Top of the Pops 10 July 1986

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. [16] Midnight Star: Headlines. Simon Bates. “Welcome to studio six at Television Centre and this week's Top of the Pops. Let's kick off with Midnight Star and Headlines.” There's the faint sound of studio chatter in the gap between the end of The Wizard and Simon Bates' introduction. It's a woman issuing instructions to the studio but, alas extensive digital audio forensic work is unable to clarify what is being said. The Floor Manager this week is Iain McLean, so it's not him. It must be someone firing up the Cheerleaders who is also standing close enough to Simon Bates for his microphone to pick up the sound. What sort of orders do you have to issue to the Cheerleaders? “Smile and dance like your lives depend on it.” 

Midnight Star are a seven piece American group. What makes them notable? They have three keytar players who all appear to be wearing suits made out of pattered wallpaper.


Top of the Pops 3 July 1986

Introduced by Chris Arnsby. [3] The Housemartins: Happy Hour. Janice Long. “Hello and welcome to Top of the Pops and here, in the studio, at number three with Happy Hour. It is, The Housemartins.” London 0, Hull 4 is written on the front of Hugh Whitaker's drum kit (a sneaky bit of promotion for their album), and he's rooted around in his wardrobe to find a 1984 model FRANKIE SAYS ARM THE UNEMPLOYED t-shirt. There's more sneaky promotion for fellow Go! Discs artist Billy Bragg who makes it on to Top of the Pops, sort of. Stan Cullimore's t-shirt features the cover of Levi Stubbs', Tears Bragg's new single.

Down at the front, the audience are waving THE HOUSEMARTINS banners. Last spotted back in December 1983 when they were issued to the crowd for Slades' performance of Me Oh My, although those banners had SLADE printed on them obviously. What are the logistics of this? Are they paid for by Top of the Pops or the record company? The SLADE banners were pretty crummy, thin strips of plastic with SLADE printed only on one side. These are a much higher quality. Double-sided printing, and solid enough that the text on the far side doesn't bleed through; unlike the one-sided SLADE banners which caught the light and made it look like the audience had been issued with banners that read EDALS (but mirrored).

Someone's spent a lot of money today.



Dick Turpin Season Two Episodes 10-13

The Godmother 
13/02/82 W Richard Carpenter / D James Allen
“I’ve never met such a bewitching pair of husseys!”

There have been some unlikely disguises Turpin has appropriated but this one takes the biscuit! In an episode that revels in its farcical premise, he ends up dressing up as the sister of Gluttons’ solicitor Gooch. Sophinista Gooch has herself been requisitioned by Sir John to pretend to be his wife during the visit of his fearsome godmother the Duchess of Durham. Turpin is unaware of this of course so when he locks up the Goochs during a raid on their house to obtain documents relating to fraudulent land deals Sir John’s henchmen turn up expecting Sophinista to go with them. Thus by a turn of events that stretches credulity to it’s absolute limit Turpin ends up dressed as the woman on his way to pretend to be Lady Glutton! At this point the hi jinks are a bit wearing but to my surprise once everyone is in place we are in for a frantic perfectly performed pantomime that is actually funny. Thanks to comedic timing par excellence from all concerned and a willingness to indulge in playfulness the story actually works.


Dick Turpin Season Two Episodes 6 - 9

The Thief Taker
22/03/80 W Richard Carpenter / D James Allen
"I’m not Turpin – you are!”

In which Turpin himself assumes the role of thief taker in order to catch…Turpin! There’s a lot of fun to be had in an episode which shows just how easily in these days someone could assume an identity. It’s a trick Richard Carpenter seems to enjoy and this time after Lord Faversham is robbed by the highwayman and offers a substantial reward for Turpin’s capture, the latter and Swiftnick assume the roles of Jeremiah Snare and Jonathan Handy. They offer to deliver Turpin and then set up an operation to frame Captain Spiker. I wondered where he’d got to and it’s great to see David Daker yelling again, especially at the end when he is carted away by Faversham who assumes he is Turpin.


Dick Turpin Season Two Episodes 1 - 5

The Fox Part 1
16/02/80 W Richard Carpenter / D Gerry Poulson
“You silly slut!” "Hike off!”

Yes, with a barrage of ripe language and pacy action season two opens up with a two part story allowing the extra space several episodes last season could have done with to draw us further into the story. Picking up from the same point as last season ended with Dick and Swiftnick’s direction of travel decided upon by the toss of a coin the duo are en route to London when an old mate of Dick’s called Joe Cutler turns up mortally injured. Before he dies, he entrusts a key to be given to a woman though neglects to say who or where she may be though does mention “the devil’s chimney” and someone called Manderfell. Moments after he’s died a troupe of well dressed riders capture the duo and take them to the country seat of the very same Lord Manderfell. Played with icy relish by Donald Pickering, he appears about to let them go before tricking Swiftnick into answering his name whereupon their disguise is rumbled.


