Hmmmm. When I was a kid there was a TV series called the Banana Splits. It had various 'wacky' characters, who were all blokes in silly dog costumes, with names like Bungo and Fleagle. I haven't seen it for decades, but if I ever did, I'm sure it would look woeful.
The thing is, when this series ended back in the mid 70s, I almost felt like I'd lost a relative. You know the feeling you get when you finish a book you've really got into -- it's like an emptiness that suddenly these characters have gone from your life. That's rather how I felt at the end of the first series of 'Ashes To Ashes' tonight. Never has a programme relied more on it's characters and less on it's plotline.
The final episode tied up no loose ends whatsoever. OK Alex's dad masterminded the carbomb that killed him and his wife, and was apparently intended to kill Alex too. But she was unable to stop the event happening. Which is fair enough, as the first law of time travel (probably) states that you can't change the past, otherwise you'll endanger the future (witness a particularly memorable episode of the Simpsons when Homer alters the future by squashing a bug in the Jurassic.) But then Alex contravenes the second law of time travel, which states that you cannot meet yourself.
And Alex remains rooted in 1981, still unable to be there for her daughter's birthday in 2008, while Gene, supposedly a detective, continues to not ask any pertinent questions whatsoever of our heroine. Where did you come from? Why are you always talking about the future? And why have you only got two outfits?
Even more bizarrely, Gene & Alex have still failed to get jiggy, despite the first rule of TV drama that you must hop into bed within 12 hours of meeting.
So it's all very mysterious. But I just can't help watching.
The character of Gene Hunt is so hilariously likeable that a series of him painting his house would top the ratings. Keely Hawes may not be Oscar-winning material, but her portrayal of Alex Drake is strangely compelling in it's doe-eyed innocence. And the supporting cast are absolute gems, providing some great one-liners; 'how dare a poofter (Tom Robinson) sing a song about cars -- that's a man thing'.
At it's heart, this drama is entirely character driven -- people watch to see Hunt & Drake's chemistry, to hear Hunt say all the stuff we've always wanted to and to guffaw at the rampant homophobia and sexism on display from the finest police force 1981 can offer.
A second series has been commissioned for 2009 and personally I'm looking forward to it.
Here it is: the precise moment when Jimmy Nesbitt, Brian Kennedy, Karen Rush, olivia Nash & some other bloke all got to share a stage with my daughter. Their claim to fame occurred during the finale of 'Glinda's Glitter Ball', the final show in Belfast's Lyric Theatre.
What an honour for these celebrities, and one they can treasure for years to come.
Following on from the surprise TV hit series 'Life On Mars', the BBC decided to create a follow-up, set in 1981, complete with the best soundtrack in the world!
'Ashes To Ashes' may have lost Sam Tyler, but has replaced him with the foxy Alexandra Drake, a tempting foil for the ever un-PC Gene Hunt. This time round, Gene gets to do handbrake turns in a smart red Audi, make leering remarks about Drake's bum and still collar the odd villain, despite having possibly the most inept cop duo since the Naked Gun helping him out.
OK so as a police drama it barely makes it out of the starting blocks, but hey who cares -- just listen to that soundtrack! Tubeway Army's 'Are 'Friends' Electric?', Simple Minds 'I Travel', Ultravox 'Vienna', Roxy Music, Soft Cell, Human League, XTC....I mean come on!
Will Alex make it back to 2008 and discover who shot her? Will Gene get her in the sack first? Can she save her snooty mum from getting blown up? Who cares? With music like this accompanying, the series can go on for 50 years with my full permission.
Last year Gary Numan embarked on a small 'Telekon Tour', playing all the songs from the album plus associated B-Sides. Unfortunately this tour didn't include Belfast or Dublin. This time round though, with 'Replicas' getting the same treatment, we were in luck, and Numan sold out the 'Spring and Airbrake' in Belfast's Ormeau Avenue.
I had previously seen the great man live for the first time in 2001 on the 'Pure' tour, when he played the Limelight, next door to last night's venue. That had been a superb show, if a little heavier than many had expected. But this tour promised more of a return to his electro roots and has subsequently generated quite a buzz, with many shows selling out quickly.
