sketch comedies. In addition to providing his close readings of the series themselves, Miller considers the networks’ packaging of the programs for American viewers and the influences that led to their acceptance, including the American television industry’s search for new advertising revenue and the creation of PBS.

Something Completely Different concludes with a discussion of the American programs and genres that owed their existence to British progenitors. Miller convincingly argues that much of what came to define American television by 1980 was in fact British in origin, a contention that casts a new light on traditional discussions of American cultural imperialism.

ISBN 0-8166-3240-5 Cloth £31.00 $44.95xx
ISBN 0-8166-3241-3 Paper £12.50 $17.95x
208 Pages 17 black-and-white photos 5 7/8 x 9 January
Translation inquiries: University of Minnesota Press

Something Completely Different

Jeffrey S. Miller is assistant professor of English and journalism at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Something Completely Different

“A lively and rewarding look at an extremely interesting topic. The author has imaginatively linked British television programs on U. S. screens to a number of significant social and political issues of the past three decades.” William Boddy, Baruch College, City University of New York

“The ‘special relationship’ enjoyed by British TV in the U. S. has finally found its chronicler. Jeffrey Miller has produced a book that will be a landmark in television studies.” Toby Miller, author of The Avengers

Something Completely Different offers an original contribution to scholarship about the period and the cultural bundle that Miller has chosen to study, combining a theoretically sophisticated reading of this material with a good close and provocative analysis of the era’s most significant programming.

South Atlantic Review

Focusing on the 1960s and 1970s, the text captures a critical period in the development of American network and public television. Miller provides substantial theoretical content and excellent examples. The book stands on its own as a fascinating exploration of the cultural issues and developments surrounding English and American broadcast programming.

Journal of Communication

A coherent and much-needed historical survey of British contributions.

symploke

Miller’s study is a welcome contribution to this general reorientation, arguing that the myth of Americanization- the idea of a unilateral exertion of American power on the rest of the world- has partly concealed the truth about American culture in general and American television in particular

Lunds Universitat, Sweden

What is particularly admirable about Something Completely Different is that it reaches far beyond its immediate subject matter into the more general area of transnational communication.

Lunds Universitat, Sweden

What should also strike the reader of Miller’s book, moreover, is that it is a story remarkably well told.

Lunds Universitat, Sweden

It reaches far beyond its immediate subject matter in to the more general area of transnational communication. . . a story remarkably well told.

Ta Stallning! Ga Med I Roda Korset (www.redcross.se)

Something Completely Different

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

1. Here Not There: American Imperialists and British Invaders
2. Danger Men: Secret Agent and The Prisoner
3. Mrs. Peel Goes to Washington: The Avengers
4. Down the Up Staircase: The Forsyte Saga, Masterpiece Theatre, and Upstairs, Downstairs
5. (Naughty) Bits of Limey Eccentricity: That Was the Week That Was and Monty Python's Flying Circus
6. All in the Anglo-American Family: Hollywood Reproductions of British Originals
7. British Television and American Culture: Something Completely Different?

Notes
Index