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Dates refer to when review was written
Early Doors (3/04)
Yet another of the post-modern comedies pioneered by Steve Coogan and encouraged by the success of The Royle Family where traditional jokes, much less any plot, are virtually non-existent. This BBC series, set in a pub, stars Royle's Craig Cash as one of the regulars, and each episode is just a cross section of the different conversations going on both in front of and behind the bar. These "slice of real life" shows, albeit scripted with actors, seem popular but to me a little goes a long way.
Edinburgh Nights (1/99)
As part of the huge Edinburgh Festival held each August in that great Scottish city, the BBC fronts a late-night arts program hosted by Mark Lamarr that looks at all aspects of the festival including movies, comics, plays, books, and art. Part variety show, part interview show, Lamarr keeps the three-ring circus moving, even when his guests break out in loud fights (which is frequent). If you can't get to Edinburgh, this is a good look at what's on the cutting edge, and up-and-coming talent.
8 Out of 10 Cats (4/07)
Jimmy Carr (Distraction) hosts this celebrity quiz show based on public surveys. A good jokey time is had by all.
Einstein's Brain (7/94)
A Japanese professor crisscrosses the United States to track down the brain of the famous scientist in this documentary. His broken English is hard to follow at times, but you have to admire his tenacity in going wherever it takes to locate whatever happened to the missing organ. A bit over-long but it does show the dedication some people have in pursuing their dreams--even if it's having a chunk of Einie's brain as a memento to take back to Japan.
The Election Night Armistice (9/97)
As an alternative to the 1997 General Election coverage on BBC-1, BBC-2 turned over the night of May 1st to live blow-by-blow satire by the Armistice gang, complete with mock candidates, bizarre analysis, and general irreverence for the entire democratic process.
Eleven Men Against Eleven (1/96)
James Bolam (The Beiderbecke Affair) stars in this TV movie as a former football (soccer) player who is now an assistant coach for a corrupt city team. When the rest of the coaching staff is indicted, Bolam is called up to lead the team for the remaining games of the season and keep the team in contention. But the players are more concerned with commercial endorsements than playing good football, while the team's owners are trying to hold off a vigorous investigation by Inland Revenue. Can Bolam save the day and return his team to its glory days or are they behind him forever?
The 11 O'Clock Show (11/99)
The topical thrice-weekly comedy show returns to late night Channel 4 with a makeover and Iain Lee taking over as solo host. The day's headlines are lampooned, Lee still takes to the streets to ambush unsuspecting pedestrians, and rapper Ali G continues his bizarre interviews with people of importance who are slowly getting in on the joke.
Eleventh Hour (4/07)
Patrick Stewart stars in this ludicrous ITV series as a one-man "X-Files" who manages each week to save the world single-handedly from a deadly menace (viruses and the like) all the while making speech after speech about the foolishness and shortsidedness of most of humanity. Apparently he's so valuable to the government that he's given a sexy bodyguard (but only one-- there has to be some element of suspense) but absolutely no staff or resources despite the fact he (and he alone) manages to know how to combat whatever the problem is. Geez, even Doctor Who had UNIT!
6-part children's fantasy adventure. Four siblings are chosen to protect the "treasures of Elidor" from falling into the hands of dimension-hopping medieval baddies who threaten our world. This meager plot is dragged out far too long with the result being that things happen v-e-r-r-r-r-y s-l-o-o-o-o-o-w-l-y. A shame since it features nice visual effects.
Emlyn's Moon (8/91)
Welsh children's fantasy series with Gareth Thomas (Blake's 7) and Sian Phillips.
The Empress (4/94)
One of those "art" things that Channel Four puts on. This was a "new wave" musical about a beautiful Empress who wants the perfect husband and ends up marrying an Arnold Schwarzenegger clone--where they found a guy with that body who can sing, I'll never know. Certainly not opera, and the TV commentators they kept cutting to who sung about the action going on just added to the weird mix of styles. Strange but fascinating.
Scottish comedy featuring Gregor Fisher and Billy Boyd as Glasgow repairmen on various jobs in what essentially is a two-person show. Fisher is the cranky older one, while Boyd is his younger, naive assistant who still has ambition. Low-key but the charm of the stars make it watchable.
