Here’s part two of TWIT with a look at the Non-Apprentice shows that graced our screen over the past months.
We start with Bank Holiday weekend so there was a lot of big dramas and adaptations. The first of which was on Sky One and was an adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Colour of Magic. Being an absolutely massive Pratchett fan I was apprehensive when they cast David Jason or Sir David Jason as Rincewind, not only because he already played Albert in the Sky One version of Hogfather but he’s way too old and plump to play Rincewind who’s meant to be younger and scrawnier, maybe Jason’s Only Fools co-star Nicholas Lyndhurst or Nigel Planer (who did star in a small role in both Hogfather and in this). I was also surprised that Sean Astin was cast as tourist Twoflower given that I’d always had an image of a Japanese man in my head it was hard to imagine the former Goonie and Hobbit in the role when I was campaigning hard (in my own head anyway) that Heroes star Masi Oka should take the lead. Surprisingly Jason wasn’t much cop he was good with the lines but just didn’t look or feel like a Rincewind but he’s a big name so he drew in the punters. Astin did surprise however playing Twoflower as the quintessential American tourist with picturebox around neck and combat shorts on at all times he looked just the part and was the wide-eyed innocent of the original novel. In the supporting roles Tim Curry camped it up superbly as the villainous Wizzard, Harry Potter star David Bradley did a good job of bringing Cohen the Barbarian to life and Jeremy Irons’ Patrician was great. Christopher Lee replaced the late Ian Richardson as the voice of Death who hear was just a popping up role rather than the lead in the Hogfather he not surprisingly, Lee didn’t have to stretch his vocal range too much to do the icy one-liners that are synonymous with Pratchett’s death. One of the problems was that Colour of Magic is a two-parter so they had to adapt The Light Fantastic and call it Colour of Magic Part Two, so in fact two great novels were condensed down to just over three hours of T.V. and so cut out some of my favourite bits. And also as there is a lot of prose in the book, a narration by Brian Cox was added and as we all know voice-over is one of the sloppiest things that you can add to a film. Saying that the effects were great and some of the humour especially at the beginning was great. I can’t say I wasn’t a little disappointed and this was nowhere near as good as the Hogfather adaptation but it was still Pratchett so I was happy to an extent but I was just thinking that its sad that now Pratchett has Alzheimer’s he won’t be writing books for much longer.
Another adaptation that made its way to the screen this week was that of The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency. This adaptation was also marred in tragedy as co-screenwriter and director Anthony Minghella had died the day of the London premiere of the film. You could see that two of Britain’s brightest comic talents were at work here as Minghella’s co-writer on the script was one Richard Curtis who bought the vivid tale to life. The story itself involves Precious Ramotswe who following her father’s death uses the money to set up a business in an old post office. The business she sets up is a detective agency at first she gets no clients as she is a woman and also rather on the large size. After a while she starts to get slightly light cases including proving paternity and infidelity, but after a while she’s trying to solve kidnapping and drug smuggling. This was brilliant as it could go from a light-hearted breezy subject to quite a hard-hitting piece very easily. Part of the reason lied in the casting of soul-singer Jill Scott as Precious who was always engaging and enthusiastic and had great chemistry with all the other cast members. The main support came from fellow singer Anika Noni Ross who is best known for her role as Norelle in Dreamgirls, Ross played feisty secretary Makutsi and had several brilliant one-liners. Another great support was the glorious Botswanan scenery which made you feel you were entering another world. I’m glad then that following the feature length opener we were promised a whole series in 2009, its just sad for all concerned that Minghella won’t be involved.
