Saturday, April 17, 2021

Against Strange Maladies, A Sovereign Cure

Another week, another bloggerisationisms update here at yer actual From The North, dear blog reader. Containing, as it does, all of the usual rubbish for your consideration. But, plus point, at least it's free. Or, if not free, then at least extremely cheap. Onward, ever onward .... 
The BBC has confirmed that it received one hundred and nine thousand, seven hundred and forty one whinges from members the public over its coverage of the Duke of Edinburgh's death. All of whom, seemingly, having nothing better to do with their time or energy. The corporation cleared its schedules to cover the news when Prince Philip died last Friday, at the age of ninety nine. That night's episode of EastEnders and the MasterChef final were replaced by news programmes broadcast simultaneously on both BBC1 and BBC2, while BBC4 was taken off-air completely. For what it's worth, this blogger had no problem whatsoever with the BBC1 coverage - it was a major news event and it needed to be covered, only a brain-damaged moron or the victim of some cruel medical experiments would fail to acknowledge that; and, although he would have preferred BBC2 to have been left to carry any non-royal-death-related programming available, this blogger fully understood the horns of the dilemma the Beeb faced knowing that, whatever they did some abject smears of no importance at the Daily Scum Mail, the Daily Scum Express and the Torygraph were going to criticise them anyway. The one thing he did have a problem with was the closing down of BBC4's schedule for the night and replacing it with a caption informing potential viewers that they should retune to BBC1, immediately. What, exactly, was achieved by that decision is entirely beyond this blogger's comprehension. The BBC said, rightly, that the Duke's death was 'a significant event which generated a lot of interest both nationally and internationally.' It added: 'We acknowledge some viewers were unhappy with the level of coverage given and impact this had on the billed TV and Radio schedules.' Which is putting it mildly; some viewers (just over one hundred thousand, seemingly) weren't merely upset, they were bleeding apoplectic. 'We do not make such changes without careful consideration and the decisions made reflect the role the BBC plays as the national broadcaster, during moments of national significance,' the BBC continued. 'We are grateful for all feedback and we always listen to the response from our audiences.' One or two people even believed them. The corporation's fortnightly complaints report was published on Thursday. The figure makes the coverage of Prince Philip's death the most whinged-about piece of programming in BBC history. BBC1 moved the MasterChef final to 14 April, so viewers were - eventually - able to find out who had won the popular amateur cookery series (see below). The BBC was, of course, not alone in adjusting its schedule to reflect Prince Philip's death, with ITV and Channel Four both also broadcasting extended news coverage. However, many viewers turned away from such programming as the day wore on, with ITV's Friday night audience declining by a whopping sixty per cent in comparison to the previous week, according to overnight figures. BBC1's audience also dropped by seven per cent week-on-week during the coverage about Prince Philip, while BBC2, unsurprisingly, lost two-thirds of its audience. The most-watched programme on a single channel that evening was Channel Four's Gogglebox, with 4.2 million overnight viewers. At least a portion of whom, one suspects, were not regular viewers but were, simply, relieved to have something - anything - to watch that wasn't about the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. The BBC put a dedicated form on its website later that evening to allow viewers to whinge about the extent of the TV coverage, in recognition of the volume of complaints which it had already received up to that point. The form was subsequently removed the following afternoon, after the number of whinges began to fall, the corporation claimed. For a not insignificant number of viewers, replacing the final of MasterChef with programming celebrating the life of Prince Philip was the wrong decision. Although, quite how many more would have complained if the BBC had done the opposite is the unanswered question (but, we can probably have a decent guess at the manifest shitstorm that would have caused). What is interesting is how many older viewers were amongst those who complained. Proving that not everyone in this country over the age of fifty has, like the Daily Scum Mail and the Daily Scum Express, their collective tongue rammed so far up royalty's collective chuff that there's no room for anyone else to get in there for a right good lick. And this blogger says that, as previously discussed, as someone with no great love but a reasonable amount of (sometimes grudging) respect for at least some of the royal family (Prince Philip included). Traditional 'linear' TV has been a reliable friend to many during months of lockdown and, whilst younger viewers have embraced streaming services and video on demand around twenty million of us are still watching freeview TV at peak-time each evening. Schedules, even in an age of YouTube, iPlayer and Netflix, still matter to many. It is also worth reflecting that, in these days of online complaints forms, it is easier to register a whinge than it ever was in the era of trying to get through to the BBC switchboard or writing a stern letter of dischuffment over some nonsense or other. Indeed, in a sign that the BBC is destined to be criticised by all sides no matter how hard it tries, one hundred and sixteen people - with, definitely, nothing better to do with their time - reportedly whinged to the corporation that the BBC was making it too easy for whingers to whinge. Not all the whinges were about the extent of the BBC's coverage, let it be noted. Almost four hundred people whinged that Prince Andrew had been featured in programmes surrounding his father's death despite his close association with the late financier - and convicted sex-offender - Jeffrey Epstein and the Prince's stubborn refusal to answer questions posed to him by the FBI about what he may or may not have got up to with underage girls. A further two hundred and thirty three people whinged - ludicrously - that BBC presenters were not wearing 'sufficiently respectful clothes,' with complaints that not all newsreaders were wearing black - an echo of the (wholly media-manufactured) controversy over the burgundy tie worn by Peter Sissons when he announced the death of the Queen Mother in 2002. Plus ça change, dear blog reader, plus c'est la même chose.
