Sidney Poitier in The Blackboard Jungle
Everyone loves a rebel. right‘.’ Wrong. Maybe rebellion was right for the 50s and oils. right even for the protest-filled 70s and. at a stretch. for'l’hatcher's b’lls. The
mollycoddled. ‘caring' 90s. however. ‘
requires its rebels to have a good reason for their unconventionality. It is no longer politically correct to slouch around smoking and wearing leather jackets— think ofthe environment and the cruelty to animals. As for loving and leaving. you wouldn‘t catch many women requesting "l‘he \N'anderer' (‘l hug ‘em and l squeeze 'em. 'cos to me they‘re all the same') at a Karaoke night.
Channel 4. bless them. have noted the change in social climate and devised a series of reruns which they are calling Rebel with a ('ause -- films which bypass the petulance of xi Streetcar Named I )esire. and the macho aggression of Look Back in Anger in favour of a different sort of classic. Take. for example. The
BlackboardJung/e — one of the finest
50s ‘youth—in-revolt‘ melodramas —— which features (ilenn Ford as a dedicated teacher in a mean downtown high school. Ford. at some time or other. helps his colleagues and his wife to confront the traumas of rape. racial harassment. miscarriage and poison-pen letters (not all at once). Good guy that he is. he confronts his surly protegees and wins their respect.
Other moralising movies in the series are A Face in the Crowd
(television turns a small-town hick
into a megalomaniac); I Want to Live -
(a young. suspected prostitute is executed in a gas chamber); Somebody Up There Likes .1] e (poor-boy-makes-good story an East Side criminal who becomes the middleweight boxing champion of the world); and The Wild One. featuring a memorable exchange between good guy and hoodlum: ‘What are you rebelling against'." ‘What have you got‘.". Sound stuff. (Miranda France)
The BlackboardJung/e is on (‘hamze/ 1
4 on Sunday 13 October at 10pm.
It's not often that the good old British sitcom throws up contradictions. Usually the iormula is tight, the plots predictable and the writers stuck in the same groove they‘ve occupied ior twenty years. But a new BBC series, So You Think You’ve Got Troubles, looks set to rewrite the rule-book. Initially, it's set in Northern Ireland — unchanered territorylor anyone outside the Play On One department.
Second, the writers are those chameleons oITV comedy, Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran. Whilst they wrote the straight down the middle, iormulaic Birds oi a Feather, they also created The New Statesman and, most interestingly, Shine on Harvey Moon. Finally, the star oi So You Think You‘ve Got Troubles is a man who, in the public consciousness at least, has become indistinguishable irom his most iamous creation — Warren Mitchell.
Mitchell has always denied that he was concerned about the typecasting which lollowed his hugely successful depiction oiAli Garnett. But even on stage recently in The Homecoming, the part altered to Mitchell bore an uncanny resemblance to the bigoted West Ham ian. The new TV role, however, is a radical departure. Ivan Fox is a Jewish businessman who is suddenly ordered to move to Beliast by his bosses. Once there, he is iorced to reassess his lite, as producer, Tara
: i | i
Warren Mitchell proving that there‘s lite alterAli.
Prem, explains: ‘Because there is so much emphasis on religion in Northern Ireland, it‘s impossible not to be something. So there is pressure on him irom the moment he arrives. He was just an ordinary guy who lived in London, being Jewish but not ieeling very Jewish. As he says, “I like Jewish iood, I like Jewish jokes, but I don’tieel Jewish." In Ireland, everybody asks “But what are you?" and it’s very diiiicultiorhimto say “I’m not anything."
‘The writers wanted to have Warren iorthe part,‘ continues Prem, ‘He came into the project very early and the character developed with him. Ivan is a Jew who doesn'tieel veryJewish which is very similar to Warren, so a lot oi the personal events in his liie. as he talked about them, were incorporated into the script.’ It looks like it might be irying pan to tire ior Mitchell; irom playing one character ior30 years, he’s now set to play himseli iorthe next 30. (Philip Parr)
So You Think You’ve Got Troubles begins on BBC1 on Thursday14 OctoberatiOpm.
No place like . . .
