Review: Medea the Musical

Medea the Musical is a show that will leave you on the edge of your seat. It’s a stripped-down version of the ancient Greek tragedy by Euripides. Four characters re-tell the story of betrayal and revenge. Euripides’ 5th century BC tragedy Medea is not a happy tale and might seem an unlikely choice for a musical adaptation. It depicts the ending of Medea’s marriage with Jason after he abandons her for king Creon’s daughter Creusa. In revenge, Medea murders Creusa and then her own sons by Jason.

A unique, thought-provoking musical experience

While the subject matter might sound heavy, the musical is actually quite funny and entertaining. The catchy songs and clever lyrics will stick with you long after the show is over. And even though it’s (partly at least) a comedy, the musical still manages to raise some important questions about love, betrayal, and forgiveness.

The audience is invited to sit as a jury as the story is told. All four characters have complex motives. Our narrator is Aegeus, a manipulative lawyer who seems to push events along and cause trouble partly out of a desire just to see what happens. Jason is a man who leaves his wife for another woman and ends up losing everything, even his faith in God. Glauce (Cruesa in the original) is Jason’s new woman who is entertainingly bitchy with some great songs and lines. And then there is Medea whose motivation and responsibility we are invited to consider. It’s thought-provoking stuff.

The cast is backed by an accomplished live music ensemble. The songs are great and move much of the action as well as explaining the vulnerabilities and motivations of the characters. I particularly enjoyed Thick Skins but there are a number of good songs drawing on different musical genres.

If you’re looking for something different at this year’s Fringe Festival, be sure to catch Medea the Musical. You won’t be disappointed.

Medea the Musical
Venue 152
Paradise in Augustines – The Studio
19:20
Aug 17-20, 22-28
1 hour 20 minutes
Group: Tiny Mouth Productions

#edfringe @medeathemusical @ParadiseGreenUK

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

Leave a Comment

Culture Vulture: our guide to the week’s entertainment

Saturday 13 August 2022

Cup Fever (1965) 10am Talking Pictures

The children of Barton United are trying to win the cup in their local football league. Nasty councillor Mr. Bates doesn’t like them and wants the team his son plays for to win instead so he makes life as difficult as he can for them. However, Barton United is offered help by the local professional team that just happens to be Manchester United with its manager Matt Busby.

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958) 1pm Great Movies Classic

A tenacious British woman becomes a missionary and runs an inn for traveling merchants in China during the Japanese invasion and the tumultuous years leading up to the Second World War.

Three Sisters Re-Wired 1/2 3pm BBC RADIO 4

Three Sisters Rewired is a radical reworking of Chekhov.

This is not a faithful modernisation of the Russian original – it’s a complete overhaul, exploring how, even in the modern world, isolation and stagnation are the daily lot of many women still.

Set in 21st century Yorkshire, Moscow becomes London. On an isolated farm, three sisters – Olivia, Maisie, and Iris – struggle to survive on a financially draining farm, with intermittent internet, and a pervading sense of dislocation from the real world.

The Balmoral: Scotland`s Finest Hotel 5.20pm Channel 5

Documentary looking behind the scenes at the prestigious Edinburgh hotel, following staff members as they cope with various challenges – including the Covid-19 lockdown

Witness: Eichmann in Argentina 7pm BBC RADIO 4

In 1960, the Nazi war criminal, Adolf Eichmann, was abducted in Argentina and smuggled to Israel to face trial. He had been living in Buenos Aires under an assumed name. During his time in Argentina, he had spent hours talking to Willem Sassen a Dutch journalist and Nazi sympathiser. His daughter, Saskia Sassen, remembers. She was just a child at the time, but she vividly recalls her father’s excitement at being able to interview such a high-profile figure. “It was like he had won the lottery,” she says. “He would come home from work and sit down at the kitchen table with a notepad and tape recorder, and Eichmann would just talk and talk.” Sassen Senior was not the only one enthralled by the former SS officer; his daughter recalls that the whole family would sit around the table listening to the endless stream of stories about the war years. Eichmann’s capture and trial caused a sensation around the world, but for Saskia Sassen it was a deeply personal event. She still has the tapes her father made of his conversations with the Nazi war criminal, and she often thinks about what might have happened if he had been caught sooner. “I sometimes wonder if my father would have gone to prison too,” she says. “It’s a disturbing thought.”

Gary Numan Resurrection Sky Arts 9pm

This documentary tells the fascinating story of British Rock Star Gary Numan, 40 years after he last played the Wembley Arena, Gary Numan staged the comeback of a lifetime. Follow Numan on his road back to Wembley and follow his turbulent careers, from the times he felt he had hit rock bottom to the times when he seemed on top of the world.

Sunday 14 August 2022

The Re-Union – Grange Hill 11.15am BBC RADIO 4

The most popular faces from the early days of pioneering children’s drama Grange Hill are reunited. Todd Carty, Susan Tully, and Lee MacDonald take Kirsty Wark back to school.

India 1947 – Partition in Colour 9pm C4

The first part of this two-part documentary uses newly colorized archive footage to reveal the atrocities that occurred around Britain’s withdrawal from India. The contributors include contributors such as Midnight’s Furies author Nisid Hajari, Prof Shruti Kapil, and Prof Priya Satia help to tell the difficult story. The programme examines how Lord Mountbatten–the 1st Viceroy (or Governor General) faced many challenges during his time in office. More than a million people died. What led to that tragedy? How far was Mountbatten culpable?

A very British Way Of Torture Channel 4 10pm

The Mau Mau were a group of Kenyan independence fighters who took up arms against the British colonial authorities. In response, the British government declared a state of emergency and unleashed a campaign of brutal repression against the Mau Mau and their supporters. One of the most notorious aspects of this campaign was the use of so-called “Screening Units” where captured Mau Mau fighters were subjected to interrogations using electric shocks, beatings and mock executions. The documentary includes disturbing footage of these interrogations, as well as testimony from former prisoners who describe the horrific physical and psychological toll that they took. Despite being banned by the British government, the Screening Units continued to operate until 1961, when they were finally shut down following international pressure. Essential viewing for anyone interested in understanding the true nature of colonialism and its legacy or seeking to understand the true nature of the UK State and the interests it represents.

Monday 15 August 2022

Stalin`s Executioners – the Katyn Massacre 8.50pm; PBS America. (also at 10.40am and 4.25pm)

Katyn Memorial

The Katyn forest is an unholy place. For the first time, the story of the Katyn massacre (a series of mass executions of nearly 22,000 Polish military officers and intelligentsia prisoners of war) is seen from both sides: that of the victims and of the perpetrators. It reveals how this crime, attributed to the Nazis for 50 years, was in fact carried out by the Soviet secret police, the NKVD (“People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs”).

Picture credit: Goku122 at Polish Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Porn King: The Rise and Fall of Ron Jeremy Channel 4 10pm

Ron Jeremy’s career in the adult film industry began in the early 1980s. He quickly established himself as one of the most prolific performers in the business, appearing in over 2,000 films over the course of his career. Jeremy’s on-screen persona was that of the all-American everyman, and his apparent affable nature helped to make him one of the most popular stars in the industry.

Jeremy has been accused of sexual abuse by multiple women. The accusations started surfacing in 2017, and they continue to mount up. Jeremy has denied all the charges, but many people believe that he is a serial abuser. Many of his accusers say that he used his celebrity status to gain power over them. One of the most disturbing things about the accusations is that they span a period of almost 30 years.

Jeremy continues to deny any wrongdoing and insists that he is innocent. He has even said that the women who have accused him are “just trying to get attention.”

He now faces multiple charges of rape and sexual assault. Is Ron Jeremy a sexual predator who has used his fame and power to exploit vulnerable women?

This episode focuses on his rise to fame but rumours are starting to circulate.

Tuesday 16 August 2022

An English Journey 2.30 pm BBC RADIO 4 Extra (1/2). 2/2 Wednesday at the same time

Retracing JB Priestley’s footsteps of 1933, poet Lemn Sissay heads south to begin his odyssey around modern England.

India`s Partition – the Forgotten Story (1/2) 9pm BBC4
Also Wednesday 9pm 2/2

British filmmaker Gurinder Chadha travels from Southall to Delhi to find out about the Partition of India – one of the most seismic events of the 20th century.

Wednesday 17 August 2022

T S Eliot – The Search for Happiness Sky Arts 12 noon

There is a great review at theartsdesk.com here.

Thursday 18 August 2022

Crossing Continents – Moldova 11am BBC RADI0 4

This former Soviet republic faces both east and west – but which way is best for Moldova’s future?

Empire of the Sun (1987) 9pm BBC 4

A young English boy struggles to survive under Japanese occupation of China during World War II.

