Monday, 19 December 2016

Week in Telly 12th-18th December

The A-Team
Semi-Friendly Persuasion

A group want to settle near a town but the locals aren't keen and burn down their newly-constructed meeting house. One of the settlers asks the A-Team for help but insists there can be no violence used as it goes against their beliefs. It's a tough one and I was looking forward to seeing the A-Team perhaps employing all of Face's powers of persuasion. Instead, after a fight, they get sacked by those that hired them so come back all guns blazing to defeat the bad guys anyway.

"Face - did he call me 'boy'?"
The initial meeting between Hannibal and the head settler is interesting as the latter really doesn't want them there. When he sees some guns in the back of their van, he's ready to chuck them out. Hannibal says he respects their beliefs but this guy should respect them too. He can ask them not to use guns but he can't insist they get rid of their property. Hannibal also points out that these people are able to live freely because of people "like us" defending that freedom.

Later one of the kids, Ollie, has also come into town and B.A. finds some of the local kids ganging up on him. With B.A. towering over them they quickly leg it. "They don't like us because we're different," Ollie says, quietly. It's good to see it put so simply. Difference really is the overriding theme of the episode. At the end, with the bad guys defeated through usual A-Team methods, the head settler is still not happy but Hannibal understands. "I don't expect you to thank us," he says, telling him that he respects him for standing by his beliefs even though he's won.

Coronation Street x2

It was supposed to be Roy's wedding but (and I could have predicted this when I was watching regularly months ago) it was ultimately called off. The part of these episodes that intrigued me most was Anna, who is recovering from severe burns to her legs. She tries to get ready for the wedding but the idea of wearing a dress that will reveal her burns is too much for her. She's not in a good place at all and can't bear to be touched by Kevin. They talk, revealing that they haven't been intimate since the accident and Kevin is clearly finding it really hard not to be able to be close to her. He's understanding but she won't talk properly. Anna obviously needs some sort of professional help and I found watching her rather moving.

Planet Earth

Highlight: watching a days-old calf outrun a wolf.

The A-Team
Curtain Call

This is the final episode of season 2 and though the stakes are high, it is clear the budget is not. The A-Team are just finishing off knocking seven bells out of some bad guys when one of them pulls a gun and fires it at Hannibal. Murdock dives in front of him and takes the bullet in the shoulder. The A-Team have to leg it as Decker's sirens wail and spend the rest of the episode trying to get medical supplies to treat Murdock without getting caught. It's another episode with no actual bad guys - just the military police. As all of the team worry for Murdock, we get a series of flashbacks from previous episodes. Even Decker gets one, reflecting on a time earlier in the season when he thought he had the A-Team trapped. These bulk out the episode, limiting the number of car flips compared to usual. There is also a smaller cast, though it doesn't feel like it. Apart from the A-Team, Decker, his Captain and two blokes Face cons, the rest of the cast is made up of military police extras. I enjoyed some of the flashbacks because most were unfamiliar to me but it does feel like a cop-out. Nonetheless, it is still a good episode to end the season on. It also features one of the most audacious ploys yet as Face takes the uniform of a soldier and simply walks past Decker to pick up a first aid box.

"People very seldom look at what's right under their nose."
The A-Team
Mexican Slayride: Part 1 and Part 2

With Forces TV having finished season 2 we naturally move on to... season 1. After being in the 6 pm weekday slot, The A-Team has been moved to Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights at 10 pm. As I record everything I watch on TV anyway, this makes little difference to me.

As I have said before, I watched repeats of The A-Team whilst growing up. I was delighted to see that with the scheduling change Forces TV would be showing The A-Team from the start as I don't think I have ever seen the first season.

Originally feature length, this pilot episode was later split into two parts. The most glaring difference to later episodes is that Face is played by Tim Dunigan, who would of course be replaced by Dirk Benedict. Dunigan looks far too young to have been in Vietnam ten years earlier but for me, this Faceman also lacks the charm the conman will come to show more of later. Peppard's Hannibal seems harsher, lacking the humorous edge that makes him more likeable. However, I quite enjoy this slightly different Hannibal. I also notice that he is slightly skinnier compared to season 2. B.A. has more of a part compared to some of the season 2 episodes I've been watching, where his main role has been to shout "sucker!" and stand around looking mean. We also get introduced to his fear of flying. We see Murdock inside the mental hospital, instead of just getting broken out of it. The word 'nuts' is used throughout the episode with Murdock insisting that he is the one that's nuts. I have never been certain whether Murdock has genuine mental issues, has some that he exaggerates or if he is making the whole thing up. He does hint towards the third of these, saying it guarantees him free food and lodgings. He certainly is exceptionally over the top in this episode.

