Last week was a great week for singing. News programmes featured Pete Seeger celebrating his 90th birthday with a host of celebrities singing Amazing Grace and I remembered the many times Seeger urged people to sing in their sad times, their miserable times, their oppressed times and in their good times. You can sing at any time. On BBC1 the feel-good choral programme, the serial drama All The Small Things ended without too many loose ends, but still with a feeling that life can be better. Sing a sad song and make it better. Sing in the shower, in the car, in the garden. Sing in your heart or sing in your head.
BBC1 re-entered the ratings fray with a return of Martin Shaw in Inspector George Gently, a sort of plodding sixties detective in Northumberland. But this was probably the worst way to get interest on a Sunday with a run of the mill murder that turned into a paedophile ring involving pillars of society like doctors and police officers. Yes it had twists and horrors and the final conclusions showed how people just did not want to know about abuse of children, especially a dumb boy, could happen. BBC2 chose to show about four hours of Carry-on movies and interviews as if the digital channels are not doing it enough. Over on UTV, Heartbeat was gently dealing with asbestos disease, a bus-full of Taoist monks – a double-decker red bus – and a TB scare.
Incidentally, the Gently programme was filmed in Ireland and I recognised actors Mal Whyte and Brian De Salvo in the cast.
In Keeping with its mood of feel-good television on Sundays, UTV had a hit with Martin Clunes: Islands Of Britain. No doubt this will restore some ratings for Clunes after the ill-advised Reggie Perrin shows. Beautifully filmed with some eccentric characters, like the bloke who declared Forvik, a tiny Shetland island, an independent place not governed by politicians but loyal to the Queen. Barra seemed idyllic even if this outer Hebridean island has the most punishing climate (next stop Canada). This is holiday mood stuff, not reality television.
Incidentally, if celebrity tourism is your cabin luggage, look out for BBC2s Britain’s Best Drives with old grumpy Richard Wilson returns with an old guide book and vintage cars.
If it wasn’t for the casting of Ray Winstone as the gross and oily chauffeur to an Indian businessman who proposes to sleep with the businessman’s daughter to hide a racial secret. And if it wasn’t for the casting of an ER star, Parminder Magra, as the fragrant but educated daughter who resented her father pushing her into an arranged marriage, I don’t suppose the UTV thriller, Compulsion, would ever have been made. This was a gross flesh-creeper of a drama, where the daughter falls for the chauffeur. You could describe this as dirty old man television and it doesn’t help matters that the publicity said it was loosely based on a 17th century Jacobean tragedy, The Changeling. By the end all the loose bits of the story were neatly tied up in happy ribbons and no doubt that made it alright.
The C4 drama Endgame had a heavy weight cast with William Hurt and Derek Jacobi as it showed the vague but compelling sets of secret meetings that led to the ending of apartheid in South Africa. Many of the characters were names that meant nothing to me but the premise was based on the story that an official of Consolidated Minefields, a British gold mining company, who wanted peace to consolidate its profits in the end. The slow pace was hypnotic and the inclusion of Nelson Mandela as a peripheral but important figure, gave the drama an added actuality. This must have been the way John Hume set up talks with the IRA, or Thatcher did with the Hunger Strikers. Despite official hardline positions, talks do take place but oh so very slowly. The film ended on a dark note suggesting that commercial interests were behind the IRA ceasefire and Hamas talks.
J. J. Abrams
Abrams must be the coolest dude in television and film right now. He wrote Lost, now into its penultimate season, and viewers are still none the wiser. A friend says it’s a load of hoopla because the fat guy, Hurley, hasn’t lost any weight but hasn’t he got a secret food stash down a hatch somewhere? It’s season five and the viewing figures are starting to slip and less people google this US reports or want to know what hasn’t been shown here yet. Even the official website is googledgook. Hurley’s recap is a hoot of misinformation.
Abrams also wrote Fringe, that hasn’t had the impact expected but is keeping old X-Filers alive with weird episodes. Now JJ (Jeffrey Jacob) is 42 and has directed the new Star Trek movie showing there’s still life out there after six different tv series, eleven movies. So bring it on JJ, warp twelve this time – This Time It’s For Real.