Wednesday, 31 May 2017
697 Screen Two / Screen One
First viewed : 3 February 1985
Screen Two and Screen One were actually a continuation of Play for Today under another name as the original brand was controversially laid to rest in 1984. The ones I recall are
Knockback ( Screen Two 27.1.85 & 3.2.85 )
I only saw some of the second instalment of this two-parter about the relationship between Sylvia ,a lonely middle-aged woman ( Pauline Collins ) and the murderer Alan ( Derrick O' Connor ) she corresponds with while he serves a life sentence. O' Connor had previously been very good but very typecast in thuggish roles ( eg. Out ) and this role allowed him to break out and show his versatility. Leslie Grantham, not yet a household name, was a fellow lag. I recall the very last scene when Alan gets out on licence and takes Sylvia to a holiday cottage. In the most predictable plot development ever, the moment they cross the threshold they frantically shed their clothes and get down to it.
Coast To Coast ( Screen Two 4.1.87 )
This was a musical comedy thriller-cum-road movie, set in Northern England and starring Lenny Henry as a Scouse DJ and John Shea ( best known for playing Robert Kennedy in Kennedy ) as an AWOL US pilot and soul fan. The pair set up in business as a mobile soul disco but get drawn into a counterfeiting operation by small time villain Pete Postlethwaite and end up on the run both from the military police and a couple of gangsters played with relish by Peter Vaughan and George Baker. Rising star Paul Bown was also in it as a comic police constable and Cherie Lunghi played Shea's love interest.
Not being a huge fan of sixties soul music myself, I found the Shea character's obsession with it a bit tiresome but there was a lot else to enjoy particularly their trek through the Lakes and Yorkshire Dales where I could pick out familiar scenery in its grey, wintry finery. There was also a lot of black humour particularly in Bown's scenes when dismembered bodies start cropping up.
The licensing headache created by using all the old Motown tracks on the soundtrack has stopped it being released on DVD but it is on YouTube at the time of writing.
Will You Love Me Tomorrow ( Screen Two 18.1.87 )
This was a rather affecting story despite some cavernous plot holes. Joanne Whalley played Jackie Rivers, a former child-murderess clearly based on Mary Bell, who absconds from an open prison ( plot hole number one - she'd never have been placed there ) with short termer friend Linda ( Tilly Vorsburgh ) . With no real plan in mind, the pair fall in with a couple of young blokes, Sprint (Phil Daniels ) and Sailor ( Iain Glen ) looking for ( unspecified ) work in gaudy North Wales resort, Rhyl. Jackie finds some brief romance with Sailor before her inevitable apprehension. The sub-plot about a tabloid hack ( Peter Wight) on her trail is a superfluous waste of time . It worked because of a tremendous central performance from Whalley as the confused innocent-of-sorts, trying to make sense of an outside world which isn't what she imagined it to be.
After Pilkington ( Screen Two 25.1.87 )
This was a black campus comedy starring Bob Peck as James Westgate, a mild-mannered Oxford don whose obsession with childhood sweetheart Penny ( Miranda Richardson ) lands him in deep trouble when she asks him an unusual favour. Another don, Pilkington, has gone missing, and she knows what happened to him. Her husband , the exceedingly obnoxious Derek ( Barry Foster ) doesn't and that's the way she wants to keep it. Great performances all round keep it convincing as the plot veers towards melodrama.
The Impossible Spy ( Screen Two 11.2.90 )
This historical drama was made ( and broadcast in America ) in 1987 but for some, presumably political, reason, it wasn't broadcast in the UK until 1990. It told the story of Eli Cohen , an Israeli spy in Syria who was so successful he became a top official in Syria's Ministry of Defence and facilitated Israel's trouncing of Syria in the Six Day War 0f 1967. By that time, Cohen was dead having been publicly executed in Damascus for his trouble in 1965. Israel has been trying to repatriate his remains for over 50 years.
John Shea played Cohen with Eli Wallach featuring as his boss.
Alive and Kicking ( Screen One 13.10.91 )
I only caught a small part of this one with Lenny Henry as a drug dealer and addict faced with a hard choice between his habit and family life and Robbie Coltrane as the unconventional social worker trying to get him straight with involvement in a football team.
Truly Madly Deeply ( Screen Two 1.3.92 )
This was made in 1990 but pulled from the schedule to screen it in arthouse cinemas instead where it won numerous critics' awards. I remember some guy on Radio Four devoting his whole "Thought for the Day" piece to it. Directed by Anthony Minghella it starred Alan Rickman as a dead cellist who comes back to be with his wife ( Juliet Stevenson ) because she's missing him so much. I watched a small part of this orgy of metrosexual tastefulness when it came to the screen but I'm in agreement with Ian Hislop and Nick Hancock who savaged it on Room 101, the latter saying "I've actually seen episodes of Star Trek where I've had more in common with the characters". The play was broadcast four times during the nineties but thankfully seems to have been put to rest now.
The Law Lord ( Screen Two 22.3.92 )
I didn't see this political drama when it was broadcast but my mum taped it and then waxed lyrical over it so I felt obliged to view it. From what I recall, it seemed loosely based on the Thomas Becket saga. Bernard Hill played a corrupt Home Secretary who seeks to get compliant judges by manipulating the appointments system. To this end he secures the elevation of his friend ( Anthony Andrews ) as a young-ish Lord Chancellor but Andrews goes native and starts throwing spanners in the works. Tom Baker was also in it as Hill's grinning hatchet man. I thought it was mildly diverting but Andrews' eventual assassination was taking things a bit too far.