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Sunday, 31 October 2010

The X Factor - Live Show 4

Okay. Part of me wishes, after my rant last week, that she hadn't done that last night. But a much bigger part loves that she did, if only to shut those chanting "one trick pony" up once and for all. I speak, of course, of Cher Lloyd. Last night's show was not a patch on last week's. Something was missing. Everyone seemed so nervous and the songs were all middle-of-the-road safe choices, except for a couple. I'm ashamed to say that - since I was out last night, so missed the show - I Sky+ fast-forwarded through the majority of acts after hearing the first few seconds of their songs. I found this live show boring and same-y.

But three acts jumped out, for me, as being miles better than the rest. Cher Lloyd, Katie Waissel and One Direction. The Boy Band were just brilliant singing Total Eclipse Of The Heart. They got the emotion of the song just right and still held their "cutesy faces" so as to keep the teen girls frothing for them.

Katie sang great. But it was the look that made the performance stand out. She could sing the phone book to me to the tune of Incy Wincy Spider and I'd still love her because she'd sing it wonderfully. But the whole black eyes and white make-up made her look haunting and sexy and scary and uncomfortable but utterly irresistible all at once. Like a dead milf pole-dancing in your bedroom. Katie is so odd that you just don't know what the hell she'll come out with next! This week it was a sexy, flirty take on Bewitched. And what a show. Readers of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell - did she remind you of The Man With The Thistle-Down Hair's sexy twin sister?

But the star of the show, as usual, was Cher Lloyd. Kicking sand in the faces of those who think she can only rap, Cher cooed out a beautifully vulnerable version of Stay, without a single rap in sight. She is a star. Simon Cowell said that it was the performance of the whole season. I think I have to agree. I love Cher when she raps; it's what she does best. But there is no denying that there is one hell of a singing voice in there too. Cher Lloyd doesn't need this competition any more - the competition needs her.

Here's her wonderful performance from Saturday Night:

Saturday, 30 October 2010

The Monsters Are Coming!

I've just got in from Doctor Who Live at Cardiff International Arena! And what a great night it was! I took my nephew with me, who is 11 and going through the stage where everything is either "a'righ', yeah" or "crap!" so I knew from the off that this would be a hard sell, though he's a huge Who fan just like his favourite uncle! Even he loved it! I've never heard so many "cool"s come out of his mouth before!

The show started at 7pm on the dot, which was good because we'd been inside - out of the rain, spending a small fortune on merchandise - for about half hour already, by that point. 

All around us were young kids dressed as characters from the show; a Dalek, a Cyberman and THREE different Doctors all shared the same row as us! And one of those Doctors, the Second Doctor, was clearly an older kid than most. I'd say about 40 years older. But that just goes to show how much enthusiasm people have for this show! The audience was probably 50% kids and 50% big kids, I've never seen so many smiling bald heads in my life.

And they had good reason to smile. Before the show even started the atmosphere was thick with excitement and nerves. Already people were looking into dark doorways and overreaching arches for anywhere the monsters may have come from. And the stage was lit to perfection and containing a 16 piece band, conducted by the star of the show (for me) Ben Foster. Their opening tune, an electro-fied slowdown whurrr of the Who theme, is something I WANT! It was magic. And then the show kicked off in magnificent style.

Featuring all the most memorable monsters from the last five years of the show, Live is played as if you were watching a "Carnival Of Monsters" laid on for you by "The Greatest Showman In The Galaxy", Vorgenson- played perfectly by Young One's star Nigel Planer. Predictably, but thankfully, the Doctor gets tied up in the mess created when Vorgenson kidnaps the monsters for his travelling show and it's up to us - the audience - to help the Time Lord save the day. And short of Matt and Karen actually being on stage each night (which they aren't) the show could not have been more fun! Kids will love the monsters and the silly jokes. Oldies will revel, as I did, in the persistent classic-series episode titles which are slipped into Vorgenson's dialogue throughout the show - as well as a very blatant nod to a much-misunderstood classic adventure (can you guess which?). Music lovers will... love the music.

Actually, lets talk about the music, which - for this show - is as far from the classical beauty of the proms as you can get! Foster conducts nothing short of a rock band with strings and horns. All of the music has had a polish, with the "final monster"'s theme benefiting most from the metalled-up makeover. At the same time, here is a sequence where all previous Doctors appear on a screen and I defy anyone to sit through it with a dry eye  - the emotion is overwhelming. The whole concert part of the show feels like something very special that you may never get to experience again. Hearing the themes we know so well played live, and ramped up some, just makes it all so much more meaningful. 

There are also some pretty effective scares in there too! The pyrotechnics and lighting effects are unbelievably good. The size of the auditorium I saw the show in subtracted slightly from the grandiose of the "final illusion" but that's nothing to worry about. 

There is one section where everyone's favourite moving stone statues overrun the theatre which, I must admit, sent a shiver down my spine. The Weeping Angels' MO is brilliantly realised with nothing more than lights and sound. I don't think I've ever seen anything that made me smile so much... well, I probably have, but I'm still on a high from the show, so shhhh. Cybermen (some of the sexiest ever, in my opinion - there were definitely shapely young women in some of those Cybersuits. Either that or I need to start dating again SOON!) and Scarecrows scared me too, both being frighteningly effective at that ever since they were first shown on screen. 

But the praise must go to Nigel Planer for holding the whole thing together in such a way that you actually BELIEVED him to be a futuristic, intergalactic showman. Never a more hated pantomime villain was there, than ol' Vorgenson! Boos and hisses shook the room at his every appearance, especially after he... well, especially just after the interval. And, although he was only on a screen, Matt Smith's inserts were gorgeous. The man is, I am more certain of ever day, THE Doctor.

