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Charlies-Angels

Charlie’s Angels are a trio of female private investigators, the stars of an American crime drama that aired on ABC Television from September 1976 to June 1981. Despite mixed reviews, and a reputation for being “Jiggle TV,” the show enjoyed immense popularity with viewers. The series spawned a film revival in the 2000s, and a short-lived attempt at TV resurrection, in 2011.

The Premise

Three talented women graduate from the police academy, only to be assigned menial jobs like handling the switchboard or directing traffic. The ladies are recruited to work for The Townsend Agency, as private investigators. Their boss, Charles Townsend a.k.a. Charlie, nicknames them “Angels.”

Charlie – whose face is never seen – assigns cases to the Angels and his liaison, John Bosley, via a speaker phone in their office. Unlike the Angels, Bosley has met Charlie, and can contact him at any time.

Initially, the Angels were:

1. Sabrina Duncan (played by Kate Jackson): a graduate of the Los Angeles police academy – the unofficial leader of the trio. Sabrina is a divorcé who remains on good terms with her ex-husband. She eventually leaves The Townsend Agency to get married and start a family.

2. Jill Munroe (actress Farrah Fawcett): a graduate of the Los Angeles police academy. Jill is unmarried, athletic, and charismatic. She leaves The Townsend Agency to pursue a career as a race car driver and is replaced by her younger sister, Kris (see later). Jill returns to the agency occasionally (Season 3), when needed for a specific case.

3. Kelly Garrett (played by Jaclyn Smith): also a graduate of the Los Angeles police academy. Kelly grew up in an orphanage; a tough cookie, but with the sensitivity to help others in need.

Here they are, in a clip from 1976 (video comes courtesy of YouTube):

In most episodes, a crime is committed, the Angels are given the case details, and then go undercover to solve the mystery. The final scene takes place back at the Townsend office, with Charlie offering congratulations for a job well done.

The show was intended as a classy undercover detective drama, and worked in that vein for some time. Until the network got caught up in the whole “three hot chicks we can dress up in skimpy outfits, to boost our ratings” thing.

Disgruntled, Farrah Fawcett, then Kate Jackson left the series, sparking the first of several high-profile searches for new stars.

And Then, There Were…

In subsequent seasons, the Angels’ line-up would include:

4. Kris Munroe (actress Cheryl Ladd): younger sister of Jill, and a graduate of the San Francisco police academy. Kris is charming and mildly clumsy, providing the show with comic relief.

5. Tiffany Welles (played by Shelley Hack): a graduate of the Boston police academy. She is recruited in after Sabrina Duncan leaves, and works for The Townsend Agency only for a brief period before moving back east.

6. Julie Rogers (actress Tanya Roberts): a fashion model from The Bronx. Moving to Los Angeles, she worked with an undercover agent to expose drug dealers within the modeling industry. After her partner is killed, she’s recruited by The Townsend Agency on a trial basis to replace Tiffany Welles.

The series ran for five seasons, with ABC canceling the show in the spring of 1981 due to declining ratings.

Back – With a Movie

Charlie’s Angels returned via the big screen, in a 2000 American action comedy directed by McG.

The film starred Cameron Diaz as Natalie Cook, Drew Barrymore as Dylan Sanders, and Lucy Liu as Alex Munday – the latest in a long line of operatives of the Charles Townsend detective agency. The premise being that new Angels are drafted in over the years, as their predecessors leave for one reason or another.

John Forsythe returned as the voice of Charlie, with Bill Murray stepping into the shoes of his go-between, Bosley.

Set in the present day, the movie adventure sees the ladies embroiled in a complex case involving enigmatic villains, voice-recognition software, and a plot to kill their boss.

The Angels of the 21st century have stepped up their game, considerably – with Matrix-level martial arts skills, and near-genius IQs.

Here’s some of both at work, in an entertaining fight scene, from the movie (courtesy of YouTube):

With a well-crafted mystery, and three stunning leads exuding glamour, mad skills, and goofy charm in equal turns, the film was a critical and box-office success.

It spawned a sequel (2003′s “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle”), which was notable for a cameo by Jaclyn Smith as Kelly Garrett, and the introduction of Demi Moore as former Angel turned crackpot ultra-villain Madison Lee. And not much else.

The sequel did however make enough money to whet the studio’s appetite for a television comeback.

The Short-Lived TV Revival

In November 2009, ABC announced it was considering a television revival of Charlie’s Angels, with Josh Friedman handling both writing and executive producing duties. The reboot movie’s Drew Barrymore shared co-production with Leonard Goldberg.

On May 13, 2011, ABC announced a 13-episode order for the series. The network canceled, after only four episodes.

Some Behind-the-Scenes Stuff You (Probably) Didn’t Know

* Kate Jackson – who had earned kudos for her portrayal of a cop’s wife, in popular police drama, “The Rookies” – was earmarked for a role during pre-production, and didn’t even have to audition. Initially cast as Kelly Garrett, Jackson opted instead for the role of Sabrina Duncan. That’s why the early part of the pilot episode focuses heavily on the Jaclyn Smith character; the casting change was made too late, for further rewrites.

