Category Archives: Television

Supergirl takes flight…every night at my house

Is it a bird? Yes, Supergirl to be precise.

New footage has been released of the new TV series Supergirl, from the same makers as The Flash and Arrow, and it looks goofy fun in a The Devil Wears Prada/My Super Ex Girlfriend via Gossip Girl type-way with Melissa Benoist (Glee season 4 and 5) donning the cape or glasses (in Linda Danvers mode).

The footage, which went on for a good six minutes, certainly gave us a great insight into where she came from, the usual costume choices montage and some Supergirl action where she saves a plane, something of a Superman staple, but it was done well and had a few neat twists. It certainly is lighter in tone than Arrow and is probably more inkeeping with The Flash.

SupergirlSupergirl may well be flying onto a TV screen near you soon but I’m actually Supergirl’s Dad, sort of. Isabelle loved her Supergirl costume when she wore it and loved the running, the fake flying and the potential for superpowers.

Whenever I take her out of the bath I always have to wrap her in her towel to the strains of the original Superman theme and ‘fly’ her into the living room (less easy these days I must admit, she must have switched my powers like in Superman 2).

christopher-reeves-superman-main[1] DSC_0433And it’s hard to not talk of the Supergirl/Superman universe and not mention the late Christopher Reeve. Like Reeve the Super costume really brought Iz’s blue eyes out as she attended a superhero themed birthday party that saw the likes of Iron Man, Batman, Spider-Man and a rival Supergirl (echoes of the Superman 3 junkyard brawl there) take to the bouncy castle with their super powers. Guess you could call her Supernewman or Newman of Steel?

red like the sun of Krypton green like kryptoniteThe Man from Krypton coincidences continued throughout the party. The floor was littered with balloons but the only one that Iz was remotely interested in was the singular red balloon, clearly it reminded her of the red sun of Krypton! Iz took more caution as she went for a drink, steering clear of the bright green drink that had more than a passing resemblance of kryptonite about it.

Iz even managed to pull off a couple of his stances, from the hands on the hips to his meaningful stare.

photoWe have a British Superman in the guise of Henry Cavill, so why not a British Supergirl? Iz could quite easily pull off teh mild-mannered Linda Danvers office-based role as well if they ever wanted to do Supergirl: The Early Years.

To paraphrase the marketing campaign for the original big screen Superman back in 1978, you’ll believe a a girl can fly!

S-Now that’s what I call music: The Snowman and the Snowdog

Ever since seeing The Snowman and the Snowdog last Christmas Eve I’ve fallen in love with the mesmerising score and music by Ilan Eshkeri and Andy Burrows.

It was like Christmas come early then when I saw the score and songs for sale.

At the earliest opportunity it ended up in the CD player and whilst Isabelle was happily dancing round to it, something magical happened.

Sure, she’d watched it a gazillion times at the beginning of last year but hadn’t seen it this year yet, but as soon as the score started Isabelle was able to pinpoint the action that was happening that very moment just from hearing the score on its own.

Daddy, now they are in plane, now they are in the sleigh and the Snowdog has weed on the floor – referring to the scene where it lays in front of the fire and starts to melt.

Isabelle ended the session listening to the single version of ‘Light the Night’, the bit in the animation where The Snowman, the Snowdog and the little boy take flight, which saw Iz soaring round the living room thanks to me carrying her round…no doubt we’ll be taking to the sky again this evening.

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The ghost of Christmas Radio Times past

Walking through the doors of Tesco ,there it was, the Christmas double edition of the Radio Times.

My heart momentarily skipped a beat, it’s like my annual willy wonka golden ticket. I approached it like Indiana Jones does with the golden idol at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark…although there was no boulder (which reminds me if that old Chocolate Orange advert) or Paul Freeman waiting outside the store to swipe it from my grasp.

Santa has made a welcome return to the cover this year, pleasingly along with the Snowdog. And we all love the Snowdog.

Once the cover is opened it the usual regime of a quick flick through and annoyance at the hefty holiday section smack bang in the middle of the films section (this year it sits right in the middle of Christmas Day).

Then after that initial reconasence it’s out with the highlighters and pens ticking off everything that looks interesting…worrying about clashes later (back in the day it was of course timing issues with setting up the video recorder – one year I even remember biking it up to my Nana’s to set the tape going for something.

Film wise, there’s usually the film noir season or the Hitchcock season at ungodly hours, this year it seems to be the turn of some Hammer horror films.