If you have tickets, you're in for a treat! If you have been already, let me know what you thought of the show in the comments below! If you haven't seen it, wait for the DVD to arrive next year, turn off the lights, get close to the screen - and whatever you do, don't blink*. I've had a brilliant night - so did my nephew - and given half a chance, I'd do it all again tomorrow! Superb show, top marks!

*Also, try not to vomit all over your mother and the seat, like the poor little kid sat in front of me did tonight, about ten minutes before the end of the show. Excitement, sweets and a very cool bow tie make for a messy Row C. I hope the poor thing was okay :)

Friday, 29 October 2010

Doctor Who Live - The Day Before

Not long now, for me. And for my nephew and many of my good friends... Tomorrow, we all go to see Doctor Who Live. I've been looking forward to this since it was first announced, back when I was unemployed and penniless. 

And it's here! I've even fought the temptation to watch the whole bloody thing on YouTube. It's all up there, more or less... But I've resisted! So tomorrow, I use my eleven year old nephew as an excuse to see my favourite show brought to life in front of my astonished greasy face!

It would seem, however, that during the publicity shots for the tour the BBC have unintentionally recreated one of the most upsetting and memorable photographs in history. Can you see what I mean? I'm sure it wasn't intentional, of course. Not even I am brave enough to publish the photo in question as a comparison, so it's unlikely that the PR people for Doctor Who Live even dared let the thought cross their minds. What am I talking about? I have no idea. Bottom line is, tomorrow night I get to sit in an arena and see all of the monsters from my favourite TV show realised in the very same room as me. 

It's going to be brilliant! I think. I hope. I'll be reviewing the show right here on Sunday, between breakfast and Christmas Shopping. So be here, then, to read my very honest (I promise) "review"*.

*By now you will know that any "review" I pen is less a review and more a series of seemingly unconnected observations and wordy opinions. They are of little or no artistic value, but mean that I can spill out another pile of my self-serving witty nothingness.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Stewart Lee's "How I Escaped My Certain Fate" (Faber & Faber)

"The worst comedian in Britain, as funny as bubonic plague." - The Sun

"I never wanted to be a comedian." writes Stewart Lee in the introduction to his brilliant book. "When I was very young I wanted to be a writer, first of all a writer of philosophically inclined thrillers like Robert E. Howard, Ray Bradbury or Stan Lee," he continues, "and then later a writer of thrillingly inclined philosophy, like Albert Camus, Franz Kafka or Samuel Beckett." - I dare say he has succeeded on both counts!

First of all, it is impossible to read this book on the toilet. It doesn't have a handy wipe-clean cover. It is slightly too large to hold comfortably in your hands while emptying your bowel. However, it is - to borrow from the Goldilocks story - 'just right' for a prolonged and hungry single-sitting read on a rainy Wednesday night. But I'm getting ahead of myself! Before I move on to the subject matter of this must-have piece of genuine writing (as opposed to page after glossy page of recycled "scenes we'd like to see" jokes from Mock The Week), I want to tell you about the trouble I had buying this book in an actual shop.

The plan was my parents would buy this book, along with Stew's recently released and just as long windedly-titled DVD, "If You Prefer A Milder Comedian Please Ask For One", for Christmas. But I couldn't wait. I had the money in my hands, in coins, which I planned to spend on the book and just get the DVD from Father Christmas. I went to Waterstones in Cardiff, who told me that they had one copy in stock but couldn't find it anywhere. They even checked the "Celebrity Hardbacks" section - against my many protestation. What an ignorant man he was. Anyway, they couldn't find it anywhere. So I went to W.H.Smith's to see if they had it. Again, there were two in stock. One was missing completely and the other's cover was torn to shreds. Worse still, it was shelved between "Richard Littlejohn's House Of Fun: Thirteen Years Of (Labour) Madness" and some mini-book about Justin Beiber, in the Entertainment section, no less!

I wanted a pristine copy in the hope that I would get it signed by the man himself when I saw his new live show, "Vegetable Stew" at the postponed St David's Hall date (I shall keep the book safe until March). So I meandered toward HMV - I got my copy of Disgusting Bliss there a few weeks earlier, so you never know - and asked the purple-haired young chap with eye-liner at the counter if the store stocked it. He didn't even know who Stewart Lee was! Using my eyes I looked in the "Book" section for my prize and discovered, to my amazement - and that of the camp man behind the counter - the last copy they had, in perfect condition.

And I think that word - perfect - sums up the content of the book fairly well. Comprised of extensively annotated transcripts of his three Stand-Up shows, Stand-up Comedian, 90s Comedian and 41st Best Stand-up Ever, interspersed with detailed and informative - and very funny - autobiographical intros to these shows, How I Escaped My Certain Fate (or HIEMCF, as I shall call it in homage to earlier Lee masterpieces) speaks always honestly, sometimes brutally and often emotionally about Stewart Lee's rise and fall-cycle, which has led to him being known in the trade as "The Comedian's Comedian". I found that I couldn't put the book down! 

As I mentioned in my opening paragraph above the "real life" stories he tells read like a personal diary more than a celebrity autobiography - which, of course, it sort of it. Filled with open and occasionally shocking revelations (£600 for an appearance on HIGNFY?) and the sort of anecdotes that actually interest people (there's nothing in here about "that time I was at Elton's place on Brits night and Cilla Black was in the pool...") the chapters between the transcripts are beautifully written, witty, clever, honest and filled with references to comics I had never heard of; comics I have now looked up and fallen in love with. 

