Sunday, March 21, 2010

Play For Today: An Introduction

A long, long time ago, the BBC was interested in producing drama for drama's sake and not DRAMA!!! for the almost exclusive purposes of selling to foreign broadcasters at top dollar and for lucrative DVD sales. Hard to believe, I know.

The most famous of these standalone plays, arguably, were made under the "Play For Today" umbrella which spawned some of the most influential British dramas of all time, and launched the careers of many notables, including Dennis Potter, Ken Loach, Alan Clarke and multiple Oscar nominees Mike Leigh and Stephen Frears.

Naturally, with three hundred of these independent dramas under their belt over the course of fourteen years, there was some garbage mixed up in the gold, and over the next few weeks, I'll be plodding through a job lot of PFT episodes that recently fell into my lap.

I don't have anything close to a complete collection, unfortunately. Some episodes are lost forever thanks to the BBC's ludicrous policy of junking and recycling video tapes; a practice that has lost us countless gems over the years, including several Dr Who stories, almost all of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's groundbreaking "Not Only, But Also" and the first acting performance of a young Bob Dylan. Some episodes are just plain inaccessible thanks to the fact that precious few were ever repeated, or, if they were, were re-shown at a time when domestic taping was rare. Indeed, a healthy percentage of my collection are sneaky dubs straight from the BBC's archives, complete with burned in VTR timecode, rather than off-air copies.

As I work my way through this collection, some of which I've never seen, I'll be reviewing each episode here. Lucky you, right? Going alphabetically rather than chronologically, we'll start with 1979's "Comedians", a play which made a star of a young Jonathan Pryce. Look for it in the next couple of days.

Posted via web from The Paul And Spike Show

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