Monday, 14 November 2016

Week in Telly 11

Man About the House

As far as Chrissy's mother is concerned, she is knocking on the door of spinsterhood. She needs to hurry up and get married. At the grand old age of 21 she is virtually past it. Robin finds himself invited back to the family farm for the weekend. I must admit I am growing tired of Man About the House. I tend to stick it on for when I'm sitting down with breakfast or lunch as the 25 minute format works well for a meal and email catch-up. It's been five episodes a week for over a month now though and a change is probably needed.

SAS: Who Dares Wins

The men continue to be put through it and the episode ended with an ambush. Their hands were tied, bags put over their heads and then they were half buried face down in the ground. It's about to get brutal. This episode showed a lot of physical endurance that many could attempt but the psychological stuff coming up looks utterly horrific.

Moonlight Becomes You and Takeaway

During a Network sale there were various recommendations being made on my Twitter timeline, one of which was Nightingales, a sitcom recommended by the writer Eddie Robson. I like his sitcom, Welcome to Our Village, Please Invade Carefully, and on that scant basis I bought the DVD. Finally deciding to get round to it I reflected that apart from the fact it's a sitcom, I knew nothing about Nightingales and I could hate it. A skim of the back cover told me it centred around security guards on the night shift and could get a tad surreal.
Moonlight Becomes You sees the three guards get a new recruit who turns out to be a werewolf. There is actually also another guard but he's dead. They haven't told anyone because they get to split his pay so just keep spraying him with air freshener. When there's a surprise inspection they have to make it look like they actually do some work. Every time someone walks in they ask "Anyone at home?" and the reply of "Nobody here but us chickens" is accompanied by a sort of chicken dance with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Marvellously, this is just never explained and continues in the following episode.
In Takeaway it is announced that there are going to be cutbacks so one of the staff is going to have to go. As well as the three guards, Carter (Robert Lyndsay), Bell (David Threlfall) and Sarge (James Ellis), there is Piper (Edward Burnham), who mainly just seems to sweep up. With Sarge in charge, Carter and Bell try their best to suck up to him. They are not exactly enthusiastic about their work. Sarge declares "The public rely on us, so they can sleep easy in their beds." Carter replies "Then God help them then." Talking about people who want to get rid of the elderly, Carter says "They're just a bunch of Shakespearean villains", after which Carter and Bell decide Piper must go instead of them and the characters slip in and out of Shakespeare-like speech and actions for the rest of the episode.

This was fantastic and I particularly enjoyed the moment where Carter and Bell are considering murdering Piper. Near the end they finally address the issue of why don't they just 'sack' the dead guard? But the guards recoil in horror at the thought of losing their extra income.
I was relieved to find Nightingales was so much fun and am looking forward to the rest of the series. I have literally no idea what to expect next.

Doctor Who: The Space Pirates - Episode 2
Coming soon.

The Saint
The Element of Doubt

A businessman attempts to commit insurance fraud by burning his own warehouse down. Unfortunately a police officer dies and an old woman loses her sight in the fire. Simon Templar is very much in the background for this episode. He does get guilty parties to expose themselves (not like that!) but the result does have some moral implications. Our lovely Saint is partly responsible for two unnecessary deaths and that this is dismissed without being dwelt on sits somewhat uneasy with me.

The Last Leg: US Election

Despite having been utterly fed up of hearing about the US election many months ago, I found myself intrigued in the aftermath.

Gavin and Stacey x 4

I only planned to watch one episode but three episodes in a row is what can happen when you hit 'Play All'. Then I fit in another episode later on. In all honesty after watching the first two series and the Christmas special last week I had no plans to continue and watch the final third series. It has always been my least favourite for no reason other than first two feeling much stronger.

Gavin and Stacey x 2

Finished off series three. Smithy recalls a song that Gavin sang when someone came into the pub after having had one of his testes removed. Writing this I have 'The one ball of Wimbledon' to the tune of The Wombles going round my head.

Let's Kill Everybody and Heir Apparent

Someone plans on killing everyone in the Section but they don't know who. How can you stop someone from murdering you when the killer could be anyone? The Section's answer is for everyone to keep an eye on each other and wait for the enemy to make the first move. I quickly realised that this was the first episode I saw of Callan as part of the ITV 60 box set. It's been less than a year but I couldn't remember any of it, which is rather odd for something I instantly fell in love with.

Callan has a girlfriend. This is strange. He has been in hospital (we see a dressing on his neck) and she was one of the nurses. I expected him to be with her as part of some job but no, it's a genuine relationship. Bizarre as it is to see Callan all loved up, it is also really nice and I am happy for him. We know it's going well as when Hunter asks if he's getting much rest Callan replies "Not much."

His girlfriend, Jenny, has left nursing to study History at university and one of her tutors, Dr. Paula Goodman, turns out to be a wrong 'un. I sensed she was a baddie because she is played by Heather Canning, who also played the woman that tried to rob Frank Marker in Public Eye on his first day in Brighton.

