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:
on December 3, 2013 | |
In the US: Mondays, 8/7c, Fox
In the UK: Not yet acquired
Find it in the schedules where you live
With so many shows now starting with double-episodes, it seems to make more sense - if I can bear it - to wait for four episodes before passing verdict on them. Almost Human is a case in point. A big brave bold JJ Abrams TV show from Fox, it’s a futuristic buddy-buddy cop story between a growly white cop (Karl Urban) and a sensitive black android cop (Michael Ealy). They solve crimes together. They rib each other.
Every episode is more or less the same: there’s a shiny, quite interesting science-fiction idea about law enforcement or crime in the future. Our two heroes go around and solve the crime in precisely the same way two modern day cops would, just a bit quicker thanks to technology and special effects. The android gets shot or beaten up a bit, but he can take it because he’s an android. And then there’s much laughter at the end.
Along the way, despite 100 years having passed since women’s liberation, the entire existence of women except as sexbots, strippers, wives and mothers is pretty much forgotten - you might spot one in ten characters as being female. There’s a lot of male bonding and jokes. Mackenzie Crook from The Office gets to be nerdy. All the promise of story arcs and characterisation that was in the first episode gets more or less forgotten.
It’s incredibly, incredibly adequate.
I do appreciate that the show is trying to be a procedural, a CSI with robots, and that expecting individual episodes to be anything more than exactly the same as each other is a bad idea. There’s a decent enough chemistry between the two leads and they do their jobs as required. And it does come up with some intriguing ideas (this week, we got a liquid you can swallow that will make you a GPS beacon and a drug made from bacteria found on the ocean floor).
But unless you’re a teenage boy or will watch pretty much anything science-fiction related, this probably ain’t the show for you. It’s just too bland, too boys club and too empty in the human relationships department to really make you want to watch.
Barrometer rating: 3
Rob’s prediction: Will probably last a season, maybe get a second. But that’s it, unless there’s a big reboot
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.