17/07/2017

Top of the Pops 8 July 1982



Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. David "Kid" Jensen: "And a warm welcome to another forty minutes of hit sounds in vision. And we begin this week's music and lights with this from Imagination."

[5] Imagination: Music And Lights. Leee John and Ashley Ingram are having a contest to see who can wear the most stupid clothes. Under normal circumstances Ashley Ingram would win; he's wearing a top modelled on American Football shoulder pads and gold lame trousers. However, Leeee John has pulled off an ensemble in white lace and padded cloth which makes him look like the one of the alien delegates from the Doctor Who story Mission to the Unknown. The drummer barely gets a look in. Which is probably just as well. He's wearing a long coat that covers his shorts so he appears to be trouserless. This is a standard Imagination performance which means it features lots of groin thrusts and kissy faces but Leeeee John goes too far and punctures the erotic atmosphere with a move that involves opening his coat and fanning his chest as if his nipple is too hot. And where does Ashley Ingram's guitar go? It disappears while he's off camera. Does he toss it into the audience like Elvis used to do with towels? (John- Yes, in all 8 people were injured over the years)
Imagination: Yes, it was his turn to wear the triangle this week

12/07/2017

Spiderman- Homecoming



From the moment the introduction includes that familiar Spiderman cartoon series theme you know this is going to be a more playful take on the web slinger than recent attempts and indeed that is the case. Spiderman Homecoming pivots on two excellent performances from Tom Holland and Michael Keaton and a likeable sense of irreverence that stops short of parody. Plus suitably enough considering the main character, it is essentially a coming of age movie.
Alert! Spidey spoilers past this point!

08/07/2017

Pineapples are in my head...



How did pineapples become so popular? If you look they are everywhere even in areas you might not associate with such an item. It’s a strange thing the pineapple- for example the Wimbledon winner’s trophy has a pineapple on top of it because we all associate tennis with pineapples don’t we? Well, no, but the reason it’s there is because it was once a symbol of wealth, a highly sought after commodity back in the day; the crowning glory of a feast if you like. And that apparently is why it is there rather than the strawberry or tennis ball you might expect. Hang on, there’s also a pineapple on top of the Rugby World Cup as well for more or less the same reason. Wouldn’t it be great if the football World Cup was just one big giant gold pineapple?

05/07/2017

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad



About 15 years after his seventh voyage Sinbad was back for this 1973 film in which he is on the trail of an amulet part of which is serendipitously dropped onto his ship by a gargoyle like bat creature presumably the sort of occurrence that often happened. This odd bit of plotting aside, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad is a tighter more nuanced film than its brash predecessor. Interestingly it holds back on its monsters; whereas Seventh Voyage wheeled out the Cyclops within its first ten minutes, the small winged demon aside, there is not a big beast in sight for over half an hour. This gives the movie a better momentum and more opportunity to establish characters in particular Tom Baker’s mercurial Koura.

02/07/2017

Top of the Pops 1 July 1982



Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. A bad day for television, unless you really like sport. At 19.10 Top of the Pops is a ray of sunshine against the gloomy backdrop of a day where only Chock-a-Block and Playschool break up the monotony of a BBC1 schedule composed of alternating news and Wimbledon coverage. But wait... what's on when Top of the Pops finishes at 19.40? Oh it's World Cup Grandstand until the News at 21.55. Time for bed.
John Peel: "Hello and welcome to Top of the Pops. Getting to be a pretty regular gig for this... for me this and I always think it's very important when you're on television that you don't look stupid, you know what I mean. Rather a short programme because we've got football on later and I hope you'll stay for that. We've got some good things for you though; Queen, The Jam. We're going to start with Visage.  
[34] Visage: Night Train. Ron Bristow is on Lighting duties again and he uses a flickering light effect to subtly imply motion. It takes two people to produce this effect. The first is on the right of the stage spinning a square mirrored box by hand. The second is over to stage left and he's standing by a light making sure it's pointing at the box. Meanwhile Steve Strange dances around on stage. It's probably Visage's first time performing in the Top of the Pops studio, or something.
Steve was not impressed by the enormous microphone

