Tag Archives: 1990s

The Sacred Hearts and SugarSlam – The Fermain Tavern – 11/03/17

The Sacred Hearts at The Fermain Tavern

The Sacred Hearts

After four years away early 1990s Guernsey music legends The Sacred Hearts made a rare appearance at The Fermain Tavern on Saturday 11th March 2017.

Alongside fellow 90s rockers SugarSlam the band were not only celebrating a major birthday for one of their number but also helped raise money for the Helping Jonah – Helping Others charity as something of a follow-up to last year’s Jonah Beats event.

My review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 18th March 2017 and you can read it below. You can also see a full gallery of my photos from the event on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Sacred Hearts and SugarSlam review 18-03-17

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Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks bluray coverIn the 25 years since its first broadcast Twin Peaks has become a genuinely cult television series with aficionados debating seemingly every second of the show to explore its hidden (or not so hidden) meanings and in that it has become hugely influential on a lot of TV (and general pop culture) that was to follow.

Particular to this was the mid-1990s trend for supernatural themed TV that peaked with The X-Files and almost certainly led to the likes of Lost having a home on international TV. But, for a newcomer, what charms would David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks have two and a half decades on?

Going into my first watch of Twin Peaks I knew very little, simply that it was set in a remote town on the US/Canada border and that the general theme was a murder mystery with the body of a local girl called Laura Palmer being the catalyst for everything that was to follow.

For the first, shorter, season of the two, my expectations weren’t far wrong as I was plunged into an almost soap opera like setting with a host of characters; from our maguffin chasing lead, FBI Agent Dale Cooper (the always convincing, Kyle MacLachlan) down to seemingly bit part players of the various, eccentric, townsfolk.

Kyle MacLachlan as Agent Dale Cooper

Kyle MacLachlan as Agent Dale Cooper

As the series goes on a more esoteric thread is gradually introduced through Agent Cooper and his various visions that seem at odds to the almost heightened, soapy, feel of the rest of the show. All this builds to create at atmosphere that could only come from the mind of David Lynch.

Given the extra scope of a TV series, compared to a movie, this off kilter feel is explored with great success and gradually builds in such a way that it becomes simply part of the nature of life in this town.

While some of this leads to some funny moments, that always feel intentional, the main arc of Laura’s murder and Agent Cooper’s investigation always has a serious feeling to it and the series actually deals with some pretty serious themes as the bodies pile up and drug running and prostitution get added to the mystery.

The Log Lady

The Log Lady

Ending on a great cliffhanger Season One of Twin Peaks is a tight, undeniably weird, murder mystery with hints of Lynch’s ever present theme of exploring behind the veneer of, so-called ‘normal’, small town American life.

While season one seemed content to merely hint and suggest at a paranormal aspect from the start of its second season Twin Peaks escalated this and never let up. As intrigue and mystery piled on top of one another the plot does waver at times as it develops from a relative simple murder mystery into something much more.

To the show runners’ credit despite this escalation in scale it never really loses sense of its underlying feeling of peeling back the skin of Americana as everything is heightened and cranked up further and further.

Twin Peaks - The Red Room

The Red Room

Again there is some great comedy, particular coming in Lynch’s cameo as deaf FBI chief Gordon Cole and this is very welcome as other threads becoming increasingly disturbing – particularly those surrounding the mysterious BOB and Agent Cooper’s former FBI agent partner.

The most impressive thing as the series continues is how the various, often separate storylines, are intertwined and all join together as we head towards the dénouement.

Even 25 years later it seems wrong to spoil the ending of Twin Peaks, but its safe to say that the concluding few episodes capitalise on all that’s come before to create something the likes of which I’ve never seen in a supposedly mainstream TV show.

Twin Peaks opening titles

The original opening titles

Across both series the soundtrack and score, from Angelo Badalamenti, is a permanent fixture, often leading the action and emotion of the action or counterpointing it with reverb drenched twangy guitar and bass tones that hint at Lynch’s love of 50s rock ‘n’ roll and, in this, suit the off-centre Americana of the series.

