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36 reviews in total 
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Serial Thrillers (2003) (V)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
One of the best Doctor Who documentaries ever made, 18 January 2009

Philip Hinchcliffe produced the three most popular seasons of Doctor Who, a period when scripts and production values hit a peak and the viewership hit an all time high, so this documentary is a welcome and revealing examination of the time when Doctor Who was at its very best.

Hinchcliffe himself takes the lead and comes over as a very intelligent man with a very good grasp of the demands of the programme. It is also good to see him pay tribute to his predecessor Barry Letts and explain in detail how he worked with his script editor, the legendary Robert Holmes, with whom he obviously had a very good working relationship.

Ed Stradling deserves credit for creating a flawless documentary and finding interviewees who all have useful contributions to make, which isn't always the case with documentaries that rely almost completely on talking heads. It is good to hear the thoughts of someone such as Robert Banks Stewart, who wrote two adventures for Hinchcliffe, and David Maloney, who directed more serials for Hinchcliffe than anyone else. We also get short but welcome contributions from designers Roger Murray-Leach and Christine Ruscoe, as well as actress Elisabeth Sladen. The documentary flows well from one contributor to another and clips from the programme are chosen well. It is also good to see that the documentary doesn't shy away from addressing the levels of horror and violence that attracted so much criticism at the time, and it's interesting to see that, in retrospect, both Banks Stewart and Maloney are prepared to admit that they think it went a bit too far.

My only regret is that the late, great Robert Holmes never lived long enough to offer his thoughts, although his huge input is certainly not forgotten. Otherwise this is an excellent look at an equally excellent period of the series and should be of interest to any fan.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
The golden chat show of the golden age, 23 March 2008

The 1970s was the golden age of British television for so many reasons, not least because it was a time when television executives still assumed their viewers were intelligent enough to watch somebody sitting in a chair and speaking at length, without the need for regular interruptions and jokes from the interviewer. Michael Parkinson, unlike today's chat show hosts, was not a comedian, he was a journalist, and his talent was simply for researching his subjects and showing an interest in what they had to say. The remarkable thing about Parkinson was the variety of the guests. His abilities as an interviewer meant that he was able to successfully deal with guests as different as raconteurs (Kenneth Williams, Peter Ustinov), poets (John Betjeman), authors (Leslie Thomas), musicians (Duke Ellington) and scientists (Jacob Bronowski). Parkinson never dominated the show, he was quite happy to let the guests do that. As a result, he gave British television its greatest chat show, a standard that most subsequent chat shows didn't even bother to attempt.

In the 1970s the big stars rarely gave interviews, there were three television channels and no videos, DVDs or Internet. Parkinson had provided a rare opportunity to see these people. Clearly, things could not be the same when, in 1998, the BBC decided to resurrect the series, 16 years since it had ended. A great deal had changed in television over that period. As the 1990s progressed, the talk show increasingly became the domain of comedians as hosts: Jonathan Ross, Clive Anderson, Frank Skinner and Graham Norton. As such, chat shows became more lightweight and more about the host than the guest. Also, with the explosion of the media in the 1980s and 1990s, another effect was the decline in the meaning of celebrity. The revival of Parkinson lasted for nearly ten years but, unfortunately, the show was dying a slow death, with the man all too often having to interview celebrities so minor that you couldn't have made them up in the 1970s: Trinny & Susannah, Simon Cowell, Sharon Osbourne and Gordon Ramsay for examples. As hard as he tried, Parkinson could never convince me that he was as interested in these people as the great stars of the original series. I certainly wasn't.

In fairness, when he had a good guest he was still better than anyone else. One of his greatest abilities was to interview celebrities who are instinctively private and dislike the spotlight on themselves as subjects. He was better than anyone else at making these stars feel comfortable and able to talk, with Rowan Atkinson and Bobby Charlton being prime examples. I actually think that from what I have seen, only his contemporaries David Frost and Melvyn Bragg rival Parkinson in this regard.

