66. Tarantino

Tapehead no 66

One of the great things about American television is the way an established series like ER will give young, up-and-coming talents a chance to make a name for themselves.

This week’s ER is a particular case in point because not only is the director making his TV directorial debut but he is actually a bit-part actor whose career has been blighted by a string of disastrously irritating cameos in no-hope low-budget films like Destiny Turns On the Radio and Somebody To Love.

The guy is such a loser his part in Reservoir Dogs was cut to shreds, finishing as a blink-and-you-miss-him role. Then, to make things worse, the sad schmuck over-acted his way furiously through a scene in Pulp Fiction, hogging the camera from maestros Samuel Jackson and Harvey Keitel.

Luckily, he makes a reasonable fist of directing ER, with signs that, all in all, he might be a name worth looking out for, though how far he’s going to get with a name like Quentin Tarantino is a matter of opinion.

Yes, Tarantino directs ER. Frantic, shaky, handheld camerawork; dialogue you can’t catch; too many characters: so what else is new ?

Just about the only clues that it’s really him are: the freeze-frame shot of a bone-saw, shot as a weapon; some chat about burgers; a good sun-lounger shot and a chick OD-ing on a speedball. Oh, and we get a girl-gang fight in which (guess what?) one girl gets her ear cut off. Ho-fucking-ho, Quentin…So funny.

The best thing is the script and Tarantino had nothing to do with that. The real star is a bit-part actor/actress called (I kid you not), CCH Pounder.

Whatever he does when he grows up, Quentin Tarantino will never be the director that Tom Clegg was, as Clegg’s classic episode of the Sweeney, I Want The Man, demonstrates.

As far as High Stylishness is concerned, The Sweeney puts Pulp Fiction to shame. From the graphics and opening credits to the two theme tunes, in terms of cool The Sweeney had the threads, the birds, the hairdos and car-chases that Tarantino would happily have given his left ear for.

I Want The Man even has a jewel raid and a torture scene thrown in, not to mention a grass called Popeye, a snout called Jimmy Dancer, and best of all, Roy Kinnear as Frankie Little, tea-leaf and wheels man.

John Thaw is at his best, reveling in the chance to run around shouting, “See you back down the factory,” and, “She might be the bird on that sparklers blag in Hatton Garden.”

Forget Inspector Morse, where his accent was all over the place, when Regan walks out of the dug-out at Stamford Bridge, his sheepskin coat and sideburns making him the perfect mentor for football managers across the world an Barry Fry in particular, That is in his prime.

“Popeye likes football, don’t he?” Regan asks his snout.

“Yeah!” agrees the snout. “He likes the violence!”

There’s a distinctly Tarantino-like influence to the final of Masterchef as nerves fray and tempers fly.

“Just fuck off and leave me alone,” snaps contestant number one when Loyd Grossman and the indecipherable French chef, Raymond Blanc, come over and talk to her at the very moment that her 

ice-cream machine has gone on the blink and started turning the Iced Chocolate Pudding into liquid goo.

Grossman then excels himself by describing the warm, smoked-eel mousse as “nice and warblay” (wobbly), and asking one contestant, “Exactly what goes into a potato bake ?” (Potato, Loyd. Potato.)

When Raymond Blanc starts re-arranging the American contestant hand-made ravioli parcels into triangles, she ask nervously, 

“Er, does it take longer to cook that way?” obviously thinking, 

“Don’t fucking touch that.”

Finally, the third contestant’s patience snaps when Grossman compares her delicately prepared Colcannon to “left-overs.”

The last frame is a brilliant shot of all three contestants covered in flour, aiming their whisks at Loyd Grossman’s head, frozen in a Mexican stand-off.


The Sweeney: Sat, 8.30pm-9.30pm, C4

Masterchef, Sun, 5.20pm-6pm, BBC1

ER: Weds, 10pm-10.55pm, C4