With a movie (Fire Walk With Me) following soon after and a new series in the pipeline as I write, its clear that Twin Peaks had a strong, lasting effect on pop culture and, while I know there’s a lot more to it than one watch could ever give, it more than stands up 25 years down the road as both a landmark series and genuinely fascinating and enjoyable experience that I would describe as essential viewing for any fan of modern television.

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Fist of Fun – Series 1

17 years after the event I’ve finally got hold of the first series of Fist of Fun on DVD, but could it live up to my memories?

I clearly remember watching Fist of Fun during my early secondary school days when it was broadcast on BBC2 and it filled an area of my TV memory alongside the likes of The Glam Metal Detectives, Friday Night Armistice and The Day Today.

Since then I had always wondered what happened to Fist of Fun as, while it got a second series and a follow-up show (TMWRNJ, or This Morning With Richard Not Judy), it was never repeated and, as such, was very hard to find copies of online.

So it was with some excitement that I received my copies of the DVD release of the show that came about thanks to its masterminds, Stewart Lee and Richard Herring, and the DVD production company Go Faster Stripe, who have been releasing less mainstream comedians works for a few years now.

Lee and Herring (well, actually Herring and Lee)

Upon starting it up all was familiar, the set of a seemingly industrial basement, Peter Baynham’s (now a Hollywood scriptwriter) self titled character in a bedsit in the corner and the characters of Lee and Herring compering a show of their stand up and sketches along with various asides with different levels of surrealism and absurdity.

As always with something like this, returning to it with such fond memories was always going to be a bit of a gamble, and certainly there was stuff here I had mis-remembered (in particular appearances by ‘Rod Hull’, though I understand they will come in the second series) but in general it was as good as I had remembered and, despite a couple of duff sketches, generally held up to my memories and expectations.

The Actor Kevin Eldon as Simon Quinlank

In general terms the series falls in with a group of similar shows that seemed to typified mid-90s comedy, pre The Fast Show, with one-off sketches delivered by something approaching an ensemble cast with no particular thread and different things each week.

A few of the sketches here which really work very well are Simon Quinlank (the hobbies expert) and the story of Pestilence of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse taking a job as a milkman.

This type of show seems to have disappeared from out screens now as panel games and more fast show inspired repetitive sketch comedy fills the schedules, but I’m happy to say that Fist of Fun lives up to my youthful memories of it and captures a brand of comedy that mixes Monty Python, 80s alternative comedy and what has come since in one package acting as something of a comedy crossroads that certainly deserves more recognition than a little remembered footnote it seems to have become.

Extra Features

A more recent Lee and Herring

While the series itself is, of course, the main part of this DVD set – it also comes along with two and a half discs of extras exploring the work and men behind the series.

For starters each episode has at least one commentary which are clearly recorded by Lee and Herring on their first watch of the shows possibly since the mid-90s which adds a real dynamic to them which matches my feelings of watching the episodes as well as providing some interesting facts about the making of the show and some other stories totally unrelated to the show, but that’s the sort of thing that makes a good commentary for me.

Following on from the commentaries we join Lee and Herring sitting down to go through Richard’s extensive collection of old scripts and magazine and paper cuttings tracing the story of the duo’s early years from university to the getting on TV which does give something of an insight into what led to their mid-90s TV work.

Related directly to the series, there is also the studio rushes from the recording of four of the six episodes which really fall into the category of ‘for the completest’ as they are essentially the unedited shows as they were recorded, though they do contain a few lost gems in the form of sketches that didn’t make the final cut but are still entertaining.

On top of all of this we get an hour-long live show clearly based on Fist of Fun, though not titled such due to copyright reasons, that does a very good job of replicating the feel of the show while also demonstrating Lee and Herring’s live work.

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