If the British people can ever be said to have truly had a finest hour, that hour was almost certainly during the darkest days of World War II when invasion seemed imminent and hope and a rock solid belief in themselves were all they possessed. If British situation comedy can ever be said to have truly had a finest series of half hours, then those half hours existed between 1968 and 1977 with the eighty episodes of Jimmy Perry and David Croft's Dad's Army.
Spearheading an ensemble cast of veteran comedy actors was Arthur Lowe (as the bumbling but fiercely patriotic platoon commander Captain Mainwairing), and John Le Mesurier (as the fey, upper class Sgt Wilson), who miss-led their band of mismatched misfit Home Guardsmen in a weekly drill of consummate comic quality. Drawing heavily on their own war time memories, co-writers Perry and Croft crafted a warm and witty series which celebrated the adventure of the worn out warriors of the fictional south coast town of 'Warmington-On-Sea', without ever falling into the trap of mocking the essential integrity of the characters, be-lying BBC1 controller Paul Fox's initial fear- (and the basis for which he almost turned the show down) -that the programme would 'denigrate' wartime heroes.
If the quality of the writing was a major factor in Dad's Army's resounding success, then that quality was more than matched by a cast which not so much interpreted the writing, as physically embodied it. With the matchless benefit of a cast of actors whose expertise dated back to the golden age of British stage and screen, characterisation was the foundation upon which the relatively simple weekly adventures were rock solidly built. In the hands of performers of the calibre of John Laurie (as the dour - doom saying undertaker by day Private Frazer), playwright and actor Arnold Ridley OBE (the charmingly frail and inoffensive Private Godfrey), or Clive Dunn's wonderfully observed characterisation of the near senile, always on the verge of panic, Boer War veteran Lance Corporal Jones, a raised eyebrow or eyes cast heavenwards stare conveyed a wealth of comedic texture which enriched the already superbly constructed scripts beyond calculation.
Allied to excellent BBC period detail, an authentically catchy theme song from legendary 'Crazy Gang' member Bud Flanagan, and sterling support from the likes of Bill Pertwee as Mainwairing's ever goading nemesis, the Air Raid Warden - Hodges, the series fought its way into the collective hearts of a nation in a way that other, lesser series could never even hope to aspire to. With a BAFTA Award for Best Comedy in 1971, a feature film produced by Columbia Pictures in the same year, a stage show of the series which toured triumphantly around the UK between 1975-76, and an equally successful BBC radio adaptation, Dad's Army cemented its position as quite possibly the most beloved and fondly remembered of all British sitcoms.
Sadly, the majority of the principal cast are no long with us. But as long as the memory of that particular world war endures, you can be certain that the memory of that quaintly inept, but steadfastly determined band of laughter bringing warriors, will continue to quick march on. (Review: Stephen R. Hulse)
You can download and watch the Dad's Army movie straight to your computer through iTunes
Based on the 1965 movie 'Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion,' and appearing on television in the same year as the motion picture 'Born Free' this series tapped into the public's sudden affection for all things wildlife. Daktari (the Swahili name for doctor) which replaced Rawhide on CBS was set at the Wameru Study Centre for Animal Behaviour in East Africa and was run by Dr. Marsh Tracy (Marshall Thompson) and his daughter/assistant Paula (Cheryl Miller), assisted by US conservationist Jack Dane (Yale Summers), and Mike (Hari Rhodes), a native African. In truth, the series was filmed (rather convincingly) at Africa, USA, a wildlife park near Los Angeles. The real stars of the series were Clarence the lion Judy the chimpanzee. Judy loved to climb on Clarence's back for a free ride and the lion was so mild mannered that it let her. The concept was developed by producer Ivan Tors who was inspired by the work of Dr. A.M. Harthoorn at his animal rights orphanage in Nairobi and a visit to Africa, USA where he first came across Clarence and the animal's odd physical condition. When the audience saw what Clarence saw, it was in double vision. In the last season a seven-year old orphan joined the family. Young Jenny Jones was played by Erin Moran who would find even greater television fame as Joanie Cunningham in both Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi
Adam Dalgliesh was the detective hero of fourteen mystery novels by P. D. James, the first of which appeared in 1962. In this novel, 'Cover Her Face,' Dalgliesh is a DCI in the Metropolitan Police, but is subsequently promoted to Commander. More Morse than Regan, Dalgliesh is an intensely cerebral and private person who writes poetry, lives in an expensive flat above the Thames at Queenhithe and drives a Jaguar. Chosen to play Dalgliesh was the imposing 6 foot 3 inch Roy Marseden, who, in spite of his stature and athletic build said he was anxious to get away from the macho image of a tough, hard-drinking, semi-literate TV copper. Instead, he modelled himself; cool, suave and well-dressed, on some of Britain's most senior officers at that time. His dress and demeanour were modelled in part on Commander William Hucklesby, former head of Scotland Yard's Anti-Terrorist Squad. Marsden also tried to impart a degree of loneliness which he felt went with the job of the most senior police officers, experimenting with gentleness and softness as he explained in an interview for 'Television and Radio 1986': "Most of the matters investigated are domestic and when one is dealing with family structure the degree of hardness is less. The other side of policing is coming up against hardened criminals, and the approach then is obviously different." The first ten novels (not made or shown in chronological order to the books) were adapted by Anglia Television for transmission on the ITV network between 1983 and 1998. In 2003 the BBC took the show and made two further episodes with Martin Shaw in the lead.
