Sunday, April 06, 2008

Crazy & Wild

After springing forward to British Summer Time last weekend, it seemed perfectly normal to wake up to thick snow flurries covering the neigbourhood in a uniform deep white blanket. I went for The Sunday Times, chorizo, eggs and milk and that was it for me.

So I had to hand it to the people that braved the elements to line the route as the Olympic torch was carried through London, most of whom seemed to be either police or protesters who made a good fist of disrupting the relay. One zealous pro-Tibet protestor managed to launch himself through the shield and got a hand on the torch before the rozzers stomped him to the ground.

A little further along, on the way to Notting Hill, a further anti-China protestor should be applauded for ingeniously trying to blast the torch with a fire extinguisher. Unfortunately he was a little premature setting it off and soon found himself kissing the tarmac as a swarm of police piled in on him.

Unfortunately, after that, it pretty much reached the point where each successive torchbearer was surrounded by not only the protective near-dozen Chinese “flame attendants” but a large outer ring of Met officers so that it was barely visible. By the end it was carried by bus, Docklands Light Railway and then boat, which seemed a bit rubbish.

And then it’s announced that Charlton Heston has died. I mean, come on!!

With all this craziness it seemed just the perfect time to watch Wild Palms on DVD. I’d recorded the five-part miniseries when it was first broadcast in 1993 and, although it wasn’t something I watched on even a semi-regular basis, the tape was wearing pretty thin.

Seeing this pristine version still didn’t make it any more intelligible, Which is just how I remembered it; especially once the overwrought theme, composed by the Yellow Magic Orchestra’s Ryuichi Sakamoto, kicked in.

Straight away there was James Belushi’s impotent attorney Harry Wyckoff dreaming about a rhinoceros in his empty swimming pool. I suppose that’s quite a start. After that came the media conglomerate with his own religion and virtual reality programming, New Realists, the struggle between the Friends and the Fathers, and the psychoactive drug which, when overdosed on, sends the user visions of cathedrals.

Eventually the palm trees burnt and just as before, it left me with the same vague sense of dissatisfaction as before. It may not have worked as a whole but what Wild Palms had done brilliantly, back when it was originally transmitted, was show that the Twin Peaks debacle hadn’t completely queered the pitch in terms of rather unusual, partly fantastical television. And I'd forgotten it was set in 2007.

Genius or mad as a bag of badgers, Wild Palms is still one of those things it’s simply good to have a copy of. While Fremantle have put out a bare-bones operation, with the five episodes spread over two discs and absolutely no extras or even subtitles, at least it comes in at under a tenner.

Just as there seems to be this hole in the DVD market where a lot of the 1970s movies should be, there are also a whole lot of 1980s and 90s TV dramas that don’t get an airing and really need to be rescued from the ether. Instead of long running series that look like they’re planning to go on forever, I mean the single dramas like 1995’s Go Now, directed by Michael Winterbottom from a script by Paul Henry Powell and Jimmy McGovern. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that repeated since.

Then there are Alan Bennett’s single dramas about Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, An Englishman Abroad from 1983, featuring a magnificent performance from Alan Bates, and 1992’s A Question of Attribution starring James Fox, both produced by Innes Lloyd and directed by John Schlesinger. There’s also Bennett’s remarkable The Insurance Man from 1986 which posits Franz Kafka in an increasingly Kafkaesque nightmare.

There’s also 1987’s Blunt starring Ian Richardson as Blunt and Anthony Hopkins as Burgess, Simon Gray’s After Pilkington, starring Bob Peck and Miranda Richardson from the same year, and the Martin Campbell -directed Frankie and Johnnie broadcast the year before. If the BBC and Channel 4 felt like it, DVDs of Dennis Potter’s Karaoke and Cold Lazarus would be nice.

Whereas boxsets of Lost and Heroes and the like are snapped up by their large fanbases, would there be an audience for these older dramas to make their release on DVD profitable? You’d hope 2 Entertain would take the risk and get around to putting them out. After all, these would be releases that wouldn’t need to be loaded down with extras. For once the quality of the material would be more than enough.


At 2:37 am, Blogger Jaded and Cynical said...

The protesters have persuaded me.

I've decided to boycott the opening ceremony in Beijing.

At 9:34 am, Blogger Good Dog said...

I'd like to boycott paying for the 2012 clusterfuck which, according to a piece in the Evening Standard earlier in the week could eventually cost upwards of £20bn.


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