A former Nando's worker has become the latest winner of the BBC's popular cookery series MasterChef. Tom Rhodes was crowned champion after cooking a five-course lunch for lockdown heroes and serving up a dish at renowned restaurant Le Gavroche. The thirty one-year-old from Newcastle saw off competition from fellow finalists Mike Tomkins and Alexina Anatole. The final had, as previously noted, been extremely postponed following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh on Friday. The rescheduled show, broadcast on Wednesday evening, saw the final trio fight to impress hosts Gregg Wallace and John Torode with three signature dishes. But it was Rhodes' Japanese-infused starter, main and dessert which proved victorious, making him the long-running programme's seventeenth winner. Complimented for 'a style bordering on minimalism' by Wallace, Rhodes served a trio of oysters for the starter, including a beer-battered oyster with a Japanese sour plum mayonnaise. For Torode, it was Rhodes' main of reverse-seared ribeye steak topped with beetroot pickled in a Japanese seaweed and a wasabi leaf that was 'modern' and 'really very clever indeed.' His dessert of a lemon tart topped with black olive meringue also received universal praise from the hosts. Cos, let's face it, who doesn't love a nice bit of tart? 'What he's absolutely brilliant at is European-style of cookery, with Japanese flavourings,' Wallace said. Before adding 'cooking doesn't come any tougher than this.' Probably. Speaking after filming ended, Rhodes said that he would one day 'love to write a cookbook and have a cookery school. During the competition, I have realised my love for developing recipes and cooking for other people outside of my friends and family, so would love to do more of this after the show,' he said. First broadcast in 1990, MasterChef is one of the BBC's longest-running factual series and has inspired the popular spin-off MasterChef: The Professionals (and, the somewhat embarrassingly wretched Celebrity MasterChef too). The latest series was produced under coronavirus restrictions, with many of the series' traditional assignments adjusted to allow for social distancing. While viewers found out who won this week, Rhodes himself has had to keep his victory a secret since the end of last year, when filming concluded. He told BBC Breakfast on Thursday that the only other people who knew the result were his parents who were both sworn to secrecy. 'You've seen the clip last night where I rang my mum on screen,' he said. 'They've found it more difficult to keep secret than I have.' Rhodes said taking the trophy (which, presumably, he's also had to hide for the last four months) was 'a dream come true' and confirmed his further ambitions to become a food writer and maybe even open his own restaurant one day. This blogger, who lives in the same city as the winner, would like to see this happenstance if only because he once ate in, he presumes, the same Nandos in which Tom used to work and found the gaff a bit bland. Let's face it, Th' Toon needs all the good restuarants it can lay its hands on right about now. Tom said that he was able to practise his winning dish two or three times before the final, but has not cooked it again at home since. 'I'm waiting until I can cook it for somebody and I've got a lot of requests for that so far,' he said. When possible though, he plans to celebrate with 'a really good pizza' and 'maybe a bottle of red.' 
Large-toothed Scouse funster John Bishop allegedly 'got told off' by 'BBC bosses' (that's 'executives' only with less syllables for those who are hard of thinking) after revealing details about his Doctor Who role. Mind you, this breathlessly exciting 'news' was, admittedly, brought to us by that bastion of truthful, accurate and vitally important reportage Bang Showbiz. So, it's probably an idea to take it with not so much a pinch as a cellar-full of salt. The Liverpudlian actor had taken part in an online workshop for drama students and revealed that his upcoming character was also from the city. Which was so surprisingly, as most viewers probably imagined he was going to be playing a Martian, didn't they? This, the bullshit gossip website claims, 'was enough for producers to call him up.' Appearing on The Graham Norton Show this weekend, John further revealed: 'I'm the new companion to The Doctor. I'm allowed to say that, but that's about it. I did a thing for some drama students in Liverpool, a big Zoom thing and it was a Q&A just talking about acting, how you get into it, how you get into stand-up comedy. One of the questions was, "Can you tell us anything about your character in Doctor Who? Where does he come from?" I went, "Well where do you think he comes from? Have a guess!" I'm not Tom Cruise, I can act as long as the character happens to look and sound a lot like me. So, I just mentioned that the character was from Liverpool which then, somewhere on a Doctor Who website, someone picked it up - "There's a new character and he's from Liverpool, the story's based in Liverpool." Then the BBC phoned me up and said, "You've broken the cardinal sin, you've told them something about Doctor Who." And I went, "I haven't told them anything! Anybody who looks at me knows he's from Liverpool, let's be honest!"' During the same Zoom event An Evening With John Bishop, the actor also revealed that he had to turn down the role originally 'due to scheduling issues,' before the pandemic changed things and he was able to film alongside Jodie Whittaker. He explained: 'I met Chris Chibnall and he had this idea and this character. He'd seen me in a few things and he wanted to know if I'd be interested in Doctor Who. I was flattered but the problem was I was on tour when they were meant to be filming. So although I fancied it, I had to say no. And then the whole COVID thing happened. Lockdown arrived so I made a phone call and fortunately they had moved their filming dates. It now fits in perfectly - I'm doing Doctor Who up until July and then I go on the road again in September.' So, there you go, dear blog reader, John Bishop has also revealed that production on the next series of Doctor Who will be concluding until July. Let's see if he gets into any further bother with 'BBC bosses' over that. Over you, Bang Showbiz.
