Top of the Pops 12 July 1984

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Tommy Vance: "Hi there, welcome to Top of the Pops. We've got loads of bands in the studio tonight. Haven't we John?" John Peel: "We certainly have and we're going to start the show with Shakatak and my mate Bill Sharpe wearing yet another truly hideous shirt."

[33] Shakatak: Down On The Street. Yes that shirt's pretty vile but it's only on the fringe of a nasty head on collision between unremarkable jazz funk, terrible fashion, and the eighties in general. The lead singer comes off worst. Big hair, padded shoulders, giant earrings... and that was just the teachers! No, sorry, that's not the right punchline. Just how close was the relationship between John Peel and "his old mate" Bill Sharpe? Shakatak appeared on Top of the Pops 9 times between 1982 and 1984, and three of those shows were hosted by John Peel. A Peel Factor of 33%. Is that statistically significant? I don't know. There's never a statistician around when you need one. 
Shakatak- I don't know what you mean about the hair.


Midsomer Murders - Talking to the Dead

The Midsomer Murders episode `Talking to the Dead` was recently shown on ITV3 as part of that channel’s seemingly endless trawl through the ITV detective archive and what a splendid episode it is. It takes a series of incidents that could easily nestle into a horror film and runs them past the viewer who, if you go with it, will enjoy it tremendously. Its not social commentary we might be familiar with but it taps into rural superstitions and folklore. First shown in 2009, events are vividly realised by director Sarah Hellings’ use of shots of creaking trees at every opportunity and a pale palette that brings out the autumnal. Its the time of year when all Midsomer Murders should really be made and the perfect setting for a tale of a supposedly haunted woods and a pile up of several bodies announced in gruesome style. One of the signatures of the series used to be (they’ve cut back on this more recently) that it ventured as near as it could to fantasy before explaining the melodrama in practical terms. This episode does is as well as any.


The Best Song about the Moon

Of course there are many, many songs that reference the Moon but most of them are not actually about the Moon at all. The one that springs to mind right away is the classic `Fly Me To The Moon`, a misleading title if ever there was one as Frankie is not instructing a pilot to actually carry out that task rather he is simply using it as a metaphor. His demeanour might have been far less cool had someone actually attempted to fly him to the Moon!  There’s old grumpy chops Van Morrison’s assertion that it’s a wonderful night for a `Moondance` but it is just too difficult to imagine him dancing. `The Whole of the Moon`, The Waterboys’ epic tribute to Prince takes its name from one of many comparisons writer Mike Scott makes between himself and the Purple one- “I saw the crescent, you saw the whole of the Moon”. And we have to mention `Dark Side of the Moon`, the best selling Pink Floy opus yet this once again uses the Moon as a symbol in a work about fulfilment or sanity (or otherwise). On the other hand the much less epic `Sleeping Satellite` sung by Tasmin Archer is actually about the Moon and not just that, it’s about the Apollo missions. Even more impressively it laments the ending of the missions and expresses the hope that they will one day resume. That’s quite an achievement for a chart topping single. 


Moonbase 3 Episodes 4 - 6

Eloquently written and elegantly presented, `Outsiders` really taps into the possibilities that surely inspired the creation of the series. So far we’ve had characters defined by either their strengths or weaknesses yet lacking a certain human touch. There’s been little levity or sense of what these people really think. John Brason- who also wrote the strong episode `Behomoth` - puts this to rights with an effective and sometimes affecting narrative centred around a couple of researchers who prove to be the outsiders of the title. John Hallam plays Peter Conway, already seen in earlier episodes whose ground breaking creation of a `foam metal` reaches a successful conclusion. We’ve already seen how he enjoyed spreading rumours of a moon beast a couple of episodes back and here he is a distant, thoughtful soul whose scientific achievements seem increasingly less important to him. In fact the very idea of scientific progress seems to disappoint him. He yearns for a simpler life and in one telling scene simply looks through the base’s much in demand telescope just to look. He wants a truth that is deeper and wider than just scientific truth. John Hallam shows this with a perfectly pitched performance looking so naturalistic it shows up some of his cast mates who are still in the irritated mode we’ve seen thus far.


Moonbase 3 Episodes 1 - 3

As if masterminding the successful 1970-74 period of Doctor Who was not enough, in 1973 Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts also devised a more serious sci- fi show Moonbase 3. Instead of adventures and monsters, this series was intended to take a different tack heading into the future. It certainly depicts a more believable scenario than ITV’s Space 1999 eschewing fantasy for a more straight laced depiction of life in an isolated environment. It’s a premise you could run with now, probably more successfully, however back then this series’ initial six episodes were its only ones. Somehow it never took off with viewers in 1973 who given the pedigree involved were probably expecting aliens and space plagues. Even Terrance Dicks later acknowledged they “overdid the grimness and forgot about the sense of wonder that science fiction is all about.” Yet when you watch it, while the pace is certainly slow there is lots going on and out of the six episodes at least three are good enough to be considered alongside the best of UK 1970s telefantasy shows.


