What TV’s on at the BFI in April 2015?

It’s time for our regular look at the TV that the BFI is showing, this time in April 2015. Quite an epic amount of TV this month, thanks not only to previews of BBC One’s forthcoming adaptation of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and ITV’s remake of Thunderbirds, but also to a season of forensics dramas and documentaries, a season of some of Verity Lambert’s lesser known works and a night of Marc Karlin’s experimental works.

Tuesday 31 March
16:00 NFT1
Funday Preview: Thunderbirds Are Go
Episode 1: The Ring of Fire + Q&A with actor David Graham and exec producer Giles Edge
UK 2015. Dir David Scott. With the voices of Rosamund Pike, David Graham, Kayvan Novak. 60min. Courtesy of ITV Studios
International Rescue is a secretive, futuristic organisation with a fleet of amazing Thunderbirds, designed to rescue those in peril. This eagerly awaited, action-packed reboot boasts a unique mix of CGI animation and live-action model sets to deliver a new level of action-adventure animation, while paying tribute to the classic 1960’s phenomenon.
Under 16s £4, adult £11.75, concs £9.20. Combo ticket offer: 1 adult + 1 child £10 (Members pay £1.50 less)

Wednesday 1 April
18:10 NFT3
Verity Lambert: An Appreciation with Joanna Lumley, Lynda La Plante and Lambert biographer Richard Marson
TRT 90min
Although Verity Lambert’s career was too extensive for us to mount anything like a complete retrospective, here we’ll feature clips from many of her most memorable productions and look back on her life and legacy.
Please check bfi.org.uk for further updates on guests

Friday 3 April
15:40 NFT3
W Somerset Maugham: Olive
BBC 1969. Dir James Cellan Jones. With Eileen Atkins, Edward Fox, Martin Potter. 50min
Anthology series were a mainstay of 60s and 70s television – such as the BBC series based on Maugham’s writing. This award-winning segment centres on a murder at a plantation.
+ Between the Wars: Now She Lies There
ITV 1973. Dir Waris Hussein. With Sarah Badel, Stuart Wilson. 50min
Part of an anthology of stories written between the two World Wars. This entry reunited Lambert with her Doctor Who director Waris Hussein in a story of a high-flying socialite.

Saturday 11 April
13:00 NFT2
The Norman Conquests: Table Manners
ITV 1977. Dir Herbert Wise. With Richard Briers, Penelope Keith, Tom Conti. 120min
Across one day, we screen Alan Ayckbourn’s tour-de-force trilogy of plays exploring the events of a single weekend from three different points of view. The first part sees Norman (Conti) organise a disastrous family gathering as he tries to seduce his sister-in-law, Annie (Penelope Wilton).
Joint ticket available for all three parts £16, concs £12 (Members pay £1.70 less)

15:50 NFT2
The Norman Conquests: Round and Round the Garden
ITV 1977. Dir Herbert Wise. With Richard Briers, Penelope Keith, Tom Conti. 107min
Norman gets hilariously and destructively drunk leaving chaos in his wake. He continues his ill-placed seductions and now turns his attentions to his brother-in-law’s wife, Sarah (Keith).

18:20 NFT2
The Norman Conquests: Living Together
ITV 1977. Dir Herbert Wise. With Richard Briers, Penelope Keith, Tom Conti. 94min
The final part of Ayckbourn’s trilogy introduces a fascinating array of twists, turns and revelations about the events and the characters both as individuals and in relation to each other.

Monday 13 April
18:00 NFT1
TV Preview: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell + Q&A with cast members
Eddie Marsan, Bertie Carvel and Charlotte Riley, director Toby Haynes, writer Peter Harness and producer Nick Hirschkorn
BBC-Cuba Productions 2015. Dir Toby Haynes. With Eddie Marsan, Bertie Carvel, Charlotte Riley, Marc Warren. Eps 1 and 2 TRT 120min
Adapted from Susanna Clarke’s best-selling novel by Peter Harness (Wallander, Doctor Who) and directed by Toby Haynes (Sherlock, Wallander), this seven-part series is set at the beginning of the 19th century, when England no longer believes in magic. The reclusive Mr Norrell (Marsan) stuns the city of York when he causes the statues of the cathedral to speak and move. With a little persuasion from Childermass (Enzo Cilenti) – his man of business – he goes to London to help the government in the war against Napoleon. But when Norrell summons a fairy to bring Lady Pole (Alice Englert) back from the dead he opens a whole can of worms… Join in the magic as we preview the first two episodes of this major new series.

