News Bulletin 68

Alex Kane’s Viewer & Listener Guide:

February 11- 17, 2012

To paraphrase Holmes, ‘you will see that there is not much to observe this week.’


Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of Four (ITV3 on Freeview10 and Freesat115 also Sky119 and Virgin117 at 12.45pm) Originally shown on December 29, 1987, this was the first of the Brett/Hardwicke two-hour specials: and this one also coincided with Sign’s centenary.

It’s a very good—and beautifully filmed—version of the story, with John Thaw (already enjoying huge success as Inspector Morse) as probably the best Jonathan Small I have seen. Ronald Lacey also struck me as damn near perfect as Thaddeus Sholto/Bartholomew Sholto. They are roles which tend to be hammed up by most actors, but he stays away from the sort of ‘camp’ menace approach taken by so many others. He’s certainly much better here than he was as Inspector Lestrade to Ian Richardson’s Holmes in the 1983 Hound of the Baskervilles.

Afternoon Play: McLevy (BBC Radio 4 Extra on DAB also Freeview and Freesat708 plus Sky0131/ Virgin910 at 1.15pm)

Stab in the Back:  The McLevy series, starring Brian Cox as the Victorian detective, was born in 2000, airing at Christmas time on Radio 4. Seven series have now been broadcast, as well as a special one-off Christmas 2006 episode. This is good stuff, but it’s also grim in places.


Catch up on some reading or Holmesian studies—there’s nothing to watch.


The Return of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 7.55am)

Series 3, Episode 4—The Second Stain (July 23, 1986) Two lovely performances from the very distinguished Harry Andrews (Lord Bellinger) and Patricia Hodge (Lady Hope) add much needed gravitas to what has always struck me as a fairly lightweight plot.

Sherlock Holmes, 2009 (Sky Action/Adventure on Sky305/Virgin405 at 12.30pm and 9.00pm) While Robert Downey Jnr gives us a Holmes we have never really seen before (and I won’t complain about that) I still think this film is let down by a lousy plot, gorgonzola script and an awful lot of hamming-it-up from a cast who should know better. Guy Ritchie doesn’t seem to have understood that Holmes is a ‘thinking machine’ first and foremost. That said, when compared with A Game of Shadows this one doesn’t look quite so bad.


The Return of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 8.00am)

Series 3, Episode 4—The Musgrave Ritual (July 30, 1986) A splendidly tight episode from Jeremy Paul: so good, in fact, that it won the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 12.30am)

Series 3, Episode 5—The Abbey Grange (August 6, 1986) Conrad Phillips—playing Sir Eustace Brackenstall—was a big television star from the late 1950s to the late 1960s and is best remembered to my generation (and I’ll leave you to do the maths for yourself) as William Tell. Anne Louise Lambert—Lady Brackenstall—will be best remembered for the absolutely brilliant “Picnic at Hanging Rock.”


The Return of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 8.00am)

Series 3, Episode 5—The Abbey Grange (August 6, 1986) SEE TUESDAY

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky 119/Virgin 117 at 8.00am)

Episode 4, First Series—The Solitary Cyclist (May 15th, 1984) A nice little episode dramatised by the late Alan Plater. He was one of British TV’s most accomplished scriptwriters and adapters, with credits including Z Cars, Soft Softly: Taskforce and the Beiderbecke series.

The Mrs Bradley Mysteries (BBC4 on Freeview9 and Freesat107 also Sky116/Virgin107 at 9.00pm)

The Rising of the Moon. Written by Gladys Mitchell between 1929 and 1984 the Mrs Bradley mysteries—65 in total—have never enjoyed the commercial or critical success of her contemporaries. She was actually an early member of the Detection Club, along with Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers who, collectively, were often described as ‘the Big Three women detective writers of the 1930s.’ This short lived series (five episodes in 1998/99) with Diana Rigg and Neil Dudgeon was comfortably cosy stuff, but always too lightweight and quirky to work as serious detection.


The Return of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 7.55am)

Series 3, Episode 6—The Man With The Twisted Lip (August 13, 1986) Clive Francis—playing St Clair/Boone—was the son of Raymond Francis, who had played Watson to Alan Wheatley’s Holmes in a 1951 BBC TV series. He has also adapted “The Hound of the Baskervilles” for the stage. Eleanor David—Mrs St Clair—was also in the 2004 BBC film “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking.”

Paul Temple and Steve (BBC Radio 4 at 11.00pm)   

Episode 4 of 8: Mrs Forester is Surprised

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Temple mysteries, particularly the series that still turns up on Radio 4 Extra at regular intervals. This is a new production—first broadcast in June 2010—of the 1947 detective serial and sounds pretty good; with Crawford Logan making an excellent Temple and Gerda Stevenson splendid as his wife, Steve.  The producer, Patrick Rayner, was one of the key people behind the Merrison/Williams Sherlock Holmes complete canon for Radio 4.


The Return of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 8.00am)

Series 3, Episode 7—The Six Napoleons (August 20, 1986) This has always been one of my favourite Holmes stories. And an absolute joy to have the wonderful Eric Sykes playing Horace Harker. Gerald Campion—playing Morse Hudson—remains best known as Billy Bunter, a character who appeared in The Greyfriars Herald and Magnet magazines, as did the very funny pastiche Herlock Sholmes.