It tends to be the norm that, when recreating the life of a legend in biopic form, the rendering comes out all wrong. This is not exactly the case with 1994’s Madonna: Innocence Lost, a TV movie that aired on Fox and emphasized the early beginnings of the singer’s (portrayed by Terumi Matthews) career. Its largely accurate, if not highly stylized, interpretation of Madonna’s hand-to-mouth existence as a ragamuffin of the downtown New York scene from 1980 to 1983 possesses the sort of terribleness you would expect of a TV movie—but it’s the kind of trash diet that leaves you feeling fulfilled, somehow.
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It was a real shock to hear of the news of the death of Elisabeth Sladen (19 April 2011). She was a real hero of mine in the ‘70s. Of all the figures that I was regularly in touch with via popular television programmes, her character of Sarah Jane Smith, in the original BBC Doctor Who series, was one of the most inspirational. I wanted to be her when I grew up.
I really liked the way they styled her. She wore groovy fluffy coats and cloche hats, flared jeans and fitted jackets with magnificent lapels. She was assistant to Jon Pertwee’s doctor and my favourite, Tom Baker; from 1973-1976. In recent years Russell T Davies reintroduced the character in his revival of the series in 2005 and went on to create The Sarah Jane Adventures for children’s television in the UK.
1. Arrested Development, Season 1, Ep. 12 “The Marta Complex”—We’re just a couple of consenting adults getting a stew on.
The use of unlikely supporting players in Arrested Development sometimes made actual jokes unneeded. This show illustrated the fact that, given the right casting—say of Henry Winkler as a randy attorney—what is actually said is really beside the point. Take the above line about “stew”, which made an unlikely comedic genius of Carl Weathers. Mitch Herwig and his writing staff gloried in creating characters that are either terrible wastrels or obsessive misers, as if the existence of one somehow explains the other. Weathers’s character is the epitome of the miser impulse. He has an almost MacGyver-like talent for squeezing the most out of his immediate resources, usually by making “stew”. That he would not relax his miserdom when romancing a lady—in this case Lucille 2, a character that had another creative casting choice in Liza Minelli—effortlessly blends story with a hilarious stand-alone catch phrase.
The 1990-93 British television production of Jeeves and Wooster has a special kind of historical and formal unity. The show starred Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, was compiled and adapted from P.G. Wodehouse’s stories about the 1930s London socialite, Bertie Wooster, and his all-knowing valet, Jeeves. Wodehouse’s “Jeeves stories”, much like the serialized novels of Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, have a narrative zing seemingly tailor-made for the television format. While they may not have actually inspired how radio and television took shape, they certainly seem like they did, with their episodic form, their light-hearted comedy, their circumstantial conflicts that right themselves with only minimal effort.
Explanation is usually only necessary when a joke isn’t readily funny. However, some A-material contains narrative layers of nuance which defy a single pass. One such moment happens in the season four premiere episode of the American version of The Office.
In “Fun Run”, the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflen Paper Company is all atwitter over the recent accident of a co-worker. Branch manager Michael Scott has made the office’s scare with vehicular manslaughter his latest pet project, mainly because his was the vehicle and he the man who almost did the slaughtering. Though Meredith, Dunder Mifflin – Scranton’s resident alky, survived being hit by Michael’s car with only minor injuries, her hospital stay fortuitously allowed doctors to diagnose and treat a much more serious Rabies infection. In other words, had it not been for getting hit by Michael’s car, Meredith probably would have died.
// Notes from the Road
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