Monday, 24 February 2020

Randall and Hopkirk Deceased (2000 Version): A Man of Substance

I never thought I would ever be blogging about this show here. The original series is one of my favourites and I thought this one had everything I dislike: I loathe remakes and thought this was one. But then I read a blog post by Grant Goggins about a different episode (here) in which he says,
I’m afraid the previous three episodes were really uneven, but Randall & Hopkirk went out on a high note written by Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson as a very cute tribute to The Avengers. It’s “Death at Bargain Prices” crossed with “The House That Jack Built” as Jeff and Jeannie are trapped in an escape-proof department store full of lethal traps. And just to add to the tips of the bowler, they brought along some mannequins that evoke the Autons from Doctor Who and dressed one of them like Steed.
... And of course I was smitten. This series manages to play tribute to just about every classic TV series and film ever made, including often focusing on the unreal Britain of The Avengers.
That is particularly apparent in this episode, which is a bit of a tribute to The Town of No Return, with nods to The Wicker Man and endless horror films. This page does a better job of identifying cultural references than I would.
I would however comment that this episode is firmly in the genre of literature portraying villages as not quite what they seem. This can include various murder mysteries and much folklore including folk horror. The fact that the residents are ruthlessly organic and middle class adds to the awfulness. As a town person myself I don't feel frightened of city living in the slightest, but the thought of the country fills me with horror.
I can quite see why this is not a favourite of the fans - if you are inclined to you can see the ending of this episode as a weakness, since it is frankly extraordinary. Mary's behaviour doesn't come across as good, but of course it all ends alright. Personally I think a series finale when one of your leading characters is dead, would have to include the dead antics of some power crazed nutters intent on world domination. And how Avengers is that?

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Monty Python: The War Against Pornography

For some strange reason I have managed to blog about TV for this long and not once blogged about Monty Python and this is an omission which requires immediate correction.
I have commented recently on the energy and youthfulness of TV comedy before everyone became very cynical in Thatcher's Britain, and of course Monty Python is no exception. The Pythons seemingly took whatever came to mind and made it hilarious. Their humour was not without relevance to the events of the day and the war against pornography referenced here was of course a real war being waged at the time: regular readers will have noticed how often Mary Whitehouse is referenced on this blog. If you want the other side of that story I would recommend the film about Mary Millington which I have recently watched with much enjoyment.
The other thing the Pythons bring home is how the world has changed in the intervening decades. Part of this episode mentions Britain and trade with other nations, and of course the seventies were a hopeful time of European common living. We have of course left Europe and the government is putting out ads about how we will now build relationships with Europe. This must make sense in someone's head but it certainly doesn't in mine, when we had agreement with Europe! If push comes to shove members of my profession can immigrate to Ireland, so all is not lost.
I have a feeling that Gumbys were among the Leave voters. The reason I picked this episode was because I love the Gumby brain surgery! Of course the point is that nobody would think they were a Gumby themselves... Although we've all met a few!
It is more evident to classic TV viewers like us than most people but the Pythons are of course making heavy references to the TV of the time, which makes Monty Python very reflexive and really quite postmodern before its time. IMDB tells me that it directly references Dr Kildare and Match of the Day, but I feel there are also references to documentary and nature shows which I'm not in a position to name.
Sit back and enjoy this show - to criticise Monty Python would be churlish. Oh - I like shows referencing the war against porn - as a prolific consumer of porn myself I like to think Mrs Whitehouse would disapprove.