30/06/2017

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad



Released this week is a limited edition box set with both DVD and blu-ray formats are three Ray Harryhausen Sinbad films together with lots of extras. The trio are undeniably popcorn classics with pioneering effects for the time they were made. I certainly remember seeing the second and third of these back in the day when we had a local cinema. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad is the earliest and least familiar though it’s been on TV many times. By today’s standards this 1958 movie is rather creaky though its not the legendary special effects that have dated half as much as the acting and plot. Nonetheless it has the sort of thrills and spills that would have entertained audiences in a time when most comparable films tried things like superimposing ordinary sized lizards over the picture to make them look huge. Trouble was they just sort of sat there. By contrast Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion animation- known as Dynamation- makes the creatures much more entwined with the action and it is this aspect that ultimately makes the movie watchable.

28/06/2017

Inventor vs Inventor feat. Reg Varney



It was fifty years ago today that Sgt Pepper first used a cash machine. 1967 is proving to be quite the year as we have yet another fiftieth anniversary and this time it’s the cash machine, officially known as the ATM though often referred to as `the hole in the wall`. Fifty years yesterday, on 27 June 1967 in North London’s Enfield branch of Barclay’s Bank, Reg Varney (looking like he was on the way to the golf course) became the first person ever to properly use an ATM. Did he withdraw his own money? Why was he wearing a cap? Who even was Reg Varney? More pertinently who actually invented the thing? 
"Is there really a tiny bloke in there luv?" "Yes, Reg, there really is"

21/06/2017

Top of the Pops 17 June 1982



Reviewed by Chris Arnsby
Simon Bates: "Looks like being a good Thursday night on Top of the Pops.  We've got Queen and Roxy Music and Duran Duran and so many more. Kicking off though with this lady down here a new version of an old song called Iko Iko. The lady in the blonde hairdo and not much else is Natasha.
[24] Natasha: Iko Iko. Simon Bates' comment about Natasha not wearing much seems unreasonable. At first. She's obviously wearing a perfectly acceptable little black number. Then Natasha bends her knees slightly and it's clear that she's only one low-angle camera away from an outraging public decency charge. But enough of this sexist nonsense. What you all really want to know is, what are the video effects like? Very nice is the answer. There's a mix between shots which involves the picture breaking up into tiles. And a round of applause for the old Quantel standby of dividing the screen in four with each quarter showing a different picture. (Fact John- Natasha’s full name is Natasha England but she’s Scottish. She was in a group called The Flirts. She is now 64 and probably doesn’t dress like this any more…)

16/06/2017

The mobile phone nobody liked



Xelibri - Great advert….shame about the phone. 
In 2003 it was easy to impress people with something new. Or so Siemens thought. In the race to develop the burgeoning mobile phone range Siemens Mobile came up with a fashion orientated model called Xelibri. In all there were four models, each of them designed in a manner that seemed to pay little mind to functionality. It is said that Star Trek was an influence on the design which was small enough to cup in your hand, smaller than smartphones are now. The first models dubbed `Space on Earth` were designed by Siemens in house and a second, called `Fashion Extravaganza` were created by IDEO Design, a separate company. 

09/06/2017

General Election result is a foundation for Labour to build on



The last six years have been fairly dispiriting for Labour who had probably resigned themselves to as similarly a lengthy period in opposition as the Conservatives had before 2010. Instead what this unexpected General Election has provided is a foundation upon which to build. Instead of waiting another three years for glimmers of something like that they have it now- and in quite a big way.  While all eyes are on Brexit, Labour has a chance to secure the support they have won this time- especially with younger voters- and develop the ideas in their manifesto further. 

07/06/2017

Wonder Woman



Go Gal! DC films lift off at last!
Thanks to Gal Gadot’s personal charisma Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman was about the only good thing in the otherwise clunky Batman Vs Superman so expectations for her own film were high and pleasingly the result exceeds those hopes. This is a terrific movie perfectly handled by director Patty Jenkins to kick start the DC movie universe properly. It is the equal of most of the Marvel films with which it shares a storytelling and action dynamic that keeps the audience involved from beginning to end.
Spoilers past this point…


02/06/2017

Jeremy Corbyn’s second half victory!