Wheeling and dealing among the mega-rich oil barons of Texas. Click Here for review
A 12-year old boy overhears two sinister men plotting to assassinate their country's ruler. That is the sudden drama which faces Nicholas, holidaying on a Mediterranian island. Unsure who to tell and who to trust, Nicholas goes on the run. Mervyn Joseph played Nicholas, his first part in a TV series, although he had appeared previously on television in a milk commercial. For the story, "Southerner," the high-powered jet-engined launch owned by Southern Television, usually used for outside news broadcasts, was 'armed' and fitted out as a gunboat. This series also featured real-life husband and wife team Eric Barker and Pearl Hackney.
Very much a harbinger of the spy/adventure series which would dominate 60's television and movie screens worldwide, Danger Man was a slick, professional and exciting package that turned its coolly handsome Irish leading man into a near overnight international star. Danger Man was developed because of ITC boss Lew Grade's desire to produce UK TV series' that were suitable for export to the USA. With this in mind he got Australian born Ralph Smart, a veteran of other ITC series such as The Adventures of William Tell, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Adventures of Sir Lancelot and The Buccaneers to come up with an idea for a new series. The spy novel was proving very popular with the public at this time, even though it had not yet hit the cinemas, and Smart can take credit for anticipating the impact it would have on viewers.
Patrick McGoohan starred as NATO agent John Drake a character based on Ian Fleming's James Bond, and had McGoohan not insisted on certain script changes, his portrayal of John Drake would have been much closer to the printed Bond than the cinematic version was. At McGoohan's insistence Drake never became involved with female company on an intimate basis and rarely involved in gunplay, preferring old-fashioned 'fisticuffs' when faced with a fight. Indeed McGoohan even turned down the title role in the Bond movies on the grounds that the sex was unacceptable because he was a married, practicing Catholic, and he felt the character of Bond was too immoral and wantonly violent. Danger Man was transmitted in America under the title Secret Agent, and the original 30-minute episode format was expanded to 60 minutes from 1964 onwards. The first 38 episodes featured a voice-over by McGoohan as Drake is seen leaving a Washington federal building before getting into a white sports car and driving off. "Each goverment has its Secret Service. The United States has the CIA, France has the Deuxieme Bureau, England MI5. NATO too has its Secret Service. A dirty job to be done? That's usually when they call on me. Or someone like me. By the way, my name is Drake, John Drake." Doctor No, the first Bond movie, was still two-years away. Two 60-minute colour episodes were filmed in 1967 ('Koroshi' and 'Shinda Shima' released as a 90 minute feature under the first title) for a projected fourth season, which was abandoned when McGoohan became involved in his next TV project -The Prisoner.
Boasting good writing and benefiting from a characteristically intense and charismatic performance from the always compelling McGoohan, Danger Man paved the way not only for the plethora of secret agent series' which followed, but also laid the foundations for a genuine televisual phenomenon. Without the international success of the agent named John Drake, a former agent identified only by the designation of Number 6, might well never have arisen to enthral and perplex an entire generation of viewers.
Dangermouse was a British Secret Service Agent who worked out of a postbox in London's famous Baker Street. Just like James Bond, Dangermouse was often called on to protect Queen and country from a whole host of dastardly villians including the megalomaniac toad, Baron Greenback, a group of Mafioso like crows and Count Duckula, a vegetarian vampire who proved so popular that he was spun off into a series of his own. Dangermouse, and most of the supporting characters in the series was voiced by David Jason, whilst his sidekick, Penfold (catchphrase "Crikey!"), was veteran comedian Terry Scott. The series came from British cartoon experts Cosgrove Hall and was sold to over 31 countries and to the USA in 1984.
13-part World War Two drama series based on the true-life exploits of bomb disposal expert Major Bill Hartley, whose book, 'Unexploded Bomb', recounted his continual death-defying ordeals in the face of extreme danger, whilst carrying out one of the most hazardous tasks on 'civvy street.'
Anthony Andrews starred as Lt. Brian Ash, a young officer who is assigned to the 27th Tunnelling Company, only to discover that his unit has been seconded to the Bomb Disposal Unit of the Royal Engineers. The day before Ash's arrival, his predecessor had been killed trying to disarm a bomb, and so Ash finds himself quite literally in the firing line, learning his job 'on the hoof', a particularly deadly apprenticeship in a job where one wrong mistake could be the last one you'd ever make. Ash is billeted with other officers of his unit at Mrs Baker's house, where he soon discovers that among the amenities on offer is the landlady's daughter, Norma (Deborah Watling), who becomes sexually aroused during air raids. Having been informed by his unit that his life expectancy is about seven weeks, Ash soon avails himself of Norma's generosity. However, as the series progresses, Ash becomes more steadily involved with Susan (Judy Geeson), the married daughter of explosives boffin Dr David Gillespie (Iain Cuthbertson). Fresh-faced and naive at first, Ash soon wins over the respect of the men in his unit and aided by the experienced Sgt James (Maurice Roeves), grows in confidence with each mission, which culminates in an open-ended explosive final assignment. There was to be no second series, though, and the 13 episodes made by Thames/Euston Films and shown in 1979, stand today as a perfect example of edge-of-the-seat drama. And bearing in mind the true-life subject matter it is hardly surprising:
Although there were very few bombs dropped on Britain in the first few months of the Second World War a War Office report to the Cabinet, in May 1940, recommended steps that needed to be taken when heavy bombing began. By July Britain was suffering intense bombing raids and by the end of August 2,000 UXBs (Unexploded Bombs) remained to be dealt with. To find the necessary personnel to deal with them seven general construction companies and 4 quarrying companies of the Royal Engineers were converted. The "Bomb Disposal Section" consisted of one officer and fifteen other ranks divided into two sub-sections; one for "removal" and one for "sterilization". Training for the bomb disposal units was very scant at best as no information was available as to the types of bombs the enemy might use or of the nature of the mechanism of their fuses, and the 'disposal experts' had to largely rely on their own commonsense.
