06/12/2018

20 Years of Grand Designs


Grand Designs has no right being as interesting as it is. After all it is a series about building houses and is suffused in the minutiae of the trade- rivets, render, budgets, bricks, mortar and mortgages. Yet for almost 20 years it has been one of the most watchable television programmes around. In case you’ve never seen it, the premise is filming ambitious building projects often over years from planning to completion. Every few months host Kevin McCloud pops in to check on progress often declaring that he’s not sure whether the thing will be finished let alone be aesthetically correct. At the end though he is impressed enough to deliver a three minute monologue about the qualities of the house often veering into poetic reverie over gutters or huge windows. 

03/12/2018

Represent?


As someone who has written several novels for Young Adult readers – albeit self published- I was interested to read extracts from the report `Bias in Britain` highlighted in The Guardian this week. In summary books were identified as one of ten areas named in which under representation of  ethnic minority characters was an issue. Children’s books were specifically mentioned- in 2017 only 4% of the 9,115 children’s books published that year featured any minority ethnic characters. Where such characters do appear they are often either in supporting roles or running a storyline that includes cliched problems like guns or drugs or poverty. Incidences where they are the lead character in a children’s novel are said to be rare. So far at least the report does not seem to know why this is the case and I’m sure no individual writer has an explanation, least of all me. However it is an interesting topic and something that has been in my mind when writing my books. I can only offer my perspective.

30/11/2018

Top of the Pops 25 Nov 1983


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Simon Bates: "It's 7.30. Right welcome to Television Centre's studio two. It's Top of the Pops. Slightly different because we've had a few problems, but just as big as ever. Right?" Richard Skinner: "Packed with stars, it's entirely live, and our first act, Paul Young and the Love of the Common People."

[5] Paul Young:  Love Of The Common People. The live editions of Top of the Pops are coming thick and fast as 1983 ends. Three of the four November 1983 shows were broadcast live; the exception was the 17/11/1983 edition (Gary Davies and J**** S*****, so not shown on BBC4). Human metronome Simon Bates is on hand to tell the time although 7.30 sounds like a rough estimate compared to his previous pronouncements of 7.27 (19/05/1983) and 7.25 (07/04/1983). Yet another example of falling BBC standards. What are these "few problems" he mentions? Have The Dooley's got into the cable ducts? The BBC scene-shifters were getting truculent in late 1983 but their strike hit in early 1984. Maybe Simon Bates' watch has stopped? In pop news, Paul Young is back with his backing singers The Fabulous Wealthy Tarts (no, honestly). Their syncopated movements overshadowed Paul Young when he performed Come Back & Stay (08/09/1983). This time Paul Young joins in with a rotating hand-wringing movement during the chorus.

21/11/2018

Fantastic Beasts 2- The Crimes of Grindelwald review


The whole Fantastic Beasts concept always did seem like a flimsy foundation for a film franchise and after the charm of the first one seems to be turning into just a Harry Potter prequel. The problem with that is we know that whatever Grindelwald is planning doesn’t actually succeed while the more his ambitions are foregrounded, the less the supposed main character Newt Scamander gets to do. Thus The Crimes of Grindelwald ends up feeling like a huge introduction for the third film with little meat of its own to chew on.

19/11/2018

Top of the Pops 10 Nov 1983


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. [John Peel and David Jensen are dressed as Will Scarlet and Robin Hood] John Peel: "Hello and welcome to another live Top of the Pops, and I want you to know these cossies are his idea." David Jensen: "He's only sulking because he wanted to be Maid Marion. Let's kick off with Musical Youth shall we? Shaken and not stirred with 007."

[26] Musical Youth: 007. Musical Youth become one of the very few non-number one bands to appear on three Top of the Pops in a row. Last week they shared the promo film for Unconditional Love with Donna Summer, and 007 was first shown the week before that (27/10/1983) but don't go looking for it on BBC4. That edition was co-hosted by D*v* L** Tr*v*s. David Jensen introduces the song as "Double O 7", but Musical Youth sing "Oh-Oh 7"; presumably to avoid the wrath of Cubby Broccoli's fearsome lawyers.

16/11/2018

Ad Break #8 Elton John Lewis


Just when we thought we had the measure of the John Lewis Xmas adverts and were expecting a cuddly armadillo struggling to keep warm in winter till a kid gives it the coat she's just been given for Xmas or some such heartwarmer, the company has turned to Elton John. The pop behemoth is featured in the 2018 seasonal advert as a child getting a piano one Xmas thus leading to his entire career. Yep John Lewis are taking the credit for Elton John. Do they even sell pianos?  Normally these clips are populated by CGI creations and jobbing actors eschewing the celebrity packed ads that the likes of Woolworths did back in the day. However there are only a handful of living people more famous than Elton John- in fact John Lewis is not even as famous. 

14/11/2018

Bohemian Rhapsody review


I saw this film on Cineworld’s Screen X wherein parts of the action are also projected down the sides of the auditorium. I suspect Queen would approve as their manifesto was always about being bigger and broader than other groups. Though sanctioned and executive produced by Brian May and Roger Taylor, Bohemian Rhapsody is a relatively open account of Queen’s rise to fame and some of the demons that haunted their singer Freddie Mercury. While it does pull some punches, its far from the sanitised account some critics have claimed. More than anything it presents Queen’s music as it should always be- loud, extravagant and epic! 

07/11/2018

Top of the Pops 3 Nov 1983


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Peter Powell: "It's seven thirty! Welcome to a live presentation of Top of the Pops tonight." Mike Read [sticking out his hand to Peter Powell]: "Hello mate." Peter Powell [shaking hands]: "Hello Mate!" Mike Read: " It's great to see ABC back in the charts after a year's absence. Here they are live on Top of the Pops." Peter Powell: "Yes!"

[25] ABC: That Was Then But This Is Now. Long term readers might remember my obsession with watching the hosts sneaking on and off set. There was a real skill to the way some of them would pick their moment to disappear through strategically placed holes in the scenery and avoid ruining shots, or mixing with the proles. This all changed after the set upgrade in the 1000th edition. The area around the main stage, the one that ABC are performing on, now looks like a solid wall with no easy way to escape. Unless you count the boring, obvious route of walking down the steps at the stage right; but where's the fun in that? Annoyingly, after show 1000 it's as if the production team want to minimise the chances of viewers at home getting a glimpse of the mechanics of the show. The camera angles seem designed to not allow you to glimpse the hosts moving around. Until tonight. The advantage of live editions is that the production team can't cheat. There's no stopping and rerecording if a camera angle isn't quite right. And so it comes to pass that after ABC are introduced Vision Mixer Hilary West switches to a nice long shot of the studio which is held for enough time to spot Peter Powell and Mike Read edging their way left through the crowd, and disappearing through a DJ escape route which is cunningly fitted in to the set in such a way as to be invisible to the camera. It's right in between the Top of the Pops logo and four neon light fittings; if you look very carefully at this area it's inset, but you wouldn't spot it if you didn't know it was there. Meanwhile, ABC have been allowed to take over the main stage, they've covered it a wall of amplifiers and hung up a big red ABC banner.