Black Widow film review

It’s been a while. My first cinema trip of 2021 is to see a film completed nearly two years ago. During the past sixteen months the entire rhythm of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been disrupted to some extent and the real question I asked myself before seeing Black Widow was this- would this sort of film be as enjoyable now we’ve lived through a proper worldwide crisis for the first time in most of our lives? Do we want kinetic violence, things exploding, peril and potential world threatening events? Turns out we do! Black Widow is a good re-introduction to this type of cinema especially for those like me who’ve not seen the recent Marvel tv series. It’s a very well composed movie with those individualistic flourishes that Marvel do so well so as to differentiate each branch of the franchise. There is the expected peril- and its definitely not mild- the heart pulsing action scenes and plenty of tech yet crucially the film has a heart that makes it worth your while. And you can take your facemask off too which allows you to breathe more easily during some palpating moments!


Warning- Major spoilers beyond this point.


Top of the Pops 26 June 1986

 Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. [15] Bananarama: Venus. Mike Smith, “Welcome to London and a star-studded edition of Top of the Pops. Coming up later we've got Wham! in the studio and the new Madonna video. Let's start with the ladies who've come back from Los Angeles, Bananarama!” Bananarama are on the pentagram decorated Beelzebub stage, but Visual Effects Designer Guy Lunn obscures the offending symbols with dry ice.




Don't Forget to Write

I’ve decided to write this post about a series I only have very distant, foggy memories of and which does not exist in the public domain unless you live in Australia or have access to the archives of York University! The first episode is on YouTube – probably copied somehow from the Aussie release- which is some help though why the person who uploaded couldn’t have done the others I don’t know. The series is about writing. In fact it’s called Don’t Forget To Write` and it is its content which apparently caused it to be shunted off to a shady late evening slot in which it was destined not to be remembered. So is it that writing about writing is boring for anyone who doesn’t write? Or is it that creatives don’t enjoy seeing their foibles on display? How much information can I find about this obscure programme? Whatever happened, the series was once in the `Financial Times' TV critic's list of the 10 best sitcoms ever made. Not that it is really a sitcom either! I have a feeling that it’s main character Gordon Maple would appreciate the whole situation.


Top of the Pops 11th & 18th June 1986

Presented by Chris Arnsby. 11 June -

[20] Sigue Sigue Sputnik: 21st Century Boy. Mike Smith. “Live from London! It's Top of the Pops!”  Sigue Sigue Sputnik perform their second single on their second visit to Top of the Pops. 21st Century Boy will also be their second best performing release and peak at number 20. The song also sounds like Love Missile F1-11 played at a slightly slower speed, which makes it second hand. Sadly for numerology this is where the run of twos break down because 21st Century Boy stayed in the Top 20 for only one week. Check out lead singer Martin Degville who often forgets when he's supposed to be miming because he's more interested in grinding his crotch against the air. Mike Smith. “Sigue Sigue Sputnik, this week's number twenty with 21st Century Boy. This week we have an international extravaganza of bonhomie, fashion, and good taste. Top of the Pops. Live on a Wednesday night. With Falco.”


Midsomer Murders - Wild Harvest

Midsomer Murders has been accused of becoming less bizarre over the years but it still has its moments and this 2014 episode opens up with someone being eaten by a wild boar.  I was kind of hoping for an army of wild boar to attack the town but I think that may be a different series! What transpires is that local farmer Martin Strickland’s demise is not particularly mourned by several women in his life and what ensues is wrangling over his estate, Wyvern House. This includes a restaurant, run with an iron spoon by chef Ruth Cameron a sort of female Gordon Ramsay.

The chief suspect was the donut.


Top of the Pops 5 June 1986

Presented  by Chris Arnsby. [15] Cashflow: Mine All Mine. Gary Davies. “Welcome to Top of the Pops and here to start us off is Cashflow and Mine All Mine.”
Check out the Mine All Mine video where the padded shoulders have reached excessive proportions, even by the standards of the eighties. Cashflow look considerably less ridiculous in person. Everyone is a little less hunch-shouldered, although there's a nasty selection of pastels on display and, regardless of what the guitarist thinks, orange is a bad colour for a suit.


Why are e-scooters everywhere?

You may have seen e-scooters in your town or city. After a mixed reaction to hire bikes which require the effort of pedalling, e-scooters have proved more popular as they zoom along under their own power. The only effort they require from the rider is a sense of balance. You can ride e-scooters either on the road or the pavement avoiding traffic lights and busy junctions. They can be charged and do not emit the sort of air pollution that a motorbike would plus they are easier to park than bikes. There are seemingly no restrictions as to where they can be left- I’ve seen them parked in all sorts of places. It can only be a matter of time before someone creates a phot of one parked on the Moon! Inevitably there have been complaints about e-scooters being a public nuisance- but not for the reason you might think.. 



Top of the Pops 29 May 1986

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. [3] Doctor & The Medics: Spirit In The Sky. Janice Long. “Hi-ya. Welcome to a live Top of the Pops and would you please welcome, at number 3, Doctor and the Medics and Spirit in the Sky.” Doctor and the Medics have been upgraded to the main stage. It gives them a little more room. Last time The Anadin Brothers (that's the two pale Kabuki-esque dancers/backing singers) had to work awkwardly around the drummer, this time they've got more space.

The band have all dressed in white. Henry Barber is Lighting Director again, and he avoids colouring the band with lighting. Instead he illuminates the foreground audience with constantly changing colours and keeps the background dark. This allows for some great panning shots with the band standing out against the dark background, as the audience pulse from red to purple to green and blue. The exception to all this is the drummer. He looks like the Hulk because he's been sat right on top of a green spotlight. I guess Henry thought it looked nice.



