Archive for July, 2009

Last Of The Summer Wine

Posted in Ramblings, Sites of Interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2009 by Andrew T. Smith


To break up the silence for you, here is another repost. This was originally written – overwritten perhaps – in response to this article from The Guardian. I care too much to be healthy:

At twenty-two years old, I don’t really like being tarred with the brush this sentence yields:

“If younger viewers think of it at all, they do so with derision.”

I’ve enjoyed Last of the Summer Wine on and off since I was a young child who looked forward to the adventures of Clegg, Compo and Foggy, and who looked to the show as a beacon of fun in an otherwise dreary Sunday schedule consisting of Songs of Praise and Antiques Roadshow.

As I’ve grown older I’ve gladly been able to look back at previous eras the series and appreciate it at it’s best. The first several series are bleak, darkly comic and, at times, brilliant. Three old men talk, try to make sense of what they have done with their lives and ponder their own mortality. Nowhere is this better handled than in the TV film Getting Sam Home – a really neglected entry in the canon of British television comedy.

All this being said, I am much less a fan of the show in it’s present form. Too often now do episodes feel like retreads of earlier situations and characters recently added to the line-up lack the depth that memorable characterisations, like Norah Batty of Norman Clegg, possess.

Still, as recently as 2000, Clarke was capable of moving tragicomedy in episodes in which the characters bid farewell to the popular Compo. Last year’s clip show, in which characters once again recalled the scruffy one, demonstrated to me that the writer still has it in him to produce something special when he puts his pen to the right kind of story. Occasional flashes of the old magic still shine through in almost every script. It may only be a scene or line here and there but to me it’s still worth it.

With the passing of Kathy Staff this year, Last of the Summer Wine once again faces a regular problem; how to continue on with a frail and elderly cast and how to explain the sudden absences of old friends. It isn’t enough to simply say Norah has gone to live in Austrailia; the character deserves more than that, as do a legion of dedicated viewers.

Last of the Summer Wine was at its best when dealing with the turning of the earth, the passing of time and the memories of youth, and deserves a chance to go out with dignity – Perhaps a final feature-length episode that eschews broad pratfalls in favour of the low key musings of yesteryear. Sadly though, I don’t see this happening.


On Your Marx, Get Set, Stall!

Posted in Marx, Marx Brothers, Ramblings, Sites of Interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2009 by Andrew T. Smith

Recently, Jerry Beck posted this promotional image for an aborted Marx Brothers cartoon series over at the excellent Cartoon Brew. A Marx Brothers cartoon seems a slightly stranger prospect than some of the other comedy teams who made it into animated form; Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy and The Three Stooges were all more child-friendly than the Marxes. Strip the brothers of their more abrasive, adult humour and you’re not left with too much for Groucho and Chico to do. Harpo on the other hand, would have made a brilliant cartoon character!

The ad was printed in a 1966 which means the finished product would have been somewhat of a frankenstine job; Chico died in 1961, Harpo followed in 1964 and would Groucho, who was still around and active, even have wanted to lend his voice talents alongside actors imitating his brothers. If not, it’s hard to imagine anyone being able to fill his shoes.

Hundreds of projects like these were attempted, and stalled during the 60s and 70s, one that immediately springs to mind is the The Bickersons. The interesting part about the above image though, is that it offers screenings to interested customers. This would imply that a pilot had been produced; I’d love to see that turn up! 

In light of this projects absence  here are two great vintage cartoons, one from Disney, one from Warner, that feature brilliant caricatures of the brothers amongst others.

Brian Wilson at The Sage Gateshead 12/07/09

Posted in Ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 21, 2009 by Andrew T. Smith

brian wilson

I originally wrote this review for The Crack magazine but someone beat me to it this time. Hope you like.

Songs new and old pleased fans at The Sage during an excellent performance by  king of the beach, Brian Wilson. The aged Beach Boy was on fine form, his vocals hampered only slightly by a sound mix that threatened to overwhelm his words with a large backing group. Luckily, the mix was much improved during a second set that brought forward old favourites like ‘Good Vibrations’ and ‘Barbara Ann’ as well as choice cuts from the solo catalogue.  Ironically, this expansive and superbly arranged band really helped to make the event as special as it was. From keyboard to bass and percussion to, joy of joys, theramin, all the performers gave it their all and the overall feeling that radiated from the stage was one of joy and love. 


For an audience attending the concert of an ex band member gone solo, the danger is always that, despite whatever quality of music on offer, they will be left with a longing for the real group. Wilson, though, has a legend and mystique all of his own and, aided by some superb backing singers, one never got the impression that a fuller Beach Boys line up was ever missed.


Unlike some of his contemporaries, and in spite of his past personal problems, Wilson still exudes the innocence with which such hits as ‘God Only Knows’ and ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’. The man also, above anything, represents an America in its prime. With his recently troubled nation now speaking in terms of hope and change, the warm reception for Wilson’s brand of peaceful optimism at The Sage seems fitting.

Submitted For Your Approval

Posted in Ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2009 by Andrew T. Smith


I’ve been sitting on this exciting development for a little while now, so it is a great pleasure to make the following news properly public. I will be attending the annual Rod Serling Conference in Ithaca, N.Y. this year – as a guest speaker!

Earlier this year I submitted an abstract in response to a call for papers casting a fresh light upon Serling, the famed television playwright and Twilight Zone creator. Having forgotten all about my entry in the months following my submission I was delighted to receive an email telling me I had been invited over to present my work. I only hope my final lecture, entitled Second Chances: Rod Serling, Redrafting and Adaptation, can to justice to a man whose work I come to respect more with each new paragraph I read on him and each new product of his imagination I experience. To add to the considerable pressure of delivering my paper to a conference full of academics, this year marks the 50th Anniversary of The Twilight Zone – a pretty big deal in and of itself.

Still, I can’t let my paper be influenced by my own sense of awe surrounding Serling’s work and legacy. If anything I am to attempt to humanise the man by looking into his self-criticism and misgivings over his own work.

The conference is held on October 2-3 2009 and I encourage anyone who might be around the NY state area to at least check out the website detailing events here.

Now, to get writing!