Friday 19 August 2022

Cromford – cradle of the Industrial Revolution 7pm BBC East Midlands

And on Netflix…

Inside The Mind Of A Cat (available from 18 August 2022)

As I write (PH) one of my cats has decided I should be paying more attention to him than my computer. Perhaps I will gain insight into his behaviour from the experts giving their analysis of our feline companions.

Selections by Henry Falconer and Patrick Harrington

Leave a Comment

Culture Vulture: our guide to the week’s entertainment

Saturday 6 August 2022

Open Country: Radical Essex 6.07am BBC RADIO 4

Emily Knight explores the radical history of back-to-the-land pacifist communes in Essex.

Leaders of World War 2 – the Early Years 8.55 PBS America

Leaders of World War 2 tells the story of how the leaders of the Allies and the Axis came to power. The show starts with a brief overview of the years leading up to the war, including the rise of fascism in Europe and Asia. It then follows the stories of Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, and Hirohito, from their early years in politics to their roles in the conflict. The show uses archival footage and interviews with historians to paint a picture of these complex figures. It also offers insights into their personal lives, showing how their experiences shaped their decisions during the war. Leaders of World War 2 is a fascinating look at some of the most important figures in history.

Boris – 5. The City Hall Years: The Stir-Fry 5.30pm BBC RADIO 4 Previous episodes available on BBC Sounds

Adam Fleming explores the life and career of Boris Johnson with people who have known, watched, and worked with him. Episode five explores his time as mayor of London.

Re-think: The World Order (1/4) 10.15pm BBC RADIO 4

Amol Rajan is joined by academics, thinkers, and politicians to discuss what the war in Ukraine might mean for the new world order.

Sunday 7 August 2022

India 1947: Partition in Colour 9pm C4

On 15 August 1947, India gained its independence from Britain. However, the country was also partitioned into two new nations: India and Pakistan. The partition was a violent and chaotic process, resulting in the deaths of millions of people and the displacement of even more. In “India 1947: Partition in Colour,” C4 presents a unique and fascinating look at this historic event. Using never-before-seen color footage, the documentary tells the story of the partition through the eyes of those who lived through it. The program offers a rare and intimate glimpse into one of the most tumultuous periods in Indian history. For anyone interested in Indian culture or history, “India 1947: Partition in Colour” is essential viewing.

Monday 8 August 2022

Inheritors of Partition 9am BBC RADIO 4

Five years after the award-winning Radio 4 series Partition Voices, Kavita Puri explores the 75th anniversary of the division of the Indian subcontinent through three stories from the third generation in Britain.

In homes across the UK, partition is not history but a live issue for its young descendants. It’s a quiet awakening just as there is a noisy national conversation around how colonial history is told. This documentary tells contemporary tales of love and longing with an unexpected connection between two men who go back generations – one to Pakistan where his Hindu grandfather was saved by Muslims during emergencies on both sides (terrorist attacks etc.), while another goes unnoticed until he meets someone very special at their family home near London…

Over the course of a year, Kavita Puri follows their stories as they piece together parts of their complex family histories and try to understand the legacy of partition and what it means to them today, and to their place in Britain.

Tuesday 9 August 2022

The Long View: Strikes and the Labour Party 9am BBC RADIO 4

This summer, many Brits are striking or thinking about striking. From railway workers to barristers, Post Office workers to teachers, an unusually large wave of strikes continues to build as the summer goes on. As workers struggle with the cost of living and turn to industrial action, the Labour Party is divided on how to act. As the leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer is walking a tightrope: the Party was founded on workers’ rights but strikes are disruptive and unpopular with many voters.

So how have Labour leaders in opposition dealt with mass strike action in the past? Jonathan Freedland takes the Long View.

Secrets of the Spies 9pm ITV1

Secrets of the Spies is a new ITV1 documentary that promises to lift the lid on the world of espionage. The two-hour programme features interviews with some of the world’s most famous spies, including James Bond creator Ian Fleming and former CIA director William Colby. Fleming reveal some of the secrets behind 007, while Colby talks about his experience of running the world’s largest intelligence agency. Also featured are interviews with former KGB agents, MI6 officers, and members of the French Resistance. Secrets of the Spies promises to be an explosive programme that will leave viewers questioning everything they thought they knew about spies and spying.

Wednesday 10 August 2022

My Family, Partition and Me 9pm BBC4

My Family, Partition and Me is a new three-part documentary series on BBC4 that tells the story of the Partition of India through the eyes of families who were directly affected by it. The series uses interviews, archival footage, and family photographs to explore the events leading up to the partition, as well as the legacy that it has left behind. It is an intimate and personal account of a defining moment in history, and a reminder of the human cost of conflict. My Family, Partition and Me is essential viewing for anyone who wants to understand the complex and often violent history of India and Pakistan.

Roads To Freedom (10/13) 10pm BBC 4

Drama series based on a trilogy from Jean-Paul Satre. This work of Sartre is often seen as a reflection on his own life. The first two novels in this series were written during World War II when France was still under Nazi control. He knew they would only see publication if the enemy lost!

. All Episodes are available on BBC Iplayer from tonight.

Thursday 11 August 2022

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen 11.15pm BBC2

A charming film which is sure to please

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a 2011 British comedy-drama film directed by Lasse Hallström and starring Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Amr Waked. The film is based on the 2004 novel of the same name by Paul Torday.

The film follows Fisheries expert Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) who is approached by a wealthy sheik (Amr Waked) to bring salmon fishing to the desert nation of Yemen. Despite the impossibility of the project, Jones agrees to try and is soon caught up in a media frenzy as word of the project spreads. With the help of his assistant, Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt), Jones sets out to make the impossible happen.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a wonderfully charming film that is sure to please audiences of all ages. The cast is excellent, and the story is both heartwarming and hilarious. If you’re looking for a feel-good film to watch, this is it.

Picture credit: By IMPAwards, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35153437

Friday 12 August 2022

Larkin Re-Visited 9pm BBC RADIO 4

Through a selection of iconic Philip Larkin poems, Simon Armitage, the poet laureate, finds out what happens when he revisits and unpicks Larkin’s work in his centenary year.

Selections by Henry Falconer and Patrick Harrington

Leave a Comment

Film Review: Belfast

One of the most anticipated films of 2022 for this reviewer was Kenneth Branagh’s evocation of his hometown, Belfast. Branagh grew up in a predominately loyalist area of North Belfast just as “The Troubles” were beginning to take off. Your reviewer lived on a vast housing estate a few miles north of his area. How, I wondered, would his recollections tally with mine? What would audiences in Great Britain and abroad think?

A film that packs a real emotional punch

Branagh’s alter ego is nine-year-old Buddy.  He lives in a tightly knit area where everybody knows everyone else when out of the blue, a violent mob comes into the area, attacking the homes of Catholic neighbours, rioting, and erecting barricades. Soldiers appear on the streets, vetting who moves in and out of the area.

Some loyalists have criticised the film, claiming it doesn’t show context and portrays the Protestant Unionist Loyalist (PUL) community in the worst possible light. However, for a nine-year-old, there would be no context, the child would be swept up in the bewildering events unfolding around him. Jude Hill, the young actor who plays the part of Buddy, brings out this sense of innocent confusion, bewilderment and grief magnificently.

Branagh’s decision to film most of the 1969 action in black and white really pays off. I was eleven then and all my recollections of that time are in black and white. Colour television sets didn’t really take off until the late seventies.  So much of this film resonated with me as I was only a couple of years older than Buddy at the time; Buddy’s interest in the Apollo space programme, his Thunderbirds International Rescue uniform, and the old route numbers on the buses. It all came flooding back. It could have been me and my family forced to leave the country if I’d lived four miles up the road.

Judy Dench was quite disappointing in her role as Buddy’s granny. In contrast, her screen husband, Ciaran Hinds, almost stole the show as Buddy’s wise but ailing granddad, Pop.

This film packs a real emotional punch; it left me shedding a few tears for those who had to leave, those left behind whose lives have been screwed up forever and for those who died. Please God, that we in Ulster don’t ever go through all that shit again.

Reviewed by David Kerr

Leave a Comment

Culture Vulture: our guide to the week’s entertainment

Saturday 30 July 2022

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie 4pm GREAT! Classic Movies

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a 1968 British drama film directed by Ronald Neame and starring Maggie Smith in the title role. The film was adapted from the novel of the same name by Muriel Spark, who also wrote the screenplay. Set in Edinburgh in the 1930s, the film tells the story of a teacher at an all-girls school who takes a group of her students under her wing and teaches them about life, love, and art. Miss Brodie is an unconventional teacher who encourages her girls to think for themselves and follow their dreams. However, her methods are not always well-received by the school’s staff (her positive views on free love and Fascism aren’t universally welcomed!) and she eventually finds herself facing dismissal. Despite its controversial subject matter, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was a critical and commercial success, winning several awards, including an Academy Award for Maggie Smith’s performance.

Kate Bush at the BBC 8pm BBC2

A compilation of the performances at the BBC studios between 1978 and 1994.

