14/12/2018

Top of the Pops 8 Dec 1983


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.

08/12/1983: Tommy Vance: "Well hello. A very good evening to you and welcome once again to Top of the Pops. And now to continue the story here is Uncle Rotter." Mike Read: "Once upon a time in The Adventures of Tintin there were two detectives who dressed just like this and they were called the Thompson Twins. Tommy Vance: "Now, the Thompson Twins are somewhat differently dressed but I'll tell you, they're down... [points] there and they've got a number four record. It's called Hold Me Now and here they are."

[4] Thompson Twins: Hold Me Now. Mike Read's description of the Thompson Twins from The Adventures of Tintin is 100% accurate apart from all the bits that are wrong. The detectives were called Thompson and Thompson. They wore black suits and white shirts with thin black ties. They didn't wear red scarves. They didn't wear sunglasses indoors, Mike Read. They had moustaches. Oh, and they carried walking sticks, not umbrellas. They did wear bowler hats. It's a virtually flawless impersonation as if a mirror had been placed between a picture of Thompson and Thompson, and Mike Read and Tommy Vance. 

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.

31/10/2018

Weird 900th Post


You can write about anything on a blog and to celebrate the milestone of this being the 900th post for This Way Up as a blog (there’s a whole pre- blog history of it being a fanzine of course) I wondered what to type. Not for this blog some self congratulatory blurb about the achievement of so many posts in just over seven and a half years. Oh no, something new, something relating to numbers perhaps. Or a particular number? I suppose it would have been more apt to have done this 339 posts ago but never mind because this post is all about the number 561. Having a clear out lately, I found a key and metal fob both of which had the number 561 inscribed on them. I have no idea of the origins of these items though clearly they must come from a hotel. Judging from the look of the key it’s either a rather old hotel or one that was stayed in some decades ago. Nowadays hotels have those electronic keys that resemble credit cards. Examining this key and fob more closely I wonder if they are from a hotel though. 




29/10/2018

Top of the Pops 20 Oct 1983


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Andy Peebles: "Hello. Good evening. A very good welcome to Top of the Pops and heeere's Janice." Janice Long: "And we've got some great things in the show; Depeche Mode, Howard Jones, and Freeez, but at number twenty-four it's Love Will Find A Way from David Grant."
[24] Love Will Find A Way: David Grant. Towards the end of the instrumental, David Grant drops into a crouch and has a go at one of these break dancing moves he's been hearing so much about lately. It's clearly something he's still learning because he does it at half speed and it looks very lacklustre. David Grant's not a bad dancer, but this is a pretty dull song and performance to start Top of the Pops, and the timing is not great because coming up next is...

24/10/2018

Halloweening


It’s that time of year again. “Pumpkins roasting on an open fire” as the song would go if there was such a thing as Halloween songs. And you had an unfeasibly large fire. Unfortunately there’s not, people just play songs with dark titles. Imagine if carols were adapted to Halloween though; you’d have the likes of `I Wish I could eat Pumpkin Every Day`. The shops are brimming with pumpkins and the thing is nobody really knows what to do with them beyond carving evil looking faces out of them. What do you do with the part you’ve scooped out? Well, there’s actually loads of things you can make- Pumpkin Puree, Pumpkin Tortellini, Pumpkin Cupcakes, Pumpkin Smoothies, you can roast them or bake them, you get the idea.  It’s quite rare though to find someone saying pumpkins are their favourite flavour. Maybe just stick to carving the head and making some sort of gluey soup from the rest?

21/10/2018

Review Round Up- On Chesil Beach, The Happy Prince, Beat Beneath My Feet


On Chesil Beach looks like it could be one of those gently romantic period dramas but after a few minutes it is clearly not. Instead and rather boldly it peeks further into the first hours of a marriage than perhaps we might like. This deftly written and directed film is set in 1961 when young people knew a lot less than even younger people know these days so when newly- wed twentysomethings Florence and Edward find themselves alone together on honeymoon in a Dorset hotel what they do when they get to the bed is something of a conundrum for them both. While Edward is experienced in a laddish way, Florence appears to have no experience at all. It seems far fetched even to imagine such naivety but these are different times and the narrative uses their intimacy issues to paint a broader picture both of the history of their relationship and how they don’t really know each other at all. 

15/10/2018

Top of the Pops 13 Oct 1983


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Peter Powell: "It's Thursday evening welcome to Top of the Pops!" Richard Skinner: "What a show we've got for you tonight. Siouxsie and the Banshees, Tracey Ullman, Lydia Murdock and much more!" Peter Powell: "And to start with here's Roman Holiday with Motor! Mania!"

