Saturday 31 October 2015

The Corridor People (1966)

The Corridor People, made by Granada in 1966, may be the strangest British television series of the 1960s. In fact it may well be the strangest television series ever made anywhere. Perhaps the biggest mystery of all surrounding this series is why Granada ever thought it was going to work. Only four episodes were made and it’s surprising it lasted that long. It was much too weird to have any chance at all of commercial success. Despite this it certainly has a bizarre fascination. 

A brief synopsis of the plot of the first episode, Victim as Birdwatcher, might leader an innocent viewer to think that it sounds a bit like an episode of The Avengers. That would be an entirely false impression. The Corridor People is closer in feel to The Prisoner, or even Twin Peaks. It also bears a certain resemblance to the bleak surreal existentialist nihilism of early Roman Polanski (especially movies like Knife in the Water and Cul-de-Sac) with a strong touch of Theatre of the Absurd. There’s also a dash of the kind of inspired madness that Spike Milligan was capable of, although oddly enough The Corridor People is entirely lacking in humour. While it tries to be outrageous it takes itself very seriously.

It has the familiar shot-on-videotape look of early 60s British television but it was clearly produced on a minuscule budget. It’s extremely stagey and is often crude and amateurish in execution although some of that may have been an ill-advised attempt to be self-consciously arty.

To add yet another layer of complexity there are also attempts at social satire. It’s the kind of clumsy and inept social satire you’d expect from an irritatingly pompous undergraduate.

The series was created by Edward Boyd who also wrote all four episodes.

While the resemblance to The Avengers is superficial there is a tenuous connection. The star of The Corridor People is Elizabeth Shepherd, who was the original Mrs Peel in The Avengers. One and a half episodes were filmed with her in the role. They were never screened and are now lost. After this she was somewhat unceremoniously dumped and hurriedly replaced by Diana Rigg. 

Victim as Birdwatcher plunges us straight into the weirdness. A birdwatcher is kidnapped by Syrie Van Epp (Elizabeth Shepherd). Syrie Van Epp is a beautiful, mysterious but sinister Persian woman who has ambitions to become a diabolical criminal mastermind. Her plan is to gain control of a British cosmetics firm which has accidentally developed a scent that has the potential to become a super-weapon. The top-secret British intelligence agency Department K, led by the apparently amiable but actually rather ruthless Kronk (John Sharp), intends to stop her. He has an agent in her organisation and he also has the services of two bumbling detectives, Inspector Blood and Sergeant Hound. There’s also his prim middle-aged secretary, Miss Dunner, who happens to be Department K’s top assassin.

Syrie Van Epp is prepared to use extreme measures in order to carry out her plan but Kronk is even more ruthless and perfectly willing to resort to torture and murder if he deems it necessary.

Complicating things is hard-boiled private eye Phil Scrotty (Gary Cockrell) who appears to be playing a double game.

Things get even more outré in Victim as Whitebait. This time Syrie Van Epp has found a mad scientist who can raise people from the dead. These dead people who won’t stay dead are causing Kronk some concern. Kronk has other problems - he needs to find a certain genius accountant in order to nail a businessman who has defrauded the Treasury of several million pounds. The trouble us that the accountant is a recluse and the only person who knows his identity is dead, but of course the dead do not necessarily stay dead so that may not be quite such a problem. This episode also features a midget assassin and a Swedish film director researching the dark recesses of the human psyche.

Victim as Red has more of a straightforward spy thriller plot, but done in an extreme surreal style. A middle-aged colonel had disappeared seven years earlier. He may have defected or he may be dead. Kronk is inclined to believe he defected. The puzzling thing is his possible connection with a two million pound train robbery. At this juncture I should point out that in this series the plots are really of very secondary importance, being little more than an excuse for a succession of increasingly surreal set-pieces. In this episode the vaguely coherent plot is if anything a disadvantage.

Victim as Black marks a serious downturn in quality. The plot is rather uninteresting, the deliberate artificiality seems strained and the social commentary is exceptionally clumsy.

Elizabeth Shepherd’s performance is effective enough in an offbeat sort of way while Gary Cockrell is lively as the amoral Scrotty. The acting overall is deliberately artificial and extremely stagey, something that viewers will find interesting or irritating depending on taste (I have to confess that mostly I found it irritating). The actors often break the fourth wall to address the audience directly. This can be effective in certain circumstances but in this series it just seems to be part of a general tendency to try to be terribly clever and daring and avant-garde. Inspector Blood and Sergeant Hound may well be intended to be frightfully amusing but the joke wears thin very quickly.