Of course it all used to be so different, we’d probably not seen the big Christmas Day film and a movie premiere back then really meant something, after all we’d not already bought it or seen it on Sky etc.

If memory serves ITV premiered The Empire Strikes Back one year with the BBC headlining Back To The Future, we taped one and watched the other on the ‘portable’ (it weighed a ton) upstairs.

Of course the other thing that is different now is that you used to have to buy both the festive edition of the Radio Times and the TV Times, which would mean me being splayed out on the floor comparing and contrasting the two publications taking careful note of the dreaded programmes overlapping one another…crucial if you were setting it going a few minutes before.

This is what makes looking back at old VHS recordings such a thrill, it’s like a time warp and means that the interesting thing isn’t necerarly the original programme you tape but the end of the weather with Michael Fish et al you’ve just caught or the really dated sales/holiday adverts ITV.

Having said that you don’t miss the dash to open the plastic of a new video tape…only to find another layer to open, as I race against the spinning globe of BBC 1 and the continuity announcer as he introduces the TV programme or film I was looking at taping.

Still, this year much of the fun is in the reminiscent marking of the Radio Times as we probably won’t get time to catch up on half of what we have marked up for recording. No matter, the fun is still there in creating that initial televisual wish list.

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The Snowman and the Snowdog

The-Snowman-and-The-Snowdog[1]It took over a year to make and included over 200,000 sheets of paper, with each cel painstakingly hand drawn, and is the sequel to a Christmas favourite, but does The Snowman and the Snowdog bark up the right tree?

The short answer is happily a yes. The original version of The Snowman, based on the Raymond Briggs classic book, is part of our Christmas DNA. It’s up there with Bond, Eric and Ernie and Del Boy as a Christmas perennial.

We know each beat, each pencil stroke almost, and still take that small leap with the boy and the Snowman when they leave the confines of the garden to those, quite literally, soaring chords.

The Snowman and the SnowdogIt’s a relationship we’ve had for 30 years so to return to something so well-known and so beloved was always going to be a challenge, at least you can’t call it a quick cash-in! Now, there is a new Snowman on the block…one Snowman and his Snowdog to be precise.

As much as The Snowman was part of my childhood, I was seven when it was first broadcast, I’m hoping this new Snowman will be as much a part of Isabelle’s.

Like most sequels it is bigger in scope, rather than flying over Brighton and the surrounding area, this time we have London and the OXO Tower, Big Ben and the London Eye.

pagebanner_dog[1]The moving sketchy pencil drawn backgrounds had an air of welcome familiarity about them as soon as it started, almost as if CGI had never happened. It was almost like a time machine and it was nice to have that look and retro feel of the original that allowed us to believe that the tale unfolding before us inhabited the same universe as the original.

Like the original it wasn’t without its heartache. I knew as soon as I saw the old dog lifted from the moving lorry coupled with lingering shots that we would soon be saying farewell to it in the back garden. I’m not sure what young kids made of this but being a dog owner this was harrowing enough for me on Christmas Eve (it was also repeated on Christmas Day).

After having moved into the house a young boy finds the original Snowman’s hat and scarf under the floorboards, passing on the baton to the next generation. Soon enough it is snowing and we find ourselves at the snowman building scene where we first meet the two characters of the title.

snowman[1]2012 may have been the Chinese year of the Dragon but when it came to film and TV it was certainly the year of the dog with Uggie at the Oscars and BAFTAs after his star turn in The Artist, Pudsey on Britain’s Got Talent and now, the Snowdog, prestigious cover star of the Christmas Radio Times no less (AKA the Christmas Bible).

Who could not help but fall in love with him and his ears made of socks. Nevermind flying through the air, he’ll be flying off shelves when his soft toy version arrives (and yes, I have been looking). It isn’t here yet but the question ‘where can I buy a Snowdog’ was ranking high on a Google search.

And, yes, as in the original it was exhilarating to see all three characters take flight. For me this is the stand out moment of the film and the animation is perfect, it gets me everytime. You can see the ‘take off’ moment here in the trailer.

Of course ‘Walking in the Air’ has become synonymous with the original flight sequence, it almost a character in its own right. The original was recorded by St Paul’s Cathedral choirboy Peter Auty and not Aled Jones, that was later for a Gas advert.

To try and emulate it (as they did of sorts with a young Charlotte Church with the animation of another Raymond Briggs piece, The Bear) would be wrong but they had to get it right as in the original that is the signature moment of the whole film.

