action series


action series
   It is much easier to offer examples of programmes which can be described as ‘action series’ than it is to agree on a general definition. Most people would accept that, for example, The Persuaders, Mission Impossible and The Fugitive qualify, although they are all very different.
   Equally, it is not easy to draw a clear distinction between genuine action series like The Bill, London’s Burning or Bugs and more coy or zany ones such as The Avengers or The Saint, or even detective series such as Morse, hospital series such as Casualty or true-life programmes such as Crimewatch. There is action in all of these programmes, but it is not the predominant feature. One might say that programmes from all these other genres periodically take on aspects of the action series and vice versa: the simplified morality, the tied-up loose ends, the excitement, the lack of subtlety. An appropriate definition might then be: programmes where week by week there is formulaic violence and where good vanquishes evil.
   Action series on television are watched by both sexes equally, and are almost as popular as soap operas and the news. To give an indication of viewing figures, 42.9 percent of adults watch The Bill, compared with the 45.4 percent who watch Coronation Street, the 35.3 percent who watch EastEnders, and the 43.5 percent who watch News at Ten. The programmes watched by most people tend to be British rather than imports. However, the following American series are or have been popular with younger British audiences: Superman, Robocop, Highlander, Airwolf, Team Nightrider and Xena: Warrior Princess.
   One of the factors that militate against showing more action series on television is that people are concerned about the potential copycat effects of watching television violence. This is exacerbated by the increasing numbers of channels on offer. A 1996 Sheffield University report found that eight out of the ten most violent programmes, measured in terms of violent acts, were action films shown on The Movie Channel or Sky Movies. The remaining two were cartoons. In a climate of fear partly induced by the case where the young boys who murdered toddler Jamie Bolger were allegedly influenced by a video they had seen, action films and series are under close surveillance. Even Tom and Jerry cartoons are considered potentially dangerous influences on young audiences.
   See also: crime drama
   MIKE STORRY

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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