The Singing Detective

Written by Dennis Potter, perhaps the most obstreperous man ever, The Singing Detective was a mid-eighties cult-classic.  When it first aired I was sixteen going on seventeen and at that confused time of life for a young man.  Therefore, the images of nudity (mostly young women pulled from the Thames) and the sexual act (mostly Alison Steadman with Patrick Malahide) were quite an eye-opener for me.  I’ve since bought the DVD box set and in watching it again the bare flesh isn’t the most striking aspect of the series.  The musical interludes are brilliant and the examination of the myriad relationships and themes running through the whole piece is indicative of high quality writing.

Forget that the right-wing press in the UK decided to label Potter as a dirty old man.  That’s their problem.  He always managed to cut right to the quick with his pen.  The images and messages generated by The Singing Detective were all carefully crafted reminiscences of Potter’s life.  For all of that, the stand out scene just has to be the one where hero Philip Marlow (Michael Gambon), suffering from chronic psoriatic arthritis, is being greased by his nurse (Joanne Whalley). Despite all of the problems that he is experiencing with bodily functions, there is one part of his body which responds as it should…

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