For me, what accompanied The Snowman and the Snowdog taking flight captured the whole sequence perfectly. ‘Light the Night’ by former Razorlight drummer Andy Burrows is an instant classic and I don’t quite know what it is but I have to compose myself when hearing it or seeing that sequence to hold my emotions in check. I’ve found myself taking in a sharp breath several times when it starts, with its tinkling introduction, as it’s just so full of a whole myriad of feeling and rather melancholy. It just all  fits and captures the moment wonderfully with an ever-building crescendo and leaves it, deservedly, racing round your head.

Bringing back some traditional Christmas spirit in the music, to both ‘Light the Night’ and the rest of the film’s music is composer Ilan Eshkeri, who did an equally amazing string-heavy score for Stardust, both fantasies of course, and the score for this very much emulates that in its epic and soaring feel.

The original was nominated for an Oscar, the sequel may have been too light to gain anomination this year, but Academy Award nod or not it is already a winner in the eyes of my two-year old daughter. She must have seen it about ten times already and it was the very first thing she asked for after being away for New Year, the first think we did was ‘K’ it on our Sky +, deleting it in error at our peril!

The Snowman and the Snowdog has certainly melted this little girl’s heart, and her mum and dad’s along with it too. I think secretly we are quite pleased when she says she wants to watch it again.

Of course, like the original, there has to be a somewhat downbeat ending (I won’t give it away for anyone that hasn’t seen it yet) but perhaps the saddest ending of all is the dedication in the credits to Producer, John Coates. He Produced the original and was instrumental in getting The Snowman and the Snowdog (quite literally) off the ground but sadly passed away before completion.

His legacy will live on each and every Christmas though…or throughout the whole year in our house if Isabelle continues watching it at her current rate of knots..

xmas12640[1]For me The Snowman and the Snowdog echoes the original whilst leaving its own set of paw prints to produce a successful and pleasing continuation of a classic. Isabelle was transfixed by it and it really filled her with a sense of awe and wonder. It was nice to have something new yet felt traditional at the same time. It’s an instant Christmas classic.

The Exorcist to hit the small screen: The power of TV compels you

What with the success of such horror fare as The Walking Dead and American Horror Story in our living rooms it’s perhaps not unsurprising to hear the announcement that The Exorcist is to make the leap to the small screen in the form of a 10-part series.

Other horror franchises have hit the small screen in the past but these have just been in name only and effectively being loose reworkings of The Twilight Zone, step forward Freddy’s Nightmares, Friday the 13th (Voorhees free) and Poltergeist: The Legacy.

We of course hear lots about TV programmes being turned into films, some are good, such as The Fugitive ,The Naked Gun and Mission Impossible, some are bad, step up Wild Wild West and I Spy, whilst others are just plain ugly, Car 54, Where Are You? but less like this The Exorcist move.

Let’s have a flick through the TV Guide of yesteryear to celebrate and shake our heads at some of those franchises that made the leap, or in some case fatal stumbles, from our cinemas to the small screen.

Blue Thunder

I’ve always been a big fan of the Roy Scheider film on which this was based. I never realised it until yesterday but the main character, here played by James Farentino, isn’t even the same character as Scheider, he just has an equally big pair of shades. Daniel Stern couldn’t return due to him getting killed in the film (or really that doesn’t mean a thing, see what I mean later) so we had a similar sidekick in the form of Dana Carvey (yes, Garth from a future Wayne’s World) with support from two American Football legends, the fantastically named Dick Butkus and Bubba Smith, that’s right Hightower from Police Academy (and here I was under the impression he worked in a florists). Turns out that the sky wasn’t big enough for two helicopters and Airwolf – with its funkier titles, theme tune and flying machine) metaphorically shot it out of the sky after only 13 episodes. Still love Blue Thunder the movie though.

Alien Nation

Ah, the late 80s.After the success of Lethal Weapon we pretty much exhausted every mis-matched cop variation that we could (cop and dog – K(, American cop and Russian cop – Red Heat, cop and kid – Cop and a Half, cop and zombie ex partner – Dead Heat and cop and alien partner – Alien Nation.

The film starred James Caan and Mandy Patinkin and explored issues of race regarding a new alien species who were facing the same struggles that say black people were facing 15-20 years earlier when it was released in 1988. The TV series explored that theme a lot deeper and TV was the perfect place for it to draw out such issues. Even when the series ended it returned for several TV movies.

