Category Archives: Television

DOCTOR WHO: A SPACE (AND TIME) ODYSSEY – PART ONE by PAUL LAIGHT

DOCTOR WHO: A SPACE (AND TIME) ODYSSEY – PART ONE

I loved Doctor Who as a child. I am 44 years of age and STILL that child.

For a kid growing up on a Battersea council estate in the 1970s, Doctor Who was an eccentric, colourful, funny, tempestuous and brave hero who fought men, women, aliens, monsters and a plethora of villains and bullies across time and space.  The Doctor is the original Guardian of the Galaxy who every Saturday (and later midweek) would travel into my home via the TARDIS and cut a blaze across the living room all to the wonderfully eerie and memorable theme tune.  Moreover, he’s a sci-fi James Bond but without the testosterone, misogyny and faint whiff of STDs.

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Of course he has his companions and gadgets but Doctor Who is more complex than 007 due to the plethora of fascinating concepts pertaining to temporal and spatial ideas which can brilliantly propel us to any moment in time and place from past to present to future.

Allied to this the mystery and suspense created by utopian and dystopian locations and societies; use of historical figures; incredible and fantastical aliens; and finally allegorical narratives which comment on the politics, socio-economics and scientific aspects of humanity all make Doctor Who one of the greatest dramas in televisual history.

I read someone once write that Doctor Who is a kids show adults can watch. I think it’s the other way round. Doctor Who is a scientist, an action man, an enigma, a righter-of-wrongs, moral, amoral, simple, complex, protector of children and the underdog; sometimes even a villain; but above all else an Earthly treasure and long may he continue.

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My Doctor Who childhood timeline contains vague recollections of William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton repeats; misty then firmer visions of John Pertwee; solid memories of my favourite – the bold, bellowing, mischievous – Tom Baker; and the young, dashing Peter Davison.  I continued watching as the show as it slid down the BBC management’s pecking order.

Indeed, controller Michael Grade hated it while Colin Baker was in tenure. Thus, the nonsensical visual mess, over-synthed-80s-soundtrack and miscast Sylvester McCoy would become final nails in Doctor Who’s creative coffin.  They were dark days indeed for the Timelord who went into permanent stasis.

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The show was consigned to a televisual black-hole never to be seen again.  So it seemed until It briefly sparked as a BBC TV movie starring the handsome and quirky Paul McGann. Yet that star burst as quickly as it arrived. Flash-forward to 2005 and Doctor Who was relaunched with Russell Davies as the showrunner and serious actor Christopher Eccleston adorned in a cool black leather jacket commandeering the TARDIS.  We were ready, once again, to go boldly go where no Gallifreyan had gone before. Sorry, wrong show.

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With one foot in the past I watched the Eccelston season and really enjoyed the reboot.  But somewhere along the line I lost touch around 2nd season David Tennant.  Thus, when one of my favourite actors, Peter Capaldi, was announced as the 12th Doctor I decided to get back on board the TARDIS and in 2014 did a massive catch-up on the show. And you know what?  I loved it.

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So, in appreciation of Doctor Who, circa 2005 onwards, this piece looks back in admiration at 10 years of the “new” Doctor.  I’ll list my favouritest TWO (not necessarily the best) episodes of EACH SEASON; and with so many good episodes I am probably wrong!   Remember it’s just the internet and my opinion so let’s do this: GERONIMO!!!

To be continued:

RINGERS AND SINGERS: A CULTURAL REVIEW

RINGERS AND SINGERS: A CULTURAL REVIEW

February 2015 has been a wonderfully diverse month culturally for me.  I have tasted the peak of perceived high culture with a visit to the Festival Hall and have also plumbed the depths of low culture with a visit to a Wrestling event and even lower with Quint Fontana’s guttural and scurrilous Pop Pals!

I jest of course as all events were culturally rewarding and provided an interesting juxtaposition for my latest blog piece which combines little reviews of some stuff I’ve been gone and done recently.  I have also watched loads of films as well but will deal with those in my February edition of Screenwash.

