What’s On TV – Pennies From Heaven

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 181/501
Title: Pennies From Heaven
Episodes Aired: 6
Episodes Watched: 6
Year(s): 1978
Country: UK

It would be so easy to avoid doing these TV write-ups and just post a link to the podcast instead. In fact, if it were not for the fact that this blog turns 3 years old soon (woah that’s a realisation and a half) I would have done so instead of just including a link at the end.

Pennies From Heaven comes from the mind of Dennis Potter – who would later go on to create the very well loved miniseries The Singing Detective. In fact, Pennies from Heaven is the first of three Dennis Potter musical series on the 1001 TV Shows list (Lipstick On Your Collar completes the list). Therefore it makes sense to start off at the first of his successful lip-synced TV musicals.

Many years ago I had seen the 2004 miniseries Blackpool so I kinda knew what to expect. However, seeing Bob Hoskins going into full music-hall mode really did take me aback. In his role of Arthur Parker (music sheet salesman and liar extraordinaire) he has to carry a lot of the series’ tonal shifts on his shoulders.

At times he’s the comic relief that we sorely need and at others he is as serious as a heart attack. At all times this man is a complete jerk. We see him hit and intimidate his wife, lech after teenage blind girl, lie through his teeth and, ultimately, corrupt another person. Yet, all he wants is someone to believe in him.

There is one rather heartbreaking moment in the first episode where all he wants is his wife to hold him (as even he realises that he isn’t doing that well as a salesman) and she can’t even do that for him. It’s sad to see… and then you remember how mismatched these two are. I mean this is a married couple that never should have been. He very much wants sex and she can’t stand being touched by him. It was never going to work.

Enter school teacher Eileen (a fantastic turn by Cheryl Campbell). At the start she is very much an innocent. She’s quietly spoken, works as a primary school teacher in the Forest of Dean and who lives with her father and brothers. By her end point she has had a back alley abortion, worked as a prostitute and, oh yes, killed a man.

A lot of the bad (or morally negative things) are not directly because of Arthur, but it is because of his initial pursuit that all these things happen to her. She’s the perfect foil for Arthur as through it all she remains utterly practical and fatalist whilst he is still this weird lying dreamer.

Anyway, enough from me. If you want to hear more (including some ideas for an updated cast) please listen to the Just Watch It podcast!

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