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Dates refer to when review was written
Another ITV comedy pilot, this one about the reception area of a "wacky" medical office. Rather obvious jokes, one can only imagine a generous dose of laughing gas was distributed to the studio audience prior to taping.
A comedy set in a retirement home. It could be "Moonlighting Goes Geriatic," with Graham Crowden as a wild-at-heart retiree who refuses to be put out to pasture quietly, and his relationship with the uptight woman who lives next door to him. When they aren't fighting, they try to pull something over on the operators of the retirement home.
The Waiting Time (9/00)
John Thaw (Inspector Morse) stars in this ITV mini-series as a retired spook who is now a solicitor who gets involved in post Cold War politics when a female Army officer attempts to get revenge on a former East German Stasi officer who killed her boyfriend. The Americans need the officer because he's buddies with the possible new President of Russia, and so the mighty forces of the British Secret Service (run by former Doctor Who - and now Orson Welles lookalike - Colin Baker) to thwart Thaw's efforts to get to the truth.
Wake Up...With Libby and Jonathan (11/94)
Nigel Planer stars in this sitcom send-up of those perky morning talk shows with always-smiling hosts. Here, Jonathan and Libby are married to each other...but hate each other's guts. But they have to stick to the pretense of a happy relationship in order to keep the show going. A nice send-up of television and the personalities that drive it.
Walking & Talking
Based on the Little Crackers short a few years ago, this autobiographical comedy series on Sky is written by and based on the real life exploits of Kathy Burke when she was a music fanatic teenager growing up in Islington (she describes herself as, "a punk, new wave, suedehead, skinhead sort of thing.") The title comes from the fact a lot of the action takes place as Kath and her best mate walk home from school discussing their lives. It also cuts to the seemingly unconnected lives of two nuns (Kathy Burke and Sean Gallagher) on fag breaks at their parochial school. The look of the series is great, it appears to have been shot in 1979 with faded colors like a film print from that era.
Walking On The Moon (5/00)
Grim ITV TV movie about school bullying that is harrowing to watch. An intelligent, but sensitive boy moves into a new school and makes friends at first, but then ends up on allying himself with a frequently-bullied boy and finds himself equally ostracized. The title refers to the imaginary flights he takes as an astronaut, but the vicious treatment he receives from his peers cause him to withdrawal and eventually attempt suicide.
Wall of Fame (6/11)
This Sky1 celebrity panel show is hosted by David Walliams (get the title?). It's no Have I Got News For You, but I had a smile on my face most of the way through, as each week's celebrity antics are talked about by other slightly less-famous, although funny, celebrities.
War Game (1/04)
The annual Christmas cartoon takes a dark turn with this tale about a soccer team that volunteer for duty in World War I and discover the horror of the trenches. But it also includes the famous event on Christmas Day when the Germans and allies came out of their trenches for a friendly game of soccer together and discovered they weren't so different after all. But, as we sadly know, the Powers That Be on both sides kept the pressure on to attack attack attack regardless of the loss of manpower in an awful war of attrition.
War Stories (11/09)
Two hour BBC documentary about the films produced in Britain about the Second World War. During the war many were propaganda or to support the war effort, but afterwards they were able to give some historical perspective on specific battles or incidents, sometimes with meticulous reenactments such as in "The Dam Busters." Eventually Americans got into the act and virtually hijacked the WWII genre with popular big budget films like "The Longest Day" and "The Great Escape" reducing the involvement of the British in the war to bit players. Most of the purely British productions (many featuring John Mills--he was to British war films what John Wayne was to American ones) are rarely shown in the USA. A real shame as some of them, like "Ice Cold In Alex" (1958), are considered classics in Britain but remain undiscovered in America.
Thomas Sutcliffe presents this documentary series that looks at different aspects of movies including how they first suck you in, the use of the punch, and how stills are incorporated in a moving medium. Great stuff for cinephiles like me.
Waterloo Road (4/07)
BBC drama set at a grim inner-city school where a new headmaster (Jason Merrells, Cutting It) tries to modernize despite the efforts of most of the lazy staff to sabotage him. Subplots revolve around the relationships of the staff and students, some of whom were involved in a fatal car accident.
Watership Down (7/00)
Ambitious animated ITV series serializing the original Richard Adams' book (also filmed in 1978, with John Hurt doing a voice in both) about rabbits trying to live in freedom against an evil fascist rabbit and his warren. Er, I guess it's supposed to be an allegory about Nazis and WWII, but the story is compelling with plenty of suspense.
