The New Avengers Season 1 Eps 10-13


One of the less involving episodes, `Three Handed Game` is a drawn out story of a brain drain machine that a villain is using to try and obtain three separate messages that only together make sense. The ideas are somewhat preposterous though they come from a pre-digital era so I suppose this was the sort of thing governments did to keep information secret. It would probably work better as a book but for a tv drama it seems bitty and not that interesting when its not being ridiculous. The trouble is the tone which has the cast trying to be serious while doing unlikely things while the three Avengers never seem that worried about anything. What memorable sequences there are come thanks to director Ray Austin who always has an eye for the unusual shot or close quarters combat. A fight on the stage of an empty theatre is the highlight and there are playful scenes with Purdey made up as a clown but even the director can’t avoid the moments when people’s minds are drained from looking silly. What the episode lacks is a better way of explaining what this message is actually about, we never hear it properly and are left wondering could it really be worth all this fuss? Also the triumvirate system is said to have been invented by Steed but surely the government has a whole department for this kind of work. 


Annette review


On their 2017 song `When You’re A French Director` Sparks declared that “you’re an auteur as well. Actual French director Leos Carax featured on the track but their collaboration was to culminate in this 2021 film. With a story and songs penned by Ron and Russell Mael and Leos Carax behind the camera Annette is as odd as you might expect. The story is a familiar one, especially if you’ve seen A Star Is Born, yet presented with enough quirks to make it seem different. Playing with the boundaries between reality and fiction Carax extracts maximum visual impact from the tale while the Mael brothers’ songs narrate proceedings in a manner similar to Les Miserables. Yet what Annette ultimately lacks is the latter’s emotional heft. Many times I was impressed by this film but never once moved by it.



What in the world is Wordle?


If you’ve been anywhere near social media in recent months you can’t have missed those squares coloured green, yellow and grey. People celebrate or commiserate over how easy or difficult today’s Wordle was. For the first few weeks you ignore it, then you keep seeing the thing and you’re slightly curious, then you realise it is everywhere and you just have to know! Like is there just one official Wordle a day? Who creates it- is there a Wordle Master? Or do people create their own? Is it just an app? How do you even begin to guess what the word is? Why is it even called Wordle? So, so many questions. It’s time for answers.


Top of the Pops 15 Jan 1987


Introduced by Chris Arnsby. Mike Smith: “Good evening. And welcome to Top of the Pops. Some good acts in the studio tonight. Four live acts in here. Fourteen new entries in the chart. And over here a Top of the Pops debut, this is Iggy Pop. 

[18] Iggy Pop: Real Wild Child (Wild One). Mr Pop can be spotted leaping around on stage behind Mike Smith during the introduction. It's part of his warm up for an exhausting performance; Iggy writhes; Iggy leaps; Iggy skips; Iggy windmills his arms; Iggy climbs onto the piano; the one thing Iggy doesn't do well is mime well. He's also a bit casual with the studio equipment, tossing the microphone around and flailing the stand in quite a dangerous way. Fortunately, he doesn't repeat the excess of his 1977 performance of Lust for Life, on Dutch show TopPop, during which he did approximately 50 guilders-worth of damage to a stage light and studio palm tree.



The New Avengers Season 1 Eps 7 -9


In the Dennis Spooner penned `Target!` several agents die soon after taking part in a shooting range exercise and while the viewer pieces this together quite soon, Steed and co take a little longer. Inevitably this makes the episode repetitive but luckily this deadly facility  is more imaginative than you might expect. Mocked up as a country village street it has an armoury of doors, windows and roofs from which potential assassins, all looking like shop window dummies, can let loose their firepower. It’s surreal in true Avengers fashion and somehow director Ray Austin manages to find new angles to shoot it from each time. His busy cameras rush and zoom keeping things fresh. It is not apparent- and neither should it be- just how the mannequins are operated or if some of them are stuntmen in masks.

A plethora of familiar television actors of the Seventies populate guest roles including Keith Barron, John Paul, Frederick Jaeger and Robert Beatty. Barron is the villain of the piece, a planted Russian agent whose dapper appearance and casual demeanour masks a calculated killer. His sidekick is the diminutive Deep Roy who adds a disturbing feel to some scenes, especially one where he’s dressed as a girl with balloons! It does seem a pity to use John Paul, at the time well known as the star of Doomwatch, in the supporting role of a doctor but he makes the most of his screen time. 


Cobra Kai Season 1


There’s a great scene during this first season, which debuted in 2018, where old rivals Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence find their decades long acrimony temporarily becalmed by an old Eighties rock hit. Their mutual animosity dissolves briefly to show what they once had in common and to celebrate another era. This the vein that Cobra Kai is going for. More than just a sequel to a distant film it proves to be a surprisingly effective look at generational differences and the way that events shape your life.



Top of the Pops 8 Jan 1987


Words: Chris Arnsby. Gary Davies: “Hi. How ya doin'? I hope you're well. Welcome to another Top of the Pops. Busy programme as always for you tonight. We've got music from The Pretenders, Lionel Richie, the Gap Band, but first we start off with a new entry at number thirty eight. Here's Swing Out Sister, Surrender.” 

