The story of The Singing Detective unfolds in three time periods: the Forest of Dean in the 1930s, a 1980s hospital ward, and a film-noir fantasy London of the 1940s. The link between these ‘worlds’ is Philip Marlow, a writer of crime fiction recovering from psoriasis in hospital.
This film is not currently playing on MUBI but 30 other great films are. See what's now showing
The authorial voice writ large and probably Potter's most consistently realised work. It's a superbly layered onion of a plot with multiple switches in time, 'reality' and tone combining to make a most satisfying whole, despite the odd repetition. This production stands out as a particular pinnacle in the ascent of British television (in confidence and nerve) which suffered such a sharp decline the following decade.
This showed people what high-quality television could be. Forget about 'The Sopranos' or 'Breaking Bad'. This is for adults who don't need the thrill of violence. "I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine." The band Elbow got it's name from this show. Marvelously complex.
Great series. I loved the structure. So many favourite scenes, like the dad making bird sounds in the childhood pub, Marlowe fighting to resist an erection, people watching the corpse being taken out of the Thames. This is "made by Dennis Potter" more than made by Amiel, but he should get lots of praise to, and I want to watch some of his other films now.
One of the finest things I've ever seen on television. Period. Why Dennis Potter is not on this site as an "auteur" is beyond me and typical of the cinephile shortsightedness that sees the director as being almost solely responsible for all of a film's creative input. Watch this or any other British teleplay and you'll a credit like this: The Singing Detective by Dennis Potter. That "by" is always the writer.
On one hand, The Singing Detective is technically dated, as many of the great pieces of TV from the 60s, 70s and 80s. On the other hand, Dennis Potter's chronicle of a dark creative/dream/reality process makes you feel that the "golden age" of the little screen isn't something from 21st century. A mini-series that was really ahead of its time, so well written and performed - Michael Gambon has the role of his life.