Stargate SG-1

At the current time of writing this is the longest constantly running Sci-Fi show (no, Doctor Who doesn’t count due to his long break). Spinning off from the hit film of the same title we have Richard Dean Anderson – almost shugging off all previous memory of MacGyver – bet he could have made his own Stargate – instead of Kurt Russell in the same role and crucially acknowledges, respects and significantly builds upon that original film world and did so for 10 seasons, its own spin off TV movie and two of its own spin of series, making it the most successful  Sci-Fi property since Star Trek.

Ferris Bueller

It could have only been more bungled if Principal Rooney had tried to make this himself. Sometimes a property works because of the writer and the actors involved, this had neither so was more a case of Ferris Bueller Bog Off rather than his still never bettered Day Off. It always seemed like Parker Lewis Can’t Lose tone and had Charlie Schlatter (liked him in 18 Again, hope he fired his agent after Police Academy 7 replacing Matt McCoy replacing Steve Guttenberg and perhaps most widely known for Diagnosis Murder) and an early turn from Jennifer Aniston and her pre operation nose. Talking of John Hughes properties, somehow, somehow Uncle Buck also made it to a series.

Working Girl

The film was Oscar-nominated, had a career best performance from Melanie Griffith who turned into Sandra Bullock for the short-lived TV version.

Tremors

After four films (don’t worry only two of them made them into cinemas) the Syfy Channel thought they’d Graboid some extra green stuff from the franchise and spin it out as a TV series, featuring Michael Gross, who has been a mainstay of all of the films (and played Michael J Fox’s dad in Family Ties). The Channel mucked about with the order so it made no sense, which meant sloppy re-editing and an audience that nose-divided sending the Graboids back into hiding never to be seen again.

Madigan

Richard Widmark lasted for six 90 minutes episodes of this TV series named after the 1968 film of the same name, which to be honest was some going as he got shot dead at the end of the film. The original film was directed by Don Siegel who would go onto make Dirty Harry.  In the same year as directing Madigan, Siegel also directed Coogan’s Bluff with a fish out of water cop played by Clint Eastwood. This also turned up on TV, this time as McCloud with Dennis Weaver in the role.

Casablanca

When Humphrey Bogart said “Play it again, Sam” I don’t think he meant the whole scenario, well amazingly that is what happened and more amazingly still it was with David Soul in the Bogart role in 1983, which also featured an early Ray Liotta and Scatman ‘Hong Kong Phooey” Crothers. Was also made for TV in 1955, the latter only lasted two episodes with the former shutting up shop after 6.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

It’s often forgotten that Buffy started out as something of a so-so movie with a good idea with the lovely but oh so different to Gellar, Kristy Swanson in the role.

Robocop

Think it over creep. I really wish they had. One of those really odd things that happened (a similar think happened with a  Rambo kids cartoon) were an ultra violent film and is slowly eroded away over sequels (flying Robocop in part 3 folks), then a TV series – which still looked like that same world but just something of a cuddlier version and even a cartoon.

Master of Horror: Kim Newman

His credits include everything from Empire magazine to Sight and Sound, as well as Moviedrome and numerous commentaries on DVDs. He’s an accomplished author, winner of several literary awards, even having one of his short stories sent into space! But, perhaps Kim Newman is best known for his seminal look at horror movies from 1968 to 1988 in the classic book, Nightmare Movies. This year, it gets a long awaited update filling in the last 20 years, ensuring it’s an essential read all over again.

Kim Newman kindly took time out of his busy schedule to catch up with Dean Newman, no relation, to answer some questions about his influences, his writing and his film reviews.

 Film

Who or what have been your main influences/how were you bitten by the film and writing bug?

Carlos Clarens, William K Everson, David Pirie, Robin Wood, David Thomson, Philip Strick. I started making notes on films when I was about fifteen, and have kept it up ever since.

First ever published review?

Last House on the Left, in the Monthly Film Bulletin (1982).
 

Your quotes have often been used on DVD and video covers that may influence people to rent or buy – with such great power do you feel a great responsibility?

Not especially; I’m not one of those critics who puts in quotes for extraction on the publicity, though I do sometimes get solicitations from distributors for recommendations. I always find it hard to come up with strapline-sounding things, even for films I like.

Ever walked out of a film? What was the last one?

Since I’m paid to review, no. The least I can do is watch the thing. I don’t fast-forward tapes or DVDs either. And because anything I might watch I might write about, I stick with whatever I start. The last thing I remember walking out of was an Iranian film called The Cow in 1979, and that was because I wanted to get home in those pre-VCR days to see Nigel Kneale’s then-new Quatermass serial. I have never gone back and found out what happened in The Cow, though.

