A man for all seasons: helping the BBC off the ‘naughty step’: Stephen Fry as television personality

Charlesworth, Diane (2010) A man for all seasons: helping the BBC off the ‘naughty step’: Stephen Fry as television personality. In: MECCSA Annual Conference 2010, 6-8 January 2010, London School of Economics, London, UK.

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Abstract

Fry’s reference to the now popular educational tool from the reality TV show Supernanny, on his appearance in Jonathon Ross’ first show, as the latter returned to BBC1 after his suspension, is, arguably, telling on a number of levels. Drawing on a discourse of the BBC as ‘family’ and one in dilemma, he enacts the institutional and medium mode of address of intimacy, familiarity and ordinariness, demonstrating a capacity to place a finger on the popular culture pulse and a sense of self-irony. The focus of the paper is on Fry’s television persona across factual programming undertaken for the BBC from 2003. This involves analysis of both the construction of intellectualism and ‘knowledge’ played out on various quiz shows, as well as the intellectualisation of self and identity that are the discursive underpinning of the episode about his family in the series Who do you think you are (2006), his fronting the documentary Stephen Fry: A secret life of a Manic Depressive (2006), and the documentary Stephen Fry: 50 not out (2007). Presented across these programmes, is a complex mix of conflicted, ambivalent masculinity; of authority yet also humility and vulnerability. With his overt enthusiasm for and engagement with technology and the digital age, expressed in fora beyond these programme examples, it is to be argued that it is this mix that is being drawn upon by the BBC as a specific vehicle to negotiate issues of trust, confidence and progression into the digital age with its audiences.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Additional Information:Fry’s reference to the now popular educational tool from the reality TV show Supernanny, on his appearance in Jonathon Ross’ first show, as the latter returned to BBC1 after his suspension, is, arguably, telling on a number of levels. Drawing on a discourse of the BBC as ‘family’ and one in dilemma, he enacts the institutional and medium mode of address of intimacy, familiarity and ordinariness, demonstrating a capacity to place a finger on the popular culture pulse and a sense of self-irony. The focus of the paper is on Fry’s television persona across factual programming undertaken for the BBC from 2003. This involves analysis of both the construction of intellectualism and ‘knowledge’ played out on various quiz shows, as well as the intellectualisation of self and identity that are the discursive underpinning of the episode about his family in the series Who do you think you are (2006), his fronting the documentary Stephen Fry: A secret life of a Manic Depressive (2006), and the documentary Stephen Fry: 50 not out (2007). Presented across these programmes, is a complex mix of conflicted, ambivalent masculinity; of authority yet also humility and vulnerability. With his overt enthusiasm for and engagement with technology and the digital age, expressed in fora beyond these programme examples, it is to be argued that it is this mix that is being drawn upon by the BBC as a specific vehicle to negotiate issues of trust, confidence and progression into the digital age with its audiences.
Keywords:intellectualism, knowledge, documentary, digital age
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P301 Television studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Media
ID Code:4127
Deposited By: Diane Charlesworth
Deposited On:03 Mar 2011 22:02
Last Modified:18 Jul 2011 16:38

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