Archive for the ‘ten things’ Category

This is effectively part three of this mini-run; part one’s here; part two’s here.]

I have a bookcase. It looks like this.

Now, the eagle eyed among you will spot that there are little rectangular cells in which there are lots of books.

And… no, wait.

Since you’re unlikely to be reading this third part without knowing what I’m doing, I’m going to skip most of the introduction and just get down to it. (The introduction in full is in both the previous parts one and two.)

The two rules before we start.

  1. I own many, many more books and comics’ trades than are shown on these two shelves. They’re just what I have up now. The rest are in various boxes, and indeed there are two piles of books you can’t see, some of which are books I’ve read and just haven’t replaced on the shelves, and some of which are my ‘still to be read at some point…’
  2. The usual reminder for all of these Ten Things… they’re not the best, nor necessarily my favourites. They’re just Ten Things I like… at the time of writing, or in this case ten books I’ve picked. Another week could be ten others, and in fact will be.

Oh, and 3. (Yeah, I know but it’s not a rule as such: I’m going to be bouncing around the shelves.)

Oh, and 4… (yes, yes) I’m breaking my own rules here since it’s the third part, and doing more than one book in three cases below, for what will be obvious reasons.

The Time Patrol – Poul Anderson

If there’s a better writer for clever, deceptively simple, time travel stories than Poul Anderson, I don’t know who he or she is. I’m a sucker for time travel stories, the paradoxes, the chance to draw your protagonists, your antagonists and your supporting cast from the whole of history… and even the whole ‘let’s fix what has gone wrong’. And Anderson is just so damn good at it. In There Will Be Time, another of his time travel books, he focuses in on two characters: one who travels and one who doesn’t.

Here he expands that, and while you have one main character, pretty much everyone involved is a time traveller of some sort, most belonging to the titular Time Patrol, founded by a less than altruistic group who set it up to ensure that the timeline that leads to them is the one that survives. Yet good can be done, and is done, by those who patrol the timelines, ensuring that gratuitous wars, deaths don’t occur but making sure the ones that did happen, erm, do. I kind of wish there were in real life the grammatical tenses developed so time travellers can talk to each other and still make sense.

This is a collection of short stories and they’re the very exemplar of how time travel stories should be written.
 
 

The Sandman – Neil Gaiman


The first of my ‘cheats’, as I’m including an entire run here – Neil’s astonishing run on The Sandman. (Oh, I do have the ‘missing volumes’ above, by the way; they’re just in a pile for me to reread.)

I’m not sure what I can say about The Sandman that hasn’t been said by wiser and smarter people who are better at wurds than me. It rewards rereading; there’s never something new I don’t get from it, but that’s not the sole reason I reread it. I enjoy knowing the characters I read will change as I read the full run, even those who won’t want to. And it’s fascinating every time, reading that change. And I can’t say better than that.
 
 

The Compleet Molesworth – Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle

I read the original four books contained in this collection – Down with Skool!, How to be Topp, Whizz for Atomms, Back in the Jug Agane – and yes I’m including both the writer and the artist since I find it impossible to think of Molesworth without picturing him (and his schoolmates and teachers). And you can thank Ronald Searle for that. (Oddly, I think I came across Searle first in sketches of young girls on ponies he did for a magazine. I digress.)

The conceit used in the books is glorious: a pre-teen – when it starts – kid at a minor public school, St Custards, writing about school, and suggesting how to succeed in life., The books are full of [deliberate] misspellings and are pure acnarchic nonsense. Wonderfully funny, clever as hell and just a pure wonder from start to finish. I can’t ever imagine having a bookshelf without Molesworth being there somewhere.

(They recently republished the long out of print origins of Molesworth, a series of pieces written during WWII. Less polished than the version that appears in the books, they’re still pretty wonderful. I recommend them for any Molesworth fan.)
 
 

The Fuse – Anthony Johnston and Justin Greenwood

Another cheat since I picked up the final trade only a month ago. Anthony’s fantastic, sf wonder, about police on a space station, where things aren’t as simple as they appear (of course) people have hidden agendas and the only thing you can trust is the information you’ve gleaned yourself, and the only person you can trust completely is yourself. And not always then.
 
 

Various kids’ books about Judiasm

I’m putting these in here just to prove that a) I am very old and b) I was a very studious child, a bit of a Jewish swot. These were prizes at cheder, Sunday School.

Oh, and one final amusing bit. The cover of the first book above, looks like this. I was genuinely pleased to have to do a double take when I started reading The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

I wonder why…


 
 

Anyway… moving on…

The Beatles Complete – The Beatles

I have no musical talent. None. I can pick out a tune on a keyboard and am intending, in the near future to learn to play the mouth organ. Which will be a test for both me and whoever’s the poor fool I take lessons from.

But this isn’t there for me to appreciate the music. Not really. It’s there because my late brother loved this book to play to, and to learn from. He did, as I’ve mentioned previously, play the guitar… with admittedly more enthusiasm than genuine talent. But he would crack this open fairly regularly, and pencil in the chords. And when he died and his widow asked me if I wanted anything from his shelves, this was one of the books I took to always remember him by.

 
 

Yossel, April 19, 1943 – Joe Kubert

Yossel is one of the odder comic books I own. Most comic books are printed on Matt or glossy paper. This is printed on thick paper that’s almost cardlike. Most comics are pencilled, then inked, then coloured. This is pencils only. And it’s incredible. It’s kind of a ‘What if…?’ written and drawn by Joe Kubert… as a ‘what if my parents hadn’t gotten out? What if I’d not gotten out?’

Out from what? Well…


Well, do I need to say more? 

Just buy it; although it’s only indirectly linked, I can’t imagine it not being next to The Plot (mentioned previously in this run) on my shelves.
 

The Political Animal – Jeremy Paxman

Paxman’s best book, by far, in my opinion. It’s a study not of British politics, but of British politicians: what makes them tick? Are there any similarities between politicians of wildly opposing viewpoints? Are there surprising similarities? How can politicians who believe such wildly different things be genuine friends? How does one become the sort of person who regards politics as a worthwhile endeavour. Many many perceptive observations are made, many compromises are identified, and many hypocrisies speared.

One lesson I’ve taken from it, when Paxman observes that only in politics and religion is it held and seen as a positive virtue to hold the same, unchanging, opinion for 20 or more years. And Paxman believes it’s for the same reason in both.
 
 

The Prize – Irving Wallace

It’s kind of tailor made for Wallace, this subject matter; a dozen people are awarded that year’s Nobel Prizes; most of them deserve them. But who they are and what they’ve done to justify their awards are very different creatures. Politics, personalities and people: all grist to Wallace’s clever plot. (They made a Paul Newman movie of the novel. It’s not a good movie. This is a very good book.)
 
 

An Utterly Impartial History of Britain, Or, 2000 Years of Upper-class Idiots in Charge – John O’Farrell

Some years ago, I spent 27½ hours on an airplane, flying to Singapore, staying in the airport 6 hours and then flying back again. At the airport, I picked up a couple of books to read on the flight. This was one of them, and I laughed all the way through it. It’s a history book of Britain, from 55BC through 1945. O’Farrell goes for laughs throughout but never skimping on the basic facts. In some cases, far deeper than the mere basic facts. You’ll learn stuff from reading it, and the pen portraits he creates of the monarchs, the prime ministers and those surrounding both, are much fun. But mainly I remember it for the gags. There are many, many gags; I struggle to remember a book that made me laugh out loud so often while reading it.

Well, that was fun. Thirty Books in three Fridays. I may do it again next year. We’ll see.

See you tomorrow, with… the usual Saturday’s something else.

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 now more rapidly approaching.


If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

This is effectively part two of this mini-run; part one’s here.

I have a bookcase. It looks like this.

Now, the eagle eyed among you will spot that there are little rectangular cells in which there are lots of books.

There are fifteen or eighteen of them, depending on how you measure them. (The book case/shelves are actually two, screwed. together. But yeah, that’s what gives the ‘middle’ bit its own cells.)

You can see even from a brief look that the bottom half has mostly comics.

But yeah, there are various ‘cells’ of books. Some of them are even put together; the middle cell, the one with the white book just poking out is full of Irving Wallace novels and David Morrell novels; two of my favourite authors.

But yeah. There are my books. And, just for the hell of it and for no better reason than why the hell not?, I’m going to take the next three Fridays, identify thirty books on my shelves, ten books ten ‘cells’, each week. There will obviously be more than one book from several ‘cells’ by the end, but hey my bookshelves are chaotic, why shouldn’t this be equally so?

(I’m limiting it to three weeks before Christmas, since the fourth week in December will be Christmas Eve, and I have a plan for that day. There’ll be more about what’s happening to the blog in 2022 soon enough.)

Now, since comics collected in trade paperbacks are, obviously a lot thinner in the main than hardbacks or paperback novels or non-fiction, that may be a bit unfair to the comics. So, if I think that is the case, after three weeks, I’ll do another ten trades afterwards. We’ll see,

Two rules before we start.

  1. I own many, many more books and comics’ trades than are shown on these two shelves. They’re just what I have up now. The rest are in various boxes, and indeed there are two piles of books you can’t see, some of which are books I’ve read and just haven’t replaced on the shelves, and some of which are my ‘still to be read at some point…’
  2. The usual reminder for all of these Ten Things… they’re not the best, nor necessarily my favourites. They’re just Ten Things I like… at the time of writing, or in this case ten books I’ve picked. Another week could be ten others, and in fact will be.

Oh, and 3. (Yeah, I know but it’s not a rule as such: I’m going to be bouncing around the shelves.)

Let’s start with the ‘Jewish’ cell and get it out of the way.

The Complete Artscroll Machzor

 
Yeah, I’m not going to go for the ‘who wrote this’ gag with this. Mainly I’ve included it today because I’m tired and nothing says ‘Yom Kippur’ to me like the memories of falling asleep in synagogue during the long afternoon session, when the end of the fast isn’t close enough to look forward to, but the novelty of being in shul has long ago worn off. You’ll see that I have books from various publishers, and they each have their charms and each have their drawbacks. The Artscroll ‘commentaries in English’ are – to my mind – a lot better written, and the Hebrew is typeset in a more modern, and easier to read, font. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.
 
 

The Word – Irving Wallace

 
I went through a phase a long time back when Wallace was my favourite author; I’m got pretty much all of his novels, and you’re going to see another one in a minute. I picked this one though because although it’s fairly typical Wallace – an involved plot, half a dozen main characters all of which are ‘real’ people to the reader with all their wonders and flaws, and an involved plot with great, realistic, dialogue… this novel contains what must be the most pedestrian written sex scene he ever wrote.

I mean, he’s had sex scenes in other novels, and I guess they’re ok – none stand out as particularly memorably good nor bad – but this one? THIS ONE reads like he submitted the novel, then the agent and publishers read it, then they all looked at each other and said, ‘you know what it needs? A sex scene… right…. here.‘ So he wrote one, right there. In the room. In front of them.

It doesn’t ruin the book but it’s the only passage in any of his books that when I come to it (no pun intended) I skip three or four pages and pick up the story again when they’re laying in bed afterwards.

Anyway, the story itself is about an PR exec who gets a chance to be publicist for a new edition of the bible… including a newly discovered gospel. Except it’s not that simple, is it? No, of course not. They made an eight hour miniseries of it in 1978 with David Janssen and Ron Moody. and it wasn’t half bad. Not great, but not half bad.
 
 

The Man – Irving Wallace

 
And here it is: my favourite novel, bar none.

I’ve lots of novels I like, and lots of novels I’m happy to reread. You can see in the photo the name of another favourite novelist. But yeah, The Man is a novel I’ve loved from the moment I picked it up.

Set in the late 1960s (the novel was written in 1969), the Vice-President of the United States is dead by a heart attack as the novel starts. No big deal, the US has been without a VP at several times in its history. Then the President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives die in an accident. (A building in post-war Berlin collapses during a summit.) The President pro-tem of the Senate, a man only given the mostly nondescript (as far as the populace is concerned) position to appease a section of the electorate, is catapulted into the White House. The kicker comes at the end of the first chapter as the Chief Justice wishes him well “as the first Negro President of the United States of America.” And all hell breaks loose.

The novel was written, as I say, in 1969, and end up with him being impeached and being tried on the impeachment articles… three of which are or could be seen as racially motivated and one which is most definitely an attack on the Presidency itself.

There’s an interesting apocryphal story (the truth or not of which I have no idea) that in winter 1973/spring 1974 sales of the book skyrocketed… because staffers in Washington were buying the book because it laid out in forensic detail exactly how you impeach a President… the prior example (referred to in the book a lot) was, after all, 100 years earlier…
 
 

I, Claudius – Robert Graves


 
Like many who’ve read the book, I first came across the story of Claudius watching the BBC adaptation starring Derek Jacobi (Claudius), Brian Blessed (Augustus), Sian Williams (Livia) and John Hurt (Caligula).

In fact I so loved the show that whenever I refer to it on Twitter, it’s usually as I, CLAVDIVS, as that’s how the opening titles looked to me as a kid.

The book is an odd beast to read afterwards, to be honest. It’s a thick tome; some 800+ pages. It’s actually two novels: I, Claudius and Claudius The God, and the execution of the prose never quite matches the glory of the plot, which is – put simply – the life of Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, known to history as The Emperor Claudius. It starts not long before he was born and continues (briefly) after his death. The books’ conceit is that they’re his autobiography, which he writes and hides to be discovered a millennium later.

And dammit, the conceit works; while the various adaptations are of necessity presented as third person (with first person narration), this works best as first person.

Talking of adaptations, by the way, as well as the BBC tv adaptation, there’s a BBC Radio 4 adaptation with Tom Goodman Hill (Claudius), Derek Jacobi, yes, Derek Jacobi (Augustus) and Harriet Walter (Livia) and the latter in particular is as good as the tv adaptation.

There was intended to be a 1937 movie adaptation with Charles Laughton (Claudius) and Merle Oberon, Flora Robson, Emlyn Williams andRobert Newton. It never happened but the documentary about why and the aborted movie it is amazing: The Epic That Never Was.

But yeah, the book is one of those you get sucked into, and damn, the plot makes the Corleones and Sopranos like the picture of good family health.
 
 

The Long Johns – John Bird and John Fortune


 
If you’ve seen my Saturday Smiles, you’ll be used to seeing The Two Johns, two middle-aged fellas conducting mock interviews, one of them usually as “George Parr”, who takes every role necessary from Admiral of the Fleet to Head of The Post Office to a policy advisor in Number Ten Downing Street. When broadcast, they were originally around 6 or 7 minutes long. But the original scripts were about 12 minutes’ long. And these are those scripts.

It’s a crying shame that in the early days they were edited down for broadcast. As their popularity grew, the producers were smart enough to leave more and more in. The final few years, they were broadcast in their entirety and were much the better for it.

Fortune and Bird were satirists of the highest calibre and show it time and time again in these scripts. There’s sweat in every line, not a word is wasted. Every line makes a point. Yes, they’re funny as hell, but that’s not the point: it’s satire, pointing out truths with a rapier.

(There’s also a bit about how they wrote them, which as a writer I found entirely believable and sympathised greatly.) 
 

The side of a book – ???


 
Yeah, ok, that’s a bit unfair. It’s this book:

Three Fingers – Rich Koslowski


 
Every so often, somoene will ask on Twitter “what book do you have on your bookshelves that no-one else you know has?”

The answers are always distinguished by disagreement. Because of course if you’ve got a book on your bookshelf, odds are someone else you know also has it.

And the same applies to comic books.Many of the comic books I have on my shelves are also on the shelves of other people. I don’t know about this one though; I suspect very few have this one.

I came across it purely by chance; someone I know read it and told me, instructed me almost, to buy it, with the assurance that if I didn’t like it, they’d reimburse me for the purchase.

I started reading and thought, after a few pages, ‘yeah, I’m going to be asking for…’

Half a dozen pages later, I’d changed my mind. A few pages after that and I started thinking who I should recommend the book and make the same offer to.

Yes. It’s that good.

It’s a documentary. Kind of. It’s a documentary of an alternate world where cartoons exist as real ‘people’ and it’s about a secret ritual they have to undergo. Started by a Walt Disney analogue, who founded an entertainment empire based in the success of one “Ricky Rat”, his story and that of the ritual is told via interviews with “Buggy Bunny” and “Sly Vester Jr.” while others, including celebs, speak out against the rituals or even deny its very existence, with threats of litigation.

It’s clever, funny, sad, brutal, satirical… and you’ve never read anything like it.
 
 

The End Of The Party – Andrew Rawnsley


 
In the pic where I’ve highlighted The Long Johns, you’ll see a book on the right co-written by John Rentoul on the history of New Labour, written almost from a historical angle. (I picked it up after a Q&A about the tv series based on it.).

This book, written by one of the finest politics commentators of the past couple of decades, was published in 2010 and covers much of the same ground, as it’s about New Labour from Tony Blair’s second election win in 2001 through most of Gordon Brown’s tenure as PM. But it was being written during that period, by someone who knew everyone involved well.

It’s a detailed book and the prose is engaging. It’s not quite as taut as I’d like; at times Rawnsley’s insistence on the reader knowing every detail slows the momentum. But for those of us who lived through the time, it’s plot keeps you reading, desperate to see what happened next, and how. And knowing it in advance doesn’t hurt that process. Not at all.

One thing that both books (and the tv show) do: it surprises me again and again how my memories of the time were almost, but not quite, right. For example, I remember this thing happening at the same time as that thing, but they actually happened weeks apart. Or I remember this event happening after that event but the latter was a day or two before the former.
 

The Brethren – Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong


 
When I was studying the US political system at college, while I was interested in the Presidency and curious about Congress, it was the Supreme Court Of The United States that utterly fascinated me. (Again, in the Long Johns pic above, you can see a book entitled ‘Constitutional Law’, and it’s a text book about that subject, mainly about Supreme Court decisions.) The history and practices of both SCOTUS and its members are a rich tapestry with the more than occasional ‘knot’ to fuck everything up.

The Brethren covers the 1969-1976 terms of SCOTUS; a new Chief Justice replacing the giant that was Earl Warren, and several new Associate Justices appointed by Nixon and Ford. You get oral arguments, discussion between justices and the details of the compromises ordered and made in order to get a majority on the court. Andthe occasional stinging dissent. Cases covered in detail include Ali’s Vietnam case, the whole range of Watergate, and Roe v Wade. Yeah, it was a pretty momentous period.

The book uses the same process as previous Woodward books, with most things gleaned from public records and off the record briefings. After he died, Woodward and Armstrong confirmed that Justice Potter Stewart was their primary source inside the court.

It’s both a surprise and not, at the same time; Stewart doesn’t come out of many episodes covered with glory and more than a few times, his vanity and obstinacy speak nothing good of him.

If you’re even mildly interested in that period of history or SCOTUS in general, it’s definitely, very definitely, worth reading.
 
 

Marvel 1602 – Neil Gaiman


 
This is a fun, clever, take on Marvel’s characters… where you need to know almost nothing going in… but if you have a detailed knowledge of the history of the charge trust, you’ll have more fun.

It’s basically an eight issue What If..? What if… Marvel’s characters (at least those published before 1969, a personal choice by the author) were around in 1602, and mainly in England? The artwork is glorious, the story clever and Trent whole thing is more fun than it has any right to be.

I mean, Sir Nicholas Fury instead of Sir Francis Walsingham, Steven Strange instead of John Dee?

It’s fun.
 
 

The Griffin – Dan Vado


 
It’s unfair to describe this as “The Last Starfighter done right” but it’s also kind of accurate. Selfish, arrogant, teenage kid, acting up, storms out of his house, encounters an alien space craft looking for youngsters to fight in a war. They promise him glory and rewards. And superpowers. He goes for it, and goes with them.

Twenty years later he comes back for the ostensibly most perfectly understandable of reasons: he’s homesick. So he deserts. Twenty years of war has made him grown up a lot. But is it enough? He’s accompanied by his best friend, an alien. His family, everyone who knew him, thought he was dead. He has a new little brother who wasn’t born when he left.

His commanding officers are not happy. They come to get him.

Several questions are asked and answered: how will his family react? Does he still think of himself as human? And oh yeah, what makes him think he was the first human they recruited? Or the first human who deserted?

Definitely a story worth reading, and then rereading to see what you missed first time around.
 
 
Well, that was fun. See you next Friday for one last set of ten more.


If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others


See you tomorrow, with… the usual Saturday’s something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

I have a bookcase. It looks like this.

Now, the eagle eyed among you will spot that there are little rectangular cells in which there are lots of books.

There are fifteen, or eighteen of them… depending on how you count them. (The book case/shelves are actually two, screwed. together. But yeah, that’s what gives the ‘middle’ bit its own cells.)

You can see even from a brief look that the bottom half has mostly comics.

But yeah, there are various ‘cells’ of books. Some of them are even put together; the middle cell, the one with the white book just poking out is full of Irving Wallace novels and David Morrell novels; two of my favourite authors.

But yeah. There are my books. And, just for the hell of it and for no better reason than why the hell not?, I’m going to take the next three Fridays, identify thirty books on my shelves, ten books ten ‘cells’, each week. There will obviously be more than one book from several ‘cells’ by the end, but hey my bookshelves are chaotic, why shouldn’t this be equally so

Now, since comics collected in trade paperbacks are, obviously a lot thinner in the main than hardbacks or paperback novels or non-fiction, that may be a bit unfair to the comics. So, if I think that is the case, after three weeks, I’ll do another ten trades afterwards. We’ll see,

Two rules before we start.

  1. I own many, many more books and comics’ trades than are shown on these two shelves. They’re just what I have up now. The rest are in various boxes, and indeed there are two piles of books you can’t see, some of which are books I’ve read andf just haven’t replaced on the shelves and some of which are my ‘still to be read at some point…’

  2. The usual reminder for all of these Ten Things… they’re not the best, nor necessarily my favourites. They’re just Ten Things I like… at the time of writing, or in this case ten books I’ve picked. Another week could be ten others, and in fact will be.

Oh, and 3. (Yeah, I know but it’s not a rule as such: I’m going to be bouncing around the shelves.)

Oh, and just for fun, I’ll tell you the othere book I almost wrote about this week from that cell.

Let’s start with a goodie.

All I Ever Wrote – Ronnie Barker


 
There may be finer comedy writers in the field of sketch comedy than Ronnie Barker; I mean, I wouldn’t disagree if you offered John Finnemore as the finest sketch writer working today. And, let’s face it, Victoria Wood was about as good as they come. Further, there may have been comedy writers who lasted longer, or hit bigger audiences.

But for my mind, as a comedy writer up there with the very very best, for sketch writing, monologues and silent comedy, there’s no one to touch Ronnie Barker (or Gerald Wiley as he sometimes went by) at his peak. So much of The Two Ronnies greatest sketches were down to him. Four Candles alone puts him up there. The book should be just one to dip in and out of. It’s not. If I pick it up, I’m not putting it down for an hour. At least. Glorious, clever, funny comedy. No wonder I like it do much.
 
 

Thank You For Your Support (I’ll Wear It Always) – So many people


 
This is an odd one. After my brother died, his widow asked friends and family for reminiscences, for funny stories, for sad stories, about him. For tales about what it was like to know my brother Michael. And she then put them together in a book, which she offered for sale to benefit the Jewish Bereavement Service, who’d helped her so much in the aftermath of Mike’s tragic death. It’s a wonderful book but it’s one I can’t easily read, for obvious reasons. But it’s on my shelf (twice as it happens). It’ll never not be there.
 
 

Blackadder Scripts – Richard Curtis


 
Another book of scripts – you’ll see there are several.

I’m not the hugest fan of the first series of Blackadder, and I always thought it was becaiuse of the scripts and plots. Until I read the scripts, together with the other series’ scripts. The first series is just as as strong, just as clever, and in some ways actually cleverer comedy than the later shows, when they beacame reliant (overly reliant?) on catchphrases and self-referential gags. The first series is raw, unquestionably, but it’s truer to the oriugional idea, and the characters are not as set as they later became. And the first series – at least in script form – is all the better for it.

Which means, I guess, that it’s either the direction or the acting that hurts the first series. I dunno. But it’s probably the first time I read scripts and got a completely different take on something, that made me appreciate it more, than from watching it.
 
 

The Plot – Will Eisner


 
Will Eisner was the master of graphic storytelling, with a style that was entirely his own, that no one’s come close to topping. And while his earlier works — this was his last published work — are fantastic, it’s this book that for me hits home the hardest.

A matderly examination of, and destruction of, the myth, the hoax, the scam, that was the Protocols of the Lerarned Elders of Zion. Eisner shows, from and by his research, how they were created for reasons of politcial bullshit, how the bullshit was promoted, and how the bullshit was defended, and how it was shown to be unfettered, unresereved, unmitigated bullshit. And then how the bullshit goes on. And on. And on.

Superb and I’d recommend it to all without a moment’s hesitation.
 
 

Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman


 
It’s hard to pick a favourite from these, especially since there’s my favourite ever novel there on the far right, and the wonderful whimsical satire of Alan Coren up there as well, but it comes down to Neverwhere; it always comes down to Neverwhere.

Let’s be fair, there’s never going to be a bookshelf of mine without a selection of Nei;’s writings. (I’ve always considered it incredibly fortunate that I discovered Neil’s writings, and discovered my enjoyment of them, before he became a friend.)

But yeah, Neverwhere. It’s my favourite of Neil’s novels, and while there’s very little he’s written I’ve not liked (reminder: not liking something isn’t the same as disliking), there is some, occasionally, Neverwhere soars above everything else for me. And I love this edition with Chris Riddell’s glorious art.

I remain very grateful that Neil’s never put me into that world, as a completely stoned budgerigar, referred to all in London Below by the name High Barnet(t).
 
 

Sandman Overture – Neil Gaiman


 
I didn’t mean to do this, honest — the order of the ‘cells’ was chosen randomly — but yeah, another of Neil’s. I love Sandman as a series, and it’d be tough to pick a favourite story arc; I’ve two or three definites that’d fight it out. But I’m picking Overture for three simple reasons.