[47] Roman Holliday: Motormania. In September John wrote an enthusiastic article about Roman Holliday (John- Check to your right..) and it would take a better man than me to come in and micturate all over his deep-fried potato batons. (John – You’ve made up that word haven’t you?) I'm not familiar with Roman Holliday. Apparently they appeared on Top of the Pops earlier in 1983 performing Don't Try To Stop It but I don't remember the song. In fact looking at the running order of the 07/07/1983 edition (John Peel and David Jensen dressed as gangsters) the whole show has left an indelible blank on my memory; The Mary Jane Girls?; Jimmy The Hoover? You'd think I'd remember someone called Jimmy The Hoover. This was during This Way Up's summer interregnum but I did keep watching Top of the Pops (honest). Anyway, Motormania. It's good. (John- it’s great!) It feels like a logical extension of the Rockabilly revival which produced up groups like The Stray Cats and The Polecats; and probably some other bands which didn't feature the word cat in their name.


10/10/2018

Regenerated Doctor Who is a Hit!


A lot of fans had a preconceived notion of what the new regenerated Doctor Who would be like based on about 18 months of speculation, gossip and very slim pre publicity. While you can never make too many assumptions based on a new Doctor’s opener, it is fair to say that there have been a lot of changes though in other ways the programme has moved closer to how it was back in the 70s. It is the potential that the episode suggests which is the most exciting thing of all and it seems the viewing public agree with the overnight ratings alone topping 8 million and when consolidated figures are calculated that figure could easily top  10 million. It is looking like a palpable hit.
Spoilers after this point
Read Matthew Kilburn’s excellent review of this episode on www.spacetimetelegraph.blogspot.com


05/10/2018

Is Kate Bush retiring?


The news that Kate Bush is to re-release all her albums on vinyl and cd comes in a year in which the enigmatic singer has turned sixty and is also to publish a book of her lyrics. Given that she’s released no new music in the four years since the Before The Dawn shows could it be that these performances were actually a farewell? It is certainly hard to imagine she would ever repeat the experience and equally easy to think the idea of public retirement appeals to a singer who has rarely seemed comfortable in the spotlight. 

30/09/2018

Top of the Pops 6 Oct 1983


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. John Peel: "Hail Reptilicus. Come you from our legions in Gaul?" David Jensen:"Get off! It's Top of the Pops. And here's Freeez to kick off with Pop Goes My Love. Let's get down."
[33] Freeez: Pop Goes My Love. October? Already? The autumn nights draw in so quickly. John Peel and David Jensen have raided the BBC dressing up box for Roman gear; they've also been cowboys and gangsters in1983. If the pair can sneak into the Doctor Who costume box they can dress up as Sea Devils, or the big snake from Kinda. Freeez are rubbish. They've annoyed me by having a name that's difficult to type; variations I've managed in the last ten minutes include Freeze (obviously), Freez, and Frezee. I refuse to do any research on Frieze. It's more charitable to assume that they're a stray Euroband dragged across the Channel in the wake of Ryan Paris. The lyrics of Pop Goes My Love show all the signs of hasty translation from Estonian. It's like taking a romp through the big book of pop clichés. "After living with you for years and years/Through loving and hating, through laughter and tears/A change in the weather, a calm before storms/Without any warning, the dark before dawn." And that's just the first verse. The chorus starts "one, two, three," and a nation waits with bated breath to hear what comes next. "Four, five, six." Bah! I dismiss thee Frrzze. Back to San Marino with you.
No they weren't. Fake facts ahoy! They were probably about the 22nd band to do so.

26/09/2018

Ad Break#7 Nationwide – Friends, Family and Heritage


It’s been around for a while now but one of my favourite adverts is not some hilarious joke fest or epic filmic production but a simple spoken word scene in a photo booth. And I was surprised to discover what is at the heart of a campaign that is far from conventional in its approach. I’m not totally sure it works from the point of view of promoting the company it’s supposed to but I’m glad they’re making them! I’m talking about Nationwide and their series of ads featuring poetry and spoken word narratives. These have elicited a mixed response from some people who find them irritating but they have been running for a while now and I always pay attention to them which says something. The best known one is last year’s Mother’s Day advert, more on which later. This one called `Pals` features a couple in the booth listing the things about the other owns or does. And at the end they pull silly faces when the reassuringly crunchy sounding camera flash goes off. It makes you instantly think you’d like to know these people. Whether it makes you hot foot it to your nearest Nationwide branch is another matter! Here it is…

24/09/2018

Ad Break #6 Confused? Why the Bear? Who is Kate?