* The show was initially titled “The Alley Cats”. But Kate Jackson suggested to the producers that the heroines should be called “angels”, instead. Jackson also came up with the idea that their boss should be a mystery man (both to the characters and the viewers), and that the Angels should receive their cases over a speaker phone.

* The Angels’ boss was originally going to be called Harry, but the title (“Harry’s Angels”) was dropped, so as not to conflict with “Harry O.”, another television detective series.

* I won’t say “cat-fight”, but stars Kate Jackson and Cheryl Ladd didn’t get along, during the show’s second season. Jackson believed the inclusion of relatively inexperienced actress Ladd had damaged the series considerably. Their animosity on-set reportedly placed great strain on the show’s producers, and their co-star Jaclyn Smith.

* The show became infamous as “Jiggle TV” or “T&A TV” (“Tits & Ass Television”), among critics who believed it had no substance other than its scantily-clad title characters. The skimpy outfits – roller derby girl, beauty pageant contestant, maid, female prisoner, or just plain old bikini – were justified as essential plot elements for the Angels, who often went undercover (so to speak).

* ABC attempted a spin-off for “Charlie’s Angels” in 1980 called “Toni’s Boys”. Essentially a gender reversal, it starred Barbara Stanwyck as Antonia “Toni” Blake, a wealthy widow and friend of Charlie Townsend’s who also ran a detective agency. The outfit was staffed by three good looking male detectives who took orders from Toni, and solved crimes in a manner similar to the Angels.

Never heard of it? No, neither had I; the show wasn’t picked up.

Well, that’s your lot, for now.

See you, for the next one.

Till then.

Peace.

Nick-n-Nora-Charles

Nick and Nora Charles are fictional characters – a married couple who solve murder mysteries while exchanging sharp and witty repartee – in Dashiell Hammett’s novel “The Thin Man”.

The characters later appeared in a highly successful series of movies between 1934 and 1947, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy.

Radio adaptations were heard from 1941 to 1950, and television from 1957 through 1959. They also featured in a Broadway musical in 1991, and as a stage play in 2009.

Nick and Nora have become a model for the bantering, romantically involved detective duo, as seen in other literature and broadcast media.

“The Thin Man”

“The Thin Man” (1934) is a detective novel by Dashiell Hammett, originally published in Redbook.

The story is set in Prohibition-era New York City. The main characters are a former private detective, Nick Charles, and his clever young wife, Nora.

Charles is drawn (mostly against his will) into investigating a murder. The case brings Nick and Nora into contact with the Wynants, an eccentric and rather grotesque family, and with an assortment of policemen and lowlifes.

The “Thin Man” title actually refers to Clyde Wynant, the mysterious and eccentric patriarch who is the pivotal figure of the plot.

A skeletonized body, found during the investigation, had been assumed to be that of a “fat man”, having been found in clothing from a much heavier individual. This clothing is discovered to be a diversion, and the identity of the body is finally revealed as that of a particular “thin man” instead – the missing Wynant.

The murder has been disguised as a means to frame Wynant, by people who have stolen a great deal of his money, then killed him, on the night he was last seen.

The novel is considered one of the seminal books of the “hard-boiled” sub-genre of mystery novels. Think Sam Spade (a Hammett creation), Phillip Marlowe, or Mike Hammer. But Hammett imbued this work with a touch of lightness and humor.

The story tumbles along to the sarcastic banter of the Charleses, as a reluctant and jaded Nick is dragged into solving the sensational murder, cheered on by the fascinated and thrill-seeking Nora.

The Not-so-Thin Man

Described in the novel as overweight and out of shape, Nick Charles (born Nick Charalambides, the son of a Greek immigrant) is an alcoholic former private detective and Pinkerton agent.

Nick is something of a celebrity among the criminal classes and those who associate with them (such as police, athletes, nightclub owners, etc.).

In the book, Nick retired when he married Nora, a wealthy Nob Hill heiress.

In the cinematic version, Charles is portrayed by the slim actor William Powell. This inevitably led the movie-going public to equate the Thin Man of the title with the film’s leading man. This association persisted through five sequels.

Here’s a trailer for the 1934 production, courtesy of YouTube:

The movies also rebadged Nick’s immigrant roots, making him the black sheep of a respectable WASP dynasty, from the fictional small town of Sycamore Springs in upstate New York. He turned his back on the family profession of medicine because of his passion for detective work.

The couple’s dog Asta – a female schnauzer, in the book – became a male wire fox terrier, for the movies.

Later, a child, Nick Jr., was added.

The Sparkling Lady

In the movies, Nora was portrayed by Myrna Loy. The films fleshed out her life story from the book version, considerably.

Nora is revealed to be the sole child of a deceased mining magnate from San Francisco. Now diversified into lumber, railroads, and such, Nora’s fortune is apparently vast, and is managed for the couple by her father’s former partner who lives in an estate on Long Island’s North Shore “Gold Coast”.

Nora is also seen to have a network of blue-blood relatives and friends in San Francisco society.

A lady with money to burn, and a nose for intrigue and adventure.

Good thing she married a detective.

