Posts Tagged ‘BBC

12
Sep
11

Chris Jury on Lovejoy: ‘It was innocent, rural, funny and nostalgic’

Dudley Sutton, Ian McShane, Chris Jury and Pyllis Logan

As an actor, writer, director and producer, Chris Jury may have worked extensively in film, theatre and televison, with directors as diverse as Anthony Minghella and Danny Boyle and on series such as Doctor Who and EastEnders, but it’s as Eric Catchpole on BBC One’s Lovejoy that he’s perhaps best remembered by the British public.

Having recently reviewed the re-released complete Lovejoy on DVD, I spoke to Chris about his memories of working on the top-rated programme which baffled TV producers but viewers couldn’t get enough of.

Jonathan Melville: How did you first come to audition for Lovejoy?

Chris Jury: In 1985 I was in a play at The Bush Theatre on Shepherds Bush Green next to the BBC drama offices. They couldn’t find Eric and a secretary in the office saw me in the play and suggested they came and saw me. I was then interviewed by the director Baz Taylor. I heard nothing for three weeks so assumed I had not got the part and accepted a job in Glasgow as Assistant Director to David Hayman for theatre company 7:84.

I was then called back into meet Ian McShane, producer Bob Banks-Stewart, writers Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais, executive producer Alan McKeown and director Ken Hannam. It was terrifying! I was offered the job the next day and had to drop out of the directing gig with 7:84.

The rapport between yourself, Ian McShane, Dudley Sutton and Phyllis Logan seems genuine – did you enjoy making series one?

Chris Jury todayAll the series were a joy to make. Ian, Dudley, Phylis, Malcolm Tierney and I got on like a house on fire. My abiding memory of filming Lovejoy is laughter and friendship. It doesn’t happen very often. I was very lucky. To this day I regard all four of the regulars as among my dearest friends.

Were you all set to return for a second series in 1987 or was it clear early on that the first series might be the only one?

We were hopeful of a second series in ’87 (which would have been filmed in ’86) but the BBC made Executive Producer Alan McKeown an offer he couldn’t accept and all power to him he walked away. The deal’s the thing you see. That’s why Alan is as rich as Croesus and I’m skint.

When did you learn that the programme would finally be returning?

In spring 1989 Michael Grade left the BBC to go to Channel 4 and within three weeks Witzend, Alan’s company, contacted my agent and we were back on. The deal was finally done in the Autumn of ’89 to start filming 10 eps from Easter 1990.

1993 saw two seasons and a Christmas special air, quite unusual for a BBC drama. Did you sense the BBC were particularly fond of the show at that time?

No. I always felt many of the metropolitan TV industry types were slightly embarrassed by Lovejoy. It wasn’t cynical, urban, edgy or cool enough for them. like Heartbeat and Last Of The Summer Wine, it was innocent, rural, funny and nostalgic – and of course immensely popular with the public! My own taste is for drama that engages more directly with the contemporary world but I could appreciate Lovejoy for what it was and that it was done extremely well. The scripts were brilliant!

This sneering metropolitan attitude crops up even now and the show is the butt of jokes from the likes of Catherine Tate and Little Britain who portray the show as a talisman of an unsophisticated middle-England. Very patronising.

Continue reading ‘Chris Jury on Lovejoy: ‘It was innocent, rural, funny and nostalgic’’

25
Jul
11

DVD Review: Doctor Who – Paradise Towers

They say that the memory cheats. They’re wrong. I still remember being banished to my bedroom to watch Doctor Who back in October 1987, at the same time as Coronation Street was being enjoyed in the living room downstairs. The same thing happened every week, and every week I expected a classic episode.

Then along came Paradise Towers.

Even as an 11-year-old I knew something wasn’t quite right about this one. The way the actors just spoke their lines rather than investing them with any feeling. The way Bonnie Langford seemed to think she was on the stage,  shouting every line to the gods. The way the music seemed to actively be fighting against any attempts at drama that might escape from the script and onto the screen.

Paradise Towers

Watching this new DVD release 24 years on it’s fair to say that nothing much has changed, with 2entertain sadly avoiding any sort of special edition treatment that might excise most of the actors and replace them with CGI replicas.