Confused.com- “Don’t get confused”
Over the years adverts for confused.com have evolved becoming gradually less chirpy and artier. The last set of ads featuring James Corden and the slogan “that’s a driver win” seemed like an attempt to combine the two but now that has gone and is replaced by something altogether more brooding. A driver navigates the confused.com Mercedes through what could be a post- apocalyptic cityscape as the voiceover complains about having too much choice. We see such modern signatures as fake news, “experts with no expertise” and a supermarket with rows of identical products while dust blows around the vehicle.  His slow journey is accompanied by the “Forever Dolphin Love” by Connan Mockasin. Eventually our driver steers the car out onto the open road and towards the Sun heralding the slogan “Don’t be confused. Be confused.com” over the opening notes of Link Wray’s `Rumble`.

23/09/2018

Putting the X back in The X Factor


It is often interesting to check in on long running programmes that are considered past their prime. While not always the case it can turn out to be that a rejuvenation of sorts has occurred away from the white heat of over expectation and though it is early days yet I can sense this year’s series of The X Factor is headed that way. The format is solid gold yet the process has been tinkered with every time in recent years and the impression is desperate ratings chasing decisions have been made mostly to try and keep up with Strictly Come Dancing which when you think about it a wholly different show with celebrity contestants. The strength of The X Factor is that these are members of the public competing and in recent years that strength has not been used to its best advantage. 


19/09/2018

Bus Business!


It’s the least cool method of travelling yet millions use it every day. If you don’t then these are some of the things you’re missing out on…

# Bus stops are located in places where anyone waiting will have to put up with maximum rain, wind or Sun.  Tellingly they stopped calling them bus `shelters` some years ago.
# Bus timetables are merely there to reassure passengers. They bear no relation to the actual time a bus might show up. When they do show up they are in pairs meaning double the wait for the next one.
# A bus will go past the stop if you don’t make some attempt to flag it down. It will also go past if there is another bus there even if it’s a different route. There is no point whatsoever trying to run after a bus to get it to stop though people do try and sometimes flap so much they might take off and therefore end up overtaking the bus!
# Each generation of people is slightly taller. Each new set of buses has smaller seats. Should both these trends continue there will eventually be a pivotal moment when some people are too tall to fit onto the bus at all. 

17/09/2018

Top of the Pops 22 Sept 1983


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Mike Read: "Hello chums. Welcome to Top of the Pops. Listen, it's bad enough us having to work together on the radio in the mornings, but we're stuck with each other on Top of the Pops now as well." Simon Bates: "Looks like being a good evening, though. Here's our first on Top of the Pops. It's Howard Jones, New Song, for the very first time. Over there."

[44] Howard Jones: New Song. Bad news everyone. This isn't a live edition of Top of the Pops so Simon Bates refuses to tell us the time. It's 7.30pm for anyone worried. On stage Howard Jones is joined by the Answer Prancer from Brass Eye or maybe it's just any old passing dancing fool who has painted their face, stripped to the waist (the top half), and donned plastic chains. It's deeply symbolic. (John- It’s Jed of course. Everyone knows Jed.) "I don't want to be hip and cool," sings Howard Jones as he abandons the synthesiser to dance in front of it in an uncool way (and yet somehow the music keeps going). The Answer Prancer is the real star of this performance. By the end of the song he has undoubtedly cast off his mental chains, but not his physical plastic ones. Which is odd because they look like they'd just snap off.

12/09/2018

The Liberal Democrats' Big Opportunity


UK politics has become a very unpredictable place these last few years but it strikes me that there is a big opportunity now for the Liberal Democrats to step up and provide what a still large number of people in the country want- a middle ground political party. Otherwise who are we going to vote for at the next General Election? The Conservative’s free market and austerity package or Labour’s Seventies throwback unaffordable socialism? Neither appeal to many and those with slightly long memories may recall when there was an alternative to the big two. In a post Brexit landscape there will a big gap for there to be again. 

09/09/2018

The group who tried to bring back Swing!


