Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Camping with Scott & Bailey + Fr Brown & the Doc

but Lady Felicia and Mrs McCarthy steal the show.

British TV is going through one of its quality periods with so much good stuff on one's recorder/Sky Box is practically working overtime!

HAPPY VALLEY and THE NIGHT MANAGER may have finished, but there is a new series (just 3 episodes) of the terrific SCOTT & BAILEY (we worked through the first four series over the winter months) - Sally Wainwright's gripping series of police investigations into murder cases set in Manchester. This new series is not written by her though, and somehow is not the same without Amelia Bullmore (centre) as the detectives' snappy DCI Gill Murray - she retired in the last series (Amelia also wrote several episodes). The new series too is more grim and downbeat, while we still enjoy the backstories of Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp) and Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones) and their complicated lives. Both actresses are exemplary, as usual. Wainwright in the previous series also provides great roles for actors like Nicola Walker and Joe Duttine (CORRIE's amiable window cleaner) or Kevin Doyle (DOWNTON ABBEY's nice Mr Molesley),Geoge Costigan, Tracie Bennett, Rupert Graves, Danny Miller, Sally Lindsay, Lisa Riley, or Ellie Haddington  to get their teeth into, often as those damaged killers ...
Two female detectives, one motherly with family problems, the other emotionally immature with disasterous relationships, have varying levels of success applying their eccentric outlooks on life to their police cases and private lives.
Tucked away in the afternoon slot though has been 4 series of FATHER BROWN, based - very loosely - on the G.K. Chesterton stories of the priest detective. These series have apparently nothing to do with the stories, and are total fiction as the investigating cleric is based in a pretty 1950s (great period detail) Cotswold village, and he is aided and abetted by local posh Lady Felicia (Nancy Carroll) and his parish clerk/housekeeper Mrs McCarthy (Sorcha Cusack - having a lot of fun here). 
The friendly rivalry between the women keeps the series watchable and they get to wear some great '50s fashions and hats. Lady Felicia often wears gloves too and little mink stoles, and has a roving eye for any presentable man (Nancy Carroll is as fascinating as Honeysuckle Weeks in FOYLE'S WAR another discovery a while back). Mark Williams anchors it all as Father Brown often dealing with outlandish plots and annoying local chief detective Tom Chambers. The 45 minute episodes are fun and ideal afternoon viewing - must be a formula that works as there are over 40 episodes in the 4 series. 

We did not discover DOC MARTIN until its last series, so it is also fun going back to early series as we follow the grumpy, often rude doctor (Martin Clunes) in that ideal Cornish village Portwenn (actually Port Isaac in Cornwall) and the amusing stories that arise with the various locals and his slow romance with school-teacher Louisa (Catherine Catz). Quality casting here with Eileen Atkins, Stephanie Cole, Selina Cadell and Claire Bloom (as his icy mother, below) all of course marvellous, as is Stewart Wright (left) as the love-lorn policeman, and there is an adorable dog, eccentric locals, and lovely scenery - another winning formula then, Created by Dominic Minghella, there have  been 54 episodes in 7 series since 2004, so a lot of catching up!
Dr. Martin Ellingham, a London-based surgeon, relocates to the picturesque seaside village of Portwenn, establishing himself as the area's general practitioner. He grew up in the area having been raised by his now widowed Aunt Joan Norton. His reasons for leaving London and the high-paid life of a consultant are not clear initially but related to a phobia about blood he has recently developed. He soon meets several of the locals and eccentricity abounds. Martin's situation is made more difficult by what can only be referred as an almost complete lack of an acceptable bedside manner. He is gruff, abrupt and intolerant, not only in issues related to medicine, but to life in general. He and the headmistress of the local school, Louisa Glasson, are clearly attracted to each other and despite their awkwardness, slowly develop a relationship. They do marry and have a baby and then separate and then .... Catz and Wright are also in a rather good new BBC comedy series, I WANT MY WIFE BACK, and there is also that great other BBC comedy BOOMERS about those retired couples with amusing roles for the likes of Alison Steadman, Stephanie Beacham and Russ Abbott. 
CAMPING is another of those quirky Sky series (STELLA, MOUNT PLEASANT, STARLINGS) offbeat comedies that draw one in and one never knows or expects what is going to happen next. CAMPING is written by Julia Davis (who also directs the first 4 episodes) who also plays Fay the new girlfriend of Tom (Rufus Jones) who has left his wife and who feels young and groovy again, to the consternation of friends Robin (Steve Pemberton) and his bossy conrol-freak cow of a wife Fi (Vicki Pepperdine - a new discovery for me). Other friends on their camping holiday are ex-alcoholic Adam (Jonathan Cake) and his downtrodden wife Kerry (marvellous Elizabeth Berrington). The creepy campsite manager is David Bamber who stumbles across Fi pleasuring herself when her bad manners and one of her migraines leaves her behind as the others go on a fishing trip. Then there is that scene at the hospital, and at the antiques shop where Tom and Fay cannot control themselves ... The scene is set for amusing confrontations as Adam hits the booze and is jealous of Tom and Fay's constantly having sex, then Tom has to return to London as his wife is in a coma after an overdose and Fay is on the loose ..... how is it all going to end? There are only 6 episodes, but we are hooked, as is my friend Martin. It is a series though one will either love or hate, It is a jet black cringe-inducing comedy which "descends into a hell of bitterness, grief, jealousy, sexual experimentation, drugs, insanity and possibly murder." Control-freak Fi too is worried her son will grow up gay, eating mozzarella and other foods gays eat, and she is incensed when well-meaning husband Robin leaves a fossil for the son to find on the beach ... then at the hospital she has further demands to make on the doctor examining her son.
Brace yourself for a holiday to remember. A group of old friends go on a camping holiday in Dorset to celebrate a birthday. However, tensions and emotions quickly start to rise.


  1. I know I shall be castigated (and possibly even castrated)for saying this but I don't really share your enthusiasm for what I call 'cosy' television so I haven't really got into most of the shows you mention. However I have to agree that both THE NIGHT MANAGER and HAPPY VALLEY are as good as television gets. CAMPING, of course, is as far from cosy as it's possible to get. Yes, it won't be to everyone's taste but for vicious old queens like you and me (circa Dames Ian and Derek) it's a delight and since Vikki Pepperdine is new to you I take it you never watched that magnificent (and similarly daring) series GETTING ON with Vikki, Jo Brand and Joanna Scanlon. Do keep up, dear!

  2. You are going to be so bitchslapped. I suppose thats why you stopped watching POLDARK as well, its just simple entertaining Sunday night telly, to relax to with a drink before another week starts. I wish I could be a lofty movie buff in my ivory tower choosing another Tarkovsky while the peasants watched popular entertainment. and SCOTT & BAILEY is not 'cosy' - its as gritty as the other Sally Wainwrights.

    1. To misquote the Bard, age has not withered your infinite bitchiness.

  3. Did you know that you can create short urls with AdFly and get cash from every click on your shortened urls.