television

Further World Wide Watchables

A continuing review of dramas from Walter Presents… discovered on All 4.

Les Beaux Mecs (Tony’s Revenge) (France, 2011)

I’ve read many times that one good thing about watching non British and non American drama is that the actors faces are unfamiliar and so their characters are more believable. While I don’t think I enjoy “foreign language” shows especially for this reason, it is probably true.

So, what do you know when I recognise the protagonist in Tony’s Revenge as the guy who played the politically aspirational Afghan crime lord, “Colonel” Amanulla in the brilliant Kaboul Kitchen. The actor is Simon Abkarian.

In Tony’s Revenge, he plays convicted mobster, Antoine “Mad Tony” Roucas, who makes an impromptu prison break with his cellmate, an uppity street gang delinquent named Kenz. His motivation for this is his sudden belief that his one time friend, Guido, who he thought murdered, is actually alive and well.

The drama follows Tony’s quest for the truth and to settle old scores, relying heavily on Kenz for support. Intertwined with this is the back story of Tony’s early life, his introduction to organised crime and why he has to settle those old scores.

It’s typically french in the way it balances nimbly between serious and comedic, the comedy mostly provided by the interplay between Kenz’s street attitude cool and Tony’s old school, cold cool attitude to gangsterism.

It has its moments and is entertaining on the whole.

Les Beaux Mecs IMDb


Crow’s Blood (Japan, 2016)

As I pick these shows purely at random, counting off the list with a random number generator, it’s a lottery which one comes up. I was quite pleased to find a Japanese thriller.

As Walter himself describes it, this is a drama filmed almost as a real life manga, with horror story tropes used to great effect. It’s somewhat Sci-fi too.

It’s set in a girls’ school when a new student arrives whose personality is peculiar and a bit sinister. She is the only daughter of a doctor who, for ethical reasons, was prominently against stem cell research until the daughter was involved in a life threatening road accident. Turning to his adversaries in stem cell research, they develop a means to save the daughter but the process has unforeseen consequences. Cue the horror-thriller events.

I’m not usually impressed by horror-thrillers but this is pretty good though in danger of getting ridiculously OTT at the end.

Crow’s Blood IMDb


Professor T. (Belgium, 2015)

Another drama from Belgium in Dutch (mostly), with a smattering of French, and the occasional English phrase oddly echoed in the subtitles. I was disheartened to find it stretched over three seasons and steeled myself to go only as far as the first, but I was wrong. It didn’t turn out to be a flog-it-to-death concept at all. Each series brought in something new to the drama.

Essentially, it’s a crime drama focussing on a team of police detectives solving homicides. During one case, they enlist the help of academic criminologist, Professor Jasper Teerlinck, a renowned genius in the field but one who also suffers acute OCD and doesn’t suffer fools at all gladly nor tactfully. He solves the case with Holmesian expediency and is soon employed by the force as an official criminologist and criminal profiler.

Not much special in this, it may even seem to borrow from other police dramas, but the Professor’s OCD and the cause of it are played out dramatically as surreal illusions which recall similarities to Dennis Potter dramas – The Singing Detective etc.

There is, I think, a precise blend of seriousness and comedy which works exceptionally well. It’s entertaining and the characters are engaging. I can’t imagine anyone else playing Professor T as well as actor, Koen de Bouw, his measured facial expressions and delivery are perfect to a T.

Professor T. IMDb

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History, Prehistory and Everything Before and After

Ours is not as bad as H.E. Bates’ Larkin’s house where there was always a TV on in every room, but the one telly we have does seem to be on a lot. Mostly, I tune it out but sometimes it worms its way past my unconscious defence.

As it did yesterday. It was showing a medieval drama, a jousting event where armoured blokes upon armoured horses charged at each other, aiming poles at the other’s delicate body parts. And at other times on foot, hacking at each other with huge broad swords. Apart from the jousting scene, you could tell it was a medieval setting because all the poor people were dressed in sackcloth and rags. A funny thing though, a lot of them were exceptionally clean shaven and had nice haircuts, and all of them had really clean faces and hands, as if they’d just taken a hot bath or shower.

