Discussion in 'Cult TV' started by Mel O'Drama, Apr 26, 2019.
I feel both none the wiser and wiser simultaneously.
It's now 1978 in Whodunnitville and we're one third of the way through the final series.
Gone is Anouska Hempel, but you'd barely notice. She's been replaced as the series' regular female sleuth by one Liza Goddard. The resemblance between the two women is remarkable. Not that there's that much physical resemblance between them (other than both being nubile blondes). The resemblance comes from the overall package. Both are well-spoken and articulate. Throughout each episode they look and sound extremely switched on and thoroughly engaged in what they're doing. Both are also disarmingly charming. Hempel perhaps almost intimidatingly so, in a Donna Mills kind of way. Goddard, though, is more youthfully winsome (perhaps reflective of her being almost ten years Hempel's junior). If I were comparing this situation to a familar one, I'd say Goddard is this series' Kris Munroe (and, indeed, there's also a bit of a physical resemblance there as well).
Not having seen much of Bergerac, and not being fortunate enough to own The Brothers on DVD (unlike Mr @Willie Oleson), I know Liza best as the one that replaced Una Stubbs in Give Us A Clue. I can't remember her making much of an impression on me there, but I'm finding her very watchable here. Jon Pertwee repeatedly calls her "Lisa" but nobody seems very concerned - including the lady herself.
Gone, too, are the TV Times winners. We're back to a panel of two regulars and two guests. Even many of the guests are semi-regulars themselves. Alfred Marks seems to be on it every few weeks, and is usually the comic relief (pretty much every sentence he utters has a punchline, which gets a little exhausting by the end of the 40 minutes). Other panellists have included June Whitfield ("I've just realised we're supposed to butt in with questions and not wait to be asked", she shrewdly observed) and Mollie Sugden (who squeezed in both an "I'm free" and a kitty gag. Suspects in Mollie's week included Mr Mash himself).
Among the suspect line up have been several more of the Howards' Way cast including Jan Harvey returning for a third appearance. The other two have been Tony Anholt, giving great fop and Kate O'Mara (twice). If I'm not mistaken, Kate is also the second future Dynasty star to have appeared (the first being Stephanie Beacham). Though they weren't the only connection to the series, with Alexis's other sister, Jackie Collins, having appeared a couple of times earlier in the run. Kate O'Mara made a surprisingly good swarthy pirate in her second appearance, and gloried in the name of Treasure Chest Magee.
I must give a mention to Jon Pertwee's victorious little gesture. He's been doing it since series two and I keep forgetting to comment on it.
Each week, as the credits roll, he extends his arms out so that they form an "L" shape either side, with his hands raised so they're parallel with his head. Then he swivels from side to side in his chair.
In earlier series you could just catch him doing it as the credits ended, but he's also been known to do it just as the credits begin.
Nobody's made any comment about it and I'm very curious as to the significance and the origin. Is it a "W" for the series title? Is it a Jon Pertwee thing that he's done elsewhere? Does he save it for when someone's guessed correctly? Is it a secret coded message to watching spies? Is it meaningless?
According to IMDB she also starred in a remake of The Plank.
Oh yes. Shortly after Whodunnit? ended. And curiously, half the cast of the remake were featured on Whodunnit? over the years. Perhaps not surprising as it was also made by Thames.
As we near series' end, Liza - we're told - will not be in the next few episodes due to theatre commitments. As there are now just two episodes left, it's looking like I've watched her last Whodunnit? Her place has been filled by some woman I've never heard of (even though IMDb tells me I've seen her in a number of things): Anna Dawson.
Even more curiously, one of Anna's first episodes also featured Anouska Hempel, the predecessor of her predecessor. Anouska has seemed very serious on her recent return visits. The conspiracy theorist in me started to wonder if she hadn't wanted to be there (to continue with my earlier Charlie's Angels parallel, rather like Farrah Fawcett's forced contractual return to the series). I suspect I'm looking too deeply into it, but that's what binge watching this series does to a viewer, I suppose.
