Friday, April 18, 2008

Last of the Summer Wine Series 1 & 2

My review : (4 stars) According to Wikipedia Last of the Summer Wine is the longest running comedy program in Britain and the longest running sitcom in the world. I can understand that. It something that at times our program makers can get so right. It's so laid back that you really don't have to be totally awake to enjoy, in fact a little delay while you pick up one of Peter Sallis's throw away one-liners makes it even better. The half-hour show gets you through a dinner in front of the box. At times we have watched two shows one after the other, no matter how much I hate the double-headers on the BBC Entertainment Channel, (see my earlier post here).

So this DVD set is the first two series. Good as it is, you know it's going to get better. It could have been bad so easily. If they had overdone the Yorkshire bit and had them all talking with Geoff Boycott or Freddie Truman accents three-quarters of Britain would have been turned off. This year should see the 29th. series. The first one kicked off in 1973. Another great picture from inside the box below.

I think the secret of the show is the Peter Sallis and Bill Owen characters are very Peter Pan like; acting like schoolboys in spite of their advanced years. The third character, who is played by Michael Bates in these two series, is so full of self-importance that the other two can play off against his straight man role. I won't say two much as having also watched series 3 and 4 I suspect I will watch the next 25 also.

Details : 1973-4 TV sitcom series 1 & 2. 13 episodes of about 30 minutes each made by the BBC.

Episodes : 13 - Short Back & Palais Guide, Inventor of the Forty Foot Ferret, Paté & Chips, Spring Fever, The New Mobile Trio, Hail Smiling Morn or Thereabouts, Forked Lightning, Who's That Dancing With Nora Batty, The Changing Face of Rural Blamire, Some Enchanted Evening, A Quick Drink, Ballad for Wind Instruments & Canoe, and Northern Flying Circus.

Features : Don't think so

Print quality : Very good

Sub-titles : I'll check

Discs : 4

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Out by Trevor Preston

This is my first program review. I finished watching this serial two nights ago so it is a good place to start. From here I will work backwards and forwards on those already viewed and those yet to be. If I can I will set up a format for the reviews I can stick with.

My review : (5 stars) "Who Grassed Frank Ross". I put the writer's name, Trevor Preston, in the heading as he was probably the most important person in getting this story told. He's a Clapham boy and lets you know it. It's written from the heart. In the special features you can hear the writer, the director Jim Goddard and the producer Barry Hanson speaking over the first and last episodes. I advise you to do this after you have watched them normally. This really is great and having just started watching Fox, also with the Trevor Preston and Jim Goddard combination, I can't understand why there hasn't been one of their series on every year since 1978. Maybe the ITV program makers have become too politically correct. If so, it's a great shame as that would probably be better than Life on Mars or its spin-offs.

The cast is great - Tom Bell plays Frank Ross, the South London crook, to perfection. The police and other crooks are fine. I'm not sure that Trevor Preston writes women's roles that well but it doesn't hurt in this story. Great filming, this is what TV can do so well. If you take a movie like the Michael Caine version of Get Carter but have 6 hours to show the story instead of just 90 minutes then you would get something like Out. Characters can develop and scenes fleshed out. A personal admission, I went to school in Clapham near the Common although I came by train from Plumstead in South East London.

Look out for : The late John Junkin who plays a London heavy so well and also the taxi driver at the very beginning, Brian Hall - Terry the cook in Fawlty Towers, who died in 1997.

Details : 1978 TV Serial in 6 episodes of about 50 minutes each made by Thames TV and Euston Films.

Episodes : 6 - It Must be the Suit, Not Just Pennies, Maybe He'll Bring Back a Geisha, A Little Heart to Heart with Miss Bangor, The Moment He Opened His Envelope..., I Wouldn't Take Your Hand If I Was Drowning.

Features : Two episodes, the first and last, available with talk-over by the writer, director and producer.

Print quality : Very good

Sub-titles : No

Discs : 2

Monday, April 14, 2008

BBC Entertainment Channel

Although most of this blog will about the DVDs I watch, we also have a cable TV service. We upgraded it last year which gave us the BBC Entertainment Channel. This made a change from the usual American fare from the other channels.

Hallmark at times runs a British series. At the moment they have "Midsummer Murders" and "Wire in the Blood". Last year they had "Doc Martin" which I enjoyed. But back to the BBC Entertainment. At times you think it's run by two men and their dog, but this is the Beeb so there must be a cast of thousands. They have the strangest schedule I have ever come across with double-headers common. Programs are repeated many time during the week and seem to come back again in the 6-9 month region. They get mixed up themselves on what's on as I've seen them advertising "New Street Law" was about to come on when in fact it was "New Tricks".

Let me give you a taste with tomorrow morning's schedule.

00:00 Afterlife
00:50 The Weakest Link
01:35 New Street Law
02:30 Spine Chillers
03:00 Murder Most Horrid
03:30 Murder Most Horrid
04:00 Goodness Gracious Me
04:30 As Time Goes By
05:00 The Weakest Link
05:45 Big Strong Boys
06:15 Big Strong Boys
06:45 Rick Stein's Seafood Lover's Guide
07:15 Murder Most Horrid
07:45 Murder Most Horrid
08:15 Goodness Gracious Me
08:45 The Weakest Link
09:30 Afterlife
10:25 Afterlife
11:15 Waking the Dead
12:10 Murder Most Horrid
12:40 Murder Most Horrid

Of this I will probably watch Rick Stein while I pedal my exercise bike and dream of cooking some of his recipes. I do wish they would come up with something other than those double-headers though. I quite like Dawn French but two shows on the trot are too much.

Of course the problem is not just the Beeb's or even the Cable TV's in general, it's me. I got used to not watching the box. Now I feel guilty about watching programs that are not worth it. I'm reading less which is a shame. Also with the DVDs I'm getting, mainly from Amazon UK, I can watch better than average programs at a time of my choosing. I suspect in a few years watching a cable channel will seem ancient technology as we will have 'on demand programs' over the internet. I already get my radio that way.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Why my sudden interest in old UK TV show?

As a 21 year old I left England and went to work looking for oil in the seismic industry. Apart from one year in the late seventies I never went back home for more than a short holiday. In my late teens I thought I had better things to do than watch TV. On my travels I hardly saw any UK TV programs. I knew very little of what was being produced in Britain through the 1970s, 80s and 90s; in fact right up to today.

What changed first was my mother sending me a DVD of "New Tricks Series 1" about eighteen months ago. This was followed by mother coming to stay with us in Thailand last year. Now we subscribe to the cable BBC Entertainment channel and have DVDs sent from Amazon UK. After years of having very little interest in TV I now usually watch at least one TV show a night.

Why the blog? Well what's the fun in not being able to tell everyone what I think of them;-) Almost all the programs I watch or DVDs I buy are because I want to so I'm afraid it's no good looking or many negative reviews here.