The Chemistry

Those who knew the author maintain that the relationship between Nick and Nora closely mirrors that shared by Dashiell Hammett (himself a former Pinkerton detective, like Nick Charles) and his long-time partner, the playwright Lillian Hellman.

Sharp and witty, on the printed page, the Charleses went even further, on the screen.

The on-screen chemistry between Powell and Loy, who often improvised on the set, became a defining feature of the characters. And a key to the wild success of the series.

The films revolutionized the screen portrayal of marriage, which had previously been earnest, virtuous, and staid. They enlivened the institution with youth, irreverence, and sex appeal.

So strongly were Powell and Loy identified with the characters of Nick and Nora in the public mind, that many mistakenly assumed the actors were a couple in real life as well.

Much of that onscreen chemistry derived from fluids – alcohol, in particular.

Prohibition notwithstanding. Or Nick’s rehab, for that matter.

The Charleses would quip their way through murder investigations, swigging huge amounts of illegal hooch at home or various speakeasies.

Engaging in warm and witty banter, the whole time.

Some of that Banter…

Courtesy of YouTube. Some witty lines from the “Thin Man” series of movies:

Their Legacy

Nick and Nora set the standard, for romantically involved detective couples, to come.

Remember “Hart to Hart”?

Millionaires, Jonathan and Jennifer (Robert Wagner and Stephanie Powers)?

Detective show, back in the early ’80s. A literal attempt to recreate the magic of Nick and Nora in a contemporary (well; then) setting.
Even down to the froofy little dog.

Successful enough, in its way. But nowhere near the originals.

Following the success of the movie version of “The Thin Man” in 1934, Dashiell Hammett was commissioned to work on screenplays for “After the Thin Man” and “Another Thin Man”.

There were five sequels, in all:

After the Thin Man (1936)
Another Thin Man (1939)
Shadow of the Thin Man (1941)
The Thin Man Goes Home (1945)
Song of the Thin Man (1947)

With radio and TV adaptations, stage plays, and a musical, in later years.

Rumors have been flying for a while about a reboot of the franchise, with Johnny Depp as Nick Charles. So far, no sign of it.

If they do go ahead, let’s hope they steer clear of anyone involved in the production of “The Lone Ranger”…

Hmm.

Time for me to ride off, into the sunset.

And get a drink.

Till next time.

Peace.

Carnacki-the-Ghost-Finder

Thomas Carnacki, a.k.a. the Ghost-Finder, is the central figure in a collection of supernatural detective short stories by author William Hope Hodgson. The anthology was first published in 1913 by the UK publisher Eveleigh Nash.

Some History, First

In the years preceding World War I (1914-1918), Spiritualism in Europe was on a high. Seances and mediumship were acceptable, in polite society.

During The Great War itself, attempts by families to communicate with loved ones recently departed from the field of battle were not uncommon.

And tales of spirit contacts, ghosts, and hauntings became increasingly popular.

A Man, for Those Times

Carnacki’s first name is revealed as Thomas, in a conversational aside with his mother, from “The Searcher of the End House”.

This early adventure has Thomas and the old lady personally embroiled in a suspected haunting at the house they’ve just rented. Subsequent tales use the character’s surname, throughout.

Having solved the “Searcher” mystery, Carnacki puts himself about as a supernatural investigator – called in by third parties, to deal with supposed threats from The Other Side.

His investigations begin with techniques straight out of the Sherlock Holmes Handbook: a methodical and detailed survey of every inch of the haunted premises.

In particular, Carnacki looks for things like trap doors, mirrors, smoke generators, and suspension wires. Stuff from the bag of tricks used by fake Spiritualist mediums of the time.

The Electric Pentacle

Of course, there’s always the possibility that the supernatural threat is genuine.

Carnacki’s investigative armory therefore includes mystically protective substances like garlic and silver, along with spells and rites like the Ritual of Saaamaaa.

Most intriguing of these is the Electric Pentacle, a device of Carnacki’s own design. It’s basically a mystic pentagram, constructed out of powered glass tubes that give off a trademark eerie blue glow. Magical Protective Circle 2.0.

The Storyteller’s Ritual

Each of Carnacki’s stories begins in the same way.

An invitation to dinner is issued by card to his compatriots, Anderson, Arkright, Jessop, and Taylor.

The group gathers in Carnacki’s digs at Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, for a quality dinner – during which their host says very little, if anything. It’s left for Anderson to narrate this early part of the evening.

Only when the serious business of eating is done, and the gentlemen retire to the lounge for wine and cigars does Carnacki stoke up his tobacco pipe, and break his silence. He then takes up a first-person narrative of his latest case.

Gripping Yarns

The original collection of stories was published by Eveleigh Nash, in 1913.

A later edition by Mycroft & Moran in 1947 included 3 additional tales.

There’s a fair mix.

Some are revealed as elaborate hoaxes, cooked up for mischievous or malevolent reasons, by the living.

Others are genuine encounters with supernatural aggressors. Often, these require Carnacki to spend one or more nights in a haunted room – with just a ring of salt and the Electric Pentacle between him and certain death. The ghosts described in some of these cases are quite horrifically inventive.

