31/01/2021

It's A Sin review

By a strange coincidence Russell T Davies’ latest arrives in the midst of global pandemic and it’s undercurrent of fear and ignorance plays even more strongly in the world of 2021. Yet when Aids arrived in the early 1980s we were definitely not all in it together. The attitudes that caused the condition to spread and different reactions towards that spread are essayed in a drama that can be both rousing and subdued, happy and then sad. The first episode is as low key as someone like Russell T Davies can be but the drama builds as matters progress and there are some powerful moments along the way. Though I think the narrative is even handed, some may find the subject matter too unsettling or the presentation too biased one way or the other.

There are major Spoilers in this review after this point


 

28/01/2021

Top of the Pops 9 Jan 1986

Presented by Chris Arnsby. Mike Smith: “Welcome to the weekly meeting of the BBC hand-clapping society. Good things tonight, including...” Steve Wright: “...oh, including this band down here. Wonderful Feargal Sharkey, You Little Thief. Go ahead.” Mike Smith: “Nice bunch of boys.”

[26] Feargal Sharkey: You Little Thief. This is the song previously seen on BBC1's Noel Edmonds Live Christmas Day Morning Up The Post Office Tower (working title). The reasonably famous cockup involving Feargal Sharkey and band performing in a 747 flying at 2500 feet over London. It was billed as the World's First In Flight Pop Performance but actually became the world's first in flight footage of a band enthusiastically miming while Feargal Sharkey shrugs and silently mouths something (presumably a variation of “I can't hear anything”) at an off screen peon. They had a second go later in the programme and got it right, and that's the story of how Noel Edmonds saved Christmas 1985. You Little Thief may be the jauntiest angry pop song ever. It's essentially a list of insults to the unnamed person who appears to have stolen Feargal's Good Heart. That relationship clearly didn't end well.

 “Looking so much like Michael Heseltine,” is Steve Wright's oblique comment. The Westland helicopter affair (ask your grandad) was reaching a climax at the time and this episode of Top of the Pops was recorded on Wednesday, but broadcast on the day Michael Heseltine resigned from cabinet (also ask your grandad about the days when politicians resigned on matters of principle; little bit o'politics there, etc). (John- Chris, nobody who reads this blog is as young as that! If they were I’d be posting Bernie Sanders sea shanties and not splling props innit)

 


26/01/2021

Midsomer Murders - Crime and Punishment

Isn’t it weird how small a social circle both Barnaby’s have had? Basically any time they host a shindig at home the only people who get invited are Barnaby’s assistant and the pathologist. One can only image the table conversation once the wine gets flowing. Most series would at least include a couple of non speaking extras to share some food or relatives you only meet once however long the programme runs but in Midsomer social gatherings are only for people from work. The other thing they always do is have Barnaby’s wife seeming to like the assistant more than Barnaby does. 


 

25/01/2021

Space 1999 - The AB Chrysalis

That old novelty hit `Star Trekkin` included the line “We come in peace- shoot to kill” which adeptly summed up the attitude of many a big sci-fi series of yesteryear and Space 1999 was often one of them. Yet not always. `The AB Chrysalis` flips that over and has any attempt at resistance proving futile yet once Koenig engages in a little more conversation the results are positive. Tony Barwick’s interesting script centres around a series of ever more dangerous explosions emanating from a distant planet. Each creates a shockwave deadlier than the previous and as the episode opens the Alphans are waiting for the imminent arrival of the next one. Concluding that any further shockwave could destroy the base, Koenig, Maya and Alan journey to investigate. Tony is presumably brewing beer somewhere.

 


21/01/2021

Top of the Pops 2 Jan 1986

Presented by Chris Arnsby. John Peel: “Our researchers have discovered that this is the first Top of the Pops of 1986.” Janice Long: “They earn their money. And it's live. We are live tonight. Aren't we?” John Peel: “This is right yes so come in for nudes, knees, and knockabout.” Janice Long: “And which one are you? Over here a band who've got two singles in the Top 40. A-Ha and The Sun Always Shines on the telly.

[27] A-ha: The Sun Always Shines On TV. The 2nd January seems too early for the first Top of the Pops of the year. 1986 has barely got underway and the charts are still full of the Christmas overspill. Own up, who drove We All Stand Together back into the Christmas 1985 charts? I know your aunt always gives you a £3 Boots voucher but that's no reason to get your revenge by giving her this single. Still, pity the residents of 1987 who will gaze at Gary Davis through the fug of a barely clearing hangover on New Years Day; between a repeat of The Russ Abbott Show* and Eastenders. 

Anyway, it's sayonara 1985 with your rubbish inventions like Pictionary, Hobnobs, and Albion Market. Here's to groovy, funky 1986 which will bring us futuristic consumer items like.... oh Wikipedia doesn't have a page for things invented in 1986. What am I supposed to do, rely on my memory? Fine, then here's to groovy, funky 1986 with it's fabulous inventions including the the Sony Walkman, those car stickers that read “don't follow me or you'll end up at my house”, and Babbage's Difference Engine.  Here also is A-ha. With one of their songs that fell between Take On Me and The Living Daylights. A chance to gaze once more on Morten Harket's cheek bones, and remember the days when it was cool to wind loads of cloth and leather straps round your wrists. 


