Entertainment I Love That Other People Don’t Get


Of course some pleasures are universal. I’m a Shakespeare obsessive because you know, words, and after you trim away all the fat (who needs the second appearance of the ghost in Hamlet?) you have stories filled with emotions that everyone has felt and can therefore understand. I love Game of Thrones because it’s basically the History Plays without the boring bits and sodding Falstaff, plus dragons and the Ice King and Diana Rigg. But I have other choices that take some explaining.

TV Shows Nobody Else Likes

During my childhood there were dozens of wondrously strange cancelled shows from Adam Adamant to The Strange World of Gurney Slade. I loved The Worker, a cruel sitcom called Me Mammy, the one-upmanship comedy Beggar My Neighbour, Stanley Baxter’s bizarre annual shows, and the deliberately annoying The Brittas Empire, all of which have something ‘off’ about them. But the sexism and racism of other shows – the popular ones – always kept me away from them.

Anthony Newley

Gurney Slade was played by Anthony Newley, tortured, solipsistic and probably an awful human being, and yet he now seems close to genius for his singing, songwriting and strange vowel sounds, his TV and film work, some grand projects, some appalling, and for the astounding ‘Small World of Sammy Lee’. More about him here.


Adams, Mertens, Richter, Ayman, it’s classical music for the rhythm generation and makes perfect sense to me. The argument goes like this; harmonics defined the first half of the 20th century, and at the exact mid-point (1950) rhythm took over, ironically, pushed back into melody briefly by the Beatles. Repetitive loops, beats and samples make sense to my urban-attuned ears while Handel fails to touch me. Although I’d stop talking to anyone who doesn’t appreciate Mozart.

Hybrid Theatre

Music, dance, interactivity, angry polemic, darkness, laughter – I love live theatre but generally hate jazzhands musicals and ‘classic’ repertory theatre, preferring multiform assaults on the senses. One of the best productions I ever saw was the profoundly uncomfortable ‘Poppy’ by Peter Nichols, telling the story of the Opium Wars in the style of an English panto, forcing the audience into jingoism and patriotism to recreate the feelings of the times. Although I probably shouldn’t have taken someone to it on a first date.

More recently, Joe Wright’s ‘Life of Galileo’ knocked me out for being set in a circus ring/ planetarium. With puppetry. Awesome. Tell a story any damned way you can. It doesn’t have to be logical in a traditional, linear way, but should gain access to the heart.

World Cinema

If a film is Hungarian, Spanish, German, Italian, Austrian, Mexican, South American, South Korean, Japanese, Nordic or French (currently in that order) I’ll watch it before I watch a Hollywood film. This is not snobbery; I just like good original stories. There have been some great indie Hollywood films lately but there’s a level of connectedness in world cinema that simply doesn’t exist in Hollywood because it’s too hard-sell. Just because cinema is a populist medium doesn’t mean that it can’t make your brain work.

Awful Old British Films

I don’t mean the Ealing comedies, which are delightful on several levels, but the rest – from Charlie Drake to Frankie Howard and Norman Wisdom I watched every shit British film that Rank could churn out, until the name of the director John Paddy Carstairs meant more to me than David Lean. How did my brother and I stand these tiny, painful little proofs that the British film industry was a sham? I watched them because a handful had inadvertent flashes of brilliance that lodged in the brain. And because when you’re young you have absolutely no quality control button, just as children today love the Kardashians and trolling their schoolmates to try and make them kill themselves. Bless.

Not all British films were awful, of course. One immediately thinks of ‘Brief Encounter’, ‘The Wicker Man’, ‘The Innocents’, ‘This Happy Breed’, ‘Black Narcissus’, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, ‘Great Expectations’, ‘Witchfinder General, ‘Don’t Look Now’, ‘The Servant’, ‘The Charge Of The Light Brigade’, even ‘Paddington’.


I was always attracted to disjunctive, disturbing narratives. It’s hard to understand why, but NJ Simpson, John Antrobus, Joe Orton, Fellini, Spike Milligan, the Pythons, Dali, Bunuel, ‘Eraserhead’, Caro & Jeunet, BS Johnson all made sense to me. The acid test is trying to get anyone else to watch ‘The Bed Sitting Room’ – or even imagining a time when a major motion picture like this could have been made. The golden years of surrealist media from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies hit the mainstream, and I still cannot shake off the influence of those childhood years.

I firmly believe that everyone should have obsessions that make no sense to other people. It keeps us original, fresh and unique.


24 comments on “Entertainment I Love That Other People Don’t Get”

  1. Ken Mann says:

    Edwin Richfield must crop up a lot. Mind you I’d happily watch a rolling Edwin Richfield channel.