Ad Break#13 Food freedom, Unlimited everything and chicken town

Deliveroo- “Food freedom”
One noticeable trend in the past couple of years has been the increase in adverts for online services showing on mainstream television. You wouldn’t necessarily think people who buy lots online would even be watching scheduled tv but presumably they are. Till recently, Deliveroo have been mainly visible in the form of daring bikers who weave though the tiniest possible gap between pedestrians in an attempt to deliver pizza while its still vaguely warm. This year though has seen them launch their global Food Freedom campaign. Intended to show the flexibility that comes from using the company, the two ads seen in the UK so far are from the Wieden+Kennedy London company. The promotional material says "Nothing really beats tucking into a burger in your joggers in front of the TV.  Using a hyperbolic lens, we placed a bunch of simple takeaway truths at the heart of the campaign, showing that, with the ease of Deliveroo, nothing can get in the way of your food”.   Emily Kraftman, Deliveroo’s UK and Ireland marketing director, added:  "Life is too short for disappointing takeaways. At its core, our new campaign is telling people Deliveroo can give you the freedom to have what you want, when you want it, where you want it.". 


Freddie Jones 1927 - 2019

An actor who combined theatrical extravagance with television discipline Freddie Jones always made an impact whatever the size of the role. His career is packed with memorable performances on tv, stage and film. For me his signature role was as Sir George Uproar in the brilliant series The Ghosts of Motley Hall, ostensibly a children’s show but courtesy of writer Richard Carpenter full of three dimensional characters. His role required a performance both larger than life yet sprinkled with emotion. For many though he is best known for his stint in Emmerdale from 2005-19, an achievement indeed for an actor to reach his public pinnacle in his eighties, wider recognition he thoroughly deserved. He brought the same skills to the part of Sandy as he always did earning widespread praise for his performances. 



Inspired by the likes of Silent Running, Moon is a film that relies on a narrative that won’t lead where you expect while also having exquisitely rendered special effects. The debut feature from Duncan Jones who both wrote and directed it, the 90 minute movie comes across in the manner of a serious indie offering despite the surroundings. Instead of a dystopian future we’re in the midst of what seems a boom as it has been discovered that helium 3 is abundant on the Moon and can generate enough fuel to keep things ticking back on Earth. At first you’re wondering why, if this is such an important resource, it’s been left in the hands of a single man on a three year contract. Won’t he go a little crazy?


Top of the Pops 28 June 1984

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Steve Wright: "Welcome!! To another exciting!! Enthralling!! Top of the Pops!!" Andy Peebles:"Yes, pleased to meet you. Let's get under way. Number 36 on the chart this week. They're from Scotland. They're the Bluebells. This is Young At Heart."

[36] The Bluebells: Young At Heart. Steve Wright is back for the third of his six appearances in 1984. For the rest of the year he is mostly teamed with Andy Peebles, with the exception of one show in December when he'll be paired with Peter Powell. Steve Wright is carrying a tennis racquet because he's well nutty! And also because it's the start of Wimbledon fortnight. It will take nine years for Young At Heart to reach number 1 on the back of a 1993 Volkswagen commercial. Astonishingly this isn't the longest gap between a song being released and topping the charts. That honour goes to Tony Christie who released (Is This the Way to) Amarillo in 1971 and saw it get to number 1 in 2005, 34 years later. This is The Bluebells second appearance on Top of the Pops. They performed I'm Falling back in April, 19/04/1984. On that occasion there were only three Bluebells. Now there are five. Two of them must have missed the train down to London in April.


Spider- Man Far From Home review

A while into this second film in Spider-Man’s third iteration in the past twenty years there is a sense of déjà vu. Despite the refreshing mixture of school vacation trip bonhomie mingled with post Endgame angst, when it comes to the new threat it seems rather over familiar, clichéd even. Could it be that Marvel has finally run aground? Was Thanos so powerful that those who follow him will struggle to impress?
Spoilers after this point.


Don't forget about Apollo 10

The lesser known Apollo 10.
This month is the fiftieth anniversary of the first Moon landing an event now so familiar that it has probably lost much of it’s sense of achievement. Nowadays people are more interested in trying to prove it was somehow faked than being  impressed that it happened which doesn’t say much for advancement in other areas of life. I don’t really recall much about it except that there was a buzz of excitement and families did huddle together watching grainy tv footage as events unfurled. When you’re a child it is hard to understand the technology and power of sending someone to the Moon, in fact I’d only just put aside the notion that the Moon was actually a giant luminous face in the sky. By 1969 I was probably formulating the idea that it was inhabited by alien beings of some sort. When Neil Armstrong’s boots touched the lunar ground those aliens had just stayed hidden.