Hello again! Apologies for not doing a Favourites post last month, but I’ve continued to have issues with sciatica and other little aches and pains. I am a bit better than I was, but I still need a bit of help to get over it and reduce my risks going forward. It’s been frustratingly hard to try and see someone about it, but I’ve managed to book an appointment with an osteopath, and I hope things will start to improve more soon. And for the time being I just need to be careful!
Consequently I haven’t been out much, even after all legal restrictions were lifted here in England on 19 July. And when I do go out, even though I’m fully vaccinated, I’m still sanitising my hands, wearing face masks and socially distancing when appropriate – not out of fear, but out of simple respect for others. We can’t shut ourselves away forever and we do have to learn to live with the virus, but we can’t be complacent or selfish either. There is a balance to be reached. So I hope you’re all staying safe and being sensible, and you’re not being pinged too often with notifications by the NHS Test & Trace app (which I’ve never had as my phone’s too old for it – but I am getting a new phone soon, so that could change!).
In this latest post and video, therefore, I’ll mainly be sharing the entertainment that has kept me happily distracted as usual. But there is also one trip out that I’ll mention, and other bits and pieces too. And I’m not affiliated with or sponsored by anybody I mention here as usual. So I hope you enjoy!
In June I headed back into Central London for the first time in 9 months, to have a walk along the South Bank of the River Thames, from Waterloo to Canada Water. It was lovely hot sunny weather, and it was great to be back in the city again. But it was that long stroll, coupled with another one in my local area the following day, that triggered my sciatica again. So I clearly pushed myself too far too soon, and I’ve learnt from that mistake! Nevertheless, I’m glad I was able to do it, as it was really nice to get out and about in the city again. I have also shared some photos from my walk on Instagram, and there’s a bit of footage in the video accompanying this post too.
Olympics & Paralympics
September 2021 Update: I had written more about the Olympics & Paralympics here, but following the conclusion of both events I’ve now created a dedicated review post entitled Thank You Tokyo. So go and check that out to see my favourite highlights!
- Russell Howard Stands Up To The World on Sky was a fun look at his tour of Australia and New Zealand, mixing material from his stand-up gigs with clips of his often unusual adventures and the great people he met. There are quite a few clips on his Youtube channel too.
- Ronnie Corbett’s Lost Tapes on ITV was a lovely celebration of the comedian’s life, talking to members of his family who were generous enough to share footage from his home movies that have never been seen before. And there were fond memories from celebrity friends too.
- Morecambe & Wise: The Lost Tapes, also on ITV, showed sketches from the duo’s first edition of their show on BBC1 (following their move from BBC2), which had recently been discovered by Eric Morecambe’s son Gary. So it was fun to see those for the first time. There was also other footage of the pair performing, along with contributions from Eric’s family and celebrity fans.
- Secrets Of The London Underground on Yesterday, presented by Tim Dunn & London Transport Museum’s Siddy Holloway, is an interesting series looking at abandoned tube stations, disused tunnels, historical discoveries and more. Their enthusiasm for the subject really draws you in, and they point out lots of cool little details. And if you want to dig even deeper on that kind of subject, check out Hidden London Hangouts on Youtube, a series of extensive chats that Siddy and her museum colleagues started during lockdown, or book a place on an in-person tour.
- Secrets Of The Museum has returned on BBC2, with a second series going behind the scenes at the V&A Museum. As before, it’s interesting to see the wonderful variety of items they look after and the dedication the staff have to their work. And while some artworks and exhibits are hundreds of years old, others are relatively more modern, including a lurex suit worn by Jim Lea from the glam rock band Slade, and a costume worn by Andrew Sachs when he played Manuel in the classic sitcom Fawlty Towers.
After the previous season came to a premature end due to the pandemic, it’s been good to see The Flash back for Season 7 on Sky, so they could resolve the mirrorverse storyline while also finding other complicated scenarios for the team to deal with. There’s no denying that it’s become incredibly far-fetched, way beyond what it already was to begin with, but it’s still fun. I know that this season has already finished in America too, so no spoilers please. But I do also know that it’s been renewed for an 8th season, which is good news.
There have also been updates about the upcoming Series 13 of Doctor Who, including the fact that Jodie Whittaker and showrunner Chris Chibnall will be leaving next year, as was always their plan after 3 series. The first teaser trailer has also been released, along with a Comic-Con chat with Jodie and Chris, accompanied by Mandip Gill and John Bishop, and there will be a lot of other stuff as the series approaches. It will be a much shorter series this time because of the pandemic, and then there will be a few specials after that to conclude Jodie’s run. Next year is the 100th anniversary of the BBC, and the following year will be the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who, so hopefully we’ll get special episodes to mark both of those milestones.