The plot, for those of you who haven’t moved on to the Wikipedia entry by now, sees the Tardis land on the Paradise Towers of the title, a rundown tower block where a war is being waged by different factions as a group of caretakers attempt to keep things under control.

The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) manages to become embroiled in the various goings-on, while the death toll rises around him.

What is perhaps more apparent on this viewing is that Stephen Wyatt’s script does have darker undertones that, had they been given free reign, would have seen Who’s position as prime time family entertainment being questioned by TV watchdogs in the 80s. Cannibalism by two old ladies? Allusions to Adolph Hitler by Richard Briers? Bonnie’s costume?

Director Nicholas Mallett could have been trying to tone down the darker aspects for the pre-watershed crowd, but if so it was hardly worth putting the script into production in the first place, meaning we’re left with something that doesn’t really cater for anyone.

McCoy tries gamely with what he’s given but there’s little of substance for him to latch onto, his Doctor, only in his second story, still something of a blank canvas with a Scottish accent. Richard Briers is clearly in another of his sitcoms and it’s only Clive Merrison who comes out of this with anything vaguely resembling dignity, managing to balance humour and menace (what little there is) equally.

Extras

For the extras we’re given a commentary featuring actress Judy Cornwell, writer Stephen Wyatt, special sounds supervisor Dick Mills and moderater Mark Ayres, which touches on various aspects of the production without giving it quite the kicking one might expect.

Horror on the High Rise, a new documentary featuring contributions from script editor Andrew Cartmel, writer Stephen Wyatt and actors including Richard Briers and Howard Cooke, does contain some honest opinion from those involved, and it’s the highlight of the disc. Wyatt remains unimpressed with the BBC’s take on his script, though he did undertake the writing process with the best of intentions.

Another short documentary, Girls! Girls! Girls! – The Eighties, brings together Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Sophie Aldred to discuss their time aboard the Tardis and it’s nice to see the various companions reminiscing, even if Fielding’s comments are tend not to deviate from her standard views on the era.

A fun production notes track helps keep up the viewers’ spirits during the long haul of the episodes, while an alternative score for the story lets us hear what it would have been like had composer David Snell not been replaced by Keff McCulloch. Deleted scenes, photos and PDFs are also present and correct.

Story ★★★★★
Extras ★★★★★

02
Feb
11

DVD Review: Doctor Who – The Mutants

The planet Solos in the 30th century is the location for The Mutants, 2entertain’s latest release from the Doctor Who back catalogue, which sees Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor arrive as the Solonians prepare for independence from Earth.

As regular Who viewers may have guessed, things don’t go quite according to plan as the Doctor and Jo (Katy Manning) land on Skybase with a message for its residents. The decision by the Marshal (Paul Whitsun-Jones) to oppose independence leads to the death of an Administrator (Geoffrey Palmer) and the blame being laid on Ky (Garrick Hagon).

The MutantsCan the Doctor prove Ky’s innocence? Will Jo help or hinder proceedings? Will there be a lot of running about as the story is drawn out to six episodes?

The answer to all of these questions takes time to unfold as The Mutants wends its way to a conclusion. An appearance by Geoffrey Palmer lends a touch of class, but the rest of the cast struggle to match him.

Writers Bob Baker and Dave Martin add some depth to proceedings with their allusions to real-world situations, most notably their anti-apartheid stance and mentions of genocide. Not bad for Saturday tea time.

Helping bring the story to life are Christopher Barry’s direction and Jeremy Bear’s set design, the former allowing the latter to look suitably impressive throughout.

In many ways The Mutants is classic Doctor Who, with a moral to convey to the audience, the Doctor fighting for the little guy and enough debate on right and wrong to cover all bases. In saying that, it’s not quite a classic adventure, not as entertaining as it should be but worth sticking with for the long haul.

The extras on the two-disc set are some of the strongest seen in recent months, starting with a commentary from Katy Manning, Garrick Hagon, Christopher Barry, co-writer Bob Baker and more. With moderation by Nicholas Pegg, facts are teased out of the participants, even Manning toning things down once in a while.

Continue reading ‘DVD Review: Doctor Who – The Mutants’

01
Dec
10

DVD Review: Just Good Friends – The Complete Series

★★★★

Taking some time off from detailing the adventures of Del and Rodney, John Sullivan instead turned his attentions to Vince (Paul Nicholas) and Penny (Jan Francis) for Just Good Friends (Eureka TV), the BBC One romantic comedy which pitched viewers into the lives of a once-engaged couple whose relationship had ended when bridegroom Vince failed to turn up to his wedding.

