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Remington Steele (1982)
Classy mystery series
In re the previous viewer's comment on the romance in this series, IMHO the romance was always secondary to the mystery. The reason to watch this show is not for romance! Watch it for the homage paid to classic films, the wit, and the charm. The pilot episode alone was a delicious screwball comedy of confused identities. When Steele referenced an old movie I hadn't seen I would rush off next day to the video store to rent it -- although I confess I still have not managed to sit through all of The Yakuza! Michael Gleason's creation was an amalgam of great old movie characters: Cary Grant's John Robie in "To Catch a Thief"; Grant's multiple-named character in "Charade"; a little bit of Bogart and even a touch of Jimmy Stewart. I watched this show religiously at a time when I could hardly stand to watch anything on TV (and other than Foyle's War and the Hornblower series I pretty much avoid the boob-tube altogether nowadays)- so many episodes were wonderfully scripted and directed: Steele Away With Me, Steele Your Heart Away, Steele Belted, License to Steele, Altared Steele, and my favorites with the archvillain Major Descoin. I sure hope that when the show finally makes an appearance on DVD that the ENTIRE series is published, and not just a "best of" set.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Sadly, the views of the Italian coast are more intriguing than the story. Damon and Paltrow somehow unlearned everything they ever knew about acting, for they are sadly miscast here. The script is entirely predictable, and Mr. Ripley is less talented -- and far less interesting -- than many another film criminal. And the pacing is deadly, as I'm coming to expect from this director.
Nightingales is the single most innovative, surreal, high farce, low brow, amazing sitcom of my experience. This series, about the bizarre on-the-job occurrences in the lives of 3 night security guards, is highlighted by Makin's extremely funny dialogue and impeccable comic timing by three very fine actors. From pratfalls to parody, from allegories to metaphors, this is one show that makes its point without beating the viewer over the head with moralistic axioms, leaving the viewer free to choose whether in fact there is a point at all or just some really good laughs to be had. Only 13 episodes were made, a real shame since the writing was hitting unbelievable highs in the last two episodes, King Lear II and Someone to Watch Over Me. While Nightingales may not be considered mainstream fare, those viewers who've had quite enough of Seinfeld and Friends may want to investigate it for a true revival of the sense of the ridiculous.
Jake's Progress (1995)
Bleasdale rivals Shakespeare.
High praise indeed, but it's not unwarranted. Bleasdale's script elicits dread, fury, revulsion, pity, tenderness, and roaring laughter. Even when you're pretty sure you know what's going to happen, Bleasdale can deliver the expected with a twist that rips either your heart or your guts out. And the acting? Bleasdale's ensemble of Robert Lindsay, Julie Walters, and Lindsay Duncan are unequalled -- and Dorothy Tutin deserves raves as Walter's mother. This one is aces all round. Give an A+ to the director also, for excellent pacing.
Much Ado About Nothing (1984)
Previously undiscovered nuances.
Lindsay and Lunghi bring to light previously unknown facets to the two well-known characters of Benedict and Beatrice, and have a kind of sympatico that makes their sudden love for each other more believable than is generally found in other versions of Much Ado. They are bolstered by a marvelous supporting cast. This production far exceeds Branagh's film version in acting, but suffers when the production values are compared, an unfair comparison since Branagh had the luxury of actually making a film on location while this BBC edition is a teleplay.
The best-written mini-series ever.
Putting aside Robert Lindsay's much deserved BAFTA for his portrayal of sleazy politician Michael Murray, this show is worth watching because Alan Bleasdale's script is simply phenomenal. Even when the plot actually on occasion does move where you think it will -- you'll still be surprised, amazed, amused, angered. In short, this must be something like the Elizabethan audiences felt when they first watched Hamlet. The script is densely layered, mounting complexities upon issues upon personalities. And for all that, one doesn't have to be a genius to understand it and be moved through a number of emotions and reactions before finally being hung out to dry. It's brilliant.