Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fame and Fortune Radio 4

Robert Hanks in The Independent thought:

"Radio 4's Saturday Play this week, and for the next five weeks, was Fame and Fortune, Frederic Raphael's sequel to The Glittering Prizes. When I was an impressionable teenager, I thought the TV dramatisation of The Glittering Prizes was the last word in sophistication; the sequel, by contrast, strikes me as a parade of nasty-minded bores, spouting dialogue that consists entirely of underheated witticisms.

"It takes place in 1979, and is larded with historical detail, so maybe the brittle chatter is authentic to the period. Or maybe Raphael's writing was always like this, and I've grown out of it. In any case, while everyone is courting our hero, Adam Morris (Tom Conti), with offers of sex or money, I can't work out why anybody would even talk to him - or, more to the point, why anyone would listen."

I disagree with Hanks on one small point only - I thought Glittering Prizes was a parade of nasty-minded bores. I agree wholeheartedly with a colleague who dubbed Fame and Fortune "fat-arse drama". Why on earth the BBC would waste licence money and, more importantly, weeks and weeks of premier airtime, on this indulgent, pompous, hideously old-fashioned trivia is beyond me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fanny Hill, the good news and the bad

Fanny Hill became BBC 4's top-rated programme last night with 1.1 million viewers. It was good enough fun but had more impact when watched with the drama doc about Cleland himself. Can't help thinking there was art to be made by writing something new combining the two. Instead, what we got was a by-the-numbers superficial dramatisation.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Viva Blackpool goes stateside - and bombs

In Britain we embrace the best of US TV. The reverse clearly does not apply. This is Alessandra Stanley, writing in today's New York Times.

“Viva Laughlin” on CBS may well be the worst new show of the season, but is it the worst show in the history of television?

It certainly comes close in a category that includes “Beverly Hills Buntz” in 1987 (Dennis Franz in a short-lived spinoff of “Hill Street Blues”), the self-explanatory “Manimal” in 1983 or last year’s one-episode wonder, “Emily’s Reasons Why Not.” “Viva Laughlin” is not even in the same league as “Cop Rock,” a 1990 experimental series created by Steven Bochco that leavened a gritty police drama with Broadway musical moments: cops and criminals breaking into song and dance. “Viva Laughlin” also features musical outbursts and is far worse.

“Cop Rock,” which featured original music, was ridiculed at the time but deserved credit for daring and originality, even though it was inspired by British series like “Pennies From Heaven” and “The Singing Detective.”

“Viva Laughlin” is far more derivative, a blander American adaptation of a hit British series. The BBC’s “Viva Blackpool” found sardonic humor in its setting — Las Vegas-style casino gambling in a seedy British seaside resort town — almost the kind of cultural disconnect that enlivened “Breaking Away,” a 1979 movie about teenagers in Bloomington, Ind., who become obsessed with Italian bicycle racing. “Viva Laughlin” moves the gambling back to sun-baked Laughlin, Nev., and deflates the joke. The writing is too flat to allow the characters to take form.

Today's news that Murdoch's Fox is thinking of Americanising Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em may be a similar mistake. Why not risk showing the originals? After all, we don't buy up the rights to US shows like Californication and reallocate the action to Doncaster.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Thursday nights are funny

Ok, the "Thursday nights are funny" strand has been running for two weeks now, but last night was the first time I have caught the full package. Vivienne Vyle is funny and clever and topical. Peter Serafinowicz is extraordinarily talented but last night's second show was nowhere near as hilarious as last week's opener. I do hope they haven't crammed all the good stuff into the opening night. Graham Norton was just Graham Norton, a half-baked reprise of the groundbreaking C4 original. I'm sorry, but when your musical guest is Katie Melua your cutting edge credibility is holed below the waterline.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Guilty Pleasure: "What about the were?"

"The Breath of Life movement - or the Breathers, as most people referred to them - were a grass-roots pressure group campaigning for changes in the law governing the risen dead. Ghosts and zombies, they said, were still people: they had rights that needed to be recognised and defined in law. Some of them felt the same way about the more colourful groups among the undead, but there was a certain amount of controversy there. What rights did the possessed have, for example, and who got to enjoy them? Host body or invading spirit? And what about the were? It had all turned into a bit of a circus: the government - New Labour, but with a bit of the shine gone - had made some cautious statements about legally recognising the dead, causing the Tories to point dramatically quivering fingers at the law of inheritance. How could it be expected to work if it turned out that you could take it with you after all? What about criminal trials? Could a dead man give evidence against his murderer, or stand trial for murder himself? And if he was found guilty, how in hell were you supposed to punish him?"
Mike Carey, The Devil You Know, Orbit, London, April 2006, pg 121