Category Archives: news

Deep Purple studio albums revisited – part two

Following on from part one, which dealt with the output of Deep Purple pre-split, this post will look at their reunion albums up to and including Purpendicular.  This means the most recent four albums are missing, but I no longer actively follow that line-up of the band and it would be wrong of me to comment on something in which I had no interest!

Mark Five (Mark Two, rebooted)

  • Vocals – Ian Gillan
  • Guitar – Ritchie Blackmore
  • Bass – Roger Glover
  • Keyboards – Jon Lord
  • Drums – Ian Paice

This definitive line-up returned in 1984 with one of the best rock records ever made, which still stands up today.  Then a mis-step towards commerciality and another breakup caused the band’s musical style to waver, before a final catastrophic collapse in 1993.

The albums

‘Perfect Strangers’, released October 1984

  • Knocking at Your Back Door
  • Under The Gun
  • Nobody’s Home
  • Mean Streak
  • Perfect Strangers
  • A Gypsy’s Kiss
  • Wasted Sunsets
  • Hungry Daze
  • Not Responsible (cassette and CD only)

High point: there are so many, with hardly a dud throughout the album.  But if pushed, the beautiful ‘Wasted Sunsets’.

Low point: A Gypsy’s Kiss is probably the one I listen to least of this set.

Marks out of five: five.

‘The House of Blue Light’, released January 1987

  • Bad Attitude
  • The Unwritten Law
  • Call of the Wild
  • Mad Dog
  • Black and White
  • Hard Lovin’ Woman
  • The Spanish Archer
  • Strangeways
  • Mitzi Dupree
  • Dead or Alive

High point: it’s a strange album which is far too geared to the idea of the ‘radio play’ single.  But I love the organ bits on Bad Attitude.

Low point: Black and White is pretty unmemorable.

Marks out of five: two.

Mark Six

  • Vocals – Joe Lynn Turner
  • Guitar – Ritchie Blackmore 
  • Bass – Roger Glover 
  • Keyboards – Jon Lord 
  • Drums – Ian Paice 

Ian Gillan’s departure from the band brought former Rainbow singer Joe Lynn Turner back to be reunited with former colleagues Blackmore and Glover, with a new slick sound for the band.  Sadly after one excellent album and tour this association came to an end.

Album:

‘Slaves and Masters’, released October 1990

  • King of Dreams
  • The Cut Runs Deep
  • Fire in the Basement
  • Truth Hurts
  • Breakfast in Bed
  • Love Conquers All
  • Fortuneteller 
  • Too Much is Not Enough
  • Wicked Ways

High point: Fortuneteller is worth a couple of minutes of anyone’s time.

Low point: I like Too Much is Not Enough, but it isn’t a Deep Purple song.

Marks out of five: five

Mark Seven (another reboot for Mark Two)

This reunion was a mistake and the resulting album does not stand up well today. Perhaps it is a conflict of styles. But its dated rock sounds and pretty dreadful lyrics have killed it.

Album:

‘The Battle Rages On’, released July 1993

  • The Battle Rages On
  • Lick it Up
  • Any
  • Talk About Love
  • Time to Kill
  • Ramshackle Man
  • A Twist in the Tale 
  • One Man’s Meat
  • Solitaire 

High point: I love Solitaire.  But Ramshackle Man is almost back to Purple at their finest.

Low point: One Man’s Meat and Lick it Up suffer from really childish lyrics.

Marks out of five: three

Mark Eight

  • Vocals – Ian Gillan
  • Guitar – Steve Morse
  • Bass – Roger Glover
  • Keyboards – Jon Lord 
  • Drums – Ian Paice 

After the 1993 tour conflict reared its head in the band and for whatever reason,.Ritchie Blackmore departed to reform Rainbow.  The new album was an odd mix of material which could have been on any earlier album plus new songs which were a stylistic departure.

The only album I will comment on is their first.

Album:

‘Purpendicular’, released February 1996

  • Vavoom: Ted the Mechanic
  • Loosen My Strings
  • Soon Forgotten
  • Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming
  • Cascades: I’m Not Your Lover
  • The Aviator
  • Rosa’s Cantina
  • A Castle Full of Rascals
  • A Touch Away

High point: A Touch Away and Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming are good songs

Low point: Ted the Mechanic.  The lyrics are awful. 

Marks out of five: one.


The Threepenny Opera (National Theatre)

This new translation of the Bertolt Brecht-Kurt Weill has been polarising audiences at the National Theatre, but it is a vibrant and lively production, entertaining and bawdy, and – some diction issues aside – a well-sung musical black comedy.  I’m pleased to report that Weill’s music has definitely stood the test of time.