The Kate Bush Story: Running Up That Hill 9pm BBC2

Kate Bush was always destined for success. As a child, she studied dance and drama, and she began writing songs at the age of 11. When she was 16, she caught the attention of Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour, who helped her sign a record deal. Her debut single, “Wuthering Heights,” was an instant hit, reaching the top of the UK charts. Since then, Bush has released 17 albums and sold more than 30 million records worldwide. She is widely regarded as one of the most innovative and influential musicians of her generation. In recent years, Bush has been credited with inspiring a new generation of musicians, including Lorde and Florence Welch.

Kate has connected with a new generation with her song “Running up that hill” taking on a new meaning in recent years, thanks to the Netflix show Stranger Things. For many viewers, the song is now inextricably linked to the show and its emotional scenes. The 1985 hit is featured when Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown, runs up a hill to escape from the menacing Demogorgon.

After four decades in the business, Kate Bush remains as fresh and relevant as ever. Running up that hill, indeed.

Kate Bush at the BBC 1979 10pm BBC2

A Christmas Special from 1979. Kate performs Them Heavy People, Madrigal, December and Man with the Child in His Eyes, and duets with guest star Peter Gabriel.

Sunday 31 July 2022

Desert Island Discs: Clare Smyth, chef 11:15am BBC RADIO 4

Clare Smyth, three Michelin-starred chef, shares the soundtrack of her life with Lauren Laverne.

War and Justice: The Case of Marine A 9pm Channel 4

In September 2011, Alexander Blackman was serving as a Marine in Afghanistan when he fatally shot an injured Taliban fighter. Blackman was arrested and charged with murder. On 6 December 2013, Blackman was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of ten years and dismissed with disgrace from the Royal Marines. On 22 May 2014, the Courts Martial Appeal Court reduced his minimum term to eight years.

The case caused a sensation in the UK, with many people arguing that Blackman had been made a scapegoat for the failures of the war in Afghanistan. On 15 March 2017, the conviction was reduced to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He was released from prison due to time served. The case of Marine A highlights the complex nature of war and justice. In times of conflict, the laws that govern soldiers are often unclear. Did Blackman actually break the Geneva Convention? And if so, does that mean he deserves to be sent to prison for life? These are difficult questions, without easy answers. What is clear is that war is brutal, and the line between right and wrong can often be blurred. What is the truth behind this controversial event? This documentary examines the issues.

Monday 1 August 2022

Devils Advocate: The Mostly True Story of Giovanni Di Stefano 7pm Sky Documentaries

To the outside world, Giovanni Di Stefano seemed like a man who had it all. A successful lawyer with a jet-set lifestyle, he counted some of the world’s most notorious criminals amongst his clients. His client list included Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milošević, and Pablo Escobar. He was also a shrewd businessman, with a portfolio of investments that included a professional football team and a women’s magazine. However, beneath the glossy exterior, Di Stefano was hiding a dark secret. For years, he had been embroiled in a series of shady deals and fraudulent schemes, and his business empire was built on a foundation of lies and deception. He has been convicted four times in Ireland and the United Kingdom of fraud and related criminal offences, serving a total of eight and a half years for convictions between 1975 and the late 1980s. He was described by a judge as “one of life’s great swindlers”.His most recent conviction was in March 2013 when he was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment after being found guilty or pleading guilty to 27 charges including deception, fraud, and money laundering between 2001 and 2011 related to “tricking people into thinking he was a bona fide legal professional” Despite his downfall, Di Stefano continues to maintain his innocence, insisting that he is the victim of a miscarriage of justice. Whether you believe his version of events or not, there is no denying that he is one of the most fascinating – and controversial – characters around. The Devil’s Advocate is a fascinating documentary that will leave you shaking your head in disbelief.

Tuesday 2 August 2022

The Long History of ArgumentFrom Socrates to Social Media: Synthesis (3/3) 9:00am BBC RADIO 4

Rory Stewart explores the strange human phenomenon of arguing and why it matters so deeply to our lives in a new series on BBC Radio 4.

Argument became the way in which we answered the deepest questions of philosophy, established scientific rules, and made legal decisions. It was the foundation of our democracies and the way in which we chose the policies for our state.

Rory grew up believing that the way to reach the truth was through argument. He was trained to argue in school, briefly taught classical rhetoric and he became a member of parliament. But the experience of being a politician also showed him how dangerous arguments can be, and how bad arguments can threaten our democracies, provoke division and hide the truth.

In this episode, Rory explores why our democracy and humanity may depend on rediscovering how to argue well.

Vicky Pattison: Alcohol, Dad and Me 10pm Channel 4

Vicky Pattison is best known for her role on the MTV reality show Geordie Shore, where she was often seen partying hard and drinking heavily. However, in this documentary Alcohol, Dad and Me, Pattison opens up about her difficult relationship with alcohol and how it has affected her life. Pattison describes how she first started drinking heavily in her teens as a way to cope with her turbulent home life. Drinking quickly became a part of her identity, and she continued to drink even after she found success on Geordie Shore. However, Pattison eventually realized that her drinking was out of control and that it was damaging her health and relationships. With the help of her father, she was able to get sober and turn her life around. Today, Pattison is an outspoken advocate for sobriety and is working to help others who are struggling with addiction. Alcohol, Dad and Me is an honest and inspirational account that offers insight into the destructive power of addiction. It’s a powerful story of overcoming adversity and an inspirational example of what it takes to turn your life around.

The Stolen MaMaharajah 11pm BBC4

Documentary about the last Maharajah of Punjab, Duleep Singh, who was wrenched from his mother’s arms as a child in the 1840s and put into the care of an official of the British Empire. Growing up in a colonial enclave in India, the boy king abandoned his Sikh religion and signed away his ancient kingdom to the British – decisions he would come to bitterly regret. He moved as a teenager to Britain, where Queen Victoria became his godmother. The Maharajah Duleep Singh lived most of his adult life here as a supremely wealthy English country gentleman, part of the British social elite. But, in time, his relationship with Britain turned sour.

Wednesday 3 August 2022

WWII: Free Mussolini 7pm PBS America

On September 8, 1943, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was overthrown by his own Grand Council. The following day, he was arrested by Italian authorities and taken into custody. He was held under close guard in a remote mountain hotel. However, his captors soon lost control of the situation, and Mussolini ended up in the hands of German soldiers. Hitler was determined to free his ally and dispatched a team of elite soldiers to spirit him away. The operation (“Operation Oak”) was a success and Mussolini was placed in charge of a puppet government in northern Italy. For the next twenty-two months, Mussolini presided over a regime that was largely dependent on German support. In the spring of 1945, with Allied troops closing in on his stronghold, Mussolini attempted to escape to Switzerland. But he was captured by Italian partisans and executed before he could reach safety. The fall of Mussolini marked the end of fascist rule in Italy and dealt a major blow to the Nazi war effort. This documentary tells the story.

Thursday 4 August 2022

Code 404 9pm Sky Showcase

A British detective killed in action is brought back to life using experimental Artificial Intelligence. In the future, will crime be solved by a combination of human detectives and AI? Don’t expect many intellectual insights around that from this programme but it romps along with some laughs along the way – it has been described as Robocop meets Hot Fuzz.

The Rise and Fall of John Leslie 11.05pm Channel 5

Documentary charting the career of one of Britain’s most famous TV presenters, who found himself at the centre of a media storm that began with a simple slip of the tongue.

Friday 5 August 2022

Screenshot: The Harder They Come at 50 7.15pm BBC RADIO 4

Ellen E Jones and Mark Kermode revisit Jamaican cult classic The Harder They Come on its 50th anniversary, speaking to of one its stars Carl Bradshaw and to fan Don Letts.

The Harder They Come was a sensation, but it took a while for its vibrations to be heard around the world. In 1972, the premiere in Kingston brought the area to a complete standstill. Outside of Jamaica, the film helped introduce reggae music to millions, thanks to its Jimmy Cliff-driven soundtrack.

Exploring the film’s continuing legacy, Ellen hears from one of its stars, Carl Bradshaw, and the film’s publicist Barbara Blake-Hannah, for whom the movie was so life-changing that she left the UK and moved to Jamaica where she later became a Member of Parliament. Mark speaks to DJ, broadcaster, musician, and filmmaker Don Letts, whose film Dancehall Queen is a homage to The Harder They Come. Mark also talks to music supervisor Ed Bailie who worked closely with Steve McQueen on his Small Axe films, including Lovers Rock which also owes a great debt to this cult classic.

Ellen and Mark also look at what The Harder They Come did, or did not do, for the Jamaican film industry, and the films that followed it – including Rockers, Countryman, and Babylon.

Dunkirk 8.30pm BBC2

Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Commonwealth and Empire, and France are surrounded by the German Army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

See the Counter Culture review here.

