Tag Archives: TV series

➤ RIP Patrick Moore: the last great Englishman, astronomer and xylophonist with a monocle

Patrick Moore ,astronomy, TV series, Sky at Night,xylophone

Sir Patrick Moore in 2009: a national treasure at home. (Photo: BBC)

❚ THE FAMOUSLY FASHION-BACKWARD astronomer and national treasure Sir Patrick Moore CBE, FRS, FRAS, has long been instantly recognisable from his signature XXL blazers, regimental tie, unkempt hair, lopsided eyebrows and monocle. He has died in his 90th year. As Nanny’s childhood lesson in tying a tie-knot grew ever more distant, his shirt-collar size became comfortably two inches larger than his neck size. The rise on a pair of gentleman’s trousers, he evidently believed, should reach to the chest – a mindset which presumably boosted his own rise to unrivalled heights in the realms of international astronomy and cosmology. His own early Moon maps helped the Apollo Mission plan their landings.

You can’t be interested in astronomy and not stumble across something that Patrick has done. It’s such a huge body of work
– Dr Marek Kakula, Royal Observatory, Greenwich

Since 26 April 1957 Sir Patrick has presented the BBC TV programme The Sky At Night for more than 700 editions, making him the longest-running host of the same television show ever. Moore’s dishevelled appearance and rapid-fire speaking voice are as much part of the nation’s fond attachment to his personality as the programme’s theme tune, Sibelius’s Pelléas et Mélisande.

On the show’s 50th anniversary, comedian Jon Culshaw impersonated him as the interviewer while Sir Patrick spoofed himself as a Time Lord. The astrophysicist and Queen guitarist Brian May, who wrote a book on astronomy with Sir Patrick, described him as a “dear friend, and a kind of father figure to me”.

➢ British astronomer and broadcaster Sir Patrick Moore has died, aged 89 … “he passed away peacefully this afternoon in his own home, Farthings, in the company of close friends and carers and his cat Ptolemy.”

➢ Moore’s instinctive eccentricity means that his entry at Wikipedia is a rare example of being compulsorily readable

➢ Space rock the final frontier: Sir Patrick Moore on cosmic pop – 2009 interview with The Quietus

➢ Vintage clips from 45th anniversary of The Sky at Night – Moore plays the music of astronomer Sir William Herschel at the piano.


1972 ➤ Berger’s Ways of Seeing revolutionised the way we view art and is still an eye-opener today

Ways of Seeing, 1972: John Berger takes a knife to Botticelli’s Venus and Mars

➢ CLICK ON THE PIC to run the video of Ways of Seeing, part one

❚ 40 YEARS AGO AN ART CRITIC TOOK A STANLEY KNIFE to a Botticelli masterpiece in the National Gallery, and cut the head of Venus out from the canvas. (No, not the real painting, but a reproduction, obviously.) And what he held in his hand was the typical picture postcard by which many of us know this beautiful and all-conquering goddess. The critic and iconoclast John Berger was making a point that it is through reproductions that most of us view the world’s great art. He argued that paintings had been stripped of their context to raise money through sales of reproductions.

“With the invention of the camera, everything changed,” he said, meaning the ways our perceptions shifted. “The days of pilgrimage are over. It is the image of the painting which travels now. The meaning no longer resides in its unique painted surface which it’s only possible to see in one place and at one time. Its meaning has become transmittable. It comes to you, like the news of an event.”

This is how Berger launched Ways of Seeing on Jan 8, 1972 — four pioneering TV films which themselves were extended into a Penguin Modern Classic (set entirely in a heavy Univers font for a reason the author explains), and itself in turn is considered a seminal university-level text for current studies of visual culture and art history.

John Berger, Ways of Seeing , Penguin, books, TV seriesYesterday’s BBC radio strand Archive on 4 made exciting listening of judicious extracts. Titled The Politics of Art, it teased out Berger’s then revolutionary way of discussing paintings as commodities, under the themes of society and context, the nude, the power of money and advertising.

The historian Tim Marlow, currently director of exhibitions at White Cube, shows how Ways of Seeing was provocative and up-to-date in seeking out the opinions specifically of women and children. He believes the politics still matter. Berger challenged 600-year-old notions of ownership. “Previously art celebrated wealth and power: gods, princes and dynasties were worshipped… But the European oil painting served a different kind of wealth. It glorified not a static order of things, but the ability to buy, to furnish and to own.” In the late 20th century Berger subjects art to a Marxist critique that reminds us of the role of the makers. Being naked, he argues, is to be oneself. But a woman posing nude “is to be seen as an object”.

