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Cars, places and spaces in police drama

Bignell, J. ORCID: (2016) Cars, places and spaces in police drama. In: McElroy, R. (ed.) Contemporary British Television Crime Drama: Cops on the Box. Routledge Advances in Television Studies. Routledge, London, pp. 123-136. ISBN 9781472454935

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Cars in police drama signify performatively, and do important work to contribute to programmes’ form, meaning and distinctive identity. They are things that come to have a life of their own within the fictional world of a television police series. They are endowed with apparent agency, character and personality that conceal their nature as objects. The chapter suggests that the significance of cars in television police drama is also dependent on an industrial history in which changing production circumstances affect how cars can appear on screen. Studio-based programmes, programmes using filmed inserts of car action in combination with studio drama, then filmed or digitally recorded programmes, deploy cars differently because of what can be achieved with available cameras and technologies of sound recording. Within the police genre, there are differences between character-focused dramas versus action-focused ones that affect how often, and in what ways, cars appear in programmes. But in each case, cars are narrative vehicles and drive the narrative, at the same time as they are relatively passive components of setting. Cars are an aspect of aesthetic style, and contribute to its definition as a marker of the programme’s distinctive identity. In association with the protagonists, and as a result of the car’s continuity through an episode across sequences and across commercial breaks, cars specific to a series are important to its brand identity. Structurally, car sequences work as a kind of glue, linking places in the fictional world and linking segments of storyline. In as much as they are a tool for, and extension of, the police protagonist, the police’s cars signify the ideological function of law enforcement and its ability to control physical space. Tracing the different roles of cars in police series is a way into the textual, historical and cultural work of television as well as the police genre specifically.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Film, Theatre & Television
ID Code:69286
Uncontrolled Keywords:Television; Police; Car; Drama; TV; Genre; Cops


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