Orwell that ends Wells
Just when you thought studio drama was dead and buried, destined only to crop up occasionally on that classic repeat channel the BBC are already booking satellite time lor, BBC Scotland kick some life back into the beast with an intriguing new short series, Encounters.
The briel sent out to writers was to script an encounter between two notable real-lite ligures. ‘The remit was lairly wide,’ says script editor and writer Paul Pender, who wrote the lirst play, Beautilul Lies. ‘The idea originated in a show we did a couple ol years back called Dialogue In The Dark, between Boswell and David Hume. Alan Yentob oi BBC2 thought it might be an idea to do a series of these meetings between remarkable people, and to revive the studio drama.’
Pender believes they have managed to avoid the potential danger of becoming too cerebral and short on visual impact. ‘That was a consideration,’ he says, ‘particularly now in the era oi the short attention
ll.G. Wells invites George on to a
(. . square go in Beautilul Lies
span, the two-minute culture, but that’s a challenge. People will like good dialogue, I hope, and we’ve tried to make the pieces as visually interesting in terms oi design and style. With my own play, what i went for was emotion. It’s not an arid intellectual debate. There always has to be an emotional knife-edge or you end up with a debate.‘
Beautilul Lies is based on a real encounter between George Orwell and H.G. Wells in 1941. ‘I thought it had a nice dramatic structure,‘ says Pender, ‘because Orwell had invited Wells to dinner a good few weeks earlier, and hadn’t realised that the article he’d written on Wells in Horizon magazine was coming out a day or two before. And it was a scathing attack, basically saying Wells didn’t understand the modern age. For the whole meal Orwell was ieeling anxious about whether Wells had read this, but Wells didn’t let on till the end of the meal, when he asked “how could you do this to me?” ’
Pender stresses that the play has more relevance than merely an interesting literary lootnote. ‘lt’s a lather-son thing at heart, the old
gunslinger giving way to the new
gunslinger, the grand old man oi English letters giving way to the new young dude.‘ (Tom Lappin) Encounters: Beautilul Lies is on BBCZ on Saturday August 15 at 9.45pm.
Reelaround the ﬁlm tin
halcyon days when work could be found on the set ol Carry On Cleo. Apart lrom a couple ol Willy Russell adaptations and a Bill Forsyth llick every three years, the industry is croaking to a premature demise. The only possible salvation seems to be coming from TV, with first Channel 4 and then BBCZ stumping up funds tor their respective lilm seasons. Now Scottish TV has funded its own scheme.
in a deal with the Scottish Film Council, Scottish has established the First Reels Fund which is to provide Attempting to survive in the British lilm industry hasn’t been easy since those
£40,000 a year over the next three
years to aspiring lilmmakers. The lruits oi the first year’s money are to be broadcast in a series on Scottish called
' First Reels which will show extracts
lrom some of the best efforts by benellciaries oi the grants.
‘Obviously it’s not a lot oi money,’ admits Henry Eagles from Scottish TV, ‘when you consider that the £40,000 was divided up amongst about 50 lilmmakers. But the idea behind the cash was to help to give lilms a bit ol gloss that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. 01 the submitted lilms, as you can imagine, some were very good and some were not so good at all. But we told the filmmakers exactly what we thought of their work and we didn’t patronlse them. There’s nothing worse i think than saying “We think your lilm’s wondertul,” when it isn't. But generally speaking i think that the people have been very committed to the making of lilms and have generally done it extremely well.’ (Philip Parr) First Reels begins on STV on Thurs 13 August at 11 .10pm.
lftherc‘s one subject TV is incapable of dealing with (and I‘ll listen kindly to anyone who suggests there are more) it’sTV itself. Telly folk have never been too keen on navel gazing — for obvious reasons. The subject of your no-holds-barred negative profile one week could well turn out to be your commissioning editor the next. ‘Yer don‘t shit in yer own nest‘ is how one Australian producer puts it.
The result is the anodyne. Points Of View. Telly Addicts; the over-reverential, Did You See?, or the downright elitist; The Media Show. The arrival ofTV Squash (Scottish) then was to be welcomed. Essentially intended to be a fast-moving satire and sketch show. with topical inserts, TVSquash sets out to ridicule the complete programming schedule ofeach channel in turn - and fails miserably.
‘Maybe it’s just that shows like Oprah or thirtysomething are so inherently ludicrous that they defy parody.’
Apparently the series took several months of lobbying and pleading before network chiefs would screen it. in retrospect they would probably have been better advised to shelve it. or at least sell it to BBC2 for the forthcoming TV Hell special.
Maybe it’s just that shows like Oprah or thirtysomething are so inherently ludicrous that they defy parody. Or maybe it‘s that Angelo Abela and his crew ofchildren‘s entertainers masquerading as comic
5 actors are incapable of anything remotely subtle or incisive. Gags are lowest-common denominator
fodder, with sketches invariably tailing off into a feeble slapstick punchline. TVSquash is an opportunity missed. no. an opportunity blasted way over the bar into Row XX.
In the absence of any fictional
drama on screen that wasn't a
third-generation repeat, 1 had to return to the last week 0le“! Olympics (BBC) where there were
more stories ofhuman endurance
and triumph over adversity than Lynn Redgrave and Desmond Wilcox could muster in a couple of series. Gail Devers. the 100 metre champion, David Coleman regularly reminded us, had survived Graves” Disease by a whisker and had very
nearly lost her right foot. Said foot proved something of a hindrance in the hurdles final when Ms Devers, leading by several metres, clipped the ﬁnal obstacle and fell ﬂat on her face. She finished fifth, but deserved a medal for the best tumble since Bob Mortimer‘s ‘l‘ve fallen Vic‘ routine.
‘She finished fifth, but deserved a medal iorthe best tumble since Bob Mortimer’s
‘l’ve lallen Vic’ routine.’
If Devers provided both tragedy and comedy, the British team played to their strength: heroic performances and amusing regional accents. The Essex girl who did come first, Sally Gunnell, headed off for pizza and Babycham after her gold-medal performance, but it was the 400 metre runners. the Wigan Wonders, who stole the show for me. Morrissey lookalike David Grindley confessed he was ’n'ght choofed' at beating the UK record and qualifying for the final, while Phyllis Smith plugged her local butcher on her vest during the heat, a favour returned after he had supplied her with steak and sausages for her training regime.
The trouble was, all these success stories were English. Liz- Diary Of A Champion (Scottish) was one of the more unfortunate pieces of scheduling to hit the screen this year. just a couple ofdays before the seriously squeaky McColgan proved she was four places and a lot ofsweat away from being a champion where it mattered, in the Olympic Stadium.
McColgan’s defeat has been greeted as something of a national calamity, but let‘s accentuate the positive. Her profoundly irritating helium-dosed Tayside tones are unlikely to get much air-time in the near future as the one-paced plodder from Arbroath joins Tom ‘Bunched ln‘ McKean and Yvonne ‘Where Did They All Go?’ Murray in the ranks of Scottish ﬂops. Perhaps the media types who chose to deify Liz will take a long hard look at her conqueror. the Ethiopian Derartu Tulu, a truly stylish athlete who took the 10.000 metres gold and made the race look like a breezy 1500m. I‘ll take grace.
speed and assurance over grim Presbyterian work-rate any day. (Tom Lappin)
The List l4—20August 199295