Once a UXB had been confirmed the unit moved in and started work. Very often considerable excavation was needed before the bomb could be reached as it could have penetrated up to sixty feet into the earth, requiring casing and timber to be used to steady it and reach the fuse. Any violent disturbance might set the bomb off, and even if it didn't there were other hazards. Once the bomb was reached, its type and probable performance had to be determined by inspection. It might be fitted with a delay action fuse which had not run its allotted time, it might be a simple contact fuse which had not operated, or it might be that the delay action mechanism had been put out of gear by the shock of landing, in which case any disturbance might set it in action again.
Having uncovered a UXB, a decision had to be taken whether it should be destroyed or whether the fuse, possibly of unknown performance, should be extracted. Whatever the choice there was always the danger that tampering with, or moving the bomb would cause it to explode without warning. Later the enemy added all sorts of complications, most serious being attachments to the fuse which caused the bomb to detonate if attempts were made to withdraw it. Many of the delay action fuses were operated by clockwork and stethoscopes were used to hear if they were still ticking, or if the disturbances caused by the work set them in action again. Thirteen members of Bomb Disposal were awarded the George Cross in the United Kingdom during the war for especially hazardous work in a particular incident, or for continuous devotion to duty dealing with UXBs. In all, 55 Officers and 339 men were killed in action from 1939 - 1945 serving in Bomb Disposal. It is not surprising that in the face of such danger, the cold-blooded heroism displayed by the brave men of the bomb disposal units, should have captured the admiration and affection of the public, in both reality and in this tense drama series, which was dedicated to the memory of these true-life heroes.
In the year 2020 the world is left paralysed when an electromagnetic pulse is released into the atmosphere knocking out all the satellites and most of the planet's electrical equipment-effectively freezing technology in its tracks. The US economy has been toppled, plunging the country into a 1930's style depression where politicians are out to line their own pockets, cops are crooked and the people live from hand to mouth. Enter Max, beautiful, witty, intelligent and more than able to look after herself...just the way she was designed. Max is the product of a secretly funded government organisation called Manticore who, using genetic enhancement techniques, had twenty years before engineered any army of children to grow up into the perfect fighting force. Each 'soldier' has unique combat abilities that include enhanced hearing, vision and strength and are taught, as soon as they can understand, complete loyalty to their cause. However, under the cruel regime led by the organisations commander Colonel Donald Michael Lydecker (John Savage), the children rebel and break out of their 'prison' in Gillette, Wyoming, scattering to different parts of the country. Max ends up in Seattle, where she gets a job as a dispatch rider, although all the time she herself has a hidden agenda. Max is desperate to meet up again with her lost transgenic 'siblings' whilst all the time trying to avoid recapture. Eventually Max teams up with a political activist called Logan Cale (Michael Weatherly), who from his plush apartment broadcasts in secret under the code-name "Eyes Only", a reference to the fact that when he reveals on TV who is currently dealing in corruption, you can only see his eyes. Max and the wheelchair bound Logan eventually end up more than just friends.
Dark Angel was the result of a co-creation by long time friends the Academy Award-winning director James Cameron and Emmy Award-winning writer Charles Eglee. In spite of being well written and having very high production values, both creators would probably agree that much of the shows initial success was in no small part down to its star, Jessica Alba. Cameron and Eglee spent more than a year scouring casting agencies and college campuses, auditioning close to a thousand actresses before settling on Alba. Alba went through a tough regime to transform her body to prepare for her Dark Angel role, lifting weights, doing gymnastics and going for motorcycle and kung fu training several days a week. Although hardly an orginial concept for a sci-fi series, Dark Angel succeeded through a well balanced mixture of sharp writing, high production values, and particularly the sexy, sassy, performance of it's young star. Though canceled due to sagging ratings in its second season, Dark Angel has been syndicated on the Sci-Fi Channel in the United States and E4 in the United Kingdom.
Originally transmitted 14th - 19th December 1991 on Thursday's at 4.35pm on BBC1, with a Sunday repeat, Dark Season was only commissioned as a replacement for the highly successful Maid Marion And Her Merry Men when the latter series creator Tony Robinson decided to take a year off. What viewers got as a replacement for Robinson's multi-gong winning comedy was an atmospheric, imaginative and inventive six episode science-fiction serial from the future award winning creator of Queer As Folk, Bob and Rose, The Second Coming -and the creative force behind the revival of Doctor Who, - Russell T. Davies.
