Alliteration, America and authorship: The television drama of John Byrne

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Creative polymath John Byrne enjoys a secure and substantial international reputation within the graphic and theatrical arts, and as a seminal figure within late-twentieth and early-twenty-first century Scottish culture. Yet Byrne’s sustained engagement with screenwriting and screen directing practices between the late 1980s and late 1990s constitutes a critically under-examined aspect of his career to date. Moreover, such neglect is also symptomatic of a wider lack of attention paid to television within the study of modern Scottish culture. This article casts light on an important aspect of, and period within, Byrne’s creativity to date. In doing so, it also seeks to offer an illustrative demonstration of television drama’s relevance to the questions of changing identity politics – national, subnational, and supranational – that have dominated Scottish Cultural Studies in recent decades. The article achieves those aims through extended textual analysis of Byrne’s two best-known screen works, the television series Tutti Frutti (1987) and Your Cheatin’ Heart (1990). It identifies and discusses a range of common thematic preoccupations: the influence of American culture within post-Second World War Scotland, changing patterns of Scottish gender identities – and authorial approaches – intense linguistic experimentation, and use of popular cultural intertexts to impart narrative structure and substance shared by the two works. In this way, the article establishes both some of the idiosyncratic defining terms of Byrne’s televisual practice and some of the reasons why these have rendered him such an important figure within Scottish culture since the late 1970s.


John Byrne; Tutti Frutti; Your Cheatin’ Heart; television drama; Scottish culture; American cultural influence; popular music
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)378-400
Number of pages23
JournalVisual Culture in Britain
Issue number3
Early online date26 Feb 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Feb 2018


  • John Byrne
  • Scottish television
  • Scottish Culture
  • British television history


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