In terms of visual impact, television has often been regarded as inferior to cinema. It has been characterised as sound-led and consumed by a distracted audience. Today, it is tempting to see the rise of HD television as ushering in a new era of spectacular television. Yet since its earliest days, the medium has been epitomised by spectacle and offered its viewers diverse forms of visual pleasure. Looking at the early promotion of television and the launch of colour broadcasting, Spectacular Television traces a history of television as spectacular attraction, from its launch to the contemporary age of surround sound, digital effects and HD screens. In focusing on the spectacle of nature, landscape, and even our own bodies on television via explorations of popular television dramas, documentary series and factual entertainment, and ambitious natural history television, Helen Wheatley answers the questions: what is televisual pleasure, and how has television defined its own brand of spectacular aesthetics?
Helen Wheatley is Associate Professor of Film and Television Studies at the University of Warwick. She is the editor of Re-viewing Television History: Critical Issues in Television Historiography (I.B.Tauris, 2007), co-editor of Television for Women: New Directions (2016) and author of Gothic Television (2006). Her research focuses on television history and aesthetics.