The character of Syrie Van Epp changes subtly over the course of the four episodes, from being a would-be diabolical criminal mastermind to being just an amoral schemer out to enrich herself. She’s slightly less interesting in the final two episodes. In fact the final two episodes are considerably weaker than the first two which despite their flaws did have moments of inspired weirdness.

The sets are crude but I assume this was another deliberate choice, to give the impression  of a stage production. The sets are actually one of the more effective elements. Mention must be made of Syrie Van Epp’s bizarre wardrobe. This also works quite well and is certainly in keeping with the overall mood.

While there’s no question that this series is insanely bold and brilliantly imaginative and breathtakingly innovative and it does have some genuinely inspired moments it has several weaknesses which contribute to its ultimate failure. It is entirely lacking in wit, it is full of cheap adolescent cynicism and despair, its attempts at artiness veer perilously close to pretentiousness, the satire is cringe-inducingly inept and heavy-handed, and overall it’s just too nihilistic and bleak to be truly entertaining. The first two episodes do have their moments.

Of course it has to be noted that there is a question of taste involved. I’m personally not too fond of postmodern attempts to subvert the genre and all that sort of stuff. If that type of thing does appeal to you then you’ll probably get more enjoyment out of this series than I did. Only recommended if your tastes run in that direction although it has curiosity value.

The Corridor People is available on DVD in Region 2, from Network DVD.

Friday 23 October 2015

The Avengers - Death Dispatch (1962)

Death Dispatch was originally screened in Britain in December 1962. It’s notable as being the first episode of The Avengers to feature Honor Blackman as Mrs Cathy Gale. At least it was the first Cathy Gale episode to be shot, although not the first to go to air.

As you might expect at this early stage the character of Cathy Gale has not yet been fully established - she is almost but not yet the familiar and iconic Cathy Gale.

The plot is decent enough, if nothing startling. One of the British Secret Service’s couriers has been killed. To find the killer Steed must pose as the new courier. The story takes Steed and Cathy to several exotic locations (this is of course achieved through the magic of stock footage and adding a few potted palms to sets to give the impression we’re in the Caribbean and later in South America). A powerful politician seems to be behind the killing but his motives are, initially at least, unclear.

It’s the kind of story one associates with Danger Man rather than The Avengers but it’s well executed and well-paced. The introductory scene, the murder of the courier in a Jamaica hotel room, is particularly well done.

While it’s a good solid episode its main interest is that it gives us our first chance to see Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman together. There’s plenty of chemistry between them right from the start.

In the first season Steed had been a much harder-edged and more cynical personality than the Steed of the more familiar and better-known later seasons. Over the course of the second season his character would be slowly transformed into the charming, witty, debonair character we would come to love. That process is already apparent in Death Dispatch, with Macnee taking a more tongue-in-cheek approach to his performance.

This very early version of Cathy Gale is much more conventionally and overtly feminine. She wears smart frocks and her general demeanour is softer than it would be later on, although she is still a very competent agent and quite prepared to carry a gun and to use it. She is also more obviously a professional spy. In many later episodes one gets the impression that she has been recruited by Steed on his own initiative and that her status with the unnamed agency for which Steed works is perhaps semi-official. In Death Dispatch though she is unequivocally a full-time professional agent.

The witty banter between Steed and Mrs Gale would become one of the great strengths of The Avengers and that wittiness is already in evidence here.

I’ve seen a lot of the Cathy Gale episodes and I’m quite a fan of this period in the show’s history. I had however never seen this one before and it really is interesting to see that the potential of the Steed-Mrs Gale partnership was there from the beginning but it’s just as interesting to see that it was a partnership that was destined to evolve over time as the production team gradually figured out the best way to make use of Honor Blackman’s abilities.

An episode that every serious fan of The Avengers needs to see, and a fine and highly episode in its own right as well.

