Tag Archives: TV shows

2010 ➤ Most popular bits of Shapersofthe80s during the past year

Worried About the Boy, Blitz club, George O’Dowd, New Romantics, 1980, London

London’s Blitz nightclub recreated for Worried About the Boy, 2010: George with his fictionalised circle of friends, Marilyn, Christopher, Sarah, Mo and Dawn © BBC

❏ During its busiest month, May 2010, Shapersofthe80s was viewed more than 18,000 times. Among the top stories that month was How real did 1980 feel? an extended post in which we hear verdicts from many of the original Blitz Kids depicted in the BBC’s TV play about George O’Dowd, Worried About the Boy, screened on May 16.

❏ The most popular page of all with 5,661 views last year was the who’s who among the Blitz Kids which, like so many parts of this website, keeps on growing.

❏ After Google and Facebook, one of the most popular specific sources of visitors to Shapersofthe80s was DJhistory.com which says it is “where clued-up DJs, record collectors and unshaven misanthropes gather to chat”. Right on, or should that be Kewl? Whateva.


➤ Whatta they like? Essex reality stars shake their vajazzles in the face of Hollywood

The Only Way is Essex, vajazzle,reality TV, soap opera,ITV2,
❚ IN THE SPACE OF TWO MONTHS The Only Way Is Essex has become “totally must-watch TV”, an addiction and an education for anybody who does not live in Essex. The huge county lies along the north bank of the Thames estuary, stretching from the east of London to the coast, and socially it might as well be another nation. “I compare Essex to LA — we live the same lifestyle, we’ve got as much money and got the same tans,” says hunky reality-star and club promoter Mark Wright, 23.

“The boobs may be fake” say the opening titles but the cast of 20-somethings are “real people” thrust into to this enhanced reality show that is the jaw-dropping hit of the season. They’ve given the English language new buzzwords spoken in their unique variant on Estuary English: “jel”, “vajazzle”, “shu’ up”, and “whatta we like?” Get up to speed with YouTube’s clips ahead of series two, plus the fight-back from authentic East-End Londoners.

The Only Way is Essex,Amy Childs, ITV2

Spot the essential assets: beautician Amy Childs in The Only Way Is Essex © itv.com

The 10-episode series was filmed mainly in the towns of Brentwood where the The Sugar Hut bar is located, Gants Hill, Chigwell, Buckhurst Hill, and The Manor House nightclub in Woodford Bridge. It was shot only days before being broadcast, presumably so cast members had little chance to object to the odd scene where they might have felt like prize twerps. Unsurprisingly, ITV2 has received plenty of complaints for the show’s “negative representation of Essex”. Surprisingly, the first series was such minority cult viewing on ITV2 between Oct 10 and Nov 10 that its biggest single audience was only 1.2m viewers.

The Only Way Is Essex, Jessica Wright, Lydia Bright,Essexmas,nativity, New magazine

Essexmas: Jessica Wright and Lydia Bright in a nativity scene shot for © New! magazine

The tabloid press was unusually slow in conceding that the show made compelling viewing. Series two faces one mighty hurdle that may well stymie the innocent charm of the original format — key members of the cast are being snapped up by pushy big-hitting agents who will no doubt insist on contracts that guarantee more respec’ for the talent.

A Christmas special called The Only Way Is Essexmas to due air at 9pm on Christmas Eve.

❏ XMAS UPDATE — The paradox of such a calculated TV format is how quickly it backfires. The Christmas special was as joyless as the format is heartless. In the end, these non-professional, often tongue-tied actors are simply pushed from one pedestrian stunt to another daft costume party set-up, where they are humiliated on camera and in front of their friends as their relationships crumble and their social ineptitude is laid bare. The two or three fun boys and girls in the cast have been reduced to polyfilla between the slimebags whose mums and dads really ought to tell them what prats they are making of themselves. The pet “micro-pig” as Christmas present proved to be a cringemaking booby-trap, just like Arg’s party singalong, while the two-timing antics of lothario Mark and his female sidekicks were blatantly egged on by the TV professionals. The crude splicing to turn shots into scenes indicates how desperately short of plausible footage the producers are. The Essexmas special stank of shameless exploitation by all at Lime Pictures.

Sociological footnote

❏ ESSEX IS OF COURSE the county which has created almost every British subculture since World War 2, from Mods to Soulboys-and-girls to Vajazzlers ! Essex Man and Essex Girl are pejorative terms that have been colloquial currency for 30 years. Essex Man was rated as a serious political force in the 1979, 1983 and 1987 elections which put Margaret Thatcher in power and kept the Conservative Party there. The stereotypical Essex Girl can be heard before you see her coming, she wears white stiletto heels, peroxide blonde hair, an orange tan, and is famed for being free with her sexual favours. Essex Girl jokes reached mania levels in the 90s when the classic of its kind went like this. Q — What’s the difference between an Essex Girl and a supermarket trolley? A — A supermarket trolley has a mind of its own.

