Saturday, 23 May 2020

Jonathan Creek: The Curious Tale of Mr Spearfish

Another of my beloved series which I have never written about here, although the reason is simply that you have to let yourself forget mysteries before you watch them again.  I don't personally watch mysteries really for the detection but for the comfortable setting and the atmosphere. This goes for Agatha Christie, whom I have written about here before - although her books are now old enough to have faded into a mythical past - for example I would love to sympathise about the servant problem, but I have never had that problem myself. I feel Jonathan Creek also has an air of unreality and regular readers will know I love TV shows to be unreal.
It has only just struck me how unreal this is. As I remember it is revealed at some point that Jonathan inherited the mill (although I stand to be corrected) but Maddie's flat in a mansion block would be ridiculously expensive. Out here in reality journalists can't be sure of stability and people who make a living by consulting on their special interest tend to live hand to mouth.
This, as all quality TV, can be read on several levels. The idea which kept coming to me was that it was a story about a woman who had fallen in love with a wrong 'un. Because Mr Spearfish is almost certainly wrong by his wife's standards and really she should have dumped him. That seems to be the opinion of everyone else in the episode who knows them.
As a mystery it is also fairly obvious that the premise is fake. I feel that selling your soul to 'Satan' is the province of rebellious teenagers and for a grown man to do it and also accept his new magical abilities such as being shot in the chest and not being affected. Also - how much chest hair can one man carry without beginning to attract random items through static?
But I'm being mean by pointing to the mammoth plot hole, which is why this is best approached for the atmosphere.
Which is wonderful and Mr Spearfish's story is in counterpoint with Adam Klaus in court for alleged sexual assault. I also love the way Maddie has the hots for Jonathan, he is oblivious to this and she irritates him intensely.
So don't pick holes and go with the flow, because who wouldn't want to live in a windmill?

Sunday, 17 May 2020

The Avengers: Death's Door

I have had a stressful few weeks... However thankfully I am starting a holiday at home which will hopefully mean getting some sun. I was thinking which recent purchases I ought to blog about but then decided that I will watch and blog about what I want to!
One of the reasons I have picked this Avengers is it is an all-time favourite of mine, seems to be popular with the fans and yet strangely gets hammered on the Internet. Let's get the criticism out of the way, so that I can proceed with pure adulation. Props, locations, shots are all taken from other Avengers, but of course we must remember these shows were intended to be viewed once and not to hold up to the sort of analysis we give them now. You will also read that this one is inferior to Too Many Christmas Trees - it is if you buy the premise of real psychic powers, but I think the fake psychic power here puts it more firmly in the spy stable.
I have commented many times on the sparse props used by this series to give a whole context - here, stately home, leather chairs and suits combine to set the action firmly in The Establishment. Nobody ever notices that here the Establishment is seen as faltering or even rotten. Melford comments to Steed that Steed's taxes have gone on his hotel, and of course the government can't manage to get their delegate to the peace conference. Steed is placed outside the Establishment (despite being an agent of the Ministry) and yet the government is dependent on him and Mrs Peel - the sixties preoccupation with the new world and opportunities which were coming.
There are two aspects which are my absolute favourites. One is the shooting scene. The other is the street scenes, which I suppose ought to be strictly within the fantasy world of The Avengers and yet at this length of time seem so old fashioned.
I suspect that many viewers would find the mind control premise of this episode pretty incredible, but the point of The Avengers is that it isn't real and I think this one really deserves reconsideration.

Friday, 1 May 2020

Bergerac: Burnt

Another series I can't believe it's taken me this long to write about. I must begin by being frank about the fact that Bergerac was a favourite show of mine in my teens - I even fantasised about living on Jersey 'when I grow up'. The irony is that now I am grown up I actually could live there, because I belong to a profession which is granted residence without the usual requirement that you pay at £125,000 sterling in tax every year, and wouldn't want to because I loathe the sort of people who pay that sort of tax.
This episode is largely about a financial fiddle - it isn't enough being fabulously wealthy, but the fabulously wealthy like finding ways of contributing as little as possible and so like to have their assets hidden away. In this case on Sark, another of the Channel Islands and with notably eccentric laws: I see that feudalism was only abolished in 2008 in the island's first election!
Perhaps I have given a rather negative impression, and would not want anyone to think that Bergerac is not a complete joy. There is literally something in it for everyone: beautiful scenery, detection, rich people, Bergerac's train wreck of a love life. What is not to love? I particularly love Terence Alexander as Bergerac's ex-father-in-law, with the cigar permanently in his hand.
This is a series 6 episode, first broadcast in 1988, and this provides another of its joys. Surely rich people and the 1980s are inseparably connected? Bergerac provides a veritable feast of 1980s reminiscence, and this episode is no exception. One of the best things is seeing the latest computers of the time: the boxes they sit in don't look wildly odd but it is when they operate it all looks so ancient. Especially as the equipment is being used in this one by the police to solve crime.
As always writing these witterings leads me to new information about these shows and I have discovered that the setting for the fictional Bureau des Etrangers (Our Sort of People don't commit vulgar crimes) for which Bergerac works, was the notorious former children's home Haute de la Garenne. Its history of abuse hit the press in the early noughties, once again illustrating that apparent idylls may not be what they seem.
I actually find I don't want to say too much because I don't want to give the plot away in case anyone hasn't seen it. And that is my criticism: it's a bit obvious who is the most masterful personality amongst the cast. I didn't think of it at the time, but much like Sean Connery, John Nettles has played all his parts with the same accent. He's from Cornwall and while Bergerac is supposed to be from Jersey he doesn't sound like it.
I haven't been posting much here recently, because of yet another life complication. Until this week we have been having wonderful weather and so I got out on the canal bank for my hour's exercise last weekend. The photo is a social distancing version and thus a selfie.