The whole thing reads as a kind of love-letter to the art-form of stand-up. Reading of Lee's ups and downs, from glass-strewn Bangor stages to the National Theatre, via Cardiff, Glasgow, Edinburgh (every year bar one) and every other sticky-carpeted, brown-walled pub back room on the way, you can't help but get swept along by his enthusiasm for an industry that he clearly loves. If you're not a stand-up fan then it's very unlikely you'd have heard of Stewart Lee, let alone bought his book. But if you are a fan of stand-up comedy, this perfect-bound stack of 378 pages is everything you've ever wanted to read about. 

It's a rare thing. I want to talk about what's in it, but I REALLY WANT you all to read this book. Since reading the book a second time I've decided that there is more to Stewart Lee than most give him credit for. He's not just the most intelligent and interesting stand-up working today, but a true artist. People say he deconstructs comedy and that's his trick, but I think they're wrong. I think Lee sees comedy. Stew gets that what he does is clever; he sees that there is an audience he will never win. And I don't think he wants them. Much of what he does he talks about in terms of "losing a room and then winning them back" which is daring. He speaks of his wish to make form and rhythm the most important aspect of his comedy, even over material! Again, daring. Stewart Lee does what most comedy audiences - and this isn't arrogance, here - simply don't understand: he takes a joke and tells us why it's funny. 

Sidestepping actual punchlines, even when they present themselves blatantly, in favour of a turn-of-phrase or even just a look, Lee provides more seasoned comedy fans with something better. His book is a must buy, then you'll all know what the hell it is I've been talking about all through this post. 

To me, in the nicest possible way, Stewart Lee is like going to the cinema while taking A-Level Media Studies. I have found myself watching Lee Evans in his stadium shows, huge and sweaty on 30ft screens, and getting ahead of him. I've watched mainstream comics like Michael McIntyre and his "Comedy Road-show Massive" telling jokes that have already been explained to me by Lee and others like him. I was appalled to hear Noel "The Mighty Boosh" Fielding telling a joke on Comedy Roadshow (BBC) last week which Stew had made in his 90s Comedian, and made much more effectively, about the audience making the jokes in their heads, thus rendering themselves and only themselves responsible for their possible lack of enjoyment. I saw this joke retold, not verbatim, granted, and thought to myself "this isn't theft... this is influence". Stewart Lee. A name that is known by those who know it, and those alone. My Mother hates him despite never having seen him at all, simply because he's "so slow". She doesn't get it. But then again she's seen the best stand-up she'll ever see; she was on this Cruise once...

Stewart Lee's book, "How I Escaped My Certain Fate - The Life And Deaths Of A Stand-Up Comedian" is available to buy from Stew's website, here. If you only read one book... etc.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The Apprentice - "Karmically, they will be retributed!"

So tonight Melissa was FIRED. She claimed to be the best pitcher ever but clearly wasn't. As confrontational as she was, it wasn't enough to talk her way out of getting fired... blah, blah, blah! 

Sorry. I did enjoy the episode, but I need - need - to talk about someone else. I want to talk about Laura.

Good god alive, she's lovely, isn't she? She's pretty in that "eyes like a doll" kind of way, she is vulnerable yet competent and when she gets upset or cross her cheeks flush... 

Awww! I think, like any reality tv show I ever watch, she's the one I'm secretly in love with. 

Well, reader, it is a secret no more! She's lovely! Guh! I don't even know what it is about her that makes me go all wobbly and silly, but she does. I find myself feeling like I want to stick up for her (that's 'stick up for her'). It's like when you fancy the cool girl from school that you know isn't really all that cool but has managed to get in with the cool crowd. She doesn't seem to be nasty or selfish - certainly not as much as the rest of them anyway. When she does kick off, as she did tonight about the cancelled sale, she does so with very good reason! I'd have a bloody go if some stuck-up bird told me I was to lose my orders too!

Oh, hark at me! I'm gushing. As Ian Bishop would say, "Bro... " - you know what? There are comments enabled; maybe he'll say it himself :)

SJA - Death Of The Doctor (BBC)

SPOILER: He didn't die. But a little part of me did. In fact, two little parts. One part died of sheer shame that such a gushy, wanky piece of rubbish was ever allowed to be shown on the BBC. Another part died of sheer excitement that such a gushy, wanky piece of rubbish was ever allowed to be shown on the BBC.

The trick is, I've found, when watching The Sarah Jane Adventures, is to switch off your brain and see it for what it is: half an hour of children's television. It's not aimed at us. And this two parter, Death Of The Doctor, was great - when you switch off your drama-brain. 

This was ONLY RTD's excuse to write a bit of fanwank. Jo Grant and Sarah Jane Smith spend 20 minutes talking or thinking about the old days. There's no drama here, no plot as such, nothing to keep you on the edge of your seat. I know for a fact that some out there hated it - I liked it though, I thought it was pretty nice. Name-checking aliens and companions from decades back, it's difficult to see who this little show was aimed at. As I say, I liked it. But without the references there was nothing there. Kids would have liked the running and adventure etc. I don't know that it would be as special as it was billed as being. 

But I suppose it's nice to see the Doctor back on our screens, with a brilliant performance. The man hasn't lost it, he's still The Doctor. Both parts are available on iPlayer, but only watch them if you are prepared to ignore most of what you see - especially the giant, rubber turkeys. 

This weekend I'm off to see Doctor Who Live, so be here on Sunday for a big and honest review.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Louis Sends Another Talent To The Kerb

Another week's X Factor over. Another "shocking result" - for some. But not for me... Wagner's still there. Belle Amie are still there. One Direction remain. Boring Mary is hanging in there and now, after tonight's ridiculous result, Trake is there for another week too. 