And, now, dear blog reader ...
Washes Whiter. Nicholas Baker's tremendous 1990 history of advertising on British TV is now available for viewing on both iPlayer (first episode only) and YouTube (episodes two to five). A superb collection of nostalgia (from its delicious pop-art titles to the vintage adverts themselves) and social history (notably its discussion of feminism in advertising which takes up two entire episodes). If you've never seen it before, you should have. Put that right, forthwith, you've no longer go any excuses not to. 
MacBeth (1971). 'Things without all remedy should be without regard. What's done is done.' Roman Polanski's blood-soaked horrorshow has aged remarkably well as an example of how to do Shakespeare as a gore-fest and Ken Tynan's script is genuinely politically subversive. Includes full-frontal nudity too (Hell, it was the Seventies) so, you know, double-delight. A plank of wood in the shape of Jon Finch as the titular character is about as interesting as a geet hard eye-watering smack in the knackers with a wet plimsoll but the rest of the cast (Francesca Annis and Martin Shaw most notably) are great. Even the late Keith Chegwin's Fleance is watchable. The Third Ear Band's score is suitably eerie and the location filming, including much use of Lindisfarne, Bamburgh, St Aidan's Church and North Charlton Moors near Alnwick, has never made Northumberland look ... well, wetter, actually. And bleaker. Polanski, famously, blamed production difficulties and going over budget on the 'lous weather.' You chose to film in the North East, pal, whose fault was that?
MacBeth (2006). 'By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.' Geoffrey Wright's Australian adaptation of the same text avoids many of the traditional pitfalls of modernist Shakespeare adaptations as, although it uses a modern-day Melbourne gangster setting it largely maintains the gorgeous language of the original play. And, the casting of The We'yrd sisters as a trio of feral Goth schoolgirls (Miranda Nation, Chloe Armstrong and Kate Bell) is properly strange.
Bad Samaritan. Probably not a line on national heartthrob David Tennant's CV that he brags about over-much. Christ, it's a bad movie.
Prodigal Son. 'I'm going to be killed by a millennial. What a twist!' Back after two months in limbo and with excellent use of 'Ça Plane Pour Moi' in the opening scene. Plus, From The North favourite Alan Cumming going almost as deliciously-over-the-top-and-down-the-other-side as Michael Sheen does on a regular basis in the show. What's not to love?
The Big Short. 'Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry.'
Watergate. Paul Mitchell and Norma Percy's superb, enthralling, ground-breaking 1994 five-part BBC series, narrated by Fred Emery and featuring exclusive interviews with many of the key participants including Bob Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, John Dean and Jeb Magruder as well as former President Gerald Ford is currently being repeated on BBC4 (and available on iPlayer). Still the most magnetic thing about the documentary remains that crazed loon the late Gordon Liddy, sitting in front of his massive gun collection (reportedly, registered in his wife's name since, as a former felon, he wasn't eligible for a licence) talking with pride and not a small amount of glee about his nefarious skulduggery. All in the name of Richard Nixon, the only bloke involved in the whole malarkey not to end up with a criminal record. As Variety's Jeff Silverman wrote on first broadcast, the mini-series 'brilliantly chronicles the events - and their inevitability - that led to the national nightmare [of] Watergate. Funny, tragic, pathetic and probing, docu-dramatically stares down Watergate's smoking gun and makes its ultimate conclusion perfectly clear: Nixon's the one. Still. Now more than ever.'
Stan & Ollie. 'I'm never getting married again. I'm just going to find a woman I don't like and buy her a house.' A poignant, sweet, respectful and wholly good-hearted biopic of the beloved comedy duo. Great performances from Coogan and John C Reilly and a handsome recreation of 1950s Britain (both the best and the worst, thereof).
The Favourite. 'Must you rub it in? A man's dignity is the one thing that holds him back from running amok.' 'Sometimes, a lady likes to have some fun!'
Tom & Jerry: The Movie. As several movie critics have seemingly taken great delight in sneering to anyone that will listen, no it's not as good as the Fred Quimby/Hanna/Barbera 1950s shorts (nor, indeed, the Chuck Jones animations from a decade later). But it's still got Tom getting hit in the face with a steam iron, when is that ever not funny?