  1. After so long away from the characters, it remains a delight to me that the characters managed to evolve while Neil was telling a story of the past.
  2. I was fortunate enough to read the first issue before it was published and I suspect my reaction of “AND…? What happens NEXT?” was exactly what Neil wanted.
  3. The book itself was a gift from my ex-wife who saw it, bought it for me out of sheer wonderful friendship, and because she knew I’d like it. I’m sure that somewhere in Sandman there’s a lesson to be learned about valuing the people you care about and who care about you. (Maybe in A Game of You?) I’m very grateful that Laura and I remain friends, and the closest of friends at that.

No surprise that future ‘ten books’ will always include something by Neil…
 
 

Chumash – Well, I don’t know


 
Well, who the hell would you say wrote it, be fair? The “Jewish’ shelf. The cell that conatins not all but most of the jewish texts I have, as well as my tallit and a coupel of kippahs. Not a lot to say about this cell other than my god, the memories… the memories.
 
 

Understanding Comics – Scott McCloud


 
Many years ago, there was a series of “The Bluffer’s Guide to…” Ostensibly writen for the uninformed, on a variety of subjects, the unspoken secret of the books’ success was that they were actually written for people who knew the subject matter very well indeed; I remember doubling over with laughter at the gags in the accountancy one.

This isn’t one of those books. It’s written for both the comics insider and the comics outsider, for those who write, draw and prodiuce comics… and for those who’ve barely even seen a comic in 20 years.

Writing the history of comics and an instruction manual that doesn’t feel like an instruction manial, and a text book that doesn’t feel like a textbook, and a slew of examples that actually move a story forward should have been an impossible task. McCloud manages it in style and I’d recomend this for anyone with even the faintest curiosity about or interest in comics.
 
 

Jews Don’t Count – David Baddiel


 
What the hell can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said better and by more distinguished people? It’s been described as a polemic but I don’t think that’s true. Not really. To me, that implies ranting and there’s none here. There’s a very, sure. And upset. And irritation and frustration in equal measure. But this is calmly angry, a cold burning at the injustice revealed.

(There’ll be a full review of this before the year end but I need to reread it a couple of times before that).

David takes as his basis for the book the idea, the well-proven and eqaully well evidenced concept, that prejudice against one minority, against jews, that anti-Jewish bigotry, that antisemitism, seems to be left out of the ‘oh, I’m an anti-racist, me‘ area of progressive politics. Casual antisemitism continues to infect the public arena and antisemites are welcomed by people into that sphere, into that sphere, as if their antisemitism is less disqualifying than bad breath or acne. People accept, and indeed have no problem with, antisemitic discourse and overt (as well as covert) antisemitism as either unimportant or, perhaps equally insidiously, as ‘a price worth paying’ in a way that other racism simply would not be accepted.

It’s a clever, suprisingly funy given the subject material, devastating book that everyone should read. Everyone… especially those who hold themselves out as part of that progressive politics strain but who think jews just make too much a fuss, y’know…?
 
 

The Brotherhood of the Rose – David Morrell


 
While my favourite novel remains The Man by Irving Wallace — there’s a hardback first edition 50th birthday present elsewhere on the shelves — this novel, by David Morrell is simply wonderful and is almost falling apart from having been reread so many times . The first of a trilogy, it was the first time I’d come across the combination of intelligent spy noivel and action thriller. Most spy novels have one or the other. This one had both. And I was hooked instantly.
 
 
Well, that was fun. See you next Friday for ten more.


If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Housekeeping: I was intending this Ten Things to about books, but something got in the way, specifically me going over to Richmond for the Erving last night instead of Wednesday. So, the books multi=part thing will be running from three weeks from next Friday. Then, there’ll be be one on the day before Christmas and then we’ll be at New Year’s Eve… and done for this year.


Listening to Desert Island Discs today, the guests, Carl Hester, said something that struck home: he said that there are some songs he could listen to over and over again before he grew tired of them… but there are also songs that he never grows tired of.

Here are ten from me of the latter, one per artist. (Note: I’m excluding comedy and novelty songs from this list: there are just too many that fit the category, enough that they could each fit an entry all on their own, and may do at some point in the future.)

The usual reminder for all of these Ten Things… they’re not the best, nor necessarily my favourites. They’re just Ten Things/Subjects I like… at the time of writing, or in this case ten songs I can listen to again and again, never tiring of them.

1. Have You Ever Seen The Rain? by Creedence Clearwater Revival
As so often is the case, I came across a song I instantly loved purely by chance. I’d dropped out of watching Stargate SG-1 long before the final episodes, but when they showed the finale a few years ago, I caught it. about ¾ of the way through the episode, there’s a montage sequence, overlaying this song. And I mean, I’m not even the hugest fan of Creedance Clearwater Revival. I like their stuff but this song had never really registered. But for whatever reason, this time, the song hit home. And there’s just something about it that keeps it there.


 
 
2. You’re My Home by Billy Joel
There are at least a dozen songs by Billy Joel that could have made this list; I unreservedly love The Longest Time and Tell Her About It, but it’s this one that I picked. Absolutely not – in case anyone is foolish enough to suggest it – because I identify with the protagonist of the song. I think I must have made that clear in the Ten Things from a couple of weeks’ back. But just in case… no. I just think it’s a fantastic song that I could listen to forever.


 
 
3. Mother’s Little Helper by The Rolling Stones
In the early 1990s, I picked up a copy of Hot Rocks, a Rolling Stones compilation albums covering their work from 1964 to 1971. A glorious collection of their early work; not a duff song on the album. But it was the first time I’d heard Mother’s Little Helper, and I found myself playing the song again and again, and again, each time finding something new in the track. It’s deceptively brutal and clever as hell.


 
 
4. Last Night by Chris De Burgh
At one point I was a huge fan of de Burgh. I’m not sure why now, as a lot of the songs I liked back then I find… tiresome now. But not this one. A story, as many of his songs are, but the difference between the soft verses and the rising of the chorus just works for me. And I still love this song, so yah book sucks if you don’t. (That’s not to say that I dislike all of his work, especially his earlier stuff. I still think loads of it is fantastic.)


 
 
5. Suddenly I See by KT Tunstall
A song I discovered because Marks & Spencer had it as their Christmas and one year. One more song I heard once and then searched it out so I could listen to it repeatedly. There’s not much else of her work I like, but this one? Yeah, very very much.


 
 
6. Last Train To Clarksville by the Monkees
Again, there are three or four I could have picked from the Monkees, including Daydream Believer, I’m A Believer and even Randy Scouse Git. The latter is particularly fun if only because of lyric ‘the four kings of EMI are sitting stately on the floor…’. But Last Train To Clarksville trumps them all just because… well, I don’t know why, but it does.


 
 
7. A Night Like This by Caro Emerald
I love Caro Emerald’s voice; Captivated me the first moment I heard it and it’s a voice I could easily imagine dancing to (yes, even me, who loathes dancing) or just cuddling up to someone listening to it. Or maybe smoking a joint and drifting off to it. And this is just a wonderful example of her being wonderful. There’s joy in this song. I wonder why I like it. I have no idea.


 
 
8. I Can Dream by Skunk Anansie
One of three very very personal picks in this list, songs that are – at least in part – because they remind me of someone. And you get no more than that from me. It’s the sort of song that I wouldn’t otherwise have listened to, let alone loved. But this song? Yeah, this song is special to me.


 
 
9. Me and Charlie Talking by Miranda Lambert
My tv service used to show the country channel. And every so often, when I was working or writing, I’d have it on in the background. I discovered Miranda Lambert because of that, and this song for the same reason. I was naive enough not to realise when I heard it that it was a huge hit. I can understand why. I really really like it.


 
 
10. (And) It’s Getting Better by Mama Cass
I’m not someone who likes songs about love. Not really. I’m certainly not someone who likes upbeat songs about the glory of love and how bloody awesome it is. And, yet, I love this song and could listen to it on repeat for a very, very, very long time.


 
 
And that’s it – I came close to extending this and putting another three in, just for the hell of it (Keep Me In Your Heart, by Warren Zevon, The Bed Song by Amanda Palmer, and Downtown by Petula Clark) but they just didn’t make the cut…

Maybe if I do this again…


If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others.


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

One of the inevitabilities of being stuck in the flat during lockdowns this year and last has been that I’ve been watching some ‘old’ telly. ITV4 and Drama and a couple of other channels have bought the rights to, and have been showing, tv shows from – hog, gods, I can’t believe I’m actually writing these words – fifty or more years ago. I mean, yeah. 1971 was sixty years ago.

I mean, it’s tough enough watching Top Of The Pops from back then, but there are a lot of shows that I watched in part to see how well they’d aged, and in some cases to see how poorly.

So, the usual reminder for all of these Ten Things… they’re not the best, nor necessarily my favourites. They’re just Ten Things/Subjects I like… at the time of writing, or in this case ten things I’ve been watching.

1. The Saint
If there’s ever a show that typifies the period, and the period in television, it’s surely The Saint. I was a huge fan of the books, both the collections of short stories and the novels. But I’m pretty sure I encountered Simon Templar for the first time on telly. The plots weren’t exactly labyrinthine, and usually involved Templar, played of course by Roger Moore in a role he was made for, saving some young woman from one bad fate or another. They were fun shows, and occasionally showed the Templar of the books, but only occasionally.

(As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to have less patience with adaptations that don’t, y’know, actually adapt the books nor even the characters. It’s just a character with the same name and not a lot else.)

The Saint is fun though, and it’s a pleasant way of passing an hour. But not much more.

(I have fond memories of Ian Ogilvy’s stint in Return of the Saint, but I suspect it’s aged very, very badly)

There was an attempt to revamp the character fairly recently. I quite liked the promo for it, but I’ve no idea what happened to the show.


 
 
2. Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)
I genuinely expected this show to have aged far, far more than it has. You could remake it now with exactly the same scripts, exactly the same wardrobe, and better production values and it would work as a period drama.

Most of that is down to the partnership between Mike Pratt as Jeff Randall, a private investigator in London, and Kenneth Cope as Marty Hopkirk, his deceased former partner who comes back as a ghost to… help him. At first it’s merely to solve his own murder, but then he’s stuck on the ‘mortal plain’. Oh, and mustn’t forget Annette Andre as Hopkirk’s widow, and all the fun that goes along with her slowly recovering from the loss of her great love (which is greeted by Hopkirk with sorrow then mild annoyance that she’s moving on with her life.)

It’s a fun show; the effects for the time are great and the puzzlment of both Randall and Hopkirk as they discover both their new relationship and what ‘the rules’ are for Hopkirk moving forward.

The scripts are cracking, the dialogue is fun and watching their relationship evolve is huge fun.

(There was a reboot with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer in 2000, played for comedy; the less said about that, the better, although it might have worked had Reeves played Randall and Mortimer played Hopkirk, instead of the other way around, and upped the drama and lowered the comedy. If they’d have remade the show in other words instead of fucking around with it.)

This is from the pilot of the original, when Randall discovers Hopkirk is still around…

 
 
3. Star Trek
Yeah, I’m about to be heretical. I realised I hadn’t actually seen the original series for years, so when they reran it, I watched most of them.

OK, so the remastered effects work fine, and the scripts are fine. And the plots, for the most part, when they’re not being crassly ‘contemporary’ and ‘relevant’ are also fine. Some of them are flat out amazing. But… the acting. The acting often… isn’t fine. Nimoy is wonderful, always. Kelley is great, almost always. And Nicholls is rarely anything but fantastic. But… Shatner? Sorry, but I found myself watching the show despite Shatner, and the same applies to Doohan.

You can’t help but pay respect to the show for what it spawned but of the more than sixty episodes, there are maybe a dozen and a half I actually enjoyed watching. Which saddens me, immensely.

And since you’ve all probably seen every clip that exists about Star Trek, here’s an evolution of Warp Speed in Star Trek.

 
 
4. The Persuaders
Now, if you’re looking for a show that’s aged, very, very badly… you can’t do better than this show. I loved it when I watched it at the time; both Roger Moore and Tony Curtis seemed, to me, to be having loads of fun. Learning later that they didn’t much like each other, and indeed each regarded the other as lazy may have tarnished my enjoyment.

But what topped it off was discovering there were basically three plots the entire time, and most of them involved either one of them being mistaken for someone else, or getting involved with some affair or another against their wishes, but what the hell, we’re here now so we may as well...

The original idea, only kept for a handful of episodes after the pilot (which is good, and remains good) was that they were highly resourceful, very intelligent men who were successes at what they chose to do but they were rich and bored and… wastrels. So they get blackmailed by Laurence Naismith’s retired judge into going after people who ‘got away with it’. Could have been a great show. The first couple of episodes looked like it was going to be a great show.

And then they threw away any sense of seriousness and went for the comedy, and slapstick comedy at times. A decent idea, with decent actors.… thrown away.

Oh, and the plots, dialogue, attitudes and costumes have aged horrendously. (I’m not sure how a show made a decade after The Saint has aged far more than that show did, but bloody hell it did…)

Two saving graces: one episode in which there’s a double of Moore’s character wandering around, which had a first class mystery and resolution, and one episode where Curtis’ character meets up with a childhood friend… who turns out to be a contract killer. And Moore and Curtis fall out over it. Genuine drama, genuine conflict. Very well portrayed.

Oh, and the opening titles which are clever as hell.

 
 
(And while this would never happen, I kind of liked this ‘update’ of them…)


 
 
5. Blake’s 7
I mentioned above that I watched Star Trek for every reason other than the acting of the main character. I can’t say the same about Blake’s 7. The ”main’ character – Blake (Gareth Thomas) when the show starts, then Avon (Paul Darrow) – was never less than screen grabbing, for entirely different reasons, but the acting of all the Marion protagonists and antagonists were fantastic, throwing themselves completely into the ‘seriousness’ of the show’s premise.

The scripts were great, the plots were… on-and-off great. The production values were less than great most of the time, although the props were great, the Liberator‘s hand guns looked fantastic and I wanted one when I was a kid. Hell, I want one now.

The show was dark as hell more than half the time and the ‘goodies’ lose as many times as they won. And while the goodies were the goodies, the people you were supposed to root for, sometimes they didn’t make it easy.

It’s a show that’s ripe for a reboot, and I’d love to see one.

 
 
6. The Protectors
This show should not work. I repeat; it should not work. Three impossibly smart, glamorous (for the time) private investigators working around the world, being hired for [half hour] missions, for a tv show whose prime thing seems to be showing how many different places around that world they can show.

And yet it does. I wouldn’t put it all down to the opening and closing titles, but I’m not not putting it down to the opening and closing titles.


 
 
7. The Champions
The Champions is utter rubbish from start to finish, with plot holes in every episodes you could drive a truck though, wooden acting (when the baddies aren’t chewing the furniture) and for secret agents with super powers – gained when they crash their plane in the Himalayas – they’re not very, erm, secret.

I love it. Every episode is silliness and deftness and utterly stupid. And bad enough to enjoyable fun.

 
 
8. The Fugitive
I don’t think I’d ever seen the show until it started being shown over lockdown. I mean, sure I’d probably seen the odd clip here and there and I knew the story of course. But my main familiarity with it was through the movie.

So I watched it. It’s surprisingly good, given its very basic plot structures and how often some basic plots are repeated; I can definitely see where Kung Fu and The Incredible Hulk got most of their ideas from. David Jansen is superb; no surprise there, he usually was in anything, and the Javert-like Inspector Gerrard (played by Barry Morse) was superb in the role he was handed.

It was everyone else in the show; I struggled to give the slightest toss about any supporting characters, and in the end, I just gave up the struggle. This was probably my biggest disappointment. I wanted to like this show, but in the end… I didn’t.

 
 
9. Perry Mason
Now this was a show I was actively looking forward to when they announced it was being run. And, sadly, though not on the same level as The Fugitive, there was that same ‘I genuinely don’t care about the case of the week, nor the fate of the characters who appear’.

I liked Della Street, and Paul Drake (more than I’d expected to) and very much liked the resident District Attorney Hamilton Burger, but to my astonishment, I really didn’t like Perry Mason much at all. A superb lawyer, sure, but not someone I’d want to spend much, if any, time in the company of.

(I find it genuinely odd how much my views were influenced, and not in a good way, by the TV movies. That Perry Mason was someone I’d like to have known, as I would that Della Street.)

 
 
10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Everything a british spy tv should be. Everything the Gary Oldman movie got wrong, this got right and Alex Guinness was probably the best George Smiley there will ever be (though it continues to amuse me that Guinness at first didn’t think he was suitable for the role and suggested Arthur Lowe for the job).

Add in the cast from heaven and you have a show I could watch once a month for the rest of my life and still find something new every time.

One thing that’s rarely spoken on, even by those who rightly praise the adaptation to the skies: how cleverly the ‘last episode…’ opening to every episode after the first is. They re-show the final scene of the previous episodes… but shot from a different angle. I’ve never seen it done elsewhere and my gods it off-balances you every bloody time.

Superbly done.


 

OK, one more bonus bit of whimsy from the past. The ‘directors commentary’ on a classic kids’ tv show from when I was growing up: Mary, Mungo and Midge. There is no reason for me to include this other than pure silliness. But that is, of course, among the best reasons for doing anything.


If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others, less ‘about me’ ones which are probably more pleasant to read…


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

I started last week’s Ten Things, which was entitled Ten Things… about me, with the following:

Usually, these Ten Things posts are of or about things I like.

Here’s something different. Ten things you may or may not know about me, some obvious, some probably less well-known.

Friends will immediately know, appreciate and understand why I caveated the ‘…about things I like’ with ‘usually, but not this time’. No surprise that I’m not a huge fan of, well, me. I don’t like myself very much and it’s a genuine but constant surprise that anyone else does. (Mind you, as I’ve said before, merely not liking something or someone isn’t the same as actively disliking something or someone.)

But, while I was writing it, I realised that while there might have been one or two things about me that most people don’t know, there was nothing in there that was likely to surprise anyone, and for people who know me well, there probably wasn’t anything in there that even provoked a raised eyebrow.


Quick Sidebar: After I finished last week’s blog, I ended it with the words:

A different ‘ten things’ today; ten things about me; mostly things most people know. Next week: ten things most people don’t know.

That evening, a friend who shall remain nameless messaged me: ‘you sneaky bastard, I see what you’ve done there…

And I wish I could say he was wrong, on both points. But he was right, and I told myself that if anyone caught it I’d admit it. So I’m admitting it here.

Because nowhere in those final words did I say that this week’s post would be ‘ten things most people don’t know… about me’, merely that there’ll be ten things most people don’t know.

The only thing my friend was wrong about was that I hadn’t decided – as he thought I had – to deliberately mislead people. I did it to leave the option open. I wanted to leave myself some wriggle room in case I changed my mind.

As it is, I didn’t change my mind.


So here are ten things that most people probably don’t know about me. Some people will know some of them; one or two may know all of them. But most people? I doubt they know many of these.

Anyways, on with the show…

1. I’ve had a couple of stays in secure Mental Health Units
The first of several mental health items, and yeah, although I’ve alluded to mental health issues in the past, I don’t think I’ve ever publicly admitted that before. In 2011, and again in 2012, I spent a couple of weeks on each occasion in Mental Health Units. Both were what’s called ‘voluntary admissions’ but only the second was truly voluntary. The first was a Hobson’s Choice kind of situation: I was given the option of voluntarily going in… or doing in involuntarily. And since the former was likely to be far more pleasant, and lead to a shorter stay, I picked that one.

You can take it from the above that I was very very not well indeed.

The experience I had in the first experience led me to genuinely voluntarily going in for a second stay a year later. The experience I had during the second stay led me to decide never to ever voluntarily go in again.

Both stays were about two weeks in length, though the second stay involved the head of Barnet psych unit intervening to get me the hell out of there, and I went to effectively a half-way house for a further two weeks.
 
 
2. I’ve been sectioned once, for 25 hours
To this day I don’t know whether, looking at it objectively, I should have been detained under section 136 of the Mental Health Act. It’s more than possible I should have been. It’s also possible that I shouldn’t have been. All such calls are a matter of judgement and given that my brain really wasn’t working well at the time, my views on the matter may carry substantially less weight than I’d wish.

However, what I do remember from the experience is how often, and easily, I was lied to.

Twenty-five hours in a room, stripped of everything bar my light clothing, with nothing to do, nothing to play, nothing to read, nothing to write with, nothing to… do. It wasn’t fun.

I spent the time doing maths problems in my head. I could joke that maths kept me sane, but to be brutally honest, it wouldn’t be that far from the truth.
 
 
3. I’m a huge advocate for therapy and meds and anything that’ll help, anything at all… for other people.
I’m not a believer in any of that for myself. I’ve never had therapy as such. I’ve had counselling for a couple of things, but that’s a very very different animal. But even so, of the three occasions I’ve had counselling, one of them made no difference whatsoever, one of them indirectly caused harm to other people, and one actively harmed me.

So, no, not particularly eager to have counselling again were it to be offered for any reason.

As for therapy, this is where my view on maths and numbers and evidence come back to bite me in the ass. “Show me the numbers.” Show me that this therapy or that treatment or this medication or that process will help me and I’ll sign up for it. Reluctantly, because I have no faith that it will, and I’d be delighted to be surprised, but yeah, ok, I’ll give it a go.

But I’ve no interest in wasting their time or mine with something that might possibly work, but probably won’t, or possibly could, but who the fuck knows?

I’ve genuinely and honestly an antipathy to that.

And given that people say that the most important thing involved is the desire, the wish to be better, to get better, and also that that is wholly, entirely, and completely absent from me, yeah, I’d rather they peddle their wares to people who do want to be/get ‘better’.

(I once said that one of my ‘things’ is that if I truly believe something is impossible to achieve, the desire to achieve it evaporates like the dew on the dawn… Since I don’t believe it’s possible to be ‘well’, you can do the maths yourself.)
 
 
4. I dislike some very popular mental health books with a passion that could melt steel.
While I’ll freely acknowledge that most such books are written in good faith from the very best of motives, I’m reminded of the rejoinder to the line ‘everyone has a novel inside them…‘ of ‘yeah, and with some people, it should stay there.

Look, if those books have helped you, I’m genuinely pleased for you, just as I am if therapy and meds have helped you.

But there’s a certain style of mental health book that sets my teeth on edge and turns my stomach.

It’s the “I am better than I was, and I did [Thing]… so if you do [Thing], you WILL get better, because I did…” The unspoken but clear implication and coda, no matter how ostensibly they protest otherwise, is

‘…and if you don’t get better, well, that’s down to you, you must have done it wrong…and that’s YOUR fault!”

I loathe Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig for those very reasons.

I once described it as The Forest Fallacy:

Three people are dropped in different places in a dark forest, each with only a map & a compass. One makes it out, and can’t understand why the other two haven’t appeared. “I made it out, so they should; they must have done it wrong!

Meanwhile, the bears the first person didn’t encounter eat well that night.

To me, Haig’s book reeks of that. And so do several other highly successful and critically acclaimed books on mental health. Your personal favourite is probably in there somewhere.
 
 
5. There’s a lot more that I’m not comfortable talking about in public.
Notwithstanding my view that a private life is called A Private Life for a very good reason, ie it’s private, I’m in awe, generally and genuinely, at those who are, at those who can be, totally open about their health, physical and mental, and their private stuff.

I don’t have that courage and it’s taken me years even to confirm the stuff above.

I very much doubt you’ll be getting more from me about any of that, for a good while at least.
 
 
6. With the exception of my lad’s mum, my ex-wife, I’ve never been in love with anyone, and I don’t believe for the merest iota of a moment that anyone has ever been in love with me.
Oh, I’ve had crushes on people both before and after Laura; I’ve had the occasional infatuation. And I’m more than willing to stipulate that various women have been daft enough or swept up in it to very briefly fall for me. And neither am I including very close friends where the love between friends is real but not the same thing at all as romantic love.

But that “romantic love”, “being in love”? It’s been so long since I’ve felt it, or thought anyone felt it for me, I truly don’t think I’d recognise it if it occurred in either of us.
 
 
7. I hope I don’t fall in love with anyone and that no one is unluckily enough nor foolish enough to fall in love with me.
All of the above said, and meant… I genuinely, honestly, equally truly, hope love doesn’t come along. In either direction. Because I can imagine fewer things more designed to torture someone than unrequited love. Not unrequited lust, nor unrequited desire, but unrequited LOVE. And I’d rather not be tortured any more than absolutely necessary, thanks.

(And that’s leaving aside there can be few things more pitiful than a 57 year old fella falling in love with someone who probably wouldn’t even notice in the first place.)
 
 
8. I never mind not being able to write the story I want to write, if another story barges its way in.
While I completely agree with those who say, in one way or another, that any fool can start writing a story, but only a writer finishes it…

…I don’t expect what I write to be that important that if something else gets in the way to the extent that it demands to be written, I wouldn’t write the second thing.

I will. I’ll make notes for the first story, bullet points, maybe even odd snippets of text, and I may even mean to go back to it. But I’ll abandon it for the new story that is demanding to be written.

I won’t do it on a whim, I won’t do it merely because I’m finding it hard to write. I’ll do it when the new story demands to be written and the old one no longer does.
 
 
9. The lower my voice goes, the angrier I am.
I don’t tend to shout that much, but if/when I do, I’m doing so very deliberately, to make a point, or to deliberately talk over someone. If I’m angry, however, or lose my temper, the volume of my voice doesn’t go up… it goes down, sometimes way, way, down and I become ultra sensitive to what I’m saying, and how I want it to come over.

Fair to say, however, a friend, some long time ago, said he never listened to the volume of my voice when he thought I might be angry: he looked at my eyes. Because, he said, the flatter they were, the angrier I was… I dunno whether that’s changed over the years.
 
