Reviews | Written by James Evans 08/10/2019

TV NOIR: DARK DRAMA ON THE SMALL SCREEN

TV NOIR: DARK DRAMA ON THE SMALL SCREEN / AUTHOR: ALLEN GLOVER / PUBLISHER: HARRY N. ABRAMS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

Modern writing on classic television often appears to fall into one of two camps: wide-ranging, sometimes fluffy and nostalgic assessments, or densely-packed academic examinations of a particular series or genre. Allen Glover’s TV Noir: Dark Drama on the Small Screen seems an attempt to bridge that gap by applying a rigorous approach to its thesis but casting a large net over what shows could be considered, including some that might not initially seem to come under its focus or warrant a deep dive. Glover’s premise is that noir series developed not after film brought the genre to wider audiences but at the same time, and is demanding of sincere exploration as an example of the form.

Using the introduction to set out definitions of noir and its history in literature, film and early television, Glover goes on to cover those early years and how, from the start, they adapted authors like Woolrich and other hardboiled sorts to beam plays and anthologies into homes. He moves on to filmed series, starting with Jack Webb’s hugely influential original Dragnet, the Lee Marvin-starring M Squad, 77 Sunset Strip and more that clearly demonstrate the impact of audience fascination with the seedy, violent side of life. It’s from this point that Glover takes some interesting turns, covering noir influences in The Twilight Zone and including titles like Rod Serling’s follow-up to his seminal fantasy series, the sombre Western The Loner. From here, he covers the Larry Cohen-created The Invaders and moves into the 70s with Kolchak: The Night Stalker and David Janssen’s private eye classic, Harry O.

By taking such a diverse group of series and picking out the noir elements in each, Glover makes a compelling case for the genre to stand in its own right, separate from film, as a worthy and important artistic expression. The writing here is erudite and confident and, in part because examples used are often wildly differing, agreeably not repetitive in the arguments being made. The majority of the series in this book have had comparatively little written about them and it’s pleasing that Glover does so with clear-headed affection, wit and depth. If you’re a scholar of television history or simply just interested in the shows mentioned above, there is much to enjoy and it’s honestly likely that our rating would go up after more time spent with it. Highly recommended.

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