Christmas 2022 Favourites

Happy New Year, I hope you had a lovely Christmas! I know that various things including finances, strikes and the weather all conspired to make things difficult, and the economic woes will continue during this coming year, but I hope you were able to enjoy the festivities in whatever way your circumstances allowed.

Fortunately, despite my recent redundancy, my mother and I are in a comfortable and stable position, so we were able to enjoy Christmas in the same way we do every year. I went out to see a musical and a variety of festive displays, and at home there were plenty of things for us to eat and watch.

It hasn’t been entirely without issues though. The railway strikes and the snow in December prevented me from going down to Devon to see my ex-colleagues for a Christmas meal. And now, in early January, my mother and I have finally caught Covid, after 3 years of successfully swerving it. I’ll write more about it in a later post, once I’m sure we’re clear of it, suffice to say being fully vaccinated has clearly helped, as we’re recovering pretty quickly. Plus I’ve still been able to put together the traditional video that accompanies this post.

So let’s get into it. This is an epic bumper post, as festive roundups tend to be, and none of it’s sponsored or gifted. I hope you enjoy!

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The Young Ones – 40th Anniversary Blu-ray Review

Once in every lifetime, comes a show like this. The anarchic sitcom The Young Ones crashed on to our screens in November 1982, followed by a second series in 1984. And for its 40th anniversary they’ve brought out a special Blu-ray edition of both series, which is the first time it’s been released in that format, so I eagerly snapped it up.

The episodes are uncut, and there’s a ton of bonus material that’s been unearthed and produced by Richard Latto, with lots of brand-new extras in addition to those carried over from the previous DVD. Some of the new material also gives credit to TV playout director John Hoare, who writes extensively researched articles about The Young Ones and other comedy shows on his Dirty Feed blog, which are genuinely fascinating to read.

So this lengthy post contains my reviews of the episodes and the bonus material in the set (which in short is awesome). And it isn’t sponsored or gifted, I’ve got no connection with anybody involved with the show, I’m just a big fan. I hope you enjoy!

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November 2022 Favourites

Hey there, hope you’re all doing alright, and welcome to my latest roundup. I’ve continued to be happily occupied since my redundancy, so there’s plenty to mention for the last month.

First of all, my big outing was a lovely weekend in Oxford, where I visited the Ashmolean Museum, went on a walking tour of the university and the city, enjoyed a concert by Jools Holland with his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, and had a good laugh seeing Jimmy Carr. So for all the details and lots of photos, check out my extensive blog post about the trip.

I’ve also been getting out and about to see a lot of the festive displays in London. I’ll share the highlights in my Christmas Favourites post in the New Year of course, but I’ve been posting lots of photos on my Instagram page on a daily basis, so be sure to follow me there, and also my Youtube channel where I’ll post some video clips nearer to Christmas.

Apart from all that however, I also spent a day volunteering and meeting friends at a disability exhibition, had a front row seat for another Queen-related concert, bought a special Queen box set, and enjoyed various other things on DVD and TV as well. So let’s crack on with it. None of this stuff is sponsored or gifted as usual, and I hope you enjoy this month’s post and video!

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Jimmy Carr – Stand-Up DVD & Netflix Reviews

Jimmy Carr is a stand-up comedian who I’ve been a fan of for several years, and at the time of writing he’s the only comic I’ve got around to seeing live twice, albeit with far too long a gap between the two shows. The first time was at The Princess Theatre, Torquay in July 2012, where I actually got to meet him, and then much more recently I saw him at the New Theatre, Oxford in November 2022. I’ll make sure it’s not another 10 years before I see him again!

His humour is often very rude of course, including subjects that are taboo or controversial, so he’s not to everyone’s taste, and that’s perfectly fine and understandable. Nobody has to watch him, and if you’re not a fan of his then don’t read this post.

But I personally feel comfortable with his style of humour. He’s said himself that he’s an equal opportunities offender, in that anybody and everybody is a target for his humour, and thus nobody is singled out. And, like all the other people who choose to attend his gigs or buy his DVDs, I know exactly what I’m getting into. I know that he’s just telling jokes and not expressing his actual opinions, and his jokes don’t reflect my personal views either. I also know that he’s a nice guy from meeting him in person, and I know that he’s clever and insightful about jokes and comedy from both his stage act and his interviews.

So, following the pattern I’ve adopted with other comics whose shows I’ve attended in recent months, I thought I would rewatch and review all of his stand-up shows that he’s released on DVD (a few of which are also on his Youtube channel alongside lots of clips), and more recent gigs that were published on Netflix. Each show includes lots of great jokes and banter with the audience, and sometimes other elements for a little bit of variety. And his DVDs contain a lot of extra features, he’s been quite generous with those too, even going to the effort of narrating the menus and adding comedy subtitles on the earlier releases.