 
10. Three things I don’t know, don’t appreciate or don’t understand
video games. I don’t mean space invaders or computer versions of ‘real life/board’ games. I like playing snooker on my phone, and backgammon, and golf, and patience. I am entirely and utterly lost the moment a ‘proper’ video game, a multi-player, or shoot em up thing. I’m genuinely unsure whether it’s the lack of patience or whether it’s just the ‘I don’t give a shit about the story element’. Either way, it’s something I regret.
the theory of music, including keys. I’ve had them explained to me by expert musicians. It just won’t sink in. Hell it doesn’t even make a dent in my brain, just bounces off entirely.
the self-deprecatory “oh, I’m no good at maths, me”. I genuinely don’t understand how that’s laughed off in a way “Oh, I’m no good at English” or “Oh, I’m no good at history” would never be.

 

OK, well, that’s that done. Again.


If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others, less ‘about me’ ones which are probably more pleasant to read…


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Usually, these Ten Things posts are of or about things I like.

Here’s something different. Ten things you may or may not know about me, some obvious, some probably less well-known.

Friends will immediately know, appreciate and understand why I caveated the ‘…about things I like’ with ‘usually, but not this time’. No surprise that I’m not a huge fan of, well, me. I don’t like myself very much and it’s a genuine but constant surprise that anyone else does. (Mind you, as I’ve said before, merely not liking something or someone isn’t the same as actively disliking something or someone.)

Anyways…

1. I’m 57 years old
Yes, a fairly obvious one to start with, given the two earlier blog runs, but let’s get it out of the way first. After I hit my mid-40s, I went through the usual birthday blues as I approached my birthdays, but afterwards, well, I started realising that I am an age that I never really considered before. Oh, I mean, it’s not like I thought that I’d die from natural causes earlier – although my brother died in his 30s, most of my other relatives have lived until at least their late 60s and some much older; my dad died almost a decade ago in his early 80s; my mum’s still alive, in her mid 80s. I just never thought that much about what I’d be like in my late 50s.

And when I did idly consider it, I’m pretty sure that how I am now isn’t what I pictured.

As for being 57, well I long ago resigned myself to the end of the ‘wow, you look much younger than you are‘, but I honestly didn’t expect that at any point in my remaining years… that I’d miss it.

And I do… just a little but definitely yes. Which surprises me, just a little, but definitely yes. Because it’s been a while since anyone’s genuinely (as opposed to being kind or taking the piss) thought I looked younger than I am, and these days I’m kind of grateful if anyone believes I’m my actual age.

For years, I’ve known that the vast majority of the people I hung around with, certainly in comics and comedy, are younger than me, much younger in some cases. But the past two years in particular, it seems in many ways that the gap has widened. I’m not sure if that’s reality or just perception; given the crazy world we all now inhabit, it could easily merely be the latter. But I guess with what’s been going on in my life, either’s possible.

2. I’m a father, with a son named Philip
Yeah, another bit of fairly common knowledge. I call him “Phil” most of the time, much as he calls me ‘dad’. Unless I’m ticked off with him in which case he becomes “Philip” or he wants something… in which case I revert to “Daddyyyyyyyy?”

He’s twenty-six years old, as of a few days ago, and I would say that I love him more with every passing day if I didn’t think that was actually impossible. I’m a very proud father with, to be entirely and unbiasedly honest, a lot to be proud about.

3. I live in London
Again, shouldn’t be a surprise to people that read the blog or follow me on Twitter. Or at least I would have said it shouldn’t be a surprise, until an American friend visited recently and didn’t know where I lived, or whether it was close to central London. Which is fair enough. Even if I knew someone lived in “New York”, I wouldn’t have a clue whether they meant the state or the city and how easy it was to get around.

But yes, I live in London, not far from Abbey Road recording studios; yes, yes, the Beatles, George Martin and all of that. And I like living here; in the area I mean. It’s a short walk into central london; about 45 minutes from me to Oxford Circus, about ⅔ of that to Baker Street. (And no, if you’re curious, there isn’t a 221b Baker Street, at least not a genuine one.)

But it’s a nice area, with decent (no, autocorrect, not ‘decadent’) public transport system and a very large, very nice park that I should visit at some point. Though after almost five years living here, I’d wager it’s unlikely that I’m heading there soon if I haven’t yet.

Yeah, we get tourists looking for the fabled Abbey Road road crossing. And yeah, they’re enthusiastic. My Gods, are they enthusiastic, and excited, and you know what? I quite like that. It adds to the day, somehow; it makes the day… lighter. Which is never a bad thing.

(Though I’m still entirely bemused, I’ll admit, how anyone can find their way more than 5.000 miles across the ocean, and a few dozen miles to outside my flat… and then be unable to travel the ¼ mile to the studio without help.)

4. I write
Not enough, but I write. Prose fiction in the main, but I’ve been known to turn my attention to comics scripts (I won’t bore you with what’s been published, it’s been a very long time since I’ve had anything published, though) and, on rare occasions, doggerell or free format poetry.

I’m least happy with my efforts on the latter as I’m not a natural poet. With prose and other fiction, I can look at something and know whether I’m on the right lines or not. And even with rhyming verse, usually comedic, I can tell. With free verse poetry, I’ve no idea, not a one. I think it’s because, to me at least, it’s less rational and more emotional.

And although I can write emotions well enough in prose, I struggle in verse, because I have fewer narrative tricks I can use. At least that’s my excuse.

You get some ‘fiction from the vaults’ every Tuesday here, and new prose fiction from me every Thursday.

But as I write this, I have seven unfinished long form projects (one graphic novel, one anthology of graphic work, one anthology of short stories, one movie screenplay and one novel… and two I’m not even hinting at in here) in draft that are screaming at me to get back to them. I’m studiously ignoring the screams.

I shouldn’t.

5. I never remember my dreams
Maybe “never” is too strong a word there, but I can’t remember the last time I had a nice dream. It’d be nice to remember a nice dream. I’m sure I have them. But I only remember the nightmares, which are a usually nightly occurrence.

That said, if it was a choice of not remembering any dreams or remembering them all, I’ll take the first option, please. I’d be quite content at that; I’ve no real wish to know what my subconscious is up to, thanks all the same.

6. I sleep on average about six hours a nightspread out over eight or nine hours.
I’m rarely in bed before around half one, and then I read for a while before lights out. I’ll turn those lights out when I’m too tired to stay awake any longer, usually indicated by me not being able to remember what the hell is on the page I’ve just read.

If I go to bed earlier, and just switch off the light, I don’t sleep… I lay there awake. And since I don’t share my bed with anyone, that’s never as pleasant as it sounds.

I take heavy doses of an anti-histamine to help me sleep; to be precise theyr’e supposed to help me stay asleep; they sometimes, occasionally, work..

About once every three months, I’ll crash out early, about eight, and sleep for almost twelve hours.

(One of the underrated benefits of getting older, though: I can have a late afternoon/early evening nap with no guilt whatsoever.)

7. I don’t speak any ‘foreign’ languages… including body language
I understand smatterings of german and yiddish, but body language is definitely a complete mystery. Someone scratches their nose? To me it means they’ve an itchy nose. It does tend to confirm, however, that when it comes to the opposite sex, as I’ve mentioned before, not only would any woman interested in me have to be carrying a plank to smack me around the head, but it would probably require several beatings.

And though I know I can pay women to beat me, while I’ve no moral objection, I’d rather go without the beatings, thanks.

8. I’m far happier talking (or being) one-to-one, and with someone I already know, than in a crowd or meeting ‘new’ people
Of all the things I envy some of my friends for, it’s their ability to walk into a room with fifty people they don’t know, and thirty minutes later, they’ve had conversations with at least a dozen of them and are at ease with every bloody one of them. I’m not like that. I’m neither a naturally sociable person in a crowd, nor a naturally social animal.

Once upon a time, I could have typed something like “I wish I wasn’t as happy in my own company, but I am.” That’s no longer true. I’m not happy in my own company; I’m just unhappier in others’.

9. While not hating my looks, I remain convinced that anyone who says I’m good looking, or some such… is taking the piss.
I spent the vast majority of my growing up suffused with the conviction that I genuinely was the worst looking fella in my town. (It didn’t help matters that my older brother was genuinely very good looking and was surrounded by girls from when he was about 14. I may have loved my brother and put him on a pedestal, but the shadow of that pedestal was a cold place to be at times)

After my marriage ended, and I became, at least in others’ eyes, ‘available’, well, I know I’m not the very worst of the worst out there, but I’m far, far, far from being someone who, when he walks into a room, attracts the eyes of people with an approving “mmmmmm.”

And linking this and the last two together, I’ve never successfully “chatted anyone up”. Ever. Never happened. Never been chatted up, either – or at least if I have been, I’ve never noticed it. To this day, if I did get chatted up while out, I’d assume that it was either a setup, or friends taking the piss.

Because – bonus 9a – I’m a huge advocate of extrapolating from previous experiences, and the only times I’ve recognised I’m being chatted up while out, it’s always without exception, either been a setup, or someone taking the piss.

10. If I hold a grudge, there’s [usually] a damned good reason for it
Once upon a time, it was rare for me to fall out with someone permanently. With the vicissitudes of life being what they are, I took the view that ‘life’s too short’. If you screw up, or offend someone, then unless it’s of crucial importance, or permanently changes your opinion of someone for the worse, it’s just not worth falling out with them forever. (I’m reminded of the comment that “it takes more muscles to frown than to smile… but it’s worth the extra effort.”)

That changed in the past few years. And antisemitism was the cause; either direct or indirect, either the active commission of it, or the excusing of it, or the trivialising of it. Sadly, I fell out with a number of people over it. I say sadly because yeah, it is sad when friends fall out.

That said I don’t regret a single one. And I hope they don’t regret it either.

So, yes, on those occasions where I do fall out with someone, I don’t fall out with them merely for the sake of it; there’s a reason, and usually it’s a damn good one. And yeah, I bear grudges. Hard.
 

OK, well, that’s that done.


If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others, less ‘about me’ ones which are probably more pleasant to read…


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Last week, I started a Ten Things post, then the time and words both ran away with me so I ended it after five, always intending to complete it with the final five today.

So, here is the rest of the post I should have written last week; five more things I’m grateful for, right now. No sarcasm, no snide ‘yes, I’m really grateful for that’ while my expression could curdle milk at seventeen paces…

Just Ten Five More Things I like, and am grateful for, right this moment, with the usual Ten Things reminder… they’re not the objectively considered best things in my life, nor necessarily personal favourite things. They’re just, in no particular order, Ten Things I like… at the time of writing. (And why.)

Last week’s started with my son, comedy, comics, friends (very much including my ex-wife Laura) and… London.

And so…


It was only when I saw the last five today that I realised they share a theme, which kind of surprised me as I didn’t realise they did when I wrote them out last week.

The enthusiasm of others for things I don’t like or don’t understand
Not for everything, of course. I don’t understand, not really, enjoyment of mocking or decrying someone ‘because they’re different’. That doesn’t mean that I enjoy others’ doing it.

And I should say immediately that ‘not liking’ something isn’t the same as ‘disliking’ something. If I don’t like something, say, a tv show, then it just means that I don’t get enjoyment from it. It doesn’t mean that I actively dislike it. Some things I do actively dislike; some tv genres, for example. I actively dislike talent shows. OK, not the shows themselves, but everything that makes the shows everything that others enjoy. I dislike the auditions, which seem to me to be merely the current iteration of ‘laughing at the halfwits at Bedlam’. I dislike the judges pantomime reactions and their performative playing to the audiences. I dislike the blending of ‘quality’ and ‘popularity’, and their conflation.

But that aside… I don’t enjoy sports. There are some aspects I actively dislike, mainly due to my early experiences and for that you can blame a) my teachers at school, b) the prizing of athletic ability and my own weedy body as a youngster, and the general view at my schools that bullying while officially decried, was unofficially tolerated and encouraged.

So, no, I don’t enjoy sports, especially team sports, especially at the amateur level. It brings back too many bad memories. But professional sports? Something I have no experience with other than ‘not liking them’? So, so many of my friends do. And watching their enjoyment, that I quite like.

Same with tv shows. There are few (as above) genres I dislike, but plenty of critically acclaimed dramas and sitcoms that I merely ‘don’t like’. I don’t share other’s enjoyment of them… but I do like their enjoyment. There’s little enough in the world that brings unfettered enjoyment so when you find it, and enjoy it… I enjoy your enjoyment.

Another one: food. As I’ve mentioned before, many times, I’m not a foodie. The enjoyment of preparing, making and consuming food entirely escapes me. Honestly. If you could give me a pill that would give me all the nutrients, the feeling of fullness from eating a meal (and it didn’t taste like shit, that’d be nice), I’d take it without feeling like I was missing out at all.

My friends, every single one of them, Do Not Understand This, and most of them think I’m just saying it. I’m not. I would take such a pill. (Some have suggested the powder thing that does the rounds every so often, but to be honest, it looks so complicated to buy, measure out, use etc, I might as well stick to food…)

But I genuinely enjoy the pleasure other people take in food. Some friends love cooking and baking. I love that they enjoy that. Others are epicureans, enjoying the finest food they can… and their pleasure in that consumption is something that pleases me enormously.

I like that others like things, even if I don’t share that enjoyment, nor even understand it. If that’s odd, well, it’s not the oddest thing about me, now, is it?

The Internet
The comedian, actor and director Chris Addison once had a bit in his stage show that went, roughly:

The Internet is one of the genuine modern miracles. If I want to look up information, it’s there in a heartbeat. If I want to buy a book, or go to the cinema, or even watch a movie there and then, or even if I want to see what a traffic cam in downtown Tokyo is seeing right now, I can. At the click of a button. It’s incredible, it’s wonderful. It’s… a genuine miracle that we take for granted at our peril.

BUT… if this modern miracle, this wonder of our ages… if the internet goes down, it takes about thirty seconds for this wonder of our ages, this thing unimaginable to generations before us…

…to become a basic human right.

He’s right of course. The internet ceased to be something ‘new’ and a luxury item some time ago. Many things, certainly many interactions with the state, with national and local governments, or with your bank, can only be done online, or at least can only be done efficiently online.

And while I hugely dislike that, I do like the first bit. I was born in 1964, and discovered ‘the internet’ in my 20s. I discovered computers before that, sure; we had a teletypewriter unit at school, but ‘the internet’ I discovered in my 20s. But I didn’t ‘get online’ until I was 30. That was almost thirty years ago, and I was part of probably the last generation to think of the internet as ‘new’, and the last to still think of it as a privilege to be allowed to use the internet.

Today? I genuinely cannot imagine what life would be like without not only The Internet, but also constant access to it via phones, tablets, computers…

I like that I can, with a press of a keyboard button, or a tap on the screen, bring up the news of the day, or the weather, or a dating website (heh, yeah, not going to happen) or tv listings, or a site offering mental health advice.

Or that I can visit odd, fun, weird websites such as

See, how could you, or more importantly, I, not like that?

Technology
As I’ve mentioned before, I have a windows laptop, an Apple iPhone (currently an iPhone 12 Pro) and an iPad (currently an iPad Air 2019).

There’s nothing I can say about these that you don’t already know… except why I like them, especially the iPhone and iPad.

Simply, they do everything I need them to, and introduce me to new things that they can do that I didn’t know I’d enjoy.

Every phone I’ve ever had has had a camera.

I’ve not been able to take night photos like these on previous phones though.

I like that technology improves, and improved what you thought you needed, and what you thought you can do… which leads me straight onto…

Innovation
Well, this one is cheating, because it’s not innovation I enjoy so much as the study of it by one James Burke. I managed to finally get ahold of videos of all three series of his wonderful Connections tv show, possibly the finest ‘science explainer’ of all time. Between that, and the books and the radio shows… no one has done more to explain to the interested public in a fun, sensible, clever, entertaining way how innovation works, why it works, and what it’s meant.

As he points out, history rarely happens in the right order, with Thing A leading to Thing B, leading to Thing C. What Burke does again and again, is explain how Thing A led to Thing Omega which led to Thing Woogahoomtamoof… which led to Thing Q. And not only that, that in some cases, the same destination could have been reached by another path or seven, while for other cases, that’s the only way it could have happened to get to that destination, for the destination was never been imagined when that first domino was toppled.

This
The final thing is an odd one. Because it’s this… this blog… or, more precisely, the opportunity, ability and inclination to just type something and see where it goes. Ok, you say, you know where it goes. It goes into an app, which when I hit ‘post’ pushes the content onto a pre-formatted page on the internet.

And that’s true enough.

But as often as not, I don’t know where the blog entry will end when I start typing it. And I don’t know how it will be received. And I don’t know whether it will mean something to someone, will spark an idea of theirs. I don’t know whether they’ll like what I write.

But someone might. Someone reading this might well like what I write, might enjoy it, might have thought “that was time worth spending in his words’ company”.

And THAT? That I like very much indeed.


If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others… During the last huge blog run, I did a few ‘ten things’ I liked: individual episodes of tv shows, individual comic book issues, and pilots, and two on old movies ,then one on old-ish movies, and a couple about podcasts. And I wrote a series of Doctor Who posts, about each incarnation/regeneration, and my sometimes tenuous relationship with the show.

And in this run, I did one on things I’ve been watching during the various lockdowns plus others… and then Ten Columbo episodes I liked and Ten More Columbo Episodes I liked


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

Looking through the various Ten Things posts on this blog, and the notes I’d made for potential other Ten Things posts, I found myself genuinely unsure which to pick for today’s.

(I even – only briefly, I promise you, dear reader – pondered whether to do a “Ten Ten Things Posts I enjoyed writing” before deciding against it.)

And then, while looking at my phone, when I should have been looking where I was going… well, I was suddenly reminded of the attached for very good reasons…

Ouch.

Yes, well, I mean it’s was my foot slipping off the kerb rather than me walking into a lamppost, but it still applies.

So, while I’m currently waiting for the painkillers to kick in, I wondered whether to do a ‘Ten Things I regret”, but I’ve already done a ‘regrets‘ post earlier in this Run.

Instead, here are Ten Things I’m grateful for, right now. No sarcasm, no snide ‘yes, I’m really grateful for that’ while expression could curdle milk at seventeen paces…

Just Ten Things I like, and am grateful for, right this moment, with the usual Ten Things reminder… they’re not the objectively considered best things in my life, nor necessarily personal favourite things. They’re just, in no particular order, Ten Things I like… at the time of writing. (And why.)

And as I was writing this, I found the words ran away with me a bit.

So you get five this week, and the other five next week…


Philip Samuel Barnett
Not the hugest surprise my lad is on the list, I guess. He’s my son, and I’ve said before that nothing in life has given me so much pleasure than being his dad.

Not ‘being a dad’, though that was probably true in the early days, but being his father. He’s coming up on his twenty-sixth birthday in about a month – and anyone who’s known him for a couple of decades of that is probably feeling very old, reading that.

He lives in Wales, with his lady love, and I don’t get to see him anywhere near as much as I wish I could. Covid, oddly, led to me seeing his face more often than before, as he and his mother (my ex-wife Laura) and I started a weekly Sunday catchup on Zoom when the first lockdown hit… and we’ve carried on with it, as circumstances and individual schedules have allowed.

He’s smart, funny, plays a mean bass, and he’s kind enough to his old man to still pretend he needs advice every so often. (As often as not, of course, he doesn’t. He just needs someone he implicitly trusts to check his logic, and common sense, to confirm the reasonableness of the answer he’d come to on his own.)

I’m very proud of him. (And there’ll be more about him on 2nd November if the blog runs through until then; apart from anything else, it’s the only day I can get away with posting baby pictures of him, and I enjoy doing that.)

Comedy
Most of my friends missed live music during the past couple of years that we’ve all lived through. Oh, they missed lots of other things, of course, but it’s live music that they really missed, and the return of live music that marked – for them – some slow return to what we sometimes only semi-jokingly call ‘normality’.

For me, it’s been live comedy. My hat, I’ve missed live comedy. And no, I don’t have a hat and I’m not getting a hat. Why are you asking me about hats?

For every friend of mine who’s understandably complained about missing this tour or that tour, there’s been me complaining about not being able to go to The Distraction Club, or Old Rope, or What Has The News Ever Done For Me?

And Edinburgh. Ah, Edinburgh. Missing 2019’s Edinburgh Fringe… because it was cancelled… hurt. But it was kind of understandable, inevitable even.

This year’s however? Where I genuinely intended to go, no matter how small the Fringe and Festival were? Missing this year’s… hurt.

And yes, there was some mitigation, as comedians were forced to find new ways of entertaining their audiences. I watched live shows streaming on Youtube, and on Zoom, and on one occasion listened to a show when the video feed failed.

But it wasn’t the same. It’s not the same as sitting in a room, with dozens of others, hundreds of others, maybe, listening to a comedian work… experiencing that strange things that happens to an audience when a comedian is on form. Laughing with others, enjoying the craft of the comedian, loving the gag, crying with laughter as they take your hand and lead on a journey that starts with the mundane and then, while reality turns right, the shared experience takes a sharp left.

I’m grateful to comedy, and the comedians who’ve made the last 18 months just a little less awful, who’ve lightened the load just a bit, just enough, to make the next gig, the next show, something to look forward to, and the next day, something that you, or I at least, don’t dread.

Comics
And I realise, as I type the words, that it would be too easy to just say “see Comedy”, but that would run the risk of someone thinking I was talking about “comics” meaning comedians, as opposed to “comics” meaning, well, comic books.

I’ve reread a lot of comics the past year. But I’ve read them on and off, spending an evening in the company of old friends, stories I’ve read any number of times, The past week, though, ever since my wander through london with an old friend, I’ve been reading a lot more comics, and reading them for longer.

It’s not unusual for me to read in bed for half an hour or more before I fall asleep; I sometimes read comics then.

But rarely have I taken trade paperbacks out to read while out, until this week. My bag has had a different trade every day.

And, as I’ve been reading, I’ve been paying more attention to the craft as well, for the first time in I can’t remember how long. I’ve kind of liked the change in my routine, which has surprised me.

Friends
And the memory of last Sunday, in the company of my friend, leads me straight onto this.

I’m not an easy person to be a friend with. That’s not false modesty; I’m not trawling for compliments or anything like that. It’s just a statement of fact. I’ve never been the most social nor sociable of people, and I’m far too selfish in day to day interactions. That last didn’t used to be a central part of who I am, I think. Or at least I hope it didn’t. But I know it is now. Part of it is the fallout from the mental health issues to which I allude every so often, but I genuinely worry that that’s an easy excuse, a convenient ‘go to’ more often than it should be.

I’m very grateful to the friends I have, who put up with me being, well… me.

the not being partially social not sociable, that long predates the events of a decade ago, but I suspect they gave a similar root cause.

I like my friends; I like that they’re funny and clever and have a low tolerance for bullshit and a high tolerance for me. And I’m very very grateful that they are my friends.

(I just typoed that I’m very grateful they’re my fiends. I’m every more grateful that they’d be just as amused at that as I am.)

But especially, I’m eternally grateful to those who’ve put themselves out for me, and accepted me being, again… me.

London
This is a weird one as I’m not entirely sure what it is about London that I like.

Because what I like about London is often what people who don’t like London suggest it’s what they don’t like about London. Which is… odd, at best.

I like that London is… busy, that it rarely… stops. I like that if I go for a wander in the wee small hours, there’ll be somewhere I can find where I can have a hot drink. Not many places, but some. I like that there are so many people, and that I know barely any of them. I like that it’s easy to get around in, and that there are so many buses and underground stations. (The current ‘fucking hell, people, why aren’t you wearing masks???’ notwithstanding.)

I like that it’s a multicultural city and that in some areas, you can walk for a couple of miles and hear a dozen different languages, and thick accents, and not understand any of them. I like that, no matter what your tastes in food and culture, and music, you can find somewhere that caters to all of them. And I like that those various cultures openly celebrate those cultures, with festivals and the like.

Whether or not I like his policies, I like that I live in a city that could, that did, elect a Muslim mayor, in the face of a frankly racist campaign against him.

And I like living in a city that has… memories around every corner, on every street, down every mews, and across every road. Not only my own recollections, what with my having lived here so long, but its own history. I’m a ¼ mile from Abbey Road recording studios, with its history, in one direction, a ½ mile from Kilburn, in another. And I’m maybe ¾ hour walk from Oxford Circus, and Bond Street and half a dozen names foreigners only recognise from a Monopoly board.

I don’t know whether I’m considered a Londoner; I mean, I’ve only lived here for 35 years. But I like that I might be.


If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others… During the last huge blog run, I did a few ‘ten things’ I liked: individual episodes of tv shows, individual comic book issues, and pilots, and two on old movies ,then one on old-ish movies, and a couple about podcasts. And I wrote a series of Doctor Who posts, about each incarnation/regeneration, and my sometimes tenuous relationship with the show.

And in this run, I did one on things I’ve been watching during the various lockdowns plus others… and then Ten Columbo episodes I liked and Ten More Columbo Episodes I liked


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

Preface: OK, this was fairly inevitable, wasn’t it? As I was preparing last week’s final ‘tv themes’ post, I knew I’d need a new Ten Things post for this week, and I received quite a few ‘but how could you miss out…?’ Comments after I did my first Columbo Ten Things.

As I said last time, though, there are so many good, so many bloody good, episodes to choose from, that throwing ten darts at a list of the almost 70 Columbo episodes produced? You’re gonna hit 8 or 9 good ones and 3 or four that would make most people’s lists.

As with last time, I’m going to limit it to two of each in the entirely arbitrary categories I’ve chosen to use. So, two [more] clever murders, two [more]wonderful baddies, two [more] lovely relationship pieces, two [more] ‘lightbulb moments’ and two [more] reveals.

Again, as before, however, I’m going to inevitably neglect some wonderful episodes, maybe your favourite. Sorry.

I’ll stick the previous entry’s pics in italics under the category title, just in case you’re reading this post first and wondering why the hell I missed out the obvious – to you – episode.

WARNING: Many, many, MANY spoilers below. If you don’t want to see them, best look away now.

And the usual Ten Things reminder… they’re not the objectively considered best, nor necessarily personal favourites. They’re just Ten Things/Subjects I like… at the time of writing. (And why.)

OK, preface over, blog begins.


