John Simm in ITV's Strangers
BFI events

What TV’s on at the BFI in July? Including a Harold Pinter season, Brownlow on Hollywood and a Strangers preview

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.

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Sydney Newman
BFI events

What TV’s on at the BFI in December 2017? Including Shada, The League of Gentlemen and the Sydney Newman season

Every month, TMINE lets you know what TV the BFI will be presenting at the South Bank in London

It’s the end of the year but it seems the BFI has saved the best for last. Following on from October-November’s bounty, we’ve got a whole host of TV events lined up for us in December. We do, of course, have the annual ‘Missing Believed Wiped’ event, which will be airing formerly missing episodes of Till Death Us Do Part and Late Night Horror.

However, the main season is dedicated to the marvellous Canadian TV producer Sydney Newman who so revolutionised British TV in the 50s and 60s. As part of that, we’ll be getting episodes of Doctor Who, Adam Adamant Lives!, The Avengers and Pathfinders, as well as two plays from the series he helped to create for ITV and the BBC: Armchair Theatre and The Wednesday Play.

Talking of Doctor Who, there’ll be a preview of the recently reconstructed (yet again) Douglas Adams story Shada, complete with animation replacement scenes for the bits that never got filmed. That’s among previews that include one of the new League of Gentlemen episodes, ITV’s forthcoming Hatton Garden, the Beeb’s new Agatha Christie adaptation Ordeal By Innocence and the latest David Walliams, Grandpa’s Great Escape.

Phew. Full details after the jump.

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Armchair Theatre: Red Riding Hood
The Weekly Play

The Weekly Play: Red Riding Hood (1973)

You can spend ages trying to work out the hidden meanings of fairy tales. Which Jungian archetypes do they reflect? Were they metaphors told by mothers to their children to explain the nature of patriarchy? Were they mere cautionary tales or did they have historical origins? And did Red Riding Hood really believe that wolf was her grandmother, just because it was wearing her clothes?

You can probably spend ages trying to work out what John Peacock’s Red Riding Hood means, too. A 1973 segment of ITV’s Armchair Theatre strand of plays, it sees Rita Tushingham playing a lonely librarian, struggling to deal with debt and her two bed-ridden relatives – her father and her grandmother. The red-clad Tushingham has little to live for, but one day the rather wolfish Keith Barron, who’s seen her down the library, decides he wants to get to know her. So he visits her grandmother, kills her with her own walking stick then waits for Tushingham to turn up.

After which, things get a little less easy to fathom when Tushingham agrees to spend a fortnight with him for a bit of spaghetti and sex, leaving her poor old dad by himself at home – despite her having more than an inkling of what Barron got up to before she turned up at grandma’s house in her red coat…

Does Red Riding Hood tame the wolf? I won’t spoil the ending for you, but metaphor mixes with reality, sub-text becomes text, and what’s real and what’s imaginary become hard to separate as the play progresses. Peacock, who also wrote the Hammer film Straight On ‘til Morning (which also starred Tushingham), enters similar territory to Dennis Potter’s Brimstone and Treacle here, but takes the plot in a completely different direction that’s all about Tushingham rather than Barron.

Red Riding Hood is this week’s play. I hope you enjoy it – if you like it, buy it on DVD to support the lovely people who made it.

Playwright Joe Orton
BFI events

What TV’s on at the BFI in August 2017? Including What the Butler Saw and Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling

Every month, TMINE lets you know what TV the BFI will be presenting at the South Bank in London

August is normally a quiet time for the BFI, as it gambles that everyone’s probably on holiday. Maybe this year it’s gambling that Brexit means we’ll not be able to afford to go on holiday, because there’s actually a surprisingly full schedule. Most of this comes from a season of works by playwright Joe Orton, but there’s also a preview of BBC One’s adaptation of Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)’s first Cormoran Strike novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, and a showing of ITV’s seminal The Naked Civil Servant.

Purely by coincidence, The Weekly Play this week is an adaptation of Orton’s final play, What the Butler Saw, which was broadcast as part of BBC Two’s Theatre Night in 1987. The play is a farce in two acts and revolves around Dr Prentice (Dinsdale Landen), a psychiatrist attempting to seduce his attractive prospective secretary, Geraldine Barclay (Tessa Peake-Jones). Also along for the ride are Mrs Prentice (Prunella Scales), her lover/blackmailer Tyler Butterworth, government inspector Timothy West and cross-dressing police officer Bryan Pringle.

Continue reading “What TV’s on at the BFI in August 2017? Including What the Butler Saw and Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling”

The Weekly Play: The ITV Play – Gentry (1988)

Nigel Kneale went to Hollywood. He headed off after Kinvig in 1981, after initially being approached by director John Landis to work on the screenplay for a remake of Creature from the Black Lagoon. The movie never went into production, but while in the US, Kneale met director Joe Dante, who invited him to write Halloween III: Season of the Witch for him. Kneale agreed, on the proviso that it would be a totally new concept unrelated to the first two films, which he had not seen and he did not like what he had heard about them.

Kneale’s treatment for the film met with the approval of John Carpenter, the producer of the Halloween series. However, financial backer Dino De Laurentiis insisted upon the inclusion of more graphic violence and a rewrite of the script from director Tommy Wallace. Kneale was displeased with the results and had his name removed from the film. 

He didn’t return to writing for UK TV until 1987. Part of the virtually forgotten ITV Play drama strand, it sees  affluent young couple Duncan Preston (Surgical Spirit, Dinnerladies) and Phoebe Nicholls (The Elephant Man, Brideshead Revisted) inspecting a shabby town house that’s up for sale. Nicholls is less than impressed by it, but Preston has plans to renovate it and sell it for a big profit. However, their plan quickly turns into a nightmare when three criminals led by Roger Daltrey (Tommy, Highlander: The Series) arrive, searching for the money they hid in the building years ago.

Although ‘gentrification’ was a theme of the Thatcherite years, with certain councils famously importing affluent yuppies into impoverished areas in an effort to improve the area (and make it Tory), this is arguably Kneale’s prescience at work again – he’d anticipated Big Brother by several decades with The Year of the Sex Olympics, and Gentry was here predicting the advent of Property Ladder and its ilk.

But following on from Kinvig and as with the later Ladies’ Knight, Kneale writes Gentry as much as a comedy as it is a drama – the name is a mocking of middle-class cluelessness and arrogance at thinking it can just enter a working class area and do what it likes, without caring about that area’s history. The horror here is the discovery for the middle class that the working class might not like that and would fight back through the middle class’s weak spot – their homes.

Gentry also has a point to make about the effects of gentrification on the existing locals. Daltrey’s character may be a criminal and have a gun; he might even take the couple hostage. But he’s sympathetic, he and his gang returning to their childhood homes to find the area ‘gentrified’, their loved ones and community gone.

And it’s this week’s play. 

PS Three of Kneale’s one-off plays, including Gentry and Ladies’ Night are coming out on DVD in September