The Wilde Alliance: First Impressions with Specific Reference to A Game for Two Players

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Last weekend I had an outing to Gloucester and bought the boxed set of this show in a charity shop. I had previously avoided it, and actively disliked the snippets I had seen on the internet. I obviously hadn't managed to see very much of it because I had completely missed the fact that Patrick Newell (surely everyone reading this will know that he played mother in The Avengers) is a regular character.
It is usually described as a detective serious about Rupert and Amy Wilde who have an extravagant lifestyle and also function as amateur Detectives. The series was broadcast in 1978. Continue my usual policy here, of minimising description on this blog, because I want to focus on one particular episode, first a few impressions.
My first impressions were awful! Through the first disc in the box the show really could not hold my attention at all, I thought it looked Bland, moved slowly, and the plots were lightweight. This last seems to be a fairly common criticism on the internet, so I think I am Justified in saying that. My opinion changed somewhat when I realised that I was reacting differently to this from other TV series of the 1970s. There has been no point in this series (where I have found myself thinking how unremittingly dreary the 1970s were). This fact alone Marx this out as unique amongst 1970s TV series, which when they weren't being consciously gritty usually aspires to intense tastelessness. So my impression towards the end of the first disc was that this of a cosy detective show. I think that is also wrong, since despite of the characters living a prosperous lifestyle they do seem to mix a lot with the demi-monde in pursuit of their investigations.
Perhaps I am summing up why this show has such a low profile in the cult TV world, it has some difficulty deciding what it is and thus tends not please anyone.
Note I want to focus on is called A Game for Two Players - I'm not entirely sure why and this title does not really seem to be related to the plot of the episode. With a teenage boy, Steve, hitchhiking his way to York and being picked up by Rupert Wilde. Readers will understand that this fact in itself takes us back at least 40 years. I have personally hitchhiked in my misspent youth, but I was about 20 at the time and well aware of the dangers. Young adults are one thing but a teenage boy hitchhiking is completely different. And of course it is therefore right at the Beginning that this episode begins to go off the rails. In the seventies, as now, if a responsible adult found a disconnected child like Steve is in this episode, there was only one place to take them, and that was to the police station.
You did not take them home where you would put them up for a couple of nights, buy them new clothes, and allow your wife to become obsessed with the child. No. This is all quite wrong.
In the episode it allows a site into the Demi mondaine world of York. Have you been there? Some friends of mine moved there from the frightening metropolis of Wolverhampton and were very surprised to find that at 5 every evening, everything shuts. They attributed this to it being a walled city and the psychological effect that that had. Anyway, rupert delves into the underworld of York to try to find this child's mother, without bothering to ring the police to find out if this child's mother was missing him, or whether the tale he told was true. I don't want  to put spoilers on this so I won't go to too much detail about how  the story resolves itself. Suffice to say, of course Steve has the background which does end up with a child hitchhiking way to try to find his lost mother. The only Major plot hole this one is that fairly obvious that Steve's family are never going to be full or comfortable enough actually to look after him in any meaningful way.
This picture of the Wildes dressing this boy in New Clothes while also bizarrely trying to return him to his somehow unavailable mother, is not exactly presented as a moral Crusade, but is set against another thread of the story, since living in the apartment building of the Wildes is the character played by Patrick Newell, who is a pornographer!
Frankly it is worth buying this entire series just to watch newells performance in this episode. Imagine Mother certainly turning into an old man and being suggestive! No, seriously, pause for a moment and imagine Mother saying the lewdest thing you can imagine. That is what he is like in this episode! And now you see why I think it's worth buying, despite the fact I'm being catty about it. He is also a quite frankly incredible dirty old man because at the beginning of the episode he asks Amy Wilde to work for him as a chaperone for a young boy who is star in one of his porn films but who is too young to travel on his own. The clear implication is that the boy will be under age, but she Mary threatens him with whistleblowing, in the manner of the time, rather than actually doing anything about it. In fact in their attempts to find Steve's mother, the wyldes actually ask him for help.
Perhaps the biggest irony of this episode is that I am not sure that Steve would actually have been safer in the environment it turns out he has escaped from, than being adopted in an impromptu manner buy the Wilds and living in a flat above a pornographer.
This episode hasn't caused me to change my original impression that this show is rather patchy: It has great characterisation, great consistent atmosphere, as a detective show it tends to be even more patchy and have huge holes in the plot. I will maintain though that it is worth buying the box set of this show merely to see Patrick Newell offering people parts in porn films.
I end with a photo I have found in the course of the extensive academic research which underlies this post: it is of Newell on the Benny Hill Show:
Same source as before

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