 

*** TWO [MORE] CLEVER MURDERS
[Earlier post: Publish Or Perish and Short Fuse]

How To Dial A Murder (1978)
When the question comes up, as it often does, who would you cast as a baddie in Columbo, I’m not entirely sure what whoever-suggested-Nicol-Williamson was drinking, but it was a mark of genius. Williamson excels in the role, while seemingly effortlessly not actually taking it too seriously. I’m sure he did, by the way, but he’s not exactly perfectly suited for the show. What he is perfectly suited for, however, is the type of murder that his character – Eric Mason – commits: murder at a distance, while Mason remains entirely secure and safe elsewhere.

The sheer… satisfaction as he hears the murder being committed is odd to watch, to be honest.; he’s trained his dogs to attack on hearing a word that Mason manipulates his victim into saying. But again, it fits the character perfectly.

What’s ‘nice’ about this episode, apart from the murder and the reveal (although I’m not as big a fan of it as others seem to be, and the ‘eureka moment’ is a bit too coincidental for me) is how much Columbo and Mason just plain dislike each other as people. Columbo’s faux ‘just trying to find out what happened’ attitude rankles Mason more than usual and once Columbo realises that, he seems, very subtly, to increase the edginess of it.


 
 

Double Exposure (1973)
I go back and forth on how much this episode has dated. Honestly. One day I’ll think it’s too obvious, given what we now know about subliminal triggers, and yet another I’ll be convinced it could still work as a murder mystery if the trigger was more cleverly hidden, more up to date. I dunno.

What I do know is that Robert Culp excels – as he always did – in the roles of baddie. There’s an inherent arrogance in all of Culp’s baddies in the show that fairly invites Columbo to puncture it. Never pompous in the way that Shatner’s were, never quietly confident as others were. It’s sheer, unfettered, arrogance. He knows he’s smarter than Columbo; hell, he knows he’s probably the smartest person in any room into which he walks. And that definitely applies here to Dr Bart Keppel, a master of motivational research.

The very idea that he could be outsmarted doesn’t even occur to Keppel.

I’m not sure how novel the ‘I’ll step out of the way of the projector so you can enjoy the pictures [and I’ll switch to a tape so no one knows I’m off murdering someone]” was at the time, but I’ve seen it done any number of times since. But how it’s done is clever. As is the murder itself, which is equal parts simplicity and elegance; brutally simple, elegantly executed. While helming a presentation, Culp’s character shows a video into which is cut subliminal shots of cool drinks aimed at his victim, and shots telling the shortly-to-be-victim how thirsty he is. This after he’s fed him salty caviar. At the same time, the room is warmed.

The victim steps out (in the dark so no one’s sure he’s left at first) to get a drink… and is shot by Culp, who everyone else there will swear blind was narrating the video presentation at the time. Nicely done, Dr Keppel.


 

 
 
** TWO [MORE] WONDERFUL BADDIES
[Earlier post: Dr Ray Flemming – Prescription: Murder and Wade Anders – Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous To Your Health]

Note that I’m saving the ‘wonderful baddies because they’re fun to watch with Columbo’ for a moment’s time. These two are just out and out wonderfully evil.

I tried to resist doing what I’m about to do, but couldn’t… as I kept coming back to these two characters. Again and again.

The Great Santini – Now You See Him (1976)
Someone once described Santini as “the nazi you’ll enjoy watching’ and I kind of get what they mean. Yeah, he’s a nazi SS guard who escaped after the war, got to America and set himself up as a stage magician… who becomes very very famous. the owner of the club knows it and blackmails Santini who greets a demand for more money with delight, as you can imagine. In fairly quick order, he uses a few magic tricks (including one that utterly fascinated me as a kid when I saw it) to kill the club opener while everyone in the audience is convinced that Santini is suspended inside a locked glass tank filled with water, trying to, y’know, escape from said locked glass tank filled with water.

Santini commits the murder, then ‘escapes’ and is on stage at the moment the body is discovered.

Santini takes an obvious dislike to Columbo, apparently semi-convinced that the cop is just there to steal secrets… and Santini values secrets. Any and all secrets… alibi? Well, obviously I was on stage. “But it’s a trick.” “Of course.” “How’s it done?” “Not telling!”

When Columbo does the reveal, there’s a moment, just the faintest moment, though, when Santini loses his arrogance. He’s stunned by the step by step that Columbo has done, topped off by a bit of magic of his own. But you know, you just know, that the moment Santini leaves the room, his arrogance and assured confidence will return.

(I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up running the prison he’s put into, given his talent with locks and magic and experience, shall we say, with blackmail.)


 
 
Ken Franklin – Murder By The Book (1971)
The first of the Columbo episodes proper, broadcast almost exactly 50 years ago, in September 1971. After two pilots, this was the one the producers decided would be the episode to demonstrate to the viewing audience what the show was all about. And they nailed it.

From the opening scene, one hell of an establishing shot by a young director named, what was it? Oh yeah, Steven Spielberg.

And what a baddie. Ken Franklin. A womanising, smart, clever, utterly amoral, wholly selfish writer who kills his ‘Mrs Melville’ writing partner who wants to dissolve the partnership so he can publish his own work; understandable, really, since the partner does pretty much all of the writing anyway. From the moment he kills the partner, things start to go sideways as a) Columbo starts to nose around, and is pretty sure from the first moment that Franklin’s involved and b) Franklin himself has to do more and more to cover up and explains mistakes he made.

Another murder follows, and I really like how Franklin reacts to the reveal. His sureness punctured, his plans in a mess, everything’s gone wrong and it’s only at that point that you sympathise at all with him, when he almost but not quite boasts that the first murder was tghe only decent idea for a murder he ever had.

It’s a stunning reversal and unlike Santini, you wonder whether he’ll ever be sure of his own rightness ever again.


 

** TWO [MORE] LOVELY RELATIONSHIPS
[Earlier post: Adrian Carsini – Any Old Port in a Storm and ]

Tommy Brown – Swan Song (1974)
I’ve seen this episode any number of times and I’m damned if I can say why Tommy Brown isn’t utterly detested as a character by everyone involved, including Columbo and including the viewers. I mean, it can’t just be down to Johnny Cash as a person, let alone his portrayal, can it? I suspect the answer to that is, well, yeah.

Because there’s no reason why Columbo shouldn’t loathe him. And yet, the scenes between them are glorious and there’s a definite grudging admiration for how Brown came out of ‘nothing’ and sang like he did.

I dunno – definitely not in the Carsini or Mitchell mould, but there’s definitely something when these two are on the screen together. (Although I’m far from convinced by Brown’s final lines to Columbo.)


 
 
Lauren Straton – It’s All In The Game (1993)
Faye Dunaway. What the hell can you say about Faye Dunaway that hasn’t been said before. Fantastic actor – no, truly fantastic, and almost the only suspect on Columbo that… well, let’s just say that his mind wasn’t always on the job.

OK, the usual stuff out of the way: Dunaway’s character and her [secret] daughter discover they both have the same lover; Lauren kills him then the daughter stays with the body, keeping it warm under a blanket. Then when mother and building manager arrive, she fires a shot and escapes.

Long story short, Columbo figures it out, braces Stratton and says the daughter will go down for murder unless… after which Stratton says she’ll confess in full, as long as Columbo lets her take all the blame.

OK, so far, so mundane (apart from Columbo letting a conspirator escape.)

Except that for once, the murder and the solution are almost a side-bar. What makes this episode special is the chemistry between Columbo and Dunaway’s character. The screen… sizzles when they’re both on screen. Columbo of course would never betray Mrs Columbo, but for a moment or two, neither the viewer nor Columbo (as shown) is absolutely sure of that.

Rarely has Dunaway seemed more… vulnerable, yet quietly confident. At no point during the episode is Columbo even aware that the younger woman is Stratton’s daughter until right at the end… and how they get away with that is a demonstration of the writer’s and director’s skill. Oh the writer? One Peter Falk. You may have heard of him.


 

** TWO [MORE] EUREKA MOMENTS
[Earlier post: A Trace of Murder and Uneasy Lies The Crown]

Murder Under Glass (1978)
This is kind of a cheat to include but it’s such a glorious moment when the eureka moment is revealed that I’m not even going to pretend there was any temptation to resist including it.

(Not for nothing, the episode was going to make it in somehow; either here or as Louis Jourdan’s character’s marvellous report with Columbo. Not for once a liking for each other, but a distinct dislike. Still counts, though.)

Jourdan’s plays a restaurant critic, Paul Gerard, who supplements his income by receiving bribes for reviews, poisons the wine of a restauranteur won’t won’t pay for a good review and threatens to expose the critic. He poisons the wine while they’re having dinner together.

Of course Columbo works it out. But for once the eureka moment wasn’t “how did he do it?’ But instead ‘how did Columbo KNOW that Gerard was the murderer?’

That eureka moment? Oh you don’t see the moment itself. Sorry.

No, Columbo tells the murderer what it was… after the reveal.

It was that Gerard didn’t seek medical advice when police informed him that the victim had been poisoned, and instead came immediately to the restaurant to help with enquiries. “That’s the damnedest example of good citizenship I’ve ever seen,” Columbo observes.

 
  
A Matter Of Honor (1976)
This is one of the sweeter reveals, I must admit. And as sometimes happens, the rest of the episode is fairly so-so. I mean, sure Ricardo Montalban is a superb baddie, the shield of his [once deserved] arrogance one moment away from cracking throughout. But the murder itself is fairly pedestrian, the reveal is… ok. And the supporting cast is similarly… ok.

And the eureka moment is… ok, well it’s shoehorned in, but what I like about it is that it’s enough for lots of dominoes to fall for Columbo.,, It’s the single thing that makes everything else make sense for him. He was sure Montalban’s character – a revered bullfighter, now retired but still hugely respected – had murderer the victim.

He was edging towards why but he couldn’t prove it. Until… until… he sees some children playing bullfighting and discovers precisely why they soak the cape. And… eureka.

 
** TWO [MORE] REVEALS
[Earlier post: Suitable for Framing and The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case]

Ransom For A Dead Man (1971)
I hadn’t seen this for ages until – on one of its reruns – I wanted it last week and was blown away. I’d genuinely forgotten his good this was, Whoever came up with the idea of Lee Grant as the follow up baddie to Gene Barry earned their pay that month and how.

Utterly ruthless, completely amoral, and yet, completely and utterly different from Barry’s character.

And what nails her at the end, what makes the reveal so satisfying, is Columbo’s realisation that Grant’s character has no conscience whatsoever. Her amorality, something she thought of as one of her greatest strengths, was what sunk her.

Grant plays Leslie Williamson, a successful lawyer who’s tired of her elderly husband, so kills him. As you would, when you’re a successful lawyer who’s tired of her elderly husband, obviously.

But She Can Haz Smarts, so she fashions a ransom demand, and keeps the money, (It’s a bit more complicated than that, but not much.)

She buys the step-daughter (who thinks, for some reason, that step-mommy killed daddy) off with much money, so much money that she dips into the ransom money to top up the payoff.

After she sees step-daughter off at the airport, Williamson sees Columbo who’s apparently there for another reason. They go for a drink; she’s quietly confident she’s beaten him, and lets him know it,. He agrees, saying he was sure she had…

…and then a parcel is delivered to them. He opens it and inside is the ransom money Leslie just paid to the step-daughter.

“Mrs. Williams, you have no conscience and that’s your weakness. Did it ever occur to you that there are very few people who would take money to forget about a murder? It didn’t, did it? I knew it wouldn’t.”

Beautifully done.

 

This final one was probably the most requested ‘how could you leave this out?’ I received after the first post. I wasn’t convinced, to be honest, until I rewatched it and saw what everyone else meant. I mean, I still think the two I used in the first post deserved their places, but yeah, so does this one.

Negative Reaction (1974)
Once again, Columbo uses a character’s own self-confidence and sureness in their own mastery of their chosen field… against them.

But for once, Columbo steps over a moral line that he’s not entirely sure leaves him smelling of roses.

Dick Van Dyke’s character – Paul Galesko – kidnaps his own wife, someone he views as a harridan holding him back, snaps a photo to show she’s actually, y’know, been kidnapped, with a clock in the background showing the wrong time. Then kills her.

To ‘get’ him at the end, Columbo creates false evidence, a reversed image of the key photographic evidence, to show Galesko’s alibi is false. He then tells Galesko that while doing so, Columbo accidentally destroyed the original photo…

Galesko then says “ah-ha, but the film of the original photo will still be in the camera!” And immediately picks out the camera in the evidence store used originally for the photo to ‘prove’ his alibi. The problem is that only the murderer the killer could know which camera was used. Oops.

Great reveal, great manipulation. Not taking anything away from that, but yeah, it leaves a slight sourness. Which of course just enhances the scene.


 

** BONUS
 
Patrick McGoohan
It’s a genuine surprise to me, looking back at the twenty episodes I’ve highlighted that none of them involved Patrick McGoohan. I mean, his episodes were flat out marvellous. All were clever murders, all had great scripts and the interaction between his baddies and columbo were never less than fantastic.

It’d be wrong for me, just wrong, not to at least mention him in this post.

So… Patrick McGoohan.

There. I’ve mentioned him.

 


If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others… During the last huge blog run, I did a few ‘ten things’ I liked: individual episodes of tv shows, individual comic book issues, and pilots, and two on old movies ,then one on old-ish movies, and a couple about podcasts. And I wrote a series of Doctor Who posts, about each incarnation/regeneration, and my sometimes tenuous relationship with the show.

And in this run, I did one on things I’ve been watching during the various lockdowns plus others…


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

[This is Part The Sixth, click on the links for Part the First, Part the Second, Part The Third, Part The Fourth, Part The Fifth, and the extra post I did about the Who theme]

And here we are. At long last, after six weeks, the sixth and final part of this run through tv themes I like, in alphabetical order.

Why am I doing it? Well, I laid out in detail way back in the very first part of this mini-run, but honestly? It’s just a bit of fun and a longer-than-strictly-necessary answer to the question:

‘What is your favourite tv theme?’

Because I don’t have one answer. I don’t think I’ve ever just had one answer. Or ten. Or twenty. There are dozens I like, for many various and very different reasons.

Look, I tried to narrow it down, honestly. But I didn’t try that hard, because I didn’t really feel obliged to.

So, after five lots of ten tv themes in previous weeks (see above), here are the final ten themes I like from my iPhone’s playlist of 150 or so.

And as with previous weeks, I suspect there’ll be some that won’t surprise you, hope that there are possibly one or two that might… and, as always, maybe one or two you weren’t aware of, or had entirely forgotten.

Anyway, here we go…

 


Theme 51: Ski Sunday

Another sports one, and another BBC sports one that hasn’t essentiaslly changed in decades, because it works and it’s become irrevocably linked with slaloms and people shooting down mountains at speeds that are far too fast for anyone entirely sane to contemplate.


 


Theme 52: Space: 1999

Given when this was written for the show, it’s astonishing to me that it still works and could easily be a theme tune from a more recent show. Clever editing on the titles, and especially the change for every episode to include the ‘this episode’ makes this one definitely one of my favourites. (And, amusingly, last week, I heard the opening sting used as someone’s text message tone not that long ago. As with Catweazle, there was an immediate grin of memory from all of us, of a certain age, present.)


 


Theme 53: St Elsewhere

e.r. before e.r. existed. A superb, clever show for 99.99% of its run; let’s not talk about that final episode, though, eh? But clever titles, a catchy fun tune.


 


Theme 54: Thunderbirds

I dunno what can possibly be said about this theme tune that hasn’t been said by others far more intelligent and wise than me. With the possible exception that only just now did I realise where Space: 1999 got the idea for the ‘this episode’ bit from. I mean, if you’re gonna steal, steal from yourselves. But yeah, a great theme tune that’s lasted fondly in everyone’s memories for all the right reasons.

Oh, but before we leave Thunderbirds entirely… you may have heard the <em>Thunderbirds </em> theme above and before, but never quite like this:

 


Theme 55: The Tomorrow People

One of the best kids’ sf shows around when I was growing up, and a classic theme, unsettling, weird, and designed to make you feel uncomfortable, a trick it achieves easily.


 


Theme 56: UFO

Another great show, another great theme. But every time I see the opening titles, it’s the “1980” that throws me. It’s ‘my’ “Blade Runner’s set in 2019”, if you get what I mean.


 


Theme 57: Van der Valk

This was everywhere when I was a kid. The theme tune hit the record charts and just refused to leave. I mean, I get why. And as the opening titles show, it’s a lovely tune to have a wander by. I mean, it’s no Shaft, but it’ll do.


 


Theme 58: Washington Behind Closed Doors

I really want to rewatch this show. Inspired by the Watergate scandal, and indeed based on a pretty good novel – The Company – by John Ehrlichman, one of the players in the whole clusterfuck, the opening titles, and especially the opening theme, is full of urgency and militarism and ‘official’ stuff. It’s great.


 


Theme 59: White Horses

Like Follyfoot in the third post in this run, this is from my childhood, and, like Follyfoot, to do with horses. But this is one of those series of shows that the BBC bought, dubbed, and then showed on a Saturday morning to kids who loved telly.

Like me.

For decades afterwards, I barely remembered the storyline, convinced that it was set at the Austrian Riding School. Nope, a quick look up destroyed that idea. It was set on the farm where the horses that went to the riding school were bred.

Anyway, the theme they used for foreign broadcast is one of those themes that sticks in your head, from the opening horns, to the gentle lyrics, sung by Irish singer Jackie Lee.


 


Theme 60: The Zoo Gang

Suitable that this is the final theme in the run, since it’s genuinely one of my favourites. Written by Paul McCartney and performed by Wings, its’ very much of its day – the 1970s – and just about perfect for the show.

The original book the show is based on (a series of short stories) is a lot ‘harder’ than the tv show, more brutal and the lead characters aren’t quite as… nice. But the basic plot is the same, and we’ll explained by the opening titles.


 

 

And that’s it.

Well, that was fun.

See you tomorrow, with… the usual Saturday ‘something else’.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

[This is Part The Fifth, click on the links for Part the First, Part the Second, Part The Third, Part The Fourth, and the extra post I did about the Who theme]

OK, time for the fifth and penultimate part of this run through tv themes I like, in alphabetical ordert.

Why am I doing it? Well, I said in detail four weeks ago, in the first part of this thing, but honestly? It’s just a bit of fun and a longer-than-strictly-necessary answer to the question:

‘What is your favourite tv theme?’

Because I don’t have one answer. I don’t even have ten. There are dozens I like, for various and different reasons.

Look, I tried to narrow it down, honestly.

But I couldn’t, and didn’t really want to. So, anyway, here are another ten themes I like from my iPhone’s playlist of 150 or so. And as with previous weeks, there’ll be some that won’t surprise you, possibly one or two that might… and, again, maybe one or two you weren’t aware of, or had entirely forgotten.

Anyway, here we go…


Theme 41: The New Avengers

There were a couple of versions of this opening titles sequence; one with no fancy graphics, and then this, which was to my mind by far the cleverest opening sequence The Avengers ever did in any incarnation. I like this one a lot.


 


Theme 42: News 24 Countdown

There’s no way I should like a News theme, particularly one that I often skip through when it’s pops up on telly. I just want the news, after all, not the preface.

But shorn of the actual news itself, I really like this as a theme. It’s clever and authoritative.

Ok, two bits of entirely unwarranted fun, since I’ve included the News 24 Countdown.

I arguably should have included this as an extra in the Doctor Who theme post… but better late than never…

And this… well, this is just sheer joy, and we need more sheer joy in life.

 


Theme 43: Pinky and the Brain

They redid the theme with new lyrics and new arrangements when the Animanicans returned last year. I prefer the original.


 


Theme 44: Pot Black

Pot Black was a knockout snooker thing, featuring, usually the top 16 players. It wasn’t a tour event, the winner got a trophy and nothing much else. And yet, it was required viewing when I was a kid if you liked snooker. Much more relaxed that tournament, this for the first time was people who were obviously for the most part friends playing each other. And you got to see them a bit relaxed. There’s no reason why they should have used George Botsford’s Black and White Rag, performed by Winifred Atwell, for Snooker but it bloody works perfectly, doesn’t it?


Theme 45: The Professionals

Once again, a show that had several theme tunes, but this one show where the transition fucked up. The first one – shown below, because I like the voiceover – had a voiceover. Then they switched to a new sequence, the one most people remember, that didn’t have a voiceover. And some idiot, when it went into syndication, just added the voiceover to the non-voiceover videos, and it’s over video that very much shouldn’t have a voiceover. So the voiceover makes no bloody sense at all on those episodes.

Sigh.

Anyway, here’s the original.


 


Theme 46: The Protectors

Perfectly edited video over a perfectly edited and arranged instrumental of The Avenues And Alleyways. (They used the full song as the closing credits.) just superb.


 


Theme 47: Question Time

There are so many versions of this theme tune, that I just chose one I like if for no reason other than it lasts longer than the ten seconds or so version that they started using a few years back.)


 


Theme 48: Rhoda

There’s a line in the opening introduction that I don’t believe a single Jewish person in their 20s didn’t recognise from their own mothers and their own life. And a superbly catchy theme tune.


 


Theme 49: The Saint

Absolutely perfect for the show, absolutely perfect for the graphics, absolutely perfectly catchy, and immediately identifiable. I like it.


 

Though, to be fair, the Return of the Saint was pretty good, and clever, as well.

 


Theme 50: Screen Test

This is one of those that I bet that maybe, maybe, only one of those reading this will remember. A quiz show for kids, I loved it. And the theme tune stuck in my head for decades afterwards.


 

 

 

OK, part the sixth – the final part – next week, when we cover from Ski Sunday through to The Zoo Gang.

See you tomorrow, with… the usual Saturday ‘something else’.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

[This is Part The Fourth, click on the links for Part the First, Part the Second, Part The Third, and the extra post I did about the Who theme]

OK, time for the fourth part of this run through tv themes I like, in alphabetical order.

Why am I doing it? To be fair, if you’ve read this far, you probably know. But just in case you’re new to the blog… I laid it out in detail three weeks’ back in the first part of this thing, but honestly? It’s just a bit of fun, and a longer-than-strictly-necessary answer to the question:

‘What is your favourite tv theme?’

Because as I’ve shown thus far, I don’t have one answer. I don’t even have ten. There are dozens I like, for various and different reasons.

And, I tried to narrow it down, honestly. But I couldn’t, and with equal honesty, it’s fai to acknowledge that I didn’t really want to.

So, anyway, here are another ten themes I like from my iPhone’s playlist of 150 or so. And as with last week, there’ll maybe be some that won’t surprise you, possibly one or two that might… and, hopefully, maybe one or two you weren’t aware of, or had entirely forgotten.

Anyway, here we go…


Theme 31: Laverne and Shirley

I thoroughly enjoyed Happy Days as a kid bnut I was never its biggest fan. But the first time I saw Laverne and Shirley as characters, and then saw their own show, I abolsutely loved it. Everything about it, including the very weird opening to their theme. But while there was no-one on Happy Days that I would have liked to know, would have liked to have met…

…I very much would have liked to have known Laverne and Shirley as people, even though they probably wouldn’t have thought much of me, either at the time or now.


 


Theme 32: Law & Order

I’ve chosen one of the openings from later on in the run, mainly because I liked the ensemble cast the final few seasons.

But with the exception of the pilot (which kept the same theme but had different visuals) and it being a bit shorter than the first few seasons, this is pretty much how the titles were through the run.


Theme 33: Law & Order | UK

I like the “UK” version of the show and I really like the theme tune. Very different from the US parent, but I like it a lot.


 

Amusingly, someone created an US version with the UK cast, using SVU theme and graphics. I kind of like this as well, but it’s very… odd.


Theme 34: Lost In Space

One show where the first theme the show used wasn’t the one that it became known for. Great theme, catchy as hell.


 


Theme 35: MacGyver

Oh gods, this one’s good. Nothing wrong with this one at all, except these days you watch it and cannot believe his hairstyle… But yeah, the opening, the setup, the pay-off.

Just about perfect.


 


Theme 36: Magnum P.I.

Always on the list of cracking tv themes, usually next to the A-Team. At the time, I think the final quirky eye-brows bit added to it. These days, I don’t think any visuals would have hurt. Just spot on for the show it was opening.

The only strange thing about the titles that strikes me now is the lettering. It looks… odd, somehow. And I couldn’t tell you why. It just looks like it’s from a different show entirely.


 


Theme 37: Mike Hammer

A bluesy, messy, melancholic theme for a messy, melancholic, bluesy show. With the exception, possibly, of his appearance in the Bourne movie from a few years ago, Keach was better in this than in any other thing he did. And the theme tune did what it needed: set up the show you were about to watch.


 


Theme 38: Miss Marple

I think this is basically someoen taking the original background graphics and refining the lettering. Either way, the theme is once again just about perfect for Miss Marple. Very “English garden’ with just a hint of ‘isn’t everything just a bit too perfect?’ laced in.


 


Theme 39: Murder One

I’d never seen a show like Murder One before it screened; I don’t think I’ve seen one as good since. And the titles exemplified that. Original, clever, and you’re constantly off-balance. One of only two shows that – when it was on – I actively avoided reading anytghing vent tangentially related, just in case I stumbled across a spoiler. (The other was the first season of 24)


 


Theme 40: Nationwide

A magazine tv rfegional news programme in the UK when I was a kid. The theme tune was the best thing about it, and one I actively looked for when I discovered the website with thousands of themes.


 

OK, part the fifth next week, with another ten from The New Avengers through Screen Test.

See you tomorrow, with… the usual Saturday ‘something else’.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

[This is Part The Third of this series within the run; click on the links for Part the First, Part the Second, and the ‘extra’ post about Who]

OK, time for the third part of this run through tv themes I like, in alphabetical order.

Why am I doing it? Well, I laid it out in detail in the first part of this thing, two weeks ago, but honestly? It’s just a bit of fun and a longer-than-strictly-necessary answer to the question:

‘What is your favourite tv theme?’

Because I don’t have one answer. I don’t even have ten. There are dozens I like, for various and different reasons.

Look, I tried to narrow it down, honest I did.

