Posts Tagged With: the x-files

Have I Got Whos For You (WE WON THE ELECTION edition)

Well. The new I’m A Celebrity lineup is shit, isn’t it?

I don’t know. They’re all in a castle. Isn’t this a bit of a missed opportunity? Couldn’t they get someone with stilts and a hood to chase them round and burn them? That’d be more entertaining than watching Shane Ritchie eat bugs. I swear, I’ve had dental work that was less painful.

We can, at least, console ourselves with the news that The Vicar of Dibley is making a long-overdue and ostensibly ‘welcome’ return, although it will probably be not terribly funny and there’ll be at least three people on Twitter complaining about fat shaming. Socially distanced Zoom-inspired innovation aside, I can’t help thinking this is something Curtis should have left buried, particularly given that half the cast are dead. Still, the BBC are milking this for all its worth, as evidenced by this publicity photo of Dawn French with co-star Roger Lloyd-Pack.

As I write this, Donald Trump’s legal campaign is still thrashing about in its death throes, determined to somehow gain some traction despite having produced absolutely no evidence. There are recounts and rumours of recounts and legal campaigns that are in and out faster than a priest in a brothel; it’s King Cnut (well, almost) shouting at the tide, although at least he possessed a modicum of self-awareness and was doing the whole thing as a joke. You really can’t say the same for the current POTUS, whose twitter feed is awash with false claims and heavily capitalised rants, as if the only viable route forward is to shout something loud enough until people start believing it.

Already the right-wing media are cutting and running, and Trump’s list of allies seems to be diminishing by the day, as the most powerful man in the world is reduced to muted press conferences from tiny desks. Around this time I would normally start to feel a bit sorry for him – he is human, despite his obvious faults – but I really find it incredibly difficult to muster any sympathy for such a graceless loser. It’s also a sad decline for Rudy Giuliani, who went from being a voice of hope and sanity after 9/11 to shouting his mouth off outside a gloomy-looking building in an industrial park, next door to a sex shop.

“Yeah, I’ve buggered this one up, haven’t I?”

Meanwhile, over in Utah (where of course they all voted red), a days-old mystery is solved when new footage emerges of a malfunctioning chameleon circuit.

There is a sense of irony about the timing. It’s funny that they just found it now, at the end of what has been for many people an annus horribalis; it’s as if some sentient alien race has been watching and waiting and is now playing a colossal joke. It’s curious that the first appearance of the 2001 monolith coincides with a tribe of knuckle-dragging monkeys smashing things up and yelling as loud as they can to assert their dominance. Go figure.

In the UK we’ve been watching all this with interest, because it takes our minds off the Brexit debacle, the arguing about ‘Fairy Tale of New York’, and the state of Amazon’s courier system.

Look, it doesn’t matter what Radio 1 does; no one over twenty listens to it and those that do probably have Spotify playlists, so if they want to censor the damned thing then that’s their prerogative. Better that we simply wait out the lockdown as quietly as possible and take comfort in simple pleasures, like board games. “Is he wearing glasses?”

Last night my feed pinged: the ‘Revolution of the Daleks’ trailer drops on Sunday evening, which means I’ll have something else to write about; you have no idea how difficult it is wringing every ounce of possible humour from such meagre pickings. I mean as a fan I don’t care; I can wait. As a creator, it’s frustrating. Still, as news drips through about the unavoidably delayed, inevitably divisive Series 13, a close-up from Jodie Whittaker’s inaugural season reveals exactly why this new one is going to be a bit shorter than usual.

I honestly don’t know why everyone’s complaining; there’s plenty of other stuff to be going on with. Take The Crown, for example, Netflix’s sumptuous costume drama detailing the history of the Royal Family: lavish as Game of Thrones, sensationalist as a National Enquirer exposé, and about as accurate as a Spanish art restorer. Not content with riding roughshod over Prince Philip’s marital history and fabricating scenes between his eldest son and Lord Mountbatten, they’ve now introduced Gillian Anderson as a fiery, uncannily authentic and disturbingly sexy Margaret Thatcher. I suppose it gives her something to do other than shine torches into dark warehouses.