The Only Way Is Essex, Lola

Lola, the Essex girl group: Lauren, Jess, Amba & Linzi being groomed for pop success, though by the Christmas special Linzi had dropped out

➢ Tease trailer with best bits from The Only Way Is Essex remixed by Cassetteboy

➢ The Only Way Is Essex: Totally Vajazzled — Best of series one compilation is on the highly temperamental ITV player until Jan 6

➢ East London thumbs its nose at Essex

➢ Three new TOWIE video clips — view Mark, Arg, Kirk, Lauren Pope, Candy and Michael talking about Christmas


2010 ➤ Index of posts for November

Martin Kemp, HarleyMoon Kemp, Roman Kemp, Paradise Point

On the town: Spandau's Martin Kemp with his children HarleyMoon and Roman, whose band Paradise Point made their debut this month. © Richfoto

➢ This £5m iPhone has to be a spoof! Yes, that’s $7.8m or €6m or 52m Chinese Yuan or 245m Russian Rubles

➢ Amazon “Fail” — no show for Kevin Cann’s new Bowie photo-book

➢ Rottweiler Dawkins croons his way into our hearts and minds

➢ 1984, On this day, pop made its noblest gesture but the 80s ceased to swing

➢ If Paradise Point aren’t the pop tip for 2011, you decide who is!

➢ How Roman Kemp helped his dad Martin to pick up the bass again

➢ 1918, War: the 20th-century way to build a new world

➢ The Princess known as Julia becomes an art object for sale

➢ Hear a clip from Duran Duran’s new album — lucky No 13?

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Facebook

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II goes networking

➢ Status update: QueenLiz2 goes live on Facebook, though Her Maj will not be abused

➢ Killing a king tells you who you are — so do your haircut and shoes

➢ 2011, Pulp: the Britpop comeback everyone’s been waiting for, hooray!

➢ 19 gay kisses in pop videos that made it past the censor

➢ Why Lady Gaga “gets it”, Pixie Lott doesn’t, and the jury is out on Rihanna

➢ Was the Band With No Past truly wafted here from Paradise?


1918 ➤ War: the 20th-century way to build a new world

We Are Making a New World,  Paul Nash,Imperial War Museum,Robert Hughes, Shock of the New

We Are Making a New World, 1918: war artist Paul Nash’s ironic vision of the Western Front (Imperial War Museum, London)

❏ Robert Hughes laments the effects of war in The Shock of The New, his 1980 BBC series on modern art (6 minutes)

Robert Hughes , Sylvia Shap,Smithsonian Institute

Robert Hughes (1981): detail from portrait of the critic by Sylvia Shap (Smithsonian Institute)

❚ “IF YOU ASK where is the Picasso of England or the Ezra Pound of France, there is only one probable answer: still in the trenches.”

In 1980 the no-nonsense art critic Robert Hughes was standing in the former waste-land created in France by sustained bombardment between 1914 and 1918. He was presenting the milestone TV epic, The Shock of the New, which spanned the 20th century in eight hour-long episodes described recently by one critic as “the greatest series on art ever made”. Just as Jacob Bronowski’s powerful documentary series The Ascent of Man had transformed how new generations thought about science in 1973, so too did the Australian-born Hughes for art.  He had already been the critic for the weekly Time magazine for ten years, and the insight, wit and accessibility evident in his TV series confirmed his status as the world’s leading voice on contemporary art.

“World War One destroyed an entire generation,” Hughes maintained in episode two, titled The Powers That Be. “We don’t know and we can’t even guess what might have been painted or written if the war had never happened. As for the waste of minds, we know the names of some who died: among the painters, Umberto Boccioni, Franz Marc, August Macke; the sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brezska; the poets Isaac Rosenberg and Wilfred Owen. But for every one whose name survives there must have been scores, possibly hundreds of those who never had a chance to develop.”

Guillaume Apollinaire ,Henri Rousse

Muse Inspiring the Poet (1909): Henri Rousseau’s painting of French poet Guillaume Apollinaire and Marie Laurencin (Art Museum of Basle)

Today being Remembrance Sunday — the closest to “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” in 1918 when the Allies confirmed the cease-fire by signing an Armistice — the BBC not only recalled “the pity of war” through the familiar poems of England’s romantic realists Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Radio 4 also shocked us with a slice of the French poet so avantgarde as to bravely interlace his awe at the nightmare spectacle of the trenches with themes of eroticism, mechanization and other modernist speculation — Guillaume Apollinaire, the man who gave us the word surrealism. He too had sustained a serious shrapnel wound fighting in the trenches, and died just before Armistice Day.

