Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Being Frank’ and ‘Doctor Who’


‘BEING FRANK: THE CHRIS SIEVEY STORY’ (AMAZON)

British oddball and Renaissance man Chris Sievey isn’t well-known in America beyond his image, which was used in the film “Frank” as a symbol of outsiders and oddballs who create music outside the norm. But his giant paper-mache head is cherished, especially by a generation of British children, who grew up with his frequent, out-of-control guest shots on children’s shows in the ’80s and ‘90s.

“Being Frank” is the story of the man behind the mask, a Beatles fanatic, who found success eluded him with his power-pop band the Freshies and one day transferred all his energy to the character of Frank Sidebottom. In the Sievey narrative, Frank took charge of his life, and Sievey became both devoted to, and tortured by, the nasal-voiced, big-headed goof, who obsessed about his hometown of Timperly, sparred with his cardboard puppet, Little Frank, and recorded a number of cover versions of successful songs, with lyrics altered to ramble on about his obsessions. It was a triumph of immersive performance, but it opened darker doorways in Sievey’s obsessive personality.

The documentary celebrates Sievey ‘s impressive foresight — he was a very early adopter of music videos and using computer programs in music presentation. His multi-disciplinary enthusiasm for presentation resulted in a sprawling archive that included a long-running comics series and a couple of influential regional TV series, as well as the immense affection those around Sievey felt for him.

Sievey never quite achieved the credit he wanted for his work. Hiding behind the mask kept him in the shadows, and he could never accept that people responded more to his Frank work than his more personal musical efforts. But this is a fitting, hilarious, touching documentary that is alternately inspirational and cautionary, about the kind of person who makes the world interesting, with boundless energy and creativity that was both his strength and his weakness.


‘DOCTOR WHO’ (AMAZON, GOOGLE PLAY, VUDU)

It’s been a big year for this venerable science fiction series since for the first time in its more than 50-year history, it cast a woman in the lead role. If you’ve never seen the series before, I’ll just say that such a gender change is actually built into the character, but except for one time during the 1980s, the move has never been considered.

Also, if you have never seen the show before, it’s a great time to start. It’s the first time since the first season of the new series, in 2005, that the series has operated with a provisional clean slate to allow new viewers to dive in. After that debut year, the series often became convoluted, drowning in its own history and appearing hostile to any newcomers.

Taking over the role is the energetic Jodie Whittaker, who adds a kindness to the alien character — still scatter-brained, still brilliant, still conceited, still apparently on speed, but with more empathy than ever before. With three companions by her side, the Doctor’s best episodes are the time travel, historical ones — meeting Rosa Parks, meeting one companion’s grandmother during the British Raj in India and getting mixed up in witch trials in the 1600s.

It’s a fun, breezy season that reminds you that it’s not a kid show or an adult show, but a family show that really does deliver.


Originally published at https://www.berkshireeagle.com on March 8, 2019.

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