Category Archives: Television
Dene Kernohan asks: Is Ben Elton’s new sitcom the worst ever made?
“For me the sitcom is the holy grail of comedy writing, the toughest discipline but also the most rewarding” – Ben Elton, April 2013)
The Wright Way (BBC One, Tuesdays 10.35pm) is a new Ben Elton studio sitcom about Gerald Wright, the by-the-book head of a local council Health and Safety dept. (David Haig). Stylistically similar to The Thin Blue Line, Elton’s mid-90s ensemble series set in a police station and also featuring Haig, it aims to have some fun with today’s health and safety-conscious culture.
Spank The Monkey comes to praise Spartacus, not to bury him
Do we need spoiler alerts for this one?
When I wrote about the Starz TV series Spartacus for Mostly Film last year, we were three seasons into what we knew by then was a four season run. I tried to keep spoilers to the absolute minimum, just telling the bare bones of the familiar story: the one about the Thracian slave who ended up leading an army of the oppressed against the might of Rome.
But now we have the final season to consider – Spartacus: War Of The Damned, recently shown on television and just released on home video. The story of Spartacus is familiar, and its ending is even more so. One particular version of it has become so ingrained in our culture, it’s become a metaphor for a certain type of heroic sacrifice. And that’s not even the true version. As Steven S. DeKnight and his writers approach the final chapters of their tale, their retelling of it has to battle against all the baggage the viewer brings along to it. It’s been pre-spoiled. Is that going to be a problem?
Gareth Negus reviews the new biography of Doctor Who producer, John Nathan-Turner
Becoming, and more particularly remaining, a Doctor Who fan in the 1980s was – with hindsight – an odd and sometimes uncomfortable experience. Of course, some might say being a Doctor Who fan at any time was rather odd, but the 80s were the decade during which the programme fell from public favour and was regarded as an embarrassment by the BBC.
A biography of John Nathan-Turner, the man who produced the series throughout that decade, would seem to be about as niche as niche publications get. It’s easy to imagine a book on Russell T Davies or Steven Moffat on the Waterstones shelves, but Nathan-Turner was known for producing Who and pretty much nothing else. BBC lifers – of the sort which Nathan-Turner had apparently thought he would be – might enjoy the gossipy anecdotes and tales of the inner workings of Television Centre in decades past, but that’s probably not a large enough group to make a bestseller.
Yet Richard Marson’s new book, JN-T: The Life & Scandalous Times of John Nathan-Turner has had a fair bit of press coverage. Unfortunately, that’s largely thanks to the chapters detailing the sexual exploits of Nathan-Turner and his partner, Gary Downie, which – though not, by any stretch of the imagination, in the Saville league – occasionally sound dodgy enough that you think people should have been disciplined, if not fired. The pair regularly propositioned Doctor Who fans for sex, including many who were under the then age of consent for homosexuals (though they would be legal under today’s laws). One incident, described on page 194 of the book, is a clear case of sexual assault experienced by the author himself.
Tags: Doctor Who
Ah, Easter! Who among us does not, at this time of year, find their mind turning to thoughts of resurrection? To things which are lost and which, one day, might see the light of day once more? Inspired by such musings, several MostlyFilm contributors have, as they have time and again, written about those forgotten films and telly programmes which, having once been crucified on the crucifix of obscurity, we would like to see rise once more from the cave of time. Come with us now, as we roll back the stone of memory and share with you, our disciples, these cinematic and televisual miracles.
Moviedrome! You either remember it or you don’t, but if you do you’ll never forget it and if you never forget it, it will stay with you forever, which is how memory works. Late on BBC2, Alex Cox’s gnarled knuckle of a head would loom out at you and introduce a film so mind-blowingly obscure or spine-tinglingly brilliant it would impress itself into your unconscious brain and lodge there like a bit of popcorn in a tender gum. In later years it would be Mark Cousins on loomy head duty, but there’s little doubt that Cox is the classic loom-monger for most. It was fertile ground for our writers, and here we present some memories of both the films and their unique, treasurable presentation…
When ABC’s Pan Am crossed the Atlantic in the fall of 2011, a Radio Times cover asked us if we were ready for the mile-high Mad Men and, in a move that her character Maggie would have frowned on, Christina Ricci invited us to fly her. On the face of it, there are some similarities with Mad Men: both shows are set in the 1960s with high production values and attention to period detail, but that is where the similarities end.
an unbiased view by the MostlyFilm poster known only as Ron Swanson
Good news everyone! Parks and Recreation begins this week on BBC Four. It kicks off with a double episode tonight (Wednesday) at 22:00, and is repeated on Sunday at 20:00. It is, quite simply, the best of the current crop of American TV comedy, and, thus, it’d be a terrible shame if you missed it.
Tags: Parks & Recreation
On the 25th anniversary of its debut on HBO, Phil Concannon looks back at Tanner 88.
While campaigning in New Hampshire ahead of the 1988 primary, Republican Presidential hopeful Bob Dole ran into an unfamiliar Democrat candidate. Dole did not immediately recognise this congressman and his daughter but he certainly was aware of the cameras surrounding them, and so the two men exchanged greetings like old pals, smiled, and wished each other well before going their separate ways. That might sound like a mundane incident, nothing more than a footnote to that year’s Presidential race, but there was something unusual about one of those two men. Jack Tanner was not a real politician. In fact, Jack Tanner was not even a real person.
by Ricky Young
BBC Four Scando-drama just doesn’t do it for me.
A shocking notion to many – what, you don’t like to spend your Saturday nights watching thick blocks of oft-rudimentary police procedural drenched in existential gloom as if that’s interesting in and of itself? Well, no. Put it this way, if noted idiot Emma Kennedy can write a cash-in book about something, then I want no part of it.
The overseas drama that kicked off the trend for exotic coppers doing exotic police-work is back for a fourth series this Saturday, however, and I couldn’t be more pleased. It’s dirty, it’s brutal, it’s sexy and it’s French. The BBC calls it Spiral, but everyone else, including Europe’s Best Website, calls it Engrenages. So let’s pull up a chair, sit on that chair, realise that chair is in the interrogation room of a dingy Parisian police station, and let’s get punched repeatedly in the face by an angry foreign policeman.
After the jump, a hand-picked bouquet of MostlyFilm contributors reflect on their telly, home video and gaming highlights of the year.