And on Netflix…

The Sandman Series 1 from 5 August 2022

The Sandman is a new Netflix original series that has been getting a lot of buzz lately. The show is based on the Neil Gaiman graphic novel of the same name. If you’re not familiar with the Sandman comics from DC or the novel, they follow the story of Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams, who is captured and held prisoner for 70 years. When he finally escapes, he sets out on a quest to find his lost kingdom and reclaim his throne.

The Sandman is a visually stunning show that features some truly breathtaking animation. The comics are highly acclaimed and are considered to be some of the best ever written. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do with the material on the small screen. It will be a visually stunning and emotionally powerful series that fans of the comics will love. If you’re a fan of Neil Gaiman’s work or just looking for a new show to binge-watch, then The Sandman is definitely worth checking out.

Selections by Pat Harrington

Leave a Comment

Culture Vulture: our guide to the week’s entertainment

Saturday 23 July 2022

Genius of the Ancient World: Socrates 7pm BBC4

Genius of the Ancient World has proven to be one of the most popular programmes on BBC4. Socrates explores the life and work of the ancient Greek philosopher. The series was first aired in 2015, and it quickly became one of the most-watched programmes on the channel. Socrates is presented in an accessible and engaging way, and it provides viewers with a fascinating insight into the life and work of one of the most important thinkers in history. If you’re looking for something educational and entertaining, then BBC4’s Socrates is definitely worth a watch.

My Life as a Rolling Stone 4/4 Charlie Watts 9pm BBC2

When Charlie Watts died in 2021, the world lost a true legend of rock and roll. For 60 years, he was the heartbeat of the Rolling Stones, laying the foundation for some of the most iconic songs in rock history. His unrivaled precision and style made him one of the most sought-after drummers of his generation, and his influence can still be heard in today’s music. In this film, a stellar cast of musicians comes together to describe Charlie’s brilliance as a drummer and his unique persona. Through vivid archive footage and a soundtrack of classic Stones tracks, we explore the legacy of one of the greatest drummers of all time. Thank you, Charlie, for everything. You are truly missed.

The Hector. From Scotland to Nova Scotia 10.25pm BBC4

In 1851, a ship carrying Scottish immigrants set sail for Nova Scotia. The ship was called the Hector, and on board were more than 170 people, hopeful for a new life in Canada. Unfortunately, the journey was not an easy one. The ship was battered by storms, and several of the passengers became sick. Despite these challenges, the Hector arrived safely in Halifax after 17 days at sea. The passengers on board were some of the first Scots to settle in Nova Scotia, and their story is told in this programme. Today, the Hector is remembered as a symbol of hope and perseverance, and its legacy continues to be felt in Nova Scotia.

Sunday 24 July 2022

Bend It Like Beckham 6.45pm E4

A vibrant, funny film, Bend it Like Beckham explores culture clash and gender stereotypes with wit and humor. An Indian family living in London tries to raise their soccer-playing daughter in a traditional way, but Jess’ dream is to play professionally like her hero David Beckham. Her skills on the field are impressive, but her traditional mother is convinced that soccer is not an appropriate activity for a young lady. Meanwhile, Jess’ elder sister Pinky is preparing for an Indian wedding and a lifetime of cooking the perfect chapatti. As the two sisters negotiate their different dreams, they discover that they have more in common than they thought. With a great soundtrack and delightful performances, Bend it Like Beckham is a feel-good film that will leave you smiling.

Monday 25 July 2022

The American Diplomat 8.30pm PBS America

In PBS America’s The American Diplomat, host Nicholas Kralev interviews current and former diplomats to get their insights on the art of diplomacy. In each episode, Kralev situates diplomacy in the context of specific historical events and challenges that diplomats have faced. Through these interviews, Kralev shines a light on both the successes and failures of diplomacy, offering viewers a nuanced understanding of this complex field. The American Diplomat is an enlightening and entertaining show that is sure to interest anyone who wants to learn more about the world of international relations.

Myanmar: The Forgotten Revolution 11.05pm Channel 4

Evan Williams Productions is back with another investigative documentary, this time focusing on the mass killings that have taken place in Myanmar. The film features exclusive video footage and eye-witness accounts of three major incidents, including the Saffron Revolution in 2007 and the more recent violence against the Rohingya people. Myanmar: The Forgotten Revolution is sure to be a controversial and thought-provoking watch. However, it is also an important reminder of the brutal reality of life in Myanmar for many people. Williams does not shy away from uncomfortable truths, and his film is all the better for it.

Revolutionary Road 11.15pm BBC 2

If you’re in the mood for a thought-provoking film, then Revolutionary Road is a great choice. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, this 2008 film tells the story of a young couple living in the suburbs of 1950s America. While at first, their life seems perfect, the strain of conformity starts to take its toll. As they both grow increasingly unhappy, they begin to wonder if there’s more to life than what they’re currently experiencing. Revolutionary Road is a powerful film that will leave you wondering about the choices you make in your own life.

Tuesday 26 July 2022

Augmented 8.20pm PBS America

When Hugh Herr was just 17 years old, he suffered a devastating climbing accident that left him without legs. Herr was an experienced climber, and the accident occurred while he was attempting to scale a challenging route. After months of hospitalization and rehabilitation, Herr was fitted with prosthetic legs. However, he quickly became frustrated with their design. The limbs were bulky and uncomfortable, and they restricted his mobility. Determined to find a better solution, Herr embarked on a journey to invent more effective prosthetic devices. Over the years, he has created a number of innovative limbs that have improved the lives of countless amputees. Now Herr is teaming up with an injured climber to help her regain her ability to climb. Together, they are proving that even severe injuries need not be insurmountable obstacles.

Wednesday 27 July 2022

Berlin’s Nightlife 11.30am BBC Radio 4

Berlin is famous for its clubbing scene, which has long been a breeding ground for creative and countercultural expression. However, the future of the scene is now in jeopardy, as rising rents and gentrification threaten to drive clubs out of business. In addition, the city’s strict noise regulations make it difficult for clubs to operate without running afoul of the law. To survive, Berlin’s clubbing community will need to find ways to work more closely with the state. One possibility is to create special “club zones” where noise restrictions are relaxed. Alternatively, clubs could band together to negotiate better deals with landlords and city officials. Whatever the solution, it’s clear that Berlin’s clubbing scene faces challenges in the years ahead. But with a little creativity and unity, it can surely find a way to keep the party going as this programme shows.

Secrets Of The Lost Liners: SS Normandie 9pm Sky History

The SS Normandie was designed to be the grandest, most luxurious ship afloat. She had all the latest Art Deco features, including a grandiose main staircase and a magnificent dining room with a ceiling painted to look like the sky. She also had state-of-the-art safety features, including watertight compartments and fireproof materials.

Despite all of these features, the Normandie met with disaster. In 1942, she was being refitted in New York for use as a troopship when a fire broke out. The fire spread quickly, and the ship capsized. The fire was initially blamed on sabotage, but it was later determined to be an accident. However, the rumors of sabotage have never been completely extinguished. To this day, the Normandie remains one of the most famous ocean liners in history.

Thursday 28 July 2022

Bette and Joan: Talking Pictures 8.30 BBC4

In the golden age of Hollywood, two actresses came to embody the power and glamour of Tinseltown: Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Both Oscar winners, both box office favourites, their successes helped bankroll their movie studios. And both married four times. They had so much in common but hated each other. Their rivalry was the stuff of legend, playing out both onscreen and off. But despite their differences, they shared a respect for each other’s talents. In an era when actresses were often treated as little more than commodities, Davis and Crawford refused to be typecast or sidelined. They demanded roles that would challenge them, and they refused to compromise their vision for their films. In doing so, they changed the course of Hollywood history. As Talking Pictures host Elwy Yost said of them, “Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were two of the most powerful, uncompromising women in an industry not known for its strong-minded women.” Thanks to their groundbreaking work, today’s actresses owe a debt of gratitude to Davis and Crawford.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 9pm BBC4

Baby Jane Hudson was a child star who enjoyed a brief moment of fame in the 1930s. Her career came to an abrupt end, however, when she was involved in a tragic accident that left her younger sister disabled. Baby Jane’s decline into obscurity and madness was chronicled in this 1962 film, which starred Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. The film was a critical and commercial success, and its portrayal of Jane as a narcissistic, delusional woman helped to establish Davis as one of Hollywood’s most talented character actresses.

So what ever happened to Baby Jane? The answer may lie in the fact that the movie is simply too disturbing for modern audiences. The story of two aging sisters who torment each other may simply be too dark and twisted for today’s viewers. In addition, the movie’s outdated attitudes towards mental illness and disability make it difficult to watch. Nonetheless, in the decades since its release, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? has become a cult classic, with many fans appreciating its campy, gothic atmosphere.

