Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Dick Emery: Legacy of Murder

Today a show I was delighted to discover on YouTube (unfortunately the channel I downloaded the episodes from has gone now, so unless they are elsewhere online the only option is one unofficial DVD release): I love Dick Emery and while he plays several characters, this series is different from the sketch shows I remember him from, because it is an actual story in which Emery stars as a shambolic private eye who is hired with his assistant to locate six people connected with the estate of a deceased aristocrat. The fact that Emery plays most of the characters he seeks is not cheap, but in the grand tradition of Kind Hearts and Coronets.
Here is the history of the show, lifted from here
In 1979, Dick Emery had jumped ship to ITV, a year later in 1980 he returned to the BBC with his popular Dick Emery Show.  By 1982 Emery was growing tired of the existing format of his BBC show and wanted to find new avenues to explore.
Using a new format and character, Jewish private detective Bernie Weinstock, Emery had found a new avenue, producing two series of comedy thrillers under the banner Emery Presents.  These aired on the BBC between 1982 and 1983.  The first series of Emery presents was entitled Legacy of Murder, whilst the second was entitled Jack Of Diamonds, which was broadcast six months after the star’s death.
The show is peopled with all the familiars from Emery's world - the vicars, the old ladies, eccentric aristocrats and what have you. In my own opinion this world is delightful. If you can't find this show you can see into the same world in his TV sketch shows and the film Ooh You Are Awful, all widely available. The only proviso would be that his humour is distinctly old fashioned in its attitudes, and hence unfashionable but never malicious.
The sidekick also has an important role (Tony Selby stars as the sidekick in the other series, and he will be familiar to readers of this blog, in fact I posted a picture of him in The Sweeney a few weeks ago). In this series the sidekick is Barry Evans who may be familiar to viewers from Mind Your Language, but is probably better known for starring in 1970s sex comedies in the Adventures series. I see that Evans is one of the tragic figures of the TV world, and ended up as a cab driver before his untimely death.
The only thing I don't like about this series is that it has a laughter track, but of course that is personal taste.
Finally Emery delights me by using a uniquely Birmingham idiom in this show, when a milkman says that it's black over Will's mother's. That is a Birmingham idiom which means it's going to rain and the clouds are gathering over Stratford upon Avon before coming and dropping rain on the city. Will is of course Will Shakespeare.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

The Sweeney: Jackpot

Apologies for the hiatus in posting. I have temporarily been watching some films and some less cult TV. Regular readers will know that I don't shy away from difficult subjects but even I find it difficult to know how to write about the Charlie Chan films in the twenty first century! Similarly I have been watching the Confessions films starring Robin Askwith and frankly while I am not embarrassed to reveal my liking for 1970s sex comedies, writing about them here could get rather wearing for you. Nonetheless we remain in the seventies because my manager has developed a habit of saying 'Shut it' ... referring to whatever the staff member thus addressed is working on. She is also pregnant and actually commented that she hadn't got any dinner because she'd eaten it by 11 o'clock. There is no point telling her about a TV show made well before she was born so here I am to ramble on about an episode of The Sweeney.
Jackpot begins with extended footage of the delicate treatment of suspects for which our constabulary were so famed in seventies, and since. The opening scene feels both ridiculously old fashioned (because of the vehicles, clothes and the way the suspects are told to take off their braces when they arrive at the nick) and incredibly postmodern at the same time because the scene is being filmed by a copper. We see the scene through the lens and Regan breaks the fourth wall when he tells the camera to get out of his way. I particularly love the bit where Regan is hauled over the coals for managing to lose a bag of money. The actor Morris Perry could have been born for those sort of boss roles, and I don't mind that he appears in so many shows because he turns into a sort of symbol for the establishment.
Regan of course represents all that is maverick, and much of the point of this episode is the conflict between the maverick and the establishment. This conflict largely underpins this episode: as long as he captures all the crooks Regan doesn't mind how he gets there. His bosses want him to play by the rules. Ironically I have a feeling that the establishment couldn't cope without characters like Regan, but don't know how to deal with him. My own opinion is that the only way to deal with Regan is to keep him inside pissing out, because who would want Regan against them? Ironically it is of course Regan who is the person who cracks the problem of where the missing money has gone.
The visual equivalent of this disagreement about ways of seeing is that this episode also revolves around what is seen, particularly in the form of the film of the action. For the sake of the story I think the viewer should ignore the rather strange situation that one police officer with, presumably, a cine camera has somehow managed to film the raid from multiple angles and the film has managed to be edited into a smooth record of events, which looks exactly as if it was made for television! The different ways of seeing things show fault lines in the flying squad which begin to widen under the strain of this case.
In common with all Sweeney episodes this one is superb because of the seventies milieu alone. I have been surprised to find mixed reviews on the internet, with people describing it as strange and finding it flawed because of the camera plot element. Perhaps I just like TV to be unreal because I can fully see that this episode wouldn't hang together in reality but if TV was strictly real it wouldn't be an escape would it?