Picnic At Hanging Rock. 'Everything begins and ends at exactly the right time and place.' Still one of this blogger's desert island DVD choices. And it always will be.
Some desperately sad news, now, the actress Helen McCrory has died at the appallingly young age of fifty two. From The North favourite McCrory was best known for her roles in the films The Queen, The Special Relationship and the Harry Potter franchise and TV series including Peaky Blinders. Her husband, Damian Lewis, confirmed her death via Twitter, saying that McCrory had died 'peacefully at home.' Lewis said: 'I'm heartbroken to announce that after an heroic battle with cancer, the beautiful and mighty woman that is Helen McCrory has died surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family.' He added that his wife had 'died as she lived. Fearlessly. God we love her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives. She blazed so brightly.'
Born in London to a Welsh mother and Scottish father, McCrory spent a year in Italy before studying acting at The Drama Centre. Her film roles included portraying Cherie Blair in Peter Morgan's The Queen and The Special Relationship in 2006 and 2010 respectively. She also played Narcissa Malfoy in the final three films of the Harry Potter franchise and appeared in the James Bond movie Skyfall. On television, she had a leading role as the Shelby matriarch Polly Gray in the BBC's popular period crime drama Peaky Blinders and appeared in series including Doctor Who (magnificent as the villainous Rosanna Calvierri opposite Matt Smith in The Vampires Of Venice), Inside Number Nine, Fearless, MotherFatherSon and His Dark Materials. Her CV also included appearanced in Interview With The Vampire (her screen debut), The James Gang, Charlotte Gray, Does God Play Football, Normal For Norfolk, Fantastic Mister Fox, The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death, Their Finest, The Fragile Heart, Witness Against Hitler, Spoonface, Anna Karenina, In A Land Of Plenty, The Jury, Dickens, Lucky Jim, Life, Tommy Cooper: Not Like That, Like This, Penny Dreadful and Have I Got News For You.
Last year, she appeared in two of From The North's fifty favourite TV productions of the year, the BBC's Hugh Laurie-fronted political drama Roadkill and ITV's Quiz. McCrory was also an accomplished stage actress and was nominated for an Olivier for her stage role as Rosalind in As You Like It at Wyndham's Theatre in 2006. McCrory and Lewis led fundraising efforts to provide hot meals for NHS staff during the Covid pandemic. Their work saw almost one million knicker in donations to the Feed NHS scheme and partnerships with chains including Leon and Wasabi. McCrory served as an honorary patron of the London children's charity Scene & Heard. She was appointed an OBE in the 2017 New Year Honours for her services to drama. McCrory is survived by Lewis, whom she married in 2007 and their two children Manon and Gulliver.
In 1967 the National Youth Theatre in London performed the first new play it had ever commissioned, with eighty performers arranged on a set depicting a football stand. The play would be revived with new casts eight times over the next twenty years and, again, at Wilton's Music Hall in London in 2017. It was televised twice - in 1967 and 1975 - and entered many a school curriculum. The play was Zigger Zagger and its writer was Peter Terson, who has died aged eighty nine. The story of teenager Harry Philton and his friend the titular character, who draws Harry into a band of rioting football fans, has as its timeless theme the poverty of choices faced by a young, working-class male. Terson continued his exploration of this subject the following year with his next National Youth Theatre play, The Apprentices (starring Barrie Rutter), in which exploited young men turn cruelly and violently on each other. Possibly no writer has done more to democratise drama in Britain. Earlier in his career, as a young resident playwright at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, brought in by its director, Peter Cheeseman, Terson plunged into the theatre's dedication to regionalism, supported by post-war civic investment. Faithful to Cheeseman's commitment to local documentaries about his audiences' working lives, Terson's scripts included The 1861 Whitby Lifeboat Disaster (1970). After the success of Zigger Zagger, he struck a wonderfully rich seam with three plays about a trio of Yorkshire miners at leisure, played by Brian Glover, Ray Mort and Douglas Livingstone. The first of these, commissioned by BBC Radio, was The Fishing Party (1971), in which the trio are bullied and exploited by a ruthless Whitby landlady who assures them they will have 'contact with a lavatory on all floors' at their lodgings. It won a Writers Guild award and was subsequently televised - as were the following two - as part of the BBC's Play For Today strand. The second, Shakespeare Or Bust (1973), centred around a canal trip to Stratford-upon-Avon to see Antony & Cleopatra which ended up with Antony (Richard Johnson) and Cleopatra (Janet Suzman) coming to their narrowboat to put on a performance after the three are unable to get tickets for the theatre. The third, Three For The Fancy, set at a country livestock fair, followed in 1974 and the trilogy was at the heart of a celebratory retrospective at the British Film Institute in 2012. Peter was born in Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne - just a few streets away from the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House as it happens - to Peter Patterson, a joiner and his wife, Jane. He left school at fifteen, worked in a drawing office and briefly attended the