As the clocks go back, as night falls early, do you like to curl up with the television? What are your favourites, reality, soap operas or medical dramas? At Chez Tidalscribe it is subtitle heaven lately; if a programme has subtitles I try and watch it.
Saturday night, BBC4 is now showing the seventh series of Engrenages ( Spiral ), we couldn’t wait to get back to Paris with this gritty police series which has an excellent cast and interweaving story lines.
One Sunday Night and Day in Catalan started over on More4, but it turns out we have to catch the rest of the series On Demand. Not to worry, Sunday evenings on BBC1 brings a moving drama World on Fire, World War Two seen through English, Polish and German eyes.
Monday and Tuesday we are following Dublin Murders, dark and very intriguing. Okay, so it’s in English, not Irish (Gaeilge ) and I believe filmed in Northern Ireland, but it is set in A Nother country…
But come Thursday it’s Giri/Haji set in London and Tokyo, another crime thriller, but done with real style and humour. It is written by an English chap, but has plenty of Japanese scenes and story lines. Darting back and forth across the world and back into the past, you have to concentrate.
What is such fun about sub titles? Seeing different places, nosing into homes and lives that are different. If you only speak one language fluently people speaking other languages sound so clever. I don’t particularly want to see crime dramas, it’s just that they predominate, although Inspector Montalbano on Sicily is a lot sunnier that Scandi Noir. We have watched Icelandic comedy and the brilliant Borgen about a Danish Prime Minister.
One of the most important reasons for voting Remain and wanting to stay in the European Union was surely to make sure we don’t lose our sub titled programmes.
Guess what started last night? The Team over on More4, billed as a punchy multilingual cop show in…. English, German, Flemish, French, Danish and subtitles, what a dream! It started in Danish wetlands and we were just getting involved in the lives of an assortment of people in a remote house, when suddenly they were all murdered. Of course this necessitated the bringing together of the special officers from Germany, Denmark and Belgium who we had been briefly introduced to. And when they all arrived remarkably quickly at the scene of the crime, how did they communicate with each other – in English!
Sub titles – do you love them or hate them? Can you tune in to programmes broadcast from other countries?
I hadn’t read the previous novel about Kate, so knew nothing about her, but Kate knows nothing about herself either when she wakes up. This is a thriller with no heroes, the Snowman is desperate to help her and it seems at last he can, but it is not to be. If this was a television thriller the Snowman would save the day, but the story becomes more complex. We follow the killer’s thoughts as well as the other main characters, an advantage of books over screens. The reader will never sympathise, but we might comprehend what’s going on in Jack’s mind. Michael is another character who we think might save the day, but he is a mix of flaws and must face up to the grief he has caused the woman he loved and the other woman who loves him. This is not a novel for the faint hearted; what starts as a mystery of unconnected murders is also the story of those unfortunate enough to be in the path of a killer or know his intended victim. We know from the news that bizarre killings can occur when a murderer becomes obsessed and this murderer is obsessed with Kate.
I downloaded this novel onto my Kindle as it sounded fun and we have relatives who have become DFLs* on the Isle of Thanet. But this is a story that would make an enjoyable read for anyone with family or lively family as neighbours. Whether you are married, divorced or thankful to be single, the lives of Tess and her family and friends will probably sound familiar. The story bowls along, with prospects of romance dashed at every twist and turn and plenty of modern life problems.
*‘Down From London’ – a good train service from St. Pancras, lower property prices and the seaside have made the Isle of Thanet, Kent a popular choice for workers needing to commute and also artists and entrepreneurs.
How do you watch television these days, perhaps not even on a television set? But drama serials are still ever popular, whether we sit down each week, catch up digitally or binge watch. I like the idea of the TV schedule, but inevitably if we’re out or have visitors I am thankful we can record or catch up. PAUSING programmes is also a brilliant asset as my good intentions to leave the computer or the kitchen by 9pm always fail.
There have been so many good dramas lately we have some still to watch. My two recent favourites were very different.
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray is a long novel that many people on social media have confessed to not having read. But with a film and at least four television adaptations we can be forgiven for not being sure if we have actually read the book. BBC 1967, 1987 and the one I remember really enjoying was a few years ago – no it was 1998! So how would ITV’s new production compare?
Thackeray, played by national treasure Michael Palin, took his rightful place as the narrator at the beginning and end of each part; he watched his characters go round and round on a carousel.
The story starts in 1813 England, a turbulent society embroiled in war for twenty years. Thackeray introduces a world where everyone is striving for what is not worth having. The impossibly smart red and white soldiers, beautiful women, lovely horses and clean streets were not out of place because he wanted us to watch his characters in a performance. The battle field sequences contrast with this.
Becky Sharpe has nothing, but is determined to have everything, whoever she hurts on the way. We are whirled through years of love, heartbreak, family troubles, business disasters and tragedy with one love story ending happily.
BBC4 on Saturday nights is a must if you love Scandi Noir or anything with sub titles. We have followed Danish politics, Swedish thrillers, Sicilian detectives, Paris police, Belgian undercover in French and Flemish, but most recently it has been Outback Noir.
Mystery Road in six episodes, was filmed in the Kimberly region of north Western Australia. Having lived in Perth, Western Australia and with family there, I try and watch any Australian series that come our way. I have never been to that part of the state, another country to suburbanites in the city. The series was worth watching for the scenery alone, wide landscapes of dusty red soil and long roads, a fascinating country town and a cattle station homestead that makes you yearn to live somewhere with endless space. A great cast did justice to a complex story linking past and present with layers of secrets. The old landowning family, the indigenous people and European backpackers all find their lives bound together in small town life.
