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TV: B is for...

Blott on the Landscape

“ROLLICKING” TOM-SHARPERY with DAVID “POIROT” SUCHET AND GERALDINE “CROWN” JAMES. Motorway protests, loins, trying to shag dreary government inspector SIMON CADELL and the unforgettable sight of JULIA “FRESH FIELDS” MACKENSIE dressed as a pantomime cat performing bondage on a naked GEORGE COLE.



  1. Tom Ronson

    March 25, 2022 at 2:47 pm

    I’ve tried several times over the years to get into Tom Sharpe’s novels, after various people have told me how funny they are and what a brilliant comic author he was, but I always end up getting frustrated, bored, or both, and giving up after a few chapters. I’ve no doubt they’re great, but they’re just not for me – there’s a certain strain of ‘very British’ eccentric palaver (or ‘inspired dottiness,’ if you prefer) that just leaves me cold. See also Alan Ayckbourn.

    • Droogie

      October 21, 2022 at 8:39 pm

      @Tom Ronson. You’re not alone in finding the works of Sharpe less than funny. I’d see the books in WH Smiths as a kid with the lurid cartoon covers drawn by Paul Sample always featuring ladies boobies and think they must be great. The books were not, and the TV/ Film versions of Blott, Wilt and Porterhouse Blue were disappointing and haven’t aged well either. Sharpe is one of those commercially popular authors who was ubiquitous in any bookshop in the 80’s, but has since disappeared from the shelves of any Waterstones along with the likes of Leslie Thomas, Jackie Collins, Jilly Cooper, Harold Robbins etc
      ( And don’t get me started on the unfunny of Alan Ayckbourn! )

      • Sidney Balmoral James

        October 22, 2022 at 6:07 pm

        God yes, those paperbacks made Tom Sharpe look like the bluest literature going – you felt dirty just looking at them. There was something a trend in 70s paperbacks for completely out of context nudity or sexual imagery to try to shift them. I remember finding a copy of Oscar Lewis’ La Vida which had belonged to my grandfather, which had a terrible cover of a sultry woman and a lot of cleavage, which was a very odd choice for an anthropological study of a poor Puertan Rican family in New York. There’s probably a paperback of Das Kapital out there from around 1973 with a picture of woman in a bubble bath on the cover.

        • Glenn Aylett

          October 22, 2022 at 6:54 pm

          @ George, sex sells and the seventies was when the permissive society of the late sixties went mainstream. You had the sex riddled novels of Harold Robbins and Jackie Collins selling in millions and film versions of Jackie Collins novels being debauched romps set to disco music. Then funnily enough, some of her novels were adapted as television miniseries in the eighties and had nearly all the sex removed, and concentrated more on the characters personal flaws. ( Possibly the more conservative times and the worries about AIDS).
          Like the Das Kapital reference, it probably would make this dreary tome sell more if it had a woman in a revealing pose on the cover in the seventies, same as Wuthering Heights having Kate Bush in her tight leotard on the front cover in 1978.

        • Richardpd

          October 22, 2022 at 10:23 pm

          The 1970s seemed to have quite a boom of paperbacks sales, & I guess publishers needed to make their books stand out on the shelves by printing something eye-catching on the covers.

          After a quick search online I found one La Vida cover where the model looks like she was a bored housewife from Doncaster called Pauline who earn a bit of money doing some modelling. Another does have a women who actually looks Puertan Rican & works rather better.

          Basil Fawlty didn’t think much to the works of Harold Robbins, or even Harold Robinson.

          • Tom Ronson

            October 23, 2022 at 9:41 pm

            Andrew Wilson’s biography of Harold Robbins, The Man Who Invented Sex, is far more interesting (and a much quicker read) than anything the dirty old man of American letters ever wrote. I bought a handful of Robbins’ lurid bonkbusters for pennies during the pandemic and was honestly taken aback at just how laughably inept they were. Basil Fawlty had it dead right, a sort of pornographic muzak. Barely a page goes by without someone getting a blow job, something stuffed up their bum, urinated on, or a threesome taking place – which wouldn’t be so bad if these lubricious moments weren’t sandwiched between page after page of two-dimensional stick figures spouting bitter dialogue at each other.
            Anyway, Tom Sharpe… bit pants really, wasn’t he?

