13/10/2019

Space 1999 - Another Time, Another Place


A textbook example of how to create and present an episode, Johnny Byrne’s time twister proves to be absorbing and thought provoking all the way through. An unexplained space phenomena appears to create two Moons. The Alphans wake up in another solar system that looks mightily familiar and there’s the Earth- or is it? Like an episode from the original Star Trek this episode packs in so much more than just action and thanks to David Tomblin’s top class direction every nuance of the story is presented to fascinating effect. If some directors treat this sort of series as another job it really shows when someone takes that extra care. Tomblin emphasises the weirdness of the situation especially when one of the crew- Regina- is given to crazy episodes where she thinks she’s married to Alan Carter – and he’s dead. Cue some bemused looks from the head Eagle pilot. 

11/10/2019

Top of the Pops 4 Oct 1984


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Simon Bates: "Thursday night at Television Centre [indecipherable] Top of the Pops. It's so packed tonight I've forgotten who's on, Richard." Richard Skinner: "Tell you what. How about The Stranglers, Culture Club, and Adam Ant, live. Plus, in the studio now here are Bronski Beat and Why."
[4] Bronski Beat: Why? BBC4 skipped over September's final Top of the Pops because one of the hosts was Mike Smith. The result, on BBC4 at least, is that Bronksi Beat take pole position on two back-to-back editions.  The question everyone is asking is, what's the picture on the front of the vest worn by the stage right keyboard player? The picture on the vest of Larry Steinbachek (probably) is the cover of the single. An image of a man with his head in his hands by Glasgow artist Robert McAulay (thanks Wikipedia). Presumably the vest, and the t-shirt with the same picture Larry wore on the 20/09/1984 edition, were promotional material from London Records. This explains how Larry is able to wear a black t-shirt and two weeks later a black vest with the same picture without doing some pretty serious alterations; like Marge Simpson in the episode where she buys a Chanel suit. The stage left keyboard player (possibly the eponymous Bronski himself) has finally given in to his mum's nagging and put on the jumper his nan brought him last Christmas. She will be pleased. 

09/10/2019

Joker review


This is a difficult film to assess because it’s not clear what it is trying to achieve. Is it a study of mental decline and how there are never enough resources to deal with it? Is it an origin story for a well -known comic book character? Is it a serious art film sneaking into the mainstream under a populist masthead? Is it a gratuitously violent movie with little soul? Is it a vehicle for a performance which tilts knowingly for Oscar glory? Well it is all of these things at various points but never really coalesces into a particular direction. As for just being entertainment it is simply not a film anyone could surely enjoy in that way. In case you hadn’t twigged the title is ironic- there’s not a single laugh in it.
Spoilers past this point


04/10/2019

Top of the Pops 20 Sept 1984


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Andy Peebles: "Good evening. Hello and a very warm welcome to this week's edition of Top of the Pops." Steve Wright:"And we're going to kick off tonight's show with those Bronski Beat boys. Here they are with Why?!!"

[22] Bronski Beat: Why? Jimmy Somerville has taken a course in being a pop star. He's learned a whole new set of moves since Bronski Beat last appeared on the 07/06/1984 edition; he's mastered the art of crouching slightly to play to the low angled camera; he spins on the spot; he points; he pouts; he blows a kiss to the camera; and, perhaps sweetest of all, he beams with delight when he pulls of a dance move that gets whoops of approval from the audience.

It's just a shame he's decided to dress as blandly as possible in a beige shirt, daringly offset with beige trousers. If you want genuinely eighties style you'll need to point your eyes at the back of the stage where abstract graffiti-style shapes have been airbrushed onto a backcloth.

Bronkski Beat set tonight's trend. This edition of Top of the Pops is full of first class groups presenting slightly second class material. That said, the only reason to call Why? second class is because it's not Smalltown Boy.

