Network DVD Sale

I’m a bit late with this news about the Network DVD sale as it’s been running for the last 24 hours or so, but the good news is that it’s on until midnight tomorrow, Sunday 8 August, so there’s still time to nab a bargain.

As a (slightly obsessive) TV fan who mourns the loss of quality drama from UK screens, bar the odd Life on Mars or Being Human every few years, Network’s dedication to archive telly is to be applauded. This new sale finally brings a number of box sets and single volume series down to an affordable price for those who might want to dip their toe in classic (or is that “old”?) television.

The real highlights in the sale for me are the two Callan sets, a series I discovered earlier this year and which I’ve been trying to spread the word about for the last few months. I’ve reviewed both The Monochrome Years and The Colour Years so won’t go into detail here, but the black and white Callans are really a must for any spy fans with even a passing interest in the genre: with dark, gritty and multilayered scripts, Edward Woodward and Russell Hunter are perfect foils for each other, while Anthony Valentine threatens to steal any scene he’s in.

Sticking with adventure and intrigue, the recently released 4 Just Men from ITC is the template for many of the genre series which would see them through the 1960s and 70s and which have now fallen out of favour in the UK. Strangers is an often overlooked police series starring Don Henderson as George Bulman, a copper relocated from London to the mean streets of the north of England who has some odd peculiarities. Later seasons would see Taggart’s Mark McManus join the cast. Continue reading


DVD Review: Callan – The Colour Years

Callan - The Colour Years


Were it possible to corrupt the ratings system of this website, the five stars you see above this review would right now be flashing, in big, friendly letters, the words BUY ME NOW!, with a direct link to a well known DVD retailer and a recommendation to take a long weekend off work to watch all 22 episodes of Callan: The Colour Years.

As it is, I need to write some more about seasons three and four of one of the most consistently high quality series to ever originate from these shores, two years worth of spy-based drama which provided the late Edward Woodward with some of his finest moments caught on celluloid.

David Callan (Woodward) is an agent for a shadowy branch of the British Government, a section which must remain hush-hush while undertaking missions of a sensitive nature involving rival spies and state secrets.

Aided by his very own bête noire, Lonely (Russell Hunter), Callan is briefed by the enigmatic Hunter (William Squire) and for the majority of this run sent on missions alongside the younger, less experienced Cross (Patrick Mower).

While many spy series portray their central characters as strong, upright and in possession of the moral upper-hand, Callan refuses to adhere to any such mores. Instead, series creator and frequent writer James Mitchell (When the Boat Comes In) ensures that the darker side of espionage is always at the forefront of the scripts, Callan’s personal views often infringing on his job and invariably causing him grief.

Opening a few months after the close of the black and white 1960s series, Where Else Could I Go finds Callan recuperating in hospital while the world outside keeps on moving, his old sparring partner Toby Meares (Anthony Valentine) relocated to Washington and the cocksure Cross in his place.

Now free from the noirish confines of the monochrome episodes, the programme embraces the colour revolution by jettisoning Callan’s inner monologues but otherwise maintaining the feeling that a spy’s lot is never a happy one. There are no backlot jaunts to warmer climes à la The Saint or the outlandish adventures of any other number of TV agents here: this is a world of discredited backstreet doctors, rainy suburban streets and the odd back alley.

Episodes such as Summoned to Appear and Suddenly – at Home highlight the expendable nature of innocent (and not-so-innocent) bystanders, while Stephanie Beacham and Michael Jayston’s turns in God Help Your Friends are a salutory lesson in what it really means to be a pawn in the game.

As with the previous DVD set, this truly is a must-buy for the dedicated spy fan, a series which rewards the viewer with layered plots and intelligent scripts performed by actors who clearly knew they were involved in something unique. Buy them now. You won’t regret it.

DVD Review: The Complete Lone Wolf & Cub Boxset


Opening with an execution and closing with an extended, balletic and bloody sword fight, the complete series of Lone Wolf and Cub films (plus “composite” film Shogun Assassin) collected in this gorgeous new box set could never be described as tame.

