A short post on my first impressions of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.

Four year old me thought She-Ra was a badass. Thirty seven year old me thinks that the new She-Ra is also a badass and four year old me would have loved her too.

Some people have moaned about how the new She-Ra and the other characters look and about “diversity” but you know what, forget them. This incarnation of She-Ra is not aimed at those of us who remember the original, although we can still watch it, of course. There are nods to the original, prime example being the way the Netflix logo at the start of the cartoon references the old Filmation intro that heralded the start of their cartoons, but other than that, it’s a complete 21st century production. Plus, the original was first broadcast over thirty years ago, times have changed a lot, including attitudes.

If there is one thing I have a gripe with, it’s the way that Catra looks like a lost character from Thundercats, but apart from that, it’s all good. And the original She-Ra (and also He-Man) episodes are on Netflix as well if you want to watch them again.

Here’s the trailer for the new version:

And here’s the original opening theme. Posted purely for the nostalgia:

 

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That Blog About That Puppet Game Show

Earlier this evening (as I write this), I watched the first episode That Puppet Game Show, a show on BBC1 that was made with the Jim Henson Company. Being a big fan of the Muppets and pretty much everything their creators have done since childhood, I was looking forward to watching this, as virtually everything that they are involved with has some great moments in it.

I thought the show was quite enjoyable myself. It wasn’t brilliant –  there were certain things that didn’t quite work, notably some of the “backstage” sequences, and one or two of the characters are a bit forgettable, but it was fun to watch all the same. It did have a couple of flashes of greatness. The sketch featuring a puppet family, sat at home watching the “Lights Out” game (a game in which guests Jonathan Ross and Katherine Jenkins, clad in suits covered in lights, try to punch as many of them out as they can), was quite funny. And out of all the characters, the two that stand out for me the most are an armadillo called The Amazing Ian, who is the show’s “mental agility expert” (and appears to like a drink) and Clyde, a crab who delivers the scores (who also happens to be a bit, well, crabby). While I thought the show was entertaining, I seemed to be in the minority, if what I saw about it on Twitter was anything to go by. A lot of the tweets I saw were fairly negative about the show, labelling it another bad piece of Saturday night TV. But a common theme seemed to run through most of them, namely that it wasn’t The Muppet Show.

Ah yes, The Muppet Show, easily one of the greatest family entertainment shows ever created. I loved that show. Kermit the frog was my childhood hero (yes I looked up to a muppet, what of it?) I watched practically every episode, including the ones where I didn’t know who the special guest was (who was Madeleine Kahn, for instance?) There is nothing I would love more than to see Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and co on my TV screens again. Thing is though, it ain’t gonna happen. Because save for an odd TV special, The Muppets are a bit too big for television now. And even if a brand new series was made, it would probably never live up to the original. Remember Muppets Tonight? I personally loved it, however looking back it was doomed to fail because of  some of those who remembered the original fondly not giving it much of a chance.  It’s not surprising that this latest offering is getting this reaction. It could be the most amazing programme in TV history, and people would still be going “It’s no Muppet Show, is it?” Its this kind of attitude that stops you from fully enjoying things. How can you fully take in someone’s newest film, TV show or record if all the while you’re comparing it to what they’ve done before?

Yes, That Puppet Game Show is nowhere near of the standard of The Muppet Show. I don’t expect it to be, but I won’t write it off as bad either, as it does show promise. I will keep watching it  because even a below par Jim Henson Company production is better than a lot of the dross that gets served up on TV these days.

I’ll end this post with a clip of one of the more crazier moments of the programme. Scottish, Proclaimers singing hot dogs, anyone?

The Last Broadcast

This evening, the BBC are saying goodbye to Television Centre. On BBC4, I watched Madness play an excellent set in the grounds of the famous studios, while Michael Grade is interviewing some of the BBC’s famous faces on their memories of working there. While all the attention is being focussed on the BBC’s final broadcasts from its legendary home, closer to home another era in television is ending. This evening, the final edition of Granada Reports to be broadcast from Granada TV’s equally legendary Quay Street studios was being transmitted. From Monday, it will be broadcast from its new home at Media City.

