Posts tagged ‘ITV’


Remakes: Widows joins other Euston Films series

04.11.2018

I see British filmmaker Steve McQueen has remade Lynda La Plante’s Widows.
   I was younger than he was when it aired, and didn’t appreciate the storylines to the same extent, though I have recollections of it.
   What I did recall was a Smith and Jones sketch, which had a voiceover along these lines: ‘From the makers of The Sweeney and Minder, Eusless Films presents Widows: exactly the same, but with women in it.’
   The reality was that La Plante wrote Widows because she was unimpressed with how men wrote female parts in scripts (she was the actress Lynda Marchal, and I still remember a small role she had in The Professionals). It was actually ground-breaking. Verity Lambert produced.
   I hope McQueen does well with his remake, with Viola Davis, and the setting shifted to Chicago.
   I worry a bit given that Hollywood also remade Edge of Darkness or State of Play: pretty decent miniseries that weren’t as good when transplanted and turned into feature films, according to period reviews.
   I saw the former and while it was a pacy actioner, even as far as employing the same New Zealand director, Martin Campbell, it lacked the depth and suspense of the original; I daren’t even see the latter as the original remains one of my favourite miniseries and I don’t want to see it butchered, even if Scottish director Kevin Macdonald helmed it. It was a wave of American efforts to remake anything with John Simm and Philip Glenister.
   But tonight I did think about the other famous Euston Films series that were remade or reimagined.
   The Sweeney was remade but with the action still in South London. The 2012 version by Nick Love had a tight budget but plenty of violence, perhaps recapturing the grittiness that audiences would have felt when they first saw the Armchair Cinema special of Regan. Ray Winstone, who guested on the original, took the lead, and channelled Jack Regan well; Ben Drew (Plan B) had even more of a coldness and wild tension on screen as George Carter than Dennis Waterman did. It’s perhaps best known for a car chase involving the crew from Top Gear, who took the opportunity to build a sketch around it during production. It wasn’t as special as the original, and I didn’t rush to repeat the DVD. Reviewers didn’t like it, but in my opinion it ranks above Sweeney!, the first attempt to turn the TV series into a silver screen film but using the original cast. There, we saw countless acts of violence explained away at the end in one meeting with Thaw and Michael Latimer’s characters after a plot that seemed to build up a complex conspiracy. Sweeney 2, by Troy Kennedy Martin (the brother of the creator), was far tenser and the better effort, and it was fun to spot the Ford press fleet vehicles with the VHK prefix on the number plates.

   Minder never went to the big screen, but a remake, or sequel, appeared in 2009, with Shane Richie and Lex Shrapnel. I sat through the first, found it tolerable, and at least in the spirit of the original, but it always felt like an imitation trying to live up to its forebear, not something that carved its own direction. Many don’t seem to remember that Minder was created as a vehicle for Dennis Waterman, not George Cole, even if more and more scripts wound up focusing on the latter’s Arthur Daley, leading to Waterman quitting the series. The 2009 series’ première followed on from that later formula, whereas to me it always required the two stars being on par with each other.

   So, will the Americanized Widows follow suit? Will it be ‘exactly the same, but with women in it,’ or, with McQueen as talented as he is, will it be a solid retelling with the same sense of ambiguity at the conclusion as the original? I might have to see it because of McQueen and screenwriter Gillian Flynn, and McQueen says he has been a fan of the series since he saw it as a teenager. Even the original Dolly Rawlins (Ann Mitchell) has a cameo.
   Now, who’ll star in a new Van der Valk?

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Forced to take prime-time nostalgia trips

20.07.2018


‘There’s an old Polish proverb …’ I believe it’s ‘Reality television can’t stop the motorways in Warsaw from getting icy.’

I’ve always known what sort of telly I liked, and often that was at odds with what broadcasters put on. In the 1970s, my tastes weren’t too dissimilar from the general public’s, but as the years went on, they diverged from what New Zealand programmers believed we should watch.
   Shows I liked would prematurely disappear (Dempsey & Makepeace), only to return very late at night a decade later. Some only ever appeared late at night (Hustle), then vanish (in New Zealand, seasons 5 to 8 have never appeared on a terrestrial channel, and they have also never been released on DVD).
   We had a British expat visitor on Wednesday. He arrived here in 2008, and had no idea that TV1 had once been the home of British programming, and TV2 was where the Hollywood stuff went.
   By the late 2000s and early 2010s, I was watching either DVDs or finding a way to get to BBC Iplayer et al, because less and less of what was on offer had any appeal. We had boxed sets of Mission: Impossible, The Persuaders, and others.
   When the country switched to Freeview, I couldn’t be bothered getting a decoder. We were fine with online. Eventually, I did buy a TV set with Freeview, but only because the previous one conked out.
   On Thursday night, it became very apparent just how bad television had become here.
   Every English-language and Te Reo Māori terrestrial channel had unscripted drama, i.e. “reality” shows, or the occasional panel show or real-life event, other than Prime, showing the MacGyver remake.
   Who in the 1980s would have predicted that MacGyver would be the only scripted series on air during prime-time here between 7.30 and 8.30 p.m.?
   I realize the economics of television have changed, and there’s no such thing as a TVNZ drama department any more.
   Shows which might have had the whole country watching would be lucky to pull in a quarter of the audience today.
   But it is a sad reflection that the televised equivalent of the weekly gossip rag is what rates. The effort needed to produce quality drama is expensive, and not enough of us support it.
   I also imagine scripted Hollywood shows are cheaper than British ones, hence what we see on our screens is American—and why some kids these days now speak with American accents. Yet to some New Zealanders, Chinese-language signs on Auckland high streets are a bigger threat to the local culture. Really?
   In this household, we vote with our attention spans—and over the last month that has meant DVDs of Banacek and, in true 50 shades of Grade fashion, The Protectors. Sometimes, you feel it’s 1972 in this house—but at least the telly was better then.

