Arena (TV series)
|Created by||Humphrey Burton|
|Opening theme||"Another Green World" by Brian Eno|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||over 600|
|Editor(s)||Anthony Wall (1995-present)
Anthony Wall and Nigel Finch (1985-1995)
Alan Yentob (1979-1985)
Leslie Megahey (1977-1978)
|Original channel||BBC Two (1975-2011)
BBC Four (2003-present)
|BBC Four - Arena|
Arena is a British television documentary series, made and broadcast by the BBC. Voted by leading TV executives in Broadcast magazine as one of the top 50 most influential programmes of all time, it has run since 1 October 1975 with over six hundred episodes made, directed by the likes of Martin Scorsese, Anthony Wall, Nigel Finch, Jana Boková, Alan Yentob, Leslie Megahey, Leslie Woodward, Adam Low, James Marsh, Julian Temple, Mary Harron, Volker Schlondorff and Vikram Jayanti. Arena's subjects are a roll-call of the world's best known cultural figures from the 20th and 21st centuries, from singers Bob Dylan and Amy Winehouse to academics Edward Said and Eric Hobsbawm, from writers Jean Genet and V S Naipaul to artists Francis Bacon and Louise Bourgeois. The current series editor is Anthony Wall, who has edited Arena since 1985.
The arts strand Arena was initially created in 1975 by the BBC Head of Music & Arts at that time, Humphrey Burton, when he founded a magazine named Arena exploring art, design, filmmaking, and theatre. In 1977, under producer and director Leslie Megahey, the stand divided into Arena Theatre and Arena Art and Design, and Arena became less of a magazine and more a home for short, distinctive and stylish films about mainly British theatre and visual arts. In 1978 Megahey became editor of Omnibus and Alan Yentob, who had been supervising Arena Theatre, took over and the two themes were merged. The series, relaunched in January 1979 and renamed simply Arena, began to adopt a format of single subject essays. It achieved great critical acclaim for its enthusiasm for the popular as well as the high arts. During Yentob's time as editor, Arena had six BAFTA nominations and three BAFTA awards.
A group of radical directors, notably Nigel Finch and Anthony Wall, gathered around Yentob and Arena, including Nigel Williams and Mary Dickinson. Hits from 1977 included Who Is Poly Styrene?, La Dame Aux Gladiolas, a portrait of Edna Everage, and most notably the groundbreaking My Way, an examination of the appeal of the song, by Nigel Finch and Anthony Wall. It was the first of their collaborations, which developed a new kind of arts film, taking an unlikely subject and building a poetic meditation on its various aspects - further examples include The Chelsea Hotel (1981), The Private Life of the Ford Cortina (1982), Desert Island Discs (1982). Other successes included Leslie Megahey's legendary portrait of Orson Welles (1982), Nigel Williams' definitive study of George Orwell (1982), and Yentob's portrait of Mel Brooks (1981).
On Yentob’s move to become Head of Music & Arts in 1985, Finch and Wall took over as joint editor of Arena until of Finch’s death in 1995. Following a period of uncertainty concerning the future of the arts strand, series editor Wall protected the series in a reshuffle of the BBC. Since then Arena has been transmitted outside the conventional weekly broadcast strand on BBC Two and BBC Four, and latterly on BBC Four.
Under Wall and Finch, Arena developed the idea of the themed evening, beginning with Blues Night (1985), followed by Caribbean Nights (1986), Animal Night (1989), Food Night (1990), Texas Saturday Night (1991) and Stories My Country Told Me (1995), a three and a half hour presentation on Nations and Nationalism. Since then Arena has won numerous awards with regular screenings at the BFI Southbank and has continued to cover the arts and culture at the highest level, with films on Bob Dylan, Harold Pinter, The National Theatre and Spitting Image, to name but a few.
Most recently Arena has developed a substantial online presence featuring the Arena Hotel, a site that turns the 600-film Arena archive into a resource to build an online hotel for the stars. The Arena Hotel was nominated for a Focal International Award in 2013. The Hotel was commissioned for The Space,and will continue to expand.
Werner Herzog has praised the series as "the oasis in the sea of insanity that is television".
The Arena opening titles were voted among the 'Top 5 Most Influential Opening Titles in the History of Television' by Broadcast magazine in 2004.
Anthony Wall has been the Editor of Arena since 1985. He joined the series in 1978 and became one of its leading directors.
Awards and nominations
Arena has won a Primetime and International Emmys,  a Grammy, nine BAFTAs, six Royal Television Society Awards, a Peabody and the Prix Italia. Arena also won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Paris is Burning, and the Best Performance Award for Lili Taylor's role in I Shot Andy Warhol at the Sundance Film Festival.
Whatever Happened to Spitting Image?
AKA Norman Parkinson
Sister Wendy and the Art of the Gospels
Amy Winehouse: The Day She Came to Dingle
The Dreams of William Golding
Sonny Rollins: This is Who I Am
Dickens On Film
George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Dave Brubeck: In His Own Sweet Way
Harold: A Celebration
V.S. Naipaul: The Strange Luck Of...
Bergman and the Cinema
Calling Hedy Lamarr
Painting the Clouds: A Portrait of Dennis Potter
Shadowing the Third Man
Pavarotti: The Last Tenor
Dylan Thomas: Grave to Cradle
Harold Pinter Season at the BBC
Salgado: Spectre of Hope
Looking for the Iron Curtain
The Football Men
The Burger & the King: The Life & Cuisine of Elvis Presley
|1996||H. O. Hazareth|
Eric Hobsbawn on the Pressburger Bahn
Stories My Country Told Me
Punk and the Pistols
The Other Graham Greene
Evelyn Waugh Trilogy
The Confessions of Robert Crumb
C. L. R. James' First Cricket XI
Borges and I
The Orson Welles Story
Making The Shining
- Vahimagi, Tise. British Television: An Illustrated Guide. Oxford: Oxford University Press / British Film Institute, 1994. ISBN 0-19-818336-4.
- Tise Vahimagi. (2003-12) "Burton, Humphrey (1931-) ". BFI Screen Online". Retrieved 27 June 2013.
- Nigel Smith (22 February 2010). "Brian Eno and the Arena Bottle". BBC Music Blog. BBC. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
- International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. (2013) “International Emmy Awards – Previous Winners 'Arts Programme'”. The International Emmy Awards. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
- The Recording Academy. (2013) "GRAMMY.COM Past Winners Search – ‘No Direction Home’". GRAMMY.COM. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
- British Academy of Film and Television Arts. (2013) "BAFTA Awards Search – ‘Arena’". BAFTA. Retrieved 19 June 2013.