Friday 29 July 2022

Huey Long 1pm PBS America

Huey Long was one of the most controversial and divisive figures in American politics. A flamboyant demagogue from Louisiana, he rose to power in the early 1930s on a wave of populist fervor. Huey Long served as the 40th governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 and as a U.S. senator from 1932 to 1935. His “Share Our Wealth” program proposed redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor, and he quickly became a thorn in the side of President Franklin Roosevelt. Although he was ousted from the Democratic Party and ultimately assassinated, his legacy continues to resonate today. The film also includes interviews with some of Long’s family members and closest associates, who provide personal insights into the man behind the legend. This promises to be a fascinating look at one of the most colorful characters in American history.

Thomas Jefferson 3.10pm PBS America

As any history buff knows, Thomas Jefferson was one of America’s Founding Fathers and the third President of the United States. He was also a prolific writer, philosopher, and inventor. In addition, Jefferson was a passionate advocate for democracy and civil rights. All of these accomplishments make Jefferson an extremely interesting figure, and PBS America’s “Thomas Jefferson” documentary does an excellent job of exploring his life and legacy. The film features interviews with historians and Jefferson experts, as well as footage of historical sites associated with Jefferson. It’s a must-see for anyone interested in American history or the life of one of America’s most iconic leaders.

Russia 1917 – Countdown to Revolution 6.25pm PBS America

On March 8, 1917, Russia was a powder keg ready to explode. The country had been at war for three years, the economy was in shambles, and the people were angry and hungry. On that fateful day, a group of women marched on the streets of Petrograd to protest the lack of bread. The police tried to disperse the crowd, but the women would not be silenced. Their demonstration quickly turned into a full-blown revolution, and within days the czar was forced to abdicate. The Russian Revolution had begun.

PBS America’s “Countdown to Revolution” is a fascinating look at the events leading up to this pivotal moment in history. The documentary interviews key participants in the revolution, including members of the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks, as well as everyday citizens. It also features archival footage of the demonstrations and riots that engulfed Petrograd in those fateful days of March 1917. “Countdown to Revolution” is must-see viewing for anyone interested in this defining moment in world history.

Stalin: Inside The Terror 7.40pm PBS America

Seen through the eyes of those who knew him best, “Stalin: Inside The Terror” is a haunting portrait of one of the most ruthless dictators in history. Through archival footage and interviews with Stalin’s family and closest aides, the film explores how he rose to power and kept control over the Soviet Union through a reign of terror. Viewers will gain a unique insight into Stalin’s private world, including his dark sense of humor and his love of dogs. The film also sheds light on Stalin’s relationship with his wife, who was forced to live in fear of her husband’s wrath. By providing an intimate look at the man behind the monster, “Stalin: Inside The Terror” offers a chilling glimpse into the mind of a madman.

And on Disney+ from Tuesday 26 July

Santa Evita

We are big fans of Eva Peron here at Counter Culture so we’re looking forward to seeing Santa Evita.

Santa Evita is the story of a body with no grave and the legend that was born from it. In 1955, a military coup in Argentina overthrew then President Juan Domingo Perón and hid Evita’s body for 16 years to prevent it from becoming a symbol against the regime. When Evita’s body was finally discovered, it was embalmed and put on display for the public. Today, her preserved body lies in Eva’s body was later buried in the Duarte family tomb in La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, and her legend has only grown in the years since her death. Santa Evita captures the imagination of both locals and tourists alike, who flock to see her enigmatic corpse. For many, she represents the power of the people and the fight for justice. Her story is one of tragedy and triumph, and her legend will continue to live on for years to come.

Selections by Pat Harrington and Henry Falconer

Leave a Comment

Culture Vulture: our guide to the week’s entertainment

Saturday 16 July 2022

Timeshift: Italian Noir – The Story of Italian Crime Fiction 1220am BBC4

A documentary that profiles a new wave of Italian crime fiction that has emerged to challenge the conventions of the detective novel.

Vice (2018) 1130pm BBC2

The story of Washington insider Dick Cheney

The story of Dick Cheney, an unassuming bureaucratic Washington insider, who quietly wielded immense power as Vice President to George W. Bush, reshaping the country and the globe in ways that we still feel today.

Sunday 17 July 2022

Tongue and Talk: The Dialect Poets – Hull 4.30pm BBC RADIO 4

Playwright, poet, and comedian Gill Adams explores dialect and poetry in her native Hull, the East Yorkshire city with a long association with fishing, ships, and the sea. Niche, but interesting.

Murder in Provence (1/3) 8pm ITV1

Adapted from the books by M.L. Longworth, Murder in Provence follows Antoine Verlaque, an Investigating Judge in Aix-en-Provence, and his romantic partner Marine Bonnet as they investigate the murders, mysteries, and dark underbelly of their idyllic home. Their efforts are aided by Hélène, a detective and Antoine’s trusted confidante.

The Proms BBC4 8pm

The eagerly anticipated return of audience favourite John Wilson kicks off BBC Four’s 2022 Proms season. He conducts award-winning orchestra Sinfonia of London in a packed all-British programme.

Much-loved classics, including Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and Elgar’s Enigma Variations, sit alongside Walton’s colourful Partita and Arnold Bax’s portrait of the Arthurian castle Tintagel. And it’s the Proms premiere of Huw Watkins’s dazzling Flute Concerto, written especially for tonight’s soloist, Adam Walker.

Monday 18 July 2022

Peter Brook 8pm BBC RADIO 4

This intimate and personal look at Peter Brook’s theatre work is in conversation with Glenda Jackson and was recorded just a year before his death. With landmark productions that changed the face of British theatre, such as the electrifying Marat Sade and the liberating, landmark acrobatic production of Midsummer Night’s Dream, and since moving to Paris, internationally renowned The Mahabharata, this is a moving tribute to a world-class director.

Tuesday 19 July 2022

Freddie Flintoff`s Field of Dreams 8pm BBC1

Has he found a home for his newly-formed cricket team of disadvantaged teenagers?

Lucy In The Sky (2019) 11.10pm Film 4

Astronaut Lucy Cola returns to Earth after a transcendent experience during a mission to space and begins to lose touch with reality in a world that now seems too small.

Wednesday 20 July 2022

Unvaccinated BBC2 9pm

Covid-19 is on the rise again in the UK. After multiple lockdowns and more than 197,000 deaths, experts are warning we’re now entering a fifth wave of the pandemic. So why are around four million adults in the UK still yet to receive a single dose of the vaccine? In this timely, eye-opening investigation Professor Hannah Fry seeks to understand why so many remain unvaccinated against Covid-19.

To fully explore this complex and deeply divisive debate, Hannah brings seven unvaccinated participants together under one roof to unpack long-held opinions, beliefs, and fears that have prevented them from getting the vaccine. Together, they meet leading experts, confront the latest science and statistics to emerge in the field, and dissect how misinformation spreads on social media. At the end of the experiment, each contributor is asked if what they have learned has changed their mind and whether they will now take up the vaccine.

Billy Wilder: Nobody’s Perfect 1200 Sky Arts

A documentary by Clara and Julia Kuperberg that draws on interviews made with the six-time Oscar-winning filmmaker Billy Wilder to create an in-depth profile of one of cinema’s greats.

Thursday 21 July 2022

The Undeclared War Episode 4. 9pm Channel 4

Marina moves to London for a new opportunity, and Danny is unconvinced by information Saara shares from an anonymous source. Saara’s hand is forced when Kathy informs her that GCHQ is about to reveal the names of the FSB coders.

All episodes are available on More 4

For Bette Davis fans BBC4 has some treats tonight for us. Star of over 100 films and the first person to receive ten Oscar nominations.

Bette Davis: A Basically Benevolent Volcano 8pm BBC4

A documentary about and an interview with Hollywood actress Bette Davis about her life and career from the late 1920s to the 1980s on stage and mostly before the camera.

Now, Voyager (1942) 8.45pm BBC4

A frumpy spinster blossoms under therapy and becomes an elegant, independent woman.

Dark Victory (1939) 10.40pm BBC4

A young socialite is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and must decide whether or not she’ll meet her final days with dignity.

1220 Bette Davis: Talking Pictures 12.20 BBC4

A look back at television appearances made by Hollywood legend Bette Davis, capturing the milestones and highlights of her life and career.

Friday 22 July 2022

Cobain: Montage of Heck 9pm Sky Documentaries

Filmmaker Brett Morgen explores the Nirvana frontman’s childhood, career, and tragic death, using material from the Cobain family’s personal archives.

Selections by Henry Falconer and Patrick Harrington

And on Discovery+

Jussie Smollett: A Faking It special. Investigates the case of actor Jussie Smollett who was convicted of falsely claiming to have been the victim of a violent hate crime in 2019. Available from Saturday 16 July 2022.

