Monday, December 28, 2015

BBC ONE and LIFETIME FAIL BIG-TIME INDEED! Television Review: And Then There Were None...Airing on Lifetime TV

The following review is my opinion. We attempt to be positive on this site, but honesty must come first. There are a couple of spoilers listed here.

The latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's most famous of stories, And Then There Were None is absolutely dismal. It's just bloody awful. If you need to sleep and counting sheep isn't working for you, I would highly recommend a viewing of And Then There Were None. Attempt to watch this on a long flight and you will be out cold quite quickly.

One, why is anyone attempting to adapt this story again? If you are going to bring it back as a revival you need to do more than adding a character taking a snort of coke and placing someone else in a towel. Yes, you can keep re-adapting Shakespeare plays, but Agatha Christie is not Shakespeare. No more than John Grisham can be equated with John Steinbeck.

And Then There Were None premiered over the weekend on BBC One. It will air in the U.S. on Lifetime in mid-March (scheduling it in mid-March already lets you know what Lifetime thinks about it), but Americans need not wait with any zeal, since this will arrive on our shores with a thud of silence. The new production provides no suspense and it is bland on all levels.

The setting takes place in 1939 and a group of shady and not so shady characters all arrive on an isolated island only to be hood-winked by the inviting party. Sounds interesting, doesn't it? I'm not being sarcastic. It sounds interesting.

A relatively well-equipped group of actors slog through this meandering and passionless three hours. The usually reliable Miranda Richardson and Sam Neill are killed off relatively quickly, so we don't get to see them beyond episode two. The always respectable Charles Dance and Toby Stephens are predictably good in what they have to deal with, but this is why they work so much. They are good, no matter the material.

The menacing warning to this shifty crowd comes via an old phonograph player. All of these people are responsible for the deaths of at least one human being and they will all die - soon. Well, not all of them. Perhaps, their deaths don't come soon enough. The faster they go, the quicker we can get out of our boredom.

After the murders of a couple of members of this disengaged group of people we have characters worrying about the timing of eggs and whether they will be eating breakfast or not. They manage to find time to knit and even lay out in the sun. For no apparent reason we have two grown men climbing up and down rocks making small-talk; and the youngest of the two women insists on making coffee and tea. Oh yes, that's something to be concerned with. Would you not be doing something other than staying in that house?

The first character killed off is the most interesting character in the entire cast. The young Douglas Booth as Anthony Marston loses his life shortly after he snorts up cocaine, although the dope had nothing to do with it. He was poisoned. Gasp. Why on earth would you dump the smart-ass, spoiled jerk right out of the box? Bollocks.

Aidan Turner who was so good in the near glorious Poldark turns in a performance without any depth of character. I sure hope his range isn't as limited as this telefilm provokes us into thinking. What's worse? He strips down again. How many times is he going to get nearly naked? Outside of The Hobbit he has gotten nearly naked in everything he's ever been in. The scene where he walks around in a towel is gratuitously over the top. It's not steamy, or sexy; and it is laughable. I could see this as a Saturday Night Live satire piece. As a matter of fact, if he were known in the States, this would be a segment on SNL.

Some of the technical credits deserve kudos. The design of the overall series is quite admirable (Sophie Becher/Production Designer, James Morrall and Keith Slote/Art Directors and Charlie Lynam/Set Decoration). Several continuity issues prove problematic to those of us who are observant.

Avoid And Then There Were None. It is dull, disappointing and pointless.  And Then There Were None airs on Lifetime Television in March, 2016. Make sure you have something else to do that night. 

Copyright The Flaming Nose 2015

Friday, December 18, 2015

"That Girl" Celebrates Christmas AGAIN on A Very Merry MeTV Blogathon!

Welcome back to A Very Merry MeTV Christmas Blogation  here on The Flaming Nose, coming to you from the Classic TV Blog Association in conjunction with the MeTV network!  We hope you're enjoying the entire blog collection plus the line-up of Christmas TV episodes airing on MeTV!

Christmas comes but once a year in real life and many of the great TV sitcoms have managed to celebrate several times over the course of their runs.  We're talking today about Marlo Thomas as That Girl, looking at the second yuletide episode of the series, this one from the show's 2nd season (its 15th episode).  'Twas the Night Before Christmas, You're Under Arrest premiered on December 21, 1967, at 9pm, after Bewitched and before Peyton Place.  