city's technical college. After national service with the RAF he trained as a teacher at Redland College in Bristol (1952 to 1954) and there met a fellow student Sheila Bailey, whom he married in 1955. He later changed his name, after becoming a professional writer, because he thought Peter Patterson was 'a bit of a mouthful.' Ten years teaching PE and history followed; he later admitted that 'I wasn't very good and the boys saw through me, but were very supportive.' Already writing, he had 'enough rejection slips to paper the walls' until in 1964 Cheeseman read, liked and produced A Night To Make The Angels Weep at the Victoria. Set in the Vale of Evesham, where Terson then lived, the play told dark stories of rustic people whose lives are disoriented by the relentless tide of progress. Unschooled in stagecraft but with a flair for dialogue that combined naturalism with unforced poetry, Terson relished the Vic's theatre-in-the-round set-up, which dispensed with the need for sets to negotiate. His next play, now as resident playwright at the Vic, The Mighty Reservoy (1964), was about a new reservoir built threateningly close to a village, whose keeper believes that an act of sacrifice is necessary to avert a tragedy. In 1965 he adapted the story Jock-At-A-Venture, by Arnold Bennett, into a play, Jock On The Go, which was seen by Michael Croft, founder-director of the National Youth Theatre and that led to Zigger Zagger. Terson continued to write through the 1970s and 1980s and his play Strippers was produced in his home city, Newcastle and in the West End, making the connection between asset-stripping of old industries and the housewives who bared all to make up for the pay packets their men had lost. Always committed to work that was accessible to non-traditional theatre-going audiences, in the 1990s he turned to writing large-scale community plays, working regularly with the director Jon Oram of Claque Theatre, formerly The Colway Theatre Trust and attracted by the instinct that many people with stories to tell had no way of telling them. His plays, of which more than eighty were performed in his lifetime, were, according to Oram, always works in progress right up to opening night and Terson recognised that amateurs took decisions differently from professionals. 'If they said the sense of a line in their words rather than his, then he would shout out "that's better" and keep the words in,' said Oram. 'He'd see something in someone and develop it in the script.' Terson also made sure he knew of what he was writing, on one occasion buying an authentic caravan, learning to harness a horse and setting out on the road, as he prepared to write about Romany life. When a genuine Romany challenged him to a fight, he accepted and reportedly lost two front teeth. The resulting 'documentary play' for BBC Radio, The Romany Trip, was broadcast in 1983. On another occasion he went to Butlin's at Minehead to do karaoke before writing about a holiday camp in Sailor's Horse (1999), a community play involving a cast of hundreds. His final produced play was Campers (2001), written for Edensor School in Stoke, about racist attitudes and two very different campsites - one a luxury French holiday site and the other a refugee camp in the Balkans. His TV work included a couple of Armchair Theatre plays (The Ballad Of The Artificial Mash and The Heroism Of Thomas Chadwick), The Last Train Through Harecastle Tunnel, Mooney & His Caravans and an adaptation of The Apprentices for The Wednesday Play and But Fred, Freud Is Dead for ITV's Sunday Night Theatre. There were also contributions to Sextet (The Gregorian Chant), Full House (The Dividing Fence), Scene (The Ballad Of Ben Bagot), episodes of Village Hall, Crown Court and Sally Ann and the TV movie Atlantis. In Belgium a Flemish adaptation his play The Mighty Reservoir reached more than five hundred performances by the MMT, a theatre in Mechelen and was subject of an adaption by Belgian Television. Terson continued writing until the onset of Parkinson's disease forced him to stop. He is survived by Sheila and their children, Neil and Janie, five grandchildren and a great-grand-daughter.
And finally, dear blog reader, the From The North headline of the week award goes to the BBC News website's 'World's Biggest Rabbit' Stolen From Owner's Garden. Police are reported to be looking for a very strong man dressed as a carrot ...

Sunday, April 11, 2021

"Thy Sweet Love Remembered Such Wealth Brings That Then I Scorn To Change My State With Kings"

From The North's currently regular weekly bloggerisationisms update continues, dear blog reader.
The third episode of From The North favourite Line Of Duty was, certainly, a rip-roaring rollercoaster of a ride and got the usual tongue-lapping fannish response from the Gruniad Morning Star. And, the usual cry-baby whinging shat from That Awful Singh Woman at the Torygraph.
The Torygraph, meanwhile, were busy having their own brown-tongued love affair with another From The North favourite, Unforgotten. Which concluded its fourth series last week with the 'brace-for-impact' exit of the best reason for watching the drama, From The North favourite Nicola Walker's Cassie Stuart. To be fair, the Gruniad loved that, too.
The early trailers for the forthcoming fourth series of From The North favourite Star Trek: Discovery and the second series of From The North favourite Star Trek: Picard have both been released this week. And, jolly fine both of them look, too.
Which brings us to ...
Videodrome. 'Long live the new flesh!'
Inherent Vice. Great performances from an impressive cast, particularly Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin and Katherine Waterston.
