Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Interestingly, despite my last post being about “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here” the comments to it digressed into a discussion about the BBC’s new period drama, Cranford and, more specifically, about England’s finest actress (in my opinion), Julia Sawalha... which just goes to show that when faced with a mountain of crap most people determinedly turn their backs on it and reach for something excellent instead.

Good on you, people.

Ever eager to capitalize on whatever topic of interest floats my reader’s boats I thought I might compose a small paean to Julia as I’ve been a huge fan of hers since her Press Gang days.

Press Gang, for those of you who don’t know, was mislabelled a kid’s programme back in the late eighties / nineties and was broadcast on ITV during their after school tea-time slot and was probably the finest scripted programme on television at the time. It was where Doctor Who / Jekyll writer Steven Moffat first cut his television writer’s teeth and certainly the scripts abound with enthusiasm, energy and movement. Which is not to say they ever descend into cheap candyfloss frippery and “zany” kid-world fantasy.

The scripts were cutting, sharp, breath-takingly funny and sometimes surprisingly harrowing in the choice of subjects covered. It was the one kid’s programme that refused to patronize its viewers and as a consequence is still head and shoulders above much of the TV guff that is thrown at children even today.

Julia played the formidable Lynda Day and for her first big TV role put in a performance so confident and self-assured it had Jennifer Saunders and Andrew Davies, to name but two, knocking her door down to offer her parts in projects they themselves were working on. I’m glossing over a huge swathe of biographical detail here but you get the picture. I believe the expression is: a star was born.

Since then Julia has appeared in dozens of period dramas – a period drama is now no longer believable unless Julia appears in it – Jonathan Creek, Faith In The Future and provided voice overs for plasticine chickens in Nick Park’s Chicken Run... and loads more besides.

You’ll notice I am staunchly refusing to make jokes about stuffing birds, or asking if anyone would care for a leg or a breast. I am above such things.

Anyway, despite a career spanning a good 20 years Julia has always retained a freshness and vitality that positively shines out of her whenever she appears on TV. She’s a class actress and it’s a real delight to see her in Cranford (and back being a brunette – I never cared for the blonde look she adopted in Jonathan Creek) though as TimeWarden pointed out in his comments to the previous post, she is now alas “looking older”... but is that necessarily a bad thing? She looks good, she looks natural and she is (according to the Radio Times) no longer living in the smoke and druggery of London but is immersing herself in the wilds of Somerset – immersing herself in a greener and healthier lifestyle, growing veggies and taking an English degree.

Exactly like me in fact. Except I’m not growing veggies, or living in Somerset, am not female and am not a class actress. And I can’t fill out a corset half as well as she can.

But I am a brunette. Totally natural, you know.

Enough! God bless you Julia! You’re great, you are.

Right. Gushing over. What can I moan and snipe miserably about now...?


TimeWarden said...

Nice piece, Steve, and I'm talking about your post!

I only started watching "Jonathan Creek" when Julia joined not caring for Caroline Quentin. Sometimes it does depend on who is in a series as to whether or not one watches! It's not always the case but the same applied to "Silent Witness". When Emilia Fox joined the cast I joined the audience, again not liking Amanda Burton particularly.

I watched "Press Gang", too, and I wasn't a child at the time just someone who appreciates quality drama and a good cast. It was, and is, better than many programmes aimed at adults.

Tristan said...

Steve, Steve, Steve - as ever, I find the two sides of your personality inevitably leaking out in your blog. On the one hand, there's the poetic soul who waxes lyrical and on the other there's the pervy purveyor of the double-entendre with a big thing for brunettes. You haven't changed since you were 17, mooning after Kate Bush!

Steve said...

Thanks TimeWarden - nice to know that we think so alike! Great minds indeed!

Tris, in this ever changing, ever transient world isn't it nice to know that some things never change...?! :-)

Andrew Glazebrook said...

BAPS !!!!!!! I do like that phrase !

Steve said...

Hi Andrew, I must admit I find all these bread based analogies really funny... baps, buns, muffins and crusty cobs, etc. Although it doesn't work so well with bagels, cheese and onion toasties and Bhutanese Red Rice Bread...

The Hitch said...

Point of trivia
before moving to london I lived in "Cranford" and on the same rd as inhabited by Elizabeth Gaskell when alive. I could see her garden from my french windows.
Beuatiful little town ruined by the low flying jets.
There are also some fabulous houses designed by clough Ellis of port Merrion fame. Just as wacky and beautiful as the port.

Steve said...

Thanks Hitch, it's good to have some gaps in my ignorance plugged - I must admit I had no idea that Cranford was a real geographical place. I've only ever read one of Gaskell's novels - North And South - and recall it as being welcomely less prim than Austin and not so "pretend chummy" as Dickens... not sure if that's a recommendation or not!

The Hitch said...

Is Knustford
also the place general patton was exiled to during ww2
if you saw the film "patton" with george c scott you will have seen it, he lives at toft hall and met Eisenhower for lunch at my fav pub
Sorry for being an anorak , just am a little homesick.

Steve said...

Far from thinking you an anorak, Hitch, I'm genuinely impressed with the depth and detail of your knowledge. Must be a great place if you miss it so much.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I'm just enjoying the programme immensely. Julia S is good, but so are many of the rest of the sterling cast including good old Dame Judi and Franscesca Annis. Eileen Atkins stole the show I thought as the uproariously prim sister whose moral example the rest of the town had to follow or else!
It's like a female Pickwick Papers.
Good to know that a bonnet drama can be just as compelling when the cast keep their clothes on! Refreshing too to watch something not adapted by Andrew Davies for a change!

Steve said...

Hi Laura, I agree with you regarding Andrew Davies - he lives "just up the road" in Kenilworth and sometimes comes to the art gallery where I work to partake in a life drawing class... I'm pleased he's had so much success but I am a little bored with his bawdy TV adaptations... a case of same meat different gravy. Everytime I watch the latest one I always feel like I've already seen it before...