TV on DVD

terry1

Terry and June – series 6
Don’t worry if you haven’t seen series one to- five, as each episode is pretty much the same. It’s also pretty much the same formula as many other comedies. A middle-aged couple comprising of sensible wife and a stubborn husband gets involved in farcical situations in their otherwise anytown suburban life. Terry gets accidentally locked in the loft, but his boss/the local vicar/mother-in-law will be here for dinner any minute and that turkey’s starting to burn. You know the kind of thing. It’s massively dated, but works as homage to the early-to-mid 1980s Britain and to the end of the prime era of formulaic suburban sitcoms. The theme tune is also BBC sitcom gold and wacky adventures personified – you can hear it at http://www.televisionthemes.co.uk

What raises it above the norm is the putty-faced Terry Scott, who’s the comedic personification of the average middle age, middle-class television male from the time: bumbling, lovably irascible (although his television persona was somewhat racist by today’s standards) and seemingly always on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

When Terry And June was eventually axed in 1988, Scott really did suffer a nervous breakdown. Part of me would like to believe it happened while hanging from the gutter, pants around his ankles just as a couple of shocked nuns were walking past. You had to love him, he was one of the faces of British comedy for years and a comedy icon of his time. But handle this DVD with care, the jokes are antiques. MP

Monty Python’s Flying Circus – Series 2
There’s not a lot to say that hasn’t already been said about this seminal television series, so here’s a list of the highlights from this DVD of their second outing: The Ministry of Silly Walks, The Spanish Inquisition, Election Night Special, Vox Pops On Political Groupies, Bruces sketch, Long John Silver Impersonators v. Bournemouth Gynaecologists, Spam, Hospital for Over-Actors, The Man Who Says Things In A Very Roundabout Way and How Not To Be Seen. The latter is possibly the best thing they ever did in any of the television series, but 20 different people are each likely to have 20 different favourites from the huge Python cannon of anarchic stupidity.

Of course it’s all very silly. Probably far too silly for most people and if you’ve never seen any of the Monty Python team’s work before then you’re probably better off buying the DVD of their feature-length film The Life Of Brian as an introduction, as it is still one of the best comedy films ever made. But this was one of the most influential television series ever broadcast and quite unlike anything else at the time.

They were latterly referred to as ‘The Beatles of comedy’ and you can see their influence running through everything from The Young Ones to The Simpsons like a stick of seaside rock. The term ‘Pythonesque’ is (over)used to this day to describe anything that is a bit off the wall and surreal. But the Flying Circus is where it started and series two is arguably the very best of the four that they created. MP

St Elsewhere – season 1
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: It’s a drama set in a hospital where the lives, tensions, loves and conflicts between the staff are played out from the ER room to the bedroom. Ahhh, more hospital hokum. But unlike Holby City and Casualty in the UK and General Hospital in America, this doesn’t feel like it’s all held together by cheap surgical tape and neither is it your typical medical soap that drives you to the end of a rope.

The writers and directors here include the likes of Kevin Hooks, who now writes Lost and 24 (how’s that for a CV?) and Tom Fontana, the writer/creator of HBO’s outstanding prison series Oz. For many, it was the beginning of a successful career with the likes of Denzel Washington, Helen Hunt, Tim Robbins, Jane Kaczmarek, Michael Richards, Michael Madsen and Ed Begley, Jr. cutting their teeth on this series.

It’s one of the best out there and the quality writing set a standard that ultimately elevated hospital dramas to a level that had somehow only been occupied by police dramas – this of this as the medical Hill Street Blues – and was hugely influential of many series that followed. But get this: After six seasons and 137 episodes it ended with a finale that is one of the most bizarre and talked about endings to a television series ever. I won’t spoil it by mentioning anything here in case you buy this and really get into it over the longhaul – see Wikipedia entry if you do – but it really was a strange and controversial way to end a loved and highly-regarded drama. MP

Advanced Cheerleading
According to the blurb, this is a ‘must-have resource for anyone wanting to be involved in cheerleading at the elite level’. It’s wonderfully American to take the ‘art’ of cheerleading to this degree and essentially it’s one step away from ‘Elite Clapping’ and ‘A-whoopin’ and a hollerin’ for professionals’ but it’s rather endearing. University of Oklahoma coach Brandy Corcoran and the Sooner Cheerleaders cover several aspects of advanced cheerleading including baskets, partner stunts, pyramids and pulling the star quarterback. Actually, that last one is not included on the video – you only need a standard cheerleader’s outfit to do that. Coach Brandy has worked for the National Cheerleaders Association for the past 15 years, which is an incredibly long time to devote to cheerleading, and although this DVD will be of little interest to many people it’s somehow reassuring that such simple and traditional Americana exists in a world of violence on DVD. MP

For Time Out, April 2007

For original PDF click here – TV on DVD April 2007

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