Dick Turpin Season One Episodes 9 - 13

 The Whipping Boy

03/03/79 W/Richard Carpenter/ D Dennis Abey
“I’ll see you hanged, you rascal!” “I’ll send you a ticket”

There are more villains than heroes in this excellent episode which is one of those which definitely would have benefited from being a two parter. As it is a lot of developments are nimbly squeezed into 23 minutes without a second of waste. Turpin and Swftnick steal a large sum of printed money from the Duke of Hertford though at first Swiftnick thinks it’s just paper! Needless to say the Duke is livid and calls in his henchman Tobias Moat to bring the county to heal. Moat has a reputation for ruthless cruelty and is accompanied by the sound of a whip every time he turns up. He also seems to have a set of black teeth for no other reason than to make him look even deadlier. Moat has history with both Turpin and Spiker having served with them – or by the sound of it more against them- in Gibraltar.


Dick Turpin Season One Episodes 4 - 8


The Poacher

27/01/79 W Richard Carpenter / D James Allen
“That painted macaroni’s no highwayman”

Appearances can be deceptive in this fun episode which opens with Turpin and Swiftnick’s latest coach having already been robbed. Seems there’s a poacher about and suspicion soon falls on a mysterious newcomer Joshua Vizard who certainly looks like he could be a highwayman with a dark demeanour that suggests villainy. On the other hand Sir John’s visiting cousin Willoughby is a powdered ponce fond of quoting poetry and sporting the latest fashionable wig from London. He couldn’t possibly be the poacher could he? Richard Carpenter’s script creates a pantomimesque atmosphere filled with word play and somewhat exaggerated performances from the cast. This is Carpenter in his element jousting with language and the proceedings play well for all ages- kids will enjoy the action and the silly accents, older viewers will appreciate the allusions and the neat twist of the plot. Perhaps the final five minutes which becomes a sort of hide and seek in Glutton’s manor is a touch too overplayed but by then you’re with it all the way.


Dick Turpin Season One Episodes 1 - 3

 A series about a notorious highwayman yet aimed towards a family audience is not an obvious idea for a drama but for writer Richard Carpenter it was a typically left field choice. After all he’d already written shows about smugglers, an eleventh century wizard, a group of ghosts and a boy from space. He liked outsiders and the way they interpreted their surroundings, his work packed with rich characters and a sense of place that means they’ve not dated as much as other contemporaneous programmes have done. Often made for younger viewers they have a sophistication and a refusal to talk down to the viewer that makes them easily accessible to people of all ages. Though this series is named after an infamous historical figure the series is not telling that real story at all but one that actually begins with the hanging of Dick Turpin…



Top of the Pops 15 and 22 May 1986

Double bill! reviewed by Chris Arnsby

15 May 1986 -

[25] Status Quo: Rollin' Home. Mike Smith. “Good evening and welcome to Top of the Pops from Television Centre. Let's start with the highest new entry this week, Status Quo- Rollin' Home.” Status Quo's last studio appearance was when The Wanderer charted, 25/10/1984. What have they been up to in the meantime? The usual, splits, solo projects, and court cases. And a 1985 appearance at Live Aid, of course. The court case with original member Alan Lancaster was settled early in 1986, and the band are back with a new line-up and the same sound; dun-der-dun-der-dun-der-dun. "Everybody was coked-up and hating each other,” was how Francis Rossi described the mood at their 1984 Milton Keynes Bowl concert. Well, they're all good friends now. At the start of the instrumental Francis Rossi turns his back on the audience and makes a crank-it-up gesture to the band. He does something off camera which makes the guitarist (who isn't Francis Rossi or Rick Parfitt, and definitely isn't Alan Lancaster) and the keyboard player smile, and then Rossi whispers to Rick Parfitt and makes him break off and laugh.



Midsomer Murders- Dark Secrets

In this excellent episode from 2011, the death of an unpopular social services official sends Barnaby and Jones into the orbit of the Bingham family. Elderly William and Mary Bingham rattle around in their large mansion ordering too much food and piling up the daily papers for over thirty years into a number of impressive towers as tall as buses. Quite how such an ageing couple achieve this gravity defying feat is not really addressed though you just know that sooner or later one of these is going to topple over on someone. 


Top of the Pops 8 May 1986

 Introduced by Chris Arnsby. [23] The Cure: Boys Don't Cry. Janice Long. “Hello and welcome to a very live Top of the Pops and to start us off tonight at number 23 it's the wonderful Cure and Boys Don't Cry.” 
Robert Smith is in fine form. He's perfected a distracted amble round the stage which he uses to good effect during Janice Long's introduction. He wanders away from the microphone and it looks for a second like he won't make it back before the lyrics start but, of course, he does. What a pro. He's also wearing the essential item of 1986, a suit which is plainly too big. However it's less a fashion statement than a prop. He clutches at it, and twists it, and wrings it in his hands, and thoroughly incorporates it into the Robert Smith persona.

For those keeping count (ie, me) this is only the second live show of 1986, and John Peel's third of six appearances. Like a lot of the long term hosts he seems to be winding down now (or he's not being asked back as much). He'll clock up one programme in February 1987 and that will be it until December 1995 when he's invited back one last time as a pretext to get him on This Is Your Life.


Why the UK shouldn't leave Eurovision...

