Culture Vulture: our guide to the week’s entertainment (3 – 9 December 2022)

Highlights this week include The Soviet Union 100th Anniversary 1922, Napoleon and Kinky Boots.

Saturday 3 December 2022

Classic Albums: American Pie BBC2 10.10pm

Don McLean takes listeners and viewers behind the making of 1971’s “American Pie” album

Sunday 4 December 2022

Kinky Boots (2006) 10.30pm Channel 5

After his father’s demise, Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton) inherits the family business, a shoe factory in Northampton, England. He is not interested in shoes, and the factory is in such dire financial straits that he must lay off 15 employees. However a fortuitous encounter with a transvestite cabaret singer (Chiwetel Ejiofor) inspires Charlie to save the factory from closure by producing erotic footwear, much to the chagrin of the workers.

Unsung Heroines: Danielle De Nise On the Lost World of Female Composers 10.50pm BBC4

Danielle de Niese explores the lives and works of five female composers – from the Middle Ages to the late 20th century – who were famous in their lifetimes, but whose work was then forgotten.

Western classical music has traditionally been seen as a procession of male geniuses, but the truth is that women have always composed. Hildegard of Bingen, Francesca Caccini, Clara Schumann, Florence Price and Elizabeth Maconchy – all these women battled to fulfil their ambitions and overcome the obstacles that society placed in their way. They then disappeared into obscurity, and only some have found recognition again.

Monday 5 December 2022

The Soviet Union 100th Anniversary 1922 (1/3) 8.40pm PBS America

The Soviet Union was formed on 30 December 1922 after five years of civil war. Stalin’s iron fist and his Great Purge gave him unopposed murderous rule over the country, while heroically defeating Hitler’s onslaught on Kursk and Stalingrad between 1941-43 effectively won WWII for the allies, and helped mark out his geopolitical world and power until his death in 1953.

Tuesday 6 December 2022

The Soviet Union 100th Anniversary 1922 (2/3) 8.35pm PBS America

With the pace of the 1950’s Cold War increasing, alongside the the space race and the Berlin Wall, the decision to join forces with Cuba and build missile sites there brings the world to the brink of disaster. While the Cuban Missile Crisis is averted and a peace settlement reached, not long after JFK is assassinated in 1963 by Lee Harvey Oswald, a US Marine veteran who had defected to the Soviet Union in 1959

Back to Basquiat 9.15pm Sky Arts

The life and work of New York artist Jean-Michel Basquiat were marked by a long quest for identity, by his Haitian and Puerto Rican family origins, and by his pivotal trip to Africa. Portraying this major painter of the twentieth century, who died in 1988 at the age of 27, is also a way of evoking the place of black American artists in the conservative America of the Reagan years.

Wednesday 7 December 2022

Napoleon (1/3) 7.35pm PBS America

The first programme in this three-part series charts Napoleon’s extraordinary rise from Corsican obscurity, chronicling the military victories in Italy that made him a hero to the French and convinced him he was destined for greatness. Also revealed is young Napoleon’s love for a woman of extravagant tastes and habits who initially rejected his passionate affection: the legendary Josephine de Beauharnais. The programme features sites important to Napoleon’s early life, including Corsica, where this son of a provincial aristocrat was raised as one of eight children; Brienne in northern France where he spent five years at boarding school; and the Italian Alps, where he fought the Austrians with a skill that no one expected, and where his quest for power began. Numerous paintings as well as dramatic re-creations of Napoleon’s historic battles combine to bring the story of his life to the screen.

The Soviet Union 100th Anniversary 1922 (3/3) 8.45pm PBS America

With the escalation of nuclear missiles globally, Brezhnev invades Czechoslovakia in 1968, as the proxy East vs West war in Vietnam continues. Following the catastrophic invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, a new era begins with Mikhail Gorbachev, as his bold statements quickly lead to a withdrawal from Afghanistan, and by 1989, the collapse of communism. That same year the symbolic Berlin Wall falls, with the end of the Soviet Union formally declared in August 1991.

Spike Milligan: The Unseen Archive Sky Arts 9pm

Documentary featuring never before aired film, interviews and scripts from inimitable comedian and poet Spike Milligan.

Dodi: Last Days Of A Playboy 9pm Channel 5

Dodi: Last Days Of A Playboy aims to go “beyond the image of a pampered playboy portrayed by the media, to reveal how an isolated, lonely boy had to deal with his parents’ divorce at a young age, built a career in Hollywood and ended up dating the most famous woman in the world.”

Thursday 8 December 2022

Napoleon (2/3) 7.10pm PBS America

Charts his transformation from a political leader to Emperor and global statesman.

Friday 9 December 2022

Napoleon (3/3) 7.15pm PBS America

Deals with his defeat at Waterloo and exile.

Selections by Pat Harrington

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Culture Vulture: our guide to the week’s entertainment (26 November – 2 December 2022)

Highlights this week include Evita: The Making Of A Superstar, The Real Doctor Zhivago and Switch Off Something: Britain and the Three Day Week.

Saturday 26 November 2022

Oliver – Lagos to London (1/3) BBC Radio 4 3pm

Charles Dickens’ most political novel, the iconic Oliver Twist, is updated for today as a young Nigerian orphan begins an epic search for family and home.

Archive on four – FDR’s 4 Freedoms BBC Radio 4 8pm

In January 1941, American President Franklin D Roosevelt delivered an epic speech about the Four Freedoms that he believed to be vital for the post-war world: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from fear and freedom from want. These words became the basis for a global understanding of “human rights” and they also shed light on how the United States viewed itself and its global role at the dawn of the so-called “American Century.”

But could the US really live up to such lofty ideals? Do those four freedoms remain relevant as a goal for the international community? Or do they need to be reimagined for our own century?

With help from contributors such as FDR’s grandson, James Roosevelt, as well as former UN Human Rights Commissioner, Zeid Ra’Ad Al Hussein, Cambridge Professor of International History David Reynolds examines the genesis of the speech, its immediate impact, and its far-reaching consequences.

Jimi Hendrix: Vodoo Child BBC2 10.30pm

In Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child, experience the life and music of Jimi Hendrix like never before. This compelling documentary takes an in-depth look at the iconic guitar player, from his Seattle childhood, through the early days performing in small clubs to his meteoric rise to fame and his tragic early death. Featuring exclusive interviews and rare footage, Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child is a must-watch for any fan of Hendrix or rock music.

Sunday 27 November 2022

Alexandra – Britain`s Queen of Hearts C5 10pm

A profile of the little-celebrated and long-suffering Queen Alexandra.

Simon Scharma`s History of Now BBC2 9.15pm

Simon Schama reflects on a life in culture – and its enduring power in shaping our world. From The Handmaid’s Tale to The Thick of It, how has art defined what matters to us all?

Film Noir: Origins of Noir (1/3) Sky Arts 8pm

The exploration of the movie genre begins with a look at the origins of the cinematic term, stemming from pulp fiction crime novels and owing a visual debt to the German expressionist films of the silent era.

Monday 28 November 2022

8.30pm BBC Radio 4 Taiwan – Facing up to China

The Real Doctor Zhivago BBC4 9pm

Dr Zhivago is one of the best-known love stories of the 20th century, but the setting of the book also made it famous. It is a tale of passion and fear, set against a backdrop of revolution and violence. The film is what most people remember, but the story of the writing of the book has more twists, intrigue and bravery than many a Hollywood blockbuster.