Project Gutenberg has a free eBook of Carnacki’s adventures – which are now copyright-free, and available here:

Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder, at Project Gutenberg

Before you download that, here’s a video trailer for the works (available from Ghostwriter Publications), courtesy of YouTube:

Elsewhere…

A new Carnacki story, “Carnacki: Heaven and Hell” by William Meikle was published by Dark Regions Press, in 2011.

Carnacki featured as a character in Alan Moore’s graphic novel series, “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”.

That’s the one where various (mostly evil, or ambivalent) literary figures like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Invisible Man, and Captain Nemo are brought together under the leadership of African adventurer Allan Quartermain, as a sort of “X-Men” of the British Empire.

Carnacki didn’t appear in the abysmal movie that was made from this franchise, in 2003. Which is probably just as well.

“Out, You Go!”

This is Carnacki’s trademark ending to each tale, as he ushers his friends out into the London night.

And it’s our cue, to end this one.

Till next time.

Peace.

Albert-Campion

Albert Campion is a fictional character in a series of some 19 detective novels and over 20 short stories by Margery Allingham. Supposedly created as a parody of Dorothy L. Sayers’ aristocratic ‘tec, Lord Peter Wimsey, Campion established his own identity, and a considerable following, as the series progressed.

After Allingham’s death her husband Philip Youngman Carter completed his wife’s last Campion book, and wrote two more before his own death.

Meet Mister Campion…

Here he is, courtesy of YouTube, as portrayed by actor Peter Davison, from the BBC Television series of 1989 and 1990:

According to the literature, Albert Campion is the pseudonym used by a man born in 1900 into a prominent British aristocratic lineage. Early novels suggest that he was part of the royal family, but this reference is dropped in later works. In “Mystery Mile”, his true first name is said to be Rudolph, while his surname begins with a K.

Educated at Rugby School and the (fictitious) St. Ignatius’ College, Cambridge, he assumed the name Campion in his 20s and began life as an adventurer and detective.

Campion is a thin, blond, bespectacled fellow, often described as affable, inoffensive and bland. His deceptively blank and unintelligent expression hides a man of authority and action. In some stories, he lives in a flat above a police station at Number 17A, Bottle Street in Piccadilly, London.

… a.k.a. Mornington Dove…

Campion uses many other names, in the course of his career.

“Mornington Dove” (or “Mornington Dodd” in the 1988 Avon edition (page 72) of “The Black Dudley Murder”) and “the Honourable Tootles Ash” are mentioned in “The Crime at Black Dudley”.

“Christopher Twelvetrees” and “Orlando” are mentioned in “Look to the Lady”.

…and His Friends

A study of the Allingham books suggests that Campion’s father was a Viscount, already dead at the start of the series.

In “Sweet Danger” it’s mentioned that his brother was “still unmarried”, and Campion is therefore likely to “come into the title some day” – although there’s no suggestion in the books that this actually occurs.

His sister Valentine Ferris plays a central part in “The Fashion in Shrouds”. In that book, it’s revealed that both are estranged from most of their family.

In the short story “The Meaning of the Act”, Campion explains that the secret of his success is to “take a drink with anyone, and pick your pals where you find ‘em”. This includes having acquaintances on both sides of the law.

From “Mystery Mile” onwards, Campion is usually aided by his manservant, Magersfontein Lugg – an uncouth street tough who used to be a burglar.

Campion is also good friends with Inspector (later Superintendent) Stanislaus Oates of Scotland Yard (who is as by-the-book as Campion is unorthodox), and later with Oates’ protégé Inspector Charles Luke.

After Campion’s intelligence work during World War II, he continues to have a connection with the secret services. He also has many friends and allies, seemingly scattered across London and the English countryside – and often including professional criminals.

After a doomed passion for a married woman in “Dancers in Mourning”, Campion eventually meets Amanda Fitton, who first appears in “Sweet Danger” as a seventeen-year old, and later becomes an aircraft engineer. In that story, her brother Hal recovers the family title of Earl of Pontisbright, and Amanda becomes Lady Amanda, as the sister of an Earl. She and Campion eventually marry, and have a son called Rupert.

The Adventures

The Campion stories are generally adventures, rather than true mysteries. They rarely feature puzzles that the reader has a chance of solving; it’s the characters and situations which move the story along.

The Adaptations

Two stories were adapted by the BBC in 1959 and 1960, with Bernard Horsfall as Campion and Wally Patch as Lugg. Each story was shown in six, 30-minute episodes.

In 1968, “The Case of the Late Pig” was adapted for television, with Brian Smith as Campion, and George Sewell as Lugg. It was part of the BBC Detective series (1964–1969), which was an anthology featuring adaptations of popular detective stories.

In 1989 and 1990, the first eight of the novels (excluding “The Crime at Black Dudley”) were adapted over two seasons, with each story shown in two hour-long episodes. Peter Davison played Campion. Professional wrestler turned actor Brian Glover was Magersfontein Lugg, and Andrew Burt played Stanislaus Oates.

In the show’s second season, actress Lysette Anthony featured as Campion’s lady love, Amanda Fitton.

