Review - The Sandman episodes 1 - 3


Will a TV adaptation of The Sandman be a dream or send us to sleep?

Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed comic book has long been coveted as a potentially great tv series. Well now it’s been made. I’m at a slight disadvantage having never read the comic book so know next to nothing about the story but I do know there are many who hold it dear so forgive any naivete when it comes to unravelling the plot. I should also point out I’m not a huge fan of Gods in drama as their unlimited powers are usually matched by their limited character development. When you can do what you like you don’t really have to be very interesting it seems.



Review- Heartstopper Season One


Is Heartstopper really as good as people are saying?

“He looks like a golden retriever” someone remarks early on in Heartstopper. Actually the whole series is like a golden retriever; eager to please, full of energy, a lot of fun and very cute. Is it really as good as the reaction to it suggests though?. It is definitely one of 2022’s buzz shows, though that said the ratings are not as strong as the reaction. Indeed another shows with a larger audience has been cancelled so it seems that in the streaming age online buzz counts nearly as much as eyes on screen. Yet when serious critics are calling it one of the must see dramas of this year then there must be something about Heartstopper. Plus it seems churlish or mean to begrudge such a joyful production its prominence amongst the darker, sombre fare that seems to comprise most of our most popular series these days. It’s not the most original take on its subject matter and some of the scenarios will be familiar yet just like a golden retriever it will defy you not to like it!



Top of the Pops 2 July 1987


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby

Before getting started. A quick thank you to the two posters who commented under last week's write up. Billy Smart linked to his very useful list of The Roxy performances, which you can find here https://drunkennessofthingsbeingvarious.blogspot.com/2017/08/the-roxy-tyne-tees-itv-1987-88.html

mumu03 added, “Worth mentioning that although Bates was the host of the 2/7/87 edition, it was originally planned to be Janice Long, as mentioned by BBC Genome + the advance listings it pulls from Radio Times:


It's believed that she cancelled due to her pregnancy; her shows certainly become more sporadic from this point onward, with only four more to come before her final TOTP (4/8/88 - the live All About Eve miming cockup one)”.  I think we're all looking forwards to the All About Eve episode. Except possibly for the people who've already watched it on BBC4 who are remembering it with fondness. (John- Excuse me, what's with all this banter? I've always assumed the comments are spam!!)

 Simon Bates: “Hi and welcome to Top of the Pops and with a little bit of luck we'll have some guests towards the end of the programme, and we have a new number one. Here's a band that hasn't been on the show for three years but they're storming back with When Smokey Sings. It's ABC.”

 [11] ABC: When Smokey Sings. Dear Martin Fry. When you are not looking, your drummer occasionally puts his foot up on the drums. It looks untidy. I think you should have a word. Yours, etc.


I've written another novel...


It’s called The Monster’s Tale and its for kids really so not sure if it will appeal to anyone reading this blog but I thought I’d mention it anyway. Its self - published on Amazon so the kindle version which is free comes out first! The paperback version for people like me who still buy physical media should be there in a day or two. Most people who self publish probably don’t reach a sixth book because it is a process that involves dedication and enthusiasm. And for most of us it’s something we do as well as a job and whatever family commitments you may have. Also its something  from which very few involved generate much money. Occasionally a self published author breaks through but if you start writing to become rich or famous I’d suggest you’d be better becoming a hang gliding opera singer or something!

Available in print or ebook on Amazon


Top of the Pops 25 June 1987


Reviewed by Chris Arsnby. Simon Bates: “OK. Welcome to Top of the Pops on a Thursday night. We've got some great music for you, some great videos. Terence Trent D'Arby, Pet Shop Boys, and Bruce Willis later on.”

Peter Powell: “And for starters! Let's Dance! In the right style! With Chris Rea on the Pops!”

 [18] Chris Rea: Let's Dance. Let's talk more about The Roxy. ITV's (or to be more exact Tyne Tees') rival to Top of the Pops using the Network Chart (for independent local radio stations and the NME) rather than Gallup, and broadcast on Tuesday each week. How nervous did it make Top of the Pops? Disappointingly not many episodes of The Roxy have made it online, but the first episode has and it's an interesting look at how the series wanted to sell itself.