  2. Peter Tromans says:

    Since Jan initiated the ‘Anorak Award for Historical Inconsistency,’ I cannot resist pointing out, drifting into a Peter Cook voice, the obvious error in the flying Panda Car. The first panda cars were used in the mid-60s, probably in Lancashire in 1965. The Morris Minor, or the bodily remnants of it, are from a Series II, which as we all well know ended production in 1956. Although some TV series try to suggest otherwise, the UK police do and did not use 10-year old vehicles, certainly not as patrol cars.

    I look forward to receiving a signed anorak.

    E.L. Wisty

  3. Roger says:

    Watch “Chimes at Midnight” to cure you of your dislike of Falstaff.

    I watched “One-Way Pendulum”, a good British surreal film, and “The White Bus”, a great British surreal film, yesterday and today. A film about the decision to make “The Bed-Sitting Room” would probably be even funnier than the film itself – in fact, at the NFT showing to go with the disc’s release, the first question to Lester from the audience was “How did you get them to give you the money to make it?”

  4. SteveB says:

    I remember Me Mammy, sadly none of it exists any more.
    Gurney Slade is brilliant and was written by Eric and Ernie’s original scriptwriters.
    As well as One Way Pendulum, STILL NOT ON DVD, NJ Simpson also wrote a sitcom about a family called the Paradocks, which like Me Mammy no longer exists.
    So does Queen of Spades count as a good british film?

  5. Denise Treadwell says:

    Surrealism .The best has be Jean Cocteau particularly La Belle et La Bête! I agree with all your good selections of British film.

  6. admin says:

    Edwin Richfield – a man born to sneer!

    Readership interaction initiated; Just ordered Simpson’s collected plays and monologues.

  7. admin says:

    Oh, and Queen of Spades…somewhat static but wonderfully sinister!

  8. Martin Tolley says:

    Luis Buñuel & Claude Chabrol – I always had to go to see them on my own at the Glasgow Film Theatre in the ’70s, no one else understood. A mate said – “I cannae gae ta tha filums and do aww that readin’ at the same time.”

  9. Jan says:

    Dear E L Wisty aka. P. Tromans,

    As any decent anorak of note can clearly see this a Morris minor 4 series and i know for a fact that that the Morris minor was still l in use as a marked police vehicle within the MPD (the Metropolitan Police District) from 1976 to 1979. At least in the North west London police divisions.

    Mr F has written l on this blog on previous occasions concerning the amount of research and level of familiarity with subject matter the modern reader demands from authors. You can ‘t count yourself out of this if it doesn’t suit you.

    Or you can but some anorak will come after you demanding accuracy.

    I’m off for a lie down now.

  10. Debra Matheney says:

    Anthony Newley- there’s a name I haven’t heard in ages. I adored him. He seemed so worldly and cynical. Loved The Servant, actually anything with Dirk Bogarde. Also loved The Maids, another perverse relationship film.

    Reading Hall of Mirrors is a walk down memory lane. I was 16 in 1969 and thought London was the only place to be. Did not get there until 1972. Lived off the Brompton Road for a time. B and M walk on the King’s Road brought back memories.

  11. Denise Treadwell says:

    As for music saw a contemporary ballet : in the middle, some what elevated.
    It should have been a warning to me as to what was to come when the orchestra and most of the audience left. It was as if someone was having a fight with a load of dustpan lids . I don’t remember the dancing at all.

  12. Wayne Mook says:

    Three Cases of Murder is splendid especially the segment, ‘In the Picture’, Wendy Toye has been recommended to me and I feel I must find ‘The Stranger Left No Card’. (all that seems to be available is the Swedish Rhapsody by Mantovani from the same film.)

    I like awful British horror films, The Blood Beast Terror (Giant vampiric Death’s-head were-moth.) is a favourite, I’m also one of the few people how can not only sit through but enjoy The Vulture about an ancient curse of a giant radioactive were-vulture.

    Ealing produced some lower market stuff, for every Dead of Night they had a The Mystery of the Loch, although the first dive in the Loch is quite eerie.

    I think it’s time for bed but Foster Twelvetrees in The House in Nightmare Park calls and I’ve still not listened to the Radio 4 version of The Bedsitting Room.

    As for surrealism it still bobs up, Sarah & Duck is a little kids programme but have happily existed in the 70’s.


  13. Peter Dixon says:

    Nearest and Dearest – Hylda Baker and Jimmy Jewel as brother and sister brought together in the family pickle factory. ‘Ooh, I must get a little hand put on this watch’. ‘ You knock-kneed knackered old nose-bag!’

    Brass – Timothy West as Bradley Hardacre t’mine owner, factory owner, and owner of everything else in a Northern town, his son Morris, a complete piss-take of Brideshead Revisited, Catherine Cookson et al.