Coleman is, in this image, the epitome of stern serenity, which is more than you can say for the arts world – which was rocked the other week by the unveiling of a new statue commemorating celebrated author and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. Ordinarily this would have made for a joyous afternoon, except she turned out to be about six inches high, and completely naked. It was all a bit miniscope, really. In fact you might even call it a nightmare. In silver.

“PROTECT THE ARTEFACT!”

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Have I Got Whos For You (Everybody’s Gone To The Moon Edition)

I’m not gonna talk about Boris; in fact, we’re not gonna talk about Boris at all. We’re gonna keep him out of it.

Let’s talk about the moon landing. But before we do that, let’s talk about a book I read thirty years ago in my first (and second, and third, and fourth) year at secondary school. It was called Arthur C. Clarke’s July 20, 2019 – a date which, at the tender age of eleven, seemed like a distant prospect. Compartmentalised into thematic chapters, taking us through smart houses, healthcare, travel and work on a single day in the then future, it explored a typically optimistic future society where things have mostly gone right, anchored by the celebration of fifty years since the moon landing. I can still quote bits of dialogue but I’m fuzzy on the detail; nonetheless people who still have the book assure me that the results were a bingo card, with some astonishingly accurate predictions and others that either haven’t happened yet or which happened years ago. It was glossy, and the photos were very nice. Sadly the Amazon prices are not, so it’ll have to stay as a memory, which is probably for the best.

Anyway, Armstrong didn’t quite make it to the fiftieth anniversary – but Aldrin did, and he’s still keeping his mouth shut about what really happened.

People got really cross when I did this. “I don’t like the idea of the Doctor being part of this conspiracy,” said one. To which the obvious reply is – well, she isn’t, she’s just landed the TARDIS in Shepperton instead of 240,000 miles up. Listen, I don’t have the monopoly on stuff like this. The X-Files got there first. Actually, I’ve been doing some thought in recent months and have decided that much of the way society is today can be blamed on The X-Files. Because it gave us a world where chemtrails were real, the moon landing was faked and governments were using vaccinations as a ploy to infect us all with viral pathogens, and the heroes were two likeable, intelligent white Americans whose job it was to convince us that this was all really happening. And the opposite of obedient sheep – “Comrade Napoleon is always right” – is abject paranoia, which really isn’t any better. So now no one trusts a thing they’re told by people who frankly know more about this than they do, and before you know it you’ve got people believing the Earth is flat.

Anyway, at least – thanks to the miracles of modern technology – we can finally find out what that Silence was really saying back in 1969.

Finally, to the far side of the moon, where an old enemy is about to run into some old friends.

“Christ. Not you lot again.”

 

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Have I Got Whos For You (part 978)

This week: as the recent series of The X-Files draws to a close, speculation mounts as to exactly what happened in ‘The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat’, and what it could possibly have to do with Doctor Who.

News breaks of Christopher Eccleston’s impending arrival at Comic Con.

And Peter Capaldi turns sixty. To which we say Happy Birthday, sir. May all your camels be fertile, and may the wind be always at your back, except when you’re standing at the edge of the harbour.

D

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What really happened to the Pink Windmill kids

windmill_catrina

Hi. My name’s Catrina…

If something goes viral on the internet it’s usually a combination of market awareness and serendipity. (Occasionally talent is involved as well, but the ludicrous success of Charlie Bit My Finger is ubiquitous proof, as if any were needed, that this isn’t necessarily the case.) Sometimes you just need to get noticed by the right people. And sometimes it’s because it’s the end of an annus horribalis and we could all do with some light relief, which is why everyone spent December watching a bunch of stage school teenagers in leggings cavorting around a TV set.