BEAUTIFUL – THE CAROLE KING STORY – ALDWYCH THEATRE

I’m not a massive fan of musicals per se but as a Valentine gift for my girlfriend (yes – I have a girlfriend now and she’s real) I bought her tickets for this show. Oh, and I went along too. It’s the story of Carole King and her rise from 16 year-old novice songwriter to the heights of fame as a solo artist. Singularly, and with her husband Jerry Goffin, she wrote a litany of hit records including: Up on The Roof, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, The Locomotion, Natural Women, I Feel The Earth Move, Pleasant Valley Sunday, You’ve Got a Friend and many, many more.

King is clearly a genius and her album Tapestry would become one of the biggest albums of all time. The musical is a joy and while I wanted a bit more about the relationship breakdown and Goffin’s depression it’s all about the songs really. In Beautiful you get hit after hit after hit brilliantly performed by the young, talented and energetic cast.

BRITISH EMPIRE WRESTLING – TOOTING TRAM AND SOCIAL

This was the first time I’d seen a Wrestling show and it was really entertaining.  I was really impressed by the mixture of physicality alongside loads of variety with male and female comedy characters, villainous wrestlers and proper athletes battering each other round the ring in a series of tremendous bouts.  There was an element of theatricality and pantomime but also genuine pain as there were no holds barred in many contests. It’s pretty cheap too so do check out their events. Next one is at the end of March.

POP PALS WITH QUINT FONTANA – STAR OF KINGS, KING’S X

Lounge loser extraordinaire Quint Fontana hosts a karaoke event with a difference as “stars” from the pop world (or are they comedians in disguise) perform before a joyous (i.e. drunk) audience in a King’s X basement.  It’s brilliant fun and Quint is a despicably funny host as he sups on his Tyskie beer, goads the audience and banters with the pop guests which included Ronan Keating, Jason Donovan and Christine Aguilera. To be honest it’s worth going just to see Quint have his nightly nervous breakdown!  Awesome!

RACHMANINOFF: INSIDE OUT –  FESTIVAL HALL

This was almost cultural overload as I tasted my first quaver of a classical musical concert at the Festival Hall.  Performing with grandstanding gusto the London Philharmonic soared with a virtuoso performance of Rachmaninoff’s greatest hits and music which I came to recognise from David Lean and Noel Coward’s story of understated love – Brief Encounter (1946).

With no actual frame of comparative experience I can only say that it was hugely enjoyable evening and one which was not only aurally pleasing but visually interesting too as the orchestra and conductor brought home the stunning compositions with incredible timing. At times I wondered about the musicians and characters performing (could make an interesting comedy or drama)  and felt giddy at the wonder of the music. Although that could have been the heavy cold I had at the time.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR UPDATE

During February Spurs had some vital fixtures and after a stunning last-gasp win against North London rivals Arsenal we unravelled slightly where results were concerned. Harry Kane’s brilliant header proved to be our last winner in February as Spurs went out of the Europa League on aggregate to an efficient Fiorentina team in Florence.  We started well but could not break them down.

In between we scraped a 2-2 draw with West Ham after fighting back from 2-0 down. Biggest blow was losing 2-0 to Chelsea in the Capital One Cup at Wembley. Mourinho set his team up solid from the start and while competed until the final whistle, our usual match winners Kane and Eriksen could not get us over the line.  After the highs of crushing Arsenal the bitter lows of defeat hit hard. We have 12 games in March to get into the top four or it’ll be more trips to Cyprus, Kazakhstan and Madagascar in the dreaded Europa League.

US OFFICE – NETFLIX BINGE-ATHLON

I have had to move twice recently due to reasons beyond my control so no longer have Sky Television beaming it’s entertainment juice into my living room and brain. Thus, I have gone back to my favourite online channel www.netflix.com and FINALLY began catching up with the The Office (US version)!  And oh my god it is genuinely one of the funniest and style-diverse situation comedies I’ve seen.

It uses character, songs, slapstick, embarrassment, gags, pranks, horror and pathos to propel it’s narratives as the employees of Dunder Mifflin get themselves into all manners of scrapes and cringeworthy situations.  Some great cameos too (I’m up to Season 6 now) as Amy Ryan, Idris Elba, Kathy Bates and even Christian Slater have popped up in episodes.  Anchored brilliantly by an ensemble cast notably Steve Carell as Michael Scott and my favourite, Rain Wilson as Dwight Schrute, this is comedy performance and writing of the highest order. Just TOO funny.

