What TV’s on at the BFI in December 2016? Including The Avengers’ Tunnel of Fear and The Witness for the Prosecution

Even later this month than usual, it’s TMINE’s coverage of all the BFI events coming your way in December. There’s three big highlights to round off 2016. The first is a preview of BBC One’s latest Agatha Christie adaptation, The Witness For The ProsecutionThe second is this year’s Missing Believed Wiped, which among other things will feature the newly returned Avengers episode Tunnel of Fear

But the bulk of the month will be dedicated to the continuation of the Blackstar season, which will have everything from a showing of Wednesday Play Fable through a Desmond’s reunion to a panel discussion with Carmen Munroe, Don Warrington, Zawe Ashton, Ashley Walters, Isaac Julien and Pat Younge – sounds top!

Sun 4 Dec
15:00 NFT1/17:30 NFT1
Missing Believed Wiped Session 1, Comedy and Light Entertainment: TRT c.100min. Session 2, Drama: TRT 115min
This year’s Missing Believed Wiped is split between comedy and drama with some titles still TBC. What we can announce is that the first session will feature some newly recovered material from 1950s BBC sitcom Whack-O!, a popular school-themed comedy romp written by Frank Muir and Dennis Norden, starring Jimmy Edwards as a cane-happy headmaster. We’ll also screen an episode of the PG Wodehouse series World of Wooster, starring Ian Carmichael as Bertie Wooster and Denis Price as the inimitable Jeeves. The second session will focus on drama and will include a screening of Tunnel of Fear, an Avengers episode from its very first season – returned to the archives courtesy of our colleagues at Kaleidoscope the Television Organisation.
Joint ticket available for both programmes £16, concs £12 (Members pay £1.70 less)

Sun 11 Dec
15:00 NFT3
Desmond’s: Desmond’s ‘French Lessons’ 
(pilot episode)
Humphrey Barclay Productions-Ch4 1989. Dir Mandy Fletcher. With Norman Beaton, Carmen Munroe, Ram John Holder. 24min
Set in a bustling Peckham barber’s shop, Desmond’s was (and remains) the perfect sitcom, with memorable, warmly relatable characters, snappy writing and a fierce sense of place. For many years it was Channel 4’s longest-running sitcom (1989-94) – you can relive the moment it all began by enjoying its first ever episode, a fine, moving showcase for Beaton and Munroe.
+ Desmond’s Reunion: with creator-writer Trix Worrell, producer-director Charlie Hanson and actors Carmen Munroe, Ram John Holder and Robbie Gee
Desmond’s burst on to our screens like a breath of fresh air in 1989: never before on UK TV had a prime-time sitcom been created by a black acreenwriter or featured a black-led ensemble. Its joyously funny characters have lived on in the imagination, with the show currently experiencing a popular renaissance on London Live. This afternoon we’re proud to reunite much of the amazing cast with creator-writer Trix Worell.

Tue 13 Dec
18:15 NFT1
Coast to Coast

BBC 1987. Dir Sandy Johnson. With Lenny Henry, John Shea, Cherie Lunghi, Pete Postlethwaite. 97min
Stan Hey’s excellent comedy-drama features Lenny Henry as Ritchie Lee, a languorous Liverpudlian who has a chance encounter with an American Air Force deserter (Shea). When they discover a mutual love of US soul music they set themselves up as travelling DJs, but soon find themselves on the run, pursued by representatives from both sides of the law.
Tickets £11.75, concs £10.10. Joint ticket with talk (see below) £24, concs £16 (Members pay £1.65 less)

20:30 NFT1
Sir Lenny Henry in Conversation

We’re delighted to welcome actor-writer-comedian Sir Lenny Henry to BFI Southbank to discuss his long and glittering career. He started out as a young stand-up, starred in Britain’s first all-black sitcom, The Fosters, the award-winning sketch show Three of A Kind, his own long-running series The Lenny Henry Show, and the sitcom Chef! Behind the screen, he was Chairman of Crucial Films for seven years, providing a diverse range of content for the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.
Tickets £16, concs £12 (Members pay £1.70 less). 

Fri 16 Dec
18:00 NFT2
The Wednesday Play: Fable

BBC 1965. Dir Christopher Morahan. With Eileen Atkins, Carmen Munroe, Ronald Lacey, Rudolph Walker. 75min
John Hopkins’ incredibly clever script imagines an England where a black elite rules over an oppressed white population, allowing him to explore the iniquities of the apartheid system. Unusually, the play afforded the opportunity for a large black ensemble cast to take the lead, including well-known faces such as Carmen Munroe and Rudolph Walker, and a host of others who deserve to have been seen much more.

