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More than 25 Years Later, Still the Best That TV Has to Offer
February 13, 2012  | By David Bianculli
 
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England botched its chance to mount a proper 25th-anniversary salute to the greatest drama ever written expressly for television -- but is making up for it now, by presenting a prime-time rebroadcast, 26 years later, of Dennis Potter's miniseries masterpiece, 1986's The Singing Detective. And America still has time to plan for our own silver anniversary, because the drama didn't air in this country until 1988...

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If you're a regular reader if this site, you've probably encountered The Singing Detective already. I've raved about it from time to time, and so has Cold Light Reader columnist Eric Gould (read his recent visit to the miniseries HERE).

And when the new version of TV WORTH WATCHING shows up in a few weeks or so, one of our new features will be an official TV WORTH WATCHING SEAL OF APPROVAL, bestowed to only the best of the best DVD releases of old and new television shows. And -- Spoiler Alert -- the very first SEAL OF APPROVAL bestowed will be upon The Singing Detective, just to set the bar extraordinarily high.

The Singing Detective was supposed to be repeated on BBC-4 last fall, but the channel came a few thousand short of the rights fees demanded by the Potter estate. By the time the issue was revolved, the silver anniversary had slipped. But as it's being televised currently, it's getting rave reviews from British critics all over again.

"It's got the kind of confidence in the audience and the medium that American writers are only just discovering," one critic raves in The Guardian. And he's right.

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After Potter (right) wrote The Singing Detective, Steven Bochco countered with ABC's Cop Rock -- which was, indeed, going from the sublime to the ridiculous. But eventually, American TV gave us The Sopranos and Mad Men and Breaking Bad -- and all of them owe a debt to the bravery and singular artistry of The Singing Detective.

Sometime soon, you can hear my Fresh Air report on the silver anniversary of The Singing Detective by clicking HERE. And -- Spoiler Alert again -- you can order the DVD HERE.

Right now, it's at a ridiculously low price on Amazon -- under $20. How can you resist? And why should you?

 

2 Comments

Mac said:

Great piece of trivia about Potter from wiki: he named his pancreatic cancer "Rupert", after Rupert Murdoch, Potter's whipping boy for all that was bad about journalism in Great Britain.Talk about literally laughing in the face of death....

[Yeah, he revealed that in an interview filmed shortly before his death... an interview he conducted while sipping liquid morphine. Brilliant, and outrageous, to the end. - DB]

Comment posted on February 13, 2012 11:49 AM


wilberfan said:

Magnificent television. "Pennies from Heaven" (also by Potter) was just as good--if not better...

[So glad you liked that one, too. And in both instances, the movie versions were disappointingly inferior, though made with the best of intentions and some very good talent. - DB]

Comment posted on February 13, 2012 1:32 PM
 
 
 
 
 
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