CHANGING LANES – (AKA ‘ARTISTS’ WHO SUCCESSFULLY SHIFTED CAREER PATHS)

CHANGING LANES – by PAUL LAIGHT

The excellent intellectual comedy BIRDMAN (2014) is about — among many themes — a movie star attempting to gain artistic credibility and shift his career from the commercial side to the more critically acclaimed. Using this as inspiration I decided to take a look at some musicians, actors and a filmmaker who in some way have began at one end of the creative spectrum and successfully careered to another. At the same time as changing creative lanes they surprised the audience, improved their critical kudos or at the very least shifted  perception of their oeuvre. Please do suggest others if I have missed them; which I imagine I have. They’re in no particular order either.

PETER JACKSON – FILMMAKER

Peter Jackson is one of my cinematic heroes. The reason being is he began his career from scratch in New Zealand making the no budget horror film Bad Taste (1987) before subsequently going on to make some of the biggest grossing blockbusters ever committed to celluloid.  My favourite film of his remains the hilarious gorefest Braindead (1992) and therefore his career shift to the haunting Heavenly Creatures (1994) was an incredible leap.  Personally, I liked his bloody horror films better but of course his Tolkien trilogies contain some amazing filmmaking too.

DAN STEVENS – ACTOR

I don’t watch Downton Abbey so had never heard of the handsome actor Dan Stevens.   The first I met him was watching the low budget actioner The Guest (2014) and he is absolutely brilliant. It’s a smart, funny and violent B-movie which makes merry hell of its’ “cuckoo in the nest” plot.  Stevens is brilliant and has all the charm and looks of a bona fide movie star in the making.

BEN KINGSLEY – ACTOR

Kingsley stunned me when he appeared in Jonathan Glazer’s excellent debut feature Sexy Beast (2000) as the foul-mouthed cockernee monster Don Logan; sent to wreak havoc on Ray Winstone’s feng shui and chi.   It was an incredible performance which completely shifted perception away from the archetype RSC trained actor of stage and screen.  His portrayal of Gandhi put Kingsley very much on the cultural map whereas the visceral brutality of Logan pissed all over it!

LUCILLE BALL – ACTOR

Lucille Ball was a pioneering actress, comedienne and film studio executive. She was the star of many sitcoms notably I Love Lucy. Early doors though she performed in many small movie roles in the 1930s and 1940s, being dubbed the “Queen of the B-movies”.  In 1951, Ball helped create the television series I Love Lucy with husband Desi Arnaz and during a prolific career Ball was nominated for Emmy thirteen times and won four of the beauties.

CLINT MANSELL – MUSICIAN

Clint was the frontman for Black Country-bassed-hip-hop-funny-as-fuck-politically-incorrect-grebo-groovesters Pop Will Eat Itself!  Along with The Wonderstuff they were one of my favourite bands from the late 80s/90s.  Songs like:  Beaver Patrol, Grebo Guru, Can U Dig It, Wise Up Sucker etc.   smacked the arse of the charts with a flurry of non-sensical lyrics and pilfered samples. Years later Mansell rose from the spunky ashes of PWEI to become a respected film composer. His most memorable score is for the grim, yet awesome Aronofsky helmed Requiem For A Dream (1996) and since then he has consistently written for the same director. His classical piece Lux Æterna has become a ubiquitous soundtrack for many a film trailer!

JEROME FLYNN – ACTOR

To be honest Jerome Flynn has always been a decent TV character actor ever since he starred in Soldier Soldier in the 1990s.   But we also have him to thank for giving producer Simon Cowell some of his early hit records when, along with Robson Greene, he butchered a series of singalonga ‘classics’ including Unchained Melody.   He’s forgiven though for his musical crimes as his cultural slate has been wiped clean via his tough and gritty appearances in the phenomenal  Game Of Thrones plus the excellent Ripper Street. 

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY – ACTOR

McConaughey has always had star appeal ever since his appearance in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (1993) and always stood out as an actor to watch. His career choices, however, in romantic comedies such as: The Wedding Planner (2001), How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003), Failure to Launch (2006), Fool’s Gold (2008) and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009) made him a shedload of dough but had many thinking he’d thrown away his ability on fluff. But then the “McConaissance” occurred and since 2010 he has eschewed the mortgage-paying unchallenging work and starred in some intense, transformative and often brutal roles including: Killer Joe (2011), The Paperboy (2012), Mud (2012), Magic Mike (2012), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Dallas Buyers Club (2013), and stunning HBO series True Detective (2014).