Rory Kinnear (showing versatility with fairly successful vocal work) is Captain Macheath aka Mack the Knife, who carries round a large blade and dispatches people who cause him trouble.  He marries Polly Peachum (Rosalie Craig, last seen in the dreadful wonder.land, much better here) for her brains and to get one over on her gangster dad and her horny mum. But is his chequered past about to catch up with him?

threepennyopera

This production, by Rufus Norris, uses a translation by Simon Stephens which focuses on a run of profanity and the ‘filthy language’ promised in the National’s publicity, alongside the ‘immoral behaviour’ which includes Mackie and Polly making their first appearance in coitus which being lowered down from the flies on a crescent moon.

Brechtian theatre shows all the nuts and bolts of the stage, and this production doesn’t disappoint, with lights, ropes, and a busy set of steps, paper doors, and liberal use of the National’s drum revolve, all contributing to the overall effect.

There are some aspects of this musical that are muddled: Haydn Gwynne’s Mrs Peachum using a fire extinguisher to mimic vomiting after a heavy night, all of Sharon Small’s songs as heavily Scots-accented Jenny, some of the lyric changes, the gay angle, and Peachum’s wig, but they are generally overshadowed by successful innovations, including Paule Constable’s lighting design.

Debbie Kurup does well as a feisty and aggressive Lucy Brown, and George Ikediashi is a camp balladeer, but Peter de Jersey disappoints in the duet with Kinnear (‘A Soldier’s Return’) and I struggled with one of Mackie’s gang being severely disabled and almost played for laughs.

Edit: I would like to expand on my final sentence following a comment I have received on Twitter, specifically honing in on the fact I had a problem following the speech of the member of the cast with cerebral palsy (his name is Jamie Beddard, and he plays the member of Mackie’s gang called ‘The Shadow’).

The Telegraph’s review claims that this casting was inspired and makes the audience implicit in Macheath’s eventual frustration and mockery, but for me this didn’t work.  I was frustrated enough with not being able to follow the lyrics at times without having to decipher a speech impairment as well; nonetheless, Beddard did well and was particularly amusing in the black scene where Polly, the new bride, seems in danger of a nasty assault from the gang.

I am afraid, though, that I felt this particular piece of casting was a stunt which did not work in the context of the whole musical, and it weakened the fabric of a show which was already not entirely successful, by overbalancing scenes and musical numbers with an additional burden on an audience who were already dealing with an assault on the senses from the revised lyrics and situations, and could do nothing but react with uncomfortable laughter.  I hope this makes my comment clearer.

 


Theatreboard: a new social space for theatre fans

Background-with-Logo

PRESS RELEASE

THEATREBOARD: the new home of independent theatre discussion.

The UK now has a new independent online forum to discuss theatre.

Following the recent decision by its American parent company to discontinue support for the discussion forums originally established by WhatsOnStage.com, a group of dedicated fans have taken on the challenge to create a brand new home for lively and informed discussion about the UK theatre scene and beyond.

Once the closure of the old forum was announced at the start of January, many users rapidly got involved suggesting ways forward.  Different approaches were considered before the community as a whole put its support behind a plan to create a new home at http://www.theatreboard.co.uk.

A former moderator of the WhatsOnStage.com forum commented: ‘It was fantastic seeing our online community come together to protect something they valued so much.  It was a very democratic process and we are proud to have launched the new site within a matter of weeks.’

A small team of volunteer staff came together to cover the costs and work on the design and functionality of the new site which already boasts over 500 members and is averaging 17,000 hits a day.

A spokesperson said: ‘We are thrilled to have secured this new online home which we hope will continue to grow and flourish in the years to come. Everyone is welcome –  whatever type of theatre they enjoy or how often they manage to see a show.’

TheatreBoard features sections discussing Musicals; Plays; Performers and following member demand, a new area dedicated to Opera and Dance. Conversations already cover dozens of productions including West End, fringe and touring; alongside topics as diverse as badly behaved audiences to theatre technology and a live chat planned for the upcoming Olivier awards.

All year round the UK delivers an exceptional wealth of live theatre in venues ranging in size from over two thousand seats down to the most intimate studio spaces. TheatreBoard aims to support informed, varied and vigorous debate among those who love theatre.


My Acorn DVD collection

Another popular archive TV label is Acorn, who publish titles both in the UK and the USA.