Strictly speaking, Dark Season is actually two closely linked three-part stories set in the environs of a fictional school in southern England and utilising the same core trio of lead characters comprising of fifth formers, Reet (a pre-superstardom Kate Winslet), Thomas, (Ben Chandler), and the younger, mysteriously enigmatic third former, - and defacto leader of the group - Marcie. (Victoria Lambert.) The initial three episodes find the young heroes striving to save humanity from the technological enslavement planned by the school's mysterious Bill Gates-esque benefactor, the sunglasses wearing, sharply dressed, malevolent, Mr. Eldritch. (Grant Parsons). No sooner is the threat posed by Eldritch averted when an even more dangerous menace arises in the form of the sinister archaeologist Miss Pendragon, ('Blake's 7' icon Jacqueline Pearce, at her archest, imperious best) and her team of uncannily blond and identical co-workers. Miss Pendragon is intent on unearthing a long forgotten bunker hidden beneath the school grounds, which houses a slumbering, but soon to be awakened self-aware supercomputer named 'Behemoth'. Only after much danger and expertly crafted suspense are Marcie and her companions able to once again save the planet from catastrophe.
Produced by Richard Callanan and expertly directed by the multi-talented Colin Cant, 'Dark Season' also boasted an impressive array of adult acting talent the likes of Brigit Forsyth as Miss Maitland, the trio's long suffering teacher and ally, Cyril Shaps, Rosalie Crutchley, Roger Milner and Marsha Fitzalan.
Featuring early signs of writer Davies' trademarked sharply drawn characters and tight imaginative plotting, the series remains even to this day a textbook example of a children's drama serial which near effortlessly transcended its category to easily rank alongside the very best example of its genre. Indeed, in Davies' handling of the character of Marcie in particular there are clear echoes of the writer's love of the BBC's seminal television science-fiction adventure, Doctor Who. Marcie is a girl whose origin is shrouded in mystery. Whose intellect is subtly far in advance even of the most intelligent of the adults around her. Whose sharp self-awareness leads her at one point to comment 'Oh marvellous, I'm a cliche!' following her evading capture by Miss Pendragon via a handy ventilation shaft, a clear tip of the hat by Davies to his character's inspiration, an acknowledgement that is further reinforced during an amusing sequence where Reet employs a simple yo-yo to enable her to take 'gravity readings', which is a blatant reference to the Doctor Who adventure, 'The Power of Kroll'.
Coincidentally, the series - especially the second story - foreshadows the basic scenario of future genre sensation, Buffy The Vampire Slayer as thrown into sharp relief by its basic elements of a school built over a site of great power and evil, and a group of young, fiesty teenagers as protectors of the wider innocent population. Davies himself in an interview addressed the parallel with amused modesty thus: "Though it's all archetypal stuff, Joss Whedon did it much better! And it sums up the difference between ambition in the UK and the US. I thought of a nice, humble six-parter. Joss Whedon imagined a global empire, and made it come true." Production costs for Dark Season were kept economical by filming the majority of the production within a ten-mile radius of London, while the impressive Behemoth control room set was constructed and filmed at Ealing Studios. The series also boasted a tie-in novel written by Davies. Although Davies mooted a follow-up to the original series, unfortunately it wasn't to be, as he explained: "I did write asking if they wanted more, but it was only commissioned in the first place 'cos Tony Robinson took a year off from 'Maid Marion'. He then returned, so the slot quite rightly went back to him." Although denied the opportunity to chronicle further adventures of the mysterious Marcie and her friends, Davis went on to create another high watermark for BBC Children's drama output, the excellent Century Falls.
By turns amusing, aware, suspenseful, exciting and imaginative, 'Dark Season' stands as an almost criminally overlooked example of children's genre television of the highest quality, and also as an early indication of a future major creative talent in the form of Russell T. Davies taking his first steps on the long and winding creative road to a glittering future. (Review: Stephen R. Hulse)
Made in the 1990's The Darling Buds of May was unique in more ways than one. Devoid of car chases, gunplay, sex and bad language -it was pure family viewing as well as a smash hit series that won the ratings war over previous untouchables: Coronation Street and EastEnders. In the process it also made British TV history when all six of its first season episodes made number one in the ratings, for never had the British taken a series so instantly to their hearts.
Based on the popular novels of H.E. (Herbert Ernest) Bates (1905-1974), a Northamptonshire born author who published his first novel in 1926, The Darling Buds of May was the first of five books centred round the life loving, happy-go-lucky Larkin Family, who was headed by Pop (Sidney Charles) and Ma, his common-law wife. The fact that the two were not married appalled contemporary critics when the first book was published in 1958, for they had produced no less than six children, Mariette (a combination of Marie and Antoinette), Primrose (because she was born in the Spring), twins Zinnia and Petunia (named after Ma's favourite flowers), Victoria (born in the plum season), and Montgomery (named after Britain's famous wartime general). However, the demand for more of Bates' books soon silenced the detractors, and a year after the first one's publication it reached the big screen by way of a far less subtle Hollywood version called 'The Mating Game', starring Debbie Reynolds and Tony Randall. Numerous other attempts had been made to capture the essence of Bates' originals, including a London stage adaptation starring Peter Jones and a BBC radio series. Richard Bates, the author's son had sold the rights to an American TV company, but when the production was slow to get off the ground those rights were rescinded and sold to Yorkshire Television. Bates worked as executive producer and the opening episode was written by John Esmonde and Bob Larbey, who's numerous collaborations had resulted in the creation of Brush Strokes, Ever Decreasing Circles, Get Some In!, The Good Life and Please Sir! (to name just a few), with the following 11 episodes being handled by Eddie Maguire.