The programme starts with a voice over from Alan “Fluff” Freeman: “OK pop-pickers. Here it is. At last. For all you music lovers. The Roxy. All right.” Is it a cliché, or a knowing spin on a cliché, or a deliberate use of a real cliché to show how cool the programme knows its audience is? I don't have time to peel that irony onion.

The title sequence isn't much cop. Nothing to worry Michael Hurll here. A lever flips in a control room and electricity flows down wires to illuminate a building; the Roxy, obviously, although this could be the titles for any Saturday morning kid's TV programme. The music's is equally generic, sounding pretty much like any contemporary television show, although you could equally argue this shows how quickly The Wizard has dated and by 1987 the Top of the Pops theme should sound more like Pump Up the Volume.



Bernard Cribbins


When Bernard Cribbins, who died today aged 93, published his autobiography in 2018 it was titled `Bernard Who? 75 Years of Doing Just about Everything` which encapsulates both his modesty and how his presence became a fixture for several generations of children and adults. Just looking at his IMDB entry reveals 121 different roles and that’s only tv and film. For some he was the man who made a record about digging a hole, for some the stationmaster Albert Perks in The Railway Children, for others the voice of The Wombles or the bird from the phone adverts. For others still he was Wilfrid Mott the first pensioner to become a Doctor Who companion or for younger viewers Old Jack. In these roles and many others he deployed a disarming warmth that meant you always liked and trusted him. His mantra, delightfully, was “do your best” and that seems like as good as tenet to live life by as there is.



Midsomer Murders- Beyond the Grave


Ghosts and history haunt this episode from 2000

There’s a lot going on in this episode and though enjoyable some of it is rather superfluous. Steeped in historical references dating back to the Civil war, Douglas Watkinson’s characterful story opens with nothing more serious than a vandalised painting. Called in to take a look Barnaby and Troy are accompanied by Cully’s actor boyfriend Nico from the episode `Death of a Hollow Man` who is shadowing Troy in preparation for a role.  These early episodes had more continuity – the solicitor Jocelyn is mentioned here again- but this aspect would soon be largely phased out.



Film Review - You Are My Sunshine

 David Hastings' film sparks with life and truth

A simply conveyed but heartfelt look at how one decision can alter our lives for either good or bad, You Are My Sunshine is an understated triumph. Written and directed by David Hastings it is told over two timeframes- the early Seventies and late 2010s. It’s a familiar sounding story of how a love breaks a family apart yet instead of turning into a sweeping epic or a multi part journey through each decade it shows us the start and the end of the relationship between two guys- Tom and Joe. You think you know how its going to pan out- and there are definitely familiar patterns- yet there is something so accurate about the script and performances .


Top of the Pops 18 June 1987


Words: Chris Arnsby. Right from the start, something's odd. The countdown clock (which I've just learned is more accurately referred to as a VT Clock) says:


 David Bowie? Yes. It's true. The recording begins with a wide shot of the Top of the Pops main stage with Mr Bowie himself dressed in a shiny white suit standing stage left in front of the neon logo. There's about 30 seconds of awkward hanging around during which David Bowie amuses himself by strumming his guitar silently and doing a bit of light dancing. Floor Manager Ian McLean shouts, “right here we go,” and launches into a four second countdown, and then David Bowie performs Time Will Crawl. A performance never seen on air because the song peaked at [33] and then slipped out of the charts and was gone before the end of July. (John- It should have been Number One!) Best bit, David Bowie steps off the Top of the Pops stage and walks into the audience. I'm always a fan of this because I love that breaking of the space between the performer and the audience, I also love the idea that somewhere out there is a small group of people who can say “honestly, David Bowie was right next to me.” The audience look genuinely delighted but it gets even better when Bowie slides up to one person in the audience, puts his arm round her shoulders, and starts dancing with her. And she's got a story that ends, “no honestly. I danced with David Bowie.”

The rest of this review could just be screen grabs but I'll restrain myself to one from the end, where David Bowie stands surrounded by the audience grinning in a delighted but slightly shy, and simultaneously proud, way. I just wish I could make out what he shouts to the studio. I think it's, “we're good for another half-hour, by the way.”