It’s been an odd General Election so far here in the UK. Called unexpectedly the process meant hastily assembled manifestos and a feeling that whatever any of the parties said, Brexit was the real elephant in the room. If not a room actually in the elephant. At times its been difficult to decide who is the least capable- the party leaders or the people interviewing them. The rest of the media in its usual manner is either excessively pro one side or the other or else determined to reduce the entire thing to humourous memes and gimmicky records. Which is really going to put the serious issues across don’t you think? Anyone who thinks this election in particular is about having a laugh needs to wake up quick. Having winced at the Andrew Neill interviews and noting that only Jeremy Paxman got a word in during the Jeremy Paxman interviews, tonight we arrived at what last time was the best live interview scenario Question Time. Instead of journalists with bigger agendas than the politicians, we had the general public asking Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn things. Not together though. And finally it proved to be Jeremy Corbyn’s moment. If Ed Miliband’s stumble from the giant question mark platform was the symbolic moment you knew he’d lost, Corbyn’s eloquent, at times impassioned performance tonight is the sort of thing that sways floating voters. In the current weird political climate would you bet against a victory?

24/05/2017

Top of the Pops 3 June 1982



Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. David "Kid" Jensen: "Live from the television centre in London it's Top of the Pops and we have a great assortment of hits for you this week, from Echo and the Bunnymen to Charlene, from Madness to Junior, but we kick off with hit sound number five. It's ABC."
[5] ABC: The Look Of Love. Live programmes are a relatively new development for Top of the Pops. The 24/12/1981 edition was the first one where the host made a big deal about the live status, and that was presented by David "Kid" Jensen. As were the live editions in March and April 1982, and now this one. Does Michael Hurll see David "Kid" Jensen as the official live host? Was his experience working for the fledgling CNN an asset in a live environment, or is the whole thing a coincidence? We'll have to wait until 22/07/1982 to find out when the Popscene database notes a live show presented by -ulp- Simon Bates. Meanwhile, ABC go through the same polished routine from their previous appearance on the 20/05/1982 edition and it's a great way to start the show. Fans of the studio ceiling will delight in several low angle shots of ABC which allow us a chance to study the lighting grid; highlights include the studio clock, and the red TRANSMISSION sign.

19/05/2017

A Monster Calls



Patrick Ness adapts his own novel exploring the rarely discussed side effects of an ill relative in a film that somehow manages to be understated despite the presence of a thirty foot tall moving tree! Conor O’Malley is a young boy who endures the usual travails of the reserved pupil at school but at home he faces a more difficult task. His youthful mum is terminally ill and though continuing to seek ever more drastic cures, we and she know they will not work. The narrative leaves open to interpretation whether or not she is enduring this to offer hope to her son (which seems possible) but focuses instead on how he reacts.

17/05/2017

Alien Covenant



There will be blood- but not a huge amount of anything else. Alien- Covenant offers very few surprises in what often seems like an Alien movie for people who’ve never seen an Alien movie. Those that have will either be satisfied or disappointed depending on their expectations. Those who found Prometheus somewhat lacking in those familiar xenomorphs will certainly find much to please them here in the neomorphs which are similar and just as lethal. In what at times seems like a `greatest hits` package there is evisceration and gut busting aplenty as this slightly different but still recognisable breed of creature fillets a selection of largely anonymous crew in a variety of different ways.