David Jason's portrayal of the jovial Pop, a man of independent means who ran a 22-acre smallholding and was never flustered nor lost for a word, was nothing short of 'Perfick' (Pop's favourite saying). Possibly one of the greatest character actors that Britain has ever produced, it is testimony to Jason's acting ability that the careful creation of each character he portrays is so well-defined that the viewer can put aside the memory of the last one, especially impressive when you remember that he has created some of the country's most memorable TV characters of all time, including Granville in Open All Hours, Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses and Jack Frost in A Touch of Frost. Ably and amply supporting Jason was Pam Ferris as the roly-poly, fun loving, laugh-out-loud, Ma, always at work in the kitchen cooking up giant feasts for breakfast, lunch and dinner, all of which Pop would liberally cover in Tomato Ketchup. The eldest of their children was played by the then unknown Catherine Zeta Jones. The perfect combination of good writing, excellent acting and the inherent 'feel good factor' of the series proved to be the perfect antidote to a televisiual dramatic universe dominated by cold, hard-hearted cynicism. The Darling Buds of May proved to be a delightfully unexpected oasis of golden summer sunshine in a wasteland of post-modern grimness.
The series basked gloriously in days of nostalgia from an era of innocence long gone from the face of the Earth. Filmed delightfully in Britain's Garden County of Kent it increased the tourist trade of the little village of Pluckley, (where it was filmed) no end. This was pure family viewing in every sense of the word. In the first episode, Cedric Charlton (Charlie), a na´ve young Inland Revenue official turned up to investigate Pop's financial affairs. Befuddled by Pop's accounting logic, Charlie stayed for lunch, fell in love with Mariette, and never left. And as it was for him, so it was for us all. (Co-writer: Stephen R. Hulse)
The year is 1941 and it's the height of World War II. In German-occupied France, a youthful submarine crew gathers for one last night of drunken revelry before they take to the high seas. They eat, drink and make merry like there's no tomorrow, and for many, there won't be. Of the 40,000 Germans who served aboard U-boats, only 10,000 survived.
Das Boot is the story of the crew of U-96, one of the submarines in the infamous 'wolf packs' that attacked convoys in the Atlantic. It is told as seen through the eyes of Lt. Werner (Herbert Gronemeyer), a war reporter whose assignment is to report on life with a U-boat crew. One of his first experiences is in a seedy beer hall, where the crews of all the U-boats have gathered to have one last night of pleasure on the eve of another mission. The latest hero, a captain of one of the other U-boats, is paraded by Nazi Party Workers. So drunk he can barely stand, he delivers a speech liberally littered with a tirade of abuse against the Nazi hierarchy, much to the amusement of the submariners, and the obvious disapproval of the Party Members. This firmly establishes the 'them and us' attitude of the U-boat crews to the Nazis. When U-96 puts to sea, the claustrophobic life on board is brilliantly portrayed, as are the long days of boredom while the Captain awaits orders. The war-weary, cynical Captain is played by the exceptional Jurgen Prochnow, a perfect choice for the part. The story really comes into its own when the U-boat is attacked with depth-charges: first with the crew racing to 'battle stations', tracked through the narrow corridors and bulkheads by a hand-held camera; then, the desperate struggle to maintain silence with popping rivets and bursting seals all around them. The strain is too much for Johann (Erwin Leder), who, suffering from shell-shock, emerges from the engine room and staggers to the bridge. He is eventually forced back to his post at gunpoint.
The grim reality of war is further depicted when, having sunk an allied cargo ship, they are unable to pick up survivors, and are forced to leave them to drown. It is plain to see that the crew are deeply affected by this. U-96 is eventually ordered to the Mediterranean, a mission which Captain and crew regard as suicide, as they have to negotiate the heavily guarded Straits of Gibraltar. The submarine is badly damaged in the attempt, and is left on the sea bed, with only emergency power, and oxygen running out. There follows a desperate and eventually successful race to effect emergency repairs, and the U-boat eventually limps back to base.
This was probably the first time that many people saw WW2 from a German perspective. This masterpiece by director Wolfgang Petersen, based on the novel of the same name by Lothar-Guenther Buchhelm, started life as a movie. The 'director's cut' of this movie was eventually converted to a six-episode TV serial. Two television versions were actually produced: one in the original German, with English subtitles, the other dubbed into English. The version in the original German is by far the more effective. All the incidents portrayed in Das Boot are said to have happened. It is a tribute to the director that, even though this story is about what we regard as 'the enemy', we end up willing them to survive. Therefore, the bitter irony of the ending was not lost on us, and I, for one was left feeling sorry for them.
