A Few Pandemic TV Thoughts

Lockdown may have finished on December 2nd in the UK but if you live in a tier 3 region, like me, it’s still going on. OK, I understand the need for the lockdown, I know we have to prevent the virus from spreading but that doesn’t stop the whole thing being a pain in the neck. No quiz nights at the pub, no restaurant meals out and so on. Not only that but why does the virus have 2 separate names? Is it Covid 19 or is it Coronavirus? And where does the 19 come from? Was there a Covid 18?  Does this mean there have been 18 previous versions of this insidious plague? If so, why have we never heard of them? We, the public, need to know.

This being December it certainly isn’t the time of the year for relaxing in the back garden but at least we have our TV set to keep us entertained. What TV gems have I found this week?

Showing on an obscure TV channel, Forces TV, I found the old Gerry Anderson TV series UFO. The show still looks pretty good after many years on the shelf. Ed Straker, the boss of SHADO is still trying to defend the world from alien attack and he and his colleagues look pretty good in their natty suits. In fact the whole thing looks pretty futuristic despite its obvious 1980’s origins, more so than Star Trek which, as much as I love it, does look very 1960’s.

It just so happens that I can remember that SHADO stood for Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation. What is interesting about that is this: The other day I went into the bedroom to get something and forgot what it was I’d gone in there for and yet I still knew what SHADO stood for.  A contributory factor might be that as a youngster I fell off a playground roundabout right onto my head. In fact, I can remember it like it was yesterday, falling off head first and heading towards the ground, actually a concrete slab and taking a hell of a whack on my bonce. Yes, that hurt, it really did but I’m still wondering what I wanted in the bedroom.

Anyway, when I mentioned Star Trek above. I’m talking about the original Star Trek, not the slightly lacking Star Trek:The Next Generation. Captain Picard and the cocktail lounge atmosphere of his space craft was not my cup of sci-fi at all and while Picard was running all the command decisions past everyone from the ship’s counsellor up, Kirk was already hitting the aliens with phasers on stun and getting up close and personal with some gorgeous interplanetary beauty.

The original Star Trek, like UFO was shot on film and today looks pretty sharp compared to the Next Generation which was shot straight to video. The original series was given a digital makeover a few years back with digital effects and new CGI spacecraft and is looking pretty good these days. The franchise has spawned quite a few follow up series and films. After the Next Generation came Deep Space 9 which was just as bad as the Next Generation if you ask me and then Star Trek Voyager. I actually like Voyager but it didn’t start off well for me and as much as I liked Captain Janeway, her oddball hairstyles just annoyed the hell out of me until in the later series they decided to employ someone who actually knew how to style hair and Janeway ended up looking pretty normal.

As Janeway became normal, the writers decided to shake things up with the pretty sexy Seven of Nine character. She was rescued from the Borg, an alien race whose catchphrase is you will be assimilated. Seven was given a very appealing tight fitting catsuit to wear instead of the Space Federation regulation uniform. Catsuits are OK and maybe they are pretty popular in the 24th century but they never seem to have any pockets. What Seven does with her handkerchiefs, lip gloss, mobile phone and purse I really don’t know. In the future people must prefer looking sexy rather than worrying about their stuff, at least they do in the eyes of the Star Trek writers.

While on the subject of cat suits, I feel I must mention, even just for a fleeting moment, the original cat suit girl who, at least in my mind, was Mrs Emma Peel played by Diana Rigg in the TV show The Avengers. The Avengers started off as a crime drama starring Ian Hendry as a police doctor, assisted in solving crimes by the dapper John Steed. Hendry left the show leaving Steed, played by Patrick MacNee needing a new assistant. His assistant was Kathy Gale played by Honor Blackman. She left the series to star in the film Goldfinger and Emma Peel was recruited as Steed’s new assistant. Kathy Gale was also a catsuit wearer although she seemed to prefer a leather version. When Emma Peel joined the series, the show moved from video to film and the production values increased enormously. The show also began to move in a sort of sci-fi fantasy espionage direction. Off the top of my head, I remember episodes about a mad scientist who shrinks other scientists and Steed, down to a small size, killer robots, time travel and cats that become wild animals.

