British TV Show Reviews "N"

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Dates refer to when review was written

N7 (1/96)
This North London postal code is where the denizens of this BBC pilot sitcom reside. Nick's apartment has just been burned out causing him to temporarily take lodging with some married friends. Pretty typical stuff so far, eh? The thing about Nick is his geraniums talk to each other and to Nick -- who talks back. Even though Nick eventually moves back into his apartment by the end of the first episode, I wouldn't mind seeing more of this series, if only to see what the geraniums get up to next.

Naked (3/04)
A new director's showcase features a short about a young man whose girlfriend's family are naturists (i.e. nudists) and she wants him to meet the folks.  At first he thinks he can handle taking his clothes off in front of strangers but on the night he freaks.  Basically a tale about tolerance, presumably with the participation of some real-life nudists.

The Naked Actor (1/91)
Nigel Planer stars in this send-up of "How To" series for actors. He adopts a posh accent and fills the show with a series of out-of-context clips from chat shows of different actors. Utterly pretentious and deliberately so!

Naked Video (11/90)
Topical sketch comedy from Scotland. Some of the regional dialects are too hard to understand at times though.

Nancherrow (1/00)
Joanna Lumley co-stars in this ITV mini-series, a sequel to 1998's Coming Home about a family of landed gentry. I facetiously referred to the original one as "Gosh, It's Swell To Be Rich," but the sequel could as easily be called "Darn That Rotten Labour Party For Ruining Our Fun." Set in post-war Britain, keeping the family estate of Nancherrow isn't as easy as it used to be in the face of inheritance taxes, austerity, the coming of the NHS, nationalization, TV, and the polio epidemic (though the latter probably wasn't the fault of Labour). With a will Scarlet O'Hara would admire, the daughter's affection for her ancestral home borders on obsessive, and nearly costs her all the relationships in her life.

Nature Boy (3/01)
A young man with an affinity for animals crosses Britain looking for his long-lost father (Paul McGann) and along the way encounters a different group of people in each episode that use his help in this engaging BBC mini-series.  In one story, he stays with a family that is involved with the corporate cover-up of contamination, in another a group of tree lovers try to save a forest from road builders.  McGann only appears briefly in flashbacks or speaking to his son in fantasy sequences.

Nazi Pop Twins (10/08)
James Quinn profiles twin sisters in California whose pop music act (Prussian Blue) feature lyrics all about white supremacy.  The girls clearly are too young to know what they are doing, as usual it's their mother who is the driving force in their life (she got it from her father, although the twin's grandmother is ready to leave him because of all the racist nonsense she's put up with).  

Never Better (1/09)
Stephen Mangan stars in this low-key BBC comedy about Keith, a reformed alcoholic who isn't quite getting the point of AA, or realizes what a social disaster he is now he's sober.  Though well-meaning, Keith manages to get into wacky only-on-TV type situations which mean his utter humiliation in the end. 

Never Mind the Buzzcocks (3/97)
A pop music quiz show hosted by "50s throwback" (as he's referred to on Shooting Stars), Mark Lamarr. Two teams of near-famous musicians pit their knowledge of songs in various rounds: guessing a song from having the other players mouth the melody without the lyrics, guessing what happens next in bizarre music videos from the archives, naming a song based on silent choreography from "Top of the Pops," deciphering hard-to-tell lyrics from mumbled classics, and spotting where-are-they-now stars from a lineup of lookalikes (they nearly always get it wrong too!). Great fun even if, like me, you don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of popular music.

Never Mind the Horrucks (1/97)
Comedienne Jane Horrucks stars in a series of sketches in this hour-long pilot. Along with Martin Clunes and the ubiquitous Philip Pope, she skewers Sense and Sensibility, early BBC children's programming, Cilla Black, American morning chat shows, and many others. Racy, but quite funny stuff.

Never Never (1/02)
Tony Marchant (Holding On) wrote this two-part drama about a young loan shark (John Simm, Life on Mars) who is king of the housing estate he extorts until he is brought low by one of his victims.  He loses it all and irony of ironies has to move into the same housing estate and live with those he once took advantage of.  Knowing how they are being ripped off, he reluctantly helps them start a credit union and then ambitiously wants to expand to become a real high street bank.  He also falls in love with an unwed mother although she is hiding a secret that could tear their relationship apart.  A gritty urban drama, and don't expect a happily-ever-after ending.

