Monday, 18 February 2013

The Good Life

The very sad demise of Richard Briers leads us here. But what a mighty fine place to be. I rarely blog about British television because well, to be frank, I don't find it that great. I know it's not what people want to hear but I've always preferred American sitcoms. However, an exception can be made for the sublime Good Life.

For me, The Good Life is all about Margot. Margot Leadbetter is one of the best characters ever written. Her social climbing, her snobbery, her wonderful, fabulous clothes and her soft side. Secretly she was a softy.

You can rewatch The Good Life at any time and it's still thoroughly entertaining and that's down to four perfect actors. I've always loved Paul Eddington and he's never been better than Jerry. Felicity Kendal can be annoying but not as Barbara, the sweet, long-suffering wife of Tom. Richard Briers is spot on as Tom Good. Self satisfied, worthy and that little whistle he did, you couldn't help but love him. Penelope Keith was perfection, this was her show. The wardrobe! I'd wear the blue outfit now.

The Good Life makes me think of my youth with great fondness. I remember watching this and thinking it was literally the best thing ever. And it was. RIP Richard. You remind me of simpler times.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

My Desert Island Discs

I adore Desert Island Discs. If you are not familiar, in a nutshell the castaway picks eight pieces of music and discusses why they chose them. Eight songs is nothing. As we have seen in some of my previous posts, I struggle to pick my favourite eight songs from just one band or artist. The Beatles nearly finished me off.

Sometimes the castaways pick the eight songs they like at the moment. George Michael did this and there is a lot to be said for this approach. Some go with a theme, James Ellroy picked five Beethovens! Matt Lucas endeared me to him forever by picking Starmaker by The Kids From Fame.

Last night my friend and I went for cocktails and she explained that a friend had invited her to dinner in May and they all have to go with their eight desert island disc choices. Well! Not only is this work of a genius in terms of dinner party ideas, it resulted in a long discussion about how best to choose the eight. My friend started by saying she would have Buddy Holly's Everyday as it made her think of her dad. All very noble and sweet but I said, can you really stand to listen to that song over and over? Do you love it that much? I like Buddy Holly as much as the next gal but if I am only taking eight precious songs, I am not sacrificing quality for a memory. This threw her somewhat. And before we knew it we were in despair at how difficult this task is.

I've been musing on this today (along with nursing my hangover) and decided out of interest to see what my top eight most listened songs were on my iTunes. It surprised me by being a pretty accurate picture. I could do worse than go with these.

Desperado - The Eagles
Rule The World - Take That
Wichita Lineman - Glen Campbell
Rainy Days and Mondays - The Carpenters
Shine - Take That
We Used to Be Friends - The Dandy Warhols
Forever in Blue Jeans - Neil Diamond
Don't Stop Believin' - Glee cast

Hmmmmmm. OK, Don't Stop Believin' is not a contender. It was fun at the time but I am a bit mortified that it makes this list at all. I am not taking two Take That songs so Shine is out. I had no idea I was such a Dandy Warhols fan so errrm, no. That leaves five good, strong contenders:

Desperado - The Eagles
Rule The World - Take That
Wichita Lineman - Glen Campbell
Rainy Days and Mondays - The Carpenters
Forever in Blue Jeans - Neil Diamond

Desperado was mentioned last night. I am on to something with this! I love The Eagles and it's a perfect song. It would be be between this and Take it Easy. Rule the World by my boys would be coming with me no doubt. I adore Wichita Lineman, it reminds me of road trips across America and it's nicely soulful. I would be very happy to have The Carpenters with me for a nice singalong. And I am not going anywhere without Neil Diamond. Forever in Blue Jeans is one of my favourites and doubles up with nice memories of all my family so that's two birds killed.

I have three more. Going further down my list isn't helpful as we seem to hit a Christmas fest. I am not going to listen to Christmas music on my sunny island. Lady Gaga? Meh. No, like her as I do, I think not. Then we come to Dancing Queen, how does one pick a single Abba song? I had a meltdown picking eight. However, I have some ballads with me so I think I need a more uplifting Abba song. Seriously if it's me alone on an island listening to The Winner Takes It All I'd be a morose, crying mess. Dancing Queen it is.