Peter Davison sang the title music for the first series himself. In the second series, the song was replaced by an instrumental version.

I’d best be whistling off, myself.

Till next time, then.

Peace.

An-Unreliable-Saucebottle

My chilling little tale, “An Unreliable Sauce” is podcasting at MidnightCircle.com.

Now, this being me, the story mixes an investigation with elements of the macabre.

It’s more a psychological horror; no gratuitous gore. That said…

Well. Check it out, for yourself.

Here’s the link:

[http://traffic.libsyn.com/midnightcircle/MNC022.mp3]

And happy listening.

Peace.

Bulman-detective

Detective Sergeant George Kitchener Bulman is a fictional policeman created by novelist Kenneth Royce. The character appears in a series of books about The XYY Man (semi-reformed cat burglar Spider Scott).

Bulman was brought to life on the small screen by actor Don Henderson. With his scruffy look and eccentric demeanor, the character resembled a villain of the Victorian era, rather than a modern-day police detective, or latter-day private eye.

Origins

In the novels, the character’s name is initially given as Alfred “Alf” Bulman.

Bulman is presented as a corrupt officer – though the only example given is the method he uses to achieve promotion to sergeant. Bulman earns his stripes by persuading down-and-outs to confess to unsolved robberies, in return for a prison sentence which would put them indoors during the coldest months of winter!

First Transition to Television

The books were turned into a Granada TV series in the mid-1970s, with actor Don Henderson playing the police detective – now dubbed George Bulman.

In the series, Bulman lives for the day when he can put his nemesis Spider Scott (played by Stephen Yardley) back behind bars. Both Bulman and his sidekick Detective Constable Derek Willis (actor Dennis Blanche) are thwarted at every turn.

Over time, the officers develop some grudging sympathy and respect for Scott, as they discover how he and they have been used by the Secret Service.

Bulman was originally portrayed as mildly eccentric, wearing fingerless woolen gloves, using a nasal inhaler, and trying to ‘better’ himself by engaging in further education. The detective was prone to showing off his learning with a pretentious attitude that made him look foolish.

An Ongoing Concern: “Strangers”

The Bulman character proved popular with viewers, and, together with Willis, was given a spin-off series called “Strangers”, which saw the detectives transferred from London to the north-west of England.

During its five-year run, Bulman’s eccentricities were increased. He was given a propensity for keeping his belongings in plastic shopping bags, and a pet hamster named Flash Gordon.

It was in “Strangers” that Bulman’s middle name was revealed to be Kitchener.

Increasingly his advanced learning was used less to make him look pretentious and laughable. Instead, it underlined a Zen-like wisdom and otherworldliness.

Bulman also leapt in rank, moving from Detective Sergeant to Detective Chief Inspector in a single bound.

Here’s a YouTube promo, for the show’s first season:

Private Citizen, Private Eye

More from YouTube:

During the mid-1980s the character returned to television, in “Bulman”.

In this revamp, a disillusioned Bulman leaves the police, to work as a private investigator.

Ever the eccentric, the character used detection as a sideline, actually making his living by repairing clocks. He kept a model railway set-up in his office, and wore a T-Shirt bearing an illustration of William Shakespeare, with the inscription ‘Will Power’.

The private detective also gained a female sidekick, in the shape of feisty young Scotswoman Lucy McGinty (played by Siobhan Redmond). The actress would later achieve fame in the acclaimed BBC Television series “Between The Lines”, as detective Maureen “Mo” Connell of the Complaints Investigation Bureau (equivalent to Internal Affairs Division, in the USA) of London’s Metropolitan Police.

Ironically mirroring the post-prison career of Spider Scott, Bulman and his assistant Lucy were often coerced or tricked into doing clandestine and dangerous work for the Secret Service.

Spin-Off Literary Success

At the height of the show’s success, Kenneth Royce returned to his Bulman character by writing two more XYY Man novels (“The Crypto Man” (1984) and “The Mosley Receipt” (1985)) and a Bulman novel, “No Way Back” (a.k.a. “Hashimi’s Revenge”) in 1986.

In the 1990s, Royce followed with “The Judas Trail” (1996) and “Shadows” (1996).

Royce’s latter-day Bulman differs greatly from the television version.

Alfred George Bulman (as opposed to George Kitchener Bulman) has, by “The Crypto Man” in 1985, risen to Detective Superintendent in the Security Services section of the Metropolitan Police. His television alternative never made it above Detective Chief Inspector, before becoming a private investigator.

And That Was All…

The “Bulman” series ended in 1987. Henderson obtained the rights for TV use of the character, but got caught up with other projects. The actor died in 1997 before he was able to interest producers in a new series.

Our series is ongoing.

Hope you’ll join me, for the next installment.

Till then.

Peace.

Father-Brown-detective

Father Brown is a fictional character, a Roman Catholic cleric and gifted amateur detective created by the English novelist G. K. Chesterton. He stars in 51 detective short stories, and two framing vignettes. Most of these were later compiled in five books. Father Brown has also appeared in other media, including film and television.

