Monday, 7 November 2016

Week in Telly 10

Man About the House

Robin gets his tonsills removed so Chrissy takes his place at poker. Her claim that women can play just as well as men is not helped when she has to keep the rules on an ashtray.

The Graham Norton Show

I once used to watch Graham Norton quite regularly, though only if I liked the list of guests each week. I've forgotten about it recently and only watched this after catching a bit of it when someone else had it on. Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne and Brian Cranston were the guests. Usually I have heard of all or at least most the guests but it's rare that I am familiar with all of them. If this blog has revealed anything it's that I don't watch films that much and Graham Norton does tend to have a lot of film actors on. However, I have watched some Sherlock and The Theory of Everything. In addition, Breaking Bad is the only U.S. drama series I have ever watched fully. Brian Cranston turned out the be the most interesting person on the sofa. He was there to promote his new book that he's been randomly signing copies of in airports. We heard a few stories from his life that are in the book, including one about when he and his brother became murder suspects. This episode made for a good show primarily because all three guests were clearly all game to be there. Sometimes there is one quieter guest and sometimes there might be only one who is really joining in, which must be quite difficult for an interviewer. I picked a decent show.

Man About the House

Toupe. George gets a toupe. It doesn't even match his existing hair. The toupe seems an old fashioned compedy troupe these days. Have men become less concerned about a thinning top or is it just widely accepted that most affordable toupes looked shit? Bring it back I say, along with ambitious comb overs.

Sleuths, Spies and Sorcerers: Andrew Marr's Paperback Heroes

SPIES! At last! The episode I was most looking forward to! I may not have read a great deal but I have loved those that I have. I enjoyed this because it referenced novels I had read like From Russia With Love, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and The IPCRESS File as well as ones I could note down to eventually get round to. Marr looked at the beginnings of the spy novel in the build up the First World War, how it changed afterwards and how it changed again following the Second World War. The Cold War period is what has previously interested me but Marr sold me on the Eric Ambler stories of the 30s and 40s. The idea of an ordinary man suddenly caught up in the world of espionage sounds rather appealing. There was finally a look at the modern spy novel, something I am remain unlikely to pick up any time soon. Technology has taken away so much. I think I prefer my spies and sleuths to be seen getting down to the mucky work of snooping and detective work, having to deal with all the problems that come with it.

Man About the House

Robin has gone out with Chrissy so she can practice for her driving test. When she reverses over a bicycle Robin insists he should be the one to move the car off it. But he's had some of George's rather lethal homemade wine and when a copper breathylyses him he ends up in court. Robin mounts an interesting argument that as the wheels didn't complete one full turn, is it therefore like football where the ball needs to fully cross the line? It isn't.

Public Eye
Divide and Conquer, Paid in Full and My Life's My Own

Well I managed three days without Frank before that box set started calling out to me from the shelf. Divide and Conquer follows Frank trying to find his feet outside prison. He starts work at a builders and has settled in with his landlady, Mrs Mortimer (Pauline Delaney). She has another ex-con, Enright (Peter Cellier), staying. I instantly knew I recognised him from somewhere. He has a very distinctive upper class voice and of all things, he was in a single Goodnight Sweetheart scene as a spiv. Marker is hesitant about becoming friendly at first but is persuaded to go out to the pub for a drink. Meanwhile a couple of bikers have been visiting Brighton and have been fiddling cafes and pubs out of money. One of the cafe owners is played by Ken Jones, both his face and Liverpudlian accent recognisable as Ives in Porridge a few years later. When the bikers try to pull the trick in one final pub Marker is stood next to the bloke and calls him out on it. This doesn't go down well but the bikers make off. The landlord wants Marker and Enright to hang around for the police. With them respectively only a fortnight and six weeks into their paroles they make their excuses and swiftly down their drinks. Marker has been building a wall on the beach and the two bikers come down the next day for a confrontation. It is a fairly long and at times rather tense scene. One of the bikers seems well up for a fight but his mate just wants to get out of there. Marker senses the dominance of the one fellow and keeps them talking. He goes on about how their number plates have been seen, how the police could be on their doorsteps when they get back, how long they would get inside and how dreadful that would be, clearly dragging up his own recent experiences. It feels like you get a deep look inside Marker as he describes the slam of the door at night being the loneliest thing you can experience, this from a man who is solitude by nature.