Titles owned:

  • Anna Karenina (Nicola Pagett)
  • Aristocrats
  • Berkeley Square
  • Broadway’s Lost Treasures I and II
  • Carrie’s War
  • The Complete Father Brown (Kenneth More)
  • Country Matters
  • Cousin Bette
  • Cribb volume 1 and 2
  • Dandelion Dead
  • Dear Ladies series 1
  • Dixon of Dock Green: set 2
  • East of Eden
  • The First Churchills
  • A Foreign Field
  • Foyle’s War: The German Woman/The White Feather
  • A Horseman Riding By
  • The House of Elliott: Series 1
  • I Remember Nelson
  • Jack Rosenthal at the BBC
  • Karaoke and Cold Lazarus
  • The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby
  • Lipstick on Your Collar
  • Lonesome Dove
  • Lord Peter Wimsey Complete (Ian Carmichael)
  • Lorna Doone
  • Lost Empires
  • Love on a Branch Line
  • Melissa
  • Midsomer Murders: Death of a Stranger
  • Murder Most English
  • North and South
  • Our Mutual Friend
  • Painted Lady
  • The Pallisers
  • Paul Temple Collection: colour episodes
  • Penmarric: Complete
  • Playing Shakespeare
  • The Politician’s Wife
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
  • The Rector’s Wife
  • Shakespeare Retold
  • Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars
  • Smiley’s People
  • The Strauss Family
  • Strumpet City
  • Testament of Youth
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • To Serve Them All My Days
  • Traffik
  • Wessex Tales

My Network DVD collection

TV Comedy

  • The Complete Adrian Mole.  Capsule review: An excellent comedy-drama adaptation of Sue Townsend’s first two books about Adrian Mole.
  • Agony: The Complete Series.  Capsule review: Maureen Lipman is a scatty agony aunt with romantic problems.  Tries too hard to cover ‘issues’.
  • An Audience with Jasper Carrott.  Capsule review: Carrott’s breakthrough series before an audience; still very funny.
  • Beadle’s About series 1.  Capsule review: Very much of its time, this raises the occasional smile but hasn’t worn well.
  • Catweazle: Series 1 and Series 2.  Capsule review: A classic children’s series with a strong central performance and clever storylines.
  • Cilla’s Comedy Six: The Complete Series.  Capsule review: Hit and miss sketches which prove Cilla Black was not a strong comedienne.
  • Classic ITV Christmas Comedy.  Capsule review: A good sampler of half-forgotten comedy programme festive specials, many from the 1980s.
  • Dawson’s Weekly.  Capsule review: Les Dawson in a set of comedy characterisations which are very entertaining.
  • Doctor on the Box.  Capsule review: every Doctor series which ran on the BBC, good for dipping in and out, but the earlier series are the sharpest.
  • End of Part One: The Complete Series.  Capsule review: a quirky and obscure delight in Pythonesque mode.
  • Frost on Sunday.  Capsule review: Frost goes variety in his lightest of the three weekend 60s series.
  • The Galton and Simpson Playhouse.  Capsule review: a set of amusing comedy plays.
  • The Goodies … At Last, A Second Helping.  Capsule review: time hasn’t been kind to this silly sketch series.
  • If There Weren’t Any Blacks You’d Have To Invent Them.  Capsule review: two versions of the same black comedy play, both very effective.
  • The Morecambe and Wise Show: The Thames Years.  Capsule review: not as good as their BBC series, but this duo were always good fun.
  • Mrs Merton and Malcolm.  Capsule review: not entirely successful, but now and again this is as much comedy gold as the Royle Family.
  • The New Incomplete Complete and Utter History of Britain.  Capsule review: a lovingly compiled package of a variable comedy series.
  • Outside Edge: The Complete Series.  Capsule review: the pilot play and the whole series, a joy from start to finish.
  • Paul Merton in Galton and Simpson’s … series 1.  Capsule review: disappointing, especially the Hancock reboots.
  • Pipkins: Volumes 1-4.  Capsule review: legendary children’s series, with subversive puppets.
  • The Rag Trade: The Complete First LWT Series.  Capsule review: laugh out loud on occasion, but the original BBC series is stronger.
  • Rik Mayall Presents.  Capsule review: a series of comedy plays, cleverly written.
  • Ripping Yarns: The Complete Series.  Capsule review: superior comedy plays in the old yarn style and with a Python twist, with the Secrets play as a dark and funny extra.
  • Romany Jones: Complete Series 1 and 2.  Capsule review: James Beck’s only starring role following his success in Dad’s Army – but it is creaky fare!
  • Sadie, It’s Cold Outside: The Complete Series.  Capsule review: worthwhile character led comedy.
  • Shillingbury Tales: The Complete Series.  Capsule review: excellent writing, good performances.
  • Six Dates With Barker.  Capsule review: a set of comedy plays with Ronnie Barker in the lead, very nicely done.
  • Spitting Image: The Complete Series 1-7, Series 8.  Capsule review: of its time, and very dated, but now and again very sharp indeed.
  • The Strange World of Gurney Slade: The Complete Series.  Capsule review: a hidden gem with strange and surreal twists and turns.
  • Sunday Night at the London Palladium: Volumes 1 and 2.  Capsule review: variety and music show from the 50s and 60s.
  • Tingha and Tucker.  Capsule review: odd jumble of remaining items from a forgotten children’s series.
  • Two’s Company: Complete Series.  Capsule review: a well-remembered two header with flair and fun.
  • Victoria Wood: Screenplays.  Capsule review: early series of comedy plays which stand on their believable characters and situations.