“Ah Dieu! que la guerre est jolie,” he declared in 1915, which can be roughly translated into English as “Oh! What a lovely war” but unlike the anti-war stage musical of that name created by English Theatre Workshop producer Joan Littlewood, and the subsequent film, Apollinaire’s line was devoid of irony. His first war poem, The Little Car written in August 1914 after he’d driven into Paris to find mobilisation being announced, contained these prescient lines:

We said farewell to an entire epoch
Furious giants were rising over Europe
Eagles were leaving their eyries expecting the sun
Voracious fish were rising from the depths
Nations were rushing towards some deeper understanding
The dead were trembling with fear in their dark dwellings

Dogs were barking towards the frontiers
I went bearing within me all those armies fighting
I felt them rise up in me and spread over the regions through which they wound
The forests and happy villages of Belgium
Francorchamps its l’Eau Rouge and its springs
A region where invasions always take place
Railway arteries where those who were going to die
Saluted one last time this colourful life
Deep oceans where monsters were stirring
In old shipwrecked hulks
Unimaginable heights where man fights
Higher than the eagle soars
There man fights man
And falls like a shooting star

Within me I felt skilful new beings
Building and organising a new universe
A merchant of amazing opulence and prodigious stature
Was laying out an extraordinary display
And gigantic shepherds were leading
Great silent flocks that grazed on words
While every dog along the road barked at them

➢ Listen to Radio 4’s Oh What a Lively War — Martin Sorrell explores the work of Guillaume Apollinaire
➢ The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change
— Robert Hughes’s book updated and still on sale


2010 ➤ Robinson takes the Cowell shilling — so whose bum is on the throne at Popjustice?

X Factor, X magazine, launch, Kelly Clarkson, American Idol, Simon Cowell

From the makers of The X Factor: a new magazine, edited by the man who toyed with Kelly Clarkson like a cat with a mouse

❚ WE LOVE HIM, THEY LOATHE HIM, the worst of them. One of the most influential and passionate commentors on the pop scene appears to have jumped ship in the direction of Simon Cowell’s entertainment goldmine. Peter Robinson, the 30-something wag and one-man Girls Aloud fanclub, has made his Popjustice blog a compelling read for fans who favour his surreal version of the truth, but a gunk tank for stars who imagine there’s any such thing as an even break.

Yet this morning’s Media Guardian unequivocally describes him as “formerly” the editor of PJ, while announcing the launch of X magazine, whose own website gives him the title of Senior Editor there. Sounds like a golden-handshake welcome to X which is to be the weekly print offshoot of the Cowell TV franchise, The X Factor. A 100-page launch issue appears tomorrow to coincide with series seven of the ITV talent show, and distribution is initially through Tesco supermarkets, price £1.95, even when the show is off-air.

Peter Robinson, Popjustice, previously editor, formerly editor,Senior Editor, X magazine

"Senior Editor" of X magazine: no, not the Peter Robinson who dresses as Marilyn, the other Peter Robinson

A “surprising” level of access to contestants is promised, though Robinson is reported to have feared that X would be “pretty much a glorified fan magazine”. The big cheese at its publisher, Haymarket Media Group, convinced him that the owners were happy for X to “not always toe the party line”. Some might think this a risky ploy. Is the cheese actually familiar with the Robinson technique? Does the cheese know how often his notoriously cringe-making interviews must have turned a star to jelly? In fact, has the cheese read the all-time car-crash sofa-chat Robinson conducted with American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson? In which he provoked her to confess: “I’m not a man and I don’t claim to be.”

There hasn’t been a decent mag purely about pop since the upstart Smash Hits doled out respect and ridicule in equal measure. It ran for almost three decades as a fortnightly, shuffling off-stage only in 2006. Channel 4’s Popworld spin-off died after two issues in 2007. Nevertheless, according to another Haymarket cheese, women’s weeklies are reckoned to be on “vibrant” form, and Robinson is talking up his new title: “Our editorial team is the strongest of any British pop magazine in almost 20 years and this certainly feels like the biggest pop magazine launch in Justin Bieber’s lifetime.”

Robinson was working as a freelance in 2000 when, for the love of it, he founded Popjustice as a music site with attitude. He has overseen its successful monetisation in cahoots with w00tmedia, and bolted on a record label called Popjustice Hi-Fi. The Times reckons PR is one of the music industry’s Top 20 star makers while The Observer rated Popjustice the world’s most powerful music blog. So has he truly relinquished the crown after 10 years? No, of course not! What? Give up the most powerful throne in pop? That was just “a mistake/assumption on Media Guardian’s part” PR assures us. Not for nothing have hacks long dubbed it the good old “Grauniad”! So rest assured that a familiar bum stills sits in the PJ hotseat, while steering the pop universe with his left hand.