A prequel to Inspector Morse with Shaun Evans playing the character just starting his career in 1960s Oxford (Endeavour is Morse’s first name it was eventually revealed in the original series). I probably missed a lot of the allusions to the old show, but in a way I could judge it as a stand-alone drama rather than how well it continues a valuable ITV franchise. Though certainly not treading any new ground (George Gently covers the same era and genre), ITV has perfected this mystery format over the years and delivers the goods yet again.
BBC TV Movie with Helena Bonham-Carter in one of her patented roles, this time as Enid Blyton, one of the most beloved and popular children's authors of the 20th Century (in Britain, at least), but who was in reality a cold, demanding woman who didn't really understand her own children very well. She has an affair with a doctor (Denis Lawson), then forces her husband to divorce her and proceeds to engineer his estrangement from their daughters. Despite her personal shortcomings, Blyton was a writing machine, she could pound out (literally, on a manual typewriter) 6000 words a day, leading to the occasional accusation that she used ghost writers, which distressed her greatly. Her most famous creations are "The Famous Five" and Noddy the gnome, although political correctness and changing attitudes about class have revised modern opinions about her works.
Eric and Ernie (3/11)
Victoria Wood devised this BBC TV movie biopic that told the early years of one of Britain's most beloved comedy double acts, Morecambe and Wise. She also plays Sadie, the mother of young Eric Bartholomew, a relentless stage mother who makes her feckless son take dancing lessons and go on theater auditions doing a schoolboy routine. Meanwhile, we meet Ernie Wise who's already a huge hit doing vaudeville with dad played by Reese Shearsmith. But when the West End beckons, they only want Ernie and dad realizes his son is more talented than he is and will be more successful. Eric and Ernie cross paths, with Ernie the star and Eric the newcomer being chaperoned by Sadie. It's the war years and circumstances put the boys together where their initial distrust of each other melts into a realization they have the same comic sensibilities and a double act is born. Eric changes his last name to Morecambe and after the war they tour the country with great success. Sadie becomes an unofficial mother of Ernie but we also get to see Eric's dad George react to his success. George is played by Jim Moir, who is better known as Vic Reeves of Reeves and Mortimer fame, a modern-day double act that has been compared to Morecambe and Wise. The boys have success on radio and then decide to take their act to television in 1954 with the BBC. Alas, putting themselves in the hands of BBC writers and producers because "they must know what they are doing" spells disaster for Eric and Ernie and their show Running Wild which bombs horribly. Will this be the end of the double act? Should Sadie intervene or does Eric need to finally stand up and make the first move for reconciliation? Two sets of actors play Morecambe and Wise, first as boys, and later young men. Harry McEntire looks amazingly how Ernie Wise would have as a kid, and Bryan Dick is equally good as the older Ernie. The success of this TV Movie caught BBC2 by surprise with over 6 million people tuning in on Saturday night to watch it, a 14 year high for drama on that channel. Clearly the public is still very interested in Morecambe and Wise whose much-anticipated Christmas specials in the 1970s were considered required viewing in Britain.
The Escape Artist (2/14)
David Tennant stars as Will Burton, a lawyer who has a reputation for getting anyone off, no matter how bad it looks (hence his reputation as the title says). In this three-part BBC thriller, Will helps super-creepy Liam Foyle (Toby Kebell) beat a rap, but Liam's so nutty he returns the favor by viciously killing Will's wife. Karma? Not really. After Liam escapes justice yet again (with the help of one of Will's rivals), it's up to Will to administer his own just desserts and then attempt to get away scot free. We're obviously meant to root for Will, why else cast David Tennant?, but nobody really comes away without blood on their hands in the end.
Eskimo Day (11/96)
BBC TV movie about two families going to Cambridge with their teenage children on their admittance interviews. Of course the parents only make everything worse by constantly fretting and driving their kids to distraction. Meanwhile, one of the college dons has an interview of his own: trying to get his elderly professorial father (Alec Guinness!) into a retirement home. But everything works out fine in the end for everyone. There is a great moment about two-thirds the way through the film where everything goes to slow motion as the parents (particularly a doting mother played by Maureen Lipman at her annoying best) watch their son walk down the portal into the college and realize for the first time, "He's leaving us." A brilliant scene, nicely shot, and familiar to anyone whose children have left the nest. A sequel, Cold Enough For Snow ran in 1997.
