Let’s catch-up with three programmes that have debuted over three uninspiring weeks of TV.
Two single dramas to start, firstly the Long Walk to Finchley which was broadcast on BBC4 in the middle of last month saw Andrea Riseborough put in a sterling performance as a young Magaret Thatcher. It started in her early days as a local politician and her meeting of Dennis Thatcher as well as her run-ins with Ted Heath. It showed her relationship with Dennis as a friendly one with Dennis influencing some of her bigger decisions but ultimately being pushed to the sidelines when he wasn’t needed and being used basically as a tool for her to win an election. The finale saw her clashes with Sir John Crowder who was leaving the Finchley seat and didn’t want a woman to replace him eventually winning the Finchley seat. Part of the joy of this cracking drama was in the relatively fresh cast. Riseborough as Margaret was pitch perfect she had the voice dead-on as well as the mannerisms making Thatcher seem humanistic as well as ambitious. Having only been screen acting for three or four years Riseborough has starred in shows such as Party Animals but this role should catapult her to stardom. Similarly Rory Kinnear who played Dennis has only been seen lately in a pilot, C4′s Plus One soon to be a series, but he captured the essence of what was to become the first gentlemen of No.10. Familiar faces filled out the cast Samuel West looking more like his father everyday delivered a stoic Ted Heath, Philip Jackson gave his usual working class charm to the role of Margaret’s father and Geoffrey Palmer as Sir John stole every scene he was in. The script was also crackling with one-liners and in-jokes (mainly concerning the future fates of the Thatcher children). BBC4 has been on the ball recently when it comes to one-off dramas as this follows the Curse of Comedy season, maybe a curse of No.10 season should be on the cards if this anything to go by.
A similar story: a strong woman with strong views tries to hit out at people in power. Set about ten years later than Long Walk, Filth: The Mary Whitehouse Story saw the story of Whitehouse as she set about protesting all the vulgarity of T.V. at the time. Unlike Long Road the cast was full of familiar faces namely Julie Walters as Whitehouse and Hugh Bonneville as then head of the BBC Sir Hugh Green. The story basically followed the bickering relationship between the two as Whitehouse tried and tried to get Green to listen to her but her letters were often chewed up and spit out by Green in some fabulous comic sequences. The programme ended with Green resigning from the BBC but Whitehouse believing her own hype got too big for her boots and started to complain about things so trivial as Pinky and Perky. In a lesser actresses hands, Whitehouse would’ve been portrayed as a winging old biddy but Walters bought out her vulnerability and also showed a more playful side in her sex life with her husband played ably by Alun Armstrong. We also saw the effect her campaigns had on her family life and the way the BBC hit back at her almost made her want to quit her efforts. But this was on the whole a light-hearted affair Bonneville especially had some part to play in this swearing like a navvy and lusting after his secretary his Sir Hugh Green was a marvellous creation to behold. Maybe a sequel is in order to show the downfall of Whitehouse.
And finally in this short instalment we come to BBC3′s Summer Heights High. Created by Australian comic Chris Lilly it follows the adventures of three Characters in the fictional Australian high school mentioned in the title. Lilly plays all three: Firstly Year 11 private school graduate Ja’mie who wants to be the most popular girl in the school but at the same time is incredibly bitchy. Secondly Year 8 islander Jonah who seems to get all the best lines and most of the bad language his phrase ‘that’s gay as’ is a particular favourite of mine. Rounding off the terrible threesome is drama teacher Mr. G who takes over the Performing Arts department and cancels their upcoming musical in favour of a self-penned opus about recently deceased student Annabelle who die of an ecstasy overdose. The main song ‘I’m a naughty girl with a bad habit’ should show the level of tact that G displays as he writes himself heavily into the script. The best thing about Summer Heights High is its lack of any P.C. writing at all everything from Self Harm to disability to child abuse is treated with a light hand but ultimately it’s the three characters who look stupid. I’m particularly drawn to Jonah maybe just because of the New Zealand accent. Lily’s humour is top notch and the fact he can create three separate characters as well as write these scripts is a testament to the man’s talent.
Next Time: Criminal Justice, Bonekickers and Last Choir Standing