For many of us, this was like opening up a box in the attic and fishing out a thirty-year-old diary. You forgive yourself for particular habits, but it’s difficult not to cringe. I don’t remember whether I actually thought The Pink Windmill Show was cool, but I watched it every week without fail, so they must have done something right. The clip doing the rounds was new to me, but I must have seen it – it’s just that in the 1980s, out-camping the Village People was standard practice. We didn’t question it because it happened so frequently. No one questions the over-reliance on sob stories in The X-Factor, do they? It’s just what we do now.

Not that it always worked. At the bargain basement end of Rod Hull’s prime time glamour, there was a children’s show called You Should Be So Lucky – a sort of amateur talent competition run by Colin Bennett, supported by a group of sparkly child dancers. Each week you’d have a different group of stage school prodigies (at least half of whom were named Tiffany) taking to the floor to deliver music hall numbers, indulge in a spot of amateur magic – or, worst of all, do a monologue. It ran for twelve episodes. It was trainwreck television: indeed, I can find no footage on the internet save a recording of the theme music, accompanied by a single still of Bennett and his Purettes gathered at the back door of a caravan.

lucky

Listening to that now – and reading some of the comments – I think it’s become apparent that it was a programme I misjudged. I remember being horrified by it, even at the age of ten – and I wonder if Bennett’s saccharine-drenched, prozac-infused host wasn’t playing a caricature, a man who’d watched a promising career go down the tubes and who was as appalled by his current situation as we were. Had the show continued past its first series he would, no doubt, have had some sort of breakdown on stage, in the manner of Michael Caine’s character in Little Voice. As it was we got an impassioned plea to get out and watch some live theatre, before it was too late.

(As an aside, the article I’ve just linked to references the words “Bran Barrel!”, something I do recall them saying quite a lot – but for the life of me I can’t remember why. If there’s someone reading this who does, perhaps you might care to enlighten me.)

But The Pink Windmill Show has survived, even if Rod Hull sadly hasn’t. Falling from the roof of his home while fixing the TV aerial during a football match not long before the millennium turned, Rod had kept his head through a declining career and bankruptcy and was trying to make the best of things at a shepherd’s cottage in Essex. Resentment towards the puppet that had typecast him notwithstanding, he seemed to drift towards his death with a cheery optimism – “Complaining about your life,” he was heard to say (I’m paraphrasing) “is all codswallop”. I reflected, when I heard the news, that I hadn’t heard about him for years, which I suppose makes it worse.

Back at the windmill, there’s somebody at the door. Oh look, it’s the screamer.

Sit down, Bonnie. Have a glass of carrot juice.

Even at the age of six or seven, some of those scripted exchanges were frankly awkward. And the formulaic approach nagged and teased at my inner pedant. Why, in the name of sanity, were the kids able to memorise complicated dance routines seemingly off the cuff, but unable to remember that the witch always turns up to kidnap someone in the audience at precisely the same moment? “DON’T ANSWER THE DOOR!” I can remember shouting on more than one occasion. “IT’S ALWAYS GROTBAGS THE SECOND TIME!”

grotbags

Grotbags – the creation of the sensational Carole Lee Scott – was, of course, the best thing about The Pink Windmill, whether she was stomping across the studio with a brat under one arm or bickering with her hapless minions, Croc the cringing crocodile, Grovel the sycophantic manservant, and an effeminate mechanical butler called Robert Redford. By the end of it we didn’t care whether the kids she’d abducted had actually won anything – it was more fun watching the banter. The image of Grotbags leering through the fourth wall with her goth-decorated eye makeup and missing teeth – before breaking into a song about UFOs – was something that most of us never really got out of our heads. The 1980s were rather short on iconic children’s TV moments, but this was one of them – and when CBeebies launched their hugely successful soft play pirate show, Swashbuckle, some years later, the influence of Rod and the Windmill was undeniable.

