Weekly soap opera set in a fictional part of the East End of London. Click Here for review
An unusual ghost story set in modern and Victorian times, Echoes of Louisa was a somewhat darker than usual tale in the children's television drama strand. The tale begins in 1876 where 15 year-old Louisa Hallam (Amanda Kirby) is expectantly awaiting the return of her soldier brother, Anthony (Jeremy Nicholas). However, when her brother returns he strikes up a friendship with another girl, Allegra (Lucinda Bateson), sending Louisa into a jealous rage. The story then moves forward to 1981. Whilst exploring the grounds of historic Thornaby Hall in Rutland, Allie Burr hears laughter coming from the grounds deserted stables. At first she believes the Hall to be haunted, but Allie, an exact double of Allegra (a dual role for Bateson), soon becomes witness to the true-life events of 105 years ago as Louisa sets out in a cruel and pitiless manner to rid herself of the rival for her brothers affections. Ultimately, Louisa is doomed to fail and this sometimes-disconcerting tale ends with her falling to her death.
Based on an Edgar Wallace created character this 1957/8 sitcom starred Charlie Chester (Cheerful Charlie your Chin-up Boy Chester) as the popular Cockney racing tipster 'Educated' Evans, who ducked and dived through the back streets and public houses of London all the while trying to stay one step ahead of the law, especially from Detective-Sergeant Miller (Jack Melford), who was not averse to a bet or two himself. Evans had first appeared on the big screen in a now missing 1936 movie of the same name starring one of British music hall's best remembered stars; Max Miller. Chester and Miller were very similar in style, they were physically alike, dressed the same way and even had similar signing off songs. The similarity was too close for comfort as far as Miller was concerned and he turned up at one of Chester's performances with his solicitor to take notes. However, after a long standing period of ill-feeling the two comedians made it up and even appeared together in a shared top of the bill. In the original movie Evans (Miller) is asked by a nouveau riche couple to train a racehorse they have bought in the hope it will help them win the acceptance of high society. Evans doesn't own a stable, so the horse has to live with him and his two lodgers in an urban mews. Despite its less than ideal training environment, the horse turns out to have a natural talent. The TV series ran for two seasons. Patricia Hayes co-starred.
As strange as it may seem now, Archie Andrews was a ventriloquists dummy that first hit the big time on Radio! Operated by Peter Brough, Archie was the most popular radio personality of 1952, pulling in a phenomenal average of 15 million listeners. In 1951 a 1000 pound reward was offered for the puppets return when Brough had accidentally left him on a train. His show was also to give exposure to many up-and-coming stars of the time including Tony Hancock, Max Bygraves, Harry Secombe, Benny Hill, Beryl Reid and the 14-year-old Julie Andrews. There was also a fan club of around 250,000 children. 27 half hour TV shows were made for ITV, scripted by Ronald Chesney and Marty Feldman. Co-starring support came from Irene Handl and Dick Emery. Archie Andrews career was cut short when Peter Brough's father died and he decided to quit showbiz in order to run the families textile business.
Edward VIII was King of England, not yet crowned, and Wallis Warfield Simpson was a twice divorced American whom he fell in love with. Although he was told he could never have both his Crown and the woman he loved, he believed that his enormous popularity with the people would allow him to do it. This seven part, £1 million drama series from Thames Television faithfully reconstructed the events of the affair between Edward and Mrs Simpson that, in 1936, caused a constitutional crisis and Edward VIII's eventual abdication. The series covered the period of 1928 (two years before the couple met) and the King's emotional farewell broadcast to the nation in December 1936. Edward and Mrs Simpson, filmed on location in Britain, Kenya and France, depicted a Britain torn apart by class distinction where the poor were subjected to Means Testing and the rich lived a life of luxury. Edward portrayed a public image of deep concern for the poverty stricken and often undertook visits to distressed areas of the country. However, when in 1936 he visited South Wales and said passionately: "Something must be done" - he was just three weeks away from abdication.