[38] Swing Out Sister: Surrender. Corinne Drewery has decided to wear the complicated Z-fold jacket from her 06/11/1986 performance. Also making a return is the 1970s style vignette effect, showing a brief close up of Corrine superimposed over a wide shot of the studio; as if she's a Blake's 7 villain menacing the crew of the Liberator. The Vision Mixer is Kathryn Randall but the same effect popped up last week when Priscilla Hoadley stepped in. It's like old switch has been uncovered on the control panel revealing a lost world of forgotten effects. Has someone finally moved a full ash tray or a mouldy old cup of BBC tea?


The New Avengers Season 1 Eps 4 - 6


`The Last of the Cybernauts…?` starts a year ago with a high octane sequence that is pure Brian Clemens culminating in a double agent called Felix Caine being chased and seemingly burned alive when his car crashes into an oil tanker, the sort of oil tanker often found lurking near the scene of car chases! This all happens on Steed’s birthday by the way- his cake says Happy Birthday Steed so they are not giving any clues as to his age.

Twelve months later a man called Frank Goff (and once I’d heard this name I kept thinking it was Frank Bough!) is released from prison only to be brought to a lair where Caine, who is very much alive albeit horribly mutilated, is planning revenge. His first step has been to have giant photos and carboard cut-outs of Steed, Purdey and Gambit made. His second is to coerce Goff to locate and reactivate the Cybernauts, rather clunky metallic robots who featured in two episodes of the Sixties Avengers. Then he dispenses with Goff and finds a professor (Yes! A fourth episode in a row with a Professor!) to develop Cybernaut technology to enable them to walk and become invincible enough to kill our three heroes.


Top of the Pops 18 Dec 1986 and 1 Jan 1987 DOUBLE BILL!


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. 18/12/86: Mike Smith: “Well, good evening and welcome to the last Top of the Pops before Christmas. A lot to fit in, a new number one tonight, in this very studio we've got A-ha performing and just over here, fresh in from Los Angeles, please welcome, with Big Fun, The Gap Band.”
[15] The Gap Band: Big Fun. A week before Christmas and no one's put up decorations in the studio, for shame. Mike Smith makes up for this lapse by wearing a ludicrous red Christmas jumper with tinseled tree on the front, embellished on the shoulders with added jingle bells and a snowman where a pirate's parrot would normally perch. Imagine the result of a Blue Peter Christmas jumper make and you'll be close.

I don't really have anything to say about The Gap Band. Check out the camera crane move at the end. It's a 40 second epic which starts up above one of the studio scenery bridges, pans down and under the bridge and alongside The Gap Band's stage, and then moves all the way back across the studio until finally Mike Smith comes into frame, Smitty then turns to face the camera which continues moving gently while Smith turns slightly on the spot to keep facing the lens as he introduces the next song.


The New Avengers Season 1 Eps 1- 3

As many writers have previously identified The Avengers takes place in a parallel Britain, a place that is composed of cliches, often referred to as Avengerland. It is populated by larger than life characters and our three heroes are vaguely sketched people who seem to get by on a combination of confidence, sparkle and innuendo. The action is more realistic car crashes, punch ups and lots of death whereas the storylines are fantastical and over the top, a mixture of James Bond, Doctor Who and Quatermass. They do love their professors and secret laboratories! The presentation is filmic, brilliantly directed and has that grainy look which marks it out as very Seventies. 

It does have something of an identity crisis as it is never quite clear what sort of series it wants to be. A continuation of the classic Sixties original? A more modern espionage thriller? A fantasy series? A typical car chase driven adventure series? Different episodes have aspects of these and it doesn’t always work but when it does it’s very good indeed. There were two seasons first shown in 1976 and 1977. While the quality and tone of the show varied one thing doesn’t change- every episode has a what we now refer to as a cold open which freeze frames just as someone is falling and after the title credits resumes at that moment.



Alex Rider Season 1

Launched in 2000, the Alex Rider novels for Young Adults have been hugely successful – in fact creator Anthony Horowitz (who also invented Foyle’s War) was awarded an MBE in the recent New Years Honours List. The books are about a somewhat reluctant but very skilled teenage agent who works for a shadowy government department. There was a film version of the first novel Stormbringer about fifteen years ago but it didn’t do well enough at cinemas to warrant a follow up.  Now there’s a tv adaptation whose first season works the origin story into an adaptation of the second novel Point Blanc. It went down very well last year on Amazon and IMDB, a second has just been streamed with a third ten episode season due to be made this year and released in December. 


Top of the Pops DOUBLE BILL! 4 and 11 December 1986


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. 04/12/86 - Mike Smith: “Good evening. Another extravaganza coming up for you. I'm wearing denim tonight, by the way, because we're featuring Bruce Springsteen in concert tonight amongst many other things on the show including a new number one, and over here a climber at number 14. Well it's not a climber, actually.. it's The Communards and... So Cold The Night.”

[14] The Communards: So Cold The Night. Inflation affects The Communards. According to Wikipedia they are “ a British synth-pop duo,” so why are Richard Coles and Jimmy Somerville on stage with eight other people? And, if Sarah Jane Morris isn't formally part of the group (which she should be given her importance to Don't Leave Me This Way), why has she been asked back and then not given anything to do? So many questions. Actually it's not fair to say Sarah Jane Morris hasn't been given anything to do. She's been handed some sort of rattle to play when she's not co-harmonising with Jimmy Somerville. It's not much but it's something.