New Series Review – Gotham (Episode 1)

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As the tagline of the show goes – Before Batman, there was Gotham. Out of all the comic book heroes that exist, Batman has always been my favourite and so I’ve been looking forward to the start of this latest American television import to arrive here in the UK.

Gotham follows in the recent footsteps of a string of television series based on the Marvel and DC Comic worlds, with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (which I could not get in to for some reason) and Arrow (which I thoroughly enjoy) finding success and The Flash about to start. As the title and tagline suggest, Gotham tells the story of Gotham City in the years before Batman, with episode one introducing us to the Gotham PD and its criminal elements.

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Ben Mackenzie as Detective Gordon with the young Bruce Wayne

Leading the show is Ben Mackenzie (of The O.C and Southland fame) as newly promoted Detective James Gordon (I sense he’ll go far…!), who with his partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) investigate the criminal underworld of Gotham. Batman may not yet exist but the building blocks are laid in this first episode as Detective Gordon makes a promise to a young Bruce Wayne to solve his parents’ murder, which is the key investigation in the series opener. Beginning with such an obvious crime makes perfect sense and it’s lovely to see the young Bruce and Gordon together, knowing how important to each other they will become in years to come.

Over the hour we also meet some other familiar characters, who will no doubt each get their moment to shine later in the series. There’s the young female thief feeding stray cats, the young girl called Ivy who seems to have a passion for plants, the young E. Nygma and the awkward young Oswald who hates being called by his nickname Penguin. As with Arrow, it’s great to watch these iconic characters in their early years, allowing a fresh perspective on the familiar dark and shady city of Gotham.

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Familiar faces appear in Gotham.

The production values on this series opener were very good. The Gotham we are introduced to is  dark, moody and dangerous and the direction and locations enhance this tone. The acting is also very good, with Ben Mackenzie more than capable of being a convincing Gordon, who the audience can root for. His determination to clean up the corruption of the city is certainly admirable and something we all know he’ll be doing for some time to come and I certainly found him to be a strong lead for a new series. He also has a good chemistry with Donal Logue’s character and it will be interesting to see how this develops.

Sean Pertwee also appears as Alfred the butler and I’m curious to see how much we’ll see of him during Bruce’s young childhood years. There may be recognisable characters here, but there is also the introduction of new players in to the world of Gotham, none more so than Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney. She’s feisty and not to be trifled with and is a character I look forward to seeing more of over the series. I also found this first episode to be well-paced and engaging, leaving me very much looking forward to the next episode.

Time will tell whether the series manages to generate sufficient ratings success to survive the tough American market, but I for one hope it continues as this is certainly a promising start.

The trailer for Gotham can be seen here: http://www.channel5.com/shows/gotham/clips/gotham-episode-one-trailer and Gotham continues on Channel 5 in the UK on Monday nights at 9 p.m. Catch up with Episode 1 on Demand 5 online here: http://www.channel5.com/shows/gotham/episodes/pilot-23

Book Review – We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

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I have grand plans of reading the entire shortlist of the Man Booker Prize 2014, which I still intend to do (admittedly not before the winner is announced tomorrow though!). I chose to start with We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves which, coincidentally, was recently bought for me as a gift. After having just finished this wonderful novel, the other five nominees certainly have a lot to live up to.

Karen Joy Fowler’s novel is written in the first person by Rosemary Cooke and it is her life we are enveloped in as the story unfolds. We learn very early on that something happened in her childhood, something she doesn’t speak of to anyone – that she had a sister, Fern, who was the other half of her and from whom she was inseparable as a young child and who disappeared from her life without warning. It wasn’t long after this event that her older brother Lowell also left home and never came back. That was ten years ago and now, while a young college student, we meet Rosemary and learn about who she is, but also the life she has tried to forget.

What the book does so well and so immediately is pull the reader in to Rosemary’s world. You are intrigued by her past and what it may hold, but you also like her as a person and enjoy spending time with her. It is also a wonderfully constructed novel. Rosemary’s father always encouraged her to start in the middle of a story, so that’s exactly what the author does! By starting where Rosemary is at that point in her life we are able to get to know her before she takes us further in to the past. Karen Joy Fowler’s conversational first person style of writing was one that I genuinely liked and I think it works perfectly for this story.

