Karaoke (Channel 4 – BBC 1996, Albert Finney, Hywel Bennett)

The superb Dennis Potter knew that his life was coming to an end when he set out to write his last two linked drama serials, Karaoke and Cold Lazarus, cleverly he stipulated that the productions should be joint ones between the BBC and Channel 4 (in the early 1990’s when these two were made the television industry was really in the doldrums in danger of fracturing itself out of business, Potter, always a keen student of the box in the corner, knew this and saw the joint production a way of making the stations see sense – and they did, in these days of cross pollination you can watch a drama made by an ITV company but shown on the BBC or Channel 4 pretty much every day of the week!)

Racing against time to finish both dramas before his death from cancer Potter fashioned a brilliant tale set in the 1990’s and four hundred years later taking ample pot shots at the media and our obsession with celebrity along the way.

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In Karaoke Albert Finney is Daniel Feeld, an alcoholic writer suffering a major illness who in classic Potter style finds that the things he is writing about become true, his play, Karaoke, focuses on a villain called Arthur Pig Mallion (a brilliant Hywel Bennett) and in particular a girl, Sandra Sollars (played by Saffron Burrows) who works in his nightclub. There is a brilliant cast on board which also includes Roy Hudd as Feeld’s spoonerish agent Ben Baglin, Richard E. Grant, Julie Christie and Keeley Hawes making her major TV debut.

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See also Cold Lazarus.

production details
UK | Channel 4 – BBC – Whistling Gypsy | 4×50 minutes | 1996

Writer: Dennis Potter
Producers: Kenith Trodd, Rosemary Whitman
Director: Renny Rye

Albert Finney as Daniel Feeld
Anna Chancellor as Anna Griffiths
Hywel Bennett as Arthur ‘Pig’ Maillion
Keeley Hawes as Linda Langer
Richard E. Grant as Nick Balmer
Neil Stuke as Peter
Saffron Burrows as Sandra Sollars
Roy Hudd as Ben Baglin
Simon Donald as Ian
Julie Christie as Lady Ruth Balmer
Natascha McElhone as Angie
Ian McDiarmid
Steven Mackintosh
Alison Steadman
Stephen Boxer as Consultant
Ewan McGregor as Young Man
Cathy Murphy as Nurse
Liz Smith as Mrs Baglin

Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.