Still. Some things are best consigned to the past: audiences don’t know when they’ve had enough. It’s why, when I read that the cast had reunited for a Comic Relief sketch, my heart sank. It’s bad enough that they’re revisiting Love Actually, in order to show us what a bunch of fictional characters we never really cared about in the first place are doing fourteen years after a film that gets far more press attention than it deserves. I know I’m in full-on grumpy old man mode now but I do get a bit fed up with this obsession with nostalgia and revivals; it’s not so much that we’ve run out of ideas, more that an age of anniversary-themed news (something I willingly contribute towards) and ‘Remember when…?’ articles have led to a culture where everyone over the age of twenty-five is prone to excessive navel gazing, convinced that their past was better than your past, and you’d better get used to it.

I’m right about this. Three or four of the Lord of the Rings actors go out for a drink and it’s a fucking reunion? Seriously? People who think televised cast reunions are a good idea should have to shampoo my crotch. It’s like watching foreign tourists go to the Costa del Sol and eat fish and chips and drink English lager. When revivals work (The X-Files) they’re great. When they don’t (also The X-Files) they make for horrible, horrible television. (Twin Peaks, it must be noted, has a get-out-of-jail-free card, because it ended on a massive cliffhanger that was supposedly going to be resolved twenty-five years later, so that’s fine.)

For all my whinging, it must be said that the new version of the Pink Windmill dance is quite fun, and it’s for a good cause. Spencer is notably absent, due to ‘personal commitments’, a euphemism for ‘I work in advertising now and didn’t want to make a tit of myself on national television’. But everyone else is present, correct and inevitably a little thicker round the waist, although that could be said of me, so I’m not judging.

Besides, it gave me an idea. “Why don’t you make your own version?” asks Joe at the end. So I did.

Only mine, of course, has Cybermen.

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Your ears are like rocket fins

So hands up who saw through my subtly rendered and highly convincing April Fool gag, then?

We did manage to convince several people, at least for about a minute and a half. The best April Fool jokes are rooted in reality, and the notion that the serial romances endemic in fan-fiction might find an outlet with an established publisher really isn’t so far fetched. It was Emily’s idea; I rewarded her by naming one of the authors after her. “I’m not so sure about the covers,” she said, after proofreading it. “They looked a bit amateurish. A bit obviously self-published”. So I showed her some actual Mills & Boon covers, and she had to concede I was basically right.

Over at CBeebies, the team decided to show footage of the seven-foot tall TV legend that is Andy Day – “all teeth and curls” – inadvertently losing his ‘wig’ to reveal that, underneath, he was totally bald. Several sleepy parents rubbed their eyes in shock, but most people picked it up straight away. Perhaps that’s the problem with the April Fool season in general: the internet, a medium where one can seldom believe anything one reads, has made its implementation all but impossible. You start the day on edge, checking for signs, indications that something is too far-fetched for words, with the sort of critical eye that really ought to be put to use all the time, particularly when it comes to alternative medicine, stats about immigration, or rumours of that new Breaking Bad series. Or, as a friend of mine put it, “the one day of the year that everyone applies the degree of critical thinking and scepticism to Internet posts that they should be applying the other 364 days of the year.”

It did give me the excuse to do this, anyway.

 

Andy_Bald

Regular readers of this blog will remember that I gave Andy a more-than-considerable mention some time ago, when I pointed out the more-than-considerable passing resemblance to the Eighth Doctor, at least when he was playing Ebeneezer Scrooge. It wasn’t until last week that someone mentioned his astonishing resemblance to Fatima Whitbread (I’m not putting it here. Just Google it), even more so when you consider that he spends a lot of time these days wearing a similar sort of explorer’s outfit to the one that the former Olympian wore in the jungle, when she was a contestant on My Career is DeadFeed Me Bugs! I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!. The series in question is of course Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures, in which Andy cavorts around the Natural History Museum before travelling through time in a grandfather clock that appears to be bigger on the inside.

Andy_Master

In any event, I’ve had enough bald jokes to last a lifetime. So we’ll can them, shall we? It just brings back bad memories of ‘The Time of the Doctor’, most of which I’d rather forget. And I don’t really have the time to go back through those old episodes again; Emily and I are still only halfway across The Bridge, and only recently have I had the chance to watch that final episode of The X-Files.

Anderson_Makeup

Yes. Well.

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