Thursday, March 4, 2010

Frederic Raphael insufferable and vain beyond reason: rather like his glittering characters

I drove home from work a day later than usual because I stopped off at Ken’s to see how he was and to give him a little company, and stayed over. So I found myself driving back down the M5 during the day, and it was a little strange because there is far less traffic in the evening when I usually drive. But it allows me to listen to afternoon programmes on Radio 4 and this afternoon Auntie’s Afternoon Play (that’s the BBC’s Afternoon Play — Auntie is just an honorific we use to show how feeble the old broadcaster is getting) was Final Demands by Frederic Raphael, a series of plays in which he brings the characters he first imposed on the world in The Glittering Prizes up to date.

I never saw The Glittering Prizes ‘a BBC drama about the changing lives of a group of Cambridge students first broadcast in 1976. Starting in 1953 with a group of Cambridge students the drama follows them through to middle-age and ends in the 1970s’ (a description from Wikipedia), but at the time you couldn’t but hear about it. It was as though Shakespeare was reborn and had rewritten Hamlet for television. Everyone who regarded themselves as even vaguely middle-class simply gushed about The Glittering Prizes, darling, and wondered why life had been so cruel not to send them to Oxbridge but have them make do with Loughborough.

Raphael was a big noise in literary circles after that and, I should imagine, ever since, no doubt on highly familiar terms with Martin and Hilary and Kingsley and Hanif and Jeanette, but he does absolutely nothing for me. I was first unimpressed with him when I recently watched a DVD of Darling, which starred Julie Christie and Dirk Bogarde and for which he won an Oscar for his screenplay, which baffles me. Everything is in quotable quote. The dialogue was utterly stilted. No one speaks as ordinary folk do. Perhaps Raphael and his clever friends spoke like that at Cambridge but I wouldn’t know — I didn’t go to Cambridge and even if I had and bumped into Raphael and his chums, I wouldn’t have been able to stick around for long enough to find out.

Today’s play, the update on all those Glittering Prizes characters, was just as insufferable: the main character, Adam Morris, so obviously and so vainly based on Raphael himself, is incapable of saying anything without turning it into a quip. Morris us an award-winning novelist and screenwriter — ring any bells — happily married to ‘Ba’ for ever. Everything he says, and I do mean everything, has to be smart and seemingly quotable. All the other characters do, too. How anyone can think this is great stuff is beyond me. I should imagine it goes down very well in Women’s Institute literature groups. Awful, awful, awful and in true Daily Mail style, I shall tune in to hear the second play — there is a total of six — when it is broadcast to be even further outraged.


  1. ditto that man, I have stopped watching TV comedies, I can no longer put up with canned laughter to tell me to laugh on cue for utter crap.

    1. I have only just come across your comment (and only because I was looking at the stats for this blog and found, oddly, that this entry has been read 27 this week, and mostly today.

      I agree with you about canned laughter, and because I agree with you I can recommend The Larry Sanders Show (though it was years ago and the clips on YouTube look ancient, as does most stuff on the net from the 1980s. Then, most recently there was Episodes, about two British television screenwriters surviving in Hollywood (which I grew to like rather more once I had overcome my antipathy to a recent trope, being 'oh so ironic' which British characters had to adopt. That seems to be dying a death now.)

      Currently I have been watching Transparent, and I can recommend that for some real dark humour, although the show is far, far more. And I should point out that given its central theme, the vicissitudes and tribulations encountered by a well-off LA Jewish family where the father decides he is 'trans', two daughters decide they are lesbian and the son is the archetype of egocentricism and narcissism, it does not, for many, have much to recommend it. Well, as they say, they proof of the pudding is in the eating. Try it - it is on Amazon Video Prime - and suspend judgment for several episodes. It is billed as 'comedy/drama' but there really is a great deal more to it.

      Oh, and is this you, my usual Anonymous, or another Anonymous entirely?