Friday, 19 September 2008

Inspirations 4: Better than normal

Today's Inspiration: The Singing Detective

People like different things, and there's nothing wrong with that. When you're an adolescent and you've been through your taste-defining stage without really realising it, but you haven't learnt enough to appreciate the limitations of what you hold to be of quality, sometimes you can be brought up sharp by different views or attitudes than your own. That doesn't mean those other views aren't wrong however...

I was about 14 when The Singing Detective first aired, and I watched the lot; suitable or not, I didn't care: I knew I was seeing something unique and special. I respect Dennis Potter as a great TV dramatist, and I respect the writer's place as primary author of a work; but, the director Jon Amiel has to take a lot of credit too - he found a visual style beyond anything Potter had imagined, and produced something head and shoulders above Potter's works up to that point.

It was provocative, it was ambitious, it could be called pretentious, you may even hate it. Fine. When it was first repeated, I devoured it once more. I was - what? - a year older and it meant more to me again. By then, I was a hospital radio DJ (apologies, all the other kids were doing it, and it seemed like a good idea at the time) and one night mid-series I was doing some fund-raising event or collecting dedications on the wards or some such. I commented to another hospital radio bod (Stuart Norval - who now reads the local BBC news down here in the South, and good on him) that I had to rush back to see The Singing Detective.

Stuart thought about this, and said: “But it's boring, innit?”

It may be provocative, ambitious, pretentious, you may even hate it. But it's not boring. I was left mouth agape guppy-fish style. I could not believe that anyone really felt like that. But after a short period of time (about twenty years) I got over it, and realised Stuart wasn't lying, and it is possible to be bored by anything, even drama. But I knew I never would be.

I, like every other writer on my blog roll, and every other writer in the world whatever level, will never be bored by this stuff - we can't switch off, we can't ignore it, it nags at the back of our mind and makes us feel guilty if we're not thinking about it. We have to live with that, and some people don't: they don't even know there's a Red Planet competition, let alone will they be scouring their inbox and the world wide web in a few weeks to see if they or anyone they know has won. They call these 'normal people'.

But writers, to paraphrase Philip J. Fry, are better than normal: they're abnormal. Hooray for that!  

Next: El Mariachi


Jennifer said...

There are people who don't know there's a Red Planet competition? Surely you jest. What do they do with their lives????

David Lemon said...

Hi Stuart
Dennis Potter was certainly a one-off. TV rarely seems to produce work that's so idiosyncratic and personal. His interview with Melvin Bragg just before he died is amazing.
Did you happen to see 'Merlin'? I really enjoyed it and hope it succeeds. Russel T Davies rescued Saturday nights from Ant and Dec- they can't have it back!

Si said...

Stuart - there must be some mistake. I don't remember Potter writing Doctor Who (actually, imagine that!) Seriously though, you're on the nose - it was amazing. I watched Pennies From Heaven again recently (my favourite Potter) - still just as powerful. David's right - the interview is fascinating as is the whole Cold Lazarus cross channel that they did - who else could have pulled that off?

Stuart Perry said...

Jennifer: I know, how can people live like that!

David: agreed about the interview, it could have been one of my five insirations just in and of itself.

Also, I just caught up with Merlin, and thought it was very enjoyable, and felt very old school (in a good way): hope it finds an audience. Isn't it funny to think of how odd it seemed just four years ago to show family dramas on Saturdays? Ta, Russell!

Si - I don't know if it's apocryphal but there is a story that Potter pitched a story to Verity Lambert not long after Dotor Who started, which involved a fantasist charcater who believed he could travel through time. But he was rejected!