Some TV Linkage

I’m a little tired and don’t have much time today, so have some TV-related linkage instead:

Salon has a terribly condescending article about half of Sweden watching a particular Disney holiday special every year on the afternoon of Christmas Eve.

Funnily enough, I know exactly which Disney Christmas Special the article refers to. It was a staple of Christmas Eve afternoon television in Germany, when I was a kid, though it never gained the holiday cult status it apparently has in Sweden. That’s reserved for the 1980 adaption of Little Lord Fauntleroy starring Alec Guinness and Rick Schröder in his Ricky days and the Czech fairy tale adaption Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella, both of which are much beloved Christmas classics in Germany.

The condescension dripping from every single word makes the article truly difficult to stomach. Those wacky Swedes, they all sit down at the same time to watch something on TV, how quaint! And this thing they all watch is an old Disney holiday special (while Americans at least collectively tune in to watch something enlightened and relevant such as – say – the Superbowl). And they take it so seriously that they get annoyed when someone talks over the film (as opposed to Americans who absolutely love visitors talking over relevant bits of Mad Men or True Blood or Breaking Bad or whatever the latest must-see drama is these days). And guess what, those silly Swedes don’t even mind that the animation style is dated (or maybe, they just think that today’s CGI animation is ugly crap and prefer the classics). Finally, the cartoons are also terribly racist and those liberal pacifist Swedes don’t mind (more likely, they don’t mind the supposed racism, because to a Swede and indeed most other Europeans a black doll saying “Mammy” is just a doll saying “Mammy” and not an instance of deplorable racism).

Meanwhile, Americans will happily watch that treacly bit of propaganda and praise of mediocrity that is It’s a Wonderful Life year after year after year, even though it’s twice as long and only a tenth as amusing as a vintage Disney Christmas special. And actively harmful, too. Watching It’s a Wonderful Life, you suddenly understand why the US is having a combined banking and real estate crisis. Because if Americans kids are presented the idiotic and downright irresponsible banker character played by James Stewart as the highest manifestation of wise finance management, it’s no wonder that some of them grow up to become inept bankers.

Talking of TV classics, apparently, the BBC has made a new series of Upstairs, Downstairs, a continuation of the 1970s costume drama.

I watched the original with my parents, back in the bad old days of three channels and very little to watch on either of them. Of British costume dramas of the 1970s, I always preferred The Onedin Line (it had tall ships and adventure and gorgeous clothes and handsome actors – what’s not to love) and All Creatures Great and Small (cute animals, likable characters, vintage cars and Peter Davidson – what’s not to love). I rewatched Upstairs, Downstairs a few years ago and it had some moments of utter brilliance – e.g. the understated way the show handles a main character dying aboard the Titanic. Much more effective than that bloody film, though we don’t even get a single shot of the sinking ship. But I still never warmed up to the show like I did to The Onedin Line and All Creatures Great and Small, probably because I intensely disliked half of the characters (both up- and downstairs) most of the time. Plus, Upstairs, Downstairs was also liberally peppered with anti-German remarks from various characters, which is always a black mark against any show (Call me funny, but I don’t like watching or reading stuff that hates me). Part of that comes with the WWI setting, but All Creatures Great and Small was partly set during the run-up to WWII and still managed to avoid that problem.

As for the new version, the main question is “Why?” Why revive an almost forty years old show with only one member of the original cast remaining? Especially since there was another Brit costume drama this year, Downton Abbey, which vary much seemed to be Upstairs, Downstairs by another name. Really, do we need another tale of filthy rich people and their servants?

Besides, has the BBC no new ideas, so that they have to revive their dead shows from the 1970s instead? First Doctor Who (a revival I agree with in principle, if not in practice), then Survivors and now Upstairs, Downstairs.

I really like Jean March, who starred in both the original and the continuation, and the new version also stars Keeley Hawes, another actress I like a lot (and she’ll look fabulous in those slinky 30s gowns). But I still don’t think I’ll be watching. Some things are better left in the past.

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9 Responses to Some TV Linkage

  1. Estara says:

    Yay, All Creatures Great and Small! I was totally in love with the guy who played James Herriot! And the first actress who played his wife. And the older doctor who was the mentor.

    The Onedin Line I didn’t like as much as Upstairs, Downstairs, though. I still love Little Lord Fauntleroy with Alec Guinness ^^

  2. Cora says:

    I had a crush on Tristan at the time, though I loved all of the characters on All Creatures Great and Small. I was over the moon, when I later saw Peter Davison, who played Tristan, in Doctor Who.

    I come from a family of sailors and shipbuilders, so it was only natural that I would love The Onedin Line. And I try to catch the Alec Guinness version of Little Lord Fauntleroy every Christmas, because it’s such a perfect holiday movie.

    • Estara says:

      As you said, that and Libusa Safrankova in anything, but particularly in Drei Nüsse für Aschenbrödel. I hate that we can’t introduce our US and UK friends to that film properly. Sherwood would love it.

      • Cora says:

        I’m sure she would.

        The Czechs made such wonderful children’s films. It’s a pity none of them are known in the English speaking world.

        I also loved Die Märchenbraut. Saw it in reruns a few years ago and it was still great. Also a lot more satirical than I remembered.

        • Estara says:

          Oh yes, indeed.

          Any of the Czech fairy movies and tv series – listening to my niece’s obsession with Die Biene Maja I realized the title song is by Karl Svoboda, too, who scored a lot of that stuff – and Karel Gott is actually doing a pretty good job there ^^.

          • Cora says:

            The “Biene Maja” song is actually better than I remembered. So’s the cartoon.

            It’s also nice to see that kids today still enjoy “Biene Maja” and other cartoons from that era, instead of defecting to the CGI stuff.

    • Estara says:

      Also: sailors and shipbuilders, how cool is that!

      • Cora says:

        Lots of sea captains and oddly enough Lutheran priests on the paternal side of the family. My great-grandfather used to sail the China Seas around the turn of the century.

        • Estara says:

          Very cool ^^. My dad says his father’s side of the family used to be Algerian robber barons exiled to Syria because of being followers of Abd-el-Kader (if I spelled that correctly…), but who knows…

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