So here’s my little run through of his DVDs and online shows, none of which are sponsored or gifted, and I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – The Miracle – Collector’s Edition Box Set

Back in the first lockdown in 2020 I started doing an occasional Queen At 50 series, celebrating Queen‘s 50th anniversary by doing very in-depth reviews of some of their albums. The posts have been very sporadic due to all sorts of other things keeping me busy, as well as the level of detail they contain, but it’s always been my intention to continue the series when time permits.

And now I have the opportunity to do a Christmas special, as the band recently unveiled a new edition of their 1989 album The Miracle. When it was first announced I eagerly pre-ordered the full Super Deluxe Collector’s Edition & Press Pack as an early festive treat for myself, so I thought I’d do a detailed review now that I’ve had time to go through it and savour its contents.

The set was retailing at £169.99 (plus shipping), but I took advantage of a 10% discount code that I received from their store for my birthday a few months ago. So I was charged £127.99 for the 8-disc box set, £25 for the press pack and £6.26 shipping, making £159.25 in total. And that’s not bad at all, considering how much you get.

There are cheaper editions too though, depending on what you can afford, including the 8-disc set without the press kit, a 2-disc edition consisting of the album and the sessions, and a download version that covers all 4 music CDs, plus there are related items of merchandise. So there’s something for everyone.

I’ve made an unboxing video to go with this post, where you can see my initial reactions to the contents of the set, and there’s an unboxing video by Brian May as well. Queen have also posted a couple of short documentary features about The Miracle to coincide with its re-release, which you can see here and here.

So in this post I want to review the set in full, to give my thoughts on all the music tracks and videos, the memorabilia, the book and the radio interviews – which means there’s a lot to cover here, and I hope you enjoy it!

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Dara Ó Briain – Stand-Up & Mock The Week DVD Reviews

As I recently got to see the fantastic Irish comic Dara Ó Briain live for the first time in October, it’s only natural that I should go through his DVDs that I have in my collection, just like I’ve done for a few other comedians this year. It’s been a lot of fun to rewatch them yet again.

Dara’s shows are always happy and jolly, with great energy and a convivial atmosphere. Even if he’s having a rant about something or having a dig at someone in the audience, it’s always with a light-hearted air. Indeed, chatting to people in the front row and elsewhere in the room is a regular part of his act that he very much enjoys doing. He has an excellent rapport with people, and is very good at instantly spinning anything they say into a fun flight of fancy and building on it, and he sometimes talks about particularly memorable people from other gigs too. Then, at the end of each show, he always makes a point of crediting each of the people he’s spoken to in a suitably amusing manner, and inviting applause for them, in order to acknowledge the contributions they made.

He also likes to post cryptic “You had to be there” references on Twitter after each show, which only those who attended will understand, while the rest of us can only guess what must have been going on. So he makes every show feel like a unique, engaging, intimate experience for each audience, even in huge venues.

All of his DVDs come with subtitles and extra features, and there are a couple of extras in particular that appear multiple times:

  • There are live shows from Vicar Street in Dublin on 3 of his DVDs, which are edited down to remove any material that’s already in the main feature. They’re included because Dara always does some exclusive material for his Irish audiences, which include occasional words and references that non-Irish people won’t understand, but you still get the general gist of what’s going on. And there’s a lot of great chat between Dara and several of the audience members. So those bonus shows are well worth watching as well.
  • Every DVD has an In-Vision Commentary & Drinking Game, where Dara invites one or two comedian friends to watch the show with him, and they take drinks every time Dara says or does certain things. They’re not as engaging or exciting as the main feature, and on the last couple of DVDs the drinking game element has pretty much been dropped so it’s really just a chat. But they’re all interesting features to check out, as they’re not very long, it’s fun to see the banter between Dara and his mates, and he gives some nice insights into some of his routines.

So in this post I’m going to briefly review each of his DVDs, all of which are a lot of fun, along with a mention of a show I once saw online. Plus as a bonus I’ve tacked on reviews of my Mock The Week DVDs as well, in tribute to that show coming to an end. None of this stuff is sponsored or gifted, and I hope you enjoy reading about it!

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Derren Brown Reviews – TV Specials

Following on from my previous post about Derren Brown’s various TV series, this time I’m revisiting his TV specials, including his televised stage shows. I own 4 specials and 5 stage shows on DVD, but the rest haven’t been released on disc. Most of these shows are on All4 as well though, and some are on Derren’s Youtube channel (in full along with many shorter clips), as he generously posted a lot of shows online during the Covid pandemic. So I’ve been able to rewatch all of them recently in one way or another.