Paid in Full sees Marker getting his first payday from the builders and as he worked a Saturday, he has the afternoon off. All three of the episodes from this series so far seem to have had far more location work compared to previously and we see him looking in shop windows here. Attracted by a figurine in the window, he visits an antique shop called 'FANNYS CURIOS' (I laughed for so long I had to pause the DVD). He chats a lot with the shop owner, telling her it reminded him of something in his house as a child. It is quite a revealing conversation about his childhood. The woman says it sounds like he had a happy family. "No, not especially" is the reply. We learn he had a sibling and they had a piano but otherwise they were quite poor. On Sundays they were only allowed to sing hymns so the siblings started singing them to different tunes. He says, fed up of the tunes one day, his mother walked out. The woman is very moved by Frank's tale. Frank himself tells it quite unemotionally but you do feel ever so sorry for him. The figurine is over £14 - far more than Frank can afford. "How much did you think that was?" the woman asks. "Oh three or four pounds." "You can have it for four."

That there is a Frank Marker smile
Meanwhile at the builders, someone has had their pay packet stolen. Somehow word has got round that Marker has been inside and he becomes prime suspect. There is a copper there when he gets home and Frank is annoyed at the accusation. Enright seems to have heard about the visit as he acts differently at supper and turns down Marker's invite to the pub. Back at work there is an icy atmosphere when Marker walks in. The pay packet has been found in Marker's overalls. The real thief is eventually discovered and afterwards Marker is called into the boss's office, finding his probation officer there too. Despite him having been proved innocent, the rest of the workforce don't want him there now they know he's been inside. Marker says to the boss "But you told them to go to hell?" and when it's clear the boss can't Marker says "I've got the Home Office on my side" but the conversation has already happened before he came in. The boss admits "I'm ashamed" and feels dreadful about the situation. He offers Marker £100 "out of my own pocket", over five weeks' wages. "Hush honey?" "Severance pay." But Marker is absolutely livid. "I don't want your money, Mr Kenrick. I want your job!" It's a devastating way to end things.

Marker was previously a calm, laid-back man but this series has provided several things to bring out strong emotions that I suspect have always been suppressed until now. Marker's done everything right, everything he should. In Welcome to Brighton? one of the prisoners tells him he's mad for going straight as now he's got a record the police will jump right on him whenever they get the chance so he may as well not bother. Marker dismissed this and was determined to be a good lad yet the reality really knocks him back. He can go somewhere else but it will only be a matter of time before his past is outed. Every time something goes missing he knows the finger will get pointed at him. Marker had been different, he had been trying. I'd never seen him smile so much.

My Life's My Own was the first episode of Public Eye I saw, on the basis of which I bought the entire box set of every episode. This entire fourth series has been completely different, primarily because Frank Marker is no longer operating his inquiry agent business. My Life's My Own stands apart itself. A lot of it is a two-hander between Marker and Shirley, a young girl who comes to stay at the B&B whilst Mrs Mortimer is away. A lot of it takes place inside the B&B and whilst there is some location work, it makes a sharp contrast to the heavy amount used so far in the series. It's plain that there's something going on with Shirley. She makes phone calls to 'Chris', who never says anything after picking up. That night Marker finds her unconscious after taking an overdose and has to do a lot to bring her round, including walking her up and down by the beach. Marker finds Chris's address and goes round, finding a couple there. Shirley had been a live-in nurse for the wife. The husband is angry about what's been going on but it's only as he sees Marker out that he asks 'Chris' to run him a bath. The penny drops for Marker. Interestingly when he speaks to Shirley later he pretends he still thinks Chris is the husband.

Interestingly, there have been a quite few references to homosexuality in Public Eye. Back in The Bromsgrove Venus we had the young Ingleby waiting in a dressing gown for an older man. In Welcome to Brighton? Grace, the woman who tried to rob him, mentions a man in the other flat who has a boyfriend. Then there was Marker asking his probation officer how he could know he wasn't "queer". For the programme's time I'm impressed that homosexuality hasn't been portrayed negatively; the word I would use is neutral. Admittedly Ingleby seems embarrassed or perhaps just worried that Marker might say something to his employer. Grace isn't phased at all by her gay neighbour and Marker merely seems put out that his sexuality has been assumed. In My Life's My Own it isn't Shirley's sexuality that's a problem but the fact she has fallen for a married woman who doesn't reciprocate the feelings.