Saturday 17 October 2015

Banacek (season one, 1972)

Banacek had an interesting history. In the early 70s NBC was experimenting with “wheel series” - the idea being that instead of making a single series for a particular timeslot they’d make three different series which would screen in alternate weeks in the same timeslot. Their first attempt had the umbrella title The NBC Mystery Movie. The three series were Columbo, McCloud and McMillan and Wife. It was hugely successful and inspired the network to do the NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie with Banacek, Cool Million and Madigan screening on a three-week rotation. 

Cool Million and Madigan sank without trace after a single season but Banacek did well. It ran for two seasons and was renewed for a third season but that third season did not materialise because star George Peppard quit for reasons that say quite a bit about his idiosyncratic approach to his own career. He was going through an acrimonious divorce and he feared that most of his earnings from a third season would have gone straight to his ex-wife. So he walked away from it. Peppard was a fine actor who had a successful career that should have been even more successful.

The big advantage of the wheel series concept was that it allowed for much longer shooting schedules than were usual in television. That permitted plenty of location shooting and high (by television standards) production values. Each episode was in effect a feature-length made-for-TV movie but with the same recurring characters.

Banacek had one thing in common with Columbo - both series employed a kind of ongoing gimmick that gave thjem a distinctive flavour. Each episode of Columbo was an inverted detective story in which the identity of the murderer is revealed at the beginning rather than the end. Each episode of Banacek is an impossible crime story.

Thomas Banacek is a freelance insurance investigator. When a robbery or suspicious arson or similar crime is committed the insurance companies naturally carry out their own investigation. If after sixty days the crime has not been solved it is thrown open to anyone who cares to try to recover the money or goods. If they succeed they get ten percent of the insured value. A freelance insurance investigator who is good at his job can make a great deal of money. Banacek is very good. He is as a result very wealthy. Which is just as well. After a deprived childhood Banacek has developed a taste for the good things in life. He collects antiques, he lives expensively, he drives a very cool 1942 Packard 180 roadster. And oh yes, he has expensive tastes in women.

The pilot, Detour To Nowhere, aired in March 1972. This is a classic impossible crime story. An armoured car disappears near the border between Texas and Oklahoma. Literally disappears. Without a trace. With $1,600,000 worth of gold on board. That’s a big payout for the National-Meridian Insurance Company. Their chief investigator, McKinney (Charles Robinson), has made no progress at all on the case. The one thing that bothers McKinney more than not solving the case is that after 60 days it can be taken up by anybody. Including Banacek. And McKinney just cannot stand the idea that Banacek might recover the money. McKinney would do anything to prevent this.

Not that this worries Banacek. In fact it amuses him - it adds a bit more zest to the case.

This story establishes the character of Banacek - wealthy, highly cultured, a connoisseur of  beauty, slightly arrogant, devilishly handsome, charming and brilliant. We also find out that beneath the charming and cultivated exterior Banacek is a man who can handle himself in a street brawl, and once he takes up a case he is unlikely to be deflected by any setbacks or any dangers he might encounter.

The casting of George Peppard as the Polish-American Banacek proved to be inspired. Peppard has plenty of boyish charm but he’s also convincing as a guy who is tougher than he seems to be, and he can handle the odd moments of low-key humour with ease. He’s a slightly prickly character but he’s likeable as well. The other two regular cast members are Ralph Manza as Banacek’s wise-cracking driver Jay Drury and Australian-born Murray Matheson as slightly eccentric rare book dealer Felix Mulholland who just happens to be a mine of information on all manner of esoteric subjects.

The first episode of the series proper, Let’s Hear It for a Living Legend, offers us an impressive enough impossible crime. A pro football star vanishes. Not such a big deal, except that at the moment he vanished he was playing in a game in a stadium in front of tends of thousands of people. In spite of the fact that his vanishing act was also caught on camera by a TV network there is still no explanation. One moment he was there - the next he was gone. 

In Project Phoenix Banacek has to find a stolen car. Not just any stolen car, but a super-secret super-high tech experimental car insured for a cool five million dollars. The excellent No Sign of the Cross sees Banacek trying to recover a fabulously valuable medieval cross. This episode is interesting in that we get to see a slightly different side of Banacek. Although he’d be the last one to admit it he does have a softer warmer side. In A Million the Hard Way Banacek investigates the disappearance of a million dollars from a casino in Las Vegas. Casinos tend to be rather obsessive about security. Anyone wanting to steal money from them would have to come up with a pretty clever plan and this one is a peach. This is an impossible crime story that stretches credibility a little but then all impossible crime stories have to be a bit outlandish. This one is very outlandish but it’s certainly fun.

