Every so often, TMINE flags up what new TV events BAFTA is holding around the UK
Following on from last time, August’s BAFTA events continue with a Female Firsts exhibition. Meanwhile, September’s Guru Live events is so big and powerful, I can’t even begin to list it all, so you’ll have to have a précis.
Female Firsts: Women Making BAFTA History
Saturday 4 & Sunday 5 August, Various Times. Last entry 6pm. BAFTA, 195 Piccadilly, London
The last chance to see our current exhibition in its entirety. Book now to explore the work and achievements of over 90 women from the history of BAFTA and that of film, games and television in Britain.
As the British Academy of Film and Television Arts counts down to its 75th anniversary in 2022, we are delving into our archive to uncover some of the stories it contains. These stories not only illuminate the history of BAFTA, but explore the nature of our relationship with film, games and television.
Since the establishment of the Academy in 1947, many ground-breaking, talented women have steered the course of BAFTA as an organisation and many more have shaped the art forms it celebrates and supports. This exhibition, featuring over 100 images and ephemera from the BAFTA archives, plus a host of external libraries and collections, highlights a selection of these women and the work they have created.
All of them represent a ‘BAFTA first’ of some kind – from the first women to be recognised in various awards categories and the first female Fellows to the first woman President of the Academy and the creator of the iconic BAFTA mask – each of these women have not only contributed to excellence in the screen arts, they have defined it.
Entry to the exhibition is £3 – No booking required for members to view the exhibition.
First entry 13.00 – Last entry 18.00.
Tickets for this event will also be available to purchase on the door.
As a rule, TMINE doesn’t normally cover events at the Barbican because they’re almost never TV-related. However, in September, they’ve organised themselves a little TV event, so I thought I’d give you some details.
The Television Will Be Revolutionised: Channel 4 and the 1982 Workshop Declaration
A season of oppositional documentaries from Channel 4’s first decade: a radical, game-changing era that opened doors for diverse voices in cinemas and on British television.
Channel 4 began life in 1981 with a remit to provide innovative broadcasting, and to challenge the mainstream BBC/ITV duopoly. Under the 1982 Workshop Declaration, the Channel agreed to fund and screen films from the ‘alternative’ film and video collectives – known as workshops.
Working closely with trade unions, Labour local authorities, political groups, women’s organisations and ethnic minority communities, by 1988, some 44 workshops had had films funded and screened by Channel 4.
So began a decade of experiment with politically progressive and aesthetically avant-garde documentaries and dramas screened on British television, which continued until 1990. The gateways had been opened to film-makers from diverse and regional backgrounds, and new voices found greater opportunities to share their stories.
Programme and booking details after the jump and these clips…
Every month, TMINE lets you know what TV the BFI will be presenting at the South Bank in London
Not as jam-packed as July thanks to the summer holidays, August at the BFI still has a lot to offer. The Harold Pinter season continues on from last month, but there’s also two ‘Missing Believed Wiped’ sessions, celebrations of puppeteers Ivor Wood and Ray Harryhausen and previews of the forthcoming Bodyguard and Bollywood: The World’s Biggest Film Industry, complete with Q&As with cast and crew.
That’s after this week’s weekly play, Langrishe Go Down. Originally conceived for the cinema, and based on a novel by Aidan Higgins, this is a classic Harold Pinter work about passion, politics and class: in particular it shows his preoccupation with time and memory. Set on a run-down Irish estate, and cutting between the late and early 1930s, it charts a summer-long affair between a gentrified country girl and an exploitative Bavarian student. The cast is superb and the atmosphere distinctly Chekhovian.
No, I’ve not watched it. Yes, I have just copied and pasted that from the BFI guide. But I’m sure it’s great.
Every month, TMINE lets you know what TV the BFI will be presenting at the South Bank in London
It’s Harold Pinter season in July, with wall-to-wall Pinter plays, including some which he acted in or directed as well. However, there’s also an episode of Brownlow on Hollywood from 1980, looking at silent movies, as well as a preview of ITV’s forthcoming thriller Strangers (formerly known as White Dragon), starring John Simm and Emilia Fox, who will also be attending a Q&A afterwards.
Details after the whole of Brownlow on Hollywood, if you’re intrigued by the history of US movie-making and have 13 hours to spare…
…or if you prefer it, Pinter’s The Birthday Party, in which he also appears, which is this week’s Weekly Play.
In the past, I’ve fretted that today’s generations aren’t being educated in the TV classics. Back in the 80s, when there were just three to four channels, no Internet, no DVDs, no games consoles, no smartphones, et al, TV networks had a captive audience. So as well as making plenty of original shows, they could air repeats from decades earlier (sometimes even in primetime) and know the audience wouldn’t change channel or even turn the TV off. It ensured that the nerdy likes of me were introduced to The Man From UNCLE, The Avengers, The Invaders, the various ITC shows of the 60s, Champion the Wonder Horse, black and white sitcoms like The Addams Family or Car 54 Where Are You? and more.
