Books : reviews

Alistair McGown.
The Hill and Beyond: children's television drama, an encyclopedia.
British Film Institute. 2003

Some of the best-loved television programmes of all – hazily remembered but never forgotten – were the exciting drama series, serials and plays made for children. Firing the imaginations of generations, through them we could visit the distant past or the far-flung future and save the world before teatime.

This book includes entries on every programme defined as British-made children’s drama to have been shown on UK screens since 1950 – around 300 of them. The vast majority of these are receiving in-depth coverage for the first time anywhere. Critical appraisals assess the kind of stories told for children and there is all the technical data and trivia you could wish for. Objective and perceptive, the commentaries will nonetheless also evoke nostalgic memories for many.

The enormous variety that is children’s drama on television is recalled from Grange Hill to Stig of the Dump, or The Railway Children to The Magician’s House and The Chronicles of Narnia to The Box of Delights. The book takes in both adaptations of literary classics and all-new writing, contemporary and period dramas, adventure, fantasy and science fiction. More than half a century of children’s drama on BBC and ITV is examined: delving back to humble beginnings in the 1950s and 1960s, reliving a golden age in the 1970s and 1980s, and bringing things right up to date with a host of more recent examples, thus presenting an overall appreciation of the development of children’s television in this country.