  2. George White

    October 21, 2022 at 7:37 am

    Any other clearly so expensive shows hampered by looking like a cheap CBBC filler thanks to OB?
    Maybe this –
    The scenes of Lord Larry at the TWA terminal are pure Triangle,though.

  3. Richardpd

    October 21, 2022 at 10:40 pm

    The BBC were slow to start making dramas on film, or at least giving a film effect to videotaped programming.

    The House Of Elliott was one of the last I can think of.

    As for Blott on the Landscape, didn’t it get a repeat in the early 1990s when the BBC seemed to have to dig into the archives to make up for a budget shortfall for new programming? I can remember David Suchet in a trailer ringing a dinner gong loudly.

  4. George White

    October 21, 2022 at 10:52 pm

    A lot of single plays in THeatre Night/Performance (Tales from Holywood even using CSO) until about 1995, kids’ TV dramas like the Demon Headmaster until 1998
    Neverwhere and the late night drama in 1996, Accused AFAIK are the last old-school videotaped series AFAIK shown on BBC not in kids slots.

    Both 1989 WW2 anniversary dramas from BBC and ITV – Bomber Harris and Countdown to War were shot on video, and both look like Command and Conquer FMV cutscenes.

    A few late Trevor Eve dramas – Parnell and the Englishwoman and A Sense of Guilt – both OB.

    ITV drama in the late 80s shot on VT – Mr. Parfrey of Westminster, Ladies in Charge, London Embassy, Dalgliesh, the later Rumpoles, Wish me Luck, the Bretts, early Taggart, King and Castle, Hannay

  5. Glenn Aylett

    October 22, 2022 at 12:05 pm

    Blott On The Landscape has two memories for me: Julia Mc Kenzie being kinky with George Cole and Jimmy Nail stealing a bulldozer and wrecking a load of houses and cars. It was a rather surreal show, but seeing Julia Fresh Fields Mc Kenzie in leather was a world apart from her other role at the time.

  6. George White

    October 24, 2022 at 8:41 pm

    Watching my DVDs of Blott on the Landscape, and gosh never have I seen mainstream big-budget serial look so much like a CBBC comedy . Everything about it feels like Chucklevision or Watt on Earth. The music, the cartoon titles, the title font, the performances (even Geoffrey Bayldon’s presence), the locations, so when we have a Nazi sex dungeon it feels out of place.
    Any other shows that feel similarly CBBC but aren’t?
    The Old Men at the Zoo IIRC kinda did, down to similar titles but then that got bleak.

  7. Richardpd

    October 24, 2022 at 10:33 pm

    I, Claudius sometimes feels a bit odd being an all studio programme, with some of the sets looking a little flimsy. The also use a stock splash sound at one point that’s been in loads of comedies. Luckily the acting is top notch so it’s not too distracting.

    Pennies From Heaven also suffers from having videotaped interiors, even more weird when they start singing Tin Pan Alley songs at odd points between the gritty drama. The titles also suggest an easy going Sunday night drama to mislead viewers not familiar with Dennis Potter.

  8. George White

    October 25, 2022 at 8:22 am

    Pennies even has a cartoon interlude with a jolly anthropomorphic moon.

    I’ve already said A Talent for Murder, which though a comedy-whodunnit a la Clue was clearly intended as a prestige piece hence Lansbury and Olivier, but has shocking OB and flimsy set dressing. See the TWA terminal, i.e. a corridor at the BBC with some TWA decals glued to a wall – – reminds me of the episode of Howards’ Way where they went to New York, i.e. a yellow cab outside Portsmouth, and having Tracey Childs in it heightens the similarities as a seemingly backward cosplay-obsessed American teen.

  9. George White

    October 25, 2022 at 8:17 pm

    Are you saying they feel likekids’ shows? Pennies does have a Harman-Ising-type cartoon moon interlude at one point.

    The Devil’s Crown maybe more so, down to the singing characters and the Jackanory Playhouse-esque sets and costumes.

    A Talent for Murder I have to mention again – simply because of the performances from Tracey Childs as a Chaplin-cosplaying teen and especially Tariq YUnus’ Rashi. And the Howards’ Way-esque set dressing of a BBC corridor on OB with a TWA decal to represent Kennedy Airport.

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