It is hard to review the book without giving anything away about the story. I knew nothing about it before picking it up and would recommend that be the case for anyone else. What I can say is that it is a story about family and how our relationships within that group shape us as individuals. It is also an interesting perspective on sibling relationships and the love and rivalries they bring, which I found fascinating. As someone with no brothers or sisters I’m always slightly intrigued by and envious of the idea of growing up with people with whom you have such a lifelong bond. I’d guess the book will resonate with those who do have siblings in other ways.

It is also a book of different tones, able to be both funny and profoundly moving in equal measure. Rosemary is a witty, intelligent, complicated character, which only makes her more interesting to read about. We also meet other multi-faceted characters – her whirlwind of a friend Harley, her parents and through her many memories, her brother and sister, whose presence and subsequent absence from her life have been so integral to her development. I always prefer a book which offers me the chance to experience different emotions within one story and that is certainly the case here.

This is a truly brilliant book, which I highly recommend. If the rest of the shortlist are as superb as this, I really am in for a treat over the coming weeks!

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler is available from all the usual book stockists.

Music that makes a film – My favourite film scores.

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(Photo above taken from Cinemanero.com)

As my theatregoing is on hold at the moment due to a broken foot, I’ve been thinking more about films recently and one thing that has always been clear to me is how crucial a movie’s score is to the connection you have with the film. In fact there are some films where I love the music more than the film! Deciding on my favourite film scores has been a lot harder than I expected and this list could have been much longer. It’s already longer than my usual lists, being a top 20! For each film I’ve chosen a specific piece from the score that I especially love, although there are some entries where the whole album from start to finish could have been listed. Feel free to let me know your choices in the comments.

1. “Honor Him / Now We Are Free” – Hans Zimmer (Gladiator)

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The soundtrack from Gladiator remains one of my all time favourites and these specific two pieces from it, which have such a powerful, emotional impact at the film’s end is still my top choice for any piece of movie music. I cannot fail but be moved whenever I hear it and it was particularly incredible to experience it live at the Royal Albert Hall earlier this year (see my earlier post on that event).

2. “The Breaking of the Fellowship” – Howard Shore (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)

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Probably my favourite film score from beginning to end is that from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Each film in the trilogy has a wonderful score by Howard Shore, with moments that still leave me in awe of his talent, but as my favourite of the films and the first time this music was brought to life, The Fellowship wins. It was tough choosing a specific track but if I have to it would definitely be this one, during which the Fellowship separates in to the strands that will continue for the rest of the story. It’s hard to believe over a decade on that there was ever a time when these now instantly recognisable pieces of gorgeous music didn’t exist!

3. “That Next Place” – Thomas Newman (Meet Joe Black)

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Some people love Meet Joe Black and others can’t stand it, but I still think it has a beautiful score by Thomas Newman. It is subtle, understated and works wonderfully for the movie and never more so than the lovely That Next Place, which underpins the film’s bittersweet and emotional ending. Give it another listen if you can’t remember it. You may even shed a tear.

4. “August’s Rhapsody” – Mark Mancina (August Rush)

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August Rush is such a sweet little film about a boy in search of his real parents and his love of the music that is all around us. The film builds to this gorgeous suite of various instruments, which together are so wonderful. One of the clearest examples of the power of music and film together.

5. Main Title – Marc Shaiman (The American President)

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Before the glorious television triumph that is The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin wrote another story about the White House for film. This was The American President with Michael Douglas as the charming but firm President Shepherd. It’s a wonderful film and Marc Shaiman’s beautifully romantic score is the perfect accompaniment and is one album I never tire of listening to.

6. “Vesper” – David Arnold (Casino Royale)

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David Arnold took on quite a responsibility when scoring the new Bond film in 2006. Arguably John Barry is as intrinsically linked to Bond as the actor in the title role. The score for Casino Royale did a fantastic job in rebooting the franchise and yet still giving a nod to the past. My favourite piece though is Vesper’s theme. It’s such a delicate piece of music, which seems quite new for a Bond movie, focusing on the romance rather than the action.

7. “The End” – Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Rises)

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Christopher Nolan’s trilogy is the pinnacle of comic book films for me. Why we are getting another Batman so soon is beyond me. A huge part of the style and atmosphere of the trilogy is the score and the themes that run through them all. For me, these all build up to an impressive climax with The End from the final movie, which plays over the last few minutes of this brilliant film. I can’t imagine the movies without the score, which highlights how pivotal it is.