 As a long term inmate of the Video Dungeon in Empire magazine – any personal recommendations or hidden gems that should remain so no more?

I was impressed with JT Petty’s The Burrowers. This month, I liked a German film called The Door.

Are there any guilty pleasures that you know you shouldn’t really like watching or enjoy but for some reason are drawn to?

I don’t buy into the guilty pleasure notion. I tend to divide films into interesting and dull rather than good or bad.

Who or what excites you in horror or sci-fi today.

Probably some filmmaker I’ve not heard of yet who’ll surprise me this year.

3D is back again – are you a fan and what do you think it means for film longterm?

Like a lot of folks, I’m getting a bit fed up with it – especially the ropey conversion jobs.

Favourite 3D film moment ever?

The bouncing ball in House of Wax. Reprised in Monsters vs Aliens.

Harry Potter or Twilight?

Neither.

True Blood of The Walking Dead

True Blood, marginally.

Talking of vampires, what is your favourite version of Dracula?

Nosferatu (1922). I also like Dracula AD 1972.

Writing and Television

Any top tips for budding writers or reviewers?

Not really. Omit needless words is always good. Read a lot. Write every day. The usual, in fact.

How about in writing books or for screen – any pitfalls to avoid?

Feeling too pleased with yourself.

How do you deal with writers block?

I’ve never had it, so I suppose I deal by writing.

Have you a time for writing that is more productive than
another?

When I’m not doing anything else. This sounds facetious, but it’s true.

According to IMDB you were once on Kilroy?

It was about horror. I’ve done a lot of TV stuff like that, mostly as an interviewee.

Talking of TV – Space Cadets – how was it for you? Especially with some of the famous guests?

I enjoyed it. I met Hattie Hayridge, who is a neighbour of mine, and we’re friends now. William Shatner was value for money. I had breakfast with Gareth Thomas. Angela Rippon was lovely. Bruce Dickinson was interesting. I’ve worked several times with Craig Charles. Oh, and I’m a semi-regular on Fred Macaulay’s Radio Scotland show off the back of it. Oddly, it wasn’t a particularly successful show.

Lots of sci-fi alumnus have appeared in the new Doctor Who, if offered a role would you? Or how about penning an episode?

No one’s ever asked me to be on or write Doctor Who. Steven Moffat did fetch me a drink at an awards ceremony last year, though. And I did write a Doctor Who novella.

You’ve won numerous awards, including the Bram Stoker Award and also had a short story sent to Mars, is there one that means the most to you and why?

Awards are nice, but I try not to take them too seriously. All systems of voting – jury, popular ballot, random name out of a hat – have fatal flaws.

For many people you are almost like the real life Peter Vincent, have you ever fancied your own Moviedrome style slot or documentary like the recent Mark Gatiss horror one on BBC 3?

I did do Moviedrome – a Mario Baya double bill. I’ve also written and fronted documentaries (for radio and TV). I’m not sure at the moment I’d have the time to make a commitment to a series.

What’s next for Kim Newman?

The Anno Dracula series is coming out again (from Titan) in expanded editions over the next few years, including the long-announced fourth volume, Johnny Alucard. Also from Titan, I’ve got The Hound of the d’ Ubervilles, a book about Professor Moriarty, due out this Autumn.

Also, can we expect to see another volume of Nightmare Movies covering the last 20-odd years since that very first influential instalment?

Yes, there is a new edition (essentially, the old book and a new one covering the last twenty years added on to it) out from Bloomsbury.

Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s is released on April 18th.

The Apprentice, week 2: Life’s a beach

Life’s a beach in episode two of  The Apprentice and Apollo are generally a bunch of catty bitches. Escaping their claws this week is Stella English and her lovely eyes, who helmed the boys team this week, so effectively that every other mention of her and the team is referred to as ‘Stella and her boys.’

And so to the task at hand. Getting their directions on a plasma screen at Terminal 5, a bad omen for each team’s success if ever there was one, Lord Sugar dashes any hopes the suited and booted have off jetting off to sunnier climbs. Appearing like Baron Greenback, flanked by Karen and Nick, he unleashes this week’s task which consists of designing, making and pitching a new beach accessory.

Stella certainly does keep the boys in check and certainly shines as team leader, so much so that she has to be seriously considered as a favourite to reach the final.

In charge of Team Apollo this week was Laura, at 22, the youngest girl in the competition who proudly claims to have personally created half a million pounds worth of business in a recent job, perhaps she sold a lottery tickets at a newsagents or something judging by her subsequent performance.

