(UK 1986 415m) DVD1/2

Ten cents a dance, fella

p  John Harris, Kenith Trodd  d  Jon Amiel  w  Dennis Potter  ph  Ken Westbury  ed  Bill Wright, Sue Wyatt  m  Stanley Myers  art  Jim Clay

Michael Gambon (Philip Marlow), Patrick Malahide (Mark Binney), Alison Steadman (Lili), Joanne Whalley (Nurse Mills), David Ryall (Mr Hall), Ron Cook (1st mysterious man), George Rossi (2nd mysterious man), Janet Suzman (Nicola), Leslie French (“Noddy” Tomkey), Bill Paterson (Dr Gibbon), Ken Stott (Uncle John), Jim Carter (Mr Marlow), Gerald Horan (Reginald Gibbs), Sharon Clarke (night nurse), Imelda Staunton (Nurse White), Badi Uzzaman (Ali), Janet Henfrey (schoolteacher), Lyndon Davies (Philip, aged 10), David Thewlis (soldier),

Following the transmission of the first episodes of Dennis Potter’s magnum opus on BBC1, their viewer response show Points of View was bombarded with complaints from the Mary Whitehouse brigade, including a mirthfully Pythonesque response from Colonel R.S.Vine, BSc, MRCS, LRCP, FRC Path, who called it “this extraordinarily obscene production.”  It still amazes me how truly shatteringly narrow-minded the average person is – and was – in the so-called modern age, and I’m sure it left Potter equally aghast.  It was as if sex was the only thing that The Singing Detective was about, when in actual fact it was but one layer of many.  Rather than showcase Potter as having a filthy mind, they were actually uncovering their own shortcomings.

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by John Greco

The Odd Couple was one of those shows that was never a huge hit during its original TV run. For five-seasons it ran on ABC and not once did it crack the Top 20 in the Neilson ratings. However, once the show was cancelled and put in syndication, it became a favorite, still running today on various cable stations and streaming services. The shows two stars made more money once the show went into syndication than they did during the original run.

The show was based on Neil Simon’s hit Broadway play [1] that opened in March of 1965 and ran for more than two years. Walter Matthau played Oscar Madison, the sloppy, gambling sports-writer for The New York Herald with Art Carney as the finicky television news writer, Felix Unger. [2]  The play won numerous Tony Awards including Best Play, Best Actor for Matthau, and Best Director (Mike Nichols). In 1968, the play was turned into a film with Matthau recreating his role as Oscar and Jack Lemmon brought in to play persnickety Felix.  The film opened at Radio City Music Hall, and like the play was a financial and audience hit.

In 1970, ABC with Garry Marshall behind the scenes brought the show to television. Jack Klugman who earlier replaced Walter Matthau on Broadway was brought in to play Oscar. A perfect Tony Randall was brought in to play Felix.  Randall, like Klugman, was familiar with the original material having played Felix, opposite Mickey Rooney as Oscar, in various productions. Rooney apparently was considered for the role of Oscar before the producers settled on Klugman. The Odd Couple was Marshall’s first of many development deals that would result in future hit shows like Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley and Mork and Mindy. The transfer from Broadway to film to television did result in a few changes to the characters. One of the most notable is Felix who in the play and film is contemplating suicide. Randall’s TV Felix though depressed never goes that far.  Continue Reading »


By J.D. Lafrance

In a landscape dominated by the likes of Dynasty and Hill St. Blues, Moonlighting was a breath of fresh air when it debuted on American television in 1985. It was a detective show that provided a funny, witty alternative and ambitiously took the screwball comedy popular in the 1930s and 1940s and gave it a contemporary spin that has never been duplicated as successfully on mainstream T.V. since.

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by Brandie Ashe

“Sunny day,

Sweepin’ the clouds away,

On my way to where the air is sweet–

Can you tell me how to get,

How to get to Sesame Street?”

If you are of a certain age, that song will bring back a lot of memories … and will likely be stuck in your head on a loop for the rest of the day.