Edward's reign as King lasted just 325 days, after which he left Portsmouth on a Naval destroyer bound for France. There, some six months later he married Mrs Simpson, and although they were recognised as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, royal status was denied Wallis Simpson, who died in 1986, fourteen years after her husband. Scripted by Simon Raven and based very much on Frances Donaldson's account of what actually happened, Wallis Simpson was portrayed as a scheming glory seeker, a depiction that distressed the real Duchess of Windsor so much that she succeeded in getting the drama banned in her country of residence, France. The drama was also notable for stirring and accurate performances from both Edward Fox and Cynthia Harris, both of whom won critical acclaim. Producer Andrew Brown described the series as a 'political thriller' and said, "...by the end you will be able to decide whether you should admire the man for giving up everything for the woman he loved, or whether what he did was an abject dereliction of duty."
Historical costume drama about The Virgin Queen Click Here for review
It can be argued that Ellen DeGeneres did for homosexual characters on American television, what Bill Cosby's role on the drama I Spy did for African-Americans-make them more acceptable to viewers. Not only did her character Ellen Morgan come out as a lesbian, so did DeGeneres herself. For over a year, she fought both conservative groups and her own network over the show's direction. But viewers had the last say, and Ellen went off the air one year after her "coming out" party. Like many US sitcom stars of the 1990's, Louisiana-born DeGeneres found initial fame as a stand-up comic, playing at comedy clubs across the country. An appearance on the Tonight Show cable TV appearances led to roles in the short-lived sitcoms Duet and its spin-off Open House. Another role-this one on a 1992 comedy called Laurie Hill-caught the eye of the show's producers, who offered to created a show based on DeGeneres' observational humour. ABC aired the programme, initially titled These Friends of Mine, as a mid-season replacement in early 1994. DeGeneres played Ellen Morgan, a single woman in her early 30's who managed a bookstore in Los Angeles and got involved in her friends' personal lives. These Friends of Mine got off to a strong start; it landed in the top ten almost immediately. And while critics praised DeGeneres' performance, many didn't think much of the show, liking it to a copy of NBC's successful Seinfeld. DeGeneres was not happy with the initial shows and changes were made for the 1994-95 season. Out went the title and in came the star's name: Ellen. The original cast was eventually written out and several new characters were added, including bookstore employee Joe, flighty best friend Page, and child-like, slightly off-centre Audrey. Although the ratings were good, DeGeneres was not happy about ABC's demands to have her date more men on the show-something she didn't want to do. By the third season, Ellen was rarely dating but the co-stars became more prominent as the producers and writers looked for new plot devices. Critics were unhappy; they felt Ellen lacked direction and writers who interviewed DeGeneres, found her willing to discuss just about everything except her personal life. That led tabloids to try and "out" the sitcom star. By this time in Hollywood's gay community, DeGeneres' sexual orientation was well-known, and she began to have a following among lesbian fans. Ironically, producers wanted to add a gay female character to the show; DeGeneres rejected the idea.
