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Programme announced for ‘From Page To Stage’ at The Landor

At the end of last year,So So Gay told you all about The Landor Theatre, Clapham, and its plan to hold a special season of brand new musical writing.

Running from February 15 to March 17, ‘From Page To Stage’, aims to curate a season of new musical theatre, comprising of showcases, workshops and products of new International musical theatre writing. The idea has been formulated by Katy Lipson of Aria Entertainment, who has teamed up with the Artistic Director of the Landor Theatre, Robert McWhir.

Katy Lipson said, ‘People have been asking, ‘Why isn’t there a venue dedicated to the presentation of new musical writing?’ Well now we have just that!’

The current listing for all the shows is below, with more to be announced soon. Tickets start at £12 and can be purchased from the theatre now.

Friday 15 February, 7.30pm – An Evening of Music and Lyrics – by Annemarie Lewis Thomas

Saturday 16 February,  7.30pm – The Road To Qatar! – by David Krane and Stephen Cole

Sunday 17 February, 3pm and 7.30pm – The Road To Qatar! – by David Krane and Stephen Cole

Tuesday 19 February, 7.30pm – The Route To Happiness – a new musical by Alexander S Bermange

Wednesday 20 February until Saturday 23 February, 7.30pm – The Route To Happiness – a new musical by Alexander S Bermange

Sunday 24 February, 2pm – The Route To Happiness – a new musical by Alexander S Bermange

Tuesday 26 February, 7.30pm  – 3 Writers And A Piano – Giles Howe, Tamar Broadbent and Gary Albert Hughes showcase some of their very own writing

Wednesday 27 February, 7.30pm – A Body To Die(t) For – a new musical by Tim Anfilogoff and Alan Whittaker

Thursday 28 February, 7.30pm  – Bitesize – 3 mini musical s and comedy songs

Friday 1 March, 7.30pm – Bitesize – 3 mini musicals and comedy songs

Saturday 2 March, 7.30pm – Bitesize – 3 mini musicals and comedy songs

Sunday 3 March, 3pm – Accidental Songs: The Words And Music Of Andy Collyer

Sunday 3 March, 7.30pm – The Music Of Lee Freeman

Friday 8 March, 7.30pm – 3 Writers From 3 Countries

Sunday 10 March, 7.30pm – In Here – The Music And Lyrics Of Charles Bloom presented by the New Musicals Network

Tuesday 12 March, 7.30pm – Two New Musicals by British writer Tamar Broadbent

Wednesday 13 March, 7.30pm – Emerald – a new Irish-American musical by Denise Wright and Chris Burgess. (This musical is the winner of the Sidney Brown Award for New Musicals 2013)

Thursday 14 March, 7.30pm – Kandy Kottage, a bittersweet tale by Taylor-Rowan and Hughes

Friday 15 March, 7.30pm – The Landor presents ‘Preview’ – a selection of material from some of the upcoming projects to be shown at The Landor Theatre in 2013

Saturday 16 March, 7.30pm – New Musical Songbook GALA

Sunday 17 March, 7.30pm – Dougal Irvine and Guests

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tv

West End news round-up: 14 January 2013

For all you West End Wendies out there, there’s never a week that goes by without some sort of hot backstage gossip making its way to our ears. So, in case you missed it, here’s the latest and greatest from the world of theatre…

Magicians Barry and Stuart: Show and Tell national tour

Prepare to be amazed and astounded as stars of BBC One’s The Magicians, Barry and Stuart, are back with their sell-out 2011 Edinburgh festival show Show and Tell’ on a dazzling national tour. Described by Derren Brown as ‘The most consistently original, creative and exciting force in British magic,’ Scottish BAFTA-nominated Barry and Stuart bring you their highly acclaimed ‘Show and Tell’. Split into two parts, the first is the ‘Show’, crammed full of slick, distinctive, astonishing, gruesome and brilliant illusions laced with black humour. The second part, the ‘Tell’, has Barry and Stuart exclusively revealing and teaching the audience all the secrets and techniques behind the magic and tricks. To find out if the tour if coming near you and to book tickets, visit the show’s official website.

Cast change for Taboo – the Boy George musical

Taboo, the musical based on Boy George’s life, celebrates its on-going run by adding a brand new song, an enhanced script and an exciting new cast. This site-specific performance, currently playing at The Brixton Clubhouse, features the new song ‘No Need To Work So Hard’, written by Boy George and Kevan Frost. Paul Treacy takes the iconic role of Boy George and appears alongside Jordan-Luke Gage as Marilyn, Boy George’s rival-turned-closest ally. These bright young things are ones to watch – both make their professional debut in Taboo, and are real-life best friends and third-year students at the prestigious Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, due to graduate in this summer. Taking on the role of feisty-yet-vulnerable punk runaway Kim is Devon-Elise Johnson. Kim forms an enduring on-stage relationship with young photographer Billy’s mother, Josie (Alex Jordan-Mills and Julia Worsley, respectively). Josie’s drunk and homophobic husband, Derek, is played by Paul Kevin-Taylor, who brings a double dose of the dark side to the show, as he also performs the role of Petal, the scene’s violent and terrifying cross-dressing drug pusher. The show has also just received three nominations at the respected, publicly-voted Whatsonstage.com Awards, including a nod for Sam Buttery as Best Supporting Actor in a Musical. The musical is now booking through to March 2013.

