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Quincy M.E.: New Blood (1980)
"New Blood" is a curious episode. Although it's not a end-of-season show, it has the air of Star Trek's "Assignment: Earth" in as much as it sets up an entirely separate TV premise (much as Gene Roddenberry - faced with the imminent cancellation of Trek two seasons in - came up with the character of intergalactic spy "Gary Seven"). Meanwhile, Klugman's Quincy is almost entirely irrelevant and just mumbles from the sidelines. Something similar was tried on "Ironside", but the spin-off didn't spin far. Were the producers hoping to launch an entirely new show here, or was JK taking a few days off? If the latter, they missed the chance to get an intelligent female pathologist on screen 20 years before CSI.
Department S (1969)
Outrageous sexism in pilot episode
Spawned by the same Monty Berman / Dennis Spooner partnership which produced The Champions and Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) - the latter retitled My Partner the Ghost for the US market - Department S remains a classic example of the action-adventure series which the UK produced in bulk during the late 1960s. Like those two shows, its internal dynamic of two guys and a girl might seem to indicate a progressive attitude towards equality (Dept S also has a black superior), but it's mostly facade: the launch episode, "Six Days", is barely halfway through before Rosemary Nichols is called upon to parade around in bra, panties and one (yes, one) stocking in order to extricate herself from a dodgy situation. Still, it's an interesting time capsule, even if the appalling fashion sense of Peter Wyngarde's character (which, amazingly, degenerated even further in the spin-off series Jason King) should definitely have remained buried.
Lover's Concerto (1995)
aka The Ballerina
This film was released as a UK DVD release in 2001 by Prism Leisure, under the title The Ballerina; as an indication of the company's shoddy handling, Shelley Michelle and Lisa Marie Alach are credited on the sleeve as Sally Michelle and Lisa Marie Alachi. As indicated by the previous reviewer, much of Ms Michelle's screen time is taken up by her dancing, accompanied by what appears to be her personal quartet; the supporting cast-members are only slightly less convincing as musicians than she is as a prima ballerina. When not providing background classics (wouldn't a decent CD player have been cheaper?), the quartet hang around the pool and sauna, swapping partners and bodily fluids, whilst "Katya" (Michelle) gazes from afar and longs to join in. The ambiance is very much of late-night TV erotica, but paced more slowly: Red Shoe Diaries after a large mug of Horlicks.
The US has a history of lifting successful comedy formats from the UK, some of which have proved as successful - and occasional more so - than the original templates. Steptoe and Son became Sanford and Son, Till Death Us Do Part begat All in the Family, Man About the House mutated into Three's Company. Payne is not one of those shows.
Much as the US version of Coupling appears to have surgically sliced out the sex and sarcasm which made the original so funny, the team behind Payne seems unable to grasp that none of the characters in Fawlty Towers are meant to be likable, with the possible exception of Polly. Basil acts superior but has deep insecurities, Sybil is a self- centred bitch, Manuel is an idiot, even the guests are barely coherent.
But that's what makes them human. And funny. And whilst we bemoan the fact that Cleese & Booth produced only a dozen episodes of Fawlty Towers, we can sit agog that Payne made it as far as nine.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
If you don't laugh, you're probably dead
Well known to British television audiences for the surreal comedy Spaced, co-writer Simon Pegg heads a top notch comedy cast for a film which manages to be both one of the funniest big screen comedies in years and a gory horror film which will satisfy any disciple of the splatter genre; indeed, this is probably the most satisfying amalgam of the two forms since the early films of Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson (the former gets several nods in the script, as - of course - does George Romero). British comedy fans will also spot a veritable "who's who" from recent hits in the supporting cast (Spaced, The Office, Black Books, Little Britain). If this movie leaves you cold, you might as well leave the pub and join the zombies.
Tempus fugit (2003)
Award for SF Comedy
I'm delighted to announce that Tempus Fugit was named best non-UK independent feature at the 15th Festival of Fantastic Films, held in Manchester, England, on 20-22 August 2004. A worthy winner.
The FFF is held annually by the Society of Fantastic Films, and guests have included Roger Corman, Brian Clements, Robert Fuest, Norman J Warren, Pete Walker, Sarah Karloff, Mel Welles, Freddie Francis, Anne Robinson, Francis Matthews, Andrew Keir, Val Guest and Ingrid Pitt.
This year's event was held at the Manchester Conference Centre, with winners announced at the closing ceremony. The best UK independent feature was named as Voodoo London.