I need a song for my mum and there is only one choice, You Never Can Tell by Chuck Berry. She loved this and used to do a hilarious dance round the living room to it. My mum was a great dancer, she'd have been a good stand in for Uma. I could also practice the Pulp Fiction dance.

And I am at seven. How did that happen? I have just one left. My shortlist is not short. Barbra Streisand? I am not sure I can cope without Papa Can You Hear Me. Wham? No Club Tropicana? Bee Gees? Billy Joel? It has to be The Beatles surely? Guns 'n' Roses? Elvis? Michael Jackson? Lenny Kravitz? Madonna? Prince? Whitney? No. I've made my choice. It's my island and I can listen to what I want to with no scorn.

Bonnie, step on up! You win the place!

I don't want anything too sad, too musically perfect. I want something fun. I want something I can run around the island in a billowing frock pretending I am Bonnie. I want to belt it out because nobody can hear me. Only Bonnie fulfils this brief.

So my final list:

Desperado - The Eagles
Rule The World - Take That
Wichita Lineman - Glen Campbell
Rainy Days and Mondays - The Carpenters
Forever in Blue Jeans - Neil Diamond
Dancing Queen - Abba
You Never Can Tell - Chuck Berry
Total Eclipse of the Heart - Bonnie Tyler

On reflection I am pleased with this. I have plenty of singalong fun, songs to dance to, songs to remember friends and family with. And I think the Glen Campbell would surprise my friends and you need a surprise or two in there. Nobody wants to be predictable.

So now I have to pick the one I'd save from the waves crashing to the shore. As if this isn't torturous enough, honestly. It's between Desperado and Dancing Queen. I am going to have to pick Dancing Queen because it's a happy song. 

I can't even get started on a book and luxury. I am already traumatised and full of self doubt. This is very, very, very difficult. 

Which would be your eight? Knock yourself out!

Saturday, 16 February 2013

John Farnham - You're The Voice

I heard this on the radio the other day and found myself singing along. Worryingly I knew every word. I'm not Australian so how did this happen?

By rights I should hate this song, it has bagpipes in it and there is no instrument on earth I loathe more than bagpipes. But I have a soft spot for it. It's almost a power ballad don't you think? I am going to call it one.

I thought John Farnham was a one hit wonder but Wikipedia tells me he has had loads of hits in Australia. In fact it seems he is the Cliff Richard of Australia, I don't consider that a compliment but there is no denying Cliff is popular. I had no idea. Every Australian I know goes mad for this song but I didn't realise he was such a legend.

You're The Voice is a great rousing song to listen to when driving through majestic countryside. Or sitting at home in London eating your porridge on a Saturday morning.

Sunday, 10 February 2013


The creator of Bunheads is Amy Sherman-Palladino (I don't make these names up, promise) the woman behind Gilmore Girls. It is basically Gilmore Girls round two, it has many of the same actors, the same incidental music (la la, la la, laaa laaa) and the same witty script.

It's about ballerinas, bunheads, in small town California. Into this life walks Michelle, a Vegas dancer who marries an admirer one drunken night and goes home with him to discover he lives with his mother, Fanny Flowers (really, I am not making up these names, promise) who is played by the sublime Kelly Bishop. I adore Kelly Bishop and she is truly fantastic in this. I didn't think she could get better than Emily Gilmore but she surpasses herself. She runs the local dance school. Her son is Hubbell which amuses me no end because of The Way We Were and it reminds me of my favourite scene in Sex and the City. Television has become so ironic and self reverential, it can be hard to keep up with pop culture references but I am pretty sure the target audience of Bunheads gets the Hubbell name check. Hubbell is played by Alan Ruck, Cameron from Ferris Bueller. You know, with casting decisions like that I feel Amy and I could be best buddies. We don't see much of Hubbell (no spoilers here) but when we do, it's worth it.