Live cinema screenings of Great Expectations at the Vaudeville

To celebrate the launch of The Dickens Legacy at the Gala Evening at London’s Vaudeville Theatre, Great Expectations will be screened live via satellite to more than 150 cinemas across the UK and Ireland. Although it is Dickens’s most popular novel and has previously had many incarnations in cinema, television and even a stage musical, this will be the first time there has ever been a production of Great Expectations as a full-scale stage play in either the West End or on Broadway. The cast includes Jack Ellis as Jaggers, Chris Ellison as Magwitch and Paula Wilcox as Miss Havisham. The live screening will commence on Thursday 7 February at 18:45, at a number of participating cinemas.

Cast announced for The Secret Garden: In Concert

The cast has been announced for the forthcoming concert revival of Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman’s three time Tony Award winning musical The Secret Garden at The Kings Head Theatre. Following in his father’s footsteps and making his professional stage debut in the shared role of Colin is Zac Donovon, son of pop/TV/musical theatre star Jason Donovan. He will be sharing the role with Tyler Fagan, an original Gustave in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies. The role of Mary Lenox will be shared between Ana Martin, who also makes her professional debut, and Olivia Hallett, who was a recent soloist in the West End Voices concert at The Actor’s Church in Covent Garden. Zoe Curlett will play the role of Lily; her previous credits include Cosette in Les Misérables and Christine in The Phantom of the Opera. Alexander Evans will play Archibald, and Rachael McCormick will take on the role of Martha. The concert runs from 10 February to 17 March 2013, and tickets start at £10.

New cast set to take over hit musical Top Hat

From 5 February 2013, joining Gavin Lee, who will play Jerry Travers in the West End hit musical Top Hat, are Broadway actress Kristen Beth Williams as Dale Tremont, Olivier Award nominee Alex Gaumond as Alberto Beddini, and Clive Hayward as Horace Hardwick. Vivien Parry continues as Madge Hardwick, and Stephen Boswell as Horace’s valet Bates. In addition, on 28 January 2013, over 275,0000 tickets will be released for sale, taking bookings for Top Hat at the Aldwych Theatre up to 27 April 2014.

Seventy-seven years after its movie release, which saw Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers playing the roles of Jerry Travers and Dale Tremont, Matthew White’s production arrived in the West End in April 2012, having completed a 20 week sell-out UK tour. Performed by a cast of 31 and accompanied by a live band of 15, this musical comedy includes Irving Berlin classics from the original movie.  A further ten numbers have been interpolated from Berlin’s 1200 strong back catalogue.  In November last year, Top Hat won the Evening Standard Theatre Award for London’s Best Night Out, and the production has also been nominated for 5 Whatsonstage.com Awards.

Featured image source: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Europe

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tv

Interview: Funny, fabulous and ‘Happily Divorced’ – actress Fran Drescher

So So Gay caught up with Emmy Award winning actress Fran Drescher, famous for her hit television show The Nanny. Fran talked about her popular new sitcom, Happily Divorced, which centres on her real life relationship with her gay ex-husband. In addition, she shared her thoughts on gay marriage, the future, and how to reduce the risk of cancer in our homes.

Happily Divorced is in its second season in the United States and is going global. How did you come up with the premise for the show?

The network asked me for an idea for a show if I were to star in it. Off the top of my head I said, ‘That would be the relationship between me and my gay ex-husband Peter.’ Then I asked if they wanted to hear the ideas I brought in to discuss producing. They said, ‘Why? We just bought that one.’ As soon as I left for lunch I called my ex and told him I just sold a pilot about our lives and I that I wanted him to come in as a full partner. Here we are with Happily Divorced in its second season!

In a world of reality TV, Happily Divorced is helping revive the sitcom. What made you decide to do another after your prior success with The Nanny?

Actually, I was not intending to do a sitcom at all. They called me in to write and produce so I wasn’t planning to star in anything this time. Once the network bought the idea and we started to develop and write the show, the more I wanted to play the character. I’m so thankful to be working on a project that makes people laugh, but at the same time speaks to the greater good of equality.

Speaking of laughter, you have great chemistry with your co-stars on the show; did it just click from the beginning?