Since its debut in 1969, the inarguable standard-bearer for televised educational entertainment for children has been Sesame Street. Winner of 166 Emmy Awards over the course of its nearly fifty-year run, the show and its iconic characters have become ubiquitous around the world. The show’s deft combination of humor and educational curriculum has long made it a valuable means of introducing young children to basic concepts such as the alphabet, vocabulary, and counting, while also teaching real-life lessons about such ideas as the importance of sharing, compassion for others, and tolerance.

One thing that sets Sesame Street apart from some of its competitors in the kiddie TV market, and has allowed the show to maintain its consistent quality and reputation over the years, is that it manages to reach children on their level without talking down to them. There’s no condescension coloring the lessons taught by the show; instead, there’s a camaraderie that is carefully constructed between the characters onscreen and the children watching from home, one that welcomes and celebrates the joys of childhood while encouraging imaginative play and intellectual curiosity. Viewing Sesame Street from an adult perspective, it’s easy to see why parents the world over have trusted their children to the Street gang for so many years. The shows are educational without being overly didactic; moral lessons are taught sans preachy overtones; and though the bright overacting of the adult human characters, admittedly, can be grating, they are nonetheless adept at engaging and maintaining the attention of their young audience.

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 © 2017 by James Clark

      We coffee drinkers appreciate the world of taste. (I suppose smokers could be included as seekers of such deal-making, but in the sense of diminishing returns.) What is there about wide consumption of those stimulants which merits strong attention to the point, in fact, of producing a feature film, namely, Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), by that finder of diamonds in the rough, Jim Jarmusch?

One factor to be recognized, in fathoming the characteristically odd unfolding of the disclosure, is that in all (but one) eleven disparate vignettes the players are seated at a table in a coffee shop with, with one exception, at least one other aficionado. That leads us to a first premise that something about the interaction at those tables is largely (though not exclusively) responsible for the supplements of a cup (or more) of coffee and a cigarette (or more). Though most of the conversations consist of rather bewildering tatters of good will, there is one tete-a-tete which seems to have found its way to a field of reflection which might provide more than those copious dead-ends which most viewers of Jarmusch’s films readily assume to be all there is and consequently find themselves obliged, in respect to the whimsy and comedy, to maintain that grotesque errancy is as much as anyone will ever know and that that status quo is acutely gratifying. One other element of this scenario, which should be mulled over, is the cast’s being show-biz notables, many of whom having appeared in previous Jarmusch movies and consequently bringing those dramas into renewed considerations. Continue Reading »


by Robert Hornak

It’s a show not everyone can warm up to. Think Seinfeld, but on HBO, unfettered from both the slide-rule structure of that prime time network sitcom and any constraints of language and situation. It centers on a serial complainer, Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld, playing a hyped-up version of himself, continually falling into social disgrace, improvising paragraphs of shrill self-defense against equally shrill antagonists. With that as a baseline for the entertainment provided, it’s a wonder anyone at all watches it. Yet it’s powerhoused through eight 10-episode seasons, and after a five-year hiatus is back this October with another batch of ten. It seems David has struck a nerve of relatable sympathy with a wide enough portion of the audience, and for them there’s no depth of silliness or broadness of circumstance that isn’t superseded by a kind of understanding for how the poor guy feels when beset upon by the legions of displeased friends and acquaintances he inadvertently offends. Larry can’t do anything correctly as long as he’s doing what he thinks is right, a man congenitally unable to be dishonest about how he thinks people should behave toward him and unable to comprehend why others don’t live according to common sense when it clearly overrides rank social custom. The measure of his discomfort and pique is the pitch of his gravely protestations as he confronts a bottomless wealth of social rules attempted but broken.

Curb Your Enthusiasm, so named by David to counter any unduly high expectations in the wake of Seinfeld‘s phenomenal run, was originally an hour-long HBO special in 1999, which seemed to come into the world fully formed from the bald-and-bespectacled head of Zeus, then given the green light for a season sprint on that channel. The format, hand-held camera catching improv-based scenes off a rough episode outline supplied by David, was the perfect foil to Seinfeld‘s rigid sheen. Where Seinfeld is a neat balance of sharp, succinctly-written wordplay decorating an expansive exploration of social/relationship pitfalls, ultimately appealing to the selfish in all of us, Curb is more unabashed in its utter fascination with the ways we force each other to act, even at the expense of decorum, and much more appealing to the righteous indignation of anyone who’s ever been overly chastised for honest mistakes or straightforward disregard for dumb rules.

