Top of the Pops 18 August 1988


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Simon Mayo: “Hi. Welcome to Top of the Pops and we have tonight, we have Chris Rea, we also have Fairground Attraction, and Yazz, and also with his curls cut off, Mike Read.”
Mike Read: “Absolutely. The first group up tonight, really really good, went to see them a few weeks ago live, they are great, Aztec Camera, Working in a Goldmine.”

 [31] AZTEC CAMERA: working in a goldmine. Paul Ciani is still away and Stanley Appel is in the “produced and directed by” seat.

I'm not going to beat around the bush. Cumulatively this is one of the flattest episodes of Top of the Pops I've seen for a while. Individually none of the songs tonight are bad but one after they other they flop onto a pile and lay there; or, maybe I was just tired after a day at work.


Blue Beetle film review


This film was apparently originally intended to go directly onto to streaming yet thankfully has ended up on the big screen where it actually belongs. There is a case though that it might have benefitted from being released in a less crowded period which is replete with superhero and action movies but I’ve given up trying to discern DC’s motives which are as opaque and contradictory as Elon Musk's. Is this the last of the old universe or the first of the new one? Never mind about that, instead let’s enjoy this quirky origin story that is essentially untied from all that baggage and given a chance to stand on its own two feet. Or however many feet beetles have. Yes, there are elements of the plot that you will correctly guess long before they happen and yet the overall package is so likeable and frantic, so well performed and constructed that you can overlook such things and just enjoy it.


Top of the Pops 11 August 1988


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.

Bruno Brookes: “Hello and welcome to Europe's number one TV pop show. This is Top of the Pops and 'ere's Liz with her 'andbag. What's in yer 'andbag Liz?”
Liz Kershaw: “Me [?] and me Mint Imperials. And I'm gonna dance round it. Like to this one. This week's number twenty six, Mica Paris and Courtney Pine. Like Dreamers Do.”
Bruno Bookes: “Yeah.” 

[26] MICA PARIS/COURTNEY PINE: like dreamers do. The revolving door of Top of the Pops presenters spins on. Janice Long leaves and Liz Kershaw arrives. For one week. This is her only hosting shift. Although, ominously, in 1990 the final act of the 22/11/1990 show is something called Bruno & Liz & the Radio 1 D.J. Posse with Let's Dance. Luckily I've got around two years to prepare. It sounds awful.




Film reviews - Gran Turismo and Heart of Stone


The long absent Neil Blomkamp (its eight years since the under rated Chappie) returns with what may seem like an artistic left turn but in fact it suits his style perfectly. It may be a movie made in the tradition of `unlikely hero trying to beat the odds` but the director’s sensibility steers it cleverly between hazards. While filmmakers have recently been discovering better ways to adapt video games for the big screen in the case of Gran Turismo there is a readymade true-life story that forms the basis of this movie. You might watch it and think it unlikely but most of what we see happened and as a film its excitingly rendered whether you know the story or not.



Squaring the Circle documentary reviewed


The story of Seventies album cover designers Hipgnosis makes for an absorbing film by Anton Corbijn

 If you grew up in the Seventies or a fan of that decade’s music the chances are you owned albums which had covers designed by Hipgnosis. Distinctive, abstract and unusual they created a visual signature for prog, rock and beyond, so much so that is impossible to think of the likes of Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin without imagining the images Hipgnosis created for them. This film about their work and the two creative people at the heart of the company is directed by Anton Corbijn, himself a renowned designer, so as you would expect he is empathic with the sort of creative process that leads to such well known images. In some ways the story of Hipgnosis is similar to that of the groups they worked for- struggling early days, a big breakthrough, an imperial period, and a downfall as trends changed followed by a bitter falling out.



Top of the Pops 4 August 1988


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.
Janice Long: “Hello. How you doing? Welcome to Top of the Pops. Tonight... is very much a live Top of the Pops. Some fantastic stuff. And very much a case of girls on top, isn't it Mark?”

Mark Goodier: “It sure is. Thank you Janice. And our first lady tonight says her favourite food is chocolate sandwiches. Do you believe that? She's straight into number two of the chart it's Kylie Minogue right here with the Locomotion.

[2] KYLIE MINOGUE: the loco-motion. Welcome back Janice. Bye Janice. She returned from a prolonged absence in July 1988, she's here tonight, and then she's off. After this she won't be seen again until the final Top of the Pops in 2006. Janice herself wasn't in any doubt what happened. In a Tweet dated October 11th 2019 she wrote: “Radio One did not approve of me having a baby and not being married. That’s why I lost my show. TOTP were cool but Radio One decided to do a simulcast so I was persona non grata”

BBC Genome confirms that Janice Longs' Radio 1 show ended on 30th December 1987. After the New Year break the slot was filled temporarily by Simon Mayo before being handed on to Liz Kershaw. Top of the Pops had broadcast on Radio 1 since the 05/11/1987 edition but this was in London only (probably). Johnny Beerling, Radio 1 Controller, was presumably okay with this limited exposure for Janice Long but looming at the start of September 1988 was “the great FM switch on.” Central Scotland, the north, and the midlands, would all gain access to Radio 1 FM and suddenly 65% of the country would be able to hear an unwed mother hosting Top of the Pops in stereo. Or at least they would if she'd stayed. I assume Paul Ciani booked Janice in July and August in an attempt to establish her again as part of the regular team; without success.

In fact, there's possibly an additional layer of mischief to those two bookings. Janice returns on the 07/07/1988 edition. Tonight's appearance is exactly four weeks later. If this cycle had continued (which seems like a reasonable guess because several hosts appeared monthly) then her next appearance would have been Thursday 01/09/1988. The first day of the FM switch on. Did Paul Ciani bring her back to Top of the Pops with an eye to getting her back on Radio 1 on its big day? I like to think he did.