That Girl is pure charm and charisma, personified by Marlo Thomas' enthusiastic performance as actress Ann Marie.  This is no series where the currency is insults and everybody gets the stink eye and tosses shade like party confetti.  That Girl's charms are wide-eyed potential and a zest for life, tempered with a keen sense of the absurd and the energy of classic farce.  In other words, it's terrific fun and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, You're Under Arrest doesn't disappoint.  

The episode was written by sitcom veteran Ruth Brooks Flippen who had started her career during the 1950s in motion pictures and transitioned into TV on her reputation as a writer on several of the Gidget movies.  Her work on popular TV series like Gidget, Bewitched and That Girl -- read her full credits here -- showed that she was particularly adept at capturing and showcasing the strengths of the women who starred in those series and others she wrote for.  

Veteran TV director James Sheldon helmed the episode. Sheldon, a prolific and versatile director who started his small screen career on Mr. Peepers in the very early 1950s, worked extensively on most top network series for the subsequent three and a half decades, moving easily between comedy and heavy dramatic projects. Visit his credits here.

The cast of That Girl was uniformly excellent and guest stars equally so.  In addition to series regulars Thomas, Ted Bessell as Ann's steady boyfriend Don, Lew Parker as Ann's always perturbed father Lew Marie and in this episode TV veteran Bernie Kopell and Carol Ann Daniels as Ann's next door neighbors Jerry and Ruth Bauman, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, You're Under Arrest also features some wonderful guest actors.  

Familiar movie and TV actor Jay C. Flippen has several great scenes as the gruff but bemused Sergeant Fitzgerald of the 59th Precinct.  A myriad of roles over a forty-year long career -- see his credits here -- kept Flippen busy even after he had a leg amputation in the mid-1960s, something you can't tell in That Girl as he's behind a big police desk the whole time. Also of great interest: Jay C. Flippen was married to episode writer Ruth Brooks Flippen! They had been husband and wife since 1947 and stayed so until Jay's death in early 1971. 

Herbie Faye plays the fast-talking affable sidewalk vendor who sells Ann the scalped tickets which had a face value of $9.90 -- how times have changed for Broadway prices! I was going to call him a con man but he really wasn't; the tickets were legitimate, after all.  Faye was a veteran movie and TV actor with a long list of credits and a permanent place in Pop Culture history as one of the original cast of The Phil Silvers Show.

Popular character actor Ed Peck played one of the arresting policemen; he showed up in myriad movies and TV shows over his prolific 30 year acting career -- credits here.  Actor Paul Bryar who played the other arresting officer started out as an uncredited extra in movies and moved into steady work as a reliable presence with nearly 400 career credits -- see the impressive list here. William Bramley who played the fingerprint detective came with impeccable credentials: he was Officer Krupke in the movie West Side Story as well as many other roles during his long prosperous career -- see his entire resume here.  The presence of this caliber of seasoned acting talent gave That Girl an impeccable polish which helps it hold up today as such a watchable show.

Rather than tell the whole story of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, You're Under Arrest we'll share some screengrabs from the episode.  You can watch the episode -- along with the rest of the series -- on Hulu right now:  click here to access.  What might amaze you is how beautiful the show looks; it's irresistibly compelling to the eyes and embodies the positive vibe which infuses the series. And funny? It's got that, too.

Don't miss the other entries in The A Very Merry MeTV Christmas Blogathon brought to you by the Classic TV Blog Association

Happy Holidays from The Flaming Nose TV Blog!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Join Us Tomorrow for a Look at Another "That Girl" Holiday Episode!

We'll be telling you about a very fun episode of the popular and perennially entertaining sitcom That Girl!  See you Friday morning!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

"That Girl" Celebrates Christmas on a Very Merry Me-TV Blogathon!

Here we are, a fortnight before Christmas Eve, and the great Very Merry Me-TV Blogathon continues with another holiday episode spotlight.  We hope you've been enjoying all the entries in this celebration of Xmas TV brought to you by the Classic TV Blog Association and the Me-TV network! Be sure to visit both sites by clicking the links above and finding all about the fun both reading about the continuing line-up on the net and watching on TV on your local Me-TV station! Today on The Flaming Nose, Ann Marie -- Marlo Thomas -- is telling her boyfriend Donald -- Ted Bessell -- all about the time she helped a little boy celebrate Christmas.  The show is That Girl and the episode is Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid, first telecast on Dec. 22, 1966.