TV Drama

  • The Adventures of Black Beauty: Best of.  Capsule review: children’s drama inspired by Anna Sewell’s novel, great theme tune and good production values.
  • Adventures of Robin Hood: Complete.  Capsule review: high adventure and many early appearances from familiar faces make this series a winner.
  • Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel: Complete.  Capsule review: affectionate piece of whimsy with a great central performance and enjoyable storylines.
  • Alan Plater at ITV.  Capsule review: a good overview of one of television’s best playwrights.  Includes some taster episodes of series like Flambards.
  • Anglo Saxon Attitudes: Complete
  • The Arcata Promise
  • Armchair Cinema: The Collection.  Capsule review: a solid set of standalone dramas from Euston Films with strong characterisations.  Some films miss the mark but all are worth watching.
  • Armchair Theatre: Volumes 1-4.  Capsule review: a range of episodes from the long-running series of standalone plays.  The older titles are more innovative but as a whole they are interesting to compare with the BBC’s ‘Play for Today’.
  • Armchair Thriller: Complete.  Capsule review: lengthy tales of chills and terror, hit and miss as a series.
  • Band of Gold/Gold: Complete.  Capsule review: hard-hitting series about a group of prostitutes in Bradford; the follow-up series isn’t a patch on the original.
  • The Bass Player and the Blonde
  • Beasts: The Complete Series.  Capsule review: a range of horror tales which linger in the memory; two outstanding and the rest very good indeed.
  • The Beiderbecke Trilogy/Get Lost: Complete
  • Billy the Kid and the Green Baize Vampire
  • The Blackheath Poisonings: Complete
  • Bloody Kids
  • Brass
  • The Brontes of Haworth: Complete
  • The Buccaneers: The Complete Series
  • The Caesars: Complete
  • Casting the Runes
  • Cause Celebre
  • Children’s Ward: Complete Series 1
  • Chiller: Complete Series
  • A Choice of Coward: Complete
  • Clayhanger: Complete
  • Codename Kyril
  • Coronation Street: 1972
  • Crown Court: Volumes 1-8
  • Danger UXB: Complete Series Special Edition
  • The Dark Angel: Complete
  • Dennis Potter at LWT: Volumes 1 and 2
  • Dick Turpin: Series 1
  • Disraeli: Complete
  • Dramarama: Spooky
  • Dramarama: Volume 1
  • Edward and Mrs Simpson: Complete
  • Enemy at the Door: Complete
  • Espionage: Michael Powell
  • Fireball XL5: Complete
  • Flickers: The Complete Series
  • Floodtide: The Complete Series
  • The Four Just Men: The Complete Series
  • Framed
  • Fraud Squad series 1
  • The Frighteners
  • The Gold Robbers: Complete
  • The Good Companions: Complete
  • The Hanged Man: Complete
  • Interpol Calling: Complete
  • The Invisible Man: Complete
  • ITC 50
  • It’s Dark Outside: the Complete Series
  • Jack Rosenthal at ITV
  • Jamaica Inn: Complete
  • Jemima Shore Investigates: Complete
  • Jennie, Lady Randolph Churchill: Complete
  • Justice: Complete Series 1-3
  • A Kind of Loving: Complete
  • The Knock: Complete Series 1
  • Ladies in Charge: Complete
  • Lady Killers: Complete Series 1-2
  • The Last Place on Earth: Complete
  • Laurence Olivier Presents
  • The Life and Times of David Lloyd George
  • Lillie: The Complete Series
  • Look-Back on 70s Telly: Issues 1-4
  • The Main Chance: Complete Series 1-4
  • The Male of the Species: Three Plays by Alun Owen
  • Mr Axelford’s Angel
  • Mr Palfrey of Westminster: Complete
  • Mystery and Imagination
  • Napoleon and Love: Complete
  • The Nation’s Health
  • Nightingale’s Boys: Complete
  • New Scotland Yard: series 1
  • The Organisation
  • Philby, Burgess and Maclean
  • Piece of Cake: Complete
  • The Plane Makers: Volumes 1-3
  • Plays for Britain: Complete
  • The Power Game: The Complete Series
  • The Protectors: Complete Series
  • Red Letter Day: The Complete Series
  • Redcap: Series 1
  • The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes: Complete Series 1-2
  • Robin of Sherwood: Complete
  • The Sandbaggers: Complete
  • Scoop
  • Scorpion Tales: Complete
  • Sergeant Cork: Complete Series 1-6
  • Serjeant Musgrave’s Dance
  • Shadows of Fear: Complete
  • Six Days of Justice: Complete Series 1-2
  • Smuggler: The Complete Series
  • Soap Box: Volume 1
  • South Riding: The Complete Series
  • Storyboard: The Complete Series
  • Strangers: The Complete Series
  • Tales of the Unexpected: Complete
  • Tales Out of School: Four Films by David Leland
  • Thomas and Sarah: Complete
  • Thriller: The Complete Series
  • Travelling Man: Complete
  • Twelfth Night
  • The Tyrant King: Complete
  • Upstairs Downstairs: Complete
  • Van Der Valk: Complete
  • A Very Peculiar Practice: Complete
  • Village Hall: Complete Series 1 and 2
  • Warrior Queen: Complete
  • The Widowmaker
  • Will Shakespeare: Complete
  • William Tell: Complete
  • Wish Me Luck: Complete
  • The XYY Man: Complete
  • Yesterday’s Dreams: Complete
  • The Zoo Gang: Complete