Granada Studios, home to some of the world’s greatest television. Next to the Beeb.

I am sad to see Granada leave its Quay Street home. I have walked past it plenty of times over the years. My Mum and my sister both went to watch shows that were recorded at the studios. As a kid, I went on a school trip to the now defunct Granada Studios Tour. I got to walk down Coronation Street and Baker Street (as it was in Granada’s brilliant Sherlock Holmes series), wandered round a room straight out of The Return of the Antelope and watched a debate in the House of Commons. The trip fuelled my interest in television and I hoped to one day be able to walk through the corridors of Granada for real. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

My main fear for Granada Studios, is that it will end up being demolished like the BBC on Oxford Road did. I went past the site of the latter on the bus only last week and was sad to see the gaping hole (and the car park) that has been left there. As it isn’t a listed building, there is a big chance that the Quay Street site could also disappear from the Manchester skyline. It would be a total shame if ITV allowed the oldest working studios in Britain, which is probably the best known after Television Centre, to disappear. And I would hate to see it become some other pricey housing development or soulless office block that is constantly empty, even if they call it “Granada Court” or “Bernstein Towers” (after Sir Sidney Bernstein, Granada TV’s founder). As with Television Centre, why can’t they just leave them alone and let them keep making great television? It’s not that I’m opposed to change, but when things seem to be working OK, why change them?

 

Rewinding to childhood (or how I wasted a weekend watching the telly of my youth)

This weekend, I spent a huge chunk of my time reliving my childhood watching CITV’s Old Skool weekend, staged to celebrate the 30th birthday of ITV’s children’s TV strand. Some of the shows that I sat in front of the television for back in the 80s and 90s were shown on the channel throughout the weekend, thus bringing joy to twenty and thirtysomethings everywhere while showing today’s kids just how good we had it back in the days before iPods, multichannel telly and the internet

As a child, I was very much a CITV viewer. I did watch CBBC too, but there was something about ITV’s children’s output that I liked more. It had Dangermouse for one, Super Gran for another. CBBC had Gordon the Gopher and Edd the Duck among its star puppets. CITV had Scally the dog, Nobby the sheep and a snotty alien called Gilbert. Neil Buchanan gave us an Art Attack, while we all thought that recording How 2 and pausing it to read the datablast at the end of it was the very height of technology (to be honest, it might have been better if they printed a fact sheet). We watched Press Gang thinking that Dexter Fletcher really was an American (you can tell now it wasn’t that good). And who could forget Knightmare, with its state-of-the-art-for-its-time computer graphics?

If there’s one thing I learned this weekend, it was that I watched a lot of television as a child. A hell of a lot. While I enjoyed seeing the likes of Button Moon, Fun House and Woof! on my tv screen again I realised that the channel’s controllers had shown only a handful of its amazing archive. For every classic they showed, there were plenty of others that had been omitted. There was no Cockleshell Bay, no Trap Door, no Your Mother Wouldn’t Like It, no Zzzap! Worst of all, there was no sign of Round The Bend. How I’d have loved to see that back on screens if only to show kids the sheer brilliance that was False Teeth from Beyond the Stars.

(Round The Bend is not to be confused with Round The Twist, an Aussie made children’s drama that was on CBBC and was also a pretty awesome show).

I was also pretty disappointed that CITV showed the later episodes of Knightmare (when Treguard was not as scary and Pickle had been replaced by an annoying woman), and Fun House, (when Pat Sharp had lost his legendary mullet). Of course they were still great, but they were never as good as the early series. And I was really sad to find out that the bits of Fraggle Rock filmed for the UK that featured Fulton Mackay with Sprocket (and later John Gordon Sinclair and Simon O’Brien) had all been lost.

