Revived on BBC4: The Singing Detective

File:Singing Detective Poster.jpg BBC has revived its six-part 1996 Dennis Potter series, The Singing Detective, on its BBC4 digital channel. The shows, which were voted #20 in the British Film Institute’s listing of the 100 Best British TV programmes (the shows’ rather better 1978 precursor, Pennies from Heaven, came in at #21), was one of a series in which Potter used popular song dramatically to illustrate episodes from his own life.

Potter’s dramatic use of popular music first came to the screen with Moonlight on the Highway in ITV’s Saturday Night Theatre strand, broadcast in April 1969, centering on a young man’s attempts to blot out memories of the sexual abuse he had suffered as child in his obsession with the music of Al Bowlly. Music also played a significant role in Follow the Yellow Brick Road (1972) and of course the title of Blackeyes (which he directed on 35mm film and narrated, as well as writing the screenplay in 1989), is a reference to the popular Russian song of that name (Ochi chyornye). Other plays using this device were Cream in My Coffee (1980), and Lipstick on Your Collar (1993).

Despite being placed above it in the critics’ poll, Singing Detective, works less well than Pennies from Heaven, mainly because its story of a song plugger is more relevant to the use of period songs. Both were adapted (poorly) in Hollywood productions.

Link to entire show on YouTube

Musical excerpts from The Singing Detective

Dem Bones

Accentuate the Positive

The Teddy-Bear’s Picnic

In comparison: Pennies from Heaven

Al Bowlly and Lew Stone – You Couldn’t Be Cuter

Here is a complete chronological listing of music used in the Singing Detective series:

Buy Dennis Potter DVDs from Amazon


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