TV Other

  • 56 Up
  • Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow
  • Charley Says: Limited Edition
  • Coronation Street: 1972
  • Emmerdale Farm: Volume One
  • Frost on Coward
  • Frost on Friday
  • Frost on Saturday
  • ITV 60
  • Six Centuries of Verse: Complete
  • The Story of Film: An Odyssey
  • Tempo: Volume 1
  • Unknown Chaplin
  • World in Action: Volumes 1-3

Films:

  • British Musicals of the 1930s Volume 1-3
  • The Ealing Rarities Volumes 1-14

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,200 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


3 Winters (National Theatre), John Cleese – So Anyway (Cadogan Hall)

Last weekend was a double theatre visit, first to the new Croatian-set play ‘3 Winters’, which I admit I left at the interval, so perhaps cannot give a balanced review.  Suffice to say I thought the sets were excellent, moving between the three eras (1945, 1990, 2011) in the same house, although I would personally have dated the video projections.  The characterizations were spread too thinly for us to really care about them, although the actors did their best.  Just not my thing.

John Cleese has had a busy couple of years with his Alimony Tour, the Python reunion at the O2, and now the tour in support of his autobiography (up to 1969) called ‘So Anyway’.  The small and intimate Cadogan Hall was the perfect venue for his conversation with David Walliams, in which he came across as funny, personable, and surprisingly not as arrogant as he has sometimes come across in interviews.  OK, we have heard some of the anecdotes before (Graham Chapman going to a debate at the Oxford Union dressed as a carrot), but they remain amusing enough.  I now look forward to reading the book, which we got as part of the ticket price.  One side note on the Cadogan Hall show, in Cleese’s book he notes his good friend the actor Nicky Henson has a funny laugh which he likes to provoke, and as Mr Henson was in the row in front of us I can confirm that yes, he does indeed have a distinct barking cackle which appeared throughout the show.


BlogHer – NaBloPoMo – blogging each day through November

Lady bloggers unite!

http://www.blogher.com/nablopomo-november-2013-blogroll

NaBloPoMo November 2013

I have signed up to blog each day throughout November in association with BlogHer and National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo for short).  If you’re a US-based blogger, there’s a chance to get prizes – but the rest of us are just doing it for the love of blogging!

Follow the link above to see more.


The demise of thebox.bz, and that thorny torrent question

So it is goodbye to thebox.bz, the private file sharing site which specialised in TV shows, old and new.  Unlike The Pirate Bay before them, who were legislated to (almost) oblivion by ISPs being forced to block them, thebox is calling it quits themselves.

Copyright legislation protects rights-holders from unauthorised copying and sharing of their work, whether for profit or not, for up to 70 years after the death of the last of those rights-holders (so for a film, it can be screenwriter, director, composer).  This means that in the UK at least not many titles are in what might be termed ‘public domain’.  In the USA, some lapsed copyrights have left titles in legal limbo, which probably explains the dime-bin DVD collections of film and TV titles which are widely available there (yes, Mill Creek, I am looking at you!).

But what of bootleg DVDs and torrent files?  What of the hundreds of full films and TV series which can be found at YouTube, and which are unlikely to ever be made available for commercial purchase (especially if they are from the BBC)?

Technology constantly challenges copyright and bites at the heels of the requirements of the letter of the law.  It is very easy to rip a DVD or dub from VHS and put the file on the internet.  I recall about ten years ago when music files and short videos might have been hidden in a directory tree which you could stumble across, or someone might share the link if you’re lucky.  That’s where my Bonzo Dog Band journey began, and led to many CD/DVD legitimate purchases.

Torrents though have left me a little bit torn.  I think there is a distinction between the material you would never see otherwise (orphan episodes of largely wiped TV shows, films with no obvious owner, series seen to have little value by their creators), and material which has been commercially released and/or broadcast and is offered by means of file transfer or DVD-Rs to other territories.