Dr. Goodman and her communist colleague start knocking off members of the Section. Jenny overhears a conversation on the phone so Goodman drugs her and she later drowns. Callan is upset by it but when he finds out who is responsible he's livid. Whilst Callan goes round to see Goodman we see Hunter get shot. At first Callan doesn't let on that he knows the truth about Goodman but eventually he confronts her. When he asks "Why Jenny?" we can hear the emotion in his voice but his anger grows as Goodman talks and he slaps her.

It all gets quite tense as we hear the lift carrying her colleague up. When Dr. Walker arrives he shoots at Callan who still manages to grab him. Meres is just behind and they are going to leave. But Walker knocks the lights off and a shot rings out as Callan shoots Goodman, who was diving for her lethal drugs. This is a really well directed scene.

No episode of Callan has a triumphant ending. Someone often dies near the end and even if technically it's mission accomplished for Callan, there isn't a celebratory mood. The end of this episode has a wholly depressing mood. Many members of the Section have been killed, including the head, Hunter. There is also Jenny, the first person we have seen whom Callan had actually cared for.

There is one small blunder in those final scenes in which Toby Meres does a very bad job at covering the enemy assassins. Callan is reeling from his head injury but still does a better job at keeping his eyes and his gun pointed at them. Toby majorly gaffs when at one moment his gun is actually facing Callan!

Heir Apparent continues on from Let's Kill Everybody with Callan, Toby Meres and Hunter's secretary being the only ones in England left alive in the Section. A new Hunter is needed and a possible replacement has been chosen. Only problem is he's undercover in East Germany so Callan and Meres have to go to a spot on the border to help get him out.

The episode starts with the old Hunter's funeral and afterwards we see Callan is still incredibly angry about what has happened. Meres is detached and merely sees it as part of the world they operate in. Nothing to be done so just move on and get on with the next job, dear chap. The Foreign Secretary briefs them before they go for a lesson on East German minefields from Captain Jenkins, played by Peter Cellier, who was in Public Eye as fellow ex-prisoner, Enright. Meres and Callan are rather brash with him, Callan being rather pissed off at having to cross the minefield. He is also unhappy after finding out that the bloke they are fetching is a fellow who trained under Callan at one point. Callan's description of him is of an upper class, arrogant twat who had life handed to him on a plate. Not being one of the ex-public school brigade, Callan has often seemed to take a dislike to such people. The idea of having to work for this one definitely does not sit well.

After a couple of days travelling by train across Europe, Callan and Meres arrive near the West and East German border. They have a long time before they are supposed to meet the new Hunter so Toby wants to carry on in the beer halls, as "What are we gong to do stuck in a German ditch for eighteen hours?" Callan however is keen to scout out the meeting point.

Most of the rest of the episode centres around the border crossing point. Callan cuts through the fence, using a map of the minefield to mark a safe crossing path. At one point he thinks he's put his hand on a mine but it turns out to be a rock. He tosses it away and it hits an actual mine, scaring the shit out of Callan. I killed myself laughing. Callan and Meres have been told the patrol times but there seem to be more than usual. Jeeps drive past and a helicopter flies over several times. At one point Callan says "Cor, I could do with a fag." "I thought you didn't?" "It's funny - I don't." Meres spots a door of a bunker that keeps opening and they eventually realise Hunter (Derek Bond) is hiding in it. When Callan eventually gets there more guards turn up outside, chatting with a logger. The decision is made to wait until darkness before they dare creep out but unfortunately this doesn't prevent a shoot out with the East German border guards.

Don't throw rocks when you're lying in a minefield

This has been the best episode of Callan I have seen so far. From the moment Callan and Meres arrive at the border it feels tense and it only goes on to become more nerve-wracking. As far as I can tell all the outdoor scenes are shot on location and they don't cop out for the night scenes by using a filter, which is quite a brave move for black and white. Somehow everything is lit well enough so credit all round to the production on this. They make great use of searchlights and car headlamps. The guards get a few lines and Callan has always used actual Russian or German, rather than speaking in English with a foreign accent. Most of the guards' lines are just about simple enough for me to be able to understand. Everything looks genuine and it adds hugely to the episode's atmosphere.

The new Hunter's part is brief but from what we see he doesn't seem quite the bastard that Callan painted him. His time undercover on the other side of the Curtain looks like it's changed him. Perhaps he and Callan might get on after all?

The Man Upstairs (1958)

Richard Attenborough and Bernard Lee star and this billing was what drew me to the film. I hadn't really seen Richard Attenborough before and had not seen Bernard Lee outside his famous role as the original M in the Bond films. Attenborough plays the man of the title, who has been acting rather oddly. After disturbing the rest of the building's residents one night and lashing out at one, the police are called. Scared, he pushes the Sergeant who falls back over a banister, landing in the hall.
His face concealed in the darkness, I heard his voice and thought "No! It can't be..." but indeed it was Alfred Burke. The man I have of late being getting to know as Frank Marker in Public Eye is introduced as Mr Barnes. It was fairly easy to get over seeing Burke ten years younger as apart from a touch longer hair and fewer wrinkles he looked more or less the same!
All the action takes place almost in real time. I have to add the 'almost' because I doubt the ability to get the police, the army and the fire service all together so quickly. Bernard Lee's police inspector is keen to just bash the door in and drag John Wilson out and when they find out he has a gun, to bash it in and possibly shoot him. Fortunately a mental welfare officer is around to suggest alternative methods. Gradually we learn more about John Wilson, like his real name and what happened to affect his mental state. Despite the uncomfortable attitude from the Inspector - "He's just a thug!" - and the resulting over the top response to a man who just wouldn't come out of his bedroom, I enjoyed this film and would be intrigued to find out more about it.

