Wycliffe (1994-98)


The 10-disc DVD release by Network of the complete series of Wycliffe is a cause for rejoicing, particularly when a Radio Times survey of TV’s 50 top-rated Detective series (July 2018) unforgivably did not even include it. This only confirmed my conviction that it is the most underrated British cop series, maintaining, once it hit its stride, an extraordinarily high standard of acting, directing, and writing over around 40 episodes. The interplay of the main characters was constantly evolving and shrewdly developed; the guest performances (from the likes of such redoubtable actors as Bill Nighy, Pam Ferris, Susan Fleetwood, John McEnery, Dominic Guard, Geoffrey Bayldon, Susan Penhaligon and many others) were often remarkable; the scripts were a model of economy and ingenious plotting; and the Cornish setting always heightened the drama without ever dominating it. Even Nigel Hess’s theme tune was one of his best (and every police drama, from Z-Cars and Maigret onwards, should have a good and distinctive theme tune.) A typical 50-minute episode contained more nuance, subtlety and surprise of narrative and characterisation than Broadchurch managed for me in three series.

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Hitching Your Wagon to a Star: Some random and rambling reflections on Alfred Hitchcock and The Girl (2012)


Writer: Gwyneth Hughes; Based on (book): Donald Spoto, Spellbound by Beauty; Producer: Amanda Jenks; Director:Julian Jarrold

There is a compelling moment in Strindberg’s The Father when a doctor is recalling a production of Ibsen’s Ghosts and being dismayed by Mrs Alving’s vilification of her late husband. ‘I thought to myself,’ says the Doctor, ‘What a damned shame the fellow’s dead and can’t defend himself!’

I felt a bit like that whilst watching the BBC/HBO production The Girl,1 Julian Jarrold’s film about the deteriorating relationship between Alfred Hitchcock and his new discovery Tippi Hedren during the making of The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964). Dramatic characterisation comes perilously close to character assassination. Jarrold’s previous TV piece, the award-winning Appropriate Adult, was also rooted in reality and had certainly confirmed his aptitude for exploring the dark side of human personality; and The Girl is a powerful and progressively harrowing film about sexual harassment, psychological cruelty, and the abuse of power.2 I think the two leading performances are superb. Toby Jones’s mimicry of Hitchcock is masterly, but he also probes to the melancholy behind the façade; and Sienna Miller likewise conveys a tough and courageous resilience beneath the actress’s surface elegance. At the outset, however, the film claims to be based on extensive research (though there is no mention of Tony Lee Moral’s richly detailed book on the making of Marnie3 ) and thus is purporting to be an accurate account of events. On the level of veracity rather than drama, the film becomes more problematic.

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  1. The Girl, tx. BBC2, 26 December 2012. 

  2. Appropriate Adult, tx. ITV, 4 and 11 September 2011. 

  3. Tony Lee Moral, Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie (Scarecrow Press, 2005).