on 4 March 2009
You'll laugh, you'll cry, you may even attempt to fly! This uplifting, well written series will leave you with a lump in your throat while tickling the rib cage all in the one breath!
Takn' over the asylum is a work of brilliance, the type of series that allows you to escape into a world of laughter, pain and mayhem! If you have ever had that feeling your missing out on something? It's quite possible this may be it! Fantastic!
on 21 June 2008
Screened in 1994, this 6 part comedy/drama from BBC Scotland is fondly remembered by everyone who watched it - and the cause of much puzzlement as to WHY it was never repeated or released on video....? Some reckon the soundtrack was to blame, and perhaps, with so many classic Beatles and Stones tracks that was part of the problem - but finaly, almost 15 years after it was first shown, "Taking Over the Asylum" is available on dvd.
Ken Stott (Messiah, Rebus) is Eddie, a none too successful double glazing salesman who lives for his stint as a DJ at a hospital radio station. When he is edged out for younger talent he is offered the chance to run the similar station at St Judes - a Mental Health Unit in Glasgow. Before long, Eddie's life is caught up with those of the patients and staff. He meets manic depressive Campbell (David Tennant - Casanova, Dr Who), schizophrenic electronics wizard and regular escapee Fergus, OCD sufferer Rosalie and self harming, fragile Francine.
As he learns the patients individual stories Eddie finds a whole new world he never new existed and, although his Lithuanian Grandmother, who lives with him, wants nothing more than him to settle down with "a nice girl", he finds himself drawn to damaged Francine.
The script and plots for this series are amazing. You will be laughing out loud and then screaming "no!" at the screen as hilarity turns to tragedy and back again. The cast bring to life the inmates and the schemes and dreams of manic Campbell begin to convince Eddie that a DJ-ing career cannot be far away......
Audio footage from writer Donna Franceschild, David Tennant and Katy Murphy (Francine) is available for 2 episodes and there is also a chance to see David's audition for the role of Campbell.
I cannot recommend this series too highly - I would award it 10 stars if I could. The realities of Mental Health provision are not glossed over and many points will leave the viewer wondering what more can be done for the most damaged members of society? I will finish this review with Campbell's constant battle cry from the wards of St Judes;- "We are Loonies - and we are PROUD!"
on 11 February 2009
I should apologise in advance that I am liable to waffle on about how good this is. I have been wanting to watch it for a long time, and equally reluctant to spend the best part of six hours sitting in front of youtube. To have it finally surface on DVD was too great a temptation!
I'll try to avoid spoilers, but any decent review of this will let a few things slip - you have been warned.
Many will come to this via the popularity of David Tennant, and indeed, to watch this is to wonder how it took so long for him to become a household name; but even then, his performance is simply one great performance among many. As ensemble casts go, this is one of the best, and I cannot pick out a weak link, even amongst those cast members who have no lines at all or who appear only in one episode.
Ken Stott in particular deserves a special mention for his portrayal of double glazing salesman and would-be pro dejay Eddie. His relationship with his dappy grandma (played with superb comic nous combined with believable characterisation by Elizabeth Spriggs) is very funny and very touching, affection and exasperation going hand in hand. His onscreen chemistry with both Murphy and, in a different way, Tennant, make those central relationships absolutely believable and touching. His portrayal of a man gradually falling to pieces is painfully real.
Katy Murphy - what can I say. Moments of extreme tenderness and vulnerability, punctured by her character's reluctance to own that vulnerability. There are moments where the expression in her eyes is enough to bring tears to mine. Tennant mentions in the commentary that she makes him cry: it's not hard to see why.
Tennant himself shows that even in his relatively tender early twenties he was already a force to be reckoned with. His audition footage is a nice bonus, and it is not hard to see why the director took a chance on a raw young talent to carry a good part of the story - he is absolutely fearless, and it shows. As Campbell Bain he has so much energy and so much at times unexpected pathos to make compelling viewing. Absolutely natural in the role of the young, talented manic-depressive, he pins all the stories together, and his ability to change mood or turn the feeling of a scene on a sixpence is already much in evidence.
I could go on, but will just briefly mention two other stand out performances before this review gets insanely long:
Softly spoken Angus MacFayden as Fergus will steal your heart and then promptly break it... If anyone can sit through his story without being touched, I have to doubt they have a feeling bone in their body. Excellent in big and small scenes, often portraying much with a simple, expressive look; an impressive comedy turn in places, too, with a very brief Jack Nicholson impression that is uncanny.
Ruth McCabe is similarly touching and funny in her portrayal of Rosalie, an ordinary housewife bar her OCD, an engaging and moving performance; the scene where she innocently reveals the cause of her problems to Campbell is one that will stay with me for a long time. She manages to make Rosalie funny, sad and sympathetic, without ever making her weak or an object of pity or derision.
I could go on; this is truly a fine cast, a fine script, and an altogether unmissable series. The extras are relatively scanty, as is often the case with pre-DVD productions, but the two episodes-worth of commentary and the Tennant audition tape are well worth their inclusion. One can only long for more, but there is more to enjoy and to appreciate here than in many more comprehensive discs. The DVD transfer doesn't have the clarity we expect these days, again unsurprising given its age, and the music tracks are mostly or all very fine cover versions, but only a grouch could complain when the emotion and raw story on screen are so thoroughly absorbing.