Selections by Henry Falconer and Patrick Harrington

Leave a Comment

Culture vulture: our guide to the week’s entertainment

Saturday 9 July 2022

Britain’s Ancient Capital – Secrets of Orkney (1/3) 7.45pm PBS America

Orkney – seven miles off the coast of Scotland, and cut off by the tumultuous Pentland Firth, the fastest-flowing tidal race in Europe, is often viewed as remote. But recent discoveries there are turning the Stone Age map of Britain upside down. Rather than an outpost at the edge of the world, recent finds suggest an extraordinary theory – that Orkney was the cultural capital of our ancient world and the origin of the stone circle cult which culminated in Stonehenge.

A Hard Look At Soft Power 8pm BBC Radio 4

An interesting analysis of “Soft power”: the use of a country’s cultural and economic influence to persuade other countries to do something, rather than the use of military power.

My Life As A Rolling Stone: Keith Richards (2/4) 9pm BBC2

Keith Richards has lived a life of legend and in this documentary, he talks exclusively about his 60-year career as the lead guitar player in The Rolling Stones.

Richards’s brilliance as a songwriter and performer, along with his defiant hedonism, have made him a cultural hero to millions and helped to shape the whole idea of what rock ‘n’ roll means.

The film features a vivid archive of Richards’s extraordinary career, a soundtrack full of his classic riffs, and interviews with a stellar cast of musical idols.

Sunday 10 July 2022

The Beatles: Made on Merseyside 1pm PBS America

Few dispute that the Beatles defined 1960s music and popular culture like no other band, but how John, Paul, George, and Ringo made the journey from Merseyside teenagers to international pop stars is less known. Director Alan Byron’s documentary recounts the rise of the band as American rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues dragged post-war Liverpool into one of the most vibrant music cities ever with the Mersey Beat sound

Farewell My Lovely (1944) 11.05am Great Movies Classic

After being hired to find an ex-con’s former girlfriend, Philip Marlowe is drawn into a deeply complex web of mystery and deceit.

Mansfield Park 3pm BBC Radio4

Lin Coghlin’s 10-part adaptation of one of the great English classics by Jane Austen, starring Felicity Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch, and David Tennant.

Red Shelley – Reformer and Radical (2/2) 4pm BBC Radio 4

On the bicentenary of Percy Shelley’s death in 1822, Benjamin Zephaniah brings us his very personal take on Percy Shelley’s work.

Our Classical Century: 1918-2018 7pm BBC4

Our Classical Century celebrates the most memorable musical moments from 1918 – 2018. It is a season of programming on BBC Four, BBC Radio 3, and BBC Two. A host of well-loved guests & presenters guide us through the century in documentaries, features, and performances.

The U.S. flu epidemic of 1918 8pm Smithsonian

The 1918 influenza pandemic, commonly known by the misnomer Spanish flu was an exceptionally deadly global influenza pandemic caused by the H1N1 influenza A virus. The earliest documented case was in March 1918 in Kansas, United States. Two years later, nearly a third of the global population, or an estimated 500 million people, had been infected in four successive waves. Estimates of deaths range from 17 million to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million, making it the second deadliest pandemic in human history after the Black Death bubonic plague of 1346–1353.

Monday 11 July 2022

Ceausescu’s Children 11am BBC Radio 4

Today, the actor Ionica Adriana lives with her family in the North Yorkshire countryside – but her life could have turned out wildly different. Until the age of two-and-a-half, Ionica lived in an orphanage, in Transylvania, north-western Romania.

From 1965-1989, the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu enforced a strict set of policies to set about vastly increasing the Romanian population. But widespread poverty meant it was impossible for many Romanian parents to look after their newborn children – and so many ended up in state-run institutions, where they received little care and attention and were left in dirty clothes to feed and fend for themselves.

Ionica returns to Romania to uncover her past and the history of Ceaușescu’s barbaric orphanages. She explores what childcare and protection looks like in Romania today, and meets someone who grew up in the state system his entire childhood and has an emotional encounter of her own.

Where Angels Fear To Tread (1991) 10.55pm Great movies Classic

After a rich Edwardian widow impulsively marries a handsome but poor Tuscan dentist and dies in childbirth, her English in-laws try to gain custody of the baby.

Tuesday 12 July 2022

Britain’s Travel Chaos: How To Save Your Summer 8pm Channel 5

Documentary looking at some of the travel problems faced by British holidaymakers so far in 2022, hearing stories from people who have experienced holiday nightmares. Thousands of families have had flights canceled, and holidays ruined, but it’s not just the airline industry in crisis. The whole country has plunged into chaos with national rail strikes, ferry cancellations, relentless roadworks, and food and petrol prices skyrocketing.

A Very British History – Birmingham Irish 11pm BBC 4

Musician Angela Moran, whose grandparents were amongst thousands of Irish to move to Britain in the 1950s, tells the story of the Birmingham Irish through the memories of local people and rare archive footage.

Wednesday 13 July 2022

Sideways -A Nuclear Awakening 9am BBC Radio4

In this new mini-series from Sideways, writer and Times columnist Matthew Syed is calling for a nuclear awakening. Since the end of the Cold War, when relations between two of the world’s nuclear superpowers – the former USSR and the USA – seemed rosier, Matthew argues that many of us have slipped into a kind of comfortable amnesia about the presence of these destroyers of worlds.

Thursday 14 July 2022

Hollywood`s Brightest Bombshell – the Hedy Lamarr Story 7.30pm BBC4

While Hedy Lamarr was infamous for her marriages and affairs, this film rediscovers her not only as an actress but also as the co-inventor of 1940s wireless technology.

Bridge of Spies (2015) Film4 6.15pm

The performance by Rylance is masterful

During the Cold War, an American lawyer is recruited to defend an arrested Soviet spy in court, and then help the CIA facilitate an exchange of the spy for the Soviet captured American U2 spy plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers. See our review here

The Undeclared War 9pm C4 All episodes available on More 4

In 2024, a leading team of analysts buried in the heart of GCHQ secretly works to ward off a foreign cyber-attack on the country’s electoral system.

Friday 15 July 2022

Living with the Gods – Festivals 2.45pm BBC Radio4

Neil MacGregor focuses on special gatherings and how they shape a communal identity.

And on Netflix…

Better Call Saul Episodes releasing weekly on Netflix from Tuesday 12 July 2020

It’s time for the final six episodes of season six, the final ever set to air.

Selected by Henry Falconer and Pat Harrington

Leave a Comment

Did I Ever Get the Feeling I’d Been Cheated?

Anthony C Green reviews Pistol, an FX Production, produced and directed by Danny Boyle, and written by Craig Pearce

Currently streaming in the UK on Disney+

I only subscribed toDisney+ in order to watch the Beatles Get Back last November, and only the continued existence of Family Guy and pressure from my ten-year-old son has kept me subscribed. The news that this was also to be the place to stream a new FX-made six-part drama, produced and directed by Danny Boyle, about the Sex Pistols, based on the 2016 book Lonely Boy; Tales of a Sex Pistol by guitarist Steve Jones gave me another reason to keep my £6.99 a month Standing Order current.

I was fourteen when the Pistols recorded Anarchy in the UK, fifteen at the time of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and the height of the band’s popularity/notoriety a year, give or take, later.

And now we’ve just celebrated The Platinum of the Eternal One and I’ve suddenly hit sixty. The original Punk explosion is now so long ago that if we were to travel back in time by the same distance from now to the time it was happening, we would be in the early stages of microphone-enhanced vocals and Bing Crosby Mania.

In any case, I was never a punk. In 1977 I was in my very early stages of second-generation Beatle fandom, and mourning the loss of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. I remember liking Pistols’ single Pretty Vacant, but only in the way I liked other current hits sing-a-long hits of the time.

Only later, would I discover Punk as a moment, and Never Mind the Bollocks as one of the most important albums ever made.

It’s also one of the best. That’s what many people forget about the Pistols. Yes, they were a cultural phenomenon that changed forever the world of Popular Music (or for a long time at least, before the movement was co-opted and reincorporated back into the big business, capitalist machine, as all sub-cultures ultimately are, no matter how outwardly radical.) But they wouldn’t have become what they were to become if they hadn’t had the songs. Not many songs, it has to be said, but in the end, the short and (not so) sweet nature of their career, and the fact that there is only one proper Pistols album is soooo right.

The book on which the series is based

And the world of popular music, and entertainment in general, is all the better for stories that are perfect in and of themselves, no matter, in fact often because of, the tragic nature of the end of those stories. The Beatles had to end at the end of the sixties. Elvis had to die when and how he did; and the Sex Pistols had to produce that single near-perfect collection of songs (OK, there’s a handful of post-Lydon Pistols’ tracks you should have in your collection, Silly Boy, Something Else, My Way, but that’s still not proper Sex Pistols material.)

I limbered up for the series by watching John Lydon, Rotten as was, on a couple of lengthy podcast appearances.

He was not a happy man.

