The Singing Let Down

It’s understandable that we all have our own biases and opinions, however it would be nearly impossible for Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective to measure up to its critical acclaim.  I generally dislike the idea of under-appreciating a renowned, academically discussed piece of work but this six hour series was downright unenjoyable for me.  

I felt cheated.  The unreliability of the narrative was annoyingly deceptive and felt like a cheap trick.  Simply because Marlow was ill, both physically and mentally, the implied author took the assumption that it could show us whatever it wanted, whenever it wanted without repercussions.  I’ve considered the fact that a second or third viewing of the piece might help me to piece together the narration in a more sophisticated manner.  Most likely the critics who proclaim Potter’s brilliance have viewed the show multiple times.  However, my issue with this is that it was released as a television program originally airing in one-hour installments.  So the purpose, or goal, of Potter’s should naturally have been to draw an audience which would be entertained and attracted to the show throughout it’s six-week debut.  This idea stems from what I brought up in class about how when I lost my interest in the show I began to imagine the British audience it was intended for.  Were they losing interest also?  Would they continue to turn on the television each week to watch and why?  It could be assumed that some might watch to “find out who dunnit” but the slow pace of the show negates the typical fast-paced exposition of a detective’s investigation.  I pictured the ‘implied author’ and what his goal was (perhaps I would have pictured Potter, the personified version, if I had done a lot of background research beforehand about him personally, but I didn’t until afterward).  Jason mentioned that the original British audience of the 1980’s would have known enough about Dennis Potter’s work and reputation to have been attracted to the show, but does that mean that they would continue to watch all six hours?  Is British television really that different? These questions are to myself more than anything in an attempt to figure out and possibly justify my distaste for the show despite the praise from the critical world.  

To answer the question of what it would have taken, as far as a viewing experience, in order to change my perception of The Singing Detective it took me a while to think of any type of alternate situation in which I may have had a more positive opinion.  The only situation I imagined (and I’m serious) is if I had been in a room with about ten other British adults and after each episode we took a ten minute break to get a snack, possibly some tea, and during this break I could listen to these British adults, possibly some of the critics, discussing why they thought the show was so brilliant, as in what specific narrative devices or authorial choices Potter was making to create such a ‘masterpiece’.  I think that would have helped me.  Otherwise, I suppose I’ll stand by my opinion until further notice.  My distaste for the show will unfortunately most likely prevent me from returning to it for a second viewing.  As I also stated in class, Chatman’s idea that a poet cannot “make the poem mean what he wants it to mean” by writing or preaching his intentions, will also keep me away from the influence of interviews with or writing by Potter.  I feel that my experience is what it is and shouldn’t be changed.  I will take my viewing of The Singing Detective and move on.  I suppose I’ll take a small amount of enjoyment in the fact that the majority of the class seems to share at least a small amount of my dislike for the show as well. 

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