30/07/2022

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.

 


28/07/2022

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.

 


27/07/2022

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.

 


24/07/2022

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 .



22/07/2022

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:

TOP OF THE POPS
DAVID BOWIE
COMP TAPE

 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.”



18/07/2022

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.

 


17/07/2022

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.

 


12/07/2022

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)





10/07/2022

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.



08/07/2022

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!

03/07/2022

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

01/07/2022

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.