In this documentary, Stephen Smith traces the revolutionary beginnings of this bestseller to it becoming a pawn of the CIA at the height of the Cold War. The writer of the novel, Boris Pasternak, in the words of his family, willingly committed acts of literary suicide in being true to the Russia he loved, but being honest about the Soviet regime he hated and despised. Under Stalin, writers and artists just disappeared if they did not support the party line. Many were murdered.

Writing his book for over 20 tumultuous years, Boris Pasternak knew it could result in his death. It did result in his mistress being sent to the gulag twice, but he had to have his say. This is the story of the writing of perhaps the bravest book ever published. It is the story before the film won Oscars and its author, the Nobel Prize. It is the untold story of the real Dr Zhivago – Boris Pasternak.

The 1965 film starring Omar Sharif follows at 10pm.

Tuesday 29 November 2022

Switch Off Something: Britain and the Three Day Week BBC4 9.35pm

Philip Glenister narrates a documentary about Britain and the Three-Day Week. In the winter of 1973-74, a confrontation between the big unions and the government took the country to the brink – and the government lost. Contributors include George Galloway, Tony Booth, Tony Benn and Simon Hoggart. A timely reminder as we are all being told that it is our patriotic duty to freeze this winter in the new aptly named Cold War (although many, through financial hardship, won’t have much choice).

Wednesday 30 November 2022

Alison Steadman Remembers: The Singing Detective BBC4 10pm

Alison Steadman looks back at Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective, hailed as one of the most important and influential TV dramas ever made, and once described by Stephen King as ‘television’s Citizen Kane’.

From memories of happy times working with leading man Michael Gambon, and the pride of being involved in a piece that got the whole nation talking, to the stresses of being caught up in the controversy surrounding her character’s notorious outdoor sex scene, Alison brings her unique perspective to a series she ranks amongst her favourites.

Episodes follow.

Thursday 1 December 2022

Crossing Continents – Cold Calling Siberia BBC Radio 4 11am

A series focusing on foreign affairs issues.

Friday 2 December 2022

19.45pm The Savage Peace PBS America 9.45pm

A powerful documentary revealing the appalling violence meted out to the defeated in 1945. Using rare and unseen archive film, 1945: The Savage Peace tells a harrowing story of vengeance against German civilians, which mirrored some of the worst cruelty of the Nazi occupiers during the years of war.

Evita: The Making Of A Superstar BBC4 11pm

The story of one of the West End’s most celebrated characters is discovered by Suzy Klein. She explores the world of musical theatre as well as the colourful landscapes of Argentina.

Selections by Henry Falconer and Patrick Harrington

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Culture Vulture: our guide to the week’s entertainment (19 – 25 November 2022)

Highlights this week include Kubrick By Kurbrik, Bad blood: the Story of Eugenics on BBC Radio 4 and The Ice Cream Wars.

Saturday 19 November 2022

Hendrix – Everything but the Guitar BBC Radio 4 8pm

When you think of Jimi, you think of the guitar. But there are so many other remarkable layers to consider. On what would have been his 80th birthday, it’s time to do just that.

Apocalypse Now: Final Cut (1979) 11pm BBC2

In 1969, U.S. Army Captain Benjamin L. Willard is sent on a secret mission to Cambodia to kill Special Forces Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, who has seemingly gone insane and now commands his own Montagnard troops inside neutral Cambodia. These forces ae conducting hit-and-run missions against the Viet Cong and NVA. Is Kurtz insane? Or are we not yet ready to understand him? Will Willard be able to fulfil his mission?

The Ghost of Richard Harris Sky Arts 9pm

This candid Sky Original documentary recalls the life of the legendary actor, poet and singer Richard Harris, whose distinguished career has sometimes been overshadowed by his reputation as a “hellraiser”.

The documentary explores the colourful and turbulent life of the Irish actor – as told by Richard Harris himself. His voice – the ghost of the title – is drawn from many sources. These include some previously unheard tapes recorded by Irish journalist Joe Jackson, whose interviews with Harris took place over a period of 15 years. The film also features unseen sand intimate family footage from the Harris Estate. Perhaps, he is best known to younger generations for playing Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films, but Richard Harris also left a legacy of some remarkable movies. In this film, he is remembered by some of those who knew him well. They include his three sons: Damien, Jared and Jamie – as well as those who worked with him, such as Vanessa Redgrave, Russell Crowe, Jim Sheridan and Phil Coulter. The film explores Harris’ complex, flawed genius and his unique and multiple talents. He was, after all, a chart-topping singer and an acclaimed poet – as well as an actor whose career spanned the decades and who earned his first Oscar nomination in the 1960s (for This Sporting Life) and his last in the 1990s (for The Field).

Sunday 20 November 2022

Louis Theroux: The City Addicted to Crystal Meth W 10.30pm

This 2009 documentary was filmed in Fresno, California which has one of the highest number of crystal meth users in the United States. It had mixed reviews. The Times said “Theroux risks becoming the Alan Whicker de nos jours, a tourist with a typewriter, peering into these other lives but rarely getting dirty himself.” The Guardian called the work “an extraordinary film, a sad portrait of a very different California”. I (PH) thought it was very moving and powerful but decide for yourself!

Monday 21 November 2022

Woman’s Hour BBC Radio 4 10am

Woman’s Hour looks at stalking in England and Wales, ten years on from the law change.

Bad blood: the Story of Eugenics BBC Radio 4 4.30pm

Eugenics is born in Victorian Britain, christened by the eccentric gentleman-scientist Sir Francis Galton. It’s a movement to breed better humans, fusing new biological ideas with the politics of empire, and the inflexible snobbery of the middle-classes.

The movement swiftly gains momentum – taken up by scientists, social reformers, and even novelists as a moral and political quest to address urgent social problems. By encouraging the right people to have babies, eugenicists believed we could breed ourselves to a brighter future; a future free from disease, disability, crime, even poverty. What, its proponents wondered, could be more noble?

The story culminates in the First International Eugenics Congress of 1912, where a delegation of eminent public figures from around the world gather in South Kensington to advocate and develop the science – and ideology – of better breeding. Among them Winston Churchill, Arthur Balfour, the Dean of St Pauls, Charles Darwin’s son, American professors and the ambassadors from Norway, Greece, and France: a global crusade in motion.

But amidst the sweeping utopian rhetoric, the darker implications of eugenic ideas emerge: what of those deemed ‘unfit’? What should happen to them?

David Baddiel: Jews Don’t Count Channel 4 9pm

The writer and comedian looks at antisemitism and the progressive left. From theatre to football, Baddiel explores a political blindspot with Stephen Fry, Miriam Margolyes and Neil Gaiman.

Tuesday 22 November 2022

Boarding Schools – the system that rules Britain BBC Radio 4 4pm

Is there a future for boarding schools? Writer Nels Abbey examines the psychological, political and societal effect of the system globally and hears from a range of voices.

Tomorrow’s Worlds: The Unearthly History of Science Fiction (2/4) BBC4 10.50pm

Dominic Sandbrook continues his exploration of science fiction by looking at its obsession with alien invasion, from all-out assault to sinister hidden threats. The first episode, Space, is available on BBC Iplayer.

Wednesday 23 November 2022

The Ice Cream Wars (1/2) BBC2 9pm

In the early 1980s, Glasgow was a tale of two cities. While its leaders encouraged residents and visitors to see Scotland’s biggest city as ‘Miles Better’, refreshed with trendy bars and restaurants, its housing schemes became a battleground in criminal warfare. Gangsters found themselves fighting over an unlikely commodity – ice cream vans and the lucrative routes to be found in each of the city’s sprawling new schemes, such as Easterhouse and Ruchazie. The schemes housed thousands but gave them little access to shops, pubs or other facilities. With little alternative, ice cream vans thrived and evolved to sell a range of goods, making so much money that they attracted the attention of the city’s gangsters.

