Archive for television

Brown Bread: Elisabeth Sladen

Posted in Culture, Obituaries with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Elisabeth Sladen has died of cancer aged 63.

This stark sentence is perhaps the saddest thing I’ve read this year. She was the reason many dads watched Doctor Who in the 1970s, and The Sarah Jane Adventures in more recent years.

As a 12-year-old boy, I suppose I had a crush on Elisabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane Smith in the TV series Doctor Who. My daughter loves The Sarah Jane Adventures. So Elisabeth Sladen’s a big part of my telly childhood and hers.

Oddly enough, the only other actor of whom I can say this is Tom Baker (my own favourite Doctor Who, who had a great rapport with his companion/sidekick/assistant Sarah Jane Smith – as he points out (read his tribute below), it helped that they both came from Liverpool); my children watch Little Britain and quote his random voiceovers for that show.

R.I.P. Elisabeth Sladen 1948-2011


Tom Baker’s personal tribute to Elisabeth Sladen

Richard Burton as Richard Wagner

Posted in Culture, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Even the more ardent admirers of his musical genius will concede that Richard Wagner, the man, was obnoxious – fascinating, perhaps, but almost relentlessly obnoxious.
(John J. O’Connor, New York Times)

Tony Palmer directed this epic TV mini series; Charles Wood wrote the screenplay. Vanessa Redgrave plays Cosima.

The scene that sticks in my mind is the one where Richard Burton leans over the concealed pit at Bayreuth, grins at the sweating musicians, and says, “Hello boys”.

Brown Bread: Tony Curtis

Posted in Culture, Obituaries with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Tony Curtis in “Sweet Smell of Success”

Tony Curtis: a true Hollywood star

I honestly can’t think of a bad Tony Curtis film, i.e. one I didn’t like.

The Persuaders now seems cheesy and kitsch, but I can remember it being an enormous success on ITV in the early 1970s – there had been nothing so racy from the British television stable up to then and it earned ATV vast sums in worldwide sales.

I remember reading an article in which Roger Moore and Tony Curtis said ruefully that the majority of their shooting was done on sets in London whilst a second unit did all the glamorous continental exteriors.

R.I.P. Tony Curtis (Bernard Schwartz), actor, born 3 June 1925; died 29 September 2010

Ray Winstone: “I used to be a raving lunatic”

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , on September 3, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Ray Winstone plays troubled hardmen with such conviction, it’s easy to believe he’s not acting. He talks to the splendidly named Decca Aitkenhead about his violent past, happy-go-lucky nature and love of westerns.

(Source: Guardian)

Hans Zimmer: Classical Composer?

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Someone asked me if the soundtrack to the film Gladiator could be regarded as classical music. Seriously. The conversation turned to the similarities between the battle scene and Mars from Gustav Holst’s Planets Suite. But he also asked if the zither/vocals and the charismatic droning of a woman’s voice in the closing titles was also derived from older music.

I have a CD entitled “Music of the Post-Byzantine High Society” by Christodoulos Halaris, and there appear to be some superficial similarities to the two works.

The music for Gladiator also features the extraordinary Jivan Gasparyan who is probably the greatest duduk player in the world, and there is an obvious nod to Armenian music.

To get back to the question: “classical music” is unfortunately a term applied so widely and loosely that it’s impossible to arrive at a consensus. For instance, some people would say it is music written in the idiom that predominated in Europe between about 1750 and 1828 (i.e. from the death of J.S. Bach to the death of Beethoven), while others seem to think that anything played by an orchestra including violins is “classical” , even if it’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. So, subjective taste influences the use of the term.

Music composed to accompany films and TV programmes is often written for orchestras similar to those used in 19th and 20th century symphonies, and the musical idiom used often incorporates features of the “classical” music that might have been used in the period in which the film’s story is set, e.g. the Napoleonic Wars or Edwardian England, such as Patrick Gowers’ music for the Granada TV “Sherlock Holmes” which emulates part of a romantic violin concerto.

But “part of” is an important consideration, I think. Film music rarely needs to be a convincing or extended structure, because it is usually heard for a minute or so and then faded out for dialogue. This, and the fact that it often deliberately imitates the music of a previous century, may explain why many people consider it in a separate category from what they call “classical music”.

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Brown Bread: Edward Woodward

Posted in Culture, Obituaries with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2009 by Robin Gosnall

Another of my heroes has gone. I suppose when one gets to my age, one must get used to this happening.

Strangely enough, I watched The Wicker Man yesterday.

Now I’ll have to watch Breaker Morant as well.

R.I.P. Edward Albert Arthur Woodward 1930-2009

Here are a few screen grabs from Robin Hardy’s 1973 film The Wicker Man, starring the late Edward Woodward.

