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Color This Film Riveting

1/27/2006 7:00 PM Eastern

Riveting and intense, BBC America’s Blue/Orange is not the kind of film found on most U.S. networks. And that’s a shame.

A dialogue-intense drama based on a stage play that won Britain’s Oliver Award, the often-funny, always smart effort tells the tale of Chris (Shaun Parkes) — an Afro-British psychiatric patient hours away from his release — and the professional competition between two British doctors trying to assess him.

Dr. Bruce Flaherty (John Simm of BBCA’s State of Play) doesn’t feel the time is right — he has diagnosed him with borderline personality disorder and believes he’s not ready to return to society without damaging himself. Dr. Robert Smith (Brian Cox, Match Point), disagrees, saying that the types of paranoia shown are understandable in a black man living in the U.K.

Nonetheless, Flaherty presses his point, demonstrating to would-be mentor Smith that Chris shows signs of delusions: He claims that a bowl of oranges are blue and argues, based on a newspaper clipping, that he’s the son of 1970s Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Smith also explains these notions away as symptoms of a reaction to racist behavior.

Thus begins a long and heated argument of whether or not to take Chris’ race into account in deciding whether to recommit him or make him an outpatient. Chris confides in Smith that his neighbors stare at him — which Flaherty says might well be paranoia — and claims the football-hooligan skinheads who chase him in the street are “zombies.” Parkes delivers those lines with a manic energy illustrative of the lines Chris straddles.

And both Simm and Cox match his intensity, to the point where one forgets there are only three speaking characters.

Blue/Orange premieres Feb. 18 at 10 p.m. (ET) on BBC America.

Real Talk on Race

Race is also the centerpiece of That’s What I’m Talking About!, a three-part discussion series for “Black History Month,” billed as a cultural celebration.

Moderated unobtrusively by comedian Wayne Brady, its format, at least judging from episode one, is typical of roundtable shows, opening with a top 12 list of the most-influential African-American TV shows and inviting panelist debate.

But the dialogue between actor and activist Harry Belafonte, actress Diahann Carroll, journalist Touré and comedian Paul Mooney (Chappelle’s Show) rises above, tackling issues like the differences between how segregation-era and post-segregation African-Americans view past and present aspects of the culture.

Part one of That’s What I’m Talking About!, “Greats, Dates and Debates,” premieres Feb. 1 at 10 p.m. (ET) on TV Land.

September