The Estate Agents (1/03)
Late night Channel Four comedy by the Electric Eel comedy troupe, about three inept realtors working for a gangster who get into bizarre (and often tasteless) situations. High production values and witty banter make for an engaging collection of gags, mercifully devoid of a laughtrack.
Eternal Law (2/12)
From the creators of Life on Mars, this ITV series could best be described as “Law & Order: Angels and Demons.” And literally it is: the legal system in York has been infiltrated by angels here on Earth sent by “Mr. Mountjoy” to guide humans (they aren’t supposed to directly intervene--what?!?), with opposing counsel by the devil himself (or a fallen angel to get technical). Professional smirky bastard Tobias Menzies (Rome) plays the demon, whose long game is to get one of the angels to renounce immortality so he can be reunited with his long-lost love, which will cause the end of the world. It’s a dopey premise, poorly executed, and ITV couldn’t wait to cancel it as soon as its six episode run was finished.
Eureka Street (7/00)
Northern Irish drama (with the obligatory Ballykissangel cast member, in this case Dervla Kirwan) about a group of working class friends trying to survive in Belfast just before the historic Good Friday accord was signed. The deep hatreds between the Protestants and Catholics is highlighted, particularly by a Catholic man whose friends and bigoted co-workers are unaware of his religion. But, like the title suggests, it's also about getting rich quick, in this case a fat unpopular slob who cleans himself up, declares himself a businessman and inadvertently keeps making a fortune just by being in the right place at the right time and even gets a rich American girlfriend (Angel's Elizabeth Rohm). I suppose one has to give the BBC credit for making dramas like this which stir the pot, and showing that not everything is sweetness and nice in that country.
This Channel 4 late night series aimed at the post-pub "lad" crowd, each week features various aspects of sex and kinkiness from the continent, hosted very tongue-in-cheek by Frenchman Antoine De Caunes. Plenty of naked people, fetishes, and strange behavior are put on display each week, which I suppose either reinforces the moral superiority of the British or else provides good wanking material. During the 1998 World Cup, compilation reruns of the previous season were run, broken down country-by-country with new linking material by De Caunes and the usual very large-breasted women.
The Eurovision Song Contest (5/93)
In 1993, the 38th annual Eurovision Song Contest was held in Ireland, host to the event as the previous year's winner. Twenty-five countries competed for being the most popular written song from their country, performed by one of their artistes. But how did this bizarre ritual get started and what's it all about? It began in 1956, mostly as a technical exercise for TV engineers to hook up a show across the entire continent - hence, EuroVISION. Each country submits one song and selects a jury (one year it was cab drivers) who then deliver their votes after the presentation of the songs from each of their home countries. The contest is really about the SONG, not its performance or presenters, and naturally a country isn't allowed to cast any points for itself. The rather jokey reputation the contest has is due to some of the mindless and instantly forgettable songs which have won in some years. Since you have to create a song which will be popular in OTHER countries, a certain type of blandness seeps in which prevents most Eurovision Song winners from breaking out into the popular charts. And they've gotten it wrong a few times too: "Volaire" came in fifth the year it appeared. There have been some famous presenters over the years: Cliff Richard, Julio Iglasias, but the one real success story in the Eurovision Song Contest is ABBA, which took both itself and winning song, "Waterloo," to a successful career. This year, Ireland won again, which gives them the dubious pleasure of having to hold the contest yet again next year until someone wrestles it away from them [as of 1996 it hadn't happened yet!]. It probably won't be Luxemburg which scored only 11 points this year - 10 of them as last-minute sympathy votes from Crete.
The Eustace Brothers (3/04)
The new title for the second season of Paradise Heights.
Even Further Abroad (7/97)
Jonathan Meades is back with another of his witty series (begun in 1994's Further Abroad) dealing with seemingly mundane subjects and "stripping away the artifice" (as he says at the beginning of each episode) and then examining them from another angle. His topics this series include the future, thoroughbred horse racing, caravans (mobile homes), modern church architecture, and an area of England called the Holland Fens where everything looks like the Netherlands and everyone listens to country music and watches stock car racing. Every frame is filled with some visual pun, the largest of all being Meades himself who often is sending himself up. I'd watch this guy read the phone book.
