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December 22, 2016

Question of the year: what were your favourite new shows of 2016? Here's my Top 13!

Posted on December 22, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

TMINE's about to take its traditional Christmas and New Year break. I'll be back tomorrow but after that, normal business won't resume until January 3rd or 4th with the Daily News et al. But a new tradition I started last year was to leave you with a specific question to keep you occupied: what were your favourite new shows of the year? As always, let everyone know your choices and the reasons below or on your own blog.

For the record, after the jump are my Top 1213 from all the countries around the world, as well as that new-fangled Internet thing, in no particular order, with the addition of one I mysteriously left off this morning. Merry Grafelnik, everyone!

Continue reading "Question of the year: what were your favourite new shows of 2016? Here's my Top 13!"

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December 21, 2016

The Wednesday Play: A Ghost Story for Christmas - The Stalls of Barchester (1971)

Posted on December 21, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Stalls of Barchester

It's not quite 45 years since The Stalls of Barchester was first broadcast, as it aired on Christmas Eve 1971, but this is close enough and since when have I ever run TMINE's The Wednesday Play feature on a day other than a Wednesday, hey?

The Stalls of Barchester was an adaptation of master ghost story writer MR James' short story of the same name. It sees 1930s scholar Clive Swift uncovering a box in the library of Barchester Cathedral that contains the diary of the cathedral's former archdeacon (Robert Hardy). Swift is able to work out from the diary that Hardy caused the death of his own predecessor at the cathedral and resultingly came under the curse of the man who made the wooden decorations for the cathedral's stalls - a curse that ultimately leads to his own death…

Stalls was the first official entry in the annual 1970s BBC play strand, A Ghost Story for Christmas. It was adapted, produced and directed by Lawrence Gordon Clark, who had seen Jonathan Miller's 1968 adaptation of James' Whistle and I'll Come To You and being a lifelong fan of the author, pitched the idea of another adaptation to Paul Fox, the then controller of BBC1. Fox agreed and Clark chose Stalls to be the first in a series he would produce, as well as largely write and direct. 

The slightly novice and unconfident Clark chose to follow many of Miller's choices with Stalls, including building up tension and fear through suggestion and atmosphere rather than being overt, and shooting on location (Norwich Cathedral doubles for Barchester) using 16mm film rather than video; he even hired Warning's Ambrose Coghill to play the curator. Unlike Miller, however, he was able to shoot in colour - and rather tastefully, too, unlike many video-shot shows of the early 70s. He also reveals a bit more of the supernatural than James ever did in his story and despite a cast of actors known mostly for their roles in sitcoms, avoids the humour that Miller included in his piece. 

With no fixed run time thanks the scheduled late night time slot, Stalls was able to run to 50 minutes and proved so successful that Clark was able to make an annual return to James' stories for most of the decade.

And it's your Wednesday Play - enjoy!

PS Remember: if you like it, support the makers (ie the BBC) by buying it on DVD

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December 15, 2016

Preview: Swedish Dicks 1x1 (Sweden: Viaplay)

Posted on December 15, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Swedish Dicks

In Sweden: Available on Viaplay

You'll probably know Peter Stormare from somewhere. Maybe it's from the Coen Brothers' Fargo or The Big Lebowski. Maybe it's from Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm or Steven Spielberg's The Lost World: Jurassic Park. If you're a TV fan, you'll probably remember him as John Abruzzi in the first two seasons of Prison Break. But he's been in a lot, lot more than that.

Since he has an accent, naturally he's usually cast as a foreigner to American soils, although such is US TV, he's been able to use pretty much the same accent to play Germans, Russians and Italians, without anyone noticing he's none of those - he's actually Swedish.

And for his latest role, which he co-created with his fellow 'Viking Brother' Glenn Lund, he's even able to play a Swede - or an 'ex-Swede' as his character prefers it, since the former stuntman is now living in LA and working as a private detective. Running his own agency, 'Swedish Dick', he's asked by a new client, a DJ, to track down his laptop, as it's been stolen by a rival DJ and it has all his sick new beats on it. Stormare quickly tracks down the thief, a young fellow Swede (Johans Glans), and retrieves the laptop. However, things aren't quite as they seem and by the end of the episode, the technically literate but fragile Glans has joined the more robust Stormare as a PI in the new retitled agency 'Swedish Dicks'.

The show aired on Swedish Internet channel Viaplay in September and has been picked up for global distribution by Lionsgate, with a US airing promised for early 2017 and maybe a UK Netflix/Amazon pick-up at some point soon after that. This isn't all that surprising, since like TV4 Sweden's Welcome to Sweden, it's clearly been made with a global audience in mind, since half the dialogue is English, half Swedish.

Oh, yes - have I mentioned yet that Stormare's arch-nemesis is his former partner, Keanu Reeves? Yes, Keanu Reeves.

Now that says global, doesn't it? 

Unfortunately, the scripts still say 'Swedish', since the show is undoubtedly Swedish in tone: Stormare's gun is actually a hairdryer, the bad guys generally only want to be doing right by their sons and most of the jokes are in that favoured Swedish comedic artform - slapstick. Few of the jokes work in English and I only ever found myself gaffawing at the Swedish jokes. I mean this is the sort of level we're working at most of the time - even regular guest star Traci Lords can't save this:

Swedish Dicks is pretty gentle comedy at best, but it's not awful. Indeed, it's pretty amiable stuff, and Stormare and Glans are a personable, if silly pairing. It's not thrilling, though, and I certainly don't want to watch any more of it after having watched the first episode, not even for Keanu, since you can watch all his appearances in this 12-minute YouTube video.

But if that's whet your appetite, here's a trailer for the whole series and maybe the whole thing will be on your TV screens soon:

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