Sword of Vengeance (1971) begins the series in style, director Kenji Misumi deciding to ignore the inherently pulpy nature of the stories by offering a glorious assault on the senses with as a series of blood soaked fight sequences accompany our heroes on their escape from Shogun ways.

Wakayama makes for a stoic lead, barely uttering a word of dialogue throughout the series, his skill with a sword matched by Misumi (who would remain as director until the third film) and his ever-watchful camera.

The rest of the series, made over a two year period, maintains the high standard of the original, each film opening and closing with scenes of Lone Wolf and his son meandering through some new part of Japan.

Whether its dusty streets, golden desert sand dunes or, in the case of White Heaven in Hell (1974), mountains capped with thick snow, the pair trundle on indefinitely, taking on various enemies as they try to kill them with ever more ingenious techniques.

Continue reading

DVD Review: Strangers – The Complete Series 1 – 5

The Complete Strangers


British television in the 1970s was something of a haven for cop shows, a place where men were men, slags were slags and Guv was seemingly the preferred title for any officer above the level of Constable.

Viewers more used to the gentle methods of PC George Dixon would soon be choking on their TV dinners as a decade of The Sweeney, The Professionals and a whole new lexicon comprised of shooters, blags and shouts was introduced to the national conscience, not to mention a host of imitators and rivals to Regan and co.

It was in 1976 that ITV brought author Kenneth Royce’s novel XYY Man to the small screen, the story of cat burglar William ‘Spider’ Scott (Stephen Yardley), his extra Y chromosome and the resultant criminal tendencies.

Co-starring in XYY was gruff actor Don Henderson, a man with a face for playing villains, who went against type to portray DS George Bulman, a no-nonsense copper with a violent edge.

XYY would only last 13 episodes, after which Bulman should have been relegated to TV history along with colleague DC Derek Willis (Dennis Blanch) – that is until Granada TV decided they wanted their own version of The Sweeney and lured Bulman away from the safety of the Met to the frozen North West of England circa 1978.

Thanks to Bulman and Willis’ anonymity in the north (they are the Strangers of the title), and after being joined by WDC Linda Doran (Frances Tomelty) and DI David Singer (John Ronane), the pair could go undercover in various operations which would have proved impossible for the local police.

Series One was clearly a something of a baptism of fire for all involved, the desire to create a fast-paced crime show somewhat neutered by the decision to shoot the series on video and give it a Light Entertainment-style theme tune which wouldn’t have seemed out-of-place on a Bruce Forsyth game show of the era.

Continue reading

DVD Review: Armchair Cinema


“Get yer trousers on, you’re nicked!” Perhaps as well known in modern culture as anything  from the Bard or Dickens, those words are spoken (make that shouted) by John Thaw in the TV movie Regan, presented here as part of Armchair Cinema,  a set which presents some of the most sought after output from one of the UK’s most important production companies, Euston Films.

Best known for such long-running series The Sweeney (of which Regan is the pilot episode) and Minder, Thames TV subsidiary Euston were known for shooting on film and taking their cameras onto the streets of London, realistic dialogue and locations replacing studio-bound settings.

Five discs and ten plays are on offer here, brief summaries doing little justice to the quality and range on offer.

This new package opens with two pre-Euston films from Thames, Suspect (1969) and Rumour (1970), both written and directed by Get Carter director Mike Hodges. Suspect, starring Rachel Kempson and the first Thames drama filmed in colour, is the tale of a murdered girl and the effects on her family of the disappearance starring , while Rumour features Michael Coles as newspaper columnist who stumbles upon a conspiracy involving the UK Government.

The success of these two one-offs led to the creation of Euston Films and a series of plays with different casts and stories that would span the next five years, providing a consistently high standard of television drama to the ITV network.

Continue reading

The Return of Minder


Shane Richie as Archie Daley on Channel Five

It’s been all over the UK press recently that Minder, the classic 70s and 80s TV series starring George Cole as Arthur Daley and Dennis Waterman as Terry, is making a comeback.

Only this time we have Shane Richie as Arthur’s nephew Archie and Lex Shrapnel as his minder, Jamie.