Roman Holliday! Anyone who’s seen the BBC4 Top of the Pops 1983 repeats will surely have noticed Roman Holliday. In an era replete with classic pop, this group were on fire for a relatively brief time yet they burned so strongly. Named after a 1953 romantic comedy film starring Audrey Hepburn, the Holls (as I’m sure pop mags of the day would have dubbed them) first hit public attention with `Don’t Try To Stop It` a brilliant collision of pop and Swing. The 7 piece threw everything into the song and their performances of it. That’s Roman Holliday for you- they did everything at double speed including racing through their career in a handful of years. They were perfect pop- a great idea, a great look, a great sound. Why weren’t they bigger?

05/09/2018

Top of the Pops 8 Sept 1983


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Peter Powell: "Hello Everybody! Welcome to the biggest pop party in Britain! It's Top of the Pops of course!" Andy Peebles: "Good to have you along. Let's get straight under way with a record that I reckon could be big at the CUC conference in Blackpool. Heaven 17 are in the chart with Crush By The Wheels Of Industry."

[28] Heaven 17: Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry. Andy Peebles is having a bit of an off day; CUC conference should be TUC conference; and he's dropped the -ed from the end of the word crushed. These mistakes are dutifully logged by the person writing the BBC4 subtitles, which is odd because previous Top of the Pops subtitles have reflected what the person should have said, rather than what came out of their mouths. Presumably the subtitling policy is that there is no policy, and it varies depending on who is doing them. The lyrics of this Heaven 17 song are a bit all over the place. Are they for or against people being crushed by the wheels of industry? The lead singer has a beaming smile on his face so I assume he's pro crushing? One of the dancers behind Heaven 17 does some robot dancing which fits with this song. His name is Phillip Tan, and more on him later.

03/09/2018

Holographics


Often during films and tv set in the future a character wants some information so they bring up a holographic display that floats in the air in front of them. They can swipe these displays in either direction to move on to the next bit. We’ve been seeing this so often and for a number of years in fiction but will we ever see it in real life? At the moment people are relying increasingly on having everything they could possibly need for a day in their smartphones. From social media to paying bills to ordering drinks to unlocking security doors to watching films there isn’t much a smartphone can’t do nowadays. However everything happens on its screen. Will there be a time when visual information escapes from the physical confines of the phone and appears in the air? They’ll probably call it a Holophone.

 

20/08/2018

Ad Break #5 Delia, Kev, Facebook and Flash!


EE- Delia and Kev

Delia Smith was once one of the UK’s most influential people. She only had to recommend a saucepan or a pastry and millions of people would go out and buy them. Her books were best sellers and she occupied the sort of exhaulted position that is now the province of Mary Berry. Then after a couple of curious series about going back to basics and using tinned items she packed it in to focus on Norwich City football club of which she is the main shareholder. Famously in 2005 she took to the club’s PA to encourage the team shouting “Where are you? Where are you? Let’s be having you!” Perhaps EE believe her influence can still affect millions as they’ve hired hire to co-front their latest ad alongside the ubiquitous Kevin Bacon. Kev, last seen in David Mitchell’s family car in a safari park, can seemingly appear anywhere yet only be seen by one person. Here he wanders into Delia’s kitchen clutching a bunch of carrots. She’s watching football while stuffing a chicken and managing to also shoehorn “Oh, where are you? Let’s be having you!” into the scene. She’s even wearing a Norwich City scarf!

19/08/2018

Top of the Pops 1 Sept 1983


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. John Peel: "Howdy pals. Sure am glad you could mosey on down for another Top of the Pops.  We're live again this week, so far." David Jensen: "That's right Sundown. Hope you're comfy as we launch into another Top of the Pops with Modern Romance."
[9] Modern Romance: Walking In The Rain. BBC4 has just jumped two weeks into the future, for anyone suffering from temporal whiplash. KC and the Sunshine Band's triumphant three weeks at number one have been cruelly cut short. BBC4 only skipped 7 of the 30 editions between 1st January and 28th July 1983. In the back half of 1983 they'll be skipping 9 of the 23 remaining due to the increased presence of the forbidden hosts. Meanwhile, here's Modern Romance. Hope you enjoy their new direction. Previously they've specialised in what the Germans call le ohrwurm but now they're into soulful ballards. It's rubbish. Check out the lead singer and the blonde guitarist. I don't think I've ever seen two men modelling Princess Diana fringes before. The standard "chart position" "band name" "song" caption doesn't appear until halfway through the first chorus, just after the line "and cast aside those feelings of despair." This is a live edition, and someone in the gallery obviously forgot to display it at the start of the performance. I'm just surprised that Top of the Pops is so committed to its own format that a caption must be displayed, even if the song is well underway. Having said that, it's possible the technology of the time can only show captions in order and that unless this one is put on screen the rest of them won't work. (John- It's produced by the legendary Tony Visconti of all people!)
 

