The Real Full Monty (ITV 2017) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review

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It’s been 20 years since film-goers were captivated by a depiction of unemployed Sheffield steel workers who became a male strip troupe to the sounds of Hot Chocolate, Tom Jones and Donna Summer.  “The Full Monty” was a massive hit and even had Prince Charles alarmingly joining in on the action.  The film had much to say about men, about what unemployment does to a community, about thinking outside of the box, about friendship and featured a group of men discussing issues and coming to terms with things that Sheffield steel workers might find difficult.

The popularity of the film even had royals joining in (I’ve spared you the video of this!)

One of the things us men still feel difficult to talk about is prostate and testicular cancer.  This one-off documentary showed an attempt at linking a celebration of the film’s China anniversary with raising awareness.

Alexander Armstrong & Ashley Banjo

The man at the centre of this was “Pointless” host and possessor of a surprising yet profitable singing voice, Alexander Armstrong.  He enlisted the help of Dance legends Diversity’s inspiration Ashley Banjo to put together a routine for a group of male celebrities who were expected to eventually bare all in front of a packed crowd at the London Palladium.  Male celebrities willing to do this were a bit harder to find, 600 were apparently asked and of those who agreed some had been directly affected by prostate cancer themselves, Wayne Sleep, Dom Littlewood who had endured cancer diagnoses and Elliot Wright, brother of the more famous Essex boy Mark, whose father was about to undergo radiotherapy for the condition.  They were joined by a couple of ex-Strictly alumni, McFly’s Harry Judd and swimmer Mark Foster and also Stuart Wolfenden from “Emmerdale”.  A representative from the Afro-Caribbean community was welcomed in Red Dwarf’s Danny John-Jules, who also had dancing experience.  This was a particularly appropriate move as we found out in the programme that those from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds are disproportionately more likely to be affected by prostate cancer.  A visit to a garage mechanic who was working hard to promote awareness provided sobering moments.

From rehearsal to performance

ITV produced a good documentary here .  It certainly had the potential to be cheap and cheesy.  The process followed by Ashley Banjo to teach the dance would have been familiar to those of us who have watched his various Sky 1 series.  I always made a point of watching these because of the sheer passion for dance from the Diversity crew and how this infectiousness spread during the course of every episode towards group of often inactive workmates keen to astound loved ones with a professional standard street dance routine.  But here on ITV there were other issues to contend with, mainly getting naked in front of a packed London theatre.

The first unveiling down to underwear saw two surprising objectors (Sleep and Wolfenden) and added tension came along the way when Danny John-Jules had to pull out over work commitments and Ashley (whose body, let’s face it, is highly impressive) had to wrestle with his conscience to see if he could bring himself to bare all alongside the other celebrities.  Along the way there was a visit to Sheffield to see landmarks from the film and a trip to meet the stage cast of “Calendar Girls” who are also stripping off for our entertainment.  The message that ran through was that men should be checking for lumps and getting tested for the often symptomless early stages of prostate cancer.  To do this in what was actually a fairly family-friendly show in which there was a chance to see celebrities get naked (!) was really quite a canny idea.  Okay, so it was not especially original but it did have an original slant, it was well-paced over its 90 minute length and it was heart-warming.  Overall, it recalled audience responses of 20 years ago when we willed on those original Sheffield steel-workers in the movie.  I found myself doing the same for this equally unlikely group of strippers.

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I did feel, however, that at the end of the programme the ITV announcer could have been a bit more pro-active at pointing viewers in the right direction to get help rather than just talking about up and coming shows.

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The Real Full Monty was shown on Thursday 15th June at 8.30 pm on ITV.  It is currently available on ITV catch-up services.

More information on the issues raised by this programme can be found on:

Yourprivates.co.uk

Macmillan info on Prostate Cancer

What You Have Been Reading – The Top 10 posts of 2016

Christmas and New Year plays odd tricks with you.  First day back at work yesterday and on journey home it seemed as if the festive season was ages ago.  I was surprised to still see the twinkling lights from the bus and even more so when I got home to see the Christmas tree and decorations all up.  It only takes a couple of days of the New Year to get us all moving on………..

