Nice Work – Hammett – tape 804

This tape opens with the end of an episode of MASH. The transmission quality of this recording is pretty bad, with a lot of ghosting, so I apologise in advance for the quality of the screenshots, at least for the first programme.

There’s a trailer for Smith and Jones in Small Doses

Then, part 4 of David Lodge’s adaptation of his own novel Nice Work.

I looked at the first three parts on an earlier tape, which might be worth brushing up on for this last episode.

Robyn (Haydn Gwynne) has returned home, and she’s not returning any of Vic’s (Warren Clarke’s) calls after their one night stand in Dusseldorf. But of course, my main interest is her BBC Micro in the back of the car.

She’s soon back in the academic swing, going to a party of lecturers, where she meets a visiting American professor, Professor Zapp, who expresses interest in her new book.

Back at university, she’s surprised to find that Vic is there, having expressed an interest in shadowing her, in return for her shadowing him. She’s obviously embarrassed to have him there, and there’s more condescension from her.

She gets a phone call from Professor Zapp, suggesting she come over and interview for a tenured position at his college. This is presented in a really interesting shot, as a split screen that keeps moving about so that first, Robyn is full screen and Zapp is an insert, then the insert rises up, and Robyn is now in the insert. It’s really strikingly done.

Vic is summoned to his boss David Calder’s office. He’s told that Pringles, the company he’s running, has been sold.

Robyn’s unfaithful partner turns up to tell her he’s leaving teaching, and he’s going to become a merchant banker. With a flat in the Barbican.

Robyn gets some good news. An uncle in Australia has left her £160,000 in his will. And the day she finds out, Vic tells her that he’s been let go of the firm, and he’s trying to set up a new business, so she tells him she’ll invest in his business.

Then the Dean of the college talks to her about her plans to move to America, and she has a vision of the university faculty and the workforce at Vic’s factory frolicking together on the campus grounds. Then she decides to stay there and not move.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 25th October 1989 – 21:25

Recording switches, and we have Hammett, a film directed by Wim Wenders, and produced for American Zoetrope by Francis Ford Coppola.

Frederic Forrest plays the writer Dashiel Hammett.

Peter Boyle plays Jimmy Ryan, an old detective colleague of Hammett’s when he used to work for the Pinkerton detective agency. He asks for Hammett’s help in a missing persons case in Chinatown.

Marilu Henner plays Hammett’s neighbour, and she also turns up as the Femme Fatale in segments from Hammett’s writing.

Ryan and Hammett go to Chinatown, but they get separated, and Hammett also loses the manuscript he was going to send to his publisher. He continues investigating, and keeps being warned off the case, involving as it does important people, and Chinese slavery. The woman they’re searching for, Crystal Ling, even turns up at his office, warning him off herself.

This is all a bit twisty turny, and then, rather unexpectedly, Roy Kinnear makes an appearance as someone who’s involved in all the shenanigans. I confess I’m not entirely sure who’s doing what to whom. But Kinnear is great in a straight role.

It all appears to boil down to a pornography-based blackmail operation, and Hammett’s old pal Jimmy was in on it.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 26th October 1989 – 23:20

After this, BBC Two closes down, and Amanda Carlton wishes us a good night.


  1. Great cast in Hammett, but another flop from American Zoetrope. The fact that, as you say, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense works against it. I think it was another troubled production (name a Coppola film that wasn’t, mind you).

  2. We watched an episode of Nice Work in an A Level English class in 1995 or ’96. I knew the woman from Drop The Dead Donkey and Warren Clarke was a familiar face. We also read Small World written by David Lodge and I believe that was adapted for TV as well back in early 1988.

    I remember catching a clip of Hammett while switching channels late at night back in summer ’97. Bought it on DVD a few years ago and thought it was an ok thriller. Frederic Forrest is always good value for money. I’ll never forget him as the neo-Nazi taken out by Michael Douglas in Falling Down.

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