I wrote a while back that I grew up watching Minder, at least in its latter years, and I loved its brilliant mix of drama and humour set among the seedy backstreets of London.

Even in its final few years, when Terry went to Australia, to be replaced by Gary Webster as Arthur’s nephew Ray, I would tune in to see what scam was being perpetrated this week.

A few years back I picked up the first series on Australian DVD, complete with a couple of George Cole commentaries, and admired the grit of the series and the clever plots, as well as the interaction between the leads.

Sadly it all ended in 1994, Arthur hanging his hat up for good and perhaps spending a few more evenings with ‘er indoors as he grew old disgracefully.

I have mixed feelings about the new show, even though I’ve not seen it yet (it’s due to start in February I believe). A review on the Guardian website this week was pretty evenhanded about the first episode, though they couldn’t quite work out who the audience is going to be for the series: the fans will think it’s a bad idea while the kids won’t think its cool enough.

I’ve read that the Winchester Club will make an appearance and it would be great to see the return of Arthur for a one-off appearance, or even Mr Chisholm (Patrick Malahide).

The makers have said they’d love to get Waterman or Cole back for series two, but we’ll have to wait and see whether this can run for as many years as the original or if it’ll be a flash in the pan. I truly hope this can do some justice to the classic series and that they don’t spoil the memory.

I’ll add a review to the blog following the first episode, in the meantime here’s a short trailer for Channel Five with some Minder clips followed by the revamped theme tune from Glasgow band the Attic Lights – I really hope that Richie’s annoying tie straightening gimmick seen in the music video isn’t going to be his “trademark” in the series:

Photo copyright Channel Five

Roger Moore in person!

A simple post title there for a simple enough post – Sir Roger Moore will be live at the National Theatre on October 16 2008 and I’m going to be in the audience!

Out and about to promote his new book, My Word is My Bond, Roger will be interviewed on stage before signing copies for the masses. I can’t wait.

Although Roger isn’t my favourite Bond, I can appreciate what he did for the film series when he took over from Sir Sean. He was also in one of my favourite series, Maverick, back in the 50s and he’s been in so many great/cheesy TV shows and films that he’s a genuine national treasure.

I read his diaries written on the set of Live and Let Die a few years back and they are superb – if the new book is as funny it’ll be worth the trip alone.

I was also lucky enough to tour the Forbidden City in Beijing in 2001, and decided to use one of those pre-recorded cassette thingies with the voice of a tour guide pointing out areas of interest. I was stunned to discover that the English language version was by none other than Roger himself! I had the joy of a 2 hour visit to the Forbidden City with James Bond!

I’ll tell him that fascinating fact on the day. Maybe.

If you’re going, drop me a line and I’ll see you at the bar for a swift Dry Martini before the show…for Queen and Country.

Three Days of the Condor

Partly due to the tragic death recently of one of Hollywood’s old guard, Mr Sydney Pollack, and partly because it happened to be on Film Four the other night, I’ve recently finished watching the Pollack directed Three Days of the Condor (1976) starring Robert Redford.

Redford stars as bookish (well about as bookish as Robert Redford can get – we see him hold a book, but this is Robert Redford!) Joseph Turner, a.k.a. The Condor, a CIA operative working out of a nondescript apartment block in New York.

Turner’s section of the CIA are devoted to reading books, magazines and reports that are published around the globe, analysing them for anything that might pose a security threat to the USA.

Popping out of the office for lunch one afternoon, Turner returns to find his friends and colleagues all dead, murdered by Max von Sydow and his cronies. From here Turner goes on the run, at first trusting his bosses after phoning them for help, but soon realising that he’s now the prime suspect in the murder and he’s got nowhere to hide.

From the off this is a cracking thriller, New York looking as imposing and unfriendly to Turner as his own company turns out to be. Shots of the Twin Towers loom, eerily foreshadowing in the mind of any present day viewer the legacy that real-world US policy, touched upon here, would have.

Redford is a fine lead, effortlessly showing the confusion and mistrust of a man on the run. Faye Dunaway is also on great form as her character is drawn into the murky world of US intelligence.