Top of the Pops- 5th and 11th June 1987


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. 05/06/1987 Gary Davies: “Hi. Good evening. Welcome to Top of the Pops, or as it's known tonight, the warm up show for Dynasty. In the studio we have Pepsi and Shirlie, we've got Wet Wet Wet, but we start with Erasure, at number seven, Victim Of Love.”

 [7] Erasure: Victim Of Love. The warm up show for Dynasty? The 1987 general election has shifted Top of the Pops out of it's normal orbit and on to Friday. Sorry Every Second Counts fans, no Paul Daniels for you this week. What displaced Top of the Pops from it's Thursday home? Something called On The Spot. “Viewers throughout the nation put their questions to the Chairman of the Conservative Party, The Rt Hon Norman Tebbit.”

This was the third of three programmes which ran this week. On Tuesday 2nd viewers could put their questions to the Leader of the SDP, David Owen, and the Leader of the Liberal party, David Steel, who lived in David Owen's pocket. Wednesday was given to the Labour party leader, Neil Kinnock. Thursday, as we've discovered was given to the Leader of the Conservative party Margar -hang on. Looks like Maggie didn't want to play ball. She obviously wanted to avoid being asked more questions about which way the General Belgrano was travelling. Erasure's views on the General Belgrano are not known.



Midsomer Murders - Death's Shadow


More Killings at Badger’s Drift…

 It’s a wonder there’s anyone left living in Badger’s Drift. The location for the very first episode the village is one again under investigation in this second season episode from 1999 in which a local property developer is somewhat brutally killed. Well it does take twenty seven minutes for this to happen by which time we’ve been given some vital clues in flashbacks about what all this may be about. While the programme generally avoids continuity references so episodes can be watched in no particular order `Death’s Shadow` contains several callbacks to that opening episode including a couple of characters appearing. The story is written by Anthony Horowitz and very effectively directed by Jeremy Silbertson. The editing is especially good too. Whereas some episodes tend to jar when leaping from one scenario to another there is a consistent mood and pace to this one.



Doctor Who Worlds of Wonder Photo Special !


Some pictures from the Doctor Who Worlds of Wonder exhibition currently running at the World Museum in Liverpool which I visited this very day- or was it in the future? . It’s a mixture of old and new monsters, costumes and props together with some real science as well all introduced by none other that Mark Gatiss looking appropriately professorial! Fans of any (or all) eras of the series will find something of interest in this extensive and well mounted attraction which started in May and runs until 30 October. Tickets and other details can be found here -

DoctorWho Worlds of Wonder | National Museums Liverpool (liverpoolmuseums.org.uk)


Top of the Pops 21st and 28th May 1987


Your guide: Chris Arnsby. Peter Powell: “Hello! It's hit, after hit, after hit! For tonight's edition of Top of the Pops!” Simon Bates: “Hi. Try this one on for size. It's about a guy who wants to be on a prime TV talkshow. Anything but Jonathan Ross. Marillion, and Incommunicado.”

[6] Marillion: Incommunicado. Oh god. Fish is wearing a tie with a fish on it. It looks like a kipper tie. And his name is Fish. It's a double-fish Fish. Oh my sides. I'm sure the lyrics are equally clever but Marillion are a bit inaudible tonight. It could be a problem with the studio setup or maybe the single sounds like this (I don't care enough to check) but, regardless of cause, the opening line sounds like: “I've been wigjin my nitra if only I could rem-memba your nay-ayme.” The rest of the song doesn't get much better. Occasional words penetrate the audio fug. Oh. Is that another joke? That the song Incommunicado, is literally incommunicado.


Film Review: Thor - Love and Thunder


Marvel movies' longest running hero delivers in vibrant romp!

The Thor films have been easier for people to criticise because there is a certain portentousness about the idea of Gods as opposed to the more mortal likes of Tony Stark or Peter Parker. We can identify with those kind of people whereas we’re unlikely to have encountered any Norse deities. To undercut this the movies have been somewhat lighter in tone which can sometimes sit uneasily with the general mayhem and slaughter that inevitably develops.  Ragnarok, the third of Thor’s movies was the most satisfying achieving a balance between humour and seriousness;  while Love and Thunder is not quite as good as that it’s still a hugely entertaining movie.

Warning - Colourful spoilers after the break!