Watson & Oliver (2/12)
Sketch comedy on the BBC with Lorna Watson and Ingrid Oliver as a traditional double act, not terribly removed from what French & Saunders used to do, which is a compliment. In their first episode they are joined by guest John Barrowman who sings the finale about his favorite subject, namely himself of course. I don’t quite know why sketch comedy went out of fashion (Armstrong & Miller seem to be the last gasp of this genre currently) but when it’s funny, and Watson & Oliver are so far, it’s great to watch.
Way To Go (3/13)
I love telling people this is BBC sitcom about three idiots who start a euthanasia business. Scott (Blake Harrison) works at a vet hospital and is hired by an elderly neighbor to assist him in a suicide. Using stolen drugs and a machine whipped up by his buddy Cozzo (Marc Wootton), Scott performs the deed in order to pay some bills and help his deadbeat gambler half-brother Joey (Ben Heathcote). Yes, this could seem tasteless, but running on BBC-3, their client base is unlikely to have ever even seen the channel. Scott's love life is a mess, and it's made more complicated when he begins seeing the daughter of his first client (the deaths appear like natural causes so nobody knows about the assisted suicides). Cozzo's ditzy pregnant police officer wife also remains blissfully unaware of her husband's sudden source of income, although she has her suspicions.
We Are History (11/01)
Series of shorts that parody Time Team with ridiculous archeology that gets everything wrong. Hopefully no school children are taking notes!
TV movie based on Irving Welsh's novel with a startling beginning featuring four women in wedding garb kidnapping four men and executing them. The rest is flashbacks showing the run up to Amanda's (Michelle Gomez) wedding while various dramas swirl around her girlfriends (including Shirley Henderson). Alas, the great opening proves to be a dream sequence (what a gyp!) but the rest of the drama is heartfelt.
We’ll Take Manhattan (2/12)
In 1962 young rebel Vogue photographer David Bailey revolutionized fashion when he took a young model named Jean Shrimpton (Karen Gillan) to New York for three days for a photo shoot. Helen McCrory plays Bailey’s ambitious boss along for the ride who isn’t about to let this insolent photographer derail her plans. But Bailey simply refuses to play along. He uses a small 35mm camera rather than the large format standard in Vogue layouts, and he shoots Shrimpton in ways that were completely contrary to the practices at the time. It’s about how a young British generation usurped the post-war establishment that was stuck with 1950s attitudes. For her part, Gillan acquits herself well, Jean is terribly shy at first, although she accepts being thrown out of her father’s house for being in a relationship with the married Bailey. This production for BBC4 can’t afford to completely recreate New York of 50 years ago, so sticks to location shooting in south Manhattan near the UN Building or Rockefeller Center which have remained mostly unchanged.
What A Performance! (11/97)
In England there is an entire class of comedians doing what is called there "camp." No, not like in the old Batman series, but the sort of limp-wristed, mincing gay character like Mr. Humphries on Are You Being Served? This documentary hosted by Bob Monkhouse explores the entire history of the genre and looks at the various actors who built careers as gay actors doing arch stereotypes that were filled with double entendres guaranteed to be missed by their mostly straight audiences.
Whatever Happened To Harry Hill?
A great spoof documentary (written by the actor and presenter) about his great 1990s Channel 4 Harry Hill Show that purports to reveal the scandals and secrets behind that classic series. Of course it's just an excuse to reunite the cast and show a lot of great clips, Hill evidently not wanting to toot his own horn without simultaneously sending it up.
Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?
Even the BBC repeats ancient series, allowing a glimpse back to their early 70s comedies. Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? was a follow-up to the 60s The Likely Lads, with the same stars (James Bolan and Rodney Bewes, who reportedly hated each other) but with the characters no longer "lads." What's amazing about this series is how very 70s it is, from the BBC-patented video-on-the-inside, film-on-the-outside production techniques, to the clothes, but very much the tone of the comedy which dates this instantly.
What's Your Story? (3/89)
A true weirdy. Sylvester McCoy hosts this BBC children's show where each day the drama was scripted based on suggestions that kids would ring in the day before. Indeed, every day they made it up as they went along, hiring actors, building sets, and creating costumes. A fascinating look into live television, and an interesting stunt from a production standpoint.
Where the Buffalo Roam (1/96)
In this comedy pilot, working class Jimmy decides the road to success lies with buying a van and doing short hauls. Unfortunately he ends up with an ice cream van doing dodgy deals for unscrupulous characters.
