A sad case of Television Addiction

Posted: January 18, 2016 in Andrea Camilleri, Germany, Historical, Russia, spy story, tv crime fiction

I am in danger of becoming a television addict and my reading is suffering. My excuse is the plethora of great miniseries dominating our screens in the last few weeks. My recorder has been overworked, and I have even discovered Van Veeteren lurking among the mysteries on my Tivo boxed sets.

BBC 4 are playing the second series of Young Montalbano. I have now got accustomed to the youthful Salvo, Livia, Mimi, Favio and Catarella and even Mrs Crime Scraps is a fan of this excellent series.

More Four have also gone continental with the French policial thriller Spin [Les Hommes de l’Ombre] which stars the gorgeous Nathalie Baye, as a Presidential candidate, Bruno Wolkowitch, and Gregory Fitoussi. Fitoussi played Pierre Clement in Spiral, and sent many female hearts of my acquaintance throbbing, so it is nice to see him playing a real nasty piece of work managing the presidential electoral campaign of the Prime Minister, an even nastier guy. The sexual relationships of these fictional characters are nowhere near as intricate as those of the last two French presidents, Nicholas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande. Obviously true life is stranger than fiction and power must be the ultimate aphrodisiac. 

On Channel Four we have the spy thriller Deutschland 83 in which we see both that the GDR [East Germany] was part of the evil empire and the FDR [West Germany], or at least their army, seems to have been part of an incompetent empire. Some people are rooting for the GDR spy Martin in this series seemingly failing to see his predicament as the ruthless cynical exploitation of a decent person by a foul regime. Part of Ronald Reagan’s evil empire speech is used in the trailer and it is unfortunate that the fall of the Berlin Wall has not changed the ideas of many influential politicians in this country. They still won’t accept that Chairman Mao and Uncle Joe killed more people before breakfast on any single day than the British Empire in the last three centuries. 

I have seen that it won’t be long before a new series of Happy Valley will be back on our screens, and I was surprised to realise that the rapist from that series Tommy Lee Royce was played by James Norton, who stars as Prince Andrei Bolkonsky in the visually magnificent War and Peace currently on BBC One. I am really enjoying that series although it would be nice if Pierre Bezukhov, played with great intensity by Paul Dano, sent his slutty wife Helene [Tuppence Middleton] off to a convent somewhere near Irkutsk.

War and Peace has lead me to start reading a book that has lived on my bookshelves for nearly twent years. I have decided it is time I read How Far From Austerlitz by Alistair Horne so less crime fiction and a bit of history for a change. In my pre-Crime Scraps days I read Alistair Horne’s magnificent trilogy on modern French History, The Price of Glory:Verdun 1916;  To Lose a Battle: France 1940, and A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962. 

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    With good television like that, Norman, I think that it’s perfectly understandable that you’d be watching so much of it.

    • Mack says:

      Hi Norman, I feel your sadness. I’m currently addicted to The Sweeney and Life on Mars (UK not US version). I’m on the second series of both. Enjoying watching The Man Who Will Become Morse in The Sweeney as a man of action and with his smooth romantic moves, his shirt unbuttoned half way as he moves in on his latest bird with a glass of wine. Also enjoying a comparing a series set in the 70s vs one filmed in the 70s.

      • Norman Price says:

        I think John Thaw and Denis Waterman aged a fair bit between The Sweeney and Morse and New Tricks.
        But what really makes me feel old is watching Martin Shaw in The Professionals 1977-1983 and then in Judge John Deed 2001- 2007 and Inspector George Gently 2007-2015!

      • Mack says:

        Oh great, thanks Norman. Why don’t you enable an addict by giving him three new shows to get hooked on 🙂

    • Norman Price says:

      In the middle of watching a brilliant and very harrowing miniseries Deadline Gallipoli. A reminder of how much Britain owes her old Commonwealth. Rupert Murdoch’s father is featured in the series, he was a war correspondent. It is freezing and horrible outside so I don’t feel too guilty about TV watching.

  2. I watched a lot of TV over the last few months too – not something I’d ever really done before but just kept getting more box sets or free trials to various streaming services that opened up here. Loved the young Montalbano (much more than the older version on TV – slightly less misogynist I think) and Happy Valley. I’ve been making my way through Unit One (and old Danish procedural type series) too. Plus recently got engrossed in Making a Murderer which is American true crime – not normally my thing but I found it engrossing.

    The Gallipoli series is very harrowing – I thought it wouldn’t be because honestly it’s all we ever hear about here (don’t ask me what it says about us that we celebrate such a failure) but it was moving. As was going to the actual place which I did a few years back – a moment’s viewing makes you realise how doomed to failure the campaign was…I’m not sure why “we” don’t hate the Brits more for sending us into that slaughter.