By 1996, Ellen began to fall out of the top-20. Before the new season began, DeGeneres asked her writers and producers whether Ellen Morgan should come out as a lesbian; they liked the idea. But ABC had to approve the new storyline, as did the network's new owner, The Walt Disney Company. Disney executives feared conservative backlash, and wanted to see some scripts before giving final approval. Initially, the plan was to introduce the lesbian storyline in early 1997. But "TV Guide" and the Hollywood trade papers learned about the planned gay storyline. ABC and Disney executives were flooded with pro-lesbian letters from gay rights groups while conservative and religious organizations urged the network to cancel the idea. Instead, ABC approved a script on the night the episode airedmore than 35 million Americans watched Ellen come out. During the summer break, DeGeneres received many letters from gays and lesbians who said the episode helped them come out to family and friends, and was especially moved by the letters from gay teenagers who had thought of suicide before watching the show. Those letters made DeGeneres more determined to make Ellen more gay oriented. The new direction also had DeGeneres at odds with ABC executives, in public feuds over how the lesbian storyline should be handled. Some television observers thought the Ellen experience would steer network executives away from gay-themed shows. That didn't happen. Just months after Ellen's cancellation, NBC premiered Will & Grace-a sitcom about a gay man and a straight woman who were the best of friends. It eventually became one of the network's biggest hits. (Mike Spadoni)
Three teenagers try to thwart a gang's plan to steal the secrets of a scientific discovery. Click Here for review
Day to day life on a busy emergency ward from the mid 1950s to the late 1960s Click Here for review
After retiring from a life of espionage Robert McCall goes into business as a private investigator, partly to make amends to his ex-wife and son for years of neglect and partly to ease his own conscious of past deceitfulness, even though his duplicity was carried out under the supervision of the US Government. McCall became a champion of the underdog, putting his professional skills to good use where the authorities such as the courts and the police had failed to bring justice by conventional means. "Got a problem? Odds against you? Call the Equalizer" was the message he ran in the New York classified ads section. And call they did. Dialling 212 555 4200 got you through to The Equalizer's answer phone and from there you could hire yourself a modern-day Robin Hood acting as a righter of wrongs, private eye, or plain and simple bodyguard. And all for either a nominal fee or, depending on the injustice, no fee at all. Edward Woodward played the poker-faced, steely-eyed streetwise investigator in a role that was not a million miles from his other famed TV character, British spy David Callan. Yes, there were obvious differences; Callan dressed as though he'd just picked his clothes up off the floor of a second-hand shop whereas McCall was always immaculately dressed. Callan lived in a seedy bedsit whilst McCall enjoyed the comfort of a stylish Manhattan apartment, and while Callan moved around London on buses and tube-trains McCall had the luxury of a sleek black Jaguar. McCall didn't always go it alone and had both friends and family to assist him from time to time including his former boss known only as Control (Robert Lansing), his old friend from his spying days, Pete O'Phelan (Chad Redding), and his own son, Scott (William Zabka). Callan worked for codename Charlie, had one particularly odious friend and no family. But under the surface both characters were inspired by the same motivation. Both were wanting to atone for past sins. The tragedy for Callan was that he never found a way out and when we last left him he was still a slave to the system that had turned him into a cold-blooded executioner, albeit one with a conscience. McCall, however, finally found a way to expiate his sins. It would be nice to think that McCall really was Callan, just a little older, a little wiser and given the breaks.
The Equalizer became a big hit in the USA where it enjoyed a four-year run from 1985-89. One of the reasons suggested for its success has been the rising crime rate that was prevalent in New York at that time and the viewer fantasy factor that there could be such a figure out there on the streets ready to clean up the town. It certainly wasn't as big a hit in the UK, but then Callan, with its gritty realism was a hard act to follow, especially when you knew that each episode of The Equalizer was going to end up with the good guy winning the day. There was never that comfort working for Charlie.
ER first hit the television screens with all the speed and force of an express train in 1994, and immediately earned the label of 'rock 'em - sock 'em' television, hardly giving the viewer a chance to catch breath as each story-line unfolded. The pilot episode alone threw together no less than 45 medical scenarios. Set in the main, within the emergency department of the Cook County General Hospital in Chicago, the Emmy award winning ER (Emergency Room) is a basically traditional; yet at times almost nail bitingly intense technically jargoned medical drama series. The series was the creation of Michael Jurassic Park Crichton, developed from his unmade 1974 movie script at the behest of Steven Spielberg's Amblin television company. A doctor himself, Crichton patterned the basic events of ER's adrenaline pounding frenetically charged action upon his own experiences as a young medical student at Massachusetts General Hospital. Boasting an exceptionally talented ensemble of actors, the show depicts the everyday trials, tribulations and moral dilemmas confronting the group of dedicated doctors and nursing staff as they attempt to save lives whilst maintaining a sometimes precarious balance in their own tumultuous personal existences.
