22/05/2019

Rocketman review


How to take the career of one of pop’s most flamboyant performers and bottle it in a format that will fit in a two hour movie is no small feat. Well, Dexter Fletcher’s done it. His dazzling, exciting take on the legend that is Elton John is such a good film that it left me with the idea of seeing it again. And that doesn’t happen often. Eschewing a year by year career trajectory (there are great leaps, ardent fans might find them too great) or even musical continuity (the story stops in 1983 but there are songs from beyond then) Fletcher and writer Lee Hall instead make magic. They use the basic facts, the essence of the story and fashion what early promotion called “a true fantasy”. Course, if you don’t actually like Elton’s music this is perhaps not the film for you but you still might be surprised. For those of us who do those songs are deployed with precision – and often in surprising ways- to support the narrative. It definitely takes more chances than Bohemian Rhapsody -with which it is inveitably going to be compared- and they pay off in a big way.

20/05/2019

Ad Break #12 Aspirational Ads


Amstel- Bringing people together? 
These days an increasing number of companies like to be seen as being on the right side of issues that are consuming public interest so adverts are becoming more idealistic and aspirational. Like for example why can’t we bring more people together in this divided world? If that sounds an unlikely ambition for a drink, then the link between bridges and beer is even more tenuous but Amstel’s latest advert features no less an icon than Jeff Bridges to convince us otherwise. Appropriately enough he portrays a bridge! 


17/05/2019

Years and Years Episode 1 review


It takes a bold writer to pen a tale that starts right now (with a voiceover adding headlines from the day it was broadcast!) then unfurls into the near future and that’s at the kernel of Russell T Davies’ new drama. It seems an audacious idea simply because things never tend to roll out the way sci-fi authors say they will. Being one of the best tv writers though, RTD skims neatly over too many specifics taking the tone of modern British society and presenting increasingly extreme versions of it. Make no mistake this is a sci-fi series alright but not the type you might expect from someone who spent five years at the helm of Doctor Who. The nearest neighbour is probably Humans. What it does take from all of RTD’s previous work is the focus on families which allows an across the board look at how different generations respond to events. And what events these are. From the moment outspoken entrepreneur Vivienne Rook (an acidic Emma Thompson) utters the f-word on Question Time we are hooked. Lets face it sooner or later someone will actually do that. Rook’s rise to public attention is marbled throughout the episode even though she only appears on tv footage. Rook becomes, by a turn of events shown over the next five years, the symbol of what is wrong with the world today. Her knee jerk response to a question about the Middle East elicits controversy but also support. By the end she’s forming her own political party the wrily titled Four Star Party, the moniker based on the standard way the press report a swear word!



15/05/2019

Top of the Pops 3 May 1984


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Steve Wright: "Good evening!! Welcome to another Top of the Pops with me and 'im!!" Mike Read: "That's right. We're going to kick off tonight with Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. This is a great track, Locomotion." 
[6] O.M.D. :Locomotion. Michael Hurll is contractually obliged to bring back Steve Wright for the second of his six appearances this year. I've got no idea what the criteria are for using Radio 1 DJs on Top of the Pops. A quick glimpse at the schedules for week beginning Monday 30th April 1984 suggests the only name missing from the regular weekday roster is Adrian John.
He presented the antisocial 6am to whatever-time-the-big-name-breakfast-show-host-can-be-bothered-to-get-into-the-studio show; in 1984 this was Mike Read (7am) but sometimes the start of the breakfast show drifted back to 8am. Adrian John appears to have held a death grip on this slot and hosted it more or less constantly from 1982 to 1993 before he packed it in to spend more time with his pillow.
Presumably the only thing stopping Adrian John from hosting Top of the Pops was the logistics of getting up stupidly early in the morning the next day. He does crop up on a few editions (normally the big party ones hosted by multiple DJs), watch out for the pale exhausted bloke propping his eyes open with matchsticks. Adrian John is not to be confused with Adrian Juste who hosted a weekly Sunday radio show, and is absent from Top of the Pops because he's terrible.Meanwhile, here's O.M.D. Andy McCluskey has worked out a Flick Colby-esque literal interpretation of the lyrics. How many can you spot? There's a sliding hand gesture for "walk down the sidewalk," a scurrying motion for "run down the boardwalk," wobbly hand wave for "sail across the seaways," and a brilliantly corny point-into-the-camera for "can't say no [POINTS] to you."


