The Singing Detective

BBC (ended 1986)
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  • Episode Guide
  • S 1 : Ep 6

    Who Done It

    Aired 12/21/86

  • S 1 : Ep 5

    Pitter Patter

    Aired 12/14/86

  • S 1 : Ep 4

    Clues

    Aired 12/7/86

  • S 1 : Ep 3

    Lovely Days

    Aired 11/30/86

  • S 1 : Ep 2

    Heat

    Aired 11/23/86

  • Cast & Crew
  • Michael Gambon

    Philip Marlow

  • David Ryall

    Mr. Hall

  • Jim Carter

    Mr. Marlow [uncredited in ep. 1, oov]

  • Patrick Malahide

    Mark Binney/Raymond Binney/Mark Finney

  • Alison Steadman

    Mrs. (Elizabeth Baxter) Marlow [uncredited in ep. 1, oov]/Lili

  • show Description
  • The best-known work of celebrated TV dramatist Dennis Potter, The Singing Detective is actually the second of a trilogy of series by Potter using the device of lip-synching to well-known recordings of popular music. The first, set in the 1930s, was Pennies from Heaven (1978), the third, set during the 1956 Suez Crisis, was Lipstick on Your Collar (1993). The Singing Detective focusses musically on the 1940s. (Much earlier, Potter had briefly used lip-synching in his 1969 play for ITV, Moonlight on the Highway.)There are four mutually interfering narrative strands in The Singing Detective. First is the hospital-ward story, described by Potter as a "sitcom", which owes a certain debt to an earlier play, Emergency--Ward 9 (itself a satirical reaction to the popular hospital soap opera of that time, Emergency--Ward 10, which Potter had watched while hospitalised, like his protagonist Philip Marlow, with a flareup of psoriatic arthropathy). Second is the detective story being created mentally by the protagonist, Philip Marlow, as he lies helpless in his hospital bed. The third strand consists of flashbacks to Marlow's childhood in the Forest of Dean, and the traumatic experience of witnessing his mother's infidelity one day in the woods, combined with guilt over her later suicide in London. The fourth strand concerns Philip's ex-wife, Nicola, whom he imagines is conspiring with a shady film producer to bilk him out of film rights to his novel. Shortly before his death in June 1994, Potter completed his final two television dramas, and the first of these, Karaoke (1996), not only makes the device of lip-synching its central metaphor but extensively refers to this trilogy, as well.moreless

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  • RoxieVelma

    User Score: 103

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  • Trivia & Quotes
  • Quotes (10)

    • "It's doin' what we're told as makes us free." (The First Soldier)

    • "There are songs to sing; there are feelings to feel; there are thoughts to think. That makes three things, and you can't do three things at the same time. The singing is easy, syrup in my mouth; the thinking comes with the tune; so that leaves only the feelings. Am I right, or am I right? I can sing the singing; I can think the thinking; but you're not gonna catch me feeling the feeling. No, sir!" (The Singing Detective)

    • "I'd rather it was the other way round: all clues, no solutions. That's the way things really are."

    • Mr. Hall to Reginald, who is going to talk to Marlow: "Ask 'im how it ends, for God's sake. And how soon!"

    • Part of Gibbon's free-association game: "money--shit, fish--Jesus, God--doctor, Guardian--misprint, Sun--trash, you--me, me--Tarzan, ... dream--wake, sleep--lie, politician--lie, table--lie, writer--liar, sentence--prison ..."

    • "When Oy grow up, Oy be gonna be a detective!" (The closing words, spoken by 10-year-old Philip, high up in his tree.)

    • "What's the loveliest word in the English language, officer? In the sound it makes in your mouth, in the shape it makes on the page, hmm? Whadja think? ... Well now, I'll tell you: E, L, B, O, W, 'elbow'" (Philip, to the policeman).

