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We deserve better than this
The car chases are interesting enough, but watch this with the sound down as the worst double act since the Rosenbergs try to whip up righteous hysteria with their preaching. There are a number of shows these two supplement their pensions on - anything with 'Wildest' in the title appears to be their forte.
As if 'Sheriff' (he was a Sheriff for barely 6 months, and un-elected) John Bumhole's cheesy commentary wasn't enough we have C.W Jensen's comments to deal with, mainly over the helicopter footage. Now casting a quick eye over "CW's" Wiki entry, I can find no mention of any duties performed by him on traffic or air duty. But we hear what appears to be his voice seemingly calling out on the radio over every single helicopter chase, from Police Forces coast to coast and border to border.
Now either CW got about a lot more than his c.v. would suggest, or more likely he sits in a Voice Over Booth with a radio distort on his voice, after the event, reading a script. This along with the obvious sound effects of sirens, horns and tyre screeches (often on dirt roads!) add up to a particularly cheap and nasty trick. Not journalism, but entertainment - as far from reality as it gets.
The one saving grace is that from the other comments I can see here, the American audience who are supposed to lap this garbage up aren't fooled for a moment.
Happy Feet (2006)
Lots of Penguins = 1 big Turkey
This film didn't seem to know whether it was an 'Ugly Duckling' movie, a rant against religious doctrine, or an eco warning, and it ended up being a mess. It is possible to make a kids movie that adults will also love: 'Cars', 'Finding Nemo' and 'Madagascar' all achieved it brilliantly, but when you throw so many themes so clumsily together it doesn't work. Even Robin Williams couldn't rescue this one.
The animation I have to say was the best yet, but as George Lucas discovered the ability to render individual eyelashes does not a movie make. Avoid it at the cinema, and only if you hate someone will you throw the DVD in their Christmas stocking next year.
Citizen Smith (1977)
The best thing to come out of Tooting...
The running gag in this show was that every other character of note had their own name for him. 'Foxie' 'Yeti' 'Smudger' 'Trotsky' & 'Smiffy' with I think, only Ken actually calling him 'Wolfie' Am I right in believing nobody ever called him Walter Henry? I have a memory that he only revealed that as his real name in the penultimate show.
I do remember the original BBC promo for this series. 'Wolfie' was spraying graffiti on a short section of wall while Ken watched. He'd managed to write "THINK AHEA" before running out of wall, and amidst the ironic laughter of the audience began to berate the council for not building a wall long enough
It set the tone for what followed, although almost immediately the show began to die in instalments as actor after actor left during its four season run. Some, like girlfriend Shirley were merely written out while her screen father, the more central character 'Charlie' was recast twice (if we include the pilot.) I feel though that when Stephen Grief's excellent 'Harry Fenning' was replaced, the show had peaked, perhaps reaching its zenith with "Glorious Day" the third season finale. Yep, it was 'that' episode where they 'liberate' the Scorpion Tank and invade London. I think even die hard aficionados would agree with me that should have been that.
Particularly as season three had some of the most memorable episodes of all, introducing John Tordoff as the hyperbolically bizarre 'Tofkin.' Check out "Don't look down" and "Tofkin's revenge." Quite a few have pointed out the similarities between this series and Sullivan's next effort, the rather better known "Only Fools and Horses" and the similarities are indeed there. Both were set in a triangle of flat, pub and occasional exterior, and it is straightforward to recognise equivalent characters across both series. The malapropism that surrounded Wolfie's name was refined for Rodney, who was consistently called 'Dave' throughout by Trig, and of course there is the Citizen Smith episode that was called "Only Fools and Horses" which seems to round things up.
I actually worked on this series in a minor, functionary role, during 1980. It is one of very few productions I can recall halting during the shoot as the studio crew were laughing so much it was putting the actors off, and this was during the fourth, and I consider poorest season. People were still talking about it for some time after, and quoting gags while Only Fools and Horses struggled to take hold in its early years.
I think the reason that 'Only Fools' prospered and 'Smith' rather withered on the vine was the lack of breadth of story lines and a cast limited in numbers. There are only so many scrapes an Urban Revolutionary can get involved in and with so few lead characters, Sullivan ran out of steam rather early. This series has its moments though and is well worth a look. It had a recent re-run (late 2005) on one of the many BBC/ITV archive satellite channels (in this case UKTV Drama) and should re-appear before long. Until then we have the DVD's to keep us going.