Our way of finding out about the A-Team is through Amy Allen. A fellow reporter has gone missing in Mexico and having no luck anywhere else, she digs through some files to try to find out how to contact the A-Team. Hannibal susses her out whilst in disguise, first as a homeless drunk, then as Mr Lee, owner of a Chinese laundromat. It's as bad as you're (probably) imagining it, but hey - we also meet Mexican bandits later on who are exactly what I would expect Mexican bandits to be depicted like.

The whole first part is just setting the plot up and getting the team together. It seems they don't spend all their time together and there are even references to Face and B.A. having their own places, which just seems odd for a group almost constantly on the move. Hannibal calls up an agony aunt on the radio and his sob story is code for B.A. and Face to interpret, which is a pretty cool idea apart from when he doesn't get through.

With Murdock broken out and Amy joining them, they head off to Mexico to shoot up some guys forcing a town to work their marijuana fields. Bullets fly, cars flip, half of them get captured, meet the lost reporter, escape, more bullets, grenades, a helicopter and a Colonel Lynch in a car boot. Marvellous.

Hannibal is very much centre stage but all of the regular characters get their chance to shine too. Amy Allen's part is certainly larger than it would be by season 2 and it will be interesting to see how well this works if it's continued for the rest of season 1. For the A-Team I always think five is a crowd. Colonel Lynch is nothing in this episode compared to Colonel Decker, the former being a farcical character. His jeep gets drowned at a film studio when Hannibal flicks a switch on the Red Sea and he is later laid out by a single punch from Hannibal. It's hard to believe this guy has been chasing them with a passion for ten years, although saying that it is also evident why he hasn't been successful.

Planet Earth

'I'll cheer myself up with Planet Earth.' HAHA - no. Attenborough took us through how various animals have adapted to be able to live in cities. This was extraordinary and I was surprised to see some animals actually living in cities, instead of just heading in for food. Then I was hit with the baby turtles. They hatch on the beach at night and head towards the brightest light, which should be the moon above the ocean. But we humans have gone and screwed that up with our artificial lights and many go up the beach instead. They can get eaten by crabs on the way, they might get trapped if they fall down drains, or they may just get lost so they starve to death. I am not an animal lover. I feel no great urge to fawn over pets and am not reduced to rubble at the sight of baby creatures. In a survey of the general population, I would be in the bottom ranking for 'number of cat videos watched on the internet'. I can take it or leave it. But this? Oh, it nearly broke me. Someone informed me the BBC had stated that it was alright because all the baby turtles had been saved afterwards. Yeah, well, those smushed turtle corpses in the road told me otherwise.

Steptoe and Son

I had never seen a black and white episode of Steptoe before so I enjoyed seeing such early versions of the characters. After seeing him in Steptoe only last week, I got to watch Leonard Rossiter's earlier appearance. Here he plays a Welshman selling lead on behalf of his in need church. With business dire, Harold is keen to buy the lead but old man Steptoe is convinced it's nicked. Harold insists it isn't but I think he is trying to convince himself more than Albert. Later a police flier comes through the door listing stolen items and unsurprisingly, some lead has gone missing. Harold and Albert spend a day in the pouring rain trying to dump the lead in various different places. They get home, head upstairs, only to find - and I only guessed seconds beforehand - that the ceilings are leaking and some bugger has nicked the lead off their roof.

In Plain Sight

This has continued to be excellent. Peter Manuel has been caught housebreaking with another guy but whilst on bail fancies one more job before he goes to prison. Three bodies are found in a house the next day. The crimes themselves are not the point of this series - Peter Manuel is. The man is so brazen. When a man is arrested for the murders, it is his daughter, wife and sister-in-law who have been killed. Manuel, inside for a burglary, speaks to Watt's lawyer, saying he knows who committed the murders, can give details, but won't name the killer. After his release, he says he is willing to name the man. Detective Muncie wants to trip Manuel up so tells Watt and his lawyer to meet Manuel. But Manuel has guessed the plan. He names a gang leader who humiliated him in prison. With the lawyer in the gents', Manuel tells Watt by the time the murderer left his daughter wasn't a virgin anymore. Watt can't contain himself and launches himself at Manuel, who now knows he's got one over on Muncie again.

