|Index||4 reviews in total|
What a great satire this programme was. I don't think I have ever laughed so much in my life. I was lucky enough to catch this on the new 4 More channel, but it will appear on channel 4 shortly. If you haven't seen this yet please look out for it next week as I promise, you won't be disappointed. The best part of this programme is probably Robert Linsey as Tony Blair and Alex Jennings as the Machiavellian Alister Campbell. Whenever the plot was about these two I literally had to wipe the tears from my eyes. Bernard Hill as David Blunkett is also excellent, portraying a man who is a loser in love and ruthless in government and yet managing to ascertain a degree of sympathy for him from the audience as well. I think the best thing about this programme is that while it mocks the ineffectual cabinet ministers, it is not a blatantly right or left wing satire. This is a programme that anyone who has even a remote interest in politics from whatever perspective can enjoy.
Fact is stranger than fiction. That is a cliché - I know - but that
doesn't mean it is no longer true. When we have said, in the past, that
the Labour Home Secretary is in bed with the right wing press we
usually mean metaphorically, however in the case of David Blunkett it
was more a case of the literal.
His affair with a married publisher (Kimblerly Quinn) - who he later had a love child with - had many scratching their heads. Those looking for extra detail here will be disappointed and I felt no further on in my search for rhythm or reason in the coupling - although in the case of Quinn (skilfully played by Victoria Hamilton whose main beat is the theatre) they say that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.
(Even when power is held by a pudding faced middle aged man with a beard whose voice changes volume greatly to emphasise points.)
The writer of A Very Social Secretary (Jon Jones) must have been like a lifelong car driver sat on a bullet train for the first time - life writing the drama and the satire at 250 mph and he only needs to write it down. Ninety minutes is not enough and a lot has to be left out - we never see DB in a single cabinet meeting, for example.
(One comedian said that political satire was a cheat anyway: "I only listen to what they say and do and report upon it.")
For the non British viewer (and I can't be sure there ever will be) and the non politics watcher what goes on will strike as strange and unlikely. The script goes beyond the known in portraying the blind (but hardly dumb) Blunkett as unskilled between the sheets and this is perhaps insulting. We all look slightly comic in sexual situations and the camera lingers for easy laughs.
He was hardly a virgin having raised a family by his first wife and never a believer that his blindness should prevent him from doing anything short of driving a car. For a politician he was fond of telling people the cold hard truth - not being able to see the reaction probably helping.
Bernard Hill is very good in the lead role - a sighted man playing the blind in a straight way and letting the comedy come from situation rather than injecting it himself. Thankfully the good is shown as well as the bad - starting with the fact that he never let go of his Northern roots and returns to carry out surgeries in his home town of Sheffield.
I had never thought of TV's "Citizen Smith" (Robert Lindsay) as being a natural Tony Blair but he does a good job. Today his haircut matches and he doesn't lay it on too thick like most impersonators do. Thankfully he is portrayed as he really is - a me-first PM who likes a nice handout and blesses Margaret Thatcher everyday for all the dirty work she has done for him. An intellectual mediocrity but blessed with more common-sense and more street knowledge than most politicians. A guy who grew his hair long and dreamt of rock stardom, but ended up (by a route even more unlikely than this) in No.10. What a crazy world we live in!
Should we laugh at other people's misfortunes? I feel bad about it myself and still feel bad about it when politicians are involved. The whole sorry matter shows that for some people affairs of the trousers are of greater importance than affairs of State.
If you believe what you read, this film is based on reality. David
Blunkett was the Home Secretary, responsible for bringing in a regime
of terrorist legislation that would even make a right wing conservative
blush. When he started having an affair nobody was that concerned
because that is what politicians do. However when he gets the woman
pregnant things start to go wrong his judgement gets impaired and
soon he finds himself increasingly compromised politically.
Although it is very clear that massive amounts of this have been fictionalised, the basic truths are funny enough because it does seem that Blunkett got himself stuck in some sort of honey trap and being manipulated by journalist Kimberly Quinn. This film takes these events and creates a sad little man who falls in love with someone who doesn't love him and finds himself emotionally out of control. This is amusing in itself although the words "fair" and "balance" don't really figure at all. The film uses this entry point to mock the entire Blair government; showing Blunkett blindly (sorry) signing detention orders, Campbell and Blair presiding over fear tactics and lots of discussion of Iraq and such. The film will be like gold to those that dislike the current Labour government (an increasing number if you believe what you read) but also generally amusing because, no matter your politics, the Blunkett affair is a really messy and worrying affair.
The cast take to the broad caricatures well. Hill is a very good Blunkett, getting the mannerisms down well while also making a convincing little man. Lindsay's Blair is a bit more of an impression but mainly because he has less time. Mackichan, McQuarrie and Jennings are all amusing but again they are mostly cruel impressions. Hamilton is good, not sure how true to life she is but she is a good presence.
Overall this is quite a simple and cruel film that lacks the wit, intelligence and insight of good political satire but it is an amusing good kicking. Full of easy targets and delivered with lots of broad strokes, it is hardly very responsible but it is quite fun. Perhaps not enough to justify more than one viewing but it is OK.
Bernard Hill's portrayal of Blunkett was inspired. It must be very
difficult to play a blind man with your eyes open but Hill does it
perfectly. He mastered his subject so well it could have been Blunkett.
Other characters were not so well cast I believe. Whilst Robert Lindsay
did look vaguely Blairesque I doubt if he uses the 'F'word as much as
we are led to believe. The two actresses playing the main female roles
seemed to be in opposite roles, with the more attractive Doon Mackichen
playing the less attractive Cherie Blair and the (to me) unattractive
Victoria Hamilton playing the more attractive Kimberly Quinn. Stuart
Maquarrie's portrayal of Boris Johnson was bloody awful, but then
Johnson himself is so theatrical he is a difficult subject for a lesser
The real funny man for my money was Tobias Menzies as the aide, 'Lady who? Tell her to f*** off!'
The only sad thing about the play is that it was based on real events and people, who are still centre stage in mainstream politics. Is this how we now see our government, as role models for satirical television?
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