Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hancock and Joan

How Tony Hancock would have hated Hancock and Joan! (BBC4) That's not in itself a basis to criticise it. But, as Nancy Banks-Smith said today, it wasn't worthy of him.

It was a tawdry piece of work - as bad as last week's The Curse of Steptoe was good. What a shame to see two fine actors - Ken Stott and Maxine Peake - mixed up in this mess of a drama. Ken Stott's lack of resemblance to Hancock wouldn't have mattered so much if he could have got the voice right, but that was never likely, given Stott's deep, gravelly Scots accent.
Above all, this was a mind-numbingly tedious drama and I must admit I didn't stay with it to the bitter end.

We knew the play would contain the 'C' word because the announcer warned of 'very strong language'. The 'F' word carries a warning of just 'strong language' - and that warning precedes nearly every post-watershed programme today.
(Incidentally, the Paramount channel has warnings that go something like: 'if you're one of those people that's offended by certain words, you might want to give this one a miss!' They somehow imply that you can switch off if you want to but it's really time you grew up. Sometimes they make me laugh more than the programme that follows).
I couldn't see any strong justification for using the word in a programme likely to attract a lot of people much older and more language-sensitive than myself. It made its first appearance within about five minutes, as if to say: if you think this is a cosy drama about a fondly-remembered comedian, you can fuck off to bed with your cocoa. As it happened, there were many other reasons not to waste 90 minutes of your life.

And the play included one far worse breach of taste and decency, as vile a scene as you will ever see on the screen: a shot of Hancock sitting on the lavatory suffering from diarrhoea. I can't begin to understand why a writer would write such a scene.
Galton and Simpson picked up on the fact that Hancock liked reading philosophy and in the first episode of his final series had him reading Bertrand Russell. Do you suppose that if Hancock had told them he'd had a stomach upset they would have written a scene with him groaning on the lavatory? (Rhetorical question).


At 5:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hancock and Joan was a melodramatic piece of work wasn't it - a fairy run-of-the-mill portrait of an alcoholic which told us little about what made Hancock tick. Even the awkward title sounds like it was written by committee. A shame.

At 8:45 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Yes, it's a particular shame that, for those too young to remember him, it gave little inkling of his comic genius.


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