Adrian Dunbar: My Ireland Channel 5 8pm

The Line of Duty actor, who plays Superintendent Ted Hastings in the popular show, will explore more of his Co Fermanagh roots in this series.

‘Adrian Dunbar: My Ireland’ will see the actor travelling to some of his favourite locations across the island, where viewers will get a ‘rare glimpse’ into his childhood in Enniskillen.

Thursday 24 November 2022

How The Other Half Live C5 9pm

Brian goes on a personal quest as he explores our relationship with money and wealth

Bobby Robson – More than a Manager ITV4 9pm

Sports documentary directed by Gabriel Clarke and Torquil Jones. Featuring an A-list cast, this is a definitive portrait of one of sport’s most inspirational figures.

Kubrick by Kubrick Sky Arts 9pm

This unique documentary is composed entirely of archival footage and photographs, accompanied with the voice of Stanley Kubrick – taken from a series of interviews with French film critic Michel Ciment – giving us the keys to understanding his work. It gives a voice to one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema, as well as one of the most enigmatic.

Sheri Linden of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, “As a look at Kubrick’s methods, madness and burning intelligence, Kubrick by Kubrick is fluent and discerning”. Eric Kohn of IndieWire said “Kubrick by Kubrick lingers in the restless ingenuity at the heart of the filmmaker’s work – a palpable desire to find new storytelling possibilities each time out”.

Friday 25 November 2022

Past Forward – a Century of Sound BBC Radio 4 9pm

Greg Jenner dives into the BBC archive to explore what it says about who we are now.

Agatha Christie: Lucy Worsley On The Mystery Queen (1/3) BBC2 9pm

A life as dramatic as her work. Lucy Worsley discovers the origins of Agatha Christie’s macabre magic – and with some compelling characters, uncovers carefully concealed secrets.

Selections by Henry Falconer and Patrick Harrington

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Culture Vulture: our guide to the week’s entertainment (12 – 18 November 2022)

Highlights this week include a re-showing of Terror on PBS America, The People`s Piazza: a History of Covent Garden on BBC2 and the Netflix series Fifa Uncovered.

Saturday 12 November 2022

Inferno: The Great Fire of London 7.35pm C5

When the Great Fire of London began in 1666, it was the largest fire in the city’s history. Burning for four days and nights, the fire destroyed over 13,000 homes and businesses. In this riveting new documentary, Inferno: The Great Fire of London, explore the events that led to the fire and the what followed. Featuring eye-witness accounts and expert interviews, Inferno: The Great Fire of London is a fascinating look at one of England’s most devastating disasters.

Stories from Ukraine (1/2) 9.45pm BBC Radio 4

The first half of an original story about a young couple traveling Ukraine and finding the quirks that make it ‘The’ Ukraine. Their adventures lead them across the landscape filled with oddities, anger and tenderness, where they find each other and the beauty of the small things.

Sunday 13 November 2022

The People`s Piazza: a History of Covent Garden 9pm BBC2

Telling the story of one of the nation’s best-known public spaces, the Covent Garden Piazza, from its early years as a playground for the aristocracy, through decline and dereliction to eventual rebirth, TV historian, presenter and StoryTrails Executive Producer David Olusoga steps back in time to explore the iconic piazza’s tumultuous history. Over four centuries the Covent Garden Piazza has been a market, a meeting place, and a site of protest, performance and renewal. In this documentary David Olusoga explores its history, and with the help of a host of experts and eyewitnesses, conjures up the ghosts of the past – market traders, orphans, artists and activists.

Young, Black and Right-Wing 10pm C4

Zeze Millz explores what it means to be young, Black and right-wing in Britain. She meets right-wing groups, uncovers their views, and considers where she is on the political spectrum.

Monday 14 November 2022

Against the Odds. Wales – the 64 year Wait ITV 12.05

The story of the Wales national football team’s journey to the 2022 World Cup, as they attempt to defy the odds, unite a nation and realise their World Cup dream. Featuring contributions from Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Chris Coleman

Terror: the Bombing of the King David Hotel (1/6) 9.50pm PBS America

The 22nd of July, 1946. The headquarters of the British Army in Palestine is located in the luxurious King David Hotel. Members of the Irgun, the Jewish resistance movement, smuggle milk churns packed with explosives into the hotel and hide them in the basement. Thirty minutes later an enormous explosion brings down the entire south wing of the hotel. Ninety-one people die. Two years after the explosion the British leave Palestine and the state of Israel is established. What significance did the friendship between the leaders of the Irgun and the Irish Republican Army have? How did a famous play staged on Broadway and starring Marlon Brando contribute to the Zionist cause? And how do three daughters look back upon their fathers’ involvement in the attack on the hotel?

Tuesday 15 November 2022

How to win the World Cup 6pm BBC Radio 4

David Conn investigates how Qatar won the right to host the World Cup bid and why it matters.

Terror: Algeria 1956 (2/6) 9.50pm PBS America

A young Algerian woman visits a bar in the European quarter of Algiers. She orders an ice cream, plants a bomb under her chair and leaves.

Wednesday 16 November 2022

Terror: Munich 1972 (3/6) 5,35pm PBS America

Members of the Black September movement attack the apartments of the Israeli Olympic delegation. Immediately, the TV cameras switch from the sport to the hostage drama.

The Missing Hancocks 8am BBC Radio 4 Extra 8am

Long-lost, classic Hancock’s Half Hour comedies, freshly recorded. Written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson and starring Kevin McNally as The Lad Himself.

Thursday 17 November 2022

Philomena (2013) 9pm BBC4

A world-weary political journalist picks up the story of a woman’s search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent.

Michael Dobbs Remembers… House of Cards

Author, politician and member of the House of Lords Michael Dobbs looks back on the TV drama that had 90s Britian hooked on political intrigue and infighting. Followed by four episodes of the drama from 10.30pm to 2am.

Terror: Bologna Station 1980 (4/6) 5.35pm PBS America

A suitcase is left in Bologna Central Staion. An explosion rips the station apart, killing 85 people and injuring 200. Who is responsible?

The English 9pm BBC2

Last Thursday I watched the first (of six) episode of The English on BBC2. Lady Cornelia Locke (Emily Blunt) arrives in Kansas from England, seeking revenge on the man she blames for her son’s death. • There, she meets Mr Watts (Ciarán Hinds), who is torturing Eli. She tries to buy his safety but is beaten for her trouble. It becomes clear that news of her vengeful intentions has gone before her and that Watts is under instructions to kill her. The murder will be pinned on Eli.
One semi-mutual rescue and at least four bloody deaths later, their fates – along with his quest and her revenge narrative – have become firmly intertwined. A great start and I will be watching Episode 2: Path of the Dead with interest.

Friday 18 November 2022

Britain`s Communist Thread (1/3) 11am BBC Radio 4

Historian Camilla Schofield explores a century-long thread of communism in Britain.

Like fascism, we often think of communism as alien – as an external threat – a threat to the British way of life. But what happens if we challenge that a little – and think about communism as a British story?

Terror: USS Cole 2000 (5/6) 5.35pm

The American naval vessel USS Cole docks in Aden, Yemen to refuel. Twom men in a small boat rame the ship at full speed.