Banacek has the same kind of feel as the other successful NBC Mystery Movie series - the  crimes take place among the rich and famous, or the rich and powerful, there’s an emphasis on the detective’s use of brainpower rather than muscle in solving the cases and there’s a studious avoidance of the sleazy and sordid. This all serves to make Banacek classy, stylish, civilised and very very entertaining. Highly recommended.

I've also reviewed Banacek season two.

Saturday 10 October 2015

Shadows of Fear (1970-73)

Anthology television series enjoyed a considerable vogue in the 1960s and on until the early 70s, on both British and American television. One of the least-remembered examples is Thames Television’s Shadows of Fear, broadcast intermittently from 1970 to 1973.

This series had a rather odd production history. The first episode went to air in mid-1970. It was followed by a season of nine one-hour episodes in early 1971. A two-year hiatus ensued after this and then one final half-hour episode was broadcast in early 1973. This series was apparently broadcast once and never repeated and I have been able to find virtually no background information on it.

Thames assembled some fairly formidable talent for Shadows of Fear. Four episodes were written by Roger Marshall, one of the best TV writers in the business who contributed episodes to The Avengers, Special Branch, The Sweeney and Target amongst many others as well as creating and writing the superb Public Eye series. Two episodes were penned by John Kershaw, another fine writer whose credits include stories for Special Branch, Public Eye and Callan.

Seven episodes were directed by Kim Mills who had worked on series such as The Avengers, The Mind of Mr J. G. Reeder and The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. The acting talent includes Sheila Hancock, Ronald Hines, George Sewell, George Cole and Edward Fox. With people of that calibre involved it’s rather odd that this series fell into complete oblivion.

This series focuses on psychological horror and suspense rather than the supernatural. It’s the same sort of territory that Brian Clemens would mine in his 1973-76 Thriller series.

Did You Lock Up? was the debut episode, with a script by Roger Marshall. A successful writer, Peter Astle (Michael Craig), and his wife Moira (Gwen Watford) are burgled. It’s the sort of thing that happens all the time. It’s irritating but you get over it. Only Peter doesn’t get over it. He wants to see those burglars behind bars. The police admit they have little chance of catching them. Peter decides to have a go at catching them himself. But what will happen when he does capture them? It’s an entertaining story, fairly low-key but with a sting in the tail.

Sugar and Spice is even better. Anne Brand (Sheila Hancock) is surprised on arriving home to find that her son Michael has not returned from school. Her daughter Judy (Suzanne Togni) obviously knows where he is but has an odd tale of having promised her father not to say anything. Judy is clearly a slightly strange child. When Anne’s husband Vic (Ronald Hines) finally arrives home, very late and rather drunk, the plot begins to thicken. He had been having an affair but had told Anne is was all over and done with. Things are obviously very tense between Anne and Vic. And Michael is still not home. Anne is more and more suspicious but she’s not entirely sure what she is suspicious about. The tension builds more and more intensely. It’s not that hard to guess what has happened but it’s the unbearably tense atmosphere and the powerful performances from all three leads that make this a fine exercise in twisted suspense and psychological horror.

In At Occupier’s Risk a young woman arrives at a roadside inn in England. The proprietors, Mr and Mrs Darben, seem strangely disturbed at the prospect of a paying customer. Mr and Mrs Darben are obviously harbouring some kind of secret. There’s certainly something  hidden away in that locked room behind the kitchen but it’s not quite the secret we expect. A nicely moody episode.

The Death Watcher is quite superb. Emmy Erikson (Judy Parfitt) is a psychologist with an interest in the unusual, and even the paranormal. She is invited for the weekend to the home of Dr Pickering (John Neville), ostensibly to take part in an experiment. The problem is that Mrs Erikson is really a sceptic while Dr Pickering is very much a true believer. Mrs Erikson dismisses Pickering’s crackpot theories with scorn but discovers that participation in his experiment is not voluntary. And his theories are even more bizarre than she’d imagined. John Neville is excellent as the plausible but tragically unhinged Pickering while Victor Maddern gives a lovely underplayed performance as his assistant Dawson, a psychiatric nurse. This episode is genuinely creepy and scary with a nice touch of pathos.