16/08/2018

Review round up- Dirk Gently, Love Simon, Beyond Bowie


Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’s first series is something I reckon Douglas Adams would approve of. Though not a direct adaptation of the books the show successfully employs the sort of high vaulting concepts Adams relished. Souls being transferred between animals and humans, a time travelling device being built by a Victorian inventor, a mystery inhabited by a mixture of eccentric characters. Plus, even though the show was shot in the US, Dirk Gently is played by an English actor which of course he should be. There are times- especially later on- when Samuel Barnett’s fast talking as he races around a control room could be an alternative Doctor Who but the TV series was always an influence on Adams and appears to be on Max Landis’s script too. 

12/08/2018

My new YA Novel - Blue Sky Black


My latest YA novel Blue Sky Black is now available in either print or kindle ebook formats from Amazon. For a reasonable price! The book is the fourth in the Heart of the World series telling the story of Tom Allenby, a boy who can manipulate the elements and lives in a village above where the planet’s elemental energy is stored. He is the caretaker- tasked with saving the Earth from those who would try to use the energy for dark purposes. This novel features strange magnetic disturbances, birds that can fire light, a dangerous environmental  group and an antagonist with an incredible plan for the world. 

08/08/2018

Alex Day - Living and Dying on the Internet


People could never influence or ostracise someone as much as they can nowadays and it is the Internet’s unexpected by- product. Online people become super famous but also lose that success instantly because there is no hiding place from viral trends that condemn them. Alex Day was one of the first big UK vloggers whose rise and fall has been told on this blog two and a half years ago. Now he’s penned a book about his experiences- good and bad- on YouTube and beyond. Some people don’t want him to tell his story but it is not just a story about Alex Day. It’s an insider’s view of the explosion of online life and how it has evolved. It’s also the story of a public figure being vilified over behaviour that, while bad, never saw him charged or convicted of anything yet in the eyes of thousands he is someone who did things that he didn’t do or was never even accused of. In the days when even the US President boils complicated political issues to a Tweet it is a timely if harrowing account of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of the Internet `deciding` something. 

01/08/2018

Mission Impossible Fallout review


Anyone who liked the previous Mission Impossible movies will find tons to enjoy in this latest – and possibly best yet- entry in cinema’s most gymnastic franchise. There may be no superheroes in these films but plenty of superheroic feats. As ever Tom Cruise has several signature stunts where you can tell it’s him leaping, dangling, balancing, falling or otherwise risking life and limb in the case of art. Bone cracking fight scenes are edited with whip sharp speed and there are the expected plot twists and of course masks!
"You're not going up there are you? "He is" "Yes I am" "Wonder when the bus back is?"
  

30/07/2018

Top of the Pops 11 August 1983


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Richard Skinner: "Welcome to another exciting Top of the Pops. What a show we've got for you tonight." Tommy Vance: "We certainly have. Now in America David Grant's Stop and Go is zooming up the charts. Over here he's just outside the top thirty with this record Watching You Watching Me, and watch him dance!"
[34] David Grant: Watching You Watching Me. I feel I'm missing some important historical context with regard to David Grant's dancing ability. He's good but Top of the Pops seems to believe he's Michael Jackson and Fred Astaire rolled into one. Look at the way he's choreographed to beckon the camera to follow him while he dances towards the audience and jumps on a podium. Still fair play to David Grant, that podium is about 2-3 feet high and he makes it with a single leap. I just tried jumping onto a sideboard and hurt my hip. Conclusion: David Grant is a better dancer than me. Unusually for Top of the Pops there's a poorly timed cut from veteran of Top of the Pops Vision Mixer Heather Gilder. David Grant jumps into the air and does the splits, and the camera cuts away to assorted Zoo dancers, then the audience cheers and gives a round of applause. Were the cheers for the jump, or did David Grant do something even more impressive? We'll never know.

25/07/2018

Peter Rabbit film review


When I was a child I have to admit the Peter Rabbit books were not really to my taste despite their classic status. The idea of reimagining them for a modern sensibility however has truly brought them alive in more ways than one. This sassy, funny, fast movie is perfect for kids of all ages though I’m not sure it will help sell the books to a new generation. It’s now available to watch at home on your chosen format but watch it you should if you have any sense of fun or silliness!

