Top of the Pops 12 Nov 1987


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Gary Davies: “Hi, good to see you again and welcome to another Top of the Pops. Action packed as always, in the studio tonight we have Mirage, Alexander O'Neil, and T'Pau.”

Peter Powell: “It's hit! After hit! After hit! One of the biggest! The Communards! Never can say Goodbyyyyyyyyyyye!”

Gary Davies: “Yey,”

[6] THE COMMUNARDS: never can say goodbye. Brian Whitehouse is sitting in the studio gallery this week and taking the Produced and Directed By credit. Approaching Christmas, Michael Hurll is off tending to the far reaches of his Light Entertainment principality. There's a new series of Entertainment USA on BBC2, preparations are in hand for 1987's Noel-Edmonds-Christmas-Post-Office*-Tower-Thing, with Gordon Kaye in Battersea; Mike Smith presumably preferred to spend Christmas Day 1987 with Sarah Greene. He's not going to get far with that attitude. Most intriguing of all, Michael Hurll's got a new Noel Edmonds vehicle on BBC1 called Whatever Next... “Presented with an unusual situation can you foresee the outcome?” I can foresee this 16 episode oddity won't be picked up for a second series by programme planners. You can watch the opening titles here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_xLi1xu9PU, stay for the moment when Noel Edmonds bounds on to the most late eighties set ever. All pastel pinks, and muted greys.



Z Nation season one review


Catching up on Zees…

 There has been a plethora of zombie related things over the past decade, and I wonder if this will fade since we’ve now had our own, real pandemic. Ok so it wasn’t a zombie apocalypse but there were moments when it felt like we’d never go back to what we had before. The drama of watching other people go through that kind of situation seems a little less enthralling when you’ve brushed against something similar. So, what better/ worse time than to look at something zombie related? The Walking Dead is too obvious and has been reviewed to the max elsewhere, so I decided to look at Z Nation, a series that ran from 2014-19 across five seasons. It is fair to say it did not have anything like the same profile in the UK like The Walking Dead did in its prime and certainly it would be that show’s success that probably enabled this one to be made. However, it must have had something to run for five years. I’d vaguely heard of it imagining it to be some sort of spin off or prequel to the film World War Z but it isn’t. Oh, and because it’s American when you’re reading this the series title is pronounced Zee Nation because Zed Nation sounds like an 80s futurist pop star!



Top of the Pops 29 Oct & 5 Nov 1987


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. 

29/10/1987: Steve Wright: “Oh look!! There you are!! Good evening!! Welcome to the Top of the Pops!!” Gary Davies: “Hi, nice to see you again. We have a terrific show lined up for you. In the studio tonight we have Ray Parker junior, we have Scarlett Fantastic, and Rick Astley.” Steve Wright: “And we have Style Council and Wanted!! Right here!!”

26] THE STYLE COUNCIL: wanted. I'm restricting myself to one complaint about Steve Wright, in the hope it will reduce my overall number of bizarre rants. Look at him. All he has to do is turn and point but that's not enough for the mad-man of radio. He's too kerazy. It would be boring and kinda square. Instead he turns side on to the camera and sticks his tongue out. Wacky-doodle! We are less than one minute into this Top of the Pops and I'm in a sour mood.

Paul Weller isn't. He looks happy to be in the studio and he's apparently blacked out one of his front teeth for larks (I apologise in advance if he has some terrible dental problem of which I'm unaware). Why is he in such a good mood? Maybe because he's facing away from the flickering ceiling lights which Geoff Beech has decided to shine direct into the camera. It must have been received as a good idea at the time but the result is, it's difficult to spot Weller through the stroboscopic haze of his close ups. During the closing camera crane pan across the audience, watch out for the girl who flashes twin V-for-Victory signs at the camera. It's a classic brief moment of audience misbehaviour, and her friend throws a guilty look back as if she expects the camera to come screaming across the crowd and eject the pair for bad behaviour.



Review round up- Phoenix, Top 40, John Lewis Xmas ad


Phoenix have become one of my favourite bands over the last ten years. They have a knack of producing memorable songs that sit in your memory for some considerable time. `Alpha Zulu` released earlier this month is their seventh album and maintains their high standard for songs that initially sound featherlight, but which reveal many hidden qualities the more you listen to them. Recorded in Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, part of the Louvre Palace (where else!) the songs have a simplicity that the purest pop will provide yet lyrics whose meanings can be difficult to comprehend, and sometimes spill into more than one language. That’s all part of their appeal; they create a world of their own and its a beguiling one. It’s the music that could just as easily be used in the background of an advert as it could be the soundtrack to someone’s significant moments. They play with traditional song structures yet deliver these on a bed of synthetisers and keyboards, echoed vocals and mostly medium to fast paced timing. 


Black Panther- Wakanda Forever review


Real life and fiction mesh effectively as Marvel find a way forward after tragedy

 The tragic death of Chadwick Bosemen in 2020 left a personal and storytelling void in its wake. Just as life goes on so does the story of Wakanda but this is a dignified continuation that both pays homage to the past and also looks to the future. 

 Spoilers after the break..


Top of the Pops 15th and 22nd Oct 1987 Double Bill!