 …and how we can get more than nul points.

It goes like this every year. Beforehand our latest entry for the Eurovision Song Contest “stands a real chance this time”, we’re `taking the contest seriously` and this is our best entry in years. On the day though the song is, well, not quite right and we score close to no points or as we did this year no points at all. Then comes the ritual of saying the song was actually no good at all and we should take the contest more seriously or perhaps we should quit altogether. Brexit 2? Well I reckon that would be a hasty decision just to save however much per year we contribute towards the staging of the contest a deal that at least allows us to avoid the humiliation of being knocked out before the Final as our recent entries surely would have otherwise been. No, I reckon we should sit it out, not take the contest seriously and we could just do a lot better. How, you ask?



Top of the Pops 1 May 1986

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. [32] Maxi Priest: Strollin' On: Mike Smith. “Good evening and welcome to Television Centre in London for Top of the Pops with Maxi Priest.” Strollin' On is a nice enough song to open the show but it doesn't do a lot for me. I'm considerably more interested in the efforts of the saxophonist and trumpet player as they do their best to synchronise their constant bobbing motions.

Mike Smith: “The line up tonight is so dazzling I've got to keep my shades on for it. The trouble is, I can't see you. Are you there? Oh you are, good. We've got Princess tonight, we've got Madonna, we've got Joyce Sims, come over from the States, and of course we've got the new Top 40 for you with Janet Jackson at number three.”



Titans season one

 Given the similarities between superheroes across various franchises it is becoming more difficult for tv shows and films about them to stand out. This series, launched in 2018, is from the DC stable whose television work has generally surpassed their big screen offerings, Wonder Woman being the exception. Based on the Teen Titans comics, the series is clearly aimed at a younger audiences with it’s cool stylings, outbursts of kinetic violence and edgy characters. It is an earnest narrative full of teenage angst even if some of the characters are older.


Top of the Pops 24 April 1986

 [17] The SOS Band: The Finest. Janice Long. “It's Top of the Pops and please welcome a band who have just flown in. It's their first appearance on Top of the Pops. At 17, The SOS Band. It's The Finest.”

Check out the sliver clad dancer/backing singer at stage right. Eighties fashions have progressed to the point where the jackets resemble 40s Zoot Suits, although the padded shoulders are trés eighties. Observe the way they shoot up every time the sliver clad fellow raises his arms and leave him looking like a turtle pulling its head into its shell. This is not my kind of music, so my attention lapses and I am confused when a green-jacketed man suddenly starts serenading the lead singer. Was he hiding behind a microphone stand? All becomes clear when his bit ends, and he retreats back behind the keyboard.

Little else happens of note. We get a new Quantel effect during the keyboard break. The picture zooms back into a small box, a second picture drifts out from behind it, and the two camera shots briefly bounce around the screen. These kind of picture effects are normally reserved for cutting between the hosts and the charts, and it's become unusual to see them used during performances.



Dark Nature - new children's novel available now!

Dark Nature - The fifth Heart of the World novel

Deep inside the mountain known as Devil’s Peak, a group of misfit scientists’ amazing plan to solve ecological problems is threatened by an elemental menace with dangerously different ideas. As Tom Allenby tries to stop this new threat to mankind, he faces the most serious peril of his fifteen year old life. Things will never be the same again. In his toughest, most personal adventure yet can Tom save the world and those closest to him? Or will humanity fall to the storm of the century?

Dark Nature in paperback format

Dark Nature in Kindle ebook format



Top of the Pops 17 April 1986

Presented by Chris Arnsby. [10] Big Country: Look Away. Gary Davies. “Welcome to Top of the Pops and here to start us off Big Country and Look Away.” A nice enough song, and a good performance, but it leaves me with very little to say. I'm not mad keen on Stuart Adamson's carpet remnant coat. Gary Davies. “What a great way to start. Big Country and Look Away. So, all on my own in the studio tonight, well not exactly on my own, also in the studio we have George Michael, we have A-ha, and It's Immaterial but first here's this week's Top 40 over this video from Falco and Rock Me Amadeus.”



School's Out Forever

If I’d seen this film a year ago, I might have freaked out! Remember that time when there was enormous uncertainty about the nature and scope of the Covid pandemic and nobody knew quite what to expect? That it could even be the end of the world..? It is that unsettling unknown that is evoked in this lively and frequently thrilling adaptation of Scott K Andrews’ book.  Writer and and also director Oliver Milburn homes in on the fear and chaos that could easily have become reality in 2020 though this film was made back in 2019 when no-one had heard of Covid. Thankfully such prescience only adds to the sense of tension running through this movie which explodes in a series of incidents.



Top of the Pops 10 April 1986

 Introduced by Chris Arnsby. [25] Bronski Beat: C’mon C’mon. Mike Smith. “Good evening and welcome to Top of the Pops. We start this week with Bronski Beat, C'mon C'mon.” 
Bronski Beat have invoked the spirit of Fiesta. The stage is filled with balloons; tinsel has been nailed to every surface which doesn't already glow, spin, or rotate; and every pot plant from the production office has been dragged on stage to stuff the background with greenery. And, what is lurking at the front of the stage? We never really get a proper look but it appears to be a weird cairn of potted fern, balloons, and a stuffed snake posed in mid-strike. It's all very odd. Is it is an anthropomorphic representation of the Top of the Pops Animus of Fun? Fortunately we're a couple of months away from Midsummer so I think we can rule out human sacrifice.