But I couldn’t, and, equally honestly, I didn’t really want to.

So, anyway, here are another ten themes I like from my iPhone’s playlist of 150 or so. And as with last week, there’ll be some that won’t surprise you, possibly one or two that might… and, again, just maybe one or two you weren’t aware of, or had entirely forgotten.

Anyway, here we go…

Theme 21: Falcon Crest

We ended up with Dallas last week, and now we have what, to my mind, is the best of the rest, the best theme tune of the 1980s blockbuster evening soap operas. From the opening bars, it says ‘this is big’, and the rest of the opening titles show it as well. (Not for nothing, I always liked the show as well; something about how the goodies were never quite that selfless, but the baddies were out and out pantomime villains who usually – but not always – thought themselves the heroes.

I read years later that it was written as the anti-Waltons, and given that it was created by the same fella who did that show – Earl Hamner Jr – I can’t altogether blame him.


 


Theme 22: Fame

One of those themes that from the first seconds you not only know what’s playing, you’re glad to hear it. A pretty much perfect setup for the show you’re going to watch, the theme had several versions over the years, and I’ve a personal preference for the earlier cast, but to be honest, they were all great.


 


Theme 23: The Family Ness

I’d say this is a guilty secret but it’s no such thing. I’ve no idea what the show was like, to be honest; I never watched it. But I love this theme tune more than is appropriate for a grown adult. There’s just nothing wrong with it at all.


 


Theme 24: Follyfoot

This is from a show I barely remember as a kid. Not quite true; I remember the set up and the characters, including one lad who was supposed to be a ‘bad boy’ but it was very much a 1970s kids’ show, so not that bad. But the storylines? The main story, the relationships between the characters? Nope. Hardly any of that.

But wow that theme tune. Very different to anything else at the time, and I remember it very fondly.


 


Theme 25: Good Omens

One of the few very modern shows in the whole list, for several reasons. For a start, so many shows these days have 10 or 20 second ‘sting’ and then they run the episode, while overlaying the opening credits. It’s a pity; I – pretty obviously – miss the days when shows had proper minute long opening titles.

The other reason this show is in here is because I really like them. the theme is glorious, the animation is fun, and the combination is glorious.


 


Theme 26: Grandstand

One of the most recognisable of British sports tv themes in history. In part because effectively the same theme, with various arrangements, was used for decades, and because there was bugger all else to watch on a Saturday afternoon.

Again, a theme that’s perfect for its genre; this is so obviously about sports that it barely needs saying.


 


Theme 27: Hawaii Five O

Every so often, someone will be introduced with “and here’s someone who needs no introduction… but I’m going to deliver one anyway.”

Here’s the single theme that, possibly only Mission: Impossible and Doctor Who apart, is the single theme that genuinely needs no introduction. So I’m not giving it one.


 


Theme 28: Hill Street Blues

One of the first US tv themes that became A Thing. Very different to anything else that had done the rounds; it was gentle, and clever, and told you from the first moment: this isn’t Starsky & Hutch, this isn’t Kojak, this is something… different. It felt like a family show, which it shouldn’t have. It was a cop show. And yet the opening worked superbly for the show.


 


Theme 29: JAG

I’m a sucker for military based theme tunes, marches. Honestly, I am… you’re gonna see that in a later week as well. JAG‘s is just about perfect, and does exactly what it’s supposed to. The first season’s opening titles seemed almost embarrassed that it was a show about military law, but later seasons’ titles were confident enough to show it was at least partly set in a courtroom.

Always slightly bugged me that The Last Ship didn’t have a military based theme; was about all that was wrong with the show. But yeah, JAG got it right. And it’s a pretty good alarm tone on your phone as well.


 


Theme 30: Joe 90

It’s always puzzled me why there hasn’t been a live action remake of Joe 90. The original? Yeah, I enjoyed it as a kid, but I suspect that if I watched it now, I’d wince at it in a way I don’t at Thunderbirds. But the theme is great; just odd enough to keep you interested and wanting to know more.


 

 

OK, part the fourth next week, with another ten from Laverne and Shirley (yes, really) through one of those shows I bet hardly anyone reading this will remember: Nationwide.

See you tomorrow, with… the usual Saturday ‘something else’.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

[This isn’t really part of the Ten Things tv themes I’m doing on Fridays; you’ll see why in a moment. But for the first two parts of that, click here for here for Part the First of that run, and here for Part the Second.]

This could, I guess, be called

57 plus 06: Ten, no wait, Sixty TV themes I like… Part the Second and a half’th

But that’s pushing the titles of the posts a bit, even for me.

Because I’ve just hit the D’s in my run through tv themes I like, and the final theme tune I put in Part the Second was that of Dallas. And Part The Third starts with Falcon Crest.

And I need to create an additional entry to the blog, because there’ll be a theme tune you’ll not only expect to see, you’ll be fairly, and correctly, astonished that it’s not there.

Because it should be there. But it can’t be there.

Look, I’m in a bit of a bind here. Because I do love the theme tune; not only is one of my all time favourite tv themes, it’s also generally acknowledged as one of the best tv theme tunes ever… no matter which version.

And there’s the rub.

Because although I’ve my own personal favourite, it’s the single tv theme where I just can’t pick one version of it and say ‘yeah, that’ll do.’

You know what’s coming, right?

Of course you do.

Dun-dun-dun-dun… dun-dun-dun-dun… dun-dun-dun-dun…dun-dun-dun-dun…dun-dun-dun-dun…dun-dun-dun-dun…dun-dun-dun-dun…dun-dun-dun-dun…

Ohh-ooh-woooooo.

Dum-dum-dum-dum… dum-dum-dum-dum… dum-dum-dum-dum…dum-dum-dum-dum…

So, yeah, a special post for these.

I’m not going to put every single version of the theme up – even I won’t prevail upon your patience that far, but I’ll put one up for every Doctor…

So here we go.

William Hartnell… (1963-67)

This is what viewers were greeted with when they switched on their sets to see this brand spanking new tv show called, for some reason, Doctor Who…


 


Patrick Troughton

Enough of a change but still very recognisably the same tune, with, for the first time, the Doctor’s face being part of the credits. THIS pretty much remained until the end of the ‘classic’ run.


 


Jon Pertwee

There’s an iron rule that the first Doctor you watch is ‘your’ Doctor. It’s complete nonsense of course. Except when it isn’t. Although I think I barely remember the final story of the second Doctor, this is ‘my’ Doctor, the first Doctor I watched, and the Doctor that made me a very young fan of the show.

https://youtu.be/
 


Tom Baker

And this is, for most people I know, ‘their’ Doctor, the one that they first watched. I mean, Baker was the Doctor for seven years, so that’s seven years’ worth of kids who discovered Doctor Who through The Fourth Doctor. He had quite a few different opening titles, but I’ve gone with this one, merely “because I like it”, a lot. And that’s good enough for me.


 


Peter Davison

Hmm. Yeah. I was never a fan of this theme so much at the time, but it’s grown on me with age.


 


Colin Baker

See my comments directly above. Same applies. Baker’s sixth Doctor again had a few opening titles, and I’ve chosen the one from The Trial Of A Time Lord, for the same reason as above.


 


Sylvester McCoy

I’ve barely watched any of McCoy’s run; not entirely sure why, especially since the episodes I’ve seen, I’ve enjoyed. I really should make more of an effort.


Paul McGann

Surprising, given it only appeared the one time just how much I like this one.

 


John Hurt

Yeah, ok, I’m cheating with this one. It’s my blog, so, y’know. But this was never broadcast,. This was a concept done by a very talented person on YouTube. I kind of like it though.


 


Chris Eccleston

After sixteen years away, Who was back. And blimey, they weren’t mucking around. Everything said ‘professional’, everything said ‘big budget’. Including the opening titles. Such a glorious idea to kick it off; stick the classic sting (which I believe some people nicknamed ‘the scream’) with which the classic series accompanied the ending cliff-hanger… at the start of the opening theme. Glorious trick which made all the difference. Because this was a statement: this is different. And it was.


 


David Tennant

Tenant had a few; I particularly liked the ones used for his run with Freema Agyeman. But I’ve gone for the ‘Planet of the Dead‘ special he did with Michelle Ryan. Something about the violins just tops it off perfectly for me.


 


Matt Smith

I really wish they’d have come up with one set of opening titles and stuck with it for Smith. The first set – new arrangement, entirely new opening section – was fine. It was good. Clever, and I liked it, after the initial surprise. I even liked the way the DW becomes a TARDIS that spins away. And every time they played with it, they made it worse. As for the ‘sparklers’ one? Don’t even… just don’t.


 


Peter Capaldi

Given the number of concept videos for Doctor Who themes there are around, it’s not the hugest surprise, I guess, that the producers saw one, thought it was so good they bought the concept from the creator. And then… somehow messed it up? Yeah, that bit surprised me. I mean, it’s still good; it’s just not as good as the concept was.


 


Jodie Whittaker

Took me a while to get used to this one, I’ll admit. I liked the theme, but the whole opening titles? Took me a good five or six episodes to even like it, let alone enjoy it. But I did, eventually. Just about.

(With the huge number of very clever people around, of course, there were multiple concept videos created, long before Whittaker’s first show debuted. Some of them are very clever, some of them are superb.)


 

See you tomorrow, with… the usual ‘Tuesday something else’.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

[This is Part The Second, click on the link for Part the First]

OK, time for the second part of this run through tv themes I like, in alphabetical order.

Why am I doing it? Well, I was more discursive last week but honestly? It’s just a bit of fun and a longer-than-strictly-necessary answer to the question:

‘What is your favourite tv theme?’

Because I don’t have one answer. I don’t even have ten. There are dozens I like, for various and different reasons.

Look, I tried to narrow it down, honestly.

But I couldn’t, and didn’t really want to. So, anyway, here are another ten themes I like from my iPhone’s playlist of 150 or so. And as with last week, there’ll be some that won’t surprise you, possibly one or two that might… and, again, maybe one or two you weren’t aware of, or had entirely forgotten.

Anyway, here we go

Theme 11: Bonanza

One of the first tv themes I remember, and I’m sure it’s entirely unfair to think that the Um-dittle-ittl-um-dittle-I from Mary Poppins’ Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious owed anything to the opening bars of the Bonanza theme.


 


Theme 12: Bret Maverick

I wasn’t old enough to watch the original Maverick, nor any of the tv sequels, until this one. But I was 17 when this was broadcast, and I loved the show from the moment I first saw it. Again, I’d never seen him in the role as a younger man, although I’d seen Garner in Westerns (Support Your Local Sheriff! and Support Your Local Gunfighter, the latter not exactly a sequel but kind of.) But I really liked Bret Maverick as a show. And the theme tune setup the show perfectly.

I didn’t know, at the time, that it was written and performed by Ed Bruce, one of the other actors and a country singer in his own right. Didn’t surprise me at all when I discovered that, though. The perfect theme for the short-lived show, western from the first moment.


 


Theme 13: Cagney & Lacey

This is one of those theme tunes that, honestly, if I’d heard it entirely shorn from the opening credits, I’d not have had a clue what the show was about. Not a sitcom, sure, but anything else? Wouldn’t have had the slightest idea. But it’s impossible, once you’ve seen the opening titles for it to have been about anything else. Catchy, matched with perfectly edited titles. Spot on.


 


Theme 14: Callan

For the longest time, this was my main ‘timer’ alarm on my iPhone. Perfectly menacing yet quiet enough that it’s comfortable if it goes off at night when I need to go get my washing from downstairs, in the block of flats in which I live. The titles are equally classic, a single lightbulb, swinging in the darkness, then the lightbulb goes out, shot


 


Theme 15: Captain Scarlet

An odd one here, because it’s the seven note bum-bum-bum-…bumbumbumbum repeat throughout that makes it special. But it works as a whole as well.


 


Theme 16: Catweazle

The purely instrumental version of this – no sound effects – is my iPhone main ring tone; has been for ages, and it’s only in part because I’m pretty much guaranteed to be the only person around me with it. So if I hear the tune, I’m damn sure it’s my phone ringing. However, one of the joys of having it set as my ring tone are the reactions of those of us ‘of a certain age’. There’s everything from faint recollection to mild surprise… to a smile of complete recognition.


 


Theme 17: Cheers

Definitely not the first tv theme tune that had people whistling it in the street, but… people definitely whistled this in the street. In any list of top theme tunes, this deserves a place, even in mine.

I put this up as a Saturday Smile the other week but since it’s being mentioned in here, I can’t resist putting it here as well: the Cheers theme from 1920s to 1990s, with special guest stars at the end. Simply glorious.

 


Theme 18: CSI New York

OK, four CSI shows, all with excellent Who songs as themes, and each other had several versions. I went with CSI: New York because I liked the show and the theme, and this particular version because it’s got the opening drums and then the opening to Baba O’Reilly.


 


Theme 19: The Cuckoo Waltz

Now here’s one that I bet most people won’t remember. Lewis Collins in a ‘nice’ sitcom, just before he hit the big time with The Professionals. Fairly standard setup for a British sitcom at the time: newly married couple take in a lodger to help with the money. “And hilarious results ensue”, as they say. Or said, anyway. but the theme tune is one of the most earworm-y there is, based on a pre-existing piece of music.


 


Theme 20: Dallas

Give them credit, the big US night time soaps had big impressive theme tunes, that became instantly recognisable, and none more so than Dallas. Pretty much everyone I knew watched it at one time or another. The only theme that comes close (of that genre) will be coming up next week…


 

 

OK, part the third next week, with another ten from Falcon Crest through Joe 90, but before you ask

Wait a minute, you’re surely missing one obvious theme…?

There may be an extra tv themes post before then… something a bit special.

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

OK, this is a weird one, I’ll admit.

I can’t say it started on Twitter this week; Twitter this week merely provided a timely reminder that I’d said I might do it.

Y’see, every so often, someone on Twitter will put out a tweet. Say, something like this.

Now, at least he’s being somewhat fair. He did say ‘three’.

Often, whoever’s asking won’t; they’ll want you to identify your favourite tv theme.

And equally often, I look at such a request in bafflement.

Because, just as with movies, or songs, I can’t limit it to one. Nor even three. Maybe a dozen or so.

(I have an exception, just about, for my favourite novel. That is, and has been from the moment I discovered it, Irving Wallace’s The Man, of which a dear friend bought me a first edition for my fiftieth birthday. It’s one of my fondest possessions, I admit. It even smells like an old book should.)

And, with a lovely synchronicity, I wrote, on goingcheep, the other day:

Every so often the “what’s the best tv theme” question does the rounds on Twitter. And I can’t answer that question; I can never answer that question.

Because I can’t narrow it down to one answer. I can’t even narrow it down to 20.

A while back, out of boredom, I think, I found a site which let you download the audio of the theme, and I stick some in my iTunes. And use some as ringtones. And every so often, when I remembered one I liked, or came across a new one I liked, I’d go to the site, grab it, add it to the playlist.

Genuinely didn’t have a clue how many I had on the playlist until just now. When I checked. And discovered I have almost 150. Yeah, that may be too many to call it a casual thing.

And now I’m wondering whether to do a 50 tv theme tunes I like next Friday.

Someone talk me out of it.

So, no of course I’m not doing 50. That’d be daft. because I couldn’t even narrow down the list to 50. So, what the hell…? Here are sixty I like.

Not all in one post; that would be daft. (And would push WordPress’s ancient platform to reload the page every so often.)

So what I’m gonna do is provide ten at a time, for six weeks.

Which, I guess, kind of makes my mind up as to whether I’m going to continue into a ‘57 plus‘ run after my birthday. Not the hugest surprise, but yeah.

Oh, and these themes are not in order of ‘preference’, just in alphabetical order. Even if that means two of my genuine favourites – Washington: Behind Closed Doors, and The Zoo Gang – are relegated to the bottom of the list, and will appear in five week’s time in the sixth part of this mini-series.

But there’ll be some you expect to see, no doubt. There’ll be some you’re surprised at, no doubt. And there’ll – hopefully – be one or two that you’ve either never heard of, or had entirely forgotten.

Anyway, here we go


Theme 01: The Addams Family

I’m sure there are more ‘clickable’ theme tunes, but none spring to mind. This is one that always gets a smile… Although I’ve taken it from the tv series, gotta be honest and say that I prefer the casting, and the tone, of the first movie, with Raul Julia and Angelica Huston, and the wonder that is Christina Ricci.


 


Theme 02: Airwolf

There seemed to be a slew of tv theme tunes in the 80s that started with a rhythmic machine sound. Airwolf beat them all.


 


Theme 03: Alfred Hitchcock Presents

The perfect meld of tune and subject matter. Just perfect.


 


Theme 04: The A-Team

As with Airwolf, there seemed to be a fair few tunes that stated with a narration (The A-Team beat them all) and more than few with a first few notes sting (ditto). So of course this makes it in.


 


Theme 05: The Banana Splits

One of the very sentimental ones; I remember sitting on the couch watching this with my big brother. Always a fond memory.


 


Theme 06: Batman – The Animated Series

Not sure why this one works so bloody well; there’ve been more than a few Batman themes, more than a few animated super-hero themes. This wins every time. It’s so good.


 


Theme 07: BBC Cricket

Entitled Soul Limbo, by Booker T and the MGs, in case you wondered… Surprised me when I checked, given my lack of interest in sport, that two made it through the cut. This and Ski Sunday, which will be along in a few weeks. But yeah, of course this made it in.


 


Theme 08: Blackadder The Third

Like several other shows in this series, there are several I could choose from. I’ve never liked the first or the fourth series’ themes, but it was a tossup which made it in to this list between the second and third. The third just takes it for… for… I honestly have no idea why I prefer it. But I do.


 


Theme 09: Blockbusters

Another sentimental one. Before the hand jive, before Bob Holness started to believe his own publicity. Before it became A Thing, Blockbusters was just a neat tv show I enjoyed watching, with a cracking tv theme.


 


Theme 10: Blue Peter

Another one where there are multiple versions; I’ve chosen the Mike Oldfield version… I just like how… clean it is.


 

OK, there’s the first ten. Another ten, from Bonanza through Dallas next week

See you tomorrow, with the usual Saturday ‘something else’…

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Preface: I only realised while planning this entry that this is both the easiest and hardest of the “Ten Things” posts I’ve ever done.

I mean it; there are so many good, so many bloody good, episodes to choose from, that throwing ten darts at a list of the almost 70 Columbo episodes produced? You’re gonna hit 8 or 9 good ones and 3 or four that would make most people’s lists.

That’s the easy part. Harder is picking just ten I like. Do I go for the cleverest murder, do I go for the baddie? Do I go for the relationship between Columbo and the baddie? Do I go for how Columbo worked it out? Do I go for the reveal?

I could easily pick half a dozen of each. Instead, I’m going to limit it to two of each. So, two clever murders, two wonderful baddies, two lovely relationship pieces, two ‘lightbulb moments’ and two reveals.

That means, of course, I’m gonna miss out some glorious episodes. Maybe I’ll do another run if this blog run continues after 17th August. (I’ve no plans to right now, by the way, none at all. But I said that in 2019 as well, and I ended up running the blog through to Christmas and beyond.)

WARNING: Many, many, MANY spoilers below. If you don’t want to see them, best look away now.

OK, preface over, blog begins.


 

I’d actually forgotten I’d said I’d do this one.

I only remembered when I reread an earlier entry in the run and came across the passage

So, again, predicting is a mug’s game, a fool’s endeavour, an idiot’s quest.

Except in one circumstance. There’s one situation where a prediction is overtly expected, actively anticipated… in fact, it’s positively encouraged.

Whodunnits.

Murder mysteries. Private eye tales, detective stories.

You watch, or read, a murder mystery. And, in the absence of a Columbo-type story format¹, the author, the tv director, wants you to play along, to try to guess who committed the murder, who kidnapped the victim.

(¹Note to self: do a ‘Ten Columbo episodes Budgie likes’ at some point during this run.)

So, yeah, time to do a Ten Columbo episodes Budgie likes post.

A reminder as always… they’re not the objectively considered best, nor necessarily personal favourites. They’re just Ten Things/Subjects I like… at the time of writing. (And why.)

*** TWO CLEVER MURDERS

Publish Or Perish (1974)
Jack Cassidy in his second appearance as a baddie, this time as publisher Riley Greenleaf who really really wants to stop Mickey Spillane heading off to another publisher. So he kills him. I mean… you would, wouldn’t you? I’m not sure you’d hire a hitman though, then go to the trouble to first ensure you’re incriminated, so that you can then prove you’re not involved… It’s clever as hell, and it’s utterly believable with Cassidy playing the role. All of his appearances involved clever murders, in all of them was he a fine match for Columbo, and in all of them he was, for the main parts, entirely unsympathetic, It takes skill and talent to be able to play such odious characters who are ostensibly perfectly reasonable, And Cassidy does it every time, in spades.

Whereas with some repeat guest stars, Columbo finds one portrayed character likeable, one detestable, say, with Cassidy, they very sensible made the characters entirely unlikeable… in part, I suspect, to make it harder for Columbo to remain entirely objective. A smart, smart move.


 
 

Short Fuse (1972)
Another smart character here – though to be fair, if they were stupid, they wouldn’t be interesting. Roddy McDowell is immature, irritating, capricious… and self-aware enough to know that people underestimate him because of it. And that works for him until it starts to cost him. People forget he’s smart. So when his uncle is killed via the means of an exploding cigar box, he’s not really the first person who springs to mind.

His immaturity somehow ceases to be an act at the denouement though. (Was it ever an act? You’re never quite sure). Columbo bluffs him with another cigar box, and McDowell’s character folds, quite dramatically…


 

(Oh, if you think there’s one very smart, say someone with a huge IQ, missing… trust me, he’ll be along later.)
 
 
** TWO WONDERFUL BADDIES

Note that I’m saving the ‘wonderful baddies because they’re fun to watch with Columbo’ for a moment’s time. These two are just out and out wonderfully evil.

Dr Ray Flemming – Prescription: Murder (1968)
The original, the one that started it all. Falk is still figuring out exactly how Columbo acts; he’s a little less bedraggled, a little more professional, a little less faux-absent minded, a little more obvious. And Gene Barry, as Dr Ray Flemming, is – surprisingly, if you’ve seen or read the original play – an out and out sociopathic prick. (I’d use cruder language but every so often I remember that I try and keep this place at least within shouting distance of all-ages)

So, yes, the original baddie, Barry’s smart, smooth, and highly intelligent, baddie is someone you can immediately decide “ooh, yeah, we like him, he’s horrible”. He kills his wife, and manipulates (I think that’s probably the right word) a vulnerable patient to help, assist and frankly, to kill herself to save him.

That it doesn’t quite work out like that comes as a surprise to Dr Flemming, and – to be honest – to the viewer. The show was off to one hell of a start. If you want to see where it all started, this is the episode to watch.


 
 
Wade Anders – Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous To Your Health (1991)
I started this sentence with “George McGovern was…” before I realised what I’d typed. Now I’m not saying that this would have been a bad idea, but yeah, I’m not entirely sure the story would have worked as well. I have no idea why I was thinking of George McGovern, who ran for the US Presidency in 1972 against Nixon and lost, badly.

Anyways… George Hamilton, that’s the fella. He plays true crime tv presenter Wade Anders who is blackmailed by a rival who knows that Anders appeared in a porn movie at the start of his acting career. Oh, alongside an underage co-star.

Anders kills the blackmailer. Obviously. With concentrated nicotine. OK, that’s less obvious. And he screws up how he does it, leaving some heavy handed clues for anyone to find. He’s much better at presenting crimes than, y’know, doing them. But, that aside, Hamilton is incredible on screen. Most of the guest stars on Columbo, there’s a generosity showing where neither of them is acting the other off the screen. Not Hamilton. Presumably it’s not deliberate because after all he was invited back, but when he’s on the screen, you barely notice Falk. Or anyone else. And that plays through to the character, where Anders, once he takes that first step of… well, murdering someone… is oily, smarmy, charming when necessary, icy… Just superb acting. And an out and out bastard throughout.


 

** TWO LOVELY RELATIONSHIPS

There are several other baddies with whom Columbo has a ‘good’, charming or even likeable relationship with through the show. Louis Jourdan’s chef, Faye Dunaway, even one of Patrick McGoohan‘s baddies. But if anyone made a list of just two, and neither of the two below were on it, I’d doubt their judgement.

Adrian Carsini – Any Old Port in a Storm (1973)
Ah, Donald Pleasance in a simply wonderful performance, the perfect ‘man out of his depth who gets more and more out of his depth until being caught is almost a relief’. It’s a subtle role that gets even more subtle as the story progresses. I mean, let’s get it straight: he kills his brother because the brother wants to sell the winery. Strip everything else away, and that’s what he does. It’s not even done out of malice but because that’s the only option he sees left. And Carsini is not a sympathetic character on his own. He’s a snob, and he sees little need for, nor understanding of, normal human interaction. It’s not that it puzzles him as much as he sees no need for it.

And yet Columbo likes him. He does. He respects him, mostly. But – as Columbo admits elsewhere – while there’s never a murder he likes, there are murderers he likes. And he likes and more importantly recognises the expertise Carsini has for his job, just as Carsini recognises and acknowledges the expertise in his job that Columbo displays.

And seeing the two on screen together, you feel you’re getting a masterclass in how two giants of acting, two very generous actors, are at pains to let the scene flow. Each scene between them is not merely a chance for each to shine, but an opportunity for both to do so.

The final scene between them, when Carsini knows he’s been caught, when Columbo has laid it out clear and blunt (well, as blunt as necessary but no more than that), they spend a few minutes talking and drinking wine before Columbo takes him in. And the scene is certainly the best final scene of any Columbo, possibly one of the finest scenes with a baddie of any Columbo.


 
 
Abigail Mitchell – Try & Catch Me (1977)
And then there’s Abigail Mitchell, a deliberately quirky, funny, sensible baddie who you like from the moment you meet her. She may exasperate you on screen a teeny bit; you know damn well she’d exasperate you in real life. Played by Ruth Gordon, I defy you not to wonder why she didn’t play Miss Marple at some point. And she’s a vigilante. Well, not really, but kind of. She’s utterly convinced her niece was murdered by the niece’s husband. So she locks him in her airtight safe and then goes away for a bit, leaving him to suffocate. Cold-bloodedly? Well, yes… and no. I’ve seen this episode a dozen or more times, and I can’t say definitively.