13/05/2019

Primeval - New World


This Canadian produced series takes the premise of its UK predecessor and is able to make use of the more interesting locations of North America. Some things have not changed- the dinosaurs mostly pop up one a time and there are plenty of scares and near misses. The gore quotient is slightly higher and the language more ripe as this is aimed at a wider audience, not just a family one like the original was. To bridge the gap Connor Temple pops up in the opening and final episodes though in the first one he makes only oblique references as to why he is there which probably baffled most of the audience. Instead of having government involvement behind the operation the series initially portrays billionaire  software developer Evan Cross as pursuing a personal fascination with the anomalies. A handy flashback sequence in the opener tells us his wife died at the claws of a visiting dinosaur and this is what spurs him on. 

08/05/2019

Top of the Pops 26 Apr 1984


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Janice Long: "Hello. Welcome to Top of the Pops. Isn't it hot? We've got some great stuff tonight. Duran Duran and Echo and the Bunnymen. Simon Bates: "And what's more we're live from Studio 6 at Television Centre and to prove it here's Sandie Shaw with The Smiths and Hand In Glove."

[36] Sandie Shaw & The Smiths: Hand In Glove. The Smiths? What, as in Morrissey and Johnny Marr? Apparently yes. Who'd have thunk it? Apparently the pair approached Sandie Shaw as fans and after some persuasion here she is covering The Smiths' first single live on Top of the Pops. With some bonus writhing on the floor, for reasons that never become clear. The band are barefoot because that's how Sandie Shaw used to perform in the sixties. Well, Marr and Andy Rourke are barefoot. I'm going to take it on trust that the drummer is also is unshod. Meanwhile, Morrissey gets the night off.

Simon Bates is bursting with the news that tonight's show is live and coming from studio TC6. He can't believe it when Janice Long misses this vital information out from her introduction. All she wants to do is talk about how warm the weather has been over Easter 1984. Quite how Sandy Shaw appearing with The Smiths proves that Top of the Pops is live is anyone's guess.

06/05/2019

Mortal Engines review


This high octane adaptation of Philip Reeve’s novel ticks a lot of cinematic boxes so it is puzzling as to why it ended up faring so poorly. Its been called a “steampunk Star Wars” (and worse) but Mortal Engines is not the dud its been made out to be, at least as far as I’m concerned. It looks fantastic, it provides plenty of thrills and spills and the setting is an interesting one. Yet somehow the film didn’t chime with the public which is a shame as my feeling at the end of it is that I’d have liked to see a sequel. Certainly this depiction of a dystopian world in the aftermath of a terrible `Sixty Minute` war avoids the usual clichés instead depicting what remains of the city of London. This version of the city though runs along on huge wheels swallowing up smaller wheeled towns like a predator, salvaging what it can and integrating the people into its own. Where it not written long before the word Brexit was invented you could mistake it for some sort of allegory about the issue though it certainly has something to say about our capital city. I’m sure the novel probably goes further in detailing the parallels because losing sovereignty of a city or even ideas is very much what the story is about. That this version of London is depicted as a ravenous beast that can never get enough resources from smaller towns to keep it moving certainly rings a bell! Someone does actually declare “we should never have entered Europe” when fuel is running low so perhaps this an early version of the Brexit debate (the story was published in 2001) but turned on its head. Here it’s not Europe that’s the problem – it’s London.


03/05/2019

The Spoiler Alert Tag


This has been a tricky week for those of us who prefer not to know important plot developments before they are showing in a film or tv series. We’ve had Avengers Endgame, a crucial Game of Thrones episode and the latest twists in Line of Duty. It is actually more difficult than you imagine to avoid spoilers because they can pop up in the most unexpected ways. You might avoid entertainment sites, social media and work conversations only to overhear someone walking past say “I thought Milo’s death from the top of the tower was shocking..” and there you go. You’ve followed Milo’s plot for six years, through highs and lows and now you know he falls off the tower. Can you even watch the next episode of Flugelhorn Warriors the same way? It’s all over. Aaaaarrrghhhh.