Tuesday 14 April
20:40 NFT2
Achilles Heel
ITV 1973. Dir Alan Clarke. With Martin Shaw, Charlotte Howard, Alan Barry. 56min
Brian Clark’s meditation on the (then) current life of a high-flying professional footballer is well served by Alan Clarke’s no-nonsense direction, and Shaw’s studied performance as a star whose career is threatened by injury.
+ TV Playhouse: No Mama No
ITV 1979. Dir Roland Joffe. With Victoria Fairbrother, Tim Pigott- Smith, Thomas Snook. 64min
This powerful dramatisation of Verity Bargate’s best-selling novel concerns a mother who yearns for a daughter, but struggles with having a second son and a failing marriage.

Saturday 18 April
18:30 NFT2
Sunday Night Theatre: Blinkers
ITV 1973. Dir James Ferman. With John Neville, Barbara Ferris, Stuart Henry. 50min

A delightful generation-gap comedy drama about a relationship between a lovelorn older man and a free-spirited feminist hairdresser. Watch out for an amusing cameo from DJ Stuart Henry as a flamboyant hairdresser
+ Class Act (Episode 1)
ITV 1994. Dir Jane Howell. With Joanna Lumley. 52min

The first episode of an absorbing and hugely enjoyable comedy drama. The aristocratic Kate (Lumley) falls on hard times after the disappearance of her criminally dubious husband, and has to keep one step ahead of the law to survive.

Monday 20 April
18:10 NFT3
C4 1993. Dir Diarmuid Lawrence. With Tim Guinee, Danny Webb, Lennie James. Part 1: 108min + Part 2: 107min (plus interval)
is Lynda La Plante’s pacy story of Johnny Lazar, an American stand-up comic who comes to London in an attempt to revive his career after his drink and drugs dependency has made him unpopular on US television. Just as he’s on the verge of success in Britain he witnesses a gangland killing in Soho, and becomes caught up in a murder investigation.

Saturday 25 April
16:00 NFT3
Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes
BBC 2000. Dir Paul Seed. With Ian Richardson, Robin Laing, Charles Dance. TRT 120min
A drama inspired by the relationship between Arthur Conan Doyle and his tutor, pioneering forensic pathologist Dr Joseph Bell. Together they embark on a disturbing case dealing in death, drugs and disease in the highest circles and lowest depths of Edinburgh. Dave Pirie’s masterful drama (a huge favourite among Sherlockians) sheds light on the real-life events that sparked Doyle’s creation of fiction’s first forensic detective.

18:30 NFT3
Just the Facts
TRT c90min
A hosted compilation of reports and documentaries that have looked at the real-life stories of forensic detection, including extracts from:
Home Office Forensic Laboratory at Aldermaston (BBC 1968)
Rare surviving news report on the (then) state-of-the art crime lab technology, including an interview with lab chief Dt Egon Holden.
+ Horizon: Crime Lab (BBC 1973).
This comparison of crime labs in the UK and US – which remarks on the general superiority of the British model – includes interviews with the heads of crime labs across the UK.
+ Horizon: 40 Years of Murder (BBC 1977).
A look at the work of forensic pathologist Prof Keith Simpson of Guy’s Hospital.
+ Antenna: DNA in the Dock (BBC 1990).
Legal expert Robin White examines the doubts surrounding genetic fingerprinting.

Saturday 25 April
20:40 NFT3
50s and 60s Crime Dramas
Crime Bag
ITV 1957. 25min
The sole surviving episode of the Murder Bag series (occasionally named Crime Bag if the featured crime wasn’t murder), which introduced one of ITV’s earliest police heroes – Detective Superintendent Lockhart.
+ The Hidden Truth: One for the Road
ITV 1964. Dir Lionel Harris. With Alexander Knox, Zia Moyheddin, Ruth Meyers. 50min
Long thought lost, this four-part series followed the cases of Professor Robert Lazard, head of an independent forensics team called in to work particularly tricky cases.
+ The Expert
BBC 1968/69. 50min
For this prestigious production (the first BBC2 series made in colour) the producers appointed Professor John Glaister as technical advisor, a former professor of forensic medicine and public health at the University of Glasgow. The forensic pathologist, writer and barrister Bernard Knight (best known for recovering all 12 bodies in the Fred West case) also contributed several storylines.
Joint ticket available for the three sessions on Sat 25 Apr.