To be fair, I guessed it was a semi-comedy drama. What gave it away, and what drew my attention to the telly in the first place, was during the jousting tournament the crowd were all chanting Queen’s “We Will Rock You”, and in a subsequent scene there was an incongruous electric guitar solo – not acted out in the scene, thank god, but on the soundtrack.


During the above faux historical drama, I had begun listening to another podcast about the planet Venus. Early on in our history, Venus was considered to be Earth’s twin, it being close to Earth’s size as well as being our neighbour (Mars is much smaller). It’s also most noticeable in the sky having a highly reflective atmosphere; it appears as a star. Early on, people imagined it contained life and, as it was closer to the sun, its life would be consistent with that of hot, tropical jungles.

That idea was binned once scientific evidence established how hostile its atmosphere actually is: mostly carbon dioxide and so thick, the pressure at ground level would crush a human being, and so hot it would melt lead. Mars seemed a better bet for life after that.

One of the three scientists giving account of the planet gave a short description of how planets formed around the sun, beginning with a swirling of space dust, eventually sticking together by electromagnetism and then gravity, the sun then reaching ignition point, and the residual turning forces of swirling matter making everything revolve and orbit. For Venus and Earth, the period from adhering and coagulating dust particles to a proper orbiting sphere would be around 100 million years. At that would just be the beginning.


I was thinking about my primary school and how I remembered a lot of lessons about prehistoric life. We began with fossils of trilobites and ammonites, those funny looking segmented and spirally sea creatures, then the fishes and amphibians, and eventually the rise and decline of the reptiles – dinosaurs! – and ending with a few early mammals.

It seems to me now how each of these periods in Earth’s past is a distinct portion of the Earth’s life simply because of the huge passage of time each had taken. The Earth has had many lives, so to speak. It may have many more ahead, possibly without us.

And there I was, marvelling at those significant names from England’s “Dark Ages”, and how they seem to dabble in politics and culture as much as we do, and write books about it all. And, well, yes, but it’s only 1400 years ago. Nothing in time. When we’ve barely 100 years each in which to experience existence, how inconceivable is a passing of a million years!


It’s extraordinary to me to think how Earth has sustained some form of higher life for so long, and mostly, if not all, by chance. What are the odds? Do you think we’ll come face to face with aliens from another planet? Across time and space, as vast and hostile as it appears, and to coincide with our time here?

I don’t.

The World, AI and Memory (and a bit of telly)

An interesting piece on AI from Learn Fun Facts, a blog I follow.

Should we worry about the doomsday scenario of AI and robots taking over the world? Maybe it’s inevitable. Maybe they’ll be welcome to it, once the devastating effects of climate change are realised.

My binging of the Walter Presents… archives of World telly drama from the All 4 app, continues. I’ll list a short appraisal below but the most recent drama was the brilliant Tabula Rasa from Belgium, though spoken in Dutch. It’s a nine one hour episode series, complete with no sequel – the kind I like. It has a clever plot with several twists along the way, and one big one midway which I doubt many viewers would predict. The opening titles are very stylish too, you sense you’re about to see something worthwhile.

Tabula Rasa is latin and translates as Blank Slate. In this drama, this is a metaphor for memory. Our protagonist suffers from amnesia following a traumatic experience. This means she fails to remember anything after the trauma very quickly and relies on keeping a notebook in lieu of a normal working memory. (This is similar to the guy in the film, Memento, who wrote notes on his body.) Whenever she needed to verify something, a person’s identity, for instance, she would rush through the pages of her book trying to find the relevant note or drawing.

This is, more or less, how AI data retrieval works, isn’t it? I mean, it’s more refined and therefore extremely efficient, but nevertheless the same. I don’t think anyone yet knows precisely how the human memory works – or doesn’t work, sometimes – how all that data is squirrelled away within the grey stuff. And it’s very energy efficient.