Where's Elvis This Week? (3/97)
Former late-night talk show host Jon Stewart hosts this BBC series (shot in New York) that plays like a transatlantic Politically Incorrect. Each week two guests each from the US and England rehash the week's issues, with Stewart providing commentary for British viewers on the more obscure points of American culture. It's obviously the best gig he could get, but it's fairly lively and the guests aren't afraid to bite the hand that feeds them. As an American Anglophile watching a program made in America specifically for British consumption, I find it a bit strange but compelling. And Elvis is spotted in a different part of the world each week in a brief segment.
When I Was 12 (3/02)
Grim BBC TV movie about 12 year old girl who runs away from her irresponsible mother to Hastings and quickly runs afoul of friendly drug dealers who are not looking out for her best interests. It's amazing she survives (at the least the narration at the end tells us she made it to 13) but in order to look forward to what?
Whistle and I'll Come To You (3/11)
An hour-long adaptation by Neil Cross (Luther) for the BBC of the M.R. James ghostly story. John Hurt is the only reason to watch this, he carries the entire production on his back as an astronomer whose Alzheimer's afflicted wife is in a care home. He takes a trip to the seaside on the advice of the nurse at the care home played by Leslie Sharp. Spooky things start occurring at night at the lonely hotel he is staying at, with someone or someTHING trying to get into his room. It takes too long to get scary and actors like Sharp and Sophie Thompson are wasted in tiny roles. Hurt is fantastic as always, he's the actor who loves to suffer, but I didn't think the chills developed in Whistle and I'll Come to You overcame the dull parts.
An ITV police drama starring Rupert Penry-Jones (Spooks) as a police detective trying to solve a series of murders. Even the presence of comedy actors like Steve Pemberton and Peter Serafinowicz weren't enough to stop me crying out, "Enough of these police procedurals!" There's just too much murder on TV (Thorne, Luther), far more than is justified by real life, and it's lazy TV making them just because they are popular and easily marketed. I think TV would be much improved with all of them put into Room 101 along with all the glossy-floor reality shows like Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor.
White Heat (6/12)
A semi-remake of Our Friends In The North following a group of housemates from their days living together during university in the 1960s to the present day. In 2012 Charlotte (Juliet Stevenson) returns to their old house where everyone is reuniting after a death. But things are tense, and we flash back to their younger selves (where Charlotte is played by Claire Foy), and how the characters navigated their way through the 1960s, 70s and 80s, and mixed-and-matched their relationships. The younger cast (including Lee Ingleby and Julian Barratt) are just the right age to be able pulling off playing both teenagers and characters who age into their forties. Of course there are plenty of secrets and revelations to carry us through the six episodes of this BBC mini-series which lovingly recreates the period details of each era as you would expect.
White Teeth (1/04)
In a story spanning four decades and illustrating the melting pot that is modern Britain, two friends from the war find their lives and families intertwined, as ultimately the sins of their past come to haunt their children. Things take a decidedly odd detour in the final part revolving around a genetically-engineered mouse that many forces, all personified by the various characters, converge on. Excellent, ambitious Channel 4 drama based on Zadie Smith's novel, it was shown on "Masterpiece Theater" in May 2003.
Life inside the kitchen of a high-end country restaurant is the setting of this half hour BBC2 comedy drama. Alan Davies stars as Roland White, a talented but somewhat lazy executive chef who leaves a lot of the heavy lifting to his long-suffering sous chef, Bib. Katherine Parkinson plays his main nemesis, the restaurant's manager, but it's not as if Roland doesn't deserve a kick up the arse once in a while. This tries hard to be a 21st Century comedy, shot single-camera film style and a liberal use of a steadicam to create the atmosphere of a chaotic kitchen. Nevertheless, there are some past Century sitcom cliches still haunting the premises, like the fickle restaurant owner, the scatterbrained waitress, and the clumsy ethnic line cook. Because Whites doesn't rely on gag after gag, its audience appeal will live or die solely on how well we connect with the characters. Do we believe they are real and do we care what happens to them? I'm not entirely certain based on only one episode if I understand all the relationships between the characters yet, but Davies is a wise casting choice as the ring leader of this particular circus.
White Van Man (6/12)
Low-key BBC3 comedy about a handy man (Will Mellor), his girlfriends (including one played by Georgia Moffat (aka Mrs David Tennant)), retired father (Clive Mantle), and his lazy sidekick (Joel Fry). Despite the working class nature of the series and situational humor, in 2012 ABC shot a pilot for an American remake.