Another problem with tight fitting cat suits must surely come whenever the wearer needs a bathroom break. Imagine having to strip right down just so you can have a wee. On board the Enterprise I can imagine that, like in any spaceship, space must be at a premium so the toilets must be pretty small. Now this is the perfect opportunity to introduce my own personal experience of using a ladies toilet. Years ago, when I had a cigarette vending machine round (writer, blogger, vending machine repairman -I’ve done it all) I remember visiting a pub in Prescot in Merseyside. I can’t remember the name of the place but it was the reverse of a normal pub in that most old pubs usually have a big room; the lounge and a small one, the vault, where men play cards, pool and darts. In this pub, the big room was the vault and the lounge was the small room. Anyway, after servicing the cigarette machine I wanted to use the toilet so I asked the cleaners, who were pretty fierce in that place, could I go in the gents. No she said, the floor was still wet but I could go in the ladies.

The ladies I soon found was actually two rooms, one with three toilet stalls and an outer room where you could wash your hands. The outer room had two huge mirrors for making sure your hair and makeup were OK and two comfy couches where the women could sit and presumably have a good natter before going back to join the men. Yes, that ladies toilet was a real eye-opener for me used to, like all men, smelly urinals.

Diana Rigg left The Avengers to become a Bond girl, just like Honor Blackman before her. Diana starred in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as the woman who finally got 007 to the altar only to be shot later by Bond’s enemy Blofeld.

Anyway, getting back to Star Trek, the latest series in the franchise are Discovery, which is rather like watching a very fast music video, I gave it a good 15 minutes and then had to switch off, and Star Trek Picard, which sees the return of Captain Picard and various other characters including Seven of Nine from Trek’s back catalogue. I actually quite fancy watching that but alas, not having Amazon Prime I’ve yet to do so. Pity because it actually looks pretty good from the clips I’ve seen on YouTube. Eventually it will filter down to the Freeview channels and one day I’m sure I’ll see it late at night on BBC2 perhaps.

William Shatner who starred as Captain Kirk in the original series is a firm favourite of mine and it would be rather nice to see his character pop up again. Star Trek: Kirk sounds like a pretty good idea for a new series to me. Shatner is now 89 years old and still going strong. His character was actually killed off in the Star Trek film Generations which started off pretty well, combining the usual sci-fi elements of Star Trek with an intriguing mystery; who is the mysterious Soran and what is he up to? As it happened what he was up to wasn’t really that interesting but the film marked the cinema handover from the original Star Trek cast to the new one. Pity really because as I mentioned above, I never really took to the Next Generation.

Star Trek is ultimately about three people, Kirk, Spock and McCoy and the producers probably realised that, which is why, in the latest Trek films a new generation of actors have been asked to recreate the old roles meaning that Captain Kirk lives on again for a new generation of sci-fi fans.

Another old show repeated currently on the CBS justice channel is The Fugitive starring David Janssen as Dr Richard Kimble, falsely accused of the murder of his wife. The show ran for four seasons but as viewer ratings began to fall, the series was cancelled. It was then that the producers hit on what at the time was an unusual idea. Instead of the show just ending, they decided to make an actual finale. Yes, they would wrap up the story of Kimble’s wife’s murder. Kimble had been searching for the supposed one-armed man he had seen leaving the murder scene for the past four seasons, now he would finally find him!

Back in the 1960’s, TV was not very highly thought of even by the TV networks themselves. So what if Kimble never finds the murderer. So what? It’s only a TV show. Of course, the viewers would disagree. They had kept faith with the series for four long years, they deserved a proper ending.

The final episode aired on August 29th 1967 and in the USA the viewing figures were a sensation: 72% of US TV viewers were watching that final episode and the show held the most watched record until November 1980 when someone shot JR in Dallas.

When I watched The Fugitive yesterday, I think we were up to episode 20 in season 4. Hope I remember to watch that final episode, then again, I still can’t remember what I wanted from the bedroom!


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Captain Kirk, Al Jolson, and the problem with Windows 10!

captain kirkTime passes, as Dylan Thomas said in Under Milk Wood. Time passes and the new replaces the old. Okay but why is it that the old is sometimes better than the new? Here are a few cases in point.