Imagine having to rely entirely on note taking for memory. Or, say, keeping a blog. In time, it would become enormous, and probably unusable. Long before then, you’d probably be chucked off WP for using up your storage allocation; you’d have to start paying and, in no time, bankrupt yourself.

What a marvellous instrument the old brain is. I ought to look after it.


A quick summary update of my Walter Presents.. viewing, most recently watched first,

Tabula Rasa (Belgium, 2017)

A woman suffering short term amnesia is a suspect in a missing person’s case, and probable murder. She is committed to a clinic where, with the aid of a notebook, she struggles to make sense of the situation and events from her recent past. A stylish and clever psychological thriller utilising several horror story tropes.

Blue Eyes (Sweden, 2014)

A political drama about the rise of right wing factions, both legitimate and terrorist. It’s general election time and the plot centres on two women, one a newly appointed civil servant finding herself in the middle of ongoing political corruption and the strange disappearance of her predecessor, the other a single mum who, wanting to avenge the murder of her activist mother, joins a new extreme right wing group. A good thriller.

The Mind of a Murderer (Germany, 2017)

Following the death of his family, a police detective returns to work as a new head of a city crime unit. His methods are unconventional and puts him at odds with his subordinates who themselves have personal issues which affect their work. The quirkiness of the chief character just about raises this drama above average.

Kabul Kitchen (France, 2014)

A not too outlandish comedy about an ex-international journalist, Jacques “Jackie” Roberts, who quits journalism to make money running a western style restaurant and bar in Kabul, during relative peacetime. His estranged daughter turns up unexpectedly as an NGO, and the local criminal boss decides to be his friend and equal business partner, but his problems don’t end there. A very entertaining double series carried admirably by the lead actor.

Norskov (Denmark, 2015)

A policeman returns to his economically impoverished hometown, recruited to clean up its high drug related crime. There, he reunites with two old friends, one serving as the town’s mayor and the other runs his own building contractor company. A brooding Scandi drama, slow at times, maybe, but deep enough.

Spin (France, 2012)

Les hommes de l’ombre, (the shadow men), the original French title is better. Three series of this political drama centred on the work of a spin doctor, his adversary and one time partner in business, and the assorted politicians he mixes with. Not much politics seems to happen oddly, it’s mostly about politicians climbing, and sliding down, their greasy poles. Nevertheless, good plots and well acted performances.

Tainted (Brazil, 2014)

A disgraced police officer finds work as a bounty hunter, working for an ex-colleague’s sideline business. Meanwhile, he attempts to find the evidence to clear his name and get back to living a legitimate life. So-so, macho cop kind of thing.

The Cleaning Lady (Argentina, 2017)

Conscientiously efficient professional cleaner, Rosa, is contracted to clean up an assassination scene by the local mafia. She does such a good job eliminating all the evidence, she inadvertently becomes the mob’s go to cleaner of choice, thwarting the efforts of the two detectives investigating their crimes. I thought this was going to be a comedy, but no, it’s completely straight. I quite enjoyed it too.


My other Walter Presents reviews can be read here.

Aunty on Animation

It would seem that the BBC of late hides its lights under the bushel of its online only output – the iPlayer.

Following on from the very worthwhile bio documentary on British DJ David Rodigan and Reggae, another documentary caught my attention, another perennial interest of mine: stop-frame animation.

With CGI, stop-frame animation is likely seen as a niche and probably quaint pursuit. When it can take years to produce a five minute film, the first question on unsympathetic lips must be, why bother? It’s like the audience I was in, listening to an Oxford busker perform a longish piece on a didgeridoo. He was, as the didge goes, very accomplished but I overheard a boy whisper to his friend, “Uh, I can do that on my Casio”. I guess you get it or you don’t.

And so it is that stop-frame animators, to the informed at least, have the status of artisan and artists, not mass produced manufacturers of cartoons by computers.

As the programme explains, there is something quintessentially British about British animation historically. I think it’s possibly because there are no rules but also, as explained, there is no money. Anyway, I love it.

Here’s a couple of my favourites featured for those unable to view BBC iPlayer. If you can get it, the link is below.

This is from Osbert Parker’s Clothes (1988).