I don't agree that either of tonight's bottom two deserved to be there, not when Wagner can come out week after week, singing bollocks and stay there. And I want to share something that my Mother and I have discussed week in, week out about John. If you think it racist or stereotyping then that's up to you. But it has nothing to do with his race, colour or background. It has to do with what WE believed he would have been good singing! John, in my eyes, was never the artist we saw. John was fun, upbeat and interesting. And yet, because Louis Walsh couldn't tell a platinum selling hit from a steaming pile of shit, he was made to sing naff, brooding 1960s and 70s guff. Not bad songs, but terrible song choices.

What he should have been given is "I Don't Wanna Dance" by Eddie Grant, or a classic Bob Marley track. Something to show his bounce, his spirit. Something that wouldn't bore us all to death. It's a damn shame that he had to go, but the truth is he wasn't all that interesting. His mentor robbed him of a chance to be a real artist. A real, new, British Reggae artist. Something good. Louis Walsh is ruining The X Factor. More on this in the coming weeks...

...My review of The A Team movie will be posted early next week. :)

It's Called The X Factor, Not The Zzz Factor!

First, a bit about the live performances this weekend. The theme was, apparently, Guilty Pleasures. Most of the songs sung were loved by me and many and not guiltily either! Matt Cardle stole the show, in my eyes, singing Baby One More Time brilliantly. Record it, sell it, have a number one hit. Then there was Cher's take on Shout (better than the James Corden/Dizzy version!) which was, once again, brilliant! And Rebecca Ferguson's Jessica Rabbit was trouser-burstingly sensual and pitch perfect. In fact, this week there was a higher quality across the board, almost. Belle Amie and Wagner should be gone next. I haven't enjoyed such a varied and wondrous mix of music on a show like this so much ever before. And Katie's '40s starlet turn singing King Of The Swingers!!!! WOW! Utter magic. She should win this thing, hands down!

But! There seems to be a misconception among some as to what The X Factor really is!

Some complain that it's not fair or even good that Cher Lloyd raps every week. "She can't just come out and rap! That's not singing!" - tell that to Eminem, or to Lil Kim, or Kanye! What Cher does is her own thing. What Aiden does is not - contrary to the beliefs of some Tweeters - be an intense, alienating bore, but a quiet musical master. He does his own thing. Wagner - if left to sing the wonderful Classical stuff he sang in the auditions - would be great! He'd be doing his own thing. But he has Louis as a mentor and that means he's been aimed at The Viewers. 

Let me explain. 

I think there's a split in the audience of The X Factor. There are people who watch it 'for the lulz' and there are those who watch for the "singing" and there are a small few - myself among them - who watch because - again, contrary to popular belief - these "flashy, celebtastic, public acceptance/public flaying stage shows" occasionally turn up a real star. This year, there are a few. Occasionally, someone comes along who needn't be on the show any longer than a week or two - not because they're no good, but because they ARE! This is Cher Lloyd. This was Storm Lee. This is the fabulous Katie Waissel. This could be Wagner, given a chance to sing - beautifully - an operatic classic; because he CAN. Nobody remembers the winners. It's always the quirky ones, the talented, misunderstood few, that are remembered. in the long run. Who won The X Factor in 2007? Or in 2008? I don't know! I know who HAS won! But only because they become names for a while then disappear! Where's that Steve what's-his-name from the first one? Where's Leon Jackson?! But where's Diana Vickers, Jedward, Alexandra Burke (who won!). Real, bona fide stars - maybe not the best singers, but selling. 

Unfortunately, many who vote think that a nice ballad, sung in a suit, with an old microphone and a smoke machine; some song about "climbing a mountain of ambition to live the dream" or some shit; people think that's talent! People think that Leon Jackson, crooning Sinatra, is enough for him to win. They don't remember "The Unconventionals" - a group consisting of men, women and weirdos - who could sing, well, and make it more like poetry to music than a pop song... They don't remember Rhydian, the classical would-be superstar - the only man to frighten me with his singing (The Phantom Of The Opera - wonderful), because he's not tiddling Boyzone tracks to a pre-made mac-produced backing track, with a key-change and a choir...

These people make the minority hate these shows, not the shows themselves... Give a rocker a chance. Give Cher the Christmas No1 with an obscure Jean Grae track or something - no sleigh bells, no spark-curtain, no snow machine... Just what she does, and see the opinion change. Let Katie win and steal the Christmas top spot with a sweet, warm, festive, fireside tune. Or Matt Cardle, with a cover of Silent Night, done properly! Not "Trake" with a beefed-up, OTT rerecord of something called "My Wonderful Dream" or something just as cliché! 

Anonymous anybodies, like we've had most as winners of The X Factor, make people who know what music is (and it's not Beiber, or bloody Westlife - copying songs done infinitely better in the 60s, or - sorry - Joe McEldery covering any of the aforementioned songs... It's not) do things like start Facebook campaigns to counter the tedium... Nobody WANTED Rage Against The Machine to be Christmas No1 per se. But it was reassuring that it could be. 

