Medical and health programmes have been a broadcasting staple since the early days of television, often providing educational and informative content as well as entertaining audiences. In Britain, this was fulfilled by a mixture of factual and entertainment programming ranging from long running surgery documentary Your Life in Their Hands (BBC, 1958-1964) to serial hospital drama Emergency Ward 10 (ITV, 1957-1967), forerunners of familiar contemporary fly-on-the-wall documentary series, reality shows, dramas and ‘medicated’ soaps.
In what will be the 30th anniversary of the landmark BBC hospital drama Casualty (BBC, 1986-present), this special issue seeks to ‘take the temperature’ of medical television in the twenty-first century. On flagship UK channels BBC1 and Channel 4 healthcare oriented programmes ranging from high-end Sunday night drama Call the Midwife (BBC, 2011-2014) to reality formats One Born Every Minute (Channel 4, 2010-date) and 24 Hours in A&E (Channel 4 2011-date), are routinely the highest rated. Discourses of crisis and controversy surrounding healthcare leading up to the passing of the Health and Social Care Act in the UK, and the implementation of “Obamacare” in the US, have thus been accompanied by an apparent renaissance in medical and healthcare television. And issues, strands and clusters have correspondingly emerged in particular forms, registers and modes with noticeable regularity. The editors are therefore particularly interested to receive submissions that address:
1) Bio-ethical issues, affective labour and neoliberalism – i.e. issues faced by health workers and carers working in neo-liberal medical/domestic environments, and concerning care of vulnerable groups in society across a wide range of formats, e.g. Getting On (BBC, 2009-12), 23 Week Babies: the Price of Life (BBC, 2011), and in the US context Nurse Jackie (Showtime, 2009-present), Breaking Bad (AMC 2008-2013), Miracle Workers (ABC, 2006), and The Advocate (CBS, in development).
2) Nostalgia – i.e medical dramas set in the past and/or with a nostalgic affective register, e.g. Call the Midwife, Doc Martin (ITV, 2004-present), Breathless (ITV, 2013), The Royal (ITV, 2003-11) and The Indian Doctor (BBC, 2010-present)
3) Documentaries and reality/factual series – especially about the state of a nation’s health or health services, e.g. Keeping Britain Alive (BBC, 2013), 24 Hours in A&E, and US cross channel fundraiser Stand Up to Cancer.
4) Body image TV – i.e. programmes featuring sensational medical and health conditions, e.g. Embarrassing Bodies (Channel 4, 2007-present), Bodyshockers (Channel 4, 2014) or medical makeovers e.g. Extreme Makeover (ABC, 2002-7), Supersize vs. Superskinny (Channel 4, 2008-present)
5) Dedicated healthcare channels – e.g. SisterTalk.
6) Celebrity healthcare professionals – e.g. Dr Robert Winston, of The Human Body (BBC, 1998) and Child of our Time (BBC, 2000-present), Dr Christian Jesson of Embarrassing Bodies, Supersize vs. Superskinny, Drugs Live (Channel 4, 2012)
Deadline for 6000-8000 word essays (including endnotes) will be September 30th 2015 for publication in Summer 2016.