22/07/2018

Top of the Pops 28 July 1983


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Janice Long: "Hello and welcome to Top of the Pops. It's a good one tonight because we've got people like Elvis Costello and the Attractions, The Lotus Eaters, and Bananarama." Mike Read: "And KC, of KC and the Sunshine Band having his twelfth British hit."
[19] KC & The Sunshine Band: Give It Up. Try not to think about Mike Read's vile snot-green short-shorts and I'll try not to keep harping on about them. Hopefully any camera shots of Mike Read will be above the plimsoll line and I can pretend he's wearing trousers. I'd also like to dispute Mike Read's use of statistics. Twelfth British hit? I've got nothing against KC & The Sunshine Band, but that's a charitable description of their chart history. Hot foot from Wikipedia I can tell you that Give It Up is  KC & The Sunshine band's thirteenth UK single and if we are playing by Top of the Pops rules (top thirty) then only six of their singles count as hits. I've kind of lost the thread of what I was going on about there, but the important thing is I've proved Mike Read wrong on a 35 year old minor point. Meanwhile, studio lighting grid fans will be delighted by several low-angled shots which show the studio clock and illuminated TRANSMISSION sign. Sadly, the clock is slightly too out of focus to see the time. It's almost as if the people making Top of the Pops don't care about this sort of stuff.
KC- That jacket mate- give it up!

20/07/2018

World Contact Day


What did you do on 15 March this year? Did you perhaps attempt to communicate telepathically with aliens inviting them to come to our planet? If you did then you’d be celebrating World Contact Day an annual event in which people are invited to try and persuade `occupants of Interplanetary craft` or indeed those gas based lifeforms that don’t need spaceships at all to come to Earth. “We are your friends” goes the slightly unconvincing mantra. Established in 1953 by an organisation called the International Flying Saucer Bureau (IFSB) it is based on the theory that if there is alien life out there in the Universe and if telepathy is real (admittedly a couple of especially giant leaps) then if a lot of people focus on a single message it will send a powerful signal through the ether. 
Albert Bender, founder of World Contact Day. World Giant Cigar Day however did not catch on.

15/07/2018

The Play That Goes Wrong review


This is the play that started it all for Mischief Theatre, their original production that first viewed the public and critics alike nearly five years ago now and it remains an essential watch if you’ve not seen it. It is a deceptively straight forward production too, using just one set and I can imagine other people thinking they might have a go at something similar. Yet this is a masterpiece of timing and tone. It takes the elements of live theatre and then has them go wrong enough to amuse us yet not so wrong as to lose the shape of the production, The cast play it absolutely straight- except in moments where their character playing a character wants to acknowledge the audience.  Cos that’s the really clever bit- we’re actually watching actors playing poor actors appearing in a play. 

13/07/2018

Ad Break #4 Monday, Home, Winners


BT Plus- Blue Monday (evening)

This is a gem of an ad, perfectly aligning sound and vision. We follow a girl – called Heather apparently- walking through the city in the evening on her way to meet someone and soundtracked by the classic New Order song `Blue Monday`. Which would be fine as it goes but the really impressive thing is the way various passers- by and happenings match every beat of the song and this is a song with a lot of beats. So as she leaves her flat the man on the tv is saying the same line from the song we can hear, outside a delivery man knocks three times in sync with the music and so on.


11/06/2018

Top of the Pops 12 and 19 May 1983


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. 12/05/83 - Tommy Vance: "Edition 1001 of Top of the Pops! Good evening and welcome!" Mike Read: "Great party record to start off with, Modern Romance's Don't Stop That Crazy Rhythm."Tommy Vance: "Woo!"
(Edition 1000: It's worth tracking down the few snippets of edition 1000 currently on Youtube. There's a lovely introduction with Richard Skinner and Diddy David Jacobs in which Richard Skinner comes across as a far more relaxed and natural broadcaster than he does when he's hosting Top of the Pops. He's sitting down for this introduction so maybe he should always be allowed a chair from now on when he's in studio.)

