Replay for Today: Revisiting Play for Today (1970-1984) at Fifty

Katherine Crosson

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Play for Today aired on BBC1 from 1970 to 1984. Consisting of 316 plays, this single play strand has been the subject of praise, nostalgia, controversy and astonishment — yet academic attention to the strand has been scarce.
Reflections have been particularly minimal beyond the reception of a narrow selections of plays, forming something this thesis identifies as ‘the Play for Today canon’. Adopting a metacritical approach, the thesis traces this canon’s emergence and the values it has relied upon, before analysing the changes it underwent during its fiftieth anniversary celebrations.
In undertaking these analyses, this thesis indicates the limitations of canon formation for a full understanding of Play for Today. In response, the thesis proposes a reconceptualisation of Play for Today through a reinvigorated awareness of the strand format and its centrality to the 316 plays in question.
Challenging prevailing assumptions about Play for Today as unfeeling, masculine and joyless, this reconceptualisation prompts a reassessment of the strand in terms of its utilisation of the sentimental mode; its depictions of sexual violence against women; and its explorations of joy. By adopting these three critical lenses, the thesis reveals the strand’s undervalued themes and aesthetic modes, evidencing its value ‘for’ a new today.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Hill, John, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date27 Mar 2024
Publication statusUnpublished - 13 May 2024


  • Television History
  • Sentimentality
  • Play for Today
  • Television Aesthetics
  • Aesthetics
  • Media Theory
  • Historiography
  • Canon Studies
  • Joy
  • Sexual Violence
  • Strand
  • The Television Strand
  • 1970s
  • 1980s
  • BBC
  • Public Service Broadcasting

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