The Love Witch. Wow! What a total and utter trip. Had this one on digi-download for a year at least and yet he never got around to watching it until this very week. Yes, dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping is, indeed, sometimes a right idiot!
Dulcima. A welcome re-acquaintance with an old favourite on Talking Pictures on Bank Holiday Monday. First encountered on the BBC back in the 1970s, this blogger had quite forgotten what a thoroughly fine - and very dark - movie Dulcima was (and, still is).
Doctor Terror's House Of Horrors. Another Friday night Talking Pictures special and, still to this day, one of this blogger's favourite movies. Ever. Bar none. 'Aw man, you don't wanna play around with voodoo!'
Mortimer & Whitehouse Gone Fishing. The series has received widespread praise for its warmth, charm and gentle poignancy and that is entirely justified. It's like watching a couple of old friends messing about and being very silly on a riverbank (via UKTVPlay). Basically, because that's exactly what it is. And, no fish were harmed during the making of this programme. Except for the ones that were cooked and eaten, obviously. But they deserved it. Because they were bad fish. Probably.
Dave Gorman's Modern Life Is Goodish. Always a good way of cheering yourself up on a cold, wet, Tuesday afternoon in April when you can't go out because you're still shielding from the dreaded lurgy.
That'll Be The Day. 'Good game, golf. Teaches you how to put things in holes.'
The 1980 Shoestring Christmas episode. Masterpiece.
Zodiac. 'I can tell you that he was not into people. The party that Darlene threw, people were just supposed to show up, drink beer, help paint, but this guy showed up in a suit and just sat in a chair all by himself all night long and didn't talk to anyone. Darlene told me to stay away from him. She was scared of him. Couple weeks later she was dead.'
Forty Four Inch Chest. 'I want you dead. I think you owe me that. I do. Because that's what you've done to me. You've fuckin' killed me.' Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson ... what's not to love?
The Fear Of God: Twenty Five Years Of The Exorcist. The 'festival cut' of Mark Kermode and Nick Freand-Jones's astonishing 1998 documentary on the making of the scariest movie ever. It's still available on iPlayer and is eighty minutes of the most fascinating discussions on the nature of evil imaginable.
[spooks}: The Greater Good. 'Anything?' 'Not a sausage. The self-perpetuating algorithm I wrote last night is constantly updating, revising all potential vantage points.' 'Sudoku not cutting it, then?' The history of big-screen spin-offs from cancelled TV shows is not a particularly inspiring one. Producers seem to blandly assume that because they've made a once-popular success on telly, audiences will be hay to pay to go and watch something at a cinema which they once got for free. Many such big-screen spin-offs are announced or speculated about and then end up failing to secure the necessary funding (the proposed 24 movie, for example, or the regular attempts by Idris Elba and Neil Cross to get a Luther film off the ground - announced, seemingly, every couple of years followed by a period of no news and then, surprise surprise, a new TV series! Is the recently announced Peaky Blinders movie-in-place-of-a-seventh-series going to suffer the same fate?) Those that do get made tend to either be financial flops - Serenity, the second X-Files movie - or critical and financial flops - ala Keith Lemon: The Movie. Taking From The North favourite [spooks] onto the big-screen shortly after it had been cancelled by the BBC after ten series seemed like a similarly woolly conceit. On purely financial grounds, however, it actually worked on a small scale (the movie only cost a million quid to make and made back about five million in receipts). Artistically, it's not bad - a good cast and a decent (if more than a bit bonkers) script. Nevertheless, there was a feeling watching The Greater Good that it would've made a really good two-part TV story. Check it out on iPlayer if you haven't already seen it dear blog reader and see if you agree with this blogger.
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. 'Never, never criticise Muslims; only Christians. And Jews a little bit.' The history of big-screen spin-offs from cancelled TV shows is not a particularly inspiring one. Part the second. However, there are afew exceptions. And, this is one of them. 'Get rid of her, Lynn, she's a drunk and a racist! I'll tolerate one, but not both.'
When We Were Kings. 'Come get me, sucker, I'm dancing!'
Storyville: The Hijacker Who Vanished - The Mystery Of DB Cooper. Another 'iPlayer saves the afternoon' type scenario for those long, lonely, lockdown days.
