Category Archives: brit-com

Bedazzled 1967

Bedazzled ~ This Faustian tale from 1967 features the comedy duo of Dudley Moore and Peter Cook, at the time very popular on British television and film. They also wrote this film. Bedazzled was their only starring performance in a movie, although they do appear in and steal a number of other films, Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies springs to mind immediately.

Cook is the real star here as The Devil tempting Moore and doing dastardly deeds throughout the film. Quite often it’s difficult to pay attention to the dialogue and plot watching and laughing at the deviltry of Cook done in the background. Moore plays Stanley Moon (an alias he would use in his own life for years afterward), a mild mannered short order cook who sells his soul for seven wishes all designed to garner the affections of a waitress he adores. Each wish is given a separate skit like vignette.

The real fun however is the verbal swordplay between Cook and Moore, and the skewering humor aimed at organized religion. One wonders how they got away with it back in the day. Raquel Welch is also fun as Lust. She is barely in the film, but as you can see by the advertising, they took full advantage of her appearance, and her popularity at the time.

It should be noted that even though it shares a title and a plot with its reputed remake in 2000 starring Brendan Fraiser and Elizabeth Hurley, it is a completely different kind of movie. So different that comparison is pointless, they are both terrific in their own way.

This Bedazzled is a wonderful time capsule of its irreverent generation in the late 1960s, and great fun. Recommended.

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Episodes

I absolutely love this new series from Showtime. The Bride and I are big Anglophiles and we love British television. We are frequently disappointed however when American television networks try to adapt a much loved British program for those apparently dumbed down American audiences. One prime example comes to mind – “Red Dwarf” and “Homeboys in Outer Space.” It is still truly the stuff of nightmares. And let’s not even mention the Fox telemovie version of Doctor Who, canon or not.

“Episodes” is a series about exactly that – Americans ruining British television. The best part is that it’s actually a BBC program. Writers Bev and Sean, played expertly by Stephen Mangan and the wonderful Tamsin Grieg (from one of my fave Britcoms, “Black Books”), are the creators of a successful series purchased by a American network executive who’s never seen it.

Task one, they recast it. In the title role of the elderly schoolmaster, they place Matt LeBlanc, having far too much fun playing a parody of himself, and reset him as a hockey coach. They additionally change the title of the show to “Pucks,” even though it originally had nothing to do with hockey. And that’s just the beginning. I’m loving this, check it out.

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Misfits

Here in the States, the concept of the super powered drama has been tried, it just hasn’t really caught on. “Heroes” has come and gone, with a downward spiral from success to epic fail. Sure, we’ve had “Smallville,” and “No Ordinary Family” is trying, and “The Cape” is coming, but it just hasn’t really clicked yet. Across the pond in the UK it’s not only been done well, it’s been source material for more than a few successful series. They’ve had sitcoms like “My Hero” and “No Heroics” and more recently they’ve gone for young, hot and steamy with “Misfits.”

Channeling the sexuality of “Torchwood” into young probates is the twist here – add in some pseudo retro punk music and a super-power-empowering thunderstorm and you have “Misfits.” Lady Sovereign wannabe Kelly, when you can understand her cockney accent, becomes a telepath, athlete Curtis can turn back time, hot Alisha makes people crazed with sexual desire for her with a touch, shy outcast Simon turns invisible, and smartass Nathan – well, that would be telling – his power or lack of power is one of the big secrets of the first season.

The youths have depth, are realistic, and the cast is top rate. I’d enjoy them even if this wasn’t a genre show. Series one follows them as they uncover others affected by the storm and also end up killing their probation officer. Even though it sounds a bit like meteor-freak-of-the-week from “Smallville,” it never really gets that obvious. “Misfits” is fun, and thrilling, and not like anything we have here in the States. If you get a chance to see it, definitely check it out.

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Doctor Who: The Lodger

“The Lodger” begins with the Doctor kicked from the TARDIS, a machine that has proven in the past to be as temperamental as an agitated lover. I have to wonder at this point in the series, with only two episodes to go, if perhaps the TARDIS is being controlled by outside forces.

Next we tumble into what seems to be a completely unrelated sedate drama about a platonic couple – the man of which cannot verbalize his feelings for the woman – and a troublesome upstairs renter. It has a certain British sitcom vibe to it, but the situation could easily be “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Three’s Company,” Duplex or Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger. But this is “Doctor Who,” so you know there’s got to be more to it.

So the Doctor finds himself stranded with the TARDIS having ejected him and finds himself drawn into the above Britcom. Much like David Tennant did in the “Human Nature” two-parter, Matt Smith tries to blend in as both a human and a renter in the house, thinking that the upstairs tenant has something to do with what went wrong with the TARDIS. So the Doctor has some human misadventures, notably being wet, naked and in a towel (!) – has anyone else noticed how often he gets wet? And he also plays football (soccer for us Yanks). It’s a lot of fun until you take into account this aired the same day as the US/UK round of the World Cup – then it seems a bit forced.

While this is going on Amy is trying to get control of the TARDIS. She’s pushing and pulling controls left and right and taking the turbulent ride of her life while the blue Police Box is out of flux. In all the confusion I couldn’t help but wonder when she would stumble across Rory’s engagement ring.

And then things get bad. It all comes out all right though, for the moment. The universe is saved again, this time with a head butt and a kiss. There is of course still a question of where this second TARDIS came from. Only a Time Lord can build a TARDIS. Could it be the Rani? Or maybe the Doctor’s other personality the Dream Lord? No time to think about it, because then things get worse.

“The Lodger” was written by Gareth Roberts who has a long peripheral history with Doctor Who, having penned many novels in the New Adventures and Lost Adventures series of books as well as several of the audio dramas featuring the Doctor. He’s also written a few episodes of the series, some with Russell T. Davies and some alone. “The Lodger” also features a couple of previous Doctor cameos, and a bizarre and quite honestly hysterical new power for the Time Lord. Fun. Roberts turns in an interesting if oddball and madcap assignment here.

So until next time, remember… “Bowties are cool.”

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Wendy Richard Passes

While most American audiences will recognize her much younger in her role as Miss Brahms in the popular PBS Brit-com “Are You Being Served?” she will always be Pauline Fowler to me. Wendy Richard passed away this morning after a long battle with bone cancer.

The “EastEnders” matriarch ruled on the soap for over twenty-one years, and was also featured in a few of the “Carry On” films. She won an MBE for television in 2000 and will be sorely missed by many all over the world. Albert Square is just a bit more sad and empty tonight.

Here she is in all her glory, fighting the good fight with Peggy Mitchell, as played by Barbara Windsor, also a “Carry On” veteran. Go get ‘er, Pauline!