Last Days of Debenhams

 “Do a bit of Debenhams” was one of the more recent slogans used by the ailing high street chain in an attempt to relaunch itself a couple of years back. Now Debenhams is nearly done, the brand bought by online retailer BooHoo for £55m, the physical shops due to all be closed by mid - May. About 12,000 people are being made redundant. On 21 January a court issued a winding up order against Debenhams and appointed the Official Receiver as liquidator. On 25 January the name and website only were snapped up by BooHoo but the shops were not part of the deal. After so called non- essential retail shops were allowed to open last week Debenhams stores started a closing down sale with some items being offered for as much as 70% off.



ESL- Football's Worst Own Goal?

 Anyone who has watched the evolution of our national game should not be too surprised at the latest development. Our so called Big Six clubs are joining a European Super League (ESL) to play the cream of the continent’s teams in mid-week matches. As well as appointing themselves to this elite they have declared somewhat unilaterally that they will continue to participate in existing domestic and national competition. The move has resulted in a barrage of criticism from fans, senior figures, celebrities and politicians suggesting that, despite its distinctly pro-European approach, this is nothing less than Football’s Brexit. The idea has been swirling around for years though and simply confirms what even the most ardent supporter really knew- that those who run big football clubs are more interested in money than sport.



Midsomer Murders- Dance with the Dead

This episode seems to turn up a lot on repeat channels and is well worth a look or even another look if you’ve seen it. By 2006 Midsomer Murders had reached its tenth series, an achievement only a handful of non -soap dramas ever get to mark but was it still as bizarre as it had started out? This series started with a typical PJ Hammond mystery centred around the charms of a wayward girl in a story that mixes wartime nostalgia with modern day concerns and throws in some ballroom dancing as well. Hammond’s characters this time round are a strange lot but all are in different ways dancing to the tune set by Laura who we only see fleetingly at the start in a midnight liaison with a local boy Simon Bright. Next morning his body is found in a fuel filled vintage car at a disused airfield. Though this is initially believed to be suicide it soon becomes apparent it is not.


Top of the Pops 27 March & 7 April 1986

 Presented by Chris Arnsby. 27 March 1986

[4] Samantha Fox: Touch Me (I Want Your Body). “It's the show that brings you Britain's biggest hits. Here's Samantha Fox,” Mike Smith. The off-air copy of Top of the Pops I'm viewing (downloaded from the very heart of Silbury Hill https://mega.nz/folder/h0snQACa#uiNNqosfbdrfzODHsE1clw ) begins excitingly with a glimpse of the old BBC1 computer generated globe. Nostalgia eases the pain.

Less excitingly, Top of the Pops starts with Samantha Fox's hit song which is drearier than I remember. It's... `Kids In America` at the wrong speed, isn't it? The synths, the electric guitars, the bit where the guitarists sing/chant “this is the night” is like the call and response “woh-oh” from Kids In America. This is Kim Wilde's better song fed through a system of filters designed to really maximise the mediocrity.

1986 was a good year for Samantha Fox. The end of her Page 3 modelling career was followed by four singles (although released to diminishing returns the last, I'm All You Need, didn't make the Top 40), and software house Martech released the “erotic” (yuk) video game Samantha Fox Strip Poker for anyone desperate to gawp at her grainy pixels. One of the charming qualities of VHS is the way the picture quality degrades as the tape is rewound, paused, watched, rewound, and watched again. There are a lot of tracking errors as Sam Fox starts singing, suggesting our mystery home taper watched this section a lot to ensure it had recorded properly.



Words don’t come easy according to Eighties singer FR David but he was wrong was FR. There are in fact as many as a thousand new words or phrases added to dictionaries every year as language evolves and develops endlessly. If you were a social influencer you could probably popularise a word so much it would be added to dictionaries. So how does this happen, who are the keepers of the Dictionary (I’m imagining characters in purple robes in an underground cavern chanting each new word) and what are the very, very latest up to date new words? 



 This valedictory documentary about Tina Turner is an absorbing if incomplete attempt to put her amazing life and career into perspective. Time and again we see clips of her declining to answer questions about her abusive former husband Ike Turner yet his presence looms throughout this official film sometimes at the expense of her music. The story is so rich its already inspired a film and a stage play while the singer co-wrote an autobiography. Surely this production is an opportunity to push forward her musical claims and focus more on her voice and also her remarkable comeback in the Eighties? Instead there seems a reticence on behalf of the participants to explore her musical legacy and its slightly disappointing to hear all concerned talk of that comeback in terms of success rather than in terms of the music itself. It gives an impression that Tina Turner wasn’t especially interested in the musical side of things yet the numerous electrifying clips suggest otherwise. In fact her whole body seems to channel the songs resulting in stunning performances. She seems to give her all for every syllable but as to why and how we can only look for clues here.



