Picks and Pans Review: The Singing Detective

updated 01/11/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/11/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

PBS (check local listings)


Unbearable. Ugly. The most excruciating viewing experience I've suffered through since The Mystic Warrior and A.D. That is The Singing Detective. This six-part British mini-series stars Michael (Turtle Diary) Gambon, a talented actor trapped in a role that requires so much work it would wear out even Meryl Streep. He plays a writer of detective stories who gets a crippling attack of psoriasis and ends up hospitalized and incapacitated. As scabs grow all over his body and as his fever rises, Gambon imagines scenes from his first mystery story and from his own life. Through his feverish haze we see infantile sexual fantasies, misogyny, scatological obsessions, cruel jokes about old and sick people and one very graphic scene that equates making love with dying. This is life as seen through scum-colored glasses. This is sick. The mini's author, Dennis Potter, has endured attacks of severe psoriasis himself, but that's no excuse for producing this maudlin, self-indulgent tripe. The fact that a writer suffers does not qualify him as an artist or his show as art.

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