Beiderbecke Trilogy, The

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					The Beiderbecke Trilogy is a collection of three series of a light-hearted British
mystery/comedy/drama. It gives us each of the short series: THE BEIDERBECKE
AFFAIR, THE BEIDERBECKE TAPES, and THE BEIDERBECKE CONNECTION.
It was made by Yorkshire TV, and set in that part of the U.K, I imagine; it was created by
the award-winning Alan Plater, one of Britain's more prolific, entertaining writers, based
on his own novels. The entire series was broadcast in the U.S. on public TV. Be
forewarned, however, neither the visual nor the audio quality is what you would expect in
a contemporary work: this series was made quite some time ago. Also, unfortunately,
there are no subtitles. And the cast, from stars James Bolam and Barbara Flynn - each of
whom has frequently appeared in entertainments set in this part of the world, Bolam in
THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER, among others; and Flynn
in CRACKER: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION, and CRANFORD:THE
COLLECTION, among others --down to the bit players, has been encouraged to trot out
their local accents. It makes for tough going for some of us, who may miss some of the
witty byplay among the characters. But the plot is easy enough to follow.

The entertainment centers on a pair of wisecracking Leeds schoolteachers (and we don't
often see Leeds on our side of the pond), caught up in some amateur sleuthing. Jill
Swinburne (Flynn) teaches English and wants to save the world. Trevor Chaplin (Bolam)
is a befuddled but witty everyman, who teaches woodworking and loves jazz, particularly
Bix Beiderbecke, a 1920s American jazz great. Dudley Sutton (LOVEJOY:THE
COMPLETE COLLECTION) has a supporting role as Mr. Carter, history teacher, at the
dilapidated local school, known as San Quentin High, where they work. Further adding
greatly to the fun is Terence Rigby (TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY) as Big Al. And
Dominic Jephcott (THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL), who begins the series as Detective
Sergeant Hobson, ends it as Detective Inspector Hobson, PhD, and says, memorably, that
he finds above all, the "most dark impenetrable mystery to be the psychology of
Yorkshire." Other notable supporting stars are Beryl Reid, (TINKER TAILOR), Colin
Blakely(LOVE AMONG THE RUINS) and James Grout.

THE BEIDERBECKE AFFAIR is about the "grey" economy (the buying and selling of
"legitimate" merchandise, without the bother of taxes, nor the upkeep of a shop).Trevor
purchases some Beiderbecke jazz records—and I do mean vinyl records—from, oddly
enough, a beautiful blond selling door to door. This unorthodox purchase, predictably,
does not go as he expected. And then Chaplin discovers that the people he's bought the
records from are under police surveillance. In short order, he and his partner Jill, find
themselves making midnight assignations on multi-story car parks. They find they must
deal with corruption and collusion between big business, the local council and the police.

THE BEIDERBECKE TAPES, the second series, was to me the weakest of the three.
The tape, supposedly of Beiderbecke music that is at the center of the story is two
degrees removed from any sort of reality. And there’s just not much going on.

THE BEIDERBECKE CONNECTION, the third series, was the most enjoyable to me.
It’s much more reality-based, for a start. In it, Trevor and Jill, now settled down, and
parents of a darling baby boy, agree to take in the Russian refugee Ivan, who is not so
terrible, for the night. But Ivan comes trailing a significant back story that interests the
police, and influences the couple’s lives.

 Of course, the mysteries move along in a leisurely, gentle British fashion that may be too
slow for some viewers. But the banter's consistently wry and witty. So is the rollicking
sound track, inspired by Beiderbecke's work, by the BAFTA award-winning musician
Frank Ricotti (the BAFTA is the British Oscar equivalent): on the track, furthermore, we
hear solos by jazz great Kenny Baker. Alan Plater's credits include THE LAST OF THE
BLONDE BOMBSHELLS; OLIVERS TRAVELS, and A VERY BRITISH COUP.
There is no onscreen violence, nor sex, for that matter. All concerned keep their clothes
on, which is probably just as well, as all concerned are at least middle aged. And for
some of us, a middle aged romance is really rewarding. The script is as light in weight as
the production is light of heart, not to be taken too seriously, served up with heaping
helpings of charm and whimsy. It may remind a viewer of the zany mysteries of the
1930s and `40s, Nick and Nora falling a couple of ranks socially and economically, but
still having fun. Most viewers will too.

				
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posted:2/23/2011
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