Pollack’s direction is always alert for the interesting camera angle, his lens casting an eager eye over each new location. In fact a quick check of IMDB tells me that excluding the action during the opening credits, this film has approximately 1172 shots in 1 hour 53 minutes and 8 seconds, or an average shot duration of about 5.8 seconds – today Pollack might have used CCTV cameras to get the same effect.

I’ve been thinking about Condor for a few days now, it’s no-nonsense style and fast pace really having made an impression. I’m going to try and track down some more Pollack films over the next few months and see what else I’ve been missing.

James Garner: Legend of the West

James Garner. That’s the answer I always give when asked who my favourite actor is. Recently I had to try and justify this to someone who seemed to have some pretty major Garner prejudice.

James Garner as Jim Rockford

James Garner as Jim Rockford

Although I like my films and telly, I do try to steer discussion onto other topics when meeting new people, at least for a while. On this occasion I mentioned James Garner, only to be told I was wrong.

While trying not to appear too bothered with this slur, I felt I had to defend his honour in his absence. I like to think I did alright, even after a few Jack Daniels and cokes, but it left me thinking more needs to be done to raise the profile of America’s finest.

So I’ve dug out an article I put together last year for a film course I took (written just after watching The Americanization of Emily) and, before that, here’s what I said about Jimbo back in this blog’s first post:

The blog is dedicated to Mr James Garner: Bret Maverick in Maverick, The Scrounger in The Great Escape and LAs finest, Jim Rockford PI in The Rockford Files.

His work and style epitomise everything I like in my entertainment. Heroes that aren’t black or white, but black and grey. Characters that would rather talk their way out of a situation than fight (who would have the guts to fight someone with a gun in real life? A Garner character would rather leg it). Humour that is understated rather than puerile or OTT. And a bit of realism in amongst the nonsense makes for good entertainment.

And now the article…

James Garner: Legend of the West

For the lowly television actor, the road to movie stardom is one littered with casualties. For every Bruce Willis there’s a David Caruso, for every George Clooney a Matt Le Blanc.

TV audiences will happily sit down each week to watch their favourite show/actor/actress, so why should they pay money to go to the cinema to see them in their latest artistic endeavour? For James Garner, the road has been something of a hazardous one.

In 1956, Hollywood screenwriter Roy Huggins was working on an episode of anthology series Conflict. Huggins was in the stages of planning a new TV series, a Western different to the then-current glut of cowboy series. But he lacked a leading man.

While casting for Conflict, Huggins saw a new young actor in action, one James Scott Bumgarner. As Huggins remembers, “I really had stumbled on something wonderful, the rarest thing there is in Hollywood: an actor with an unerring instinct for a funny line.” That actor would soon change his name to James Garner.

Birth of a Maverick

Born in Norman, Oklahoma on 7 April, 1928, Bumgarner had served in the Army in the Korean War. Injured and awarded the Purple Heart, he ended up in Los Angeles, taking supporting roles in a host of TV shows and commercials. At 6’1”, dark haired and with a knowing glint in his eye, he was prime leading-man material.

Support your Local SheriffCollaboration between Huggins and Garner led to the creation of the both the role and the character type that would define the actor’s career: Bret Maverick, reluctant hero and gentle grafter.

Maverick brought something new to the Western genre: humour. The series divided its episodes between Garner’s character and his brother Bart, played by Jack Kelly. It soon became clear that Garner’s episodes were the more popular with audiences, his easy-going charm and laconic delivery of lines making him a primetime star. Then the movie people came calling.

During summer filming breaks, Garner started to make his mark as a leading man. Roles in Up Periscope (1959) and Cash McCall (1960) were diverse enough to show Garner’s action-hero and romantic lead credentials, while the 1960s saw Garner’s film career take off.

He was soon being offered scripts for a series of high profile pictures, including The Children’s Hour (1961), a complete tonal shift from most of his other work, The Thrill of it All (1963), second-billing to Steve McQueen in The Great Escape (1963), The Americanization of Emily (1964) and Support your Local Sheriff (1969).