Sergeant Howie - West Highland Police.

Are you the landlord here?

The Landlord's Daughter.

Broad beans in their natural state aren't usually turquoise are they?

You are despicable little liars.

Where does your minister live?

Have I made myself quite clear?

I suspect murder.

He brought you up to be a pagan!

I found that in Rowan Morrison's grave.

You're obstructing a police officer.

In the name of God, woman, what kind of mother are you?

Game? What game?

It is I who will live again, not your damned apples.

O God! O Jesus Christ!

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Katherine Jenkins: Bring Me To Life

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on October 20, 2009 by Robin Gosnall

“This album is definitely my most accessible, my most crossover, it’s still classical but it’s far more popular than anything I’ve ever done before,” Katherine Jenkins told Lorraine Kelly on GMTV.

Katherine Jenkins Day on The Eton Mess is now officially over.

“Save me from the nothing I’ve become.”

Opera singer Katherine Jenkins talks to Telegraph TV about her new album Believe

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on October 20, 2009 by Robin Gosnall

Brown Bread: Keith Floyd

Posted in Food, Obituaries with tags , , , , , on September 16, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


“I’ve not felt this well for ages.”

Sad news of the death of Keith Floyd. What a great character. All these celebrity TV chefs should be grateful to him for their current high profiles.

I loved the way he used to introduce each recipe as “another cooking sketch”.

I’ve just watched the Channel 4 documentary in which Keith Allen spent a weekend with Keith Floyd at his home in Provence – which was shortly to be taken from him in a divorce settlement. What strange synchronicity that it was shown the night of his death.

It is a fascinating film, Floyd is clearly not a well man, but his opinions and manner are as forthright as ever – the language is not for the faint-hearted, especially when venting his spleen on “celebrity chefs”.

It is also quite sad, Floyd being deeply moved by the arrival of the estranged daughter he hadn’t seen for ten years – a set-up by Floyd for the camera? Probably, in the hope that the presence of a TV crew would aid a reconciliation. Sad too, as Keith Floyd had aged so much since I last saw him. He said he sought solace in alcohol because he was often lonely. He was a great character and had a warmth and humanity about him despite the rough edges. He will be missed.

I hope Channel 4 will show Keith on Keith again, do try and watch it if you can.

The quote I’m left with is from the very beginning of the film, where Floyd says:

“I probably drink more red wine than I should, and smoke more than is good for me, but it’s my life and that’s the way I want it.”

The darker side of this attitude to life is pointed out in the Daily Telegraph obituary:

At its worst, his bon vivant style and turbulent relationships had seen him come to rely on whisky. With a bottle in the bedside table, “I felt I had to have a few large glasses before I could even get downstairs.”

R.I.P. Keith Floyd 1943-2009

What’s on the radio?

Posted in BBC Radio 3, Culture, Music with tags , , , , , on August 15, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


I believe BBC Radio 3 has lost sight of its purpose, which is to entertain the public, the BBC has become too concerned with its own self-importance.

The old BBC Third Programme (I am told) never was a music first channel, but an evenings-only channel dedicated to the arts, culture and the intellect. The predominance of music came with the daytime addition of the music programme in the 1960s.

The Reithian ideals of “educate and inform” are often recalled by critics of dumbing down, but in fact the BBC effectively abandoned them long ago in the interests of entertainment to win back TV audiences from ITV.

On television the result can be seen by comparing BBC2 today with what it was when David Attenborough was in charge. And on radio I think there’s been a similar shift away from subjects and values traditionally associated (rightly or wrongly) with white, middle-class male academics.

But towards what? There I think we encounter Radio 3’s identity problem. Unlike Radio 1, 2 and 4 it seems to lack a clear character and focus; it’s trying to please all of the people all of the time.

I have always thought the answer is to re-establish BBC Radio 3 as the channel of the intellect, and define its programmes in terms of how they serve that end.

The other point to make is that demographically the population is getting older, and (I’m guessing a little here) that will include a lot of radio listeners. It’s not so likely that those aged 16-24 (if there are any) form a large chunk of the (potential) listenership. Yet there seems to be this movement towards making BBC Radio 3 more accessible – but for whom? Of course it’s important not to be elitist or exclusive, but inclusiveness can sacrifice individuality. And without getting too dogmatic, if a programme (or a radio channel) is high quality and if it is unlike anything else it is more likely to attract new listeners. If it sounds like everything else, it won’t.

It’s a fair point that BBC Radio 3 would have to sabotage its programmes quite badly to turn people (and their radios) off, because its product is still highly distinctive and quality driven. Most of the complaints are about how they are pitched, the tone, the occasional trivialization, in case it becomes a more worrying trend.

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