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
I’ve now finished bingeing on the improvised comedy gameshow Whose Line Is It Anyway?, which I’ve enjoyed going through over the past few months.
It actually began as a short radio series in the UK, which I’ve now listened to on Audible for the very first time, as I was too young to hear it when it originally aired in 1988, and it’s quite good. The 6 episodes were hosted by Clive Anderson, who then went on to host the British TV series, which ran from 1988-1999 on Channel 4 and will always be my favourite iteration of the show. I did see a lot of the series when I was younger, but I’ve now watched all of the episodes on All4 (apart from a missing Series 7 episode which is thankfully on Youtube), so it’s been great to relive it, as they have a great mixture of performers.
I’ve also seen the Comic Relief specials from 1989 and 2011 on Youtube, which aren’t as good as the main show but are still fun. And there’s even been a stage version at the Edinburgh Fringe festival hosted by Clive in more recent years.
Across the pond, meanwhile, an American version launched in 1998, just as the UK series was about to end, and ran until 2007. It was hosted by Drew Carey, and featured many of the same American performers who had appeared in the British series. It isn’t available officially on UK streaming services, however, so all you can watch are low quality videos on places like Youtube and Dailymotion. But I have seen some of it in the past, and have watched a few clips more recently. And it’s alright, it has good moments in it. But it’s not as good as the UK version for me, I think Clive’s a better host.
After that series was cancelled, Drew Carey launched very similar programmes, using the same cast members, called the Green Screen Show and Improv-A-Ganza, neither of which lasted for very long. And a lot of the Whose Line cast also appeared in an improvisation show called Trust Us With Your Life. None of those shows lasted beyond a single season, but there are videos on Youtube that I’ve had a little look at out of curiosity, they’re ok. The cast members appeared in other shows during Whose Line’s hiatus as well, and if you look up their individual Wikipedia pages you can see various other things they’ve been in of course.
However, Whose Line was then revived on The CW Network in the US in 2013, and is still going today. And I have been able to watch that here in the UK, because the Dave channel recently acquired 50 episodes spanning the entirety of Seasons 11 & 12 and half of Season 13 (which are Seasons 3-5 of the revival), from 2015-2017. So I’ve now watched all of those on UKTV Play (which splits them into just two seasons – 3 & 4 – just to confuse things). If they prove to be popular, perhaps Dave will look to get the other seasons as well.
And I’ve quite enjoyed this version. The British series will always be the best for me, but this new American edition feels more lively and fun than the previous one, as they’ve refreshed it nicely. Again there are several players who have returned from previous versions of the show, including the always-popular Ryan Stiles & Colin Mochrie of course, along with some newer performers who are also very good. Plus they have celebrity guests who are good sports and love getting involved. And the new host Aisha Tyler is very upbeat, with a great sense of humour that enables her to banter well with the performers, and she even makes occasional cameos in the games when she feels like it. So it works pretty well.
There are lots of clips on the show’s official Youtube channel as well, along with live Zoom chats between the cast on Wayne Brady’s channel from lockdown last year. And there are lots of other videos online featuring the cast members performing or doing interviews of course. A couple I particularly recommend are Ryan Stiles interviewing Eric Idle about his new book and Aisha Tyler playing Cards Against Humanity with Wil Wheaton & others (and there’s a gag reel for that too). They’re pretty funny, though obviously the Cards Against Humanity video is not for the easily offended!
So I’m very glad I tried that American series. I have checked out the Australian series as well too, as there are episodes on Dailymotion, but it isn’t anywhere near as good as the UK or US series, so I didn’t bother watching all of those. But it’s been great to relive the British series again, and to explore the latest American version. They’ve kept me happily occupied over the past few months.
Talking of great improvised comedy, Mischief Movie Nights returned during July for their final ever online run. I enjoyed all of the previous shows very much, so I loved seeing some of these new shows as well. They were even able to have a small studio audience for a change, which added to the atmosphere. They also put on a couple of performances audio described by VocalEyes (one of which I saw), and a few with sign language and captions too. There was a bit of disruption during the run when a few members of the cast had to isolate, due to having Covid or being close to someone who had it – but thankfully everyone seems to be ok, and the Mischief team were able to adapt in order to continue making shows.
I wasn’t able to watch all of the shows this time around, but the ones I did see were hilarious as always, including a body-swap musical set in a bakery, a murder mystery in Cheeseland, a legal drama in a Medieval circus, an alien invasion in a zoo, a musical set in the Asda supermarket, and a pre-school magic show set in the Scottish Highlands, to name a few!
So thank you very much to Mischief Theatre for giving us so many laughs since December last year, it’s been much needed and appreciated. And I look forward to seeing more Mischief shows in person at some point, as I haven’t seen all of their plays yet.
