Thursday, 5 October 2017

Getting The Red Pen Out Early

Here's a taster of something coming very soon...

When Roy Wood first press-ganged those poor schoolchildren into singing I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday its a fair bet he wasn't thinking about December 29th - “when you're still eating turkey / and there's frig all on the bo-o-o-o-x”. 

If Christmas Day is reserved for the very latest and best Disney and Pixar films, today is the day where Boring Adaptation Of Book No Kid Has Read For Sixty Years – The Animated Movie, 'Shrenk' – The Eastern European Copyright Free Ogre and Ice Age Goes To The Building Society To Take Out An Investment Loan live. Or worse – something in boring old regular hand drawn 2D! Bleh, did Walt Disney die then get immediately frozen in carbonite for nothing? (A: No. this is an urban myth.)

Reading back, I know I'm down on this post-Christmas Day period but that's mostly because my body almost always seems to take the opportunity at this part of the year to wave a white flag, declare itself on strike and fill me with flu, sickness and anything else that's going free. Lets be honest – Christmas is about being social and the problem with being social is that it involves other people. And other people are filthy disease-ridden bastards, especially your family. Why was your nephew scratching so much at the dinner table? Did Uncle Jeff always have that cough? And what was that thing where the xenomorph burst out of your sister's chest and ran off down the road? She always has to show off.

Besides its long past time your relations should have buggered off to their own curled turkey sandwiches meaning you can sit in the comfy chair Aunt Carol (the one who always smells of egg) stole the very first second you moved to go to the bathroom and wouldn't give up since. In fact, now you think about it, you never ever saw her once get up and go to the toilet herself... unless...

...maybe you will just sit on the sofa instead.

And anyway there might be an episode of Midsomer Death Crimes or Poirot In The Case Of The One That Was Much More Racist In The Original Book you haven’t seen on ITV3 and there's always Pointless. Beautiful, beautiful Pointless. There! So if you're still healthy and can feel both your legs, let the bells ring out for Easter. Or Summer. Or Brian Harvey's birthday. Anything that isn't bloody bleedin' Christmas.

Pass the Dettol...

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

The Denominators Will Cost You - A Guest Simpsons Quiz

As a bit of extra-curricular fun because I've been writing so many quizzes myself recently, I asked a few of my friends if they'd write me a TV quiz in return as a bit of fun and to remind people my new book of quizzes and trivia "Remotely Interesting" is available to buy right now. Those last four words were a link incidentally and you should deffo follow it. Smiley face. Suggestive wink. Full trouser drop.

First to take me up on the offer is the wonderful Garreth F Hirons of this blog's least updated linked site (check the sidebar) Atomic Sourpuss who has gone all out Simpsons-style with his questions. Ive hidden the answers beneath those Teletext quality "REVEAL" buttons. See if you can beat me!

Lets start up those heavenly voices above a small town in Springfield...

1. Let's start at the start.  In "Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire", Bart visits a tattoo artist.  That character has not reappeared since, but is the brother of another recurring Springfield resident - name this more well-known sibling.

Wow. A stumper off the top of my head. So I googled for a (non text) picture and based on the character design it has to Marvin Monroe but I couldn't have told you straight off. Seems more a Herman profession, doesnt it? 

2. "That cannon of yours is against regulations! In this department, we go by the book."  Said to whom, who will have quite the problem avenging his partner's death with this pea-shooter?

McBaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin. "Bye Book"

3. Season Eight, Episode Thirteen featured the appearance of the family's short-lived nanny, Shary Bobbins.  Name the episode.

Oh god, its a parody of Supercalifragiwossname with "annoyed grunt" replacing "D'oh" in the middle, isnt it? But without looking it up, I couldnt give the exact spelling. You could say I did a half assed job.

LATER REMEMBERANCE: Its "Simpsoncalifragiwossname" with the D'oh in, isnt it?  

4. I was going to do a question about Snake's full name here, but apparently there's several different versions thereof.  But I'm a lazy, lazy man, so to partially use my previous research: can you name Snake's son?

I always know him as Snake Jailbird! As for his son...nope. Not a clue. 

5. "You Only Move Twice" is the best episode of The Simpsons.  Who voices Hank Scorpio in that episode?

Ooft, its up there but "Krusty Gets Kancelled" just sneaks ahead for me due to Eastern Europe's favorite cat and mouse team. The answer is  A. Brooks anyway. Albert to his pals. 

