Really deep things

February 19th, 2018

A really good Metafilter post gets us thinking about Tori Amos.

2018 week 07

February 18th, 2018

This week…

  • La Triviata (BSB, 1990), a sharp cut-up comedy with Nick Hancock
  • The Kids From Fame co-present a disappointing edition of Top of the Pops.
  • Challenger's in space, People's Express flies cheaply, and Oxford win the boat race.
  • DUP decide to not have devolved government.
  • Nepal and the UAE are promoted to cricket's second-tier Division I.
  • A brief warmer interlude, but getting much colder.

2018 week 07

February 11th, 2018

This week…

  • The Campaign, a BBC2 docu-drama about the Labour party from 1983.
  • TOTP '83 hits New Order all-live, and wishes we hadn't.
  • …and it's The Price is Right Good Friday / April Fool special.
  • Quiet rage at Stephenville High School, where there have been sexual assaults.
  • Rudimental and friends top the singles chart, The Greatest Showman cast lead the albums list.
  • Golly, it's cold, and it's not warming up soon.

2018 week 05

February 4th, 2018

This week

  • Top of the Pops 83 bids goodbye to Altered Images, and hello to Mark Unpronounceablenameofbigcountry.
  • Also in 1983, Peter Duncan makes an Easter egg with something unexpected inside. These days, we'd call it an Easter egg Easter egg.
  • Blue Peter itself hit edition 5000.
  • Repeal and replace is the offer in Ireland to legalise abortion.
  • A cool week, and colder to come.

Popular in early 2002

January 24th, 2018

The new year began with a quiet week; the de facto two week Christmas break was now established. Sales were so weak that Hermes House Band hit number 1 in Scotland with Country roads. We can't blame that on drunken Scotsmen streaming all sorts of shite at Hogmanay parties; streaming had been invented, but not over dialup.

(More: With number ones for Aaliyah, George Harrison, Enrique Iglesias, Westlife, Will Young, Gareth Gates, Oasis, The Sugababes, Holly Valance, Ronan Keating, Liberty X, Eminem, and Junkie XL. Plus a superlative lyric from Ant and Dec.)

2018 week 03

January 21st, 2018

This week…

  • Blancmange look shifty on our archive Top of the Pops
  • …and the Great Boat Race Controversy of 1983.
  • Mary Lou McDonald the new head of leading political party.
  • Eminem and The Greatest Showman top the charts.
  • A cold and windy week, with more snow than forecast.

2018 week 02

January 14th, 2018

This week

  • Creeped Out is back, and it's creepy.
  • "Massive and unparalleled interference" from Russia in the German election. Of 1983.
  • That edition of Saturday Superstore where Bucks Fizz were split up and reunited through CSO trickery.
  • The BBC is in a pay row.
  • Cloudy and cool, with more cold next week.

2018 week 01

January 7th, 2018

This week…

  • Bothers Bar Games Night helps us win Association Fibbage.
  • Spandau Ballet, Thompson Twins, and The Eurythmics win Top of the Pops
  • From 1983: Who was worried about Data Run on TV-am?
  • Unrest in Iran, coffee cups, and kick out the CRAP.
  • Rita Ora has the best-selling single, Ed Sheeran the top album.
  • Showers, turning cool later.

It's Still In the Top Twenty

January 6th, 2018

Top of the Pops Christmas Day 2017

Silver dress for Fearne, and an ill-fitting red dress for Reggie. Hang on, that's not Reggie, it's Clara Amfo! New blood! Our first new TOTP presenter since 2006!

Kick off with the song of the year, ED SHEERAN Shape of you. Ed's on a large stage, decorated with reindeer and Christmas trees, and he's wearing a festive jumper. That'll look strange when they do Ed Sheeran at the BBC in autumn 2019. Live vocals, and some of the most anaemic overhead clapping we've ever seen. This song drags on a bit, doesn't it.

STORMZY does Blinded by your grace part 2 from the circular stage. He's joined by the Fifteen-to-One gospel choir, dressed in black and standing in a semi-circle around the stage. This is yer obligatory religious content, Mr. Stormzy attesting to his faith. Expect to hear this in black churches before Easter, and in the Anglican churches circa 2117.