Wouldn't it be nice, though, if this sort of childish spite didn't have to happen at all? Wouldn't it be nice for someone a bit different - maybe a rapper, or a singer-songwriter like Matt, or an eccentric talent like Katie - wouldn't it be nice if someone who WASN'T wearing a tight, shiny-blue suit or a sparkling-navy evening gown won? Wouldn't it be nice for - and this could happen this year, there are enough stars there to do it on this year's X Factor - for an original song, sung by a genuinely exciting talent were to take the X Factor crown. Then maybe, in a year's time, people will still have heard of the winner! Someone who is not a clone of every other winner - black female warbler with weak knees/white male teen idol dressed as Bobby Darin. I dream of the day when I go into a shop and there ISN'T a sepia-tone photograph of the X Factor winner, clutching a vintage microphone, with an undone bow-tie, sitting on a theatre stage, looking away from the camera, on the front of the winner's single. Let's have Cher, or Katie, or whoever, looking at us from the cover, daring us to buy this. Saying to us "I won this, but I don't NEED it". 

Many on the stage tonight could be stars without this show, using the publicity they have now gained. But we'd slam them for leaving to pursue their own creative ideals, wouldn't we? Well, I wouldn't. It's about time The X Factor had itself a decent, deserving, talented and different winner. If it doesn't, then I'm afraid it may just be the end of the format, once and for all...

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The King Of Wishful Thinking - The Eighth Doctor's New Clothes

A warning before I go on; the following post is probably based on next-to-nothing and is entirely composed of wishes and join-the-dot logic which will make your windmill picture look like a parrot. So if you read on, please don't judge me as "another bloody fan-boy wishing for things that will never come", even though that is just what I am.

This video, posted by a fellow Twitter-user this afternoon, shows an appearance at a New Zealand con of some sort, of the Eighth Doctor, Paul McGann. The most underrated, under-appreciated, under-seen Doctor we've ever had the pleasure of knowing.

The host talks about a design decision to update the Eighth Doctor's costume, bringing more up to date with his most recent counterparts. Whether this is just a line to introduce the man himself - who, we know, has a thing for the leather jacket and jeans look in real life - or something more serious is anybody's guess. But the inclusion of this Sonic Screwdriver prop lends an element of credibility to the whole thing. How much like the "new Doctor's" screwdriver does this look? Maybe that's where he gets it! All the others have them, so now Eight wants a new one too. TARDIS provides!

Now, I watched this with dread, as I like the Eighth Doctor's costume. It's flashy and eccentric and suits him. But when this new look was revealed I had a bit of a funny turn! There can be no question in anyone's mind that this is as close to the battered naval leathers of the Ninth Doctor as you can get without reusing the thing! It's a naval-style leather jacket, only unbattered! I know, they do photo shoots for the audio series probably more frequently than they do for the telly show, but - and this is where you have to bear with me, for now I lean into fanwank territory - what if...

In a couple of years' time Doctor Who will celebrate its 50th Birthday. A time-honoured tradition is to mark each big day with a special, usually featuring a number of previous incarnations. WHAT IF this "ongoing work in progress" is more than just "a new jacket and a new Sonic prop" and is actually a "how would you like it if..." audition of the new clothes in prep for something bigger? I know. 

It's unlikely, but just think. McGann back on the telly, as the Doctor, "running, fighting and saving the world" in his leather jacket and satchel new-uniform, with Matt and Dave and Chris (maybe) at his side. If only! We all have hopes and dreams. I can think of nothing that would make me happier than a well written The Four Doctors, which would see my third favourite Doctor of all time back behind the wheel of the TARDIS! Moff, come on! You know you want to!

Monday, 18 October 2010

The X Factor - Live Show 2

This week's X Factor was great. Some of the performances were iffy, but it was still great! And I noticed some things which we'll come onto in a bit. But first, the eliminated acts - Storm and Diva Fever. I thought both were better than Belle Ami, although neither as hot. I was sad to see both acts go. I like Storm because he's honest and a bit needy. And Diva Fever are just so much fun! Alas, they're gone. No more to be seen prancing on that over-expensive, over-designed, over-lit "stage". And I'm sad.

But a couple of things that were either noticed by myself or pointed out on Twitter made me smile - and, for a minute - forget the terrible result. I speak of the age-old phenomenon of the "celebrity lookalike". 

Ladies and gentlemen, am I the only one who sees something other than "gorgeous, sexy teen with an attitude" when I look at Cher Lloyd? She has a face like Father Jack! Or a stroke victim's O-Face. DON'T JUDGE ME! You all see the resemblance now too! Admit it! 

Her rapping, though is awesome. She's not got the best singing voice really, but she certainly knows how to put on a show. She's already a superstar in my eyes. She doesn't need to win to be this series' success story. Cher Lloyd is the future of British pop. She's rare. And there's another act who is very rare too. Aiden Grimshaw is rare. Even though he had a terrible show on Saturday - his vocal was difficult to listen to, since the song he sang could have been the making of him. It could have been his ticket to the finals...

Someone else who is almost certain to make it to the final show is Matt Cardle, hilariously compared - on Twitter - to "a thin Johnny Vegas". ONCE AGAIN! YOU SEE IT TOO! RIGHT?! 

He has the voice of an angel! Matt, I mean, not Johnny Vegas. His song choices are not the greatest in my opinion, but he sings every song he gets with such emotion and authenticity that you cannot help but forget every other act while he's on... Oh, and there's John Adeleyeyeyeyeyeyeye who, lets face it, we ALL forget about before, during and after his performance. Lovely voice but there is NOTHING there. Just a bland, suited ballad-horn. And I blame Louis. I also blame Louis for Storm's departure, since Storm Lee has a great rock-n-roll voice and the commitment to go all the way. But he's been portrayed as a "School-of-Rock" style "rockstaaaah" - which he isn't, really...