The chances that any of today’s generation are going to watch these is pretty close to zero. Even if they wanted to, no channels are airing these old shows and few if any streaming services are offering them. There’s almost no chance they’ll get seen by the youth of today unless said youth have a lot of cash and patience.
Lost in Space? Good
However, I have absolutely no concerns about the youth of today not getting to watch classic 60s sci-fi show Lost in Space. Produced by the famous TV auteur Irwin Allen (Land of the Giants, The Time Tunnel, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) and originally titled Space Family Robinson (kids: that’s a reference to a another thing we used to call ‘books’), it sees a family called the Robinsons blasting off into space in the then-far-flung-future of 1997 to colonise a planet around Alpha Centauri that’s fit for human life. However, their ship goes off course and before you know it, they’re… lost in space.
Why do I have no concerns? Because frankly – sorry, Lost in Space fans, if there are still any of you – it was terrible. Just awful, in fact. Forcing a child to watch it today is tantamount to abuse.
That isn’t just because of its patriarchal 60s values, with father Professor John Robinson (Guy Williams) and ‘Space Corps’ Major Donald West (Mark Goddard) going off doing action things and solving problems, while mum Maureen (June Lockhart) and daughters Judy (Marta Kristen) and Penny (Angela Cartwright) basically stayed at home and did the housework. It isn’t because of its shiny 60s idea of what space travel would be, either.
No, it’s because of what was actually the show’s most iconic character: one Dr Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris). He wasn’t in the original pilot, but in keeping with other Allen series and the post-Bond fever for spy shows in the 60s, the show included Dr Smith for an element of international intrigue. In the new first episode for the show, he’s introduced as a saboteur whose presence on board the Jupiter 2 is what causes it to go off course. Never intended to last more than a few episodes before being written out, Harris soon hatched a cunning plan: he started writing his own lines and playing up his character as a colossal coward and pompous oaf.
Irwin was no fool and seeing what Harris was up to, he told him: “I know what you’re doing. Do more of it!” Before you knew it, ‘special guest star’ Jonathan Harris was in every single episode and was the star of the show. Most episodes were about him, his relationship with the Robinson’s very trusting son Will (Bill Mumy) and the almost equally iconic ship’s robot voiced by Dick Tufeld, whose catchphrase “Danger, Will Robinson!” is far better known than even the show itself, despite only having been used once.
To cope with a man screaming “Oh the pain! Save me, William!” as though he was being attacked by Puss in Boots every episode, the writers naturally shifted the tone of the show’s writing, taking it from a surprisingly gritty and even dark piece in its initial episodes to one in which actors were spray-painted silver and giant carrots turned up. Watch anything more than those first few episodes and you’ll discover that if you have any actual choice in terms of what’s available to watch, you won’t be watching Lost in Space unless you also happen to be smoking something a little exotic.
And now for something completely different
For reasons unknown, people had fond memories of the original show – presumably because they hadn’t watched it since they were three years old – and producers have been keen to tap into that misplaced nostalgia. In 1998, a movie version tried to turn the TV series into something watchable, but even the acting talents of the likes of Gary Oldman (as Dr Smith), William Hurt, Matt LeBlanc, Mimi Rogers, Heather Graham and Jared Harris still weren’t enough to save it. The less said about it, the better – particularly if you’re in the company of anyone who worked for a London post-production house at that time (“Oh the pain!” indeed).
An attempt to make a new TV series, The Robinsons: Lost in Space, floundered in 2004, despite John Woo directing the pilot. Apart from this YouTube video, the show’s only lasting mark were its sets, which were repurposed for the Battlestar Pegasus in Battlestar Galactica.
You’d have thought that given such a low bar to get over, any adaptation of the original could only succeed, but apparently not.
Third time lucky?
Nevertheless, here we are again, as Netflix has just given us a full 10-episode season of a show called Lost in Space that is ostensibly a reboot of the original show. It sees Toby Stephens (Black Sails, Die Another Day) playing dad John Robinson, Molly Parker (House of Cards, Deadwood) playing mum Maureen Robinson and ‘queen of the indies’ Parker Posey playing Dr Smith, who once again are ‘lost in space’.
You would, of course, be quite entitled to wonder what sort of show this new Lost in Space would be like. If it’s an adaptation of the original, is it a remake of that original darkish spy show or the camp show it ultimately became? Is it more like the movie, perhaps? And is it a show for the kids or a grimdark piece for adults?
Last of all, is it actually any good and worth watching? Unlike the original.
While you’ll have to wait until after the jump before I tell you whether it’s any good, I can at least give you one of TMINE’s trademark ‘meets’ to give you an idea of the tone of the show.
Not only is it suitable for both adults and children, Netflix’s Lost in Space is indeed Lost in Space, but it’s Lost in Space meets Interstellar meets The Martian. Have a think about that while you watch this here trailer.