14/05/2017

Top of the Pops 20 May 1982



Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Peter Powell: "Hello! Welcome to Top of the Pops! We've got a great show lined up! We've got Madness, we've got Adam Ant and we've also got ABC! For starters it's Rocky Sharpe and the Replays! Shout Shout! [bonks himself on the head with a microphone] Knock Yourself Out!"
[19] Rocky Sharpe & The Replays: Shout Shout (Knock Yourself Out). His purpleness Fred Wright is back on lighting duties and the studio is painted with lurid tones. Check out Peter Powell during his opening introduction. He has the healthy glow of a Windscale worker. But never mind the eye strain, watch Peter Powell once Rocky Sharpe & The Replays get started. Top of the Pops hosts have always had the amazing ability to disappear from the studio like the Blue Peter cats but Peter Powell excels himself. Initially he looks like he's going to stay behind the band for the whole song -as he very creditably did at the start of 1982 when Zoo danced to Yellow Pearl. He's behind Rocky Sharpe & The Replays as the camera pulls back across the studio, and he's still there in the background when the picture cuts to a low angled shot of the group. Next we cut to a left profile of the backing singers and Peter Powell is off camera for the first time. This is normally when the host nips off but when the camera cuts back to the lead singer Peter Powell can still be seen, just, in the background. Then the magic happens. The camera moves slightly and Peter Powell is off the edge of the picture for all of two seconds before the shot pans back to reveal an empty podium. It's so quick I was looking for Road Runner style dust clouds and possibly a faux-Latin caption; speedius enthusiasticus.
Rocky Sharpe and the Replays about to realise someone had moved their chairs

10/05/2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2



The first Guardians of the Galaxy film was a big surprise that made even the lighter entries in the Marvel movie canon seem a bit too serious and this rambunctious sequel carries on the combination with mostly successful results. It is at times so over the top that any attempt at serious analysis is doomed to be dismissed by a one liner possibly issued by a raccoon! Yet there is some development though trying to inject a more emotional strand into proceedings tends to clutter the narrative with multiple but similar beats. Still it’s a fun ride and should be seen on the biggest screen you can find!

03/05/2017

How do you vote?



Tomorrow sees the first of two polling days we’re having in the UK this year as millions of people cast their votes. So if you do vote (and if not you really should) how do you go about making your choice? This is not as straight forward as you’d think with people using several different reasons for placing that X in the box....
"Psst, there's someone impersonating you two booths down"

30/04/2017

Top of the Pops 6 May 1982



Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Simon Bates: "A Thursday night and of course we're live. We've got soccer stars and we've got rock stars. [turns and points] Kevin Keegan, Frank Gray. Kevin first of all how are you?
Kevin Keegan: Fine. Thank you. A lot... Well, back's well.
Simon Bates: The back's well? And you're going to sing for us later.
Kevin Keegan: It's... Doc says as long as I don't sing to high it should be all right.
Simon Bates: OK. Good luck. We've also got some great stars, like this gentleman with his newish single. It's Junior and Mama Used To Say.

[31] Junior: Mama Used To Say. Simon Bates snubs Frank Gray. It's worth watching his face as Simon Bates chats with Kevin Keegan. Frank Gray's smile flickers and becomes a tad strained as he realises that he's not going to be asked any questions. I don't know anything about football and in my naivetĂ© I did a quick Google search for Frank Gray England and was confused by the lack of any meaningful results. How was I supposed to know he played for Scotland? During Junior's performance a quick crowd shot reveals a group of women dressed as British Airways air hostesses. Their presence will be explained later.  

23/04/2017

Maigret - Night at the Crossroads




A lot of comic performers graduate to serious roles later in their careers, perhaps feeling that advancing years are not appropriate for pratfalls and silliness. Rowan Atkinson though is not especially old and also has a history of gurning his way expressively through comic situations so you can imagine in the past this is exactly the sort of thing he’d spoof. Watching him play a detective in a period drama is odd because every time he walks in the room you expect something funny to happen. Perhaps he’ll light his pipe and it will burst into flames? Maybe he’ll get his long trenchcoat caught in a car door and struggle to excavate himself from it? No or should that be “Non”. In what is a melodramatic production in need of a little light relief there is not a laugh to be had- luckily the results are intriguing enough anyway.

19/04/2017

Smooth Operator



Here’s my theory on why the UK General Election to be held in June might actually be good news for Labour. They would never have won a 2020 election and they certainly won’t win this one so in a way we may only have another five years of Conservative government instead of the further eight years we’d have had if Theresa PM had allowed this Parliament to run its full course. `In a way` means that if Labour really, really want to win the 2022 election (and there are some in Labour who’d rather be an opposition than a government) then they need to come up with something with which to win it. 
Theresa May...or she may not...