Power to the People!
Better to watch than work on!
As you can imagine my opportunities for watching are limited to my all too infrequent trips to the US. But I did for one hectic week actually help produce this show, albeit in a very minor capacity. Apart from Wimbledon coverage for HBO this was my first real experience working for American TV, and it was quite an eye opener. In July 1989 the French 'celebrated' their bicentennial of their revolution, and while pretty much every British broadcaster ignored it, the 'Yanks' came over in force.
Presumably the language barrier was thought to be too great for the French to overcome and so NBC hired a British truck, (bizarrely, staffed by Swedish technicians) and hired British operators and engineers of whom I was one. The shoot was on the banks of the Seine, opposite Notre Dame. Just a few yards down from us were ABC with their Good Morning America show, similarly equipped, and fortunately quite friendly as we had to borrow some lighting equipment from them! This was the swansong of Jane Pauley who turned out to be a real lady. Sadly she was about to be stiffed by NBC she was soon to be replaced by a younger, blonder presenter (who guested during the week with us) Shame, as Pauley was a hit with the audience, us, and the many, many, passers by who she treated with respect and courtesy. Bryant Gumbel in contrast, hid what charm he had under a steely, cold exterior, and left me at least in no doubt who was in charge of that particular production.
We also had the pleasure of the company of Willard Scott, who turned out to be a laugh a minute and defused many a tense situation with his easy going humour. Scott has even less hair than I and confused the hell out of me when I saw him later on that year in the studio, with apparently flowing locks. It was only after watching for a few days I realised that he was expected to wear a hairpiece in the studio, but excused the wig, in the blustery conditions of outside work! The real star for me was the director. He's not credited here, but is elsewhere on the IMDb, but forgive me for not naming him. Those in the business will have heard of the $500K+ a year he was making then, and know who I mean. In contrast to the almost fawningly polite style of British Television (I still remember being told on my BBC induction course in the 1970's that we were expected to hold open the doors as we walked around Television Centre, for other members of staff) Americans were direct, and utterly ruthless. One mistake and you were bawled out, two and you were cut, no argument. Remarkable then that I survived the full week although I did learn one or two new swear words. Credit though, when the show was over he walked to every person on that crew and thanked them by name - something a few British directors could learn. I still have a tape we recorded of the show with the his tailback on an extra audio track - and it still makes me blush! The British claim to have invented TV, and well we might, but the Americans have largely perfected it - and they're at their best in this genre of live News and Features. The slick one-two presenter style with throws to specialist sports/weather/news headlines presenters is now adopted by all of our domestic channels, and we know what imitation is
Clapper Board (1972)
Kids film review show
Actually a deal better than that summary would imply. It began the same year as its more upmarket rival 'Film 72' from the BBC. Although it was scheduled in a time slot aimed at kids it attracted an adult following as well, particularly those who wanted to avoid the often stuffy style of Film 72's presenter.
Kelly was the key, and his easy, affable style made the whole show trot along. Clearly airing pre-six in the afternoon - well before the watershed - meant that no 'X' rated movies could be reviewed, but the line up was by no means limited to Children's films. Interest was added by competitions, either of the write in on a postcard variety, or simple 'answer after the break' style (There were no emails or text messages in those distant days, nor were there premium rate phone calls to boost flagging programme budgets)
Clapperboard picked up the very tail end of the Baby Boomer teenagers, but failed to move with them when they aged. Perhaps that's why it lasted no more than a decade, but is sadly missed by at least one forty something!
Where Angels fear to swim.....
As the previous, well informed, reviewer has noted 'Triangle' was an early 'EFP' effort. Electronic Field Production was to replace the usual 16mm film generally used for location work over the next ten or so years, but in 1981 was virtually unheard of. Video transmission in the 1980's was actually 25 years old, and well established, but some emerging technology used in Triangle was perhaps unwrapped a little before its time.