There are a few terribly eighties moments, but anything mawkish or sappy is contrasted immediately by tragedy and comedy, and the hair and clothes are more amusing than horrific. Any datedness is only in things that will prompt a wry smile, not a wince.
One to watch and watch again, and one to make you think: TV at its best.
Well, I'm SO pleased David Tennant achieved great fame as Dr Who, as undoubtedly it was THIS which caused the long overdue release of this wonderful 6 episode series to DVD. I was gripped by this when it was broadcast, due to the marriage of a wonderful script by Donna Franceschild, and a chock-full batch of brave and gritty performances. Franceschild had previously written for some of the small scale political theatre groups. She manages social content and a serious message whilst using all the tools of entertainment skilfully.
The young David Tennant is brilliant in a large, on the edge of going over the top but never doing so, performance of a young man with Bipolar disorder. The performances which really hung in my memory over the years though were Ken Stott's bruised, messy, alcoholic - in many ways less sane, outside the asylum, than some of the inside the asylum characters, particularly the wonderful Angus McFaddyen's schizophrenic Fergus (this is the second performance which stayed with me) - beautifully restrained, full of depth, breaks your heart - and then there is the wonderful Katy Murphy as lacerated, self-harming Francine. Ruth McCabe is beautifully low key as a woman with OCD and there's even a delicious performance by Elisabeth Spriggs, looking eerily like a fatter, older Meryl Streep as Stott's Lithuanian grandmother.
At the time, the series won a BAFTA for best series, and Franceschild an award for her wonderful script, so the release to DVD was well overdue!
Cracking drama, inventive, great soundtrack - it's set in a hospital radio studio, after all, sparkling humour, and break your heart painful emotions. Like life, there are winners and losers in the story lines, and there's little which would satisfy Hollywood in their endings, but they are RIGHT.
on 20 August 2009
'Takin' Over The Asylum' was something of a cult hit when it first appeared in the mid-90s, before winning a BAFTA and then disappearing from view. That it has seen release on DVD now is almost certainly due to the presence of man-of-the-moment David Tennant in an early TV role as manic depressive Campbell, a wannabe DJ and likeable extrovert. Tennant excels in this, and it's not hard to see how he later became one of Britain's most sought-after actors. But this isn't really his show, it's more the story of Eddie (Ken Stott), downtrodden double glazing salesman and hospital radio DJ who finds himself drawn into the surreal world of a Scottish psychiatric hospital, bringing music into the lives of the patients and generally becoming a thorn in the side of authority. The vast majority of the patients are hugely likeable characters, with more to offer than society seems to think, and all with skeletons in the closet that give them depth beyond most supporting players in dramas like this. Sensitive in its handling of difficult mental health issues, but also very funny at the same time, 'Takin' Over The Asylum' is essential viewing, and it's fantastic to see it on DVD at long last.
on 25 May 2009
To be honest I purchased this series of dvds due to the fact that David Tennant had a leading role. Being from the other side of the pond, I did not really know of his existence until the new Who. After seeing Tennant as the 10th reincarnation of the Doctor, I began seeking out other works he had done.
In order to view many Tennant works, I had to convert my dvd player to a multi-region player. It was worth the effort!
Takin' Over the Asylum invokes a wide range of emotions. You feel sadness due to the fact that in a metal institution people often view their situation as hopeless. Also, anger is present when it is our own society that stigmatizes people so that once labeled "loony", they can never be allowed to return to our "sane" society. Of course, there is joy when an individual actually succeeds and realizes his or her own potential.
I thoroughly enjoyed this series and was glad I made the effort to obtain it and view it. Takin' Over The Asylum definitely should be produced multi-region so more people can enjoy it! A true classic from the U.K. !!
on 4 August 2008
Brilliant,amazing. The script, the characters, the acting and the soundtrack all fabulous. Everyone will enjoy it
on 11 June 2008
This drama is first class. Franceschild has written realistic, likable characters, which are embodied by brilliant performances. A fine portrayal of mental health, and anyone who has been involved with hospital radio will smile at the outdated equipment and library.
The DVD presentation is a pleasant surprise, with the commentaries on two episodes from Tennant, Franceschild and Katy Murphy entertaining and informative. The copyright issue is solved by using the convincing sound-a-likes that were used for the international broadcast. Purists might wince at this, but realistically the cost of using the originals would have been prohibitive. It's much better to use these adequate versions than to not have this excellent series on DVD at all.
on 6 September 2008
A long overdue release for this excellent drama series. When it was first released, I was a fairly newly qualified mental health nurse working in one of the few wards left open in an old "asylum", very similar to the one portrayed here. All the characters in this series were familiar to my own expereinces, with none of the nonsense which often accompanies representations of people with mental illness. Rather, the line between "madness" and "sanity" is shown as blurred, with strengths and failings on the parts of both staff and patients. It would be unfair to pick out any cast member for particular praise, each excellent part contributes to the outstanding whole.
This series would be complimented by a DVD release of Sin Bin, a 1994 one off drama starring Pete Postlethwaite, also set in a psychiatric hospital which dealt very well with the issue of what can happen in total institutions.
on 23 April 2009
I have so enjoyed watching this series, why David did not get more big TV roles after this is a mystery to me. As with Hamlet, his hair deserved its own listing! Ken Stott provided an emotional and dramatic anchor but all the characters are beautifully played, you will have great sympathy with them in spite of their flaws. A story to show that even people with great difficulties can contribute to society and that teamwork can achieve a lot.