8. “Home Again” – Mark Snow (The X-Files: I Want To Believe)

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As a lifelong X-Files fan, the return of my favourite characters in 2008 was very exciting. Admittedly though this second big screen adventure did not live up to the past and this choice is an example of a piece of movie music I love more than the film that created it! Mark Snow will always be a special part of Mulder and Scully’s world and this lovely piece from their tender final scene together is perfect.

9. “So Was Red” – Thomas Newman (The Shawshank Redemption)

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The Shawshank Redemption is my favourite film and so it was inevitable Thomas Newman’s score would appear in this list. I can listen to it all quite easily, with all its light and shadow. However if I have to pick only one piece to draw out, it would be this one, as Red makes his final journey. Just thinking about it makes me want to watch the film again!

10. “An Ocean Of Memories” – James Horner (Titanic)

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I am not ashamed to admit to liking Titanic. Maybe I was the right age group when it was released, but I was captivated by the stunning sets, the costumes (especially Kate’s first outfit) and beautiful music from James Horner. The soundtrack is one of the first film scores that I noticed doing well commercially, which can only ever be a good thing for interest in classical music. James Horner successfully translates the power of the ship, the romance of the story and the emotional tragedy of the sinking perfectly. I could have picked so much of this score but An Ocean of Memories is one that includes all the elements that, for me, show what a brilliant score it is.

11. “The Launch” – James Horner (Apollo 13)

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Another superb film is Apollo 13 and another entry for James Horner in this list. The score adds to the patriotic, heroic themes running through the film, as we learn the incredible story of three astronauts whose unsuccessful mission to the Moon almost cost them their lives and the brave individuals who worked tirelessly to get them home safely. This track in particular, The Launch, is classic James Horner – it is bold, soaring and feels epic in scope. As he does with his Titanic score he is able to use music to bring to life such incredible feats of human achievement while still capturing the emotional humanity of the story.

12. “Gabriel’s Oboe” – Ennio Morricone (The Mission)

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This is such a classic piece of movie music, but is another example of me being more familiar with the music than the film itself! Ennio Morricone has created some wonderful music for film, but for me Gabriel’s Oboe is at the top. It is a beautifully emotive, delicate piece, that is far to short for my liking, but perhaps that’s one of the reasons it works so well. It leaves you wishing it would go on forever!

13. “Theme From Schindler’s List” – John Williams (Schindler’s List)

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Schindler’s List is one of the most powerful and important films made and is something I strongly believe everyone should watch to ensure such a terrible time in history is never forgotten. As Steven Spielberg’s long term collaborator John Williams creates something stunning with the music for the film. It doesn’t distract from the film, but blends with it to convey the power of the events on the screen and the theme from the film remains one of the most powerfully, emotional movie themes I’ve ever heard. It makes me cry every time I hear it with the sole violin played with such love by Itzhak Perlman.

14. “Theme from Jurassic Park” – John Williams (Jurassic Park)

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I still remember seeing Jurassic Park for the first time at the cinema as a kid and being in awe of what I was seeing. Dinosaurs really were real. They had to be! Yet again the partnership of Williams and Spielberg worked to create another memorable soundtrack and one that remains near the top of most movie music polls.

15. “Portuguese Love Theme” – Craig Armstrong (Love Actually)

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The next choice for this list is Craig Armstrong’s Portuguese Love Theme from Richard Curtis’s festive film. You often hear all of his love themes together in one suite, but if I had to choose one it would be the romantic music underpinning the love that grows between Colin Firth’s Jamie and his Portuguese maid Aurelia. It makes me smile every time I hear it.

16. “End Title/You Are Karen” – John Barry (Out Of Africa)

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John Barry’s beautiful score to Out of Africa had to be included in this list as it is remains to me one of the most romantic and emotional pieces of music from any film score. I can’t imagine anyone not feeling moved when they hear it.

17. “Solomon” – Hans Zimmer (12 Years A Slave)

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12 Years A Slave became one of the most incredible films I’d ever seen immediately. Its sheer power, emotional depth and heartbreaking story moved me to tears. The music is a great balance for the film, with metallic chain-like effects adding to the horror and suffering seen on screen. However for me it is the track Solomon which captures all the emotions the film stirs up and it had to be included in this list. If you have yet to watch this film I can’t recommend it enough.

