Wednesday 21 November 2018

The Life and Death of Peter Sellers

Paul Whitington

Like many a funnyman before him, Peter Sellers was not an especially happy bunny once the cameras stopped rolling, and his troubled psyche is richly explored in this inventive 2004 biopic based on a book by Roger Lewis.

Geoffrey Rush stars as Sellers, whose mental and marital problems seemed to stem from his childhood. Born Richard Henry Sellers in 1925, he was nicknamed Peter by his parents after a stillborn elder brother. Possibly not the firmest base on which to build a healthy psyche, and neither was the restless family life he experienced. A natural mimic, he honed his skills in variety theatre, but the smothering affections of his domineering Jewish mother left him with (to put it mildly) an ambivalent attitude to women.

Stephen Hopkins's film takes us through his success with the Goon Show and as Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther. What emerges is a disturbing portrait of a brilliant, successful but not terribly likeable little man. Emily Watson, Charlize Theron, Stanley Tucci and John Lithgow co-star.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968): I don't know what today's tough nut nippers would make of it, but Ken Hughes's classic is full of wonderful performances, most memorably Robert Helpmann's Child Catcher (Today, UTV, 2.10pm).

Cruel Intentions (1999): Cleverly done update of Dangerous Liaisons, with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Philippe playing a couple of sexual cynics whose nihilistic scheming soon comes back to haunt them. With Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair (Tonight, TV3, 11.05pm).

Thunderball (1965): Bond travels to Nassau to confront SPECTRE and its attempts to blackmail the world with stolen atomic bombs, but doesn't forget to have some fun along the way (Sunday, RTE2, 3.40pm).

Fight Club (1999): Gritty psychological thriller based on the book by Chuck Palahniuk and starring Edward Norton as a disaffected salesman whose life changes after he meets a moonlighting pugilist called Tyler (Sunday, C4, 10.45pm).

Black Hawk Down (2001): Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor and Tom Sizemore star in Ridley Scott's recreation of the disastrous 1993 US mission in Somalia, when a team of Army Rangers gets stranded (Thursday, RTE2, 9.35pm).

First Blood (1982): Brian Dennehy plays a smalltown sheriff who makes an enemy of returning Vietnam veteran John Rambo and soon regrets it. Sylvester Stallone stars in the first and best of the Rambo franchise (Friday, Channel 6, 11pm).

Langerland.TV Monday, RTE2, 11pm

Langerland returns for a new series that aims to bring you "the greatest chancers and spoofers known to mankind". The gentleman pictured may look a bit like Bert from Sesame Street, but given the backdrop and that insanely optimistic expression I'd say he's supposed to be Mick McCarthy.

Here referred to as 'Captain Smiley', he is unlikely to be a given a sympathetic hearing, but he is only the first of a series of langers the show will profile. In an extended 10-minute format, Langerland.TV has trawled the murky worlds of politics, sport, music, the media and celebrity to produce a list of langers who'll be exposed to ridicule. Curb Your Enthusiasm: Larry causes more trouble by ignoring Paul Reiser's wife, and the threat of an imminent terrorist attack disrupts an Alanis Morissette benefit concert (Sunday, Channel 6, 10pm).

Seinfeld: Jerry's girlfriend poses as his wife in order to cash in a dry-cleaning discount. Classic comedy, with Jerry Seinfeld (Monday, Channel 6, 7.30pm).

The Podge & Rodge Show: Donna McCaul, so often the butt of the brothers' cruel jokes, will hopefully get her own back as she joins them in Ballydung Manor as guest presenter tonight (Monday, RTE2, 10.30pm).

The Graham Norton Show: Tom Jones and Alan Carr should make an unlikely but amusing chat show duo (Thursday, BBC2, 9.30pm).

The Panel: In their new slot on RTE1, Colin Murphy, Neil Delamare and the panel regulars are joined by guest compere Marty Whelan (Thursday, RTE1, 10.15pm).

Scrubs: JD decides it's time to end it with Danni. Zach Braff and Tara Reid star in the surreal comedy (Friday, Channel 6, 8.30pm).

The Devil's Whore

Wednesday, C4, 9pm

You may be used to seeing Dominic West as chaotic Baltimore cop Jimmy McNulty in The Wire, but he embodies the rather different character of Oliver Cromwell in this drama centred on the English Civil War. Written by Peter Flannery, The Devil's Whore tells the story of that war through the eyes of spirited aristocrat Angelica Fanshawe.