It's a shame. Next week, things had better get more real or I'll be writing a letter addressed to ITV's X Factor Judge, Louis Walsh, to tell him he's a scheming, OTT toss-pot who needs to stop that sideways glance at the camera a split second before he gives his judicial opinion. I probably won't post it though.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Lip Service (BBC) - Lesbians On The BBC

I like the BBC. I like drama. I like the production company Kudos. I like lesbians (as does a silver-haired good friend of mine, he knows who he is). So new Kudos-produced BBC lesbian drama "Lip Service" should have had more than enough to keep me interested. It almost did, but there's something that just doesn't feel right here!

Billed as a "funny, irreverent and moving drama series which follows the interwoven love lives of Frankie, Cat and Tess, three gay women living in Glasgow whose search for happiness stirs up hidden passions and secrets" it sounds like something that's been done before.

And it has. And Better. But with blokes. This is, as its core, an all-girl version of RTD's "Queer As Folk" only... less... punchy? Don't get me wrong, it's fun! It's enjoyable and it's very sexy but the acting isn't always top-notch (neither was the acting in QAF though) and the characters are about as far from relate-to-able, for me, as you can get. I'm not a 20something lesbian. Although I do LIKE them. Laura Fraser and Fiona Button are especially watchable. And Torchwood COE's Cush Jumbo appears too, albeit NOT kissing girls, much to my initial disappointment. 

I'll watch the series, if only because the music is gorgeous, as are the cast. If you decide to watch it, try to get your head around the straight-in-there-with-fingers sex scene that happens before the opening titles roll on episode 1. And try not to worry too much about the range and scale of the piece - it has a tendency to jump from Hollyoaks-esque light-hearted banter to dreary, sub-romantic humping and tears in the blink of an eye.

But don't look here for hard-hitting quality drama. Without sounding too crude, this one's good for two things; for something to watch in bed on a lazy Sunday morning when you want something you don't have to think too much about. And for something to watch in bed on a lazy Sunday morning... It's really good fun, it's snazzy and sexy and kinky and written for people who prefer style and glamour/anti-glamour over constructive dialogue and story. Think Hollyoaks meets QAF, to shamefully reuse comparisons from earlier, and you more or less get the picture. Not bad at all, but not all good! Worth giving up an hour a week, though. I have a feeling it'll get better as we get to know the characters.

Watch the first episode now on BBC iPlayer and see the next episode on Tuesday, BBC THREE at 22.30.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

I'm Proud Of The BBC by Mitch Benn - Just Brilliant!

I'm proud of the BBC. It's given us so many brilliant shows, personalities, specials, dramas, everything! It's what I think sums up the British people more than anything else. It is known all around the world as a bringer of quality to their screens! For Doctor Who alone it's worth the licence fee. BUT DON'T LISTEN TO ME!! Take a look at this (with thanks to @kolosigma for Tweeting it):

Absolutely Fantastic.

Stewart Lee

Without question, the cleverest comedian of our time. A true scientist of comedy. Very rare!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

A Post In Lieu Of Something To Say...

Ever had one of those days where you've got a head full of stuff and no coherent method of laying it down in lines on a page? One of those days when you've seen so much and heard so much and done so much that it all jostles for pride of place in your creative poured-puddle? One of those days where you want to write something interesting, exciting, elegant and eloquent, but, inexplicably, it all escapes you?

Yeah. Me too. Today I have nothing to say. It has to be a first, doesn't it? Or, I should say, I have too much to say and no words to say it. I want to talk about the Chilean Miners (the capitalisation is now justified, for they are super-heroes, aren't they?), the Liverpool Football Club sale thing, the fact that Margaret "The Actual Devil" Thatcher has had to miss her own 85th Birthday Party - thrown for her by David "The Actual Devil's Spawn" Cameron - because she's got flu (good). I would like to talk about something very, very exciting that I (may) have in the pipeline for this very blog. But I can't. My fingers are cold. My computer is making funny noises. And I have fucking writer's block. Sorry to waste your time... Please come back soon for a proper post.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Reliving My Childhood With Richard Not Judy

Remember when Richard & Judy did This Morning? Every weekday they'd sit there, talking about a woman who married her own brother one minute and Coronation Street the next, in true One Show style. I hated that. Partly because it was the sort of TV that eats your spare time without your consent, partly because I was in school when it was on, so always missed it! It was awful. Both the fact that I couldn't see it and the show itself!

Sunday, though, offered something even better. Infinitely better, in fact! Something that would never be shown in today's modern, cuddly, sheltered, censored, artistically-muted BBC schedule. Something more "near-the-knuckle" than The Friday Night Project (and , again, infinitely better). Something wonderful. Anyone remember This Morning With Richard Not Judy? I hope so, for that is the show of which I speak!

Stewart Lee and Richard Herring's hilarious alternative Sunday Lunch was about as anarchic and shocking as the BBC could get on a Sunday Lunchtime. 

What sticks in my mind most is Lee's side-splitting diatribe to "...the stupid, fat, drunken idiots..." who would be watching the Friday late-night repeat from the first show. Also, from that same show, the "aim" they vowed to achieve of assassinating BBC Director General (at the time) John Birt, to take over the BBC and ensure that The Simpsons, Seinfeld and Larry Sanders is broadcast at a reasonable time of day, when people would actually be watching - "even if there is snooker on!". How the hell they got away with it is beyond me, on a Sunday lunchtime. I've just watched The Five Types Of Woman - The Spice Girls, where Herring describes "an ugly sporty spice jumping into a home" and raping a man, as this would be her only means of reproduction! ON A SUNDAY LUNCHTIME!!