18. “The John Dunbar Theme” – John Barry (Dances With Wolves)

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Another John Barry classic from a wonderful film. It’s a superb soundtrack, but I especially love the John Dunbar Theme, which captures all the wonder of the film brilliantly in the way John Barry does best.

19. Main Title – Somewhere In My Memory – John Williams (Home Alone)

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One of my favourite childhood films and a Christmas tradition, Home Alone’s score by John Williams is the perfect festive soundtrack. It captures all the heart, beauty and fun of this classic family film and yet again shows what a special composer John Williams is.

20. “Chevaliers de Sangreal” – Hans Zimmer (The Da Vinci Code)

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It may have been a controversial book and film on release, but Hans Zimmer does a great job with the score, particularly for the film’s end, as Robert Langdon realises the answer to the riddle he’s been trying to solve throughout the story.

So those are my top choices. There are so many other wonderful scores I could have included, but especially Pirates of the Caribbean (Hans Zimmer) and Hook (John Williams). Composers play such an important part in the creation of special films and it’s wonderful that the soundtracks are as accessible as they are these days. I’m excited to see what the next film will be that will captivate me through what I hear as well as what I see on the screen.

For anyone looking for a good compilation of movie music, I highly recommend the Classic FM at the Movies sets, which contain some of the ones I’ve mentioned as well as other classic film scores.

Television Nostalgia – Classic Children’s Television That I Loved!

I recently had a discussion with a group of friends about the children’s television programmes we’d all loved growing up and it was fun to remember some of the classics. With the chat fresh in my mind, it seemed to be a fun idea for a new Television Nostalgia post. So here are my 15 favourite children’s television programmes from my childhood. Plus most of these are now available on DVD, which is fantastic! Have I included yours? Feel free to comment!

1. The Chronicles of Narnia (BBC – 1988-1990)

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The BBC’s series of dramatisations of C.S Lewis classic Narnia series was always going to come first in this list. I loved these books and the series was spellbinding. Each of them was wonderful, but my favourite was of course The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. It’s an exciting, magical story and world for children and I remember having the tie-in board game too! I still think children today would love this series.

2. Around the World With Willy Fog (BBC – 1987-1988)

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A close second is the Japanese/Spanish anime cartoon adaptation of Jules Verne’s story, charting the adventures of Willy Fog and his friends, as they travel around the world, which was another must-see event on Children’s BBC for me. I always enjoyed Willy Fog’s adventures with Tico and the gang as the nasty Transfer (with his glowing eye) tried to stop them at every turn. Admit it, you can still remember the theme tune!

3. Dogtanian & The Three Muskehounds (BBC – started 1985)

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By the same Spanish team behind Willy Fog was this version of The Musketeers or, in this case, the Muskehounds! Although I admit that now Dogtanian’s voice is a bit irritating (especially all that wailing for Juliette!), this will always be a special part of my childhood.

4. Bertha (BBC – 1985 – 1986)

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Produced in the UK for the BBC by Woodland Animations (creators of Postman Pat too), Bertha was set in a factory with a special machine of the same name. What made Bertha so magical was that she could make any item requested of her! It’s hard to believe only 13 episodes were ever made as it certainly felt like more than that as I was growing up. I bet I still have the board game somewhere at my parents house!

5. Going Live! (BBC – 1987-1993)

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Many Saturday morning shows came after it (SM:TV, Live & Kicking etc.) but the best one in my opinion is Going Live! Saturday mornings were all about this show. It had Gordon the Gopher and Philip Schofield and the lovely Sarah Green. Not to mention Trev & Simon (they don’t do duvets!) and the fun gameshow Double Dare.

6. Thundercats (BBC – 1987-1991)

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I was never that fussed about He-Man and She-ra, but I did think Thundercats was fantastic. The music, the characters (including let’s face it, a really quite scary baddie for kids in the form of Mumm-ra). It was action-packed, exciting, a little scary and was a regular show for me. I understand from the internet that not all the episodes were ever screened in the UK, which seems like a pity, especially in light of how popular it was.

