The Singing Detective

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BBC (ended 1986)

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RoxieVelma

User Score: 103

7.4
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The Singing Detective

Show Summary

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

Alison Steadman

Alison Steadman

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

George Rossi

George Rossi

Second Mysterious Man

Ron Cook

Ron Cook

First Mysterious Man

David Ryall

David Ryall

Mr. Hall

Jim Carter

Jim Carter

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

Joanne Whalley

Joanne Whalley

Nurse Mills

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • 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.moreless

    10
    I cannot praise this mini series enough, it's without a doubt my favorite series of all time. The writing has multiple layers (much like Mr Marlowes skin) and is perfectly executed in perhaps BBC's finest production to date. Gambon's portrayal of a man tortured by the denial of his past is painfully honest, but there are fine actors all around. I don't want to give to much away and ruin the pleasure for you, so I'll have to wrap it up.



    Rarely have I been able to say that a tv series changed me and my perception on life, but this one did. The perfect antidote to mind-melting popcorn movies.moreless
  • Only 6.2?!

    10
    WHAT THE HELL?! Why is this only 6.2?! This is widely considered to be one of the greatest mini-series ever, is rated 9.2 on the Internet Movie Database (Which if it was a movie it'd be #1 on the Top 250) and yet it's only 6.2 here? What in all that is holy is wrong with you people?! This show is GENIUS, MAN. GENIUS. This is quite possibly the most well-written mini-series ever. Everything intertwines. Michael Gambon's character has quite possibly the most depth of all characters that have ever been on TV. You know I'm right. This series rules.moreless

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