In this animation, he used a collection of vintage clothes and props laid out across his apartment floor in a sequence planned from a storyboard.

As with any stop-frame technique, the clothes are slightly rearranged before each subsequent shot – you get the picture.


Joanna Quinn is an amazing draughtsman. Such exquisite drawings and detailed expressions on her characters’ faces.

This is Girls’ Night Out (1987) about a group of Welsh factory workers visiting a male stripper event.

Click on either image to see the clip.


Secrets of British Animation – BBC iPlayer

World Wide Watchables

For what it’s worth, here is a rundown of series I’ve seen from All4’s On-demand “Walter Presents”, a channel dedicated to International Telly Dramas.

There must be around 70 or more programmes to choose from and I simply picked these at random by thinking of a number beforehand.

I’m of the opinion that any review can be a spoiler but I hope I’ve kept it to a minimum. Cast, director and further gen contained in the IMDb links below each.


Clona (The Lens) (Czech Republic 2014)

Roman is a film and media student who wants to go to college to study filmmaking. Unfortunately, he gets rejected a number of times. He hates making do with photographing or filming weddings and his father, a traffic cop, thinks he’s wasting his life. Eventually, Roman accepts the offer to work alongside his father, photographing scenes of road traffic accidents.

One of these assignments ends tragically and Roman’s future takes an unintended path. He is offered a position as forensic photographer as part of a small, special crime squad. He has the support of his boss but the team are not so convinced; they quickly nickname him “Fellini” and regard him as a liability. As a cop, he knows he isn’t a match for the others, but as a detective, he seems to hold his own.

This is a series of separate case episodes though continuous character storylines run along side: relationships between colleagues, family issues and Roman’s development, and acceptance, as a cop. While the premise seems implausible, it’s an entertaining series. I liked it.

Clona IMDb


Hellfjord (Norway 2012)

Having watched the Norwegian movie, Jackpot, a few months back, I’m inclined to think Norwegian comedy has no boundaries. Oh, I found both Jackpot and Hellfjord funny but not without feeling slightly guilty about it.

The premise here is that Salmander, a rather inept mounted police officer, is sacked after publicly and brutally killing his horse in an act of mercy – that isn’t a contradiction, you’ll need to watch the first episode otherwise it’ll be too great a spoiler. As his superior is obliged to give him three months notice, he posts him to an island in the far north, Hellfjord, where he will act as community sheriff. There he is reluctantly assisted by the vulgar and hobbit-like local man, Kobba, and his beautiful and multi-talented “mail-order bride”, Riina.

It should have been a quiet gig if it wasn’t for a slightly scatty, local investigative journalist, Johanne, who’s convinced the island hosts a nefarious secret centred around the fish export factory run by Swedish businessman, Bosse Nova. If it’s true, Salmander is convinced he’ll get a reprieve if he cracks the case.

It’s a bizarre and often absurd comedy, near the knuckle in places. I liked it.

Hellfjord IMDb


Dupla Identidade (Merciless) (Brazil 2014)

I don’t know anything about Brazilian telly but my first impression from this series is that their audiences are shown a greater amount of brutal, graphic abuse than I think would be granted to British audiences. But hey, here we are in the UK watching it.

This is a police manhunt drama. The guy they’re looking for is a psychopathic sexual predator and killer. Apart from the violence shown to the victims, it’s standard police manhunt trope – for UK audiences, think Prime Suspect with Helen Mirren – though the perpetrator here is revealed from the start. There is sound reason for this and it does create extra tension in the drama.

Running parallel to the investigation is a political corruption story, involving a career politician hell bent on elevating his position at any cost. This creates problems for the senior officer handling the case as his own promotion is decided politically. If that isn’t enough, the independently minded and strong willed psychologist appointed as criminal profiler turns out to be his former lover. All the parts are then intertwined.

Violence aside, it’s a tense, captivating plot. They must have cast the actor (Bruno Gagliasso) playing the killer on his ability to alter a look of angelic innocence into cruel-hearted sinister on the turn of a sixpence. Gripping. I liked it.