Midsomer Murders - Blood Will Out

 Travellers and soldiers clash in this season two episode from 1999.

In any detective series the arrival of a group of travellers usually means everyone will assume they commit the crime only for it to be revealed that someone is trying to frame them. `Blood Will Out` does use this trope though luckily its only a part of wider picture. When Orville Tudway arrives in the village of Martyr Warren with a large number of travellers it triggers a number of simmering situations not least crystallising the hatred with which local sheriff and former soldier Hector Bridges causes amongst various parties. The scenario is complicated by an odd marriage swap and memories of the Falklands war in which both Bridges and Tudway served. So when Bridges is shot dead there are plenty of suspects.

Barnaby and Troy looking for clues


Top of the Pops- 7th / 14th May 1987


07/05/1987. Reviewed by Chris Arnsby: Mike Smith: “Good evening. It's Thursday night. Seven o'clock on BBC1. Studio 8. Live from Television Centre. Time to put on another big suit and bring you this week's Top of the Pops. Here's Living In A Box.”

[6] Living In A Box: Living In A Box. There's an odd effect on the transition from the opening titles to Mike Smith. The transitions are normally regular shapes, circles, rectangles, squares (all right, settle down Pythagoras). This one is very chaotic. The colour is muted as well, as if the picture is a tenth generation copy. It looks like something terrible has been done to the output of the Quantel box, like feeding it back through the input of the Quantel box multiple times until the picture has faded and distorted. Obviously Danny Popkin, who is credited with Video Effects, has done something very clever. I mention it mainly because the muted colour persists into the programme for several seconds -long after the picture has gone back to being full screen- it's very noticeable.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on Living In A Box's unnamed backing singer. She's got one move, which involves bending her left leg, and twisting her upper body so she's looking over her left camera. She does this every second or so, like a metronome. Can she keep it up for the whole song? Yes she can.



Film Review - The Duke


A charming true story

In 1961 a Newcastle man called Kempston Bunton stole the famous Goya painting of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London as a means to fund thousands of free television licences for pensioners only later he was forced to return it and stood trial for the crime. If that true story seems slight this 2020 film is anything but with a script that plays as a social commentary of the time as a well as a portrait of a man who battles against injustices using unconventional means.



Top of the Pops 30 April 1987


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Steve Wright: “Yes yes!! Good evening and welcome to another!! Exciting! Enthralling!! Top of the Pops!! With me and 'im!!” Peter Powell: “Thank you! And for openers... The Jesus and Mary Chain! Brilliant song! April Skies!”

[19] The Jesus & Mary Chain: April Skies. The Jesus and Mary Chain are having a who-can-pretend-to-look-least-bothered-about-being-onstage contest. There's the drummer, flailing vaguely at his drum kit, one handed in the background. The guitarist wearing dark glasses who looks at the floor. And the other guitarist who stands very still and also looks at the floor. Meanwhile, lead singer Jim Read keeps fiddling with his microphone. He drags the stand around. He pops the microphone off the stand. He puts the microphone on the floor. He wanders round the stage. He turns around, spots the microphone on the floor, and seems surprised how it got there.

Later he picks the stand up by the base and starts waving it around in a very unsafe way. Then, apparently bored he drops the stand on the floor where it forms a potential trip hazard. Obviously worried about this he picks it up again and then very slowly waves it around his head like Highlander. Just leave the damn thing along Jim. If you stopped fiddling with it you might do a better job of miming to your own song.



Midsomer Murders- Strangler's Wood


Class season two episode works a treat

When the body of a girl who has been strangled with a tie is found in Ravens Wood near the village of Midsomer Worthy it evokes memories of three similar murders that took place nine years ago. Has the same killer started again and, if so, why did they stop? Anthony Horowitz shows the early promise that would later bring us Foyle’s War and Alex Rider amongst others and this episode is very much a precursor to his economic style. There isn’t a moment that’s out of place, a line of dialogue that isn’t significant and the clues are laid out for us to work out as we go along. At precisely the same moment as Barnaby does viewers will work out who the killer is.



Top of the Pops 23 April 1987


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Gary Davies: “Hi. Good evening. Now, not only are we live tonight, we also have six live bands in the studio. We start off with the number eight record this week, here's Five Star.”

