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How to turn a movie into a tv hit

We've had more than our share of small box hits being turned into big-screen hopefuls, but the traffic goes both ways, last night's This Is England '86 being far from the first time a fine movie has been spun into a TV series. Think of M*A*S*H, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Planet of the Apes, Clueless, Fame, City of God/Men and Firefly/Serenity -- to name seven that actually worked.

The difference here, of course, is that This Is England is, on the surface, not all that likely a candidate for a TV makeover.

More kitchen sink drama than glitzy teenage wildlife romp, Midlands wonderboy Shane Meadows' gritty-but-sweet skinhead coming-of-age outing was, nonetheless, one of 2006's most engrossing, hard-hitting and entertaining big-screen offerings. And it came with a killer soundtrack, too.

The fact that the original film's young find, Thomas Turgoose, returns -- along with much of the original cast -- to take up the story in 1986, three years from when we last left this smalltown boy with blood on his hands, means fans of the movie won't feel they're being offered a pale imitation here. Or a glammed-up Gok Wan disaster.

Times were tough in 1986. That particular recession was in full swing (3.4million people unemployed in the UK), and, worse still, Chris De Burgh was number one in the charts with Lady in Red. Nonetheless, it's a big day for Woody (Joseph Gilgun) and Lol (Vicky McClure) as they decide to get hitched in the local register office. Which means a grand day out for all their mates.

Only it turns out to be a not-so-grand day out. Shaun (Turgoose), meanwhile, is merrily flunking his exams, and finding out that the path to true love can sometimes involve being used as a punch bag.

Meadows has said of this four-part TV drama, "When I finished This Is England, I had a wealth of material and unused ideas that I felt very keen to take further", and if that material seems somewhat slight here, there is charm and humour in just about every detail.

The characters may occasionally seemed to have wondered in off First Of The Summer Wine, but any broad comic stereotypes here are put to good use. Here's to the next three outings.

Coming across a little like CSI: Faddan More, the intriguingly, if unfortunately, titled Treasure From The Bog largely charted the efforts by Irish book conservator John Gillis to preserve and conserve the 8th-century prayer book found in the wilds of north Tipperary back in July 2006.

Known as the Faddan More Psalter (an early medieval Christian form of prayer book), the fact that this delicate illuminated vellum manuscript had lain in peat for, it was estimated, between 1,000 and 1,200 years made its discovery all the more remarkable. So much so that the book itself has yet to be formally identified, named or dated by Irish archaeological authorities.

But, followed by cameras, Gillis did his best to uncover as much of the original manuscript as possible. After two painstaking years, he finally reached the leather cover. Which held one more big surprise.

The enthusiasm of everyone involved in the find and the restoration -- from turf cutters Eddie Fogarty and Kevin Leonard, to the international experts flown in to verify each new revelation -- was infectious.

This was like a rollicking National Treasure exploit. Only without the obligatory hot babe. Or the car chases. Or the explosions, thank the saints.

What you did get was unbridled joy from a bunch of heavily tweeded professors who, on the evidence here, may still be grinning uncontrollably, from ear to ear, today . . .

Narrated by Phelim Drew, and with a fine soundtrack from Ray Harman, the man behind the camera, Alan Gilsenan captured the barely restrained thrill of it all perfectly.

this is england '86 hHHHI

treasure from the bog hHHHI


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