His latest incarnation is in the form of actor Mark Williams, in a 2013 series for BBC Television. A second season has been commissioned for airing in 2014.

Here’s a YouTube promo, for the DVD:

An Ear, for Evil

As described by Chesterton, Father Brown is a short, stumpy Roman Catholic priest, “formerly of Cobhole in Essex, and now working in London”, with shapeless clothes and a large umbrella. He is characteristically humble, and usually rather quiet. When he does talk, the cleric almost always says something profound.

The author admitted to basing the character on Father John O’Connor (1870–1952), a parish priest in Bradford who was involved in Chesterton’s conversion to Catholicism in 1922. The relationship was recorded by O’Connor in a 1937 book, “Father Brown on Chesterton”.

Appearances aside, Brown has an uncanny insight into human evil. This is due in part to his natural sensitivity. Added to this are years spent listening to the transgressions of sinners, in the Confessional box.

Appearances

Father Brown makes his first appearance in the story “The Blue Cross” (September, 1910) and continues through five volumes of short stories up to 1936, often assisted by the reformed criminal, Hercule Flambeau.

The master thief (now dubbed Gustave Flambeau, and played by Peter Finch) appeared opposite Alec Guinness in the title role as “Father Brown” (a.k.a. “The Detective”), in a 1954 film. Video comes courtesy of YouTube:

A Flair, for The Intuitive

Unlike the more famous Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown’s methods tend to the intuitive rather than the deductive.
In “The Secret of Father Brown”, he explains:

“You see, I had murdered them all myself… I had planned out each of the crimes very carefully. I had thought out exactly how a thing like that could be done, and in what style or state of mind a man could really do it. And when I was quite sure that I felt exactly like the murderer myself, of course I knew who he was.”

Usually, the stories contain a rational explanation of who the murderer was, and how Brown worked it out. He always emphasizes rationality – some might say ironically, for a religious man.

And some of the stories, such as “The Miracle of Moon Crescent”, “The Oracle of the Dog”, “The Blast of the Book” and “The Dagger With Wings”, even poke fun at initially skeptical characters who become convinced of a supernatural explanation for some strange occurrence. Father Brown, meanwhile, easily sees the perfectly ordinary, natural cause.

Although he tends to handle crimes with a steady, realistic approach, he still believes in the supernatural as the greatest, ultimate reason of all.

That’s all, for now.

See you, for the next one – I hope.

Till then.

Peace.

Happy Holidays, People!

Happy Holidays!

Season’s Greetings. All that.

Pretty much all I wanted to say.

Except.

Don’t eat TOO much.

Don’t drink too much.

And, let’s be safe out there.

All the best for 2014, if we don’t meet before then.

Peace.

Frank-Black-Millennium

Frank Black is the central figure of “Millennium”, a television series created by “X-Files” originator Chris Carter. In the show, Frank Black is played by actor Lance Henriksen.

Black follows in the tradition started by novelist Thomas Harris, in creating the character of Will Graham, for “Red Dragon”:
That of the FBI profiler as eideteker (eidetektive? Hmm. Good word; think I’ll use it again).

Someone who can literally put themselves in the mind of a killer. See what they might see, feel what they might feel.

In Frank Black’s case, it is never fully clear whether this ability is a psychological projection of extreme empathy, or a genetic / psychic trait. The fact that Frank’s daughter, Jordan inherits the skill would seem to suggest the latter.

A bit of the character’s history, from a YouTube compilation, “The Curse of Frank Black”:

Whatever the case, it’s a dark and dangerous gift. One that takes a heavy toll on the person who possesses it.

A Heavy Toll

The legacy of Frank Black’s eidetic gift is emotional instability, and retirement from duty as a profiler for the FBI.

Frank relocates to Seattle, Washington, together with his wife Catherine (actress Megan Gallagher) and daughter Jordan (actress Brittany Tiplady). There, he overcompensates for the darkness in his soul by moving into a model suburban house, which he paints bright yellow.

Black immerses himself in domestic life, hoping to escape his past.

Fat chance.

Apocalypse, Then…

“Millennium” is set in the latter years of the 1990s. As the year 2000 approaches, several crackpot individuals and groups emerge, looking to commemorate the event in various grisly and / or apocalyptic ways.

As the death toll mounts, Frank is approached by the Millennium Group, an association of mainly ex-FBI agents (including Terry O’Quinn as Black’s former colleague Peter Watts) who have chosen to monitor the activities of these killers – and to intervene, when necessary. Black is hired as a consultant to the group.

Thrown back into the heat of active investigations, and forced to use his heightened perception again, Frank feels the strain on his health and home life.

A Hidden Agenda

Things go from bad to worse, when it emerges that the Millennium Group exists merely to prevent the coming of any Apocalypse other than the one of its own design.

Frank’s discovery of this has tragic consequences. His running battle with the group eventually forces Black and his daughter to become fugitives, from the law.

Evolution of the Show

“Millennium” ran for three seasons on the Fox Television Network, from 1996.

Fox executives initially lobbied to cast William Hurt as Frank Black, but the actor was unwilling to commit to a role in a television series. Creator Chris Carter (who wrote the show with Henriksen in mind) sent a copy of his script for the “Pilot” episode to Lance Henriksen, and the rest is history.