CHARLIZE THERON – ACTOR

When Theron appeared in some decent but unspectacular early roles you would not have been wrong to suspect she was just another model-turned-actress wannabe who had got her break due to her cracking good looks.  However, THAT is definitely NOT the case as her acting prowess was proven in the Oscar-winning role of female serial-killer Aileen Wuornos. Tragic film Monster (2003) flipped career perception on it’s head as she imbued Wuornos with an anger, pain and humanity which never fails to rabbit-punch the emotions.   It was an incredible lane change in Theron’s career and proved she was no blonde bimbo. She was also fantastic as a twisted neurotic suffering from a severe case of arrested development in  Young Adult (2011).

BEN AFFLECK – ACTOR/DIRECTOR

Is Ben Affleck a good actor?  I had this discussion with a friend and we decided he was a solid if unspectacular presence who can be impressive at times with his professionalism in Good Will Hunting (1997),  Changing Lanes (2002), Hollywoodland (2006) and Gone Girl (2014).  However, let’s be straight he has also appeared in some right old garbage such as Daredevil (2003) and the critically panned Gigli (2003). But Affleck’s cultural redemption has occurred as a director in which he has hit three cinema home runs with the excellent Gone Baby Gone (2007), The Town (2010) and the political thriller Argo (2012).   These are three proper movies with the assured directorial touch of the great genre filmmakers such as John Ford or Huston.  In some ways his career mirrors that of Clint Eastwood’s; as in he’s appeared in some great films, some rubbish films and is now becoming a formidable director to boot!

WHOOPI GOLDBERG – COMEDIAN/ACTOR

Multi-talented Emmy, Oscar, Tony winner Goldberg is one of the most versatile comedian/actors to grace the stage and screen. She developed her abilities at the Blake Street Hawkeyes Comedy troupe and would then be cast in Spielberg’s The Color Purple (1985). Goldberg’s Celie Johnson is a character battered by life but whom amidst the abuse retains a strength to not let life destroy her. All the more amazing given it was Goldberg’s first dramatic film role.  Goldberg would go on to prove both her dramatic and comedic mettle in a number of roles eventually winning an Oscar in the supernatural-thriller-romance-weepie Ghost (1990).

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ANDREA BOCELLI – SINGER

I don’t know much about Opera or classical music to be honest but I do know what I like when I hear it.  Thus, Andrea Bocelli’s pop-opera classic Con te partirò is an obvious favourite ever since I heard it in The Sopranos.  Andrea Bocelli himself had always immersed himself in singing since a boy but had to work his way up from the bottom, sort of.  He was a qualified lawyer and playing piano in the bars when ‘discovered’ by goalkeeper-turned-singer Luciano Pavarotti. The rest they say is history!  Time to say goodbye reader; au revoir!

SAINTS AND WINNERS: A WEEKLY REVIEW

SAINTS AND WINNERS:  A WEEKLY REVIEW

Seasons greetings! Double busy leading up to Christmas with lots of cultural stuff going on so I’ve consolidated all my viewings, derring-dos and reviews of last week into one manageable post.  Enjoy!

**Contains mild spoilers**

 BILL BURR – I’M SORRY YOU FEEL THAT WAY (2014) – (NETFLIX)

The Massachusett’s born fortysomething everyman comedian is an absolute straight-talking joy.  He sails close to controversy on many occasions giving political correctness no mind at all. But it’s not shock for shock’s sake but rather well thought out and cutting rants covering domestic violence, plastic surgery, guns and the cult of celebrity.  I particularly love his cracking-take-no-prisoners-delivery and he is very adept at imaginary on-stage conversations which are relentlessly hilarious, hitting his targets full in the face.

DR WHO – THE MIND ROBBERS (1968)/SEEDS OF DEATH (1968)

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From the 6th season of the classic science-fiction serial, with Patrick Troughton as the eponymous time-traveller, these two episodic stories find PT on great form with Zoe and Jamie as his companions.  The villains of each piece are The Master (not that one) of the Land of Fiction and The Ice Warriors in Seeds of Death.  The latter foes are particularly nasty pieces of work although they do find themselves undone if you turn the heating up a bit. Troughton is a fantastic Doctor playing the fool while hiding a devious mind as he allows the enemy to think they have the upper hand before prevailing victorious.


