Posted on January 23, 2014 | |
Sometimes, plays can be used to illustrate a societal or political problem, through allegory or even fable. Sometimes, though, they can be too subtle for their own.
Fable, John Hopkins' 1965 The Wednesday Play, was actually a rather daring piece - a commentary on race relations in the UK and South Africa that inverts the two countries' societies to imagine a British racial apartheid, but one in which whites are the brutally oppressed, blacks the authoritarians running the system. Narrated by Keith Barron, the play contrasts the experiences of an oppressed white couple, Joan (Eileen Atkins) and Len (Ronald Lacey), with the middle-class, black, liberal writer Mark (Thomas Baptiste) living under house arrest with his wife Francesca (Barbara Assoon). As well as showing by analogy just how poorly black people were then treated by white people, it also castigated the efforts of white liberals in South Africa to challenge the regime, arguing that they showed little interest in doing anything except being self-righteous.
The play, which was also interspersed with stills and documentary footage of conflicts in South Africa, Vietnam and elsewhere, was powerful enough that its broadcast was initially postponed by several weeks because of fears that it would raise racial tensions in a forthcoming by-election in Leyton, East London, that involved a candidate who had previously lost his seat following a notoriously racist campaign in Birmingham.
Disappointingly, however, the audience at the time didn't quite understand Hopkins' message. "I got a letter from a viewer which said 'I really enjoyed that play. Boy, you showed them what would happen if they came to power, if they had the authority.' He didn't even need to specify who 'they' were."
You can watch the play below, although unfortunately, this copy is from BBC4's 2005 'TV on trial' season, so involves a certain amount of on-screen 'grafitti'.
Posted on January 15, 2014 | |
In the US: Fridays, 9.30/8.30c, Fox
If there’s one genre of comedy that the US does particularly well, it’s military comedy. Think The Phil Silvers Show. Think MASH. Think Private Benjamin. Don’t think Down Periscope.
But there’s been a bit of a lull of late. Wonder why. In fact, despite largely the conclusion of the Iraq war and the withdrawal of US troops from both there and Afghanistan, many are questioning if it’s ‘the right time’ for another military comedy.
Is there ever a right time?
All the same, a cautious greeting I think to Fox’s Enlisted, a welcome, funny comedy from Kevin Biegel, a former Scrubs writer and the co-creator of Cougar Town, that sees a 'super soldier’ (Geoff Stults) sent back from Afghanistan for punching a superior officer. He winds up at a 'rear detachment’ base in Florida, which coincidentally happens to be the same base where his two younger brothers are stationed - one who hates the army but is quite a good soldier, the other who loves the army but is a terrible soldier. Put in charge of them and the rest of their platoon of losers, Stults finds himself having to deal with not just his new, less prestigious mission, but competition from another sergeant (Angelique Cabral), his superior officer who also happened to raise him after his parents died (Keith David)… and a lost dog.
Continue reading "Review: Enlisted 1x1 (Fox)"
Posted on January 14, 2014 | |
In the US: Fridays, 10/9c, SyFy
In the UK: Mondays, 10pm, Channel 5. Starts January 20th
Normally, I do love a killer virus TV show or movie. Whether it’s The Andromeda Strain (original or remake), Outbreak, The Burning Zone, The Satan Bug or anything else, I loves them.
You know what else I love? I also love stuff by Ronald D Moore, the exec producer of Battlestar Galactica.
So I was thoroughly looking forward to his new show Helix, in which a brave group of scientists from the CDC in the US travel to a secret research facility in the Arctic to investigate the outbreak of a brand new ‘retro-virus’ (ooh, actual biological terms being used - count me in). Queue the paranoia. Queue the tension. I mean that’s The Thing (kind of), The Andromeda Strain (secret lab) and The X-Files episode Ice. Brilliant!
Except… as always, the devil is in the details and while everyone is trying ever so hard to make this scary and upsetting and horrifying, it’s all falling just a little bit short. Here’s a trailer.
Continue reading "Review: Helix 1x1-1x3 (SyFy/Channel 5)"