Years and Years Episodes 2 and 3 reviews

The tone of this series may appear bleak- and certainly this episode’s main developments are that- yet the spark of humanity shines through. Set in the year after the nuclear explosion that ended the first episode it initially shows the Lyons getting on with life despite what happened. Yet peppered throughout are signs of a nastier, uglier society that proves to be the perfect platform for the political rise of Vivienne Rook. Emma Thomson makes great work of the role, the character’s fake sincerity and ability to play to the lowest common denominator is a trait we’ve seen from many a politician. It’s authentic but also a bit worrying how easily swayed crowds of people are. Recent events have clearly inspired her creation- there’s a whiff of Farage and even Trump about her notably when her lack of knowledge about tariffs is exposed at the hustings for a local election. Yet she bounces back with another of the series’ future tech ideas- and who knows the Blink as it’s called may well be in development today.


Top of the Pops 10 May 1984

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. David Jensen: "Well hi there and welcome again to Top of the Pops. Hey! Long time no see." John Peel: "Yes it's been a long time since we last did the programme. Fact there's been a lot of changes. These days he's John Peel and I'm Kid Jensen." David Jensen: "And this is Belle and here's The Devotions."
[12] Belle & The Devotions: Love Games. John Peel is right, it's been nine weeks since the pair last presented Top of the Pops, 01/03/1984. They were scheduled to present the 05/04/1984 show which was sacrificed to resolve the scene shifters strike. The Top of the Pops presenters schedule like the Mayan calendar cannot be easily altered and once Peel and Jensen lost their April slot they just had to wait for the next epoch to roll round. David Jensen kept the wolf from the door with a Radio 4 documentary. Soundings, in which he probed the morals of young church goers to see if they are "different from the public statements of the churches they attend." Fascinating, please tell me more at 6.15pm on 29th April 1984. (John- Or; look there’s some wet paint drying right over there) What was John Peel doing during this nine week lost weekend? The best he could look forwards to was a Roundtable in the Radio 1 Roadshow caravan at Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds. Part of the Radio 1 in East Anglia season in which a bevy of DJs looked east and travelled round Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, and wherever Bury St Edmonds is; in the second week of March*.
Belle & The Devotions are fresh from their triumphant seventh place victory in groovy metropolitan wind-swept Luxembourg. Sweden won with a song called Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley. Belle & The Devotions placed lower than a band from Denmark called Hot Eyes which sounds like a medical complaint.(John btw it came seventh in the Eurovision Song Contest and this was seen as a disappointment. Cripes! We'd love a seventh place finish now!)


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.


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! 


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!


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."


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. 


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.


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 clich├ęs 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.


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.