An Evening with Gary Lineker (7/94)
A comedy TV movie based on a stage play about British tourists on holiday in Spain watching the 1990 World Cup. Gary Lineker was the star player that year and here he is the object of affection among the women and the men in this send-up of soccer fanatics. Bored wife Monica (Caroline Quentin) tells her husband that she's leaving him for Gary, and he's all for it--anything that will help England defeat Germany! There are various revelations among the characters and shifting of alliances (this is a stage play after all) but the whole thing shifts into an entirely different reality in the final minutes when the real Gary is magically transported from Italy and appears as a vision before them, dispensing gifts like God and surrounded by a golden aura! The characters have entered a fantasy land where England defeated Germany and went on to face Argentina in the final round, unlike the true reality where they lost in penalty kicks. A very funny and insightful look at soccer fans and the impact it has on their lives and work. With Paul Merton and Martin Clunes.
Even More Aunties Bloomers (5/96)
Every Christmas "Auntie Beeb" (the BBC) trots out its annual collection of bloopers hosted by Terry Wogan. Not surprisingly, its documentaries and current events programming are where most of the funniest things go wrong, particularly a shoot on a farm where two cattle can't resist getting it on while a stoic BBC presenter tries to make his speech in the foreground.
John Simm and Shirley Henderson star in this Channel 4 movie about a woman coping with the fact her husband has been sent to prison for several years and their day-to-day life. Shot very much in the style of Dogma95 films (natural lighting, gritty realism) this Michael Winterbottom film was actually made over a period of several years in different locations, with the kids growing up, and Simm's appearance changing depending on what else he was doing at the time. But it's a gimmick and can't gloss over the fact this is about a woman visiting her husband in prison over and over with the kids, his occasional forays out on day-release, and eventual release when his sentence is over. And that's it. We know nothing of their back story, Simm's crime never even gets a mention, what's he in for? A few times you think the kids are in real trouble but in fact it's nothing worse than typical child behavior, just more dramatic because of the sense that something terrible is going to happen (which it doesn't really). Watchable only because either Simm or Henderson are in every scene and they are never dull, but it's a chore to sit through.
Every Time You Look At Me (10/05)
Pleasant romantic drama with two very unique protagonists: a dwarf hair stylist who loves nightclubbing, and a more reserved schoolteacher with Thalidomide birth defect arms. It's disinterest at first sight (particularly as he already has a steady girlfriend) but they secretly begin trysts and eventually hook up officially much to consternation of both their families. Will they see the light or will true love prevail?
An Evil Streak (1/00)
Three part ITV drama starring Trevor Eve (In The Heat of the Sun) as a homosexual writer who gleefully manipulates the lives of his beloved niece (Rosalind Bennett) and his male housekeeper and arranges for them to have an affair. He makes it oh-so-convenient for them to have illicit liaisons in his flat, then arranges to videotape them in action for his amusement afterwards. Eventually the housekeeper's wife and him become co-conspirators but we in the audience already know it will all end badly as the story opens with the niece's suicide.
Latenight Channel 4 comedy featuring spurious "scientific" experiments (such as which religion does the Royal Mail prefer) accompanied by fancy graphics. A little goes a long way, but for the after pub crowd, it no doubt proves entertaining.
In "Super Chicks," an old B-movie about female wrestlers is given an hilarious new touch with thought balloons added to the characters which completely subverts the original plot. Fun late-night Channel 4 filler.
Extremely Dangerous (9/00)
Extremely derivative! Sean Bean (Sharpe, "Goldeneye") stars in this shameless rip-off of The Fugitive as a man on the run, although instead of being a Doctor wrongly accused of killing his wife, he's a former spy. It might be exciting if we hadn't seen this all done before elsewhere.
Eyes Down (3/04)
Paul O'Grady, best known in Britain as sassy drag queen Lily Savage, has moved over to the BBC and decided to give Lily a rest by playing characters more like himself. That self would seem to be a self-centered sharp-tongued smart aleck, so it's Lily but in a tailored suit this time. This BBC sitcom has O'Grady as the number caller at a midlands Bingo parlor which portrays the sad lives of his co-workers. A good example of the kind of programming the BBC puts out in the middle of summer.
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