The more jarring aspect watching this episode was Marker's attitude to a suicide attempt. He is not particularly sympathetic. He looks after Shirley but is merely practical and is quite forceful with her. "Don't you think I deserve an explanation?" he says afterwards. When Mrs Mortimer returns she asks the most obvious question of "Why didn't you call for an ambulance?" He says he thought he'd be protecting Shirley but it should have been obvious she needed more than just Frank's physical help.

Frank visits his probation officer. When I first watched this episode I didn't pick up that this guy, Jim Hull, was a probation officer and there is actually only one line that gives away that Frank has been in prison. They discuss his employment options and we learn Marker plans to work for a bit before taking up his inquiry agent work again. Hull asks "Has it ever occurred to you that other people's problems are a distraction from your own?" Marker admits it's a possibility and Hull urges him to consider taking on a partner if he does go back to being an inquiry agent. I can imagine that working for about a fortnight tops.


The final episode of the series. The very final task involved stacking donuts on a pole inside a box. Whoever had the lowest number, that wasn't duplicated by anyone else, won. I would have eaten at least two of the donuts.

Man About the House

George's friend Jerry makes another appearance and diagnoses in Chrissy, Jo and Robin's flat. There isn't any actually - the trio have secretly been having a dartboard up. Jerry can get some woodworm treatment. "I can get hold of some cheap?" "Are they nicked?" "Nah, nah, they're dented...from when they fell off a lorry."

Television's Opening Night: How the Box Was Born

On the 80th anniversary of the BBC's first broadcast this was a fascinating insight into the beginnings of television. I had no idea that the John Logie Baird system used a mechanical camera and watching the attempt to recreate it was astounding. With everything broadcast live and no recordings to look at, it was impressive to see a near-recreation of that first broadcast. Fantastically, Baird's assistant is still alive and aged 104 is still very sharp. The interview with him was a brilliant contribution. I cannot recommend this programme highly enough and urge you all to run to iPlayer.

Man About the House

To make sure he never has to stay in touch with any of the women he takes out, Larry has been giving them false names. Only he finds it easier if they're a real person and recently said he was called Robin Tripp. The young lady is now pregnant so looks up the address and phone number for the only Robin Tripp in the phone book. Thus begins an episode of confusion in which Robin ends up proposing to his girlfriend. When he then wants to break up with her, it doesn't go down well with anyone. I feel really sorry for Robin throughout the whole episode. First he is blamed for getting a girl pregnant, which he didn't, and it takes two to tango anyway. Then when he wants to call off the engagement with a young lady he's only being seeing for a few months he again becomes the bad party. On a random continuity note, this episode confirms that the landlord of The Dirty Duck has eyes for the fellas.

The Little Bits and Pieces of Love

A Polish immigrant married an English doctor after the war, having presumed her first husband was dead. Turns out he isn't and has been searching for her for years. With him working behind the Iron Curtain on a rocket with a nuclear warhead, the British are keen to have him come over to them. The wife presents that opportunity. I spent a certain amount of this episode confused because I initially couldn't work out if they meant the woman had a first husband or if her husband had a first wife. The fact that Hunter doesn't tell Callan all the facts, guessing he will go after information himself, added to my confusion. It was late and I was tired so maybe it was just me. Among the pieces of continuity we get in this episode is that Lonely actually has a job. "You've not gone straight, have you?" asks Callan, worriedly. "Of course not!" replies an offended Lonely. The part-time thief's dishwashing job provides a place for Callan to meet a Polish crook who gets him some information. Callan and Lonely's relationship is really beginning to grow on me. The dialogue has become lighter. It is surprising what can happen when Callan stops threatening to kill him.

