Julian Fellowes turns up in two episodes of Duchess of Duke Street. He is wearing a fake beard in this pic, presumably in the hopes that it will help him get away with swiping the plot for future use.
(No, really! Shortly after this, a young chauffeur has a relationship with the daughter of a noble, and Joseph the doorman’s backstory is exactly the same as Mr. Bates’s. Many Downton Abbey cooking tips also come via Louisa Trotter, though that’s more understandable. Homage is the word, I think! Or possibly just literary theft while wearing fake hair.
Sadly, he didn't steal the bit where everyone threw chamber pots over the garden wall, or where they danced on the kitchen table. Nor Gemma Jones herself for that matter. He should get on all of those immediately.)
Pauline Delaney and Alfred Burke as Helen Mortimer and Frank Marker in S4 of Public Eye (Thames TV 1969).
Been playing the I surrendered meme over on LJ. Of course, I had to make one of mine a fake 1970s show, because why not? Main cast here and Supporting Characters and Episode Guide here It is a bit embarrassing, though, how much easier it was for me to do this than to cast a current show. I am living in the past. Whoops
Lalla Ward as Lottie in Duchess of Duke Street.
Sometimes when watching old TV you find yourself childishly amused for longer than you care to admit by things that were perfectly innocent at the time. (Public Eye, Thames TV 1969).
Gemma Jones being magnificent (again) as Louisa Trotter in Duchess of Duke Street (BBC 1976-78).
A tale of two mugs: Alfred Burke as Frank Marker and Pauline Delany as Helen Mortimer.
On Public Eye: I realise I keep posting pics of this old show here without explanation, so I should probably attempt one…
I very much enjoyed Enemy at the Door (well, in between my tears, it was that sort of show) and discovered that many of the writers and directors and one of the lead actors (Alfred Burke) had all come via Public Eye. I got curious, even though it was a show that ran from 1965-75 about a private detective and pretty much all of S1-3 has been wiped and I wasn’t sure it would be my sort of thing at all.
It’s a hard series to explain, but it never ceased to surprise me, its main character is wonderfully non-stereotypical and real, it has brains and a conscience, and a huge amount of honesty and compassion over the fact that people make mistakes and behave badly, including its fallible hero.
It’s genuinely gritty and hard-hitting, but without pretension or melodrama, or getting lost in bleakness, and it’s amazingly low-key. This is a show that can pull off a storyline about someone over-ordering carbon paper, or stolen roses, or someone having a morbid fit of conscience. To be interesting while chasing crooks, or fighting space battles is one thing. To be fascinating while changing a light bulb takes talent.
It’s not perfect, of course - but then it knows full well that nothing is - and it’s of its time, but it does what it sets out to do, and tells it like it is. Which is that life is tough and ordinary people can behave horribly, but it’s also quirky, funny and hopeful - and weird as hell.
Plus, as I might have indicated here and there, Alfred Burke is amazing. His expressiveness allows the show to have their cake and eat it: a character who’ll almost never talk about his feelings, but who doesn’t ever need to, because it’s all there in his face and every move he makes.
And you’ll be thinking, where are the female characters? Well, the show’s mainly Frank and his clients (plenty of whom are women of all sorts and ages), but there is Mrs Helen Mortimer (oh, yes, we have a hero whose love interest is an awesome middle-aged Irish landlady, because that’s Public Eye and Frank Marker for you). Her dealing with her errant ex-husband in S4 was a delight to behold. ("A man seems to think all he has to say to a woman is ‘I need you’ - she’ll pack a nightie and a toothbrush and run!")
The problem is that I open my mouth to explain how awesome it, or an episode was, stop and think what I can tell people about it that isn’t a dreadful spoiler, and weakly end up at: “I watched a thing. It was all about photocopiers/carbon paper/building a wall. It was awesome, honest.” Or: “It’s this slow old TV show about this bloke who’s really ordinary. And completely fascinating because of that. Er. Help!” /o\
Still, there were plenty of random appearances from Classic Who people, so there was that…
(ETA: A note that it’s best to start by trying either the surviving S1-3 eps, or anything from S5-7 - prob S6. S4, the first to survive in its entirety, is a seven part serial with Frank trying to deal with life as a prisoner on parole - he got set up and sentenced to two years in the now-wiped S3 finale. And, being Frank, just got on with it and served his time, and emerged withdrawn and hostile and unwilling to trust people. S4 slowly gets him back on his feet again. It’s brilliant, but an odd way to meet him.)
* I was joking about the changing a light bulb thing. They didn’t go that far: they were cleaning the light fittings. It was a great scene, honest.
Ways to nearly kill your hero #39: get him to tango.
Because I should always be fair and point out that David Collings is not the only actor who likes to pose inappropriately in doorways.
Brian Blessed as an Anglican vicar in Public Eye. (Thames TV, 1973).
Petra Markham as Jenny in “The Trouble With Jenny”. (Public Eye, S6, Thames TV 1973)
"You’ve heard of old heads on young shoulders? Well, you employ me, you get an old head. You get old shoulders, too, but no one’s perfect."
Alfred Burke as Frank Marker in Public Eye. (Thames TV, 1975).
"I’m not sure what I want from Frank, to be honest, because I’m not sure what he’s got to give. I don’t think he knows himself. But I do want to help!"
Pauline Delany as Helen Mortimer in Public Eye. (Thames TV, 1975).
Mary Tamn in Public Eye (Thames TV, 1975).