Columbo likes her when he meets her. She likes him. He teases her. She teases him. It’s to her and some friends that he makes the comment above about never liking the murder. Again, the respect for each other’s job, and the skill and dedication with which they perform it, shines through.

The age gap is too huge for there to be any sexual interplay between them, thank heaven, but there’s definitely an element of ‘oh, Lieutenant, if I’d only met you thirty years ago…’ And it’s not until the final scene or two that that unspoken line takes on a whole new meaning.


 

** TWO EUREKA MOMENTS

A Trace of Murder (1997)

Perfect example here of a very not great episode, a not great pair of baddies, and – to be honest – a not that great performance by Falk, for once. But a bloody perfect lightbulb moment (not even spoiled slightly by Columbo’s almost pantomime-like reaction to it.)

Columbo, together with crime analyst Kinsley (one of the baddies, played by Barry Corbin) and Cathleen, the wife (the other baddie, played by Shera Denesa) of the fella they’re trying to frame for the murder, meet to discuss the case. As far as Columbo knows, they’ve never met.

And then as the coffee arrives, Columbo sees the former casually move the milk towards the latter. And as he’s starting to realise what this must mean, they leave… and confirm it. For if they’d not previously met, then how would Kinsley know that Cathleen gets car sick when sitting in the back?

(Once he knows they know each other, it’s fairly predictable how he catches them. As I say, not great. But that lightbulb moment is one of the best in the entire run.)

 
  
Uneasy Lies The Crown (1990)
It’s probably a mark of how rare the genuine ‘lightbulb’ moments were in Columbo that both of the best ones come from the revival episodes. James Read is just about perfect as the young, ambitious, jealous, dentist who kills his wife’s lover (a mutual friend of theirs, and a patient of his), frames her for the murder and (a not uncommon theme) deliberately incompetently ‘tries to cover’ for her. Oh, the actual murder? He placed poison under a temporary filling, which dissolved, and killed the lover while the lover is in bed with the wife. And while the murderer has a cast iron alibi.

The eureka moment here shows its age as well. I’m not sure the idea of time-released medication is as foreign to most people these days but in 1997, it was probably new enough, and it was certainly new enough when the episode was originally written in the 1970s by Stephen Bochco. There are many conflicting stories about why the episode was rejected at the time. One suggestion is that Falk’s mother said viewers wouldn’t believe a dentist as the murderer? I dunno.

But the acting of everyone in the scene at the moment of comprehension is lovely, and Columbo throughout the entire story is edging towards the solution, so the eureka moment just caps it. The reveal is pretty good as well, including a double-bluff on both the baddie and the audience that’s revealed in the final seconds. Beautifully done.

 
** TWO REVEALS

And talking of reveals, Columbo excelled in them. There were a dozen, easy, I could have chosen but for me, two stand out far in front of the rest. One is a typical Columbo plot of using the baddie’s own cleverness against them.

But the first, the first is just exquisite.

Suitable for Framing (1971)
The story is fairly clever in its own right. Arrogant art critic Dale Kingston (Ross Martin desperately trying to leave some furniture unchewed) frames his slightly odd aunt for for the murder of his uncle. His plan involves planting stolen Degas pastels in the aunt’s place, having previously tried to get Columbo booted from the case. (Long time Columbo watchers know that’s never a good idea.)

Columbo turns up, and gets the artwork dusted for fingerprints, as he tells Kingston he knows Kingston killed his uncle and fingerprints will prove it. But not Kingston’;s prints, which Kingston has already said were on the prints ages ago… Columbo’s prints which – if the aunt did steal the artwork – couldn’t possibly be there. Kingston, thinking fast and on the very edge of panic, protests “But you obviously touched them just now!”

And that’s when Columbo reveals his hands – thus far kept in his coat pockets, but so subtly that no-one, neither the baddie nor the audience, even noticed – to show they’re in woollen gloves, and have been since he arrived.

 
 
The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case (1977)
As others have said, there’s very little to dislike about this episode. Fantastic script,an on and off likeable baddie in Oliver Brandt, arrogance punctured, and a sequence of events involved that must have inspired that famous car ad, decades later.

Columbo starts to deliberately needle the baddie (played by Theodore Bikel) and ostensibly shows him how clever Columbo is… which Bikel’s arrogance in his own cleverness can’t take. Columbo shows Brandt how intelligent another suspect is. So, out of pique, offended arrogance and a desperation, a need, to show Columbo how clever he is, Brandt demonstrates to Columbo exactly how the murder must have been committed, the only way it could have been committed, then celebrates with a delighted bark as everything falls into place…

…before his laughter stops, as he realises that he’s just shown Columbo how the murder was committed… by him.


 

** BONUS
 
Dr Barry Mayfield – A Stitch in Crime (1973)
A bonus bit here, purely because I couldn’t let Leonard Nimoy’s star turn pass without comment. Solely because of THIS moment, one of the very few in the entire run where Columbo gets angry, and shows it. There are times where Falk, always underrated as an actor in my opinion, portrays Columbo struggling to keep his anger hidden. Here he doesn’t even try. It’s extra-ordinary, and glorious.

 


If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others… During the last huge blog run, I did a few ‘ten things’ I liked: individual episodes of tv shows, individual comic book issues, and pilots, and two on old movies ,then one on old-ish movies, and a couple about podcasts. And I wrote a series of Doctor Who posts, about each incarnation/regeneration, and my sometimes tenuous relationship with the show.

And in this run, I did one on things I’ve been watching during the various lockdowns plus others…


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


Just dropping this in here, as I was asked by message the other day: the best places to contact me outside the blog are via email at budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk and @budgie on Twitter.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

During the last huge blog run, I did a stack of ‘ten things’ I liked: individual episodes of tv shows, individual comic book issues, and pilots, and two on old movies ,then one on old-ish movies, and a couple about podcasts. And I wrote a series of Doctor Who posts, about each incarnation/regeneration, and my sometimes tenuous relationship with the show.

So, I figured I’d do it again in this run. A couple of weeks ago, I did one on things I’ve been watching during the various lockdowns, And last week, some shows I’ve been rewatching just to enjoy the rewatch.

However, I got a bit carried away in the writing, so cut it short. This is the second part of it, ok? Good.

As before, there will of course be omissions. Your favourite shows probably won’t be here. And if I have to point you again towards Budgie’s Law of Popular Television: y = x + 2 to explain why, I will…

As always, the usual reminder for all of these Ten Things… they’re not the best, nor necessarily my favourites. They’re just Ten Things/Subjects I like… at the time of writing. (And why.)
 
 
OK, so last week, we did The West Wing, Doctor Who, Yes, [Prime] Minister, and the Arrowverse Crossovers.… That’s four. Here are the other six.

Moving on…

The Honourable Woman
I tell myself I rewatch this show every so often as much for the story as for the acting. And I’m lying to myself every time,.

Rewatching this is a pure indulgence, because, given the actors involved, I’d rewatch if the entire show was the actors merely reading pages from the phone book, interspersed with their shopping lists.

Every single member of the cast – which includes Maggie Gyllenhaal, Andrew Buchan, Lubna Azabal, Stephen Rea, Janet McTeer, Katherine Parkinson, Tobias Menzies and Lindsay Duncan – blow the screen apart every time they appear. I’d say each of them steal every scene they’re in, but they don’t. They steal every bloody line, and then it’s stolen right back by the next person to speak. The entire show is a masterclass of understated acting, every scene a story in its own right, and the passion and anger shown on rare occasions hits you in the gut, then grabs your heart, and refuses to let go.

It’s incredibly good.


 
 
A Touch Of Cloth/Police Squad
A complete change of tone for this one. And I’m putting them together not because I’m cheating or couldn’t decide between the two, perish the thought. No, they’re essentially the same programme, just with different settings, different intentions and different writers, actors and production crew. (Whistles innocently)

But they’re the same. They’re shows where you see the gags coming precisely a fifth of s second before they land, and instead of making you bored by the anticipation, it somehow makes you part of the experience, every bloody time.

I suppose if I were to have to separate out the two, A Touch of Cloth’s target is British police procedurals. Every other gag takes as its target something you don’t even realise is a trope, identifies it, targets it, hits the target spot on, then searches for the next one.

And when I say you didn’t realise it, here’s one example. Those screens that police put photos on, and write on, when making up an incident board. Why are they transparent? So the camera can be placed behind it and you can still see the actors. There’s no other reason why they should be transparent. See what I mean?

Or how an investigating officer, turning up at a crime scene, is greeted by his subordinates not with a “good morning” or similar, but instead by rapid-fire exposition about the victim.

There is a plot to each A Touch Of Cloth (two parts to each story) but even that takes the piss out of standard police drama tropes: the first, the burned out, widowed, misanthropic cop forced to return to work, for example.

The show concentrates more on the situational and visual gags than the verbal gags, but they’re there as well.

Police Squad, on the other hand, while still doing the whole ‘let’s take the piss out of US police dramas’, relegates the plot to solely being in service to the gags. Like Airplane (from where it came) and The Naked Gun which it spawned, it’s sole aim is to throw as many gags, verbal and visual, at the viewer in the hope that some stick. Some of the gags are a straight feed line=>response, some are more complicated. All are gloriously funny to someone, and if you don’t like an individual gag, hang around, there’ll be another one along in a moment.

The State Within
Back to the politcial thriller genre for this one. There’s no reason I should think of The State Within in the same vein as State of Play, but I often do. It can’t be because they both have the word ‘State’ in the title, as does ‘Deep State’, can it? (Spoiler: it almost certainly is). But while State of Play, excellent though it is, isn’t something I regularly rewatch, The State Within very much is. The actors are superb in it, the dialogue crackles, and every character in the show is… believable. I mean, I have no idea whether or not people in positions of power actually behave like this, but I’m quite prepared to believe they do. Besides, Jeremy Isaacs as a British Ambassador, Neil Pearson as his Deputy Head of Mission and Ben Daniels as his ‘counsellor of Extremal Affairs (his MI6 bloke) are superb in the roles they play, perfectly cast.

It starts with a plane exploding as it takes off, and moves through a British soldier on death row, fraud, embezzlement, and a rogue former ambassador who got fed up (if you believe him) with, as they say, the job of being sent abroad to lie for his government.

The plot is clever, the pacing gloriously varied but perfect for each scene, and there’s always a sense of everyone being slightly out of their depth, but always, well almost always, rising to the occasion.

Add in a slowly developing love story in there – which I have no idea how they pull off, but they do – and I really, really like rewatching how the show develops.

After watching it, I’m always torn between the wish for a sequel warring against the the knowledge that none was needed. I always come down on the side of being glad they didn’t make one, with the slightest very tinge of regret.

 
 
The Sandbaggers
OK, full blown for the spy genre for the next two, but while both show complete disdain for the ‘James Bond’ type of spy story, they’re about as different as they can be. Sandbaggers is very much of its time, the mid-to-late 1980s, and the lead protagonist is as ‘anti-Commuiist’ as you’ll find in fiction, but like every character in the show, deeply damaged. As a person, I mean.

(And not for the first time, I wonder why it is that I find seriously damaged characters so interesting, so much more interesting than merely slightly damaged ones. A blog entry for another time, maybe.)

The basic setup is simple: British intelligence, SIS, the secret intelligence service, MI6 as its popularly known. There’s a Chief of Service, a Deputy Chief, Directors of Operations and Intelligence, Station Chiefs, the usual… but within the Director of Operations’ purview is a small group, a three person team, known as Sandbaggers. They do the dirty work, the blackmails, the killings when necessary (and when they can get permission… when they ask for it, that is).

They’re underpaid, they’re at various levels of experience. And, unless they’re very very lucky, they get killed doing their job.

In the twenty-odd episodes, spread over three series, four of them don’t make it out alive and we learn through the series that three were killed before the show started.

What I love about this show is that every – almost every – character evolves during the run. You learn more about most of the characters and it shows how under pressure, high pressure, you can work with people you dislike intensely, with people you show respect only to because of their position. And, crucially, how you can trust people you don’t like, but you can also learn that people you like… can disappoint you, can betray your trust. And yet you still have to work with them, for ‘the greater good’.

This clip is from the end of the first episode, where Neil Burnside, played by Neil Marsden, almost lost two of his agents due to the naïveté and incompetence of his Norwegian opposite number… who tried to con SIS.


 
 
 
 
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
There’s not much to say about this show other than ohnmygodit’sgreatyoushouldwatchitasoftenasyoucan.

So I’ve said it. Now watch it. (It’s on iPlayer right now, and pisses from a great height all over that movie they made.)

OK, a bit more. Every actor acts their socks off, and every character is rounded and human, and just a little bit more dangerous than they at first appear. It’s a show in praise of duty, and of secrets, and of never, ever forgetting who you can, and cannot, trust. And, oddly, about love.

I’m not sure there is an official trailer for the show, but that hasn’t stopped some people making their own. I particularly like these two.


 
  

I had intended to write about House MD or The Blacklist for my final one this week; both great shows and both are strange exceptions to my ‘I won’t rewatch individual episodes of shows which have a multi-season arc’. I’ve enjoyed rewatching individual episodes of both. Despite having to ignore the sub-sub-plot of the seasons-long arc, the main plot and sub-plot from individual episodes of each show are engrossing enough on their own to watch again and again.

But in the end, I couldn’t separate them. So, something entirely different, something that entirely took me by surprise, much as my discovery of Jeopardy took me by surprise when I started enjoying it more more more to my utter astonishment.

My final pick of the ‘stuff I’ve enjoyed rewatching’:

Connections
Not just the show itself, which I’ve enjoyed watching my copies of again, but season 2.

Y”see, season 1 was an hour long show. Ten episodes about that master of explaining science and history and their interaction, James Burke. And Series 3 was similarly, one hour (of US tv, ok) episodes.

For series 2, however, they made twenty half-hour episodes and on previous rewatches, I’ve not enjoyed them as much. For a start, they’re only – shorn of ads – about twenty-minutes’ each. I mean, they’re not bad tv, and the’re chock full of information. And Burke changed the emphasis from the connections of innovations themselves to the connections between the various reasons for the processes of innovation.

But I’ve found myself watching, over the period of eight weeks or so, watching one episode a night before I head bedwards. Not always immediately before aiming head at pillow, but yeah, somewhere around midnight, putting an episode on and watching the twenty-minutes or so.

And I’ve loved it. It’s been very enjoyable, very informative, and the bite-sized chunks have been exactly what I’ve needed before wending my way towards my bed. Huh.

No, don’t worry, I’m not about to make you I watch a whole episode.

Instead, here’s what’s often said to be one of the finest moments of ‘timing your shot’ in television, from the first series. Enjoy.

 
See you tomorrow, with… something else. It’s Saturday tomorrow, so you know what to expect.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Last week, it was fun to run through the things I’ve been watching during the various lockdowns, So, here are some shows I’ve been rewatching just to enjoy the rewatch.

There will be omissions. Of course there will, but I mean there’ll be omissions of your favourite shows. There’ll be no Breaking Bad, no The Wire, no The Sopranos, no Game of Thrones. Not because I don’t enjoy rewatching them, but because I never enjoyed watching them in the first place.

I’ll take it as read that you think that I’m objectively Wrong On This, say again that I tried each for a episode or two, and then point you towards Budgie’s Law of Popular Television: y = x + 2.

So, the usual reminder for all of these Ten Things… they’re not the best, nor necessarily my favourites. They’re just Ten Things/Subjects I like… at the time of writing. (And why.)
 
 
The West Wing
Not the hugest surprise, I’ll grant you; in fact, I doubt very many of the things attached will surprise anyone reading this. I liked The West Wing when it was first shown and I’ve continued to enjoy it since.

Yes, it has its faults, yes, sometimes the attempts to address those faults weren’t exactly… successful. And yes, the seven-season show has about a season and a half (from about ⅓ of the way through season five through the first half of season 6) that’s not great.

But man, when it delivered, it delivered. And the first four seasons are fantastic. The show doesn’t really find its long arc until about almost the end of the first season, but it doesn’t matter. The ‘episode of the week’ format serves it perfectly well through most of the show’s run.

None of the characters are free from ghosts, and all of them are people you’d want on your side, but what’s struck me on repeated viewings is that I’m truly unsure I’d like any of them as people, y’know. I mean, I’m sure I’d respect them (most of them, anyway) but like them? I don’t know. I doubt it, to be honest.

The scripts – at least for the first four seasons, and for the final season – are razor sharp, the dialogue is sparkling, and the walk and talks work for the show in a way that no other show, to my mind, with the exception of House MD managed,

Was it ‘realistic’? Probably not. Within its own storyline, sure. But ‘realistic’ in the ‘real world’? I wouldn’t claim that, even in the pre-orange poltroon era.

But if you’ve not seen it, you’re in for a treat.

Usually, I put trailers up for these things, but something a bit different this time. Something from each thatI really like. This is a two-hander bit from near the end of season 2, with Richard Schiff’s character, the White House Communications Director and John Spenser’s, the White House Chief of Staff.


 
 
Doctor Who
I mentioned Doctor Who last week, but only insofar as I’d been watching the recent run, with Jodie Whittaker. But during lockdown, I’ve rewatched pretty much all of what someone named Nu-Who, and quite a lot of the original run. My Doctor is, and will remain, Jon Pertwee, as his was the first Doctor I watched from the first appearance. And, as you know, them’s the rules.

But what I’ve gone back to again and again, is the Ninth Doctor’s run. On rewatching, I’ve come to appreciate more and more Chris Eccleston’s short stay on the show. I must have rewatched his episodes a half dozen times each, and wow they’re good. And they get better on every rewatch.

There wasn’t a wasted line, a wasted glance from him. A deeply damaged character – we’d find out why later, and we’d properly find out why much, much later – full of flaws and fairly burning with anger. Smouldering at times, but often just plain burning with anger, with fury.

And with shame.

The whole thing covered over with silliness, and with clowning, that he barely, just barely, lets slip occasionally, when he’s not paying attention.

There’s a game I play, sometimes. How would each Doctor have dealt with the first episode of another Doctor? How would Tennant’s Doctor have dealt with Patient Zero and the Atraxi? How would Tom Baker’s have dealt with The Sycorax?

There’s not one episode of Eccleston’s run which wouldn’t have been completely, utterly different, often with different resolutions no doubt, had it been any other incarnation. Would Capaldi’s Doctor have been quite so delighted that “this one time, everybody lives?” Would Davison’s Doctor have dealt with Cassandra quite as… forcefully on their first meeting?

It’s powerful acting, and the effortless switch between silliness and serious, between clowns and cold.

Also, I’ve realised, despite the deliberate move from ‘having assistants’ to ‘having companions’, it’s Eccleston’s Doctor that, patronisingly maybe, loves being A Teacher to Rose. He’s not her friend, no matter what she thinks. He enjoys having her around, but he’s letting her travel with him…

Here’s a clip when he encounters something anew, long after he thought he was done with them.


 
 
Yes, Minister, and Yes, Prime Minister
Yeah, be honest, you were waiting for me to mention these, weren’t you? Not only the best political comedy around to my mind.

I never really took to either Thick of It or Veep; the former I found too reliant on dialogue and plot at the expense of character or gags, and the latter I just didn’t enjoy at all.

But yeah, Yes, Minister, and Yes, Prime Minister. Just about perfect to my mind. Nothing really to say other than of course it wasn’t realistic in the slightest. The ‘four stage processes’ etc., were made up by the writers and though some plots were based on actual events (a dozen or so, over the forty or so episodes, spring to mind without much difficulty) they were of course exaggerated for comedic effects. And even when the show was being made, and broadcast, in the real world, executive agencies had already been created to remove responsibility both from ministers and the civil service.

But while I’m talking about the show, let me address the short reboot the writers did only a few years ago. The original actors of Paul Eddington, Nigel Hawthorne and Derek Fowlds were replaced by, respectively, David Haig, Henry Goodman and Chris Larkin.

The reason the revival was horrible, a travesty, wasn’t solely down to the new casting, although that was a large part of it. (Simon Williams had played Sir Humphrey Appleby on stage, and to my mind did a creditable job of it. The same character, no doubt. Possibly slightly more polished, slightly less prickly. But essentially the same character.)

What didn’t work was that the characters in the revival shared the names of the characters from the original and their job titles… and nothing else.

Eddington’s Jim Hacker was a successful politician before he became a cabinet minister and then PM. And over the period of the show, he matured both as a politician and as a manipulator, occasionally triumphing over Sir Humphrey while never maintaining the win. He truly believed in the political process being superior to the governmental.

Appleby was the consummate Perm Sec and then Cabinet Secretary, but never oily, never cowardly. He truly believed, as much as he believed in anything, in the Civil Service as wholly essential, to maintain order in the face of politics’ inherent chaos. In it for service as well as what he could personally gain, the two were, to his mind, inseparable.

And Bernard? Ah, Bernard. Smart, clever, political but he tried to hide it, still learning his trade, quietly ambitious, and with a genuine like and respect for both Appleby and Hacker, though he tried to hide it from each.

They were not the venal, incompetent, stupid, selfish, slapstick… caricatures portrayed in the revival, as much caricatures in flesh as the opening titles portrayed. And bringing the political situation ‘up to date’ via a coalition? A stupid, stupid idea.

And yet, and yet, they could have os easily made it work. With one small change: Make the Perm Sec Bernard Woolley, the Private Sec Humphrey Appleby’s nephew, Hector. And make the politician Jeff Thacker, or even John Hacker, the original’s son who followed his (late) father into politics.

Bah.

Anyways, here’s Humphrey Appleby explaining how you rubbish an official report you don’t like.…


 
And here, as a bonus, because why not, is yours truly, answering some questionss about the show…


 
 
Arrowverse Crossovers
Again, I mentioned last week how I was still watching the Arroverse shows, but I want to write this week about something more specific: the crossovers. They’ve done half a dozen, usually increasing them in size as they’ve added more shows. The first one, for example, just had a crossover between Arrow and The Flash, each show’s characters appearing in the other show for a two-part story.

But there are four I want to talk about, because each was handled differently, and two of them worked for me, while two of them didn’t, and one of them really, really didn’t.

Let’s get that one out of the way first.

The first of those crossovers, 2016’s Invasion! A three parter: Arrow, Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, with Supergirl from her own show being pulled into the story without in any way featuring it on her own show.

It was a mess. It was one story spread over three shows, with nothing really to spoil the uniqueness of each show. It was a mess, I repeat. Barely any explanation of why each show was involved and each show took an entirely different ‘take’ on it. There was simply no reason for this story to happen other than… someone said ‘why not?’ And it showed. The Legends episode added precisely nothing to the story and could quite easily have been slid into a five minute bit in one of the other episodes. Arrow could have handled it because that story was an extended dream sequence. A mess, I repeat.

Moving on: 2018’s Elseworlds. At least they’d learned from 2017’s crossover (about more of which in a moment) and made it a story that crossed over from one episode to another, one series to another, with Things Actually Happening That Mattered.

The problem was that what mattered? Didn’t really matter for the most part. The purpose of the crossover was to introduce Batwoman and in that the show, and the story, did it, accomplished it, in spades. Superb story introducing her, and the resolution was fun. Loads of Easter Eggs, a call back to a fan-favourite Arrow/Flash moment (ouch, their poor backs), the introduction of the Monitor, and you got to see Superman and Lois. That’s about it.

OK, now we’re on to the two that really worked, that were proper full-blown comics-fans-would-recognise-it-as-a-proper-crossover-event. The last of these was 2019’s Crisis On Infinite Earths. The story itself started big and got bigger with every episode. We got so many cameos I could do a Ten Things about my favourite cameos (I won’t) and another Ten Easter Eggs I loved. Almost every character and actor got to play against type, the story didn’t go where you expected, and the interactions between everyone just… worked. And the story… Mattered. One of the main characters, one of the Big Characters… died. Not a fake, not an imaginary story. They died.

We got to see crossovers from characters that no way should the rights holders have said ‘yes’, but they did. And it was great and fun, and it was superb.

And we got to see the formation, if they want to use it in future, of the Justice League.

Yeah, can’t think of anything better.

Yeah, I can. 2017’s Crisis on Earth-X. The first crossover that the Arrowverse did right and they didn’t miss a trick. The show that each episode was, technically? yeah, didn’t matter. This was a four-part story where it didn’t matter who the stars of each individual shows were. Part one, part two, part three, part four. Each part relied on the part that came before and that came after.

The story? Oh, an Earth where the Nazis won invades our heroes’ world and wants something from them. It’s as simple as that. And it’s fun, and silly and serious and everything works just right. There’s heroism, and sacrifice, and you get to see alternative versions of the people you like and don’t like.

Anyway, here’s the trailer for Earth-X.

Oh gods, I have just seen how very long this entry is, so I’m splitting it; you’ll get the rest next Friday, including The Honourable Woman, The State Within, The Sandbaggers and more. Next week.
 
 
See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, obviously, but last time I did a run, I found myself enjoying the ‘Ten Things…” posts, and from what I recall others apparently liked them as well.

I’m not sure I’ll do podcasts this time around; I don’t think there are ten new ones I’m listening to, and would recommend.

And while I could no doubt come up with more Doctor Who posts, maybe I’ll save them for if the run continues beyond my birthday. Possible, but unlikely, I’d have thought. But I said that last time as well, so who knows?

However, there’ve been some new tv shows I’ve enjoyed, and even some tv shows that started, and were cancelled, and even some non-tv related things I’ve been watching since the last time I blogged. So why not?

A reminder for all of these Ten Things… they’re not the best, nor necessarily my favourites. They’re just Ten Things/Subjects I like… at the time of writing. (And why.)

