Thursday, 14 January 2016

Mister Rose: First Impressions

I published several times last year on the subject of what would happen to the cult TV fan if the supply of ‘never seen’ series were to run out, an idea which got taken up to some extent on the blogosphere and certainly seemed to find echoes in fellow classic TV fans. On consideration, I feel there are probably several things which happen to the cult TV fan: I doubt there is anybody who literally has a cut-off date for television of, say, 1970 or 1980, so the classic TV fan will go on to find newer TV series which appeal. I have this week been on annual leave; when asked by normal people what I am doing with it I am replying that I am doing nothing, but the cult TV fan will understand that I am staying at home and recreating with some new DVDs. This is not nothing, of course, but one cannot tell the laity the names of the TV series that one is watching because of the ensuing silence. I have found myself returning to Dr Who serials of the 1960s (watch this space for forthcoming blog posts) and also have been watching some of the TV shows of my childhood. I realise the majority of this blog’s audience is American, so Paddington Bear, Rainbow and Basil Brush may not strike a chord with my core readership. Since my ‘manager’ still hasn’t actually been sacked, if you do not know Rainbow I would urge you to have a look on youtube and you will see my ‘manager’ personified perfectly in the character Zippy. I have also discovered that there were films made based on the Saint novels (why did nobody tell me this?) and so I am waiting for some to arrive, since I have rewatched the TV series at a distance of thirty years and found I have lost my former taste for it.
On spec I bought the discs of Mister Rose. It turns out that this show is the final part of what we would now call a franchise lasting through most of the sixties, based on the popular character of Mr Rose, a Scotland Yard detective, and Mister Rose deals with his life after retirement. This show is responsible for me realising what my defining characteristic is for a TV to strike home with me, and it turns out it is a certain sixties milieu. If a character drives a Mini, there is some cultural conflict, there are hippies of any vein, I am happy. I have written repeatedly about the conflict of Tradition with Modernity in 1960s television, but it has taken me forever to realise that that is probably the defining characteristic of the television I like. On the surface, Mister Rose is a detective series pure and simple, but its sixties setting gives it an aura of swinging sixties.
Yet Mister Rose is very much the swinging sixties looking backwards. It is very clear that his years as a detective have given him an ability to pass among all sorts of people, despite his own apparently pomposity and upper class aspirations. Not much play is made at all on the reaction of a traditionalist to modernity – the staple of Adam Adamant – and in fact the show is probably rather tame even by the standards of the 1960s. I am very aware that the shows I am watching were made in 1967: we’re talking Mrs Peel era here, but there is a distinct lack of kinkiness. However the world in which Mister Rose lives is very clearly that of the sixties; and it is interesting to be reminded that there were ways in which the mores of fifty years ago were very different from today. He belongs to a club, speaks repeatedly of needing a daily and in fact employs three staff all together, and in the episode I am watching there is talk of ‘scandal’ as a result of marital infidelity. Nowadays surely people still side with whichever side they are attached to, but it would hardly be a scandal nowadays.
Visually the show is not as well restored as Emma Peel-era Avengers. I have seen worse and better shows from the 1960s, but if you can’t tolerate anything other than a crystal-clear picture, this may not be the show for you. I have two series and I notice that the sound on series 2 is not nearly as good as series 1. I took series 2 to watch in the staff room at work and was surprised to find I had to turn the volume up full and was still straining to hear it. I am not overly fussed about having every vintage show immaculately restored, but in this case it is noticeable and actually makes it difficult to listen to the show. The stills on the box are in colour and I have no idea if that was how it was originally broadcast, but the episodes are uniformly black and white. There is lots of visual interest in sets and the dialogue is always witty and sparkling, if it becomes catty in places.
I realise I haven’t made this criticism for some time, but this show is a culprit of my usual gripe, that 1960s TV shows employed the same actors over and over again, which makes these people distracting at times, because you’re trying to place what else you’ve seen them in. Other than that I highly recommend this show for the sixties milieu and detection if you’re interested in a whodunit.
Incidentally, it seems it is possible to read Rose in a much more sexual way than I have – I can’t see this myself but cult.tv has this to say about him:
' William Mervyn plays Rose as a character that comes across as Jason King for the blue-rinse brigade; no doubt at the time he had the same knee-trembling effect on those in their fifties upwards as Wyngarde’s author-come-detective had on those of a younger disposition.' ( Source I am also indebted to this site for the picture of the dvd box)

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