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No, Honestly (1974)
On Video At Last
This is one of those TV gems you doubt will ever appear on video as it is so obscure, especially to the American audience. Thankfully, it is now available in the US and it is a pleasure to see this wonderful TV series again after 26 years.
Husband and wife John Alderton and Pauline Collins play husband and wife Charles (CD) and Clara Danby who have been married some ten years. CD and Clara tell (a studio audience) of their early days together (which are shown in flashback) when he was a struggling actor, and she was (and still is) a rather ditzy debutante, the product of even ditzier parents. With nothing much in common but love for one another, the hilarity results from their very differences.
Alderton and Collins had appeared together earlier in Upstairs Downstairs, and she of course was Oscar-nominated much later for Shirley Valentine. This TV series has been overlooked for too long, and is an absolute delight. The chemistry between CD and Clara is remarkable, because of the chemistry between Alderton and Collins.
The theme tune was a huge hit in Britain for composer and performer Lynsey De Paul. The show has aged well (apart from the fashions) and looks and sounds great thanks to Acorn Media which has provided us with this belated video edition. The picture and sound quality is stunning, and hats off to Acorn for not tampering with the show as it was originally presented. The London Weekend Television seventies logo is still there, much to the delight of us Brits in America. There is no self promotion on the part of Acorn, a company with which I am NOT associated.
Treat yourself to No, Honestly. You will not be disappointed. No, honestly.
Play for Today: Abigail's Party (1977)
A British TV Gem
I saw this first time round, and it's a once seen/never forgotten experience. Yes, THAT good. The TV version has the feel of the stage play it was, with all the action taking place in the living room of the obnoxious Beverly and her equally obnoxious husband.
In the first few seconds, Beverly, expecting the arrival of her guests, puts on the Donna Summer record Love To Love You Baby (which SHE likes, to hell with what the guests might like). Only it isn't Donna Summer, but one of those cheap 49 pence Woolworth cover version albums so prevalent in the seventies. Immediately, the mood is set.
The amazing thing about this play is that one feels throughout that one is intruding on what one should not be seeing. There is definitely that fly on the wall feel, but just try and look away. This is compelling viewing, no matter how far your eyes widen - and they will - as things progress. Even the more subtle touches (such as Angie's tight necklace, with the heart pendant that bobs up and down as she speaks) add light humor to the pervasive dark humor. There are too many classic moments in this one-off to even list, that good it is. This is a British TV gem.
The previous reviewer is quite right. Crossroads was of the "so bad, it's good" ilk. Still, during its peak it had its followers including the (then) prime minister's wife, Mrs. Mary Wilson, a staunch follower. Crossroads suffered from a hectic schedule, originally five days a week. No time for retakes, so it was not uncommon to see a camera crew whizzing by in the background, or to witness an overhanging microphone at the top of the TV screen. Fluffed lines guaranteed in every episode. In its favor, it did not bring dead and buried characters back to life, or have five different actors play the same character (as is common in US soaps). Aside from those mentioned, there were many other memorable characters such as the mousy postmistress Miss Tatum (Elisabeth Croft), the "tart with a heart" hairdresser Vera Downend (Zeph Gladstone), and the kitchen gossip Amy Turtle (Ann George, who deserved an award for worst actress).
Looking back years later, and having spent ten years in the States, I can only compare Crossroads star Noele Gordon to Susan Lucci, the queen of US soaps. Gordon was hardly the glamorous star that Lucci is, but she was undoubtedly THE queen of the UK soap. When she was unceremoniously dumped from Crossroads in 1981, there was a public outcry, and the soap's fate was sealed (as was Gordon's who never quite got over her dismissal and died four years later). Crossroads was given an overhaul and plodded on for a few more years. In the last episode, Jane Rossington (Gordon's screen daughter who spoke the first lines in 1964) drove off into the distance (sunset unavailable) and it was the end of an era. Crossroads and Coronation Street often replaced each other at No. 1 in the charts, just as Coronation Street and Eastenders do these day. That's how good/bad it was.
Thriller: A Coffin for the Bride (1974)
Classic Early Mirren
Helen Mirren always was the great actress she is acknowledged to be, and this TV drama, from the early-70's British "Thriller" anthology series, proves just that. This gem from the pen of Brian Clemens is made all the more effective by the casting of Mirren and her then RSC co-star Michael Jayston as the thin-lipped villain. The unexpected ending will cause the jaw to drop so far that surgery may be required. This obscure 1974 TV production was released briefly on video in Britain in the early 90's, much to the delight of people like myself who vividly remember seeing the original pre-video broadcast and who, almost 25 years later, still recall jaw-dropping bewilderment (if not jaw surgery) at the climax. An absolute must see, if you can get your hands on the video.