David Tennant returned to our screens last week with Gracepoint. If your obsession’s been rekindled and you need more of him NOW, here’s our top ten picks from his brilliant back catalogue.
Gracepoint – the U.S. version of ITV’s hit drama Broadchurch – premiered last week on Fox. To be honest, we’re not exactly sure why an American adaptation starring the same leading man was considered the best way to go, but it does mean we get David Tennant back on our screens, so we’re calling it a win.
If you’ve missed David Tennant but you just aren’t keen to watch him repeat the Broadchurch mystery with an American accent; if two regenerations on the TARDIS isn’t quite the same and you’re still nostalgic for his superb turn as the Doctor; or if you’re loving Gracepoint and you’re simply hungry for as much lanky Scotsman as the internet can provide, here are ten slightly lesser known (but equally awesome) projects from Tennant’s back catalogue for you to binge on.
‘Takin’ Over The Asylum’
Let’s start at the very beginning. David Tennant’s first starring screen role was as Campbell, a young manic depressive patient at the fictional St Jude’s in BBC Scotland’s Takin’ Over The Asylum. This show, a six-part drama, follows a hospital radio station and the lives of the characters that contribute to it. Campbell, a young patient at St Jude’s, befriends Eddie McKenna, a double glazing salesman and amateur DJ who runs a radio station for the hospital, and becomes Eddie’s biggest supporter and contributor.
Anyone who’s ever felt all wibbly over Tennant will melt watching him as Campbell – 22 years old, floppy-haired, rubber-faced, sweet, earnest and vulnerable. Through the course of the six episodes, filled with plenty of black humour and fantastic music, we see Campbell’s and Eddie’s roles begin to reverse as Campbell gains control of his life and Eddie is forced to face his own problems.
Takin’ Over The Asylum perceptively addresses the issues surrounding mental health and the prejudices faced by sufferers in society, and it marks not only Tennant’s first major television part, but his first major portrayal of a character struggling with mental illness – a theme he has since re-visited several times over the course of his career.
‘L.A. Without A Map’
In L.A. Without A Map, Tennant’s character Richard, an undertaker and obituary writer in Bradford, meets aspiring actress Barbara (Vinessa Shaw) as she passes through his small town. The two form a connection in their short time together, which causes such an emotional upheaval for Richard that he decides to follow Barbara to Los Angeles unannounced. Everything goes pear-shaped for Richard pretty quickly – to start with, Barbara has told all her friends that the man she met was a famous British writer and also, she has a boyfriend in LA.
After some ups and downs, Richard and Barbara establish their relationship as Richard tries to build a life in California. Things do not stay calm for very long and the naive Richard learns about the seedy side of Hollywood. The movie is a classic – if slightly bizarre – take on the little fish big pond trope – a small town boy goes to the big city for love and has to find his way. It does take a few very strange turns, but it’s definitely worth a watch, if only for the scene where the forlorn Richard shares his woes – and a bucket of chicken – with Johnny Depp (cameo-ing as himself) in a Los Angeles cemetery.
‘Bright Young Things’
The “Bright Young Things” was a nickname given by the tabloids to a group of young aristocrats in 1920s and 30s London, who became infamous for their bohemian ways and excessive lifestyle. This film, an adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Vile Bodies, takes a satirical and fictionalised look at this carefree scene during the interwar period.
The story follows the lives of novelist Adam Fenwick-Symes (Stephen Campbell Moore) and his fiancée Nina Blount, who belong to the young and decadent community, despite some periods of financial struggle. Amidst all the champagne, furs and newfangled electric lighting, David Tennant plays Ginger Littlejohn, Nina’s former boyfriend, who worms his way back into her life, much to Adam’s horror.
Bright Young Things is a great watch for any fan of the BBC or the British film industry at large – it’s the screenwriting and directorial debut of the legendary Stephen Fry, and, along with Tennant, it stars a plethora of well – known U.K. actors including James McAvoy, Emily Mortimer, Imelda Staunton, Jim Broadbent, Richard E. Grant, Michael Sheen and the late, great Peter O’Toole.
Blackpool is the kind of show that makes us eternally grateful for the BBC, because there is no way it would ever get made by any other network. It’s basically Broadchurch meets Glee – David Tennant stars as Detective Inspector Peter Carlisle, the officer in charge of a murder investigation in a Blackpool arcade, which is all well and good, but the comedy-drama is interspersed with a variety of musical moments, where the characters sing and dance along to various pop songs in slight, shall we say, diversions from reality.
The six-part series also starred David Morrissey – Doctor Who fans may remember him as Jackson Lake, the Victorian-era man who believes he is the Doctor in “The Next Doctor” Christmas special – as Ripley Holden, the arcade owner who DI Carlisle dislikes on sight. Carlisle is determined to prove Holden is the murderer and along the way falls in love with Holden’s neglected wife, Natalie.
There’s no real way to properly explain Blackpool, but it might be a work of genius, so get your hands on a copy ASAP.
David Tennant stars in the title role of this adaptation of the memoirs of the famed 18th century adventurer and lover Giacomo Casanova. Casanova is an important one for Tennant fans, as this three-part TV serial was written and created by Russell T Davies, and it was Tennant’s work here that led Davies to cast him as the Tenth Doctor.
It’s interesting to pick out the shades of Tennant’s eventual Doctor in his portrayal of Casanova, because they’re definitely there, despite the fact that Doctor Who is very much a family show and the legend of Casanova isn’t exactly famed for being family-friendly! This production, while quite camp and not too graphic, does manage some real darkness – particularly in the final segment, where Casanova realises just how horribly his own influence has affected his son, who is by that point a young man.
In real life, Casanova eventually became so infamous that his name is now synonymous with “womanizer,” but it’s impossible to hate Tennant in this antihero role – especially when he’s all smirks and eyeliner.