I have bootleg titles in my collection, both films and TV.  Years ago I had a library of VHS heavy metal concerts, all bootleg recordings from German TV or similar.  If I really want a title, I’ll pay a small amount for it, or I’ll download it from YouTube.  If it then gets released ‘for real’, I’ll buy it.

Thebox.bz didn’t just make their audience passive viewers of material, though, but because of their seeding policy (to ‘leech’ or watch, you had to ‘seed’ or share an equal amount) it made their audience bootleggers, and therefore tipped into potentially infringing activity.  Whether this is different from the eBay shop which sells DVD-Rs of ‘titles in the public domain’ is a moot point, but I think that both are now here to stay – the torrent is only going to grow because it is easy, it is simple, and to a younger generation, it is second nature.

So … the grey market.  Good, or bad?  “Discuss.”


Ten influencial TV programmes

Following on from attempts by ‘television insiders’ for the 50th anniversary of MIP TV to create a list of the ‘Most Influencial TV Shows’, and The Telegraph’s own list, published on the 20th April 2013, I thought I’d have a think and nominate the ten programmes I feel have had the most influence and impact.

The Forsyte Saga (1967). Across twenty-six fifty-minute episodes, this family drama, an adaptation of the novels of John Galsworthy, was the first dramatic series to really impact on the social habits of the British – not only affecting church attendances on Sunday evenings, but also dividing the nation with the storyline relating to the marriage of Soames and Irene. The series is important because it was the only UK television programme to be widely sold abroad, including in the United States (where it became the inspiration for the long-running Masterpiece Theater) and in the Soviet Union. It is also influencial because its character storylines pre-empted those which run today in shows like EastEnders and psychological thrillers.

Face to Face (1959-1962). John Freeman’s series of interviews with figures from the fields of politics, entertainment, and literature stand as the gold standard with their in-depth questioning and close scrutiny of subject. Later chat shows had a lighter feel but it does seem unlikely that later interviewers such as David Frost, Bernard Levin, or Michael Parkinson could evolve their own styles of engagement with a guest without Freeman’s pioneering show. An attempt to revive the style with Jeremy Isaacs as host aired from 1989, while Laurie Taylor’s In Conversation is currently running on Sky Arts. Freeman’s show often surprises and intrigues, from high profile subjects such as Tony Hancock, Martin Luther King, and Adam Faith through to less familiar figures like Bertrand Russell.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969-1974). Not the first comedy series to nudge towards the absurd (It’s A Square World, The Telegoons, Not Only … But Also, and Q all preceded it), but from humble beginnings as an early colour late night programmer on BBC2 ‘Python’ became a global phonemenon, and paved the way for the alternative comedy scene’s next generations, the Saturday Live and Comic Strip Presents crew. Cast members too influenced television in their own ways – and entered various screen fields from Shakespeare (Cleese), silent cinema appreciation (Gilliam), history (Jones), travelogues (Palin) and catchy theme tunes (Idle). Graham Chapman’s early demise brought parallels with the Beatles – cult group with one missing – although his own contribution to the show as off-the-wall writer and exceptional comedy performer is often overlooked. ‘Python’ has also transferred well to the USA, where it has major cult status.

Coronation Street 1960-date. It’s tempting to put The Grove Family in the list as the first regular British soap opera, but it is long forgotten and ‘Corrie’ has endured through its fifty-three years on the air, remaining a household word across the nation and in many countries to where the language of barm cakes and ecky thumps is sold. In the 1960s this series was a gritty Northern slice-of-life and although a handful of characters still remain from those days, it is now something of an identikit soap fighting for viewer attention with everything else in a multi-channel world. However it cannot be denied that this series has broken into the national consciousness in a way other programmes have not achieved – the ‘Free Deirdre Rachid’ and the earlier Ken-Deirdre-Mike love triangle being testment to this.

Play for Today 1970-1984. I thought about including The Wednesday Play but decided that its successor, Play for Today, is perhaps more influential and better remembered. Many people remember the set of plays as political – and some were – but the scope and variety of this series, its writers, directors, and performers, make this a golden age of drama in the UK and still a gold standard for drama anthologies that people remember. Also, some plays from the series spawned iconic programmes like ‘Boys from the Blackstuff’ and ‘Rumpole of the Bailey’, Each and every title from the series probably stands up today – from ‘Red Shift’ and ‘Double Dare’ to ‘Leeds United’ and ‘Abigail’s Party’, from ‘Z for Zachariah’ and ‘Blue Remembered Hills’ to ‘Kisses at Fifty’ and ‘Two Sundays’.

The Singing Detective 1986. Dennis Potter’s all singing, all dancing, dark drama followed ‘Pennies from Heaven’ into prime-time television in the 1980s. In terms of influence of style, perhaps this title has not been so influencial, but in breaking boundaries of linear plot structure and untouchable subjects it was a trailblazer.