At home on the Range

Most of these films allowed Garner to hone the characterisation of the relaxed, combat-shy Everyman, who’s idea of living an easy life is interrupted by events around him. While Robert De Niro may eschew the virtues of method acting, the ability to sustain a note perfect, reliable and audience-friendly character through each of his movies meant that Garner was seen as a safe pair of hands.

If the 1960s were a golden period in Garner’s film career, the 1970s brought new demands. Ironically, it was one of Garner’s friends and TV contemporaries, Clint Eastwood, who would help define the era in such films as A Fistful of Dollars (1954) and Dirty Harry (1971). Garner tried gamely to respond to this with A Man Called Sledge in 1970, a spaghetti western in which he played against type.

His own production company helped him develop more personal films, such as Skin Game (1971). It was as a cowboy that Garner had made his mark, and a cowboy it seemed he would remain. He returned to TV briefly in semi-western Nicholls (1971-1972), which bombed with viewers and critics, before making some little-remembered movies that didn’t appear to tax him.

Saviour came in 1974 from an old collaborator, in the shape of Maverick’s Roy Huggins who, had decided to do for the detective series what Maverick had done for Westerns. The Rockford Files brought something new to the genre of private eyes, and was to all intents an updating of Garner’s previous persona for a new generation. This return to the small screen would revive his career once again.

Moving on

Maverick (1994)Garner was once quoted as saying, “When I left Rockford in 1980 I decided I want to do films that have interesting characters, people with human emotions and feelings and I’ve been very fortunate to do that.” This seems to sum up much of his film career post-Rockford.

Cinema beckoned again with films such as Victor Victoria (1982) and Murphy’s Romance (1985), for which he was Oscar-nominated. He would go on to produce some of his most interesting performances in a number of acclaimed TV movies for which he was Emmy nominated, such as My Name is Bill W (1989) and Barbarians at the Gate (1993).

An appearance in the movie version of Maverick (1993) could be seen as something of a closure for the Maverick character, a dovetailing of his TV and film careers.

While it’s fair to say that Garner never had the cinematic draw of Clint Eastwood, his failure to break into the Hollywood A-list often attributed to his ‘safe’ persona that lacked the edge offered by contemporaries such as Steve McQueen, his presence has always been a sign of quality.

More recent appearances in films such as Space Cowboys (2001), Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002) and The Notebook (2004) have cemented his position as a respectable, dependable actor from old-Hollywood. His return to primetime television in family comedy Eight Simple Rules in 2004 showed that the small screen wouldn’t let him go and that perhaps that’s just the way he likes it.

To finish off, here’s a decent little interview with Jim on the Charlie Rose show from 2002:

The Summer Of British Film

Summer of British FilmGood old BBC2. Just when Summer telly is looking dire, with endless episodes of B*g B*****r (I can’t bear to say, let alone write about a certain ‘reality’ TV show), along comes The Summer of British Film to restore the faith.

Following an interview with BBC2 Controller Roly Keating on the latest Observer Film Weekly podcast, where he was very enthusiastic about the season, I’m really looking forward to this.

Every week, starting on Saturday 28 July, there’ll be a new documentary in the British Film Forever series covering 100 years of British film. Episodes are split into genres:

  • Thriller
  • Romance
  • Social Realism
  • Costume Drama
  • Horror
  • War
  • Comedy

Best of all, to accompany the documentaries, BBC2 will also be screening around 60 films from the last 100 years.

I’m now off to finally invest in a DVD Recorder to make the most out the season.

Remembering Jim Henson

Today is the anniversary of Jim Henson’s death in 1990.

I don’t remember exactly when I first saw The Muppet Show, but it started on ITV in the same year I was born. As that was July 1976 and it started in September, then there’s a good chance I was around when the first episode was on.

OK, that’s a bit of a stretch, but if everyone who claims to have watched the first episode of Doctor Who in 1963 had actually done so then the ratings should have broken all records for the time.

