It’s been a while, so let’s catch up on everything that was on Masterpiece for the past few months.
First, the bad. Chris Eccleston was about fifteen years too old to play John Lennon. (Yes, I’m being nice, he was about twenty years too old.) Halfway through this, my husband asked me why I was watching it, since I really dislike the Beatles. But I really like Eccleston! And I was waiting for it to get good.
Sadly, it never got better than horrible. I spent the majority of my viewing time counting Eccleston’s wrinkles and wishing that he’d spent a couple more seasons as the Doctor.
Then, the decent. Try as I may, I watch Wallander and somewhat enjoy it but it’s not something I particularly look forward to.
If you’ve never watched Wallander, it’s about this Swedish detective who (on a good day) has issues with and (on a bad day) is estranged from his daughter and father. When he’s not extremely disgruntled, he’s depressed. And to top it all off he drives a Volvo wagon.
I thought the second episode in the series, “The Man Who Smiled”, was quite good, but even I found it hard to put up with Wallander’s moodiness this time around.
I heard from a reader who took the first season of Lewis out of the library and wasn’t much enjoying it. (He said that he felt he wasn’t really feeling Oxford as a place; I think as the series goes on, the presence of Oxford becomes more prominent. Hang in there!)
I love Lewis, but I think it is perhaps due to the sheer animal magnetism of Kevin Whately. (Incidentally, I believe my weird attraction to nondescript middle-aged men is also why I think Bradley Walsh of Law & Order: UK is so cute. Tell me I’m not the only one who think it’s adorable when he pushes his glasses onto his forehead. And if you think my crush on Mike Germain is bad, at least you didn’t have to live through my Tom Hoover crush, which my husband still reminds me about.)
Anyway, Lewis was pretty good this season. The first episode, “Counter Culture Blues“, featured Joanna Lumley as a rock star making a comeback, and I thought it was great. The next episode had the ultra-dreamy Nathaniel Parker, but it wasn’t terribly wonderful. The last episode — about whether Dr. Hobson was a murderer — was the best of the lot.
[As an aside, Lewis and/or Philip Glenister fans should run out and borrow Island at War. At least two of the main actors in Island at War — Clare Holman and Laurence Fox — are in Lewis, and Glenister is, as always, playing the bad guy with a heart of gold.]
Lately, I’ve been on a Ray Winstone kick.
I’d taken Vincent out of the library to get a Glenister fix, but Winstone is the star of that, and was so good. Vincent is about a PI, but really it’s Ray Winstone playing a typically Ray-Winstone-y tough guy with an ex-wife whom he still loves and who does things he knows he shouldn’t do. After you run out and watch Island at War, do yourself a favor and watch Vincent.
So I’ve slowly been working my way through the Winstone canon.
I watched the Winstone Henry VIII. I can’t recommend this one. Winstone is not right for the role — he’s too short and too Cockney — and neither are most of the people in the cast. Sean Bean was the bright spot in this, and he was on screen for approximately five minutes. Clare Holman (Dr. Hobson in Lewis) played Catherine Parr, and she was quite good as well. Do yourself a favor and listen to Wolf Hall on audio instead.
My husband has been trying to convert me to Robin of Sherwood for years. My standard response was “Prince Michael of Moldavia can never be Robin Hood!” Which I think speaks more to my encyclopedic knowledge of 1980s nighttime soaps than anything else. (To be fair to my younger self, anyone who watched episode after episode of this might seriously question whether Michael Praed can act. Or whether I have any taste in television.)
Hey, guess what? Michael Praed can act, and he might even have a sense of humor!
The best thing about Robin of Sherwood is that after the first episode or two, I started thinking, “You know, I think Praed might be the best Robin Hood ever! And Judi Trott is Maid Marion! I’ve never seen a better Little John…” And pretty soon, I agreed with my husband.
Robin of Sherwood, with its British-TV-circa-1983-production-values, predilection for Saxon shamanism and nuns who are secretly Satan worshippers, and flaming arrows, is by far the best representation of Robin Hood ever. (To be sure, there are individual achievements that might best RoS — Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham comes to mind — but overall, it’s head and shoulders over everything else.)
The collateral damage of watching hours upon hours of Robin of Sherwood are not immediately evident when you first take the five DVD set into your hot little hands, though.
You need to realize that Clannad singing “Robin, Robin, the hooded man” is going to be in your head for a minimum of three weeks.
You will definitely think, “Hm, they could have just taken every script in this season of RoS, added a Tardis and a sonic screwdriver, and it could have worked for Doctor Who.”
And you’ll start wondering why the heck Michael Praed didn’t have a huge career. Really, he might have actually made a decent James Bond. (Then again, I’m someone who thought Timothy Dalton could’ve been great with the right scripts. Don’t trust my taste!) Couldn’t he have been hired for a few Masterpiece Theater period pieces? You’ll start wondering if a producer might have the foresight to bring him and Judi Trott to actually make a decent Robin and Marian…
In other words, watch Robin of Sherwood.