There has to be at least one dud episode and in this series it’s Repent at Leisure, by the usually reliable Roger Marshall. A wealthy middle-aged woman on a round-the-world cruise has an affair with the cabin steward. Not unusual, except that she later marries him. She’s wealthy and upper-class and he’s poor and working-class so things don’t work out. The problem is that she (being upper-class) is naturally neurotic, vicious and stupid while he (being working-class) is naturally noble, generous, perceptive and an all-round great guy. This is not only tedious, it also undercuts the drama of the ensuing tragic situation.

Jeremy Paul’s Return of Favours is much better. Mr Marsh (George Cole) is alarmed to find that his wife’s awful friend Judith and her even more awful married boyfriend Roger have been using his flat as their little love nest while he’s out. This turns out to be rather to Mr Marsh’s advantage as it fits in with a little plan of his own. It’s not difficult to guess what’s going to happen but some fine acting (especially from George Cole) makes this a nicely creepy little tale.

Unfortunately John Kershaw’s The Lesser of the Two is another dud, a dreary story of a man recently released after serving a prison sentence for a terrible crime of which he claims to be innocent. He finds he’s now unwelcome in his own home and in his own neighbourhood.

Things get back on track with Hugh Leonard’s White Walls and Olive-Green Carpets, a delightfully twisted story of revenge, infidelity and madness.

In Roger Marshall’s Sour Grapes two English tourists in Spain are menaced by a mysterious but clearly very dangerous German criminal. Staying alive in such a situation is one thing; remaining sane and human is quite another. This episode benefits from its enigmatic quality - there is no possibility of communication with the criminal and his motives remain obscure.

Come Into My Parlour is a story with potential but the motivations of the characters stretch credibility a little too much and are somewhat contradictory.

The final episode, The Party’s Over, is notable as being the only episode to have a period rather than a contemporary setting, being set in the 1920s. It’s an  OK episode although the plot is not terribly difficult to predict. Its main asset is an enjoyably villainous performance by Edward Fox as an utter cad who plans to murder his wife.

When this series concentrates on moody psychological thrillers with a healthy dose of horror it’s very good indeed. Unfortunately when it drifts into Socially Aware Drama territory it becomes very very tedious. Luckily it mostly stays in psychological horror territory and the hits outnumber the misses. And the episodes that do hit the target are very good indeed.

Network have released the complete series on DVD in Region 2. 

Shadows of Fear is, like most anthology series, very uneven. In fact it’s more uneven than most, but in the final analysis there are more good episodes than bad and some are extremely good. Worth a look.

Friday 2 October 2015

Out of the Unknown, season 2 (1966)

All anthology television series tend to be rather uneven in quality and tone - it’s very much in the nature of such programs. The BBC’s science fiction anthology TV series Out of the Unknown (which ran from 1965 to 1971) was more uneven than most, with the episodes ranging from brilliant to absolutely atrocious.

Sadly only four of the episodes from the second season survive and three of them will be discussed here. I've discussed the fourth surviving episode, the superb The Machine Stops, in detail previously and I've also written about season one elsewhere.

Season 2, episode 8, Tunnel Under the World

Tunnel Under the World manages to both brilliant and atrocious at the same time (although fortunately the brilliance outeighs the atrocious elements). It was adapted from a Frederick Pohl short story and went to air in 1966.

June 15th seems to be a perfectly ordinary morning for Guy Birkett (Ronald Hines), apart from the fact that he woke from a bad nightmare about an explosion. Oddly enough his wife Mary (Petra Davies) had a very similar nightmare. There are the usual little annoyances. The newspaper is full of advertisements. The radio broadcasts advertising non-stop. There are even loudspeaker vans outside their door irritating them with advertising. A man named Swanson keeps wanting to make an appointment with Guy but Guy is too busy to see him. Guy works for a chemical company but for some reason he tries to avoid going anywhere near the factory - it’s entirely automated and staffed by robots. The robots have had human brain patterns implanted in them, which Guy finds rather disturbing.

The next morning, June 15th, Guy once again awakes from a nightmare. The advertising is still all-pervasive. Swanson is still trying to see him. Guy is still busy. The morning after this, June 15th, is fairly irritating as well. Guy has not yet realised that every morning is June 15th but he is starting to realise that something odd is going on.

