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Author Topic: Spooks (British TV show - called "MI-5" in North America)
obscurantist
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posted 12 September 2005 06:34 PM      Profile for obscurantist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
The British TV drama Spooks kicked off its fourth season on BBC tonight.

The plotline is much more topical than it was when the first episode of this season was filmed, when a large-scale terrorist attack in London was still a matter of fiction, or at least not an occurrence of recent memory.

If last year is any guide, those of us in North America will probably have to wait until January for the show to come to the Arts and Entertainment network, where it airs under the title "MI-5".

Spooks has a similar theme to that of the American TV show 24 - intelligence agencies dealing with plots against domestic security, and the political and personal dimensions of the "war on terror". I found the first couple of seasons erratic, trying to cram too much story into hour-long episodes, but Spooks has grown into the kind of erudite, provocative, darkly comic thriller that British TV excels at. Hopefully that spirit will survive the radical cast changes of the last season, which saw the three main characters of the first few seasons written out of the show.

[ 12 September 2005: Message edited by: obscurantist ]


From: an unweeded garden | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
'lance
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posted 12 September 2005 08:00 PM      Profile for 'lance     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Is this the show which featured Anthony Stewart Head in one episode, infiltrating an anarchist cell/network or some such?
From: that enchanted place on the top of the Forest | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
obscurantist
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posted 12 September 2005 08:09 PM      Profile for obscurantist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
He was in one episode, which sounds like the one you're describing, although I have to admit I only found out who Anthony Stewart Head was by looking it up online. I fear that when it comes to my knowledge of pop culture trivia, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a bit of a blind spot for me. Probably the only thing for me to do is to go and buy the entire run of Buffy on DVD, lock myself in the house for several days, and watch it all in one sitting.

Oh, and I guess I'll need to buy a DVD player while I'm at it.

[ 12 September 2005: Message edited by: obscurantist ]


From: an unweeded garden | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
'lance
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posted 12 September 2005 08:26 PM      Profile for 'lance     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I'd watch a couple of episodes of Buffy at a time, if I were you, rather than binging out like that. Besides, the "entire run" comes in a 40-CD set that costs $350 or something. Rent a season at a time from your local video store, maybe. After, of course, buying that DVD player.

Anyway: that episode with Anthony Head (as he's known in Britain) is the only one I've seen, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe it was one of those episodes that, like you say, tried to tell too much story.

But I simply couldn't believe in the premise (anarchist/Black Bloc-type demonstrators in many places being manipulated by some wealthy, shadowy German character), nor accept Hugh Laurie as an officious senior bureaucrat (if he was meant to come across as buffoonish-but-sinister, I took in only the buffoonish part). Even Head seemed somehow miscast, and as for the ending... well, I won't give that away, but I thought it way over the top.

But evidently I should give it at least one more chance.


From: that enchanted place on the top of the Forest | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Boom Boom
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posted 12 September 2005 09:07 PM      Profile for Boom Boom     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I wish someone would run the complete series of "The Prisoner". I used to love it; I think I've seen every episode. I'd love to get a complete VHS collection of it; if it's only available as a set on DVD, then that'd be enough for me to purchase a DVD player. Any other fans of "The Prisoner" or the other series by Patrick McGoohan ("Secret Agent" I think it's called)?
From: Make the rich pay! | Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged
obscurantist
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posted 12 September 2005 09:07 PM      Profile for obscurantist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Yeah, I think the problem with Spooks earlier on was that it was too much like 24, with the melodramatic fiendish-apocalyptic-scheme plots, which work so-so on a serial like 24, where they have a full 24 episodes to tease out the storyline, but much less well in a single hour or even in a two-hour episode.

As Spooks went on, the stories became better, more often focused on one particular character in any given episode, and on that character's concerns about the morality / efficacy of what she or he was doing, or on the conflict between that character's work and personal life. So the show had more room to meander, with the various terrorist plots &c. becoming more of a backdrop to the real stories.


From: an unweeded garden | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
obscurantist
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posted 12 September 2005 09:09 PM      Profile for obscurantist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Hi Boom Boom - just missed your post. Yeah, I'm a big Prisoner fan too. Saw it years ago on PBS, and keep meaning to go back and rent the episodes.
From: an unweeded garden | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
Boom Boom
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posted 12 September 2005 09:14 PM      Profile for Boom Boom     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
In "The Prisoner", the residents of The Village all seem so happy and carefree - I've never figured out, in the story line, if they were all brainwashed, faking it, were paid extras in a massive daytime fraud (movie set) or what have you. BTW, I'm so tired of life sometimes that I feel I'd give up my freedom just to be as happy and carefree as all the village residents. And then I wake up - from a paranoid nightmare.
From: Make the rich pay! | Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged
'lance
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posted 12 September 2005 09:16 PM      Profile for 'lance     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
I wish someone would run the complete series of "The Prisoner". I used to love it; I think I've seen every episode. I'd love to get a complete VHS collection of it; if it's only available as a set on DVD, then that'd be enough for me to purchase a DVD player. Any other fans of "The Prisoner" or the other series by Patrick McGoohan ("Secret Agent" I think it's called)?