The early 1980's marked a significant break point in TV's technical development. New, lightweight cameras from Japan (where else?) and Videotape recorders (VTR's) from the United States that finally weighed less than a small family saloon (and consequently didn't require the output of a small nuclear power station to make them run) were just available at that point. Portable versions were made by 'cramming' things in to smaller boxes and some brave individual in Birmingham (Triangle was based out of the now defunct, but then relatively spanking new Pebble Mill centre in Britain's second city) made the decision that it would work. It nearly did.
Although the new cameras were neat, small, and notionally worked 'straight out of the box' they were still based on three vacuum tubes, and were vulnerable to shock, and even loud noises that caused the electrodes in the tubes to vibrate and affect the pictures. They also require careful line-up and would drift over time causing colour variations and registration (e.g. red/green edging) problems. The new VTR's too were subject to faults and I remember on more than one occasion watching Triangle slowing down and speeding up due to a poor control track (film has sprocket holes to drag it through the projector at the correct speed and framing, Videotape records electronic pulses - the control track - on the tape for the same reason. If they're poorly recorded or played back severe 'wow and flutter' result.)
On the production side the scripts were limited to a kind of 'soap on water' (no pun intended) and the acting on occasions left a little to be desired. Those were the pitfalls, so what were the attractions? First and foremost was Kate O'Mara whose bust was something of a national obsession at the time. That figure, with Ms O'Mara, following some distance behind, had featured in many dramas from the 1950's and made many a young schoolboy cry himself to sleep. She's 65 now, but I bet would still turn as many heads as she did then. Sadly though this one didn't have much else to commend it, and I would guess it survived so long because of the momentum of the production effort required to get it going.
Triangle was a turkey but a lucky one, surviving two Christmases. Inevitably though, it was consigned to the dustbin, taking a few careers with it. Quite a distinguished cast of British film and stage actors though, most of them seemed to survive the experience.
The Wombles (1973)
The story goes that Elizabeth Beresford was driving across Wimbledon Common one day when one of her young children called out 'We're in Wombledon!' and Beresford spent the rest of the journey wondering about characters called 'Wombles' and the show was thus born.
The stop-frame animation techniques may look dated when compared to - say - Wallace and Grommet, but actually add to the charm. Cribbins is sublime as the narrator, and Mike Batt's pacy theme tune was so good it launched his own mini pop career as a performer in the seventies.
A seventies classic that the kids will love.
The Fred Dibnah Story (1996)
Did you like that?
Fred didn't actually blow chimneys up. He decided which way he wanted them to fall and then started chipping the bricks away at the bottom in the area facing the drop zone. He was careful only to chip a couple away mind, and then stuff the hole with wooden props which took the weight. It took him the best part of the day to do this until he'd replaced a section about six foot high, and about a quarter of the circumference of the chimney with wood. Meanwhile every scrawny kid for miles around would hear about him being there and turn up offering to help. He'd send them out scouring the neighbourhood for old tires, tea chests, pallets, anything that would burn in fact, and they'd happily do it and leave them in a pile. Then when old Fred had finished the kids would crowd around and stack the bonfire against the wooden props he'd hammered into place. Then they'd all be cleared behind a tape the Police set up obligingly, but the kids that helped always got the best seats.
Fred would then light the fire, and his pipe, and smoke a bowlful or two while things got hot. After about twenty minutes or so he'd show interest again and wander up to the chimney, but round the back this time. What he was looking at was the courses between the bricks on that side. When the wood was starting to burn through, cracks would appear meaning it was about to go. He'd then sound this unearthly horn and run like billy-oh, often cutting it pretty fine, as when those chimneys go they break up and often the top would fall the wrong way and clatter down around his ears. The bulk of the thing always seemed to go the right way though and Fred would emerge with a big grin on his face covered in dust to the applause of the kids. He would remark sardonically to the camera that dashed up to him at that point "Did you like that?"
He had a set of Fireman's spanners for hydrants because of his traction engine which he'd chug from fair to fair in the summer pinching water from hydrants as he went. Something of a character even though he dumped his wife for one girl in the later years, and then her for another. Good work if you can get it.
Fred died a few days ago, and England lost another character. Still if they've got any chimneys need knocking down upstairs, Fred'll sort 'em.
Did this really run for four years?