The story is perfectly paced, so that the viewer's interest is sustained throughout. The parts are well cast, and the realism factor is very high. The production is further enhanced by Klaus Doldinger's driving electronic music (reminiscent of Kraftwerk's 'Autobahn') running throughout. (Review: Tom Plumpton)
Dawson's Creek was created by the hip slasher movie writer Kevin Williamson (Scream, Scream 2, I Know What You Did Last Summer), and was based on Williamson's life, and produced by Paul Stupin, Tom Kapinos, Greg Berlanti and Greg Prange, all of whom were virtual newcomers to the television world. The show focused on childhood friends, Dawson, Pacey and Joey, as they grow up and try to cope with their changing friendships. This "teen soap" quickly became the hippest teen prime-time hangout. And how could it not be? It had good looking teen actors, cool music, great hair, no acne, and, most seemingly important to the teen mind, sex. The series centred around two childhood friends, Dawson Leery (James Van Der Beek) and Joey Potter (Katie Holmes), who are friends with and in a love triangle with Pacey Witter (Joshua Jackson), and the trio's friendship with best friends with Jen Lindley (Michelle Williams), and Jack McPhee (Kerr Smith). While the series was addictive and captivating, there was, in my mind, way too much discussion about intercourse, homosexuality and masturbation; too many torrid sexual encounters, both straight and gay, so much so that even the usual unshockable press raised a brow and dropped a jaw along the way.
There is also the unrealistic makeup of the characters. The teens are very hip, very confident, beautiful, incredibly articulate about their feelings, but, on the other hand, their adult counterparts are often seen as dolts, insincere, unsympathetic, and bumbling along the path as the caretakers of these wondrous creatures. Stumbling along and trying to guide the teens as best as possible are Mitch Leery (John Wesley Shipp) Dawson's father, whose death in a car accident in season 5 leaves Dawson questioning his choices; Gale Leery (Mary-Margaret Humes) Dawson's mother; and Emma "Grams" Ryan (Mary Beth Peil) Jen's grandmother (well, everyone's grandmother and anchor). The vocabulary of the teens can be a bit much, so many four-syllable words; for example, in one episode, heard from Dawson, "Is the proposition of monogamy such a Jurassic notion?" How many 15 year olds do you know that speak like that? Add to that the fact that every situation is analyzed so minutely, far more than can be realistically expected between teen to teen, teen to adult and adult to teen. As we progress from season to season, we watch these teens grow and develop, go their separate ways, come back together again, laugh with each other, fight, cry, share romance and tragedy, and still all in all remain friends. We watch Joey constantly choosing between Dawson and Pacey, and the effects this has on Dawson and Pacey's friendship.
In the last season, we have the five friends leaving the protective shelter of Dawson's Creek to venture out into the world. Dawson moves to California to pursue his lifelong dream of making movies and attending USC's film school. The death of his father alters his plans and Dawson finds himself in Boston, much closer to home. Joey won a scholarship to Worthington College in Boston and is now dealing with a new roommate, Audrey Lidell (Busy Phillips), and a new life without her best friend; Pacey, the rebel of the bunch, does not go the school route, but instead enters the working world, finding a niche for himself as a chef and a new love interest in Joey's college roommate Audrey. Jen and Jack also relocated to Boston, living with Grams. Grams' Sunday night dinners keep the group anchored together and provide stability among the friends. I sat to watch the two hour season finale, which was set five years in the future, after having had debates and conversations and emails and texts about who Joey would finally choose and who the one friend would be to die. It seemed that for the two weeks building up to the finale there was little talk of anything else, "Hi. How are you doing? Who do you think Joey will choose? No way!!". There were betting pools formed, parties being held, phones taken off the hook, and excitement the likes of which is seen only during the Superbowl or perhaps the final night of Survivor. For those of you who have seen it, were you as surprised as I? Did you guess correctly? I had a split - I picked who died, but the wrong one for Joey's choice, and I'm still not convinced she made the right choice!
Review: Maggie Roberts
THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS (1981)
Killer plants take advantage of an unnatural disaster. Click Here for review
Years before Lou Grant became a massive hit in the US, British series Deadline Midnight focused on the investigative reporting team of fictitious Fleet Street newspaper The Daily Globe. The series featured the usual suspects of editors, senior reporters, the hard-bitten veteran and the less than efficient junior. To give the series credit it brought in former Daily Express editor Arthur Christiansen, who was been employed by ATV as Editorial Advisor, to oversee the series authenticity. It also gave an early TV outing to Peter Vaughan who went on to appear in 1969's The Gold Robbers, Wolfie Smith's prospective father-in-law in Citizen Smith and the less-than-genial Harry Grout in Porridge. When he left the series he was replaced by Glyn Houston.
Meet John Lacey, a forty-something language teacher at a Comprehensive School. He has everything; a steady job, nice house, beautiful wife, loving son and a car. Until one day he gets home from work and finds a letter from his wife informing him that their relationship is over and she has fallen for his ex-best friend, rugby-playing Welshman Mike. Spurned and alone, John winds up in a squalid one-room bedsit with a crazed elderly Polish woman (Mrs Lamenski) as a neighbour, struggling to make ends meet. He seeks solace in a local divorced and separated encounter group based in a community centre, and aptly called the 1-2-1 Club. This then is the premise for the fourth BBC television comedy series from the pen of John Sullivan whose previous credits were Citizen Smith, Only Fools and Horses and Just Good Friends. The series starred Ralph Bates as John, best known for his tireless work in a string of Hammer Horror films in the 1960s.
