Friday, 13 April 2012

Television reviews: 13 April

Michael Moran celebrates some very traditional programming on a very modern channel

Written by Michael Moran

On the small screen

Michael-Moran1Do you remember the olden days? You know, when we knew our neighbours and we all watched much the same TV shows? And when there was a play on once a week, with proper actors in it?

Now, with that rather odd couple living next-door-but-one and with the television schedules looking less like a comprehensible menu and more like some huge, biliously patterned carpet with a strong repeating motif of Opportunity Knocks, you might think that those simpler times had gone forever. Well, they more or less have, to be candid. But there is some good news.

The Sky Arts channel has commissioned a series of 11 plays to run through the spring, starring some of the biggest names in comedy and drama. As well as, in a couple of cases, music.

Probably the highlight of the season is the queen of the thesps, Emma Thompson, playing the Queen of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Elizabeth Windsor. That play, Walking The Dogs, scheduled for late May, is a retelling of the strange night in 1982 when an intruder gained access to the royal bedchamber and had an unscheduled chat with our dear monarch.

I couldn't wait until May to tell you about this excellent season of plays though. Not when you might have some subterfuge to plan.

This week's play is (more or less) a two-hander starring Sheila Hancock and Paul O'Grady. O'Grady also wrote the play, Nellie And Melba, with Sandi Toksvig.


O'Grady plays Hancock's confirmed bachelor son, still living with his mother at the age of 50. He works in an unrewarding job at a social security office but has show business in his blood, inherited perhaps from his former showgirl mother.

Not too much happens over the half hour, but that hardly matters. As a gently comic character study, and as an exercise in quietly poetic dialogue writing, it's the kind of thing that we don't get half enough of on television today. See it if you can.

And plan ahead: Harry Shearer, star of Spinal Tap and The Simpsons, appears as Richard Nixon at the end of April. Also, Sir Tom Jones takes on his first dramatic role alongside Alison Steadman and Brenda Blethyn for King Of The Teds on 3 May.

In The Other Woman, on 14 June life imitates art as a successful TV writer and his actress wife's failing marriage is mirrored in the show he writes and she stars in. That one features Geraldine James, Richard E Grant and Trevor Eve.

If you don't happen to have one of Rupert Murdoch's electronic woks riveted to the side of your house, you might want to take a stroll up your street and see if one of your neighbours has signed up.

Pop around with a bottle of wine on a Thursday night, about a quarter to nine, and cluster around the TV with your neighbours. It'll be just like the olden days.                                                                               Michael Moran        


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