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Kaleidoscope in Stourbridge

September 6th, 2009 (01:31 am)

I spent Saturday in Stourbridge Town Hall enjoying old television in the company of gervase_fen and assembled followers of Kaleidoscope, the Classic Television Organization. A great discovery was Chance in a Million, one or two episodes of which I caught when they first went out in the 1980s, and which I couldn't quite tune into; I think I was perhaps a bit too young. Simon Callow and Brenda Blethyn turn Tom Chance - a man who is a focus of a series of bizarre coincidences - and Alison Little - a librarian lacking in self-confidence but capable of deep and unexpected resourcefulness - into extremely sympathetic characters. The episode shown at Stourbridge was the untransmitted pilot - the first half is as broadcast, but the second half, with Tom and Alison's dinner date, was rewritten, recast and reshot - but I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of it.

I think I'd only seen Jennie Linden as Barbara in Doctor Who and the Daleks, but here I saw her as Penny, a receptionist whom we meet in bed with a philandering manager - Leslie Phillips - in Galton and Simpson's The Suit. This had a cameo from Bill Oddie as Penny's brother Jimmy, typecast as the anarchic representative of the younger generation, and a good twist at the end. Worth reviving for television or for stage, though Phillips's character, Howard, belongs to the world of I'm All Right, Jack which is more remote from British industrial relations than it was when The Suit was broadcast in 1969.

As for the episode of the Alan Coren-written sitcom The Losers, from 1978... this is a sitcom written by a critic, and it came over as a cut-and-paste job, with Leonard Rossiter's lodging-house based wrestling promoter Sydney Foskitt having too many echoes of Rising Damp's Rigsby, Alfred Molina a substitute Richard Beckinsale, the presentation of racist attitudes less deft than that demonstrated by Johnny Speight in Till Death..., and the whole degenerating into a sub-Goodies chase scene. A 1975 episode of Dixon of Dock Green, Baubles, Bangles and Beads, was remarkable for its consciously old-fashioned presentation of its villains (the one in the suit, the bald scruffy one and the one in the bomber jacket) and its perception of youth culture's fascination with eastern mysticism as a world made up of dupes and the duped, bound to lead to the reinforcement of societal norms sooner rather than later, a depiction designed to reassure middle-aged parents watching.

Special guest was veteran playwright Peter Terson... I didn't get to see any of his work, in the second viewing strand, as the miscellany in the main hall was more interesting, and my first choice, The Fishing Party, was scheduled opposite his talk. I'd not realised that he was from Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne. He spoke about being rescued from twelve years as a PE teacher (a job he'd taken because he didn't care for it) by Peter Cheeseman, who ran the Victoria Theatre, Stoke, in the 1960s, and writing plays for him before "the TV boys called". He was remarkably unpretentious, and one hopes his autobiography finds a publisher.

Comments

Posted by: philmophlegm (philmophlegm)
Posted at: September 6th, 2009 07:36 pm (UTC)
Reginald Iolanthe Perrin

I remember Chance in a Million. I'm surprised you didn't describe Brenda Blethyn as 'blousy'. Everyone else does...

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 6th, 2009 08:01 pm (UTC)

I'd never consider her as 'blousy'!