    • Norman Price says:

      I noted that in Deadline Gallipoli no mention was made of Bean’s attitude to John Monash;

      from Wikipedia
      “Bean’s influence amidst the Australian war effort grew as the war progressed, and he used it to argue within Australian Government circles unsuccessfully against the appointment of General John Monash to the command of the Australian Corps in 1918. He disliked Monash for not fitting his ideal of Australian manhood (Monash was racially Jewish), and his perceived favoritism in the way that he dispensed promotions. He had earned Monash’s wrath in return for failing to give his command the publicity that Monash thought it deserved during the Gallipoli campaign. Bean distrusted what he felt was Monash’s penchant for self-promotion, writing in his diary: “We do not want Australia represented by men mainly because of the ability, natural and inborn in Jews, to push themselves forward.” Bean favoured the appointment of the Australian Chief of General Staff, Brudenell White, the meticulous planner behind the successful withdrawal from Gallipoli, or General Birdwood, the English Commander of the Australian forces at Gallipoli.

      Despite his opposition to the appointment of Monash, Bean later acknowledged his success in the role, noting that he had made a better Corps commander than a Brigadier, admitting that his role in trying to influence the decision had been improper.”

      Obviously it did not help that Monash’s parents were from Prussia. But it is instructive of the attitude of the British towards the Dominions that when they looked for someone to replace Haig as Commander of the British and Empire troops I read somewhere they rejected the Australian Commander Monash not because he was a Jew of Prussian origin, but because he was a “colonial militiaman”.

      I would suggest that you don’t hate the British because you realise they were sending their own to the slaughter as well. Stupid, incompetent fools, who were partying and playing polo when they should have been studying military history. Many of the fallen were the British aristocracy, including the future Queen Elizabeth’s brother Fergus Bowes-Lyon; our present Queen’s uncle.

      My wife and I are deeply affected by the memorials taking place to commemorate the Great War. My wife’s grandfather was in the Royal Australian Navy and was drowned in January 1918 on the submarine G8, I think he had been at Gallipoli.

      My mother’s eldest brother was killed with the Royal West Kents in the final weeks of the war, September 1918. He had been wounded twice before, but was sent back to the line for the attack on the Hindenburg line. His death at 19 shattered my grandparents lives, and in 1942 my grandmother had a heart attack. I think brought on by seeing her youngest son aged 19 in military uniform about to join yet another terrible conflict.

      • Interesting thoughts Norman, I’ll defer to your greater knowledge of the military side of things…I’m not sure the issue of “us” and our psychology is as well thought out as that…in general I think it has something to do with the fact we’re not very good at hating/holding a grudge…collectively I mean – a lot of the people who came here by choice were leaving areas of conflict for a reason and perhaps they have passed on that aspect of themselves – the desire to look ahead rather than at whatever was in the past – in greater numbers than you find elsewhere. Of course I could be full of crap but I always remember one of my mum’s uncles shaking his head at the news coming out of Ireland and its troubles and saying how glad he was that he and his brothers (including my grandfather) had come here – getting away from all those people who seemed to be angry at other people for the sheer enjoyment of it because surely no one could remember the reason for it all – if they’d stayed home my mother (a Catholic) would have been shunned (or worse) for marrying my Dad (a Protestant) and he thought that the most absurd thing – but I’m getting way off track.

        The war commemorations at this distance are interesting – we had a huge year of it last year because of Gallipoli – but are still seeing things from Europe and elsewhere this year – I just wish we’d learn a bit more from all the heartache and not go rushing quite so headlong into more conflicts but I suspect that will never happen

  3. Kathy D. says:

    War and more war. I can’t even read the New York Times international pages on wars, bombings, drones, etc., – and then there are the millions of desperate refugees fleeing into Europe to escape.
    So I avoid movies and TV shows set amidst war settings.

    But I can agree on TV addictions. In the last three months, I’ve seen both seasons of the brilliant Danish/Swedish series, “The Bridge,” the British “Happy Valley,” and “Line of Duty.” And I watch the Phrynne Fisher series and Scott and Bailey on TV. Loved “Broadchurch” and “The Escape Artist.” I’ve also seen more of the “Detective Irene Huss” series and Annika Bengtzon, too.

    I’m waiting for Hinterland season two to reach the States, as well as for the new Young Montalbano episodes, and for Broadchurch and The Bridge season three, which will both take awhile.

    I’m thinking of signing on to Acorn which has a slew of British TV series, but then I’ll never read. I read less in 2015 than in years, somewhat due to the European mysteries available here.

  4. Kathy D. says:

    And, I am waiting for Unforgotten and River to be available over here.

  5. icewineanne says:

    Hi Norman, at TIFF last year, I saw a wonderful, deeply affecting film about a patrol of British paratroopers in Afganistan. It is called Kilo Two Bravo directed by Paul Katis. I highly recommend it.

  6. Kathy D. says:

    I just learned that my library has Acorn Media TV show dvd’s. I got four sets already and just discovered many more are in the system. Now, when I’m not reading enough books, I can blame the library for carrying so many British TV mysteries. My gosh: There are so many I’ve never known about but will now spend time watching them.

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