Dupla Identidade IMDb

World Wide Watchables

I don’t know how many of you can get the All 4 on-demand telly app but I’ve decided to post a little review on the brilliant Walter Presents collection hosted there. Foreign language TV has only relatively recently found a niche in British audiences. I’m not sure when this began exactly but the 20 episode Danish crime drama, Forbrydelsen (The Killing) had a strong following when it was aired on BBC TV, and other foreign language series seemed to follow on its heels.

But Channel 4 here in Britain seem to have taken the idea all the more seriously with Walter Presents, presented by Italian TV producer and film aficionado, Walter Iuzzolino. At the start of most series on offer, Walter gives an introduction to the show and reasons why he thinks it’s watchable; these introductions are, I think, watchable themselves; he’s certainly into style, cinematography and technique.

I’ve already posted about Deutschland ’83 (Germany) and Počivali U Miru (Croatia), espionage and investigative journalism dramas, respectively (links below). I have since watched two others, Clona (Czech Republic) – a police drama – and Hellfjord (Norway) – a police comedy – and I’m part way through a rather dark crime thriller from Brazil. Posts of these will follow in time.

For what it’s worth, as there are around 70-odd series available, I’ve been picking them at random simply by thinking of a number beforehand. So far this unbiased approach seems to work for me.


Deutschland ’83 Review

Počivali U Miru Review

Grist for the mill

My thoughts on selecting stories from the submissions grid for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers (posted previously) could also apply to my latest viewing entertainment on the All 4 catch-up app.

I don’t know how widely available the UK’s Channel 4 is but if you don’t have it, really tough luck. Their box sets of international dramas, featured as Walter Presents…, are a delight to this viewer who’s become jaded with the current state of telly, wanting something a bit more off-grid, so to speak.

After watching the brilliantly polished, German spy series, Deutschland ’83, (posted previously), I chose at random whatever was in grid box no. 37. This happened to be Počivali U Miru (Rest In Peace), a Croatian TV series about a young journalist sent to do a video story on a former prison which is about to be demolished. Whilst nosing around, she discovers a record of prisoners who died during their sentence and whose bodies went unclaimed so were buried unceremoniously in the prison cemetery.

Each episode concerns the story of one of these prisoners and the journalist’s investigation into how they died. She is aided by a retired warder of the prison, a man with his own secrets. There is also a thread which runs through all the stories, a higher conspiracy which obstructs her work and threatens her life.

It’s a slow burner this one but it definitely grew on me. The principal characters are very watchable and it has a gritty plausibility. Incidentally, there’s also a fair bit of smoking (you may be aware how smoking has all disappeared from British dramas now. They only have your welfare at heart, I know, but what about realism?)

Now I’ll need to pick another number and see what lies behind that box. There must be around fifty-odd series to choose from; it’s going to keep me engaged for some time. If you can get it, I recommend it.


Počivali U Miru – official trailer (Youtube)

Three Things

Little Wheelie Carry-On Suitcases

I think everyone who flies these days makes do with a hand luggage sized suitcase. I mean, who wants to waste an hour watching other people’s luggage go around a carousel? Not me. Not you either by the look of the way things have gone.

One thing about it that baffles me a bit is why the wheels? I see many fit and strapping blokes pulling an incy-wincy case behind them when it could easily be carried. The way I see it is, if it didn’t have the retractable handle to pull it with, it’d have more capacity inside for clothes and toiletries.

For a week, or even two weeks, away, there’s an art to packing these little blighters and though I may flatter myself at my proficiency, the guy at Gentleman’s Gazette, over on Youtube, is the absolute master by comparison. Since discovering the sartorial Sven Raphael Schneider some months back, and blogging on his excellent style tips, his videos often pop up as Youtube suggestions. I’m fascinated and though I have little fashion consciousness myself, it amazes me how often I agree with him.

Anyway, Mr. Schneider advises that it is preferable to roll up some items, as opposed to folding them which I would do without thinking, so as to prevent creases. Well I’m going to be rolling my packing as well in future, just to see. Brilliant!