I went with a couple of friends, one who had been a Numan fan for nearly 30 years, but had never seen him play live. We queued outside for about 15 minutes despite arriving slightly late. The crowd were, as you might expect, a diverse mixture of young goths, middle-aged blokes and curious students. The venue could best be described as 'cosy', with an alarmingly small stage area.
The support band came on almost immediately. Fronted by a girl who looked rather like a young Saffron from Republica, they were a three piece who ran through a compotent if unremarkable set to polite applause. The hall was barely half full at this stage, but it was soon evident that everyone had been hanging around in the foyer and by the time the man himself took the stage at 9.40, there was something approaching a crush.
Numan's early 80s light shows are legendary and despite the 'compact and bijou' stage area, the light show was really quite impressive. Numan strode on stage with the band and launched straight into 'Replicas'. The crowd were well up for it, chanting 'Numan! Numan!' between songs, as one classic after another filled the room.
The original 'Replicas' songs were interspersed with the 'out-take' tracks on the 20th anniversary remastered CD, and mighty fine many of them were. My personal favourite is 'We Have A Technical', a track featuring the intro of what later became 'I Die You Die' and was even covered by Blur's Damon Albarn for the tribute album. Also present were the superb B-Sides 'We Are So Fragile' and 'Do You Need The Service'. The biggest roar of the night seemed to be for 'Down In The Park', still an intensely dark, claustrophobic track all these years later.
Numan has never been one to deliver speeches between tracks, and tonight was no exception. Apart from the odd 'thank you', his only spoken contribution was when he retook the stage, declaring that; 'we've done all the Replicas songs -- do you want something else?' Yes we did, so we were treated to 'Cars', 'Everyday I Die' and a particularly intense rendering of 'A Prayer For The Unborn', possibly the best performance of the night in my opinion.
The others I was with had recently been to see Queens Of The Stone Age and Smashing Pumpkins, both in the Kings Hall, and complained about the terrible sound quality, something which plagued the venue back in the 80s. Thankfully there was no such problem with Numan, the smaller venue being a major advantage.
The show was absolutely fantastic, possibly the best I've ever been to, and we're definitely up for the next tour.
Do you like what I did with the name of the restaurant there? Very clever. Or not. Anyway, since it was mother's day and I'd heard good reports about Mourne Seafood in Dundrum, near Newcastle, I thought I'd push the boat out (there I'm at it again-such talent).
I'd booked a table for four and we were shown in. The place looked a trifle decrepit, though I assumed this was the 'rustic' look they were going for. The restaurant was quite small and the tables a little too close to each other, resulting in quite a high noise level. We ordered drinks -- a couple of cokes and a bottle of sparkling water. We'd poured out two glasses before we realised that it was still water rather than sparkling. Not a great start.
Talking of starters, two of us went for these, while B wanted a dessert so he gave it a miss. C ordered the kids meal of sausage and chips which rather inconveniently arrived with the starters. I had the toasted scallops with side salad and H went for the seafood chowder. Both were perfectly serviceable, but nothing special.
Having waited quite a while for the starters, we had another long wait for the mains. I visited the 'restroom', which was apparently unheated. C continued to struggle through her kids meal. Not surprising really as the chips were so hard I nearly lost a filling when I tried one and the sausages were basic at best. Very poor indeed for £4.95.
The main courses were a revelation, though not unfortunately a good one. B had ordered a steak, which he is something of a specialist in. He pronounced it to be the fattiest steak he had ever been served, together with more of the highly unappetising chips and no vegetables. H had the seabass fillets, which were served frugally, to say the least. Two small servings on a large plate was just a joke. At least my hake steak was a decent portion, even after removing 1000 bones, and it was nice tasty fish, though not as nice as I'd had in the Seasalt in Newcastle the previous year (for about half the price).
B ordered his dessert from a passing waiter while I was still eating, as we'd already been there nearly two hours and wanted to get going. Fifteen minutes later as the mains plates were being cleared, it still hadn't arrived, and he had to order again.
At least the chocolate cheesecake he had was worth the wait. He awarded it 9 out of 10 and didn't offer any of us a taste, so that was a thumbs up for the chef.
We had to ask for the bill twice, and it came to a hefty £65.50 for two starters, a dessert, three mains, a kids meal and a few soft drinks.
All in all, it was a case of 'never again.' I'd definitely recommend Frenchies in Clough or the Seasalt in Newcastle over this place.