 [8] Five Star: The Slightest Touch. The Top of the Pops partyometer has been cranked up to seven for the live show this week. Pom-poms and plastic hats for some. Balloons and streamers for the rest. Confetti to be thrown in Gary Davies' face forever. And fixed, excited grins for all. Michael Hurll is mixing Smilex with the studio smoke. I've mentioned before that these days I download Top of the Pops from the Palace of Righteous Justice (https://mega.nz/folder/h0snQACa#uiNNqosfbdrfzODHsE1clw/folder/kpVhQAqJ) where the majority of the episodes are digital copies of the BBC masters, for some reason. This episode is especially interesting because it's a recording of a live edition and it starts 30 seconds before the episode gets on air, We see a countdown clock and then someone whispers, “it's all gone quiet.” It's probably Gary Davies. “Thirty seconds,” shouts a more distant voice, let's pretend it's Floor Manager Iain McLean. “Wooo,” adds Gary Davies, which provokes a few cheers from the audience. “Could have done with a big wooo, then,” is Gary's follow up which gets a much more spirited response just before the opening titles start to roll.



Film Review: Jurassic World- Dominion


Overlong but enjoyable conclusion to the Jurassic Era

Like many, I’ll never forget that moment in the original Jurassic Park when we catch our first sight of `real` dinosaurs. As a child I had been disappointed on discovering there was no footage of these amazing creatures and I dragged my parents to every conceivable replica whether in museums or theme parks and avidly watched every stop motion dinosaur film makers attempted. Yet what I really wanted was to see them in their majesty. Then in 1993 I did. For generations of people who had childhood memories of wishing they could see dinosaurs it was a wonderful reward and one of the best cinematic moments I will ever see. Nearly thirty years on we’ve seen so many dinosaurs and sundry other digitally generated images that simple wonder has been replaced with an ever ambitious demand to be impressed. We don’t even get surprised by them any more. Now we have what is billed as the final Jurassic film, the sixth offering from a franchise that can now only follow those who copied its visual genius. Can Jurassic World- Dominion come anywhere near to those thrills we experienced in 1993?



Cobra Kai Season 3


Differently paced third season has some incredulous plots but remains a delight to watch

The climax of season two was so visually and dramatically shocking that it set a benchmark for subsequent seasons. Series in this position can sometimes struggle to match the excellence of what has gone before so Cobra Kai’s third season dials back to effectively reset the show.  Behind the scenes there was also a change with Netflix taking over after the first two seasons had been produced by YouTube. Would these changes make a difference? If this sometimes makes the third outing seem a little less focussed and a notch down on the excitement of last time, the series remains in great shape, as lively and fluid as before. The writers manage to skilfully ease matters out of a potential cul de sac in a variety of ways and move forward. Worth remembering too that the series is billed as a comedy drama so perhaps not to be take too seriously. 



TV Review: Big Boys


Autobiographical comedy drama is sweet, biting and clever all at once!

Comedian Jack Rooke’s new six - part series is not exactly what you might expect. With a title like Big Boys and a story about going to University you might expect The Inbetweeners when they got a bit older but it’s something rather different. Yes, there’s lewd humour and references, plenty of substances imbibed, drunk or otherwise experienced and what those old video warnings quaintly described as “sexual swear words”. However they are the backdrop to a story about family and friendship, a story full of big hearted emotions couched behind the brazen exterior of young people’s outward behaviour. Adapted from his book these are all real life experiences presumably given an extra comedic edge and you’ll be laughing and probably by episode six crying as well, maybe even both together!


Film Review: Top Gun - Maverick


Exhilarating sequel will take your breath away!

Despite being an iconic film Top Gun does not immediately spring to mind as needing a sequel and it’s taken over thirty - five years to get here. The standard Hollywood narrative would be an older, bitter, washed out Maverick called back for one vital mission. Can he battle his personal demons and get himself together to achieve it? Thankfully this is not that film. Instead, Top Gun - Maverick is as thrilling and satisfying a movie as it’s predecessor, maybe even more so. While It acknowledges that history and plays with it -especially visually- in the end it sets its own hugely enjoyable path. Call backs to the first film are well done without going overboard, I probably didn’t even spot them all because you don’t necessarily need them but its satisfying to have them anyhow.