And Streaming

In Mammals — a new six-part series for Amazon Prime Video by playwright Jez Butterworth — the professional schmoozer and occasional actor stars as Jamie, a harried chef launching his own fine-dining establishment. But his family and friends are left with a bad taste in their mouths on the opening night as Jamie very publicly reveals that his wife and muse, Amandine (Melia Kreiling), has been cheating on him. Playwright Jez Butterworth’s Amazon series is all too eager to remind us that humans are essentially animals

Fifa Uncovered — Netflix series asks why Qatar was awarded the World Cup

A Netflix docu-series featuring contributions from investigative journalists, lawyers, and former Fifa grandees (including disgraced four-term president Sepp Blatter). Over four episodes, the show provides a fascinating, thorough and dispiriting account of the corruption that has beset world football’s governing body for decades, culminating in a 2015 FBI-led criminal indictment of 14 Fifa officials.

Selections by Henry Falconer and Patrick Harrington

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Baz Luhmnan’s Elvis reviewed

  • 2022
  • 12A
  • 2h 39m
  • Stars: Tom Hanks, Austin Butler, Olivia DeJonge
  • Writers: Baz Luhrmann, Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce and Jeremy Doner

In the build up to the release of this year’s Elvis movie, and in the various reviews I’ve read, seen and listened to since first seeing it on the big screen in late June, much has been made of the movie being ‘Baz Luhman’s Elvis’. I wouldn’t know. Scanning through Mr. Luhman’s Filmography shortly after my first viewing, I realised that I had never actually seen a Baz Luhman film. Since then, I’ve rectified this by seeing his Australia; and based on this admittedly small sample of his work, I have recognised certain stylistic tricks in his Elvis that would appear to be typical of his modus operandi

The life of Elvis Presley, from his childhood to becoming a rock and movie star in the 1950s.

It is certainly a very much a stylized reading of the Elvis story, with much fast cutting from scene to scene, and much use of music as a means of illustrating the story, so that the film takes the form of a semi-musical, rather than a movie with music as might be expected in a film about a major musical icon. All in all, what we get with Luhman’s Elvis is an impressionistic rather than a literal telling of Presley’s life.

Elvis focuses heavily on the relationship between Presley and his legendary manager, Colonel Tom Parker, played by another legendary Tom, Tom Hanks. Indeed, the film begins with Parker, at the end of his life, seeking to absolve himself of all blame for the sad decline of his protégé through addiction to prescription drug and junk food, problems which led to his tragically early death, aged forty-two, on August 16th, 1977.

Parker’s words are used as a means of giving narrative structure to the film, and this is perhaps the most important of Luhman’s stylistic tricks, the way that Parker’s narration, which seeks to dispel any notion of himself as the villain in the Elvis Presley story, are in sharp contrast to the action we see unfolding on the screen. We thus have at the core of the movie the cinematic version of the literary device of the Unreliable Narrator, and this works very well.

The same can’t be said, however, for Tom Hank’s accent. Anyone with a decent grounding in the Elvis Presley story will know that Parker was a native of Holland, was an illegal immigrant to the United States, and that his alien status played a huge, perhaps a defining part in preventing Presley from touring the world outside of America. For those who don’t know, the issue is dealt with in some detail in the movie in any case. It is therefore rather overdoing it to give Parker a vaguely Dutch, or perhaps generically European accent, especially as there is ample evidence to the fact that Parker didn’t speak anything at all like this. Why didn’t Hanks, skilled craftsman that he is, attempt to speak as Parker spoke, that is as the typical carnival huckster that he was? Apart from the issue of his voice, Hanks’ performance is very good, more or less capturing the charlatan essence of Parker, which was summed up by the assessment of one wag that he ‘was not a Colonel, not Parker, and not even a Tom.’ Hanks looks great too, largely due to the efforts of the film’s prosthetics department, who did a great job of aging the character as the film processed, and of adding considerable bulk to Hank’s frame.

If Hanks’ performance is very good with reservations, then that of Austin Butler as the leading man is simply superb without any such qualifications. It’s actually relatively easy to do an Elvis impersonation, of both the man’s speaking and singing voice, which is no doubt is why so many people do it. But it’s not easy to do it without lapsing into parody. Kurt Russell made a fair fist of it in 1979’s Elvis the Movie. But he didn’t do his own singing, and his 1969 Elvis, the year at which this film concludes, looked and sounded more like mid-seventies Elvis to me. Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the 2005 CBS Miniseries Elvis the Early Years wasn’t bad either, but again he didn’t do his own singing, and as with Russel, the script didn’t call on him to go beyond the late sixties. Butler, by contrast, portrays the man all the way from 1953 to close to his bloated, drug addled death in Memphis twenty-three years later. And, Butler did do his own singing throughout the film. His vocal performance is spot on, so good in fact that when the voice of the real Elvis was intercut with his at some points on the later numbers, the change was so seamless that only keen students of Presley’s singing style would be able to tell the difference. If anything, Butler nails Presley’s spoken voice and mannerisms with even greater precision. At times, his ability to capture the essence of Presley in a word or look is simply breath-taking.

For me, the ‘very Baz’ fast cutting of the movie worked much better on the big screen than it did the small. In the cinema, the visual pyrotechnics have a mesmerizing, hallucinogenic quality. By contrast, re-watching the film more recently on television, the style became at times a little wearying. The problem with this style of editing is that the mind has no opportunity to properly settle on and take in individual scenes before it is scattered elsewhere, and major events pass by at such a rate that it is easy to miss them. As an example, it is generally accepted that Elvis’ mother Gladys was the real love of his life, a major influence on how he lived it, and that her death was a tragedy from which he never really recovered. But Luhman never really takes the time to develop her character into someone we really care about independent of our knowledge of her real-world importance. Though we do see the devastating emotional impact of Gladys’ death on Elvis, it is rather fleeting and to the extent that it is explored at all, it is done so more in relation to how Parker uses the event as a means of supplanting her as the central guiding influence in Presley’s life than for its long-lasting psychological impact on Elvis himself.

The frenetic pace is however fitting for the section of the movie that deals with Elvis meteoric rise to national and international stardom in 1956. There has been no better depiction of what it must have been like to be young, particularly a young woman, experiencing Elvis’ raw sexual power live on stage in this period, before Parker succeeded in taming him in order to win the acceptance of the mainstream Show Biz’ establishment.

The pace does slow when we reach the last decade of Presley’s life, a period that encompasses roughly one half of the two-hour, forty-minute movie. This was perhaps a conscious decision to reflect changes in Presley’s life, and it is a good one as characters, including the lead, are at last given the space to change and develop, and for the viewer to become emotionally invested in them.

I should say here say a few words about Priscilla, the girl Elvis married in 1967, an event that neatly signifies the end of part one and the beginning of part two of the film. The fact that she was a mere fourteen years’ old when they first met, whilst he was serving in the armed forces in Germany in 1959, is never explicitly stated. The age difference between the two is only revealed to us through the words of Elvis as he says, rather desperately in response to her ending of their relationship five years after their marriage, ‘you’ll see Cilla, when I’m fifty and you’re forty, we’ll be together.’ Her youth may not have been made explicit, but in that very first meeting she is depicted as a bubbly, chattering, and frankly adorable presence, in a way that was perhaps typical of well-bred, mid-teens all-American girls of the period. Taken through the whole movie, the role of Priscilla is relatively small, but important, the character revealed through perhaps four short two-hander scenes opposite Butler, and which are very, very well played by Olivia DeJonge.