Horrid Henry
The Birthday Present

Weekend telly can be quite rubbish and I struggled to find anything to put on whilst my brain started up. I remember Horrid Henry books from when I was at school, though I never read them. I discovered the cartoon version a couple of years back when I was helping out in a primary school. Henry is a boy of about eight or nine who likes getting into mischief, sometimes with his mates who are all part of the Purple Hand Gang. His younger brother is an angel in comparison. He is quiet, sensible and considerate. Henry hates him. In this episode Henry is taken to a posh department store with his aunt and cousin, Stuck-up Steve, to buy his mother a birthday present. He manages to have a gunge gun shoot out and snare a jewellery thief. At under fifteen minutes, this is a decent enough kids show.

Remembrance Sunday: The Cenotaph

It was 10:50 on Remembrance Sunday. This felt appropriate.

The World at War
The Fall of France and Alone

With my BluRay box set I could see the corpses of French civilians in glorious HD. The World at War never ceases to be both horrifying and fascinating. It has been a while since I have watched much of The World at War and in these episodes I have enjoyed how balanced it can be. The French aren't painted as 'cheese eating surrender monkeys' but rather as a nation besieged, with civilians suffering and left with very little choice. As usual I particularly enjoyed the maps and there were many in The Fall of France to demonstrate the defensive Maginot Line. I can no longer hear the words 'Maginot Line' without hearing George Formby.

Public Eye
A Fixed Address

I got quite a shock when after the titles of this episode there was suddenly... COLOUR. We are in colour! I wasn't expecting it and wasn't really ready for it. I have been concerned as to how I would find Public Eye in colour. Black and white hides a lot and this can be a very good thing when a programme hasn't got a lot of money to spend. A skim of the pamphlet that came with my box set tells me this episode was made in colour but broadcast in black and white, being a test episode for Thames' new cameras. It's the final episode of series 4 so I am presuming from series 5 we will be in colour. The opening shot shows us Frank in a light blue shirt, at odds with his usual dark colours. Later he wears a dark blue one with a purple tie and I think it suits him much better. I wouldn't have expected purple though - I had imagined his ties being light grey. These colours in people's clothes, furniture, in fact right down to the green patterned coffee cups, all takes some getting used to. My biggest surprise was that Alfred Burke has blonde hair as I'd always expected it to be brown. Despite being hesitant I did enjoy this new fangled colour stuff. It was only this unexpected arrival that made me reflect and realise about a third of what I watched this week was in black and white. A couple of weeks back it was more than half!

On to the actual plot of this episode and Mrs Mortimer's estranged husband shows up on the doorstep. She previously told Frank about Dennis so we know he's a bit of an arse. He walked out on her seven years ago, leaving a letter, but now wants to rekindle their relationship. This is a superb episode for Pauline Delaney as Helen Mortimer. She's tough and isn't willing to take any shit from Dennis. He has heard about Frank, presumes he's her boyfriend and Helen lets Dennis believe it. It emerges that Dennis has been offered a job abroad but the condition is that he brings his wife. Helen takes great joy in turning down the offer. He hurt her and now she has had a chance to see him hurt. She doesn't come across as bitter. "I remember lots of things, Dennis, some wonderful things" she smiles. The "some" hangs, telling us there were enough bad things.

Frank meanwhile has decided to start up on his own as an enquiry agent again. When Hull the probation officer comes round to see Helen she mentions this, not realising Hull did not already know. She also says Frank will be staying on at the boarding house and Hull accidentally lets this slip when he sees Frank later. Combined with finding Dennis in the kitchen when he gets home, Frank is quite annoyed with Mrs Mortimer.

This episode starts to become rather revealing about Frank and Helen's relationship. Hull goes to see Helen to speak to her about taking on another couple of ex-prisoners but she says she will have to think about it. She has said Frank can stay on and it could be awkward having other people he was in prison with there. Little looks in recent episodes have made it clear she wants Frank to stay. Hull offers her some advice "Marker's a very lonely man. I mean he's a lone wolf. Don't make too many plans involving him." Don't get too close because he won't let you, is the message. Helen is falling for Frank and I suppose it is hardly surprising. She runs a boarding house and with people usually only staying for a short time, Frank is possibly the only person she has had around for so long. They get on well, he helps out with the guests and they are around the same age. But there has been no indication that Frank has similar feelings for Helen and I fear this can only end badly.

20 programmes
10 new
10 old
1 film

Best: Callan - Heir Apparent was a triumph of television. Special mention to both the Nightingales episodes.

Worst: Doctor Who: The Space Pirates. It can only get worse.

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