DUA LIPA gives New rules on the small stage. Lots of dry ice, and a floor-length dress – we can tell straight away that she's not moving far from that spot. Concentrate on the vocals, and let the cameras do the movement, so lots of shots tracking towards (or away from) Ms Lipa. Good to see the BBC have taken on the basic ideas of Every Song Tells a Story.

Some actual talent, RITA ORA performs Your song from a small stage in the middle of the crowd, and she'll use all the stages before finishing. She's in firey red, with a cape to look like an evil supervillain; the dancers are in very civilian clothes, enhancing Ora's special look. We find the song a bit pedestrian, but this was another ooh-some performance.

(More: Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa, Rita Ora, Clean Bandit, Anne-Marie, and many more.)

Correspondents Look Ahead to 2017

December 27th, 2017

The annual review of the BBC's Correspondents Look Ahead. The edition predicting 2017 was broadcast in the World Service, and domestically on Radio 4, between 28 December 2016 and 1 January this year.

Jon Sopell begins by talking about a sex pest. This blog does not give the oxygen of publicity to this sex pest; we would also like to deny him the oxygen of oxygen, but this is not possible.

(More: President le Pen, Li and Rouhani, and a token moment for Africa.)

We're not going to declare a winner this year; the correspondents suffered from tremendous groupthink, and were unable to present differing views.

Correspondents Look Ahead to 2018 airs in the BBC World Service from 28 to 31 December, and on Radio 4 on Friday evening and Saturday lunchtime. We hope to review it next year.

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2017 week 50

December 17th, 2017

This week

  • The Christmas Blue Peter
  • Haysi Fantayzee and the Fon Boy Three up the sauce quotient on Top of the Pops…
  • …and TV-am launches.
  • Sportsperson of the Year is won by James McClean.
  • Ed Sheeran has the number one album, Ed and Beyonce the top single.
  • Snow remains all week, and the melt was sluggish and begrudging.

"And by 'sovereign state', you mean..?"

December 11th, 2017

A statement from this blog's MP. We've slightly edited it to remove swearing.

So when [a named sex offender] says he recognises Jerusalem as Israel's capital because it's the choice of a sovereign nation, shouldn't he also recognise East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine as the choice of a different sovereign nation? Or don't Palestinian choices count?

Let's unpick this a little.

(Under the cut: Explain the status of Jerusalem, define "sovereign state" and "nation".)

Let's run with Mr. Burden's position, that Palestine is an actual "sovereign nation". If this were true, then Palestine would have the ability to do whatever it liked over territory it controls. Palestine could make its own laws, establish its own judiciary, and site its capital wherever it likes on territory it controls.

This changes Mr. Burden's position. He has long campaigned for Palestine to become a sovereign state. Yet here, he takes Palestine's sovereignty for granted, when it is neither de facto nor de jure sovereign. If Palestine is a "sovereign nation", then Mr. Burden's earlier arguments have been consigned to history.

The same argument extends to other "sovereign nations" such as Israel. Israel can make its own laws, establish its own judiciary, and site its capital wherever it likes on territory it controls.

It's almost as if there's a different standard at work here, where Palestine is given advantages that Israel is not, where Palestine is held to a different standard from that applied to Israel. Some might call that "anti-Semitic".

2017 week 49

December 10th, 2017

This week…

  • From 1983: Cilla Black on Wogan, and 40 Minutes explores how NBC and CBS constructed their schedules.
  • David Davis is a liar.
  • Ed Sheeran and Beyonce have the number one single; Sam Smith the best-selling album.
  • Very cold for the weekend, with snow.

The curious case of Damian Green

December 3rd, 2017

Further leaks from the police, claiming that they found thousands of smutty thumbnails when they raided Damian Green's office in 2008. Some claimed that merely having legal smut on your work computer is grounds for insta-firing; this blog doesn't agree.

There are many procedural errors, and we can argue that the police have over-stepped their constitutional boundaries.

Read more…

2017 week 46

November 19th, 2017

This week

  • Sounds Like Friday Night improves further.
  • Reggie Yates on guitar with Wah!.
  • "I could scarcely take my eyes off the screen as Anneka Rice, as personable as she is athletic, was sent haring off through the air and across the ground"
  • Coup in Zimbabwe
  • Australia: full of convicts, but not full of bigots.
  • Warm and wet midweek, cooler weekend, and do it all again next time.