We auditioned a lot of actors for the role of Peter. I was prepared to put the project on hold until we found the right person, even though everyone was pressuring me to just pick someone and move forward. I wasn’t interested in doing that. John Michael Higgins was finishing a movie and was not interested in playing another gay role after working hard to break from stereotype after playing his spectacular part in Best in Show. However, the idea of playing opposite me and playing a man that lives most of his life as a straight married man who comes out in his forties was interesting to him. He came in to read with me and we immediately had chemistry and the project just moved forward from there. All of the cast though are wildly experienced actors in television and beyond. We are all at the stage of our lives where we are grateful to be working on a wonderful production in a business that has changed so much. Our chemistry is born out of our happiness working in this collaborative art form.

On top of your co-stars, Happily Divorced has some powerhouse guest stars as well. Tell our readers what it was like working with British diva Joan Collins on the show this season.

Joan is fantastic! Not only does she look fabulous, but she is funny and great to work with. We hope to have her back next season as well. By playing herself, it opens up story opportunities for Fran and Peter. A big Hollywood diva of course interacts with other stars, and this will allow access to a number of celebrities that Fran, a florist, and Peter, a realtor, would otherwise not have.

Getting back to the premise of the show, the fact you remained friends with your ex Peter has been inspiring to so many. How were you able to manage this despite the circumstances of the divorce?

I like writing about what I know. For both Peter and [me] this has been a wonderful and cathartic experience. We’ve been divorced and he’s been out for over a decade. We have a strong foundation for episodes here that have real emotion at their root. Our brand of comedy is always rooted in real feelings and places. It’s nice to start with what happened to us and where we were at emotionally at different stages of our lives, post-marriage.

While we are on the topic of marriage, what’s your position on gay marriage in the United States?

It’s moving in a positive direction and it’s only a question of when… thank goodness! I’m a big advocate for civil liberties and this one is at the top of the list. This issue compromises our constitutional rights as American citizens. In the United States, everyone is free and equal. You should never justify marginalizing any group because they may not share your religious beliefs. This is not a one-religion nation. I feel on a broader scale, if we tolerate denying marriage to gay people we are slipping down a slope that endangers compromising the foundation on which this nation was built.

You should run for office!

I may in the future, but while I am on a show like Happily Divorced I am happy to speak out for the greater good within the world of my notoriety and to use it to bring attention to this issue.

Do you think you would ever remarry and what would you look for in a new hubbie?

I’m not opposed to marriage, if I found the right person. I’m looking for the five ‘S’s in a man: sexy, single, smart, successful and straight!

That sounds like a book! You are actually already an author: in addition to your book Enter Whining, a hilarious but poignant look at your life, you recently completed a children’s book entitled Being Wendy. Can you tell us about it?

Wendy is currently out on Penguin Books. It’s a book that was beautifully illustrated by Amy Blay, a resident of England. I was trying to leverage the ardent fans of The Nanny and spotlight the issues of bullying and intolerance. Whether someone has a different sexual orientation or is fat, thin, a different race etc. – this book speaks to all children and adults alike. It’s about a little girl that cannot think in a box. She’s different and has ambitions, unlike the people in her town. I recommend it to anyone who needs to hear the message that whatever you are, it’s okay, and you should be celebrated.

In addition to writing, you are a survivor of cancer. Tell our readers about the movement you started, Cancer Schmancer.

Cancer Schmancer is dedicated to helping reduce the risk of cancer through prevention and early detection. I would encourage all readers to go to our website and click on ‘Trash Cancer’, where they can learn how to reduce the risk of cancer for both themselves and their family by detoxing their home environment. The home turns out to be the most toxic place we spend the most amount of time in. Over ninety percent of cancers are environmental and by detoxing our homes, we can start to decrease the cancer rates together.

Give us a few Fran-tastic future plans for you.

The show, Happily Divorced, is now being sold in Brazil so we are working on that. Once we wrap this season I’m going to go to Paris, which I love. On top of that, I plan to just keep enjoying my life and my friends. I am also hoping to find a new love soon, so I’m putting it out there in the universe.

For more information, see the Fran Drescher Official Website. Also, you can read about detoxing your home  on the Cancer Schmancer website.

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tv

TV Review: Arrow – Burned

If you haven’t seen the first episode in this two-parter, read our review before continuing.

In the first episode of this two-part story, Green Arrow got beaten by his nemesis. Six weeks later, Oliver is still nervous. Diggle tries to give the supportive-mentor talk, but it takes the death of a fireman to seal the deal. The fire-fighter in question is Laurel’s friend’s brother, and as a result, Laurel steals the Green Arrow’s phone from her dad to get in contact with him and ask him to investigate. She hands him the information that has been uncovered – that these deaths are no accident – and finds out that there is another opportunity to catch the murderer, which Diggle drags him to. Failing to kick his butt, he finds a tattoo and burn marks, which narrow down the search.

