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Classic TV Revisited: Edge Of Darkness



When Emma Craven, a young environmentalist, is killed in fishy circumstances, her Detective Inspector father goes on a quest for the truth. Haunted by apparitions of his daughter, the grieving father digs deeper and uncovers a complex conspiracy. An absorbing thriller full of suspense, worthy of Hitchcock’s best.

The series stars the late Bob Peck as the grieving Detective Inspector, Joanne Whalley as the murdered Emma and Texan Joe Don Baker as the dry witty CIA agent. Watch out for appearances from the likes of Zoë Wanamaker and Sue Cook as herself. Together with a script from writer Troy Kennedy-Martin and directing from Martin Campbell the team who won six BAFTAs all went on to bigger and better things like directing Hollywood blockbusters and marrying Hollywood stars.

From Emmerdale to Hollywood
Joanne Whalley, born in Manchester, got her first taste of stardom in 1982 when she played a groupie to rock star Bob Geldof in Pink Floyd’s legendary The Wall. It was a glamorous step forward from bit parts in Coronation Street and Emmerdale. By 1988 she was best known for her part as red-haired Sorsha in fantasy flick Willow. Having married her co-star, the notorious Val Kilmer, she went to Hollywood and hit the big time with Shattered in 1991. Just five years later, her marriage shattered too.

Edge of Darkness - Joe Don Baker as Jedburgh

Joe Don Baker as Jedburgh

Music matters
The music for the series was born from collaboration between two of the industry’s biggest names: Eric Clapton and Michael Kamen. It was such a success they went on to work together on other projects such as the Lethal Weapon films and James Bond: Licence to Kill. Kamen is well known for scores of other movie scores such as Die Hard with a Vengeance, 101 Dalmatians and X-Men. He also wrote Bryan Adams’s Everything I Do, I Do it for You. Eric Clapton, known to some as the world’s best guitar player has been revered since the 1960s and is known worldwide for his many hits including Layla and Wonderful Tonight.

Spy vs spy
Kamen and Clapton weren’t the only Edge of Darkness team members to get involved with James Bond. Director Martin Campbell went on to direct Goldeneye while Joe Don Baker brought his experience playing a spy to Living Daylights as Brad Whitaker and Goldeneye as Jack Wade.

CIA funny man
Joe Don Baker is hilarious as dry and witty CIA agent Darius. One of his best lines comes when Craven asks him how his round of golf was, to which he answers, “Well, bodies kept turning up in the bunkers, and you need air support to play out of the rough. Kind of puts you off your game.” His comic timing and delivery are immaculate when he later says: “‘Khe San’ died. Peacefully, in bed. Of gunshot wounds.”

A 2010 Hollywood remake starring Mel Gibson did well to capture some of the flavour of the original serial.

Edge Of Darkness aired on BBC-2 in 1985.



Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess




Xena Warrior Princess

What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.

Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.

Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.

Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.

Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?

Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.

Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Character: Xena

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Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife




McMillan And Wife

Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.

Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.

And wifey?
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.

Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.

Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.

Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.

What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.

Other characters
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.

Famous guest stars?
Kim Basinger

The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.

Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.

Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.

Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.

The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.

A winner?
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.

Distinguishing features?
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.

Do say
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.

Don’t say
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.

Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.

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Classic TV Revisited: The Royal




The Royal

The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.

The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.

Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.

Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.

Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”

A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.

First broadcast: 2003

Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden

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