Star Trek.

Here is something that may be a revelation to you; if you don’t know it already it will vastly improve your understanding of Star Trek. It’s a simple truth and here it is, Star Trek is about three guys, Captain Kirk, Mr Spock and Doctor McCoy. Sometimes there are four, we can maybe throw in Scotty but that’s it, that’s the essential truth about Star Trek and that’s why things like the Next Generation and Deep Space 9 will never come up to scratch, simply because Kirk, Spock and McCoy are not involved. Even the Star Trek people themselves understand this, which is why Star Trek has been reinvented (re-imagined to use movie speak) with new actors playing Kirk and his crew in the latest Trek movies.

Forget about Mr Pointy-head Captain Picard and the cocktail lounge style bridge on his version of the Star Ship Enterprise. Why on earth does he have to run every decision over his number two, his councillor and everyone else on the bridge when Kirk would have just sorted that situation out like a shot and would even have found a pretty girl to flirt with too? Deep space 9: A load of old tosh and as for Star Trek Voyager? Well, I have to say I do like the later episodes when Captain Janeway finally got rid of her previous weird hair styles and the drippy Kes got the bullet from the show and was replaced by the rather interesting Seven of Nine, a young lady rescued from the clutches of the Borg. As much as I like Voyager, it really can’t compete with the original. Yes, in every way, old is better.

Movies.

If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that I like my movies. I much prefer old classic movies to the latest films. The last movie I caught at the cinema was the latest Bond movie, well actually, not even the latest one, it was the one before that! I did try to see the new one, Spectre, but when I enquired at the picture house about the movie, the lady behind the counter looked at me and said: ‘Spectre? That movie has been and gone,’ as if I had been talking about Gone with the Wind. As I remember it, there were still Spectre film trailers being shown on the TV so my enquiry was not all that silly, although shortly afterwards they released the film on DVD. There seems to be a short shelf life for movies these days; they are released, shown for a while at the cinema and then whoosh –straight to DVD.

DVDs.

Talking of DVDs, one I picked up lately from e-bay for a measly few pounds was a DVD with two movies: The Jolson Story and the follow up, Jolson Sings Again. The Jolson Story is typical of the kind of movies watched in our house when I was a child. My Mum was a big musical fan and we watched a lot of musicals. I do love those movies of the forties and fifties, the ones where someone says something like ‘let’s put the show on right here!White Christmas with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby is the sort of movie I mean, some light comedy, some great songs and they put on a show in their old wartime colonel’s failing hotel. The Jolson Story has some wonderful songs, proper tuneful yesteryear classic songs and Larry Parks plays a great part. Sadly he was black listed by the House Committee on Un-American Activities and only made a few more films afterwards.

A much more modern movie I picked up recently on DVD was A Bridge of Spies starring Tom Hanks and directed by Steven Spielberg. Spielberg’s reputation as a great director precedes him as they say but for my money, I don’t really think his films are that great. I can’t rubbish this film by any means but it was a little tame and I have found that with a lot of his films, they always seem to fall slightly short of the mark somehow. Might have to sell Bridge of Spies in the same place I found it, on e-bay!

Windows 10.

Now, here is a perfect example of the old being better than the new. With my old laptop kitted out with windows XP and later windows 7 I could carry on doing the simple nerdy things I have always done on my laptop. As you know from these posts I have a long trip to work every day, I hate radio with adverts so I play a lot of discs, most of which I make up myself. I used to drop a DVD into my laptop, use windows sound recorder to copy some music or dialogue. Later I’d use various software bits and pieces to cut and paste, mix, and create a CD of favourite film music and dialogue that I could play in my car.

Anyway, in Windows 10, which I updated to not long ago, there is no sound recorder. There is however ‘voice recorder’ which I assume works in the same way only the tab on my computer is greyed out and when I click on it a message appears which says go to the windows store. Okay, I click that; a box opens up saying ‘windows store’, looks like it’s doing something for a minute than just closes. Right, so next I go to the Microsoft website, click on ‘windows store’, find windows voice recorder, click the download button and nothing happens. After a quick search I find windows sound recorder, I click on that and it says ‘not compatible with your device’!