The women this week were just constantly screeching like a bunch of feral cats, so much so that the person doing the signed version will probably be gesturing something round during their screen time. In fact they were so much like cats, not those nice ones on the IKEA advert of course, that I was genuinely surprised that when it came to the final boardroom confrontation that when asked by Lord Sugar why she shouldn’t be fired that Joanna didn’t produce the dismembered body of a dead bird and spat it in front of Lord Sugar seeking his approval.

For me, the Men’s Team came up with a brilliant idea straight off the bat, courtesy of Jamie Lester, my other tip to make the final. His idea was a beach towel incorporating a cooling device for drinks. It really was great and even ‘Neville Longbottom’ came up with a half decent name. Neville AKA Alex exhibits some seriously misplaced exuberance though when spouting comparisons with their new concept to Lord Sugar’s Amstrad video phone that he says was not a success at first. Hang on a minute, was it ever a success? I’ve only ever seen it used in the programme and don’t actually recall it ever being a success, period. Perhaps next he’ll be enthusing about the Nimbus 3000 or the hoverboards from Back to the Future II.

Watching over ‘Stella and the boys’ was Lord Sugar’s aide Nick. His face is priceless whenever it cuts to him, one wonders if there is a camera trained on him during the whole duration of filming, oh please say there is and if there is we should have the chance to watch it by pressing the red button on our remote. His face is always a picture of pain as if he is in anguish after getting his leg trapped in a bear trap, or as my wife so eloquently put it, looks like a bulldog licking piss off a thistle, a shame we never saw that popular phrase on Catchphrase.

Team Apollo however were grasping at straws and then came up with an idea that looked as if it was constructed from straws on one of those inane team building days at work i.e. it looked shit. That’s because it was shit (that’s both the inane team building day at work and the so-called product.) To be fair it was the only idea they had that hadn’t previously been done before, but that didn’t stop it from being crap, which was probably why it hadn’t been done before.

Stroppy nasally bitch, Joanna, just wouldn’t leave the beach book idea alone, shouting over others in an attempt to be heard. In her own (made up) words she said it would ‘make it more easier to read a book’, perhaps she needs to read some on how to speak properly. She certainly needs to read some on manners, the stroppy gobshite. Hilariously she ultimately concedes that the bookeze was a unique idea but that it was indeed uniquely shit.

She is like the anti-Stella, who in comparison is both harsh but fair, polite and a team player.

Although the idea of the Bookeze rather perplexed me, one team they pitched to quite rightly saying that it will easily blow over, is that Boots wanted to stock it exclusively! Eh, one can only imagine that stocks in Boots plummeted after this aired. Crazy.

And yet at the same time only 100 of the Cuuli, the towel come drink cooler device, were sold. This though was surely more to do with Chris ‘cry baby’ Bates  and his frankly piss poor monotone delivery coupled with his ridiculous narrative of one of the team looking cool, but is now tired and has to lie down, but he still looks stylish. Much slapping of foreheads across the land.

Back to the ladies in the boardroom at the end. Obviously Team Leader Laura, who went from hero to zero sales, was there and she dragged aggressive stroppy bitch Joanna in and wouldn’t say boo to a goose Joy along for the ride as well. Joy, much like a goose, got the chop but then a coat stand would have had more of a presence, funnily enough with a nose like that she’d make quite a good coat stand. She may have protested slightly, even though she looked rather like a startled rabbit caught in Lord Sugar’s headlights, but even when she did protest it was something of a shock to actually hear her voice.

You did have to feel more than a little sorry for her though when they all excited and she wasn’t acknowledged, her hand wasn’t shook, she was totally blanked. Somewhere in the corner of an office a lonely coat stand weeps.

Manimal: Remembering Simon MacCorkindale

It may have only lasted a meagre eight episodes but for a generation Simon MacCorkindale, who has sadly passed away aged 58 after his battle with Cancer, will forever by associated with his role in Manimal, surely the greatest word ever created. MacCorkindale, who were it not for his poor eyesight was destined for a career in the RAF, instead took flight in another guise, as Dr Jonathon Chase, who took to fighting crime in his human form or that of a panther, falcon or indeed snake, all of which he could magically transform into.

Think one part The Phantom, his dad passes on his powers on his deathbed in deepest darkest Africa, and another The Incredible Hulk and you are part way there, certainly a far cry from All Creatures Great and Small this was crime fighting with cat-itude. Of course being early 80s TV you only got one or two transformations an episode and these were all shown using the same stock footage.