7. Rainbow Brite

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Another childhood classic was Rainbow Brite, who with the help of the Colour Kids and the Sprites in RainbowLand brought colour throughout the universe. I even liked the baddies Murky & Lurky and the card game is still a cherished memory of my family’s childhood holidays.

8. The Mysterious Cities of Gold (BBC – 1986-1987)

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This French/Japanese animated series is another that seems to have been far shorter than I remember. Set in 1532, it’s the story of a Spanish boy, Esteban, who joins Mendoza on a voyage to the New World looking for the Lost Cities of Gold and also his father. Including Mayans and Incans and a solar-powered Golden Condor, we follow their journey in South America. Esteban also has a mysterious gold medallion, which Mendoza believes holds the key to the Cities of Gold. Other characters included  Zia (an Incan girl travelling with them) who is also seeking her father and also has a gold medallion of her own. Another classic that I may have to dig out on DVD.

9. Knightmare! (ITV – 1987-1994)

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This brilliant CITV children’s gameshow is surely due a comeback? Each instalment saw a team of four kids attempting to complete a quest through a medieval world, completing puzzles, riddles and more in various rooms and virtual landscapes, as the clock counted down, through the disintegration of a face and skull (which seemed pretty creepy to me at the time). One child was the sightless dungeoneer (due to the helmet they had to wear), who was then guided by the other three. The graphics may seem old now, but at the time this show seemed like a futuristic cutting edge experience and I was always quite jealous of those taking part!

10. Pigeon Street (BBC – 1981 and repeated later)

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This has to be one of my earliest television memories as a child. Over the far too few episodes we met the residents of Pigeon Street, living in flats and terraced houses and the pigeons who observed them. I particularly remember Mr Macadoo who ran the pet shop and Clara the long-distance lorry driver, not to mention the memorable cooing noise of those pigeons. Pre-school television at its best for me!

11. Look and Read (BBC 1967-1994, especially Through The Dragon’s Eye 1989)

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During the course of primary school Look & Read was part of the week anticipated by my class. Yes it meant watching the television at school, but some of the stories grabbed our attention in a particularly exciting way, making learning even more enjoyable. The stand out story of my Look and Read days was 1989’s Through The Dragon’s Eye, which even my mother became hooked on as well. Whilst painting a school mural of a dragon, three children are transported in to the painting to the world of Pelamar, where they are asked by the dragon to help save the land by collecting together pieces of the world’s life source, while the evil Charn tries to do the same for his evil purposes. It looks as though Look and Read ended in 2004, which seems to be a real shame to me.

12. Neighbours (BBC)

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It may be on Channel 5 now and be filled with characters I’ve never heard of, but for me the Neighbours I loved (who needed Home & Away?) was the Neighbours on the BBC in the 80s and 90s. Remember all those storylines from that era? Des & Daphne, Bouncer the dog, Joe Mangel and the death of his wife Kerry by duck hunters, Lucy Robinson’s blindness, Henry Ramsey locked out of the house naked, the rivalry of the Robinson and the Ramsey families. Plus the biggest storyline of the 80s – Scott and Charlene’s wedding (complete with Angry Anderson’s song Suddenly). I’m sure it’s still good now, but it can’t be as good as it was back then!

13. The Wide Awake Club (ITV – 1984-1989) / Wacaday (ITV – 1985-1992)

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These were two shows hosted by Timmy Mallett in the 80s. The Wide Awake Club was the Saturday morning show on ITV, which then led to Wacaday, which ran during the school holidays for 30 minutes (in what is now Lorraine’s morning slot). Surely most memorable for Mallett’s Mallett, the game which saw two children compete against each other and be hit over the head with his foam mallett. I also remember a gunge-related game which resulted in a toy figure ending up in custard or gunge (I’m sure once this was Michael Jackson) and a blind tasting game featuring all manner of disgusting foods.

14. Belle and Sebastian (BBC – 1989-1990)

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Not many people I speak to remember this cartoon about a boy and a dog, but it’s still one of the shows I remember most from childhood. It was the story of a young boy, who is teased by the other children for not having a mum, who meets a mountain dog. The dog, named Belle, is falsely accused of many crimes and feared by the residents, so Sebastian leaves his village with her, escaping the police and also looking for his mother. I really wish I could find this on DVD one day.