Armed with Laurel’s information, Oliver goes to a meeting with the fire marshal to find out more information about the killer, as it turns out he is an ex-fireman who ‘got killed’ in an inferno. During a charity event that Tommy arranges for the fire department, the killer, now known to be Garfield Lynns, burns the club that Oliver and Tommy have been building, in an attempt to kill the fire marshal, who was the reason that Garfield got caught in the inferno to begin with. Oliver escapes and changes into Green Arrow to confront Garfield, who commits suicide by walking into the fire. Everyone escapes, and ‘The Vigilante’ is called a hero. Meanwhile, Moira takes to her bedroom as a result of Walter’s disappearance, only to be shaken out of it by Thea; Tommy provokes debate with Laurel by asking for a drawer at her apartment; and Laurel and her father almost come to blows as she takes Green Arrow’s mobile from him, only for the Detective to give it back as he realises that Arrow is keeping her safe.

This is another stereotypical episode from the superhero genre – the protagonist doubts himself, and as a result needs a pep-talk from his sidekick to get through the next challenge. Whilst this takes place in a number of different forms, the theme breaks through the superhero storyline to Thea and Moira’s, even touching the dynamic between Laurel and her father. Its usage as a thematic device as opposed to a plot-point is very intriguing and unusual, and really highlights how different Arrow is to any other contemporary show currently airing.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that, yet again, DC Comics have their own private joke with the mention of Firefly, otherwise known as Garfield Lynns. The producers of Arrow must have done something particularly special to have been given such unprecedented access to the DC vaults, as Firefly does not appear in the Green Arrow series of comic books. It’s nice to see such an informed set of writers.

The semi-naked showings of Diggle and Oliver (including a bulge shot) are a well-deserved nod to the gay community. There are even hints of a homoerotic sub-plot, as Oliver walks away with a lingering smile. It’s not enough to be noticed by the general audience, but is definitely something fan fiction will doubtless start working at.

This episode relies on a very tired narrative in the superhero genre, but manages to make it seem new and fresh. This is something typical of the entire series so far, and each inventive twist makes us keen for more. What’s not so promising is the stasis of the characters; will the writers dare to be so challenging with reinventing them?

Arrow airs Monday evenings at 9pm on Sky One.

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tv

Episode Review: Miranda Season 3 – Brief Encounter

All too soon, we have come to the final episode of Miranda. We are treated to a finale that manages to deliver a solid half-hour of laughter, along with a lot of progress in the ever-shifting saga that is Miranda and Gary.

The story this week follows Miranda as she tries to cheer herself up after her botched attempt to tell Gary she loved him. Sadly, her pronouncement of love had fallen on deaf ears, and now that Michael out of the picture, Miranda finds herself sans-boyfriend and rolled up in the duvet-cocoon of despair – a feeling we can all relate to, at some point in our lives. Once again we find ourselves relating to our favourite queen of comedy, as she finds herself a single girl in a world that seems to punish her for not being paired up. We know it’s only really been a handful of episodes since we were introduced to Michael, but we got a glimpse of Miranda as a part of a couple. So to see her as her old self was quite sad, even when peppered with some good-natured humour. In an effort to try and live a Gary-free life, dear Miranda finds herself trying the avoid the object of her long-standing attraction, despite being surrounded by loving couples and the bleak prospect of her parents renewing her vows.

In an effort to try and avoid Gary, Miranda decides to actively try to pursue a life where she can comfortably go solo. Sadly, as she finds to her detriment, it is not so easy to escape the problems you leave at home and often finds herself being forced back home from her various escapades. At least she does this in time for us to check in on the continuing state of affairs with Penny’s party plans! In true spinster style, she acquires a lot of kittens and even has an amusing rejection in a hotel room with Stevie for good measure. Still, all the laughs that come don’t compare to the final revelation. Gary finally pursues our girl and is willing to make things more official. But his reluctance is still palpable and a dejected Miranda finds herself confused when Michael makes a sudden unexpected return with wedding bells on his mind. In a Miranda first, the spinster-for-life now has two men to pick from: the reliable and steady Michael, and the eternal crush Gary. Who will she pick?

As you would expect, it ends up being a bit of a cliffhanger, which leaves things wide open for all kinds of mayhem in a potential season four. But we were a bit sad to see that we got all the way to the end of the series again without any real resolution. That being said, the whole gang were here this week, delivering funny one liners throughout. Admittedly, it felt like less of an ensemble piece this week as it very much focused on Miranda’s love life once again. But nothing can stop us from chomping at the bit for a fourth season – and it better come quickly, because we cannot take the stress of this important Miranda decision (or Mirandecision, if you please).

We spent a lot of the episode identifying with Miranda’s desire to run away from all her problems in the wake of her most recent heartbreak; the same sense of connection the series derives most of the enjoyment from every week. It didn’t quite have us falling about with deep belly laughs, but the comedy all seems to come from the heart which might be even more valuable.