The 1-2-1 club is run by Louise (Rachel Bell) a frustrated divorcee whose sole intention is to discover whether any of her group suffered from any 'sexual problems' during the break-up of their relationships. Other members of the group include Kirk St Moritz (Peter Blake), Kate (Belinda Lang), Ralph (Peter Denyer - Dennis from Please Sir) and ex-60s pop star Ricky Fortune (Kevin Lloyd - series 2 only). The array of dysfunctional misfits in the 1-2-1 club makes this brief series a gem of comedy writing. Ralph with his motor cycle combination, who married the Russian Blomlika just so she could get a British passport and promptly disappears never to be seen again; Kate, who foolishly divulges the problem behind the break-up of her three marriages, and promptly gets labelled the 'ice queen' and 'frigid Bridget' by Kirk; and Kirk himself who is seen only by John in his true guise as Derek Morris who lives with his bullying mother and is everything that flashy, extrovert, cringe-making Kirk isn't.
The two series featured various exploits for John, but ultimately always returned to the group sessions at the 1-2-1. John suffers from cash-flow problems, anxiety attacks, constant worries with regards to his relationship with his son Toby (played by Bates' real-life son William) and various dilemmas, which force him to paint a very exaggerated picture of his newfound bachelor lifestyle to his work colleagues. Sadly the series came to an abrupt end with the untimely death of Ralph Bates, who died of cancer in March 1991. The series did finish on a high though, with a 50-minute Christmas special broadcast on 21st December 1987. Whilst not as well known as some of John Sullivan's other work, Dear John is a treasure of light comedy and would still stand up if broadcast today. Guest stars in the series included Freddie and the Dreamers as themselves, and Frank Windsor as John's soon to be retiring headmaster. (Paul Webb)
Billed as an "early evening scene" Dee Time starred charismatic former BBC Radio 1 DJ Simon Dee in a series of hip talk shows in which he interviewed the big names in the TV and film showbiz-set as well as stars of the world of popular music. On the opening night of his thirty-minute programme he played host to Libby Morris, Lance Percival, Cat Stevens, Kiki Dee and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Born Nicholas Henty-Dodd in Ottawa, Canada, on 28th July 1935, Dee came to Britain at the age of 11 and in his teenage years became the first voice on British offshore 'pirate radio' station Radio Caroline when it made its first broadcast during the Easter of 1964. His popularity grew steadily over the next twelve months and he was the first pirate broadcaster offered a BBC contract to do a show on the Light Programme. At the BBC Dee's career flourished and he was soon groomed for a twice-weekly TV series (Tuesday's and Thursday's) before being moved to the coveted early evening slot on Saturday night. The show opened with Dee arriving at Television Centre in a sports car and accompanied by a 'dishy' blonde passenger. For a time it seemed as though Dee could do no wrong. He made several bit-part appearances in a number of British films (including the cult Michael Caine/Noel Coward classic The Italian Job) and seemed to be heading for a long and lucrative career. However, problems behind the scenes (including excessive wage demands) led the BBC to reconsider a renewal of his contract in 1969. In 1970 London Weekend Television made him an offer to present a late night, 50 minute, Sunday chat show (The Simon Dee Show). But by this time Simon Dee's star as media golden boy was beginning to dim and, amid further controversy, his contract was prematurely terminated after a few months. Following that little was heard of Dee, although he did turn up in the early 2000's on a retrospective 'best of' series that looked back on classic television shows, in which he reflected on what was -and what might have been. He died of bone cancer in 2009.
James Dempsey was a New York cop working out of Manhattan's Ninth Precinct where he had uncovered corruption. That ultimately led him to shooting dead his partner, and in order to secure his own safety he was transferred to Britain. In the UK Dempsey went to work for a covert division of Scotland Yard known as SI10, and there he was teamed up with Lady Harriet Makepeace, a stunning blond graduate with a Cambridge degree in science and a distant claim to the throne, who had chosen to pursue a career in the police. Whilst the former Vietnam veteran was brash in his actions and quick to pull out his .357 Magnum, his new partner, a former archery champion was more disposed to using her influence with friends in high places. The result was a high adrenalin, all-action series including obligatory car chases and beatings up of London's criminal fraternity (as well as international drug-pushers and terrorists) in a style that took over where The Professionals left off. Michael Brandon was new to British TV viewers but came with a reputation of being a one-time Brooklyn gang member, whilst Glynis Barber was familiar to fans of Blake's 7 and BBC2's adaptation of the Daily Mirror wartime cartoon series Jane. Ray Smith starred as the pair's boss, loudmouth Liverpudlian Gordon Spikings and Tony Osoba (Jock in the comedy series Porridge) appeared as DS Charles Jarvis. The series was devised by Jesse Carr-Martindale but Ranald Graham created the TV format in the 105-minute pilot, Armed and Extremely Dangerous). The programme mainly worked because of the chemistry between the two stars - and not only on screen; romance blossomed and the pair eventually married in real life.