+ A Song at Twilight
BBC 1992. Dir Charles Gormley. With Bruce Hubbard, Carmen Munroe,
Glyn Owen, Dorothy Paul. 50min
This TV play dramatises a supposed meeting between actor Paul Robeson and Welsh politician Aneurin Bevan when Robeson was invited to sing at the 1958 Eisteddfod. Robeson, recently imprisoned as a result of the McCarthy hearings, and Bevan, who stands accused of betrayal for opposing unilateral disarmament, both try to justify the paths they have taken. Bruce Hubbard makes an impressive Robeson, while Carmen Munroe invests his wife Essie with a great sense of compassion.

Sun 18 Dec
18:00 NFT3
Black and White in Colour: Television, Memory, Race 1936-1968 + 1968-1992
BFI-BBC 1992. Dir Isaac Julien. 2 x 50min
These beautifully crafted documentaries were co-produced by the BFI and the BBC in 1992 and chart the representation of black people on UK television, from its origin in 1936 all the way through to 1992. Crossing the genres from comedy to drama, this is by far the most complete and entertaining documentary on the subject to date, and perfectly sets out the themes for our intergenerational panel discussion. MP
Joint ticket available with panel discussion £16, concs £12 (Members pay £1.70 less)

20:15 NFT3
Black Stars of British TV: a discussion with actors Carmen Munroe, Don Warrington, Zawe Ashton and Ashley Walters, director Isaac Julien and Pat Younge, co-founder of Sugar Films (all work permitting)
In this clip-filled discussion, chaired by writer-presenter Gaylene Gould, different generations of actors come together to celebrate the black stars of UK TV over the years. Our special guests will consider the opportunities and challenges in casting, from TV’s early productions through to the successes of the 80s and 90s and modern-day roles, plus aspirations for the future.

Mon 19 Dec
18:10 NFT2
Black Christmas
BBC 1977. Dir Stephen Frears. With Norman Beaton, Carmen Munroe, Janet Bartley. 50min

Munroe and Beaton shine as the matriarch and patriarch in this absorbing, bittersweet drama of family life, where tensions surface during a Christmas get-together. Michael Abbensetts’ sharp script combines with Frears’ sensitive direction to leave a lasting impression, while Beaton’s performance as a good-humoured armchair philosopher became the inspiration for his character in the pioneering BBC drama Empire Road (1978-79).

+ Big George Is Dead
Channel 4 1987. Dir Henry Martin. With Norman Beaton, Ram John Holder, Rudolph Walker, Joan Ann Maynard. 65min
Boogie (Beaton) is the chief mourner at Big George’s funeral. But he’s confused and annoyed when Tony (Walker), formerly his best buddy, suddenly arrives from Trinidad after a long absence. Why has he returned? The answers are slowly revealed in this finely poised, beautifully performed meditation on friendship and memory.

Mon 21 Dec
20:20 NFT1
TV Preview: The Witness For The Prosecution + Q&A with director Julian Jarrold, writer Sarah Phelps, actor Toby Jones (work permitting) and more to be announced
Mammoth Screen-Agatha Christie Productions-BBC 2016. Dir Julian Jarrold. With Toby Jones, Andrea Riseborough, Kim Cattrall, Billy Howle, Monica Dolan. Ep1 60min
This new drama, adapted by Sarah Phelps from Agatha Christie’s short story, reunites the team behind last year’s hugely acclaimed And Then There Were None. In 1920s London, a murder, brutal and bloodthirsty, has stained the plush carpets of a handsome townhouse. The victim is the glamorous and enormously rich Emily French, and all the evidence points to Leonard Vole as the one who ruthlessly took her life – a young chancer to whom the heiress left her vast fortune. At least, this is the story that Emily’s dedicated housekeeper Janet McIntyre stands by in court. Leonard, however, is adamant that his partner, the enigmatic chorus girl Romaine, can prove his innocence.

Prices (excluding gift aid)
£9.15 (members)
£6.85 (member concs)
£10.65 (non-members)
£8.35 (non-members concs)
Under 16s £6.00

Prices (including gift aid and voluntary contribution)
£10.10 (members)
£7.55 (member concs)
£11.75 (non-members)
£9.20 (non-members concs)

Reduced prices for weekday matinees. 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.