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This British TV series, shot almost entirely on videotape, dramatized short mystery fiction by authors who were contemporaries of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Many of these authors were virtually unknown to modern audiences, although all of the detectives portrayed had appeared in popular ongoing series of short stories or novels. "Rivals" featured the only dramatizations to date of such period characters as Jacques Futrelle's "The Thinking Machine" and W. H. Hodgson's "Carnacki The Ghost Finder". Production values were high, although the limitations of early '70's video technology are painfully obvious. The casts included the cream of British television's character actors, featuring a few faces that will be recognizable to American audiences. Written by
Doug Ferrar <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It is so easy to look back and say we had higher standards of television years ago but this series goes a long way to proving the point. When they were originally broadcast these programmes went out at 9.00 on Monday evening following a current affairs documentary "World In Action" - very often a controversial and downright bloody-minded look at national and international politics. In the same slots today we have a half-hour soap opera followed by a series about a PA in a supermarket chain, coping with her employer relocating its head office.
These programmes are literate and don't betray their literary origins. The scripts are full of period flavour, take their time to develop plot and character, and give the actors plenty to work with. And what actors: John Neville, Robert Stephens, Peter Barkworth and Peter Vaughan to name a few of the leads; character actors of the quality of Terence Rigby and George A. Cooper turn up in supporting roles.
The production values are very high, too, with richly decorated Victorian settings. The BBC has always set the benchmark for period drama in the UK but Thames gave them a run for their money here and were rewarded with a Best Design BAFTA in 1972.
If you enjoy period detective work but you are suffering from Holmes fatigue you could do far worse than invest in these for your DVD player
theowinthrop, please note!
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