While I’m on a rant about windows 10 here’s another thing. When I first installed windows 10, everything seemed to be in order but lately, every time I click on the start menu I get a critical error report and a box comes up saying ‘log out of windows and we will repair the error when you log back in’. So, like the box says I log out, log back in but did they keep their word? Have they fixed the critical error? No!

Wonder what Captain Kirk would do? Knowing him, a good blast from a Phaser will solve everything!


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Cillit Bang, Doctor McCoy and the Launch of Thunderbird 3!

You might be thinking, and believe me I can understand it if you are, what have Cillit Bang, Doctor McCoy and the launch of Thunderbird 3 got in common? Well it is simply this; together they are three small mysteries that have annoyed me for a while and in the case of Thunderbird 3, a very long time. Please read on . . .

Cillit Bang
A cleaning company has just created a new household cleaner. It works in the kitchen: It works anywhere! It washes away dirt and grime so what should we call it?
INTERIOR. DAY. A PLUSH HI TECH MARKETING OFFICE. A MEETING IS IN PROGRESS. AT THE HEAD OF THE TABLE IS THE HEAD OF MARKETING. HE ADDRESSES THE GROUP OF EAGER YOUNG MARKETEERS.

HEAD OF MARKETING.
Ladies and gentlemen, you know all about the product. We are getting ready to sell to the public as soon as possible. We already have contracts to sell to the major stores and supermarkets, all we need is a name!

YOUNG STAFF MEMBER #1
What about Flash? It cleans your kitchen in a flash and-

HEAD OF MARKETING.
Good but that name has been used already!

YOUNG STAFF MEMBER#1
Sorry sir.

YOUNG STAFF MEMBER #2
What about Super Clean. It’s no ordinary cleaner: it’s a Super Cleaner!

HEAD OF MARKETING.
Not bad but I’m looking for something really special.

YOUNG STAFF MEMBER #3
I know I’m new here (COYLY) But what about Cillit-Bang!

FACES FALL ALL AROUND THE TABLE. SOME STAFF MEMBERS HOLD THEIR HEADS IN THEIR HANDS. OTHERS OPENLY MOUTH ‘OH MY GOD!’

HEAD OF MARKETING.
That’s brilliant. Just what we want.

THE WHOLE OFFICE APPLAUDS.

OK, that’s just a fantasy, just an idle musing that came to me a few weeks back under the hot Lanzarote sun while I pondered about whether to take another dip in the pool. The thing is though, why did they really call it Cillit-Bang?

Doctor McCoy in Star Trek

Dr McCoy Star Trek

Picture courtesy Wikipedia

I have always been a fan of Star Trek, well, the original one anyway. You know the one, Captain Kirk, Mr Spock and Doctor (Bones) McCoy. (Proper Star Trek, not those wishy washy Next Generation people!) Kirk was played by William Shatner, Spock by Leonard Nimoy and McCoy by DeForest Kelley. DeForest did you say? Yes, DeForest, that was his name. I’ve often wondered how he got a name like that, perhaps it was something like this;

INTERIOR. DAY.THE SCENE:THE SUBURBAN HOME OF THE NEWLY WED KELLEYS.

MRS KELLEY
You know, we ought to think about names, there’s not long to go now.

MR KELLEY
Yes, you’re not wrong. Remind me, when is the little one due?

MRS KELLEY
Well, my due date is January 20th.

MR KELLEY
Well, what about Woodrow, you know after the President?

MRS KELLEY (WITH HARDLY A HINT OF ENTHUSIASM.)
What! Woodrow?

MR KELLEY
Well, only a suggestion.

MRS KELLEY
Edward is a thought. I’ve always liked Edward.

MR KELLEY
Edward? Edward Kelley? Don’t know, Edward Kelley. Sounds a bit ordinary . . .

MRS KELLEY
We could name him after you, Ernest David.

MR KELLEY
Yes but then he’d be Ernest David Kelley Junior. I’ve always hated that junior stuff! I want something memorable, something that invokes, you know, the forest or something.