However, Callan acts really truly vile in other parts of the episode. The Polish woman, Sophia, has a nervous condition. Hardly surprising when, as her husband says, she spent "years in Dachau, waiting to be exterminated". I surprised myself when I realised I had never considered the mental health of people who had been in concentration camps. It seems obvious now because of course the effects of such an experience aren't necessarily going to disappear. There must have been thousands of people who survived and suffered for the rest of their lives. Fortunately Sophia had help from Doctor Rule whilst in a refugee camp and they fell in love. Her mental state remains precarious though. Callan needs her to write a letter to her first husband, convincing him to come to Britain. She's in pieces but he screams and shouts at her to get on with it and hurry up. Her husband is supposed to be out but she's told him everything and goes for Callan when he comes in. Callan easily knocks the doctor back, "You are very old and I am much younger and much fitter and I will hurt you." Considering Callan voiced his unhappiness with the task to Hunter earlier, he certainly doesn't show it. I think he is far more brutal than he needs to be. Later he shoots a KGB agent and Doctor Rule says, "You just killed a man and your face shows nothing." Rule voices something I have thought whilst watching every episode of Callan. He looks so calm and collected. If possible he gets on with whatever is needed next and doesn't pause to reflect on what he's just done. His face gives nothing away. The only exception to this was in Armchair Theatre's Magnum for Schneider. There Callan is asked whether he is alright. "Yeah, fine" comes the reply but he really doesn't look it. I think it has obviously been a while since he last had to kill someone. The shock and the enormity of it does seem to hit him. Just because Callan doesn't show it, it would be unfair to say he is not affected when he kills someone. It's partly the basis of the series after all. Callan is not keen to do this work. His comment in The Most Promising Girl of Her Year "I hate killing, I sometimes do it" and his following outrage at the dispute of this demonstrate I think that even if Callan looks fine, even if he isn't thinking about it immediately, he definitely does afterwards. Then, it is not nothing to him.

SAS: Who Dares Wins

This was episode three of the series, following recruits being put through their paces in the jungle. They are all incredibly fit so this was all about their mental fitness. Trust was a big theme and they had to jump beside a waterfall, confident the man at the other end of the rope would 'catch' them in time. As someone who is, and I can't emphasise this enough, fucking terrified of heights, I found it uncomfortable just watching them.

The Persuaders
Overture, To the Death, Baby, Five Miles to Midnight and Angie, Angie

This was very much background telly so I paid more attention to some episodes than others. I have been reading a novelisation of some episodes of The Persuaders so that had inspired me to sit down with an episode or four. Overture is a great episode that brings our central playboys, English aristocrat Lord Brett Sinclair and American businessman Danny Wilde, together. They get into a fight in a hotel, are arrested, then blackmailed by one Judge Fulton into carrying out some work for him. This episode is clearly meant to be enticing with what the rest of the series will have to offer. A car race between Brett's Aston Martin and Danny's Ferrari makes use of split screen (a relatively new thing in the early 1970s) and there are several young ladies around with short skirts and bikinis. All the fights in this episode are ludicrously over the top and great fun. There's also the banter between the two starts that grows during the series. I was intrigued some time ago when I read that The Persuaders was inspired by an episode of The Saint in which Simon Templar had teamed up with an American. Having since seen the episode, you can certainly see the potential. I enjoy both series but the advantage of The Persuaders for me is that banter between Brett and Danny. The disadvantage is that episodes vary with how much each character has to do. Some episodes are equal but others end up giving more time to one or the other.

Following a lovely opening episode, my box set goes in production order instead of broadcast order. Most the sets I have from Network seem to do this. In general I absolutely bloody loathe it. However last time I watched The Persuaders I noticed that this offered one and only one advantage; you can observe Tony Curtis's hair turning grey. His sideburns are completely black in the first episode but by the last they turn completely grey.

To the Death, Baby is a twisting episode in which absolutely everyone is lying to each other. We also get Roger Delgado in a small part, doing one of his many foreign accents. There is also some continuation from the previous episode of, for who knows what reason, Danny and Brett calling each other 'Stanley'.

Five Miles to Midnight guest stars Joan Collins as a young photographer. Danny and Brett must help smuggle a gangster out of Italy. I really like this episode for its road scenes as well as ones where the boys are holed up in a small building, shooting at their pursuers with a limited supply of bullets.

