30/04/2020

Ad Break#19 Lockdown Adverts


As the UK lockdown is now in its sixth week, an increasing number of adverts are acknowledging the time we’re living through. That multi screened view we're familiar with from social media or Skype is now becoming a go-to look for ads many of which have segments filmed from people’s homes. These adverts all look of the moment and when an older one shows people in close proximity or in a restaurant they suddenly seem weird now. Its amazing how quickly we’ve become familiar with the so called `New Normal`. One ad claims to be the first ever made entirely in private homes. Debuting last week, the latest spot from Voxi – the wing of Vodaphone aimed at younger customers- features a teenager showing how you can stay connected during this unprecedented situation. Called `Stay Connected, Stay Endless` the advert was shot entirely on a Samsung Galaxy S20 phone using its 4K front and rear cameras as well as the device’s internal microphone all of which provided “high quality footage and manageable file sizes”. The teenager is seen taking part in a various social media trends such as baking, hosting an online quiz and going on a virtual date. It has the energy of a hyperactive YouTube vlog, slick but without losing that homemade feel. 
 

24/04/2020

Top of the Pops 28 Mar 1985


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Out of the blue a mystery commenter put this link https://mega.nz/folder/h0snQACa#uiNNqosfbdrfzODHsE1clw under the Top of the Pops for 14/03/1985. I think the appropriate expression is; cripes! Or possibly, “My God. It's full of [pop] stars.” Opening that folder makes me feel like Dave Bowman going beyond the infinite, but I'm holding off  on evolving into a big space baby; although I do feel a sixth finger coming on. In summary, thanks mystery commenter. Mind you, I'd better pick up the pace. In the real world it's 19th April, and I haven't even put the dinner on yet. Peter Powell: “[in media res, as all the cool kids say]...the biggest party in Britain! It's Top of the Pops!” Mike Smith: “yes we have a line-up to beat all line-ups tonight. We have Alison Moyet, Tears for Fears, and joining us from their sell out tour, the highest new entry this week on the charts, welcome Frankie Goes to Hollywood.” 
[5] Frankie Goes to Hollywood: Welcome To The Pleasuredome. Top of the Pops has rules; no band back two weeks in a row unless they are number one; feature the highest climber; and no singles going down the chart. Less obvious restrictions include the one keeping members of the production team out of shot as much as possible (which results in camera operators scuttling around and crouching in a way the frequently makes my back ache in sympathy). One other “rule” I've noticed is that presenters are paired so one is “senior” (don't worry, I'll stop doing “this” in a minute). John Peel gets top billing with Janice Long. Mike Read trumps Steve Wright. Simon Bates is first out of... whoever is unfortunate enough to be in the same studio as Simon Bates.
How does that work tonight? Logically Peter Powell should be the senior host. He's been doing this since 1977. Except that Mike Smith is Mr 1985. The man of the moment. He's hosting 16 shows this year; compared to Peter Powell's 14. The only reason Mike Smith doesn't present even more is that he's spread all over the BBC -Live Aid, Breakfast Time, Children's Royal Variety Performance, The Noel Edmonds Late Late Breakfast Show, he even gets a go at hosting the Radio 1 Breakfast Show when Mike Read goes off for a few weeks at the end of June (and he'll take it over in 1986). So, who's senior out of this pair? Will it be a partnership of equals, or egos at ten paces?
Meanwhile, here's Frankie. The band of 1984. It's an understated performance by their standards. Holly Johnson looks like a top-heavy egg timer in a black uniform that flares wildly at the shoulders, is pulled in tight at the waist and then flares again into jodhpurs; plus peaked-cap, and gold braiding and piping. The rest of the band are sensibly dressed in black long-legged singlets. This produces a good laugh at the start of the performance as the camera pulls back across the stage. We see the band looking like they are all about to warm up for a drama class, before we catch sight of Holly Johnson dressed as the generalissimo of a particularly unstable dictatorship.

20/04/2020

Dream A Little Dream (1989) review


“They gave each other a smile with a future in it.” 
There are good films, bad films, strange films and challenging films.  Dream A Little Dream manages to be all of these. Released in 1989 it is a mixture of comedy, musical and fantasy it is almost impossible to bracket into a genre. Yet in its own way it is a fascinating example of a late Eighties movie aimed at younger viewers yet unlikely to engage them due to narrative ambitions above its station. The film was essentially built for teen stars Corey Feldman and Corey Haim who’d already starred together in the actually rather good Licence to Drive and had also appeared in cult classic The Lost Boys. Their images were plastered across teen magazines in the US though in the UK they were virtually unknown. The film also tried to tap into the then weirdly prevalent trend for movies in which young and old swap bodies by way of some fantasy mumbo jumbo though even then it is an atypical example of this sub- genre.


12/04/2020

Top of the Pops 14 Mar 1985


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Mike Smith: “Good evening. We have a great crowd in here tonight and some fabulous tunes. Welcome to Top of the Pops.” Gary Davies: “And making their debut on the show tonight with a great song called We Close Our Eyes, Go West.”