A whole darker edge to the bank holiday weekend was provided by ITV1 and the start of a three-part adaptation of Jarke Arnett’s book He Kills Coppers. Set in the 1960’s, He Kills Coppers looks at the crimes committed by Billy Porter in the summer of 1966 during the World Cup. As well as looking at Porter’s home-life and relationships it mainly followed two coppers John Young and Frank Taylor, Taylor was young and ambitious and his best mate Young who he steps over for promotion. The story also looks at the power of the press as in future episodes it looks as if fleet street reporter Tony Meehan will become obsessed with Porter’s crime. Bringing in a female element was Jeannie who came between Young and Taylor’s friendship. The final scene of the first episode was the best bit as Young accompanied by some colleagues attempted to stop Porter and in a slow-motion sequence Young was shot by Porter and the later scenes in which Taylor and Meehan arrive at the scene were equally harrowing. The style of the thing was brilliantly presented as you felt you were back in the 1960s and the soundtrack also helped in this score. Of the performances praise must go to Maureen Lipman as Porter’s mother (it made me wonder why you don’t see her on screen more) while Kelly Reilly gave a subtle tone to her performance of Jeannie. But it was Rafe Spall as Taylor who really impressed here having had bit-parts in films such as A Good Year and Hot Fuzz, He Kills Coppers was the first time he got to bend his acting bones and show that he could grow to be as good an actor has his father Timothy. At least this first episode didn’t discourage me from watching what I hope will be two superior parts.
BBC4 continued their Curse of Comedy season with the quite superb Hancock and Joan. Unlike last week’s Curse of Steptoe in which you saw the downfall of Corbett and Brambell from the very start when we meet Hancock in this film he’s already at the beginning of the end, his sitcom has ended after he sacked Sid James, his drinking his quite rampant and his second divorce is almost finalised. The story was mainly about Hancock’s affair and relationship with Joan Le Mesuier wife of Hancock’s best pal and Dad’s Army star John Le Mesuier. Joan tries to save Tony from his own fate and helps him through career blow after career blow but after she almost kills herself she goes back to John only to promise to leave him once and for all if he quits drinking while in Australia but being without Joan is too much for Tony and he eventually commits suicide. Just like last week’s Curse of Steptoe, Hancock and Joan prevents another comedy favourite in a not so great light, although Hancock’s alcoholism and depression were well known it was still a shock to see them played out like this. Ken Stott bought Hancock to life brilliantly getting the accent spot on as well as the mannerisms its a testament to this Scot that he managed to play one of England’s best loved comics without slipping into his native accent once. Maxine Peake’s repertoire of playing tortured female leads continues and she also has to fight with a different accent dropping her Northern tongue for a quite posher character, and in his few scenes British Journeyman actor Alex Jennings (he played Prince Charles in The Queen and he was also in Babel but you’ll be hard pushed to remember him in either) did capture the hopelessness of the put upon Johnny. Always gripping and informative let’s just hope the Curse of Comedy season continues to deliver the greats in week three.
While never reminding us how good Hancock’s Half Hour was in the actual programme, memories of one of the best British sitcoms of all time come flooding back which is even worse considering the bad crop of sitcoms that we have been presented with recently. Take ITV1’s Friday night Double Bill starting with the return of the bawdy Benidorm which I won’t talk about too much here other than – WHY did BAFTA decide that this was one of the best four sitcoms of last year while Gavin and Stacey, Outnumbered and Lead Balloon all got overlooked? Anyway I’m going to finish by looking at the show Teenage Kicks which unfortunately starred Adrian Edmonson. Unfortunately because it reminded us how good a comic talent he was in the 1980s and 90’s in The Young Ones and Bottom, his character of the dad embarrassing his two kids by moving in with them at their student flat after he gets divorced from their mum is straight from the 1970s. You’d expect Ade Edmonson to be a grown-up version of Vivian and even though he spent half of the time dressed in a black waistcoat and Ramones T-Shirt he didn’t really impress. The script was dull and unimaginative with Edmonson trying to say cock or reference a sex-act every other minute. He tried God Bless him but he’d be better suited going back to Holby as he was beginning to carve quite a niche as a dramatic performer. The two actors who played his kids were straight out of the CITV school of acting as the son was sarcastic and edged on his dad’s sexual conquests while the daughter was stroppy. I also fail to imagine that outside of sitcomland a brother and sister would want to live together when they both went off to Uni. This sitcom plunged the depth with its fourth lead character the flatmate of the brother and sister who was an Asian stereotype his room filled full of trainers and Star Wars memorabilia he spoke with a pronounced Asian twang which was imitated by the son in a crude impression straight out of Mind Your Language. I can see that ITV1 with this sitcom double bill are trying to remind us of a simpler time but give me a witty Jack Dee over a slobby sex crazed Ade Edmonson any day of the week.
Next Time: Eastenders, Poppy Shakespeare and The Human Spider