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January 17, 2013

Nostalgia Corner: Shelley (1979-84, 1988-92)

Posted on January 17, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Hywel Bennett as Shelley

Once in a while, a show comes along that epitomises an era. Whether it's The Rag Trade, Citizen Smith, Only Fools and Horses or The Young Ones, these shows depict something truthful about a certain part of the population and become almost instant hits as a result.

In the UK in the late 70s, unemployment was a serious political issue. Under Labour it had reached the unheard of figure of 1 million and under the Conservatives, it was soon to reach 3 million. 'The Dole' - aka unemployment benefit - was both a godsend for those who were poor and out of work and a bugbear for those who saw it as a way for skivers to get paid to not work.

And onto this scene came Shelley. It starred Hywel Bennett as the eponymous James Shelley, a professional layabout, an over-educated, underemployed loafer with a PhD, living in a grotty bedsit in North London, dedicating his life to not working and escaping from people who think he should be, such as the Inland Revenue. And Fran (Belinda Sinclair), his girlfriend with whom he lives and who thinks he should settle down and start working. Then there's his bank manager, his landlady, the Labour Exchange… The list goes on.

But the anti-establishment, cynical Shelley - a sort of cross between Wolfie Smith and Tony Hancock - would rather dedicate himself to not working and pondering the philosophical implications of existence than to earning money the traditional way.

Created and then written by Peter Tilbury for three series before Drop The Dead Donkey creators Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin took over for another three, the show was massively successful, mainly thanks to the performance of Bennett, but also because Tilbury knew exactly what it was like to be on the dole in a grotty North London flat. And then there was the theme tune by Doctor Who theme tune composer Ron Grainer.

Eventually, all good things had to end and Shelley waved goodbye in 1984. But that wasn't the last we were to see of him. In 1988, Shelley returned in The Return Of Shelley, after having moved to Saudi Arabia to teach English. Here, in scripts written once again by Hamilton and Jenkin, he has to get to grips with his now-yuppified old neighbourhood and all the other changes that have occurred in his absence. Fran has had enough, so the single Shelley ends up by himself, although the show did have a regular female presence in the shape of Caroline Langrishe (Pulaski).

For the show's final two series, which reverted to being just Shelley, he moves in with David Ryall's Ted for an unexpected spot of philanthropy - Ted’s house, in which he has lived his whole life, is the only one left in his street, the others having been demolished to make way for a leisure centre, so Shelley moves in to help Ted with his fight against the developers who want to demolish it.

Unfortunately, after 10 series, Shelley's stay had grown unwelcome. It was a different age, and Shelley was a relic. It was time to call it a day. But never has one layabout put in so much effort into not making an effort.

Here are some clips and if you like it, at least some series are available on DVD.

January 11, 2013

Review: Cracked 1x1 (CBC)

Posted on January 11, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Cracked

In Canada: Tuesdays, 9/9.30NT, CBC

Imagine a world where cops are armed but they never shoot anyone. Imagine a world where the mental ill are treated with respect, even when they kill people. Imagine a world where there's an entire police unit dedicated to investigating crimes committed by the mentally ill so that they can be helped and treated.

No need to imagine. That world is Canada.

Allegedly.

'Inspired' by real-life incidents, Cracked sees Canadian police officer Aidan Black (David Sutcliffe) get a touch of PTSD and start doing inappropriate chicken impressions. When he returns to work, still not quite right - 'cracked' even - he's given a chance to help on the newly formed Psych Crimes Unit, where he's to work with psychiatrist Daniella Ridley (Stefanie von Pfetten), another cop (Luisa D'Oliveira) and a psychiatric nurse (Dayo Ade) in helping to investigate crimes committed by the mentally ill, and then, using his unique insight and compassion, talk to them a lot.

And while on the one hand it's a delight to have a show that doesn't think banging everyone to rights or shooting them, particularly if they're mentally ill, is a good idea, it doesn't half expose the fact that for most drama, something has to happen for them to be interesting.

Here's a trailer.

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January 10, 2013

Competition time: see the first episode of Spiral season 4, Q&A with Grégory Fitoussi and more!

Posted on January 10, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Clement and the judge in Engrenages

As I've mentioned before, the second Totally Serialized is about to take place in London. Featuring international cinema and TV, as well as UK shows such as Doctor Who and Peep Show, it'll offer you the exclusive chance to see:

  • The first episode of the mini-series Labyrinth, based on the multi-million selling novel by Kate Mosse, followed by a panel Q&A with cast and key creatives
  • The UK premieres of innovative French shows Rebound, Spin and The Church Men
  • A panel on TV screenwriting with Jack Thorne (The Fades, This is England), Ashley Pharoah (Life on Mars) and French screenwriters
  • The world premiere of Flight of the Storks directed by Jan Kounen
  • The world premiere of Jo attended by Jean Reno
  • A comedy medley of French and British sitcoms (The Thick of It, Peep Show, Kaboul Kitchen, Workingirls)
  • A Skins revival to say goodbye to the cult show ending this year, with a screening of the very first episode and a Q&A with the creator Bryan Elsley
  • A night of Doctor Who fun with fancy dress, music, quizzes and a writing masterclass with Toby Whithouse.

Full details of what's on are here and here's a trailer:

And I have a pass to give away to one lucky person for all of Friday 18th's events, which will include:

  • The UK premiere of the first episode of Spiral series 4
  • The UK premiere of new Scandinavian sci-fi show Real Humans
  • Episode two of the French political series Spin
  • A Q&A with actor Grégory Fitoussi

Here are some trailers - yes there will be English subtitles:

To be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is leave a comment below before midnight on Tuesday 14th January, after which the results will be announced. Good luck and spread the word!

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