6. Because I can't go ten minutes without a wrestling reference, what is the name of the (fictional) wrestler who is quoted as living near Mr Burns?  He is heard ululating as Bret "Hitman" Hart considers moving into Monty's mansion in "The Old Man And The Lisa".

I used my old man stink to determine it was no other than the Shrieking Sheik!!!! Have you read Bret Hart's autobiography? It may be the most depressing thing I've ever read. And I've read [JOKE ABOUT GRAHAM LINEHAN AFTER 2007]!!!!

7. Name the alleged war criminal who has a cameo as himself in the episode "The Regina Monologues".

Good old Rev. Tony Blair. He used to be in a band you know!!!!

8 and 9. Mr Sparkle is a joint venture of which two companies?

Argh. A fishworks and a "Heavy Manufacturing Concern" but names are eluding me! Dammit Fishbulb! 

10. What is the real deal with Mr. Burns' assistant Smithers? You know what I'm talking about.

I take it back, this might very well be my favourite episode! The answer is: he's Mr. Burns' assistant. He's in his early 40s, unmarried and resides in Springfield. 

11 - 15. And for up to five bonus points, who are the mediocre presidents?  Clue: you won't find their faces on dollars or on cents...

There's Taylor! There's Tyler! There's Fillmore! And there's Hayes! There's William Henry Harrison. (He died in thirty days!)

Yeah, I might have listened to "Go Simpsonic with the Simpsons" a few thousand times too many....

Blimey, I feel he was generous there but I wont argue. If you'd to write a future telly quiz for me, please get in touch through the usual channels. And so concludes our tale. I'm Leonard Nimoy. Goodnight and keep watching the skis...

The Simpsons are going to Delaware!

Thursday, 3 August 2017

You Are The Generation That Bought Mr Blobby On Cassingle And You Get What You Deserve

My new TV quiz book is out now!

If you know me, this is already pretty self-evident thanks to my healthy but insistent plugging on Facebook, Twitter and that ad I employed Chairface Chippendale to laser onto the moon. But if you're still unsure about buying it, let me try and gently persuade you a little further.

1. Its a TV quiz book

Yeah, so there's a few of those about. Walk in any branch of "The Works" (other middling Queen albums are available) and you'll find the likes of "Bill Beaumont's Big Book Of Bovril Advert Trivia", "The Pubbingest Quiz Quiz Book For Pubs Ever (TV)" and "The Pointless Book Of Bad Observational Comedy In Lieu Of Any Bleedin' Questions". But invariably they're always the same dull book, researched in about 1987, repackaged endlessly on ever cheaper paper with front covers that look a bit like some beer. Because YOU LIKE THAT.

I think my TV quiz book is unique because of my sense of humour which I've tried to pepper throughout the book, be it the daft titles like "Points of Groo", "Play That Funky Music Del Boy", "Bully's Special Piss" or "David Brent: Life In The Bin"; or questions such as "True or False: Actor Don Hastings soiled himself during a live episode of "As The World Turns" after badly misjudging a fart." to which the answer is much more interesting than you'd expect.

2. There are over 50 all new quizzes written by me. 

Where you'll find the answers to questions like:

- Was there a Spectrum game where Benny Hill went round taking bras off washing lines?
- Can you name the Canadian comic actor who took the lead role in short-lived animated series "Gravedale High"?
- Which TV series was advertised on the Radio Times with the punning headline "Cheque Mates"?
- What BBC sketch show was nearly called "Peter Sellers Is Dead"?
- Squeeze were the first guests on which series later famous for appearances by Eric Clapton, Mariah Carey and Nirvana?
- What connects Postman Pat and US sitcom Community?
- Which member of The Monkees appeared on the same episode of "The Ed Sullivan Show" on which The Beatles made their debut?
- Did religious programming host Jess Yates invent Doctor Who villains the Macra

And hundreds more!

3. Its not available in the shops. 

Remotely Interesting is being ordered to demand by me from a website called Lulu. Its not cheap but its the best way I've found to get the job done. It also means that if you're looking for a unique gift for the telly addict in your life, my book (and its reasonably priced predecessors) is the perfect choice as they're not likely to have bought it themselves or received it from anyone else. And lets be honest, buying gifts is a pain in the arse, so let me help you!

