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MEET THE WIFE (1964)

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Show ImageFirst appearing as a Comedy Playhouse presentation entitled The Bed by The Rag Trade creators Wolfe and Chesney in December 1963, Meet the Wife, featuring the consummate comedic skills of Thora Hird and Freddie Frinton, was one of the BBC's top rated comedies of the mid 1960's and arguably the template for Keeping Up Appearances, which became another huge hit over twenty years later. Freddie Blacklock, a plumber by profession, enjoyed the simple pleasures and would do anything for a quiet life. However, that was not easy being married to Thora, his domineering and snobbish wife who had ideas above her station. Whilst in private the husband and wife would talk to each other using their natural north-country accents, in mixed company (and especially when answering the telephone), Thora would immediately adopt an obviously false refinement (such as referring to her husband as "Frayd").

Viewers easily identified with the middle-aged married couple whose constant bickering, usually over the most trivial of matters, resulted in a kiss and a cuddle by the end of each episode. Plus there was always the chance that the viewers might see Frinton play at being drunk, a routine for which he was without equal. In fact, Freddie Frinton was so good at appearing to be "under the influence" that in 1963 he made a short film called Same Procedure As Last Year for a West German TV company. This was adapted from a British music-hall sketch called 'Dinner for One' performed on stage by Frinton, which was seen by a German director at a show in Blackpool. In this 18 minute skit, Frinton plays an ageing butler who, during the course of serving up a dinner for May Warden, becomes more and more inebriated as he consumes the drinks served for his mistresses long deceased friends. The film has been shown every year at Christmas for the last 50+ years, and Frinton is now something of a cult figure -although mainly (but not solely) in Germany, where it is shown multiple times on New Years Eve so that everybody can watch it, when it best fits their schedule. In 2003 it aired a total of 19 times on different stations in Germany. But British TV has, inexplicably, never screened it. Until 1988 the original NDR version featured a grammatical error in the introduction by narrator Heinz Piper. He quoted Frinton with "Same procedure than last year." It is now more popularly know as Dinner For One but just to add more confusion, it is also known as 'The 90th Birthday', or by its corresponding German title, 'Der 90. Geburtstag.' Sadly, Frinton died in 1968 at the age of 53. Thora Hird (later Dame Thora) went on to become one of Britain's best-loved actresses, appearing in numerous comedies including In Loving Memory, Ours Is A Nice House and Last of The Summer Wine as well as Alan Bennett's celebrated Talking Heads series of monologues.

MEN BEHAVING BADLY (1992)

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Show Image Men Behaving Badly pretty much sums up the antics of Gary (Martin Clunes) and Dermot (Harry Enfield), a pair of 20 something lads who share a flat in South London and carry on like most overgrown adolescents; They are loud, they burp, they fart, they try it on with women (mainly unsuccessfully) and they love to drink beer. They are everything that men at the time were trying to move away from. The series was written and created by Simon Nye and was first shown in 1992 on ITV. From the third series it was shown on the BBC. After the first season Dermot moves out to travel the world and Gary has to look for a new flatmate. He is found in the form of Tony (Neil Morrissey) who has a succession of different jobs during the series including owning his own record stall which collapses and falls down. He is always trying out new things and in one episode he rents out birthing pools for pregnant women, mainly to try and impress Deborah, the 'girl upstairs' who he falls head-over-heels in love with at first sight. The Tony and Deborah saga is played out during the show's 6-year run during which they have a few near misses with each other, but never a success due to Tony's inability to act like an adult. Gary has a long term girlfriend, Dorothy (Caroline Quentin), a nurse who is forever giving Gary a telling off for his antics. She loves Gary but there is always the feeling that she could have done better for itself. During most of the episodes Gary and Tony get drunk, watch TV, go to the pub, try it on with Deborah and try to get back into Dorothy's good books. Out of the two men Gary is the one able to hold down a full-time job in an office where he sells burglar alarms. He works with George (Ian Lindsay) middle aged, bumbling but loyal and Anthea (Valerie Minifie) who is an introverted and old-fashioned spinster. Gary has a habit of being incredibly mean to both George and Anthea who still carry on liking him regardless.

