The West Wing cast

It’s fascinating to trawl through the full cast list of The West Wing—a list of hundreds of actors who had at least one line – or at least a recognisable gesture.

Inter alia: Milo O’Shea, b. 1926.  His last screen role was in this, as Chief Justice Roy Ashland. He nearly dies, fictionally, aged in his 80s, in his second ep., in 2004 (when actually 78). And then really did die (in his actual 80s) in 2013.

He was Leopold Bloom in the 1967 Joseph Strick film of Ulysses – which means he will live ‘forever’ – as long as does human culture.

Closer to (my) home, he was also Inspector Bott in Theatre of Blood – the film on which my cousin Coral Browne met her second husband, Vincent Price, of whom you may have heard.

Also in the list: James Brolin, who played Governor Robert Ritchie in 2002. He has apparently been married to Barbra Streisand since 1998. I just watched his performance in Westworld (1973) – all blowwaved hair. Michael Crichton wrote and directed this – which means the ideas are intriguing – but not that it’s a good film.

Another is Armin Mueller-Stahl, who plays the Israeli ambassador – with an unmistakeable German accent. He was David Helfgott’s martinet father in Shine – the film that won an Oscar for the currently ‘disgraced’ Geoffrey Rush.

ABC bad taste

I’ve been remonstrating about this for years without anyone even expressing likemindedness, let alone doing something about it.  But here I go again.

It’s about ABCTV.  I only watch one or two programs on broadcast a week, so I don’t know if this crassness is present everywhere. What I can tell you is that when the show I’ve been watching has barely finished – the last words of dialogue have only just been said, and the end music and credits have only just started to roll – when this otherwise-unemployable actor’s voice comes on – quite a lot louder than program, and therefore in-your-face/ear – and not only makes a comment in a few very loud and clear words about what you have just watched, but also tells you what you will watch next time, and also what the next show is.

What this tells us is that the ABC thinks that we are completely insensitive, we have no need to process what we have just seen (which in some cases is actually art), and that we desperately need to be told not to switch off, and to keep watching the next show, and to stay around for the following program. And that’s all that matters: that we keep ingesting whatever is broadcast, whenever.

The result – for anyone with any sensitivity whatsoever – is that we simply don’t watch the ABC at all.  If we want to view the programs being broadcast, we obtain them by some other means.

Not only that, but we no longer support the ABC politically. Because if it’s that vulgar, it’s not worth supporting.

I am told that the otherwise-unemployable actor’s name is Adrian Mulraney. I am trying not to hold it against him personally, but I hope I never meet him and have to try to be polite to him.

Amanda Redman’s left arm

Just before starting to watch the last episode of The Good Karma Hospital, I was starting to develop the idea of using Amanda Redman’s left arm as a metaphor for … just about everything about The Meaning of Life. Only to find that the scriptwriters had the same idea. And they used it.

Detectives and their companions

I watch a lot of detective shows on TV. And I’ve being considering the relationships between the principal detective and her or his offsider.

There are detectives who manage to fill the screen with enough panache or gravitas not to need a companion: Poirot and Miss Marple come to mind. But the sleuth usually needs someone to explain things to (Dr Watson) or be assisted (Joe/Aiden, in Vera) or thwarted by (Valentine/Sullivan/Mallory, in Father Brown).

If the principal detective is not a professional (Fr Brown) the companion may be a policeman, in which case he (the cop) will see the amateur as an impediment and/or a competitor.

DI Geordie Keating (Robson Green) and Rev. Sidney Chambers (James Norton) on Clare College bridge

Said ‘companion’ will, however, always come round to seeing the strengths of the detective. In the last episode of Grantchester with James Norton as the vicar Sidney Chambers, his adversary in the force, Geordie Keating, is just about crying into his beer when Norton was leaving the show.

If it’s a policeperson who is the main character, the companion is never (?) a layman, but always another officer, whose function is therefore to admire the deducer, and sometimes care for her (Vera) or him (Poole/Goodman/Mooney, in Death and Paradise; Jimmy Perez in Shetland).

Anne-Marie Medcalf adds another, different kind of analysis:

I think the detective couples are a version of mythical dyads. Myths of origin dyads could be siblings of whatever mix, spouses, parent and child. They are usually immortal and live in some kind of beatitude. They are complementary and often represent two different faces of humanity. The wise and the happy-go-lucky for instance. Then one of them does something stupid – say, eat an apple, or break the jug containing the water of immortality. They are no longer immortal as individuals but thanks to all that going forth and multiplying, humanity keeps on going, becomes immortal itself … well until further notice anyway.
The police series dyads are often made up of complementary and opposite characters. They are not family but their relations reproduce family ties -mentor/father and disciple/son or daughter, for instance. Or brothers – I think the relation between Chambers and Geordie is a sibling one, Geordie being the older one. Their relations are complementary: the wise and the quirky, the aristocrat/ middle class  and the working class, the intellectual and the doer. In the series Inspector Morse, Morse is an upperclass Oxbridge man, fond of fast cars, crosswords and poetry. His methods are offbeat.  His offshoot /son/ disciple, Lewis, is working class and the epitome of the plod, with a systematic, no-stone-unturned approach. Poetry is not in his blood. The Inspector Morse series is replaced by Lewis. Lewis has his own offshoot, Sergeant Hathaway, an ex-seminarist Cambridge graduate, hyper-erudite and a misfit. Lewis is now the father; together they perform miracles. In the later series, Lewis is now retired, Hathaway’s sergeant is a no-nonsense young woman. And the beat goes on. They all complement and contradict each other. They never succeed in establishing a haven of peace and order, but they insure in some ways the continuation of society within their beat.

Sherlock 4:1

There are some things I really hate about the way the ABC sends out its programs.

I particularly dislike the fact that that voiceover guy they have employed for years comes on immediately after the story has finished – while the atmospheric music is playing over the credits – with details about what’s going to happen in the next episode.

And his volume level is noticeably higher than that of the program – implying that it’s at least as if not more important.

There are at least two things about that that are reprehensible. One is that there’s no opportunity to take the thirty seconds of the credits rolling time to process the emotionality that’s been generated by the show.

Which implies in turn that what we’ve just experienced is not art but just trivial amusement. Switch it on, switch it off. It’s of no consequence.

It’s been making me angry literally for years, but I haven’t found a way of telling the ABC what I think … not that they would change a practice that’s been in place for a decade or whatever.

… I didn’t completely enjoy the first episode of series 4 of Sherlock, because I thought the performance of the actress playing Mary, Watson’s wife, was totally inadequate. She wasn’t remotely believable as the character she was playing. Which reduced the whole show to just that – a show – instead of the work of TV art that some of the Sherlock episodes are.

For once it wasn’t the writer’s fault. Or the director’s. It was down to casting director, maybe, but anyway the actress – who was merely suburban and lower middle-class – with an estuary accent – could not possibly have been the character she’s supposed to have been. Very disappointing.