A picture of Dr Hannah Andrews.
Dr Hannah Andrews

A new first of its kind book explores the relationship between biography and television focusing on some of the UK’s favourite TV shows.

Senior Lecturer in Media, Film and TV Dr Hannah Andrews’ book, Biographical Television Drama, was published on 15th April. In it she explores in depth the history, form and ethics of the often-overlooked television biographical drama genre.

Dr Andrews said: “My aim was to apply ideas from the study of biography to television drama. For example, biography studies is interested in how we understand the self and its development, its relationship with society, and how this is changed by fame or a public role. How are these ideas represented in television?

Biographical Television Drama is the first book to explore biographical television despite it being a really common and popular genre. Television dramas often have a huge impact in how we understand famous figures. I wanted to explore how their lives are represented on the small screen, and think about what the huge contributions that television drama can make to the practice of biography.”

Backed by robust research in biography studies and British television history, Dr Andrews unravels the complexities behind biographical television drama. In the book she analyses hit shows like the The Curse of Steptoe, Babs, Gentleman Jack and The Crown.

Dr Andrews draws on four core concepts in biography and television studies, looking at the uneasy relationship between fact and fiction, ethical and cultural values, the private made public, and the creation of personal legacy.

“There’s a lot to be said about the ethics of biographical television.” Dr Andrews added. “There is something morally dubious about revealing people’s secrets and stories to the public, and that is made worse by the necessity to create scenes for TV despite not really knowing what actually took place. Yet it is the private lives of public figures that we tend to be most interested in, their experiences that relate more closely to our own.”

“Biographical television dramas are a fusion of fact and fiction, and the blurred line between them can be uncomfortable. For example, there has been some debate about whether The Crown should carry a label to warn viewers that it is fiction, that scenes have been created for dramatic purposes. I wanted to think about the boundaries of creative licence when television stories are made from the lives of real people.”

Dr Andrews’ wider research primarily focuses on contemporary British television and film. Her long-term research interests include intermedial and industrial relationships between cinema and television, British television institutions, particularly the BBC and Channel 4, media convergence, and television aesthetics. She has published widely on these topics in, among others, the Journal of British Cinema and Television, Critical Studies in Television, Screen, and Visual Culture in Britain.

Biographical Television Drama was Palgrave Macmillan and is available to buy on amazon. Visit the Palgrave website for more information – www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783030646776.

Find out more about studying Film and Television degrees at Edge Hill by visiting www.edgehill.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/film-media-and-television