Monday, 28 November 2016

Week in Telly 21-28 November

This week there are two Roger Moore films, lots of The A-Team as well as some puppets and Robin Hood thrown in for good measure. It's been a varied week.

I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!

It's all kicking off with Martin from Homes Under the Hammer. Undoubtedly the best thing about the show are Ant and Dec.

Man About the House x 3

It's been long enough and I was just about ready for this again. Very little has changed although the idea that Richard Sullivan as Robin is still a student is wearing increasingly thin. I haven't looked up his age but it certainly isn't 21 and even 30 is starting to push it. Another remark is Larry. I was pretty convinced he was dying his hair black in previous series (up to series five now) and now that it's brown I'm certain he was. Looking ahead in Man About the House's ITV3 time slot, Doctor in the House is set to replace it. I've seen the odd episode before so could be tempted.

The Man Who Haunted Himself  (1970)

Last week I went to see 'An Afternoon with Sir Roger Moore'. The great man was wonderfully entertaining and they showed a clip from The Man Who Haunted Himself. I knew of the film but the clip convinced me to hurry up and get round to seeing it. Moore's character, Pelham, has a car accident. He is brought back to life after dying on the operating table but for a moment there are two heartbeats and it becomes clear that a doppelgänger has been created. I love the idea of doppelgängers. One of my favourite episodes of Goodnight Sweetheart is about one and it is done excellently. The Man Who Haunted Himself's greatest trick is that we don't see Pelham's doppelgänger for most of the film. Pelham starts to question his sanity and I find this part of the plot most convincing because it's realistic. If people kept saying they had seen you and it was definitely you but you yourself couldn't remember being there, you would eventually start to doubt yourself.
The only part of the film I really disliked was some of the music. There are some dreadful hippy sounds that clash with what is happening on screen. I think it is supposed to be intentional, to unsettle you, but it just doesn't work properly as the music isn't quite right.
Otherwise, cracking film and Moore's tache grew on me throughout.

Coronation Street x2

Many weeks ago I felt my time was better spent watching other stuff but Monday was clearly not about that. Flicking through the channels I spotted Vinny resplendent in a Hawaiian shirt. This could only mean one thing: he was pulling the plug on his and Phelan's fake flats scam. I was intrigued to see this end. Then cut to the Barlow's and when the blinking heck did Peter Barlow turn up again? We have two other Barlows there too. One, Daniel, is so clearly Ken's offspring that no paternity test would be needed. He IS Ken Barlow of 1960. The hair, the clothes, his whole demeanor is a chip off the old block. Michael is found dead. The circumstances with Vinny are iffy but Michael's dodgy ticker has meant I've always been convinced that it was only a matter of time before something saw him off. The two episodes of this programme deserve special mention if only for the fact that it's some of the only telly with adverts I've watched live for a long time.

I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!

Back in Time for Brixton

There have been several Back in Time... programmes including Back in Time for Dinner, Back in Time for the Weekend and Back in Time for Christmas. Each follow a family experiencing life in different decades starting in the 1940s. I really enjoyed all of the previous programmes and am slightly disappointed that this one is only a two parter. This time a black family are experiencing what life was like for immigrants from the West Indies. Both the parents are the children of immigrants from the West Indies so it was an intriguing journey for them. The one had been born to her parents in England but they had left their six older children behind. It seems it was common practice for children to be left behind until parents could afford to send for them, something I had never heard about and was quite surprised by. Everything starts out quite dire but does gradually start to improve. I am curious as to where the second part will take us. Probably my favourite moment was when they moved into a 1960s' styled home, opened the kitched cupboards and found the exact same plates the family currently had at home. The kids thought it was great but the mother looked suitably embarrassed.

"Oh my god - we have these plates!"

I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

I was unwell so needed something familiar and comforting. Fighting a giant and having a battle around submarines seemed good. I used to think of Roger Moore as short and I think it is undoubtedly this film that started me off with this false impression. Place even a bloke over six foot next to Richard Kiel's 7' 2" Jaws and he's going to look tiddly.

The A-Team
The White Ballot and The Maltese Cow

A dodgy sheriff is running a dodgy election campaign. The only rival was found dead in a ditch and a journalist investigating gets beaten up. My favourite, absolute favourite thing about this episode is that Sheriff Dawson is played by one Clifton James, best known to most as Sheriff J.W. Pepper of Louisiana, U.S.A. in Live and Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun.

In The Maltese Cow we find out that the A-Team own a Chinese restaurant. Who knows quite how that works. I can't imagine paying business rates is very easy when you're on the run. A pal of theirs runs it and has been attacked by a Chinese tong. The A-Team move in and show them up as very poorly trained fighters.

I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!
Man About the House

They think they have found a cannabis plant in the garden and Mrs Roper has used it for a flower arranging competition. Just how convinced you are of this plot depends on how familiar you are with what a cannabis leaf looks like. No comment.