Sunday 26 April
15:50 NFT3
The Changing Face of Forensics
TRT 90min
Join us for an illustrated discussion on the changing face of forensic science on TV and the impact it had on real policing methods. We chart the development of this drama sub-genre with clips from early examples – ITV’s 1957 series Murder Bag – to more recent exponents such as Cracker, Waking the Dead, Silent Witness, Wire in the Blood and The Body Farm, which all followed in the footsteps of Prime Suspect.
Tickets £6.50

Sunday 26 April
18:10 NFT3
Prime Suspect
ITV 1991. Dir Christopher Menaul. With Helen Mirren, Tom Bell, Zoë Wanamaker. Ep1 + Ep2 TRT 200min (plus interval)
This drama completely transformed the way police procedural shows dealt with science, and had a massive influence both sides of the Atlantic. It’s also been quoted as a major inspiration for the pathology-driven CSI franchise and Scandinavian dramas such as The Killing. Prime Suspect pioneered a new gory realism in the depiction of victims which, although controversial at the time, alerted programme makers to the fact that audiences had developed stronger stomachs. See for yourself as we screen the very first episodes.

Thursday 30 April
18:15 NFT3
Essential Experiments: Between Times + Discussion
1993 Ch4. Dir Marc Karlin. 50min
Self-reflection, collaboration and debate were vital to Karlin, who was a member of the Berwick Street Collective and a key figure in the political avant-garde from the 1970s onwards. To launch the new book Marc Karlin: Look Again, we present his insightful, far-reaching TV piece about the state of the Left after Thatcher. Join us as we also discuss with his friends and collaborators the work and legacy of this much-missed radical.
Joint ticket available for Essential Experiments £16, concs £12.50 (Members pay £1.70 less)

20:40 NFT3
Essential Experiments: The Outrage
1995 BBC2. Dir Marc Karlin. 50min
The tactile, abstract canvases of celebrated painter Cy Twombly form the focal point of this unusual artist documentary. The fictional, mysterious M does the looking; reacting initially with rage and frustration, before asking why. Karlin reflects on our changing relationship to art while also considering its significance in our lives, revealing himself in the process. This is an inspiring example of how to challenge the formal, conventional limits of film and TV.
+ The Serpent
1997 Ch4. Dir Marc Karlin. 40min

This decidedly bold drama documentary sees Rupert Murdoch re-imagined as the Dark Prince from Milton’s Paradise Lost. Commuter Michael Deakin drifts off to sleep and dreams of destroying the Prince who has made England ‘a hard, sniggering, resentful, hard shoulder of a place.’ But the voice of reason has other plans, and Deakin himself is implicated in the Prince’s rise to power.

Wednesday 29 April
18:20 NFT2
The Sailor’s Return
ITV 1978. Dir Jack Gold. With Tom Bell, Shope Shodeinde. 112min
Early in the reign of Queen Victoria, sailor-adventurer William Targett falls in love with an African princess, marries her and brings her home to rural England. But the villagers are not happy with the situation, and the couple’s idyll soon turns into a nightmare. Beautifully filmed in the West Country, this haunting, poignant film tells the story of a love doomed by insularity and racial prejudice.

Champions’ priority booking: February 27 11.30am
Members’ priority booking opens: March 3 11.30am
Public booking opens: March 10 11.30am

Prices (excluding gift aid)
£8.95 (members)
£6.65 (member concs)
£10.45 (non-members)
£8.15 (non-members concs)
Under 16s £6.00

Prices (including gift aid and voluntary contribution)
£10 (members)
£7.50 (member concs)
£11.50 (non-members)
£9 (non-members concs)

All shows are £6 on Tuesdays. Conc prices are available to senior citizens, students, unwaged and disability visitors. Proof of eligibility may be required.
As always, visit the BFI web site for more details.

  • Mark Carroll

    I really know nothing of “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell” but it looks interesting after a bit of initial reading.

  • It's an enjoyable book. Nothing ground-breaking, but a nice piece of faux period-writing mixed with fantasy. Trailer looks a little more twee than the book, though