Another of the main characters is Les (Dave Atkins), who is the landlord of their local pub The Crown. It is here that Gary and Tony spend most of their time discussing life, women and beer (when they aren't sat on the sofa at home doing that). In one episode they hear that the Crown will be closed down and they go off on a 'fact finding mission' (getting drunk in other pubs) to see which will be their new local. The Crown doesn't close down - it gets refurbished by its new landlord Ken (John Thompson) who takes over from Les from series five. Both landlords of The Crown were totally clueless when it comes to customer service and running a pub, with Ken being particularly terrible. In one episode he confesses to Gary and Tony that he had never managed a pub before and only got the job because his brother was sleeping with Mrs Swift, the personnel manager of the brewery.

The series unapologetically revelled in political incorrectness at a time when political correctness was increasingly common in the UK. The term PC was described as one commentator as "the most intolerant system of thought to dominate the British Isles since the Reformation." Critics Jon Lewis and Penny Stempel have stated the show "allowed male viewers to indulge in vicarious laddism, whilst allowing female viewers to ridicule the bad but lovable Tony and Gary". From a shaky start Men Behaving Badly went on to be shown at a later time (on the BBC allowing them to indulge in "more colourful language and behaviour", which boosted its popularity significantly) and by 1996 it had picked up a succession of awards and was voted the best sitcom from the BBC's history during its sixtieth anniversary year celebrations. By the end of series six the 'will they, won't they' nature of Tony and Deborah's relationship is finally resolved and they get together, but it takes some time. Fans loved seeing the two of them finally united after so many years of waiting. During the Last Orders final episode Gary and Dorothy find out that they are pregnant and Tony and Deborah resolve their relationship issues and stay together. But that doesn't mean that any of them have stopped behaving badly!
(Review: Joanne MacRae and Laurence Marcus 2014)

MESS MATES (1960)

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Show ImageWhen his ambition to skipper an ocean-going liner is scuppered, Captain Biskett (Archie Duncan) has to make do with a small and battered cargo ship, SS Guernsey, plying around Britain's coast. Thus was the setting for Carry On writer Talbot Rothwell's 1960 sitcom for Granada Television. To add further to Biskett's frustration he discovers that he is in charge of a crew of veritable misfits led by the Mate, 'Tug' Nelson (Victor Maddern), a work-shy Cockney schemer who has the gift-of-the-gab and an eye for a dodgy deal. Also aboard is 'Blarney' Finnigan (Dermott Kelly), an Irishman with a story for every occasion, 'Croaker' Jones (Sam Kydd), one of life's eternal worriers and happy-go-lucky Scotsman Wille McGinniss (Fulton Mackay). The seagoing adventures of 'The Old Cow' as the crew (un)affectionately referred to 'The Guernsey', sailed for one series before returning the following year under the steam of a new vessel, 'The Jersey Lilly'. Along with a new craft for the second cruise there were also a number of personnel changes with many of the original crew jumping ship. Only Biskett and Jones remained whilst new shipmates were 'Dapper' Drake (Ronald Hines), 'Twinkle' Martin (Michael Balfour) and 'Fry-Up' Dodds (Frank Atkinson). Oddly enough Mess Mates appeared at the same time as a co-US/UK series about a rusting old steamship, Glencannon. Viewers bewildered as to why ITV would run two series along the same vein at the same time (sometimes even on the same night), would have been even further confused as the latter series was made on location at Elstree Studios, and as a consequence featured many British artists among the cast.

MIAMI VICE (1984)

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Show Image Miami Vice was a result of a two-word memo sent to former Hill Street Blues writer and producer Anthony Yerkovich, by NBC boss Brandon Tartikoff. The memo simply read; "MTV Cops". What Tartikoff wanted was fast moving action, video-style editing and effects, plenty of glitz, high fashion and a throbbing rock music sountrack. What he got - was exactly that! The series launched two relative unknown actors into starring roles, as two Miami vice cops patrolling the sleazy drug-infested back streets of a seemingly glamorous resort city. Don Johnson was cast as Sonny Crockett, the rough-edged former football star with a failed marriage behind him. He lived alone on a boat called St Vitus Dance which was guarded by his pet alligator, Elvis. His partner, Ricardo Tubbs was played by Philip Michael Thomas. Tubbs' story was that he had arrived from New York in search of the Columbian drug dealer who had murdered his brother - then decided to stay and transferred from being an NYPD street cop to a Miami detective. Produced by Michael Mann, the series followed a strict colour-co-ordinated code of lime green and hot neon pink with pastels for daytime interiors and deep blue and purple for nightime skylines - no earth colours were allowed as director Bobby Roth later recalled: "There are certain colours you are not allowed to shoot, such as red and brown. If the script says 'A Mercedes pulls up here,' the car people will show you three or four different Mercedes. One will be white, one will be black, one will be silver. You will not get a red or brown one. Michael knows how things are going to look on camera." In fact, some street corners of South Beach, where location filming took place, were so run down that the production crew actually decided to repaint the exterior walls of some buildings before filming.