Hollywood 1980. Kevin Brownlow’s love letter to silent cinema in Hollywood did much to bring this era of movie-making into public consciousness, with many interviews with stars such as Viola Dana, Harold Lloyd, Leatrice Joy. Clips from films of the period were probably shown for the first time in years during this series, which blazed the way for any film-based documentaries that followed.

The World at War 1973-4. ‘The Great War’ was the first series to focus on a world war, back in the 1960s, with narration by Michael Redgrave, but the definitive documentary of World War II was ‘The World at War’. Narrated by Laurence Olivier, with music by Carl Davis, this series takes its time to tell the story of the war between England and Germany, the USA and Japan. Without this series there would be no History or Discovery channels.

Pride and Prejudice 1995. The BBC series of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle kickstarted a new era of period drama, focused on the bodice-ripping elements rather than straight adaptations of the works of the Regency and Victorian authors. In making an eighteenth-century text into watercooler television, Andrew Davies influenced a new era of sumptous and glossy drama.

Bagpuss 1974. Children’s television can bring whole generations together and in thirteen short episodes, Bagpuss became one of the most fondly remembered series of a golden age of pre-school programming. Without Bagpuss it is unlikely we would have The Teletubbies or In The Night Garden.


50 greatest films: my nominations

Every ten years, a section of film aficiandos and experts receive an invitation to submit their selections for the Sight and Sound ‘Greatest Films of All Time’, and 2012’s selections were announced yesterday, with the big news being that after fifty years, Citizen Kane has been toppled from the top spot by Vertigo.

To me, a film becomes ‘great’ if it is innovative, interesting, or informative – in short, if it has something to say, and stays in my memory. This can apply whether the film is a silent romance, a musical, a war film, a women’s weepie, or a kitchen sink drama. In my list you will find examples of all of these, and more. It is a purely personal list, however, and rather than sort it by numbers, I have chosen to break down my selections into decades.

The 1910s

1 The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1919). Innovative, and still feels fresh.

The 1920s

2 The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Dreyer, 1927). Contains perhaps the greatest acting performance of all time, from Maria Falconetti.
3 Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (FW Murnau, 1927). Not necessarily better than Nosferatu or Faust, but engrossing on many levels.

The 1930s

4 Dinner at Eight (George Cukor, 1933). A bubbly comedy of manners with Jean Harlow, Marie Dressler and the two Barrymore brothers.
5 Fury (Fritz Lang, 1936). An early Spencer Tracy film with a message about vigilantes and lynch mobs.
6 Gold Diggers of 1933 (Mervyn LeRoy, 1933). The greatest of all pre-Code musicals.
7 Gone With The Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939). A great, epic, glossy soap opera of the American Civil War.
8 Intermezzo (Gustaf Molander, 1936). The Swedish original of the great romance between musicians.
9 Mr Deeds Goes to Town (Frank Capra, 1936). A charming slice of Capra-corn whimsy.
10 Ninotchka (Ernst Lubitsch, 1939). Garbo laughs!
11 Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939). A career defining performance from John Wayne in Ford’s memorable Western.
12 Top Hat (Mark Sandrich, 1935). Polished floors, inky canals, and Fred and Ginger.
13 The Women (George Cukor, 1939). The greatest ensemble cast of ladies in the history of cinema.

The 1940s

14 Bambi (James Algar & Samuel Armstrong, 1942). Disney’s most emotional achievement, and one of the funniest.
15 Black Narcissus (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1947). The Archers’ colourful and over-wrought production set in a house of nuns.
16 A Canterbury Tale (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1944). A quirky, unique, and unusual war film.
17 The Clock (Vincente Minnelli, 1945). Judy Garland in her first non-musical role in this charming romance.
18 It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946). Perhaps the best of all ‘what if’ films.
19 Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer, 1949). A delicious crime caper with a twist.
20 Laura (Otto Preminger, 1944). A drama of obsession.
21 Lifeboat (Alfred Hitchcock, 1944). Hitch’s claustrophobic and clever anti-Nazi film.
22 The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941). A remake, but an excellent one, and the first film by Huston.
23 Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz, 1945). Joan Crawford suffers in a typical ‘women’s picture’.
24 Now, Voyager (Irving Rapper, 1942). And Bette Davis does the same.
25 Odd Man Out (Carol Reed, 1947). Deeply subversive and beautifully performed British classic.
26 Pimpernel Smith (Leslie Howard, 1941). The Scarlet Pimpernel set in wartime.