He's flying towards the SPOILERS past the break...


Midsomer Murders - Happy Families

 Agatha Christie homage hits the spot!

 Modern Midsomer Murders is often less intent on creating a strange mood or introducing quirky characters preferring to have a more grounded approach with just a few odd moments. There are episodes of recent vintage that could easily be mistaken for one of many other series. `Happy Families` however is not one of those but rather a well constructed gem that knowingly plays the tropes of detective fiction- especially that of Agatha Christie to whom this seems to be something of a tribute-  and yet seems fresh. Its set almost entirely in the house and grounds of  Victor Karras, millionaire games manufacturer, a grand estate  which can only be reached by a rather rickety looking ferry to the mainland. We know something will happen because the camera keeps focusing on just how rickety this metal vessel is...


"What time is Miss Marple getting here." Midsomer Murders finds it's inner Agatha Christie


Midsomer Murders - The Scarecrow Murders


A sombre episode seems out of place.

 Shown for the first time directly after a frothy documentary looking at the show’s twenty fifth anniversary, `The Scarecrow Murders` is an atypical episode and a little tame. Back in the day a title like that would probably involve a killer dressing up as a scarecrow and some suitably scary sequences. The name is something of a red herring even though events take place during a scarecrow festival. While the victims are left amongst the displays with a bit of straw adorning them the episode is actually about more serious issues. Curiously the location is simply referred to as Midsomer despite the documentary making a point that it’s a fictional county rather than a village. Perhaps they’ve run out of names.


Spoiler- The episode isn't as great as this picture makes it seem!


Top of the Pops 16 April 1987


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Peter Powell: “Hello! It's Thursday evening which means it's another edition of Top of the Pops!” Janice Long: “And here we are the Fine Young Cannibals this week at number nine, Ever Fallen In Love. 
[9] Fine Young Cannibals: Ever Fallen In Love. Remember two weeks ago? When Fine Young Cannibals' guitarist David Steel (yes, leader of the Liberal Party) was forced to stand trapped behind a keyboard while he gazed with envious eyes at (other Fine Young Cannibal's guitarist) Andy Cox who roamed the stage doing all his silly knees bent dancing about? Well those days are gone. David is back where he belongs, free range. Watching him and Andy shimmy around the stage is like a symphony written for elastic bands. I guess we just have to pretend the keyboard is playing itself.


Alan White


Yes fans in 1972 may have been puzzled by the choice of Alan White to replace Bill Bruford as the band’s drummer. The latter was, by his own admission, a “jazzer” prone to adding elaborate fills and quirky signatures that were a key part of the band’s early sound. White on the other hand would be seen as a more straightforward player whose unobtrusive presence can be heard on the likes of John Lennon’s `Imagine` and George Harrison’s `All Things Must Pass` though you’re definitely aware of him on `Instant Karma`. How many people at the time though even knew he was part of those albums? As it turned out Alan White was exactly what Yes needed to move forward. Locked in with `lead bassist` Chris Squire this rhythm section would propel the band for more than forty years until Squire’s death in 2015.


Midsomer Murders- Written in Blood , Death of a Hollow Man

Vintage Midsomer from the first Season!

Written In Blood

It’s Midsomer’s cleaners you have to feel sorry for. I wonder if, during their job interview, they’re warned that at some point in their career they will inevitably discover the murdered corpse of one of their employers. The thing to do is scream at the top of their voice even though nobody else is in the house! In this second ever episode the battered body of Gerald Hadleigh is discovered by his unfortunate cleaner the morning after a somewhat tense writer’s group meeting. Hadleigh turns out to be someone who nobody really knew- even his fellow authors only met him once a month which seems a bit odd given how small the village of Midsomer Worthy is. Mind you most people seem to move about under cover of darkness. The mystery of not just who killed Hadleigh but who he was forms the spine of this storyline which suggests that writers are even crazier than their characters.



Top of the Pops 9 April 1987


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Mike Smith: “Welcome to Television Centre's own madhouse, Top of the Pops. Thirty minutes of the best music from charts. We kick off tonight with our special guests from Kansas in the USA. The Rainmakers.”