Created by cartoonist Hank Ketcham, Dennis first appeared in US newspapers in 1951 before making his television debut in October 1959 in the person of 7 year-old actor Jay North. Although Dennis's long suffering parents had to endure the antics of a child who always tried to help out-only to find that he had created mayhem in his wake, their plight was nothing compared to that of luckless next door neighbour George Wilson. Actor Joseph Kearns died before filming had been completed for the 1961-62 season and was replaced by Gale Gordon, who was initially introduced as George's brother, John. For the last season John moved into the house next door with a wife of his own. By that time, the lovable tyke was 11 years old, but still dressed in striped tee-shirt and dungarees. In the UK the series was renamed Just Dennis to avoid confusion with the Dennis the Menace cartoon strip in the popular children's comic, Beano. The series continued in reruns for many years, in 1987 there was a one-off sequel starring Victor DiMattia as Dennis and an animated series ran from 1986 to 1988. But by far the most successful revival was the 1993 feature film, Dennis, starring Mason Gamble and Malter Matthau.
Created by the 1960's action/adventure experts-producer Monty Berman and the prolific Dennis Spooner, the series chronicled the exploits of three operatives assigned to Department S, a special branch of Interpol, which specialised in solving seemingly unsolvable cases. Whilst the cases which made up the bulk of the show's episodes were often fun, ingenious riffs on the standard spy/caper craze of that particular decade, where the series really scored was in the interplay between the three central characters involved. Imported American actor Joel Fabiani's Stewart Sullivan was very much set in the traditional role of smooth, square jawed, leading man, Rosemary Nicols' attractively intelligent computer specialist Annabelle Hurst more than competently fulfilled the requirements demanded of a central female co-star, but the real jewel in the crown of the Department S trio of core characters was undoubtedly Peter Wyngarde's flamboyant, egotistical, waspishly sarcastic, Jason King.
Clearly intended as a parody of James Bond creator, Ian Fleming, the character of Jason King provided a welcome edge of subversive delight which threw Wyngarde's interaction with the more conventional characters of his co-star's into sharp comic relief. (King would always try to put himself in the position of his fictional character Mark Caine). In fact, so popular was the actor's performance that Jason King became the first character in ITC's impressive history to be awarded a spin-off series of his own following the parent show's demise. Another notable highlight of the series was the bold move for the period of casting a black actor in a position of power. Sir Curtis Seretse, the head of Department S and a high ranking politician, as portrayed by Dennis Alaba Peters, is an intelligent, urbane man totally at ease with his power and standing as well as being obviously respected by both his peers and his agents. Ultimately, Department S was yet another example of the slick, quirky, polished output from the sixties ITC stable. Indeed, many of it's writers and directors had previously worked on The Saint-another ITC smash hit. Once, this particular brand of fun, lightweight, satisfying adventure series was plentiful on our television screens.
Deputy Dawg was, without doubt, Mississippi's laziest lawman. The only thing that could rouse him was the shenanigans of Musky the Muskrat, Ty Coon, Pig Newton and Vince van Gopher. And whenever he found those pesky varmints unlawfully at large in other folks' chicken coops and melon patches he'd spring into action with a cautionary "just a cotton pickin' moment!" The only human cartoon in the series was DD's boss, the white moustachioed sheriff who just about put up with his incompetent underling. The Deputy Dawg Show began in October, 1960, on only a few dozen stations in the USA. But it quickly caught on, and was soon popular across the whole of America. Most of the character voices (based on stereotypical southern characteristics) were supplied by Dayton Allen, a prolific Hollywood voice actor who voiced many Terrytoons characters in television and theatrical shorts in the 1950s and 1960s. The show gave a professional animation debut of Ralph Bakshi of 'Fritz the Cat' fame. Shown in the UK from 1963. Dagnabit!
Domestic disharmony, betrayal and murder in an upper-class suburb. Click Here for review
"In the beginning this tale tells how I, George, eldest born son of Master Salathiel Treet, strolling player and man of genius, came to have greatness thrust upon me." When writer Leon Garfield submitted his first book-the pirate novel Jack Holborn to a publisher, an editor saw its potential as a children's novel and persuaded him to adapt it for a younger audience. It was published in 1964 and was followed two years later by Devil in the Fog which won the first ever Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, an award that has been given annually ever since for works of children's literature by British or Commonwealth authors. Two years later Devil-in-the-Fog was dramatised for television by Stanley Miller. The series tells of the adventures of the Treet's - a family of 18th century strolling players who travel around England entertaining at various hostelries. One night a stranger visits the head of the family, Salathiel Treet, with a message. One of Salathiel's children is not a Treet at all, but in fact the son of a nobleman, Baron Dexter. With the old Baron dying it is time to tell George that he is heir to a baronetcy. George returns home but is soon entangled in a bitter family feud which threatens his very life. The story includes scenes in a manor house, which had to be so old it could have been inhabited in 1750. But finding such a place to order presented producer Michael Currer-Briggs with a headache. For days he toured Sussex but the ideal place eluded him. Just as he was despairing of finding a suitable place, he read of Ightham Mote, a 14th century manor house near Sevenoaks, Kent. "I'd been motoring since dawn," said Michael, "then the fog came down. I was lost...suddenly, after an hour of circling aimlessly through swirling mists I spotted Ightham Mote. It was empty and deserted looking. It's eeriness sent chills through me. Immediately I knew this was it." Apart from Devil-in-the-Fog many of Garfield's books (all of which have a historical setting) have been adapted for film or television: His next novel, Smith, was made in 1970; The Strange Affair of Adelaide Harris was made into a 6 part BBC serial in 1979 and Black Jack was made into a feature film by Ken Loach. Devil-in-the-Fog was first broadcast on Friday 21st June 1968 at 5.20pm.