The musical component of Elvis has been criticised, mostly by the type of Elvis fan who prefers even the dodgiest Elvis sixties movie soundtrack track to anything none-Elvis. Luhman must have known that he was on a hiding to nothing with this stratum when he decided to include in the movie not only Elvis’ songs, but also songs that blended Elvis into a ‘mash-up’ with modern artists, and illustrative music that didn’t include Elvis at all, such as the hit single Vegas by Doja Cat, and The King and I by Eminem and CeeLo Green. This eclectic use of music new and old is apparently an oft used device in the Luhman playbook, an example being his use of Hip Hop in his version of The Great Gatsby, as well as the Jazz which is more often associated with this story. Personally, although we could perhaps have done with a tad more Elvis, I think the musical choices in the movie were brave, and very, very effective, and could perhaps widen the appeal of the movie beyond the Presley fan-base towards a younger audience.  

As mentioned, the script opts for a much more impressionistic than factual interpretation of the Elvis story. As with Luhman’s choice of music, this deployment of poetic license in the depiction of real-life events is fraught with danger, opening him up to the criticism of often knowledgeable hard-core fans. But, again with some qualifications, think the approach generally worked well.

As an example, Elvis’ relationship with blues guitarist/singer BB King is presented as being much closer than it was in real life. But the deception works as an excellent shorthand for Presley’s relationship with black culture as a whole, particularly with the blues scene centered around Beale St in Memphis at the time of Presley’s rise to stardom. It also helps to dispel the oft’ repeated myth that Elvis was a racist.

All attempts at telling the Elvis Presley story, be they dramatisation, documentary, or even literary, tend to deal with the rightly derided Hollywood years, roughly 1961 – ’68, almost em passant, usually through the use of quickly moving and quickly gone montage. Luhman’s effort is no exception, except for the way he rather brilliant combines a cursory run through of this period with an introduction to Presley’s fabled Memphis Mafia gang.

The treatment of the iconic 1968 Comeback Special is even more outlandish. Elvis fans all know that Parker’s vision for the special, which was to air at Christmas 1968 in America, was for Elvis to come out into the lights of an empty studio wearing a Tuxedo, say ‘Good Evening Ladies and Gentleman,’ sing twenty or so Christmas songs and spirituals, say ‘Goodnight and Merry Christmas everybody,’ and fade the lights. Fortunately, the show’s producer Steve Binder, and even more thankfully Elvis himself, realised that such an approach would have spelled the final death knell to his already dying career, and chose instead to put Elvis together with members of his 1950’s band, dress him in black leather with an electric guitar strapped round his neck, and put him in a boxing ring style stage surrounded by adoring fans. What Luhman does is to use this real-life disconnect between the visions of Parker and Binder as the starting point for an onscreen farce which bore little relationship to actual events, during which Binder and Elvis attempt to convince Parker that they are indeed producing a Christmas-themed show, complete with Elvis wearing a horrendously cheesy Christmas jumper curtesy of Singer sowing-machines, the special’s sponsor, for the closing number, whilst in reality they are putting together a show much heavier on rock ‘n’ roll than on Christmas cliches. It’s funny and enjoyable, and I think works well as a means of revealing the existential choice that faced Elvis as he returned to public performance after more than seven year’s burial beneath layers of Hollywood schmaltz. My only criticism of this part of the movie is that we see none of the sit-down sections of the special, the heart of the show, when Elvis, for once, really played guitar and bantered informally with members of his band and crew. This will perhaps be addressed when we eventually get the four-hour cut that Luhman promises us is coming, and at least we do get a sizable chunk of If I Can Dream, the actual show closer, when Elvis donned the white suit that was so much cooler than the white jump suit that was soon to come, and produced perhaps his finest ever vocal performance.

 It was a brave but brilliant decision by Luhman to have Butler’s turn as Elvis effectively close with Presley’s incredibly poignant rendition of Unchained Melody, seated at the piano, only weeks before his death. The moment when Butler’s Elvis finally gives way to the real Elvis, bloated and defeated but still pouring his whole self into this operatic last-gasp performance will, I think, have left few dry eyes amongst cinema goers. From 1977, we then cut back, to the early years, to Elvis, the real Elvis, at his peak, ripping through the social fabric of America, and of much of the world, leaving it forever altered. Finally, his phenomenal achievements and lasting legacy as the most successful solo recording artist in history, are reminded to the audience by bare, simple, but revelatory screen-text. As brilliant as Austin Butler is in this movie, it is only right and proper that it is the real Elvis who closes it.

So, there we have it.  Baz Luhman’s Elvis, far from perfect, but a genuine cinematic experience that is way in advance of any other dramatisation of the life of the man they called The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. It could even be a contender for the greatest ever rock biopic.

By Anthony C Green

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Culture Vulture: our guide to the week’s entertainment (5 – 11 November 2022)

This week’s highlights include a new documentary on the Hacienda club, 2015 film The Lady in the Van and A Very British History: The Jews of Leeds.

Saturday 5 November 2022

Our Archive Century – Science (2/3) 8pm BBC Radio 4

Lord Winston and Maggie Aderin-Pocock celebrate a century of the BBC Archives and what they have to tell us about our national relationship with science and scientists.

The Hacienda: The Club That Shook Britain 10.15pm BBC2

This new documentary shows how the Manchester nightclub, which ran from 1982 to 1997, not only changed the attitudes of a generation but launched a whole new chapter in music.

Sunday 6 November 2022

The Coming Storm: The Mid-Terms 1. Groomers 1.30pm BBC Radio 4

As America goes out to vote for the first time since the tumultuous aftermath of the 2020 election, Gabriel Gatehouse is back in the deep undergrowth of the US political scene, in a bid to understand where the dark energy underpinning the January 6 assault on the Capitol is going now.

One thing the QAnon conspiracy theory about a satanic cabal of paedophiles is morphing into is a grassroots political movement against ‘groomers’ – the idea that LGBTQI+ sex educators and trans healthcare advocates are indoctrinating young people into a sexualised culture.

The battleground is America’s school boards and the prize could be a galvanised Republican base with a new crusade. At a conference in Miami of thinkers shaping the future ideas of the right, Gabriel finds the issue top of the agenda, especially for Florida governor and presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis.

And across the country, a slate of candidates linked to QAnon is running for office – how will they fare?

(see also series podcast on BBC Sounds)

A Very British History: The Jews of Leeds 12.25am BBC4

Film-maker Simon Glass explores his family history and tells the story of the Yorkshire Jews in the early 20th century. Thousands of migrants arrived by boat on the east coast of England and lived in a run-down slum area of Leeds known as the Leylands. Simon discovers stories hardship and anti-Semitism, but also success and progress as many Jews moved out of the Leylands to the more affluent suburbs. He also travels to eastern Europe where he makes a shocking discovery about what happened to his relatives who did not migrate to Britain.

Monday 7 November 2022

Understand: the Economy – Inflation 1.30pm BBC Radio 4 (also Tuesday – Friday)

Understanding inflation will help you understand why your shopping is getting more and more expensive and why prices rarely seem to come down.

Italia 90 – When Football Changed Forever (2/3) 9pm C4

As the England team progress through the rounds, their fate is in the balance on and off the pitch, with undercover British police hiding in plain sight.

The Royal Mob 9pm Sky History

Told through the eyes of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters – the Hesse sisters, and their passionate and doomed love affairs across Europe’s Royal courts – the series lifts the lid on the family tensions which set cousin against cousin and saw millions plunged into the bloodiest war the world had ever known: a world in which the chink of champagne glasses gives way to the blast of bombs, war and murder.

Tuesday 8 November 2022

Mariupol: The People’s Story 9pm BBC 1

At the beginning of the war in Ukraine, most of the 430,000 residents of Mariupol fled. In this powerful documentary, the city’s people tell their story of bravery, loss and determination.

Louis Theroux interviews (3/6)

In this episode, Louis meets Dominic Harrison aka singer and musician, Yungblud, often regarded as one of the UK music scene’s brightest stars.

