Culture Vulture Special: our guide to the New Year Entertainment (31st of December 2022 to 6th January 2023)

Highlights this week include the ITV drama, Stonehouse (pictured), Geoff Norcott: Geofferendum on BBC RADIO 4 and the first of four Reith lectures on Freedom.

Click on image to listen to podcast.

Saturday 31st of December, 2022

You’re Dead To Me: Prohibition in the USA 10:30am BBC RADIO 4

In 1920, the United States implemented the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, also known as Prohibition. This amendment prohibited the manufacture, sale, and transportation of intoxicating liquors, with the intention of promoting temperance and reducing crime and corruption.

However, the implementation of Prohibition had unintended consequences. Instead of reducing crime and corruption, it actually led to an increase in both. Bootleggers, illegal alcohol producers and distributors, emerged and thrived in the black market created by Prohibition. Speakeasies, underground bars that sold illegal alcohol, also became widespread.

Prohibition also caused a divide in society, with those who supported it, known as “Dry’s,” and those who opposed it, known as “Wet’s.” This divide was further exacerbated by the rise of organized crime, as criminal organizations took advantage of the black market created by Prohibition to make a profit.

In this podcast, Greg Jenner is joined by historian Professor Sarah Churchwell and comedian Kemah Bob to explore the origins and aftermath of Prohibition in the United States. They delve into the cultural and social changes brought about by Prohibition, including the rise of jazz music and the emergence of the “new woman” in the 1920s. They also discuss the eventual repeal of Prohibition in 1933 with the passage of the 21st Amendment.

Sexy Beast 11.10pm Film4

“Sexy Beast” is a British crime film released in 2000. The film follows Gary “Gal” Dove (played by Ray Winstone), a retired ex-con who is living a peaceful life in Spain with his wife Deedee (Amanda Redman). Their idyllic existence is interrupted by the arrival of Don Logan (Ben Kingsley), a violent and aggressive gangster who has been sent to persuade Gal to participate in a heist in London.

The film is known for its strong performances, particularly from Kingsley, who is absolutely terrifying as Don Logan. The character is a force of nature, and Kingsley portrays him with such intensity and ferocity that it’s impossible to take your eyes off of him. Winstone is also excellent as Gal, a man who is trying to leave his criminal past behind but finds himself drawn back in by Logan’s manipulation and intimidation.

The film’s direction, by Jonathan Glazer, is also noteworthy. Glazer uses a variety of techniques, such as close-ups and slow motion, to create a sense of tension and unease. The cinematography, by Ivan Bird, is also noteworthy, with some beautiful shots of the Spanish coastline and countryside.

Overall, “Sexy Beast” is a gripping and intense crime film that is elevated by strong performances and stylish direction. If you’re a fan of the genre, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Geoff Norcott: Geofferendum 12:30am BBC RADIO 4

In his stand-up special “Geofferendum,” comedian Geoff Norcott reflects on the concept of populism and the role of democracy in decision-making. Norcott, who supported the winning side in the Brexit referendum, generally believes that the will of the people should be followed when it comes to voting. However, he begins to question the limits of this belief when faced with the possibility of certain controversial issues being brought to a vote, such as the death penalty and abortion rights.

Throughout the special, Norcott engages with his audience to explore the idea of democratic principles and whether or not people truly have them at heart, or if they simply want the world to be arranged in a way that aligns with their personal beliefs, even if it is inconsistent. Through comedic commentary, Norcott delves into the complexities of democracy and its role in shaping society.

Sunday 1st of January 2023 (New Years Day)

Mary Beard Interviews Philip Pullman: Front Row Late BBC4 12pm

“Mary Beard Interviews Philip Pullman: Front Row Late” is a BBC4 program that features a conversation between two prominent figures in the literary world: classicist Mary Beard and fantasy novelist Philip Pullman. The interview will likely focus on Pullman’s work, including his best-known series, “His Dark Materials,” as well as his thoughts on literature, writing, and the creative process.

Beard, who is known for her erudition and wit, will likely ask Pullman about the themes and ideas that drive his writing, as well as the sources of inspiration for his work. Pullman, whose books have won numerous awards and have been adapted into successful films and television series, will likely offer insights into his writing process and his views on the power of storytelling.

This interview is sure to be a fascinating and engaging conversation between two highly intelligent and articulate individuals. If you’re a fan of either Beard or Pullman, or if you’re interested in literature and the creative process, this program is definitely worth checking out.

Monday 2nd of January 2023 (Holiday Monday)

Vienna: Empire, Dynasty and Dream 8pm BBC4

“Vienna: Empire, Dynasty and Dream” is a BBC4 documentary that explores the history and cultural significance of Vienna, the capital city of Austria. The documentary likely delves into the city’s rich history as a center of political, cultural, and artistic influence, from its days as the seat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to its present status as a cosmopolitan hub.