[28] The Rainmakers: Let My People Go-Go. A good song to kick off this week's edition. The Rainmakers warm up the audience and turn in a good performance. They're not making any great statement or revolutionising the pop industry, but they do have a rockin' good time. Lead singer Bob Walkenhorst puts on a top hat at one point. (John- Not for the first time, see single picture below. It must be his Thing)



The brilliance of School's Out


At my posh secondary school they always finished the final assembly with a rather earnest song titled `God Be With You Till We Meet Again` which seemed like a little warning that the big G would always be watching you even in the holidays! Imagine how brilliant it would have been had the end of term song been  `Schools Out`instead! This was such a good single especially if you were actually at school at the time, to love it was almost like an act of rebellion and even in a year full of stardust and metal gurus, Alice Cooper was something else. I think he was the first American pop star I became aware of and he looked like a very dangerous man indeed with his dark eye make up and sneering performance though ironically  he turned out to be quite a decent bloke. `


Tv Review- Eurovision Song Contest 2022


Thanks to Sam Ryder, we’re back in the game!

Its interesting that both success and failure spark all sorts of theories and the narrative for this annual competition as far as the UK was concerned has been a sorry state of affairs for a while now. We’ve tried all sorts of things- veterans, rappers, newcomers, songwriters, public competition winners and even Andrew Lloyd Webber (writing not singing!) but nothing has stuck. Yesterday in  Turin that all changed and our second place – after winning the jury half of the vote- was something to make viewers stare at the screen in some disbelief. As commentator Graham Norton said this was real not a drama but the question is why and why now? The answer, simply, is we had a great song. Just like I said we should a year ago on this blog, in fact just like everyone’s been saying for ages and it seems as if the message has got through.



Top of the Pops 2 April 1987


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Gary Davies: “Hi. How ya doin'? I hope you're well because we've got one heck of a good show for you tonight. In the studio we have Curiosity Killed The Cat, we've got Ruby Turner, we've also got the Fine Young Cannibals.”

Janice Long: “And I'm dead made up because at number twenty one this week with the Irish Rover it's the Pogues and the Dubliners.”

[21] The Pogues & The Dubliners: The Irish Rover. Janice and Gary do an energetic jig as the camera pulls back in an impressive crane shot which goes from a close up of the hosts to a wide shot of the studio. But don't be fooled. No matter how made up Janice is, the demands of as-live recording mean there's no time for watching the performance. She and Gary have to dash across the studio and find their marks for the next link. The pair sneak off during a quick close up of Ronnie Drew, and are both gone before Shane MacGowan starts singing.



Film Review: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness


Sam Raimi brings horror to the Marvel Universe…in a mostly good way!

It has been a while since Doctor Strange had his own film though the character has played a key role in developments since his introduction six years ago. Director Sam Raimi has form in this area having helmed the trio of Spiderman movies in the 2000’s and is able to bring in some of his trademark horror to the tale in which the concept of Multiverses is explored in more detail. It is very much a film for people who like Marvel movies and even touches on some of the tv series that most of us haven’t seen so it might be an idea to check on those storylines to bring yourself up to speed.


Spoilers beyond this point


Top of the Pops 26 March 1987

 Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Mike Smith: “Right. Good evening. Welcome to Television Centre, Top of the Pops. Spring time. We have something new for you. A new number one. New video for Peter Gabriel. And a new voice for Top of the Pops. Debut tonight for Terence Trent D'Arby.

 [22] Terence Trent D'Arby: If You Let Me Stay. Hello Terence. Right, what's going on with your backing singers? The one on the left, wearing a vest, looks like he's auditioning for Grease, badly, and I'm worried the one on the right is about to sell me a second hand car; owned-by-a-little-old-lady-who-just-used-to-drive-it-to-church-once-a-week. It's been a while since I've seen such a sorry looking pair. Terence cuts loose his big dance move towards the end of the song, an impressive drop into the splits. Maybe this wasn't done in camera rehearsals because the moment is almost entirely lost on screen. The low angle camera shot from the studio floor gives the impression he's fallen into an unexpected sink hole, with the microphone stand following close behind. When Vision Mixer Hilary West cuts to a side angle for a better view, the shot wobbles down as if the Camera Operator is still reacting to a sudden instruction to grab a close up.