Patrick Mower was also absent in the last episode due to "night shooting" and I believe is also not returning for the rest of the series. This actually feels like a reprieve for me. He takes the game very seriously. Which if fine... someone needs to. But he's become a little more overbearing this series. There have been a number of whispered confabs with other panellists, particularly Liza (conferring has been a big no-no up to this point, since the panellists are essentially in competition with one another). He's butted in to either ask a question or even to instruct someone else what they need to ask And his hand is constantly in the air, waiting to ask another question. His questioning is great, and his success record very impressive. But he's become something of a bleeding deacon which is not a good thing.
There's a balance to be struck with how seriously one takes the game, I suppose. At the opposite end of the scale to Patrick, there's Jimmy Jewel who is not the least bit interested in finding out whodunnit, but uses his questioning time to fire off tedious and unfunny wisecracks. The episode I watched last night was, inexplicably, his fourth appearance on the series.
There's also an increase in the episodes that are getting laughs. Not just the panel game part, but the actual acting out of the murder. I'm not sure about it. On the one hand, this isn't a series that needs to be taken seriously, but I've found that too much frivolity all round makes the series feel somewhat vacuous and meaningless. Last night's A Dead Cert is a case in point. Audience laughter could be heard in the moments leading up to the murder and it fell a little flatter as a result. It's so much funnier when the panel is able to get some laughs from a more grave situation. The episode in question featured a school to sex up men and make them more attractive to women. As is the law with any sex related comedy of the Seventies, Valerie Leon was one of the teachers.
The biggest revelation of the episode was actually Norman Bowler's legs, which are very impressive indeed. All of which led me to discover just moments ago that pre-Emmerdale patriarch, Bowler was well-known as a bodybuilder and muse of homoerotic artist John Minton.
Strange, isn't it? I'd never heard of Minton until Mark Gatiss did a really interesting documentary about him last year. Norman Bowler pops up in it. It's worth dipping into if you get a chance:
Oh my. I'm three minutes in and it's safe to say I'll be watching it to the end.
Well, that was quite a journey. The shifts between dark and light in his life and his works are very stark indeed, and they all had me hooked in.
I very much appreciate that there are people like Mark Gatiss bringing unsung heroes - or at least lesser known artists - back into the public consciousness. And I dare say the trips to Soho, Cornwall and Corsica made filming this very enjoyable.
Yeah, I think it was very much a labour of love. Glad you liked it!
I certainly did. Thanks for the heads up James.
Well, I used to watch/still watch Patrick Mower as a regular in Callan (with Edward Woodward), Special Branch (with George Sewell) and Target. And on guest spots in UFO (appearing briefly with future co-star George Sewell), Department S, Jason King and The Adventurer. Anouska Hempel was in some of the later UFO episodes. His UFO appearance is fun. He gets away with murdering businessman Allan Cuthbertson in a special closing credits shock reveal. SHADO find out that he is planning to do it but they have already administered him with an amnesia drug, so they just leave him to it and don’t get involved. And that alpha male stuff permeates all those roles then. Which is why I enjoy Mrs Peel beating him in a 1966 episode of The Avengers. And they opened his Callan character up a bit (by seriously injuring a girl who then does not recover) just before they killed him off, just after Anthony Valentine came back and letting Mower go to Special Branch. And there was a Special Branch episode where his character fell in love with someone he was forced to deceive. I enjoyed his suffering. Although I forgave him slightly for sending that image up on The Grimleys.
As for Frank Thornton, he had previously the most ubiquitous guest actor on ITC’s The Four Just Men. Which starred Jack Hawkins, Dan Dailey, Richard Conte, Vittorio De Sica with Honor Blackman, Andrew Keir, Lisa Gastoni and June Thorburn. Frank Thornton plays different people in over a dozen episodes. In a couple, he appears as two different people.
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