Absolutely, though probably less a fan than I was when I first discovered it (and for several years thereafter). City-TV in Toronto ran it several times in the 1980s.

I know I've seen every episode, and in fact for a few years there I had a book called "The Official Prisoner Companion" -- plot summaries, photos, bios, trivia about filming, and what Patrick McGoohan claimed was "the last Prisoner interview."

When it came out in 1979 or something, I'd gone to see the so-so Clint Eastwood picture Escape from Alcatraz. I'd never heard of McGoohan at the time. Only when I got the Companion did I realize what inspired casting it had been -- McGoohan as the Warden.

Anyway: it's definitely available on VHS (I've seen complete sets at my local specialty video store), and I'm willing to bet on DVD too.


From: that enchanted place on the top of the Forest | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Boom Boom
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posted 12 September 2005 10:38 PM      Profile for Boom Boom     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Thanks, 'lance - will look for it. Just found a great (official?) "The Prisoner" website but didn't save it; I'm busy recovering from identity theft at the moment. I AM NOT A NUMBER!
From: Make the rich pay! | Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged
M. Spector
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posted 12 September 2005 11:28 PM      Profile for M. Spector   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I got annoyed with the third season of MI-5 when they started writing all the lead characters out of the series, just when I was getting attached to them.
From: One millihelen: The amount of beauty required to launch one ship. | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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posted 13 September 2005 09:29 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Ooh! Ooh! I wish I'd seen this thread before I left yesterday.

obscurantist, are you telling me that if I get BBC, I can find Spooks right now? I am trying to break back into watching TV sometimes (after about four years of being out of the habit), but I am failing -- it's so hard to get the feeling back, I find. But Brit spook stuff would definitely do it for me.

I think I need a DVD player too. Drat.


From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Willowdale Wizard
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posted 13 September 2005 10:16 AM      Profile for Willowdale Wizard   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
But I simply couldn't believe in the premise (anarchist/Black Bloc-type demonstrators in many places being manipulated by some wealthy, shadowy German character)

it's not getting more plausible, plot-wise.

the plot of the series opener of "spooks" this year is that an anti-consumerist terrorist group think that there are just far too many people on earth, carrying capacity wise, so we should start killing them off. after a few bombings in the US, their leader gets arrested in london, so, they plan to explode a bomb every 10 hours until he is released.

ridiculously capable agents fish through oceans of information to discover imminent attacks, lurk behind every security camera on every street corner, and have a license to torture detainees ... protect us tom quinn, protect us danny hunter, protect us george dubya, it doesn't matter what you do to protect us.

"spooks" is war on terror porn.

[ 13 September 2005: Message edited by: Willowdale Wizard ]


From: england (hometown of toronto) | Registered: Jan 2003  |  IP: Logged
Willowdale Wizard
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posted 13 September 2005 10:17 AM      Profile for Willowdale Wizard   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
oh, and all the episodes of the prisoner are available on DVD. i know, because i have the set.
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Boom Boom
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posted 13 September 2005 12:40 PM      Profile for Boom Boom     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Good to hear, WW. Did you get your "The Prisoner" DVD's at a local store, or online?
From: Make the rich pay! | Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged
Willowdale Wizard
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posted 13 September 2005 12:47 PM      Profile for Willowdale Wizard   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
"I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own."
From: england (hometown of toronto) | Registered: Jan 2003  |  IP: Logged
Boom Boom
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posted 13 September 2005 12:59 PM      Profile for Boom Boom     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
WW, if I acknowledged that the line comes from Number Six, do you think anyone would mind if I used that line as my tagline?
From: Make the rich pay! | Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged
obscurantist
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posted 13 September 2005 02:02 PM      Profile for obscurantist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Willowdale Wizard:
"spooks" is war on terror porn.

I suppose that's a fair interpretation of the show, at least part of the time, and I haven't seen the new episode, so it may have reverted to some of the weaker moments of the first couple of seasons. And the third season wasn't perfect either.

I'd agree that the show's approximate American equivalent, 24, frequently seems like "war on terror porn", although for the most part it seems to be more that the creators of 24 are just trying to entertain people and they happen to be using the "counter-terrorist" struggle as the subject of the story, and once in a while it seems like they're groping their way toward some kind of doubt about the effectiveness of tactics such as torture.

Spooks is written with a more critical eye, at least some of the time (although possibly less so now that Britain has recently been the direct target of a major terrorist attack). For example, in the third season, "the Prime Minister" is never shown or named, but those working for him are cynical, amoral, sometimes murderous bastards of the sort who work for Tony Blair. The employees of MI-5 often find themselves to be essentially powerless pawns in internecine struggles that have nothing to do with keeping their country safe, and everything to do with "spin" from Ten Downing Street or the personal agendas of other politicians.

You're right that the plots remain quite implausible much of the time. As I said, when the show's at its best, it's much more about the characters, and about the politics of the "WoT", and the storylines are kind of a backdrop.

[ 14 September 2005: Message edited by: obscurantist ]


From: an unweeded garden | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged

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