Neverwhere (1/97)
Comic book writer Neil Gaiman's six part surreal series (devised along with funnyman Lenny Henry) takes us to the world of London Below, a collection of warrens, tunnels, and tube stations that is unknown to those of us who dwell in London Above. A young Scotsman helps a homeless girl named Door whose family has just been massacred by agents unknown. Suddenly his world is turned upside down and no one knows (or can see him) any longer. He follows Door back to her world, they pick up some companions, and they travel all across London to familiar yet strange places in search of the culprits behind everything. Slow going at first, and badly let down by a cheap video production, nevertheless it is a satisfying fantasy adventure full of fascinating characters and imagery. I wouldn't mind a sequel at all.

Neville's Island (9/98)
ITV TV-movie based on Tim Firth's stageplay about four men on one of those "bonding" survival weekends who end up stranded on an island in the Lake District and of course learn more about each other than they ever wanted to know. Four comedy veterans, Timothy Spall (Outside Edge), Martin Clunes (Men Behaving Badly), David Bamber (Chalk), and Jeff Rawle (Faith In the Future), make up the team from a small business, each of whom thinks is being groomed as the possible successor as president of the company. But two days of "roughing it" reveals who each of them really is and why they are like they are.

Newman and Baddiel In Pieces (9/93)
Young comedians (from The Mary Whitehouse Experience) in various sketches. Their most famous characters appear on "History Today": two old academic farts who continually insult each other with the catchphrase, "That's you, that is." It's the elaborateness of their precise put-downs that are hysterical, each trying to top the other.

News Knight (10/08)
Respected ITV news anchor Sir Trevor McDonald gets to let his hair down, so to speak, and react to current events (along with Clive Anderson and Marcus Brigstoke) in a way he never could have on The Ten O'Clock News

The New Statesman (3/89)
Rik Mayall's series enters its second season with him once again playing MP Alan B'Stard. While funny, it gives even Black Adder a run for its money in sheer raunchiness. Definitely not intended for younger viewers.

New Street Law (4/08)
John Hannah plays an idealistic defense attorney running a barely viable practice who usually is up against his old boss (Paul Freeman, "Raiders of the Lost Ark") in this BBC drama.  The personal lives of the lawyers are fodder for the show, as well as two or three cases a week which are neatly wrapped by the end of each episode.  The visual style is like watching a FOX sportscast: lots of whooshes and fast camera pans between each scene.

New Tricks (3/04) 
Amanda Redman (At Home With The Braithwaites) stars in this light-hearted BBC detective series as an up-and-coming Met officer whose career hits a bump when a kidnapping case goes awry.  Her superiors reassign her to form a new unit of former detectives and re-examine open cases.  What they really want is for her to whitewash cases so they'll go away.  Teaming up with James Bolam they recruit a group of dodgy ex-coppers that, although unorthodox, get the job done, despite the displeasure of the higher-ups at the Metropolitan Police.

Nice Day at the Office (1/95)
Timothy Spall (Frank Stubbs) takes a stab at the sit-com genre as a bored corporate drone who dreams of escaping drudgery. His main outlet is driving the security chief (John Sessions) bonkers by anonymously signing the "Clean Bathroom Log" with names like Pope Pius, and the entire membership of the 1966 Italian football team.

Nice Guy Eddie (3/02)
Ricky Tomlinson stars in this BBC pilot about a happily married northern private investigator who gets in hot water with his wife when a young man arrives claiming to be his love child.  The two men make a great team, particularly as Eddie is getting a bit past his sell-by date to do the action scenes.  And if he doesn't convince his wife soon he's been faithful all along, he's not going to see much action there either.

Nice Work (8/91)
Very interesting four-part drama with Warren Clarke (Sleepers, Moving Story) as the Managing Director of a midlands foundery who gets stuck with a "shadow" in the form of a beautiful Doctor of English Literature who has no idea what life outside academia is like. Needless to say, the culture shock on both their parts is profound, but that's nothing compared to the extremely explicit sexual content in this series. Very engaging, I'd watch Clarke read the phone book.