John Berger, Ways of Seeing, art, TV series

Berger’s phwoarr factor: charisma and intellect

Marlow asks how far the message of this series is pertinent again today. As a powerful corrective to glibness in much contemporary culture, The Politics of Art is well worth catching on the radio iPlayer, for Berger’s own bluff opinions, and those of several pundits, including the British novelist Marina Warner who is hooked on his phwoarr factor as well as his intellect: “Physically he was a powerful, beautiful man. And then his Mick Jagger-like charisma: he’s a thrilling performer. It’s a shame this kind of sexual magnetism is rarely seen now on TV — because it’s not permissible”!

There’s also a priceless sequence where the patrician connoisseur Lord Clark (of Civilisation, the earlier landmark TV survey of Western art) confesses to incomprehension before Picasso’s gigantic anti-war painting, Guernica, which invokes the aerial bombing of a Basque town during the Spanish civil war in 1937. Then Berger the passionate ideologue gives an assured deconstruction of the images of slaughter, its screaming civilians and symbols of freedom.

Now aged 85, Berger said recently of his TV series: “The programmes seem as urgent now as then. That’s because what’s happening in the world hasn’t changed very much — it’s only got more extreme. This political approach was prophetic about the world today.”

➢ John Berger video interview with Michael Silverblatt
in October 2002


➤ Crack open the Bolly: Ab Fab puts BodyMap back on the map

Absolutely Fabulous, Joanna Lumley, Jennifer Saunders , Bodymap, TV series

Tonight’s Absolutely Fabulous special: Patsy slips into her Chanel jacket for the office while Edina sports vintage 80s BodyMap from top to toe. (Videograb © BBC)

◼ PRODUCT PLACEMENT DOESN’T COME better than this! On Christmas Day we saw the first of three new episodes of Absolutely Fabulous, the award-winning cult comedy series which ran from 1992 to 2003. It depicted the fashion-addicted lives of PR Edina, played by 80s Comic Stripper Jennifer Saunders, and her best friend, Patsy, the chain-smoking sex-mad magazine editor played by 70s Avengers star, Joanna Lumley. Today, New Year’s Day, we saw a second episode and look whose brand name was being lavishly displayed as Eddie swanned around in those distinctive head-to-foot knits from the Swinging 80s — the hottest label of its day, BodyMap.

Coincidence or design? Only last July David Holah put a load of classic BodyMap outfits into the Cavalcade of the 80s catwalk show at the Vintage Festival organised by Wayne Hemingway at London’s Festival Hall — and they didn’t seem to have aged one jot. One month later, the BBC began filming the Christmas specials. It pays, as they say, to advertise.

Vintage Festival,South Bank, Wayne Hemingway, Bodymap, fashion, Swinging 80s

Cavalcade of the 80s at London’s Vintage Festival in July: a striking presence on the runway is the very same BodyMap ensemble worn later in Ab Fab on New Year’s Day. Picture courtesy David Holah

BodyMap was the game-changing fashion label launched in 1982 when ex-Blitz Kids David Holah and Stevie Stewart graduated from the trendy fashion course at Middlesex Polytechnic to have their collection instantly bought by Browns, the prescient South Molton Street shop. The pair immediately injected excitement into the fashion scene with daring designs as bizarre as their controversial catwalk shows, given titles such as Querelle Meets Olive Oil, and The Cat in the Hat Takes a Rumble with the Techno Fish. In 1983 they won the Martini award for the most innovative designers of the year and rocketed to international success as the British fashion scene became international news.

Knits, prints and stretch fabrics were restructured in men’s and women’s collections to map every part of the body, itself revealed by holes in unexpected places. Film-maker John Maybury supervised their outrageous videos (here the 1986 Half World collection). Michael Clark’s dance company can also take credit for promoting BodyMap’s overtly sexual appeal. By 1989 Holah & Stewart had opened their own retail outlet but the early 90s credit squeeze forced the company out of the competitive fashion business.

Since then David Holah has continued to design as a freelance and diversify as a printmaker. Stevie Stewart works with leading names in fashion, music, film and advertising as a fashion, costume, set and production designer. Popstar clients who have commissioned her costumes for world tours include Kylie, Britney, Girls Aloud, Westlife, Alexandra Burke, Cheryl Cole and Leona Lewis.

