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Some of the best articles on the blog. Typically, these have a picture. It's a low entrance requirement, I know.


September 4, 2013

The Wednesday Play: Up The Junction (1965)

Posted on September 4, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Up The Junction

What would Wednesday be like without a little bit of cheery social realism from Ken Loach, hey? You don't have to imagine, because today's play is Up The Junction, a Wednesday Play from 1965. Based on the 1963 Nell Dunn novel of the same name, which in turn was based on conversations the authoress overheard in local pubs, the play depicts then-contemporary life in Battersea, showing everything from petty thieving and sexual encounters, to births and deaths. Unsurprisingly, it was watched by 10m viewers and attracted a record 400 complaints.

More importantly, Loach's characteristic documentary-style depiction of back-street abortions was powerful enough that the public debate was swayed and abortion was legalised in 1967. Loach commented that the use of documentary elements reflected the programme's scheduling: The Wednesday Play appeared immediately after the evening news. "We were very anxious for our plays not to be considered dramas but as continuations of the news," he added.

Less importantly, it led to a movie the same year that starred Dennis Waterman and Maureen Lipman. Can't be helped, that.

July 17, 2013

The Wednesday Play: The Naked Civil Servant (1975)

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

The Naked Civil Servant

Given that the Queen has just today signed an act of parliament making gay marriages legal in England and Wales, it seems appropriate to make today's Wednesday Play The Naked Civil Servant, a boundary-breaking ITV play based on the autobiography of openly gay man Quentin Crisp. Directed by Jack Gold, written by Philip Mackie and produced by Blog Goddess Verity Lambert, the play starred John Hurt as the flamboyant Crisp, covering his life from youth to middle age as he comes to terms with his homosexuality during the 1930s and 1940s, a time when homosexuality was illegal and even women were looked down upon for dyeing their hair.

Spawning a recent sequel (An Englishman in New York) and regarded by industry professionals as one of the most important British TV plays ever made, it's a must watch. If you like it, buy it on DVD!

July 11, 2013

Review: The Bridge (US) 1x1 (FX)

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

fx-the-bridge3.jpg

In the US/Canada: Wednesdays, 10pm ET/7pm PT, FX
In the UK: Not yet acquired

As I remarked at the time I reviewed its first episode last year, the superb Swedish/Danish co-production Bron/Broen/The Bridge very much had its eye on the international market when it was made. Taking elements of everything from Wallander, The Killing and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the show sees a dead body - subsequently revealed to be two halves of two bodies stuck together - left on the exact border of Sweden and Denmark. Two detectives, each playing up to the stereotypes held about their respective countries - icy Swedish female detective with Asperger's Saga Noren (Sofia Helin) and schlubby, overly-personable Danish detective Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia) - then have to investigate the crime together, which turns out to have increasingly political ramifications, as the serial killer responsible exposes inequalities in both countries.

Since then, it's been acquired by many countries, including the UK and the US. But what I didn't appreciate when I wrote that review was that in this age of international co-productions, The Bridge provides a surefire format for adaptation by other countries. Indeed, the UK and France are making The Tunnel together (I'm not sure how that's going to work, given the respective national stereotypes) and now FX in the US had made The Bridge, taking the same story as the original and transposing it to the US-Mexican border.

The remake sees Diane Kruger playing Sonya Cross, an Aspie member of the El Paso police department in the US, while Demián Bichir is Marco Ruiz, a detective for the Mexican state of Chihuahua. As with the original, two halves of two women - this time a US judge and a Mexican teenager - are found on the bridge between their two countries and the two detectives have to work together to find out who's behind the murders and what they want. Along the way, they encounter an unethical journalist (Matthew Lillard), a wealthy widow (Annabeth Gish), Cross's helpful, Asperger's-friendly boss (Ted Levine) and the corrupt Mexican police. All kinds of political issues are raised, too, ranging from immigration through drugs and prostitution.

Now, to a certain extent, we've been here before. For starters, people who've seen the original will obviously want to know if there's any point watching the remake. Indeed, we've already seen the US adapt a Scandinavian show, The Killing, as initially a shot-for-shot remake, so there was no point in watching the somewhat lesser remake if you'd seen the original. But equally, as the show began to diverge from its source material, it ended up giving us an inferior ending that annoyed even viewers who'd never seen the original.

On the strength of this first episode, though, I'd say that largely, whether you've seen the original or you haven't, it's worth watching, since it takes many of the strengths of the original and adds its own to the mix. Here's a couple of trailers - one in English, one in Spanish, appropriately enough.

Continue reading "Review: The Bridge (US) 1x1 (FX)"

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