Death of a Friend

Almost a fortnight since I last watched any Callan, partly because of just how fantastic Heir Apparent was. A French agent is killed in England when he crashes his car and they find drugs in his system. Callan knew Jean (with the pronunciation I honestly thought his name was 'John' throughout) and it is left somewhat open just how well he also knew Coquet's wife, Francine. This episode kept throwing in odd bits of French from everyone, something that completely threw me having just got back from a German class. I still had 'Er bezahlt die Rechnung in der Kneipe' trotting round when suddenly Callan, Toby Meres et al would be chucking in fast French then carrying on just as quickly in English. The first few times this happened I hadn't a clue what was being said but eventually I clocked on that even my virtually non-existent French could pick out "Ça va?" "Ça va bien?"

Another aspect that I struggled with was the references to "the ORS" that Jean had previously been investigated. Not a clue what it was meant to be and my best guess is that it's a section of the French intelligent service. We discover that Jean and Francine had been separated for a couple of years and Jean had been living with Marcel Latour, a government employee, producing speculation that Jean was still investigating. There is also considerable speculation about the relationship between the two men. I have written previously on Public Eye's references to homosexuality. Public Eye makes no big deal about it at all. Initially, Callan doesn't either. Francine is angry that Jean left her, the fact it was apparently for a man is of little consequence. Ultimately her quest for revenge becomes the centre of the episode. However Meres is rather unkind to Latour - in many ways, but he also brings up his sexuality. Latour is a timid bloke who even whilst holding a gun looks like he barely knows one end of it from the other.

Aside from Lonely, Latour is possibly the only young guy in any episode of Callan who would not be able to handle a physical fight. They all give it a go, even if they perform astonishingly badly. Latour is portrayed so differently that it is impossible for him not to stand out. Later it is rather sad as he tells Callan that he loved Jean but Jean still loved Francine. Latour's character would certainly not have been my preferred representation of a gay man in Callan but the fact that 'love' is in there, is mentioned entirely seriously and is not mocked or dismissed, does make up for it somewhat.

I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!

I don't think I will ever be able to watch Homes Under the Hammer ever again. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it experiences a ratings drop. Its presenter, Martin, quite clearly has no idea how badly he is coming across. It is becoming apparent that none of the campmates like him that much, if at all. He is a chronic complainer and a sore loser. Justice felt served when after losing his royal crown he became a slave but even then he just wouldn't play along properly. I don't think he will be walking out of the jungle with any new friends.

Man About the House x 3

I've reached series six and Robin seem to have had his hair shorter every series.

The A-Team
In Plane Sight and The Battle of Bel Air

After engine trouble a cargo pilot lands in Columbia only to find himself arrested for drug smuggling. His family are sure he didn't know about the true nature of his cargo so ask the A-Team to look into it. I don't think Week in Telly has seen the A-Team go abroad until now. With the expanse of the U.S. they can simply run away for Colonel Decker in  perpetuity. It got me pondering that a British A-Team would really struggle unless they found a passport forger quickly.

With Amy having been absent for a few episodes The Battle of Bel Air gives us her replacement: another journalist named Tawnia Baker. A security firm has some dodgy things going on and whilst investigating them Tawnia finds information she uses to tip the A-Team off. One actor in this seemed familiar and I couldn't place him at all. Turns out he is Kurtwood Smith who would go on to play the dad in That '70s Show.

Fireball XL5
Space Immigrants

I started watching Fireball XL5 a while ago and I like it a lot. A few weeks ago I looked at Four Feathers Fall and was unnerved because the puppets didn't blink. Well I realised the ones in Fireball XL5 don't either but they do move their eyes, stopping them from becoming creepy. In this episode some of Earth's inhabitants are moving to a new planet but some high pitched aliens are determined to get in their way. The lead character is called Steve Zodiac, who I am convinced is a distant relative of Flash Gordon.

Like Flash GordonFireball XL5 also has an awesome theme tune.

Danger Man

John Drake is sent to investigate after another agent dies in a car accident. I was intrigued and pleased that Drake didn't try it on with the dead fellow's girlfriend. That would feel like an obvious set up but perhaps I have watched too much of The Saint as John Drake is sexless in comparison to the rather more randy Simon Templar. Or else perhaps it was felt that with the bloke having only just died it would be indecent.  Danger Man packs a lot into these half hour episodes, something I am always imrpessed by.

Network's ITV 60 box set consists of 12 discs, each designed to be 'an evening's viewing'. Although I have worked through the discs in order, I usually only watch one programme at a time and just pick out whatever I fancy. I was initially unsure about this idea of  'an evening's viewing'. As I've written before, I like order and broadcast order is quite high up on that. The discs are a mixture of different decades but this variety has eventually grown on me to the extent that I thought I could give 'an evening's viewing' a go.

The Adventures of Robin Hood
The Coming of Robin Hood (please no jokes)

I don't know how I know so much about Robin Hood because I am fairly sure I have never watched any series or film before. I lived in Nottingham for three years and never even visited Sherwood Forest. However, like 007 Roin Hood is such a part of our culture that you can pick up plenty of references elsewhere. This series from 1955 stars Richard Greene and is everything I could want from Robin Hood. This first episode sees Robin of Loxley return from fighting in the Middle East, only to find some bugger has nicked is home and land. He tries to take them back legally but is quickly finding that corruption is rife. This is a slightly violent show in language with some rather nasty descriptions but also, more excitingly, there is the sword fighting. There is loads of sword fighting. I don't think I had previously realised just how fantastically entertaining I find sword fighting.