Louis joins Yungblud in the USA, on the last two nights of a whirlwind tour. Along the way, Louis meets fans who follow their hero with almost religious intensity, attracted to his brand of emotionally-charged music.

In a Paris hotel, during the European leg of his tour, Louis and Yungblud sit down to discuss a range of topics – including his mental health, his sexuality and his response to outspoken critics.

Louis also travels to Doncaster to spend time with Yungblud and his family, where they discuss a turbulent upbringing.

Wednesday 9 November 2022

Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted UK 8pm National Geographic

Gordon explores England’s rugged Jurassic Coast and discovers culinary secrets buried in his own back garden. He leaps off cliffs for seaweed, milks a water buffalo in order to make mozzarella, and kayaks through choppy seas to pull massive lobsters from the water. With his former protégé, Paul Ainsworth, serving as both guide and challenger, Gordon will have to dig deep in the final cook to prevent the student from becoming the master.

Secrets and Deals: How Britain Left the Middle East 9pm BBC4

In 1971, Bahrain, Qatar, and the UAE ceased to be part of Britain’s empire in the Middle East and became fully independent states. This film, a collaboration between BBC News Arabic and BBC News Persian, uncovers the secrets that lay behind the process of decolonisation.

Unapologetic 11.05pm Channel 4

A late-night topical discussion programme that doesn’t hold back. Yinka Bokinni and Zeze Millz host as Black guests talk freely about the big issues of the day and what’s new on social media.

Thursday 10 November 2022

Ukraine: War and Words 11.30am BBC Radio4 FM

Michael Goldfarb reports from the cultural front line in Ukraine as authors, agents and translators work flat out to bring Ukrainian writing to a global readership.

The Lady in the Van (2015) 9pm BBC4

The true story of Miss Shepherd, an eccentric woman of uncertain origins, who ‘temporarily’ parked her broken-down van in writer Alan Bennett’s London driveway for 15 years.

The English 9pm BBC2 (1/6)

Emily Blunt and Chaske Spencer are two lost souls in search of meaning in this 1890s-set six-part Western drama

Friday 11 November 2022

Missing Isaiah Berlin 9pm BBC Radio 4

Twenty years after the death of Sir Isaiah Berlin, Jonathan Wolff goes in search of the public intellectuals of today. Where are they and does it matter if they no longer exist?

And in Edinburgh…

We’re approaching that time of year again – the Radical Book Fair is BACK Nov 10th – 13th at the Assembly Roxy in Edinburgh. The theme for 2022 is: Our Fight!

Under this headline the organisers hope to bring together conversations on togetherness, solidarity and resistance in a time of endlessly intersecting crises, inspiring visions of strengthened communities across divides. In what ways must we come together at this moment, under new and old threats? What harnessed power might be possible when we do?

Like previous years, the fair will be made up of book stalls, activist stalls, events, workshops and more, ranging from topics such as mutual aid and policing to grief and making art as resistance. There will also be plenty of joy-giving performances and word-smithery.

Selections by Patrick Harrington and Henry Falconer

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Culture Vulture: our guide to the week’s entertainment (29 October – 4 November 2022)

Highlights this week include a reshowing of The Balkans In Flames on PBS, How To Survive A Dictator With Munya Chawawa on Channel 4 and a film from 2005 – Woman In Gold – based on the true story of Maria Altmann, an Austrian Jewish woman who escaped the Nazis and found a home in the US, from where, in 1999, as an old woman, she began a sensational legal campaign to reclaim from the Austrian government several paintings stolen from her family by the Nazis.

Saturday 29 October 2022

Mysteries of Mental Illness 11.50am PBS America

Mysteries of Mental Illness explores the story of mental illness in science and society. The four-part series traces the evolution of this complex topic from its earliest days to present times. It explores dramatic attempts across generations to unravel the mysteries of mental illness and gives voice to contemporary Americans across a spectrum of experiences.

How the BBC Began 7pm BBC2

A two-part documentary that will truly appeal to history-lovers – it takes a look at the first 50 years of the corporation, encompassing its origins on radio before becoming an early TV force to be reckoned with.

The Balkans In Flames 6.15, 7.20 and 8.30pm

A reshowing of this three-part documentary. See the Counter Culture review here

Leonard Rossiter: Comedy Great 8.35pm Channel 5

A household name in the ’70s. I (PH) loved his characters in The Fall And Rise of Reginald Perrin (as Perrin) and (as Rigsby) the sleazy landlord in Rising Damp. And who can forget his hilarious adverts for Cinzano Bianco with Joan Collins?

Sunday 30 October 2022

The Maastricht Treaty 2.45pm BBC Radio 4

In this programme Robert Carlyle returns to the controversial Maastricht Treaty of 1992 which transformed Europe into a political union rather than just an economic one. This unleashed a civil war in the Conservative Party which has echoed down the ages and arguably resulted in Brexit. David Davies MP was in the thick of that battle as Chief Whip to Prime Minister John Major. He takes us back to pivotal moments of that drama when the future of the country hung in the balance and the consequences of which we’re living with today.

Monday 31 October 2022

The Threat to U.S. Democracy 1.45pm BBC Radio 4

Owen Bennett-Jones explores the threats facing America’s electoral system. How close has Russia come to hacking US voting software? Can American citizens still trust the system?

Nazi Hunters: The Real Walk-In 11.05pm ITV

Billed as the ‘real’ story of Matthew Collins the former fascist following up on the drama just ending.

Citizens of Boomtown: The Story of the Boomtown Rats 10pm BBC4

See the Counter Culture review here

Italia 90: When Football changed Forever 9pm C4

Italy 1990. On the eve of the most watched World Cup ever, Sardinia is preparing for battle, waiting for England football fans and the players to descend on the island.

It’s a watershed moment for the team, the travelling fans, and the nation back home. The coming weeks will determine the future of English football. But how did it come to this?

Tuesday 1 November 2022

Louis Theroux Interviews: Dame Judi Dench (2/6) 9.15pm BBC2

Last week Louis interviewed Stormzy in his laid-back, engaging style. I learned a lot about Stormzy as he opened up about his faith and desire for a fulfilling family life. Stormzy also explained why he had funded scholarships for just black kids. I liked what he had to say. I’m looking forward to this interview with Judi Dench.

Wednesday 2 November 2022

How Green Was My Valley (1941) 10.10pm BBC4

At the turn of the century in a Welsh mining village, the Morgans, he stern, she gentle, raise coal-mining sons and hope their youngest will find a better life.

Hostages 9pm Sky Documentaries

This four-part docuseries illustrates how, in 1979, a group of Iranian student activists stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran, taking over 60 Americans hostage.

Thursday 3 November 2022

How To Survive A Dictator With Munya Chawawa 10pm Channel 4

Munya goes on a journey exploring the life of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, one of the world’s most notorious tyrants, looking for the man behind the monster

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) 9pm BBC4

A young woman embraces her pregnancy while she and her family set out to prove her childhood friend and lover innocent of a crime he didn’t commit.

Woman In Gold (2015) 10.50pm BBC4

Maria Altmann, an octogenarian Jewish refugee, takes on the Austrian government to recover artwork she believes rightfully belongs to her family.

Friday 4 November 2022

Bat Superpowers 6.15pm PBS America

Understanding bats, their long life spans and why they are resistant to the very diseases they carry such as Ebola and MERS, as well as other diseases like cancer. See the Counter Culture review here

The First World War PBS America 2.40pm, 7.20pm and 10.55pm

Shackled to a corpse: the conflict on the Eastern Front.