Once upon a time you could watch television or go to the cinema. If you loved a film, chances are you would never see it again, unless it ended up on television. If you missed an episode of your favourite serial, that was it, gone for ever. The advent of video machines changed everything; you could go to Blockbusters and rent a video of your favourite film to watch at home. If you were going out or did shift work you could record your favourite programme and come home to find you had pressed the wrong channel…
Since then viewing has become far more complicated and gone are the days when everyone watched the Sunday night drama and talked about it on Monday. Catch up, iplayer, fire sticks, boxes of all sorts, Netflix, cables and satellites; gigantic screen televisions down to watching programmes on your phone; take your pick. But a good film, comedy or television drama still stands out.
I love a good comedy. We don’t have Netflix, but we know someone who does and the fact that they moved thousands of miles away doesn’t seem to have stopped us using it. So we have been catching up with ‘The Letdown’, the hilarious and realistic Australian portrayal of parenthood. If you have ever had a baby or there are new babies in the family you will recognise the scenarios. Gone are the days of sitting bored and lonely in the dark watches of the night, feeding a baby who is very cuddly, but not intellectually stimulating. Modern breastfeeding mothers are on their smart phones exchanging sympathy with sleepless mums all over the world and probably looking up the latest advice on the many Facebook support groups. The downside is that new parents are under pressure more than ever to do the right thing, whatever that is. If you get the chance, join Audrey as she meets other mothers and thinks they are all doing it better than her…
We have finally caught up with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. After seeing it reviewed on one of our favourite film programmes, knowing it was co-financed by Film4Productions, I was confident it was my sort of film, even though I don’t like films with lots of swearing and violence. The next day, talking about cinema with a friend, I mentioned there was a film coming out that Cyberspouse and I both wanted to see, though by then I had forgotten what it was called and what it was about.
It completely lived up to our expectations. Dark indeed, with violence and swearing, but the humour was brilliant, the story poignant. To carry off a film like this you need the best actors. My only pre conceived idea was that Francis McDormand would be good, but Woody Harleson and Sam Rockwell were also brilliant.
A Very English Scandal on BBC television was three episodes of perfect Sunday evening drama. Russell T Davies’ production was blackly comic (are you sensing a theme here of my taste in viewing? ) and has had viewers agog. Political scandals are not new, but the 1979 trial of Jeremy Thorpe, the leader of the Liberal Party and Member of Parliament for North Devon, revealed years of cover ups, lying and a farcical attempted murder that you couldn’t make up. It was also a story, familiar now, of a man in power abusing the trust of the most vulnerable. Even today, politicians who are gay often don’t ‘come out’ till their mother has died, or to avoid upsetting their family’s religious sensibilities. Before 1967 all sexual activity between men was illegal throughout the United Kingdom with heavy criminal penalties and was a sure way to destroy one’s career. Thorpe’s sexual encounters with other men and his affair with Norman Scott had to be kept secret, even if it meant killing the young man. Perhaps the public were most upset that the Great Dane was killed by mistake, Norman was only spared because the gun jammed.
The most scandalous thing about the trial was the judge’s totally biased summing up for which he was later lampooned by comedian Peter Cook. All those accused of conspiracy to murder were found Not Guilty.
This delicious three part drama, with its dark humour, worked because of the excellent acting in every part, it was Hugh Grant’s best ever role and Ben Wishaw is always brilliant in every character he takes on. We watched in real time and the icing on the cake was the showing straight afterwards of a 1979 Panorama documentary, intended to be shown after Jeremy Thorpe was found guilty. It had never been shown before. And there was more drama to follow. Tom Mangold who made the documentary, was walking his dog in the park and met a man who claimed to have also been hired to kill Norman Scott, but didn’t go through with it. Andrew Newton, the man accused of the attempted killing was claimed by police to be dead, but is now claimed to be very much alive, living under another name. Gwent Police have reopened their enquiry into the scandal. Sunday night news showed a plainclothes officer knocking at a front door; of course no one was in, another amusing post script.
Do you ever spare a thought for the fruit seller and the uniformed policeman? You know the ones, they always appear in action movies and fast moving crime series on television. There is always a fruit stall in the path of a car chase; whether the hero is chasing or escaping, he screeches round the corner straight into the hapless fruit seller. If he’s lucky he escapes death, but his stall is smashed, his fruit rolling down the street. A day’s earnings lost, perhaps his livelihood… and that is all we ever know of his life. The hero cares nothing about the man and all his dependents, he’s too busy grinning at the sight of the criminal crashing into a plate glass window. Another business ruined, the shop owner showered with splinters of glass and someone else’s blood, suffering from shock at the sight of the criminal’s head thrust through the windscreen, almost separated from his body. But the viewer has already left the scene, unaware of the shop keeper’s future struggles with post traumatic stress.
But there is more than one criminal the hero has to chase, uniformed police have now arrived, but their role will be brief. The slightest brush with the villain’s vehicle and the police patrol car rolls over, crushed, occupants killed instantly. Our hero spins round deftly to continue his pursuit.
Often our hero is a maverick secret agent, answerable to no one except perhaps M, if he is James Bond. If our hero is a plain clothes detective he may condescend to return briefly to the police station, before meeting his glamorous girlfriend. In real life he would have a mountain of paperwork and a great deal of explaining to do. But our hero does not hear other officers talking in shocked tones about the death of their colleagues. He slips in to see his boss and avoids the collection going round for the families of the dead officers. It’s just another day for him.