First of all, we'd like to point you to a great article on Joanna Wilson's wonderful Christmas TV History blog.  Joanna is the author of a several books about Christmas TV and she is the authority on the subject!  She covers Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid and we are going to try not to duplicate her here andwant you to check out her piece for some wonderful info!

The actual moment the flashback begins!

This episode of That Girl is a little different, going via flashbacks as she tells Don about her past where she was a teacher at an exclusive boys' boarding school -- the kids of movie stars and rich families fill the august halls.  As aspiring actress Ann toils in contemporary time as a Santa's Helper elf at a department store, she takes us back to an earlier Ann, just as enthusiastic and charming and with the seeds of her dramatic career taking hold.  We see her organizing the boys who are playing living Christmas trees in a pageant.  (If Ann ever wanted to branch out, she could always direct!).

It's Christmas and all the boys are going home to join their families for the holiday, but one little boy Tommy (played by Chris Shea) is left behind when his movie star mom and show biz father can't make it back from location.

But Ann has other friends among the kids.  One of them -- Roger, played by Gerald Michenaud -- leave his dead bug collection to her which Ann sweetly tries to accept with all possible enthusiasm.

Ann continues to be dismayed about the plight of the kid who's going to have to stay at the school.

But no amount of pleading will get her permission to take him home to her house for the holiday -- school rules, you know.  Instead, Ann ends up phoning her father (Lew Parker) explaining how she can't leave Tommy to be alone and so is going to stay with him.  Lew appreciates his daughter's gesture.  She's a good kid. She wishes him a Merry Christmas and gets to her yuletide babysitting.

After countless games of checkers and innumerable jelly sandwiches, despite Ann's best efforts there's a little bit of ennui settling in.

...which is temporarily relieved when the janitor comes in with some tasks for her to complete while he's gone home for Christmas, too.

Soon after, Ann and Tommy are thrilled to find that Roger, who lives nearby, has come by the school to use the gym equipment. Ann gets an idea -- maybe Tommy could to Roger's house for Christmas???  The answer is yes and Ann sends him off after more playtime.

Now who's the lonely girl at Christmas???

But soon Tommy is back, explaining that though Roger's family is Jewish they made a Christmas for him and give him a neat toy truck.  Everybody's happy and Ann's flashback concludes as she hurries back to help Santa with a squalling baby!

In addition to the always appealing That Girl stars Marlo Thomas, Ted Bessell and Lew Parker, Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid has several interesting guest stars, including kid actors Chris Shea and Gerald Michenaud.  Shea, who sadly passed away in 2010, had a prosperous career as a child actor (his two brothers were also actors); check out his credits here.  Gerald Michenaud acted as a child for a dozen years, took a break and came back as Jean-Michel Michenaud behind the camera as a successful TV producer; check out his extensive credits here.

Veteran screen actress turned perennial TV guest star June Vincent appeared as Tommy's mother at the beginning of the episode. She was a very popular face on network TV for many years -- check out her career credits here.

Actor John Fiedler guest-starred as the boarding school headmaster.  Fiedler was a frequent face all over TV for many years and also in many voice-over roles especially as Piglet in Disney's Winnie the Pooh animated works.  His incredible list of credits must be seen; check them out here.

Actor Don Keefer who played the janitor was another TV veteran with an astounding list of credits -- check them out here -- and maybe best known as the man little Anthony made into a jack-in-the-box on the unforgettable Twilight Zone episode It's a Good Life.

Famed and lauded TV writer James Brooks penned Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid here as well as a Christmas episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show which he titled Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid II though boarding schools nor little Tommy are parts of that story! Brooks is a TV legend and his credits should be perused here.

Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid director John Erman is a veteran TV and movie director -- primarily TV -- with amazing credits helming many of television's most popular and acclaimed series and miniseries.  Check out his credits here.

Again, don't forget to read all the entries in the Blogathon and watch Me-TV for the episodes!

Happy Holidays!  We'll be back in two weeks with the other That Girl Christmas episode!