15. Postman Pat (BBC – from 1981)

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Surely a classic in everyone’s childhood, even today as a new film was released for a whole new generation earlier this year. Postman Pat and Jess in their van delivering post to the villagers around Greendale is always going to be special.

I could go on and on but those are the most special for me. I did also enjoy Sooty, The Gummi Bears, The Racoons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Raggy Dolls, Dungeons & Dragons, Rentaghost, Round The Twist, T-Bag, Ghostwriter and Moondial.

I would love to hear what classics you enjoyed as a child. You may remind me of ones I’ve forgotten!

Television Nostalgia – Happy 20th Anniversary to Friends!

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Okay so this post is a little late. Blame the unexpected hospital stay that meant I couldn’t post it on Monday, which was the actual 20th Anniversary since the first episode of Friends was screened in America. I’m even early for the UK’s own anniversary! Like many people now in their early 30s, I loved Friends when it began – the exciting idea of living in NYC, in that amazing flat and with such great friends surrounding you. I always hoped that would be me one day, when I was as old as them and had life worked out. Well it may not be NYC and I’m still working out life, but I can definitely say I have just as great a group of Friends!

As with all my other Television Nostalgia posts, I’ve thought about my favourite episodes of this classic series and set them out below. I’ll admit from the start, I preferred the early years so this list is definitely biased towards those. Feel free to leave your own favourites in the comments.

1. The One Where Ross & Rachel…You Know (series 2, episode 15)

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I think this will always be my favourite episode. Yes it’s the episode with Ross and Rachel in the museum (which seemed quite raunchy to me at the time!), but it’s the wonderfully brilliant storyline of Chandler and Joey’s incredible chairs that makes me laugh most.

2. The One Where Everybody Finds Out (series 5, episode 14)

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A close second is this episode where everyone discovers Chandler and Monica are secretly dating. The tactics the gang go to to get them to admit it is hilarious to watch, especially the final war of wills between Phoebe and Chandler!

3. The One With The Prom Video (series 2, episode 14)

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“See, he’s her lobster.” Surely one of the ultimate lines over its ten years. This is such a sweet episode. I was never really a fan of Ross (far too irritating for me) but even I found myself being swayed by his secret teenage plan to save Rachel from being stood up for the Prom. What girl would not be moved by that? For me, it was clear from then on that if the series didn’t end with them together I’d be annoyed!

4. The One With The Embryos aka The Quiz One! (series 4, episode 12) 

 

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I still find it odd that this episode is better known for the storyline not referenced in the title! The quiz in which the boys compete with the girls as to who knows who best has some of the funniest moments in the series and the ultimate shock result – the girls lose the apartment!

5. The One With Chandler In A Box (series 4, episode 8)

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Chandler kisses Joey’s girlfriend and must be punished. In Friends fashion this has to be something quirky and so we have an episode in which Chandler remains in a crate the whole time! He was always my favourite of the six and I love how his witty dialogue is still stealing the show even when you can’t see him!

6. The One With All The Poker (series 1, episode 18)

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One of my top early episodes, with all the gang in some great scenes together, as the girls battle the boys at poker. Ross letting Rachel win was always going to happen though!

7. The One Where No One’s Ready (series 3, episode 2)

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Another fab episode with a classic line: “I’m Chandler Bing. Could I BE wearing any more clothes?!” You also have Monica in a panic over answer phone messages left for Richard and Ross trying not to anger Rachel in his desperate attempt to get everyone to leave the flat on time!

8. The One With The Football (series 3, episode 9)

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An episode where Monica and Ross’s family rivalry gets to shine as they battle over the treasured family football cup. Seeing how dreadful some of them are at the game, while Joey and Chandler desperately flirt on the sidelines is always great entertainment.

9. The One Where Ross Finds Out (series 2, episode 7)

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An early warning in my youth of the perils of leaving drunk messages for people. They can come back to get you. Then again, as this proves, sometimes it’s not always a bad thing! I think the whole world of fans cheered!

10. The One Where Eddie Won’t Go (series 2, episode 19)

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Chandler and Joey were such a wonderful duo and having them not live together was horrifying to me. The Eddie storyline was so brilliantly acted by Matthew Perry and the way he actually gets Eddie to think he never lived there was genius.