29/04/2019

Avengers Endgame review


The pre- release hype for Avengers Endgame has been quite intense and avoiding spoilers even more so. It is hard to recall a superhero film that has such a weight of expectation sitting on its shoulders not to mention multiple suggestions as to just how that cliffhanger at the end of Infinity War might be resolved.  Like a lot of you I re-watched that movie a few days back but did not predict what happens. Of course such situations can end up meaning people are disappointed only because they’ve built up a scenario on their head. So does it live up to all the heady anticipation? Well let’s see shall we, as ever, after the spoiler warning…
MEGA SPOILERS IF YOU CLICK ONTO THE REST OF THE REVIEW! 

24/04/2019

Top of the Pops 19 Apr 1984


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Singers: "Freeeee, Nelson Mandela. Freeeee. Freeeee. Free, free, free Nelson Mandeeeeelaa." Peter Powell: "Hi and welcome to a live transmission of Top of the Pops! It's absolutely packed! We've got Queen and also Thompson Twins!" Gary Davies: "We've got Blancmange and err [waves hand] we've got Nick Kershaw. We've got great music. Stick around. First though, to get us under way, the err Special AKA."

Top of the Pops time slip: Last time on BBC4 it was 29th March. Suddenly it's 19th April. What happened? The strike by Scenic Services workers came to a head on 4th April after 12 weeks of disruption. The BBC's policy had been to keep live programmes going and accept disruption to recorded ones, which might account for the escalation of live editions of Top of the Pops since the move to the smaller emergency strike studio; four out of six shows This policy changed at the start of April when striking workers were sacked and staff at Television Centre walked out in sympathy. BBC1 went off the air for 24 hours on Thursday 5th April but the union did not have the resources for a prolonged strike and the dispute came quickly to an end. BBC4 skipped Top of the Pops' triumphant return to its ancestral seat (studio TC8) for more prosaic reasons (D*v* L** Tr*v*s) and suddenly it's Maundy Thursday 1984.


21/04/2019

Ad Break#11 Acceptable in the Seventies


Three odd Seventies ad campaigns. 
 “I’m a Gnu
Typhoo. Gnu. It’s such an obvious rhyme when you think about it. This is the way people thought in the 70s.  Launched in 1903 and named after the Chinese word for `Doctor`, Typhoo always had a witty way with slogans and as far as  can be ascertained the company chose to use a Gnu simply because it rhymed with their distinctive moniker. The series of ads were animated and featured a very civilised Gnu extolling the worthiness of the product. The song accompanying them was an adaptation of a ditty composed by Flanders and Swan, a comedy duo popular in the 1950s and 60s. 

17/04/2019

Space Time Telegraph- The blog about classic Doctor Who


If you’re a fan of classic Doctor Who that ran from 1963 to 1989 then check out my other blog Space Time Telegraph. You’ll find reviews and features on various aspects of the series and its fandom. Some of you will know this used to be a wider Doctor Who blog that ran for 3 years till it was stopped at the end of last year. Originally I thought of maybe putting the best posts into a book but there is so much visual material that an online format seems the best way to present it.

I’ve taken out all the posts about modern Doctor Who to turn Space Time Telegraph into a resource for the classic series. I’m not re-activating it on a regular basis so don’t expect new posts regularly but there will be occasional updates as and when I have stuff to put on there. Meanwhile reviews or articles concerning the modern series will be posted here. In terms of new releases of old stuff they will go onto STT so I’ve moved the recent `Macra Terror` review onto there for completism. This change in no way suggests I’ve given up on modern Doctor Who, merely that it’s taken this long for me to work out how best both blogs can work to complement each other. I am now handing the Terranium Core to Mavic Chen. Here you go, Mav. 





