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From ‘pop’ nostalgia to millennial modernity: Bugs as an ‘Avengers for the 1990s’

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This article examines the 1990s adventure series Bugs (1995–99), whilst also exploring broader transformations in British television thrillers and nostalgic programming. First, I position the series’ origin as a response to the popularity of 1960s adventure series repeats on the BBC in the 1990s. I argue, that the nostalgic impulse of Bugs itself did not manifest in visual terms, as in more conventional 1960s pastiches, but was instead at a narrative level. The series dispensed with contemporaneous trends towards more psychologised characters and serialised narratives in favour of a self-consciously ‘retro’ rejection of ‘depth’. Yet I also explore other ways in which it adapted the adventure series for the 1990s. These included reworking the spy agency as a small business enterprise for the ‘dotcom’ age, reinventing alienating surveillance technology as the user-friendly gadget, glamorizing neo-liberalism through exoticizing London’s redeveloped Docklands, and presenting terrorism as a leading existential threat for the post-Cold War era. I argue that whilst Bugs represented a dead end for an ‘innocent’ model of nostalgic drama, through many of the latter characteristics it stands as an unacknowledged influence on a later generation of stylish, issue-led ‘War on Terror’ thriller series.
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Keywords: Avengers; BBC; Bugs; London Docklands; adventure series; nostalgia; surveillance

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Warwick

Publication date: October 1, 2018

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