Archive | The Wednesday Play

A weekly classic TV play

January 6, 2016

What TV's on at the BFI in February? Including Nuts In May, Penda's Fen, Artemis 81 and Leap In The Dark

Posted on January 6, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Time to look at what the BFI is showing in February. Yes, February. I never got my January guide, and since it's now January and the February guide turned up yesterday, let's just do February. I'll be ahead of schedule for a change then.

February's actually not got a huge amount of TV, but what there is is largely TV plays - and good 'uns, too. As well as Dexter Press Gang Fletcher introducing Nuts In May, we also have a season of David Rudkin's TV plays. Who's Rudkin? Well, he wrote about 90% of the pagan dramas in TMINE's guide to religion, including Penda's Fen and Artemis 81, both of which get an airing in the season (although since the BFI describes the latter as 'one of the medium's greatest productions', I'm not entirely sure they've actually watched it yet). 

But as well as those, Rudkin's The Living Grave is also being shown. This was part of a somewhat odd, supernatural anthology series that aired on BBC Two called Leap In The Dark. This ran for 20 episodes in four series, over a period of eight years from 1973 to 1980, and featured work from Rudkin, as well as Fay Weldon and Alan Garner among others. Each episode featured a different incident of the paranormal, some in the modern day, but most set in other time periods.

So far, so ordinary, you might think. What's odd about Leap In the Dark is that all these incidents were real events - indeed, the first series consisted only of documentaries, while the later series are technically docudramas, rather than dramas. Rushkin's The Living Grave is about a young woman who regresses under hypnosis to the 1700s, with Rushkin's play recreating both the hypnosis sessions and the 1700s. And it's this week's Wednesday's Play.

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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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