Nightflight (1/03)
Edward Woodward and Christopher Plummer co-star in this BBC TV movie about a pair of aging former WWII flyers who are reunited when Woodward has a get-rich-quick scheme he wants Plummer to invest in.  Flashbacks to the war help set up the drama between the two though it's a bit confusing which young actor is supposed to be who grown up.

Nightingales (3/93)
This seemingly routine sitcom about night watchmen is anything but. It is certifiably surreal and quite amusing. Robert Lindsay (GBH) and David Threlfall (Lesley Titmus in Paradise Postponed, and recently Prince Charles in Diana: Her True Story) are two loafers working under their "Sarge" who takes his security job far too seriously. One episode was a parody of Mutiny On the Bounty, another King Lear. The finale featured doppelgangers of our three heroes attempting to replace them, and ended with a massive fight breaking out between the two groups. Twelve episodes were produced over two seasons. Worth seeing if you ever get the chance.

Night Voice (11/90)
From the BBC Screenplay series, this drama stars Alexei Sayle as a provocative late-night talk radio host who never gets involved with the people who call - until a young intern interferes. No happy endings, but there never are, but a good solid script and performances.

The Night Watch (11/11)
A BBC adaptation of Sarah Waters' novel, "The Night Watch," a time twisting tale of forbidden love during the WWII.  Anna Maxwell Martin, Jodie Whittaker, Anna Wilson-Jones and Harry Treadaway star. Martin plays Kay Langrish, a lesbian who has survived the war despite having been an ambulance driver during the London blitz.  She had been in a relationship with the rather impulsive Helen Giniver (Claire Foy), who now lives with Kay's former partner, writer Julia Standing.  Only through flashbacks do we see how Kay originally met Helen and later lost her.  Martin is outstanding, and unafraid to appear with a minimum of makeup and a utility haircut. She lets her performance do the work, just a look often says more than lines of dialog. 

Nighty Night (7/05)
Julia Davis wrote and stars in this BBC black comedy as the completely amoral and self-serving Jill, who dumps her terminally ill husband (Kevin Eldon) and starts making the moves on her new neighbor, a married doctor (Angus Deayton).  Jill is perhaps the greatest comic monster since Alan B'Stard, she literally has no shame, from telling everyone her husband is dead (he's merely in hospital), to completely abusing the good nature of Deayton's disabled wife (Rebecca Front).

Nixon's The One (2/14)
A spin-off of Sky Art's Playhouse Presents, this series stars Harry Shearer ("The Simpsons") as Richard Nixon, recreating verbatim actual White House conversations recorded by the Nixon Administration. But a little goes a long way in what is essentially a one-joke premise: Nixon was an insecure idiot. Talk about 40-year-old news. Does this mean some comic will do a similar series in 2040 about George W. Bush? There aren't many horses deader to beat than Nixon, which is probably why this series is running on a speciality British digital channel and not in the US.

No Angels (3/05)
Channel 4 drama about a quartet of nurses who live and work together and their various issues in the private and professional lives.  The moral of the series might be: doctors know everything, but don't mess with the nurses!

No Bananas (11/96)
BBC drama series set in the early days of World War II about two families, one working class, the other upper class. An unlikely marriage connects the two, and we follow the various family members as the war increasingly impacts on their lives. Of note is Stephanie Beacham (late of SeaQuest DSV) as a haughty Lady whose husband is an unrepentant member of the British Fascist Party. Episodes revolve events such as Christmas 1939, Dunkirk, and the Battle of Britain, serializing the ongoing events of the large cast.

Nobody Likes A Smartass (3/04)
BBC quiz show hosted by sarcastic comedienne Jo Brand where members of the audience get to take on so-called experts.

Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy (8/14)
This offbeat E4 comedy is what you'd expect from half of The Mighty Boosh. It includes a cast of regulars set in an offbeat location (for the second series, it's a cafe on the edge of a volcano). Employing deliberately cheesy model work, Fielding gets to play a number of characters, and ostensibly there is a plot each week. But mostly you tune in to witness the madness of letting someone with a huge imagination loose on television who is not limited by his low budget.