17/04/2017

Top of the Pops 29 April 1982



Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Richard Skinner: "Good evening. You are very welcome to Top of the Pops. The best pop programme on television. These are Hot Chocolate, a song written by Errol Brown, me old mate, and they're in the charts and they are girl crazy."

[26] Hot Chocolate: Girl Crazy. Zoo and the Top of the Pops audience cheerleaders are all doing aerobics. Why? It's a year too early for it to be the baleful influence of the Green Goddess on Breakfast Time. Has Michael Hurll been at the Jane Fonda Workout VHS? Richard Skinner disappears to wherever the hosts go while the acts are on so we don't get to see him performing knee raises and elbow thrusts in his chunky lumberjack shirt.

[2] Bardo: One Step Further. "It's been a great week this week for Bardo," lies Richard Skinner. If it had been a great week they would have won the Eurovision Song Contest instead of coming seventh. Bardo has half the number of members of Bucks Fizz but somehow only 25% of the charisma and they perform exactly the same dance routine that they did on their two previous Top of the Pops outings, and Eurovision. Does the universe end if they vary the steps? (Fact John- The couple married and had a son now called Max Milner who ages later was a contestant on The Voice)

12/04/2017

Top of the Pops 22 April 1982



As watched by Chris Arnsby. Peter Powell: "Hi folks! Welcome to Top of the Pops! A great big party tonight! Stacks of interest, lots of bands, lots of interest, and lots of action! For openers it's Pig Bag, hit three and Mama's Got A Brand New Pigbag!"

[3] Pig Bag:  Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag. Yes Peter Powell gets the title wrong. He's mixing up his Mamas and his Papas. The people who do the BBC4 subtitles correct his mistake because apparently they value getting the title right over accurately transcribing speech. The song is great. You might remember the nineties remix with a video featuring a then state of the art computer generated skeleton riding a trumpet. Heather Gilder is on Vision Mixing duties. At the end of the song she cuts between shots and gets the visuals to match the pace and intensity of the drumming. Watch out for the first long camera pull back across the Top of the Pops studio. It ends with the stage later used by Kim Wilde coming into view. The stage is occupied by a trio of dancers from Zoo who half-heartedly shuffle along to the song and do some warm up stretches unaware that they're appearing on tonight's show earlier than expected.

09/04/2017

Dodecagonic!



Yesterday I got one of the new pound coins and someone said if it was a 2016 one it could be worth about £40. Some people are already selling them on ebay for as much as £250 even though there are lots of them at the moment! My one is a 2016 one so I’m reasonably sure of my long term fortune. All I have to do is keep it for about 150 years and then it will be worth hundreds of thousands of credits or whatever currency they have in the future. I suppose we should enjoy the launch of new coinage while we can because before too long- or so we’re told- coins and notes will no longer be used. It’ll be all contactless payments. While the latter are quick when they work - which is by no means every time- they lack the feeling that you are spending anything. This is probably the idea!

07/04/2017

Harry styles an audacious debut solo single



For the past two weeks the media has obsessed over which direction One Direction’s Harry Styles would take with his solo material. With the hugely successful 1D on a hiatus each of them has ventured out into the world alone like a parade of wobbly ducklings but there’s only one of them that people are really interested in. Harry Styles is back! Back! BACK!! as Smash Hits would put it if they were still around. They’d have a nickname for him too, probably Hazza. Anyway the song has dropped today and its called `Sign of the Times`. Such is the white heat of attention it’s mere name has caused the media to ask former associates of Prince whether they thought he’d have minded. I’m not sure anybody asked The Belle Stars if they minded when Prince came out with his song did they? 
Someone fell asleep and left the bath running..

05/04/2017

Ghost In The Shell



Visually colourful live action version of manga classic lacks something.
Confession first- I’ve never seen the original Ghost In The Shell. However from what I’ve read this live action version is reasonably faithful visually but simplifies some of the knottier cerebral issues to create more of an action movie. The big issue of course- which unfortunately this film draws attention to- is that despite the Japanese setting and imagery most of the main characters are not Japanese. While the scenario might theoretically explain this away with the engineered characters- after all they could wear any face- it still sits awkwardly in a film otherwise suffused with Eastern imagery. 