What also struck me was how the shows of my youth had aged. Dangermouse, Count Duckula and Sooty for example are still capable of raising a laugh to both young and old today, while the only dated parts of Fun House and Finders Keepers aside from the fashions, were the prizes on offer. Out of all the shows broadcast during the weekend, it was Dramarama that appeared to have aged the worst. The standard of acting in those one-off dramas seems very poor nowadays, (I know you don’t expect it to be of the standard of a Shakespeare play, but still). On another note, Rosie and Jim are still pretty creepy. Were they meant to be boyfriend and girlfriend or brother and sister? Either way, it didn’t seem right.

Watching the programmes this weekend reminded me just how good TV was back when I was young, but it also told me just how poor a lot of children’s programming today is in comparison. From the time I’ve spent watching CITV and CBBC’s “new skool” programming with my nephew, nothing in today’s schedules could be given classic status, except Horrible Histories, which would  have most likely been a huge hit if it had been on TV 25 years ago. I think that the state of kids tv today also says a lot about how the major broadcasters have treated it over the last few years. Gradually, both ITV and the BBC have appeared to believe that quality children’s programming isn’t as important now as it once was. Both broadcasters have virtually stopped showing kids television on their main channels and shifted it all to their designated children’s stations. Budgets for such programmes have also been cut. They point to the rise of the digital, multichannel era, computers and the internet as their reasons for doing so. And yet, the kids of today are not much different to the children of my generation. Sure there’s more technology around, but kids are just as eager to be amused and inspired as we were. They are just as curious and have just as vivid an imagination. And if given the opportunity, they would just love to get gunged.

I hope that ITV do another weekend of retro CITV programming at some point, or maybe even create an entire channel just for the classics from their archives. Not just so that this (nearly) 32-year-old can enjoy regular nostalgia trips, but also so that a new generation can be entertained by the shows that their parents, aunties and uncles ran home from school to tune into all those years ago.

I’d like to end this blog post by posting the aforementioned False Teeth from Beyond the Stars from Round The Bend.  They really don’t make them like this anymore, folks.

A little pre – X Factor final post

And so, after what seems like an eternity of it being on TV (not helped by the endless ad breaks), this year’s series of the X Factor reaches it’s conclusion this weekend. The final is being staged in my hometown of Manchester this year. I am not going to it, incidentally. It would have been nice to go to it and experience live TV from actually being in the audience of it, but I wouldn’t have got the chance anyway. Plus I’ve been starting to come down with a bit of a cold, which sucks as I have loads of stuff to do. Ah well, I’ll be at home watching it, which is probably the best place for me really.

I have to say, again I haven’t really enjoyed this series as much this year but it has been marginally better than last year’s, in terms of the fact that there has been at least one contestant that I’ve been interested in this year. I think I’ve forgotten most of last year’s contingent, bar Little Mix (which I still think is a stupid name for a group, nothing against them personally) and Marcus Collins – oh and Janet Devlin, and The Risk. But the latter two is probably down to the fact that I follow them on twitter (what about it?).

So what do I think of this year’s final three? Well there are two of them that I thought would definitely make it to the last stages of the competition and one that I didn’t necessarily think would get to this stage. You can probably guess already who fits each one, but even so, here’s what I think of each of this year’s finalists:

Jahmene Douglas – When I first saw Jahmene’s audition I knew that he would go far in the competition. It’s fair to say that he has delivered pretty much every week, even in the performances that I personally wasn’t really that keen on. His ABBA week contribution was probably his weakest , but hey, it was an ABBA song he was doing. If he wins the show I think he will do quite well if given the right material. My only fear is that he might easily be forgotten about – he’s a nice kid, his talent stands out, but he doesn’t. This is not a dig in any way and it is understandable given what we know about him. I hope the experience of being on the show really does bring him out of his shell, then he will really shine. In any case, I don’t think he will be going back to ASDA any time soon.

