Thursday, 17 April 2008

4, 5 & 6

Such is the state of Wednesday evening telly that the best that was on offer for the likes of me yesterday was probably Five employing Paul McGann (and his curiously placed vocal stresses that make it sound like he's constantly being surprised or losing his short term memory) to talk about The Real Indiana Jones.
The amazing revelation here was there wasn't one, he's pretend. However this populist hook did give Five the opportunity to talk about Nazis, Cathars and the Grail which are all core Five documentary topics, and show a surprisingly stirring trailer for the new film, featuring an old man doing amazing feats, right at the end. Job done.

I do find McGann's voice-over delivery oddly hypnotic, because idiosyncratic as it is (like Australian Questioning Intonation breaking out at random all over the place) it does sometimes make you imagine he's genuinely intrigued and marvelling about the subject he's talking about, rather than making you wonder when exactly he first saw the script.
Sometimes the line readings on science documentaries do rather give away that he doesn't know what the script is about and is just clinging to a word in the sentence he can emphasise to give coherence, but this is understandable; he's an actor not an astrophysicist, damn it! It does, however, mean script writers really should be careful with their use of 'actually's and 'in fact's because they'll tend to be heavily overlayed with wonder to the detriment of the sense of surrounding sentences.
Anyway, what a guy, what a voice.

Given that was my analogue terrestrial highlight (though I watched it digitally obviously- I wouldn't want to miss the edges of the film clips) I went looking for a bit of entertainment on Freeview too, which led me to The Prisoner.

Now, I like The Prisoner a lot, it's gripping, intriguing, only occasionally dreadfully silly, looks gorgeous and has a really riveting lead- MacGoohan's intensity just demands attention, but I last saw it properly when the VHS releases came out at the back end of the 1980s on the Channel 5 label (not to be confused with Five which used to be a different Channel 5, keep up).
The only episode I've seen with any regularity since has been a mp2 copy of a Beta SP copy of a low band u-matic copy of a rather grubby ITC library sales print of the first episode 'Arrival'.
So imagine my amazement at how colourful the newly mastered film print ITV4 was showing was. It was a riot of colour, hammy stage fights, reused footage and music cues and more exciting clashes of 1960s Edwardian revivalist and Modernist stylings than you're ever likely to meet outside Brighton Beach on a Bank Holiday Monday.

Just one thing though, given I'd only ever seen the series before on VHS, a multi-generation copy of a poor film print and snowy Channel 4 re-runs (we always had quite a soft fizzy looking Channel 4 signal in the 80s, so much so I thought this was part of its remit to challenge viewers), I'd never really noticed Number 6 wore a dark navy jersey under his black blazer.
Now I knew he did from photos in magazines about TV shows with spandex and spaceships in them, but the full horror had never quite hit me. It doesn't go! It looks horrid, and it never used to.
In poor light I've been known to accidentally put on dark navy and black myself, but Number 6's dimensionally transcendent house is so well lit I can't believe he'd make this kind of error. Certainly not every week. Not when he's so cool.

My suspicion is that the creators of The Prisoner didn't really want the jarring contrast we can now see between navy and black to be so obvious. I suspect they were after a broadly black upper body, and used the dark navy to subtly stop McGoohan's torso becoming an undifferentiated block of black, knowing full well that our telly screens would never reveal the actual difference in colour. Whoops, they do now.

Black and Navy? Brr. No wonder he wanted to escape, they might as well have put him in double denim.
Be seeing you? Not in that you won't.

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