Altogether, the finale proved to be a solid episode, which has connected with the main protagonist beautifully. It may not have been the madcap adventure of previous episodes this season, but it was a fitting end to the season which has made us smile all the way through January. Who knows when Miranda will be back on our screens; whenever it is, be assured that we will be watching.

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tv

Episode Review: Arrow – Trust But Verify

Check out last week’s coverage for what happened previously

In this week’s installment, an armoured truck is robbed with tear gas and the drivers killed in the process. Oliver comes to the conclusion that it was ex-marine Ted Gaynor (Ben Browder – Farscape, Stargate SG-1), one of the names on ‘the list’. Diggle, however, quickly dismisses him as a suspect since he was Diggle’s commanding officer and saved his life in Afghanistan. Undeterred, Arrow tracks him down but Diggle gets in the way, causing them to fall out later when Oliver confronts him with the fact that although Gaynor may not have actually been present at the robbery, it was his security firm that was responsible.

The plot thickens when, as a result of Arrow stopping another robbery from taking place, Diggle is forced to assist in one. When he attempts to back out, Gaynor threatens to kill him. Obviously, Arrow saves the day and saves Diggle from getting killed. More context is supplied in this episode, Oliver confiding in Diggle about the trust issues in his history; a series of flashbacks interspersed throughout the episode gradually tells the tale of Oliver’s attempts to save save Yao Fei, his mentor, only for the very last one at the end of the episode to reveal that Yao Fei ended up betraying him. In other plot lines, Thea believes that her mother is cheating on Walter with Malcolm Merlyn, leading her to suspect that she had also done so previously with her father. This results in her going on a rampage which involves her taking a drug called ‘vertigo’, causing her to crash her car and get arrested for driving under the influence.

Well this is a turn-up for the books: the classic ‘how could he be evil?’ plot-thread. Although it is nice that they came up with a use for Blackhawk…

Arrow has relied on an unrevolutionary method of drawing concepts from the comicbook genre in order to carry the plot, making the series stand out by adapting pre-existing DC Comics characters in new and interesting ways. Although this is a commendable attribute, you would have thought there were a couple of more interesting tricks that the writers could have pulled out by now. We thought that the storyline involving Malcolm Merlyn was quite good, and that the New Year episode was excellent, but two episodes later and they appear to be dragging out the same plot devices. It is rather frustrating, and doesn’t inspire the greatest amount of confidence – if they are looking for a second season they are going to have to work on more original material than this.

Nevertheless, what they do work with is still good, and the action scenes are interesting and fun; Thea’s relapse also provided some interest in terms of entertainment value (why would you take a drug called ‘vertigo’ – who wants to be afraid of heights for a few hours?). The fact that she was arrested at the end was a positive message for any impressionable minds, so they deserve some kudos there.

Despite placing a heavier focus on Diggle’s role in the operation, this was a relatively disappointing episode in total. We want to see the game upped in the writing department, certainly if a second season has any chance of being commissioned.

You can catch Arrow on Mondays at 8pm on Sky One

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tv

As It Happened: The Big Reunion – Episode 1

It’s been touted for weeks; six acts who dominated the pop world at the turn of the century (allegedly so in some cases) reunited for a comeback gig. Can they rediscover their bond, can they still pull off the moves, can they (more importantly) actually hold a note after all this time? It was always going to be a little bit camp really, wasn’t it?


Natasha Hamilton is not happy.

The drama was palpable from the offset. Not only were we treated to several tearful members of B*witched wondering if they could operate as a group once again, but there was also a highly abridged summary of the history of Atomic Kitten that conveniently glossed over Kerry Katona’s early departure from the group just as fame was beginning to bite. Indeed, the section on Atomic Kitten is likely one to await with baited breath if the snippets of bandmates Liz McClarnon and Natasha Hamilton’s reactions to the return of their former fellow kitten are anything to be believed. A polite way of describing this might be ’mild consternation’. Oh, and the less said the better about 911 really believing their own hype.

In any case, the focus of the opening episode was a potted history of Liberty X and boy band 5ive, arguably the biggest coup of the reunion. In the case of the latter, the only real way to describe their experience is probably ‘dysfunctional’. From their initial highly-contrived formation through to their eventual burn-out, their story was dominated by mutual hatred and resentment, bullying, alcoholism, and drug use. What we had was the story of several young lads propelled into fame with nothing in common with each other, except for what appears to have been a pretty healthy (sic) mutual dislike and suspicion.

Nevertheless, what began as a pretty arrogantly conveyed story actually became strangely compelling, for all the wrong reasons. Leaving aside the rapidly trying stories of trashed hotel rooms and casual drug-taking, the real story here was the experience of youngest band member Sean whose eventual breakdown was the catalyst for the group falling apart at the height of its success, and just as 5ive were poised to ‘crack’ America. The finger of blame was squarely pointed at ‘J’, the eldest and most over-bearing of the group but who, it must be noted, is not involved in the reunion and therefore unable to refute the claims.