So those are my favourites. I think I really may have to rewatch them all now (I am fairly sure there are some in the latter years I haven’t even seen!). I’ll always think of Friends fondly as one of the first television series I truly became hooked on, not to mention it’s wonderful theme song and fun tie-CD soundtrack and no doubt it’ll continue to draw new generations to it’s special brand of comedy for years to come.

Book Review – Broadchurch tie-in novel by Erin Kelly

FINALBroadchurchIt’s been quite a while since I attended a BAFTA preview screening of episode one of ITV’s new drama Broadchurch starring David Tennant and Olivia Colman in February 2013. It was clear then that this was something special, but the incredible success it went on to achieve over its eight week run was a rarity on television these days, with millions of people tuning in weekly to see the mystery of who killed Danny Latimer unfold.

Filming on series two continues in West Bay, Dorset and the surrounding area. However as the wait for that new series (due next year) continues, last month saw the publication of the official tie-in novel. Written by bestselling thriller author Erin Kelly, the novel is based on series creator Chris Chibnall’s story. I admit to being a little sceptical about such a release. What was the point of a novel of a series we’d already watched? Who would really buy it? I was therefore curious enough to pick up a copy to take with me on my recent holiday.

Erin Kelly & Chris Chibnall

Erin Kelly & Chris Chibnall

Reading, rather than watching Broadchurch proved to be very enjoyable and provided a different perspective on the story. The plot of course is the same, but in written form, Erin Kelly is able to flesh out the characters in a way only a novel can. She successfully gives the reader access in to the minds of the various characters in a deeper, interesting way. This is especially effective for certain characters in particular – DI Alec Hardy, as we learn more about Sandbrook and its effect on his psyche as well as his sadness at the absence of a relationship with his daughter, Beth Latimer, as she struggles to come to terms with her loss, her marriage difficulties and her pregnancy and DS Ellie Miller, as she struggles with her relationship with her boss and her growing distrust of her community.

The novel is also able to include scenes not in the television series, which, although short, add another layer of detail to the characters and tragedy of Danny’s death. I also found it incredibly interesting that, although I knew the outcome from the outset, it didn’t mean I was any less engrossed in Erin Kelly’s book and was as eager to reach its conclusion as I am when reading any other novel. The last few chapters of the book still provide the same tension and emotion as you would find reading any brilliant thriller. We may know which house Hardy is heading to as he follows the tracker on Danny’s phone, but that doesn’t make it any less tense to read (or didn’t for me) and the chapter in which we are taken back to the terrible night of Danny’s death is very effective in giving us an uncomfortable glimpse in to the actions and thoughts of his killer.

Suspicion swirls around the community of Broadchurch

Suspicion swirls around the community of Broadchurch

The novel may also bring a new audience to Broadchurch. Despite its huge viewing figures, there are bound to be some who may not have watched it and who may find the novel a great way to be introduced to the community of Broadchurch prior to the second series starting next year. As a standalone thriller, it is a well written, tense, layered thriller, whose characters are interesting and engaging and which moves at a pace that will keep the reader turning the pages frantically until the end.

So what can we expect from series two? Reading the book reminded me about SOCO Brian asking Ellie out. I’d certainly like to see if that’s become something (plus any excuse to have more of Peter De Jersey on my television screen). There has also been the tantalising hint from Erin Kelly that Chris Chibnall provided a short sentence, added quite early in the book, which apparently won’t make sense to anybody and which is a hint as to the direction of series two. That is another reason to read the book – can you spot it? On first reading, the only thing I can point to is one of the locations flagged on the map at the front of the book. Number 14 is Jocelyn Knight’s house – this is also briefly referred to on page 78 when Jack recounts seeing Danny arguing with the postman up past Jocelyn Knight’s house. She wasn’t a character in series one so who is she? This could be it possibly? I’ll no doubt see if I can spot any other clues on a second read before next year! If anyone does think they have solved this little riddle, I’d be interested to hear your other theories in the comments section.

Whether you watched Broadchurch or not, this novel is an exciting and enjoyable read that I’d certainly recommend.

Broadchurch by Erin Kelly is available through all the usual book stockists. 