15/04/2019

Top of the Pops 29 Mar 1984


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Mike Read: "Hello flower people." Andy Peebles: "Hi. Good evening and welcome to another action packed edition of Top of the Pops. Mike Read: "That's right. Number 29 this week, great track from The Special AKA Free Nelson Mandela." 
[29] The Special AKA: Free Nelson Mandela. The limitations of the emergency strike studio cause a problem when The Special AKA turn up with too many people. They have to spread over two stages. Four singers are on one side of the studio and the band are crammed onto a tiny stage opposite. It ends up working really well and gives the camera operators lots of opportunities for good shots; including one looking across the studio with the band in the foreground, the audience in the middle, and the singers in the background nicely framed against the black cyclorama. Some of the audience are confused about where to look. Do you watch the band or the singers? The consensus seems to favour the four singers. They are on a higher stage so they must be more important. The Quantel box gets pressed into action a couple of times with a comet trails effect. It keeps the vision mixers busy. Yes, mixers, two of them are credited; Angela Wilson and Bill Morton. Let's hope the studio gallery isn't as cramped as the stage or everyone will be jammed in like The Special AKA. No wonder Michael Hurll has chosen this week to go on holiday. John Bishop grabs the producer's credit. 

14/04/2019

Review Round Up- Endeavour S6, Anna & the Apocalypse, Inside the Factory


Though at first it seemed like an unnecessary addendum to a franchise that had already continued beyond the demise of its principal character Endeavour has turned out to be quite a gem. Its 1960s setting allows for it to be both historical and have contemporary resonances within a decade rich with storytelling potential. As well as this it has two leads whose performances are amongst the best in tv today. While Morse enthusiasts no doubt scour every episode for links and references to the original series (of which apparently there are several) many of us simply enjoy the quality of the stories, setting and acting. Even the fact that our knowledge of the original series tells us that several characters are clearly not in mortal danger doesn’t detract from the tense scenarios writer Russell Lewis dreams up. 

12/04/2019

Shazam! review


In this lively addition to DC’s otherwise serious catalogue of superheroes we find out what happens when a fourteen year old boy becomes an adult man of many powers simply by shouting “Shazam!” It’s not actually his name as it goes; in fact the film is amusingly peppered with potential namesbut for obvious legal reasons he can’t really be called Captain Marvel as he was named in the original comics. The premise is reminscent of those Eighties bodyswap movies- and there’s a little homage to Big included – only with super powers. And it’s great fun!

Spoilers from hereon..

07/04/2019

Primeval Season 3


First published 2009. Words by Tim Worthington. When your big list of Things You Need To Write is headed 'SATURDAY - DINOSAURS', it can mean one of only three things - either that there's been a strange resurgence of interest in Simpsons-riffing early nineties Jim Henson-sponsored puppet satire Dinosaurs, or that it's time yet again to scoff at Jon Pertwee's vehicular vanity and complain about one of the most intelligent and thought-provoking Doctor Who scripts ever being rendered a laughing stock by 'special' effects that were lazy and rushed and generally rubbish even for 1974, or something that falls somewhere between the two. Ish. Yes, Primeval is back, and in the grand tradition of evolution it's looking like a very different show these days...

05/04/2019

Top of the Pops 22 Mar 1984


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Peter Powell: "Hey everybody! Welcome to another edition of Top of the Pops! It's Janice and I!" Janice Long: "Hey do you realise that this is the first time that -uh- we've done it together. In the show tonight people like Culture Club, Sade, and UB40." Peter Powell: "And a new number one! But for starters this is Depeche Mode! And People! Are! People!"

[29] Depeche Mode: People Are People. Depeche Mode have discovered the joys of hitting things with other things; there's a cymbal, a tom-tom, some sort of a-frame with dangling pipes, and a piece of corrugated iron with the word PUS sprayed on it. Experts in hitting things with different things will know that the word PUS makes all the difference to the sound of corrugated iron. The song's lyrics are sparse. It's almost as if they're a flimsy excuse to cobble together a song from exciting industrial noises. Keep an eye on the male dancer behind the band. What is he doing? It's almost robot dancing (appropriate) but he keeps hitting odd exaggerated poses. It's as if he's simultaneously invented walking like an Egyptian and Voguing several years early.

