Category: Reviews

Here are a number of old reviews I wrote for the Tachyon TV website. They haven’t been updated and so may contain errors and outright falsehoods. Hopefully some of them are still entertaining.

Strategic Penetration

Adam Smith Series One on DVD

We’ve probably all at some point imagined what our younger selves would make of 2012 if they could have looked into their future. My 10 year old self from 1978 would have excitedly spotted mobile phones, iPads, the massive number of television channels, while no doubt being puzzled at the mysterious sight of people carrying water bottles around rather than cans of Lilt and Tizer. But most of all, my young self would have cheered and whooped to see that the kind of Sundays we endured in 1978 had finally been abolished.

It’s hard to convey the terrifying ennui of the Sabbath in the 1970s. For six days a week lifewas great – there was Tiswas, Computer Battleships, Target novelisations and…

Keeping Down with the Joneses

Romany Jones Series 2 on DVD

Romany Jones was a cursed show, possibly because it took the Romany name in vain. Writers Ronald Chesney and Ronald Wolfe (the other Two Ronnies) devised the show when they were still riding high with the continuing success of On the Buses. Despite making a pilot which was shown in 1972, Thames Television decided not to continue, and it was only when the director/producer Stuart Allen moved to London Weekend Television that the idea was resurrected and the series emerged. This caused another problem when Arthur English, the original Wally Briggs, was unavailable for the series and so fate decreed…

What Kind of Fool Is He?

The Strange World of Gurney Slade on DVD

In Episode Four of The Strange World of Gurney Slade, our eponymous hero is on trial for having no sense of humour and therefore, by extension, creating an unfunny television programme. Slade is philosophical “I still think it could have been funny. Maybe the timing was wrong?” Certainly the timing was wrong, and on the evidence of the rest of this amazing series it was out by decades. For once, the old cliché that a programme was “years ahead of its time” is entirely appropriate: it makes those arch-whimsy merchants The Boosh look like Bootsie and Snudge.

An Education

Tales Out of School on DVD

Tales Out of School is a quartet of plays by David Leland concerned with the role of education in society, and the conflicts between pedagogical approaches that gradually evolved in the wake of the 1944 Education Act. That sounds like a recipe for unimaginable boredom, but in fact the four films that comprise Tales Out of School are compelling, challenging and, at best, downright thrilling pieces of television. The full quartet of films has only been repeated once (on Channel 4 in 1985) since its initial showing two years earlier, and to a large extent the final film, Made in Britain has overshadowed the rest, largely due to the fame of its remarkable director Alan Clarke, and its subsequent repeats…