Iron Rain

This is not going to be about some European Heavy Metal band; know me, I wouldn’t do that to you.

I am still fascinated by astronomers who have discovered a planet which they believe to be the hottest known planet. It is that close to its parent sun that temperatures on its surface are capable of vaporising the iron and titanium present.

It has been imagined that other exoplanets exist orbiting close to their star that their weather systems might comprise clouds of aluminium, iron and other metals, and these systems could suggests it literally rains down molten iron rods. I just wonder what they make their umbrellas out of.

This sort of science cracks me up. There’s all these Sci-fi books and movies being made – The Martian, Mars Mission, Fly Me To Jupiter and back, whatever – and it’s all bollocks. It’s essentially Science Fantasy rather than Science Fiction; it belongs with stories about ghosts, hobbits and zombies. Sci-Fa, not Sci-fi. The truth is far more amazing yet the fools seem oblivious to it.


Drink Like An Italian

Yes, apparently, according to statistics and an analysis of my alcohol intake last week, I drink like an average Italian. It makes me want to shout and gesticulate whilst wearing a playfully severe expression at the BBC TV article which suggests it.

Actually, I think it’s the Italians whose lifestyles we are told to emulate – good food, long life, and they certainly wear the best clothes (I’m sure Mr. Schneider would agree).

It’s a bit disappointing to read we have a serious drinking problem in the UK despite having the lowest recommended limits for consumption of alcohol in the known universe. The presenter, Adrian Chiles, whose own consumption is the basis for the BBC’s new show about “moderate drinking”, admits to drinking every day though believes he’s not an alcoholic. If he drinks every day, how can he know he isn’t addicted?

Ah, there’s too much of this government guideline business, I don’t think I’ll be tuning in to see Mr. Chiles and his tormented liver do a U-turn; I’m happy to carry on being an Italian.

Arrivaderci.


How To Pack A Carry-On Suitcase (Youtube)

KELT-9b – The first exoplanet discovered with an iron atmosphere

Booze Calculator By Nationality (BBC News)

Alias

Having apparently exhausted the movie mines of Youtube, I have been turning my evening attentions back to the old telly. Not actually the thing that tradition had sitting in the corner of the living room but now has hanging large on a wall in every room, bar the under-stairs toilet; no, as always, I’m watching stuff on some catch-up app or other.

Here in the UK, our few well-established, so-called terrestrial channels are well served by pretty good subscription free apps; the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and 5. I don’t know what’s happened to the BBC’s output of late but nothing there seems to grab my attention. ITV, the Beeb’s major rival and our main domestic commercial channel, has been entertaining me with some old reruns of police and crime dramas. As I’ve become a bit jaded with these, the other day I opened up Channel 4’s app for the first time in years, to see what’s up.

I’d completely forgotten about its Walter Presents… category. Here, the aforementioned “Walter” scours and curates the most interesting telly series from around the globe. International telly; this is, as they say, right up my strasse. Ou, ma tasse de thé, whichever. There’s a lot on offer so I pick the thirteenth boxset randomly and it turns out to be Deutschland, ’83, a semi-serious spy thriller centred on a reluctantly recruited East German agent working in Bonne, old West Germany. Old Walter promised it would be a stylishly produced series, and it looks it. I kick back in my seat and watch.

The trouble with Channel 4 is, despite being a public service channel, it has to be supported by commercials rather than tax money, and there are a lot of commercials – more, it seems, than on the fully commercialised ITV app. They are utterly tedious and repetitive; it spoils my entertainment. I remember when ads used to be entertaining themselves though those, I recall, were produced to sell products now seen as taboo: tobacco and alcohol. These products are now prohibited from advertising here and as a consequence the ads breaks are poor.

So, I wasn’t paying attention at first when an ad for Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream had been addressing me personally. You see, I’m a big one for aliases and, years ago, I must have registered the app with an alias I no longer use. I didn’t understand why it was saying,

“Hi there <my old alias name>!”

until I noticed a link inviting me to find out why the ad was personalised. Knowing full well why the ad was personalised, I didn’t need to follow the link; I wasn’t going down that rat hole for nothing.