[26] Modern Romance: Don't Stop That Crazy Rhythm. Everything's different. New sets. New title sequence. Same pool of presenters of course which is one of the reasons BBC4 has jumped from edition 999 to 1001. Modern Romance are appearing on the main studio stage -the one with banks of raised rostra behind the performance area for the audience, or Top of the Pops cheerleaders- and a couple of wide shots reveal that the makeover is more superficial than it first appears. The geography of the set is the same. The black and white Eidophor screen is still on the left, and the neon Top of the Pops logo is on the right. The main difference is the replacement of  the large metallic arches with ranks of scaffold-like scenery. Bolted to the set are circular neon elements that echo the shape of the Top of the Pops logo, but have a diagonal line coming out of the bottom right that makes them Q-shaped. The most significant effect of the new scenery is to form a definite wall. The arches used to open onto a black backcloth which made it look like Top of the Pops was being broadcast from a formless black vortex. Now it's clearly located in a television studio. Joining Modern Romance is a middle aged dancer who looks like someone's uncle has rushed the stage; he's dressed in blue with a backwards red baseball cap perched on his head. He's named-checked by Tommy Vance as "Will Gaines," and a quick Google search reveals he's a much more significant figure in dance than his treatment here would make you think. John Bishop's direction excludes him and the audience at home don't get a good look until the instrumental. Maybe John Bishop intended the reveal of the tap dancer to be a surprise, but it comes across more as an attempt at exclusion. It's as if Modern Romance turned up with Will Gaines and insisted he perform with them, but the Director had other plans. If you really want to see Will Gaines strut his stuff then head over to Youtube and watch the clip of him dancing on The Arthur Haynes Show.

08/06/2018

Could the Copyright Directive destroy the Internet?


Later this month the European Union will vote on changes to the Copyright Directive, a 2001 act designed to protect copyright holders in the digital age. However an amendment called Article 13 has crept into this vote and has repercussions for anyone online. With much of the current debate distracted by GDPR, data breaches and Facebook this seems to be happening under most people’s radar. I’d not heard about it till this week when some media outlets began flagging it up. The consensus amongst commentators is that, at best, these amendments are flawed and at worst could cause all sorts of repercussions from stopping memes to causing Wikipedia and YouTube to close or even as one site put it “destroy the Internet as we know it”.

06/06/2018

Solo- A Star Wars Story review


Star Wars fans- like fans of many things- are never happy. They want new films that are almost the same as the original series yet when they happen they complain of lack of originality. Throw in a curveball and they don’t like that either “it’s just not Star Wars” they moan. This is probably why we end up with Solo, a perfectly serviceable big screen romp but one devoid of any particular purpose. Had it been populated by all new characters it might have been more impactful. Being a prequel though we know at least two of the lead characters and their spaceship will make it to the end so there’s a lack of jeopardy when it matters most. We’re also waiting to spot those throw forwards so we can tick off how Han got this, why he says that, etc. It makes for a curiously flat watch because about 40% of the aspects that can thrill us in a movie are just not going to happen. Whatever scrape Solo gets into you know he’s going to make it.

03/06/2018

Maze Runner - The Death Cure review


Towards the end of this breathless movie a city is being attacked in as chaotic a manner as you’d expect. Vehicles exploding, people running, buildings collapsing and so on. Having been in the midst of all this our point of view is slowly yanked skywards allowing us to view the wider extent of it in a memorable tableaux. This is just one of a myriad of moments from director Wes Ball that propel what should be a simple action film into something better. It’s typical of how The Death Cure , the third and final part of the Maze Runner series, never stops moving in exciting and interesting ways pulling the maximum thrills from what is ostensibly a thin narrative. 

28/05/2018

The Greatest Showman review


There are tales of people going back again and again to cinemas to watch this musical; in fact it’s still on at some of our local screens over five months after it first opened. This is rare these days even for some huge blockbusters. Yet some critics panned it on release last year – “big top baloney” was one of the comments made but it’s outlasted the movies released around the same time. The PT Barnum depicted in the film would surely approve of this turn of events. According to the narrative he welcomed criticisms which he felt helped promote the show and sell tickets- we even see him in a hat with word `humbug` written in gold lettering on it! Now its available to buy the rest of us can find out what the fuss is about….

25/05/2018

Top of the Pops 28 April 1983


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby: John Peel: "Live from Shepherd's Bush London it's Top of the Pops." David Jensen: "Gee, John this is the 999th edition. I guess it marks the end of an era" John Peel: "I don't think so. Not really. It is a special programme though, not only the European charts but also the Southeast Asian charts."David Jensen: "That's right, but to kick off something new in our chart from Galaxy, this is Dancing Tight." John Peel: "Is there any other way?"

[20] Galaxy: Dancing Tight. Galaxy are rhyming tight with night. We can't be far from follow up rhymes with right, sight, and trite. Still never mind that. Regardez! At the back of the stage. Behind the lead singer. One of the Zoo dancers is determinedly doing the robot dance despite the fact that it doesn't really match the song. Can he keep this up for the whole programme? (John –Perhaps he is actually a robot?)

