Posted on December 12, 2013 | |
There are a couple of names that are big in BBC circles right now: Peter Capaldi and Paula Milne. Capaldi is of course set to become the 12th Doctor Who (or should that be 14th? We’ll soon know) this Christmas, while Milne has been responsible for series such as Angels, The Hour and The Politician’s Husband, as well as TV movies such as Legacy.
So it seems an appropriate time to have a look back at 1996’s Chandler and Co, written by Milne and co-starring Capaldi. The show’s two lead characters, however - the eponymous Chandler and co - were Dee Chandler (Catherine Russell, who’s probably best known as Serena Campbell in Holby City and as Helen Lynley in The Inspector Lynley Mysteries) and her sister-in-law Elly Chandler (Barbara Flynn from The Beiderbecke Affair and A Very Peculiar Practice). After Dee divorces Elly’s philandering brother Max, she convinces Elly to help her set up a private detective agency.
Unfortunately, of course, having no background in law enforcement or anything investigative, neither has a clue what she’s doing. Enter Larry Blakeston (Peter Capaldi), the PI who investigated Max for Dee and a supplier of fine technological devices to inquiring detectives. Blakeston agrees to help out - with some degree of eye rolling at the duo’s amateurism.
With the show keen to depict a more realistic milieu for the private detectives, far away from the drug lords and master criminals of other TV shows, in favour of the more bread and butter cheating spouses and runaway children, you’d have thought it would have been a relatively genteel piece. But instead it was largely about the emotional and physical damage loved ones can do to each other (particularly men). Indeed, even Capaldi, an ostensible hero of the piece, doesn’t get let off lightly, pressurising Dee into sleeping with him in order to maintain his good favour and by extension the viability of her business.
Fitting into a period when female crime investigators were on the rise again in the UK (Prime Suspect, Anna Lee), the show lasted two series, during the second of which Flynn was replaced by Susan Fleetwood (who sadly died shortly after the series aired). It’s not been repeated since, but you can watch the first series on YouTube below:
Posted on December 4, 2013 | |
Probably one of the biggest British heroes of the Second World War was Alan Turing. Indeed, although he can't be said to have won the war, without him, it's very possible we would have lost it, such was his contribution. Because Turing, after whom the famous 'Turing Test' is named, was the mathematician responsible for large parts not only of the Allies' code-breaking efforts, focusing particularly on Germany's Enigma machines, but some of the foundations of computing theory that are in use today even now.
So how did we reward him after the war? Well, he was gay so naturally we threatened to put him in prison, which prompted him to commit suicide. Well done us.
The story of Turing's life was turned into a stage play, Breaking The Code, which the BBC adapted in 1996 in association with PBS in the US, with Derek Jacobi as Turing. As with all stage plays turned into TV plays, differing runtimes meant that cuts and changes had to be made, so arguably the TV version is a slightly inferior piece in comparison to the original. It also didn't help that PBS asked for a speech on mathematics delivered by Jacobi to be cut because 'Americans won't understand it.' Oh dear.
But despite the shorter runtime, it's well worth a watch, especially if you'd never heard of Turing until now. Enjoy!
Posted on November 28, 2013 | |
Many plays, particularly those in the theatre, are written to impart a message from the author. TV plays typically have been no different and especially during the 1970s in the UK, social realism and commentary on injustices in society were grist to the playwright's mill.
Largely, however, this wasn't the case for genre series, which were much more interested in ideas about science, technology and the future in the case of science-fiction shows - or just scaring people in the case of horror shows. But the first play in BBC2's 1972 supernatural anthology series Dead of Night, The Exorcism, married both the supernatural and social conscience to deliver a play about the divide between rich and poor that still was able to scare the crap out of the viewer.
Set in a recently purchased cottage in the countryside, The Exorcism sees various middle-class friends (Clive Swift, Edward Petherbridge, Anna Cropper and Sylvia Kay) get together for a dinner party and to revel in how much money they have. Unfortunately, their behaviour excites some particularly unfriendly proletariat ghosts and the party ends up going in a particularly bad direction for them all.
If you can get over the somewhat agitprop nature of Don Taylor's play, this is a real blood curdler that'll make you think while it scares you witless. Best watched at night, with the lights turned down, it's this week's Wednesday Play on Thursday. Enjoy - and if you like it, you can buy it and the two surviving episodes (Return Flight and A Woman Sobbing) on DVD.
PS Trivia lovers might like to know that the eighth episode of the series was going to be The Stone Tape, but that was eventually aired as a separate play.