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The pleasure of immersion: Some thoughts on how The Singing Detective sustains narrative

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This article argues that while Dennis Potter’s television drama series The Singing Detective is commonly celebrated for its multi-layered narrative and the post-modern way that it played with genre, another of its critical features has remained relatively neglected: the sustained narrative pleasure that it afforded. It suggests that Potter allowed viewers the deep immersive experience of realist TV drama and storytelling, even while he was experimenting with narrative, so providing a bridge between modernist and traditional forms, and rewarding viewers (who had to try and integrate the series’ different fragments and layers into some sort of quasi-cohesive narrative) with abundant dramatic gratification. Narrative, it claims, is not effaced, only displaced, partly onto the central character of Marlow, whose subjectivity unifies the fragmented narrative. Potter broke radically with the conventions of TV medical drama, and the painful experience of Marlow-as-patient acts as another binding agent.
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Keywords: The Singing Detective; immersion; medical drama; narrative

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: London Metropolitan University

Publication date: August 1, 2013

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  • The Journal of Screenwriting aims to explore the nature of writing for the moving image in the broadest sense, highlighting current academic thinking around scriptwriting whilst also reflecting on this with a truly international perspective and outlook. The journal will encourage the investigation of a broad range of possible methodologies and approaches to studying the scriptwriting form, in particular: the history of the form, contextual analysis, the process of writing for the moving image, the relationship of scriptwriting to the production process and how the form can be considered in terms of culture and society. The journal also aims to encourage research in the field of screenwriting, the linking of scriptwriting practice to academic theory, and to support and promote conferences and networking events on this subject.
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