The 1950s

27 All About Eve (Joseph L Mankiewicz, 1950). An acerbic drama of theatrical poison.
28 An American in Paris (Vincente Minnelli, 1951). For the dance sequence at the end alone, and Gene Kelly’s enthusiasm.
29 Born Yesterday (George Cukor, 1950). One of the rare handful of appearances by Judy Holliday as the scatty Billie Dawn.
30 From Here to Eternity (Fred Zinnemann, 1953). Career-defining on so many levels, and remembered largely for Deborah Kerr in the sea, but has much more to it.
31 High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952). Anti-McCarthyism at its best. I could have picked the much later film of The Crucible, for the same reasons.
32 Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950). The strange story of Norma Desmond, and her iconic close-up.
33 Twelve Angry Men (Sidney Lumet, 1957). A stifling and wordy courtroom drama which never tires.

The 1960s

34 A bout de souffle (Breathless) (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960). For Jean Seberg’s smile.
35 Les demoiselles de Rochefort (Jacques Demy, 1967). High energy and enthusiasm in this French love letter to the American musical film.
36 Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson, 1964). Simple perfection, and a perfect marriage of live action and animation.
37 This Sporting Life (Lindsay Anderson, 1963). Angst on the rugby field and by the kitchen sink.
38 The Trap (Sidney Hayers, 1966). Notable for Rita Tushingham’s mute performance.
39 West Side Story (Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins, 1961). The greatest of all dance films, and a potent love story based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
40 Witchfinder General (Michael Reeves, 1968). A chilling horror film which does not have its tongue in its cheek.
41 Zulu (Cy Endfield, 1964). An example of the stirring ‘boy’s own’ epic, with great music and three-dimensional characters.

The 1970s

42 The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971). Derek Jarman’s designs and Ken Russell’s direction lift this film to greatness.
43 The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972). The blueprint for all crime epics to follow.
44 Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976). A blackly comic exploration of the influence of television on the masses.
45 Sunday, Bloody Sunday (John Schlesinger, 1971). A milestone in gay cinema, and full of unusual shots and ideas.

The 1980s

46 Chariots of Fire (Hugh Hudson, 1981). The greatest and best film about sport, which still feels relevant today.
47 Educating Rita (Lewis Gilbert, 1983). Michael Caine’s best performance and a touching portrait of adult education and self-awareness.

The 1990s

48 The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Stephan Elliott, 1994). A vibrant musical comedy, and perhaps the defining image of a transsexual character on screen, who gets her happy ending.
49 Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, 1999). Bonkers, clever, unnerving.
50 Trois couleurs bleu (Three Colours Blue) (Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1993). All the trilogy could be included, but this is the best of the three on all levels.


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Emily Baycroft

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STARDUST AND SHADOWS

Opinions on Classic Hollywood , B Movies, Grindhouse, SF film , Classic Horror, Film Noir, Books, and related subjects by Canadian film guy TERRY SHERWOOD. (This site is not affiliated with author Charles Foster and his book Stardust and Shadows.)

The Wonderful World of Cinema

This blog is all about cinema, movies and stars of every decades. It's wonderful!

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Thoughts on older movies, especially those from the 1930s to 1950s.

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Featuring Gryff, the angry diabetic cat, and the humans who serve him

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The Phantom Frame

Information about the creative works of Gareth Preston

West End Blog

Bringing you independent, honest, experienced reviews of current theatre shows. We believe theatre is something truly magical and can be enjoyed by everyone.

Archive Television Musings

"To waste one second of one's life is a betrayal of one's self! I wonder what's on television?"

Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Loud Alien Noize

Revealing the True Origins of Silence

Pfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies

Blog titling at its best

Emily Baycroft

Freelance Theatre Producer and Administrator

MTAS

WE MADE BADGES COOL AGAIN

A Red Lip And A Nude Shoe

Dior Dreams On A Kmart Budget

is there room for me to sew?

Quilting, Reading and the Movies

The Case for Jeanette and Nelson

"Whaddya gonna do? I love her. I think she loves me." -Nelson Eddy on the Jack Parr Show, 1960

STARDUST AND SHADOWS

Opinions on Classic Hollywood , B Movies, Grindhouse, SF film , Classic Horror, Film Noir, Books, and related subjects by Canadian film guy TERRY SHERWOOD. (This site is not affiliated with author Charles Foster and his book Stardust and Shadows.)

The Wonderful World of Cinema

This blog is all about cinema, movies and stars of every decades. It's wonderful!

Movie classics

Thoughts on older movies, especially those from the 1930s to 1950s.

Hiss and Tell

Featuring Gryff, the angry diabetic cat, and the humans who serve him

TESSA BARRIE'S LOST BLOGS

LIFE'S TOO SHORT TO BE NICHE ...

[insert title here]

just one of many things i'm still trying to figure out

buchanblog

A trip down Memorex lane

The Phantom Frame

Information about the creative works of Gareth Preston

West End Blog

Bringing you independent, honest, experienced reviews of current theatre shows. We believe theatre is something truly magical and can be enjoyed by everyone.

Archive Television Musings

"To waste one second of one's life is a betrayal of one's self! I wonder what's on television?"

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