The character actor Paul Ritter, who has died of a brain tumour aged fifty four, came to the notice of wide audiences only later in his career - as the long-haired wizard and would-be biographer Eldred Worple in the sixth of the Harry Potter film series, The Half-Blood Prince (2009); as the power plant worker Anatoly Dyatlov in the HBO/Sky miniseries Chernobyl (2019) and, from 2011 onwards, as the inexplicably shirtless Martin Goodman in Channel Four's Friday Night Dinner with Tamsin Greig. In all three roles he was never recognisable as whoever he really was. Because Ritter was an actor who disappeared inside his characters. He always seemed to be patiently volcanic and, on the other hand, anonymously scrofulous. When he was on stage - he appeared often with the RSC and the National Theatre, especially - audiences tried (and usually failed) to pin down his identity. He took the role of Shakespeare's great orator Ulysses in Troilus & Cressida in his underpants (Old Vic, 2000), a mysterious postman in Christmas (Bush Theatre, 2003) by Simon Stephens with, said Gruniad Morning Star critic Michael Billington, 'wheedling aggression [and a] cawing, nasal voice that mixes Manchester with Mile End' and John Major in Peter Morgan's The Audience (Gielgud Theatre, 2013), attending his weekly meeting with Helen Mirren's Her Maj, as a fidgeter with a sly flirtatiousness and the guilty secret of only having three O-levels to his name. The more Ritter showed himself, the more he remained hidden, a definition, one could suggest, of all great acting. Ritter was not exactly secretive, but he let the acting do the talking. He was born Simon Paul Adams in Kent, though both his parents came from Oldham. His father, Kenneth, who had relocated the family to Gravesend, was a fitter and turner in power stations for the Central Electricity Generating Board - he had attended the same Ward Street Central school in Oldham as Eric Sykes, whom Paul played with uncanny accuracy in a 2014 TV movie about Tommy Cooper. His mother, Joan, was a school secretary who had been a classmate of Bernard Cribbins. Paul had four older sisters. As a child, young Paul enjoyed watching television documentaries, including Michael Apted's Seven Up! Musically he was drawn to Motörhead, explaining inscrutably that the rock band 'got me through some very tough times as a teenager.' He was educated at Gravesend Grammar School For Boys and St John's College, Cambridge, where he took a degree in German and French. In a year abroad as part of his studies at Cambridge - where his friends and contemporaries included Stephen Mangan and Paul Chahidi, the television writer Sarah Phelps, the journalist James Harding and the playwright Jez Butterworth - he walked on at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg. After graduating, he went back to Germany for a year and, on returning to Britain, changed his name to Paul Ritter as there was already a Simon Adams on Equity's books; he took the stage-name from a German actor whom he admired. He then went straight into regional rep and fringe theatre in London, appearing in plays at the Gate Theatre, Notting Hill and the Bush, including Snoo Wilson's Darwin's Flood (1994), alongside James Nesbitt as an Ulster Jesus. He was soon on the radar of the RSC and the Royal Court, appearing with the former in their 1996 Stratford-upon-Avon season of Troilus & Cressida and Webster's The White Devil and the latter in a 1998 Young Writers' season and, in 2002, in Butterworth's second play, The Night Heron, in which he played an intimidated policeman caught up in a farrago of sacked Cambridge college gardeners trying to take revenge on their former employers by fixing a poetry competition. The National Theatre first came calling in 2000, when he appeared in Howard Davies's revival of Arthur Miller's All My Sons and Di Trevis's staging of Pinter's unfilmed 1978 screenplay of Proust's Remembrance Of Things Past. Subsequent NT productions included Patrick Marber's Howard Katz and Tom Stoppard's The Coast Of Utopia, in which Ritter played Karl Marx. Later in that decade at the National in 2007 he was a brilliantly funny Robin Day (cruel wit and even more cruel glasses) in Nicholas Wright's The Reporter, directed by Richard Eyre, a hilarious, floppy-haired employee in a revival of The Hothouse, Pinter's black satire and, in 2010, a creepy government policy wonk in Tamsin Oglesby's Really Old, Like Forty Five, devising two-speed pavement strategies and euthanasia directives for the elderly. His notable television appearances included an effete, sinister intelligence officer in The Game (2014), the wrong Dave Stewart in Bob Dylan: Knockin' On Dave's Door (2017, with his friend Eddie Marsan as Dylan in Sky's Urban Myths strand) and a plausibly smooth Jeremy Hutchinson QC in The Trial Of Christine Keeler (2019). His CV also included appearances in On A Clear Day, Son Of Rambow, Hannibal Rising, Waking The Dead, Land Girls, Vera, The Hollow Crown, The Bletchley Circle, No Offence, as Jimmy Perry in We're Doomed! The Dad's Army Story, Their Finest, Neil Gaiman's Likely Stories, Cold Feet, The Capture and Belgravia. He reportedly loved working at the Old Vic with Matthew Warchus on that theatre's community work in homeless shelters. He had appeared there not only as that early Ulysses but also as a safari-suited Reg - trapped in adolescent hobby-filled dreams - in a 2008 revival of Alan Ayckbourn's The Norman Conquests (with his old mate Mangan as the libertine librarian), which won Ritter a TONY award nomination when it transferred to New York. Apart from Harry Potter, he also appeared in the Bond movie Quantum Of Solace (2008), as a brutally discouraging school teacher in Sam Taylor-Wood's John Lennon biopic, Nowhere Boy (2009) and in Juan Carlos Medina's horror story of Victorian murders, The Limehouse Golem (2016). He last appeared on stage in a 2016 Warchus revival of his great hit, Art, by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton, a comedy about modernism, masculinity and friendship. Ritter, a fan of Liverpool FC, said that he always enjoyed football commentary on the radio, recalling that as a child he was not allowed to stay up late for big events. As a result he 'became obsessed with having my ear pressed to a tinny transistor. That thrill has never left me.' Ritter is survived his wife, Polly Radcliffe, a senior research fellow at the national addiction centre in King's College London, whom he married in 1996, their sons, Frank and Noah and his four sisters.