Clothing was also of paramount importance and the stars were dressed in the most expensive Armani suits and fashion designers such as Vittorio Ricci, Gianni Versace, and Hugo Boss were consulted to keep them looking trendy. On average each actor would wear up to five different outfits in each episode and each outfit would adhere to the serie's colour code of pink, blue, green, peach, fuchsia and other "approved" colours. Italian men's fashion was popularised in the USA and even Crockett's perpetually unshaven appearance sparked a trend around the world in "designer stubble". Cars also had a great significance in 'Miami Vice', most notably the Ferrari Daytona and Testarossa in the first two seasons. The choice of music and cinematography borrowed heavily from the emerging New Wave culture of the 1980s, with a pulsating theme tune written by Jan Hammer, and background tracks from some of the superstar popstars of the day such as Tina Turner, Lionel Ritchie, the Pointer Sisters, Meatloaf, Brian Adams, Depeche Mode, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and The Rolling Stones. There were also guest appearances from Little Richard, James Brown, Phil Collins and Ted Nugent, to name but a few. Celebrities were lining up for cameo appearances.

Miami Vice was a smash hit with viewers and earned the series an amazing 15 Emmy nominations in its first season (1985), winning Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Don Johnson), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Edward James Olmos), Outstanding Film Sound Editing for a Series, Outstanding Cinematography for a Series and Outstanding Art Direction for a Series. Jan Hammer also won two Grammy Awards in that same year and the series also won the People's Choice Award for New TV Dramatic Programme. The series is still regarded today as a popular culture icon that heavily reflected the 1980s and it is argued that it influenced future generations of cop shows such as Homicide: Life on the Street, NYPD Blue, and Law & Order. The show also had a lasting impact on Miami itself and sparked a revitalization of the South Beach district of Miami Beach. But the cost of the show eventually took its toll. Mann was reportedly spending $1.2 million per episode. And after season two the show began to rapidly slip down the ratings until by season 5 (1988-89), with audiences falling, NBC programmed it against Dallas. The ranchers and oil barons of South Fork proved to be too hot for the cops of Miami and 'Vice' was shot down to 53rd place before Johnson and Thomas were asked to hand in their badges. A 2006 big-budget movie, also directed by Michael Mann, starred Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx. The movie was reportedly suggested to Mann by Foxx at the launch party for 'Ali'. And while the big screen version wasn't met with approval by all the critics it still took a box office of $163.8 million worldwide.

MICK AND MONTMORENCY / JOBSTOPPERS (1955)

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Show ImageCharlie Drake and Jack Edwardes had originally met whilst serving in the RAF but didn't consider teaming up until years later when they both failed the same Windmill Theatre audition. Their disappointment however was soon turned to good fortune when Edwardes was appointed entertainment producer at a holiday camp and promptly booked himself and Drake as the double-act Mick and Montmorency, a clumsy duo set in the Laurel and Hardy mode, with Drake taking most of the pratfalls. During this run producer Michael Westmore spotted them and decided that their brand of comedy was ideal for the BBC children's programme Jigsaw. In 1955 the newly founded Associated Rediffusion company signed them up as the first children's comedy double-act for ITV and they debuted on Independent Television on 30th September for 22 15 minute fun-filled disastrous adventures where they appeared in a variety of jobs from removal men to scientists. For some reason only the first episode went out as Mick and Montmorency then from episode two the series was called Jobstoppers. But after 34 episodes the title reverted back. The final stand-alone series ran from 1956 - 57 and then became part of another Children's programme, Jolly Good Time. At the end of the second run (May 1958) Drake decided he'd had enough of children's TV and wanted to aim his material at adults and he and Edwardes went their separate ways.