Midsomer Murders- The Killings at Badger's Drift


The very first episode from twenty five years ago has some differences and a lot of similarities with the series that runs to this day!

This was the first episode of the series shot as a pilot in 1996 and it’s not hard to see why it was subsequently commissioned for a full season and beyond till today! A little quirky, slightly eye opening in its themes and very atmospheric it became the UK television drama hit of 1997 with ratings north of thirteen million,  the highest rated drama of the year. The episode is a little different to the house style to which viewers became accustomed- notably in the tame opening sequence made up of quaint country drawings-  though its more surprising just how many of the programme’s signatures were set from the start. Because it’s based on a novel it is extremely tightly plotted and has a succession of twists each of which cause our assumptions of the villagers to sink a little lower! They’re quite a bunch in Badger’s Drift!


"What a lovely day, nothing nasty going on here!"


Top of the Pops 19 March 1987


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Simon Bates: “Hello. Welcome to Top of the Pops. We've got Genesis recorded live in concert later on...” 
Peter Powell: “..!”
Simon Bates: “... and Peter Powell.” 
Peter Powell: “... We've also got The Mission! And we've got Erasure! And to start with Respectable at number two! Mel and Kim!”

[2] Mel & Kim: Respectable. I can't decide if Simon Bates is just a bit hopeless at this broadcasting lark or is he actually really quite devious? Observe the way he immediately takes the wind of out Peter Powell's sails by sneaking the “... and Peter Powell,” bit into his introduction and talking over the point where Powell thinks it's his turn to start speaking. This week Mel & Kim have come in two nearly identical outfits. Can you spot all the differences; there's the hat, the belt, the trousers not tucked into the boots, oh and buttons only on one top. What do I win if I spot all the differences? A night out with Simon Bates! Hope I don't get second prize.


TV Review - Doctor Who- Legend of the Sea Devils


Can the turtle's power be restored in Jodie Whittaker's penultimate run out?

It is surprising that any Doctor Who has been made in the past two years and its worth remembering how difficult a production it is in normal times never mind in the midst of a pandemic. This iteration of the programme has actually delivered some of its best moments under these restrictive conditions. Several episodes of the six part `Flux` last year were excellent while the New Year special `Eve of the Daleks` made a virtue of its limited resources. `Legend of the Sea Devils` though seems to be showing the strain a little. While it is pacy and great to look at there is something missing from the final production though our aquatic cousins have never looked cooler!

"There be spoilers past here.."


Film Review- The Secrets of Dumbledore


In this third instalment of the Harry Potter spin off, the younger Dumbledore has to rally his allies to try and stop Grindelwald becoming the Wizarding World’s top dog.

I’ve never been convinced that this slice of the franchise’s pie has enough filling to entrance audiences as the parent story did. The first film was enjoyable but the follow up missed more than it hit I felt. The Secrets of Dumbledore is better with a lighter touch all round, a more involving plot and well placed humour. Some strong performances, deeper material and lovely cinematography elevate what remains a slight story but a worthwhile watch.


Film review: The Green Knight


Messing with (your) heads…

Although it tells a traditional tale there is little that is traditional about The Green Knight. Washed in beautiful light and shade, every shot looks like an album cover so watching it makes you feel as if you have entered another dimension. It’s a shame that it was only fleetingly in UK cinemas as visual impact is tailor made for the largest screen you can find. What unfolds is a story with a flawed hero on a weird quest that is anything but triumphant or heroic leading to an elliptical conclusion. At the end its not entirely clear what happened or indeed why it happened. Amusingly one of the most asked questions on Google is `What is the point of the Green Knight? I’m not sure this movie will provide that answer; about the only recognisable aspect of any previous version is the round table.



Alex Rider Season 2


The first Alex Rider series was an impressive adaptation and while it was slow to get started packed quite a punch when it did. With an interesting idea, strong cast and central performance as well as several key set pieces it was a welcome addition to the current overwhelming number of TV shows around right now. Season 2 dropped at the end of last year, not sure if Channel 4 will be buying it, but you can stream it on Amazon. It retains much of the style of the first season and utilises both Alex’s improved skills but also the after effects of what happened to him into a plot that ramps up the threat considerably.