Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Having seen "Casanova" in a 'Masterpiece Theatre' two-parter, I'm ordering the DVD of the original British version. I'm sure there are plenty of naughty bits that never got past the prurient censors at WGBH. Which is not surprising - the phrase "Banned In Boston" has a long tradition.

There have been times in the past when I've placed personal preference at the forefront in my duties as a TV Universe caretaker, especially when it comes to which TV shows belong in the main Toobworld and which ones must be relegated to an alternate dimension.

A case in point - "The Delay-a-Way Plan".

One of my guidelines is that a show's remake muste be shipped off to Earth Prime-Time Delay while the original commands the stage in Earth Prime-Time. These remakes usually reflect the times in which they were produced, just as the originals did in theirs, and so they are set in later time periods than the originals (hence the "Delay").

Despite it being one of the most lauded TV series on the Toob today, 'Battlestar Galactica' can never be considered for membership in the main TV dimension. Not when its "inspiration" (and its sequel, 'Galactica 1980') were on the air a quarter century ago. And not when those two shows, as bad as they could be, are integral to linking at least four other TV series together ('Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman', 'Fernwood 2Nite', 'America 2-Nite', and 'McCloud'). They also provide a theoretical splainin for the Eugenics War and certain scientific advancements found only in Toobworld.

But I have made exceptions in the past. Art Carney appeared in "The Incredible World of Horace Ford" on 'Studio One' one week after I was born. Nearly eight years later, that Reginal Rose-scripted story appeared as an episode of 'The Twilight Zone' with Pat Hingle as Horace Ford, and with an alternate ending.

Even though it came later, I consider Hingle's version to be the official one for Earth Prime-Time. This is because 'The Twilight Zone' is more accessible to the viewing public, thanks to the Sci-Fi Channel, so many years in syndication, and DVD collections. The gestalt of shared memory is a powerful component in keeping the TV Universe "alive".

Another example would be that of Sherlock Holmes, a topic I explored around this time last year. If I consider that "first dibs" guideline to be a hard and fast rule, then Ronald Howard's 1950s interpretation should be the official version of Conan Doyle's consulting detective.

But in the 1980s, PBS presented Jeremy Brett in the role, with adaptations of all the original stories. (He even dressed the part as envisioned by original illustrator Sydney Paget, and not in the deerstalker and cape as most actors following William Gillette have done.) Howard's Holmes only covered a few of those cases, such as "The Red-Headed League". So o'bviously the Brett Holmes is a better realization of the immortal detective and all the other versions of Holmes must be shipped out to new homes.

I bring this up because of Giacomo Casanova, and how torn I am as to which version should be the official legendary lover of Toobworld.

Casanova has had plenty of incarnations on Television over the years since 1971. (Was he too risque a character to be shown before then? Over in the Cineverse, his tale has been told since the Silent Era.) I haven't seen any of those versions, but I can't help thinking that for the most part they must be dry, stodgy, stuff historical dramas, or outright fabrications about his life. (And Casanova surely did enough of that himself in his memoirs.)

However, that 1971 six-part miniseries was written by Dennis Potter, an acclaimed genius among Television writers, right up there with in the pantheon with Chayevsky, Serling, and Rose. And Frank Finlay - whom I first noticed in "The Three Musketeers" - is a fine actor who probably gave mult-shaded life to Casanova. Even without having yet seen it, I think it must be a very appropriate production to represent Casanova in Toobworld. (And reviews which I have found online seem to buttress that belief.)

There are plenty of foreign teleplays on the life of Casanova, most of them in French or German (at least three versions in each, I think). But as a caretaker of the TV Universe, I do take certain liberties based on my own prejudices. And one of these is that English language productions will take precedence over those in a foreign language whenever possible.

And sorry, but that includes the 2002 Italian TV movie "Il Giovane Casanova" starring Stefano Accorsi as Giacomo Casanova, even though it's in the native language of the real Casanova.

It's not like the TV Universe doesn't give me the splainin to back up that claim. After all, whenever time travellers like Mr. Peabody or the Doctor visit some past era in Earth's history, the people they encounter speak English. Now, the Ninth Incarnation of the Doctor claimed this ws due to the effects of travelling in the TARDIS, and Arthur Dent had a Babel Fish in his ear, but how does any of that explain the conversational English of 'I, Claudius'? Who in that cast of characters was a Gallifreyan Time Lord or a hitch-hiker from Betelgeuse in disguise?

Stuart Damon played Giacomo in "A Touch Of The Casanovas" back in 1975, but from what I read about it, the production was geared more towards humor. As such, I have no problem in assigning that version of Casanova's life to the same dimension which houses 'When Things Were Rotten', 'That's My Bush!', and 'The Secret Files of Desmond Pfeiffer'.

(When I first typed that title, my computer crashed and I lost this entire file. Says something about the show, I think.....)

The Richard Chamberlain portrayal of Casanova in 1987 is highly regarded for its irreverent script by the author of the "Flashman" series of books, George MacDonald Fraser. It sounds like the type of production I'd like to give some kind of preferential treatment by placing it in the same dimension as that which houses 'The West Wing'.

As for Patrick Bergin in 'Casanova's Love Letters' which, like the version just shown on Masterpiece Theatre, was televised in 2005..... I suppose the evil mirror universe must have its Casanova as well......

Which brings me to the production written by Russell T. Davies and starring David Tennant and Peter O'Toole as Casanova at different times in his life......

This production seems to have captured most of the significant facts from his 12 volume memoir, "Histoire De Ma Vie" (Story of My Life), with only one major deviation - the faux castrati Bellino was combined with Teresa Cornelys and Donna Lucrezia, by each of whom he had illegitimate daughters. (And that storyline in this production had quite a deviation if you know what I mean, Vern. Nudge nudge wink wink!)

