Hot Metal - Series 1 DVD

Saturday, 19 September 2009 09:23

When Twiggy Rathbone, figurehead of conglomerate Rathouse International, relaunches his newly-acquired ‘Daily Crucible’ newspaper as a tabloid, hard news is replaced with soft nonsense. To aid him in the transformation, he brings in his South African newspaper editor Russell Spam, whose job is to deflect the complaints of the 'old guard' and re-employ base reporters such as Greg Kettle, the sort of journalist who thinks nothing of using a medium to interview victims of capital punishment...
Hot Metal is from the dynamic writing duo Andrew Marshall and David Renwick – who cut their combined teeth on radio series “The Birkiss Way”, and then moved on to TV, initially with what was considered a children’s series in End of Part One. What followed was their creation of the iconic Whoops Apocalypse and a bevy of classic and extraordinary situation comedies and what can best be described as comedy dramas. Renwick penned the likes of
Jonathan Creek, while Marshall’s major claim to fame has been 2point4 Children.

Hot Metal Series One DVDIn Hot Metal, which made its debut in 1986, the focus of the satire is the ongoing shenanigans of the day-to-day running of a tabloid newspaper. It remains an outstandingly clever and wickedly funny comedy more than twenty years on. Some of the techniques of producing newspapers may have changed (“Hot Metal” is a term for the raised lettering used to create newspapers decades ago, in the days before computer and press technology created less labour-intensive methods of origination), but the basis of how tabloid newspapers go about the business of “news gathering” has not changed one bit.
Robert Hardy (All Creatures Great and Small) takes on a dual role – firstly as Twiggy Rathbone, the business magnate and new owner of ‘The Crucible’, and that of Russell Spam, the new editor, who considers that the lowest common denominator is probably too high a benchmark for the newspaper’s intended audience. Are they in fact the same person – they certainly look alike, which creates the first mystery of the debut series

Geoffrey Palmer (Butterflies) plays the increasingly frustrated Executive Editor Harry Stringer, who sees his integrity being maligned at every turn. John Gordon Sinclair takes on the role of Bill Tytla, rookie and hungry reporter whose dogged determination means no story remains untold, which creates the running thread of intrigue throughout the first series.

Also in the mix is guttersnipe journalist Greg Kettle (Richard Kane), who intimidates his victims by announcing himself as a representative of “Her Majesty's Press”, concocting stories of the like of intimating that a harmless vicar is a werewolf.

Make no mistake, just like Whoops Apocalypse, this is a situation comedy that was a stroke of writing genius, and I believe is actually up there with Fawlty Towers as a classic of the genre.  There are set pieces after set pieces of out-and-out hilarity, and it has to be said that with Network getting swamped with requests for review copies (and actually being unable to supply us with one!), let’s hope that enough magazines and websites out there will share with their audiences the absolutely essential nature of this acquisition for your DVD collection. In other words, Cineology has to say that we give this show our most highest of recommendations!

A second series followed, and in 1989 the format was briefly revived for a 13 minute Comic Relief special "The Rat Sat on The Cat" (also known as "The Satellite Years") – with Hardy and Palmer recreating their roles. Let’s hope we get to see this as an extra on the eventual DVD release of the second (and final) season. Unfortunately, this first season release is bereft of any extra content above the six episodes.

HOT METAL – THE COMPLETE FIRST SERIES (‘15’) is out now from Network DVD, with a RRP £14.99 and a running time of 150 minutes. Let’s hope the second series, plus releases of Whoops Apocalypse and End of Part One are not far behind – and hey, some commentaries from cast on crew of ANY of these would be much appreciated! 

Hot Metal Series One - Episode Guide
Robert Hardy - Terence 'Twiggy' Rathbone & Russell Spam

Geoffrey Palmer - Harry Stringer

John Gordon-Sinclair - Bill Tytla

Richard Kane - Greg Kettle

Geoffrey Hutchings - Max

John Horsley - Father Teasdale

Sarah Mortimer - Sharon

Geoffrey Greenhill - Keith

Doreen Keogh - Mrs Beatty

Jack Watling - Prime Minister MacNamara

Eliza Buckingham - Mrs MacNamara

Michael Stainton – Donald Kuznetsky


Writers - Andrew Marshall and David Renwick

Director - David Askey

Producer - Humphrey Barclay


1.01 The Tell-Tale Heart
What will the tycoon owner of Rathouse International do to Harry Stringer's respectable but doomed Daily Crucible? Who is the mysterious new editor Russell Spam that no-one's ever heard of? And what scandalous front-page story will they invent to rocket the Daily Crucilble to the top of the market? All is revealed.

Original ITV Transmission: 16 February 1986

1.02 The Modern Prometheus
After successfully re-launching the Daily Crucible with his Royals Porno Storm headlines, editor Russell Spam is about to unveil his Sensational Sex Secrets of the Soviets through the mouth of Nikita Kruschev, whom reporter Greg Kettle has found alive in Switzerland. Meanwhile, the government would like a little support on a matter of humanitarian importance...

Original ITV Transmission: 23 February 1986

1.03 Beyond the Infinite
Twiggy Rathbone's Daily Crucible is determined to keep abreast of the competition and Page Three is an outstanding target area. Meanwhile, young reporter Bill Tytla unearths the first clues to an international scandal bigger than anything Russell Spam could ever dream up.

Original ITV Transmission: 2 March 1986

1.04 Casting the Runes
While the Daily Crucible is making hay with its outrageous depiction of Father Teasdale as a militant Marxist, its proprietor Twiggy Rathbone finds reason to denounce public misrepresentation. Meanwhile, Bill Tytla is on the trail of a murderer...

Original ITV Transmission: 9 March 1986

1.05 Slaughter of the Innocent
Russell Spam has come up with yet another astounding gimmick to boost the sales of the Daily Crucible - and Harry Stringer finds himself smack in the firing line as usual. Summoning all his courage he decides to do something about it... and a story begins to develop.

Original ITV Transmission: 16 March 1986

1.06 The Respectable Prostitute
With Bill Tytla threatened at gun point, pressure to suppress the story he's been unearthing is getting very heavy - and is about to get heavier still...

Original ITV Transmission: 23 March 1986



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