Category Archives: TV

1983 ➤ Who’d be a spy while the 80s were swinging?

Deutschland89, TV, spy drama, East Germany,

Jonas Ney as superspy Martin: going rogue across rival intelligence services

❚ WHAT A ROLLERCOASTER! Just finished all three hit series of Deutschland83/86/89 on Channel4 catchup, an eye-opening panorama of Cold War life during the 1980s, notably in East Germany, the GDR. There, almost every member of your family had been pressed into spying on everyone else by the Stasi and hence at arm’s length by the Russian KGB. In the newly aired series three, the Fall of the Wall and the terrifying prospect of “freedom” becomes almost laughable, were people’s reflexes not so grim as the red peril turns in on itself.

➢ Catch up on Deutschland 83, the irresistible German thriller series set during the 1980s Cold War. Young East German guard Martin Rauch is inveigled into spying

➢ Guardian TV review, 2021 – Western hubris is unpicked as a new series of the hit German drama explores the deeper consequences of the fall of the Berlin Wall

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2021 ➢ Famous last words from Frau Blücher and Nurse Diesel

Cloris Leachman, Mel Brooks, Nurse Diesel, Young Frankenstein, comedy, films,

Cloris Leachman as Young Frankenstein’s housekeeper: Frau Blücher’s name itself struck a note of terror

❚ EVERY MEL BROOKS FAN knows the face of Cloris Leachman from her outrageous characters, the Transylvanian housekeeper Frau Blücher and dominatrix nurse Charlotte Diesel, so vividly associated with the director’s wild film parodies Young Frankenstein and High Anxiety in the mid-Seventies. Mere mention of stern Frau Blücher’s name caused whinnying horses to rear in fear, and only slowly does Dr “Fronkensteen” Junior work out who she is. “So you and Victor were. . . ?” he asks. “Yes, yes,” she replies. “He vas my… boyfriend.” Later in the Hitchcockian spoof set in an Institute for the Very, Very Nervous, the demented psycho who pronounced her name “Nursh Deezhel” did finally admit: “Perhaps I’ve been a bit too harsh.”

“Cloris’s genius is that she never plays comedy for laughs. She’s deadly serious” – director Mel Brooks

Leachman the actress died this week aged 94 and her dazzling career also embraced an Oscar-winning supporting role in Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show, numerous TV residencies from Lassie and The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-off Phyllis to The Beverly Hillbillies, plus cameos in so many TV hits that between 1972 and 2011 she was nominated for 22 Primetime Emmys and won eight. Her twilight years saw her portraying off-beat grandmothers in television and film and competing with celebrities less than half her age on Dancing With the Stars.

Cloris Leachman, Mel Brooks, Nurse Diesel, High Anxiety, comedy, films,

Cloris Leachman as the very strict Nurse Diesel in High Anxiety: viewed with Hitchcockian inspiration from beneath a glass coffee table

➢ The Last Picture Show made Leachman a star – Robert Berkvist in the New York Times: “But she may be best remembered for drawing laughs on Mary Tyler Moore, Phyllis and Malcolm in the Middle.”

➢ Star of film and TV who relished the roles of grandmas and grotesques – Ronald Bergan in The Guardian: “She played Mary Tyler Moore’s manipulative landlady Phyllis Lindstrom for which she was best known.”

➢ Winning the Oscar seemed to liberate Cloris Leachman – Obituary in The Times: “I’m at a point where I’m free to go out and have a little fun with my career,” she said in her acceptance speech.

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➤ It’s A Sin reviewed: “Supporting the sadness there is an abundance of humour”

It’s A Sin, Lydia West, TV drama, gay issues, youth culture, Channel4, Olly Alexander

Good times in the Eighties: Olly Alexander fronts the It’s A Sin gang. (Channel 4)

As It’s a Sin is premiered on Channel 4 amid great expectations, Eighties singer Andy Polaris reviews the exuberant five-part TV series. Here’s an extract…

“ ❚ The much-feted writer Russell T Davies broke barriers with the pioneering British TV series Queer As Folk in 1999 and more recently with Cucumber, both lively depictions of gay life in contemporary Britain. Now comes It’s A Sin which focuses on a diverse group of gay friends mostly escaping from the familiar claustrophobia of suburban life (mostly closeted) and attracted to that well-trodden lure of big-city life. We are off to see the wizard, but this time we’re thrown back to 1981, the year of the first recorded British death from Aids at Brompton Hospital in London.