The show was loud and colourful, the characters all had unique personalities, the audience seemed to love it (though Statler and Waldorf weren’t too happy about it all) and Pigs in Space was…well, in space, so therefore brilliant. Some of the jokes went over my head, but it was half an hour of insanity and made everyone laugh.

Somewhere around the same time I watched Sesame Street, which, though aimed at a younger audience than me (and I was about 4 at the time so obviously gaining great critical faculties) was still worth it for Oscar the Grouch.

A few years later came Fraggle Rock. With a glorious theme tune, great songs and another bonkers cast of characters alongside the late, great Fulton Mackay, this was another weekly fix of Muppet madness that I never missed after school.

The last great Henson series I remember was The Storyteller. Visually stunning, this combined mystery and magic like few other series had done, with ‘The Soldier and Death’ a particular favourite.

Jim Henson’s vision and ideas saw me right through my childhood and set sky-high standards for everything I’ve watched since. Henson’s characters never seemed to take themselves too seriously while, at the same time, their own universe was as real to them as ours is to us.

Whether the messages of understanding, friendship and talking vegetables had a major impact on my psyche is difficult to tell, though if I ever see a cauliflower I still have to check to make sure it’s not about to launch into song with that tomato next to it… cheers Jim.

Children’s TV on Trial

Following tonight’s episode of Smiley’s People (an oasis in the desert of dross on offer, though how I avoided ITV1’s Teen Boob Jobs: Too Much Too Young I don’t know) there was a lovely little trail for an upcoming week of programming from BBC4, Children’s TV on Trial.

As it says on the website:

“…a nightly look at each decade of the genre from the 50s to the present day – today’s youngsters will be delivering their verdict on the shows their parents or grandparents used to watch. There’ll be programmes about Blue Peter, Grange Hill, Jackanory and Saturday morning TV, and other highlights include When the Stranglers Met Roland Rat, an eye-popping look at some of the incongruously adult pop stars who have strutted their stuff on shows supposedly made for children.”

Sounds like a great week for vintage telly then. Unless ITV come up with something original that is…

Hamish Macbeth

“We are entrepreneurs Lachie Jnr: what care we for the EEC?” Lachie Snr to Lachie Jnr

Filicide. Cannibalism. Substance abuse. Domestic violence. Robbery. Poaching. All at 7.15pm on a Sunday evening.

Hamish Macbeth

Robert Carlyle as Hamish

I’ll put that list into some context: following my interview with Barbara Rafferty I decided to rewatch episode one of Hamish Macbeth, ‘The Great Lochdubh Salt Robbery’. It introduces the village of Lochdubh, located somewhere on the West Coast of Scotland, where the titular local policeman tries to keep order in his own, unique, style.

Before it started the Radio Times called the series “quirky”, which is perhaps too easy a label for something as multi-layered as this.

As well as the playing out of a clever whodunnit, surely the raison d’être for any police drama, we are also introduced to the glorious cast who make up this ensemble piece. It’s near impossible to pick anyone as stealing the show here, although the McCrae’s do get most of the best lines (as they would continue to over the next three years).

So it’s kudos to Robert Carlyle himself for holding it all together as the Northern Constabulary’s finest, staying just on the right side of believability as the mad goings on of Lochdubh conspire to make his idyllic life just that little bit busier.

And I’ll say it again: all at 7.15pm on a Sunday night on BBC1. Of course, it was the clever nature of the script that let them get away with it all – nothing bloodthirsty, graphic or gory about this episode, just the dawning realisation that the entire village has been eating…well that would spoil the surprise.

Special mention should go to John Grieve, in one of his last TV roles before his death in 2001. A star of stage and screen for over 50 years, it was as the canny shipman Dan MacPhail in BBC Scotland’s other enduring, yet sadly increasingly forgotton, hit series the Vital Spark in the 1970s that brought him his greatest fame. His final, lopsided, run after Alice’s car is as sad an ending as you would expect.

Twelve years on and I’m still not sure BBC Scotland has bettered Hamish. I’m now going to have to rewatch the rest of the series to fully remind myself why!

Barbara Rafferty Interview Part One

A few of these first blog entries mention the film journalism course I’ve enrolled on at the University of Edinburgh.