But before I crack on fully with 2017 I want to take just one more retrospective look at 2016.  Personally it was pretty momentous.  At the start of the year I was getting myself prepared for a 10th season at my guest house on the Isle of Wight.  Well, since then, books have taken over.  Following months of uncertainty the guest house has been sold and I have moved to a new house in the same town and have begun working with books (as well as being surrounded by them at home) working within the Isle Of Wight Library Service.  The reviews, interviews and magazine assignments have kept coming and at the times of upheaval, of not knowing where I would be living, of winding the business up, of dealing with the loss of close family members reading has very much kept me sane.  If insanity was threatened it was due to BT Open Reach and EE my internet providers who took forever between them to get me a phone line and internet access – but that’s all sorted now and after a few years of feeling life was on a bit of a plateau 2017 feels a very positive change of year.

I’m delighted with the way reviewsrevues.com has gone from strength to strength (despite erratic postings towards the end of the year- thanks again for making this so difficult, BT).  In fact compared to last year there has been an astonishing 76% rise in traffic on the site.  That’s thanks to you all reading this.  Let’s finish 2016 off with a countdown of your ten most read of the 158 posts I published during the year. Just click on the links to revisit the full reviews.

10. The Author Strikes Back- Benita Jayne – Author of “Sacred Crystal Pyramid”and old school chum makes it into the Top 10 with our interview held back in July

9. The Author Strikes Back – Chris Whitaker – The most read of the author interviews I’ve published on here this year.  Chris had to put up with me interviewing him twice, once for here and once for the Nudge site.  He was charming both times.

8. Tall Oaks – Chris Whitaker Showing that the author interviews drive traffic to the original review.  Chris’ crime debut was also a hit on Nudge which has led to a nomination for the Book Noir book of the year.  If you enjoyed his book you can register your appreciation here.

7. The Evenings – Gerard Reve– I had quite a lot of reservations about this book which I reviewed in October but the review of this Dutch translation has attracted a lot of attention.

6. The Rovers – Sky 1 football themed comedy with Craig Cash and Sue Johnston.  This was funny and attracted enough reads on here to suggest a second series is a serious proposition.

5. Giles Coren: My Failed Novel – Sky Arts one-off programme on the perils for a first-time novelist.  A real eye-opener.

4. Make! Craft Britain – Another one-off programme, this time on BBC4.  There’s a lot of crafters out there (and yes I did finish making my Clanger)

3. Lets Groove- The Best Of Earth Wind & Fire– I actually posted this in October 2015 but the lasting legacy of this group and the sad passing of Maurice White (one of the seemingly vast number of celebrities who were imporant to me who died in 2016) has ensured that this has had high readership figures throughout the year.

2. Scott and Bailey – ITV series.  People seemed to be facing up to the disappointment of there being apparently no more by reading about it.  I’ll say it again…  I love Scott and Bailey.

 

 

1.The Level – ITV.  My review of this appeared after the first episode at the start of October.  I moved not long after and lost track of reviewsrevues for a time.  I was astonished to see that views for this had gone through the roof whilst I was doing other things and it is the most read review  on here by a clear mile.  Over 1300 views ahead of the number 2 read.  The series started promisingly but lost its way a little at times but the readers keep coming.  There’s certainly a lot of interest in this series, ITV, if you are thinking of recommissioning or looking towards overseas sales.

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Right. that’s enough 2016.  Let’s get on with 2017!

Scott and Bailey – Series 5 (ITV 2016) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review

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I love Scott and Bailey.  I had thought that with Suranne Jones’ success in “Dr Foster” that we might have seen the last of this Manchester-set Police drama so I was delighted to see it back for Series 5.  There are only three episodes but I know that for the next three weeks this is going to be the highlight of my television viewing.

There have been changes.  Amelia Bulmore is no longer in it as Scott and Bailey’s boss, DCI Gill Murray and I still haven’t got over the departure of Tracie Bennett who was absolutely brilliant as Rachel Bailey’s Mum.  Also, Sally Wainwright, writer of the exemplary “Happy Valley”  who created this alongside Diane Taylor has handed on the script-writing duties.  The whole conception of the show is fascinating, if a little complex.  The idea was originally drawn up by Suranne and co-star Sally Lindsay, who plays her sister,  who were lamenting the lack of strong parts for women.  They took it to Nicola Schindler of Red Productions who commissioned Sally Wainwright to produce a script.  ITV felt it needed a bit more work before they green-lighted it so Wainwright joined up with Diane Taylor, an ex Detective Inspector from Greater Manchester Police to add that touch of authenticity.  It shows that it is very much a labour of love from all the women concerned and its strength has always been in its depiction of women, aided by a superb cast.  By the last series Amelia Bulmore had written a number of episodes and put her character very much through the wringer as she struggled to cope with alcoholism.

