Skip to 0 minutes and 3 secondsWelcome to our fourth and final session on pictures of youth, which looks at children on television. We’ll briefly examine the educational role of public service broadcasting. Then we’ll move on to demonstrate how a television genre frequently considered as ‘dumbing down’ - reality television - is sometimes harnessed to give you the smarts. Not just any smarts, but the Shakespeare smarts. How does it do this? By picturing children learning and performing his works...Did I mention? We’ll be watching some TV!

Welcome to week 4

Week 4 is all about pictures of youth on reality television, specifically about how young people studying and staging Shakespeare are presented in such programmes.

In this session, we will consider the requirement that public service broadcasters produce and air ‘infotainment’ (UK) or ‘edutainment’ (US); define reality television; and try to apply this term to three programmes from the BBC on Shakespeare, made in recent years.

Shakespeare is no stranger to the small screen. In the earliest days of television in Britain, actors were filmed performing his plays live in television studios and this was almost instantly broadcast across the nation. Now such productions are filmed, for broadcast at a later date, often in lavish locations (see BBC series The Hollow Crown in 2012 and 2016) or, occasionally, in the theatre where they are being staged (David Tennant’s performance as the eponymous Richard II, captured at the Royal Shakespeare Company and screened in cinemas in 2013, was later shown on the BBC).

Representations of people learning Shakespeare on the small screen in the UK have previously included actors rehearsing for a production as in John Barton’s televised series of nine workshops with members of the Royal Shakespeare Company rehearsing scenes and sonnets for London Weekend Television, shown on Channel 4, Playing Shakespeare (1982). Shakespeare for children on the small screen includes the BBC series The Animated Tales, which was shown in the 1990s schools across the UK - including to primary school children, as well as adaptations arguably aimed at GCSE and A-level pupils like ShakespeaRe-Told in 2006.

You can read more about Shakespeare on television, this millennium by following the hyperlink.

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This video is from the free online course:

Pictures of Youth: An Introduction to Children’s Visual Culture

University of York