Ritchie (popstar Olly Alexander) is a gauche, attractive, closeted twink leaving home to study law in London, and his send-off from the Isle of Wight is a multi-pack of condoms from his bigoted dad (Shaun Dooley) as they both stress “It’s different on the mainland”. Roscoe (Omari Douglas) is a flamboyant young Nigerian whose strict religious parents are so fraught over his sexual orientation that he bolts defiantly before an intervention. Colin (Callum Scott Howells) leaves the Welsh valleys to lodge with a family and start his apprenticeship with a Savile Row tailor.

It’s A Sin, Lydia West, TV drama, gay issues, youth culture, Channel4,

It’s A Sin: Lydia West as Jill emerges as the anchor for her hedonistic friends. (Channel 4)

Soon the group become fast friends with Ash (Nathaniel Curtis) becoming Ritchie’s first lover. We follow the group with Ritchie as lynchpin while his horizons broaden along with the thriving bar scene. Casual sex becomes addictive and flashes past in a blaze of encounters against a soundtrack of the hideous but popular Hooked on Classics.

A scene where Ritchie’s pals party at Heaven, the biggest, brand new gay club, was a baptism by sexual freedom for gay men in a pre-internet landscape including myself and friends. (My group Animal Nightlife played early concerts there along with Culture Club, Spandau Ballet and Musical Youth). The scene was blossoming through a whole network of bars and clubs. Safe sex had not yet been advocated, neither had the government’s “Don’t Die of Ignorance” leaflet campaign. It seemed to be abstain or die. Aids awareness was bad for business. As the Eighties proceed in the TV drama each gay character has to deal with the possibility of an early and lonely death if the dreaded health-test proved positive… / Continued at Apolarisview

➢ Read Andy’s full review – It’s A Sin: Pitch-perfect drama about the worst of times

➢ Catch up on the whole series of It’s A Sin online at All 4

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: More background discussion about the making of It’s A Sin

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2021 ➤ Olly Alexander fronts new C4 drama series exploring Aids in the Eighties

TV drama, gay issues, youth culture, It’s A Sin, Channel4, Olly Alexander

Gay activist as Aids casts its shadow: Olly Alexander as Ritchie in It’s A Sin

GAY TIMES has teamed up with Channel 4 for a series of video conversations between cast members from tonight’s new series It’s A Sin and artists and activists who lived through the decade, offering social and political context to the themes explored in this LGBTQ+ drama from Russell T Davies. . .

Gay Times, Omari Douglas, Andy Polaris, video, It's A Sin,

Comparing notes: Omari Douglas and Andy Polaris in conversation for Gay Times

❏ “People forget how homophobic and racist it was in the 80s. People would actually say to you bluntly ‘You’re going to die of Aids – this is going to happen to you.” So says Andy Polaris – Eighties pop-singer with Animal Nightlife – to Omari Douglas, star of It’s A Sin. Omari plays a character called Roscoe who is forced to leave home when he’s 17 and his family finds out he is gay. The character quickly finds his tribe and a new group of friends who support each other during the decade that revealed the horrors of a new deadly virus.
➢ Click to watch Omari and Andy’s conversation at Gay Times

TV drama, gay issues, youth culture, It’s A Sin, Channel4, Olly Alexander

Hedonism in Heaven: Olly Alexander on the dancefloor in It’s A Sin

Russell T Davies has given us iconic television shows such as Queer As Folk, Years & Years, Banana, Cucumber, A Very English Scandal, and more. Set during the 80s, his new queer drama It’s A Sin has a soundtrack (guided inevitably by Murray Gold) that evokes the youth, vibrancy and gay sensibility of the era – big electronic anthems that have stood the test of time and changed the musical landscape.