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Happy 40th birthday to The Professionals

30.12.2017

‘Anarchy, acts of terror, crimes against the public. To combat it I’ve got special men: experts from the army, the police, from every service. These are the professionals.’

   Forty years ago, ITV began airing one of the UK’s most iconic TV series.
   There’s more at Dave Matthews’ The Authorised Guide to the Professionals, to which I contributed many years ago (yes, I am a fan).
   While there are many quality shows today, The Professionals still holds up reasonably well in terms of action, music, lighting and cinematography (especially if you see the series as restored on Network’s latest set of DVDs), though some of the plots are lacking and there are a lot of outdated 1970s’ attitudes to gender equality and race.
   If you keep that in mind—that it is a product of its era—it’s still an enjoyable show, in part because of my own sense of nostalgia (has it really been forty years?). And the second and third seasons are still, in my opinion, Brian Clemens’ finest hour.

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Yay for Paul Henry!

07.12.2010

During the Paul Henry débâcle, I was surprised to find that I had friends who joined the pro-Henry groups on Facebook. This included friends whom I thought were cosmopolitan and internationally minded. It dawned on me that they were probably supporting the first Paul Henry who many of us encountered, when we were watching the lovely Benny Hawkins on Crossroads. And we all loved Benny Hawkins, especially ‘Miss Diane’. So, let us remember Paul Henry as he once appeared on TV1:

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Let the Outrageous Fortune come

15.06.2010

Almost any New Zealander will recognize this image: a cast photograph from the long-running TV series Outrageous Fortune.

   When I first heard of this show from Antonia Prebble, before she started filming, I have to admit I didn’t think the premise would see it last five years (and counting). But for New Zealand television and the folks this show employs, I am glad it has.
   Like all good shows (Life on Mars, State of Play, Cracker)—and a few bad ones (Pop Idol)—it was eyed up for a remake.
   The British, who have never been that great at remaking shows usually (remember the Russ Abbot sitcom Married for Life, based on Married with Children? Or the remake of Who’s the Boss?, called The Upper Hand?), decided it would see how well West Auckland transplanted to London. Cue Amanda Redman instead of Robyn Malcolm, and a rebrand to Honest for ITV:

   No, it didn’t work. According to some expat Kiwis whose comments I read, the pilot was virtually a shot-by-shot remake that added nothing to the original. I do not know about the remainder of the series, but the fact that it was not renewed by ITV says something.
   The Americans, who have never been that great at remaking shows usually (Sanford & Son, Life on Mars, Coupling, Cosby, Ugly Betty, Three’s a Crowd, Eleventh Hour, Too Close for Comfort, The Office, Viva Laughlin, Kath & Kim, Payne, Amanda’s, The Prisoner, In Treatment, Worst Week, All in the Family, State of Play, etc.; Shameless and Gavin & Stacey are on the cards), decided to give this a shot. Getting in the chap who made Veronica Mars and Catherine O’Hara (the Home Alone Mum, after Rene Russo turned it down), Cheryl West became Jackie West and the show was renamed Good Behavior.

Only the pilot was made. I never saw it, but indications were that it was not good.
   Still, you have to admire the Americans for not giving up. The show’s been retooled, Virginia Madsen and David James Elliott (whom I know you ladies like) have been hired, and, as Scoundrels, it débuts on ABC on June 20. A series has been commissioned.

   The publicity touts this as an ‘original’ ABC series (yeah, right), but I actually hope it goes well for them. Why? Because the Kiwis who created Outrageous Fortune, I believe, will earn royalties on each episode. We might pooh-pooh it because we are purists, but I’d rather the money flowed inwards. While we haven’t exactly exported Kiwi culture in a Flight of the Conchords way—because the show has been Americanized—I’d still rather a decent Kiwi concept got there and, in its small way, reverse the tide of the reality TV junk that so often comes westward across the Pacific.
   Like Scorsese’s The Departed, a remake that sparked interest in the original Infernal Affairs (無間道), we might see Americans track down the original Outrageous Fortune on DVD. That, too, can only be a good thing.

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