33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Singing Detective [DVD]  (DVD)
This is the greatest achievement of Dennis Potter's wildly uneven career. For every original masterpiece like Blue Remembered Hills or Brimstone and Treacle, there was a self-indulgent stinker like Blackeyes or Cold Lazarus. But there is only one Singing Detective. I watched all six-and-a-half hours in two days: it's magical and gripping.
Everything about this series just *sings*, from the towering performance by Michael Gambon, spitting with one breath and simpering with the next, to the production values which hold up remarkably well in a digital age (with the exception of the contemporary scenes outside the hospital, all big hair and red earrings, monochrome decor and 5-inch floppy disks - if you can remember those - but we can put those to one side and just think of it as a period piece within a period piece). But what holds it together is Dennis Potter's zinging way with words and images, which can mix clever Kubrickian cut-shots (Marlow the singing detective waving to his audience / Jim Carter as Philip's dad waving his train away silently, in the saddest scene in the whole series - which also shows that Potter knew when to drop the words) and the ability to make a two-minute word-association game knuckle-whiteningly gripping.
The themes and elements are ripe and raw - sex and spies, goons and whores, suicide and adultery - but it's rarely explicit (as the content rating on the box shows: "Sex/Nudity: Infrequent, mild": sorry, guys). This makes it all the more astonishing that the show should have been greeted in 1986 not only as anything other than a transforming masterpiece, but as a piece of filth by 'Dirty Den,' as campaigners and newspapers had it. (The DVD includes extracts from Points of View giving these barbarians the permanent shame they deserve.) One can only presume, sadly, that they just lashed out at what they didn't understand, because it's complex stuff all right, with three or possibly four worlds running in parallel and occasionally interacting, particularly when the contemporary characters start saying things on cue from Marlow, and his fictional characters enter the real world...
In an age when we are asked to celebrate the anodyne and remember with delight and irony the formerly awful, it's a joy to be able to see something that truly stands up and lives up to its reputation almost 20 years on - and indeed, because of the lack of serious competition now, towers higher than ever before. Probably the finest drama series ever made.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Feb 2012 16:41:05 GMT
Excellent review. It is certainly one of the best TV dramas ever made and, sadly, one which would never be made today, in 2012's world of televised anodyne pap.
Posted on 5 Feb 2012 16:41:27 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 5 Feb 2012 16:41:42 GMT]
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