Scott and Bailey’s two Sallys – Wainwright and Lindsay

This is a drama which has always held its “Coronation Street” credentials close.  Set in Manchester with Jones and Lindsey and Bulmore all much- loved Street alumni.  This connection goes further as writer of this episode (and a number of others) is Lee Warburton, who apart from being the first man I have mentioned in relation to this programme also took his turn in the Street as Tony Horrocks (1995-8).

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At the start of the episode Rachel (Surrane Jones) has returned after a year in London, where if the brief montage shown was anything to go by she had a good time.  She turns up back at her old job after her secondment in vice without having told best friend Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp) that she was back.  I was initially a little concerned because what you need in this programme is someone to rankle Rachel and put her back up as this is what Jones is so superb at (cf: “Dr Foster) and I thought that their boss had always served this role but new character Anna (Jing Lusi) will fill this gap with aplomb.  There was (as there was in “Happy Valley”)  a wonderfully excruciating moment when someone takes banter too far .  In this case it was Anna who had got inappropriate by saying “the bitch is back” about Rachel and got the Suranne Jones hard stare which may even eclipse the force-field of a Sarah Lancashire “Happy Valley” hard stare.

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Keeping the comparisons with “HV” going is that both shows have real humour in the blackness and the humour is driven by the writing and characterisation.  When Rachel arrives at the crime scene after a year away she is greeted by  the on-site pathologist, Scary Mary, with “Hello stranger.  Put on weight?  We need to crack on.”  Rachel, whose sister is staying with her at her flat has a fondness for air fresheners, Bailey tells Scott, “The other morning I woke up, I thought I’d been embalmed” and when Rachel is appointed Acting Detective Inspector for the case she is told by her superior, Supt. Julie Dodson (Pippa Haywood), “Be ready to brief a Gold meeting at 12 and don’t come dressed like Little Mix”.  Warburton in his scripts has not abandoned the two locations which really brings out the best in the characters – the ladies loo (about 20 mins in) and having a cigarette in the alley (about 30 mins).  These are Scott and Bailey essentials as it is the scenes between Jones and Sharp which add much to its greatness.

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There’s a pretty explosive plot going on as well, it’s not all fag and loo breaks.  This is intense, modern crime where phones and computers play a part.  There’s serial killing going on, fairly randomly and it becomes evident from the Dark Net (still never sure what that is although as Rachel says “It’s not illegal to use the Dark Net” it always seems to bring up things that are) that someone is killing and filming and it could be a grisly version of “Dare” that the police officers are dealing with.  Technology is moving so fast that the police cannot keep up with it.  A potential love interest for Rachel if the twinkle in his eye is anything to go by SCAS Neil Simpson (Gregg Chillin who despite his name previously smouldered throughout “Da Vinci’s Demons”) tells her, “In terms of internet crime the police are like your granny trying to programme the video player.” How our use of modern technology is impacting our lives is also brought home dramatically for Janet whose family is plunged into chaos caused by boundaries being overstepped.

I would imagine (although I don’t want to know) that this plot line will continue for the three episodes as it is a crime spree which has continued for seven years I don’t imagine it will be solved too quickly but I will be there hanging off every line and watching the best girl-cop duo ever (yes, it far eclipses “Cagney and Lacey”) and some of the best performances you’ll see this year on television.

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Scott and Bailey Series 5 began on ITV at 9.00 pm  on Wednesday 13th April.  It is available on catch-up on the ITV hub

Crossroads (ITV 1964-88) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review

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This week saw the announcement of the death of one of the pioneering women of British television.  Hazel Adair, who passed away on November 22nd aged 95 began her script writing career working on the BBC Radio serial “Mrs Dale’s Diary”, moved into commercial television and devised the first five days a week  British soap opera on the recently launched ITV- “Sixpenny Corner” (1956-7).  She also scripted the 1964 episode of Hospital Drama “Emergency Ward 10” which featured an inter-racial kiss (some years before Captain Kirk and Uhura on “Star Trek”).  This lip-locking occurred between Jamaican born actress Joan Hooley and John White.  The episode was screened without a single viewer complaint, but the press got hold of the story and blew it out of proportion.  On a recent Channel 4 documentary “It Was Alright In The 60’s” Hooley said as a result of the press-induced fuss, her character, who was prominent up to that point, was quietly written out.