Lies, Politics and Democracy PBS America 8.30pm

FRONTLINE “examines how officials fed the public lies about the 2020 presidential election and embraced rhetoric that led to political violence”.

Selections by Henry Falconer and Pat Harrington

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Culture Vulture: our guide to the week’s entertainment (22-28 October 2022)

Highlights this week include: Britain’s Big Cat Mystery, The Missing Hancocks: Prime Minister Hancock on BBC Radio 4 and Jimmy Carr Destroys Art.

Saturday 22 October 2022

Three Days in June: The Story of the D-Day Forecast PBS America 7.30pm

For a few tense days in June 1944, the success of the greatest military invasion the world had ever seen depended on weather readings taken by Maureen Sweeney at the remote Blacksod weather station on Ireland’s west coast.

Sunday 23 October 2022

Afghanistan’s Top Porn Star Channel 4 10.15pm

Afghanistan’s top porn star Yasmeena Ali shares her story. From fleeing the Taliban, to surviving her father and uncle’s murder plot, Yasmeena has defied all the odds to pursue her career.

The Murder of Emmett Till PBS America 10.50pm

In August 1955, a 14-year-old Black boy allegedly flirted with a white woman in a grocery store in Money, Mississippi. Emmett Till, a teen from Chicago, didn’t understand that he had broken the unwritten laws of the Jim Crow South until three days later, when two white men dragged him from his bed in the dead of night, beat him brutally and then shot him in the head. Although his killers were arrested and charged with murder, they were both acquitted quickly by an all-white, all-male jury. Shortly afterwards, the defendants sold their story, including their tale of how they murdered Till, to a journalist. The murder and the trial horrified the nation and the world. Till’s death was a spark that helped mobilize the civil rights movement. Three months after his body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River, the Montgomery bus boycott began.

Kings of Coke (2022) Sky Documentaries 9on

A ragtag gang of Irish bank robbers from Montreal rose to become one of North America’s most feared criminal organizations.

Monday 24 October 2022

A Bloody Legacy: The War Continues (1/2) PBS America 6.15pm and 10.50pm

Having been dominated by the defeated empires of Russia, Germany and Austro-Hungary, the peoples of Eastern Europe had hoped for self-determination at the end of WWI. But it soon unfolded that armed conflict didn’t end at all – on the contrary. Poland fought against Russia and chaos prevailed in the Baltic States as well.

Today’s Ukraine was split up between Poland and Russia. This gave rise to an underground movement led by Stepan Bandera, a man who is still revered as a national hero in West Ukraine. When Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union, Bandera saw an opportunity for his independence movement. His troops take up arms to fight alongside the Wehrmacht. As German soldiers occupied today’s Lemberg in West Ukraine, pogroms were carried out against the Jews – allegedly with the participation of Bandera’s Ukraine nationalists.

Foyle’s War ITV3 10pm Monday-Friday, 24th-28th October

Another chance to catch the much-loved World War II-set mystery drama series, starring Michael Kitchen as the razor-sharp Hastings detective Christopher Foyle. Foyle is unhappy not to be on the front lines of the battle against Britain’s enemies, but he soon learns that the role he plays is in no way a small one as the war has intensified the heinous nature of domestic crime carried out against innocent people

America: The War Within ITV 11.05pm

In advance of America’s crucial midterm elections on 8 November 2022 Robert Moore examines widespread fears for the sanctity of the country’s political system.

Moore – named Journalist of the Year for his reporting of the storming of the US Capitol in January 2021 – investigates whether an attempt is now being made by Donald Trump and his Republican supporters to ensure their 2020 defeat and the “stolen” election never happens again.

Moore explores the machinations on the ground in contested electoral battlegrounds – from the deserts of Arizona to the remote mountains of Montana, where both sides cry foul over what seems to be an increasingly vulnerable electoral system.

With faith in the system becoming seriously undermined, and violent rhetoric becoming the norm, are we witnessing the demise of democracy in the world’s ‘greatest superpower’? This film will explore a country at a crossroads and ask whether it risks being destroyed from within.

Tuesday 25 October 2022

The Missing Hancocks: Prime Minister Hancock (4/8) BBC Radio 4

Tony Hancock in 1963

Hancock stands for Parliament, with no success whatsoever. But in his dreams he’s swept to power on a landslide, and the country salutes….Prime Minister Hancock.

Jimmy Carr Destroys Art Channel 4 9.15pm

Is it okay to burn artworks, even if Hitler painted them? This is the question being posed by Jimmy Carr Destroys Art. It seems that Channel 4 has bought a painting by the dictator as a prop in this televised debate, where participants will decide if Jimmy should destroy it using a hammer and various other implements. Also under the hammer, as it were, will be works by convicted sex abusers Rolf Harris and Eric Gill, and other ‘problematic’ artists. Where will people draw the line?

Frankie Boyle’s New World Order (1/7)

A welcome return for this darkly funny programme but how will he find anything in current UK politics to mock?

Wednesday 26 October 2022

Talking Pictures: Time to Remember 7.30pm

A gang of jewel thieves rob a house which has just become empty following the recent death of it’s rich lady owner. The robbery is not a complete success and one of the gang hides the jewels in the house as he’s about to be captured.

Voices of Ireland (2/2) 9pm Sky Arts

Voices of Ireland explores the works of some of Ireland’s most famous novelists, poets and playwrights.

Thursday 27 October 2022

Inside Russia: Putin`s War At Home ITV 10.45pm

Friday 28 October 2022

Britain’s Big Cat Mystery BLAZE 9pm

Feature length documentary exploring the unusual phenomenon of the UK’s sightings of large cats. The Beast of Bodmin, the Highland Panther and the Fen Tiger, myth or reality?

Selections by Henry Falconer and Patrick Harrington

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Culture Vulture: our guide to the week’s entertainment (15-21 October 2022)

Highlights this week include programmes on T S Eliot, the classic film Brighton Rock and the return of Gangs of London.

Saturday 15 October 2022

Mae West Dirty Blond PBS America 10.20pm

The first major documentary film to explore West’s life and career, as she “climbed the ladder of success wrong by wrong” to become a writer, performer and subversive agitator for social change.

Who Killed the KLF? Sky Documentaries 9pm

In the 1990s, the KLF were one of the most successful pop groups in the world. They had a number 1 album, a best-selling single, and even won a Brit Award. But then, in May 1992, they shocked the music industry by announcing their retirement. Two years later, on 23 August 1994, they made an even bigger splash by burning one million pounds sterling. This new documentary investigates the reasons behind the KLF’s seemingly bizarre behaviour. Through interviews with former band members, friends, and experts, the film tries to get to the bottom of one of pop music’s biggest mysteries. Who killed the KLF? The answer may surprise you.

Re-union: The Maidan Uprising BBC Radio 4 10.15pm

Kirsty Wark brings together a group of people who, in 2013, led the protests in what became known as Ukraine’s Maidan uprising.

Sunday 16 October 2022

Return to T S Eliotland BBC4 7pm

AN Wilson explores the life and work of TS Eliot. From the halls of Harvard University to a Somerset village, via a Margate promenade shelter, he follows the spiritual and psychological journey that Eliot took in his most iconic poems. From The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock to The Waste Land and from Ash Wednesday to Four Quartets, Wilson traces Eliot’s life story as it informs his greatest works.

The Four Quartets, Starring Ralph Fiennes BBC4 8pm

A performance of T S Eliot’s poetic masterpiece.

Monday 17 October 2022

Country Music Rub (Beginnings -1933) (1/8) Episodes 2-5 follow Tues-Fri. PBS America 8.25pm

So-called ‘Hillbilly music’ begins to reach a wider audience.

