16/01/2017

Sherlock The Final Problem



`The Final Problem` is an awesome piece of television drama that twists, turns and grips in equal measure. It’s packed with surprises and thrilling incident while it also plays with televisual formats brilliantly. Yet rarely – even though it apparently does draw aspects from three different Conan Doyle novels- did it seem like anything much to do with Sherlock Holmes. Despite the references and the nomenclature it just seemed like something that would be even better if it were not tied to the legendary detective
Major, major spoilers past this point…
 

10/01/2017

Sherlock The Lying Detective



In which the series finally over reaches its melodramatic tendencies creating a fascinating but flawed mess yet also inspiring a magnificent performance from Martin Freeman. 
The thing about Sherlock has always been in the presentation. Much like the detective himself the programme is always several steps ahead of the viewer so as to produce those OMG moments that people get excited about. It’s a trick they have successfully navigated for some time even though we may well be at the point where we start to second guess things adding a further convolution to the narrative. In this fascinating episode we have a different presentation again. The serial killer is hiding in plain sight, indeed he is a hugely famous businessman and philanthropist who is engaged in a cat and mouse game after Sherlock- somewhat worse for wear after the events of last week- calls him out publicly as a serial killer. Is he or isn’t he? It’s all in the presentation.

Spoilers ahead. Or are there? Yes, actually there are.

09/01/2017

David Bowie The Last Five Years



Documentary shrewdly focusses on the music and ties Bowie’s final output with aspects of his earlier career
One of the things we never quite have when an artist’s career is ongoing is an overall perspective. While a year may be rather a short time to begin to tie together such a lengthy evolving career as that of David Bowie, Francis Whatley’s documentary has started the process. Though ostensibly focussed on the singer’s final burst of activity which produced two albums and a stage show the narrative links the themes of these back to earlier triumphs finding recurring motifs and concerns all over the shop. This may be slightly irritating to those who enjoyed the director’s previous Five Years film as there is quite a bit of repeated footage but it does a great job in profiling some of Bowie’s interests and enthusiasms. Plus of course it’s great to see all this footage!

05/01/2017

Peter Pan Goes Wrong



Mischief Theatre’s hit play crammed into an hour of fast, simple, glorious fun! 
Sometimes the simplest things are the best. Sometimes someone falling over, being hit on the head, flying the wrong way up, getting stuck in a door or even reaching for an absent prop is just hilarious. For all the theorising about comedy sometimes all you need is something really brilliantly silly and Peter Pan Goes Wrong is exactly that. Shown on BBC1 earlier this week, this version is truncated from a two and a quarter hour show and amended to make the best use of the medium with added celebrity presence in the form of David Suchet. It was the best thing on any channel over the whole festive period!

02/01/2017

Sherlock - The Six Thatchers



Blistering first episode of the fourth series
Still minutes after the events of the mind palace escapades of `The Abominable Bride` the fourth series kicks off with a superbly liberating sense of fun before dovetailing into darker matters. There’s no doubt that Sherlock has become a different series than the idea of updating the old stories to the modern day that it started out as and I think it’s because that’s happened over a comparatively short number of episodes some people are less keen. “It’s just about them now” is a common complaint but when you’ve got a cast like this and a chance to sculpt something more inventive than merely a contemporary update why not run with it? 
Spoilers beyond this point…

28/12/2016

...of the year



Three times during 2016 my breakfast was sliced through by shock news. Once in January when David Bowie died just two days after releasing `Blackstar`. Once in June when the result of the EU Referendum turned out to be to leave which I was certain it wouldn’t be. Once in November when the US Presidential Election was won by Donald Trump. Had these been the only shocks of the year then it wouldn’t have been quite so bad, terrible though these things were on different levels. However they are merely snapshots that show what a turbulent dog of a year it’s been. Personally, professionally, politically I can’t recall a time when things seemed so adrift and out of my control or my reach. It reminds me of being a teenager when everything is scary or strange and nothing seems to be possible. Adult life teaches you that of course it often is. Yet now all the ideas I had about the country and the world have turned on their head and I have no idea about anything. Oh and lots of icons from my past are dying while my friends and I sit and talk about our ageing parents and austerity rather than anything more fun. It’s grim enough to be a black farce only where’s the jokes? 

27/12/2016

Top of the Pops 17 & 24 Dec 1981



Top of the Pops 1981 shown this year on BBC4. Being watched by Chris Arnsby.

17 December 1981
Simon Bates: "And what a night on Top of the Pops. It's my birthday, and to celebrate we've got a heck of a line-up for you. Kicking off with Duran Duran. Right over here."
Duran Duran: Go My Own Way [14]. M. C. Escher is the designer this week -although he's credited under the pseudonym Phil Lindley. Duran Duran appear to be performing in an impossible space made out of tinfoil. Bits of it go sideways, and then sideways a bit more. And then there's a bit that goes the other way but somehow connects to a bit round the front. Then, just as you think your brain has come to terms with non-Euclidean geometry there's a low angled camera shot that reveals another bit going over the top. It's all very clever but unfortunately the upshot is that the drummer is wedged in between two angled bits of set and struggles to be seen on camera.

26/12/2016

George Michael

The creator of the soundtrack of our 1980s
Wherever you went in the Eighties George Michael was there. Not literally of course but in sound and often thanks to the video jukeboxes of the day in vision too. His Imperial period beginning with Wham! (which was really just him anyway) and carrying on through solo hits is a superb run of songs that defined a decade. Yet after this his career seemed to become less interesting than his off stage life and though he continued to have success it's not clear whether he enjoyed it. Time and again his `private` life became public in a way that suggested a compulsion to saboutage the talent he'd been given.