After scripting a number of films Adair moved back to the BBC where teamed with Peter Ling, they devised Compact (1962-5) a serial based around a magazine.

In 1964 Adair and Ling pitched to ATV an idea they had about a continuing drama based upon a motel set just outside of Birmingham, run by a recently widowed woman.  That idea became “Crossroads” and it is for this that Adair is best known.  This four (sometimes five)  times a week soap ran in a teatime/early evening slot for thirty four years.  (For now, I’m ignoring the two years of the “revived” Crossroads, which did its best, during its run, to destroy every viewer’s happy memories of the original).  Although I am a big “Coronation Street” fan (coming up to its 55th anniversary ), when I was growing up, and this is a real guilty secret being revealed- but hey ho, I’ve been writing this blog for nearly a year now and can trust you with such revelations I was, for quite some years, totally obsessed with Crossroads.  This meant rushing home from school (in the London region it was shown for a number of years at around 4.30 – in later times, probably scheduling in with my move to secondary school it moved to 6.30 where it was an after-tea treat), often “acting it out” afterwards with my same-age next door neighbour and other friends, buying any Crossroads related merchandise (Okay – I still own a few magazines, novels and autobiographies,  a set of knitting patterns(!), a jigsaw and a Cook Book), learning the names of any new characters and who played them from the TV Times cast lists and generally believing Meg Richardson was a distant aunt and Miss Diane would be the woman that I would want to marry!

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My Crossroads jigsaw!

With Crossroads I could also see into the future!  The London region at one time stopped showing the programme and a campaign to see it reinstated was launched with Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s wife Mary as one of the spearheads.  It was shown again after six months, at the point where it left off.  This meant that until probably the mid to late 70’s London viewers were six months behind the rest of the country.  The lady across the road who used to babysit me from time to time had a television which could pick up, with poor reception, in fuzzy-vision Southern television, who used to schedule it after the London transmission.  We used to watch it through squinted eyes on her TV, and it was just like seeing into the future, the ghostliness of the whole experience adding to it greatly.  And what do I do for a living now?  I have a guest-house of my own on the Isle Of Wight.  Thanks Meg, Jill, Sandy and the rest for that………….You sowed the seeds.  It may not have a cafeteria (which was never seen), we may not have characters going out to get a spanner and not returning for months (Benny), we may not replace popular characters with others that did not in the slightest resemble the original and who personality-wise were chalk and cheese (Coronation Street’s Sue Nicholls played Marilyn in the early years , a blowsy, blonde Brummie waitress who the nation took to her hearts who married, against type the local vicar and when she returned from her honeymoon was played by Nadine Hanwell, a mousey, quiet brunette who was the stereotypical vicar’s wife which was bizarre even to this pre-teen) and our walls might not wobble but I like to think that in some way Hazel Adair shaped my future career.

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The uniqueness of this soap, was that as it was set in a motel, the guests had to be featured (at least occasionally) this meant coming up with short stories as well as continuing plots for the staff and village members, all this for a gruelling 4-5 night a week schedule and a very low budget and hardly any re-takes, which so many of us adored.

To celebrate the life and achievement of Hazel Adair I have this week dug out some old episodes of “Crossroads” to see if the magic was still there.  (There’s quite a few part-episodes on “You Tube” and Network/Granada have issued a number of DVD compilations over the years).  The experience was variable, I watched one from Xmas 1975 which was largely a church-set Carol Service, showing the back of cast members’ heads (not brilliant television) and I watched Rosemary Hunter shoot ex-husband David in a scene so protracted that it features some of the greatest on-screen lip pouting this side of Victoria Beckham (great television), I watched the wonder that was Amy Turtle thinking she’d been poisoned by rat poison, I watched someone coming into the motel kitchen and claiming to plant a bomb without it being mentioned for the rest of the episode and best of all I watched the anarchic Christmas show of 1979 when that fourth wall came tumbling down and Meg and the cast sang direct to camera (and Noele Gordon was perhaps the most showbizzy person ever to appear on television) accompanied by a pianist who just happened to be in Meg’s sitting room.  It’s a scene that manages to be embarrassing, radical and entertaining in equal measures so perhaps best sums up “Crossroads” appeal.