Andrea Riseborough leads a fine cast that includes Peter Capaldi, Maxine Peake, John Simm and our own Michael Fassbender, star of the brilliant Hunger. Ms Fanshawe starts out as an unquestioning royalist in the court of King Charles, but as the country descends into war she begins to drift towards the Parliamentarian point of view.

Fringe: The team investigate the strange case of a woman involved in illegal drug trials who develops the ability to kill with a touch of her fingertips (Tonight, TV3, 9pm).

The Clinic: Daisy is still at her wit's end over Conor, and Keelin discovers she is pregnant (Sunday, RTE1, 9.30pm).

Mad Men: As the staff gather to watch the results of the 1960 presidential election polls, Pete's rampant ambitiousness prompts him to directly challenge Don (Monday, RTE2, 11.45pm).

Desperate Housewives: Intrigue is everywhere on Wisteria Lane this week, as Mrs McCluskey gets her sister to help her dig up dirt on Dave, and Lynette becomes convinced that Tom is cheating on her. Teri Hatcher stars (Tuesday, RTE2, 10.30pm).

Ugly Betty: Betty tries to figure out what happened when an accident at Mode magazine results in a police investigation (Thursday, BBC1, 8pm).

The Wire: As Freamon and Russell continue to watch the waterfront, Rawls tries to persuade Daniels to take on the Jane Doe container homicides (Thursday, Channel 6, 9pm).

Bertie

Monday, RTE1, 9.35pm

No-one could question the first-class production values that Mint Productions brings to its political documentaries, as evidenced by the seamlessly edited and presented Haughey. Here, though, it has upped its game in terms of content, perhaps helped by the fact that so many of the players in the Bertie story are alive, hale and more than willing to talk. What was most interesting about the first episode was the hearty self-satisfaction of the so-called 'Drumcondra mafia', who were only too happy to relate how they hoisted Bertie from obscurity to power by forming a northside political machine entirely separate from the Fianna Fail apparatus.

In this third instalment, Bertie is on the brink of getting the top job in 1994 when he gets a call from Labour leader Dick Spring in the wee small hours to tell him the coalition deal is off. Bertie would have to wait another three years to claim the prize.

Would You Believe: A pioneering art centre in Donegal that helps people cope with mental illness (Sunday, RTE1, 10.35pm).

Scannal: How the IRA used a helicopter to airlift three prisoners out of Mountjoy prison yard (Monday, RTE1, 7.30pm).

World War Two: Behind Closed Doors: Another look at how the Allies coped with Stalin during their Nazi-busting alliance (Monday, BBC2, 9pm).

Prince John: The Windsors' Tragic Secret: The story of John Windsor, the autistic son of George V hidden from public view (Tuesday, C4, 9pm).

Oceans: Experts look for sea dragons in the hostile waters of the Southern Ocean (Wednesday, BBC2, 8pm).

The Investigators: The impact that Irish scientists are having on the study of global warming (Thurs, RTE1, 11.05pm).

Ireland v All Blacks

Today, RTE2, 5.15pm

Among the positives to be drawn from last week's encounter with Canada was the impressive form of promising youngsters like Keith Earls and Rob Kearney, and Declan Kidney's refreshing willingness to consider all his options. But while the 55-0 scoreline sounds impressive, the Canadians provided scant opposition to Kidney's side and one would have to question the wisdom of playing such a weak team a week before a game against the world's best. That, however, is how things have panned out, and Kidney will be hoping for a tenfold increase in intensity and sharpness going into today's game against the All Blacks.

The New Zealanders fielded a second-string side last week against Scotland, but you can be pretty sure Graham Henry will have targeted the Ireland game as a potential banana skin.

Racing: Races from Cheltenham and Wetherby (Today, C4, 2pm).

Rugby: As a prelude to our game with New Zealand, live coverage of Scotland's tie with South Africa (Today, RTE2, 2.10pm).

Soccer: Peter Collins presents a round-up of all today's Premier League games, including Arsenal v Aston Villa and Bolton v Liverpool (Tonight, RTE2, 7.30pm).

Boxing: Bernard Dunne faces Cristian 'El Terrible' Faccio at the Hunky Dorys Fight Night in Castlebar (Tonight, RTE2, 9pm).

Rugby: Munster will attempt to repeat the heroics of 1978 against the All Blacks at the newly reopened Thomond Park (Tuesday, RTE2, 7pm).

Soccer: Giovanni Trapattoni's men take on Poland in a friendly at Croke Park (Wednesday, Sky Sports 1, 7.30pm).

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