03/04/2019

Robin Hood review


In this lively, tightly edited action film, the familiar Robin Hood tale is refashioned as a revolutionary saga set almost entirely in the city rather than the woodland. We don’t see Sherwood Forest until the last couple of minutes of what is clearly intended to be the first movie in a new franchise. Poor box office and even poorer critical response means sequels look unlikely which is a pity as there are interesting foundations here. Critics are odd- if they like a film any similarities to other movies are declared to be interpretations or ` a new spin` or a homage. If they don’t like it such touches are dismissed as theft or lack of imagination. So while both direction and editing do bring to mind Guy Richie and Christopher Nolan this is a good thing. And if the idea of bows and arrows sounds a bit low key these days then this is the way to present them.

31/03/2019

Are referendums a good or bad thing?


Whatever happens with Brexit there is one lesson future Prime Ministers might take from the whole thing and that is never to have a referendum about anything again. On the other hand consider this- would it be a good idea to have a lot more of them? The way we have them now in the UK a referendum is at best a snapshot of how people feel at that moment.  With the EU one for example there’s a lot of focus on whether those who voted Leave would now choose Remain but there may equally be traffic in the other direction. If you were able to have a vote each week the result could fluctuate wildly but the point is that such important decisions should not be made on a snapshot. They require far more finesse, analysis and planning than that which is why we’re in the mess we’re in now.  If somehow there was a second referendum on the EU I reckon the Leave vote would be even higher simply because so many people are just fed up with the whole thing!

24/03/2019

Top of the Pops 8 Mar 1984


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Gary Davies: "Hi. How you doing? And welcome to Top of the Pops. Live Thursday night and the show tonight brought to you in black [points to Richard Skinner who is wearing a black shirt] and white [points to self, in white shirt].
Richard Skinner: What a great chart this week. Loads of new entries. We have the best of those nen...entries on the show. First, Phil Fearon, Galaxy."
[27] Phil Fearon & Galaxy: What Do I Do? Top of the Pops has gradually cranked up the number of live editions; three in 1981; 10 in 1982; 11 in 1983. This edition is the fifth live show of 1984 and in total there will be 23 across the year. Expanding the number of live programmes also means expanding the number of hosts who can be trusted not to disgrace themselves on prime time BBC1. John Peel, David Jensen, and Simon Bates have been the preferred live hosts, but now Mike Read, Mike Smith, Janice Long, Richard Skinner, and probably a few more, are added to the roster. Steve Wright has noticeably not been asked to front a live edition. Michael Hurll really doesn't seem to like him.
It's carnival night in the Top of the Pops emergency strike studio. That means free maracas for everyone, flouncy dresses for some of the female cheerleaders, and, erm, what appear to be UFO style string vests for some of the men. Footage from the Rio carnival is projected onto the big screen behind the band and at one point the caption "UNIAO DA ILHA" flashes along the bottom of the footage. Perhaps the footage is taken from Carnival in Rio with Anne Nightingale and Ivan Lessa [20/01/1983]. Alas my schoolboy Portuguese is inadequate to the task of translating the various websites that come up after a Google search of this enigmatic phrase.  (Portugese John- Apparently it means `Union of the Island`.)  A previously rehearsed spontaneous conga line forms at the end of the song. The spirit of Flick Colby still hovers over the Top of the Pops studio.

15/03/2019

Captain Marvel review


There have been so many superhero origin movies now that it’s becoming difficult to put a new spin on it though Captain Marvel mostly manages to do so. Even if some of the scenarios are familiar there’s a breeziness that tacks closer to Guardians of the Galaxy than to Batman. With events unfolding at quite a speed there are not many slower, quieter moments which may be why some critics have described the results as “middling” or “generic”. In terms of the Marvel canon its far better than that even if it can’t quite reach the intelligence of Black Panther or the high octane thrills of Avengers- Infinity War. Coming in their wake it instead represents a fresh start down a new road.
Warning- Spoilers past this point.

13/03/2019

Slaughterhouse Rulez review


The first film from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s production company is a mixture of horror-comedy, public school manners and anti -fracking parable. If that sounds like an unlikely brew, it actually works well albeit with a few editing and character issues. Slaughterhouse public school luxuriates in its own grounds and woodlands; in the latter a fracking operation has begun disturbing the ground and whatever is living underneath them. Through new starter Northern lad Don (Finn Cole) we discover the sort of harsh, humiliating ritual you might expect from such an establishment, probably drawn from director and co- writer Crispian Mills’ own experiences at Stowe boarding school where alot of this film was shot.  A sign of Mills’ aspirations for the film might be a photo of Malcolm McDowell from the iconic If… spotted early on and while this film is also something of a hybrid of genres it’s a different beast.