DR WHO – SEASON 7 (inc. DAY OF THE DOCTOR)

I’ve really enjoyed Matt Smith’s final season as the Doctor and some of the episodes have provided some cracking televisual entertainment.  Some of the concepts and plot twists, I must admit, I found initially baffling but that was because the writing was so fast-paced and spirited.  But overall Steven Moffat and his whole production team deserve credit for a fun, funky and very dark (where Amy and Rory were concerned) season which also introduced a sparkling new companion in Clara (Jenna Coleman).

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Personal highlights for me included:  Asylum of the Daleks, The Angels Take Manhattan, Cold War, Hide and the 50th Anniversary episode The Day of the Doctor which had THREE Doctors and a history-bending game changer.  Brilliant to see John Hurt appear as The War Doctor and Tennant return also.  I am very pleased too that I have watched the Time of the Doctor too and I am finally onto Peter Capaldi’s Time Lord; which is how this latest obsession began.


HESHER (2010)

This obsidian painted comedy about family grief features Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Hesher:  a crazed-heavy-metal-anti-heroic-outsider-mentalist. Hesher crashes into the lives and the house of the Forney family as they attempt to get over a recent death.  And while he seems to be a negative reality void sucking the life out of them he kind of becomes an anti-angel providing some kind of weird and wonderful family therapy.

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It’s a difficult film to get into initially as it’s quite bizarre but ultimately it’s got a great little black heart of gold showing that togetherness will overcome.  Despite an A-list cast including Natalie Portman it’s very much a low budget-under-the-radar gem with a loud heavy rock soundtrack.


PAUL FOOT – SECRET CHRISTMAS COMEDY SHOW 2014

Myself and Brett Sharpe have formed the Dr Who-Paul-Foot-Spurs-Supporters Fan Club. It’s very niche but inclusive club which anyone can join if they like those particular cultural phenomena. Our inaugural Christmas outing was to a secret location in London and involved seeing the master of merry mirth — Paul Foot — putting on his own little show for his fans or connoisseurs as he calls them.  It was an incredible show made all the more marvellous because it was in an intimate venue above a pub. I cracked up throughout as Foot treated us to some of his greatest comedy hits including: RADA story; EUROSTAR story and how to get REVENGE on BED & BREAKFAST LADY.


RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983) – BFI SCREENING

Here’s a surprise: I love Star Wars!  Not the prequels but the original films. I saw them all at the cinema and they are three of the most perfect piece of entertainment one could hope for. They captured the imagination of a wide-eyed seven, ten and thirteen year boy (that’s me!) when each of the trilogy was released. With their: spaceships, creatures, heroes, mercenaries, droids, monsters, light-filled swords, noble Knights protecting the Empire and rebels battling gigantic Death Stars – WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE!    I watched the final film in the trilogy at the BFI Southbank’s majestic cinema NFT1 and Return of the Jedi looked wonderful. I laughed, gasped and cheered in all the right places as Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, Han Solo etc. fight and defeat the Dark Side in a galaxy far, far away.


SPURS Vs NEWCASTLE – CAPITAL ONE CUP QUARTER FINAL

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I went to White Hart Lane to watch Spurs against Newcastle in the Capital One cup and what a terrific performance they put on. It was tight for a while against an under strength Toon – who had been in good form in the League – but a mistake from their young keeper allowed Bentaleb to score the first. Chadli made it 2-0 with a fine run and shot before Kane and Soldado finished the Northerners off!  The great news is we got Sheffield United in the semi-final so MUST have a positive chance of getting to the final at Wembley.  Since this game we also beat Burnley 2-1 at home so allied to our last-gasp win against Swansea the Pocchettino’s Spurs are on a grand roll for now.

ST VINCENT (2014) – FILM REVIEW

I love Bill Murray. The guy is a comedy legend and general all-round media eccentric.  He’s been in some terrible films and some classic movies. The one over-riding consistency in all his movies are he is ALWAYS brilliant.  In St Vincent he plays a curmudgeonly scoundrel who sleeps with hookers and drinks himself unconscious. When Melissa McCarthy’s single mother Maggie and her son Oliver move in next door Vincent becomes an unlikely babysitter to the boy.  It’s an okay film which promises much dark and bittersweet humour in the vein of Bad Santa (2003).