Saying that, for its time and limited budget, it was all pretty memorable and is no surprise to find that Stan Winston had a hand in the creature effects, who famously created the special effects for Aliens, Predator, The Terminator and the T-Rex in Jurassic Park.

See those transformations in full:

Panther: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4D9Y1Mkx8Xo&p=B6658DABF61D7FBE&playnext=1&index=4 

Falcon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQPkcUali2s

Snake: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3sqxOk2nZg&feature=related

And it was the transformations that you watched it for as the crime fighting itself could have been lifted from any number of similar shows at time, such as Knight Rider, Street Hawk or Auto Man, but Manimal had the edge with its An American Werewolf in London-esque change sequences that thrilled my eight year old self, no matter how many times I had seen them, no matter that they were shown in the titles every week, which had some great visuals and an eternally catchy theme, catch it here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ugb_TIpPoWA&p=EAE1FA1EE5EC0CE7&playnext=1&index=24

I loved the way that the skin on the hands pulsated, almost as if it was breathing, and the way claws would sprout and faces stretch, making Bill Bixby’s green contact lenses and Lou Ferrigno’s clothes  bursting seem tame by comparison. Cue lots of Manimal transformation sequences re-enacted in the school playground!

MacCorkindale’s last major role was that of Harry Harper in Casualty but he never seemed to shrug off the Manimal side of him with appearances in Falcon Crest, lunch in Jaws 3D, Wing Commander and The Dinosaur Hunter.

He also made appearances in other genre fare such as Earth: Final Conflict, Poltergeist: The Legacy, Harsh Realm and Relic Hunter. Famously though, he also reappeared as Dr Jonathon Chase one last time in Night Man in 1998,if only he’d done that in Casualty! That would have quite literally put the cat among the pigeons.

You’ll be missed Simon and if it wasn’t for you I’d probably be a black belt in Karate by now as that was on Monday nights but it clashed with Manimal, and that was in the days, 1983, before we had a Betamax video recorder. And so a pattern was set.

Bangers and Clash: Welcoming back The Apprentice

Oh. My. God. It’s exit stage left for The X-Factor and sit this one out Strictly as the Don of reality gameshows is back.

The Apprentice, making its first Autumnal appearance due to fears of Lord Sugar’s mug – his face not his drinking receptacle  (no doubt of Amstrad design) – may have had an impact on the outcome on the General Election with him being a Labour Peer and all. At least he wasn’t Hastings Pier is all I can say!

Anyway, back to the show and within the first five minutes you are left wondering if they shouldn’t have renamed the programme The A-pretentious. The voiceover said that there were 16 top candidates and 12 tough weeks, I can only imagine that he means they are going to be tough for us judging by this bunch.  

A flurry of suits of nameless wannabe Sugar bitches and bastards who’ll say and do anything to get there. I personally can’t wait for the Saw inspired episode with Lord Sugar coming in on a little trike complete with the Jigsaw doll inspired white face. Talking of Jigsaw, the Janet Ellis TV show, it would actually be far scarier if he came out as Mr Nosey Bonk.

“I describe myself as a bit of a maverick”, spouts Alex Epstein, who looks like Neville Longbottom from Harry Potter. Neville, I mean Alex, also claims that he has a unique blend, and something tells me it’s not his brand of coffee he is attempting to get us excited about. He says, “I’m not just another corporate clone.” He’s right there; he’s more the corporate clown and a walking cliché to boot. It’s as if he’s been round all the dentists in the UK and read the words of wisdom on those pictures of lovely lakes and mountains.

Sticking with Hogwarts we also have Melissa, who is an amalgam of Velma from Scooby Doo with the hair and annoyingness of Draco Malfoy, who claims she has loads of business/ retail experience and is as if she is about to nominate herself for Team Leader but then says she doesn’t want it and then snipes at the Team Leader through the remainder of the show. She also had some brilliant facial expressions and I’m sure I saw her glasses steam up at one point.

The person who I hollered at the most whilst he appeared on my television though had to be Stuart Baggs, he with the hair of Eddie Munster. In his intro he claimed that there was no glass ceiling for him, which isn’t technically true as I can think of several I would like to shove him through, and that he was Baggs the brand. Baggs of shite more like.

He even came out with this bobby dazzler, “Everything I touch turns to sold.” Crap comment, plus never believe a man whose eyes are too close together.