Shot throughout with a nice line in wry sardonic humour, the series treads the fine line between the larger scale, serious contemporary medical issues and the smaller, more intimate, yet no less important personal joys and sorrows of the central characters. Thanks to the consistent excellence of the writing and committed skill of the actors, the series has been able to survive the potentially damaging loss of crucial audience favourites such as George Clooney's Dr. Doug Ross, and more recently Julianna Margulies immensely popular Head Nurse Carol Hathaway, whilst continuing to score in the ratings by the successful integration of new, well-rounded and appealing replacement characters to offset the departures. Of the remaining original core cast is the trio of Anthony Edwards' sensitive, caring, chief resident, Dr. Mark Greene, Eriq LaSalle as brusque and driven surgeon Peter Benton; and arguably, most importantly of all Noah Wyle as the young, talented and immensely likeable Dr. John Carter, evolving believably from a wide-eyed, eager to please innocent at the show's beginning, to his eventual status as a skilled but deeply troubled veteran. The viewers over the course of the series grew and matured along with the Carter character, essentially seeing the multi-layered unfolding dramas almost from his perspective as he himself has matured in his professional abilities. In turns emotive, thoughtful, frenetic and powerful, ER is a superbly produced and directed (attracting the likes of Quentin Tarantino), well written, and performed example of the US televisual love affair with the field of medicine at its consummate finest.
British-produced anthology series along similar lines to Douglas Fairbanks Presents; both were made to cash in on the growing US and British television markets. Filmed in the UK at Bray Studios (best known for its association with Hammer Film Productions) in Berkshire, England. Former Hollywood heartthrob and swashbuckler Flynn introduced all 26 episodes although he only appeared in 6 of them in the lead role and in 5 of them he was accompanied by his wife, Patrice Wymore Flynn. The filmed series ranged from adaptations of classic tales such as The Duel by Alexander Dumas to domestic melodramas. Notable guests included Christopher Lee, Glynis Johns, Herbert Lom, Mai Zetterling, Jean Kent, Leslie Phillips, Arthur Lowe and Patrick Allen. The first episode in the series had actually been made four years earlier as an intended pilot for US broadcast only and to be shown as a 'B-Movie' in UK theatres.
Based on Catherine Storr's 1958 novel Marianne and adapted for television by Ruth Boswell, whose other credits as script editor or producer on children's drama series include Timeslip, The Tomorrow People, The Molly Wopsies, Horse In The House, Shadows and Warrior Queen. Escape Into Night is a haunting story full of vivid images that were probably the cause of many a nightmare back in April 1972. The somewhat complex storyline revolves round a young girl, Marianne (Vikki Chambers) who has the ability to dream herself into sketches that she has drawn. But this is no Mary Poppins tale of cartoon characters and comedy dance routines. The picture she ends up inside is one of a creepy old house ringed by a circle of standing stones. Also into the picture she dreams Mark (Steven Jones), a young boy who is confined to bed through illness. When the two of them fall out, Marianne, in a fit of temper, draws window bars and a high wall around the house and a single green eye on each of the stones to make sure Mark can't escape. But Mark is no figment of Marianne's imagination. He is real, and so is his illness. Only by helping him to escape the house will Marianne be able to help him recover in the real world. This was a tense psychological drama that kept the viewer guessing which was the real world and which the make believe. As with many children's dramas at this time the budgetary constraints on the production meant light on the effects but heavy on the atmosphere. But beyond doubt it's the stones, more than anything else that seem to have left the biggest impression on the nation's children and even in adulthood those images do not go away.
"It was very frightening, something about a young girl crouching behind her front door, afraid to go outside because the stones would get her. Seriously scary." -Television Heaven Forum 2004.
