Monday, 26 July 2010

Dick Barton, Special Agent (DVD)

This series was originally broadcast on British television in 1979, and was based on the late 1940s radio programme of the same name. It used the same theme tune and was, like the radio programme, broadcast in 15-minute episodes.

I wanted to like this, I really did. My main problem is the emptiness of everything; apart from Dick and his friends, their enemies and whoever they're helping, they seem to occupy a completely empty world. There isn't even much traffic noise or radios in the background. The heroes, villains and victims seem to be all there is, which makes the whole programme feel really artificial. You need a believable background to make a tale of derring-do have a chance of working, because there's only so much disbelief a viewer can suspend at any one time, and poor old Dick Barton doesn't get one. You do feel the people making the programme had access to actual 1940s pieces when they made it and the cars, especially, are stunning. If you like vintage cars, it's worth watching an episode or two just to see some of the beauties on show.

The stories are fast-paced and, for something of its time, there aren't as many non-PC moments as you might expect, possibly because this programme was made in the late 1970s. They're all a little foolish, but then Dick Barton always has been a little foolish, with improbable escapes and silly plots, and a notable reluctance on the part of the villains to do anything as sensible as shooting Dick, Snowey or Jock, instead relying on tactics like burying Dick up to his neck on the beach for the tide to get.

I enjoyed knitting along to this. Mr Robot did not enjoy it at all. It's fun enough as background noise, but you probably wouldn't want to sit and watch it like you would a film.

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