Overthe course oi a year, Douglas Mackinnon has been documenting the town oi his birth — Portree. But this new series does not concentrate on the standard scenic views and gathering storm clouds, but on the people. The resultoiMcKinnon‘s endeavours isa series called ‘Home‘ which includes more than a couple oi surprises. For example, in one oi the six programmes we meet a Bolivian iolk group. What were they doing on the Skye? ‘Same as everybody else, just living their lives,‘ explains Mackinnon. ‘What often happens when people come to the Highlands—it’s been happening ior hundreds oiyears now—isthatthey seek to deiine the place in very narrow terms. Usuallyiilmmakers do a ten-minute item and try to cover everything irom the Clearances to jets ilying over and then they throw in a bit at Runrig and you‘re away. So what the series tries to do is not deiine at all but explore whatitmight be like to be living in a place like that. Bolivian tolk music and people with Rolls-Royces coexist with Gaelic songs and people getting pissed out oi their brains in bars. It‘s the whole gamut oi lite. ‘One crucial thing was to tryto make
it beautiiul tor the people that think it's ugly and uglyiorthe peoplethatthink
it’s beautiiul. Hopeiully, at least the stereotypical responses to a place like Portree will be changed. Admittedly, in the end, all you‘re doing is replacing one myth with another but at least they're going to be more complex myths.
These complex myths may well disappointthe ‘Oh, isn’t it lovely' iraternity who tune in to the likes oi ‘The Munro Show'. Is Mackinnon not distressed that he may lose such a large potential audience because oi his grim realism?
‘l‘m airaid they’re gonna have to go somewhere else because I‘m led up to my gunnels with Colin Baxter coming up here, setting up his tripod, taking a picture oi the same thing each time and saying it’s Skye when, in tact, it's a picture at a mountain. The mountains, obviously, are there but it's the people that make the place. A mountain is nothing it you haven‘t iniormed it with human emotions.‘ (Philip Parr)
Home begins on BBC1 on Monday 14 Octoberat10.40pm.
I Back by Public Demand Radio 1 launchesa weekend of reruns with three and a half hours of fave tunes from The Stranglers. OMD and Rod Stewart who presents. apparently. a ‘typically raunchy and rootsy performance'. Sounds swell. (Sat 12. 7.30pm)
I Teenagers in Love The angst. the tears. the bitter disappointment ofthat first French kiss. lnthis new four-part series. Radio 2 combines book extracts. archive material and pops in yet another trip down a memory lane most people would rather forget. (Sat 12. 4.02pm)
I Kaleidoscope Feature Britain‘s obsession with its transatlantic cousin has led to a proliferation of the ‘all-American diner', a North American version ofthe much-loved greasy-spoon cafe. Tim Marlow finds out more about the phenomenon. (Radio 4)
I Yabuhara-The Blind Master Minstrel Hisashi lnoue's bawdy comedy tells the story of a blind minstrel who murders. steals and extorts his way to the top. and falls in an appropriately nasty way. The play. newly translated and adapted. was a hit at the Edinburgh Festival in 1990. (Radio 3. Sun 13. 7pm)
I Woman’s HOUTTwo feminist icons grace the new morning slot on successive days: first. (iermaine Greer. who will discuss her new book. The (hange. about the pros and cons ofthe menopause. ()n the following day. Kate Millet talks to Jenni Murray about feminism and her own sense ofliberation. Millet's seminal book. Sexual Politics was published twenty years ago. (Radio 4. Mon Hand Tue 15. 10.30am)
I BookerBedtime will 1 Martin Amis win'.’ Will Ben ()kri or Timothy Mo pip him at the post'.’ Radio i 4 presents a countdown to Booker. with extracts i from the shortlisted novels on each the six weekday nights priorto the announcement ofthe £20,000 literaryprize. (starts .\lon1~l.10.45pm)
IFile on FOUTRadio-i's earnest watchdog kicks off anewserieswithaspecial documentary. Tria/and Error. in which it is revealed that changesin
the traditionaltreatment ofcancer have caused hundredsofpaticntsto suffer radiation damage. . and crippling side-effects. (Tuc15.7'.20pm)
The List 11— 2-1 October 199165