Meanwhile, Mark Goodier continues to develop his role as the bland man of Radio 1. His “chocolate sandwiches” exclusive reminds me of a terrible feature from his programme in the early 1990s. It was called Unbelievable and featured the dullest POP FACTS possible. It ran like this.
MUSICAL STING: Unbelievable by EMF
MARK GOODIER: “Kylie Minogue says her favourite food is chocolate sandwiches.”
MUSICAL STING: Unbelievable by EMF

 He got a book out of it. Called Unbelievable!, published in 1993. Copies are available on Ebay and Amazon. The condition is usually very good to as new.


Good Omens season 2 review


I've seen some mixed reviews of this with some harsh comments particularly from fans of the original novel who feel season two has been done a disservice even though its mostly written by Neil Gaiman. I've never read the book but thoroughly enjoyed the first series though I did see it as a one off. I wasn't really sure where another season might go without either repeating the highlights of the first or heading off somewhere tangential. In the end they seem to have done neither by opening up new aspects of the central friendship and varying the canvas behind it just enough. I think a good job as been done even though I found the first third more enjoyable than the rest. 

Some spoilers after the break...



Titans season four episodes 5 to 12 reviewed


Episode five sees attempts to protect Sebastian being foiled partly because one of those big snakes gets loose inside Star Labs. The snake is convincing enough even in the bright lights of the base though might have been more effective had some reason been found to blow out half of them for atmospheric darkness. Like a lot of the jeopardy moments though it is over and done with too soon and too easily in this case. In the end, as he had to be, the unwilling Sebastian is taken by his acolytes and really it is only down to Joseph Morgan’s trembling fear that any sense of impending doom is rendered for the viewer. 

By far the best episode to this point, part six manages to find a purpose amidst the somewhat aimless to-ing an fro-ing we’ve thus far seen. Likewise Superboy also finds the same, with a shaved head and an attitude he is bringing out his Luthor side. Though much of the episode takes place within the torch laden occult cave or the gleaming white spaces of Star Lab a palpable tension is present. We do have some flashbacks of Sebastian’s downtrodden life though from what we see he probably needs a therapist more than he needs to become some God but that’s America for you.


Heartstopper Season Two reviewed

 Can the second season of Heartstopper match the joy of it's first?

When a character in this second season is trying to find out about something, while he initially searches on Google he ends up sourcing a physical book. It’s an indication that Heartstopper is sometimes more nuanced than it seems. While it paints brightly on a wide canvas contained within it are truths that everyone can recognise, perhaps the reason why the first season appealed way beyond it’s target young audience. It was one of last year’s must-see shows but like all surprise hits it now faces the dilemma of how it can sustain that momentum especially as it's central will they / won’t they storyline was essentially resolved. So if the series has lost a little of its innocence then so have the characters which means things develop. Its never going to be a gritty portrayal of LGBTQA+ issues but some of the edges this season are sharper, some of the problems more serious and with the wider cast getting more material its also a more varied narrative. Chuck in three episodes set in Paris and you have a winner!


Top of the Pops 28 July 1988


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.
Excitement! Over at the Top of the Pops repositorium (https://mega.nz/folder/h0snQACa#uiNNqosfbdrfzODHsE1clw) there's a choice between two episodes, the broadcast one which runs to 31 minutes and a 51 minute unedited version. Obviously I'm going for the longer one. 
Things get off to a good start with lots of random studio stuff. Rainbow colour bars captioned Gary Davies; random shots of audience members being herded into position around both hosts; an enigmatic request from Gary Davies “if there's any chance of a tinge more foldback that would be lovely, thank you”; Nicky Campbell rehearsing his numbers, he seems to feel “twenty six” needs more work; studio lights at higher than usual levels which allow you to see the dents and scratches in the scenery; Floor Manager Kevin Gill doing whatever Floor Managers do; Test Card F ! Roll titles.

Gary Davies: “Good to see you again. Hello, good evening. Welcome to another Top of the Pops. In the studio tonight we have Siouxsie and the Banshees, we have Yazz and the Plastic Population, and if you look just over there. It's Nicky Campbell.”
Nicky Campbell: “Yes. And we're going to start off tonight with a complete and utter newcomer... but don't listen to a word I say.  At number twenty six, with his twenty sixth Top 30 hit, Feel The Need In Me. Here's Shakey.”



Hanging out on Olympus...Photo post


Checking out the Return of the Gods exhibition @Liverpool World Museum 

Before I was old enough to read science fiction novels, the stories that fascinated me were those of the old Greek and Roman Gods. I had no real context as to how they came to be created or what they symbolised because there are two aspects. One is about what they represented for the people who worshipped them. The other- the one that captivated me as a child- is that of the myths themselves. The thunderbolts, the turning to stone, the ordeals, familial rivalries and all the other behaviour. Looking back it was really like a soap opera, indeed I am sure some soaps have filched storylines from the tales of the Gods. Course I was too young and na├»ve to fully understand what was going on but, you know, it’s all fairly sordid for beings considered as Gods. I imagine this is because when creating religious myths societies do so within the confines of what they know. So, I was interested to visit this exhibition at Liverpool’s World Museum which opened in April. Most of the exhibits date back to the time when people believed in the Gods and were originally collected by the eighteenth century antiquarian Henry Blundell of Sefton. Its rare for so many of them to be collected in one place so the display is well worth a visit if you’re in the area. It runs at Liverpool World museum till 25 February 2024.