Who Do You Think
You Are? (4/07)
Celebrity genealogy program with Sheila Hancock and Stephen Fry among others, getting a peek at their ancestors via the resources of the BBC. Superfascinating, particularly when (as is usual) the star must tell the rest of the family about whatever skeletons they've managed to unearth.
Who Gets The Dog? (1/09)
Kevin Whately and Alison Steadman play a married couple heading for divorce because of his infidelity in this ITV comedy movie. He hires rapacious Stephan Mangan as his solicitor, the wife hires an equally ambitious attorney, and the two lawyers decide to battle to the death in their own strange rivalry using the couple as pawns. The couple's daughter refuses to have anything to do with her parents and obstinately demands they get back together, meanwhile their dog just hangs around waiting to see how it's all resolved.
Who Killed Saturday Night TV? (2/06)
Fascinating TV documentary about how Saturday night went from the most-watched night of the week to the least (a phenomenon which also occurred in the USA). The BBC had a lock on audiences in the 1970s with The Generation Game and popular comedy double acts. But poaching by ITV and the eventual rise of competition from satellite channels disrupted this dominance which the BBC is only beginning to remount in the form of the Doctor Who revival.
Six hour ITV mini-series about four women who decide to do the bank job their husbands died while attempting. Longish but with great acting and directing. Script by Linda LaPlante (Prime Suspect, The Governor). David Calder (Star Cops) has a supporting role.
Simon Nye (Men Behaving Badly) writes this oddball "Twin Peaks"-like BBC comedy with Dawn French as shopkeeper Mary Trewednack in a small Cornish fishing village. Everyone in town is a bit eccentric and so are the plots but it's all good fun. Mary and her best mate Angela live, work and sleep in the same bed together, yet both seem to be straight (displaying a healthy interest in men). What's up with THAT?
Adapted by writer Andrew Davies (To Play The King, A Very Peculiar Practice), this three part ITV drama is about a young woman who thinks she is a werewolf. Her new boyfriend is infatuated with her, but her cold psychologist is the real nutter as he becomes more and more obsessed with her case. Plenty of nudity (my friend Allen told me he distilled "the best parts" of the series down to fourteen-and-a-half minutes) and some nice morphing effects as Alice's true nature is revealed.
& Mary (3/04)
Two single parents try a dating service and sparks fly as soon as they meet in this ITV drama series. William (Martin Clunes) is a serious undertaker, while Scottish Mary (Julie Graham from At Home With the Braithwaites) is a midwife. Complications ensue, needless to say, including the death of William's mum, and the return of Mary's estranged black husband. But the cycle of birth and death is nicely highlighted and it seems like the universe owes these two a break.
In Winter (7/99)
Animated sequel to last year’s The Wind And The Willows, with the same celebrity voices including Rik Mayall, Michael Palin, and Michael Gambon. This time, Toad of Toad Hall (Mayall) discovers airplanes during a winter freeze, much to the horror of his neighbors.
British television's favorite nutter, Robert Lindsay, gets another chance to show his particular brand of lunacy, this time as a suburban husband and father who wishes to do away with his wife. But his efforts meet with mixed results as inhabitants of Wimbledon keep dropping like flies. Will he ever get it right, or will the all-too friendly local constable come round for a visit first? Quite charming. As always, Lindsay delivers the goods.
The Wind in the
A number of big names (Rik Mayall, Michael Gambon, Michael Palin) lend their voices to this animated adaption of the popular children's tale. As usual, the emphasis is on the character of Toad (of Toad Hall), a living embodiment of his id and his quest to have the fastest motor car possible, whatever the consequences.
Without You (3/04)
Short movie about middle class man whose car is stolen by a young punk. He is desperate to get his car back and teams up with the punk's working class girlfriend, a single mother. A clash of cultures and values with a final plot twist that reveals the man's mission.
Without You (2/12)
Anna Friel (“Pushing Daisies”) uses her natural British accent in this three-part ITV1 drama as Ellie Manning, a woman whose husband Greg (Marc Warren) dies in a car accident with a strange woman sitting next to him. Ellie can’t believe her husband was having an affair and the coroner’s inquest rules it an accident. She becomes obsessed with trying to find the truth and even infiltrate the unknown woman’s business in order to dig up more information about her and her connection to Greg. Even though he’s killed off early in the story, Warren continues to make appearances throughout the mini-series as Ellie has imagined conversations with him trying to piece everything together. Friel is effective as a woman who remains in shock for weeks, appears to her friends to have lost her mind, but doggedly is determined to get to the bottom of things.