Top of the Pops 20 March 1986


Presented by Chris Arnsby. (5] Jim Diamond: Hi Ho Silver. Simon Bates, “on Top of the Pops it's Jim Diamond.” Last time Jim and his eight-piece band were crammed onto the thinnest stage in the Top of the Pops studio. This week he's been upgraded to the main stage, and ironically he's brought along one person fewer.
Who's been given the push? There's still two backing singers, a keyboard player, guitarist, drummer, trumpeter and saxophonist. Ironically the person missing from the last performance is the guitarist who kept leaping up and down to be visible on camera.
Jim Diamond is wearing a huge leather coat. The length is fine but the material is all bunched up around his shoulders and arms, and the lapels look way too big. I remember the eighties as being the decade of shoulder pads, but I don't remember this trend for oversized clothing and yet it's something we've seen worn by a whole parade of people.



Once upon a time Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie made movies that zipped along at a million miles an hour punctuated by jump cuts, fractured timelines and casual brutality. In their wake other filmmakers tried to imitate this style yet many only drew attention to the mechanics of film making rather than immerse us in a story. Pixie borrows liberally from this well yet is not without charm and thankfully is less frenetic than many. It also has- courtesy of director Barnaby Thompson and cinematographer John de Borman -some awesome natural landscape shots of Ireland in all its beauty while a good cast work hard to make matters resonate more than they do on the page. 



Space 1999 - The Dorcons

These days we’re used to the `season finale` in which various plots merge together and its all very dramatic. Back in the 70s tv wasn’t really like that- the only people who had conversations about story arcs were tv producers. Most episodic tv was made to be shown in any order so that whatever the peril everyone was fine by the end of the episode in time for some bantz and a jokey freeze frame. It does become a bit of a problem with a series like this. Consider- the half Moon has been juddering about the Galaxy now for 2,409 days according to the opening voiceover. In all that time and given all the adventures we’ve seen the place still looks spotless (we never see a cleaner), all the damage is repaired (where do they get the spare wall sections?) and the uniforms remain pristine (we never know where the laundry is). More importantly the psychological status of all concerned seems to be no more stressed than after a full day at the office. Sure someone occasionally has a meltdown (as happens in this episode) but it never lasts and only serves a plot point. It reminds me of the Star Trek Next Generation episode where someone changed into a different life form but three days later they were fine and back on duty! Really? So as we reach the end of our lunar trek it seems appropriate to point out how much better a series this would have been had the strains taken their toll both on the structures and the personnel. I’d love to have seen a stretch of corridor with a patchwork repair noticeable on it. Or some people no longer in uniform. Or Helena perhaps engaging in some counselling that involves talking about mental health rather than using some medical device that heals instantly. The aesthetic of the series is too clean in every respect.



Top of the Pops 13 March 1986

Presented by Chris Arnsby [20] The Blow Monkeys: Digging Your Scene. “Good evening and welcome to this week's Top of the Pops,” at number twenty The Blow Monkeys Digging Your Scene.”FORMAT CHANGE KLAXON! We cut straight to The Blow Monkeys, with Mike Smith in voice-over, instead of the usual Quantel blur from the titles to the two Top of the Pops hosts. This is week two of the All-New Top of the Pops Show which is drip feeding its format tweeks rather than dropping them on the audience in one go. Michael Hurll was presumably afraid of the Max Headroom-style blipvert spontaneous combustion which would result from too concentrated a burst of Pop Power. Michael Hurll? Yes, the King o'er the water has returned after leaving Brian Whitehouse in charge for, ooh ages*. In actual fact he returned last week and I didn't notice, much to my embarrassment.
Michael Grade's big BBC1 relaunch is now just over one year old. Top of the Pops has settled at 7pm between the Regional News Magazines and Eastenders, and someone has suggested a few nips and tucks to keep Top of the Pops looking fresh in the second half of the eighties. Just to keep track, the changes so far are; daft new Top 40 Countdown format; only two breakers instead of three; closing the programme with a video instead of the audience dancing; and now a cut straight into the first song. It's a minor change but it works because it suggests a greater focus on music. Ironically the only thing these format tweeks can do is hint at change, because ultimately Top of the Pops is wedded to the hosts introducing studio performances and videos. It can't shift back to being exclusively studio performances because the audience also wants to see videos, but it also can't shift to just showing videos because they're promotional material and 30 minutes of videos would be too commercial for the BBC's remit.



Space 1999 - The Immunity Syndrome

An unexpected late gem, the series’ penultimate episode packs action and intrigue into a familiar sort of scenario and has the air of a Star Trek episode in a good way not just because it duplicates a title from the other series. Exploring a new planet (which bears more than a passing resemblance to the previous episode’s planet) initial findings of a safe atmosphere and bountiful produce soon start to go awry. First, Tony is attacked by a crew member who has seen some sort of powerful light before he himself is affected and goes rogue. As he is chased down, two other crew die after drinking water, another after tasting fruit. Then when an Eagle attempts to take the injured Tony back, all its metal parts begin to corrode causing a forced crash landing back on the hostile planet from which there seems no escape.



Midsomer Murders - The Sting of Death review

 “Bees have human souls” intones Ambrose Doddington in this delightfully batty season 22 opener. It’s a much delayed premiere in the UK as the episode was shot two years ago and first shown elsewhere in late 2019. Quite why ITV have held onto it this long is a mystery that John Barnaby should perhaps investigate but at least the channel have given it a decent Sunday 8pm slot. We’re in the village of Granville Norton one of those very Midsomer places filled with suspicion and eccentric behaviour. Barnaby and Winter are initially called in when Doddington’s beloved beehives are ransacked and some of their inhabitants stolen but soon there is a local victim who appears to have been stung to death. It is fair to say that if you do not much care for bees this is not the episode for you especially that first death which must rank as one of the more gruesome in the show’s canon of murders. What makes the episode work so well is the cast who appear to be engaged in something of a melodrama competition with highly entertaining results.