Meeting up five years after that fateful day, Sullivan starts to weave a story of confusion, lies and misunderstandings which will see the couple through three series and one Christmas special.

Along with Penny’s upper-class parents and Vince’s common-as-muck family, neither of which seem entirely convinced the pair are meant for each other, most episodes are an excuse for the writer to bring them back together only to split them up again by their close.

Nicholas’ Vince has a touch of the Del Boy about him, Sullivan not always making it clear if he is the cad he often appears, which has the effect of making him a curiously unsympathetic leading man.

Francis shines as the put upon Penny, though her willingness to forgive Vince’s foibles each week does begin to grate.

Thanks to the central conceit that the couple were once engaged and are trying to reconcile their differences, Sullivan is forced to reiterate this fact at least once per episode, but he’s saved by a barrage of genuinely funny one-liners and occasionally poignant moments, particularly between Penny and her mother, the terrific Sylvia Kay.

The long unavailable Christmas special, a prequel to the series-proper which shows how the couple first met, comes with some edits to the soundtrack due to problems with music rights, but these don’t spoil a fun, and laughter-track free, 90 minutes.

This is a series which it’s hard not to like, a not entirely cosy sitcom that will resonate with anyone who has loved and lost and loved again.

28
Nov
10

DVD Review: The Goodies – At Last Back for More Again

“I have an Uncle King Arthur. Well, when I say king, he’s not really the King Arthur, but he is a bit like him, and he is a bit king-ish, and his name is King Arthur. Well, Arthur King, but on his birth certificate it says King, Arthur.”

Whether that line of dialogue from a 1973 episode of The Goodies made you smirk, smile or simply get this far in the review, it’s typical of the kind of humour present in a show that the BBC appears to have done its level best to forget in the intervening 37 years.

The GoodiesThe Goodies stars Tim-Brooke Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie (yes, that Bill Oddie) in what could be dubbed Monty Pythons’ slightly loonier younger brother.

Running from 1970 until 1980 on the BBC, each week found the trio willing to work anywhere and for anyone, their need for cash and thirst for adventure seeing them get into various bonkers situations, including becoming nanny for a young girl whose family are trying to kill her, saving their house from being destroyed by killer diggers or stopping Tim’s Uncle King Arthur’s castle from being stolen.

Nothing much makes sense here, with slapstick a key component of the series, along with bad jokes and much reading of comics by Bill. Indeed, The Goodies could be seen as being a live action comic strip, escaping from the pages of Cor! on their trusty trandem to entertain the nation.

Thanks to the BBC never having seen fit to repeat the series, there’s an undoubted freshness about these episode which comes from not being shown to fill the odd scheduling gap for the last three decades. Whether eight episodes will be enough to satisfy your appetite for more Goodies remains to be seen, but you’ll certainly never be bored.

24
Oct
10

DVD Review: Doctor Who – The Seeds of Doom

★★★★★
The Avengers meets Quatermass in this latest Doctor Who DVD release, a rollicking adventure which takes us from the Antarctic to the English countryside as the Doctor interrupts diabolical deeds in the greenhouse.

Flown to present day (well, 1970s) Antarctica, the Doctor (Tom Baker) and Sarah (Elisabeth Sladen) discover a research team who have unearthed two strange pods.

It’s not long before the scientists realise they’ve got something dangerous on their hands, something which has turned one of them into a creature capable of destroying them all.

Seeds of DoomWith a reclusive millionaire, Harrison Chase (Tony Beckley), determined to gain control of the pods, the Doctor must make his way back to England before the Krynoid threat escalates.

Veteran writer Robert Banks Stewart’s script is one of the Tom Baker era’s finest, packed with incident and memorable dialogue. That something this entertaining was made for children is testament to the BBC’s commitment to the series at the time, one which, tragically, began to fade as the decade wore on.

Only in his second season as the Time Lord, Baker is still clearly relishing the job, his banter with Sladen and assorted goons one of the story’s finest elements.

