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October 1996, Week 3


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Blaine Allan <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 15 Oct 1996 23:11:26 EDT
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On Tue, 15 Oct 1996 10:31:14 +0100 Eckart Voigts-Virchow said:
>I think, the aesthetic borderline between film and TV will continue
>to lose validity, anyway. Potter should be considered, because he
>bridges the gap between playful, parodic postmodernism to a dead serious
>approach to one's themes. Also, he created some of the most
>interesting MAN-IN-CRISIS-studies currently available.
>Any more comments out there?
A point that I find interesting in Potter's best-known work is the
historical setting of his TV fiction.  Although I have the feeling
I'm actually remembering something someone else said about his
dramas -- or perhaps something Den himself said about his own work
-- as a set, many of his TV plays and series trace a path through
the evolution of Britain in the late twentieth century, which is to
say, Potter's own time.  The Nigel Barton plays draw (I understand,
because I've seen only extracts) from Potter's own experiences, but
I don't really mean to suggest the autobiographical approach as much
as the parallel of personal and broader (political, cultural, social)
histories.  Pennies From Heaven and The Singing Detective refer to
the times of Potter's youth, but also to the significant moments of
the Depression and the Second World War and its aftermath.  Thoughts
about such an approach to Potter's work occurred to me recently, when
I was watching the CBC's broadcast of Lipstick on Your Collar.  At
first it struck me as thin and familiar -- as if Potter were just
"doing Potter," with the characters breaking character and lip-synching
popular music of the period.  But the programs became richer seen
against the background of the Suez crisis, which provides the story
a historical anchor.
While Potter was undeniably working through a deep-seated anger and
bitterness over Britain's recent past and Thatcherism, he was also
writing an imagined history of Britain of his times.
For me, this also helps frame Karaoke and Cold Lazarus (or what I've
seen of it, since it's still running here) and their themes of
memory and its uses.
(I feel a little presumptuous making such a synoptic suggestion.  The
crawling titles at the end of the Melvyn Bragg interview, listing
Potter's television credits, reminded me of how many programs he'd
written, how many I haven't seen, how many I'd like to, and how many
I likely won't have the chance to.)
Blaine Allan                           [log in to unmask]
Film Studies
Queen's University
Kingston, Ontario
Canada  K7L 3N6
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