You won’t be surprised to learn that the answer to the puzzle has something to do with advertising - the script has already bludgeoned us over the head with that idea. The solution also turns out to have something to do with evil cigar-smoking capitalists who look like they’ve just stepped out of a 1930s Soviet propaganda poster. 

Despite the extraordinarily crude political message of the story the episode does contain some very very good genuine science fictional ideas. It’s a pity that the cardboard villains weaken the impact of these ideas.

Production designer William McCrow did a great job with the sets which reinforce the paranoid atmosphere very cleverly (and much more subtly than the script). 

Tunnel Under the World deals with many of the themes that obsessed science fiction writers in the mid-20th century - paranoia, social atomisation, the fine line between reality and illusion, the crushing of the individual spirit. It’s a bit of a mixed bag but it’s still very much worth a watch the final sequence is chilling and quite brilliant.

Season 2, episode 4, Level 7

Level 7 is an object lesson in how not to do television science fiction. It’s preachy, didactic, obvious and dull. It’s yet another nuclear war scare story, which must surely be the most tedious of all science fiction sub-genres. Level 7 was adapted by J. B. Priestley from Mordecai Roshwald’s novel.

Level 7 is the lowest and most secure level of a nuclear bunker from which nuclear war can be conducted by push button. The personnel are carefully selected from people with no emotional attachments. They live in a secure sterile environment where they become totally dehumanised. The story makes use of every possible cliché of this cliché-ridden sub-genre. The commanding officer (played by Anthony Bate) is a stereotypical evil military type. The personnel are given numbers rather than names. Life is regimented and surveillance is constant. There is of course the over-sensitive guy who cracks up under the strain, which doesn’t work because he’s already clearly so neurotic that he would never have been selected in the first place. The hero suddenly switches from gung-ho enthusiasm to agonising doubts for no reason whatsoever. 

Apart from being incredibly preachy the biggest problem is the total absence of dramatic tension. What should be the key dramatic moment is handled with extraordinary dullness. The sets are flat and uninteresting. The lighting is flat. Everything is flat and lifeless. OK, it’s supposed to be a dehumanising environment but in television terms it’s boring. And it looks cheap, the way only a BBC production can look cheap.

This is message television but the message falls flat because nothing interesting happens, the acting is wooden, the direction is insipid, the dialogue is lame, the pacing is leaden. The greatest challenge to the viewer will be staying awake. Avoid.

Season 2, episode 3, Lambda 1

Lambda 1 is a mess. Luckily it’s an incredibly entertaining mess!

In the future air and rocket travel has been replaced by something much more revolutionary - tau travel. To get from New York to London you travel through atomic space right through the Earth! The difficulty is that you have to travel through different modes - Gamma Mode, Delta Mode, Epsilon Mode, etc. And the tau ships sometimes slip unexpectedly from one mode to another which has disturbing and frightening effects. The most frightening thing though is the mysterious Omega Mode. Some people claim it doesn’t exist. Others are sure it does exist but don’t want to talk about it. In fact the very idea of Omega Mode has turned tau ship commander Dantor (Charles Tingwell) into an alcoholic.

Now the passengers on the tau ship Elektron have discovered that Omega Mode is all too real. They are trapped there and they are going slowly mad. The only hope is for tau controller Paul Porter to pilot the original tau ship, Lambda I, into Omega Mode to rescue them. To do this he will need the assistance of psychologist Eric Benedict (Ronald Lewis), because Omega Mode is not just a phenomenon of tau physics but a state of mind.

If none of that makes any sense to you don’t panic. It made no sense to me either but it didn’t stop me from throughly enjoying this delightfully outrageous and goofy tale. There’s lots of delicious technobabble and as a bonus there’s lots of psychobabble as well. There’s some delirious overacting with Charles Tingwell in particularly going totally over-the-top. There are psychedelic special effects. There are hints of eastern mysticism. There are sets that would have been rejected as too cheap for Doctor Who. And lots of breathless excitement!

You just have to put your brain on hold and enjoy the ride. Highly recommended!

It is of course unfair to judge the second season by the four surviving episodes but they are all we have and overall the impression is of a series that sometimes set its sights too high but somehow succeeded brilliantly against the odds (The Machine Stops), sometimes set its sights high and failed, and at other times was all over the place covering the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous. It's still an interesting series that took risks and it's worth having a look at.