Top of the Pops 6 March 1986

Presented by Chris Arnsby. Gary Davies: “Well. Hey! How ya doin? Welcome to Top of the Pops, we've got a brilliant show lined up for you and a slightly different show than normal. In actual fact more hits than ever before.” (John- Citation needed)
Dixie Peach: “And we're going to start off with some great music tonight. Mike Rutherford and the Mechanics, number 25, Silent Running.”
[25] Mike & The Mechanics: Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground). Let's pause for a moment to consider Gary Davies’ pastel yellow sweatshirt on which someone has scrawled “Hey! How ya doin'” in large letters. It's not clear if this is something sent in by a fan (the letters have the look of something coloured by hand) or purchased from a boutique. It's horrible on its own terms but Gary Davies has also tucked it into his trousers. The monster. First up tonight is another song for the I-recognise-it-but-I-couldn't-name-the-artist pile; there will be another one later.
It's also one of those songs where I've never bothered to listen to the lyrics. Oh yes, I know the chorus but have you listened to the bits in between? It's the kind of stuff I imagine US militiamen whisper round campfires -all about hiding the children in the cellar, getting a gun and ammunition, and how our sons and daughters will rise up.
The video is endearingly bonkers. There's a kid with a key and he goes in a room containing a glowing science-fiction cube; that contains a hologram of Mike (presumably). At the end the kid's mother sneaks into the room to see her son teleported into space while she shrieks in horror. (John- To be fair this did often happen in the Eighties.)



Space 1999 - Dorzak & Devil's Planet

The most remarkable thing about this episode is that Martin Landau is not in it. Perhaps he read the script? His absence is one of the factors contributing towards this being a somewhat soporific affair which only flares into life occasionally. A large spaceship transmitting the universal plague signal (how do the Alphans find out about these things?) turns up with an injured crew member whose assailant is allegedly a Psychon called Dorzak. Maya knows him and claims he’s a peaceable chap but the leader of the arrivals, Sahala, disagrees. She hates Psychons so much that the first thing she does when she sees Maya is shoot her with a staser sending her into suspended animation. The narrative revolves around who is telling the truth- is it demure Sahala with her tale of a dangerous criminal? Or is it the eventually revived Dorzak? And does the viewer really care? Alan Carter does. He falls for Sahala creating more potential tension but it is all played out too timidly. 

 "You made me get out of bed for this episode?"


Top of the Pops 27 Feb 1986

Presented by Chris Arnsby. The observant among you might be wondering why the last write-up confidentially asserted that it covered 13 & 26 Feb 1986.... I don't know. Maybe I was thinking of a different year.
Paul Jordan: “Hello and welcome. A couple of guys up on stage that's me and him, lots of people milling around having a great time, and the music which makes today's hits. It's got to be... are you listening Steve?” Steve Wright: “Top of the Pops!! Hope you're going to enjoy the show tonight!! We've got a good one for you!! This could be number one next week!! Here's Sigue Sigue Sputnik!!”

[7] Sigue Sigue Sputnik: Love Missile F1-11. This is Paul Jordan's last Top of the Pops, so it's also your last chance to say “who?” when his caption comes up at the start. Trying to wring any behind the scenes meaning from these repeats is like using the flight of birds to forecast the weather. However, I notice Paul Jordan hosts three of the first nine Top of the Pops of 1986; which is comparable to Janice Long and Steve Wright, and more than Mike Smith and Mike Read who were all over BBC1 and Radio 1 at the time.  It's possible Paul Jordan's contractual obligation number of shows are being whisked through as quickly as possible, but it's equally possible that he was always intended as a temporary host and he's standing in for people who can't make it; Peter Powell and Bruno Brookes have not yet made an appearance this year, and John Peel takes a mysterious two month break from hosting duties during February and March.


Sigue Sigue Sputnik- Yes everyone was dressed like this in 1986.


Space 1999 - The Lambda Factor & The Seance Spectre

The Lambda Factor
In the Seventies Terrance Dicks was known as a Doctor Who script editor and writer and here he brings his accomplished storytelling credentials to Space 1999 with mostly successful results. Using only the regular sets with events taking place solely inside the base, Dicks employs his fastidious skills to mould a story that is different to many of the regular episodes. While there is a threat outside- in the slightly unimpressive form of a spinning wheel on the screen- it is inside where he makes a virtue out of existing resources. He did this with Doctor Who, penning `Horror of Fang Rock` set entirely in and around a lighthouse. Here, the death of a technician from what seems like internal pressure is the most serious of several incidents that occur when our rotating space phenomenon is in the vicinity. People are getting tetchy, instruments are malfunctioning and yet another nuclear powered device nearly blows itself up. 



Top of the Pops 13 & 26 Feb 1986

Presented by Chris Arnsby. 13/02/86
Steve Wright: “Hi!! Hello!! Good evening!! Welcome to another Top of the Pops!! Gary Davies!! Steve Wright!!” Gary Davies: “In the studio tonight we've got Billy Ocean, we've got Shaky Stevens*, plus we've got two acts making their debut on Top of the Pops tonight. Here's the first Belouis Some, Imagination.”

