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It appears that no one caught the U.S. cable network rerun of this fifteen or so years ago. I believe it was on Lifetime, and I wish they would run it again so this time everyone could record it. The basic premise is that an American actor, a womanizing drunk, sort of an updated Nick Charles, minus some of the upper crust class, plays Pulaski, the TV Detective, on British television. The only problem is that the actor is hung over or drunk most of the time when he's needed as Pulaski. David Andrews stars as actor Larry Summers, who plays an ex-priest of the highest character and concern for his fellow man, who has given up the cloth to become a first rate private eye. In the detective show about the detective show, a fan of Pulaski turns up every week with some outrageously difficult case, and Summers explains he is only an actor and wants nothing to do with the problem, and then through twists and circumstance, he nonetheless not only gets knee deep in the case, but, relying on the role he has every week, actually solves the case. This is made possible especially because his greatest fans are the crooks and culprits themselves, who absolutely believe Summers/Pulaski is the greatest and bravest, the smartest and wisest. A few shows into the only season it appeared (1987) they added a recurring British Inspector who played the straight man for Pulaski and his drunken investigations, and the show really gained with this additional character. A running gag was a huge Magnum, just like Dirty Harry's, that criminals were convinced Summers was an expert with, a dead on shot, and he uses this prop from the TV show to extricate himself and Briggsey (his weekly female sidekick and companion) and the Inspector out of several jams. The friends we invited over loved the show, and we all thought we were watching a new cult classic that was right up there with The Avengers. Apparently, we were the only people in America watching, and its a shame this witty British series stalled out somewhere over the Atlantic. Just like Amelia Earhart, no one seems to know what ever happened to Pulaski.
This was one of the best shows A&E imported from across the water back in the 80's (along with the BBC version of Last of the Mohicans, Brat Farrar, and Day of the Triffids). Aired in '87, and although it ran to only eight episodes, it got great reviews from TV critics. Sadly A&E only ran it once in prime time, then stuck it in the early Sunday morning slot a few years later. Since it was a short BBC series, and not an adaptation, it's unlikely to be released as has been the case with Roy Clarks other, more popular works. Hell, they're still struggling to release most of Last of the Summer Wine (which started in '73)......
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The recent I.T.V. series 'Moving Wallpaper/Echo Beach' won plaudits in
some quarters for being 'original', and yet was not. Twenty years ago,
Roy Clarke ( of 'Last Of The Summer Wine' and 'Open All Hours' fame )
came up with a remarkably similar idea for the B.B.C.
'Pulaski' was a show within a show. It was the name of a long-running television series in which actor Larry Summers ( David Andrews ) portrayed an American detective based in England. Summers was an alcoholic who was carrying on with the actress playing Pulaski's sidekick 'Briggsy' ( Caroline Langrishe ). So convincing was he in the role that members of the public actively sought his help in solving real-life crimes. Even criminals seemed taken in by the notion that Summers really was as good a sleuth as his alter-ego.
The show was roughly divided between the 'real' world of Larry Summers and the 'fictional' world of Pulaski. Often the two interfaced so alarmingly you never knew just what you were watching at any given time. The 'Pulaski' segments looked suspiciously like a spoof of London Weekend Television's then-current hit 'Dempsey & Makepeace' which starred Michael Brandon and Glynis Barber.
B.B.C.-1 Controller Michael Grade boasted in a press release that 'Pulaski' would be the surprise hit of the season. By rights this should have happened. The idea behind the show was ingenious, the scripts were well written, and the acting generally good. The catchy theme tune was by The Shadows.
But it had the misfortune to debut on B.B.C.-1 not long after the Hungerford Massacre in which madman Michael Ryan went on the rampage and killed 14 people.
Eager as ever to blame someone or something, the tabloid press decided that the culprit was the B.B.C. for screening the Sylvester Stallone movie 'First Blood' a short time before. Despite the fact that it contained not one scene similar to the massacre, a wave of outrage led to not only that movie not being screened again for several years ( and then on Channel 5 ), but also the temporary shelving of a new B.B.C. drama series called 'The Marksman'. To tie-in with Brian De Palma's new version of 'The Untouchables', the station began repeating episodes of the original 1960's series starring Robert Stack, and were made to tone even these down. 'Miami Vice' also found itself in the doghouse.
The opening scene of the first episode of 'Pulaski' had our hero cornered outside his mobile home by gangsters, leading to a gun battle. As it was part of the series within a series, by rights it should not have given offence, but did. Janet Street-Porter wrote a newspaper article entitled 'Promises, Promises But All We Get Is More Blood' in which she berated the station for screening such a 'violent' programme so soon after the Hungerford tragedy.
She missed the point completely. 'Pulaski' was a send-up of the very shows she proposed should be banned.
It had other problems too. The 'jumps' from reality to fantasy were a bit much for viewers to take. After only eight episodes, it ended. A pity as it had a lot of life left in it. It was certainly ahead of its time.
Clarke later reworked the idea for I.T.V. as 'The World Of Eddie Weary' which starred Ray Brooks and Anita Dobson. It was well received but no series followed.
'Pulaski' was shown in the States as 'Pulaski: The T.V. Detective' and was much better received there. It managed to capture the brashness and excitement of American style cop shows whilst parodying them at the same time. Today it would probably be called 'postmodern'.
D.V.D. release? Yes, please!
ITV had Dempsey and Makepeace and BBC2 were getting fine ratings with
the Bruce Willis/Cybill Shepard comedy-drama Moonlighting.
Now if only the two can be combined and you enter the world of Pulaski. A show within a show that mixes comedy with gun toting action.
David Andrews plays drunk actor Larry Summers an American detective based in England. Aided by the actress playing his sidekick, he somehow ends up taking real life cases as people come to him asking for help.
The public liked it but the critics were far from impressed finding the humour forced and laboured. If the series had continued, maybe the kinks would had been ironed out and it might have been better if Roy Clarke did not write all the episodes, a writer who likes to be formulaic as fans of The Last of the Summer Wine can testify to.
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