Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bob Peck Back on the Edge

There are a handful of made-for-television miniseries that I'll watch repeatedly (if they would show up again on TV, or on DVD). And there are still some I've yet to view. Some on the missing list comprise John Adams, Taken, and Tales of the City (and I hope to whittle it down). On the other side, there are some that I've seen and consider truly great (Roots, Jesus of Nazareth, Thorn Birds), but for whatever reason the repeat factor isn't there for me. So what does make that small repeat viewing list? Especially since they're on DVD, I include I, Claudius, Lonesome Dove, Band of Brothers, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Captains and the Kings, and documentaries The World at War and The Civil War.

However, there is one that's been missing from that list for too long (at least of the DVD afficionados). And it has been rarely seen at all on U.S. screens since its initial release because it is a British miniseries. Luckily for the good many of us who have seen (and treasure) it, that'll be rectified (digitally) later this year. Edge of Darkness was a BBC serial drama that was released in 1985 (and later shown on American PBS television--though I saw it on the local independent (at the time), KCOP). It is really a quite remarkable and unique tale that is part drama, who-dunnit-mystery, detective narrative, ghost story, and political espionage thriller. Add a little Environmental-Nuclear Power tension and this series had it all.

Bob Peck as Ronald Craven in the 1985 eco-thri...Image via Wikipedia

Additionally it had an ideal British cast, with a couple of them to go on to larger fame because of it--and one very American character actor who'd dominate any of the scenes he was in. The late-Bob Peck is forever tied to this work, and for good reason. His ability to be both "tragic and intelligent simultaneously" in this six-part series raised him up from a stage and minor TV actor to one famous enough (due to the role of Ronald Craven) for Steven Spielberg to cast him as the game warden in Jurassic Park. The other characters of note play his dead daughter, Emma (Joanne Whalley in her debut), and the mysterious and not to be forgotten Darius Jedburgh (Joe Don Baker). And though it's been available in VHS and on Region 2 disc, it'll make its US DVD release on November 3, 2009.

Needless to say, since it was such a successful original work it seems another studio exec has green-lighted a movie remake of it. Spare me. Given that fans of another critically acclaimed BBC serial drama, State of Play, thought the 2009 U.S. film remake (changed and condensed dramatically to fit a 2 hour format) was such a travesty, I'm not looking forward to what they'll do here. But, I'm soooo looking forward to finally getting EoD on disc.


  1. You'll have to remind me when Edge of Darkness is released. There are some Brit mini-series that I think are among the best tv ever made: GBH (not the recent film, but a mini-series from, I think the '80s or early '90s); and Jake's Progress. Both were written by Alan Bleasdale. I also liked the first series of Horatio Hornblower (though I'm not sure it qualifies as a mini-series); Shogun (the complete version, not the chopped-up crap version that seems to be all that is available now); Band of Brothers; and pretty much anything by Ken Burns.

    I've never seen Captains and the Kings but I read the book and it was magnificent.

  2. Edge of Darkness was released in Britain in 1985. IIRC, brought to U.S. screens in '86-'87. It is well worth seeing (at least once).

    Yes, the Brit serial dramas are some of the best of breed in television. I didn't know I was seeing some of Alan Bleasdale work. Great stuff.

    I have the complete Shogun on DVD! We watched it all again about a year ago, along with Brosnan's work in another Clavell work, Noble House.

    I, too, read Captains and the Kings. The TV series was done very, very well done. One of the best things actor Richard Jordan (as Joseph Armagh) ever did. It's also where he met his future wife (Blair Brown, who played Elizabeth Healey Hennessey). NBC really surprised me.

    Thanks, Corey.

  3. Ah, Noble House, there's another one I enjoyed, though not a top 5 fave. I really enjoyed seeing Brosnan and John Rhys Davies together in that series.