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November 22, 2012

Play for Today: Armchair Theatre - The Hothouse (1964)

Posted on November 22, 2012 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Armchair Theatre: The Hothouse

In an exciting mirror of the real world and to cover up the fact that I was too busy yesterday to do The Wednesday Play (sorry), for this week at least, The Wednesday Play has become Play For Today. 

This week's play comes from ITV's flagship play strand, Armchair Theatre. Most people interested in UK TV plays tend to focus on the BBC's Play for Today, The Wednesday Play, et al, but ITV did produce a really superb range of plays itself. Making its first appearance in 1956, Armchair Theatre was the most notable of ITV's play strands, attracting writers such as Fay Weldon, Jack Rosenthal, John Hopkins, John Mortimer and Allan Prior, and giving us A Night Out from Harold Pinter, Robert Muller's Hitler 'what if' The Night Conspirators and Alun Owen's Lena, O My Lena.

Various plays were even popular enough to launch spin-off series, including Callan (A Magnum for Schneider), Out of This World (Dumb Martian), Armchair Mystery Theatre, Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width and The Sweeney (Regan).

However, today's play is the 1964 production The Hothouse, starring Harry H Corbett from Steptoe and Son, and Diana Rigg, a year before she became Emma Peel in The Avengers. Written by and co-starring Donald Churchill, this light-hearted play pulled in an all-time audience record of 8.3m homes. In it, Churchill plays Gordon Parsley, the assistant manager of a supermarket, part of a chain owned by self-made millionaire Harry Fender (Corbett). Hoping to be promoted, Gordon's prospects look bright when, at the annual staff dance, Harry takes a shine to the ambitious employee's vivacious wife, Charlotte (Miranda Connell).

On the other hand, the boss's interest in Charlotte could spell trouble - especially when Harry's wife Anita (Rigg) decides to meddle and invites the young couple to spend a weekend at the Fenders' country cottage, where Harry tends his precious mangoes and melons in a hothouse.

Here it is, remastered in all its glory. If you like it, get buy it on DVD (it's a special feature on The Avengers series 4 DVDs). Enjoy!

November 19, 2012

Review: Falcón (Sky Atlantic) 1x1

Posted on November 19, 2012 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Falcón

In the UK: Thursdays, 10pm, Sky Atlantic

Times are a-changing, my friends. Time was it was perfectly legitimate to have a go at BSkyB for not putting anything decent on our TV screens. Sky1 and the like was full of nothing but US imports (some good, some not), rubbish like Prickly Heat, and almost no original drama or comedy whatsoever. After a few faltering steps on Sky1 with Terry Pratchett adaptations, Mad Dogs and Strike Back, Sky is now embracing quality, mainly with its new channel Sky Atlantic, which despite the name is originating plenty of quality comedy. Now it's turning its hand towards drama.

After Sky Atlantic's first attempt, the not-half-bad but dirt cheap Hit and Miss, we now have the first of the big guns: Falcón, which is best described as "sexy Wallander" or "Wallander in Spain". Based on Robert Wilson's series of crime novels and starring New Zealand actor Marton Csokas as well as a fine cast of Brits that includes Hayley Atwell (Captain America), Emilia Fox, Bernard Hill, Bill Patterson, Robert Lindsay and Charlie Creed-Miles, Falcón relocates Ken Branagh's misery, artist-father issues, grizzly horror and Brits pretending to be foreigners to Seville, where the eponymous detective has to solve a horrible murder that is connected to his father in some way. Along the way, there's an attractive widow (Atwell), his ex-wife (Fox) and, thanks to Dredd 3D's Pete Travis, a lot of beautifully composed scenes of local colour for him to deal with.

And if you loved Ken's Wallander, there's a good chance you'll love this, too, assuming you don't mind a cop that takes coke. Here's a trailer, a "characters 101" and the first three minutes of the first episode.

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November 16, 2012

Review: Wedding Band (TBS) 1x1

Posted on November 16, 2012 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Wedding Band

In the US: Saturdays, 10/9c, TBS

Straight men are, in general, catered for very well by US television. Or so you'd think. Not all straight men are created equal, however. There are, in fact, two genres that really don't seem to want us at all: romcoms and musicals. Glee, Nashville and Smash laugh in our faces, while The Mindy Project is still trying to work out what straight men want.

It's discrimination, I tell you.

Never fear, though: TBS is here to balance the scales. Now, despite its catchline of "Very funny", TNT's sister channel should really have been promoting itself as "Cack - for men". Glory Daze and Men At Work, I'm particularly looking at you here. But in an effort to stop making appalling television, as well as picking up Cougar Town now that ABC had dropped it, TBS has come up with Wedding Band, a romcom musical for men.

A cross between The Wedding Singer and The Hangover, it sees perennial bachelor Brian Austin Green (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) as the lead singer of a wedding band that includes his married-with-kids Ed Helms-alike best friend, his Jack Black-alike slobby brother and the quasi-hip Harold Perrineau from Lost. The band has been doing weddings for years, but they're ready to go big, possibly with the help of big-time wedding planner Melora Hardin and her novice associate - and possible romantic interest for Green - Jenny Wade.

And while it's very male-oriented, features fight scenes and has quite a broad sense of humour, it's surprisingly funny, nuanced and unmisogynistic. And you get about three or four classic rock and pop cover versions per episode: a romcom musical for men.

Oh, and in case you don't read the tabloids, Brian Austin Green is married to Megan Fox in real life. Which is probably why she's in the next episode in a leather outfit. Here's a trailer:

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