Wish Me Luck (3/91)
This ITV drama shows the feminist side of World War II and the British women sent into occupied France to spy on the Nazis. Under-rated but involving drama gets soapy at times, but the tension is real and sustained when the women are "in country." With Julian Glover.
Wizards vs Aliens (12/12)
Russell T. Davies co-created this children's fantasy series as a replacement for The Sarah Jane Adventures which as the title might suggest, involves an alien race that has come to Earth to drain all the magic from the few who still have the power. This includes a teenage boy, who teamed up with the class brain, manage to hold off an entire race ruled by large puppet voiced by Brian Blessed in a series of two-part adventures. One has to account for this CBBC series being aimed at kids, but it has enough suspense and a driving score to make it entertaining with reservations.
Lame ITV drama series that attempts to capitalize on shows like Ballykissangel and other small town series, but lacks any of their humor or wit. Lesley Dunlop stars as the wife of one of the policemen who are the focus of the series.
Wonderful You (11/99)
Richard Lumsden (Is It Legal?) stars and co-wrote this ITV comedy/drama series about a lonely bike messenger/singer who gets one last chance to get his dream girl on the cusp of his 30th birthday. The road to love is rocky indeed, as it is for the people around him, including his sister who gets caught having an affair.
The World of Lee Evans (11/95)
We've had The Baldy Man, a sort of Scottish Mr Bean. This month we have "Mr Bean Jr." Lee Evans, a likable young comic, stars in short misadventures such as "The Late Shift" as a convenience store clerk who can't quite master the intricacies of the electric doors, and "Meet the Folks" as a prospective suitor who gets off on the wrong foot to parents Prunella Scales and Tony Selby.
World of Pub
Kevin Eldon (Fist of Fun) and Phil Cornwall (Stella Street) star in this BBC comedy revolving around an East End pub that each week attempts to reinvent itself into whatever "theme" seems trendy with typically disastrous results. One week (in a parody of "Notting Hill") it's a book shop appealing to a famous Hollywood actress who moves to the neighborhood, then a women's pub, a music venue, and even a Michael Caine-themed pub (until he protests). There are some great cut-away visual gags featuring the regular cast, and the inventiveness of the series keeps it very entertaining.
The Worst Jobs in History (2/06)
Tony Robinson presents this informative Channel 4 series that as the title promises shows the worst possible occupations in each era in history. And then Tony proceeds to reenact them! History was disgusting and this series doesn't downplay that, in fact, it's probably part of its appeal.
The Worst Week of My Life (10/05)
Ben Miller is about to get married in a week to his posh sweetheart (Sarah Alexander) but first he has to meet her disapproving parents and survive a week's worth of disasters, bad luck, and a psychotic former girlfriend who wants him at all costs in this BBC comedy.
Would I Lie To
Amusing celebrity quiz show hosted by Angus Deayton that features two teams who try to bluff each other by telling possible lies about themselves or certain facts. In one episode John Barrowman (Torchwood) provides much energy and laughter, although my favorite "lie" has to be Dom Joly (Trigger Happy TV) who claims to have gone to school with Osama Bin Laden. Turns out he did, in Lebanon!
BBC documentary series of short films about the history of packaging in Britain. Cereal and soap didn't always come in attractive boxes filling the supermarket shelves, and this series graphically demonstrates how the consumer world we take for granted today developed, particularly after the War.
The Writing Game (11/96)
A filmed stageplay starring George Segal as an American novelist who is invited to a weekend writing workshop in rural England. Very stagy, both in dialog and delivery, but Segal is pretty good as his character learns as much as he teaches.
Channel 4 animated series based on Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, unfortunately falls flat with the humor not translating well to another medium. The best thing about the show is probably the computer animation during the credits showing the discworld traveling through space on four elephants on top of a giant tortoise.
The Wyven Mystery (3/01)
Two part BBC historical mystery drama with Derek Jacobi as a landlord who takes care of an orphaned woman who is rescued from his clutches by one of his sons and then whisked off and married. But it isn't happily ever after, with secret marriages, a creepy manor house, chained madwomen, missing babies, and a too-helpful brother (Ultraviolet's Jack Davenport) threatening the woman at every turn. Everything is not as it seems.
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