What The Hell Is.. Playhouse Presents?

Playhouse Presents? This isn’t a Pee-wee Herman thing is it? That guy made going to adult theatres uncool.
No, thankfully, public pocket billiards player Paul Reubens does not feature. Instead, it’s a series of unconnected “playsâ€?, featuring a “best of Britishâ€? line-up, with such talent as David Tennant, Emma Thompson, Will Self, Zoe Wannamaker, Richard E Grant, and err, Paul O’Grady.

Sounds reassuringly middle class – what’s it all about then?
We’ve got a bit of a mix. The first episode was written by Will Self, and starred David Tennant as a jaded writer in The Minor Character. Nellie and Melba is a collaboration between Paul O’Grady and Queen of self aware Radio 4 comedy panel show, Sandi Toksvig. The Simpsons and This is Spinal Tap star Harry Shearer plays President Nixon in a jaw-dropping rendition of the Watergate tapes, and there’s even Tom Jones in his first acting role, playing a failed musician.

Oh I remember that Nixon one. Crazy times. So are they doing something for the Queen’s Jubilee?
Well it’s funny you should mention that because airing tonight, just in time for the Royal Jubilee frenzy, Emma Thompson plays Queenie in Walking the Dogs, based on the encounter between Her Maj and a bloke who broke into her bedroom.

Wow! What the hell did they talk about?
Well that’s the question on everybody’s lips. Most recently, we were treated to The Snipist, written and directed by Matthew Holness, of the superb Garth Merenghi’s Darkplace. Much as Darkplace riffed on 80’s hospital dramas and clunky horror, The Snipist is a salute to the British Post Apocalypse fiction of the Cold War, with nods to John Wyndem and the still chilling Nuclear Holocaust drama Threads.

Very high brow, are you sure it’s Sky? There appears to be a distinct lack of one of those programs where a film crew follows the Police around as they nick small time dealers in the Thames Valley?
Yep. Its Sky Arts, they have Melvyn Bragg and everything. It’s a conscious effort on Sky’s part to “commit to the arts and in particular British productionsâ€?, which is very laudable. With the success of Sky Atlantic, there is clearly a demand for original, high quality new programming, and in many ways Playhouse Presents is performing a similar role, although it’s home grown content and one parters makes it clearly distinct.

I’ve been boycotting Sky ever since Fox cancelled Firefly – is there anywhere else I can watch it without having to fork out for a subscription? If people know I’ve given Murdoch money, I’ll be ostracized from my local fairtrade coffee shop.
Unfortunately for you, Sky Arts is the only place to see it, short of committing a gross act of copyright vandalism. It seems mad not to release the series on DVD once it’s over, so short of mental breakdowns, you should be OK.

I guess I’ll get the DVD, I mean, I wouldn’t steal a car. What else can we look forward to?
Well, there are talks of an adoption of Bulgakov’s A Young Doctor’s Notebook, starring John Hamm and Daniel Radcliff? That tickle your fancy?

Consider it tickled.