Stirring stuff opening titles with HMS 'Hero' plunging through the waves bow on to the camera, gave way to a fairly mundane 'soapy' drama about the crew of a destroyer in the Navy.
Being mainly exteriors and pre-dating electronic portability, most of this was shot on 16mm film, with a few studio based shots having completely different sound and picture quality. Very often the crash edits between the two media provided the only dramatic elements to these shows and would wake you from the slumbering state the script had left you in.
Standard plot vehicles were members of the crew smuggling drugs, affairs between crew members and each others wives, crew members resorting to crime to solve some financial crisis. Very occasionally there would be a rescue from some foreign shore, or a bit of gunboat diplomacy. You get the feeling though that being some time after the last 'high profile' navy engagement with Iceland in the Cod War and before the Falklands, the writers couldn't bring themselves to imagine the ship engaged in any kind of warfare. I think the only shots fired were warning ones from the Bofors machine gun in the bow.
Of course the appeal was the crew were all young and dashing, although none of that rescued this rather cheap looking series from its below par performance. Curiously some 30 years later the surviving cast are all turning up as old crocks on 'The Bill' 'Casualty' and all the other soaps that pervade the UK channels at present.
A much better treatment of life in the Navy was the documentary 'Sailor' made in the late seventies. Raw, and uncompromising this doco was a hit, but is puzzlingly absent from the IMDb's pages.
Did he ever have a client who was actually guilty?
There are several things we can pretty much guarantee will happen in these murder mysteries. Some may consider me revealing these plot devices as spoilers, consider yourselves duly warned:
· His client will be found over the body with a smoking gun, bloody knife, or blunt instrument with no-one else possibly involved.
· His client will have 'grade A' motivation to commit the crime and there will be overwhelming evidence and the number of eyewitnesses will usually run into double figures.
· About 2.5 seconds after taking the case Lt. John Ponce will waddle up to him and produce a piece of 24 carat gold surprise evidence apparently sealing Petrocelli's clients fate. He will then gloatingly present in distorted flashback his 'version' of the murder, invariably condemning the client as surely as if they were John Wilkes Booth.
· Petrocelli's client will at some point lie to him about something so crucial that even Petrocelli should start to doubt his or hers innocence, which of course he never does - well not for long anyway.
· Petrocelli will lay three bricks of that adobe house he's building every episode.
· In spite of this the house remains about 10% built.
· As the Police will have wrapped up the case in the first 15-20 seconds and headed off for doughnuts and coffee, Petrocelli is obliged to perform the only investigation. As he does so each witness via a series of flashbacks (Busiest second unit crew in the business!) will slowly turn the States' 'open and shut case' away from the certainty we had at the beginning, to grave doubt. At the same time, a more credible guilty party will emerge, and be fully aware of Petrocelli's interest.
· Because of this, his beaten up old camper truck will be forced off the road by the guilty party, or their henchmen at least once in every episode, and sustain heavy damage.
· For variety Petrocelli or his wife might be driving, but invariably however heavy the wreck the thing turns up the next episode looking tired, but remarkably undamaged. They too survive, generally without a scratch.
· In spite of knowing they're in the frame, and that their attempted assassination or intimidation of Petrocelli has failed, the bad guys always, but always manage to be in the courtroom when he convinces the court of his clients innocence unravels the case and neatly exposes them.
I know all this sounds formulaic and repetitive, and it was. In spite of that the main players - particularly Newman who was excellent - all managed to bring something to the table and I enjoyed this in the seventies. Now too as I find myself watching this on the satellite channels who bang it out every day on Granada Plus in the UK. Petrocelli was superior to MacMillan and wife and Hart to Hart, but lacked the obvious glamour of both. Perhaps that's why it lasted only a couple of seasons. Pity, I liked it, and with a few more episodes, he might just have moved in to that house of his!
Trvia note: The producer, Leonard Katzman would go on to bigger things with 'Dallas' taking Susan Howard with him. There's a Star Trek connection here too with Susan Howard who was the only female Klingon in the original series (presumably) introduced by Edward Milkis, co-producer of both Trek and Petrocelli. Howard's part in the 1970 movie/pilot (albeit under a different character's name) was taken by Diana Muldhar, another trek legend.