The other intriguing element of the story was the role of the then much less well-known Simon Cowell, mastermind behind the group, who unsurprisingly comes out of proceedings in a particularly bad light; a perfect example of this being his alledged reaction to the news of the band burning down a hotel room in Ireland during yet another one of the many ‘benders’ that were recounted. Cowell’s reaction was apparently that one couldn’t buy publicity as good as that. Reminiscences aside, the major dilemma facing 5ive was the fact that they were actually ’4our’; we were treated to a snippet of their auditions for a new member and yes, they’re already arguing.

Woven into the story of 5ive’s descent into testosterone-fuelled self destruction was the much more affecting and understated story of Liberty X, the ‘real’ winners of the Popstars series (no really, think about it). For those of us of a certain generation, (the likely demographic of the audience), this was a true trip down memory-lane to a pre-X Factor age when reality TV’s search for new popstars was actually worth watching and not a sad parody of itself.

Certainly more grounded than their counterparts in this episode, Liberty X are probably the classiest of the acts on offer here, and the story of their rise and fall is certainly equally compelling, from the intense interest surrounding their original (and virtually accidental) formation through to the smash hit ‘Just a Little’. It was certainly an interesting chronicle of an incredibly rapid rise, only to be followed by the slow waning of their popularity and their eventual dropping by their record label, only to be resigned for a comeback that Tony Lundon somewhat justifiably described as an ‘embarrassment’. Unlike the often off-putting narrative supplied by some members of 5ive, there was something genuine affecting about their story.

The real revelation of this week’s Big Reunion was the story of Michelle Heaton, admittedly the member of the group with the highest media profile for most of the wrong reasons. Not only did Michelle shed much of the ‘party girl’ image cultivated in the mid 2000s but she also delivered a painfully honest and absorbing narrative of her difficulties in the band, focussing on her weight issues and addiction to slimming pills, which culminated in her collapse and admission to hospital. Certainly, 5ive’s dillemma over finding a replacement band member (who is likely to need a great deal of fortitude to put up with them) paled into insignificance with the revelation of Michelle Heaton’s double maesectomy just prior to the reunion programme as part of her preventative cancer surgery. Even the most hard-hearted of viewers would probably have found it difficult to not feel sympathy, and some admiration for her.

Overall, The Big Reunion did not disappoint. After the drama of a somewhat overblown start, it proved quite illuminating even if what was presented was a rather sad story of disappointed dreams and vice-ridden self destruction. Yes, of course, the bands are making a bit too much of the implications of getting back together for the main performance; common sense should probably tell them that the 1990s/2000s ’band reforming’ gimmick has probably run its course and is unlikely to yield any permanence, although in fairness, Liberty X seemed more grounded in this respect.

It remains to be seen what drama the clearly strained reformation of Atomic Kitten and B*witched can supply in the weeks to come. Until then, feel free to enjoy a reminder of yesteryear below with 5ive and Liberty X.

Images courtesy of ITV2

The Big Reunion is on ITV2 at 9pm every Thursday

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tv

Episode Review: The Big Bang Theory – ‘The Fish Guts Displacement’ and ‘The Santa Simulation’

Missed out on what has happened so far? Check out our review

In ‘The Fish Guts Displacement’, Howard and Bernadette have dinner with her parents, which is suitably boring and tedious as Howard’s in-laws aren’t great conversationalists. After a while, the subject of Mr Rostenkowski’s fishing trip comes up, and both Bernadette and her mum think it is a good idea for Howard to go, but he backs out claiming that he and Bernadette have a ‘thing’, and she is wise to the ruse says that she apparently ‘cancelled’ it. Penny, as the closest thing to a fisherman, teaches Howard how to bait a hook with a worm and gut a fish, causing almost everyone to vomit. On the morning of the trip, Howard and Mr Rostenkowski realise they both don’t want to go and instead they visit the casino.

In other news, Amy has the flu and reminds Sheldon that as per their relationship agreement he has to look after her when she is sick. Sheldon quite innocently does the things that his mother did for him when sick – cold rag on the forehead, singing to her and rubbing VapoRub on her chest, unaware that he is stimulating her. When Bernadette visits, Amy confides in her that she is actually fine and will come clean – just after he gives her a bath. The next day, Sheldon is mad having rumbled her after the throat cultures he grew for her came back negative. Amy apologises but Sheldon wants to punish her. In the end, he spanks her, which she sets to R&B mood music because she enjoys it so much.