03/04/2017

Sulphur or Sulfur?



As a writer I’m aware of the shape of words and how strong (or otherwise) they look. If I were penning a tale of mysterious goings on in some underground cavern I’d probably include Sulphur because people expect there to be Sulphur and because Sulphur looks like a word we’d associate with the dark side (whatever the element’s actual qualities). Now though I couldn’t do that- or at least not without having an incorrectly spelt word in my text because Sulphur no longer exists. Welcome instead to Sulfur. 

31/03/2017

A shop with no staff and no checkout!!



There are some pretty strange ideas floating about as to how we’ll be doing our shopping in the future most of which appear to involve using as few staff as possible. In fact it seems the ultimate aim is for us never to leave our screens (says he typing a blog!). However a sort of compromise may be round the corner to enable those who don’t want to shop online to still do so in a retail environment albeit without any contact with employees. The concept is not totally new; there are gyms that allow access without any staff present but until last year it had not been tried in conventional retail. 

26/03/2017

Where exactly is Electric Avenue?



By the time his single `Electric Avenue` was released in 1983, Eddy Grant had already had a long career which began in the Sixties when he was a member of The Equals who had several UK hits including `Baby Come Back`. He was also a songwriter for artists such as Prince Buster. After leaving The Equals in 1971 he began a solo career during which time he also worked as a producer. `Electric Avenue` arrived after a string of hits including `Walking on Sunshine`, `Do You Feel My Love` and `I Don’t Wanna Dance`. The sound on these is unusually sparse for a successful artist of the Eighties when bigger and bigger production was the order of the day. `Electric Avenue` is especially tightly produced- in fact there’s a sound that could easily be a piece of elastic stretching that re-appears several times! The controlled, minimalist feel of the song enhances its lyrics which reference life in the London area of Brixton. However when he declares “we’re gonna rock down to Electric Avenue” where are they going?

22/03/2017

Kong Skull Island



With a King Kong movie nowadays the issue of whether the giant ape itself can be convincingly rendered is no longer relevant because of course it can. The question is – what do you do with a brilliantly realised enormous animal? Peter Jackson had a fair go at it a while back but his film was overlong and took half an hour to even set off to sea. Kong Skull Island is brasher, less arty, certainly more tongue in cheek but definitely more to the point. Our first sight of Kong is within five minutes of the start and after half an hour we’ve made landfall on the lost island after getting through the perpetual storm that surrounds it. This intensity is maintained throughout with thoughtful reverie kept to bite sized exchanges and no character safe. Ones you think will obviously make it to the end don’t and vice versa.

Raaarrghhhhh Spoilers will bite your head off after this point! 

20/03/2017

Does Twitter now do more harm than good?



The recent case in which journalist Katie Hopkins was successfully sued by food blogger Jack Munroe after a Tweet making false allegations has again raised the issue of the impact social media in general- and Twitter in particular-has on our society. Of course anyone is entitled to their opinion – as advocates of social media keep reminding us – but the problem with Twitter is that followers of someone automatically seem to believe whatever the celebrity they are following says. The problem may be as much with the format as anything else. Being limited to so few characters means that any sense of nuance is impossible resulting in a form of communication that more often than not eschews any diplomacy or tact. . However many emojis you may deploy is still difficult sometimes to tell if someone is being humorous, sarcastic or just plain nasty. And often followers simply believe it- or else misinterpret it -meaning it is very easy to defame someone without any recourse to those little things like `fact` or `context`.

19/03/2017

Mrs Tyrrell and the huge block of cheese



Mrs Tyrell grew increasingly grumpy at the prospect of having to carry a large heavy wedge of cheese to work each day. Her husband did not even offer her a lift as he travelled to work early by gyrocopter leaving his wife to struggle with the cheese on public transport. This was in the 1950s when cheese was of course much heavier than it is now. She did try to use a taxi but in those days cheese was banned from taxis so unwilling to jostle for position on the tram and risk the cheese falling on the floor, Mrs Tyrell started to walk to work. Accompanying her were two friends Mavis and Alma who would each take it in turns to lug the block for a while. 