Here’s a YouTube clip of the series intro, with that haunting theme tune:

The first season dealt mainly with Black pursuing various serial killers and other murderers, with only occasional references to the Millennium Group’s true purpose.

The second season introduced more supernatural elements, with Frank coming into conflict with forces that often appeared to be apocalyptic or demonic in nature. Humor (along the lines of that seen in “The X-Files”) was injected into some of the storylines, to relieve what was felt to be an oppressive aura of gloom and gore from the show’s first season.

The final season had Frank returning to Washington, D.C., to work with the FBI following the death of his wife at the hands of the Millennium Group. He was joined by a new partner, Emma Hollis (actress Klea Scott) who joined the Group – despite Frank’s warnings and her own observations.

At the time of the show’s cancellation, Frank is seen escaping from Washington, having taken Jordan out of school, the Millennium Group in hot pursuit.

Frank Black returned in “The X-Files” season seven episode “Millennium”, a cross-over that effectively served as a series finale for “Millennium”. Though unresolved, the story ended on an optimistic note, with the suggestion of some kind of normal life being possible for Frank and Jordan.

A Bright Future?

To be confirmed.

With the release of “Millennium” on DVD, Lance Henriksen proposed a continuation of the series.

Henriksen has since gone on to support the Back to Frank Black campaign, a movement dedicated to the return of the character.

Creator Chris Carter has joined Henriksen in expressing interest in a film based on “Millennium”, though Fox has expressed no enthusiasm for such a project.

Which is a shame, as it could tie up some of those loose ends.

In comparison to the other eidetektives out there (See? Told you I’d use the word again) – your “Profiler”, “Mentalist”, or whoever – Frank Black is one of the more memorable.

And “Millennium”?

Worth checking out. It’s not cozy fun, by any means, but it is riveting.

I’m out, at this point.

I’ll see you, when I see you. If not, before.

Peace.

Bill-The-Sun-Hill

“The Bill” is a police procedural television drama that was broadcast in the UK on the ITV network from 16 October 1984 until 31 August 2010.

The series name originated from “Old Bill”, a London slang term for the police. This was also the show’s original title, before creator Geoff McQueen opted for “The Bill”.

The program stemmed from a one-off drama, called “Woodentop”, which was broadcast in August 1983.

Rather than concentrate on a particular aspect of police work, the show focused on the lives and work of one shift of police officers.

At the time of the series’ conclusion, “The Bill” was the longest-running police procedural television series in the United Kingdom, and at twenty-seven years was among the longest-running of any television series in British history.

Series Origins

“The Bill” was originally conceived in 1983 as a one-off drama by Geoff McQueen. It was picked up for production company Thames Television by Michael Chapman, and renamed from its original title “Old Bill” to “Woodentop”.

Broadcast as part of Thames’ “Storyboard” series on 16 August 1983, “Woodentop” starred Mark Wingett as Police Constable (PC) Jim Carver and Trudie Goodwin as Woman Police Constable (WPC) June Ackland of London’s Metropolitan Police, both attached to the fictional Sun Hill police station.

“Woodentop” impressed the ITV network so much that a full series was commissioned, first broadcast on 16 October 1984. The show consisted of one post-watershed (marking the boundary between family and adult television) installment per week, featuring an hour-long, separate storyline for each episode of the first three seasons.

On serialization, the name of the show changed from “Woodentop” to “The Bill”.

Evolution of the Show

The series format changed to two thirty-minute episodes per week in 1988, increasing to three a week from 1993.

From 1998, “The Bill” returned to hour-long episodes, which later became twice-weekly. At this point, the series was able to explore much more of the characters’ personal lives.

The change also allowed “The Bill” to become more reflective of modern policing with the introduction of officers from ethnic minorities (most notably, the new superintendent, Adam Okaro). It also allowed coverage of the relationship between homosexual Sergeant Craig Gilmore and PC Luke Ashton.

In 2005, Johnathan Young took over as executive producer, and the serial format was dropped. “The Bill” returned to stand-alone episodes with more focus on crime and policing than the personal lives of the officers.

Overkill

The first official episode of “The Bill” was titled “Funny Ol’ Business – Cops & Robbers”.

The opening sequence consisted of two police officers, one male, one female, walking down a street, as images of Sun Hill were interspersed between them. It featured the first version of the series iconic theme tune, “Overkill”, which was composed by Charlie Morgan and Andy Pask.

Through the years of the show’s evolution, this basic tune was repackaged several times until 2009, when the classic “Overkill” theme was replaced by a new one created by Simba Studios.

Here’s one version, courtesy of YouTube:

In deference to the fans, a specially commissioned remix of “Overkill” was used for “The Bill”‘s final episode on 31 August 2010.

Sun Hill

“The Bill” is set in and around Sun Hill police station, in the fictional “Canley Borough Operational Command Unit” in East London. Series creator Geoff McQueen claimed that he named Sun Hill after a street in his home town of Royston, Hertfordshire.