Last night’s episode, ‘The Santa Simulation’, sees Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, Howard and Stuart all set for an evening of ‘Dungeons and Dragons’, giving Penny, Bernadette and Amy a chance to have a girls’ night out. Leonard, as the Dungeon Master, has set out a Christmas-themed game to rescue Santa, which doesn’t sit well with Sheldon as he hates Christmas. Raj’s character gets killed off immediately so he joins the girls’ night. They attempt to find him a date at the club, but have no luck and eventually Raj tells Bernadette and Penny about the crush he had on each of them, leaving Amy out in the cold. Raj apologises, leading to a discussion on loneliness and awkwardness, which ironically culminates in him forming a small crush on Amy.

Meanwhile, during the course of the game Sheldon manages to keep the group alive by singing ‘Good King Wenceslas’ and playing ‘Jingle Bells’, on the bells. Just as they appear to be on the brink of rescuing Santa, Sheldon halts the game, revealing that as a child Santa didn’t grant him his wish of having his dead Granddad brought back to life. He leaves Stuart and Howard’s characters paralysed and Santa trapped in the cave. That night he has a nightmare where Santa gets his revenge.

These are both highly funny and original episodes of The Big Bang Theory, playing off the strengths of the personality traits of the lead characters. Despite Howard and his father-in-law being two very different individuals, they still manage to come to the same conclusion – ‘fishing bad’. In Amy’s case, she manages to win Raj’s affections effortlessly and in an incredibly funny way: by being herself. Even Sheldon’s revenge on Santa is on form, as his maniacal psychology takes over his rationality and social skills. These are essentially the same reasons we fell in love with The Big Bang Theory, except that now there are more characters.

We’ve pondered long and hard whether or not Amy, Bernadette, and Stuart, as additions to previous series’ regulars, add or detract from the show, as The Big Bang Theory was originally conceived as a bunch of geeks trying to interact with a normal girl who lived across the hall. As the series have gone on and the show has continued, it has become more of a commentary on how these characters interact with ‘normal’ day-to-day life. We think this is possibly why it pulls us in, as everybody knows people who would dress up as characters from video games, or play Dungeons and Dragons (and if you didn’t before, you do now) and society at large finds this intriguing. The fact that it is hilarious obviously helps too.

The only drawback to these characters is that some might find them offensive as the writers push the acceptability of relying on Raj’s ethnicity for laughs. We think they do so deftly, although jokes overtly relying on nationality, race, or sexual orientation may not be to everyone’s taste. Nevertheless, we have an office bet on the fact that Raj will ‘come out’ as gay by the time the number of seasons hits double figures (we use the term ‘come out’ loosely here). But then if they didn’t make a joke such as Penny demanding fifty dollars from Leonard straight after, we would be massively disappointed.

Overall the comedy in these episodes is topnotch, and the fact that Sheldon performed sexual acts on Amy without even realising is particularly hilarious.

You can catch The Big Bang Theory on E4 on Thursdays at 8pm,

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tv

Episode Review: Arrow – Vertigo

If you didn’t see last week’s episode check our review

In this week’s action-packed instalment, Thea meets with the Judge who wants to make her the poster-person for drug abuse in the city thanks to her drug-induced driving. Looking for a way to sort out the situation, Oliver seeks help from the police, and consequently the Russian Mob. They help him out and get him in contact with the owner-operator ‘The Count’. Of course, as the Green Arrow, Oliver is already aware of The Count and has been chasing down the drug runners to flush out a lead. The informant, however, is soon eliminated by The Count and Oliver’s chase ends in a drug deal involving The Count going horribly awry, ending in a bust-up with the police, and Oliver getting injected with the concentrated version of ‘Vertigo’, the substance that caused the drug runner to kill himself.

Disaster is averted as Oliver manages to get over the worst of it; despite being told by Diggle to stay put as he can’t see straight, Green Arrow leaps into action and takes out The Count’s protectors with just enough time to inject him with the same concentrated drug. Escaping safe and sound, Oliver meets up with his IT help, whom he deceived in order to secure the location of The Count. She reveals that Walter asked her to investigate something that she believes led to his disappearance – a version of his own list that Walter took from his mother.

In addition to this, a series of flashbacks throughout the episode also reveal that Oliver’s mentor from the island, who showed himself to be working against him, actually saved his life by submitting him to a gladiatorial contest which Oliver would lose; this was done with the intention of knocking him unconscious so that he could revive him later and facilitate his escape.

This is an incredibly exciting episode of Arrow as Thea’s fate hangs in the balance, and clearly fuels Oliver into taking somewhat suspect actions to ensure that she has a shot at avoiding prison. It would be fantastic to go into a minute-by-minute account of our approximation of what happened, but there is simply too much going on to do everything justice.

The role that Laurel plays in this episode is instrumental, and it highlights a lot more than just what has happened with Thea, actually leading to an exposition of character that is not usually as forthcoming in TV dramas (at least not in the first season). This demonstrates the richness of the writing.