Angie, Angie has a superb premise of introducing a childhood friend of Danny. They bump into each other in a French nightclub where we get to see Danny dance with some young people. We will see Brett attempt this in a future episode too and that will be much worse. I don't think of either characters as being older but when you put them in a nightclub with 21 year olds it suddenly stands out that they are both in their forties. Danny's friend Angie is a rotten chap these days and Danny struggles to see past their boyhood bond. He cares for him too much and Angie exploits this. Angie, Angie is without a doubt my favourite of these four episodes.

Danny Wilde's 'moves'

Public Eye
Case for the Defence and The Comedians' Graveyard

In Paid in Full Frank shared a police car to the station with a young man who had stabbed someone at a petrol station. Frank later eavesdropped on the police interview and we hear that the man had died. Case for the Defence picks up on this story. Through the detective constable who investigated the wages theft, Frank gets a job with a detective agency. For his first assignment he has been hired by the young man's dad, Osborne, to help them try to find something that will help get the lad, Barry, off. Or to at least reduce it from murder to manslaughter. Mr Osborne is a self-made very wealthy man and believes chucking money around can sort anything. Frank tries to find out more about the dead man and discovers he was convicted of GBH years before. Osborne goes with him to see the man who was attacked, wanting him to speak at the trial. The victim is a very old man now who has had two strokes and can barely speak. Despite this, Osborne still tries to bribe him. Frank objects and eventually walks out. He voices his concerns to his boss at the agency, Rylands, who does not seem concerned so long as the client keeps paying them. Frank spends much of the episode frustrated. It is clear he doesn't much like working for someone else and he dislikes Osborne's underhanded ways.

The Comedians' Graveyard sees Frank get a missing persons case. This is the first episode of this series to feel like an episode from the previous series, with Frank being seen to do proper inquiry work once again. It's a missing person case and like others he has had, the missing person doesn't necessarily want to be found. Since I first saw it pointed out, this idea is what comes to mind now whenever I see a missing person post on social media. It's a hell of a lot easier to disappear in 1969 than it is today. Frank is initially reluctant to take on the case as they have nothing to go on except the location of Brighton. But Rylands is breathing down his neck so he doesn't have much choice. It was fantastic to have Frank back on familiar territory. He seems to have become a bit more of a people-person and we are still seeing his friendship with Mrs Mortimer the landlady grow. However Frank hasn't got on with Rylands from the start. His attitude to the bribing of a witness, his money orientated outlook and the mounds of paperwork produced in triplicate all get to Frank, who chucks the job in Rylands face. Earlier I predicted that Frank would last two weeks top with a partner. We don't know exactly how long Frank has spent with Rylands but it's at least three weeks so I was a touch out! Nonetheless, it's an unsurprising outcome.

Gavin and Stacey
Series 1, Series 2 and the Christmas Special

I, clearly, had a fairly lazy Sunday. In fairness, I had a long day out Saturday and then spent a few hours at a children's party on Sunday so my rest felt much needed. Some of it was only background telly but other parts I thoroughly enjoyed watching. If you aren't familiar with the series, it follows the relationship between a guy from Essex and a woman from Barry, Wales, along with their friends and families. I have watched Gavin and Stacey a lot. It had been a while since I last did but I have watched it so much I can join in with half the scenes. It is not the funniest sitcom but combined, the plot, the characters and the writing will always grip me. It has become a familiar old friend now. I can dive into any episode, know what is going on and just enjoy it. With the Christmas season now firmly visible on the horizon, I particularly enjoyed the Christmas Special. I love a Christmas sitcom and the Gavin and Stacey one has become a firm fixture in our house now. Watching these episodes, I had to remind myself that they were broadcast from 2007-2008. They have yet to really date much. The only glaringly obvious thing is that the first series was shot before the smoking ban. Seeing Gavin, Smithy, Stacey and Nessa all surrounded by smoke whilst in a modern nightclub does seem really odd now. There are lots of scenes in pubs or clubs too so this recurs throughout that first series. The only other thing to spot is Rob Brydon's pre-transplant hair.

35 programmes
20 new
16 old

Best: Public Eye - Paid in Full making it the second week in a row that Public Eye has been the best programme of the week

Worst: Man About the House - 'the breathylyser'

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