nick730 (nick730) wrote,

Culture shock

Something odd's happening to BBC4: It's actually starting to show programmes I want to see. Admittedly this has happened before; last year during the first run of new Doctor Who they had a couple of theme nights based on it (a night of documentaries on classic BBC Sci-Fi, a documentary on Russell T. Davies, Simon Callow's Dickens show after "The Unquiet Dead" had aired etc.) But for the most part it's gone back to what it always seems to have been - a load of highly niche documentaries and vaguely defined "culture" shows that make the whole channel feel like a justification of the BBC's public service remit.

However at the moment there's a run of three 90-minute original dramas on Monday nights at 9. Last week we had Fantabulosa, the much-touted dramatisation of Kenneth Williams' diaries. I wasn't too impressed with that to be honest. Obviously the life story of a man whose last diary entry was famously "Oh what's the bloody point?" before his inevitable suicide wasn't going to be a laugh a minute, but it's a shame it seemed to focus entirely on Williams at his most annoying. While I have no doubt that's what he was like at times, the chat show footage of Williams himself earlier in the evening showed he was at least able to tone it down sometimes, a pity that the drama didn't do that, so for me it ended up very uncomfortable to watch.

Last night's drama was much better in my opinion. It was The Chatterley Affair, a fictional version of what might have happened in the jury room at the obscenity trial over Lady Chatterley's Lover in 1960. The central conceit saw two of the jurors getting into an illicit affair of their own, and reenacting the sex scenes in the book. I actually taped the drama 'cause it was on at the same time as The Games, and thought I'd just watch the start of it afterwards, but I ended up staying up until 1am to see it to the end. Although I'm not a D.H. Lawrence fan myself I really enjoyed the way writer Andrew Davies wove the two love affairs (the one in the book and the one in the jury) together, and the strength of feeling behind the freedom-of-speech debate.

I was also slightly disturbed to be a bit attracted to Rafe Spall, playing the male half of the illicit couple, cheating on his sweet but dull wife. After all, not only is he Timothy Spall's son, but also you may remember him from such movies as Shaun of the Dead, where he played Shaun's obnoxious employee and was far from fanciable in that capacity. I guess he's been working out since then. The programme also featured David Tennant as one of the star witnesses, in his continuing mission to appear on all TV & cinema screens in the land by the time he takes over properly as The Doctor next month.

Next week, the final TV movie is a remake of the lost Sci-Fi classic, A for Andromeda. I'm looking forward to it but wondering if it might be a bit of a disappointment. After all, with Sci-Fi back on UK TV in a big way since Dr Who came back, you'd think a big new remake would end up on one of the main channels, not on a little-watched Digital channel on a Monday night. I suppose the idea of showing original dramas on BBC4 is simply a way of getting people to turn to a channel with notoriously low viewing figures, and perhaps stick around afterwards. But with Fantabulosa falling a bit flat, and while I enjoyed The Chatterley Affair I can see how, with the word "cunt" being used dozens of times, and frequent frontal nudity and sex, it wasn't exactly an obvious contender for the more mainstream channels. Still, fingers crossed, at least it's something to look forward to on a Monday night.

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