20/01/2021

Worst President Ever!!

Tweetin’ and bleatin` till Biden beat ‘im!
Until 2020, I thought 2016 was the unlikeliest year I would see and one of its unexpected happenings was the election of Donald Trump as US President. Supposedly part of a populist wave that would overturn the old order of politics the implication was that this would be change for the better. Four years on he has left a trail of havoc that has done the US no service at all. In fact, as umpteen people have already said, he made America grate again. It would be wrong though to label Trump as some sort of maverick outsider- look at the numbers of people who still voted for him after a Presidency that even impartial experts believe will turn out to be the worst in history. The really strange thing is that there are clearly millions of Americans who think as he does, who refuse to engage with the factual details and see things only from the narrow minded parameters of their own interests.


 

19/01/2021

Doctor Who- Terror of the Autons@50

“I am usually referred to as The Master”. With just eight words a new classic tv villain made his debut appearance fifty years ago yet nobody could know just how defining a performance Roger Delgado would give and how enduring the character would become. The Master has re-appeared in many guises over the subsequent half century yet the benchmarks are all laid out from the start. Generously afforded the role of (increasingly un-surprising) enemy in each of 1971’s stories enabled both character and actor to develop a popularity to rival that of the Doctor. Yet there was nothing complicated about The Master really. Clad in black and sporting a Mephistophelian trimmed beard the only way he could look more evil would be to sprout a couple of horns. In another actor’s hands it could have been unimpressive but gifted a role he was totally suited to Roger Delgado makes it his own. So much so that every Master since has used it as a template either to copy or develop. As an example of how in thrall the Eighties version of Doctor Who was to its past when they recast the part they made the actor look as similar as possible to Delgado. Nowadays writers like to pry into the psyche of the main characters but this version of the series never went too deep. They didn’t need to. The Doctor versus The Master is clear good versus evil and kids at that time were happy with such escapist adventure.

 

12/01/2021

1987's most unexpected hit single!

In 1987 a remarkable piece of music arrived in charts that were filled with epic chords, big drum sounds and power ballads. `Jack Your Body`by Steve `Silk` Hurley was a breath of fresh air like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers compared to a troupe of elephants. Sparse and spare it skated over the lumpen competition reaching number one while everyone was still wondering just what it was all about. How does one, erm, jack? “Ooo, Ethel that sounds a bit rude.” Those magazines that printed song lyrics probably hated it as the official lyrics go something like this: ”Jack, jack, jack, jack your body..”. Repeat many times. It wasn’t really something you could singalong to. Yet the further we travel from that year the more and more it seems like a pointer to the future.

 


07/01/2021

Space 1999 - Catacombs of the Moon

A curious episode that doesn’t quite put across the point it is trying to make that faith is stronger than we think. With his wife Michelle dying of a heart condition, mining engineer Patrick Osgood is understandably out of sorts though this manifests itself in fire filled visions of Alpha being consumed by an inferno. For the viewer’s benefit this sees his wife stranded in a four poster bed surrounded by flames looking rather like a spoof of some early 80s pop video. That she is played by a very young Pamela Stephenson is even more odd. Meanwhile Helena keeps making artificial hearts for Michelle and when one doesn’t work she knocks up another one about an hour later! Of course had Victor been here with his mechanical heart he may have been able to help but- hang on – Victor no longer exists. Instead we have to be content with a lot of soft focus medical meandering as Pat goes loopier by the minute. Koenig meanwhile goes to see what is causing waves of heat driving the temperature up.

 

05/01/2021

The Great season 1 episode 1 review

 At the end of Channel 4’s showing of the debut instalment of this series the continuity announcer provides information for any viewers who have been affected by anything in the episode. Presumably he means viewers who may have recently had their bear shot or been chucked in a lake whilst inside a trunk or maybe if it’s in case any unhappy empresses are watching? Otherwise it’s hard to see what effect the episode might have on viewers other than to make them laugh. Hugely entertaining and quite mad at times, Tony McNamara’s  apparantely partly true origin story of the woman who would become Catherine the Great is cut from the same satirical cloth as shows such as The Thick of It though at times could be called Carry On Catherine! It’s frequently amusing and once or twice will make you gasp at the fact that you are finding a violent incident actually rather funny.

 


02/01/2021

Doctor Who - Revolution of the Daleks review

Made over a year ago this is the first new Doctor Who we’ve seen since the world changed in real life and thus comes over as somewhat odd now. Despite some fortuitous resonances with scenes of a prime minister talking about safety and security the episode has the feeling of being made much longer ago in a different world. This is definitely not the fault of the production but shows that programmes like this may suddenly seem outdated now we’ve had a taste of something an episode might actually depict (of course aliens would be responsible for the pandemic). We now know what something that potentially threatens our whole world is actually like and I’m not sure you’d ever stretch to call it entertainment however many Chris Whitty memes try. I suppose the time will come when there are dramas made about the pandemic but I don’t know if that’s the sort of thing I would ever want to watch. When you’ve seen the real thing, drama can’t compete. 


 SPOILERS FROM HERE ON....