Or rather, that is to say, that he strikes me as a man who is happy, with his place in history. True, drinking wine from a pint glass, as he did during one appearance, suggests alcoholism. But he’s still working, limbering up for a new Public Image Ltd. tour, and if he is indeed an alcoholic I’d suggest it is of the high functioning variety(And I too was once such a best, so I know what I’m talking about).

But he was/is not happy about the Pistol’s series, claiming that not only was he not involved in its making, but that Danny Boyle gave him no opportunity to be properly involved, his claim, if true, IS rather scandalous.

He also mentioned several times that this Disneyfied re-telling of the Pistols’ story would trash the band’s legacy and ‘everything we had stood for.’

Arguably, the 1996 Filthy Lucre tour, the clue is in the name, did that, as did other, more short-lived reunions, but we’ll set that aside. All I’ll say here is that I like Lydon, and believe him to have many admirable qualities. Not least, the clear and unconditional love in the way he speaks of caring for his beloved Nora, mother of the late Ari Up, once of The Slits, and his wife of forty-three years, though now several years of rapidly worsening [GC1]  dementia.

But he has never been great at giving credit to his former bandmates, indicating to this day that, whatever it says on the record labels, where the whole band is listed as co-composers, he alone is really responsible for the creation of those songs. This of course particularly unfair on Glen Matlock, the most musical of the Pistols’, a fact that legend has it, and as we will soon come to, in large part led to his removal from the band and replacement by one John Simon Ritchie, AKA Sid Vicious.

And, although of course, it would have been better had Lydon been involved in its making, at least morally, we should remember that the series is actually based on Jones’ book, a fact that must be taken into account when assessing its style and quality.

It also should be mentioned that Lydon’s podcast denunciations were based only upon seeing a single, short-trailer to the series, not on the series itself, which he claimed, and as far as I l now still claims, to have never seen.

This said, is he right: Does FX/Disney/Danny Boyle’s telling of the Sex Pistols’ story really trash their legend? Is it any good?

The two things are of course not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Firstly, I have to say that the best acting performance of Pistol comes from Anson Boon as Lydon. He has him down to a tee, the strange mix of cockiness and insecurity, the manic stare that always was an act of self-parody, and has merely become more so over the years. The would-be wordsmith who is at first reluctant to share his words with the world, the jerkiness of his movements both on and off stage, the man of principle who loves being in the Sex Pistols but not at any price, the boy/man who wishes to put two fingers up to the world, whilst actually quite liking people, and caring about them.

That’s the other point: not only is Boon’s portrayal of Lydon spot on, but Lydon, despite all of his expressed misgivings about the making of the series, actually comes across as by far the most likable character in it. The caring nature that he shows today when he talks about Nora’s dementia, and his reaching out to other sufferers and carers in the same position as the two of them, is already there, in the way he cares about and tries to look out for his mate John Ritchie, and his later agonising over how his own role in re-christening of him as ‘Sid Vicious’ and promotion of him to the status of Sex Pistol (essentially in order to even up the score as far as voting power in the band went) contributed to his early self-destruction, though as Jones says in the final episode, “Sid was always going to end up like that, whether he became a Sex Pistol or not.”

Of the others, Toby Wallace puts in a good performance as the roguish Steve Jones, a young man whose compulsive thieving and shagging were really a mask donned in order to hide the chronic lack of self-esteem caused by being raised by a brutish, hateful, domineering stepdad who had made it his mission in life to drill into the young Steve that he would never amount to anything, and a weak, often drunken mother. It’s not a greatly nuanced performance, but I did find myself rooting strongly for him as he set out to learn the rudiments of guitar in four days straight, helped only by handfuls of amphetamine pills and a determination to prove his stepdad was wrong.

His upbringing also contrasts nicely with that of drummer Paul Cook (played by Jacob Slater), the product of almost stereotypically nice working-class parents for whom nothing mattered more than their son’s happiness. They even allowed Paul to keep his drum kit in their bedroom, as this was the only room in the house that allowed him the space to properly practice, despite the obvious inconvenience to themselves.

The best-known actor in the series is probably Thomas Brodie-Sangster (you’ll know him when you see him) who plays the Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren. I’ll admit I’ve never been the world’s biggest fan of McLaren, nor have I ever really brought fully into his role as Situationist-Svengali of genius, feeling that this over-emphasis of his role, which of course is largely a creation of McLaren himself in the truly terrible Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle film, and is I think bought into to a regrettable degree by Julian Temple in his The Filth and the Fury movie, a documentary which should be, but isn’t quite definitive.

But there it is. You can’t ignore Malcolm, and Brodie-Sangster gives a decent performance in his portrayal of him. A little over the top and cartoonish perhaps, but that just about suits the subject matter. Talhula Riley as his King’s Rd Sex boutique sidekick Vivienne Westwood gives a much more measured performance, and it is often her, through a word here and a look there, who exposes Malcolm’s pretensions for what they are – pretensions stolen from others. I’d have liked to have seen more of Westwood, but I’ll return to that shortly.

Of the other roles, Louis Partridge does a good job as the talentless, doomed, sadomasochistic Vicious, as does Emma Appleton as the dark, satanic, equally doomed groupie Nancy Spungen, a woman for whom it seems no one but Sid had a good word, in life or death.

And then thee of course there is Glen Matlock (played by Christian Lees). Poor Glen Matlock, the butt of the band’s jokes for the crime of ‘liking the Beatles’ and being quite good at his instrument. It is of course a cliché that he was sacked because of his love of the Fab Four, and it’s a cliché that is here mentioned early and mentioned often. The truth is, Lydon wanted him out of the band because he saw him as a threat to his dominance through being the only band member who had a justifiable claim to being at least as responsible for their greatest songs as John was. As someone once said, after Glen was replaced by Sid, the band produced their best ever photographs. They looked great. But there were no more songs.’

Yes, the ‘liking the Beatles’ gag is laboured, but Matlock comes out of the series pretty well, which is of course another reason for Lydon to hate it.

And finally, as far as acting performances go, we come to the truly vital role of Chrissie Hynde….

‘What’s that,’ you say, ‘Chrissie Hynde, Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders Chrissie Hynde: what’s she got to do with the price of glue?’

I knew Chrissie had been a face on the scene at this time, as the girlfriend of legendary ‘rockist’ to use a word then current, New Musical Express, NME, ‘or ‘Enemee’ as Lydon liked to pronounce it, journalist Nick Kent. I also knew that Chrissie, an American resident in the UK, herself contributed occasional articles herself to the British music press. I also believe I was aware of the fact that she had an affair with Steve Jones, and was, briefly, a musical collaborator with Steve’s near-namesake, Mick Jones, soon to become a key member of the Clash (then trading under the name of the London SS). I also may have just about been aware that she quite fancied the gig herself as the replacement for Matlock once the decision was made to sack him. Maybe. But was I aware that her presence and sheer ubiquitous-ness within the Pistols circle made it likely that she would have at least as much screen time as the members of the Pistols themselves, probably more so in the case of Cook, in five out of the six episodes of a far-off futurist dramatisation of their story?

No, I was not aware of this, any more than anyone else was, including probably Chrissie, because I strongly suspect it isn’t true. What I do strongly suspect is that her role was beefed up in order to fulfil the apparently mandatory need for a Strong Woman character in every television drama series now made.

 If that was indeed the criteria, then actress Sydney Chandler does a good job of meeting it, being most definitely strong, and even more definitely a woman, as revealed in the more than ample sex scenes with (Seve) Jones.

But I believe that this now apparently mandatory role could have been played much better, and more truthfully, Vivienne Westwood.

Another possibility would have been to increase the screen time of punk tend-setter and fashion icon Jordan, a woman who sadly died soon before the series went to air, and at least got an episode dedicated to her.

Or what about a little more of the action for Siouxsie Siox (we do see her reciting The Lord’s Prayer, with Sid Vicious on drums, in what is generally regarded as the debut performance by the Banshees), or the girls who were soon to become The Slits, including Ari Up, daughter of the soon to become Mrs Nora Lydon?

In other words, what about showing that there were women on the scene who had a genuinely important part to play in the Birth of Punk?

Anyway, just a thought, and for those who are wondering, Chrissie also made a brief appearance in episode six too, singing a version of Brass in Pocket, almost certainly long before it was written.

Some of the above leads me to another major criticism of the series. Punk is shown as a movement of philosophical and fashion aesthetics and attitude, essentially led by McLaren, Westwood, Jamie Reed (the man behind the graphics, including the ‘Bollocks’ cover), and to some extent the band themselves, in particular Lydon. But apart from that brief snapshot of the nascent Banshees, we don’t see it as part of a wider musical movement that included The Clash, the Damned, The Slits, the highly underrated X-ray Spex, and bands that were never punks but who got their great break through the opportunities that punk provided, bands like The Jam, The Stranglers, and I suppose The Police and The Pretenders too.

