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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.


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.

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June 28, 2013

Review: Crossing Lines 1x1 (NBC/TF1)

Posted on June 28, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Crossing Lines

In the US: Sundays, 10/9c, NBC
In France: TF1. No air date yet

Crime, these days, is global. In Europe, which doesn't have an equivalent to the FBI specifically tasked with investigating 'federal' crimes, if you're a computer hacker in Poland, you can steal money from a French bank as easily as if you were in Paris and the policiers will have a devil of a time bringing you to book. If you've killed someone in London and are looking to avoid the police, a quick trip on the Eurostar over to Brussels and even if the Met know you committed the crime, getting the Federale Politie/Police Fédérale/Föderale Polizei to not only talk to each other but find you and arrest you will be far more challenging for them than getting the South Tyneside police to do the same.

My, if only there were some kind of pan-European bunch of cops tasked with investigating crimes that cross EU state boundaries, able to skirt these kind of jurisdictional issues so they can bring to heel criminals who have escaped justice because of lack of co-operation between forces.

Well, there isn't, but Crossing Lines, a US-French-German co-production, imagines such an elite group of cops, albeit one that needs an American lead for in-story reasons that are a little opaque and for real-world reasons that are far more explicable.

It stars William Fichtner (Prison Break, Invasion, MDs) as a crippled New York cop who's moved to the Netherlands and become a garbage collector for reasons that are initially inexplicable but become clearer by the end of the pilot. He's recruited for his deductive powers (and American-ness) by a French detective (singer and occasional actor Marc Lavoine) who heads up an elite team of cops at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. The team also includes a British interrogation specialist (Genevieve O'Reilly), a Northern Irish weapons specialist and former traveller (Richard Flood), a German technology expert (Tom Wlaschiha from HBO's Game of Thrones), an Italian undercover specialist (Gabriella Pession) and a French crime analyst with an eidetic memory (Moon Dailly from France 3's Commissaire Magellan). Together with the help of an ICC inspector (Donald Sutherland - do I really have to tell you who he is?), the team can investigate crimes other groups can't touch.

Their first case? Well, given the series was created by one of the show runners of Criminal Minds, despite the shiny international cast, the numerous glossy European locations, relatively high budget and a surprising nose for local cultural differences, would it surprise you if I told you it was a relatively dull, tedious, cliched affair involving an American serial killer? Probably not.

Here's a trailer:

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