MRS KELLEY
The forest? What are you on about?

MR KELLEY
Well, remember that time in the forest when we were camping and we both, you know . .

MRS KELLEY
Oh my giddy aunt! I’ve never heard anything like it in my life!

MR KELLEY
Look, let’s be straight; we once did it in the forest. So what? Couples have to do it somewhere, it’s only natural. In fact, tell you what, what about Deforest?

MRS KELLEY
Deforest? Are you bonkers? Are you out of your tiny mind?

MR Kelley
It’d be a private joke, you know, me and you against the world and we’d always remember that special time. You know, when we did it in ‘de forest!’

MRS KELLEY
Are you on mind altering drugs or what? I was reading only the other day they reckon that by the 1960’s mind altering drugs could destroy western civilisation. Sure you’re not on them already?

MR KELLEY
OK, so what have you got?

MRS KELLEY
So Ernest David is out?

MR KELLEY
Absolutely.

MRS KELLEY
OK, DeForest it is but I want it with a capital F.

MR KELLEY
It’s a deal!

Thunderbird 3The Launch of Thunderbird 3.

Did you ever watch Thunderbirds, the 1960’s sci-fi show? I’m talking about the original, not the 21st century computer animated version, because something has been annoying me ever since I first saw the show as a schoolboy, and it’s this:
Alan, as you probably know, is the pilot of Thunderbird 3, the space ship, and Thunderbird 3 launches from underground, blasting off right through the circular opening of the Round House. Now to access the craft, Alan sits down on the settee in the Tracy Island main house. His Dad, Jeff Tracy, flicks a switch and Alan and the settee drop down into an underground complex. OK? With me so far? Well this is where the problem arises. As Alan and the settee drop down on a sort of hydraulic pole, just behind him we see another settee, being pushed up towards the lounge on another hydraulic pole,  where it pops into the vacant slot where Alan’s settee was moments earlier. However, as Alan’s settee is going down on the first hydraulic pole, and the alternate settee is on a second hydraulic pole to his rear, there is no way that second settee is going to pop into the vacant slot left by the first. Also, what if Alan was watching TV when the call came in and he goes off on the departing settee with the remote control? It could be halfway to trajectory insertion when Jeff wants to switch over to Sky Sport and he says, “Who’s got the remote?” Not only that, imagine if Alan was on his way to an emergency launch which came in while Grandma was in the kitchen making everyone a cup of tea and a slice of toast?

THE SCENE. INTERIOR. DAY. TRACY ISLAND LOUNGE.

JEFF TRACY
This is a job for Thunderbird 3.

ALAN TRACY
OK Dad. Ready for launch.

JEFF TRACY
Off you go Alan.

ALAN TRACY
Bye Dad, tell Grandma I’ll have a brew later.

JEFF TRACY
Look Alan, those tea bags don’t grow on trees you know. We have them imported from the UK.

ALAN TRACY
Gee whizz Dad, never thought of that. Only thing is, that rocket on collision course with the sun, don’t you think that has to take priority?

JEFF TRACY
Well . . . Sometimes I fancy an extra cuppa anyway so I guess I could always finish yours off. Hot diggedy dog Alan, you’re right. Off you go and I’ll sort your brew out.

ALAN TRACY
Thanks Dad.

JEFF PRESSES A SWITCH AND THE SETTEE DROPS AWAY ON ITS HYDRAULIC POLE INTO THE CAVERNOUS SECRET WORLD BENEATH THE TRACY HOME.

JEFF TRACY
Right, that’s that. Think I might have a gander at Sky Sports. Where the heck is the remote? Grandma! Grandma! Where has the old biddy got to? Bet she’s got the damned remote, she’s always watching daytime TV.

JEFF GOES OFF STAGE RIGHT TO LOOK FOR GRANDMA.

GRANDMA ENTERS STAGE LEFT WITH A TRAY OF TEA AND TOAST.

GRANDMA
Jeff! Alan! Now where have those two got to? Where have they moved the settee to? Sure it used to be just hereeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Yes, when you look closely, that Thunderbird 3 launch procedure is a major health and safety issue!


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