Parkinson has now wrapped up his chat show. He has said himself that his show was the last survivor of the talk shows based on conversation. Now, all we have are the comedy shows based on the American format. In some ways it's a shame, in other ways it isn't. Most of the really fascinating stars are now dead or very, very old. Very few modern stars captivate the attention for very long, as Parkinson found in the last few years. Because even Parkinson couldn't make people interesting if they simply weren't.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Good documentary but only of interest to major fans, 5 January 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This documentary begins with Melvyn Bragg providing a very brief synopsis of Gabriel's time in Genesis and his early solo hits, before concentrating in detail on the recording sessions of his fourth solo album. We get an insight into Gabriel's attention to detail, experimentation and perfectionism, as well as contributions from his collaborators David Lord, Jerry Marrotta, Tony Levin, David Rhodes, John Ellis and Larry Fast.

This show is very factual and, by concentrating in so much depth on the recording sessions of one album, is unlikely to convert many new fans but remains a rare and interesting look at the young Gabriel and his musical ideas. He talks about how he likes to use new technology and his growing interest in world music, both of which are consistent hallmarks of his solo career. Sadly, this is the only time The South Bank Show has profiled this most innovative and diverse of songwriters. Gabriel would continue to expand his horizons in subsequent years to even greater commercial and critical success, with albums such as So and Us, moving into film soundtracks with Birdy, The Last Temptation of Christ and Rabbit-Proof Fence, a growing dedication to humanitarian causes and a pioneering role in the further popularisation of both world music and digital distribution. Surely it's time for another, more comprehensive South Bank Show on the man's career?

10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Underrated gem, 23 October 2007

The 1980s were dark days for the British film industry and productivity was at an unprecedented low. That doesn't mean that there weren't a number of very fine films made during this time. It does mean that they tend to be rather forgotten in what is often described as a period of wilderness for British cinema. This is rather unfair, as there are a number of fine films made during this decade that don't get the attention they should. A Private Function is a case in point.

The cast assembled for the film is simply one of the best I have ever seen in one movie. Look at the cast today and you would say it was star-studded; actually, many of these actors were not especially famous at the time (only Michael Palin, Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott and Alison Steadman were really famous actors). Most of the others (Richard Griffiths, Pete Postlethwaite, Jim Carter, Liz Smith, Bill Paterson, Tony Haygarth) have achieved more recognition since. Their obvious talent and future potential was clear to see in this movie. As the fortunes of British films have improved since, their careers have duly flourished.

If the film has a weakness, it is that it is supposed to be a star vehicle for Michael Palin, and yet his character is utterly dull and boring. Palin has proved he is a very capable actor elsewhere and might have impressed more if the kind of effort Bennett put into developing the other characters had also been afforded to Palin's role. This is a minor point though, because the rest of the characters are so well scripted it doesn't seem to matter too much. Palin would probably be the first to admit that the film works because of the script's overall quality (Alan Bennett is simply one of Britain's most incisive comic minds) and because of the wonderful supporting cast, not because of the strength of his own character.

A Private Function is a relatively low budget and uniquely British film. The writing and the acting represent the very best of British cinema. It's a shame it doesn't get more recognition but the gentle wit, eccentric characters and lack of glamour and romance, plus the state the British film industry was in at the time it was made, probably meant that it was never destined to be a blockbuster. It does remain a very funny and at times quite barbed portrait of a particular period in 20th century British history.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Denholm saves the day, 10 August 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

According to dai-tyler from Staffordshire, I am not qualified to comment on this film because I didn't see it the first time round. Well, I'm going to ignore that because I think dai is ignoring the fundamental criticism people are making of this film. We are not saying the television series wasn't brilliant, it was absolutely brilliant. We are not saying the performances of the actors are inadequate, they are certainly anything but. The fact is that this film is an almost complete rehash of the same jokes and scenes that were used in the TV series. I would rather watch the TV series any day. I can only assume from his comments that dai never saw the TV series that spawned the film, because the original vintage was so much better.

Watching the film, I feel rather sorry for the great Leonard Rossiter and Frances de la Tour, as they really deserved more from this script than the same scenes they had played in the TV series. The best thing about the film is Denholm Elliott playing the part Henry McGee played in the TV series, only Elliott gives a more credible performance than McGee. Not for the first time in his acting career, nor the last, Elliott arrives in a supporting role and becomes the best reason to watch.

