Sunday, September 04, 2016

TV Watch: Working our way extremely circuitously toward "Inspector George Gently"



[Click to enlarge.]

by Ken

So here we are again in the Northeast having another Storm Watch Weekend, this time all mooshed together with Labor Day Weekend -- and never mind that today we've enjoyed an utterly lovely day as poor Hermine, the still steadily approaching storm, keeps dropping down on the charts, from hurricane to tropical storm to "post-tropical cyclone" -- a new one on me. What comes next? "Ba-a-a-d, ba-a-a-d storm"? And the anticipated mayhem has been both pushed back and similarly downgraded, now to tomorrow, with stiff wind gusts and maybe some coastal flooding.

Me, I'd planned a quiet Labor Day Weekend anyway -- a bit of a breather from, well, it's hard to specify what exactly. I'm still not working, so it can't be that. Nevertheless, I seem to be so busy doing this and that that I wasn't at all sorry to see that I hadn't really scheduled any mandatory activities. If I could afford to retire, it would be a swell time. I've taken to suggesting that if I'd had the sense to become independently wealthy, I'd make a splendidly active retired person.

So I've taken advantage of the lull -- along with trying to cobble together my first "TV Watch" post in goodness only knows how long, which was going to take a look, by way of the great 1984 Granada TV miniseries The Jewel in the Crown (just rebroadcast by one of my local public TV stations, Long Island's WLIW), dramatized by Ken Taylor from Paul Scott's tetralogy The Raj Quartet, set in the final years of British rule in India, and the 1988-92 Judd Hirsch NBC sitcom Dear John, at one of my new all-time favorite police procedurals, Inspector George Gently, graced by Martin Shaw's beatific performance in the title role -- by attacking the DVR pile-up. First I took in all four outings in the most recent ITV series of Endeavour, tales of the young future-Inspector Morse. Then, by way of further procrastination, I began attacking the similarly warehoused most recent series ("The Final Season") of Inspector Lewis. Which is to say the pre- and post- extensions (respectively) of the Morse franchise.

Merrick (Tim Piggot-Smith) unleashes his considerable worst on poor Hari Kumar (Art Malik) in The Jewel in the Crown.

A smiling Nicholas Jones
No sooner has the episode, "One for Sorrow," begun than there's Tim Piggot-Smith, who gave perhaps the most amazing performance in the gallery of amazing Jewel in the Crown performances with his portrayal of Ronald Merrick, the despicable British police superintendent in colonial India, and now he's playing an elderly professorial sort -- with clear perv-potential overtones -- giving a lecture on the Victorian fascination with freaks! Then there's another familiar face. As an elderly man apparently newly arrived in some sort of home suffering dementia, yes, it's Nicholas Jones! Best known to me, at least, as the pompous egomaniacal lawyer-twit Jeremy Aldermarten, the dark presence in the chambers of Kavanagh QC in the series of that name, the second-best-remembered series of the late John Thaw, the best-remembered being, of course, Morse. And a short bit later, when DI James Hathaway (Lawrence Fox) -- officially on a week's leave, doing "whatever it is Hathaway does," as Lewis puts it -- arrives at the home, we learn that the old gent is (yes!) his father.

All of which goes to remind me, as if I needed reminding, that time surely does whiz by.

Though it's been ages since I've done a "TV Watch" post, it hasn't been for want of TV-watching. What there has been, perhaps, is a persistent question of whether my TV-watching has any pertinence to anyone else. It's not that I don't watch anything new, but I keep encountering reports of wonders, chiefly in the outer reaches of cable and especially the streaming world, which are wildly at variance with such experience as I've had with them. (I don't streaming. Come on, isn't my cable bill high enough?) So I'm happy to devote a fair amount of my viewing time to TV past.

It doesn't seem to me a bad thing, first, to be reminded how much of that past survives (though also how much doesn't), and, more important, to take advantage of how much good stuff there is now readily available. Even a show like Dear John, which on rewatching turns out to be no better than I remembered, still rewards my attention more than, well, most of the offerings in the imagined (imaginary?) current Golden Age of TV Comedy, and it occurs to me that one reason is that it's a show that couldn't be made today, since it makes no effort to pander to the youth market.

In November 2014, Martin Shaw (DCI George Gently), Lee Ingleby (now-DI John Bacchus), Lisa McGrillis (about-to-be-DS Rachel Coles), and company were on location in the northeast of England filming what's now the most recently aired series of Inspector George Gently. (Various whole episodes are available on YouTube.)

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At 6:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Martin Shaw and I love the bleak, vaguely tawdry milieu depicted on the show. The working class characters are always treated with respect and empathy. Even so, I stopped watching George Gently because it was too unrelentingly depressing and often infuriating. The Sixties culture wars and sexism, personified by John Bacchus (despite his glacial progress), are horribly dreary. It got to the point that every episode left me deflated and miserable. Inspector Morse had the same effect on me.

Personally, I like cozies. My current favorite from Britain is Midsomer Murders. I also like Death in Paradise and, from Australia, Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries. Nothing angsty or deep but some wonderful actors and fun.

At 8:15 PM, Blogger Ron said...

Binge watch George Gently, Midsomer Murders, Miss Fisher, Morse and other Commonwealth shows on Acorn TV for $4/month. One of the best bargains for cord-cutters.

At 6:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG! Thanks so much Ken, for making it known to me that there is another George Gently series to look forward to. I have watched every episode of the entire series so far. Unlike the above Anonymous comments, I have not been able to get into Midsomer Murders or Miss Fisher, but I do like Death in Paradise (for some strange reason and I love the music). I have watched the entire Morse series and it never depressed me, apart from sadness that he never found a partner. I love Endeavor and Inspector Lewis as well as the Inspector Lynley series (from Elizabeth George). I have discovered a European channel, MHz, which has a zillion crime and mystery series from various countries - it is $7.99 a month, and you can get one free month to start. I am totally hooked on The French Village and highly recommend it - a WW II series that takes place in a fictitious town under German occupation. Some of the Swedish series are fantastic as well. And British ones, of course, such as Happy Valley and Wallander (with Kenneth Branagh).


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