The Beiderbecke Affair

Overview

With as little plot as its creator Alan Plater could get away with and as much jazz as he could manage, the 1985 television drama The Beiderbecke Affair had a far-reaching impact, inspiring sequels, novels, albums and even jazz tours. Much like its Bix Beiderbecke-style soundtrack, Plater's quietly joyous drama was unconventional, free: its narrative following the lives and relationships of its leading characters – teachers-turned-amateur detectives Trevor Chaplin (James Bolam) and Jill Swinburne (Barbara Flynn) ...

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Overview

With as little plot as its creator Alan Plater could get away with and as much jazz as he could manage, the 1985 television drama The Beiderbecke Affair had a far-reaching impact, inspiring sequels, novels, albums and even jazz tours. Much like its Bix Beiderbecke-style soundtrack, Plater's quietly joyous drama was unconventional, free: its narrative following the lives and relationships of its leading characters – teachers-turned-amateur detectives Trevor Chaplin (James Bolam) and Jill Swinburne (Barbara Flynn) – with a gentle, whimsical humour.

William Gallagher's illuminating study is the first critical account of this much-loved series. Drawing on interviews with cast members and musicians, the production team and Yorkshire TV executives, as well as on insights from Plater himself, Gallagher explores Beiderbecke's origins in Plater's 1981 tv drama Get Lost! before moving on to an in-depth analysis of the series itself, to reveal why such an unassuming series remains one of the best-loved examples of British television drama.

The book also includes a previously unpublished BBC Radio 4 short story featuring the character of Jill Swinburne, 'A Brief Encounter with Richard Wagner'.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781844574698
  • Publisher: BFI Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/30/2012
  • Series: BFI TV Classics Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

WILLIAM GALLAGHER wrote for the Radio Times magazine: The TV history column, On This Day, from 2004 to 2008, drama features, and TV and radio highlights. He was also Writer/producer on RadioTimes.com website. The author has written for stage and screen and is an active online writer. His credits include: Casualty: Charlie Fairhead's Diary: BBC online drama series: sole scriptwriter, 1999, Mapping the Edge: developing film with Red Room Films 2010, : www.radiotimes.com/doctor-who-weekly. 2008. Doctor Who: Doing Time: Written audio play starring Peter Davison. Due for release by Big Finish on CD and online in December 2010

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Table of Contents

Introduction
What was new about The Beiderbecke Affair then and what we remember of it now. How it fitted in with Alan Plater's career at the time and how it's now come to represent so much of his work.

How the rest of book is going to examine the roots to The Beiderbecke Affair through its immediate and forgotten predecessor and then on through the reaction to the show, its sequels and today when it's getting a new audience on digital TV and DVD.

Before the Affair: The Good Companions and Get Lost!
How Alan Plater had been adapting classic novels when a problem on JB Priestly's The Good Companions led to the opportunity to write an original four-part drama. The result was Get Lost!, a serial about two teachers solving a mystery which was a small hit in 1981 but when seen now is an eerie undeveloped version of The Beiderbecke Affair.

How the reception to Get Lost! was strong enough to earn it a sequel, Get Lost! Revisited – and how production reasons turned that into an entirely recast The Beiderbecke Affair.

An examination of why Get Lost! isn't as remembered as The Beiderbecke Affair and how seeing it as a pilot try-out may explain why the famous series is considered so much better.

The Beiderbecke Affair
The writing of the serial as Get Lost! Revisited and then as a new story with entirely new characters. How practical necessities resulted in creative changes and improvements.

How the serial both represented 1980s television production and themes but was also separate from them, standing against more familiar fare of the time. Similarly, how it had thematic and specific Alan Plater hallmarks (its use of jazz, his specific dialogue references to his other works) and how it represented key progress in his writing with the integration of these elements into a whole that he would arguably return to throughout the rest of his career.

The production process: the casting of Barbara Flynn as Jill Swinburne and James Bolam as Trevor Chaplin, the then-unusual idea of ITV buying a house to film the show in before selling it on afterwards at a profit.

Also contemporary reviews and analysis of the serial plus analysis of its impact on the work and careers of the key people involved.

How the success appeared to make a sequel inevitable yet other pressures conspired to stop it happening at all.

The Beiderbecke Tapes
Where the Affair was an original drama written for television, its sequel, The Beiderbecke Tapes, was not. Problems in the production ultimately meant Alan Plater wrote the Tapes as a novel – and then for the first time was required to dramatise his own book back into television.

It was not a straightforward process even then: how disagreements and costs came close to ending the TV project.

Again, contemporary reviews plus analysis. And how success of this sequel again made it look likely that a third would follow.

The Beiderbecke Connection
There were few of the production problems getting the third series made but there were issues in the writing: Alan Plater told me in a BFI interview at the time that he was tired of television drama. Not the writing per se but the process. While he had already had much success on stage, this was the start of a new period in his career and this chapter examines that alongside the production and writing of this last TV Beiderbecke series.

The Novels
We've already seen how Alan Plater's Beiderbecke novels were more than straight novelisations: the second predated the writing of its TV version entirely. They are works that stand on their own and they were a significant departure for Plater: The Beiderbecke Affair was his first novel and he went on to write many more.

7. The Music
How the series that introduced the music of Bix Beiderbecke to a nationwide audience did not feature a single note of it. Instead, the score by Frank Ricotti is so well known and loved tha

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