Monday, 24 May 2021

Special Branch: Round the Clock

I have had several run throughs of both series of Special Branch before, but have tended to miss something in this episode. I feel like the stakeout is a standard dramatic set up for the crime shows of the seventies - dramatically it allows character development, allows for an exciting denouement and must be relatively cheap. The only difficulty is preventing boredom settling in and that is usually done by the interplay between the (invariably two) officers doing the stake out. Unfortunately they didn't have the ultimate resort of a totally weird event used by Scully and Mulder while they were being punished by the FBI in later series.

In this episode the development used to distract from the ennui is the friction between Haggerty and Craven, which in fact dominates the whole episode. This is an entirely personal view because as regular readers know I prefer my TV unreal, but the ongoing friction doesn't really do it for me. This is purely because situations where you can't concentrate on the matter in hand because of something extraneous interfering, really irritate me. The problem with the argument is that Haggerty is what my mother (and probably Craven) would describe as 'a sexy piece'. By this I mean that he is perceived to be overly sexy but isn't really. Extra depth to the argument is given by the fact that Haggerty doesn't even know he supposedly broke up Craven's marriage and Craven is depicted behaving to his girlfriend in a way which would nowadays be seen as crossing over into coercion and control.

The conflict made me rather let the show wash over me to the extent that I completely missed the role played by Dame Hilda Bracket (billed as she often was in the seventies as Perri Sinclair) singing in a club and then Craven asks her to spread a rumour for him. She had not long appeared in one of the Steptoe films and I think these appearances say all there is to say about the seventies. Also I do love the way she gets her bum pinched after being helped off the stage.

When the denouement comes it comes very quickly and there is the twist that Haggerty gets promoted to Craven's very obvious displeasure.

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Timeslip: The Wrong End of Time Episode 1

Mitchell Hadley has kindly paid me the accolade that there's a good chance of reading about

shows he's never heard of here. This is of course setting the bar very high and I hope I can live up to it. Mitchell, I hope you've never heard of Timeslip or at least are prepared to pretend you haven't!

It's a show I have fought shy of writing about here for several reasons. The first is that I find it confusing. This is mainly because despite being an apparently straightforward series of four adventures in total, it seems to come in a bewildering array of different box sets. The one I have is the blue box with the girl in a yellow and red picture holding her arms up, and appears to be complete.

The second reason is that I personally tend to find time travel stories confusing so please bear that in mind as you read this post.

I must confess something else, which is that I have a real weakness for this show. In fact for several children's TV shows of the early 1970s because they embody a probably imagined time before I was born. Is there any likelihood that children could stray into an abandoned Ministry of Defence station now? Not on your nelly. Nor is it likely that kids these days would be taken in by the time trap which merely required some fence posts, a lot of acting and some basic camera tricks.

Nonetheless the show speaks ironically of a different time when it is supposed children had greater freedom to rove around than they do now. Nor is this a country/city difference - a friend grew up in Aston on the other side of the city centre in the seventies and remembers people leaving their doors unlocked. Any apparent danger to the kids is subsumed into the character of the baddies.

In this case the baddies are Germans, because the children are taken back to 1940. In the manner of the time, the enemy is very clear, they're usually foreign and we know exactly who they are. 

I love this series and recommend it almost unreservedly, but for the proviso that in the second adventure the show goes forward in time to 1990, and really shows never get the going forward in time thing right. It is very much of its time, both in production and in the paranormal and environmental concerns which were all the rage at the time. I think it is best approached as fantasy so that the ride can be enjoyed.

Oh as a final note, I think one of the reasons I haven't got round to writing about this show yet is that because it was wildly popular at the time it has been extensively covered however I just couldn't get into the official site and I love shows which aren't chewed to death 😃

Friday, 7 May 2021

Tales from the Dark side: A Case of the Stubborns

How have I only just found out about this show? Obviously I've been spending too much time in graveyards and crypts! Like all anthology series the episodes are a mixed bag but this one is pure gold. 

We all know someone who is so pig-headed that they always know best and won't listen to anyone else. And before you say it ImI not one of them! Rarely though, does this extend to not believing that you're dead and just carrying on. The reason this is such a success is that the premise is so wrong it's brilliant, and it draws on images of headless chickens. It is so wrong to say that someone is so stubborn (with undertones of intelligence on a par with a chicken) that they don't know they're dead.

The premise leads to wonderful scenarios that are also rather uncomfortable. It is so inappropriate humour to say that someone is dead but doesn't know it, but.... that is exactly what the daughter says. Hearing the words, you're dead but won't lie down, actually said to someone gives a frisson of being glad we don't have to say it to our own parents. Conversely of course we all wish we could be so stubborn that we won't die! I love the way he visibly decomposes and the efforts of both the doctor and minister don't work!

I literally have no criticism. I do wonder about the accents the people have and would suspect that the accent, which to me sound so overdone that they are stereotypical, are meant to indicate that these are unimaginative country people. Of course overdoing the accent can also be a way to make it unreal and stop the difficult premise being too real. I would be interested to hear views.

An unqualified recommendation from me.