Thursday 7 June 2012

Chuckle, Chuckle Vision!

You may not know from the sheer muddled interior of this blog that I'm still a kid, still sixteen, and I like kids' stuff. I like fart jokes. And I like the Chuckle Brothers!
For those not in the know, the Chuckle Brothers, Barry Elliott (born 24 December 1944) and Paul Elliott (born 18 October 1947), better known as the Chuckle Brothers, are British comedians. They are best known for their work on Tv, since winning New Faces 1974 and their CBBC series Chucklevision, running since 1987, and before that, the dog-dress up Chucklehounds.

Barry is the small one, and Paul, the domineering one. Their catchphrase is To me, to you, as well as 'oh dear, oh dear' and 'silly me, silly you'. They hail from Rotherham, Yorkshire and they specialise in old fashioned slapstick.
Their enemies in the series, are their real-life brothers, former Black and White Minstrels and panto regulars Jimmy and Brian Patton or the Patton Brothers, who in this 1980 clip dfrom the Good old Days, are also the Chuckles, if you get it. The Pattons are in the middle, Paul left, Barry right,

They also at their age they lots of stage work, shows like 'Dr. What and the Garlics', 'Indiana Chuckles' and Pirates of the River Rother: In Stranger Tights. It's a secret unfulffilled ambition to go to one of their stage shows.

ChuckleVision I've watched since I were in nappies. It is also cheap, and sometimes had gueststars, like Gruber the gay Nazi off 'Allo 'Allo, or the voice of K9, John Leeson. But I like it.

RTD, the new JN-T

Hello, time travellers, for my next article on Doctor Who, I ask you not Who but why? I've decided to cover the more unusual things in Who, not doctors, companions, monsters, TARDISEs, but studies and criticisms of writers, directors, producers...

There are similarities with Davies, the man who revived Who and Turner, the man who both helped it and then relucantly let it die in his arms, while trying to escape it. Both are gay. There are differences. Davies is a creative mind, a writer more so than a producer, with a writer's background, not a financial budgetary one, like Turner, plus his role was born out of role for the programme.
Russell's got a new boyfriend!

Both have the same sense of show. Both have been criticised for stunt castings, like a variety manager triyng to get big stars for his theatre. RTD did start his career, writing for those mammoths of children's televisual entertainment, Paul and Barry Patton Elliot, alias the Chuckle Brothers. 

I think that's all I have to say, actually, for RTD could do a lot of bad, i.e. the cheap, tacky and ultra-cheesy Christmas Specials, like decorations on a tree with flame-throwing brass band robot Santas and spinning musical Chainsaw Christmas trees, alien threats, yes, but alien threats with novelty value, something both throat-vomitingly sickeningly sweetly terrifying and just plain horrific!
Christmas specials are only suited for comedies, and even then, it seems comedy is limp in Yuletide.
I could also rant on endlessly for the farty Chucklesque exploits of the posh greengangsters the Slitheen, like an alien version of Baby Face Finlayson, and the Fear Her story, a tale of a girl whose drawings came to life, clearly an imitation of a much better episode of US TV kids show Eerie Indiana, by Joe Dante,  was limited by the end-of-season budget, so the big monster of the dad in the closet was now just a glowing drawing!
But that ain't written by Davies, so I'll instead go on about Christmas specials!

The Christmas Only Fools and Horses specials were never that Christmassy, for example. My favourite of them, the Jolly Boys Outing is clearly filmed and set in summer, in its tale of a trip to Margate, and the abysmal Thicker than Water (1992), although wintry was focused more on a bizarre tale of bottled water from drainage, and showed John Sullivan was running out of ideas.

Anyway, back to RTD, I've run out of things to say, just to say at least he revived Who...

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Doctor Who: John Nathan Turner, the Black Sheep of BBC Drama

John Nathan-Turner should be criticised for producing Doctor Who. He didn't ruin Who singlehandedly. There are so many factors. Eric Saward was a peculiar choice for script editor. He had no telly background, just radio. You need experience to be in charge of a show like Doctor Who. John Nathan-Turner had experience. I'm not saying his run of the show was bad. No.

He did good. He cast Peter Davison, who brought us a human, more fallible portrayal of our hero, and he cast Beryl Reid as a space marine (a lot of people think it negative, but trust me, BERYL REID in SPACE, what's not to love?) and he modernised the series, bringing back love and affection, after a period of decrease in popularity. He brought in Nyssa. He was responsible for the Five Doctors. He made the series fresh and yet...

He did bad. He cast Colin Baker. He created Adric (he only cast Waterhouse, because he had a crush on the fresh-faced BBC clerk boy who had a deluded desire to be as good as Olivier by the age of 20, instead becoming as good as a one-legged seal is at sprinting) and his ham-fisted tactics led the Great Michael Grade (a man who knows his entertainment, nephew of Sir Lew, a master of screen SF commissioning, and maker of rather good BBC 4 documentaries) to try to cancel it. Every spotty fan (including me) wanted to kill him at one point, as we thought as bad as Who was, surely it could get better. There was also the stunt castings, Time and The Rani, Doctor in Distresss, the escalating cheapness, the switch to all-video (which made it look like a kids show) and allowing Eric Saward near a scriptwriter. He created the Colin Baker look (popularised by Robin Williams in the film Toys, honestly Williams even said it himself, apparently) and the question marks, even criticised by Lord Barry Letts. He made characters different nationalities as gimmicks to attract foreign countries, which kind of worked with Tegan, as Janet Fielding really was an Aussie, but when your Pasadena-Californian Peri is actually from Guildford, eh...
Unbelievably Oscarwinning composing genius Hans Zimmer was involved, yes THAT Hans Zimmer!