4. There's something for all the family. 

Yes, even Uncle Ken and his "ruptures". When I was a kid I loved watching Telly Addicts with Noel Tidybeard and we even got the 'Family' variant spin-off board game of it some time in the early 90s. Both were fascinating but utterly frustrating to me as a kid. I loved the old clips but how the hell am I meant to know what an Onedin Line is? Who cares about Compact? Why should I go Howard's Way? With this in mind, Ive tried to make sure there are questions for everyone in the book - from the smarty pants small-screen spod to the casual couch tripper, ages 8 to Subtitles 888.

5. Its a great way to support me.

If you've been a regular reader of this blog, my Twitter or listened to my far too numerous podcasts in the past and you liked them, buying a book is a good way to say thank you and give me a few quid so I can continue. I'm trying to make a living out of writing currently so any support that way would be extremely beneficial. And to make spending your money even more fun, there's even a Collector's Edition version of the book with bonus questions, badges, music, games and silliness for a small amount more.  And if you're feeling particularly generous, an "Extreme Altruism" stream for deranged millionaires everywhere!

So, why not buy a book from this link here?

I hope people haven't felt too dogged by my advertising of the book but I'm very proud of it and know people will love it if they give it a nose. To encourage you ever further, I've set up a separate Tumblr to which I'm posting my favourite TV related oddities from my files every day. You can find that by clicking THIS CAPS LOCK MONSTROSITY HERE.

Help support local idiocy, buy a book today!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Why Be Remotely Interested?

I'm sure by now you know via my extensive billboard campaign and that stunt where Kate Thornton and five orphans attempted to cross Niagra Falls in a suit made out of discarded quiz books (we shall miss them greatly) but I *do* have a new quiz book available for pre-order.

But why should you be interested? I get that there are a lot of similar books out on the market, many available in The Works with titles like "The Thousandest Most Pub Quiz Pints Questions Ever In The World Volume 96" and "Ian Botham's Big BovrilTM Book Of Trivia About The Sport Games". Well as this paragraph shows, I have a very...unique sense of humour and that permeates throughout the entirety of the fifty plus quizzes featured.

Thats not to say the questions are false...except for the ones in the true or false games, of which there are four special rounds devoted to "Probably Definitely True Facts About"... Doctor Who, soap operas, The Simpsons and season finales. Here are eight statements, which of them are true?

A. Cletus (aka "the slack jawed yokel") has children called Incest, Q*Bert and Stabbed In Jail. 
B. In Russia, Homer Simpson is known as Mr American and his stupidity is used as an example of the West's weaknesses. 

A. Actor Don Hastings soiled himself during a live episode of "As The World Turns" after badly misjudging a fart.
B. The cast of Eastenders once released a cockney knees-up party album. 

A. The sound The TARDIS makes on take off is a warped recording of a seagull being frightened.
B. The Doctor is actually a trained medical doctor.

A. Upon reaching its final episode in 1983, “M*A*S*H” had been running longer than the actual Korean War itself.
B. The finale of “Lost” ended in a satisfying way that tied up every single loose end from the series.

There are also fictional tweets by Donald Trump on a number of TV shows, past and present. Can you work out what the Wotsit-mawed lunatic is allegedly burbling about here?

And there's letters from similarly vexed humans to the television listings magazines - what shows are being discussed here?

There's also rounds about robots, catchphrases, The Beatles on TV, theme tunes, live programmes, Netflix and the online revolution, game shows, spin-offs, remakes, famous mothers, kids shows, booze, radio transfers, foreigners, Great Telly Years (1969, 1990, 1982 and 1977) and a bunch of Christmas stuff for good measure! The suggested age range is anything from 18 to 65, and probably beyond! Its accessible but challenging where it needs to be with lots of speciality rounds for all the family. 

The whole book took me about three months to research and write along with using my limited design skills to put together and edit. The title was Tanya Jones' suggestion though. (Go visit her blog Gypsy Creams about archaic magazine clippings right now!) I wrote every word, bar the excellent foreword by one of my best friends the writer, researcher and 'TV Clangers Man' Tim Worthington. So if you think all that effort was worth checking out or have a friend who loves telly and would welcome a unique, not in the shops, limited-edition pocked sized gift, then click the below link to read more and pre-order. 

I'm very proud of this book, as I am with my previous two quiz collections (which are still available on Lulu Press) and I hope people will buy it and enjoy it. Or at least buy it. Thats definitely the important part. And if you're still not sure yet, check out this 30+ page preview PDF I put together here. There's also a bonus package I'm putting together for fans with badges, a board game variant, downloads and my back catalogue. 

Thank you and happy quizzing! 

