On 22 May I presented a paper at a symposium held at LJMU, organised by Yannis Tzioumakis (University of Liverpool) and Lydia Papadimitriou (LJMU) – ‘TV is the New Cinema: Exploring the Erosion of Boundaries between two Media’.
My paper – currently work in progress – is titled: ‘Big Country, Small Screen: Exploring the Hinterlands of the British Procedural Drama’.
It is perhaps something of a truism to observe that the significance of landscape in screen studies of the crime procedural drama is partly a reflection on the geographical situatedness of the crime mise-en-scène. The crime, and the events – the narratives – that are precipitated by the fact of its occurrence, take place in specific spaces and locations. They are, in other words, spatial stories; an observation that draws succour from writer and
filmmaker Chris Petit’s claim that crime reconstruction programmes, such BBC’s Crimewatch, are unique insofar they are all about place (Brown 1995; Roberts 2014). Despite this otherwise elemental spatial underpinning, venture beyond the specifically urban environments of, for example, neo-noir or the detective film, and the critical correlation between screen, crime and landscape is one that is more than likely to equate the expansiveness of geography to that of the screen. As with discussions of place, landscape and the moving image more generally – and as is attested to by the growing body of literature focused on these areas of debate – it is cinema rather than television that is the default medium around which such discussions are seen to coalesce, whether this be the snowbound wilderness of North Dakota in the Coen Brothers’ Fargo, or the remote Anatolian steppe of Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. However, in the wake of the much discussed phenomenon of so-called ‘Nordic Noir’ – and, in particular, the dramas The Killing and The Bridge – the significance of Landscape (with a capital L) in relation to the police procedural has had something of a small-screen renaissance. In this paper I discuss this with specific reference to recent productions set and filmed in Britain. Broadchurch (2013) shot in West Dorset, Southcliffe (2013) filmed in and around Faversham and the North Kent marshes, and Hinterland (Y Gwyll) (2013), filmed in and around the Welsh coastal resort of Aberystwyth in Ceredigion, all share something of a ‘post-Nordic-noir’ family resemblance insofar as landscape and location are themselves presented as central characters, prompting reflection on what these narratives reveal about ideas of place and the role of topography and landscape in the cultural imaginary of the British procedural drama.