So, the series lacks depth in that regard. If you want depth, I’d suggest reading Jon Savages’ excellent England’s Dreaming book, or investigating the wonderful, regionalised Messethetic collections of great bands that would never otherwise be heard, bands like The Digital Dinosaurs, Crispy Ambulance (best name for a band ever), The Homosexuals, and The Performing Ferrets Hyped to Death’s front door

Somehow, although it undoubtedly lacked depth, Pistol also managed at times to seem stretched. The main case in point here is Episode Four, Bodies. This episode is essentially an attempt to dramatise the rationale behind the macabre lyrics of the song Bodies off ‘Bollocks.’ It is apparently true that the lyrics were based on a real story, that there really was a severely mentally damaged woman called Pauline who was known to the band, and who really did carry around an aborted Foetus in her handbag for a time. But did this relatively minor Pistols track really need a whole episode in order to justify it? I’m also unsure of whether or not Pauline really was a black woman, or was this another attempt to insert another element of unnecessary diversity?

Just on that subject, we do get flashes of the undoubtedly real sense of camaraderie that existed between the punks and Ganga-smoking, reggae-listening Rastafarians. Lydon, in particular, was of course a big fan of Reggae music, a fact that showed through in parts of ‘Bollocks’, and much more so on the first two, arguably first three, excellent Public Image Limited albums.

And there was some nice attention to detail here. Lydon had a Captain Beefheart poster on his wall because that signified his real taste in music. Maybe he did listen to Iggy and the Stooges and the MC5, but he also listened to Beefheart, Peter Hamill/Van Graff Generator, Can, Faust, and the rest of the Krautrock/Musice Cosmiche oeuvre. That’s why those PIL albums sound like they do. It has been said that early PIL is essentially how the Pistols would have sounded had Lydon had his way. McLaren of course preferred a Punk Bay City Rollers, though he didn’t quite get that either.

So, that’s about it really. It’s certainly not a boring series. It has weaknesses, some of which I have highlighted. But it didn’t trash the Pistols’ legacy, and no, it didn’t leave me feeling I’d been cheated….

I have to say that I enjoyed it more the second time around too. First time, for me, there was a bit too much confusion as to who was meant to be who. For instance, I thought Jordan was Siousie Sioux first time around. I also thought initially that Pauline in the Bodies episode was Pauline Black, soon to be of the Selector, and that two random schoolgirl Pistols’ fans determined to follow the band from far away oop North, actually were two members of the soon-to-be Slits. Once these misunderstandings were overcome, it was simply easier to watch.

There was a nice vignette too from Mathew Cottle as the great newsreader Reggie Bosanquet (a man forever known to me as the man who broke the news of Elvis’ death), unapologetically buying ladies’ underwear for himself in the Sex boutique, then slipping the staff a wink at the end of New at Ten in order to let them know he was at that moment wearing his latest purchase under his regulation Newsreader attire.

One last point about the music. The actors performed the music themselves, and aside from James Slater who played Cook, who had previously fronted a band but had never played drums, none of them had any previous musical experience at all. With that in mind, they did a good job and made me forget that I wasn’t listening to the Pistols themselves.

THE highlight of the series was for the recreation, and recreation is the right word here, of the Pistols’ (in)famous Bill Grundy television series appearance. This was very well done indeed, and showed, through sticking almost word for word and frame by frame to what actually transpired, showed conclusively that it was Grundy (played by Steven Pemberton), a drunk, a local television presenter who will only ever be remembered for this moment, who very clearly and very deliberately goaded the young, naïve Pistols and their entourage into using ‘rude’ words. Lydon’s later comment that the accolade for being the first person to use the ’F’ word on British television belonged not to either he or Steve Jones, but to Irish Poet Brendan Beehan, gave Lydon another opportunity to show his literary, knowledgeable side.

I also very much enjoyed the excitement the Pistols showed, like any other young band in any genre, in crowding around a transistor radio in order to experience God Save the Queen’s inexorable rise to become the number one single that never was. The joy the band exhibited in showing the completed single of GDTQ to their families (apart from Jones’ joyless family) made me think perhaps of the Beatles probably handing around a copy of Love Me Do in a similar fashion a decade and a half earlier.

Glen might or might not have been sacked for liking the Beatles but in reality, the two bands were essentially in the same game. Yes, the Pistols may have helped rid the world of fifteen-minute guitar solos (and the Jones character got that particular cliche out the way within five minutes of the opening of episode one), but it was only temporarily, and didn’t we all, in the end, decide that there was room on this Earth for both the Sex Pistols and Rik Wakeman?

As Billy Joel would one day point out, “It’s still Rock ‘n’ Roll to me”

Anthony C Green, July 2nd, 2022.

Leave a Comment

Culture Vulture: our guide to the week’s entertainment

Saturday 2 July 2022

Inspector Montalbano 9pm, BBC Four

I’m (PH) a big fan of this Sicily-set detective drama. This is a new episode but it’s the last one, for the foreseeable at least. The director of an amateur dramatics society has been fatally stabbed, apparently without a drop of blood being spilled

Mick Jagger: My Life As a Rolling Stone 9.30pm, BBC Two

“All the mythology is repeated,” says Mick Jagger, “until it becomes true.” As the BBC launches its season on 60 years of the Rolling Stones with documentaries celebrating each band member, this is Jagger’s chance to set the record straight

Who Killed the KLF? 9pm, Sky Documentaries

Who Killed the KLF?” explores the rise and fall of the KLF in the 1980s and 1990s, touching upon themes that perfectly capture the 21st-century zeitgeist. The story ends with a legendary act on a remote Scottish island. A tale as intriguing as it is bonkers.

Sunday 3 July 2022

9.35am – 1pm, repeated 5.40pm -9.05pm PBS America, The Balkans in Flames. Yugoslavia 1945-2000 (3 episodes)

See our review here.

Desert Island Discs: Adele 11:15 BBC RADIO 4 FM

One of my (PH) Sunday morning traditions is to listen to Desert Island Discs. It is a remarkable programme which gives you an insight, through their choices of music and a book, into what makes someone tick. It’s often led me to reevaluate my opinion of the person concerned (usually, though not always, in a positive direction). This week Adele, singer, and songwriter, shares the eight tracks, book, and luxury item she would take with her if cast away to a desert island. With Lauren Laverne.

Rolling with the Stones 7pm BBC RADIO 2

What made the Rolling Stones the Rolling Stones? Find out from Mick, Keith, Charlie, Ronnie, and Bill as they take you through the make up of the world’s greatest rock-n-roll band!

Percy Shelley, Reformer and Radical (1/2): The Original Dub Poet 16:30 BBC RADIO 4 FM

On the bicentenary of Percy Shelley’s death in 1822, Benjamin Zephaniah brings us his very personal take on Percy Shelley’s work.

Dunkirk (2017) 9pm BBC2

Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Commonwealth and Empire, and France are surrounded by the German Army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II. See the Counter Culture review here.

Monday 4 July 2022

In Dark Corners 9.30pm BBC RADIO 4 FM (1/3)

What will be uncovered when a light is shone in the dark corners of Britain’s most elite boarding school? Alex Renton presents a story of class, power, and privilege.

Continued Tuesday and Wednesday at 9.30pm.

Tuesday 5 July 2022

Fred Flintoff`s Field of Dreams 8pm BBC1 (1/3)

Freddie returns to his home town for the sporting challenge of a lifetime. Can he inspire some unlikely teens to give cricket a chance – or has he bitten off more than he can chew?

Ghislaine Maxwell – Making of a Monster 10pm C4 (1/3)

An in-depth look at the disgraced socialite’s life.

The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971) Talking Pictures 12.05am

Doctor, scientist, organist, and biblical scholar Anton Phibes seeks revenge on the nine doctors he considers responsible for the death of his wife. This is a very funny film. Camp and surreal with lots of black humour. Vincent Price is great as Dr. Phibes.

Wednesday 6 July 2022

Spitfire Paddy 8.45pm PBS America

A documentary detailing how, in 1940s wartime Britain, a 21-year-old Irishman named Brendan ‘Paddy’ Finucane became the youngest Wing Commander in the history of the Royal Air Force.

Trainspotting (1996) 11.25pm Film4

Renton, deeply immersed in the Edinburgh drug scene, tries to clean up and get out, despite the allure of the drugs and the influence of friends. See the Counter Culture review here.

Thursday 7 July 2022

Stealing Shelley’s Heart (Drama) 2.15pm BBC RADIO 4

The poet Shelley was last seen sailing his ship into a storm. His wife, Mary, and lover, Jane, wait for news. For the bicentenary of Shelley’s death, a new drama by Hattie Naylor.

Friday 8 July 2022

AntiSocial 12.04pm BBC RADIO 4

Peace talks for the culture wars. In an era of polarisation, propaganda and pile-ons, Adam Fleming helps you work out what the arguments are really about. Listen to the introduction to the series here.

Selections by Patrick Harrington and Henry Falconer.

Leave a Comment

Older Posts »