What TV’s on at the BFI in October/November 2014?

It’s time for our regular look at the TV that the BFI is showing, this time in October and November 2014. And gosh, what a bounty there is, thanks to not one but two sci-fi seasons. On top of a discussion of forthcoming BBC2 documentary series Tomorrow’s Worlds and a celebration of ‘queer sci-fi TV’, there are showings of both of Nigel Kneale’s versions of 1984 (with a Kim Newman discussion about Kneale’s work), a repeat of The Cloning of Joanna May, showings of a Doomwatch episodes, movie and the Channel 5 remake, and various science-fiction TV plays, including Fable, an Out of the Unknown, and a Play for Tomorrow.

Should be good!

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Why is British television the way it is? Because of streams

I, Claudius

It’s story time! And theory time, albeit theory backed up by the occasional publicly announced historic strategy, etc.

Anyway, it can’t have escaped your notice that British TV isn’t as good as it was when we were all kids. Not the BBC. Not ITV. Not Channel 4, which might not have existed back then. Not Sky, which definitely didn’t exist back then. Not none of them. It’s all been dumbed down and it’s all stupid, innit? Drama isn’t as intelligent, comedies aren’t as funny, and the schedules are filled with pointless rubbish. Not like when we were kids.

Or is it?

Well, yes and no. And I’m going to explain why after the jump. I hope.

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Classic TV

Nostalgia corner: Kinvig (1981)

Nigel Kneale is best known as the creator of legendary BBC science fiction character Professor Bernard Quatermass. As you might expect, that attracted science-fiction fans to him. 

I can’t help but feel he didn’t have a very good experience with them, because after parting ways with the BBC in the 1970s and heading over to ITV, he came up with a sci-fi comedy, Kinvig, that took the serious piss out of sci-fi fans.

It starred Tony Hagarth as Des Kinvig, UFO enthusiast, sci-fi fan and owner of a small electrical shop. One day, ‘Miss Griffin’ (Prunella Gee) enters the shop wanting help. Kinvig soon deduces that she’s an alien from the planet Venus – except she turns out to be from Mercury. Oh well. Close.

The trouble is, all of this could be the Walter Mitty-like delusions of a science-fiction fan, desperate for some excitement with a beautiful woman. The audience is never sure as Kneale takes us through seven episodes of one ridiculous sci-fi situation and set after another, mocking everything and everyone along the way.

It’s not the funniest thing you’ll ever see but it’s interesting to see Kneale trying to do comedy and sci-fi at the same time. It’s available on DVD but you can watch it on YouTube below. If you like it, buy it:

Classic TV

Nostalgia corner: The Third Man (1959-63)

The Third Man

It’s tempting, these days, just as the likes of Agents of SHIELD, Hannibal and Bates Motel are gracing our screens (or about to), to think that the idea of spinning off a TV series from a popular movie is a new phenomenon. But just as the likes of Dick Barton and Bernard Quatermass were moving from radio and the small screen to the big screen in the 40s and 50s, so, too, were popular movie characters making the transition to TV.

So after the jump, let’s talk about Harry Lime aka The Third Man.

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Classic TV

Your handy guide to true religions on TV – Celtic, Western and Northern Germanic religions + Wicca

This entry is one of a series of articles covering religions depicted on TV as being true. For full details and a list of the other religions covered, go to the introduction.

Celtic, Western and Northern Germanic religions + Wicca
The belief in the deities worshipped in Scandinavia, Germany and Britain until Christianity took over has seen some uptake on TV. The most famous of these gods were the Norse gods Odin, Thor, et al, but Anglo-Saxon gods include Wayland the Smithy and folk gods such as Herne the Hunter have all managed to show up. While often these have been part of fantasy shows, so not taken entirely seriously by the authors, some shows have raised them in works contemplating national identity, regarding pagan beliefs as important parts of ‘Welshness’ or ‘Englishness’, for example. 

However, writers have usually played fast and loose, and with most of the pagan religions in these areas being reconstructionist, the question of authenticity to the original religions is difficult, relying instead of pagan-like activity created by the authors. Frequently, where the shows have invoked paganism and shown it to be true, it’s been shown to be based on some kind of science (cf Children of the Stones, Sky, Quatermass and Doctor Who). 

However, there are some exceptions.

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