Prodigal Son
Prodigal Son has a great concept: serial killer from high society gets away with it for years; is eventually caught; his son becomes a criminal profiler used by the FBI and then NYPD, but son uses father’s expertise to help catch other killers. Oh, and son is completely and utterly messed up himself, the whole family is broken. Oh, and the son turned the father in. Yeah, there’s that.

Tom Payne is the son, Michael Sheen, very obviously having the time of his life, plays the grizzled but still charmingly psychopathic been-in-the-nut-house-for-years father, and Bellamy Young is brilliant as the mother/ex-wife. Oh, and the supporting cast is great as well. The stories are… so-so, to be honest. There are loads that could easily support a two hour movie of the week and so they feel a bit rushed to fit it in 42 minutes’ of tv. But they’re just there to show off the characters. And the characters are fantastic. Not one of the people on the show is well balanced; all of them have secrets from the others and the drip drip drip as they come out is excruciatingly wonderful to watch.

Sheen and Payne are enormous fun whenever they’re on screen, as are Sheen and Young. I would very, very, very much like to see Sheen and Young do something else in the future; they’re fantastic on screen together.

It’s recently been announced that the show has been cancelled after two seasons; if you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend it without hesitation. The pilot (for once) is pretty good at setting out what’s going on, and what will be happening.


 
 

Deception
When I first saw the trailer for Deception, I wasn’t that interested, to be honest. Seemed like a knock-off of Jonathan Creek, and if I wanted to watch Jonathan Creek, then I’d watch Jonathan Creek. But I was wrong, and the cancelled-after-one=season show quickly became one of my favourites. OK, the basic idea is the same: magician solves locked-room mysteries and similar impossible crimes. But that’s pretty much all there is that’s even remotely similar.

For a start, there’s the hook. He’s arrested for murder in the opening minutes of the show. Except it’s not him you’re seeing arrested. It’s his twin. For decades, the ‘magician’ has been two people, twins. Those ‘impossible disappear from a box, and appear a mile away’ tricks? A bit easier if there are two of you. So the twin is arrested, but he swears he’s been framed. The twin who hasn’t been arrested starts solving (with his back room team) impossible crimes for the FBI… so he has access to the FBI to – hopefully – clear his brother.

Again, none of these people are particularly well-balanced, but they grow through the show. There’s not one of the main cast who’s the same at the end of this show as at the beginning. And at least two of the characters change a bit, even if just a bit, during each show. Their experiences in the show have consequences; they’re not always pleasant ones. That’s brave to do in a show. The crimes are clever and the solutions equally so. And ‘the big baddie’ is fun, and interesting and you want to know more about them.

There’s a season long arc and the season ends on a great cliffhanger, sadly unresolved.

But yeah, while never the greatest show around, it’s fun, and clever, and I liked the actors and what they did with their roles.

(Quick additional comment here: Instinct started at the same time as Perception and I only mention it, and enjoyed it, for two reasons: 1) it was genuinely unusual but delightful to see the protagonist in a lovely, loving, respectful and silly-at-times gay marriage… and that it was seen and shown as nothing unusual to the other characters. 2) whoever had the idea of making ALAN CUMMINGS play an ex-CIA field agent deserves either firing or a promotion. It’s either a truly awful idea or a genuinely wonderful ones. When I figure out which, I’ll let you know.)


 
 
Arrowverse
While not having anything like the same level of excitement as in the early years, I’ve enjoyed the Arrowverse shows on and off the past couple of years. The final mega-crossover was cleverly done and returned to what made the Earth-X crossover so enjoyable: everyone mixing and matching throughout rather than four different shows each of which play an entirely separate part in the story. That may work when it’s Law & Order/One Chicago but not when it’s in the world where comics crossovers are more common than not, these days.

Of the newer shows, well, I didn’t really enjoy Stargirl (I know it’s not formally part of the Arrowverse but give it time); I just wasn’t the audience for it, and I’m beginning to get the same feeling about Superman & Lois. Black Lightning I loved, every episode and the darker tone to the show rewarded viewers who stuck with it. Supergirl disappeared up its own portal a while back and I have no idea what any character wants at any given time. Which is more the fault of the writers than in should be. I’d say the same about Legends of Tomorrow. Of the newer show, Batwoman continues to be fun, and clever, and I’m enjoying the cast changes there.

Arrow, on the other hand, constantly worked as a show for me. Almost every episode, and particularly the final couple of seasons. And The Flash seems to have finally realised after a season of dread that the show is supposed to be… fun.

Hmm, when I started this bit, I didn’t expect it to end like that. I have liked the Arrowverse, but I’m not entirely sure why, now.


 
 
Fringe
Every so often, as show comes along that I just… miss out on watching at the time of broadcast. And, by the time I notice everyone else is raving about it, it feels too late to catch up.

Well, hello Fringe. At one point, it seemed that everyone I knew was saying very nice things about the show, and recommending it. But every time I felt like maybe watching it, I got the impression that there was just so much continuity bound up in the show that a) I’d have to start watching from the first episode or there’d be no point… and b) I’d be behind everyone else so, and couldn’t participate in the discussion and have to avoid any spoilers, so what would be the the point?

Well, jump forward a few years; the show’s long over. And, during lockdown, I’m looking for something to occupy my time. And I get hold of a copy of the first season of Fringe. I’d forgotten most of what I did know about it, and had this vague idea that it was of the same genre as The X-Files, a show I’d never really enjoyed that much.

I put on the first episode. And before I knew it, I’d watched four episodes and was hooked. Genuinely can’t remember a show where I’d gone from ‘ok, let’s see what this is about’ to ‘I must watch more… more… give me more…’

The very occasional duff episode, and the show definitely rewarded binge-watching; I’m not sure I’d have recalled every dropped loose end that got picked up six episodes later without it. But wow, was this a great show. The multiple earths thing could have been written for me, and the acting just amazed me episode after episode.

By the time I got to the ‘alternate universe’s comic books’, I was already being blown away every episode. I can’t think of another show that packed quite so much into every episode, once it found its feet, other than The Last Ship, which made a point of it, and another show I went from watching the pilot to wanting more, immediately.

The plot was convoluted, the ‘weird stuff’ perfectly reasonable in-universe, and I’m not sure any other show would, twice, blow away, destroy, the entire continuity of the show and rely upon the viewers’ intelligence and loyalty to carry them through the ‘what the fuck is happening now?’ arcs.

An utterly astonishing show that treated its viewers with… respect. And I’m so, so glad I eventually got around to watching.

(Not for nothing, I discovered Jared Harris first when he played George VI in The Crown; it was fun to see him in this as an out and out baddie… a couple of out and out baddies in fact. Watch the show and that will make sense, I promise.)


 
 
Good Omens
Ah, be fair, if there was any individual show you’d have expected me to mention in this Ten Things, it was this one, right? I’ve always enjoyed Good Omens as a novel, and I quite enjoyed the Radio 4 version of it. But it’s never been my favourite novel or anything.

While I enjoy Neil’s writing (yes, fair to mention in a ‘declaration of personal interest’ that Neil’s an old friend), I’ve never been able to get into Discworld. I wish I did; I wish I enjoyed the books as much as everyone seems to, and as much as everyone else seems think I will.

I’ve no idea why I don’t enjoy Discworld; I’ve tried several books, on several occasions, and I just don’t ‘get’ what everyone else does from the stories.

Usual reminder: When I say I ‘don’t enjoy’ something, that doesn’t mean I regard it as ‘no good’, nor that I have no taste (debatable, I guess); merely that it’s not to my taste. And when I say ‘I didn’t like something’, that’s very different from “I disliked it.” The former is a mere absence of enjoyment; the latter is an active antipathy to it.

So, no, I just ‘didn’t enjoy’ Discworld when I tried it. But I’ve always liked the writing on Good Omens. So was delighted when they announced the show. And everything I learned about it, including the superb casting, increased my anticipation.

While the trailer gave me pause, I’ll admit I was wrong to even slightly doubt the show itself.

Watching the trailer, I wasn’t sure David Tennant displayed the oleogenous subtlety I always associated (rightly or wrongly) with Crowley’s more devious nature and actions. But of course, the trailer had to grab your attention. And it did.

And the show, when it was entirely faithful to the novel, and also when it veered away from the source material, grabbed me… and didn’t let go. There was no point at all, while watching it, where I didn’t want to know… what happened next.

And of course, that the show had, on occasion, veered away from the novel, maintained the suspense throughout. I knew where we were going; I was never quite sure I knew how we’d get there.

I hope the writer, actors and crew regard that as a compliment; it’s very much intended that way.

Two final points: 1) The music; My hat, it’s good. Every note spot perfect for the moment, every musical phrase appropriate for the scene. 2) I see it’s been announced that John Finnemore is going to be on board to write season 2 with Neil. John’s one of the smartest comedy writers around, who understands you can’t have comedy without pathos, and also that a laugh can come from the malicious enjoyment of someone else’s misfortune. But John never lazily writes to that end. He’s a very clever man. And he’s one of the nicest people I’ve met in comedy, so there’s that as well.


 
 
Cabin Fever
So, John Finnemore. He’s one of the smartest comed– Oh, I’ve already done that bit, right? Well, one of the things John is famous for is as the writer of one of the smartest, funniest, most enjoyable radio sitcoms in the BBC’s history: Cabin Pressure. Anything I could tell you about it wouldn’t do it justice.

BUT, and here’s why this bit is in here, when lockdown hit, John created a quasi-sequel, with one character – the character he played in the show – also in lockdown. He called it Cabin Fever, and during a time in which nastiness and worry and panic and fear were prevalent, John gave us something that was charming and funny and sweet and lovely.

I’d recommend it without hesitation if you want chunks of funny and sweet and nice in your life


 
 
MrWhoseTheBoss
Another YouTube channel I’ve discovered and started watching the past year or so.

I’m not someone who watches YouTube videos that teach me stuff. Not really, nor that do reviews of tech stuff. Occasionally, if I’m interested in a new piece of tech, I’ll do a search for reviews of that specific tech, but that’s all. I certainly won’t subscribe to the channel or anything, or eagerly wait for the next video to be released.

But this time, I did all of those.

I had the opportunity to upgrade some of my tech. And my iPhone XR’s limitations were beginning, just beginning, to bug me. So I took a look online to see what people were saying about the iPhone 12 range. And I discovered MrWhoseTheBoss or more precisely I discovered the channel, and then the fella who runs it: Arun Maini. And I watched his review. And then watched some more reviews he did. And then checked out his other videos, his playlists of ’10 smartphone failures’ and ’15 tech fails’ and ‘gadgets under $50’ and at some point I subscribed and started looking forward to his explanatory videos, where he talked about what 6G was, and so much more, about scams online and other stuff as well.

He’s engaging, and funny, and self-deprecating and very self-aware of all three.

The best recommendation I can give is that you’ll watch a 15 minute video and wonder where the time went. You’ll think it zoomed by in five or six. He’s good. And he’s fun to watch.

Here’s one of his more recent videos.

 
 
For the final three, I’m breaking the ‘new things I’ve been watching’ idea, but they’re definitely three things that I’ve been watching during lockdown
 
 
Bill Nighy/Johnny Worricker trilogy
Bill Nighy is, I think, incapable of giving a bad performance. Even when he’s been in stuff I’ve not enjoyed, I’ve enjoyed his work in it. He was a delighted us Samwise Gamgee in The Lord Of The Rings and… what, you didn’t know that? Oh yes, oh he very much was, in the BBC Radio 4 version, forty years ago; the same production in which Bilbo was played by John Le Mesurier, Gandalf by Micheal Hordern and Frodo by Ian Holm, yes the same Ian Holm who played Bilbo in those movies you’ve probably seen.

But yes, Bill Nighy. And Johnny Worricker, gentleman (not really) spy (ok, yes). David Hare wrote three movies featuring Worricker — Page Eight, Turks & Caicos, and Salting The Battlefield — and I’d recommend them all, especially all in sequence. They’re only about an hour and a half each and they’re flat out wonderful. The casting is brilliant throughout, including a delightful Christopher Walken in the second, and a very niche British cast…

Bill Nighy – Radio 4′s LOTR
Rachel Weisz – The Mummy
Michael Gambon & Ralph Feinnes – Harry Potter
Alice Krige – Star Trek
Felicity Jones – Rogue One
Saskia Reeves – Dune
Ewen Bremner – Wonder Woman

In fact, I like them so much, here are short trailers for all three. Highest possible recommendation for all three.


 
 
Law & Order
I always kind of liked the show but one of the channels on Freeview has been showing half a dozen episodes a day for tghe past couple of years, and I’ve pretty much gotten hooked on the show. I’m continually fascinated by how such a formulaic show managed to not seem ‘samey’, how it kept fresh. Part of it of course is the regular change of cast. Even the roles played by the two longest-serving cast members – S. Epatha Merkerson and Sam Waterston – were kept fresh because it wasn’t merely their characters that counted, but how they intereacted with other cast members. I find it utterly engrossing how new main characters enter the show and have to find their feet. And how that isn’t always a happy experience. (And no, I’m not talking about shorter lived characters. Milena Govich’s character was deliberately written as having a tough time, and Michael Imerioli’s chatracter was again deliberately short term.)

But sometimes the police characters and the DA’s staff not only don’t get on but positively dislike each other, and even when they do genuinely have affection for each other… (McCoy/Briscoe for example) their aims, wants and and objectives clash. The show doesn’t shy away from that, nor provide easy answers to who’s right when they do clash.

(Small sidebar, your honour: I’ve been surprised how much I enjoyed the Homicide: Life On The Streets crossovers, without at any point wanting to watch the other show’s run.)

And much as I loved Lennie Briscoe, and Angie Harmon’s and Carey Lowell’s… the show needed, and got, a shot in the arm in the final three seasons when Linus Roach, Jeremy Sisto and Anthony Anderson turned up.

There’s not another show I can think of with the exception of Doctor Who where the changes of cast are so inherent to the show that the show would be an entirely differnt, weaker, show without it.
 
 
Doctor Who
And talking of which, Doctor Who. Yeah, I’ve been enjoying the Jodie Whittaker Doctor run far more on rewatches than I did when I watched them at the time they were broadcast. Nothing more to say on that other than here’s some Doctor Who .

And that’s ten. Ten Things I’ve enjoyed watching during Lockdown.

Oh, I guess there’s one more, I suppose.
 


 
 
Oh, I did enjoy watching that. I really did. And the rest of the season’s not been too bad either.

 

As for rewatching, there are some shows I enjoy rewatching but I do it so regularly that it’s daft to include them here. So, they’ll be here next week.

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done a Ten Things, and it’s been a very weird week, for lots of reasons, so here’s a Ten Things.

And again, same caveat as always: I’m not sayin these are the best ever musicals. They’re not even necessarily my favourote ever musicals all the time, just ten that immediately sprang to mind when starting this post. They’re just ten musicals I enjoy seeing on stage, and watching and rewatching

Oh, and I can guarantee you’ll disagree. There are a couple of musicals you’ll ask yourselves ‘how the hell could he not include this one, or that one?’

Answer’s simple: either I don’t enjoy it, or I didn’t think of it.

But, for example, no West Side Story. That’s not in the list because I don’t like the musical. Nor’s Grease, though I quite like it. But I’ve seen it so many times, yeah, quite happy not to see it again for a very long time. And no Iesus Christ, Superstar, even though I like the musical a lot. I was in the show at school, and yes I was that bad. But it just didnt make the cut

Oh, and as always, no particular order.

And there’s one at the end you’d be astonished if it wasn’t there… thing is, I’ve never considered it a ‘musical’ as such. But I couldn’t leave it out. Apart from anything else, Mitch Benn would never forgive me.


OK, time to start.

Fiddler On The Roof
OK, a small lie to start with. This was obviously always going to be first. It’s the first one I think of whenever I think of a musical I enjoy. Lord knows how many times I’ve seen this on stage or watched the movie. And there’s an additional reason why it’s special to me.

When Laura and I were married, on a Sunday, we didn’t actually fly off on honeymoon until the Tuesday, so on the Monday, we took our parents to see Fiddler On The Roof at the London Palladium. Topol was Tevye, and it was fun, and funny, and wonderful, as you’d expect, but after the show, I’d arranged for our parents to meet him. And I’ve never seen my mum or Laura’s so completely star struck. So, yeah.

But apart from that, it’s a fantastic musical strong story, great acting in the movie, wonderfully catchy songs, and yeah, the subject material may be a bit rough at times, but yeah, love the show and I’ve rarely seen a bad version of it.

(The stories the musical was based on also reminds me of the only time my father ever warned me off a book. ‘You’re too young’, he warned me when I, as a teenager, wanted to read it. I ignored him and read some English translations since the originals were written in Yiddish. I couldn’t understand why everyone enjoyed them. Where was the fun? The cleverness. The sly observations of everyday life? A few decades later I reread them and then I understood. I had been too young, too immature, to appreciate the writings. Now, I enjoyed them, now I had a bit of life experience.)

 


 
Oliver!
I’m sure there’s someone British over the age of 30 who hasn’t seen this, but I struggle to understand how. For years, it was a staple of the Christmas and Easter tv schedule. And it’s a great muscial; classic tale, amended more than a bit from the original novel. What? You thought Ron Moody’s Fagin was a clever rogue in the book? Boy, have you got a surprise coming. But spot perfect casting, glorious songs, and the enthusiasm of the performances always make this worth a viewing.


 


 
Guys and Dolls
Years ago, I finally managed to get ahold of the Damon Runyon tales that the musical is based on. And they’re fantastic. But you have to work at them, to understand the dialects and characters. The stage musical and movie of Guys and Dolls goes out of its way to make the story and the characters more accessible but somehow doesn’t lose the zest, the excitement and the fact that these are not, for the most part, very nice people. But they are people of their time, and the muscial captures that time and place beautifully. And, as with other songs on the list, they’re catchy, smart, with wonderfully clever lyrics. If you can get past Brando’s ‘singing’, the movie’s ok. My personal favourite cast however was the 1980s London cast: Bob Hoskins, Julie Covington, Julia MacKenzie and Ian Charleson as a superb Sky Masterson.

It’s a tale of gamblers in New York in the 1950s, the women they love, and who love them.


 


 
Singin’ In The Rain
You know, if I hadn’t watched this really recently, I’m not sure I’d have remembered how much I enjoy this musical. Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds, accompanied by the wonderful, the sheer delight that is Jean Hagan turn this fault light tale of Hollywood moving from silent movies to talkies into a gem with extraordinary set pieces.

I watched it a few months back with the children of friends of mine who’d never seen it. And then I watched it again a month later just for the pleasure of doing so.

I recommend it without hesitation.

And how Donald O’Connor wasnt given a special one time Oscar for this scene alone is beyond me…


 


 
Les Miserables
Yeah, ok, some musicals should definitely stay on the stage because you’re always going to fuck up something when you film them. This is a prime example. I’ve never managed to make it through the movie all the way through. But the stage musical? My heavens it’s wonderful. And sweeps you away for a few hours. The lyrics are great, yeah, but it’s the music that completely grabs you, holds you, hugs you close and envelops you.

It’s glorious. How good an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel it is, I don’t have a clue. Never read the book. But as a piece of theatre? Oh yes. Oh yes indeed.


 


 
My Fair Lady
My heavens, they hit paydirt with this one. Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn are magnificent as the leads, although Marnie Nixon does Hepburn’s singing. And then secondary leads are spectacular as well, particularly Wilfred Hyde-White and especially Stanley Holloway as Eliza’s father.

Have to say though, that I for a long time agrees with those who’ve said they ruined the ending when they filmed it, and should have left it with the same ending the play it’s based on – Pygmalion – used. I’m less sure of that now, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate both endings.

Genuinely could have used any of half a dozen different songs for the video for this one, and in fact did swap in and our three or four before landing on this one for its cleverness and just how it’s shot.


 


Blood Brothers
Willy Russell’s only musical, and damn it’s a good one. It’s never been made into a movie, as far as I know, which is a pity because with the right cast, it’d be magnificent. But I’ve seen it several times on stage, and maybe I’ve just been lucky but I’ve never seen a bad cast do it.

The idea? Two children separated at birth have very different lives, meet up as school children, then again as teenagers, and as adults. It’s a story of sacrifice, what parents sacrifice for children, the story of the two children, and of the girl who loves them.

Not a laugh a minute – though there are laughs a plenty, and extraordinarily catchy tunes. And you’ll not be able to think of the name Marilyn Monroe or Miss Jones the same way again.


 


 
The Rocky Horror [Picture] Show
There aren’t that many musicals where watching the stage show is unquestionably a different experience, a qualitatively different experience, to watching the movie.

Now, yes, ok, I’ll acknowledge that sitting in a theatre for a live performance is always a qualitatively different experience to watching a movie. But that’s not what I mean. Rewatching Rocky Horror as a movie, you know exactly what’s going to happen. Second by second, line by line, beat by beat.

That’s never, as in not ever, the case when you see it live. Oh, the songs will be the same, the lines as well. But there’s something extra, something special about seeing it live.

And yes, there’s audience participation in the movie. There is. Trust me on that one. But even that is prepared. Most, if not all, of the audience knows what’s happening every step of the way, and have prepared for it.

Again, not the case when you’re seeing it live. Because you have no idea what the actors will get the audience to do. And you’ve no real idea what you’ll do, when carried away by the energy, the fun, the sheer joy in the room.

But the movie’s pretty great anyway. You should watch that. But go see Rocky Horror live if you ever get the opportunity.


 


OK, we’re up to eight.

Two more.

One that you’ve probably never heard of but is one of my all time favourite musicals.

The other, if you’ve not heard of it, you don’t know me.

So…

A Slice of Saturday Night
Yeah, this is the one you’ve probably never heard of. I discovered it almost by accident about thirty years ago and I absolutely love it.

Set in the 1960s, at a dance club, the cast are seven 17 years olds out for a Saturday night, and the club owner. That’s it.

What’s it about? Best way to sum it up is: it’s about falling in love on Saturday night… every Saturday night.

Almost all the songs are homages to classic 1960s hits; close enough so you know the song they’re homaging, far away enough from the original that the songs work in and of themselves.

It’s glorious. Clever lyrics, wonderful tunes, and with the right cast, it’s an evening of sheer joy.

Yeah, with the right cast.

A long time ago, while in a discussion about ‘end of life’, I was asked if I’d ever seen anyone die. My reply was “Yes, Dennis Waterman in A Slice of Saturday Night”. It wasn’t only his fault. The show needs to be in a small theatre. It’s an intimate piece. Seeing it with 800 others, the show lost its charm, and its cleverness.

But yes, if you ever get the chance to see A Slice Of Saturday Night in a small-ish theatre, go and have fun.

Been unable to find a decent video from the show, but here’s a song from the London cast that I saw… on Saturday chat….


 


 
OK, the one that Mitch would never forgive me if I left off, and I wouldnt recognise me had I done so.

Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds
Oh, come on, not a surprise surely…?

It’s a musical that needs no introduction, so it’s not getting one. Just enjoy.

What?

Oh, ok, then…


 
See you for the usual tomorrow.

Yes, yes, ok, I should have known.

When I wrote last week’s post, I commenced with:

I swear, when I did the post last week, I had every intention of making it a one-off.

I really should have know better.

Not the first post that turned into a three or four parter, or even the first post that ran away with me; I’m sure it won’t be the last.

But after writing a few ‘Ten Things’ posts, I wrote a few on Doctor Who, about each incarnation/regeneration, and my sometimes tenuous relationship with the show.

So, two weeks ago, I listed ten Doctor Who stories I’ll quite happily watch, and rewatch. And then, later, rewatch. And of course, of course, I got to nine, realised I could list a dozen more… and did another ten last week. But still ran out of slots.

So, here, finally, are another ten.

Yes, yes, ‘past budgie’ is a fucking idiot.

So, here are ten more. Again, no real rules, other than that they’re in chronological order for the most part.

And again, same caveat as before: I’m not sayin these are the best ever episodes. They’re not even my favourite episodes/stories, necessarily. They’re just another ten stories I’ll quite happily watch, and rewatch. And then, later, rewatch again.

But, since the past two weeks’ posts finished with Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, most of those below are going to be from Peter Capaldi’s and Jodie Whittaker’s runs…


OK, time to start.

Deep BreathThe Twelfth Doctor
I wasn’t that impressed with this episode when I first watched it. I’m not sure why. I mean, ok, it was the new Doctor and there’s always – as I’ve said before – that tough thing that a writer and director has to do: introduce the new fella, have some fun, show how he’s different but ultimately the same character.

So why, if I only thought it was ok… have I watched it and rewatched it quite so often? Because it’s a lot better than I gave it credit for the first time I watched it is the obvious answer. Capaldi’s having a blast, setting up the new setup, and there’s so much thrown into the mix, that I’m surprised they fit it in. The Paternoster Gang are always fun to have around, and Clara’s mystification at the new fella is well played as well. And there’s a mystery, and there’s a mystery woman, and a call back to a previous story, to a couple of stories in fact, and you’re not quite sure how cold a bastard this new Doctor actually is.

The final-ish scene is clever, mawkish, and… original. I think that’s it; no one had done it before, the whole ‘the Doctor knows it’s going to freak out his companion, even if she’s met past selves, so does something about it’ thing.

It continues the run of the very good first episodes for the new Doctor, and that’s always welcome.

 


 
Mummy On The Orient Express – The Twelfth Doctor
By now the new dynamic has been set; this Doctor is about learning and teaching. His hunger to learn, about new things, about stuff that’s going on, is apparent, his arrogance to show others what he knows is even more so. So when he comes across a mystery that he needs to solve, that becomes the most important thing, and he’s almost careless about the effects on others. Not quite careless, but almost so. He’s more concerned with being right than anything else. And isn’t after the fame and glory bit.

(It was about this time that I once again wondered which incarnations each of the Doctors regarded with the most contempt. I really don’t think this Doctor looks fondly upon The Tenth Doctor, for example, or the Fifth, but the Seventh? Oh, he’d have some words for him….)

Frank Skinner is great as a guest star and the story holds together on repeated viewings. The mystery is far more important than the eventual solution, but the whole thing is fun.