Review – The Crucible by Arthur Miller at the Old Vic (2014)

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It’s been a month since I saw The Crucible at the Old Vic and due to its sold out status and the fact the run was soon to end (last Saturday), I almost didn’t review it. However on hearing the news that it will be released on Digital Theatre and as it will be my last review of a live theatre production for a couple of months (due to breaking my foot), I thought it was time to give my thoughts on this classic play. Despite studying Arthur Miller at school, this year has brought my first opportunities to see his work on stage, first at the Young Vic for its stunning A View From A Bridge and now at the Old Vic for this new production of The Crucible.

Richard Armitage & Anna Madeley

Richard Armitage & Anna Madeley

Set in Salem, Massachusetts Bay, The Crucible shines a light on the Salam Witch Trials of 1692-1693. Written in 1953, Miller’s play is a partly fictional, dramatised tale of these terrible historical events, highlighting what can happen when rumour, suspicion and hysteria take hold of a community, turning people against each other with tragic circumstances. This of course made all the more apt when written at the time of intense suspicion and accusation in America – not of witches, but of the threat of Russian Communist spies.Winning the Tony Award for Best Play in 1953, it has become a classic and this production is certainly of a calibre to carry such a play and left me overwhelmed by its conclusion.

South African Director Yael Farber’s powerful production particularly benefits from the current configuration of the Old Vic stage. Playing such an intense story on a smaller stage, surrounded by the audience was an inspired decision. Its deeply atmospheric sparse staging by Soutra Gilmour, the effective use of light and shadow by Tim Lutkin, mist-covered entrances and terrifyingly eerie music score by Richard Hammarton, are all enhanced greatly by the almost claustrophobic atmosphere created by having faces gathered all around the stage. You certainly have a sense of a body of people gathered together to pass judgment on the accused and in the later court scenes the audience add an extra dimension to the production as a whole.

A intensely powerful Richard Armitage as John Proctor

A intensely powerful Richard Armitage as John Proctor

The entire cast are superb, combining to bring to life an incredibly powerful, emotional experience over the course of the play’s lengthly running time. I was particularly impressed by Samantha Colley as the intimidating Abigail, whose terrible lies after being spurned by John Proctor are what lights the fuse and maintains the tragic events through the threat she exerts over the other “possessed” girls. As a group the actresses portraying the Salam children are utterly fantastic. I found myself becoming deeply disturbed by their pack-like actions as they thrashed around and convulsed on stage, often speaking as one with such authenticity and effect that you start to understand how something so sinister could happen. The scene in which they turn on Mary Warren (played wonderfully by Natalie Gavin) is particularly hard to watch without feeling the need to try and do something to stop it. It’s certainly a sign of a convincing production to illicit such a response from me. Adrian Schiller is also very good as Rev. John Hale, whose experience in Salem changes his whole attitude by the end of the play and Anna Madeley is also strong as Mrs Proctor, whose relationship with her husband is such a key part of the story.

The highest amount of praise however is saved for Richard Armitage’s electrifying, raw performance as John Proctor. He is a decent man of principles, whose brief affair with Abigail has filled him with guilt and has such tragic consequences for the people of Salem. Armitage has an incredibly powerful presence on stage and you could not fail to be moved by his portrayal of Proctor, as he moves from moments of sorrow, to weakness, intense anger, rage and delicate emotional vulnerability. His relationship with Anna Madeley feels genuine and real and I was rather moved by the play’s conclusion. As Mark Strong did earlier in the year at the Young Vic, he commands the stage, leading a superb version of such a well known Miller play for a new generation of theatregoers.

Richard Armitage's Proctor confronted by the sinister children of Salem.

Richard Armitage’s Proctor confronted by the sinister children of Salem. Photo by: Tristram Kenton

As someone new to The Crucible what was also so apparent to me was the play’s incredible ability to be current despite its 17th century setting. As it did in 1950s America, in a world so at risk from religious fundamentalism and a distrust of those of other religions, you cannot fail to feel a chill watching such a powerful and disturbing story and see the shadows that are still mirrored today. I  have no doubt over the years to come I’ll see future productions of Arthur Miller’s play. Time will tell if any have the power to match this one.

Although The Crucible’s run at the Old Vic has now come to an end, the play has been recorded by the brilliant team at Digital Theatre (I’ll be blogging about them later this week) and will be available to download (either to rent or buy) on their website some time in the future. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Keep an eye on Digital Theatre’s website for further news of its release: http://www.digitaltheatre.com

 

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