11/03/2019

Why has St Patrick’s Day become a drinkathon?


We don’t seem to bother much with St David’s Day. A lot of people don’t even know when St Andrew’s Day is. And if there is some suggestion that we should do more to celebrate St George's Day it is met with a collective intake of breath and response that the English don’t do that sort of thing. Yet there’s at least one night when we do. St Patrick’s Day has become a byword for alcoholic excess. It’s the evening when everyone is suddenly Irish and this alone is an excuse to down ten pints of Guinness, drape yourself in an Irish flag and behave as if its Xmas and New Year on the same day! Why has this happened and who the jiggins was St Patrick anyway? 

10/03/2019

Top of the Pops 1 Mar 1984


Watched by Chris Arnsby. John Peel: "Hello and welcome to another Top of the Pops, and in this week's programme I can promise you nothing French. No French farmers. No French truck drivers. And no French football." David Jensen: Merci mon ami rhythmic. Et maintenant c'est Matt Bianco avec la mélodie Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed."
[17] Matt Bianco: Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed. Top of the Pops is broadcasting from another emergency strike studio. A smaller one. Last week's studio had three stages, this one only has two. Belts are being tightened.  John Peel's anti-French rant is due to France's 2-0 victory over England at the Parc de Princes stadium on Wednesday, rather than too much time spent listening to Mike Read in the Radio 1 canteen.
Mention of the Wednesday football raises the question, is this edition live? There's no reason why it shouldn't be. BBC Genome certainly thinks so, and John Peel and David Jensen are normally given the live shows, but it's unusual for the hosts not to mention the live status. I don't know if disruption from the Scenic Services workers strike could have caused a shift to pre-recording the show. The link from John Peel and David Jensen's introduction to Matt Bianco makes the show look pre-recorded (it's a cut from the hosts to the band via a Quantel effect where a live show would normally try and do a seamless camera move) but this could simply be a limitation of the studio space.
Incidentally, the French for Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed is Sortez de Votre Lit Paresseux.

06/03/2019

Ad Break#10 Cows, Birds and Pigs!


Muller Quark Yoghurt- “Yes, baby yes!”
Have you ever heard of Quark?  Here’s me thinking it was an elemental particle and a key constituent of matter but here’s erstwhile Pussycat Doll and X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger to tell me it’s an ingredient in the very latest Muller product Quark Yoghurt. We find her in a “secret Alpine village” sporting a milk maid’s costume. She is positively giddy about this product which, she tells us, combines Quark and Yoghurt (obvs) to create, erm, Quark Yoghurt. “Its so creamy”, she declares, “Its…” “Mooollerlicious” booms a passing cow. Covering more or less all the Alpine cliches you can think of the ad certainly leaves an impression even if the product looks as if it might double as putty in an emergency. 

04/03/2019

Primeval Season 2

(Originally published in 2008) The first season started shakily but hit its stride with the latter trio of episodes and an end of season twister that had us pondering all year. Given a second season halfway through the first run, it also has the confidence of ITV behind it which counts for a lot. Yet watching the second, slightly longer season, there is a sense that the series is still playing safe. Visually it can hardly be faulted, with longer more exciting action sequences, excellent FX and a neat line in surprises. Where it remains underdeveloped however is in the characterisation. No amount of mind bending plot turns can obscure how little some of the people at the centre of this series make us care about them. Some attempts have been made this year to attend to this weakness but it remains and manifests itself in meaningless arguments and characters doing things for no apparent reason. Also, while Primeval can surprise it has yet to take our breath away with something as jaw dropping as some of last year’s Doctor Who to use an obvious but pertinent example. And, while we’re comparing consider how sophisticated ideas are drip fed into the rival series like seeds that grow whereas Primeval chucks away its best ideas in an offhand manner.