MICKEY DUNNE (1984)

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Cockney wide-boy played by Dinsdale Landen is the small screen version of Michael Caine's 'Alfie.' Click Here for review

MICKEY SPILLANE'S MIKE HAMMER (1957 / 84)

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Show Image Based on the violent novels of Mickey Spillane, television producers did nothing to tone down the brutality or overt sexism of the original pulp fiction capers in the first series, produced between 1957 and 1959, which starred Darren McGavin (Kolchak: The Night Stalker) nor in the later version (1984 - 87) starring Stacy Keach. Hammer was a wisecracking anti-hero who lived tough in a tough world of murderers, kidnappers, drug dealers and extortionists. He had few friends. The best of these was a .45 caliber pistol that he nicknamed Betsy. Assistance came from his source on the street, Ozzie the Answer (Danny Goldman) and some officers from the NYPD, but by and large Hammer relied on his own streetwise experience and quick wits. One strand that ran through the later series was the appearance in every episode of a mystery woman, known as 'The Face' because she was only ever seen from the neck up, who always mysteriously disappeared before Hammer could meet her. A planned 1985 episode (titled "The Face") would have resolved the mystery had Stacey Keach not been arrested in England for cocaine possession and sentenced to six months imprisonment at Reading Jail. Eventually, another series was made, retitled The New Mike Hammer and in the final episode Hammer met 'The Face', who rather lamely turned out to be an author who was following him so she could fictionalise his exploits in a series of detective novels!

MILL OF SECRETS (1960)

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Show ImageSimon and Amanda's holiday in Kent with their Aunt Jo becomes a thrilling adventure when they make a startling discovery in an old barn. They are digging for the remains of a 17th century watermill, but find more than they bargained for. (TV Times June 5th 1960). Written by Peter Johnson and Diana K. Watson Mill of Secrets was a Sunday afternoon children's drama series that followed the adventures of Simon (David Langford) and Amanda (Jeanette Bradbury) on holiday with their historically-minded Aunt Joanna (Gene Anderson) and Claude "Snow" Nolan, an Australian boy played by Sean Scully. The old barn is up for auction and zoo manager Tom Briereley (Ken Watson) wants to purchase it to extend his nearby children's zoo. But he has a rival, the mysterious and slightly sinister Douglas Wallace (Glyn Houston). But the stakes become higher after the children and their aunt begin to unearth some startling discoveries that lead to traces of an old mill, its mechanism, and with it buried artefacts that trace back to the Domesday Book. Four of the cast-Anderson, Watson, Langford and Bradbury, had leading parts in Formula for Danger, the children's serial that had occupied the same time slot earlier in the year. Anderson was the least recognisable. "All through Formula for Danger I was a Central European school mistress with an accent to match," she said. 12 year-old Sean Scully was making his television debut only a few months after arriving from his native Australia. Interviewed at the time he joked that he planned to retire after "one big success over here" until he was grown up! When he did grow up he returned to Australia and appeared in Sons and Daughters and Neighbours.

MILLENNIUM (1996)

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A dark vision of the impending thousand-year mark combined with an exploration of evil. Click Here for review

THE MIND OF MR J. G. REEDER (1969)

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Show Image This classic Thames drama series, based on the short stories by Edgar Wallace (originally published in 1925), features one of the unlikeliest fictional sleuths: Mr. J.G. Reeder, a mild-mannered, bespectacled civil servant at the Department of Public Prosecutions. But Mr. Reeder (Hugh Burden) has an unusual 'gift' - he can think in exactly the way a criminal does (suggesting perhaps that he has, at some point, been on the wrong side of the law himself). In 1920s London, his talent for cracking even the most impenetrable of crimes is known throughout the underworld, and much valued by his department head, Sir Jason Toovey (Willoughby Goddard); bank heists, jewel thefts and murder are among the many and varied cases that are passed on to Mr. Reeder to solve in his own singular way... (Network DVD)

A MIND TO KILL (1994)

