Saturday, November 07, 2009

Making a Start

In a comment to the previous post I mentioned that many new television dramas have a propensity for taking the “kick, bollock, scramble” approach to throw their audience straight into the story. Obviously this desire to grab people’s attention is a good way to keep them from reaching for the remote and checking out their competition as much as it is to get the plot rolling, but sometimes I miss the intrigue that comes with a slow, calculated build–up.

Probably my favourite opening scene has to be these two minutes leading up to the wonderfully simple and effective title sequence designed by Douglas Burd. It may be out of fashion, and I’m sure viewers with a practically non-existent attention span would blow a plug before the first thirty seconds are up, but it works a treat for me in establishing the working relationships between the quartet of Merlin case officers at The Circus.


At 5:52 pm, Blogger SharonM said...

And the quality continued throughout!

At 6:45 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...


Well, yes there’s that too. After such a brilliant start it just gets better and better.

What I particularly love about this opening is Michael Aldridge’s quick glance at the empty chair before he sits down, just a nod at Percy Alleline’s obvious annoyance that Bill Haydon is late. Then Ian Richardson arrives, with his cup of tea rather than any paperwork. And he leaves the door ajar, which Bernard Hepton has to get up to close.

It’s just one great performance after another and carries on with the arrival of Ian Bannen, Hywel Bennett, Beryl Reid, and – of course – Alec Guinness’ masterful turn as George Smiley.

The best thing about DVD is not that we can get the latest Will Ferrell comedy or Hollywood blockbuster, but the availability of the great British serials like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Edge of Darkness, Reilly, Ace of Spies, and the BBC dramas from Dennis Potter, Alan Bennett and Stephen Polikoff.

As the nights draw in and the weather becomes utterly abominable, the one upside for a lousy weekend is to put my feet up with a mug of cocoa, a plate of hot buttered toast, and spend the day watching one of those dramas from beginning to end.

Today it was Smiley's People.


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