The Count is hugely influenced by ‘Scarecrow’, which is annoying to anyone who can place the link between Arrow and Batman, through the DC Comics universe or not. While the character may have been developed as a Scarecrow knock-off, it is a lazy way to play the character – the original comic book version was far more subtle in his manipulation of those around him and, while we are pleased that the original is being paid homage to, this is a bit off-base to be applauded.

This is a jam-packed episode, which seems to be making up for slower-paced previous instalments. This makes it difficult to adequately deconstruct, and means that the phrase ‘you have to see it’ is most definitely applicable. Suffice it to say that this episode is awesome – the issues raised here are largley niggling doubts that would be disregarded by the majority of reviewers, unless of course it is a pre-existing interest in the comics that has driven you tune in.

You can catch Arrow on SkyOne at 8pm on Mondays

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tv

You Should Know About… Sunset Beach

Soap operas are great, aren’t they? We’ve all watched one at some point or another, whether in secret shame or proudly using them as a springboard for nattering with all and sundry. UK soaps tend to be variations on a theme. You’ve got doom and gloom with a Cockney accent, doom and gloom with a Northern accent, or doom and gloom in a doctor’s surgery. Of course, if you want to mix it up there’s always vacuous teenagers bitching and humping each other in interchangeable pairs (with occasional doom and gloom, and a Northern accent).

I myself was always partial to soaps filmed in sunnier climes. I’m sure the fact that ripped and shirtless hunks would invariably appear in scenes reciting irrelevant words with their perfect teeth, hair and abs, had no sway in the matter. Definitely not.

In my humble and entirely correct opinion, the soap to end all soaps was the glorious Sunset Beach. Its star may not have burned for very long, but it burned oh so brightly. Running from January 1997 until December 1999, and produced by Aaron Spelling – creator of hit shows Charlie’s Angels and Beverley Hills: 90210 – it was everything a soap should be: pure unadulterated and slightly bonkers escapism. Not to mention hunks on beaches and an amazing theme tune driven by a sultry saxophone.

Of course, being a Spelling production, there was the mandatory use of one of his spawn in the cast. On Sunset Beach it was the turn of Tori’s brother, the unbelievably more wooden Randy Spelling. Aside from this observation occasionally making me wonder if Aaron Spelling wasn’t in fact an Ent pretending to be human, somehow the occasional ropey acting skills of some of the cast merely added to the soap’s charm. It also never took itself too seriously. Seeming self-aware and revelling in its sporadically demented plot twists only served to increase its appeal.

Sunset Beach started in a fairly standard fashion. On their wedding day, small town girl Meg Cummings walked in on her fiancé cheating on her. She used this as an impetus to leave Kansas and seek out the mysterious SB with whom she’d been chatting – just chatting – on the Internet. Hey, it was 1997. Cue lots of drawn-out scenes where Meg meets SB, in the form of Ben Evans, but doesn’t realise he’s SB. Meg and Ben’s love story became one of the main, over-arching stories of the soap.

However, one of the jewels in the Sunset Beach crown was, without doubt, Annie Douglas. A scheming, soliloquy-loving, serial daydreamer, Annie was often the meddlesome element to many of the show’s story lines, including getting between her BFF Ben and Meg. Her daydreams became one of the show’s many reasons for watching. Hysterical and off the wall, they would see Annie occasionally imagining her schemes coming to fruition, but would frequently reference or parody popular shows of the time, such as Jerry Springer. The legendary talk-show host even made a handful of guest appearances on the show, taking part in these daydream skits as an alternate version of himself.

The show managed to cram a lot into its glorious three year run. There were the usual love triangle scenarios, except in the Sunset Beach universe these involved a priest, a back-from-the-dead wife, black magic and a turkey-baster pregnancy. Not all in one triangle, obviously, because that would have been wholly ridiculous.

 

Promotional poster for the Terror Island plot line

In addition to the more pedestrian soap plots, Sunset Beach wasn’t afraid of playing out more extreme and deranged storylines. Undoubtedly cashing in on the popularity of the slasher horror movies of the late 90s, the soap had a masked killer roaming an island that several of the cast became stranded on. Said killer turned out to be the ‘evil twin’ of one of the show’s main characters. No, seriously. Actual evil twin serial killer.

In the latter part of its run, there were even supernatural elements introduced in the form of dark magic expert Mrs Moreau and the cursed Rosario jewels plot line. Yes, you read that correctly: cursed jewels. If these stolen jewels were not returned to the local Madonna statue by midnight on Christmas Eve, then everyone who had come into contact with them would die. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think they’ve ever found any life-threatening cursed jewels in the basement of either the Queen Vic or Rover’s Return.

Best. Soap. Ever.

Some dedicated and kindly soul is in the process of uploading the entirety of Sunset Beach to YouTube. If you want to educate yourself or relive the fun, then you can start watching it from the very beginning.