Although very popular in its day this BBC sitcom now seems to be curiously overlooked. It was written by the same pair responsible for The Good Life; John Esmonde and Bob Larbey, and shared a star with that series in Richard Briers. His character is Martin Bryce, employee in middle management at Mole Valley Valves, driver of a Dormobile and all-round interfering know-it-all. Martin is essentially a good man who has the welfare of his little community at heart. Unfortunately his mission in life seems to be to organise everything and everyone around him down to the last nit-picking detail, which involves setting up committees, drawing up rotas and chairing endless meetings. He also drives his long-suffering but ever-loyal wife Ann (Penelope Wilton) to distraction in the process. They live a typical suburban life at Brooksmead in The Close but when handsome, successful businessman Paul Ryman moves in next door Martin's kingdom is threatened. His new neighbour, played by Peter Egan, is everything he is not - suave, witty, charming; he seems to sail through life without any effort at all. He upstages Martin constantly, usually without meaning to and quickly becomes popular in the neighbourhood. However, Paul's efforts to get involved with community matters lead to friction as Martin sees him as a rival while his relaxed attitude to life is a source of constant irritation. Such seemingly trivial things as sitting at a different table in the pub are unthinkable to Martin. There is an obvious attraction between Ann and Paul which never goes beyond mild flirtation. Despite her frequent exasperation with her husband Ann does love him very much and although Paul can't resist sending Martin up occasionally he is far too nice to try and steal his wife. Martin is regarded as a bit of a joke by some residents but can usually count on the staunch support of friends Howard and Hilda Hughes, a couple with a fondness for wearing matching outfits. Martin could have easily been a very unsympathetic character but Richard Briers made him human despite his obsessiveness and audiences warmed to him. (Denise Lovell)
With her five children now grown up, Caroline Fairchild decides to resume her former career in the cut-throat world of publishing. Against the wishes of husband Donald, also working in the industry, she takes up the position of Editorial Director for her old company, Oasis Publishing, in London. Little does Caroline realise that Oasis Publishing - part of an American conglomerate overseen by the megalomaniac Edgar Frankland Jr. - is poised to take over Donald's employer, Ginsberg Publishing, and that Frankland takes a rather harsh line on married couples working together within his empire. Caroline and Donald's solution is unorthodox, yet practical: they become an undercover couple, with Caroline using her maiden name and Donald steadfastly refusing the advances of female colleagues. The ploy seems to work - but there is one unpalatable aspect for Donald: he now finds himself taking orders from his wife...Two of British comedy's most popular stars came together for this highly original and cleverly written series. Executive Stress featured Penelope Keith and Geoffrey Palmer (in Series One) as the middle-aged couple struggling to keep their marriage under wraps to protect both of their careers, a situation partly inspired by the difficulties faced by the wife of writer George Layton on returning to professional life after having had two children. This series reunited Penelope Keith - who brings what one reviewer described as 'wit, finesse and touching vulnerability' to the role of Caroline - and The Good Life's producer, John Howard Davies. When Geoffrey Palmer decided to leave at the end of the first series he was replaced by Peter Bowles, who had partnered Penelope Keith in the hugely successful BBC series To The Manor Born. The series featured a theme song composed by Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice, and performed by Julie Covington.
Nowadays, I make a point of looking out for media that portrays Alzheimer's. Books, news, seminars - TV series such as Exile used to be few and far between, but the spectrum is improving and personal experience has now made me yearn to see such awareness, for such a heartbreaking disease.
Whenever I've tried to explain such fascination to someone, most don't understand. They say the disease isn't widespread enough, doesn't affect as many people, as something like The Big C. In comparison to something like Cancer, they're right. But, and no disrespect to the illness, as it truly is terrible, but it already gets enough media attention, and has a dozen charities in its honour. And what people tend to forget is that, nowadays, the majority of people who get cancer no longer die of it. Or, at least, they have a reasonable chance of fighting it. New cures are coming out all the time.
With Alzheimer's, it's an automatic death sentence. As soon as diagnosis is made, it is terminal - you will die of this. Worse still, it's slow; those closest to you will spend years living with and caring for someone who looks like you (mostly, until you forget to eat), talks like you (mostly, for what can be understood) but isn't you. Your personality, memories and the way you act are forever changed, forever deteriorate, with no chance of a cure. Yes, there's drugs, but they only slow the progress, don't mask the symptoms.I'm not saying any of this for sympathies' sake, but I don't apologise for it sounding harsh. No-one ever talks of it - like its taboo. That's why I was so glad to see the advert for Exile, on the BBC. And made a point of watching it.