In addition to the grown-ups, we have the teenagers and all of them are fun to watch. We have the bitch, the good girl, the tomboy and the pretty one. We have quirky townsters, my favourite being Truly who is played by Mindy from Friday Night Lights in a very different part. Kirk from Gilmore Girls also pops up in one episode playing a barista, it's hilarious, trust me. And in the last few episodes, we've had the joy of Paris (Liza Weil) appear. It's always a pleasure to see Paris in anything.

Bunheads is fun, it has some great lines and it zips alone entertainingly. The woman playing Michelle (Sutton Foster - no, me neither) is basically Lauren Graham all over again and that's no bad thing. And everyone can really dance. The dance scenes are very odd but weirdly watchable. Check this one out.

I don't yet love it as much as Gilmore Girls but that's a tough act to follow.

Saturday, 9 February 2013


It's a mystery that I've not mentioned Erasure yet. Synth pop from the 80s and 90s featuring a gay lead singer and I've ignored them? It's most odd.

Anyway, better late than never. I was reminded of the mighty A Little Respect this week and I am sitting here listening to it now and it's very much a perfect pop song (with a ridiculous video - when he says no soul, he holds up pieces of sole. Ummmmm).

I also very much like Sometimes. Here it is from Top of the Pops.

I've just relistened to Victim of Love for the first time in about 20 years and it's worth 3 minutes of your time.

It's interesting how much Andy Bell sounds like Alison Moyet. I have never noticed this before. Listen to Chains of Love without watching it and it could be Alison.

Another observation: Andy Bell dances like George Michael.

Also, were jeans and a white t-shirt mandatory for gay boys in the 80s?

Vince Clarke is a bit of a genius but I prefer Yazoo. In my retrospect of Erasure I think I can safely say they has one or two good songs. A Little Respect is the best one and I like Sometimes. The rest all sound the same but if they came on the radio, I'd happily sing along.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Rockwell - Somebody's Watching Me

We come to one of my favourite songs from the 80s. If you've ever wondered who Rockwell was (and let's face it, who hasn't?) I can tell you he is the son of Motown CEO Berry Gordy. Which explains quite a lot and how he got Michael Jackson to sing on his one and only hit. Wikipedia tells me they were childhood friends.

The best thing about this song is the line, "I wonder who's watching me now, who? The IRS!" It's at 2:40 and it makes me giggle every time I hear it. Which is not nearly enough because it's a great song.


Sunday, 3 February 2013


Parenthood is a TV series I've been meaning to write about for a while. The man behind it is also the man behind Friday Night Lights (Jason Katims) and that alone makes it worth a look. It's just finished its fourth season so if you're looking for something to immerse yourself in, this could be the box set to get you through February.

It's very loosely based on the 1989 film Parenthood which any self-respecting Keanu Reeves fan is more than familiar with. However, I don't think that it bears much resemblance except it's about a large family. In this case, the Bravemans are the family and it's set in that most perfect of cities, San Francisco. It has a lot of characters which means it takes skilful writing to pay them all the attention and draw them in a way that makes you care. Fortunately the writers behind this are clever and you find yourself caring about everyone.

The grandmother is Bonnie Bedelia, aka Mrs John McLean from Die Hard. This tickles me every week. All the cast are stellar - Peter Krause from Six Feet Under, Monica Potter who is insanely pretty and Lauren Graham. Ahhh yes, Lauren Graham plays Sarah. Possibly the least likeable character to come along for a while. If I'd been aware of her when writing my Top Ten Annoying Females, she'd have scored a place. This pains me as I like Lauren Graham. She is wonderful in Gilmore Girls. However, Sarah is selfish, immature and simply not very nice yet she's written as if you are meant to like her and sympathise. This infuriates me.

There are plenty of characters to like though, my favourite is Julia, the high-achieving lawyer sister and her husband Joel who TeenBoy and I would like to be friends with please. Also rated highly is Amber, Sarah's daughter who starts off season one as whiny but matures nicely and is beautifully played by Mae Whitman. And special mention to Crosby, the irresponsible brother who provides much of the comic relief.

It has plenty of appearances from Friday Night Lights alumni including Lyla, Vince and Luke. It can be a little cheesy but it's American and they can never resist a bit of cheese. Despite this, I highly recommend Parenthood, it's intelligent, thoughtful and great entertainment. Check it out.
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