12 out of 45 people found the following review useful:
Probably time to stop worshipping this man, 22 June 2005

This was a reasonable documentary that caught up with '80s pop maverick Morrissey, who now lives in the lap of luxury in America. Still worshipped by legions of fans, lauded by trendy music critics and name-dropped by lots of recent bands, Morrissey remains a controversial and rather strange character. He proved in this documentary that he is still as funny and as acerbic as ever, although the music certainly isn't as fresh, vibrant or interesting as it was in the Smiths. The problem with the documentary, though, is that it demonstrated quite clearly that he still tends to stand against much more than he stands for. His devotion to vegetarianism has remained consistent, but his status as a political artist has no substance. He criticises Tony Blair and the Royals, just as he criticised Mrs Thatcher and the Royals back in his prime, but he offers no constructive, viable political views. He just criticises for the sake of it while living in opulence. He now represents the kind of wealth, luxury and smugness that his fans detested about his '80s pop contemporaries.

A funny, entertaining figure? Certainly. But a credible spokesman on the world's problems who should be taken as seriously as he obviously is by many? This documentary did nothing to quell my doubts about that.

"Bergerac" (1981)
6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Certainly John Nettles' finest hour, 22 May 2005

Bergerac established John Nettles as one of the most famous television actors in the 1980s, something that he has continued to this day, although more recently in the considerably more pedestrian Midsomer Murders.

Bergarac certainly benefited from some excellent input from a remarkably broad range of quality TV figures like Robert Banks Stewart, Robert Holmes, Tristan DeVere Cole, Chris Boucher, Dennis Spooner, Tony Dow, Matthew Robinson, Bob Baker and Geoffrey Sax etc, and location filming on Jersey was regarded as rather exotic at the time.

I think I ought to correct Scooby-57's comment that this show made Louise Jameson famous. She was already very famous from her regular role in Doctor Who when the show regularly attracted about 13 million viewers and also her role in Tenko.

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A nice bit of nostalgia, 22 May 2005

I haven't watched the new series of Doctor Who but I am very much a fan of the old series, and so I therefore very much enjoyed the way this short programme reminded old viewers and informed new viewers of the history of the series as well as promoted the new version.

I particularly liked the way it showed clips from each of the Doctor's previous incarnations and had contributions (albeit short ones) from each of the living Doctors from the original TV series. Russell T Davies also makes interesting comments about how each Doctor reflected the times. To highlight this point about how the series and the individual Doctors changed with the context of the time, these clips are featured with a soundtrack of contemporary pop music.

With regard to the new series, this programme went behind the scenes and featured various contributions from the people responsible for bringing the show back to BBC One.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Interesting documentary, 16 April 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The challenge for the BBC in making "The Story of Doctor Who", which celebrated the 40th anniversary of the series, was to avoid a complete repeat of "30 Years in the TARDIS" and I have to say that, although this documentary featured many of the same people as the other documentary and you occasionally get a feeling of deja vu, there is enough sufficiently different to recommend it.

What really distinguishes this documentary is that it features new contributions from all the living actors to have played the character of the Doctor ("30 Years" was notable for the absence of Peter Davison and the most popular of the all the Doctors, Tom Baker).

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Affectionate tribute to a comedy great, 19 December 2004

Presented by his old friend and Two Ronnies co-star Ronnie Corbett, this was a great tribute to a man who was Britain's favourite television comedy actor throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Many other comedy greats, including John Cleese, Michael Palin, David Jason, Ben Elton and Patricia Routledge pay tribute to him, along with modern comics such as Peter Kay, Rob Brydon and Johnny Vegas. Although this programme features clips from his many comedy incarnations, the true revelation of this show for the viewer was the true extent of the popularity of Barker as a person and the number of his colleagues over the years who have a genuine affection for him. David Jason, in particular, is clearly emotional during much of the proceedings. Barker appears in person towards the end and gives a short and modest speech of thanks.

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