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Play The Hits (Foo Action)

I don’t know! You wait all year for the jingle jangle of tiny farmers boots and the cry of "WHY IS THIS A THING I DONT LIKE WHEN IT SHOULD BE SOMETHING I DO!" in the Twitter Fields and suddenly - bam! - Glastonbury is all over for another year. While 2016 was definitely a mixed bag on the main stage which seemed to please nobody (except for Chic obvs), I'm a huge fan of the BBC's coverage which usually had at least four stages on camera at all times with more online and on radio.

And in a direct reaction to that coverage, the Top 40 immediately after is heavily influenced by who played. Not the singles charts obviously, which are now solely based on a hairdressing salon in Widnes' Spotify account, but the album sales where the midweek chart presently shows Friday headliners Radiohead at the top with their reissue of Not-As-Good-As-The-Bends-Or-Kid-A 90's fave "Ok Computer", Ed Sheeran at 3 (although much like Queen in "Good Omens" I think all albums slowly morph to become copies of "Divide" at the moment) plus huge jumps for The Bee Gees, Oasis and Foo Fighters, whose 2009 "Greatest Hits" set has spent 223 weeks in the British charts. And dont it make my blue eyes red...

Y'see, I was a big Foo Fighters fan back in the day, specifically the nineties, where their first three records - "Foo Fighters", "The Colour And The Shape" and "There Is Nothing Left To Lose" - were very important to my teenaged constantly-priapic bum-fluff life. They combined straight forward pop rock with elements of metal, lots of harmonies and incredibly catchy choruses. And of that influential exciting period of time the aforementioned "Greatest Hits" contains just five tracks from everything released before 2002. Geh. Admittedly this was a record company decision and Grohl was quoted as saying...

"These 16 songs are what we're calling our "Greatest Hits." Not to be confused with "Our Best Songs" or "Our Favorite Songs," it is a collection of the songs that have defined our band's identity to most people over the years. Personally, I don't think we've written our greatest songs yet."

...which is probably why the inevitable new tracks are not that memorable, spearheaded by the Nickelback-ish power ballad "Wheels" and the slightly more lively "Word Forward", both of which were clearly out-takes from the previous album and definitely dont really come under the heading of "Greatest Hits", which outlines the eternal problem at the heart of almost any best of compilation put out by a still-active group. Do you keep it as just hits which works better as an introduction to new fans but offers no reason for existing fans to buy it? Or, like most compilations after 1985, shove a few new songs on and hope it shifts a few more units, even if it means a slightly more uneven listen?

Of course its rare but occasionally a band record a new song for a compilation and becomes as beloved as the rest of the tracks. Need some examples? Here's twelve...

REM - "Bad Day" 

A bouncy but equally fed up "Its The End Of The World..." esque track "Bad Day" was actually recorded before that when a version - then called "PSA" - had been originally demoed in 1986 during the "Life's Rich Pageant" sessions before being updated to further reflect the increased bombast of post 9/11 news outlets to include on "In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988–2003", a compilation of the band's Warner Bros singles. Its such a good track I'm almost willing to look past the fact they left off "Pop Song '89" and "Tongue" although I suspect only I care about that.

Madonna - "Rescue Me"

Whilst most of the attention was on "Justify My Love" the first single (co-written by Lenny "Kravitz" Crabsticks) from the still monolithic "Immaculate Collection" with its half-whispered underpant-ruining sultry breathlessness and memorably filthy black and white video, I always preferred the follow-up "Rescue Me", a pounding house number that once again showed how well Madonna understood what was going on in nightclubs at the time. Not that I did as I was 10 when it came out but you get the idea.

Shed Seven - "Disco Down"

Yeah alright Ian Momus, not the hippest or even hardiest of the British Indie Pop boom but I've long had a soft spot for this lot who quietly recorded some great records which were collected onto 1999's "Going For Gold" compilation with new tracks the gorgeous string-led ballad "High Hopes" and 70s funk throwback "Disco Down" which is now probably their best known song thanks to their biggest fan (although you rarely hear him mention them now or wouldn’t if I actually bothered listening in) Chris Moyles hammering it on drive-time Radio 1. "She Left Me On Friday" is still fucking terrible though.