It’s a whistlestop tour of the profession, and ties together my two main interests/passions: film and writing. After 11 weeks it’ll be over, but hopefully one of the areas I can do more with is the interviewing. To kick it off I had the privilege to interview Barbara Rafferty.

As a star of Rab C Nesbitt, Hamish Macbeth, River City and the Oscar nominated The Last King of Scotland, there was a lot to ask her about in a short space of time. Hopefully it gives a flavour of her work for the uninitiated…

Interview (Part One)

For Barbara Rafferty, one of Scotland’s most respected stage and screen actors, the desire to entertain started early. “My mother tells the story that I was at a wedding, aged 2 and a half, and there was a Soprano singing,” she says, smiling at the memory, “I joined in and got a laugh”.

Born in Glasgow and raised in Clydebank, early roles in series such as BBC Scotland’s ‘This Man Craig’ led to a part in one of the most fondly remembered British Horror films, The Wicker Man.

“I think I got the job because I’d had a baby and was breastfeeding, and that was the character – right place, right time!” says Barbara, “I was on location for over a month, living in a fabulous hotel with a wee baby”. Star Edward Woodward was “charming, absolutely lovely” and played a mean pretend trumpet, while around them chaos ensued.

“It was a mess. One of the actors punched the director then the director left. Things weren’t getting done on time…”she pauses for a second, “I remember Brit Ekland stayed in a trailer on-set and she looked beautiful, really stunning, first thing in the morning”.

After a few years off to raise her children, and appearances in seminal Scottish series such as Tutti Frutti and Taggart alongside theatre work, her first major TV role came in 1989 with the arrival of Rab C Nesbitt on BBC2. “Iconoclastic” is how Barbara refers to the show.

It was Mary Doll herself, Elaine C Smith, who recommended Barbara for the role of Ella Cotter. “I’d seen it first as a sketch on Naked Video and though it was fabulous, and Gregor [Fisher] is a fabulous actor. I walked in, read the script and thought ‘I know her, I know this type of woman’. I did a readthrough with Tony Roper, and Colin [Gilbert, the director] said ‘book her’!”.

Asked to explain the reason for the series success, she thinks for a moment before answering: “Rab is the story of Everyman, this downtrodden guy. It’s just so funny.” Would she play the part again in the rumoured revival? “Yes,” she says, without hesitation “as long as the scripts are as good as they were. I wouldn’t want to spoil the memory”.

In Barbara Rafferty Interview Part Two, we discuss her role in BBC Scotland’s Hamish Macbeth and the Oscar-winning Last King of Scotland.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Damn BBC4 repeats of seminal 70s TV shows! Just as I was planning an early night after Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe, on comes Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and I’m hooked.

I watched the series on DVD a couple of years back, and enjoyed every perfectly crafted second of the thing. So why would I want to stay up and watch it again?

Ian Richardson for one. I was surprised the announcer didn’t mention the sad death of Richardson the other week, offering this as a tribute of sorts – I might like to think that, they couldn’t possibly comment.

Ian Bannen for another. Watching him as Jim Prideaux, on assignment near the Czech-Austrian border, forced me to stick with the rest of the episode. (Three posts on this blog and Bannen is mentioned in two of them. There’s a theme here…).

Two fantastic actors in a cast of heavyweights too numerous to mention. So take a look at the cast list over at IMDB.

Of course the star of the piece is Alec Guinness as George Smiley, brought out of retirement to investigate rumours of rum doings at the higher levels of Britain’s Intelligence Service. Some lengthy scenes with Michael Jayston help fill us in on the background as Smiley is tangled further into the web.

I’ve been meaning to read John Le Carre’s books for years now…must get them on the reading list.

DVD Watch

I ordered The Third Man 2-discer today, going cheap over at HMV. Hywel Bennet’s appearance at the end of Tinker.. reminds me that series one of Shelley is out in a month or two, another for the list.

And Bernard Hepton pops up in the show as well, reminding me to move my Secret Army viewing up the list. I’ve had the Complete Series set since just before Christmas…