Asked for an iconic tune that he loved, singer-actor Olly Alexander chose for his ambitious and complex character who leads the show Hungry Like The Wolf by Duran Duran. Omari chose Respectable by Mel and Kim, saying: “I just went through a phase of being completely obsessed with them.”

It’s A Sin starts today 22 January at 9pm on Channel 4, with all episodes available immediately after on All 4.

TRAILER PLUS DISCUSSION


❏ At YouTube, the BFI organised a 40-minute panel discussion on It’s A Sin, hosted by comedian Matt Lucas with guests Russell T Davies, exec producer Nicola Shindler, director Peter Hoar, Channel 4 head of drama Caroline Hollick, and from the cast Olly Alexander, Keeley Hawes, Omari Douglas, Callum Scott Howells, Lydia West and Nathaniel Curtis. The trailer for the series precedes the discussion.

➢ AnotherMag airs the vital role today of It’s A Sin with its creator Russell T Davies who declares: “Cast gay as gay – you not only get authenticity; you get revenge”

A HIT WITH REVIEWERS

TV drama, gay issues, youth culture, It’s A Sin, Channel4, Omari Douglas

It’s A Sin: Omari Douglas assumes the role of entertainer

➢ Aids drama is a poignant masterpiece – Lucy Mangan in The Guardian: “Humour and humanity are at the heart of this sublime series about London’s gay community in the 1980s, from the creator of Queer as Folk.”

➢ Aids drama is a reminder to find joy in the scariest times – Ed Cumming in the Independent: “For anyone who’s been through the agony of coming out, especially to a hostile family, or who lost loved ones to Aids, this series will be especially moving.”

➢ Living young, free and under the shadow of Aids in the 1980s – Hugo Rifkind in The Times: “Russell T Davies is a thousand miles away from, say, Hugo Blick or David Hare with their darkness and portentous heft. And yet I’m pretty sure he’s a far more important dramatist than either of them.”

➢ A dance in the face of death – Euan Ferguson in The Observer: “Russell T Davies depicts with wisdom how so many, shunned and ‘othered’ for most of their lives, might have chosen to adopt a defiant mood towards yet another orthodoxy, that of scientific reason.”

➢ Aids-crisis drama will break your heart and fill you with joy – Anita Singh in The Telegraph: “Russell T Davies’s best series so far.”

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1980 ➤ Life on Mars as you’ve never heard Bowie before!

40
YEARS
ON

Just watch this long-lost footage from the Johnny Carson show. Bowie utterly sensational on both tracks, the second being Ashes to Ashes. But this powerful version of Life on Mars has to be yet *another* definitive one!!!

➢ Posted at YouTube by Nacho Video:
Here’s my new clean-up of the classic David Bowie 1980 performance on The Tonight Show – recorded at NBC Studios in Burbank, Los Angeles on September 3rd 1980. It was broadcast forty years ago on the 5th of September 1980.

Performing with Bowie on the Tonight Show was a one-off band. Bowie’s regular musical right-hand man, Carlos Alomar was leading the band of young up and coming musicians, who were playing with Bowie for the first, and as it turned out, the only time.

The Tonight Show performance is unique in other ways. It was Bowie’s only live appearance of 1980, and the only time any Scary Monsters material was performed live, in its day. And the Tonight Show was one of only two live appearances he made (the other SNL, 1979) in the five-year period between the ISOLAR II 1978 tour and the Serious Moonlight tour in 1983.

The Tonight Show performance is great! Bowie is in fine voice and the band are full of spirit. I love Bowie and Alomar’s big smiles, as it becomes clear that the performance is a success. For me, this performance has always been frustratingly good, because it is a tantalizing glimpse of what a Scary Monsters tour could have been like. . . / Continued at Nacho Video/Youtube

David Bowie, Tonight Show, live TV, 1980, pop music

Unique live lineup for The Tonight Show, 1980: Bowie sings Life on Mars in James Dean rebel mode with Carlos Alomar on guitar at left


➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1980, Why Bowie came recruiting Blitz Kids
for his Ashes to Ashes video

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