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VH1 Divas Live 2 (1999)
Tina steals the show...
This second concert in VH-1's 'Divas' series suffered from several ill-conceived ideas.
Firstly, there were too many divas in the line-up. 1998 saw only six performers, each of them an established star. This follow-up tried to cram in nine divas plus an inexplicable guest spot by Naughty By Nature's Treach. The inclusion of the younger acts may have been a ratings ploy but it meant that the show was weakened. Brandy and Faith Hill's segments were a notable lull in the proceedings and Leann Rimes' duet with Elton John was excellent but she should have left it at that. These artists had not yet done enough to earn the right to perform alongside the real divas - with the exception of Mary J. Blige, who seemed to fit into the overall show, unlike the others.
Also, the show was too long, totalling two and a half hours - the VHS and DVD versions have been heavily edited.
The main acts were good value, although the legendary Cher's contribution was very brief (3 songs) and was somewhat ruined by her decision to mime to her mega-hit, 'Believe'. In contrast, Elton John's set was lengthy, including three collaborations and two solo songs and this was when the show started to drag, not helped by Brandy and Hill. Even Whitney Houston's memorable star turn at the end could not redeem the show by then. Houston belted out two 'Bodyguard' hits and some new material and performed a storming duet with Blige.
The main reason to watch this show is for the superb performance of Tina Turner. Opening the show with her signature tune, 'The Best', and giving a powerful rendition of 'Let's Stay Together' (unforgivably omitted from the VHS/DVD releases), she struts her stuff wonderfully and does not outstay her welcome. Joined by Elton John (putting their backstage differences aside), they spark magnificently on 'The Bitch Is Back' - a great choice of song for this event.
High points: 1) Tina's entrance; 2) Cher and Tina reunited after more than 20 years during 'Proud Mary'; 3) Whitney Houston and Mary J. Blige exchange hollers on 'Ain't No Way'. Low points: 1) Brandy; 2) Elton John plugs his new musical; 3) Chaka Khan's wailing in the finale.
If I were you, I would watch the first half hour of this show and then go and do something else until Whitney Houston. Otherwise it's mind-numbing.
Doctor at Large (1971)
Not a bad sequel...
This follow-up to "Doctor in the House" (1969) was, in many ways, better than its predecessor because the new premise of qualified doctors endeavouring to find their feet in the medical profession provided greater scope for new situations in each week's installment - vital as this series enjoyed one extended run of 29 episodes from March to September, 1971.
The removal of the less interesting characters from the first programme (Dave Briddock, Danny Hooley) meant that Geoffrey Davies and, particularly, George Layton were now given the chance to shine and, consequently, turned in some great performances. Richard O'Sullivan was a terrific addition to the cast as the odious Lawrence Bingham.
I've always thought Barry Evans as Michael Upton was a little stiff and not likeable enough, preferring Robin Nedwell's Duncan Waring (to return the following year in "Doctor in Charge" (1972)), but as the central character, here he is entertaining enough, while the real glory belongs to Layton, Davies et al.
The quality of the writing was excellent - unsurprising, given that John Cleese, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie were among those contributing scripts. Further evidence of their eminence is the string of guest appearances by actors who were - or were to become - comedy greats. These included: Arthur Lowe, John Le Mesurier, David Jason, Hattie Jacques, Mollie Sugden, Patricia Routledge, Fulton MacKay, Maureen Lipman and Roy Kinnear.
If you get the chance to catch some of these seldom-repeated shows, don't miss out!