A double sword fight!

This was a great, fun episode so I was delighted to find there were 143 made and all of them exist. As the credits rolled and the theme played I realised I was already familiar with it.

Nearest and Dearest
What Seems to be the Trouble?

I'd never heard of this sitcom and it didn't spark any interest for me at all. The central characters, Eli and Nelly, are brother and sister. Eli is supposedly unwell but after a visit to the doctor it is Nelly who ends up in hospital. The characters all speak far too loudly, positively shouting their lines at one another. I didn't find much of it very funny. Eli chainsmokes and they completely missed the chance for a joke in the hospital as he stands below a 'No Smoking' sign.

Rising Damp
Black Magic

I have only seen a handful of Rising Damp episodes but have always meant to get round to seeing more as I love Leonard Rossiter in The Fall and Rise of Reginal Perrin. Philip tells Rigsby and Alan that he is a god in his own country because he can perform magic. Rigsby is the character that jumps to mind for Rising Damp for me but I enjoyed Don Warrington's Philip and Richard Beckinsale's Alan a lot in this episode.

Mystery Bag (Crime Sheet)
Lockhart Finds a Note

The box set contains an episode of this series' successor, No Hiding Place, that I had really loved so I was excited for this episode. It didn't quite fulfill my hopes unfortunately. No Hiding Place moved to hour long episodes and the half hour ones of Crime Sheet just don't leave as much time for plot and character development. It is also clearly a bit cheaper to make, demonstrated when the cops try to bash a door in and the whole wall looks likely to come down with it. Nonetheless it was still rather entertaining. There are some dodgy cheques being cashed on Detective Lockhart's patch. They have all been for fairly small amounts but when one for over £900 is discovered he really ups the anti. Like No Hiding Place, Crime Sheet focuses more on the villains than the coppers. I found this lot hilarious as they are the poshest criminals that I have ever seen depicted committing cheque fraud. At one point three out of the four of them are drinking in one fellow's club. It is not exactly the rough and ready backstreet pub, the like of which we'll be seeing in The Sweeney fifteen years later.

Upstairs, Downstairs
Miss Forrest

This is like a cheaper version of Downton Abbey. The lady and master of the house go away for the weekend leaving their son, James, to chat up the master's secretary, Miss Forrest, and lord it about a bit. The butler, Hudson (played by Gordon Jackson), doesn't take too well with this. James is an annoying oik in some ways but he was the most progressive person in the house when it came to class relations.

The programme felt slow at times and at the end I was able to reflect on just how little had actually happened in this fifty minute programme. It was another aspect that reminded me of Downton Abbey. I watched all of Downton Abbey and I could probably watch all of this too. It didn't grip me so much as it intrigued me. After looking it up I find that this is the first episode of the third series but it actually works very well as a first episode for the show, giving an enticing cliffhanger at the end.

I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! x2
Again and again.

The A-Team
Say it With Bullets

The majority of this episode is the A-Team fighting it out with Colonel Decker across a military base so lots of gunfire and a chase involving a jeep and a tank. They nick a bloody tank and drive it through a fence onto the main road! They also rig up a house with speakers and an LP called 'The Sounds of War'. Having made their escape they remotely hit play, making the army think they're being fired on. A similar trick, but with a video player, would be used a few years later by Kevin in Home Alone.

Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia

As I didn't have enough time for all of my 'evening's viewing' I finished it off on Sunday.
I didn't and still don't know a lot about the war in Cambodia in the 1970s. However this documentary does give a fascinating and heartbreaking insight into the suffering of Cambodia's people. I am still struggling to get my head round the idea that so many people were slaughtered and abused so horrifically for the vaguest of reasons. From what the documentary tells us, any academics, skilled people, anyone with any knowledge was killed. Teachers, lawyers, doctors, artists, their families, but also others. All ages. About 80% of primary aged children disappeared. One of the greatest problems for the population was starvation as there just wasn't enough food in the country and politics was getting in the way of western countries sending aid.

I was struck by how prison-like the hospital looked
One man was rescued from a prison, having already been tortured. He said his wife and five of his six children had died. The reporter, John Pilger, was incredibly passionate. I've grown up seeing thousands of images like these on the news, in documentaries, in adverts and as part of charity appeals. If I'm honest, I am too used to such footage now and it's shock factor has diminished. But combined with the commentary and interviews from Pilger this documentary really moved me.

John Pilger, standing in the ruins of a destroyed cathedral
29 programmes
10 new
19 old
2 films

Best: The Adventures of Robin Hood. 'Fun' is the word I want to use over and over for this programme. It takes me back to the sword fights we had as kids, leaping off the furniture, trying not to break the lampshades. If anyone is available for playing sword fights then I am still up for them.

Worst: Nearest and Dearest

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