02/10/2019

Space 1999- Ring Around the Moon & Earthbound


Ring Around the Moon
For an episode that presents such a big threat to the Alphans, `Ring Around The Moon` is not in the least bit exciting. Its threat is a huge glowing sphere from the planet Triton in which a large eye occasionally appears, and which goes about things with a methodical method that unfortunately means everything takes a long time to unfurl. At the same time all of the dialogue is very much technical and therefore a bit dull. All this made my attention wander as the umpteenth golden forcefield shimmied across space and I was drawn to the odd musical score employed for the episode. There’s mysticism, jazz, classical and fusion all chucked together as if someone who doesn’t normally do this sort of thing is assembling the incidental music. It is all the more noticeable as large chunks of the episode take place without any music at all. The only time the music seems to match the visuals is when we’re inside the sphere which also happens to be the most visually interesting aspect of the story too.

29/09/2019

Top of the Pops 6 Sep 1984


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. John Peel: "Hello and welcome to another Top of the Pops. I've got a bit of an explanation to do at the beginning of this one so..." Janice Long: "No but I was just going to...." John Peel: "Shut up. If you'd just be quiet a minute. What happened was that Bucks Fizz last week started their number and they go to the station and..." Janice Long: "To cut a long story short. Bucks Fizz."

[21] Bucks Fizz: Talking In Your Sleep. You need to go all the way back to 1981 and the 11/06/1981 edition to find the last time Bucks Fizz were considered a big enough draw to open Top of the Pops. On that occasion the song was Piece Of The Action, the follow up single to Making Your Mind Up. Viewers at the time wouldn't have noticed but watched back to back it's immediately obvious that the two performances of Talking In Your Sleep are identical. It's the same routine, performed on exactly the same stage, even some of the camera set ups are broadly similar (the production team probably reused the camera script to save time). I could believe this performance was recorded from the camera rehearsal for the 30/08/1984 show and simply edited across into this week's edition. It's only the camera pan from Janice Long and John Peel at the start that rules this out as an option.

The whole thing has an odd scent of contractual obligation about it. Were Bucks Fizz offered the chance to come back and open the next show as a way of smoothing ruffled egos? If they were, then why were they put back on the same stage to do the same dance routine? The end result looks like something negotiated by lawyers, although it almost certainly isn't.


Question two, what song got bumped so that Talking In Your Sleep could get a quick repeat? Not Malcolm McLaren's Madam Butterfly (Un Bel Di Vedremo), which is the highest climber of the week; up 17 places from 32 to 15. Madam Butterfly will be ignored by Top of the Pops. The same fate befell White Lines (Don't Do It) which never rated a mention during its seven week climb up the charts to number 7. Had Bucks Fizz not been back I think we'd have seen the video for Elton John's Passengers again, and Are You Ready? by Break Machine would have taken Passengers' place to be played out over the credits.

While I'm asking questions I can't answer, what was the plan for the live 30/08/1984 edition anyway? Presumably the train was expected to arrive during the video for I Called To Say I Love You which would have been easier to cut short.

27/09/2019

Space 1999 - Black Sun


For what is ostensibly an action orientated series aimed at a younger audience, `Black Sun` is a surprising diversion. David Weir’s screenplay clearly draws from the hippy mentality prevalent in late Sixties culture with its eventual message “everything is everything else” and takes a refreshingly philosophical angle on a potential disaster. Moonbase Alpha is being drawn into an enormous black Sun whose pull is liable to destroy it. “We’ll all be dead in three days” is Commander Koenig’s not exactly inspirational summary of the scenario. Victor Bergman however has other ideas, scribbling and thinking his way to a plan involving a forcefield that will use the base’s anti gravity towers as its tentpoles. “It looks like fish scales” someone says improbably. If the first section of the episode leans heavily on the hardware and mechanics that might save them, matters become more interesting when other aspects are introduced.

25/09/2019

What does ruby chocolate taste like?


In 2017 it was announced that there are now four types of chocolate.  Joining milk, dark and white is ruby. According to the website of its originator Barry Callebaut, a Belgian- Swiss cocoa company “Ruby offers an intense sensorial delight, a totally new taste experience: neither bitter, milky or sweet, but a tension of fresh berry fruitiness and luscious smoothness.” Others have described it as having intense fruitiness as well as fresh and sour notes. Ruby chocolate is not, as some have imagined, just another flavoured chocolate but is made from an existing cocoa bean variety that can be processed into a distinctive taste. In truth such a new product should already have created more waves than it has but its existence is not that widely known. When I mentioned it at work amongst colleagues who between them know about most subjects raised nobody else had even heard of it.