James Arthur – Of the three left in the competition, James is my favourite. Again, he has been a very consistent performer. In fact, I don’t think there has been anything he has done on the show I really disliked, apart from when they threw in the dubstep bit when he sang Adele’s Hometown1 Glory (why they did that I will never understand). While it would be great if he won, part of me is not sure he will. What works against him is the fact that he is the only one of the three that has been in the bottom two at some stage of the series, and those who have been in that situation have never gone on to win it. That doesn’t mean to say that it couldn’t happen, though.

However, if he does go on to win it, I hope that Syco do not shaft him the way that 2010 winner Matt Cardle was. It’s not wrong to say that James is similar to him in terms of that he writes his own stuff, has played in bands and done the gigs, but they are different musically. I hope James gets a chance to be able to do his own thing, and that he isn’t moulded into Cowell’s own version of Ed Sheeran (I like Ed Sheeran by the way), as it‘s clear he has got something of his own and I would hate him to lose that. I also hope that if it does go wrong with Syco, he follows Matt’s example and walks away from them, rather than stay with them and end up waiting ages to release new material like Shayne Ward did. James would do well to grow a thick skin too, as engaging in twitter spats with the likes of Frankie Boyle will only result in giving Boyle and his ilk more ammo to fire at him. Not to mention making it more likely that the media will tear him to pieces post X-Factor.

Christopher Maloney – I am going to admit it. I actually don’t mind Christopher at all. Really I don’t. Sure he is cheesier than the most mature cheddar, and his performances don’t float my boat (probably because it’s not a cruise ship), but he can sing. He was voted in by the public as the wildcard at the start of the live shows, and the public have kept him in each week. However sad it is that some other singers who we thought would be in to the end have gone while he’s remained, it’s not his fault he’s still in it. In fact, a lot of the negative press surrounding him has made me feel uncomfortable. There has always been at least one contestant each year that has been painted as a kind of pantomime villain by the media since the show’s inception. This year, however it has been nastier than ever before, to the point where I’ve felt sympathy for Christopher and also for Rylan towards the end of his time on the show. Not enough to make me want to vote for them, but enough to make me think that certain sections of both the media and the public have overstepped the mark this year somewhat. I don’t know, nor care, if Chris is a diva, or anything else that he has been accused of being in the tabloids. But even if there’s even a hint of truth in the stories about him, are those spreading them and giving him abuse any better people than he is? Somehow I doubt it.

If Chris wins, it will more likely be because of the hate towards him, rather than in spite of it. That said, there are probably as many people out there who haven’t read the tabloid stuff and voted for him because they like him, as there are those who have voted for him just to stick it to Cowell and his minions. To some, he might not be the most marketable act that ends up on Syco’s roster, but he will probably still sell records to more than just his Nan. Whether anyone will own up to owning one is another matter entirely, but whatever happens fair play and good luck to him.

So there you have it. This has turned out to be more than a little pre – X Factor final blog post. Whatever, this is the only one I have done this year. Lucky you.

My one and only X Factor related blog post this year.

WARNING: Before I start this blog I should say that as the title of this blog suggests, this post will be heavily about the X Factor. If you don’t like it, then perhaps you had better not read this. If you don’t like the show yet still want to read this, then that’s cool. Just don’t troll me ok?

Right then, I’ll start…

I’ve always watched the X Factor, right from the very first series. Say what you will about the show, its contribution to the music industry, and Simon Cowell  (and a lot of people do), I enjoy it as it is a fantastic piece of entertainment. The sort of programme that you tune into and forget about the hectic week you’ve had. The type that brings websites like twitter to life. Indeed, I enjoy tweeting about it –  and reading other people’s –  as much as I enjoy watching the show.  This weekend sees the final of the X Factor, after what seems like a year’s worth of shows. Normally, I would be looking forward to watching it, getting excited (to a degree) about it even. This year, however, I am in the position where I’m not too fussed about it. Usually I have a good idea of who I would like to win or at least, who should win in my opinion. This year, I neither know or even care who does.