But it does make me wonder how many of the other ads were directed at me and based on my browsing and purchasing habits some years ago when I registered – or perhaps even now, I don’t know.

There’s a battle going on as commercialism eats ever more into our privacy and I imagine there’s a counter-enterprise building on providing incognito. Soon we’ll all be like secret agents, not spying but simply attempting to keep out of the probing spotlight of commercialism.

Watch yourself out there, folks! They’re coming for you.


image: still shot from “Quantum Jump”, episode #1 Deutschland 83.

Deutschland 83 (official site)

Walter Presents… on Channel 4

MarketingWeek – Allowing Personalised Ads

Television (and a bit of Morse)

My diet of watching old, oft forgotten and sometimes unusual films off the web, on an iPad, has been put on a back burner lately as I’ve been binging on Inspector Morse. On Youtube, naturally. This is the only time I’ve revisited this series since they were first broadcast on telly. Then we had not long been married and, in our first home, we’d snuggle up on the sofa after dinner, with a bottle of wine, and settle in to watch the show on our 14-inch cathode ray tube portable telly.

The series was a bit of a sea change in British crime dramas dealing with police procedurals. I recall it was marketed as a bit of quality viewing. Film length episodes, just three for the initial season, four thereafter. A classical style theme tune and posh white on black opening credits, though it was pointed out that the latter was cheaper to produce than the alternative text over the moving picture.

Chief Inspector Morse was a radical departure from the normal characterisation of copper, in particular the actor, John Thaw’s previous outing as the brash and pugilistic Inspector Jack Reagan in the popular police drama, The Sweeney.

Reagan’s “Get yer trousers on, yer nicked” just wouldn’t do for Morse. It might be “I’ll advise you, sir, to see that you are appropriately dressed, you are, at this precise moment, under arrest“.

Morse is an Oxford graduate. He has a don’s breadth of knowledge of literature and the classics. He listens to classical music, in particular opera, and sings baritone in the choir. He habitually completes The Times crossword, adores old S-type Jaguar cars (but not other Jags), enjoys real ale (but no other beers). He is a bore for correct grammar and pronunciation. He is, in short, a cultural snob. He is like no other policeman, real or fictional; at least not up till the point of his inception. Since then, there have been many copycats. Policing has been intellectualised, both in the real world and on the telly.

One other thing that Morse doesn’t do is watch television. While this is an intentional character trait for Morse, it’s not exactly unusual in television dramas for no one to show any interest in the medium on which they are being seen. It’s the television paradox.

Soaps are the worst for this oversight. Supposedly mirroring ordinary life, the residents of soap land have little inclination for watching the box in between the more common affairs such as setting fire to one another’s small businesses, getting their best friend’s girlfriend pregnant, dealing with frequent and devastating plane/train crashes, and fending off a flying saucer attack.

I tried to think of any telly characters who watched the telly. The Simpsons do, and, I think, so does Family Guy, both cartoons. The Trotters (Only Fools and Horses) initially did. Of course, The Royle Family is based around them all sitting around the box, and one episode of Steptoe and Son has the pair reaching breaking point in their fractious relationship and resorting to partitioning their house, including a wall which neatly divided the screen of their only television into two equal halves. One side had the “knobs” (old school, pre-remote controls) while the other had the plug. Neither side gave way.

Like Morse, I’m not that interested in what’s on television. I’m selective. The telly is always on though, my family have it on whatever might be on, a bit like the Larkins in The Darling Buds of May – it’s on though no one seems to be watching. I’d sooner it was off.

The web is the final death of the telly for me. Youtube is a boon, a broad base, bran tub lottery of unexpected delights and forgotten gems; part of the enjoyment is in the searching. I’m coming to the end of the available Morse and probably will start looking out for some more foreign films again. I wonder what will become of television in the future, say fifty years hence. I don’t see it myself.

Barrington Pheloung’s Theme for Inspector Morse

Homer Sells The TV

Steptoe & Son : Divided We Stand