Friday, February 18, 2011

Department S, For "Soaked in Patchouli"

I am an entertainment consumer of a Certain Age. My tastes run toward nostalgia. I'm ashamed to admit this, but it's true. What's difficult about me and my kind is that I'm fed up with the same old properties that have run until they're worn thin. Enough with Ferris Bueller already! I'm tired of the Eagles! Get that Brady Bunch outta here!

The solution for guys like me is two pronged. Prong number one is modern things that reference older things. I like Lady Gaga because she reminds me of Madonna only not so old and used up; I like hip hop that samples Supertramp, I like Lost because it's kind of a steroidal remake of Gilligan's Island.

The other prong is frankly a little more rewarding to me. What I'm doing tonight in my cozy apartment, as the rain pelts my window, is watching Department S. As a British detective show from 1968, Department S is the perfect nostalgia - old AND unfamiliar, providing a jolt like artifacts from a parallel dimension.

The premise is gloriously cliched. When Interpol has a case that they just can't solve (jet plane goes missing for seven days but all the passengers and crew think they had only blacked out for 30 seconds; warehouse owner finds someone has built a sumptuous living room complete with murdered girl inside it) they call on Department S. This crack team consists of 3 people. Stewart "Sully" Sullivan, the no-nonsense American (Joel Fabiani), Annibel Hurst, beautiful young computer expert (Rosemary Nichols) and Jason King, bon vivant mystery novelist who was played by the redoubtable Peter Wyngarde. Wyngarde is a talented and charismatic actor and the reason why this show rose to cult status. As the least colorless member of the team, he was spun off into his own series after 28 episodes. They say that Austin Powers' wardrobe is based on Jason King's look. God knows it's probably where they got the teeth.

The one I'm watching right now, an entire factory called in sick (poisoned tea) and were replaced by an alternate staff.  The Department S team must figure out why someone would do a thing like that. And stop their larger plan, which 31 minutes in remains a complete mystery. But Jason King has already seduced a half dozen women (and had two whiskeys); Annibel has not gotten near a computer as usual but has been taken hostage as usual, and Sully has been forced to handle all the expository dialog.

Let's be clear. If this show had been available in America when first aired, even my 6 year old self would have thought it's crap. there's a reason why I'm writing this instead of just watching. It's predictable, the plots rarely make sense, and no matter where they go in Europe they always seem to wind up in identical rooms from week to week. Plus, Jason King is more creepy than charming. But NOW, with 40 years distance, it's fantastically entertaining. I'm like, LOOK AT THEIR HAIR! And HEY, A LOTUS! and IS THAT TONY HOPKINS?

I've seen 6 episodes and not once have they mentioned what S stands for.

You want to watch it too? You can't! Not if you're American anyway. They don't even have a region 1 DVD. Which is great, because if they did, I'd have already seen it and used it up. As it is, I still have 20 virgin episodes to while away my rainy nights.

No comments:

Post a Comment