2017 week 45

November 12th, 2017

This week…

  • Dennis and Gnasher worse than Sounds Like Friday Night.
  • Top of the Pops 1982 concludes, with my hits of the year.
  • Priti Little Liars and Johnson's Johnson move.
  • Cooling down, with a bracing weekend.

Sounds Like Friday Night

October 31st, 2017

A review of last Friday's show

Idea behind this sketch is safe, as derivative as they come. The execution was no better than OK…

They talk about Taylor Swift's new video, but commit the cardinal sin of not showing it. Don't tell us, show us!…

Something like seven minutes since the last song, a huge gap on a "music" show…

Initial thoughts? It's a work in progress. There's almost a narrative through the show, there's almost some good ideas with the inserts. We wanted to hear a music news bulletin, or something outside of this studio. They desperately need to mix up the bookings – all three acts were in a narrow area, rhythmic pop with a dash of soul.

We're reminded of very early CD:UK, when they had decent ideas but hadn't cracked the execution. It took CD:UK about four months to find its voice; Sounds Like Friday Night needs to improve by the end of the run.

That said… the problem might be that BBC1 runs to a slower pace. Pointless is a beat slower than The Chase. Tipping Point is a bit faster than The Boss. Can't Touch This was much slower than Cannonball!, and The X Factor moves faster than Strictly Come Dancing. Would it be such a surprise that Sounds Like Friday Night is just that bit slower?

2017 week 41

October 15th, 2017

This week:

  • Hareraiser, The Worst Computer Game Ever
  • "There's always a novelty record, every year," opines Bates, introducing the video for Save your love by Renee and Renato.
  • Seriously. They had a dispute over who moves the Play School clock.
  • Catalonia: a quantum of independence
  • Camila Cabello has a number one single, but Liam Gallagher's the best-selling album.
  • We've had a call from a viewer, who's worried that there's a hurricane on the way. Well, if you're reading, there is, so get prepared.

2017 week 40

October 8th, 2017

This week…

  • Radio 1 Vintage: more, please.
  • TOTP from December 1982, with a pointless record from Bucks Fizz.
  • They're dropping Es in Manchester.
  • Tom Petty's catalogue sells for the worst reasons.
  • Mostly cloudy, and similar for the week ahead.

Our Town

October 7th, 2017

Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, 4 October

Our Town is a difficult play to do badly – if everyone knows their lines, it'll work. But it's a very difficult play to do well, and each of the audience will have their own idea of what "well" is.

This was a stylised performance. Audience and actors sit round tables, and later around the edge of the stage. They're on plastic chairs, as found in school halls and waiting rooms everywhere.

The cast use their natural accents, we have a token Yank as the Stage Manager, lots of Manchester-area, a Scouse, some RP. Standout actors: Youssef Kerkour is the Stage Manager, a role that has to command the stage and never overshadow it. Get this right and you're on the road to greatness. Patrick Elue and Norah Lopez Holden are the heroes of the play, the romance of George and Emily.

The Exchange is a theatre in the round, and it allows for lots of pacing around the stage. Lots of pacing around the stage. Unusually, the Exchange theatre stands in a greater hall, and can be circumnavigated from the outside. At one point, we see George running outside the hall, his shadow appearing on the canvas walls.

(More: The company got a lot right in this play, we concentrate on design flaws that stopped it from being even better)

The production misses the Scylla of schmaltz, but we found it sailed into the Charybdis of meh. "Take me back! Take me back!" emotes Emily, but it's not the emotional catharsis we're here for. There are enough distractions to jolt us out of our reverie, enough to concentrate on the mechanics and not the plot.

This blog doesn't make a habit of awarding "marks out of ten", or "stars". People concentrate on the score, not the content. That said, we don't quite see a path to four-stars out of five, unless there's a very generous piece of rounding from around three-and-a-half.

Overall, this take on Our Town hit the big notes. It got the whole faith in humanity, it emphasised the importance of small detail. Problems with design and staging meant it didn't pack the emotional whoomph we came for.