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.


Gary Davies: “Hi, good evening, and welcome to Top of the Pops. We have a belting show for you tonight. In the studio Terence Trent D'Arby, The Alarm, the Fatback Band, and the Bee Gees.”  Mike Smith Peter Powell: “But for starters! They woke up in Birmingham this morning! Travelled down the M1! They're on Top of the Pop tonight! Please welcome their brand new hit single! UB40!
Gary Davies: “Woo”

[29] UB40: maybe tomorrow. God blew, and they were scattered. In the real world of 1987, as this episode aired, a depression was deepening in the Bay of Biscay and moving north-east. The aftermath of the great storm of 1987 can be seen in the off-air news recordings on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5i5FhsIaAg Fortunately for UB40, Top of the Pops was recorded on Wednesday so their journey back up the M1 wouldn't have been disrupted.

I could believe this episode of Top of the Pops was being recorded in a smaller studio. There's something about the presentation of UB40 which seems cramped. It's not just the 472 people on stage, that's typical for a UB40 performance (check out their chart photo it looks like a world record attempt to cram people into a phone box). It's the visuals which seem to bounce from one static image to another and back again with a lot less of the camera movement and sweeping crane shots.
Stanley Appel is back as Producer and Director and the Vision Mixer is Priscilla Hoadley , a familiar name, so it's not as if there's anyone new sitting up in the studio gallery. I ended up comparing this opening performance to the one from last week's show, Jellybean featuring Steven Dante; with Vison Mixer Angela Wilson. It turns out both performances are largely captured in the same way, a couple of cranes but most of the work is done via hand held cameras. Steven Dante is simply a more mobile performer than Ali Campbell, who stands on stage so the camera operator doesn't have to do anything. A week previously Steven Dante was dragging the eye of the camera all over the stage, which makes for more interesting pictures. Also, much disappointment that Maybe Tomorrow doesn't turn out to be UB40's cover of the theme to The Littlest Hobo.


Enola Holmes 2 + first film reviews


Sherlock’s little sister takes on the world in superior sequel- and the first film is quite good, too!

Sequels are tricky and often in a film series the second one is a bit of a dip, yet Enola Holmes 2 is bigger and better than its predecessor which was quite good anyway. The confidence the team has is visible on screen. Whereas the storyline of the first was rather meandering and not sufficient for the run time, here there is plenty of incident and, crucially, it is more of a mystery that needs to be solved. Bigger and broader though it may be, the film does not lose the moral undertow that makes the character so empathic in these times.



Cobra Kai Season Five review

 Dojo mojo!

 After the exemplary fourth season, the writers of this lively series have realised there are only so many permutations available of people swapping from one dojo to another, changing sides with the seasons so season five takes a different road. In fact, it’s surprising how few karate sequences there are in the first five or six episodes and those which do pop up are usually well away from the mats and training rooms. Instead, the series explore the non-karate side of the characters which makes for a noticeably lighter tone for long stretches. The storyline also ekes out a change of life for our two main characters; just as Johnny starts to develop a family life so Daniel’s behaviour takes him down a path more familiar to his one-time rival.



Ticked off


Has Twitter had its day?

 You may think that the current fuss about charging people for Twitter’s `blue tick` is a storm in a teacup but it is about fundamentally more than just the symbol. A symbol which by the way is a WHITE TICK on a blue background. The point is that by turning it from something that identifies authenticity into a symbol of status the nature of the site will alter. It is setting a way forward for dividing users into two types- leaders and followers because unless you have one of these symbols (which will cost you money) your Tweets will not be seen by anywhere near as many followers reducing you to second class status. And when so many people have the white tick that it becomes almost meaningless, Twitter will invent a green tick or something for which you pay even more for super duper status. It's been a nut nobody has cracked till now but welcome to the monetisation of social media.



Top of the Pops 8 Oct 1987


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Mike Smith: “Good evening and welcome to Television Centre. Another half hour of good clean family fun coming up.” Gary Davies: “And we start with the number twenty nine record this week. It's called The Real Thing. Here is Jellybean with Steven Dante.” Mike Smith: “This way.”

 [29] JELLYBEAN FEATURING STEVEN DANTE: the real thing. Thanks to Top of the POPS USA I recognise Jellybean. He wears a hat. He's famous for it. I've seen him twice and both times he was wearing one.

Stanley Appel takes over the Producering and Directoring this week. He starts Top of the Pops with a well composed shot of the studio behind the hosts, with a view of the crowd and Jellybean et al in the background. Normally the camera would have panned from the hosts round to Jellybean (and Steven Dante) in one continuous shot, but Top of the Pops is being directed with one eye towards reusing performances in America and instead Vision Mixer Angela Wilson cuts from the hosts to a nice clean wide shot of the stage which can be used as the start of the performance, snipped out and put on the weekly rocket to Pasadena. At least this is done for bands like Jellybean featuring Steven Dante, two backing singers, and man playing the drums*, not so much for people who may not be well known in America like, hypothetically, Steve Walsh.
* how many where going to St Ives?

Jellybean: "Where's me hat?" (Steven Dante not pictured)