Analysis: How Xi Jinping Did It BBC Radio 4 8,30pm

How China’s President Xi Jinping took control of his party and his country.

Tuesday 18 October 2022

Devil’s Advocate: The Mostly True Story of Giovanni di Stefano Sky Documentaries 7pm

Giovanni di Stefano was once known as the Devil’s Advocate, and it’s easy to see why. A quick-talking lawyer with a silver tongue, di Stefano has represented some of the world’s most notorious criminals, including Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milošević. He’s also been accused of being a con artist, a fraudster, and a danger to society. But despite his checkered past, di Stefano remains an enigmatic and intriguing figure. In this documentary, filmmakers Tony Montana and Antonello Sarno explore di Stefano’s complicated life story, from his humble beginnings in Sicily to his current status as a criminal mastermind. Along the way, they interview di Stefano’s friends, foes, and victims, painting a picture of a man who is both charming and dangerous in equal measure. If you’re looking for a true crime story that will keep you on the edge of your seat, Devil’s Advocate is a must-watch.

Recently re-discovered episode of Hancock`s Half hour BBC Radio 4 6.30pm

A lost episode of 1950s radio show Hancock’s Half Hour recently found and restored.

The episode, the only one to feature the actor and comedian Peter Sellers – who was standing in for Hancock’s regular collaborator Kenneth Williams – is from the first series of the sitcom and is called The Marriage Bureau.

It aired in February 1955 and has never been repeated, according to the Tony Hancock Appreciation Society.

Wednesday 19 October 2022

Why the Industrial Revolution Happened Here BBC4 8pm

A key factor in the Industrial Revolution was knowledge. Britain’s political system encouraged scientific thought and freedom to try out scientific and business ideas.

Liverpool Narcos Sky Documentaries 9-11pm

Back-to-back showings of all three parts of Liverpool Narcos, he fascinating documentary series from Sky that tells the story of how a group of drug dealers from the city became some of the most powerful and feared criminals in the country. The series follows their rise to power, their bloody battles with rivals, and their ultimate downfall. With unparalleled access to the family members and friends of the dealers, as well as law enforcement and government officials, Liverpool Narcos provides an inside look at some of the most notorious gangs in recent history. If you’re looking for an edge-of-your-seat true crime story, this is it.

Thursday 20 October 2022

Brighton Rock Talking Pictures 6.05pm

In Brighton in 1935, small-time gang leader Pinkie Brown murders a journalist and later desperately tries to cover his tracks but runs into trouble with the police, a few witnesses, and a rival gang.

Jewish G.I.s of World War Two PBS America 7.15pm

This is the profound and remarkable story of the 550,000 Jewish Americans who served their country in World War II. These brave men and women fought for their nation and for Jewish people worldwide. Like all Americans, they fought against fascism, but they also waged a more personal fight – to save their brethren in Europe. Jewish servicemen were also among the first to assist the survivors of the Nazi concentration camps liberated by American troops. After years of struggle, these soldiers emerged transformed, more powerfully American and more deeply Jewish, determined to continue the fight for equality and tolerance at home.

The Bottom Line – U.K.`s Defence Industry BBC Radio 4 8.30pm

Evan Davis chairs a round table discussion providing insight into business from the people at the top.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) Film4

See the Counter Culture review here

Friday 21 October 2022

Ten Years of the Digital Human BBC Radio 4

With a decade of peeking down every dark alleyway of the internet The Digital Human has a unique archive of our lives lived online; how we connect to one another, how we explore and express who we are and how we accept these new technological innovations into our lives often without question. Aleks selects the most revealing and thought provoking stories from the back catalogue to see how far we’ve come and where our technologies might be taking us.

Gangs of London Sky Atlantic 9pm

Sky Atlantic’s “Gangs of London” is a gritty, action-packed series that follows the lives of London’s criminal underworld. The show’s focus on violence and crime gives it a dark and dangerous edge, and the cast of characters is both corrupt and fascinating. From ruthless gangsters to crooked cops, “Gangs of London” paints a picture of a city controlled by corruption and power. The show’s second season is even more intense than the first, with new villains and plenty of twists and turns. If you’re looking for a gripping drama with plenty of action, “Gangs of London” is definitely the show for you.

Gaming Wall Street 9pm Sky Documentaries

In this series, director Tobias Deml tries to get to the bottom of how Redditors turned a video game retailer into a financial frenzy.

Selections from Henry Falconer and Pat Harrington

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Moonage Daydream (2022)

Director and writer Brett Morgen starts his film with an interesting choice. He does not show the chronological events of Bowie’s life. He instead starts with a song from 1995, “Hallo Spaceboy.” This song is played over old footage of Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie and fans. This sets the tone for the rest of the film which is overwhelming.

Not a normal documentary but an immersive experience

David Bowie’s music, paintings, ideas, influences and interviews from over 50 years of his career are all put together in one glorious collage. I kept thinking of a Kaladeiscope toy I had when young. The film has a dreamy, trippy quality and though over two hours long I didn’t notice the time going.

Morgen dispenses with music talking-head doesn’t include interviews with friends, family, critics, or associates. This is a film centred on Bowie himself and his is the main voice we hear. The only over voices come from fans and interviewers, Mavis Nicholson, and a cringeworthily bitchy Russell Harty (Psychiatrists could probably ponder for hours his antipathy to Bowie).

Much of the criticism of the film is, I think, based on some fans expecting a standard documentary format. This film doesn’t follow that. It’s not a concert film either, although it does have some live concert footage. There are loads of previously unseen clips and lots of unheard mixes of songs.

Those looking for each period of Bowie’s life to be reprented fully or equally will be disapointed. Essentially The periods mainly covered are Ziggy/ Aladin Sane, Berlin & his sad but interesting experiment with commercialism in the 80’s.

Morgen uses image, music, and editing channel Bowie more than explain him. It’s ambitious approach that I think David, the artist and innovator, would admire.

Morgen is successful in communicating the essence of David Bowie’s creative work in a way that is unique and interesting. He uses sound and vision together to create a movie that immerses the viewer in Bowie’s creativity. At times its overwhelming. All this is done in a way that is true to Bowie’s own unique style.

Bowie was ahead of his time in terms of understanding the power of pop culture to shape who we are and how we see the world. Throughout his career, Bowie pushed the boundaries of what pop music could be, constantly experimenting with new sounds and styles. One of the things that made Bowie so unique was his interest in the surface details of our throwaway pop culture. He believed that these details could express profound and radical ideas. For Bowie, the disposable culture of the mainstream was a source of critical inspiration.

Morgen shows how Bowie reflected on his own existential and spiritual development. He tried to find meaning in a world where everything is temporary. There are some fascinating contributions from Bowie on some very deep subjects (such as our understanding of time and attitudes and approach to chaos).

Bowie also played with and re-presented his identity a lot. Sometimes Bowie seemed lost and sad – an outsider. He struggled with addiction at times. He said himself that he never identified with the mainstream. Morgen reveals what Bowie was – a genius and a prophet, a seeker of Truth. Bowie was remarkable in that he could understand and engage while still standing apart. Bowie never stopped expressing his creativity and his output from this, in so many different forms, alone shows the energy he had. Bowie was emotionally, creatively and spiritually happy at the end of his life as the film makes clear. As a Bowie fan and admirer I was very satisfied by that.

There are not many films I would pay to see twice but this is one of them. I don’t think I will ever fully understand Bowie, he was incredibly complex and not always consistent! Yet this film made me fell closer to his spirit.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Watch the trailer here.

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