Self Service Checkouts

There’s a new presence gaining increasing space in shops, something creeping surreptitiously into our retail lives almost without being noticed. I’m talking about automatic checkouts or as they are optimistically known Self Service Checkouts. Of course they are not actually self-service because you are at the mercy of a voice that will stand for no nonsense.  We’ve come a long way in customer services from the disinterested girl chewing and swiping your goods nonchalantly but now people are in danger of being completely replaced by machines. And not just any machine either. Progress is great if it actually moves things forward but the new breed of self service in large shops opens up a new front in the ongoing issue of how technology is destroying viable jobs. Plus it is prone to quirky behaviour.


Doctor Who In The Forest Of The Night

25/10/14 Starring: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Samuel Anderson (and various Coal Hill school pupils)/ Written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce / Directed by Sheree Folkson
Review by Sean Alexander
To quote Ursula K LeGuin, ‘the word for world is forest.’  Being a largely optimistic time-travel show that has many times shown a bright future for the human race, Doctor Who has brushed with ecological fears more times than you may remember.  The Barry Letts era, with its liberal sentiment and cautionary tales about mankind’s raping of the environment, was certainly the most sustained attempt by the then production team to lace its stories with a green message.  Latterly ‘The Seeds of Doom’ cast vegetable kind in a more invasive and homicidal light, whilst Christopher Bailey’s Buddhist parable ‘Kinda’ and its biblical snake in the garden of Eden also looked at post-colonial attitudes of the materially minded towards the ecosphere.  From a cultural standpoint the 1970s in particular saw a greater flower-power-tinged awareness of the teachings of Gaia, the urge for nuclear disarmament and cleaner forms of energy.  While the 1980s’ doom-laden tales of ozone holes and global warming have since firmly put green politics on the electioneering map.


Downton Abbey (ish)

It is early evening at Downton and Lady Mary has just come back from walking pointlessly around the village
“I’m going upstairs to take my hat off,” she announces to raised eyebrows from the seventeen staff members walking around carrying trays for no reason whatsoever.
Carson harrumphs loudly, “I rather think that is not done.”
“I rather think I don’t care!” she retorted.
“Oh my dear, “ clucked her mother Cora, “You are becoming so modern, like the radio gramme we listened to for three minutes last week. By the way what happened to that?”
Her grumpy husband Lord Grantham turned around from where he had been pretending to sort out complicated papers.
“I don’t know. I was rather hoping to listen to The Cheeky Monk later.”
“What’s that, dear?”
“It’s a rather racy comedy show that I believe is all the rage in the South.”
“Aren’t we in the South?”
“No, dear. We just talk very posh.”

Maggie knew her hat was the best.


Top of the Pops 1979 4.10.79

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby
Kid Jensen. "Hi. It's time to look, and listen to the music. This week with a touch of Madness."
Chart music: Madness, The Prince [16].
XTC: Making Plans For Nigel [42]. Nobody has risk assessed XTC's drum set up. The poor drummer must keep twisting his back to strike the gong which has been thoughtlessly placed right behind him. Making plans for Nigel? You should be making plans for the onset of repetitive strain injury.


Doctor Who Flatline

18/10/14 Written by Jamie Mathieson / Directed by Douglas McKinnon / Starring: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Jovian Wade, Christopher Fairbank
One of the often repeated explanations for the popularity of the series in the early 1970s was that of placing unfamiliar threats in familiar places, the Yeti in Tooting Bec as Jon Pertwee often put it and `Flatline` does exactly that. In what is probably the first alien incursion in Bristol we find an episode packed with interesting visual ideas that suggest the iconography of great pop videos and the work of shadowy artist Banksy who comes from the city. The result is something that scares, spooks and looks very cool at the same time. Jamie Mathieson please come back every season from now on!



Top of the Pops 79 20/09/79

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby

Mike Read. "Hello. We've all had baths, washed our hair, put on our brand new clothes, so we're all ready for another edition of Top of the Pops."

Chart music: Racey: Boy Oh Boy [22].

The Starjets: War Stories [51]. The lead singer is wearing a Ramones t-shirt. Could this be the first sighting of a future sartorial cliché?
(John- The Starjets moment in the spotlight was this brilliant single which our local radio station used to play the life out of so is indelibly inked into my psyche and it’s amazing it only got to no.51. They were always known then as just Starjets even though they are The Starjets on thier album cover. The epitome of pop-punk the group were from Northern Ireland and were signed to Epic Records by Muff Winwood, noted producer of Sparks and brother of Steve Winwood. They released only one album called `God Bless the Starjets` before splitting in 1980. Singer Terry Sharpe later fronted The Adventures who had a hit single in the mid 1980s with `Broken Land`.)