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Show Image Based on a 1991 pilot created by Lyn Ebenezer and Sion Eirian, A Mind to Kill debuted on Wales' S4C network in 1994, and ran irregularly until 2002. Philip Madoc stars as Detective Chief Inspector Noel Bain, working for the Mid-Wales Police Department as their senior investigator for homocides set against a backdrop of a troubled and splintered community now stripped of its once-mighty industries. As an investigator Bain is unrivalled, and the complex, frequently disturbing cases that come his way are met with an infallible instinct which even the sharpest criminal minds cannot match. But in his private life things are not so straight forward: A widower for seven years (his wife was killed by a drunk driver), Bain lives with his headstrong, emotionally damaged 17-year-old daughter, Hannah (Ffion Wilkins) who has set her own sights on a career in a rapidly changing police force. It's a difficult relationship between father and daughter because Hannah wants things back the way they were when her mother was alive, and resents what she feels is dad's controlling influence on her life, while he struggles to come to terms with the dangers of police work that he knows she is going to be exposed to. His colleagues lead no less complicated lives and are also the cause of conflict, with divorced Detective Sergeant Alison Griffiths (Gillian Elisa) experiencing difficulties in her private life (including almost getting raped), while Detective Sergeant Carwyn Phillips (Geraint Lewis) tends to be very narrow-minded. Noel's superior, Superintendent Jack Bevan (Meic Povey), has to walk the fine line of public service and the politics required of modern day policing at Senior Officer level. Pathologist Professor Margaret Edwards (Sharon Morgan), presents a potentially rewarding emotional relationship with Noel but he fears taking their relationship to the next level, mindful of the problems such a relationship has caused him in the past. The series was set in south Wales but filmed largely in Aberyswyth and Ceredigion in both Welsh and English languages.

MINDER (1979)

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Show Image Originally created as a vehicle for ex-Sweeney star Dennis Waterman, Minder gave us one of the most memorable characters in British television history, the man whose name became synonymous with dodgy goods and shady deals, who would sell his own mother if the price was right, and who knew a 'nice little earner' when he saw one. As brilliantly portrayed by veteran actor George Cole, the man was, of course, Arthur Daley. In reality it was a role that was perfect for Cole, who had been the quintessential spiv in countless British movies, and it was a role that he slipped into like a tailor-made Saville Row suit. The original outline for the series was for Waterman, as ex-boxer, ex-convict, Terry McCann, to star in a series of action packed adventures as a bodyguard or 'minder' who was in the employ of Daley. Arthur would set up the deals which usually involved a hefty profit for himself and a small one for Terry. All this, of course, without Terry's knowledge. In the course of their dealings, which usually strayed ever-so-slightly on the wrong side of legal, the twosome would try to avoid the clutches of the law as represented by local officers Chisholm, Rycott and Jones. For rest and recreation Arthur and Terry would frequent the Winchester Club, where barman Dave would listen to Daley's tales of woe and 'Er Indoors.'

Cole and Waterman hit it off right from the start with a wonderful on screen chemistry that was an instant hit with the critics if not the viewers. Series one began transmission soon after the 1979 ITV strike, when the channel was struggling to recover its previous audience levels, having lost viewers to the BBC. Apparently, the management board at Thames Television were keen to scrap the show but managing director Bryan Cowgill persuaded them to commission one further series and repeat the first. Both attracted huge audiences and a TV legend was born. But the first season was deemed too violent, so the producers turned up the humour and Minder became a runaway success. In 1980 the theme tune ('I Could Be So Good For You'), written by Waterman and Gerard Kenny and sung by Waterman himself, reached the top five in the music charts, followed by 'Arthur Daley ('E's Alright)' by The Firm in 1982, and a Christmas record for Terry and Arthur in 1983 entitled 'What Are We Gonna Get For 'Er Indoors'. There were also two 90-minute specials from Thames TV film division Euston Films. In 1991 Waterman decided that he'd had enough, and in order to avoid typecasting decided to quit the series. Undeterred, Arthur continued to ply his trade with the aid of naive young nephew Ray, and the series slipped even further into comedy, but not in the ratings, remaining a firm favourite until it's final instalment in 1994.

The show was largely responsible for introducing a number of slang words into the british language: The name Arthur Daley has become synonymous with a dishonest salesman or small time crook - 'Er Indoors means the wife, and of course, the word minder, meaning personal bodyguard, also came into everyday usage. Many of Minders episode titles were a take on popular movie titles, therefore you have episodes such as; 'Gunfight at the O.K. Laundrette;' 'National Pelmet;' 'Whose Wife is it Anyway?;' 'The Birdman of Wormwood Scrubs;' 'Rocky Eight and a Half;' 'Senior Citizen Caine;' 'High Drains Pilferer;' 'No Way to Treat a Daley;' 'A Fridge Too Far.' At its peak, Minder was evocative of the uniquely British comic sensibility, which had engendered the classic Ealing comedies of the late 40's and early 1950's. In the character of Arthur Daily, George Cole also created a modern day equivalent of his own 'Flash' Harry, the arch spiv of the St. Trinian movies series, and in the process ensured his status as something of a national comedy institution. In 2005 Arthur Daley came second in ITV's 50th anniversary poll to find its favourite TV characters.