    • "You're a killer! My God, you're a killer! You smash up people's lives. You are rotten with your own bile. You think you're smart but, really, you're very, very sad, because you use your illness as a weapon against other people, and as an excuse for not being properly human. Yeugh! You disgust me!" (Nicola, at first seeming to be addressing Finney, but actually speaking to Philip.)

    Show More Quotes

    Notes (6)

    • More crew: Choreography ... Quinny Sacks Properties Buyer ... David Morris Graphic Designer ... Joanna Ball Assistant Floor Managers ... Lynda Pannett, Garry Boon, Nick Wyse, Anna Price and Penny Norman Production Associate ... Ian Brindle Production Assistant ... Diana Brookes Dubbing Editor ... Sue Metcalfe Film Recordist ... Clive Derbyshire

    • More crew: Choreography ... Quinny Sacks Properties Buyer ... David Morris Graphic Designer ... Joanna Ball Assistant Floor Managers ... Lynda Pannett, Garry Boon, Nick Wyse, Anna Price Production Associate ... Ian Brindle Production Assistant ... Diana Brookes Dubbing Editor ... Colin Ritchie Film Recordist ... Clive Derbyshire

    • More crew: Choreography ... Quinny Sacks Properties Buyer ... David Morris Graphic Designer ... Joanna Ball Assistant Floor Managers ... Lynda Pannett, Garry Boon, Nick Wyse, Anna Price Production Associate ... Ian Brindle Production Assistant ... Diana Brookes Dubbing Editor ... Sue Metcalfe Film Recordist ... Clive Derbyshire

    • More crew: Choreography ... Quinny Sacks Properties Buyer ... David Morris Graphic Designer ... Joanna Ball Assistant Floor Managers ... Lynda Pannett, Garry Boon, Nick Wyse, Anna Price Production Associate ... Ian Brindle Production Assistant ... Diana Brookes Dubbing Editor ... Colin Ritchie Film Recordists ... Clive Derbyshire, John Parry [Asst. Director of] Photography ... Nigel Slatter

    • More crew: Choreography ... Quinny Sacks Properties Buyer ... David Morris Graphic Designer ... Joanna Ball Assistant Floor Managers ... Lynda Pannett, Garry Boon, Nick Wyse, Anna Price Production Associate ... Ian Brindle Production Assistant ... Diana Brookes Dubbing Editor ... Mark Day Film Recordists ... Clive Derbyshire, John Parry

    • More crew: Choreography ... Quinny Sacks Properties Buyer ... David Morris Camera Assistant ... Ian Jackson Editing Assistant ... Rob Sylvester Graphic Designer ... Joanna Ball Assistant Floor Managers ... Lynda Pannett, Garry Boon, Nick Wyse, Anna Price Production Associate ... Ian Brindle Production Assistants ... Diana Brookes, Sue Dunford, Sally Blake Dubbing Editor ... Colin Ritchie Film Recordists ... Clive Derbyshire, John Parry

    Show More Notes

    Trivia (1)

    • In the first lip-synched musical number of this episode (Sammy Kaye's "The Umbrella Man") the trumpet player is shown playing a prominent lead melody. The sound of the trumpet is cup-muted, but the trumpet is "open".

    Allusions (1)

    • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: When the two mysterious men find Mark Binney dead, they go through his papers and find one on which is written "Who killed Roger Ackroyd?" This refers to Agatha Christie's famous novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. The reference is quite apt, since in the novel, the murderer turns out to be the narrator, while in The Singing Detective, the "murderer" is Phillip Marlow, the narrator/writer/imaginer. Note that in the DVD commentary track, Jon Amiel misidentifies both the author of the novel and the decade in which it was written.

  • Fan Reviews (2)
  • A chain smoking writer who's main protagonist is a hard drinking, woman loathing detective is hospitalized due to his crippling skin condition. Throughout his stay he is, layer by layer, confronted by the demons he's been evading since childhood.

    By goldtop2007, May 12, 2008

  • Only 6.2?!

    By Toothpaste_Man, Jul 07, 2005

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