27/02/2019

Top of the Pops 23 Feb 1984


Watched by Chris Arnsby. Mike Read: "Due to an industrial dispute we're doing tonight's Top of the Pops live from the canteen at the BBC." Janice Long: "Oh thanks, I'll have a cup of tea. We've got some great stuff in the show people like Carmel, and Nik Kershaw, and this lot over here. It's Hot Chocolate at number 28."
[28] Hot Chocolate: I Gave You My Heart (Didn't I?). A strike? At the BBC? Yes, it's true. The BBC was seeking to change pay and conditions in the Scenic Services department and decreed that changes would be implemented on 14th February 1984 with or without the agreement of the unions. The deadline passed, Scenic Services workers walked out and the strike spread. Even Blue Peter was affected (*clutches pearls in horror*) and you can see a lovely clip here https://twitter.com/BBCFOUR/status/883025323243253760
This edition of Top of the Pops is coming from a smaller studio and the scenery has been assembled in a haphazard way. Mike Read and Janice Long stand in front of a photographic enlargement from the title sequence. The neon logo is present but it's jammed between scenery units from another stage. Lights are hung from a lower ceiling, or from scaffolding off to one side. The audience are packed in more tightly because there is less space for them, and less space for cameras. The rigid walls of neon lights that made a definite edge to the performance space have gone and once again Top of the Pops looks like it's coming from a black void rather than a television studio. If I'm honest, I like the way it looks. The band stages seem a lot lower, and the audience intrude on shots more that they do in the usual studio.
There's a brilliant long shot Errol Brown. The audience are clapping their hands over their heads and because the camera is focused on Errol the hands (and balloons, and flags) become weird soft-focus shapes in the foreground. Frustratingly I can't grab a good still image to illustrate the effect. In motion it looks great. In still form it looks as if Errol is being attacked by an out of focus octopus.

22/02/2019

The Kid Who Would Be King review


A modern take on the King Arthur story delivers lively results in Joe Cornish’s long anticipated follow up to the brilliant Attack The Block. Aimed mostly at a slightly younger audience it nonetheless contains enough of interest for all ages harking back to simpler times when pure adventure was about heroic deeds, inspiring words plus an essential sprinkling of magic. These days it seems like a preferable option. 


Spoilers past this point…

20/02/2019

Top of the Pops 16 Feb 1984


Watched by Chris Arnsby. Peter Powell: "On video we've got The Thompson Twins, in the studio we've got The Style Council, we've got Matt Bianco, and Nena but for starters this is Slade and Run Runaway!" Simon Bates: [laughs].

[34] Slade: Run Runaway. Recently I watched an old episode of Crown Court (this is going somewhere, honest) in which Roy Marsden played a shop manager wearing a floral-patterned, grey-green, shirt with hideous matching fabric tie. The combination was so criminal he should have been immediately sent down for 20 years hard labour with no possibility of parole. Fortunately he wasn't the defendant. He was there to give evidence. I haven't thought about Crown Court since before it ended in 1984, whenever I was last off from school sick and lounging in front of the television with a Lemsip. Despite that, in the moment between hitting play and the theme, I realised I could make a reasonable stab at singing the tune. It had lodged itself deep in the recesses of my memory. Here comes the point. Run Runaway had exactly the same effect. I don't know how long it's been since I last heard this song but it popped into my memory fully formed. Even the cheerfully nonsensical lyrics about chameleons. It's a great song and a terrific way to start the show.

18/02/2019

The World is Flat....


It is remarkable that in an era that has brought us fake news, an actual proven and obvious fact is apparently now being questioned by an increasing number of people. In the past couple of years there has been a considerable rise in the number of so called Flat Earthers who believe the world is not round but flat and presumably if you sail too far you’ll tumble over the edge into some inky void. As far as I can tell there’s no Inky Void Cruise available. This trend comes despite the proliferation of photographic and filmed evidence showing the Earth from above that has been taken by countless space missions. It is a rather unfortunate coincidence that this year also sees the fiftieth anniversary of the first Moon landing (which of course some people believe was faked). It says something about our thinking that in the half century since that `giant leap` we’ve shifted from marvelling at the wonder of space to questioning the shape of the planet.