THE MISFIT (1970)

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Show Image Think of writer Roy Clarke and you think immediately of the string of long running, highly successful, comedy series he created for the BBC - series like Last of the Summer Wine, Open All Hours and Keeping Up Appearances. It is less commonly known that Clarke's first television series was for Independent Television - The Misfit produced by ATV in 1970-71, in which Ronald Fraser played Basil Allenby-Johnson ("Badger" for short) returned from a colonial life in Malaya to an England he longer recognised. Even less well known is the fact that Fraser's character was born a couple of years earlier in an episode of the BBC drama The Troubleshooters, also written by Clarke. The Misfit ran for 13 episodes and each week gave viewers Allenby-Johnson's bemused take on a different aspect of 70's "Swinging Britain" with episode titles like "... on the Place of Women in the Home" and "... on Europe and Foreigners and Things". There was no shortage of targets - industrial relations (in which both management "cowardly, weak and obsessed with youth to the exclusion of ability" and trades unions "these days you get what you are ready to strike for" took a pasting); feminism; permissive and undisciplined youth; age prejudice by employers; student demos; the press; and the health service. In one episode Badger was appalled to discover that the forces of revolution had even wormed their way into the church.

Comments like "Few sights are more peaceful than the tranquil and undisturbed stillness of the nationalised labour force" earned Badger the nickname "the Alf Garnett of the middle classes". He was certainly right wing, but whereas in Til Death Us Do Part Johnny Speight deliberately made Alf Garnett an unlikeable bigot, Badger's swipes were usually justified in the context of the stories and struck a chord with many viewers, winning the series a big following. Ronald Fraser enjoyed playing the character, saying at the time "He epitomises all that was great about the Edwardian gentleman. Honest as the day is long. Loyal, faithful, loving people whatever their colour or creed, and loved by them. And unable to understand the Permissive Society. I'm absolutely in sympathy with him, except that I'm not quite so square." The series won Roy Clarke the 1970 Writers Guild Award for the best writer of a British TV series. Fittingly the final episode guest starred Michael Bates. Bates had much in common with Badger's colonial past, having been born in the Far East and served as a wartime Ghurka Major. Bates of course, went on to star in Clarke's Last of the Summer Wine a year or two later. (Review: Dave Rice)

MISLEADING CASES (1967)

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Show Image Adapted from Oxford law graduate A.P. Herbert's collection of legal absurdities which first saw print in 'Punch' magazine in 1924 and were later released over six books, the first of which was Misleading Cases, printed in 1927. There were three series of this classy comedy in which Roy Dotrice played the part of the doddering but astute eternal litigant Albert Haddock, who would enter the courtroom to debate a variety of moral issues with pleas that referred back to forgotten or outdated laws. Alan Melville adapted the stories for the first two series, which also starred Alistair Sim in a rare TV role, as the often-exasperated Stipendiary Magistrate Mr Justice Swallow, who would preside over each case with a mixture of frustration and silent admiration. Opposing QC was Sir Joshua Hoot played by Thorley Walters and the other regular member of the cast was Avice Landon as Albert's often bemused, but always patient wife. There were also a whole host of guest stars throughout the shows run and they included such TV luminaries as Warren Mitchell, John Le Mesurier, Patricia Hayes, Irene Handl, Arthur Mullard and Fred Emney. John Cleese appeared in one episode just so he could work with Alistair Sim. The third series appeared three years after the second and was written by Christopher Bond and Michael Gilbert.

MISS MARPLE (1984)

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Show Image Miss Jane Marple was a crime fighter who relied on her feminine sensitivity and empathy to solve crimes. While the police struggled to find a culprit Miss Marple went quietly about her business looking for clues using her instinct and knowledge of human nature. They rarely let her down. The spinster detective who first appeared in Agatha Christie's 1930 novel 'The Murder at the Vicarage' has been portrayed by a variety of actresses in films and television. Following her first small screen appearance on 30th December 1956, as portrayed by Lancashire lass Gracie Fields in a US produced Goodyear Television Playhouse presentation, the female sleuth was subsequently played on the big screen in rumbustious style by the delightfully eccentric Margaret Rutherford before Angela Lansbury's performance in The Mirror Crack'd led her to a similar role in the U.S. television series Murder She Wrote. In Britain, however, the most famous Miss Marple has been Joan Hickson who many feel gave the definitive performance. Rumour has it that Hickson was actually recommended by Agatha Christie herself.