My Mother and Other Strangers x3
The A-Team
Children of Jamestown

The first regular episode of the series is also Dirk Benedict's first as Templeton 'Faceman' Peck. Conspicuous by its absence in the pilot, we get the first appearance of the A-Team's van. A religious cult has a load of kids brainwashed. One father has hired the A-Team to get his daughter out. They manage this easily and she is spirited away in a helicopter with Murdock. However, the A-Team is captured and have to fight back against the preacher and his guards, the latter all wearing monks' habits and guns.

The familiar elements of the series are starting to fall into place. The 'making stuff' montage is wonderful and at the end we have a jeep with a flamethrower on. A FLAMETHROWER! There weren't enough car flips in the pilot but Children of Jamestown does well as Face sends oxygen tanks rocketing through the air towards the baddies' cars.

After an enormous punch knocks Faceman for six, the team barge into a nearby house with him. Initially dazed, he drags it out as much as he can. Unsurprisingly, it is not because he's a malingerer; a young woman has him lying on her lap whilst she caresses his forehead. But there is work to be done. Hannibal asks nicely but when Face says he thinks he needs to stay lying down a sharp "Move it, Lieutenant!" swiftly gets him on his feet. Faceman gets a quick kiss with the lady at the end though, securing another regular feature.

One part still different is Murdock. Unlike the rest of the team, Murdock is not on the run and currently he is being checked out of the VA hospital in order to join their adventures. He is strictly a pilot though and aside from this he has little role to play. After taking the father and daughter to safety he doesn't properly reappear again until near the end. He does drop dynamite from the helicopter, which is pretty cool. He is able to light them one after another quickly from a cigar in his mouth, which stood out as I only ever remember seeing Hannibal and Face smoke. 

The Big Job (1965)

Starring Sid James, Jim Dale and Joan Sims among others, this is a Carry On film in all but name. It proved to be a good, relaxing, Sunday afternoon film. A gang robs a bank and Sid hides the cash shortly before they are all arrested. After serving fifteen years inside, they are all keen to fetch the money only to find a new housing estate has sprung up. The tree Sid stuffed the briefcase full of notes in now stands within the walls of a police station. Cue amusing capers as they try to recoup the haul.

My Mother and Other Strangers x2

Having watched all five episode across only two nights they have blurred together a little. This was a lovely series and it would be great to see a follow-up. It could have stood well enough on its own but the ending leaves things too open-ended. The programme follows the small town of Moybeg in Northern Ireland during the Second World War, where a U.S. airbase has been set up. In particular, we focus on the Coyne family, consisting of Rose, Michael, their sixteen year old daughter, Emma and their younger children, Francis and Kate. Bookending each episode is a voice over from an older Francis, reflecting on memories of his childhood. The series' storylines include Emma falling for a U.S. pilot, the persecution of the fishermen, an outbreak of scarlet fever and Rose falling for one of the U.S. soldiers. I enjoyed the first few episodes more as the romantic elements were not the main focus.

There are many smaller elements of the series to like, such as Francis and his friend Seamus's frequent visits to 'the dump'. They try not to get caught by the soldiers as they root around for anything. Francis is accruing a collection of toy planes but Seamus seems more interested in items that may have monetary value. When Kate contracts scarlet fever, Francis is terrified that it is his fault for bringing things home from the dump. I also loved the theatre group's visit to the town, telling a Halloween story.

There is plenty more for the series to explore. We discover Seamus's family is very poor and his father is an alcoholic who hits Seamus's mother. Emma has a scholarship to university but is having a year at home. She is rather naive but desperate for young love and excitement. Rose is the schoolmistress but the family also run a grocery/hardware store (a surprising combination for me) and a pub. For complicated historical reasons, Michael's cousin owns the pub's lease and has decided to sell it, threatening the Coyne's livelihood.

Overall this didn't feel like a depressing drama. Negative things happen but it doesn't have the depressing air that puts me off some modern drama. Why haven't I caught up on The Missing yet? Because the last series was bloody miserable! A child goes missing. Of course it will be distressing and miserable! That doesn't mean it isn't interesting - that intrigue is what drags me in. But it's great to watch something where 'bad things' are not the main focus of the programme.

The airbase throws a Christmas party for Moybeg's children
16 programmes
10 new
6 old
1 film

Best: Having binge-watched My Mother and Other Strangers, I can't single out one episode properly.

Worst: High quality this week so a 'worst of the best' to Coronation Street.

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