I have selected for your viewing pleasure, a scene from New Year’s Eve 1974, featuring chefs Mr Booth and  Shughie McFee ,  Amy Turtle and Sandy Richardson and Mr Lucas from “Are You Being Served”   I apologise to any vegetarians for the opening scene, which wouldn’t be out of place in a Zombie movie.  The scenes following include Noele Gordon, and the other woman who rivalled Miss Diane in my affections, Zeph Gladstone who played barge-living hairdresser Vera.

Hazel Adair – many thanks for creating the original “Crossroads”.  There will never be television like it again.

fivestars for the memories

Jekyll And Hyde – ITV (2015) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review

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ITV’s big Autumn Sunday Tea-Time “Family” (more of that later) show was unveiled this week, a ten parter loosely based on the Robert Louis Stevenson story and written by Charlie Higson (author of the Young James Bond novels and who “Time Out” once fabulously described as “the missing link between Dick Emery and Brett Easton Ellis”.  It is aiming explicitly for the “Dr Who” audience.  It got me to the screen and I’ve hardly watched “Dr Who” since Jon Pertwee days (“Torchwood”, however, was a different matter).  This show exploded into our living rooms attracting considerable controversy.  To date there have been apparently 800+ complaints about it being too scarey for an early evening audience and Ofcom are about to carry out an investigation to see if ITV, in showing it at 6.30pm breached broadcasting guidelines. (I still don’t get all this… How come Sky Living can repeat old episodes of “Criminal Minds” which can scare the bejesus out of me on weekday afternoons without attracting this outrage?).

Anyway, unless judgements on this programme become too clouded by the protests I’ll say straight off this was a powerful, gripping, fast-moving (and okay…) scarey first episode.  From the opening pre-credit sequence we were plunged into the dingy streets of London in 1885 and had the shock of Mr Hyde bearing his fangs at us, which had I watched it at Sunday tea-time when it was broadcast would have put me off my crumpets.  This Hyde was a descendant of our main Dr Jekyll played by Tom Bateman (Da Vinci’s Demons).  He was much less terrifying. When aroused his face shuddered in an angry twitch and following the highly dramatic transformation mid-way through the episode the Mr Hyde character he metamorphosed into was Jekyll with more mussed-up hair and a healthy application of guy-liner (and a tendency to over-egg the acting performance, although I am sure this will calm down in time).

The story moved quickly.  One moment we were in a highly colourful 1930’s Ceylon with Jekyll coming to the rescue of an injured girl, (fighting the temptation of Hyde coming through to crush the life out of her with a foot in her windpipe – now, that was disturbing), then we were hurtling back to London for a meeting with a law firm dealing with the family he never knew he had’s estate.

In London things got very dark with a sequence which would have elicited the most complaints.  Hit-men in elephantine gas masks came face to face with a Harbinger (head of a man, body of a not-quite sure what, dog? Four-legged chicken?).  Jekyll arrived to a bit of love interest and a lively fight scene.  The doctor’s essential medication was stolen, shape shifters identified themselves all before Hyde took over and ended up in a seedy (but sizeable) bar helmed by Natalie Gumede (“Strictly Come Dancing and unforgiveable Tyrone-basher in “Coronation St”)  channelling her inner Peggy “Get ahht out of my pub!” Mitchell and leading us with the suggestion that Jekyll might very well end up with two women on the go – one for Hyde days and holidays!

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I thought visually the whole thing was stunning.  It was well paced and was keen to tell a story right from the outset.  Was it too much for a family audience?  I think there’s a clue in the title- surely families sitting down to it would know there was an intention to scare and it did do what is said on the tin.  Charlie Higson was moved to apologise to Stuart Maconie on his Radio 6 show for giving the nation nightmares but very rightly says;

‘I’m sorry that anyone got upset by it. It wasn’t my intention to upset people … it was my intention for it to be scary – it’s a scary show.

‘I was expecting more people to complain that it wasn’t scary enough, rather than people saying, “This is a scary show and I found it scary” … that’s slightly the point.’

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 Exactly! ITV has moved the show on half an hour (although say it was their intention to do so).  As by a few minutes into the programme I knew I would want to review this I haven’t seen any other opinions so do not know if I am out of line in championing this but I’ll be certainly there for Episode 2.  For me, watching it without youngsters or those of a nervous disposition, this was great Sunday night entertainment and gave a surge of adrenalin which the “Antiques Roadshow”/ “Downton Abbey” combo couldn’t sap.  Well done ITV.

 

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“Jekyll And Hyde” is shown on Sundays on ITV.  The first episode is available on ITV player, the second is on Sunday 1st Nov at 7.00