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.