I would dearly love to use this televersion of Casanova's life as it has the best sense of being "Television". RTD's script was lively and had a sense of play that I would think must have captured the spirit of Casanova's memoirs.

Its "televisuality" pervades throughout. Casanova and his manservant Rocco were both tele-cognizant, recognizing and acknowledging that they had an audience watching them. And many times the costumes and dialogue betrayed an anachronistic flavor to better reflect the social mores of those "modern" times. (RTD even threw in a joke at the expense of Aaron Spelling! (Well, he wasn't quite dead yet when this first aired.....)

Add to all of this the amazing number of actors who would go on to appear in RTD's revival of 'Doctor Who' (most notably David Tennant, the Tenth Incarnation of the Doctor as Casanova himself), and this is a production that would make for a pleasant diversion in repeat viewings.

Still, there is that mini-series from 1971 penned by Dennis Potter......

But have no fear! I think I have a way to incorporate both into the main Toobworld!

Potter's production takes place in 1755, as Casanova is jailed in the prison of the Doge's Palace. And he reflects back on his many loves and adventures during that incarceration.

In a similar fashion, RTD's recent version is set in June of 1798, just days before Casanova's death while serving as a librarian for a nobleman in Bohemia. And again, his life is seen in flashback as he relates his story to a young serving girl who works in the same castle.

Here's my solution. Frank Finlay and Peter O'Toole are both playing the same Casanova, but obviously at different points in his life, over forty years apart. It's another one of my "guidelines" that casting changes are acceptable due to the toll taken by aging. The ravages of Time would splain away most of the physical differences, save perhaps for the nose..... And whose to say Casanova didn't resort to some kind of neo-classical nip/tuck to give him a more elegant schnozzola?

As for David Tennant as the younger Casanova, who is seen in the most recent version in the same circumstances as the incarcerated Casanova played by Frank Finlay, that's an easy one to splain away.

He wasn't real.

What we saw was Casanova as envisioned by Edith the serving girl while she listened to the stories told by the elder Casanova. This would splain the telecognizant glances toward the audience - it's addressed to Edith as a visual wink by her sub-conscious when she begins to doubt the veracity of the stories.

It's a conceit I used when I needed a splainin regarding the Zonks caused by the outlandish stories in 'Jack Of All Trades'. The entire series was nothing more than the Munchausen-like tall tales told by Jack Styles in his own memoirs. Otherwise there was no way he could have possibly have met a young and beautiful Catherine The Great or Ben Franklin - who happened to have died about nine years before their supposed encounter in 1801.

We can use the same splainin for Casanova's appearance in a flashback on the adventure series 'Relic Hunter' (one of my guilty pleasures). When we see Dominic Cina as Casanova, what we are seeing is how he appears in the mind of the person narrating the flashback.

In a way, this splainin would also serve for the appearance of Toby Stephens as Casanova in the 2004docu-drama "London". In that case, what we are seeing is a dramatic re-enactment of Casanova's time in England, taken from a historical reference; perhaps as envisioned by whomever is reading that particular book.......

Speaking of Franklin, Casanova met him as well, and I only wish RTD had created a scene to show that. I think they would have made for a great pair of swingers in Paris, hittin' on the ladies!

Patrick Bergin (Casanova)
Tom Frederic (Young Casanova)
. . . "Casanova's Love Letters" (2005) (mini) TV Series
Richard Chamberlain (I) (Giacomo Casanova)
Toby Rolt (Young Giacomo Casanova)
. . . Casanova (1987) (TV)
Domenic Cina (Casanova)
. . . "Relic Hunter" (1999) {The Book of Love (#1.9)} TV Series
Stuart Damon (Casanova)
. . . Touch of the Casanovas, A (1975) (TV)
Paul Marc Davis (Casanova)
. . . Casanova (2002) (TV)
Frank Finlay (I) (Giovanni Casanova)
. . . "Casanova" (1971) (mini) TV Series
Tony Rosato (Casanova)
. . . "Mentors" (1998) {The Book of Love (#2.8)} TV Series
Toby Stephens (Casanova)
. . . London (2004) (TV)
David Tennant (I) (Giacomo Casanova)
John Sandilands (II) (Casanova aged 5)
Zac Fox (Casanova aged 12)
Peter O'Toole (I) (Older Casanova)
. . . Casanova (2005) (TV)

Stefano Accorsi (Giacomo Casanova)
. . . Giovane Casanova, Il (2002) (TV)

Jean-Pierre Andréani (Casanova)
. . . C'est arrivé à Paris (1977) (TV)
Michel Le Royer (Casanova)
. . . "Nouvelle tribu, La" (1996) (mini) TV Series
Michel Le Royer (Casanova)
. . . Un coup de baguette magique (1997) (TV)
Roland Lesaffre (Casanova)
. . . "Madame êtes-vous libre?" (1971) TV Series
Jean-François Poron (Casanova)
. . . Siècle des lumières, Le (1976) (TV)

Jean-Claude Brialy (Casanova)
. . . "Schöne Wilhelmine, Die" (1984) (mini) TV Series
Robert Hunger-Bühler (Casanova)
. . . Casanova (2004) (TV)
Wolf Kaiser (Casanova)
. . . Casanova auf Schloß Dux (1983) (TV)
Walter Koeninger (Giacomo Casanova)
. . . Casanova (1981) (TV)
Romuald Pekny (Casanova)
. . . Frag nach bei Casanova (1975) (TV)

It appears that several actors named "Toby" have played the role of Casanova in Toobworld. Can't quite put my finger on why that should be of interest.....


See that guy all dressed in green?
I-ko, i-ko, unday
He’s not a man;
He’s a lovin’ machine.
Jockomo fee na-né.

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