Basically, it was a brilliant show, with a stellar cast. John Simm played his usual bad boy to perfection, and Jim Broadbent playing his Alzheimer's-ridden father was genius casting. I genuinely hope the show gets a nomination. Ok, so the storyline as a whole may have been slightly far-fetched, depending on what view you take, but it was entertaining and brilliantly played. One of the best moments for me was in the final instalment - John Simms' character, Tom Ronstadt, watching a video on his laptop (I won't give any more away, it's a pivotal moment), and his reaction to what he is seeing. Truly wonderful acting. The best thing was, Alzheimer's was not the focus of the story, but the very important backdrop to it. Tom Ronstadt, having failed his life in London as a gossip journalist and lost everything, has no choice but to go home. Back to his sister, who is caring for his estranged father - estranged when he left 18 years ago, after Sam Ronstadt (Jim Broadbent) viciously attacked Tom. Wanting to know why such an assault happened, Tom tries to question his father and, as they say, the plot thickens. One thing I can entirely empathise with, and I think was played very well, is Tom's frustration. With an Alzheimer's sufferer, even with the disease at the forefront of your mind, there's a tendency to assume the sufferer is the same person as before, and that you can interact with them in a normal way. You can't. There's good and bad days, (as emphasised at the beginning by Tom's sister, Nancy). When Tom wants answers, or even a decent conversation, he finds this hard to handle. It's common of those around a sufferer, such frustration. They say and do things that may anger or frighten you - become violent, for example, or aggressive, as seen in Exile - and your instant reaction is to fight back. After all, if someone angered or insulted you, you would argue with them, wouldn't you? You would defend yourself and your loved ones. But if the person responsible IS a loved one, it becomes difficult. Especially if it's perfectly reasonable to suggest that they don't know what they're doing. Or, even if they do, they don't remember 30 seconds later, and are left looking mildly confused at your anger or tears. The thing that's so easily forgotten is that an Alzheimer's patient's brain is NOT normal, not like yours. Therefore applying your logic, reasoning or even thinking to their behaviour tells you precisely nothing. There are never any answers, not explicit ones, just more and more questions.
This point is something I think that Exile highlights perfectly. Tom struggles with his relationship with his father; sometimes resenting him for the attack years previously, and for being such a burden to his sister Nancy; and in another instant, realising that none of the above is this man's fault, as he is not the Sam Ronstadt Tom grew up with. This confusion leads to occasional angry outbursts and other, much more caring scenes where you see Tom changing into a decent person, another area of expertise for Simm. There is also a splattering of humour at the disease, which is wonderful and much needed in such serious times - such as Sam undoing the buttons of the shirt Tom has just put on him, or going for a jog in his underwear. The delicate balance has been struck perfectly, and appreciated by both those with and without Alzheimer's experience. I'll say again, none of this is for personal gratification. I just wanted to explain the Alzheimer's situation, and convey how well this series has portrayed it. Whilst many people are full of pity, mutter condolences and grumble at the unfairness of the world ("Such a shame, mate, such a shame. Terrible disease. Must be awful for you, seeing them like that"), it's so taboo that no-one really seems to know. Again, why series' such as this are so important - awareness is everything. After all, those suffering from Alzheimer's don't have that awareness. So we have to.
I think, in all honesty, it's best summed up by Tom Ronstadt, in one of the final scenes of the show. Tom is sitting next to his father Sam, talking to what appears to be someone lost in thought - or lack of them and he holds up some family photos for his father to see. With each one, he points Sam out with "That man is you." Then, he stops. "You're not that man anymore," he says matter-of-factly.
Exactly my point.
(Review: Claire Williamson)