[22] Belouis Some: Imagination. I remember the song but Belouis Some has fallen right down the old memory hole. If you'd played this to me and demanded I name the singer I would have taken a very incorrect guess at ABC. Belouis Some (which it turns out is actually his real name) (Fact John- Actually his real name is Neville Keighley, true fact.) looks very 1986 with his bleached blonde hair and striking jacket. He's wearing almost the same ensemble as Gary Davies, most notably a long red jacket, but he pulls it off better than Gary because his jacket has been properly tailored to fit. Gary Davies has chosen one that smothers him, and once again he manages to look like a tiny child dressed in his dad's clothes for a joke photo.



The Owners

Adapted from a French graphic novel called Une Nuit de Pleine Lune (A Full Moon Night), The Owners is a crisp, compact and often tense film lasting less than ninety minutes without one minute of filler. In the Nineties four young people’s idea of ransacking the large country home of an elderly couple for rumoured hidden riches turns into a nightmare from which they may not escape alive!



Five Old Things with Odd Names!

People loved them-and then they didn’t! But you can still buy them!!

Filet -O- Fish
Not an Irish musician but the pseudo French moniker for one of McDonald’s burgers, officially described as "a fish sandwich" but because the company can't talk properly it has to have a silly name. Like they can't just say Delivery, it has to be McDelivery. I suppose Filet-o-Fish sounds better than Fish Burger and much more high end than Fillet of Fish. It’s not actually French as that would be Filet de Poisson and can you imagine your average McDonalds customer asking for that. Plus from a distance that name looks just a bit too much like Filet de Poison which is just not acceptable in a restaurant. The Filet- o Fish was invented in 1962 in Cincinnati to solve the issue of falling hamburger sales on Fridays due to Catholics not eating meat on that day. Why they couldn’t just call it a Fishburger I don’t know. Or they could have called it Friday o’Fish really. It consists of a fried breaded fish fillet, pasteurised cheese and tartar sauce inside a steamed bun. Mmm. Yum etc..

  Filet-o- Fish uses the famous square fish



Top of the Pops 6 Feb 1986

Presented by Chris Arnsby. Paul Jordan: “Hi there and welcome to Top of the Pops. Among other things tonight there's little Paul, that's me, and big Simon, that's him.” Simon Bates: “I shall do my best. We've got Whitney Houston's new video later on but right now here's The Damned and a terrific version of Eloise, on Top of the Pops.”
[18] The Damned: Eloise. Lighting Director Alan Jeffery makes his bid for attention. Eloise is a song with lots of big dramatic beats and the studio is lit accordingly. The overhead lights flare to the rhythm of the song and the whole pattern changes for the faster paced chorus. It looks fantastic. And it gets better.
About two thirds of the way into the song it winds down to a false ending (the studio audience mistake this for the actual end, cheer and give a well- deserved round of applause). Alan Jeffery fades all the colour out of the studio and leaves it lit in blue with a single white spotlight on David Vanian; he's dressed in white and stands out like a beacon in the gloom. The performance ends with a great long pull back as the camera moves all the way across the studio, leaving the band and the audience framed by one of the scaffolding walkways and looking tiny in the distance.



Space 1999- The Bringers of Wonder parts 1 & 2

The only two part story in the show's roster starts alarmingly with Koening acting out of control in an Eagle. Has Martin Landau finally had enough? Is Tony’s homebrew more potent than we thought? The Alphans have no time to puzzle over their commander’s wayward behaviour when an Earth spaceship turns up- a Super Swift that is travelling faster than light. On board are a coterie of relatives and friends of many of the senior crew. What’s more they claim they can get everyone back to Earth in record time. While they mingle like it’s a cocktail party, Koenig is having his brain massaged. Now you and I and everyone who ever watches this episode knows full well that obviously these arrivals are not really the people they say they are but aliens of some sort up to no good. The trick with these types of stories is when and how to make the reveal.



Top of the Pops 23 and 30 Jan 1986

Presented by Chris Arnsby. 23/01/1986.
Paul Jordan: “Hello and welcome to another Top of the Pops and tell me something, have you ever seen this man's face on the television before?”
Mike Smith: “I doubt it very much indeed. A wonderful line up coming your way tonight and a new number one. We start off with a band who have flown back specially from Germany, from Hamburg, to be with us tonight. The Alarm. The Spirit Of '76.

[22] The Alarm: Spirit Of '76. This is a fallow edition of Top of the Pops. I nearly skipped writing it up because none of the studio performances are great*. Nana Mouskouri's going to get Performance of the Week so you can stop reading now, if you want. The Alarm make their second return to Top of the Pops in three years (that's how popular they are). I note The Alarm's last appearance on 22/09/1983 edition was also introduced with a story about the band's globe-trotting ways. Simon Bates launched into an unlikely story about the band being stopped by a US cop wielding a telegram summoning the group back to the UK to appear urgently on Top of the Pops. I suspect The Alarm don't actually travel anywhere. They just make up these globe-trotting stories to sound cool. The Alarm's last song was called 68 Guns. Are they only allowed to release songs with numbers in the title? And what is the spirit of '76? Is it something to do with those swarms of ladybirds that got everywhere?