30/01/2017

The Best of This Way Up Book

The Best of This Way Up 2002 -2014
Articles, features and episode guides from the archives of the acclaimed fanzine/ blog This Way Up are collected together in a unique volume.
Includes: Classic children’s TV: The Ghosts of Motley Hall, Watch with Mother, The Feathered Serpent, Sky, Tom Grattan’s War, Richard Carpenter, Children’s and post Watch with Mother serials. Telefantasy: Strange, Firefly, Invasion Earth, Out of this World, Virtual Murder, 1990s telefantasy. Films: Alien, Handmade Films, Jaws, Duck Soup. TV: Nigel Kneale,  Second Coming, Phillip Saville, The Comic Strip Presents, Lives & Loves of  a She Devil, Adverts. Theatre: War Horse, The Pillowman, RUR. Miscellany: Pluto, La Machine, The end of record shops and much more.
Written by Tim Worthington, Sean Alexander, OJ Wake, David Rolinson,
Matt Salusbury, John Connors

Available in print or Kindle ebook formats from Amazon
 

29/01/2017

Top of the Pops 21 & 28 Jan 1982



Watched by Chris Arnsby
21 Jan 1982
David "Kid" Jensen: "Hi there. David Jensen here welcoming you to another Top of the Pops. Mike Read can't be with us, but we do have an excellent line-up and records for you to listen to, and watch as well. And we're going to kick of with Gillan. Restless."
What's wrong with Mike Read? Is he ill? Why -after his no show here- does he only present three episodes of Top of the Pops in 1982? Has he fallen out with Michael Hurll? Or, could the BBC be worried about overexposure? In addition to Top of the Pops Mike Read also has the Monday to Friday Radio 1 Breakfast Show, and on BBC1 Pop Quiz and, later in the year, Swap Shop's replacement the weekly Saturday Superstore; oh and in March a one off called The Battle Of The Bands which he co-hosts with rock goddess Rula Lenska.  Is it possible that someone at the BBC wanted to minimise his hosting of Top of the Pops to stop him becoming the BBC's face of pop music.
Gillan: Restless [36]. Top of the Pops has a new set element. The programme logo has been rendered in neon. It looks expensive. Thunderflashes abound when Gillan starts to play and the stage is showered in sparks like the bridge of the starship Enterprise when it's attached by Romulans. This song has no connection to Rebel Rebel by David Bowie but every time Gillan sings "Jimmy Jimmy," I expect the next line to be "you've torn your dress."

27/01/2017

Donald and the Wall



“If you build it, they won’t come
I had a vision the other day (and I imagine President Trump says this regularly) that for some reason the specifications of the famed wall to keep out Mexico were incorrect and when it was finished the thing turned out to be only two foot tall! Or perhaps the ground is not really suitable for the construction of a wall (isn’t it semi desert?) meaning that a decent push would send part of it falling over. Will this wall – or as it’s now called “large physical barrier” -be the symbol of Trump’s Presidency? 
A wall, yesterday

20/01/2017

Top of the Pops 7 Jan 1982



As watched by Chris Arnsby

Peter Powell: "Hello and welcome to the first Top of the Pops of 1982! We've got a show stacked full of good stuff including the number one band in the studio! But right now, for starters, new at 25 Philip Lynott and Yellow Pearl!"

Phil Lynott: Yellow Pearl [25].  Philip Lynott? That seems very formal. Anyway, never mind that because here's Zoo to whirl like dervishes and at one point execute a complicated manoeuvre which looks weirdly like the first ever sighting of a human centipede on prime time television. It's a terrific energetic performance. Peter Powell joins in with the Top of the Pops cheerleaders -who line the podium behind the dancers- with a simple arm swinging routine which he manages to carry off without ever a)losing his place or b)looking massively self-conscious. Oh and new for 1982, here are the Top of the Pops bodybuilders who grunt and strain and strike assorted poses. I'm not sure how I feel about the Top of the Pops bodybuilders. Whenever the pair of oiled up muscle men slide across the television screen I suddenly feel more aware than normal of the top deck bus passengers who keep passing by my window.

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…