Doctor Who Mummy on the Orient Express

11/10/14: Written by Jamie Matheson/ Directed by Paul Wilmshurst / Starring: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Frank Skinner, John Sessions
Reviewed by Sean Alexander

Immortal.  Unstoppable.  Unkillable.  Doctor Who has been many things over the years – political satire, murder mystery, straight comedy – but it’s usually when its roots are showing that it delivers to the widest audience.  ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’ may be a one-line pitch from show-runner Steven Moffat, but in the hands of newcomer scribe Jamie Matheson that simple premise becomes possibly the purest piece of Who this series.  And if last week’s ‘Kill the Moon’ channelled the spirit of Philip Hinchclife’s still feted era of gothic chills, ‘Mummy…’ takes it one step further by placing Egyptian myths and Agatha Christie into the same, period-dress melting pot.
"See sense man, I'm not Jon Pertwee, oh no"


Our Zoo

Sept / Oct 2014 BBC1 written by  Matt Charman, 2 episodes co-written with Adam Kemp/ directed by  Andy de Emmony (3 eps), Robert McKillop (2 eps), Saul Metzstein / starring Lee Ingleby, Liz White, Anne Reid, Sophia Myles, Stephen Campbell Moore, Peter Wight, Ralf Little, Honor Kneafsey, Amelia Clarkson
There’s a quiet revolution going on in television that the BBC in particular seems to have grasped. As other channels chase the increasingly elusive young audience many of whom baulk at anything lasting longer than 10 minutes or prefer the brilliant but tense American dramas the majority of schedule tv watchers nowadays are a bit older and want something less stressful but still interesting. This used to mean Sunday evening series that lacked a certain something to really convince as drama; they were essentially soft soaps. Now there is a group of programmes that may seem disparate but which appeal to people who feel that interesting tv is not always about blood, swearing and mould breaking; sometimes it’s about a good story well told.  Signifiers of this trend include the year’s biggest `reality` show The Great British Bake Off (over 12 million viewers for its final!)  the successful drama Last Tango in Halfax and now Our Zoo. Unexpectedly given its more modest pre promotion this six part drama based on a true story is a gem of a programme.


Top of the Pops 79 6/9/79

BBC4: Top of the Pops 1979 6/9/79. Reviewed by Chris Arnsby
Two months without Top of the Pops to ease the pain. This must have been how viewers felt when ITV went on strike in 1979.
Peter Powell. "Hi everyone! You fit? You need to be 'cause it's Frantique with the charts and Top of the Pops!"
Chart music: Frantique:  Strut Your Funky Stuff  [26].
The Ruts: Something That I Said [45]. Punk=urban alienation. That was the thought process of designer Graham Lough so he's designed some special scenery panels covered in graffiti. BBC approved graffiti; nothing serious or political. Random words like man, ya dig, 4, and star. There's a frisson of excitement from spotting a word half hidden behind the drummer. P, something, S, S. It's written in yellow. Could it be? No, it's PASS.


Doctor Who Kill the Moon

04/10/14: written by Peter Harness / directed by Paul Wilmshurst / starring Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Hermione Norris, Ellie George
The Moon retains a fascination that Peter Harness manages to evoke perfectly in an episode that manages to wrap a serious dilemma around a fanciful notion. The results are bold and more than most episodes of contemporary Doctor Who gives the viewer something more to chew on than just the usual threats or time tricks. It’s possibly Peter Capaldi’s first classic episode (you can never tell these things after one watch), certainly it’s up there with the weightier sci-fi heavy likes of `Waters of Mars` and `The Beast Below` which come to think of it also had orange spacesuits in them. Maybe they’re a good luck charm for the show?


Benny and Jolene

Released June 2014 now available to buy. Starring Charlotte Ritchie, Craig Roberts, Rosamund Hanson, Dolly Wells / written & directed by Jamie Adams
This is the sort of small budget movie you’d normally find located somewhere in the United States probably starring Zooey Deschanel but instead we are in a damp looking Wales though the sentiments expressed are familiar enough. It works primarily because the setting is so different and Jamie Adams’ script and direction seem far more improvised than they probably were. The result is a film that leaves you with the impression you were actually there when the events happened.


The Double

Released 2013 now available to buy / starring Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn / written and directed By Richard Ayoade from a story by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Imagine if you turned up for work and there was someone else who looked exactly the same as you but nobody noticed this to be the case. What’s more everyone preferred them. This is the premise for Richard Ayoade’s follow up to the excellent Submarine, a film which suggested he could be Britain’s Wes Anderson. The Double seems to indicate that his films may embrace a much wider palette than Anderson’s very precisely calibrated worlds.