Saturday, January 16, 2010

As Time Goes By

By Lorna

Astimegoesbyseries7 For years I've occasionally tuned in to our local PBS station on a Saturday night to see the odd episode of As Time Goes By starring Dame Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer.  (I'd first seen Palmer in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin and loved that series, so I was willing to give As Time Goes By a chance.)  For background on the series, check out this Wikipedia entry.

I guess I vaguely knew that Palmer's character, Lionel, was a writer, but it never sank in until my husband gave me the entire series on DVD as a Christmas gift.  He'd never liked the show--until he started watching it with me beginning with episode #1.  Now he's as big a fan as me.

What's so striking is the fictional life of a writer as portrayed on the show.  Lionel needs a secretary to write his book.  He dictated it and this dolly-bird (Daisy) typed it for him.  His editor, Alistair, falls over backward to help Lionel get the manuscript into shape--although we do find out later that Alistair's father owed Lionel's father a favor, and that favor was the publication of Lionel's rather dry memoir "My Life In Kenya."

Boy, that must have been some owed favor!

Lionel and Alistair Alistair arranges for a photo shoot for the cover, a book tour, and even though the book is a commercial flop, he arranges for Lionel to write a mini series for American television.  (Did I mention this was a British import--and with some very unflattering takes on the American TV audience.  Mostly true, but unflattering nonetheless.)

Not only was the book a flop, it was soon remaindered, with Alistair saying it was a way for the publisher to recoup costs--with no mention that remainders bring no income to the author.

We're at the three-quarters point in the DVDs, so I'm not sure if Lionel has a literary success, all I know is, much as I admire my editor, I want Alistair to step up to the plate and take care of my career. His publishing company seems to have extremely deep pockets, paying for Jean and Lionel to head out to Hollywood to strike the deal for TV, and then later flying the Concord to New York (with Jean's daughter and secretary) to watch the mini series sink like a stone.  I'm sure my editor would love to have Alistair's expense account.

But then, this is fiction, isn't it?

And what's your favorite British television import?