Friday, October 30, 2009

Demspey and Makepeace—80s TV-series Goodness

Thanks to my daughter in the UK—soon to be back in Australia, about which we're all very happy—and her thoughtful response to my Christmas wish, which ended up as a Father's Day gift, my wife and I have had the good fortune to pig out on that piece of 80s TV-series goodness, Dempsey and Makepeace.

...with Michael Brandon and Glynis Barber, who hooked up in real life after the series was done; which kind of confirmed something that was pretty obvious on-screen, namely the existence of that elusive quality known as 'chemistry'—a term often used and abused, in the context of a 'lack' of it even more than in a more positive meaning.

Now, I'm not really a fan of' 'old stuff'; and 'vintage' stuff, at least to me, isn't only no better than what we produce today, but it's also dated, and I for one find much of it hard to relate to. Casablanca leaves me cold, though from a purely clinical level I can appreciate its narrative virtues. Old Star Trek has curiosity value, certainly, but I wouldn't "oohh" and "aahh" over it. The attribute 'classic' means little to me. One day much of what he produce now will be 'classic', and so what?

There are exceptions. For example, I love Once Upon a Time in the West; Charade; many, though not all, old Clint Eastwood flicks; a few choice episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a selection of Avengers episodes, though I can take or leave most of them, and they don't really grab me anymore either; plus other stuff—but there isn't that much, really. And, yes, I know this is almost heresy, what I'm saying here. So bite me.

But I always liked Dempsey and Makepeace. Watching it again took a few episodes to get over the 80s style and rituals, shots, camera angles and music that was in vogue in the mid-80s; but then I became habituated to it and that aspect of the show became background noise, which the brain blanked out while it focused on the stories themselves.

Not that the stories were all that hot-shit either. There was very little deep-and-meaningful, at least not for the first season. Much of it was clearly laid out, with everything pretty unambiguous and almost qualifying as stereotype—which might have been annoying in a different setting and with different people; but it wasn't here. In the following seasons, and especially in the third and last, the characters were 'tested' significantly more, to reveal quite a few raw spots. This went together with a change of hairstyles—as the world's fashions changed, I suppose—but I shall assume that that was incidental.


So, what made it so successful with audiences?—while the retard LWT network execs didn't renew the show after S3; were they asleep at the wheel or what? Well, you work it out. Rocket science it ain't.

And there's a definite flip-side to the non-renewal, of course. The show went out on a total 'high', with viewer numbers in S3 going through the roof. And nobody can ever know—one of those parallel universe things—what would have happened to Glynis Barber and Michael Brandon, if the show had gone on. Would they still be together today? Would they ever have gotten together, and would it have worked out, given the stresses associated with the schiozoid circumstances implied in acting on a TV series together and also having a real-life relationship? The record on those kinds of things working out is spotty at best. As it is, they still are, 20+ years later; with Brandon in his mid 60s and Barber her mid-50s.

So, maybe there's a Big Picture thing here, in which the TV series was just a part in the stories of two people and their lives together. Maybe Brandon and Barber are actually secretly grateful for the way it ended: the public part, that is.

So, when people ask, "I wonder why they never made it big?" or "Haven't seen him/her in anything recently, have we?", maybe that question has as its answer something like "Because these people actually have lives; and the bits that we see were just the tip of the iceberg." Actually, you'd hope that this is so. But we're so used to 'celebrity' and 'star' dimwits living it out there on the world stage for all to see and letting it all hang out—not being sure what of what's seen is actually in any way 'real!—that maybe we don't understand the concept of 'private lives' anymore.

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