Beckley makes for a suitably seedy (pun intended) bad guy, smooth yet clearly bonkers, a non-alien foe worthy of the Doctor’s scorn. John Challis, a few years before his turn as Boycie in Only Fools and Horses, is fine support, while the rest of the cast seem to relish the quality dialogue they’ve been supplied with.

If one was to nitpick, then the six episode format would be the main sticking point, the need to stretch a relatively simple idea over so many weeks resulting in some rehashing of events once we move from the icy wastes to Chase’s mansion.

Thankfully, the sheer energy of the production, overseen by director Douglas Camfield and his assistant, Graeme Harper, means it’s easy to overlook this, and we’re left with a quality adventure which should satisfy both the more mature fans and the younger saplings more used to nuWho.

Extras-wise, there’s a wealth of new material available across these two discs. First-up is the commentary, featuring contributions from an on-form Tom Baker, happy to recall being adored by old ladies in the mid-70s, while Robert Banks Stewart, John Challis, Michael McStay and Roger Murray-Leach are just some of the others lending their voices to the track.

Disc two gives us the in-depth PodShock documentary, the cast and crew looking back affectionately at the stories creation, albeit with details of various problems which beset the production. A tour of Athelhampton House today, where the story was filmed in 2010, an interview with composer Geoffrey Burgon (whose score is rewarded with its own isolated music track), and a fascinating look at what production staff job titles really meant are some of the other gems on here, while the latest Stripped for Action featurette looks at the Fourth Doctor’s time on the printed page.

If that lot isn’t enough, there’s a photo gallery, Coming Soon trailer and PDFs of Camfield’s paper edit of the story for a compilation version of the story.

Doctor Who: Seeds of Doom is out on DVD on Monday 25 October

19
Oct
10

Due South returns to the BBC

Due South

It’s good news this week for fans of the Canadian Mountie who always got his man (and more than a few women) in the mid-1990s: Paul Gross, aka Benton Fraser, is back on the BBC in a repeat run of the comedy-drama, Due South.

Due South followed the exploits of Fraser as he left the far north of Canada on the trail of his father’s killer and headed to the mean streets of Chicago. On his arrival, Fraser finds himself unwittingly teamed up with a fast-talking cop, Ray Vecchio (David Marciano), the pair searching Chicago’s seamier side to uncover the truth.

Created by Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis (Crash), Due South was an instant hit in the UK when it first aired here in 1995. The mixture of clever scripts, witty dialogue and genuinely heartfelt moments as Fraser discovered a new connection with his dead dad (Gordon Pinsent) and attempted to understand life in the big city, made it unmissable telly.

Sadly, audiences in the US, where series need to do well if they’re going to survive, never quite got Due South: producers noted that for many people it wasn’t gritty enough to be a “proper” cop show and not overtly funny enough to be a comedy, falling somewhere between the two. The fact was that Due South wasn’t really either, a bizarre mash-up of genres which somehow just worked.

Viewer and TV Network confusion led to numerous cancellations and revivals for the programme over the years, which led to the departure of  Marciano between seasons two and three and the arrival of Callum Keith Rennie as Stanley Kowalski, the ersatz Vecchio. For me, the series became a shadow of its former self around this time, the humour levels taken to ludicrous heights and the drama lost in the mix. To this day I still haven’t watched many of the episodes such is the stark difference between these and the glory days of Hawk and a Handsaw and Victoria’s Secret.

I still maintain that this first season is one of the strongest of any series I’ve seen, the actors, writers, directors and entire team pulling together to make TV gold. There’s barely a dud in this run, even the weaker scripts benefitting from the pairing of Gross and Marciano, the latter’s constant disgust at his friend’s behaviour always a delight.

Interestingly, Due South began trending over on Twitter this afternoon, as the nation began realising that the programme was back. I can’t help but wonder if the BBC are missing a trick by not scheduling it later in the evening, but for the moment you can find it on BBC 2 for the next month or so, or you can bookmark the BBC iPlayer page to see what I’m going on about.

I’ll also be mentioning Due South on Twitter in the coming weeks, so please come and say hello.

Finally, for the hardcore fans out there, I’ll mention that a Due South convention, Duesers Day Off, recently took place in Toronto. The organisers have just made available a DVD of the event, featuring Paul Gross and various other actors/production team members, which can be bought from the website.

Here’s a trailer:

Thank you kindly.

Image copyright BBC




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