 


 
Dark Water/Death In Heaven – The Twelfth Doctor
A spot perfect two-parter. This is when everything came together for Capaldi’s first season, exactly as and when it should: the season finale.

The return of a classic villain, the return of another classic villain that had been hinted at for ages, a very good clifhanger (well, two, really), the return of UNIT, of Osgood, and the pacing is just about perfect. Never a boring moment, some genuinely scary bits, and very clever misdirects throughout. Oh, and Chris Addison.

A couple of bits that don’t make sense, a couple of plot holes, but I’ve watched this two-parter time and again, and I’ll no doubt watch it again in the near future, just for fun.

And, nicely for once, both parts are essential. You couldn’t cover the first part in a ten minute catchup. That doesn’t always apply.


 


 
The Woman Who LivedThe Twelfth Doctor
The second part of a kind of two-parter, and unlike the story immediately above, while I’ve watched the The Woman Who Lived more than a few times, I don’t think I’ve rewatched the first part at all. Masie Williams was kind of ok in the first part but she shines as Me here. She’s the kind of person that the Doctor forgot existed, someone who is so long lived that she’s forgotten most of what happened to her in earlier days.

A clever concept, played well. (If you can barely remember what happened in the past, why on earth should be feel any loyalty to old comrades or even friends; they only die in the end, after all… )

Capaldi and Williams are obviously enjoying playing against each other and while the plot isn’t the strongest, the acting alone takes this onto the list.

And this scene says so, so much,


 


 
ExtremisThe Twelfth Doctor
I wasn’t sure about this episode when I first watched it; I’m not sure why. Because it’s fantastic. I can only assume I was having a rough day or something, and wasn’t paying attention. I mean, there clues throughout when you look for them, but cleverly done, so that you write them off as ‘well, it’s Doctor Who‘. And when the pennies start to drop, the reveals start to come, even when you know they’re coming, they’re still just enough of a surprise to give you a start.

I’m unconvinced by the final seconds of the story, but that’s a tiny quibble. I love the characterisations, the dialogue, and the sheer ‘what the hell is going on?’ of this story. It rewards rewatching.


 


 
Twice Upon A TimeThe First And Twelfth Doctors
Damn, this was clever. There’s almost nothing wrong with this final episode of Capaldi’s run. David Bradley is just about perfect, playing the First Doctor (which is pure chutzpah on the part of the casting director, for a reason I’ll expand on in a moment). Not so sure about the plot itself, but as a ‘farewell’ to the Twelfth Doctor, it’s spot on. You get Bill back, you get Nardoll back, you get to see the 1960s Doctor really, really out of place, while utterly mystified at the latest version of… himself. Mark Gatiis is wonderful, but they telegraph the ‘twist’.

But yeah, the fun comes from two Doctors who should never have met… meeting.


 


 
Demons Of The PunjabThe Thiteenth Doctor
No, I’m not going to have the first episode of Jodie Whittaker’s run; it’s a great introduction for the new Doctor, eventually. But I really wasn’t interested until she showed up.

And this is the only bit I quite like rewatching.

So, no, this was the first episode of Whittaker’s run I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish and have rewatched a couple of times. I love the idea of somoene finding something in their parents’ or grandparents’ lives they just want to know more about and, hey, their friend has a time machine, so why not?

(There’s certainly been things I’d have wanted to discover.)

And everyone’s just about perfect in this story; the plot works brilliantly, the ‘villain’ isn’t, quite. No-one’s uncomplicated, no=one’s entirely good or bad. And from the best of motives, things can go a bit screwed up.

And the plot wraps up nicely, though not without consequences.


 


 
It Takes You AwayThe Thiteenth Doctor
With most of the stories I’ve listed here and in the previous posts, I know why I like rewatching so much. Sometimes, however, I’m entirely puzzled. Such in the case with this one. The acting is great, but no more than in lots of other stories. The plot is great but the ending is a bit meh. And the resolution isn’t exactly satisfying.

But maybe that’s why I enjoy it, because sometimes it’s nice not to have everything wrapped up in a neat bow.

Whatever the reason, I keep rewatching this just for the pleasure of rewatching it.

And yeah, it’s a bit weird. Which is never a bad thing.


 


 
OK, that’s eight. I’ve got two spaces left and I knew the moment this went to three parts what the final two were going to be.

I almost included the Peter Cushing movies but I’d said everything I wanted to say about them in the Doctor Who post I wrote a while back.

So, two very different stories for the final two:

An Adventure In Space And Time The First Doctor, kind of
Yeah, if you didn’t see this coming, I don’t blame you, though I did kinda hint it above. This is one of the finest Doctor Who stories around, for obvious reasons. It’s drenched in love for the who, and of all the various ‘this is how the show you love came to the screen’, it’s one of the finest examples.

The actors and producers are people, not legends. They’re not perfect, they’re not villains or heroes. They’re people working at their jobs to the very best of their abilities. They’re imperfect and that makes the story of what happened even better.

Get hold of this if you haven’t seen it; it’s a story that’s wonderful in tyhe telling and as with the others, rewards the rewatch so bloody much.

And though it’s very much set alone, and done as a one-off, one day… one day, I’d very much like to see a multi-episode history of Doctor Who…


 


 
One more:

And again, if you think you know me, and haven’t seen this one coming, you really don’t know me.

No details, no reasons. Just the video.

Enjoy.

 
 
See you for the usual tomorrow.

I swear, when I did the post last week, I had every intention of making it a one-off.

There wasn’t going to be a second post on the subject; of course not. OK, sure, I knew today would be a “Ten Things” post… because I like the format and, with 75 posts to write, it’s useful to have a series of regular ‘ok, it’s Tuesday? It’s fiction. It’s Friday? It’s ‘Ten Things’,” type posts, to structure the run.

But, no, last week’s was supposed to be just one, and then today I’d find a different subject. I dunno: Ten legends about British politics that aren’t true, or Ten cop procedural I like. Ten other things, anyway.

After all, I’ve made a habit of these, the past few months.

And I did write a series of Doctor Who posts, about each incarnation/regeneration, and my sometimes tenuous relationship with the show.

So, last week it only seemed sensible to combine them, and list ten Doctor Who stories I’ll quite happily watch, and rewatch. And then, later, rewatch.

And of course, of course, I got to nine, realised I could list a dozen more… so promised another ten this week. Past budgie is a fucking idiot.

Anyway here are another ten. Again, no real rules, other than that they’re in chronological order for the most part.

And again, same caveat as last week: I’m not sayin these are the best ever episodes. They’re not even my ten favourite episodes/stories, necessarily. They’re just ten stories I’ll quite happily watch, and rewatch. And then, later, rewatch again.


OK, time to start.

Day of the DaleksThe Third Doctor
I’m pretty sure this wasn’t the first time I encountered the Daleks, but it’s the one that scared me; between the Daleks and the Ogrons, oh, eight year old me was very scared indeed. Classic “behind the sofa’ watching.

(And, upon checking, I see that this was the first Daleks story for five years, so I suspect the first time I saw the Daleks would have been in the Peter Cushing movie. Huh.)

The story is pretty standard: time travelling soldiers come back to kill someone to prevent a bad timeline taking place; wasn’t that original even fifty years ago (oh gods, it was broadcast almost fifty years ago), but it’s done with style and panache, and the only thing that’s kind of odd is… I’m not sure why the Daleks are included. They really weren’t necessary. There’s nothing about the story that requires their inclusion, and if there once was, it was cut in the edit. But while they’re there, while they’re on screen, they’re fun. And they set up the ‘The Doctor is [always] an enemy of the Daleks’ quite nicely for a new generation of fans like yours truly.

But it’s the Ogrons that I truly remember as terrifying me; strong, brutal, thick as pigshit. Which meant they couldn’t be bargained with, couldn’t be persuaded. Yeah they scared me. And a proper sf time travel story, complete with complexities.


The Ark In Space – The Fourth Doctor

The first story after Tom Baker’s regeneration tale (Robot), and the companions and the viewers are still figuring out what to make of this new incarnation of The Doctor.

And of course it’s another Harry Sullivan episode; there’s something that was just much more… fun… about the Fourth Doctor’s early run, when Harry was there, blundering around and basically being an idiot from the best of motives.

But again, the story’s a cracking one, there’s more than one genuinely cool sf idea being played with, almost thrown around i fact, and the baddie, the baddie, what can I say about the baddie that… shouldn’t be said if I have any respect for Doctor Who. Yeah, it suffers from 1970s-itis. Let’s just say it’s far scarier when you don’t actually see it, or see just a bit of it, or even see just a bit of transformation.

But even though this is arguably the first part of a four part season long mega-story (comprising this story, The Sontaran Experiment, Genesis Of the Daleks and Revenge of the Cybermen) it stands up well on its own, and there are some glorious backs and forths of dialogue. And the story goes out of its way to distinguish Baker’s Doctor from Pertwee’s. The scene attached, in which The Doctor… motivates Sarah is a case in point.


The End of The World – The Ninth Doctor
Ok, straight to the NuWho now. (Yes, yes, I know, your favourite Doctor is Peter Davison’s or Sylvester McCoy, or maybe even Colin Baker’s run is your thing. Cool. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it would be a bit difficult for me to have stories from any of their runs in this, to claim that I’d happily rewatch this story or that story… for the simple reason that I’ve seen only some of Davison’s run, a couple of episodes of Baker’s and almost none of McCoy’s.)

So, yes, straight to the Ninth Doctor, and – cleverly – RTD continued the ‘this is dangerous, this is weird, this is stuff you didn’t expect, and oh, did I mention it’s dangerous? I did? Good, because that’s important. Also? It’s worth it…’ attitude. We learn more about this Doctor, where he comes from, and more about how his devil may care attitude is just that… an attitude. He’s a deeply damaged character, and there’s the first hint that Rose not realising that is going to cost her… hugely.

And then of course, there’s a deliciously evil baddie whodunnit, a classic-style Who sacrifice, and a denouement of the mystery that shows us, shows the audience for the first time, what a bastard the coldly angry Doctor can be… which is something most of the audience had probably forgotten, what with all the clowning.

Ecclestone knocks it out of the park in this episode, and the final moments are a mixturere of mawkishness and essential lesson learning, for both the Doctor and Rose,

The story’s clever, the acting delightful, and the silliness just about perfect.


The Doctor Dances – The Ninth Doctor
I’m sure there’s a reason there’s a part one to this story, to which this is the second part. But I’m buggered if I know what it was. A Stephen Moffatt tale that’s creepy and nasty and just a little bit very, very dangerous, but about 30 minutes too long at 90 minutes. Of course, this is the story that introduces Cap’n Jack Harness to the Who universe, but he’s quite a different character here than how he developed, both in later episodes and later though Torchwood. (I’m still wondering whatever happened to those two years of his life, the memories of which he ‘lost’, by the way.)

But I dunno; there’s very little to me that marks out the first part (‘The Empty Child‘) as a particularly important episode. You can gather pretty much everything you need from the “previously…’ before the second part’s opening titles, especially since the opening seconds dispose of the cliffhanger.

But it’s the interplay between Harkness and the Doctor, the final resolution – oh, you clever bastard, Moffatt – and the growing maturity of Rose, hugely developed since the opening episodes, that mark this out. Oh, and a special nod to Richard Wilson who steals the screen every time he appears and yet somehow never quite appears enough.

And it has one of the finest ‘bigger on the inside’ moments in Who history.


The Girl In The Fireplace – The Tenth Doctor
Oh yes. Not sure how this one got missed last week. Sophia Myles is incredibly good in the episode, and again it’s proper sf, with a nasty twist. And a clever, nasty, beautiful ending.

Oh, and a horse. I should probably mention the horse. Unfortunately, the ‘mystery’ is so bloody obvious you kind of have to pretend it’s not there, as you do the ‘oh, this Doctor’s impulsiveness can really fuck things up for others unless you’re very, very lucky’.

After a couple of episodes when the Doctor was the undoubted hero, he really isn’t in this episode. He’s foolish and silly and entirely unaware of just how much danger he exposes his companions to. And it’s beautifully portrayed as if his annoyance is justified, while letting the audience know it’s really not.

Cleverly written and acted. Very nicely done.


Smith & Jones – Tenth Doctor
Martha’s first story, which is fun, and a bit scary, had a great monster/baddie, a completely silly ‘getting rid of radiation’ scene. And Roy Marsden. Lovely.

I really like this story; cleverly and correctly shows Martha as a completely different character to Rose, sets up the relationship between the Doctor and Martha in two clever scenes, and ends with not only a nice call-back to the first scene of the show (which answered a long standing disagreement: what’s the fastest way to convince someone you can travel in time?) but a ‘you get one trip as a thank you’ setup that everyone knows ain’t gonna last.

Clever plotting, hugely enjoyable overacting throughout and you really really do sympathise with Martha for ohso many reasons by the end.


Blink – Tenth Doctor
When the show does a Doctor-light episode, it often doesn’t work that well. Except this story and the next one I’m listing, when it absolutely does work, and works beautifully. This isn’t a story about The Doctor, not really. This is abut what happens when your world collides with a world you have no idea existed, and you still come out stronger the other end.

It’s Carey Mulligan’s episode and she deserved every plaudit she got from it. The story’s clever, the baddies – the Weeping Angels – are terrifying, the plotting is immaculate and the resolution very clever. Moffatt adapted his own story from a Doctor Who annual and did it beautifully. The pacing is perfect; there’s something ‘new’ every five minutes; the threat and the suspense don’t let up for a moment.

For a story that barely features The Doctor or Martha, it’s one of the best Who stories ever.


Turn Left – Tenth Doctor
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a sucker for ‘What If…?’ stories. For obvious reasons, Doctor Who doesn’t do many of them specifically in that genre. Well, let’s face it, the whole show is pretty much a ‘What If…?’ story. But this takes it further.

Basically, it’s Donna Noble’s life had she never met the Doctor… and the Earth’s story had the Doctor died before he met Donna… and how everything turns to shit.

Oh, and Rose Tyler’s back, but this is a Rose the viewer’s aren’t sure they know or trust. (That’s horribly cleverly done)

And just as you think the story’s over, just as there’s a ‘ok, you can relax now’, the cliffhanger hits you in about 60 seconds of ‘oh shit’.

Very nicely done, indeed.


The Name of The Doctor – The Eleventh Doctor
This shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does. Honestly, it shouldn’t. I mean, it’s clever, it brings together characters that shouldn’t be together. It melds comedy and tragedy, nastiness and silliness, history and continuity (in a show where some continuity is always optional). It shouldn’t work.

And yet it does. It works perfectly. And – as far as the show was concerned at that point – it also brings an end to the River Song saga. (I’ve avoided River Song so far for a deliberate reason, but more of that in a future entry.)

But it’s the first story in Clara’s tenure with the Eleventh Doctor where I actually cared what happened to her. I never liked her that much as a character. The occasional story, sure, but she seemed far better as an occasional focus rather than having so much of the season rest on her.

But here? Yes, here her character works beautifully.

Oh, and yes, the whole final ten minutes is very, very good tv. You’re not sure what’s happening, when it’s happening, how it works… you’re just very pleased it does.

And the final thirty seconds with that reveal. Yeah. That just topped off the ‘what the fuck?’ And made everyone watching desperate for the The Day of the Doctor that was coming that November.


Oh bugger. We’re back at nine again.

I only have one more to choose.

OK, one more set next week, solely from Deep Breath onwards, ok?

HideThe Eleventh Doctor
The basic plot is ok. The resolution’s ok. The dialogue’s ok. the ‘baddie’? Ok.

The acting? Off the charts. Seriously, everyone in this story, Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman, sure, but Dougray Scott and Jessica Raine are the starts of this episode. And they show it with every gesture, every glance, every word. I don’t think I’ve seen either of them quite as perfect as they are in this episode, in this story, to the point that it’s a genuine pleasure to to watch them on the screen individually and together.

There are three or four genuinely clever set pieces and the ‘fake’ ending is better than the actual one. But yes, it’s the acting that blows the one off the charts.

 
OK, one more set next week.

And the usual tomorrow.

OK, during the past few months, I’ve written about stuff I like re-reading or rewatching, about individual episodes of tv shows, individual comic book issues, and pilots, and two on old movies ,then one on old-ish movies, and a couple about podcasts.

And I wrote a series of Doctor Who posts, about each incarnation/regeneration, and my sometimes tenuous relationship with the show.

So, time – sorry! – to combine them. 

Now, there are loads of ways I could do this; one story from each of the first ten Doctors, say. Or ten stories from NuWho; there are certainly enough of the latter.

And if I do most of them from the ‘classic’, the pre-1987 run, it’s kind of unfair on the first, second, sixth, seventh etc., since I didn’t watch most of their episodes, or hardly any in the Seventh Doctor’s run, to be fair.
 

So, no ‘rules’, no only one story per Doctor, no rules other than one: these won’t be the ‘best’ Doctor Who stories, nor necessarily the ten Doctor Who stories that are the best television.

They’re not even my ten favourite episodes/stories. They’re just ten stories I’ll quite happily watch, and rewatch. And then, later, rewatch.


OK, time to start.

The Sea Devils – The Third Doctor
I don’t really remember the episodes with the Silurians. I mean, I probably saw them; as I mentioned in the run of Doctor Who posts, I watched the show from when Pertwee took over.

And while I remember some of Liz Shaw not really that much. (I’d include Inferno in here, but I dunno; something about that story, excellent as it is, doesn’t work for me.)

But The Sea Devils had everything that made Doctor Who watchable back then: UNIT, The Master, Jo Grant being… well, being Jo Grant, and the Doctor getting to show off his anger, his compassion, his knowledge, and his grudging respect for The Master. Oh, and Roger Delgado being as Master-y as he ever was. Everything worked in the story; there was a decent plot, a great script and some nice nods and winks to the viewers.

Oh, and this as well.


The Three Doctors – The first Three Doctors

Lord knows what they were thinking; let’s do a multi-Doctor story. Sure, I mean, there had been crossover stories on tv before, and the US Western Maverick had loads of them. But this was something new; the same character, at different times in his life… and get this: they don’t get on. They don’t actually much like each other. Oh, as an effective tenth anniversary gift for the viewers, it was wonderful.

A better than decent baddie, squabbles between the Doctors, confused companions, Leithbridge-Stewart’s exasperation, and special effects that… yeah, ok, let’s not talk about them. They’re actually almost painful to watch now.

But the script is great, the acting is fun, and Patrick Troughton is obviously having enormous fun being back as The Second Doctor.

What no one knew at the time, of course, was that William Hartnell was so very ill, that this would be his last contribution to Doctor Who, and indeed, it may have been unfair to force him to do the story.

But for a nine year old me… I think it was the best thing I’d ever seen on television. And if for no other reason, it goes on the list.


Genesis Of The Daleks – The Fourth Doctor
There’s a reason why this story appears in the ‘best Doctor Who stories’ lists. I’ve watched it I don’t know how many times, and while, yes, there are plot holes, and yes, some of the dialogue is a bit ropey, the damn thing holds together despite that. No. It does more than ‘holds together’. It works, far better than it had any right to. Now, ok, I’ve a soft spot for Ian Marter’s Harry Sullivan. I always liked him as a character and he’s particularly good in this. But it’s the Doctor and Davros around who this story hangs. And the Daleks. We see the creation of the Daleks.

Sometimes, when a series – whether it’s comics or tv – gives in to temptation and reveals the origin of a character that’s been either shrouded in mystery, or just had multiple explanations, but says this is the definitive origin, it doesn’t work.

The two that spring to mind from comics are Wolverine and Cable; when they’ve tried to give definitive origins, they’ve never quite worked.

But this does. (And it’s not like Doctor Who hasn’t tried with others, like the Cybermen.) But this is how to do it… right.

By making the actual creation less important than the motivations of the creator and giving the Doctor the dilemma below.

I can’t say there’s nothing wrong with the story; there is. I can’t say there’s nothing wrong with individual episodes. There are. Still and all, it’s a favourite of mine, and if you somehow have never seen it, I recommend it without reservation.


Rose – The Ninth Doctor

Yeah, I’m leaping straight to NuWho, now. After sixteen years off the telly (apart from the tv movie which everybody seemed to be slightly embarrassed about for some reason), Doctor Who was back. Decent promos, a pretty good set up, and in fifty minutes, Russell T Davies brought back The Doctor for a new… well, not fair to say a new generation, because there were as many ‘old’ fans watching as newer fans who wanted to see what the fuss was all about.

But sure enough, Saturday 25th March 2005, me and my then nine year old lad were both sitting on the couch, watching the opening credits. Which were very snazzy, I’ll admit. The story is pretty good, the introduction of the other characters was pretty much everything you needed to know about them, and Ecclestone’s Doctor was everything I’d wanted: stripped back to the basics, even with the ‘costume’.

And the story itself was… ok. I mean, again, it introduced the who, what, where, how… efficiently, and the acting is fun. Even Billy Piper’s character grows during the episode. And that final few moments is pure delight.

But yeah, it belongs on the list.

Oh, and it’s got a spot perfect “it’s bigger on the inside” moment that explains stuff, and just how The Doctor is… different.


The Christmas Invasion – The Tenth Doctor

It can be tough to pull off regeneration episodes, the first story with a new Doctor. Apart from anything else, you run the risk of the Doctor doing something and the audience thinking ‘yeah, the other fella would have done that faster/better, and would have dealt with it better’.

The temptation is to make the Doctor’s character completely different, to emphasise the differences… which to be fair most do.

But this story is smarter, somehow. For most of the episode, the Doctor is… recovering, unwell. And when he does reappear, it’s pretty much perfect. A fully working Doctor, knowing what he’s doing, but entirely unsure of who and what he is yet. The plot’s fairly standard, the acting is great from everyone concerned, and the dialogue is genuinely ‘different’.

And Tennant pulls it off in spades. Great baddies, superb coda to the tale when he really shows he’s a different man.

A couple of patented RTD wince-inducing moments, to be sure, but it”s great, and a story that I can – and have – rewatched any number of times.

And it started a tradition of pretty good ‘Doctor picks a new outfit’ scenes in the new run. All of them have been pretty good in the run, I’ll be honest.


School Reunion – Tenth Doctor

Another tenth Doctor episode, and one of my favourite in the entire Tenth Doctor’s tenure.

From the moment Doctor Who was brought back, the fans were begging for… overt and specific references to the earlier run. There were hints, and yes of course there were the classic baddies; Rose above had the Nestene Consciousness, after all. But what everyone wanted was some reference to the old companions.

(One of my favourite moments in the ensuing The Sarah Jane Adventures was, at the end of an episode, Sarah Jane tells the kids what happened to some of the other companions of the Doctor.)

And of all the companions to bring back, Sarah Jane Smith. And the episode is pretty much perfect. Anthony Head as a spectacularly evil baddie, the return (briefly) of K-9, the pleasure and pain of The Doctor meeting Sarah Jane again. The sparks between her and Rose. And a reminder to viewers once again that travelling with the Doctor has costs, sometimes huge ones.

A smart script, great acting and fun dialogue. Yeah, I like this story.

And Sarah’s reaction to seeing the TARDIS? Oh yes.


Utopia – Tenth Doctor

The new run of Who has in the main concentrated on single 50 minute stories, with a season arc. Sometimes that’s worked better than others, sometimes it hasn’t worked at all. And occasionally, there are two parters. Or, on one occasion, a three parter.

I’m not the hugest fan of The Sound of Drums, nor of The Last Of The Time Lords, the second and third parts of the The Master Returns three parter.

But the first part… oh, that one I like. I mean I shouldn’t. It’s mostly setup for the remainder of the story but I do like it a lot. The return of Jack Harkness to the show, and the relationship with the Tenth Doctor that develops, Martha wholly out of her depth for most of the episode, the nice sf concept of ‘ humanity at the end of the universe’ and, of course, Derek Jacobi as Professor Yana. I mean, ok, it’s RTD, so yes of course YANA means something and teh penny drops just before it’s revealed, which is good writing.

But it’s the basic plot and the acting that set this episode apart. Everyone acts their socks off, and their actions and reactions make perfect sense in the circumstances. Mistakes are made by characters and it makes perfect sense that they”d make them. There’s not a moment wasted in the episode and the pacing is just about perfect.

And the moment when Derek Jacobi turns from lovable old buffer into… oh yes.


Eleventh Hour – Eleventh Doctor

Yes, another regeneration episode. Very definitely.

Because it’s great. It’s clever, it’s fun; Amy and Rory are character you instantly want to know more about, and the solution to the problem is clever. And the final two bits of the episode are similarly clever, and fun.

Nothing more to say, except I defy anyone to watch this and not start counting.


The Day of The Doctor – Tenth, Eleventh and War Doctors

Pure fun, from start to finish. Genuinely. There’s nothing wrong with this special. Everything just… works. It shouldn’t. I mean, it really shouldn’t. But it does.

And that final guest star.

I think I might watch it again tonight.


Oh hell. That’s nine already.

I only have one more to choose.

ONE MORE.

IMPOSSIBLE.

Oh, wait. It’s not impossible. Not at all.

I can do another one next week, can’t I?

OK, one more today.

Ten more next week.

I’ll end with.…

The Doctor’s WifeThe Eleventh Doctor

Yes, ok, I’m slightly biased here. Full disclosure. I mean, anyone reading this is likely to know, aren’t they. I mean, I remember this story, and think so fondly of it… because of a personal connection.

I mean, it was broadcast the night of the very final hypotheticals panel. So I came out of that, having enjoyed the final panel, the culmination of twelve years’ work., enjoying the nice words everyone was saying about it, and me, and… then I got to watch this fun episode.

Oh, and yes, Neil’s a friend. There’s that as well, I suppose.

But yeah, I do enjoy this episode a lot. Fun acting, great dialogue, and a cracking baddie. And we get to meet the TARDIS, and say hello to the TARDIS. And, have to say goodbye to the TARDIS. While Amy and Rory and put in real danger.

And it’s funny. And silly. And clever, and just a bit scary. Just scary enough.

Oh, and there are so many nods to old school Who fans.

Yeah, I think I might rewatch this as well.


 
 
Some more next week.

And the usual tomorrow.