The documentary will feature interviews with historians and cultural experts, as well as archival footage and images, to provide a comprehensive look at the city’s past and present. It may cover topics such as the city’s role in the development of classical music and its status as a center of intellectual and artistic innovation. It may also examine the city’s turbulent history, including its role in the two world wars and the challenges it has faced in the aftermath of the Cold War.

Overall, “Vienna: Empire, Dynasty and Dream” is a fascinating and informative look at one of Europe’s most influential cities. If you’re interested in the history and culture of Vienna, or if you’re simply curious about the city’s past and present, this documentary is definitely worth checking out.

Stonehouse (1 of 3) 9pm ITV1 MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

In 1974, John Stonehouse, a successful politician in the UK, finds himself in deep trouble when his double life is exposed. While he has a happy family life with his wife Barbara and three children, he also has secret relationships with Czech spymaster Alexander Marek and his secretary Sheila Buckley. Stonehouse has been accepting money in exchange for information from Marek and has been juggling his affair with Sheila while also spending lavishly on luxuries like a sports car and a grand new house.

However, when Labour loses power in the 1970 election, Stonehouse becomes a scapegoat and is left out in the cold by his colleagues and the media. Rumors of fraud also begin to circulate as his suspicious investments are scrutinized. Desperate to escape his dire circumstances, Stonehouse hatches a secret plan inspired by “The Day of the Jackal.” He plans to leave his old life behind by faking his own death and starting a new identity in Miami, using the opportunity of a ministerial trip there as cover. But can he bring himself to leave his family and the real John Stonehouse behind?

Michael Jayston Remembers Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy 10pm BBC4

“Michael Jayston remembers Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” is a documentary that looks back at the classic BBC television series “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” which aired in 1979. The series, which was based on the novel of the same name by John le Carré, follows the efforts of intelligence officer George Smiley (played by Alec Guinness) to uncover a Soviet mole within the British secret service.

The documentary features interviews with Michael Jayston, who played the character of Peter Guillam in the series. Jayston reflects on his experience working on the show and shares behind-the-scenes stories and anecdotes. He also discusses the impact of the series and the enduring appeal of le Carré’s work.

Overall, “Michael Jayston remembers Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” is a nostalgiciac and informative look back at a classic television series. If you’re a fan of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” or if you’re interested in the history of British television, this documentary is definitely worth checking out.

Episodes of the show follow after and later in the week

Tuesday 3rd of January 2023

Stonehouse (2 of 3) 9pm ITV MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

John Stonehouse, on the run in Melbourne, becomes the subject of suspicion for local police after he draws attention to himself at a jazz club. Back in the UK, the government is desperate to find him as the Labour Party has lost an important vote and Stonehouse’s disappearance could have significant consequences.

On Christmas Eve, Stonehouse is arrested and initially thought to be the missing peer Lord Lucan, but further questioning and evidence reveal the truth. He is forced to call home to his wife Barbara, who has been preparing herself and their children for the possibility that he may never return.

Despite his refusal to resign, Wilson sends his chief aide, Betty Boothroyd, to convince Barbara to fly to Australia to meet with Stonehouse. When she arrives, she must confront Stonehouse’s excuses and Sheila’s suspicious presence at a rural safe house where they are staying. In an effort to bring Stonehouse back to the UK, Wilson calls in a favor from the Australian High Commissioner.

Wednesday 4th of January 2023

Stonehouse (3 of 3) 9pm ITV MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

As John Stonehouse and Sheila Buckley stand trial for their actions, the fate of Wilson’s government hangs in the balance and Barbara Stonehouse debates the worth of saving her marriage. Despite being released on bail, Barbara does not trust her husband and moves him into the spare room. As the case moves to criminal court, secret letters between Stonehouse and Buckley are revealed in court, causing tension between the couple.

Meanwhile, the government’s situation remains precarious as Stonehouse misses two votes in a week and delivers a controversial speech criticizing the political status quo. Wilson personally reprimands Stonehouse in an unusual exchange. As the trial approaches, Stonehouse decides to represent himself, despite the judge’s warning.

During the trial, Stonehouse is forced to confront his mistakes and his mortality. After the trial, Barbara divorces him and Stonehouse, feeling disillusioned with the political system, joins the English National Party. As he reflects on his past, Stonehouse wonders if he is regretful for the choices he has made.