[16] Go West: We Close Our Eyes. I'm still on my YouTube adventure so this episode has more sources than HP. We start our journey with a file called Top of the Pops 14/3/85 p1.Excitingly, this starts with the (then) brand new BBC1 computer generated globe and the continuity announcer “Rodney's aspirations to become a rock star receive a fatal blow from brother Del in Only Fools and Horses which is why he's not appearing in Top of the Pops, introduced this evening by Mike Smith and Gary Davies”. Top of the Pops 14/3/85 p1 cuts out as Go West start singing. Disappointingly the only other copy of this performance was uploaded 10 years ago and the picture quality is blockier than a Lego set. It's recorded from an edition of TOTP2 so assorted POP FACTs start popping up on the screen. Thus we learn that “Birthday boy Peter Cox is 42 on Tuesday.” How does that work? Is always going to be 42 next Tuesday? And “The band didn't take their name from the Village People. And have nothing to do with cowboys” Who knew, everyone in Go West suffered from pistolpetaphobia.
Go West- We Close Our Eyes (except when its snowing)

09/04/2020

Skins Season Two

From the TWU archive vortex; first published in 2008.

Skins became one of 2007’s television talking points, surrounded by controversy, some manufactured, most of it based on inaccurate assumptions but it became a series television heads had an opinion about. The arguments ran roughly thus: it was a groundbreaking show that showed teen life today as it really is or it was pretentious, patronising and anyway teens didn’t watch, they preferred Hollydale. The truth probably lay somewhere in the middle - Skins’s first season, for all the fuss, was actually quite traditionally morally grounded and extremely well made with exactly the same care you’d expect from a period drama which in a way it is! Just that the period is this decade. Anecdotally teens do watch it in as much as teens watch any telly at all. The idea that it showed urban life as it is today is of course nonsense; no television programme ever could, but it could be said to show what life is like for a mixed bunch of Bristol based teens at least. And compared to the one note teen characters soap operas seem to offer, it is at least an attempt to identify to some extent with what is going on, particularly as most of the writers of the series are only in their 20s. Anyway, the problem with being a talking point is that expectations are ramped up for what comes next and this can affect the programme makers themselves. In other words, it’s the Difficult Second Series Syndrome. How do you top what’s made you a talking point in the first place?

07/04/2020

Space 1999- The Testament of Arkadia


A thoughtful, sombre episode concludes this first season ably demonstrating all of the show’s strengths (and weaknesses)in stylish fashion.  It is as portentous as you like yet also oddly intriguing dealing with big issues of life and destiny when an alien planet appears to cause the half Moon to stop in space and start to lose power. The Alphans have no choice but to try and find out how and why this is happening and their expedition makes some shocking discoveries. Presented with occasional voiceovers from Koenig `The Testament of Arkadia` is a fitting finale even if it declines to explain itself fully. Koenig professes to like a mystery so this is what we have.

05/04/2020

Top of the Pops 7 Mar 1985


These are unprecedented times and we must all “adopt, adapt, improve” (in the words of the Round Table Society). With that in mind we're going back through the mists of time, courtesy of a Youtube channel called Top Of The Pops- 80s who have just uploaded a 1985 edition of Top of the Pops which was spurned by my digital box for no good reason.

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. John Peel, “Hello we're the westenders and welcome to another Top of the Pops. It's a rather special Top of the Pops actually because it's Shakin' Stevens fiftieth birthday” Janice Long, “No. You've got it wrong. It's his fiftieth appearance on Top of the Pops. And it's Shakin' Stevens, well done mate, at number 15 Breaking Up My Heart.”

[15] Shakin' Stevens: Breaking Up My Heart. I've written before (ie, I can't remember when) about my surprise at the long chart shadow cast by Shakin' Stevens. In my memory he was always an early 80s phenomenon but here he is striding into the second half of the eighties like a denim-trousered colossus. The song is not vintage fifties pastiche Shaky, in fact it sounds like a Cliff Richards cast-off, but it is more upbeat than his previous single Teardrops. It's good to have back a more upbeat and mobile Shakin' Stevens back in the studio. He remembers to do the thing with his legs where he drops to his knees and springs back up, and he also gets bonus points for his comedy collapse at the end. Shakin' Stevens’ first Top of the Pops appearance came all the way back in the long ago time of 22/02/1980 when he appeared performing Hot Dog, sandwiched between Rainbow (All My Loving) and Blondie (Atomic).


02/04/2020

Ad Break#18 Fashion, Success and Phones


Argos - “I’m holding a duck” 
One of the things about lockdown is that more people might see some of the great adverts around plus you at least have to watch five seconds of them on YouTube. In fact the inspiration for this  irregular feature is that I realised the ideas and cleverness that go into ads often outshines the programmes they are in between. Here’s a case in point- a surreal Argos ad that pushes their established `so good you can wear it` concept to absurd new heights. Fronted by model and actress Suki Waterhouse it takes the company’s already established theme of ` so stylish you can wear it` to even more surreal places by taking the rise out of pretentious fashion ads.