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July 18, 2008

Lost Gems: The Ice House

Posted on July 18, 2008 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Ice House

Christmas is a time traditionally associated with ghost stories. I don't know why that is - maybe it's a pagan hangover, since “let's celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ by scaring each other silly” doesn't strike me as a particularly coherent Christian concept.

Probably the most famous teller of Christmas ghost stories is MR James, the Cambridge don who used to gather friends and students round at Christmas and scare them silly with tales such as Whistle and I'll Come To You, A Warning to the Curious, The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral and Lost Hearts. These were eventually collected into various omnibuses and back in the 60s and 70s, the BBC started adapting the stories, airing a new tale at Christmas.

Initially, just one-offs, the strand eventually was formalised as A Ghost Story for Christmas, with Rosemary Hill as producer and Lawrence Gordon Clark as director. Sticking with James for the first few years, Hill strayed in 1975, getting Andrew Davies to adapt Charles Dickens' The Signalman for the strand. She then chose to forego literary sources altogether and began commissioning original stories instead.

The first of these was Clive Exton's Stigma (which I might deal with at a later time, if you're lucky), but for reasons known only to the Beeb, the strand concluded with John Bowen's The Ice House in 1978. Although BBC2 and BBC4 have repeated many of the episodes and the BFI have released some on DVD, The Ice House has never been repeated. It's a Lost Gem.

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July 18, 2008

Review: The Cleaner 1x1

Posted on July 18, 2008 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Cleaner

In the US: Tuesdays, 10/9c, A&E

A&E has something of a thing for Benjamin Bratt at the moment. As well as starring in the colossally expensive The Andromeda Strain remake, he's now starring in the not-as-expensive-as-its-own-marketing-campaign The Cleaner.

Yep, in an effort to get away from being known as the “channel that likes to show Sopranos re-runs”, A&E is spending up to $8 million just on promoting The Cleaner, one of its first original drama series in a very long time.

Building on the dark and gritty image the network already has, The Cleaner explores the world of addiction, whether it's addiction to drugs, gambling, sex or alcohol. Bratt, in a role “inspired” by reality, plays William Banks, a man who attempts to get over his past heroin addiction by weaning others off their addictions.

Unfortunately, “inspired” seems to mean “converted into something a bit like every other television series you've ever seen - and about as realistic”.

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July 16, 2008

Review: Generation Kill 1x1

Posted on July 16, 2008 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Generation Kill

In the US: Sundays, 9pm, HBO

Is there much point reviewing the first episode of a mini-series? No. With Generation Kill, there's even less point, since it's the creation of David Simon and Ed Burns, who also created The Wire – and we all know that reviewing that is like reviewing a chapter of a book.

All the same, I think it's worth giving a taster, just so you know whether to start watching the remaining six hours of the series.

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