When I was young - 12 years old when this show began - I didn't quite understand much of the double entendre offered as seemingly innocent, family-friendly material. Watching it back is double satisfaction! If you've never seen the show, please go here, to Stew's website (video clips page) to watch all eighteen 45min episodes in full! I guarantee you, you will not regret it! Also available on that page is the complete Fist Of Fun, Comedy Vehicle and many links to YouTube classics from what is, to me, Britain's Uncrowned Kings Of Comedy.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Single Father (BBC)

As you all know, I'm a fan of all kinds of television shows. I watch reality stuff, kids' stuff, dramas... So it was with high hopes that I sat down tonight to watch the new BBC Drama "Single Father" starring Suranne Jones and David Tennant. 

It was, as far as I knew, about a man dealing with the death of his wife and the children he's been left with. I had a feeling, after reading very good reviews on some of the most respectable blogs - blogs I trust, that this would be something I would enjoy. I thought it would be great to watch a pair of such familiar faces in an emotionally charged, quality drama. It seems, some ten minutes before the end of the first episode, that I will be left wanting. 

Despite a promising set up (the actual crash which caused Rita's death was brilliantly sudden, yet foreseeable) there is a huge problem so far with pace. It's either top-speed rollicking drama or something-and-nothing soapy whining. I know it has a sensitive subject matter, but this drama has, so far, not even touched on anything even resembling understanding. There's also a smell of "small world coincidental mysticism" about the whole thing... Everyone is connected to everyone else in too many ways. She's not just the wife's best friend, but his ex wife and an enemy of the sister, who wants to help because the kids are all she has; kids that want everything except the half sister that has now become a seemingly lucky orphan, since David Tennant forgot to adopt her. It's just a mess. A lovely idea, no question about that! And the acting throughout has been top-notch! Tennant particularly shines as the hapless and struggling title character. 

It's not at all what it could be, though. It's a bit like an ITV Drama that breaks itself up into sections with Snow Patrol music videos - over-emotive, over-complicated, over-written - and over. I've just spent the last 15 minutes of the thing I was so looking forward to writing about how bad it is. Clearly it hasn't held my attention either, then. Here are some more things I hated about it: 1. The "psychic" I Love You/I Love You Too when Rita was killed - I half thought she was going to come back as a ghost. 2. everything else, except the acting. 


Saturday, 9 October 2010

The X Factor - Live Show 1

So live show number one has been shown and almost ALL of my first impressions were turned on their heads and more dramatic, professional performances leapt into sight. 

Firstly, Cher Lloyd blew me away with her stage presence yet needed a little work on her vocals. Belle Amie did well, but they're not connecting as a group just yet. Storm was okay, but Louis has turned almost ALL of his category into parodies of what made them so original in the first place. Diva Fever brought the place down with the most camp performance The X Factor has ever seen! And Wagner was... interesting. But there were two clear favourites this week. The crowd loved Mary Byrne, the 50 year old Tesco woman with a HUGE voice and she was awesome. But the best performance of the night, for me, was someone I wrote off as "the same as any other male solo singer out there" - Aidan Grimshaw (pictured).

He sang the Tears For Fears classic "Mad World" - from a throne of chains, in a stark spotlight... it was a very chilling, very dramatic performance. There was almost something scary about it. I described the performance on Twitter as like "being sung to sleep by a known murderer" and I stand by that! It was the ONLY perfect performance of the evening, if you ask me... 

The whole competition has shuffled for me, now. Those I loved were just okay, those who were terrible before were incredible. I want to watch Aidan's performance again and when I find it on a popular video-sharing site you will be able to find it below. Roll on next week...

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The Apprentice - Dan Harris Is A C**t!

And so it begins. Lord Sugar has a new hench-woman and I already want to kill 4 of the candidates! There's a new house, a woman who looks like a friend of mine and so much male-back-slapping/girly-group-hugging that I wanted to high-five someone myself, sat at home! But there was one who just couldn't cut the (pork and) mustard (sausages) tonight...

The first entrepreneurial hopeful to become a hopeless nonentity was Dan "I'll Project Manage And You Do All The Work" Harris - what a prick.

Or, as he will be known from here onward, The C**t. A loud-mouthed, bullish, pinch-faced shout-monger who, despite being an ex-millionaire sales director, was a shit salesman and a terrible leader. The C**t yelled, pushed, arm-folded, huffed, puffed and blew himself out of the house and into that black cab before the end of just the second day.

The only reason I can think of for The C**t's to-attentionism and utter disregard for professional courtesy and understanding - (if he'd spoken to me like that in front of strangers in the street I'd have quietly taken him to one side and explained, politely, that I am not a cat and barking at me won't make my run faster) - the ONLY reason I can think of for his over-the-top, look-how-big-a-man-I-am 'juggernaution' is that he's got a dick like a bookie's biro. 

That said, The Brand was a pain in the arse and I'm a little freaked out by that woman who looks a bit like Miriam Margoyles being sucked nose-first up an invisible vacuum cleaner - so it's clearly going to be another year of I LOVE HIM/I HATE HIM action from the best dichotomous reality show on Earth - (it's both full of childish wankers who can't be trusted to wash a fucking car and the people who actually have jobs in important areas of this country's economy - no wonder we're all going to the dogs) - Roll on next week.

My favourite? Oooooh! Too early to tell... Ask me again next time.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

RIP Norman Wisdom

It's a sad day when you can no longer claim that this comedy genius "still has it"... A sad, sad day. He was capable of the most incredibly hilarious acts of slapstick humour, right to the end. Rest In Peace, Pitkin! Still, 95 eh? That's not a bad innings...