No Heroics (11/09)
Low-key but amusing ITV sitcom about a group of second-rate superheroes who mostly hang out in a bar (where powers aren't allowed--hence the title) and complain about how lousy their life is and are mocked by their more famous (and better powered) brethren.  A real counterpoint to the usual wish-fulfillment that comic book heroes typically embody, our protagonists suffer as only characters in a British comedy can.

No Job For a Lady (5/90)
Penelope Keith stars in the ITV sitcom about a female Member of Parliament.

Norbert Smith - A Life (5/90)
Harry Enfield stars in this "mockumentary" about the career of a famous actor. It includes fabulous recreations of various historical eras, including a Technocolor musical.

Norman Ormal - A Very Political Turtle (3/99)
Harry Enfield uses his penchant for doing characters to look at politicians, in this case a former Tory who blows with whatever favorable winds are currently in power (so naturally he’s now a Tony Blair Labourite). This one-off "biography" about Ormal’s life includes the usual scandal touchstones, as well as commentaries by very real celebrities. Enfield doesn’t miss a trick here with humorous results in what is probably all-too-real life.

Norman Stanley Fletcher: Life Beyond The Box (7/04)
A mockumentary based on the life of the character played by famed comedian Ronnie Barker in the classic 1974-77 prison comedy series Porridge.

Not A Lot Of People Know That (1/99)
Another celebrity quiz show in the Have I Got News For You vein, with the gimmick that the players are selected from a line-up where carrot-topped DJ Chris Evans is perpetually the odd man out. Weird and bizarre trivia and clips are trotted out, as well as a segment called "Get Your Socks Off" where one contestant has his feet lowered into a substance and must identify it by feel alone.

Not Another Awards Show (1/00)
Angus Deayton hosts this compilation of the worst of awards shows. When Gwyneth Paltrow won her Oscar last year and cried on stage she was pilloried by British comics, presumably for blubbing on camera. I guess the British just despise people who get emotional at less than opportune moments.

Not Going Out (1/09)
Lee Mack stars in this rather traditional BBC sitcom as an ice cream truck driver who shares his London flat with the posh sister of his best friend.  Will they or won't they?  Miranda Hart (Hyperdrive) plays their amazingly clumsy housecleaner.

Not Only But Always (4/07)
TV movie biopic of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and how they rose from obscurity with "Beyond The Fringe" to their highly successful BBC sketch comedy series and Moore's (here played by Rhys Ifans) departure for the sunnier skies of Hollywood.  Rather than a straight-forward narrative approach, their working class characters of "Pete" and "Dud" comment on the action throughout, much as they did during their landmark series. 

Not The 9 O'Clock News (3/96)
For those Rowan Atkinson fans who only know him as Blackadder or Mr. Bean, this vintage early 80s comedy series was how he originally rose to fame in England. Now the BBC have re-edited the best (and non-topical) bits which also features Pamela Stephenson, Griff Rhys-Jones, and Mel Smith. Atkinson is a natural here and it's great to see him in ancient sketches humiliating himself in ways that would be unheard of now.

Not With a Bang (3/91)
ITV's answer to Red Dwarf is a sitcom version of Survivors starring Ronald Pickup and Stephen Rea (later to star in The Crying Game) as two of only four surivivors after the world is wiped out by a virus. Josie Lawrence is the third, along with her impotent husband, which poses an interesting question about who's going to repopulate the world.

A Number (8/10)
Rhys Ifans stars in this TV Movie based on a play as a young man who finds out he has been cloned by his father (Tom Wilkinson)--many times.  And each version is slightly different.  It's a good chance for Ifans to play variations on the same part but the production comes off a bit stagy.

NY-LON (2/06)
Slick Channel 4 transatlantic drama about a poor New York City record store employee (Rashida Jones) and her relationship with a posh London banker (Stephen Moyer) she meets on a trip.  The story (and characters) bounce back and forth between the two cities, often with clocks showing the time in both places.  There is a bit of narrative cheating at times when the "clocks" are wound back to show us a part we didn't see earlier just to make things more dramatic.  But the couple is sweet, authentic locations and accents (hooray!), and the tension of whether they can make their starcrossed romance work keep the series engaging.

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Written and maintained by Ryan K. Johnson (rkj@eskimo.com).
August 27, 2014