When Sylvester McCoy was cast, oh no... And then it did, with stories like Ghost Light and Greatest Show in the Galaxy, and characters like Ace, who although likeable enough was failed, but an honourable failure, because she looked about 25, as Sophie Aldred was, when playing her, spoke too posh and too stupid (ie don't use your name as an exclamation! George!) yet we came to like her because she was easy on the eye and she convinced us, because we felt a bit sorry for her. RTD must've been scribbling notes.

But as good as JN-T could be, he wasn't as successful as the brilliance of Letts or Hinchcliffe. He didn't have a stable script editor-producer relationship, plus really he was wrong for the series. He was a camp figure, an openly gay man with a relationship with his production manager, Gary Downie. They lived in Brighton together! Downie wrote the Doctor Who Cookbook! He was a Brummie whose real name was Jonathan Turner, became double-barrelled to avoid a mistaken identity and had a style more suited to variety, or maybe a soap opera. Doctor Who is neither. Doctor Who needs good actors, not big stars and style, not colour.

But then again, it is a trap people fall into regularly. Especially when you mix chain, lady blouse and Colin Baker coat.

JN-T never worked on TV again, apart from setting Who-related questions for Mastermind and interviews, where he came across as a big teddy bear coloured pink. He turned down Bergerac. 

He was a great man, though, rather odd, but he let the series continue, and when the series died, he was left holding it, as no one else wanted it or him...

All without mentioning a certain red-haired actress and her Pease Pottage-born character?

Monday 4 June 2012

Cash in the Attic: Trash in the Morning

I decided to run this blog to freshen it up, to take it off Matthew Coniam and modernise it. I wanted to focus on modern things that are still in the olde Britain, and then there is Cash in the Attic. For those unaware, it is a long-running BBC One daytime antiques 'lifestyle' programme, not like Antiques Roadshow, but with dealers and presenter going to people's houses to find the so-called antiques to be sold at auction. It is an odd kettle, running since 2002, but still stuck in 1997, it is at the same repulsive and addictive, like some Italian cannibal film. The programme's tagline is The show that helps you find hidden treasures in your home, and then sells them for you at auction, which is basically the premise.

It has had about 400 presenters, there's old veterans like Angela Rippon and Jennie Bond (or former BBC Royal Correspondent Jennie Bond, as we are forced to call her), and daytime types like Alistair Appleton and Angus Purden, i.e. soulless pretty boys too fey and camp for primetime. The show itself is really conquered by the dealers, including Paul Hayes, a man so Northern without being Northern (as in Coronation Street, i.e. he's posh-Mancunian, Morecambe, an yet sounds nothing like Eric, as he has this lilting voice) that my grandad insisted he was gay by 'the manner of him' (actually, he's married with kids). It was also briefly the home of trash TV witch Lorne Spicer, the Fairy Godmother of daytime Antiques TV, who also did the awful Car Booty, a show with everything the same but with a car boot sale not an auction, and hilarriously overpriced junk (£30 for a used Cyberman voice-changer from 2007, really?) that has now spread to the minds of old ladies in charity shops. Why did I profile it? It's British Rubbish, All New British Rubbish, and it shows how much the British public loves antiques.

The Worm that Turned: If 2012 could get any worse

Of all the Two Ronnies serials, (The Phantom Raspberry-Blower of olde London Town, Farley and Malone), my favourite is possibly the most dated, The Worm that Turned. It is set in 2012, a world where Thatcher created an all-female dictatorship of England (only England) and women wear men's clothes and have men's names, but still are pregnant, and all men wear dresses, have ladies' names and do feminine things. The Tower of London is now Barbara Castle, the Union Jack is now the Union Jill, which resembles a pair of knickers, and Diana Dors is the State Police leader.

Our intrepid heroes are Betty Chalmers (Ronnie Barker) and Barbara Castle tea-boy Janet Cartwright (Ronnie Corbett) two married househusbands who decide to revolt, after a female spy in a dress and moustache, to look like a man interrupts a showing of male chauvinist films such as John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart flicks at a Sewing Circle, i.e. middle-aged blokes dressed as WI ladies and a search for an Ursula Debenham, tall, balding, with a beard, led by the Shake 'n' Vac lady. It is eight parts, and incredibly complicated, involving a raid on Barbara Castle in order to burn identity files, which involves spraying water on kinky lady-Beefeaters and Neil McCarthy as a fearsome cleaner called Deirdre, an escape to a country house with Barker disguised as a woman (ie not wearing a dress, his tache shaved and with a ginger wig and a Westcounty accent) only to be surrounded by armed women and an escape dressed as a cow, a pet mouse called Herbert, Wanda Ventham as a sexy ex-classmate of Betty's called Jack who turns out not to be as nice as she seems, help by Betty's landlord brother-in-law Diana who plans to smuggle them across the border to Wales, by using an underground organisation disguised in a dress shop for men.

As a serial, it has dated. It's remarkably sexist, with references to Danny La Rue being locked up in Barbara Castle, and Germaine Greer and Pat Phoenix being leaders and Larry Grayson being neither one or the other. And the ending doesn't quite work, i.e. Diana Dors' Controller finds our heroes at the checkpoint to Wales, where men are still men, i.e. it's still 1979, and still called Ianto and Dai, and don't wear dresses. Janet's mouse, Herbert is left to guard the Controller, who is afraid of mice, and Janet and Betty escape to Wales. But there are laughs, and it is really an excuse for men in dresses, including big pink puffy ball gowns that Barker had to wear (and he hated wearing women's clothing, yet doesn't seem at ease, although he obviously looks out of place, Corbett less so) yet what it delivers is at times compelling, at times hillarious, and it's all up on youtube.