Saint Etienne - "He's On The Phone"

A remix of an English language version of a 1984 French song by an artist with a very similar name (Etienne Daho)? Straight to the top of the charts with you! (No. 11)

Madness - "(Waiting For) The Ghost Train"

By 1986, the wheels had truly come off Madness' pop locomotive with several of the band gone and recent singles releases barely scraping the top 40. The music was still great though and so the band decided to go out with a final best of ("Utter Madness") and single, bringing back ex-member Mike Barson as a last hurrah. Whilst containing the pop sound associated with Madness, there's an eeriness that moves beyond just the title as fun-house keyboard and crashing metal drums mix with stomping feet and heavy vocal percussion. Underneath all that are oblique lyrics written by Suggs about Apartheid (the video makes the subject much clearer with the band wearing newspaper suits featuring the prominent headline "SOWETO BLOODBATH".) Also of note was the B-side of the 12" single was "Seven Year Scratch", a noble attempt to make an early megamix featuring many of the band's singles that unfortunately sounds more like someone drunkenly crashing into the turntable at random points than a cohesive mix.

Kylie Minogue - "I Believe In You"

The 2001 album "Fever" saw the Pint-Sized Antipodean PopstarTM at her very peak of both success and output with her career back on top thanks to fantastic singles like "Love At First Sight", "In Your Eyes" and, of course, the worldwide smash "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" which even gave Kyles her first US hit since 1988. Sadly the follow up album was a bit rubbish so before the brakes were launched again, 2004's "Ultimate Kylie" was rushed out for Christmas headed by this gorgeous piece of simple catchy disco pop, co-written by that year's chart golden boys Jake Shears and Babydaddy from Scissor Sisters. The entire package is a smart well thought out compilation that manages to mix every era very well and required reading for all new artists wishing to become Classic Pop Classics.

Blur - "Music Is My Radar"

Because its extremely awkward, sounds like its got a child playing an out of tune melodica over the top, was recorded by four men who couldn't stand the sight of each other and still got in the top ten. FUN FACT! The same year Oasis released "Go Let It Out" and "Who Feels Love?" so y'know...yeah.

Paul Simon - "Slip Slidin' Away"

One of two new songs on Simon's first solo best of "Greatest Hits Etc.", the gentle but beautiful "Slip Slidin' Away" only got to No.36 in the UK and would be his last single to reach the Top 40 here until "You Can Call Me Five Fabulous Weeks Of The Chevy Chase Show" in 1986.

Depeche Mode - "Shake The Disease"

A natural progression from recent singles "Master and Servant" and "Blasphemous Rumours" with the slightly bleaker, more industrial sound the band would ebb into throughout the 80s (before deciding they wanted to be fucking U2 in the 90s), "Shake the Disease" features one of the band's strongest choruses but remains shaky and urgent, pleading "understand me". Its almost like they were fans of drugs or something!!!!

George Michael - "Outside"

Few celebrity deaths punched me in the soul quite as much as George Michael on Christmas Day last year. It was fair enough that he hadn’t been troubling the charts much recently but his back catalogue was always still on the radio and we'd just got round to Wham! being regulars on the BBC Four repeats of Top Of The Pops. Indeed, its seeing his journey on those old TOTPs from fresh faced white 'rapper' pretending to be a street tough to bona-fide pop megastar that reminded you how good he was and no more so when he turned his 1998 arrest for suggesting an undercover cop touch him on the wilbus into one of the biggest hits of his career, the painfully groovy faux-disco bop of "Outside" which kicked off his first solo best of "Ladies and Gentlemen".  A huge loss we're going to feel for decades to come.

David Bowie - "Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)"

A big old sax-filled jazzy wonder falling down some stone stairs, like the theme tune to a zany detective film starring Dave Bowie Band in pursuit of a villain that turns out to be an elaborate velveteen hat. Its confusing, not especially melodic and until you get under its skin a little bit frightening. But more importantly it screamed that Bowie was back and he was going to go out of this world in his own mad, fantastic way.

Kate Bush - "Experiment IV"

Assuming we look straight past the wholly unnecessary re-recording of the vocal to "Wuthering Heights", this is the only new track on the huge selling "The Whole Story". Far from one of the most memorable or even successful, the whole venture is worth it for the stunning horror-tinged video, starring baby-faced Dawn French and Hugh Laurie alongside the less toddler-tinged fizzogs of Peter Vaughan and Richard Vernon.

Wot? No "Once Upon A Long Ago"? Or shit remix of the first single? "Re-Recording'88 '94 2000 EXTREME"? With all that said, the two biggest selling albums ever in the UK were greatest hits sets by Queen and ABBA, neither of which contained a single new track so who bloody knows who's right? Music's bollocksed anyway and all media is dead so lets get a kebab and set fire to Our Price! Goodnight!