However, while Vincent starts off as a bit of a scumbag he is redeemed far too easily for my liking and while the script is very witty it runs out of steam just past halfway and even Murray cannot save an overly saccharine and sickening ending.  Also, Naomi Watts is wasted as an offensive stereotypical Eastern European prostitute while McCarthy is criminally underplayed given very little to do.  A disappointment overall as all the plot strands are resolved easily and without any real comic or dramatic thunder.

TRUE DETECTIVE – POETIC REVIEW

TRUE DETECTIVE – POETIC  REVIEW

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Set in the picturesque Bayou from the stable HBO,
Dead as night; black as a murder of crows,
Southern Gothic of the police procedural persuasion,
True Detective’s a compelling, gripping, televisual sensation,

Sacrificial kill of a woman begins the murky plots,
As past and present collides, grips and clots,
A gloopy broth ensues of which there’s little filler,
As Louisiana cops pursue a nefarious serial-killer,

True Detective dials many a pulp-fictional cliché,
Yet we’re always wrong-numbered by Harrelson and McConaughey, Portraying mis-matched partners both with darker sides,
Suffering addictions, obsessions and existential slides,

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Writer Nic Pizzolatto delivers a corrupt vision of humanity,
Amidst the Cajun swamps we’re in David Fincher territory,
Standard cop stuff like the Chief screaming “you’re off the case!”,
Is deftly masked by Cary Fukunaga’s directorial style and pace,

McConaughey’s Rust Cohle is post-modern Sherlock,
He will never cease until the mystery is unlocked,
Allied with Harrelson’s Watson the two just won’t stop,
Title may say True Detective but it should be Existential Cop,

Meth-head rednecks, biker gangs, Southern whores all feature, Alongside pederasts, tattooed maniacs and crazy preachers,
All travelling together down a path undoubtedly well-worn,
Nonetheless it’s a delicious slice of murder porn.

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NEVER EVER BLOODY ANYTHING EVER! THE GENIUS OF RIK MAYALL!

NEVER EVER BLOODY ANYTHING EVER!   A RIK MAYALL TRIBUTE BY PAUL LAIGHT

NEVER EVER BLOODY ANYTHING EVER!   THE GENIUS OF RIK MAYALL & MR JOLLY

**CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS YOU BASTARDS**

The passing of comedian and actor Rik Mayall was a ruddy shame.  Of course I didn’t know the guy but from a cultural point-of-view here was a comedian, actor, raconteur, writer and clown who I grew up watching on the tellybox and escaped into fits of laughter just at his merest look, gesture, rant, pratfall and frying pan in the face.  So when I heard of his death I was disappointed because he was dead. And would never be alive to perform again. That always positive energy was gone.

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I myself have attempted stand-up on a lower-runged level of the comedy circuit and while you can obtain laughs through trial, error, gigging, experience, writing actual jokes blah, blah, blah etc. but what you can’t be taught is actually being funny.  You’ve either got it or you haven’t. And Rik Mayall didn’t just have funny bones; he had funny eyes, ears, hair, nails, feet, hands, heart, spleen, blood etc. You get the picture:  HE was fucking funny!

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Kevin Turvey, Lord Flashheart, Richard Richard, his many Comic Strip performances, Alan B’stard, Drop Dead Fred, The Dangerous Brothers etc. were some of the many varied comedic performances Rik Mayall delivered. He could do clown, mania, slapstick, psycho, pathetic, sleazy, satirical, violence, arrogance, low status, high status, eloquence, sarcasm, smarm and many more.  Like  an overgrown demented child he could run amok, shout then whisper, go dark and then lighten up in a moment.  And it was just so bloody natural.

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Arguably his crowning performance was as Rick in The Young Ones, a surreal, punkish yet somehow still traditional situation comedy centred around four lazy students who essentially fail to get on whatsoever but still form a dysfunctional “family” unit.  Rik was the spoilt mummy’s boy with inklings of anarchic desire yet with a penchant for Cliff Richard records.   He was a spotty, poetry spouting virgin prone to bouts of rage and snivelling sycophancy and sneakiness with an anger toward authority and revolutionary ideals but neither the backbone, physical power or bottle to actually do anything that may bring a government down.  He was basically a cowardly, hysterical child who happened to be hilarious at the same time.

