Wednesday, 28 February 2007

The Small Intricate Life of Ian Z Potter

Not an unpleasant existence this you know...

Today, I've had a quick skim through the new 'Doctor Who Magazine', which, like the show it's based on, takes itself lightly and its audience seriously and is always a treat, and watched some of the 1972 'Till Death Us Do Part' series on DVD, which is squarely in the period of Johnny Speight's writing I like least.

There are some sharp lines and great moments but so much around them is ill-focused and all-licenced that it make you feel most uncomfortable viewing it. My suspicion is that the bottle (which Speight hit hard in the late 60s) may have excessively lubricated his creativity at this time, and dampened his critical faculties, and because the scripts flail around without clear point, making it easier for the Alfs of this world to believe that he and his views are being celebrated as much as vilified. The 60s 'Till Death's (and indeed Speight's 60s TV plays) I've read and seen are, by and large, much sharper pieces, though still flabby by modern standards, and I honestly believe 'In Sickness and In Health' is a far superior show for being properly structured and having a clearer authorial point of view. It also features the Demiurge-like sub-genius that is Ken Campbell too, so it scores higher there as well.

I've also booked up to see Alan Bennett give a talk at my old work place, which should be a double treat if I can catch up with a few folk and I've been for a half hour run which has left me feeling more alert and healthy than I have for weeks.

So now at 4.25 pm I'm going to have a bath and start some work that I'm really looking forward to!

I love these days. I think I must have been sent them in error.


Stuart Douglas said...

Well that's a controversial statement - that 'In Sickness' is better than 'Til Death Us Do Part'.

To be fair, I've only seen a few of the B&W episodes of 'In Sickness' but as it turns out I've just watched the entirety of the whole of the fourth season of 'tDuDP' and it's only good in very small patches (generally when Arthur English and Ken Campbell are around, so you've got a point there).

Otherwise the Mrs Hollingbury Years are often quite painful to watch, I found. Possibly the earlier episodes were better though?

IZP said...

I seem to recall Barry Took once compared 'Steptoe' and 'Till Death' saying something like 'Steptoe' was a crafted response to the cruelties of life whereas 'Till Death' was an explosion of anger about them. Actually they're both just a pair of sitcoms which are better before they come back in colour with extra levels of slapstick, self congratulation and a slightly coarser version of the original set up!
I think I prefer 'In Sickness' on balance because the plots actually go somewhere and Alf has something genuine to be aggrieved at now Else is in her wheelchair. You also of course have the gift of Irene Handl and Patricia Hayes (the two Crevattes!) working together at last and both attempting to steal the scene from each other.

For me the best 'Till Death' are the four handed arguments in the living room which are at their freshest early on. Mind even then there were bizarre oddities like Till Closing Time Us Do Part cobbled together because Speight couldn't come up with another script on time!

Stuart Douglas said...

That explains it then - I've only seen the post-Else episodes of In Sickness, withouth the dear ladies Hadnla dn Hayes. I *really* want to see them now though (I love Patricia Hayes.)

IZP said...

You are officially me using another internet account, even down to your inability to type in a hurry. Patricia Hayes was incredible (though back on 'Till Death' I'm sure there's an episode where she and Mitchell are supposedly doing a questionaire together which is transparently the camera script, tut tut... "Joe Public never clocks a thing").
Apparently she turned down a role in Doctor Who once. I'm imagining 'Kinda' just because that would have been too cool for words.