Beyond that, I’ve also enjoyed:
- The new series of Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled on Dave, where he chats to a group of fellow comedians and other fun people about their amusing stories. There’s also an extended podcast on Audible, with content cut from the TV episode.
- The recent series of The Last Leg, and they’ll be back in August as part of the Paralympics coverage.
- The Simpsons on Disney+, which I’m still very gradually working through. I’ve completed the first 4 seasons now, which included watching episode 1 of Season 3 (Stark Raving Dad) on DVD, as it was pulled from Disney+ and TV after further allegations against Michael Jackson.
- The new series of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue and The Unbelievable Truth on Radio 4, plus more Just A Minute compilations on Audible that Mum and I are still going through.
On Blu-ray, meanwhile, I bought the 50th anniversary remaster of the original 1971 Dad’s Army movie, which replaces my old DVD version. It’s not as good as the main TV series, but it’s still alright. Apart from cleaning up the picture and sound, there’s also a booklet with a lot of interesting information about the making of the film, and the sleeve is reversible so you can choose which artwork you see. The extras on the disc are very disappointing though, with just the movie trailer and a couple of extremely short newsreels about the Home Guard. It deserved much more for a 50th anniversary release.
I also bought the new box set of Outnumbered on DVD, to replace the previous discs I got ages ago, as this edition includes the final episode – the 2016 Christmas special – for the first time. And all the extras from the old set have been carried over, including Comic Relief & Sport Relief sketches, interviews, deleted scenes, outtakes and so on. If you don’t know the show, it’s basically a comedy about a mother and father and their 3 children, and the everyday situations and struggles they have to deal with. But what sets it apart from other sitcoms about family life is that it doesn’t have a laugh track, and some scenes are semi-improvised – meaning the adults are given scripts, while the children are just given general instructions, allowing them to behave in a much more natural and consequently amusing way. So it’s pretty good.
I’ve now got Def Leppard’s 3rd box set of their albums, which includes X, Yeah! (a covers album) & Songs From The Sparkle Lounge, plus a disc of B-sides, and 2 further discs of cover songs recorded in the studio and in concert. So there’s a good mixture of material as always, and these sets have been a very convenient way for me to build my Leppard collection.
I’ve also bought the Blu-ray box set for A Bigger Bang – Live On Copacabana Beach by The Rolling Stones, a huge free show that they did for an audience of 1.5 million people, that was also broadcast across Brazil and around the world. This new release is the full show re-edited, remixed & remastered, featuring tracks that were cut on the old Biggest Bang set (which I will still keep as it has other great shows on it). In addition, this 4-disc box set (one of several editions that are available) has an extra show on Blu-ray from Salt Lake City, and 2 audio CDs of the Copacabana show. And they’re encased in a lovely big hardback book, which has large colourful photos and information about the shows. So there are plenty of great performances and it’s a nice set overall.
As for my favourite band, Queen, I recently posted the first part of my review of their News Of The World album, discussing how it was created, the cover artwork, the 40th anniversary box set and related documentaries and interviews, before going into great depth about the first 2 tracks – We Will Rock You & We Are The Champions. So do go and check that out. The second part of the review has been delayed a bit by my recent health issues, but I hope to get it done soon. But if you need a further fix of their 50th anniversary celebrations, their Queen The Greatest series on Youtube is still proving very entertaining.
Plus there’s the new reissue of Brian May’s first solo album, Back To The Light, which has been released today as I publish this (6th August) in various formats. So I’ll talk about that further in my next Favourites post, and will probably do a much more thorough review at a later date once he’s completed his Gold Series reissues.
And it’s also worth mentioning a great supergroup performance of Save Me that was posted in June in support of Brian May’s Save Me Trust, featuring guest appearances by Kerry Ellis & Tyler Warren among others.
And lastly, moving away from Queen and back to comedy again, there’s Can’t Wait by Stand Up For The NHS. This is a charity single available for download in aid of NHS Charities Together, featuring a whole host of famous comedians, some of whom are former doctors and nurses (including Harry Hill and Jo Brand), while a few others have had relatives in the NHS (such as Tim Vine, whose Mum was a GP receptionist). So it’s a fun song for a great cause.
And there you have it, I hope you enjoyed that bumper roundup from the past couple of months. I don’t know how much I’ll end up doing during August, but I hope I’ll be able to get out and about a little bit. We’ll just have to see what happens.
In any case, I do know that I’ll enjoy watching some of the Paralympics, and I also know which comedy series I’m going to try out next having finished going through Whose Line Is It Anyway?, plus I’ve got plenty of bits and pieces to do for my blog. So I’m certainly not going to be bored! Don’t forget to check out the journal entries that I’m still sharing from my old days, including a recent post about my holiday to Spain in 2007 with lots of photos.
So that’s it for now. I hope you continue to enjoy the summer safely, and I’ll see you again soon!