We are told these 16 were chosen from thousands of applicants, the voiceover doesn’t say they were the best as obviously they were chosen to give us the best entertainment value in the same sense that people were chosen on the very same basis on how the misfits all complemented, or not, each other as a group.

For me it was the group names chosen that summed up this opening episode best, not exactly inspiring boardroom material. The guys basically had a toss up between Fusion and Synergy, both of which sound like really lame Gladiators, and went for the latter.

The ladies reasoning for their eventual name was my favourite though as they settled on Apollo, after dismissing the frankly bonkers Winning Women from Draco. Alas it was less inspired by Carl Weather’s Apollo Creed from the Rocky series and more the space programme as their motto was ‘failure is not an option’. Great sentiment, but I’m not sure that Gus Grissom (hang on wasn’t he in CSI?), Ed White or Roger Chaffee would agree as they were astronauts on the very first Apollo mission who burnt to death in a fire on the launch pad. There’s an irony of sorts then that the first show’s task was about selling sausages, perfect for BBQs.

The blokes sold budget bangers in boaters, even attempting to sell them door to door at one point. You can just see them feeding strings of them through letter boxes. At one point I thought they were going to start hurling packs of sausages into passing cab windows! At least they got their griddle going, unlike the women, who had an initial uphill struggle selling their bulging posh variety. Some clever number crunching was all that saved their bacon…er sausages.

Dan Harris, the Team Leader of ‘Synergy’ was onto a loser the moment he announced that he would lead the team and that they would do all the work, which saw stepping into the back of a black cab pretty much a foregone conclusion.

He signalled his own demise but dragged Eddie Munster hair and Neville into the boardroom with him. Stuart just doesn’t shut up, not even to Lord Sugar, and clearly his card is marked. He still bleated on about being unique and 21, surely not much of a USP!

Sky slams the ‘Blakes’ on reboot of cult Sci-Fi

Blake regretted buying that leather jacket from the market

Sky is clearly in cahoots with The Federation as it has foiled the return of Blake’s 7, which is a crying shame as we’ve never needed the return of Roj Blake and his gallant ever changing number of crew members more than now.

The production company, B7 Productions, released a statement, almost sounding as if it had been penned by Orac, that said: “Sky deciding to not proceed with the planned TV revival of Blake’s 7 is obviously disappointing, but the development process has resulted in the dynamic reinvention of this ‘branded’ series.”

Picking that element apart they have taken it all on the chin and there seems to be some serious spinning going on, so much so you can almost smell it burning. Hopefully such a release will jolt further interest in the programme, interest that could manifest itself in several different ways.

The original had political intrigue in spades and was essentially Robin Hood in space and in these unjust times of political unrest never and times of terror they would have fitted in perfectly. Stories about anti-government dissidents and corrupt, totalitarian governments never seem to go out of fashion (it’s no coincidence that the series villain was a woman – just as Thatcher came into power), and surely that’s doubly true of this era of terrorism.

The Liberator

So if Sky don’t fancy resurrecting The Liberator and her crew what about their original home on Auntie Beeb? They’d be foolish not to.

They’ve axed Survivors and Spooks has almost run out of steam so time is ripe for something new and Battlestar Galactica showed  all TV Execs that just because something is Sci-Fi it doesn’t mean it can’t be well acted, gritty drama that just so happens to be set in space. After all that is how B7 started out and Galactica was often dubbed as being ‘The West Wing in space.’

Another option of course, and one often favoured by the BBC and more recently with ITV and the return of Primeval, is to go in with another broadcaster. The makers of Primeval did a deal with Watch, ITV and a US station for series 4 and 5 so it can be done, even if the show has already been axed. Who knows, perhaps even Syfy might fancy a dabble?

It could also try the route of going for a filmed episode or series and then make the jump to TV, a route that worked so well for Sanctuary. It would be a gamble but it might at least prick interest and a following.

As with Doctor Who before it B7 has already had a reboot of sorts and had a new lease of life in a series of audio adventures which has attracted a whole host of talent from Bond and genre fave, Colin Salmon as Kerr Avon and guest stars from Ashes to Ashes’ Keeley Hawes and new Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch. Like the Who audio adventures it has also lured back cast members from the original series, Michael Keating and Jan Chappell, all of which shows there is still plenty of talent and interest in the project.

Blake loved the Gold Run on Blockbusters...RSC

The company say that there is 60% funding already in place for the reboot and that Sky is only one of the minor media players involved so as Zen may have stated: “Probability of survival, 80%.”