Too many caricatures in 'The School for Scandal'
According to The Radio Times, Bernard Lee, who played Sir Peter Teazle in Cedric Messina's production of The School for Scandal (BBC 1) was apprehensive about the part. He found the elegantly turned lines difficult. It may well have been a difficulty shared by the viewers.
Sheridan's plays have been studied and enjoyed by generations of sixth-formers, but they are not "popular" in the strict sense. The Saturday night audience isn't made up entirely of one-time sixthformers, and some introduction to this 18th century play might have been welcomed. I found the play disappointing, perhaps hecause, by way of compensation for the elaborateness of the language, this comedy of manners was handled as though it was burlesque.
There were too many caricatures, too many actors doing their own thing in their own way. But there were good performances from Bernard Lee, Pauline Collins, Arthur Lowe, Jeremy Brett and Edward Fox.
From the eccentricities of the 18th century to those of the 19th. No wonder the supposedly stuffy Victorians couldn't stomach the pre-Raphaelites. After The Love School (BBC 2) I sympathise with their distaste.
Not that I haven't enjoyed the series. It has exceeded expectations, and has avoided the traps spread at its feet. It has provided a real glimpse into the strange pre-Raphaelite world, a living insight into that particular world of Art with its lack of convention and its tortured and tortuous relationships.
There's plenty of incident, and for once the beautiful women really are beautiful (Patricia Quinn as Lizzie Siddal, and Kika Markham as Jane Morris). Ben Kingsley gives a powerful performance as Rossetti, a study in total obsessiveness and total vanity, and the others (Burne-Jones, Morris, Holman Hunt, etc) seem credible in their various ways.
All except Swinburne, who sticks out like a septic finger. Well, he may or may not be credible, but he is certainly repulsive, sick. I never was an aficionado, but I vow I'll never read another poem by "Charlie". Such is the power of television.
So Churchill's People has been cast out of the allimportant 9 o'clock spot and relegated to a past-bedtime limbo. Kojak has been rushed up to breathe the kiss of life into the BBC's moribund Mondays. And that might have given deprived Saturday viewers withdrawal symptoms if ITV hadn't been on hand with a new eight-part serial/series, The Hanged Man. The title is derived from the Tarot card — the hanged man who seems to be dead but isn't.
Lew Burnett (Colin Blakely) has survived three attempts on his life. After the third, he decides that the only way to stay alive is to stay dead.
Still hunted, he delves into his own past in a desperate search for the why, what and who of the murder attempts. He Is helped by ex-mercenary Alan Crowe (Michael Williams). So far, the series is promising, though it leaves a lot of unanswered questions.
British thriller series are prone to this fault: leaving untidy ends all ove the place. The new Barlow series and the recently returned perennial Dixon of Dock Green (surely as unquenchable as "The Archers") are both guilty. They provide precise and accurate backgrounds and details, but let the story meander messily.
Characters appear for no good reason, hints about the involvement of the Mafia (or "the mob" or "the family") are scattered around but never explained. Interpol sticks its nose in, and we wonder why. Electronic music builds up tension, but nothing much happens. het
The thriller lurches along, filling in the
time, hoping nobody will notice it doesn't know where it's going. I like to feel a sense of completeness, or at least of fruitful openendedness when a thriller ends.
But neither "Barlow" nor "Dixon" give me that satisfaction. Kojak does. The man and the series are becoming as much a cult as Maigret a few years ago. As with the Maigret series, the real strength is in the character of the detective.
Kojak is a completely authentic good cop — hard nosed, thoroughly sceptical, incorruptible, never fooled. Don't he misled by the lollipop. He is able to be so hard and so effective only because inside all. the toughness is a man of great kindness and humour. His positively brilliant wisecracking betrays a real understanding of human nature; he is old in the ways of men.
The stories themselves are ingenious, properly planned, always under control. It's a bit of a paradox that the two British series try so hard to reflect the untidiness of real life but end up less convincing than Kojak, whose stories are neater than reality would allow. Obviously, it is the method of detection which must be realistic. Once we have confidence in that, it doesn't matter that the story is a little too neat. Stop, Think and Pray in the "Seeing and Believing" series (BBC 1) came from Stonyhurst. The programme was based on a record called "Cave of Living Streams" (price £3, with booklet, from Stonyhurst College, Blackburn), which sets the main themes of St Ignatius's Spiritual Exercises to music.
The themes were linked by Fr Bill Hewett, SJ (who wrote the lyrics), and the songs were set amidst the treasures of Stonyhurst and the lovely countryside round about.
The central motif is that of the cave: a dark, oppressive prison until light is able to enter. The cave at Bethlehem, the tomb of Christ, the cave at Manresa where Ignatius had his vision, arc all dark holes, transfigured by light and hope. And there's the cave of our own hearts.
"Cave of light and living streams, "Man restored beyond man's dreams.
"Don't know everything, whoever can?
"But know this with gratitude, "God's love lives in Man".