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TV Noir: Dark Drama on the Small Screen

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Noir—as genre, style, movement, or sensibility—has its roots in the hardboiled detective fiction of the likes of Hammett and Chandler; the works of these authors were among the wave of post-WWII Hollywood films that in 1946 were, separately, tagged “film noir” by French cineastes Nino Frank and Jean-Pierre Chartier. But film wasn’t the only medium with a taste for a dark s Noir—as genre, style, movement, or sensibility—has its roots in the hardboiled detective fiction of the likes of Hammett and Chandler; the works of these authors were among the wave of post-WWII Hollywood films that in 1946 were, separately, tagged “film noir” by French cineastes Nino Frank and Jean-Pierre Chartier. But film wasn’t the only medium with a taste for a dark story. Hundreds of live dramas were staged on television in the 40s and 50s—adaptations of the works of Chandler, Hammett, Cornell Woolrich, David Goodis, W.R. Burnett, Dorothy B. Hughes and other writers of teleplays featuring brooding detectives and femmes fatales, gangsters and dark deeds. Dark storytelling gained traction on the small screen, with some key differences from film, not the least of which is the continuing hero, back week after week to address a new disruption of the social order.     In TV Noir, noted film and television historian Allen Glover has written the first complete study of the subject,  surveying the TV programming that evolved from the film noir heyday. Deconstructing its key elements with astute and informed analysis, from NBCs adaptation of Woolrich’s The Black Angel and the anthology programs of the 40s and 50s to the classic period with the likes of Dragnet, M Squad, and 77 Sunset Strip and the neo-noirs of the 70s and 80s including The Fugitive, Kolchak, and Harry O., Allen Glover presents the essential volume on TV noir.


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Noir—as genre, style, movement, or sensibility—has its roots in the hardboiled detective fiction of the likes of Hammett and Chandler; the works of these authors were among the wave of post-WWII Hollywood films that in 1946 were, separately, tagged “film noir” by French cineastes Nino Frank and Jean-Pierre Chartier. But film wasn’t the only medium with a taste for a dark s Noir—as genre, style, movement, or sensibility—has its roots in the hardboiled detective fiction of the likes of Hammett and Chandler; the works of these authors were among the wave of post-WWII Hollywood films that in 1946 were, separately, tagged “film noir” by French cineastes Nino Frank and Jean-Pierre Chartier. But film wasn’t the only medium with a taste for a dark story. Hundreds of live dramas were staged on television in the 40s and 50s—adaptations of the works of Chandler, Hammett, Cornell Woolrich, David Goodis, W.R. Burnett, Dorothy B. Hughes and other writers of teleplays featuring brooding detectives and femmes fatales, gangsters and dark deeds. Dark storytelling gained traction on the small screen, with some key differences from film, not the least of which is the continuing hero, back week after week to address a new disruption of the social order.     In TV Noir, noted film and television historian Allen Glover has written the first complete study of the subject,  surveying the TV programming that evolved from the film noir heyday. Deconstructing its key elements with astute and informed analysis, from NBCs adaptation of Woolrich’s The Black Angel and the anthology programs of the 40s and 50s to the classic period with the likes of Dragnet, M Squad, and 77 Sunset Strip and the neo-noirs of the 70s and 80s including The Fugitive, Kolchak, and Harry O., Allen Glover presents the essential volume on TV noir.

25 review for TV Noir: Dark Drama on the Small Screen

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael Samerdyke

    This is a terrific book. It looks at some familiar things (TV detectives, Twilight Zone and the career of Rod Serling, the TV work of Don Siegel and Robert Altman) in a new way. By putting these things next to each other, instead of keeping them in separate genres, Glover helps us see points of connection and lets us realize that commercial TV was a lot darker in the Fifties and Sixties than we often give it credit for being. I'd probably give it 4 1/2 instead of five stars. The conclusion to this This is a terrific book. It looks at some familiar things (TV detectives, Twilight Zone and the career of Rod Serling, the TV work of Don Siegel and Robert Altman) in a new way. By putting these things next to each other, instead of keeping them in separate genres, Glover helps us see points of connection and lets us realize that commercial TV was a lot darker in the Fifties and Sixties than we often give it credit for being. I'd probably give it 4 1/2 instead of five stars. The conclusion to this book read more like an introduction. And I would have liked some explanation from Glover as to why he classifies some shows as Noir and others as Neo-Noir. As it is, I'm guessing its because some shows went on the air in the Sixties, but using 1958/9 as the cut-off date for classic noir and neo-noir is a movie tradition, and Glover is talking about TV. Still, this was an interesting, exciting, and enjoyable book to read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael Sparrow

    A good book. Picked it up originally because it had a chapter on PETER GUNN. In addition to chapters on individual shows from DRAGNET to HARRY O, it has an excellent chapter on the Universal made-for-TV movies of the mid-60's (THE KILLERS, etc.) And a very useful chapter on the early years on television--the live broadcasts of crime programs and the episodes of various anthology programs, mostly in the '50s. The overall theme of the book is to tie these TV programs to classic "noir" novels and f A good book. Picked it up originally because it had a chapter on PETER GUNN. In addition to chapters on individual shows from DRAGNET to HARRY O, it has an excellent chapter on the Universal made-for-TV movies of the mid-60's (THE KILLERS, etc.) And a very useful chapter on the early years on television--the live broadcasts of crime programs and the episodes of various anthology programs, mostly in the '50s. The overall theme of the book is to tie these TV programs to classic "noir" novels and films. Handsome too, with well-chosen (if sometimes small) photographs.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bill Coleman

  4. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

  5. 5 out of 5

    Calwriter8966

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jandy

  7. 5 out of 5

    Wes

  8. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Williamson

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  10. 4 out of 5

    Creolecat

  11. 5 out of 5

    rêveur d'art

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sadie

  13. 5 out of 5

    Andy

  14. 5 out of 5

    John Zeleznik

  15. 4 out of 5

    César Augusto

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gregg

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dragan

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bob

  19. 5 out of 5

    Paul

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jelena Ajdarevic

  21. 5 out of 5

    John

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  23. 5 out of 5

    Scott

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cerina Sea

  25. 5 out of 5

    David Wlody

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