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The Young Ones was a defining comedy for me when I was growing up.  I’d never seen anything like it.  And ever since I have sought out such programmes containing profanity, imagination, stupidity, slapstick, satire, surrealism and above all else human beings trying and failing to get on with each other. I have subsequently found this in shows such as South Park, Red Dwarf, Blackadder, The Day Today, Alan Partridge, The Office, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia to name but a few. However, for the remainder of this piece I want to pay tribute to — if you put a gun to my head — my favouritest thing that Rik was in ever! One of the funniest 50 minutes of comedy ever committed. The Comic Strip film:  MR JOLLY LIVES NEXT DOOR! 

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The Comic Strip Presents: erupted from the sordid strip joint stages of Soho or more specifically the original Comedy Store.   Alumni included: Adrian Edmondson, Dawn French, Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer, Peter Richardson, Jennifer Saunders, Alexei Sayle with frequent appearances by Keith Allen, Robbie Coltrane and many more comics who would become household names over the years.  Anarchic, punkesque and anti-establishment in approach they were a hurricane of creativity challenging the comedic hegemony and what was considered to be the apolitical, sexist, politically incorrect and old-fashioned performers of the day.

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From the stage they marched into our living rooms on the newly founded Channel 4 in 1982 (way back when C4 produced challenging programming) and over the years produced some wonderful and wacky short films, features and shows which satirised everything and anything from: literature, film, television, politics, music, war, fashion, sport, law etc. The Comic Strip Presents: were a staple for alternative souls and any new episodes were greeted with joy in the mind of South London latchkey-TV-addicted kids like myself.

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The Comic Strip collective produced too many hilarious shows to mention but my favouritest ever is Mr Jolly Lives Next Door!  Written by Mayall and Edmondson they presented two drunken, idiotic morons derived from their Dangerous Brothers’ stage personas.  Together they are DREAMYTIME ESCORTS: alcoholic, depraved, sleazy con-artists with little or no redeeming qualities whatsoever; other than arguably perhaps they cause themselves more damage than others.  Mr Jolly is a masterclass of violent slapstick, stupidity, sight gags, demented cameos and also some very well written jokes too.

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It begins with our unnamed “heroes” helping the police with their enquiries relating to Fatty: a now dead client.  Dreamytime Escorts then get confused with their mysterious-assassin-lunatic neighbour Mr Jolly (the hilarious Peter Cook) and somehow are involved in a plot to “take out” Nicholas Parsons; as arranged by demented gangland boss Mr Lovebucket (Peter Richardson).  And the whole thing is directed by Stephen Frears – yes THAT Stephen Frears. The same one who directed The Grifters (1990), The Queen (2006) and Dangerous Liaisons (1988) etc.

So with a deranged story — which I think may have influenced another moronic classic Dumb and Dumber (1994) — on the go the audience is driven along on a wave of anarchic fun and alcohol fuelled insanity with Rick and Ade having much fun while they’re at it.  The scenes where they torture the Japanese client and get so drunk they end up in the toilet screaming at each other — having “borrowed” Mr Lovebucket’s £3000 to kill Parsons — are a senseless joy.  The drunken nonsense is ramped up even more when they take Quiz Show host and TV celebrity Nicholas Parsons to the Dorchester on a night out; Parsons believing they are competition winners when in fact the “Escorts” have accidentally run the real winners off the road and killed them in a fiery blaze.

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To a teenager the sheer pace of the lunacy was a thing of beauty and even now when I watch Mr Jolly the chaotic nature of the scenes at the Dorchester at Parson’s house are packed full of physical performances, celebrity in-jokes, stupid sight gags such as the tattoo which Ade thinks has been put on backwards when he looks at it in the mirror.  I marvel at the comic timing, sheer energy and controlled mayhem on show.  The next day they suffer the grandest of hangovers and when Mr Lovebucket calls in his debt the two drunks must actually kill Parsons.  What follows is live action cartoon violence of a side-splitting variety with Rik getting a hammer over his head and Ade holding on while two grenades explode.

