I caught the end of an episode of a TV series back in the early/mid 90s that had me walking the streets of London – I lived there at the time – to find a video of the series. I called in the BBC’s shop. But, no, it wasn’t available on video. Then, I eventually gave up.
But now, (very, many) thanks to Sharon Brown who is a David Tennant fan, I’ve read that the series concerned is now out on DVD. Perhaps it’s the rise of David Tennant due to the popularity of Dr Who that did it, afterall this DVD includes previously not seen footage of the 21 year old Tennant’s audition for the role of a manic depressive. But at the time of its airing, it was the great and wonderful actor that is Ken Stott that caught my eye. (And he will continue to do so, as long as it’s not in the role of Rebus, which he has now cast off. He was perfect for the role, but the stories on TV did not make the grade, alas. It quickly became boring telly for me.)
So, I now have it on order: the whole series of “Takin’ Over the Asylum” on DVD. Blissful viewing awaits. It’s surprising how a few minutes out of context can draw you in. But it is possible. It happened to me for this series, all those years ago. What I viewed then was powerful enough that I could never forget. If you’d like to read the Amazon synopsis for the series, follow the break. I’ll be back with comments when I’ve viewed and enjoyed it (I know I will enjoy it). By God, it’s been years for the opportunity. Thank you Lord. And thank you Sharon; if it wasn’t for you, I’d never have realised it was out there.
Takin’ Over The Asylum was first broadcast on BBC1 as a six-part series in September 1994. Written by Donna Franceschild, directed by David Blair (Anna Karenina, The Lakes) and starring Ken Stott (Messiah, Rebus) and David Tennant (Doctor Who) in award winning debut performances plus a cameo from Spike Milligan, the acclaimed black comedy Takin’ Over The Asylum is available for the first time ever on DVD from 2nd June, priced £19.99.
Stott stars as Eddie McKenna, a double-glazing salesman who moonlights as a DJ for hospital radio in a Scottish mental asylum. He nurtures close friendships with the patients there including Francine (Katy Murphy, Our Mutual Friend, Honest) a self-harmer and Campbell (David Tennant, Doctor Who) a manic depressive, with whom he shares a dream to make it onto the commercial radio scene.
Campbell’s inspired antics promise to bring the pair closer to their aim, but the pressures of life outside of the hospital begin to tell on Eddie. A vindictive colleague leads his small-minded boss to ban his activities and his eccentric grandmother returns suddenly to Lithuania leaving him penniless and alone.
Eddie finds himself drawn to the troubled Francine, but when the radio is threatened with closure he turns to Campbell for comfort. As Campbell regains control over his life and courts success, Eddie’s goes into decline and he is finally forced to face his own illness – alcoholism.
Takin’ Over The Asylum provided breakthrough acting roles for both Stott and Tennant. The black comedy went on to win several awards, including a BAFTA for best drama serial in 1995, as well as praise from mental-health groups.
“Everything about this series is perfect…rich in character, it treads a delicate path between tragedy and comedy”. Daily Mirror.