It’s not like this year’s series has been a bad one. I did wonder what the show would be like without Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole and Dannii Minogue on the judging panel, but Gary Barlow, Kelly Rowland and Tulisa have all done quite a decent job. Louis Walsh, meanwhile, has been his usual self (if there’s one judge I hope doesn’t come back next year it is him). There have been some good contestants and some great moments. The banter between Johnny Robinson and Gary Barlow was one of my highlights of the series. Johnny himself was one of my favourites, camp as, lovely and harmless who could sing despite Louis’ attempts to turn him into this year’s joke act. Kitty Brucknell was annoying, outrageous and desperate, yet you can’t say she didn’t have some vocal talent. As for Misha B, well I liked her at first and felt like I should support her because she is from Manchester. As time went on, however, I went off her and it wasn’t because of the “bullying” claims made against her. When Louis was going off on one saying that everyone in her hometown should pick up the phone and vote for her, I was thinking “F*** YOU I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!” The Risk should never have left the competition so early, Janet should never have stayed in as long as she did (as much as I liked her). Frankie was just a silly little boy, who let himself down.  Craig was let down by his song choices. I still don’t like the name Little Mix, but the group has grown on me the last few weeks. Marcus is the only one of the final three who I thought would definitely get in the final. And while people still give Amelia Lily stick over the way she came back into the competition, I believe that she deserves her place as much as the others do. Indeed if the first live show had the public voting and not the judges, she would never have been sent home in the first place.

(I realise that I have missed some contestants out. I haven’t forgotten about them. Well, not all of them…)

Truth is, this series has not grabbed me in the way that previous years have. It is certainly not a patch on last year’s series, which for me was the first one that had at least one contestant that I genuinely cared about.  None of this year’s crop of contestants stand out for me as much as Matt Cardle, Rebecca Ferguson, Aiden Grimshaw, One Direction, Mary Byrne et al did last year. From what I see when I look through X-Factor tagged posts on Tumblr, I’m not the only one who holds this view. Some people I know online stopped watching the programme because of how poor this year’s show is, others have switched to the US version instead. If there’s one thing that has really ruined the show for me is the number of ad breaks that ITV have slotted into the show. We all know that the channel relies on advertising revenue to fund its programming, but going to a break   practically every five minutes is annoying to even the most loyal viewer, and actually ruins people’s enjoyment of a show.  The same thing has been done to ITV’s other major shows, like Downton Abbey which was stretched out to an hour and fifteen minutes thanks to multiple ad breaks (ITV have since been reported to be cutting Downton’s running time to one hour next series, thus fewer ad breaks). The only good thing to come out of so many breaks, (other than the chance to go to the loo or put the kettle on), is the chance to see the yeo valley advert (by the way, has anyone else seen an ad for Yeo Valley at any other time of the year?!)

I will still tune into the final this weekend, even if it is only just to see Coldplay perform on it. Seriously though, I will be watching hoping that the series finishes on a high of some note, especially seeing as the final is being held at Wembley Arena (no pressure for anyone there, then).

In the meantime, I’m going to end this blog by posting a video of last year’s winner Matt Cardle, performing  All For Nothing from his debut album, Letters, which happens to be a pretty good album imho. And this is coming from someone who has never bought any music by an X Factor contestant or any artist that has links to Simon Cowell for that matter (I realise some may think me a bit hypocritical after reading parts of this, but meh).

 

Happy Easter.

Or happy “Stuff your face with egg shaped chocolate” day. I hope you are having a great day so far and are not yet regretting eating five Creme Eggs in one sitting (or ten Lindt bunnies if you don’t like Creme Eggs). I am nowhere near that stage yet, seeing as I only got given my eggs a few minutes ago and surprisingly haven’t touched them yet. Plus I am probably going to get a few more later as my sister and nephew are coming round. I just hope I don’t end up getting to the point where I can’t face any more chocolate until Christmas. Or you for that matter.

In other news, just how flipping brilliant was Doctor Who last night?! Incredibly flipping brilliant, even if it was a bit confusing in parts. I’m not going to say any more in case some people reading this haven’t seen it yet – and if you did miss it, get on iPlayer. You’re in for a treat, trust me.