The fictional suburb of Sun Hill is located in the fictional London borough of Canley in the East End, north of the River Thames. The Borough of Canley is roughly analogous to the real-life London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

Sun Hill has a London E1 postcode, which corresponds to the real-life areas of Whitechapel and Stepney.

From the first series, the police station consisted of a set of buildings in Artichoke Hill, Wapping, East London. These buildings were next to the News International plant, and during industrial action there in the winter of 1985–86, there were some altercations between the strikers and actors working on “The Bill” who were mistaken for real police officers.

The production team moved the sets to an old record distribution depot in Barlby Road, North Kensington in North West London. Filming began there in March 1987.

In 1989, the production moved to an old wine distribution warehouse in Merton, South West London. The relocation was disguised on screen by the ‘ongoing’ refurbishment of Sun Hill police station and ultimately, by the explosion of a terrorist car-bomb in the station car-park, which ended up killing one of the characters (PC Ken Melvin).

The Cast of Characters

Over “The Bill”‘s twenty-seven year run, 174 actors have formed part of the series’ main cast. A number of cast members have played multiple roles on the show, in that time.

Some of the more notable residents of Sun Hill were:

Detective Sergeant (DS) Jim Carver:
Actor Mark Wingett played Carver, from 1983 to 2007. The character featured as a Police Constable, in the very first episode of the show. After his marriage to June Ackland (see below) collapsed and he built up gambling debts, the character left Sun Hill.

Sergeant June Ackland:
Trudie Goodwin played PC, later promoted to Sergeant, June Ackland from 1983 to 2007. The character retired in 2007 after her on-screen relationship with Jim Carver came to an abrupt end. When Goodwin left “The Bill” in 2007 she was not only the longest serving cast member, but also held the world record for the longest time an actor has portrayed a police character.

Sergeant Bob Cryer:
Eric Richard played Sergeant Bob Cryer from 1984 to 2001. The character left after having been accidentally shot by then PC Dale Smith. Cryer made brief re-appearances later in the series – including in one storyline involving his niece Roberta, who later joined the station.

Detective Chief Inspector Frank Burnside:
Christopher Ellison played DI (Detective Inspector), later promoted to DCI, Frank Burnside from 1984 to 2000. Amid allegations of corruption and abuse, Burnside made many enemies both at Sun Hill and among the criminal element. The character spawned a brief (six-episodes!) spin-off series called “Burnside”, which followed Frank Burnside in his transfer and promotion to the National Crime Squad.

Detective Constable Tosh Lines:
Kevin Lloyd played DC Tosh Lines from 1988 to 1998. The character was written out as having accepted a position in the Coroner’s Office after Lloyd was sacked from the show for turning up drunk. Lloyd died a week after his dismissal.

Police Constable Reg Hollis:
Jeff Stewart played PC Reg Hollis from 1984 to 2008. The character was written out of the show after resigning on the grounds of having being traumatized by the death of colleagues during a bomb blast. After learning of his axing from the show, actor Stewart attempted suicide on set by slashing his wrists.

Detective Sergeant Don Beech:
Actor Billy Murray played DS Don Beech from 1995 to 2004. The character was a corrupt police officer, notably murdering DS John Boulton, which forced Beech to go on the run, sparking the “Don Beech scandal”.

Sergeant Matt Boyden:
Tony O’Callaghan played Sergeant Matt Boyden from 1991 to 2003. Boyden was shot dead by his daughter’s boyfriend on her instigation, so she could profit from insurance money to fund her drugs habit. This storyline formed the basis for the opening episode of a spin-off series called “M.I.T.: Murder Investigation Team”.

Powerful Stuff

Indeed.

In the UK, working on “The Bill” became something of a rite of passage for television actors.

The finale episodes featured all the cast, and the final scene was specially written so all cast members would be featured.

Here’s a YouTube clip from the series finale, “Respect”:

Following “The Bill”‘s final episode on 31 August 2010, ITV aired a documentary titled “Farewell The Bill” featuring interviews from past and present cast and crew. The special explored the history of the series and gave viewers a behind the scenes look at the filming of the last episode.

This special was later released onto DVD in Australia on 5 October 2011, along with the last two-part episode “Respect”.

Legacy

“The Bill” was Britain’s longest running police drama.

It has been compared to “Hill Street Blues” due to the similar, serialized format that both shows take.

During its 27-year-run, The Bill spawned several spin-off productions and related series in German and Dutch languages, as well as a series of documentaries.

When “The Bill” began, the majority of the UK’s Police Federation were opposed to the show, claiming that it portrayed the police as a racist organization. However, feelings towards the program mellowed, over the years. Some editorial input from the Police Federation was allowed, as was the use of some official police equipment.

“The Bill” did not have permission to use sirens while on location. However, the police uniforms used in the series were genuine – making “The Bill” unique amongst police dramas.

When the series ended, London’s Metropolitan Police Service, after talks with the production company, bought 400 kilograms of police related paraphernalia, including flat caps and stab vests, to prevent them falling into the hands of criminals after the production ceased.

And here’s where this one ceases.

See you next time – I hope.

Till then.

Peace.

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