Last week Jennifer Saunders, who writes the Ab Fab TV scripts, revealed that the forthcoming big-screen movie will be set on the French Riviera where Eddie and Patsy go to a party aboard on an oligarch’s yacht. She told New York magazine: “I’m aiming to shoot this in a beautiful part of the Riviera. I fancy the south of France in the spring.”

Blitz Kids, David Holah, Stevie Stewart , Bodymap ,fashion, Swinging 80s,London,

Stevie Stewart and David Holah: a TV interview during London Fashion Week at the height of BodyMap’s success in 1984. Photographed by Shapersofthe80s

➢ View the Ab Fab 2012 New Year special on iPlayer until Jan 12

➢ Elsewhere at Shapers of the 80s: Eight for ’84 – BodyMap flavour of the season topping the labels international buyers tip for success

➢ Why Absolutely Fabulous now looks absolutely prescient — Paul Flynn in the Guardian on the rise of the 90s media elite


➤ Lest we forget: man has changed his ways since Peter Wyngarde cracked the sickest joke on vinyl

Peter Wyngarde, Jason King, Department S, The Prisoner,TV series, RCA,

From villainous to tasteless: At the age of 32 Peter Wyngarde was distinguished enough to guest-star as the sinister Number Two in the epic TV series The Prisoner (1967). Two years later he created the novelist-cum-sleuth Jason King in Department S

❚ EMMA PEELPANTS is a keen-eyed blogger who plunders magazine and retail archives in search of 60s clothes and the whole vulgar, vibrant style of that swinging decade. Once in a while, she has a mensday and today she exhumes that male stereotype, “the heel” — the overbearing, amoral lothario who 40 years ago fancied himself rotten and treated women as playthings. Miss Peelpants publishes a hideously recognisable illustration of a heel from a copy of the teenage magazine 19, dated 1972, where one such sophisticat is grinding his heel into a bevvy of scantily clad girls. 19’s Guide to Recognising a Heel shows the just-got-out-of-bed coiffed hair, the bandito moustache, the whisky-and-cigarette in one hand, plus total absence of a smile, which he would have deemed too uncool.

To anybody of a certain age, the dandy in the illustration is all too visibly based on the actor Peter Wyngarde who shot to fame playing exactly this kind of international playboy in two late-night TV espionage series at the dawn of the 70s, Department S and Jason King. These expressed notions of contemporary glamour by being set in airports and beside Riviera pools. Their action-hero won awards as the “Best Dressed Man In Britain” while Sun readers voted him the “Man With the Sexiest Voice on Television”.

When Sex Leers Its Inquisitive Head , RPM, recording, CD,comedy,Peter Wyngarde What Emma links us to is possibly the most offensive song ever recorded by a star considered suave in his day. The one-off “comedy” album for RCA in 1970 was titled Peter Wyngarde and billed as dwelling on “the darker side of human behaviour”. It was said to have been withdrawn from sale after four days. Unbelievably it was re-released on RPM in 1998 retitled When Sex Leers Its Inquisitive Head with a “Don’t buy this” warning on the sleeve. As a model of appalling bad taste it not only leaves no innuendo unturned, but contains one track actively celebrating rape.

Lest we doubt that political correctness has delivered a few benefits over the years, the Lipstick Thespians have posted this number on YouTube. For those who wish to avoid hearing Wyngarde’s ripe spoken-word rendition, the Thespians have posted the full wince-making lyrics (words and music by Hubert Valverde and Peter Wyngarde). Many people feel that the actor met his just desserts when he wrecked his career in what politicians euphemistically call a moment of madness in 1975. He’s still alive and kicking and signing autographs, now aged 77.

Now feel the pain of date rape

Rhoda Dakar, The Boiler, 2-Tone Records, The Special AKA, ❏ RHODA DAKAR (left), lead singer of The Bodysnatchers, but here as The Special AKA, made The Boiler the strongest single of 1982 in this writer’s opinion, and deeply chilling. Despite being shunned by the safe daytime BBC radio deejays, it was well played by John Peel and spent five weeks in the UK singles chart, reaching No 35. The rare video below has ropey vision but good audio and it pays to listen right to the end.

Jerry Dammers formed The Special AKA, along with Dakar and John Bradbury, after The Specials announced their break up in 1981. Their first single release was The Boiler by Rhoda with The Special AKA (written jointly by the band and produced by Dammers on 2-Tone Records in Jan 1982).