Here's my favourite EVER Norman Wisdom routine;

Sunday, 3 October 2010

The X Factor - My Final Twelve In Order

That's it. All the pre-recorded shows are over and now we take control. From next week onward only us, the viewing public, have the power to pick a winner. Whatever you're into, there should be something in here to suit you. The groups, for once, are all great. The girls and boys - no matter how controversial the choices - are incredibly talented and the over 28's... have Storm Lee in them. So here are my favourite six, in order, starting with the act I like most... 


Without doubt the only "Star" in the true, old-fashioned sense of the word, in the final 12. There's something very "80s Front Man" about him. He conjours up an image of flashing lights and loud electric guitar riffs - and lots of warm beer. I'd buy a ticket to see his show NOW. So if he wins - and I think he's in with a chance - then he'll be huge. All I can say is good luck mate. I'm backing you all the way.


Matt, Matt, Matt... What can I say? The only X Factor performance to ever make me cry was his Bootcamp rendition of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. He can sing, he's unassuming. He's got that rough "I'm just me" look about him and I hope to God they don't "clean him up" too much for the live shows. As he is, he's going to go far. Maybe even our winner here, folks...


Bonkers. Lovely. Talented and very, very likeable. But she is a Marmite act... She'll either stay for weeks and weeks, or be out in week two. Either way, she's made. Expect "driving in a car in black and white while singing" music videos from here soon. And another thing... those eyelashes? HOT! I thought, anyway. Now all she has to do is NOT fuck it up, like she has in EVERY audition so far.


They look like a boy band, they sound like a boy band. They are the ultimate Boy Band. Five very talented, very likeable, very gracious and most of all VERY MARKETABLE lads who, I think, have what it takes to become a mainstay in the UK charts. And with Cowell as a mentor there's not really a long list of mistakes they're gonna be allowed to make to mess it up! 


Attitude, talent, looks, maturity, stage presence, a sore throat - Cher Lloyd has got it all! And despite messing up a bit (a lot) at Judge's Houses she is probably the most unconventional X Factor contestant the show has ever seen. Hip Hop Honey she is! And I don't think there was a doubt in anyone's mind that, with Cheryl as a mentor, she'd make the live shows. Now to see her shake her stuff LIVE next week. Great!


Damn, she's cute. She so quiet and clearly a decent girl... She's the best dressed and styled of all the contestants by a country mile and she has the voice of an angel! But... But... I don't know... There's something not quite working here... I don't know what it is... She has the lot. But I don't think she has what we're really looking for here - The X Factor. She's great and everything, but I don't think we'll be seeing too much of her.

Now let's see where this goes!! More X Factor EVERY WEEKEND UNTIL CHRISTMAS! Right here.

"I'm getting a man... or a woman... or..."

I'm angry. You have no idea! I was going to watch Glee and blog about that; now I wish I had! Glee - by the way - is a bunch of shit, no offence to those who like it. Lots like it, but to me it was terrible. More on that later!

For now, though, I want to talk about something I found on Living TV or something. Psychic Sally: On The Road. A TV series based on a live show based on a TV series. The titular Sally is psychic. Of course, she's NOT! She's a fake - unless she can prove otherwise! But what I saw of the show angered me so much I felt I had to put something - anything - down in print. The concept is simple. She charges £23.50 for an hour long "medium" show where she contacts the dead for the sad and grieving, yet paying public. Sometimes, she "hits" and gets something right - I'll talk about that in a second. Sometimes she's wrong... but of course the proffered negative means nobody ever notices she's wrong (eg. You don't have a dog do you? - answer: yes ("yeah, I thought so..."), no ("no, I know...").

When she's right, she's only barely right. Today the conversation (paraphrased, but without any exceptional changes at all) went thus:

Sally: I'm getting a woman... she's standing forward... her name is Vi, or Violet?

*Woman stands up*
Sally: Hello, my darling... Do you think this is for you?

Woman: Yes... I think... yes.
Sally: Who've you lost dear? Who's in spirit?
Woman: My mother.... Sylvia....
Sally: Sylvia... now, in the spirit world, she's known by others as Vi... 
Woman: ...Oh...
Sally: She wasn't your mother was she dear? Was she your mother?
*Woman breaks down*
Woman: Oh my... yes... she was yeah... Oh God!

It's criminal! This woman has been given NO indication that this was her mother! The name was even incorrect!! Okay, I know she COULD have been called Vi, but really?! Would it jump out at you? And Sally was told by the confused and emotionally wrecked Woman that Sylvia was her mother, just two questions before, yet still broke down and seemed in awe at the revelation when Sally "told" her.

There was also something about a "white dog with a bad mouth" which, to that same woman - clearly desperate to get some sort of closure for something - translated into her "golden Labrador, Muffin" who DIDN'T have a bad mouth at all, but that detail was soon forgotten...

But look at this! Before the second ad break the audience are shown filling in cards with the details - names, relationships, brief description - of the people they would "most like to receive a message from, should one come through"... So, presumably, if Sally read the cards before the show and in the intervals and memorised just a handful of the information provided, her show is WRITTEN FOR HER BY THE AUDIENCE and all she has to do is wobble a bit and leak the info a sentence at a time, all the while niggling at the audience member for anything she can get - using subtle cold-reading. 

But the house this woman lives in! And the car she gets driven about in! I WANT THAT! So here we are! I've decided to give YOU, dear reader, your very own, personalised and hopefully accurate character reading, using only my powers of psychic magic - or whatever!

So, without further ado, please place your hand on the screen and read on...

You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them.

You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. Disciplined and self-controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations.

You also pride yourself as an independent thinker; and do not accept others' statements without satisfactory proof. But you have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be rather unrealistic.

No, no! That one's for free! Please let me know how accurate my reading was by contacting me on Twitter.