    Never Mind The Quality, Feel The Width – Joe Lynch and John Bluthall as tailors, one Jewish, one Irish.

    In Loving Memory – 1920’s Thora Hird vehicle set in a funeral parlour.

    Oh how we larfed!

  14. Helen Martin says:

    Please does anyone else remember Max Headroom? This side of the Atlantic we can only hum during most of the nostalgia but the were some weird things wandering across the tv in the late 50s, early 60s & I loved Max Headroom = about the reporter hit by a road clearance sign so that he remembered only the abbreviated sign max. headroom but not the amount of the clearance and thought it was his name for a while. It was a futurist Science Fic. piece but I think there were only about two or three seasons of it.

  15. Denise Treadwell says:

    Helen, I remember Max Headroom it was really good! Funny too.

  16. Jan says:

    I saw the actor who was Max Headroom talking on telly once about how they created the effects they used in that show – very interesting it was. It was comical programme.

  17. SteveB says:

    Correction, apparently the final season of Me Mammy DOES still exist.

    I think Queen of Spades and Don’t Look Now are both great with certain similarities in structure.

  18. Wayne Mook says:

    Max Headroom I remember it. In the UK there was a 1 off story and then Max become a video jock and then a chat show host. The Christmas special was odd, a grand piano with TV on it with Max Headroom on the screen. Max Headroom even did a tune with Art of Noise – Paranoimia

    The US series remade the special as the opening episode and then carried on from there, I think the did about 2 series, Matt Frewer stared in both US & UK.

    My little sister enjoyed the series too.


  19. Peter Dixon says:

    M-m-M-M Max HeadHeaddrooommm.

    Matt Frewer in Kryten makeup as a digitised TV presenter with reception/transmission problems. I think one of the creators was related to one of Art Of Noise.

    All looked great in The Face (I think he was on the cover).

    Frewer did a US Sherlock Holmes movie which is splendidly missable.

  20. Helen Martin says:

    Thanks for the Frewer info – I couldn’t remember the star. Did love that show. Wonder if the library has the series. Must check.

  21. John Griffin says:

    Surrealism is alive and well in CBBC land……Sarah & Duck, Abney & Teal, Night Garden. The latter reminds me of ingesting a lot of cannabis and then seeing a double bill of Yellow Submarine and Bed Sitting Room. Only two of us failed to have extreme paranoia in the latter, stayed to the end, ate two whole boxes of biscuits and then spent a wild weekend together. It didn’t do her marriage any favours.

  22. John Peacock says:

    In the Night Garden is beautiful and silly: the kind of thing modern David Lynch would come up with if he were to make a sitcom.

    When Gurney Slade came out on DVD a few years ago and I watched it, I could feel something clicking in young David Jones’ brain as he watched the original broadcast.

  23. Ian Luck says:

    I still own a 1980’s Max Headroom t-shirt. He was, for a while, essential viewing – there were people who actually believed he was real. A lot of what he said was scripted, but Matt Frewer was allowed a fair bit of ad libbing, to create the air of spontanaity. He said something once that was grim but funny, on the lines of: “If peas are as fresh as the day the pod went pop, does that mean that a hamburger is as fresh as the day that the cow went (sound of a chainsaw and a cow mooing very loudly)? Originally, Max was a video jockey, and chat-show host, but the later Canadian/American show, made it an adventure series, which I’d very much like to see again. I do have the original pilot show, ‘Max Headroom – Twenty Minutes Into The Future’ on a videotape somewhere. Surreal children’s shows – I love Abney and Teal, and Sarah and Duck (where the buses have propellors so that you can visit Sea Cows, by the way), and Roger Allom’s narration is simply wonderful. There was a very odd ‘cardmation’ show when I was younger, called ‘Ludwig’. He was a large, multi faceted crystal from which robotic arms and legs would emerge, and he could play any musical instrument, although he never spoke, and had no recognizable features. You’d think that this would be terrifying, at the least, creepy, but no, it was oddly beautiful.

  24. Ian Luck says:

    A very odd British movie of which I am very fond, is the 1966 film ‘It!’, which stars Roddy McDowall as a ‘Norman Bates’-ish museum worker, who borrows exhibits for his suspiciously quiet mother, and has control over a Golem. The monster is impressively creepy, and well realised for a small budget movie. It’s a good fun watch, with some pleasingly shonky effects work. For years, this was #1 on my horror film wants list, and I wasn’t disappointed when I watched it. For all it’s campy charm, it carries that peculiar ‘chilliness’ of tone that a lot of British horror and sci-fi movies have.

Comments are closed.