Back in the 1940s before Rutherford was playing Miss Marple, Agatha Christie met Joan Hickson and allegedly told her that she'd be perfect for the role of the spinster detective who lives in the English village of St. Mary Mead. However, some forty years passed before Hickson got a chance to prove the authoress right and by that time Christie had already passed away. Hickson herself was of course much older than when Christie had given her the nod and as such her performance had a lot less energy than the Rutherford portrayal. However, Miss Marple is never required to get involved in any physical chase or fight. Instead she solves each mystery by appearing to be a frail, scatty and absent minded leading her suspects into a false sense of security while all the time she is quietly observing and putting together facts in her keen analytical mind until eventually she has enough evidence to unmask the true culprit. Between 1984 ("The Body in the Library") and 1992 ("The Mirror Crack'd"), the BBC in association with America's Arts and Entertainments network, and Australia's Seven network, produced a series of twelve Miss Marple mysteries. Although frail in appearance, Hickson's mere presence, her intensely blue and intelligent eyes and the way she dominated each scene would almost certainly have been the qualities that Agatha Christie had originally spotted in the actress. Joan Hickson finally retired from sleuthing at the tender age of 86. Miss Marple herself was bought out of retirement by LWT in 2004 with a total of 6 (to date) TV movies starring Geraldine McEwan in the lead role.

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE (1966)

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Show Image "Your mission, Jim, should you accept it..." So began each adventure for the Impossible Missions Force, an elite group of secret agents under the leadership of Jim Phelps (Peter Graves, brother of Gunsmoke's James Arness). Their weekly tasks usually involved the rescue of a foreign diplomat held prisoner by a fictitious communist country, or the recovery of secret documents. Each member of the IMF had their own particular specialist talent, Rollin Hand (Martin Landau) was a master of disguise, Cinnamon Carter (Barbara Bain, real-life wife of Landau), was the female seductress, muscle was supplied by Willy Armitage (Peter Lupus), and Barney Collier (Greg Morris) was the electronics wizard. Gadgetry of the James Bond type featured heavily in the series, which won Emmys for Outstanding Dramatic Series in 1967 and 1968, and Bain picked up Best Actress Emmy's in 1967, 1968 and 1969. Leonard Nimmoy joined the cast as Paris straight from his stint as Star Trek's Spock and Lalo Shifrin's Mission Impossible title theme was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. The series sold to no less than 70 countries worldwide and the first in a series of all action Hollywood blockbuster's was released in 1996 starring Tom Cruise. The movie series kept Shifrin's distinctive theme tune.

MISTER ED (1961)

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Show Image In the world of television comedy Mister Ed is often dismissed by critics as nothing more than a second-rate comedy of little significance. To judge it as such would be a great mistake. The series was created by Arthur Lubin, who had directed a series of 7 movies called Francis, about a talking mule, with Donald O'Connor (6 movies) and Mickey Rooney (1 movie) in the human roles. In fact Lubin had been trying to tout the idea for a TV series to uninterested Network bosses for years, even going as far as making an unaired pilot, The Wonderful World of Wilbur Pope, starring Scott McKay. Eventually, with the backing of Burns and Allen Show producer Al Simon, and a change of human lead to British born actor Alan Young, CBS (who had previously dismissed the series) decided to give it a shot.

The stories concerned the adventures of Wilbur Post, a Los Angeles architect who, along with his newly acquired wife, Carol (Connie Hines), moved into a new home only to discover something in the barn. That something was an eight-year old Palomino Horse named Mister Ed. To his astonishment, Wilbur discovered that the horse could talk, but only to him, because he was the first human that the horse had liked enough to converse with. Ed's range of conversational topics covered music, the arts and other cultured subjects. However, this also naturally enough lead Wilbur into trouble at times, especially when overheard talking to the horse by nosey next-door neighbours Roger and Kay Addison (Larry Keating and Edna Skinner), or taking Ed's often questionable advice. The horse itself was voiced by former Western star Allan 'Rocky' Lane who introduced each show with "Hello, I'm Mister Ed." Although this hadn't been the first fantasy/comedy series on US television (Topper had preceded it by 8 years), it was the first of a whole new generation of shows based on a similar theme, and its success with the viewing public spawned such shows as My Favourite Martian, Bewitched and I Dream of Genie. This alone gives the series a significant place in US television history. Take it from the horse's mouth!