Showing posts with label BBC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BBC. Show all posts

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


1 February 1946 – 19 April 2011
   I sincerely doubt that there is a single soul amongst the Doctor Who fandom that did not like Elisabeth Sladen, even to varying degrees, nor is there one who is not at least disappointed that she is gone so suddenly, in the midst of a renewed career and popularity, no less. No wonder she was brought back so often in the revived series and made the headliner of her own show; she made rapport look simple and easy. It must be said, the cancer has so much to answer for

   I think it was that simple-yet-complex, intrinsic quality of hers that made her more or less the most popular of the series' "classic" companions; her character Sarah Jane Smith partnered the John Pertwee and Tom Baker incarnations of the Doctor and along with her brief appearances alongside the Patrick Troughton and Peter Davison versions, her enduring appeal - an appealing merger of sass, intuition, enthusiasm, chemistry and independence - ensured an iconic standard was made. Her first guest appearance alongside David Tennant's Doctor in 2006 could have been done by few other previous Who companions, really - when one has lived down an increasingly absurd selection of clear practical jokes played by the BBC's 1970s wardrobe department  (who wants to look back on their (at the time) final appearance and note how Andy Pandy-like their outfit is?) and remained a fandom star, then there's no doubting the welcome impact of a brief reprise

   Sladen was in the midst of capturing a new audience of once and future Whofen with as the headliner of spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures, where her ability to sync with any and all co-stars remained appreciable; she was reunited with fellow 1970s Who staple Nicholas Courtney (whose aborted Mode Parade posthumous tribute this past February would have been entitled "Five Rounds Rapid", probably. Sorry, Brigadier) and most memorably performed alongside the current - and for my money, most enjoyable modern - Doctor, Matt Smith, and her predecessor as Pertwee's girl, Katy Manning, late last year. She also made her ongoing teamup with her much younger co-stars, Tommy Knight, Yasmin Page, Daniel Langer and Anjli Mohindra, seem like the most natural companions a middle aged weird happenings fighter should want to surround herself with

   To quote your sadly (and ironically) apposite final story's title, "Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith." I should think it's going to be very hard to forget you now

Friday, 11 March 2011


   Whilst the font is on the uninspiring side and the CGI glow that adorns our tweed-clad hero is rather unappealing - even if it is in reference to his alien nature and upcoming Roswell adventure - this is reasonably effective in drawing attention to the imminence of Doctor Who's sixth season

   My semi-regular readers probably dreaded some sort of recap of last year's successes, since they are really here to see some dork with a baby Afro attempt to to adorn himself in style and present himself as "witty" to the 39 people foolhardy enough to follow him. And of course, there are dedicated Who blogs and columns; no one really requires an analysis of the show written in the most grandiloquent style possible

   So, here is all that needs to be known - it is the wittiest, frothiest and gosh darn best adventure series going, starring a Brummie with a long nose, the prettiest willowy redhead this side of Lily Cole and a very talented fellow with a funny face who may have finally upgraded to self tying bow ties and can hold his own in performance with the likes of Michael Gambon. And to top it off, they will be promoting the almighty Stetson:

   April 23rd cannot come soon enough

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Plum Ken

Image by SAO! via I Lost I Found
   Prior to recent time spent with The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan (edited by John Lahr), I knew precisely four things about this inspiration: that he was a slightly louche but defiantly stylish dandy; that he was an outspoken critic of some legendary standing; that he'd a fine line in sadomasochism - hardly unusual in an Oxford man, I know - and that he was the first person to "F-Bomb" the BBC, albeit by way of a stammer. It probably - in an aural manner of speaking - resembled this modern internet icon of desolate, frustrated displeasure:

   Oh, and the title Oh! Calcutta! seemed to resonate a great deal, for some reason. School plays, maybe

   I cannot easily resist the outspoken, so it's an utter pleasure to read of the lacerating effect Tynan's words could inflict on all and sundry. I suspect that those who called for him to be hanged after his 1965 expletive spree on the BBC were probably comprised of fellow masochists seeking a thrill they could experience in public (so naturally, these complainants included Members of Parliament) and their better known counterparts, Daily Mail readers. And with unknowing and perfect irony, Mary Whitehouse informed the Queen in a letter that she felt Tynan deserved nothing less than a punitive spanking; he must have rung her number for days

   Outspokenness and daring were two of his most immediate characteristics - these facets certainly spurred a number of things in his life, from his positioning as a high priest of filmic and theatrical criticism to his battles against censorship, his taste in plum coloured suiting, a yen for spanking and caning his sexual partners, and his staging of a nude revue. Ironically, despite his long pursuit and achievement of public note, he felt that he had created a less diverse body of work than one with his passion for the worlds created on the stage and in the studio ought to; his notoriety was achieved by his opting to be more of an onlooker than a participant. I  realise that he is not as well remembered as he could be - for a myriad of factors, I'm sure - but I nevertheless think he denigrated himself a little too finely on this point - the critical world of his day gained much from his way of thinking, his almost overly keen awareness of cultural movements and his archly beautiful prose, all of which saturated his writing

   Because this is Mode Parade, I will point out that these behaviours seemed to inform his dressing. One would be maybe a little surprised to learn that not all men named Peacock live up to the sobriquet, but even if they did, I doubt many could strut with Tynan's determined pleasure in his own individuality. The Tynan of the 1940s and '50s shows something of the studied languor of the Bright Young Things he shared an alma mater with and his tastes were rooted in simple, clean tailoring, give or take an extravagant waistcoat or a gold coloured shirt. But come the Peacock Revolution and the 1970s, his wardrobe juxtaposed a classicist's awareness of his age - the sober cardigans in which he relaxed and the stately fur coat I'd like for myself - with his natural flamboyance, boasting a resplendent collection of op art-like print shirts that he was able to blend with wide neckties and suits of off white and dove grey cloth in a way only gifted individuals and master stylists are wired to do. There's a reason that such looks - when done well - are described as fun; it's a game of achieving harmony and balance, and should be approached as such. And I've always believed that such success takes a particular physical and mental refinement, which is possibly why Corin Redgrave's Tynan look has the edge on that of Rob Brydon when they played the critic in separate productions over the past decade

   I think my favourite impulse of his is the daring, but mainly for puerile reasons, I admit. Such a ribald, filthy-minded adventurer, really; not just the smacking of girls' bottoms, but the very public reading of the Spanking Times on train journeys and the bloody comedy of errors that was his experience of consuming vodka rectally, having read a recommendation of it in Alan Watts's autobiography. I suspect that Tynan's biggest mistake was going out for an Indian right before having the enema tube inserted

   For all of that he was a dysfunctional scamp, he was also a magnetic personality with a laudable mastery of the language and what I admire about him the most is rather simple - he was the consummate individual and nothing if not self-aware. And so, I end this in my customary manner: a round of photographs and a final word from the subject himself. That's one to grow on

All of the preceding: Tynan and his second wife Kathleen during the 1970s, seen in the last with Roman Polanski

Rob Brydon and Catherine McCormack as Kenneth and Kathleen Tynan in the BBC production, Kenneth Tynan: In Praise of Hardcore

Corin Redgrave in the Royal Shakespeare Company's one man show Tynan, adapted for the stage from Lahr's book of the diaries by Richard Nelson with Colin Chambers, in 2004

Without self-approval, there is no self-confidence, without self-confidence one has no secure identity; and without a secure identity one has no style