23/05/2018

The Gifted season one review


Of the many fantasy series currently playing on multiple home viewing outlets, The Gifted may well be the most traditional and straightforward. A spin off from the X Men universe it focusses on a disparate group of mutants struggling to survive during a government crackdown on their kind. As the authorities- in the form of Sentinel Services- employ increasingly inventive and ruthless methods, the so called `mutant underground` are forced to question their own tactics. After so many series- notably another X Men cousin Legion- doing their best to bamboozle with narrative or visual trickery it is refreshing to discover linear storytelling and characters we can root for and become interested in.

21/05/2018

Yanny vs Laurel


So here’s the clip…..

Which name do you hear? This conundrum has been driving people crazy over the past week or so and this is just one of zillions of posts, Tweets and general online chatter as to which word is actually being spoken. It’s remarkable. I’ve seen footage of two people equally convinced of the word they heard but one of them quite categorically hears “yanny” whereas the other equally hears “laurel”. What has fascinated people is the fact that whichever word you hear there is no ambiguity about it and you cannot understand how someone else could hear a completely different word. Not since the gold dress / blue dress has there been such an online kerfuffle!

19/05/2018

Ad Break #3 - Horses, cars and Arnie’s head!


Lloyds - “You’re not alone…..”
Sometimes an advert will have more than one version and after a few months a shortened edit will be aired presumably to acknowledge that people do get tired of seeing the ad again and again. Other times there is a longer version and in the case of the current Lloyds Bank ad this is being shown only in cinemas. Lloyds adverts seem aimed to position the bank as the dependable friend of the family, an enabler to happy developments. Their previous ad played on the emotion of big events with a large horse running through slow motion events like the birth of a baby, a marriage proposal and so on. Of course if a huge horse really started to run about in a hospital it would be a health and safety disaster. 

16/05/2018

Deadpool 2 review


What makes Deadpool 2 work really well is that it still has the contours of a typical superhero film yet undercuts these constantly with dark humour and knowing asides. There was a risk that the first film’s tricks might not work again or at least seem over familiar but somehow this sequel manages a load of new tricks and if not quite as laugh out loud funny as its predecessor certainly hits the target time after time.

Spoilers ahead...

14/05/2018

Top of the Pops 21 April 1983


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Richard Skinner: "Hello and welcome to Top of the Pops."
Janice Long: "And we've got some great stuff for you tonight like The human League, Spandau Ballet, and the Thompson Twins." Richard Skinner: "Absolutely right, but first here's Culture Club, and my tip for next week's number one, the Church Of The Poison Mind."
[2] Culture Club: Church Of The Poison Mind. Richard Skinner's not much of a soothsayer. Church Of The Poison Mind has peaked. It's been blocked from number one by David Bowie, and now coming up behind it fast is a song that is going to be massive. 

06/05/2018

Brad's Status review


A thoughtful film about a topic that might be easy to overdramatise, Brad’s Status is much better than it’s bland title suggests. Brad Sloan is 47 and, working for a non- profit making organisation, he seems to have a good life with socially conscious wife Melanie and well- adjusted son Troy. However he can’t help comparing himself to old college mates who seem to be doing rather better. All are richer and appear to have a bigger lifestyle not that he knows first-hand having picked most of this up on social media. These feelings of morose dissatisfaction grow as he takes his son on a visit to potential colleges which brings into focus his own teenage aspirations and how he views his life trajectory.

02/05/2018

Time and Tides


Of all the alternative energy sources that are being tried around the world at the moment tidal energy seems like it should be the best option for at least a portion of our energy needs. While we do seem to have a lot of windy weather, it’s not every single day and as for solar energy you’re not going to be getting those long sunny days on a regular basis. Other alternative energies seem to require a more involved process. Tides on the other hand ebb and flow every day whether it’s wet, cold, hot or sunny. They come in, they go out and the basic principle of using the energy from water to power things has been around since the days of the water wheel. Plus when you’re an island nation it seems to be obvious to use a resource that is all around us.

29/04/2018

Avengers- Infinity War review


Marvel’s latest mega -blockbuster is as bold as you’d expect from a franchise always willing to push at the restraints other blockbusters are hemmed in by. It takes what could easily be problems- an enormous cast from differently flavoured films and the need to invent an even more invincible all powerful enemy than the previous ones- and uses them to its advantage. It’s surprisingly lean when you consider the size of the cast and the two and a half hours running time. Yet there is still time for those smaller considerations and character beats that give the film a human touch.

Some spoilers beyond here…