Thursday 5th of January 2023

The Real Stonehouse 9pm ITV1

“Stonehouse,” an ITV1 drama starring Matthew Macfadyen and Keeley Hawes, tells the story of former Labour MP John Stonehouse, who was a rising political star and a minister in the Harold Wilson government. In December 1974, Stonehouse’s clothes were found on a Miami beach, and it was assumed that he had drowned or been eaten by sharks. However, after five weeks of searching, he was found alive and well in Australia, living under an assumed name. It was revealed that Stonehouse had faked his own death because his business empire was collapsing and he had stolen new identities to avoid prosecution. He was later sentenced to seven years in prison for fraud at the Old Bailey.

This documentary, a companion to the ITV1 drama, delves into the real-life story of John Stonehouse through interviews with his family, colleagues, and experts. It includes exclusive interviews with the UK and Australian police officers who brought him to justice and offers insights into Stonehouse’s double life, including his affair with his secretary Sheila Buckley, who knew he was alive. The film also examines allegations that Stonehouse had spied for the Czech Secret Service and had been paid to pass information to the Soviet bloc.

Friday 6th of January 2023

The Reith Lectures: 1. Freedom of Speech (1 of 4) 9pm BBC RADIO 4

Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right that allows individuals to express their thoughts, opinions, and ideas freely without fear of censorship or punishment. It is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and is considered a cornerstone of democratic societies.

However, freedom of speech is not absolute and can be limited in certain circumstances. For example, it is not considered acceptable to use speech to incite violence or to defame someone’s character. In addition, some forms of speech, such as hate speech or child pornography, are not protected by the First Amendment and can be legally prohibited.

There has been a lot of debate in recent years about the limits of freedom of speech and whether certain forms of expression should be considered acceptable or unacceptable. Some argue that “cancel culture” and calls for “wokeness” have led to a silencing of certain voices and viewpoints, while others argue that these movements are necessary to protect marginalized groups from hate and discrimination.

Ultimately, it is important to strike a balance between protecting the right to free expression and ensuring that everyone is able to participate in public discourse without fear of harm or discrimination. This requires a nuanced and thoughtful approach to the issue, rather than simply seeing it as a black and white issue.

In the first of four 2022 Reith Lectures, discussing freedom of speech. She argues that it feels like freedom of speech is under attack. Cancel culture, arguments about “wokeness” and the assault on Salman Rushdie have produced a febrile atmosphere. Meanwhile autocrats and populists have undermined the very notion of an accepted fact-based truth which lives above politics. So how do we calibrate freedom in this context? If we have the freedom to offend, where do we draw the line? This lecture and question-and-answer session is recorded in London in front of an audience and presented by Anita Anand.

Bowie at the BBC 9.05 BBC4

“Bowie at the BBC” is a compilation album featuring live recordings of David Bowie’s performances on various BBC radio shows throughout his career. The album includes a mix of classic tracks and lesser-known songs, as well as interviews and other spoken word segments.

The live recordings on the album showcase Bowie’s dynamic stage presence and his ability to adapt to different styles and genres. His vocals are strong and emotive, and the arrangements of the songs are well-done, highlighting the musicianship of both Bowie and his backing band.

In addition to the music, the interviews and spoken word segments on the album provide insight into Bowie’s creative process and his thoughts on a variety of topics. His wit and intelligence shine through in these segments, making the album a fascinating listen for both die-hard fans and those new to Bowie’s work.

Overall, “Bowie at the BBC” is a must-have for any fan of David Bowie and a great introduction to his music for those who are unfamiliar with his work. The live recordings on the album showcase the singer at his best, and the interviews and spoken word segments offer a unique perspective on his career and creative process.

David Bowie: Finding Fame 10pm BBC4

“David Bowie: Finding Fame” is a documentary film that explores the early years of David Bowie’s career, from his childhood and teenage years to his emergence as a pop star in the 1970s. The film features interviews with Bowie’s family, friends, and colleagues, as well as archival footage and photographs, to provide a comprehensive look at his formative years and the events that shaped his artistic development.

One of the strengths of “David Bowie: Finding Fame” is the way it contextualizes Bowie’s early career within the larger cultural and social milieu of the time. The film provides a detailed look at the music and art scenes of the 1960s and 1970s and how they influenced Bowie’s work. It also explores the various influences that shaped his art, including his love of science fiction and his interest in the occult.

The interviews with Bowie’s family, friends, and colleagues offer valuable insights into his personality and creative process, and provide a personal perspective on his early career. The archival footage and photographs are also well-chosen and help to bring the story of Bowie’s early years to life.

Overall, “David Bowie: Finding Fame” is a well-made and informative documentary that offers a fascinating look at the early years of David Bowie’s career. It is a must-see for fans of the singer and a great introduction to his work for those who are unfamiliar with it.

Selections by Pat Harrington

Picture credit: John Stonehouse by André Cros, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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