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by Sam Juliano

You’d almost think that the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina was the creation of renowned American playwright Thornton Wilder.  That is until you realize that life in Grovers Corner, New Hampshire is steeped in melancholy, and the concerns are more deeply philosophical.  Yet one would be hard pressed not to note the small town parallels, and how seemingly innocuous village institutions like a drug store, barber shop, auto repair depot, school, post office, courthouse, and town hall can be the center of every mode of interaction and incidence, a place where everyone knows everyone else, and where for its erstwhile inhabitants life stands still.  Mayberry is a town with a purported population of 5, 360, and an elevation of 671.   Scholar Donald Margulies declares in his Our Town forward, “the work is about the universal experience of being alive” and the same came be said for the archetypal Mayberry, which bears the name of the county that owns it.  The Bluebird Diner, The Grand Theater, Floyd’s Barber Shop and Myer’s Lake are central to the Mayberry experience as it was played out in eight long years in one America’s most revered and enduring sitcoms, The Andy Griffith Show, a television watermark that continues to this very day to attract new fans, while remaining a treasured refuge for those who either grew up with it during the baby boomer era or discovered it in syndication.  There are very few American television enterprises that have maintained the kind of fervent appeal as this CBS tour de force, a show as ingrained in the nation’s culture as any before or since, and one remarkably that has never dated one iota, since the full run of emotions and human inhibitions are as relevant today as they were six decades ago.  I’d venture to pose that a hundred years from now The Andy Griffith Show will be scoring new adherents, people all too eager to ingest its tame but telling brew and to find special solace spending time with characters everyone has grown to know and love.  The program was and remains a sanctuary from crisis and unease and an invitation to indulge in the show’s meditative showcase of life’s inscrutable mundanities.  Alas, in the end the show is deep, wistful and profound, and is fully foolproof to those who would ordinarily look down their nose at such seeming simplicity.  One can never deem to understand and appreciate American television and indeed the culture without visiting Mayberry and partaking either moderately or with the force of a tornado, in The Andy Griffith Show.

First aired in September of 1960, The Andy Griffith Show became an immediate hit.  It continues to run several times a day in some markets, and the overall circulation circulation needs to be spoken of in worldwide terms.  It would be difficult to argue that by way of staying power it doesn’t rival The Honeymooners or I Love Lucy, those other CBS masterpieces, but unlike them the appeal can’t be explained completely by acting and writing excellence.  At a time when the civil rights movement was gaining momentum, sex, drugs and rock and roll were redefining the culture, and riots and assassinations began their tragic paths, this celebration of life in the slow lane was of special interest to those wanting to resist the turbulent changes and to remember what it once was in less complicated times.  Black and white helped to frame this nostalgic program, and in some cases it allowed viewers to reconnect with their own past.  Andy Griffith himself grew up in Mount Airy, NC, which some assumed was the model for Mayberry, though the performer himself refutes that, declaring instead that the nearby Pilot Mountain was the intended replica.  His beloved co-star Don Knotts was also brought up in a rural hamlet in West Virginia, so it could be confidently posed that the setting was exceedingly well suited.  The show’s central dramatic concern was the friendship between these two men, Griffith as likeable Mayberry Sheriff Andy Taylor, and Knotts as his big-eyed and child-like deputy Barney Fife.  Andy’s lawman possessed a gently satiric edge, since the town he was entrusted with had almost no crime.  If anything, through his actions, or more often non-actions Andy helped the town’s citizens to hold steady to their homespun values, while protecting his compulsive deputy from a variety of problems emanating from his overwrought behavior.  The other major player in this minimalist dynamic is the widower Andy’s eight year-old son Opie, a precocious boy who his only child and immediate family member.  Some of the show’s most memorable episodes and situations are fueled by this irresistible lad, one who of course grew up to be the major Hollywood director Ron Howard. Continue Reading »