'News' of the actor Tom Baker's death spread quickly across social media early this week causing 'concern' among fans across the world who were shocked (and stunned) by this revelation. However, the report was quickly confirmed as a complete - and, rather sick - hoax and merely the latest in a string of fake celebrity death reports. Thankfully, the popular actor and national treasure is alive and well. Whereas some fans believed the initial claims, others were immediately sceptical, perhaps learning their lesson from the previous fake death reports emerging about celebrities over recent months. Some pointed out that the news had not been carried on any British news network. On 8 April the actor's representatives officially confirmed that Tom is most definitely not dead. 'He joins the long list of celebrities who have been victimised by this hoax. He's still alive and well, stop believing what you see on the Internet,' they said. Fans have expressed anger at the fake report saying it was 'reckless, distressing and hurtful' to fans of the much loved actor. Although, one could suggest it was more 'reckless, distressing and hurtful' to Mad Tom himself. A recent poll conducted for the Celebrity Post website reportedly showed that a large majority (seventy nine per cent) of respondents think those Tom Baker death rumours are 'not funny anymore.' Which is very shocking as it appears to suggest that twenty one per cent of respondents think that they are funny - a, frankly, quite shocking (and stunning) right shite state of affairs. This is the Twenty First Century, dear blog reader. It's horrifying, isn't it?
Prince Philip, of course, also died this week, aged ninety nine. This blogger has never, particularly, been a fan of the Royal Family as an institution but he quite likes some of them as people and Phil The Greek, for all of his faults, was always one of those. It seems difficult to comprehend these days but, once upon a time - back in the 1950s - he was seen as something of a moderniser in a very old fashioned establishment and wasn't that well-liked because of this - as detailed, quite beautifully, in Richard Samders' 2015 Secret History documentary, Prince Philip - The Plot To Make A King. He was, for instance, vocally supportive of the BBC's right to screen their notorious 1954 adaptation of Nineteen Eighty Four, famously announcing that he and the Queen had 'thoroughly enjoyed' the broadcast - at a time when angry questions were being asked about the production in parliament and the tabloids. He could also be amusingly self-deprecating. In an address to the General Dental Council in 1960, for example, he coined a new word to describe his occasional public blunders: '"Dontopedalogy" is the science of opening your mouth and putting your foot in it, a science which I have practised for a good many years! Later in life, he suggested that his comments may have contributed to the perception that he was 'a cantankerous old sod' (quoted in Gyles Brandreth's 2004 book Philip & Elizabeth: Portrait Of A Marriage. He did have an unfortunate habit of saying some very unfortunate things over the years, of course let it be noted. So, a complex figure - a man with flaws but with some appealing qualities too. He was a passionate advocate for wildlife and the environment, although his decision to shoot a tiger while on a trip to India in 1961 caused a righteous furore. Portrayed, variously over the years, by Stewart Granger (The Royal Romance Of Charles & Diana), Christopher Lee (Charles & Diana: A Royal Love Story), David Threlfall (The Queen's Sister), James Cromwell (The Queen) and Finn Elliot, Matt Smith, Tobias Menzies, and Jonathan Pryce (The Crown), he is survived by Elizabeth his wife of seventy three years, four children (Charles, Anne and the other two) and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren. At least a couple of whom may, one day, be kings. Just, you know, for some context.
Isn't that always how things work out, dear blog reader? You're just settling down with your honey on a patch of damp grass on the floodplain next to the river to listen to your one hundred bestest favourite tunes (volume five) when an interfering 'orse turns up to spoil the party? One glances, nervously, over ones shoulder at the beast, appealing to its best instincts not to rabidly attack ones girlfriend and turn her into a crazed, axe-wielding homicidal maniac. That's three times this week, alone ...
On Wednesday, this blogger managed to leave the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House and go into town to do the weekly shopping for the first time since he started his government-advised shielding in early February. First time to Marks & Spankers since January. First time in McDonalds for ... God only knows how long. Exhausting but, surprisingly 'normal' (ish). And the McNuggets were delicious. 
Also this week the Wizzard reunion tour, it would seem, did not go as well as had been hoped ... 'Mummy, what's a Werewolf?' 'Shut up, kid, and comb your face.'
And finally, dear blog reader, here's one of the odder prog-rock power trios of the 1970s. Get yer 'air cut, hippies and get a bath, y'stink. And Oddie, have a shave an'all, you'll never get on Top Of The Pops looking like that. Nice threads on the lead singer, though.
It was pointed out to this blogger that this might be considered to be 'the most Seventies thing ever.' This blogger noted that, indeed, the only way it could possibly be any more Seventies would be if Roy Wood rocked up. Oh, hang on ...