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Cue a finale which involves a crazy car chase, Rick shitting himself, Dreamytime Escorts van ending up in a skip, Mr Jolly murdering Parsons to the tune of What’s New Pussycat, exploding tonic water and Peter Richardson’s Lovebucket uttering the immortal words: “WHAT IS GOING ON!?” before the whole premises blows up. What you have are Stooges like physical humour combined with Loony Tunes style cartoon violence. There is little satire and no subtlety but it is uproariously funny.  We end with Ade and Rick walking down Camden Lock canal before Mayall pushes his partner-in-grime in the water for no reason.  And that is what is so great about Mr Jolly: it has no underlying meanings or any depth. It’s stupid and violent and loud and ruddy funny.  Rick Mayall was all of these too and much much more and I thank him and Ade for giving us this crazy masterpiece.

HAPPY ALTERNATIVE CHRISTMAS 2013!

HAPPY ALTERNATIVE CHRISTMAS 2013!

I’m not religious or addicted to buying crap for people but Christmas is always a great period of the year because I get time off work. To celebrate this I have chosen some alternative Christmas music, films, TV and other ephemera to talk about. Anyway, Merry Christmas everybody! Good luck in 2014!


BAD SANTA (2003)

This film is THE greatest Christmas film of all time. This is just one of the great scenes of many great scenes.


TRADING PLACES (1984)

Dan Ackroyd gives his finest acting performance in this movie and his desperate, drunk and destroyed Santa Claus really hits rock bottom at the hands of arch-capitalists. While it’s very funny there’s some real satirical subtext in there too. Probably.


CHRIS KAMARA – born December 25th 1957

I’m an internal enthusiast but Chris Kamara is heralded here due to his incredible energy and extrovert enthusiasm. I like that he doesn’t mind being the clown either. Great catchphrase too: UNBELIEVABLE!

RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE – 2009 Christmas Number One!

The people who got this to number one deserve much much much kudos. Personally, I quite liked Joe McElderry on X Factor but was glad Simon Cowell got screwed over by the incredible musical geniuses that is Rage Against The Machine. Joe McElderry didn’t do too badly as he switched career and became an Olympic diver named Tom Daley.


BIRTH OF THE INTERNET (SORT OF) – 25th December 1990

Did you know on Christmas Day in 1990 there was the first successful trial run of the system which would become the world wide web. And thank god for that as without it we would not have millions of cat videos online. 9 millions views! Stop the world I want to get off!


LEWIS BLACK ON CHRISTMAS

Shamefully I didn’t know this comedian until I saw him in an episode of Big Bang Theory and then checked him out. He’s grizzled, bitter and very funny. My kind of humourist.


RED SLEIGH DOWN – SOUTH PARK (SEASON 5)

This episode is hilarious as Santa’s sleigh is shot down in Iraq because Cartman is trying right all his wrong-doings over the past year. Jesus and the boys go to Iraq and kick some butt to save Santa! One of South Park’s shittiest characters also makes an appearance – the Christmas Poo – Mr Hankey! What can be more Christmassy than Santa, Jesus and a stinking pile of crap!


SEX PISTOLS – final UK gig – Huddersfield 1977

Johnny Rotten and the lads played a benefit for striking firefighters before their ill-fated trip to the United States. The rest they say is history. And what went on before as well.


MAD WORLD – ANDREWS/JULES Christmas Number 1 2003

This moody, introspective and pretentious song was a great alternative to the usual Christmas hits. Cursory research shows the songs’ lyrics were inspired by Arthur Janov and his book The Primal Scream. I don’t know much about this but it makes me seem mildly intelligent. It was also in Donnie Darko; a brilliant yet very over-rated film. Jake Gyllenhaal was incredible in it though.


BLACKADDER’S CHRISTMAS CAROL

The Christmas Carol story has been done to death and even had Ross Kemp playing a version of Scrooge recently on ITV12 or something. This one-off special subverts the story by initially showing Blackadder as good and then deciding to be bad. Very clever that. And very funny!


THE SILENT PARTNER (1978)

This excellent crime thriller starring Elliot Gould and Christopher Plummer was a real eye-opener to me as a kid as it was the first time I’d seen Santa Claus shown as a negative figure. It’s not shown on telly much now but it certainly stuck with me. Worth checking out if you get the chance.


DIE HARD (1988)

Did you know that Yippee-kay-yay is actually the Eskimo phrase for Happy Christmas. And of course John McClane’s catchphrase in Die Hard. It’s not really a Christmas film as such but shoe-horns Christmas into the plot quite neatly using it ironically to show families brought together in conflict rather than round the table stuffing themselves with turkey and pudding.