Derren’s specials are all one-off shows (or occasionally two-parters) focused on a very specific subject, event or person. Nearly all of them were an hour long when originally broadcast (so around 45-50 minutes without adverts), with a few exceptions that lasted 90 minutes (so around 70 minutes without commercials). They’re always thought-provoking, and a few of the darker ones resulted in complaints (and thus extra publicity) from people who didn’t understand what he was doing or trying to achieve. But I find them all fascinating and fun to watch in any case. Likewise his stage shows are all amazing to watch, and I’ve grouped them together in one section at the end as I don’t need to go into heavy detail about them.

As mentioned before, none of this is sponsored, I’m just writing about them as a fan. And there are a few spoilers in here if you haven’t seen the shows before, but then it’s pretty common knowledge that Derren’s experiments pretty much always succeed as intended. The thrill is from seeing how he does it and the impact it has on those involved. So I hope you enjoy my descriptions and reviews.

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Derren Brown Reviews – TV Series

Having finally seen Derren Brown live for the first time recently, it’s been a good excuse to rewatch a lot of his old TV & stage shows. I own many of them on DVD, but there are also several programmes available on All4, plus he has his own Youtube channel where he generously uploaded some full episodes during the Covid pandemic and has lots of other clips too. Some of his stuff I haven’t seen for a long time, so it’s been a lot of fun to revisit it.

So here’s the first part of a special double bill of descriptions and reviews for Halloween weekend, and here I’m going to describe and review the various TV series that I’ve been rewatching on DVD and online. Naturally there are some spoilers in here, but after all this time I don’t think that matters – even when you know the outcome of some of his shows, given that he nearly always succeeds in his aims, it’s still amazing to see him at work. And none of it’s sponsored, I just wanted to write about it as a fan. So I hope you enjoy!

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Adam Hills – Stand-Up Comedy Reviews

As The Last Leg has just been celebrating its 10th anniversary, and I’ve recently written about their 2012 Christmas special and co-host Josh Widdicombe’s stand-up comedy shows, I’ve naturally rewatched some of the great stand-up shows by Australian presenter Adam Hills as well. From the many shows he’s done over the years, there are a few DVD releases that I own, along with a TV programme I recorded and an earlier gig I’ve watched on Youtube. There are lots of other clips of him online as well of course, a few of which I’ve added here where relevant, but my reviews are of the complete shows I’ve watched.

As on The Last Leg, Adam’s friendly and caring persona comes across well in these shows, as he uses his interesting anecdotes and very funny jokes to impart a positive and supportive message about living your life to the full, without being preachy or patronising. Plus he can get away with being a bit ruder than on TV. There are some jokes or stories that are repeated across different shows, including his experience of going through security at airports in America & Beijing with his artificial leg, which comes up in nearly all of them it seems, but the vast majority of the material is new each time. And he really enjoys interacting with the audience, so he sometimes gets completely derailed when he chats and messes around with people before he gets into his scripted routine. It keeps things interesting for him, as well as making it a unique show for the audience each time.

The other great thing about Adam’s shows is that he always has a sign language interpreter on stage with him, either Leanne Beer when he’s in Australia, or Catherine King when performing in the UK. And the 3 DVDs I own all have an option for the interpreter to be displayed on screen for the entire show. It’s fantastic that people with hearing difficulties get to feel fully included in this way, and it also adds extra value for other audience members, who get to enjoy some of the jokes twice when they learn the signs for the naughtier aspects. Indeed, Adam often has a laugh by getting the interpreter to sign rude things or represent different accents. Leanne and Catherine are both very good sports, and Adam kindly refers to his interpreter as the star of the show at the end. The DVDs all have options for subtitles as well.

So with all that said, let’s run through each of the shows…

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London 2012 Revisited – Sporting Celebrations

Recently I’ve been looking back in detail at the 2012 Olympics & Paralympics, with the aid of the Blu-ray sets released by the BBC and Channel 4. For the Olympics I wrote about the Opening & Closing ceremonies and highlights from Days 1-8 & 9-16, and then I made a separate post about my Paralympics highlights.

Back in 2012, however, I also had a combined hard drive and DVD recorder connected to my TV, which meant I was able to record programmes, do some very basic editing and copy them on to discs. So I ended up recording a selection of shows relating to the Olympics & Paralympics, and I stored them on several DVDs, which I still have in my collection. And I’ve therefore been rewatching them as part of my nostalgia trip. They naturally aren’t as high quality as professional DVDs or Blu-rays, but they’re still good enough.

I’ve already discussed a few recordings relating to the Olympics in previous posts, as noted in the list of contents below. But here in this final post, to conclude my trip down memory lane, I’m going to run through the other stuff I captured, including our big victory parade, the Sports Personality Of The Year, documentaries, and appearances by some of the athletes on chat shows and game shows. I’ve also created a playlist with clips from some of these programmes, and some other relevant videos. So I hope you enjoy looking through it all!

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