Classic TV

Nostalgia corner: The Zoo Gang (1974)

The Zoo Gang

The gods alone know how I missed this one when I was doing my recap of ITC’s 1970s shows, but I did, so let’s rectify that mistake ASAP.

A close inspection of ITC’s early 1970s shows, including The Persuaders!, The Protectors and The Adventurer will reveal a very subtle trend: a move away from casting bright young unknowns who might become stars to casting stars who were – trying not to be harsh – perhaps very slightly over the hill. Roger Moore obviously still had a career as James Bond ahead of him, but he’d already been The Saint and Ivanhoe, so who knew if there was a future for him in 1971. Ditto Tony Curtis, Robert Vaughn and Gene Barry who had been big… once.

The Zoo Gang married that trend with ITC’s new dedication to overseas filming, casting Brian Keith (The Westerner, The Parent Trap, Nevada Smith, Family Affair and eventually Hardcastle & McCormick), Barry Morse (The Fugitive, The Adventurer and afterwards Space: 1999), Lilli Palmer (an award-winning German actress) and Sir John Mills as a group of World War 2 resistance members who reunite 30 years later to wreak vengeance on the compatriot who betrayed them to the Gestapo during the War. Their job done, the elderly group decide to stay together to use their skills to scam con artists and criminals out of their money so as to build a hospital in memory of Palmer’s deceased husband.

Based on a book by Paul Gallico and set on the French Riviera in Nice, the show ran for six episodes and took its name from the fact that ‘the Zoo Gang’ all had animal codenames: the Elephant, the Tiger, The Leopard and The Fox. And while the scripts were nothing special, it did have a great title sequence – that’s rather a lot like The Persuaders!‘s in style – and, in a first for ITC, a theme tune by Paul and Linda McCartney.

Here’s the title sequence and if that’s not enough for you, the entire first episode is after the jump. Yes, you can get it on DVD, you lucky people. No, you can’t get Barry Morse’s hat – why would you want to?

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Pleasant Pastures – huh

So this is a trailer for Pleasant Pastures, an ‘independent TV pilot’ made by Amy K Green and Blair Skinner who say they met while working on Oliver Stone’s Savages and decided they wanted to make a TV show. As you do.

Let me know what you think – would you like to see this on tele?

When July Mallard’s dream job falls through, she’s forced to take on a gig as Associate Director of Pleasant Pastures Retirement Home. The gang of brash elderly residents and her staff of misfits combine for an experience that is anything but a dream come true.

It’s a thumbs down from me and seeing as it’s an ‘independent TV pilot’, it has almost zero chance of actually appearing on TV, but there’s a Facebook page if you like it.


A roundtable with Claire Danes, Emmy Rossum, Kyra Sedgwick, Mireille Enos, Julianna Margulies and January Jones

The Hollywood Reporter drama actress roundtable

The Hollywood Reporter has some great roundtables with actors and actresses, and since they’ve finally worked out how to give people like me embed codes, let’s take the opportunity to show off their latest roundtable with the Emmy-nominated Claire Danes (Homeland), Emmy Rossum (Shameless), Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), Mireille Enos (The Killing), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife) and January Jones (Mad Men).

Yes, January Jones is up for an Emmy this year. No, don’t ask me why.

Did you know that Kyra Sedgwick auditioned for Flashdance? No, me either. This, the full 50-minute interview and the answers to “What was your scariest moment as an actress?”, “Nudity – when is it okay?”, and “Who has influenced your career?” after the jump

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Thursday’s “Andie MacDowell gets a Hallmark TV series, Robert Patrick is promoted and Neil Cross to write Doctor Who episode” news

Doctor Who



  • Trailer for Branded, with Max von Sydow and Jeffrey Tambor
  • Trailer for Les Miserables with Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway et al

Canadian TV



New US shows

The Weekly Play

The Wednesday Play: Brimstone and Treacle (1976/1987)

It’s Wednesday so guess what. Yes, that’s right. It’s time for The Wednesday Play, a chance to watch a classic British television play in its entirety. This week, the play we’re going to be watching is Play For Today‘s Brimstone and Treacle, written by one of Britain’s finest television playwrights Dennis Potter and starring Michael Kitchem Denholm Elliott, Patricia Lawrence and Michelle Newell.

Brimstone and Treacle caused something of a stir in its day because despite being made in 1976 and adapted into a movie starring Sting in 1982, it was never screened on television until 1987.

Why? Because of the subject matter. Brimstone and Treacle sees Kitchen, who is possibly the devil himself – certainly someone who can break the ‘fourth wall’ – come to visit an ordinary household in which the daughter has been severely injured in a hit-and-run accident and is apparently in a near vegetative state.

Let’s just say that after that, bad things happen. But then so do good things. It’s the combination of the two that caused offence. Alasdair Milne, then head of TV programmes at the BBC, decided to withdraw and ultimately ban it, on the grounds that the work was “brilliantly written and made, but nauseating”.

Potter later said:

I had written Brimstone and Treacle in difficult personal circumstances. Years of acute psoriatic arthropathy—unpleasantly affecting skin and joints—had not only taken their toll in physical damage but had also, and perhaps inevitably, mediated my view of the world and the people in it. I recall writing (and the words now make me shudder) that the only meaningful sacrament left to human beings was for them to gather in the streets in order to be sick together, splashing vomit on the paving stones as the final and most eloquent plea to an apparently deaf, dumb and blind God. […] I was engaged in an extremely severe struggle not so much against the dull grind of a painful and debilitating illness but with unresolved, almost unacknowledged, ‘spiritual’ questions.

So follow me after the break to one of British television’s most controversial works. Watch it to the very end or you’ll miss out on something important.

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