Archive | The Wednesday Play

A weekly classic TV play

November 10, 2015

Review: Agent X 1x1-1x2 (US: TNT)

Posted on November 10, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Sharon Stone in TNT's Agent X

In the US: Sundays, 9/8c, TNT

There's been a decades-long quest in the US to create 'the American James Bond'. This is somewhat ironic, since the first ever adaptation of a James Bond book was the 1954 US TV series Climax! Mystery Theater's Casino Royale, starring Barry Nelson as 'Jimmy Bond'. (Let's twopher this one and call it this week's Wednesday Play… on Tuesday)

But ever since Bond hit it big at the movie box office, there have been attempts to create an equally lucrative and iconic US James Bond, such as Napoleon Solo in The Man From UNCLE, whom they even asked Ian Fleming to help develop, although all he ended up giving them was the name. However, so far, the US has had very little success, although many people argue that the Bourne series is the American equivalent of the Bond movies. 

It's also ironic, because why would you want to create an American James Bond? He's quintessentially British. And I don't mean suave, sophisticated, good with women, etc - we're really not any of those.

No, James Bond's attitudes to his job are quintessentially British - there's no real patriotism, no great love of country, no belief in the fundamental awesomeness of the British political system. To Bond, Britain isn't best and there is no 'British exceptionalism'. Instead, he is a blunt tool who risks all for Queen and country, because it's a job and the alternative to the status quo would probably just be even worse than it already is. That's peak British, that is.

So Agent X is probably the first TV series or movie that really offers a truly American version of James Bond. Created by William Blake Herron, who co-wrote The Bourne Identity, it stars Sharon Stone as the first female vice-president of the United States. On her inaugration night, her strong grasp of Latin and Masonic symbols enables her to discover the true reason the vice president has bugger all constitutional duties - there's a secret article in the original US constitution that gives her the power in times of national emergency to command a nameless secret agent to do whatever it takes to protect the country from enemies, foreign and domestic. Agent X is that man, a self-sacrificing, small town, everyman patriot, foresaking any kind of personal life to defend the United States and her Constitution, all for no reward.

That's peak American, that is. 

Shame that although it's a step in the right direction, it's still rubbish. Even worse than the worst Roger Moore James Bond movie you can think of. Maybe not the worst Pierce Brosnan movie, though.

Here's a 13-minute trailer. I kid you not.

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July 8, 2015

Nostalgia corner: Ace of Wands (1970-72)/The Wednesday Plays: Dutch Schlitz's Shoes/Mr Stabs (1984)

Posted on July 8, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Russell Hunter as Mr Stabs, with Judy Loe as Lulli in Ace of Wands

There can't be many TV characters that have managed to endure for 15 years, on and off. There must be even fewer still who were villains and played by different actors. Even fewer of them must have appeared in children's TV shows and been set up for their own spin-off series. And even fewer have had children imitating them in playgrounds.

But to do all of that and to appear in no fewer than three unrelated TV shows? That surely must be unique.

So spare a thought for Estabse, an immortal member of 'the Brotherhood', servant of Beelzebub and prodigious user of 'hand magic', for his journey is indeed both unique and fascinating.

It begins in Ace of Wands, in itself a fascinating and unique show warranting an entry in Nostalgia Corner, before moving over into The Wednesday Play and two different anthology series: Shadows and Dramarama. Are you prepared to meet Mr Stabs?

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July 1, 2015

The Wednesday Play: Leeds United (1974)

Posted on July 1, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

It’s quite easy to dismiss a lot of the late 60s/early 70s Play For Today strands as agitprop. I’ve done it myself, plenty of times. But it’s worth remembering that even when it was agitprop, that didn’t mean that everyone in the left wing was happy with the results.

Leeds United is one play that garnered considerable backlash… from trade unions. It was written in 1974 by actor Colin Welland (Kes, Z Cars, Straw Dogs, Sweeney!) who’s now best known as the writer of Chariots of Fire, for which he won the Best Screenplay Oscar and notoriety for his "The British are coming!" acceptance speech:

Directed by Roy Battersby and starring Lynne Perrie, Elizabeth Spriggs, Lori Wells, Josie Lane and Bert Gaunt, the play was based on the true story of a 1970 strike in Leeds by female textile-factory workers. What did they want? To be paid the same as their male colleagues. When did they want it? Now. Their biggest obstacle? Their own trade union.

While Welland, of course, survived the furore from the trade unions, Battersby didn’t fare as well. Despite being a Trotskyist and full-time organiser for the Workers Revolutionary Party, his career was considerably damaged. His third Play For Today, Leeds United would be the last of his contributions and he never worked on the series again. He worked very little on TV for the rest of the 1970s, but his career revived in the 80s. He eventually won the Alan Clarke BAFTA for ‘outstanding creative contribution to television’ in 1996.

Leeds United is this week’s Wednesday Play. Try not to blacklist anyone after you’ve watched it.

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