From The Journal Of Screenwriting V10 Issue 3: Network television writers and the ‘race problems’ of 1968 by Caryn Murphy

Highlighting the articles in the past editions of the Journal of Screenwriting, of which I am the Book Reviews Editor. Hopefully these abstracts will entice you to did a little deeper into the history and future of screenwriting. — Rosanne


Network television writers and the ‘race problems’ of 1968 by Caryn Murphy

This article examines the development of television scripts in the crime drama genre within the context of US commercial broadcasting in the network era. In 1968, public discourse around race relations, civil rights and violence reached a height following the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr and Robert F. Kennedy, and the release of a government study on urban uprisings by the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. Ironside (1967–75, NBC) and N.Y.P.D. (1967–69, ABC) are two crime dramas that drew on recent events related to black militants and white supremacy in order to appeal to viewers with socially relevant entertainment during this time. The archival records of screenwriters Sy Salkowitz and Lonne Elder make it possible to trace the development of one episode from each series over the course of multiple drafts. This analysis of the script development process explores the relationship between public discourse, industrial context, commercial agendas and creative priorities. Ironside and N.Y.P.D. are both crime dramas, but an examination of both series yields points of divergence which help to illustrate the norms of the network system in terms of act structure, genre tropes, and the oversight of standards and practices.


The Journal of Screenwriting is an international double-blind peer-reviewed journal that is published three times a year. The journal highlights current academic and professional thinking about the screenplay and intends to promote, stimulate and bring together current research and contemporary debates around the screenplay whilst encouraging groundbreaking research in an international arena. The journal is discursive, critical, rigorous and engages with issues in a dynamic and developing field, linking academic theory to screenwriting practice. 

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