Sunday, August 07, 2011

Oskar Linnros changes direction...

In an interview in Allt om Stockholm, one of our favourite Swedish artists Oskar Linnros has revealed that he plans a change of direction in his music and he will no longer be playing the soul-pop style of music which has brought him so much success since 2010. Oskar will play a concert at Gröna Lund on 01.09.2011 and this will bring the first phase of his solo career to an end. Oskar said in the interview that he doesn't want to reveal what he will be doing next musically, and he doesn't know when he will release any new music although he is writing all the time - but that he will be changing direction away from soul-pop.

I'm looking forward to hearing what he does next, as he is an extremely talented artist, but I can't help feeling a little sad that he is ditching his current musical style, which is both credible and accessible. Although I'm sure that Oskar will not let us down!

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: July 2011

My July viewing was totally dominated by the Tour de France, which was totally fabulous this year from beginning to end, spoiled (IMHO) only by the eventual winner. However one thing we can all agree on is the brilliant coverage of the race by ITV4. Their established team of Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen, Chris Boardman, Ned Boulting and Gary Imlach is knowledgeable and authoritative, whilst always making the race as accessible as possible to the viewing public. The only gripe I have is Phil's Cadel Evans obsession, but again that's just me I guess. It's a very rare occasion where I have a reason to praise ITV but I will say well done ITV4! And thank you for another month of superb broadcasts and also the daily iTunes podcasts too!

Firstly, it’s not big or clever, but we’re still enjoying "ODD ONE IN" (ITV1, Saturdays) which is perfect viewing for these summer Saturday nights with its (increasingly bonkers) identity parades!

I always enjoy music documentaries, especially as there is so little music on TV now. "SECRETS OF THE POP SONG" (BBC2, Saturdays) was a short series taking a look at how three types of songs are written - the ballad, the breakthrough hit and the anthem - and provided a very interesting insight into the songwriting process with hit songwriter Guy Chambers collaborating with three different artists. Unfortunately I don’t remember the breakthrough hit or the anthem, but the Rufus Wainwright ballad collaboration "World War III" with its "don’t bore us, get to the chorus" hookline (that line always makes me think of Roxette) is still stuck in my brain. And I don’t even like ballads, but that’s the power of Rufus!

We’re still catching up with a recorded backlog of episodes of "THE RESTAURANT INSPECTOR" (Channel 5, Mondays) which is just like The Hotel Inspector only with a bloke, and with restaurants instead of hotels. Yes, the formula on all these shows has gone stale with little new to offer, but we continue to lap it up.

It’s like a more refined, British equivalent of "RAMSAY’S KITCHEN NIGHTMARES USA" which is into its umpteenth series and continues to follow the same format: restaurant in trouble, Gordon Ramsay shouts a lot, people cry, Gordon Ramsay shouts a lot, restaurant gets a makeover, success/failure/success, people cry again (with happiness this time) and chef Ramsay rides off into the sunset having helped yet another struggling restaurant back to life. Voila!

"CORONATION STREET" (ITV) is going through a bad patch, I think we’ll all agree. Even those of us who have watched the show since the year dot are now seriously considering reaching for the off button, with one sensationalist storyline after the other. Not so long ago, former EastEnders actress Michelle Collins, who played Cindy Beale for many years, was brought into Corrie as new Rovers manager Stella. The press was full of controversy about a southerner playing a northerner, and the criticism regarding her accent soon spun out of control, to the point that she is now unfairly being made a scapegoat for the show's decline. It's not her fault, but the fault of the producer and script/storyline team who have taken the show further and further away from what we used to know and love, and which has lost so much of its trademark humour and likeable characters. The decline of Corrie was brought into focus even more by "THE CORRIE YEARS" (ITV, Wednesdays) a clip show which took a look back at the most headline-grabbing and influential stories over the years. Or it should have been called "The Barlow Years" as it seemed to focus on the adventures of Ken and Deirdre and their offspring. What was controversial and unique back then, now seems to be a weekly occurrence and the show is all the worse for it. Please bring back the humour and ditch the disasters and serial killers - thank you!

Food is, of course, the subject of "THE GOOD COOK" (BBC1, Fridays) which I inevitably forget to watch every week and have to watch on BBC iPlayer instead. Anyway, it does what it says on the tin (makes me think of Jim from The Apprentice) and delivers some nice recipes, beautifully filmed with a very nice musical soundtrack.

Being on this little blog-break meant that I hadn’t written about the outcome of the latest series of "THE APPRENTICE" (BBC1, Wednesdays) so I’d better mention it now....geeky inventor and all-round nice guy Tom Pellereau upset the odds and walked away with Lord Sugar’s £250,000 investment, when everyone expected hot favourite Helen Milligan to win. Maybe if the show had stuck to the old format, Helen would have run away with it, but she was let down by her business idea and stood no chance against an already established inventor, which was just perfect for Lord Sugar. Anyway well done Tom! Proof that the nice guys don’t always finish last.

"THE LIFE OF MUHAMMAD" (BBC2, Mondays) was a landmark documentary series, which was informative and respectfully presented by Rageh Omaar, with knowledgeable input from various Islamic scholars which I found very enlightening, as I knew nothing about the origin of Islam nor the Prophet himself. It was an informative change from the usual coverage of the Islamic world which we usually see on TV, and was also beautifully filmed too.

Season 8 of "ONE TREE HILL" (E4, Mondays) continues, and I’m still of the view that its best days are behind it. Too much time spent on Quinn and Clay, not enough of the original cast and I’m also missing some of the older characters/parents too. Even evil Dan....

Teatimes are just not the same anymore, if you live in Scotland. For the last couple of years, "THE HOUR" has been required telly viewing in the ‘captive audience’ 5-6pm slot. Usually for all the wrong reasons of course, and the daily "what is she wearing??" analysis of presenter Michelle McManus' fashion sense has become a sport of almost Olympic proportions in this part of the world. Yes if you ever wondered what has happened to the former Pop Idol 2 winner, she has become a TV presenter. Anyway the decision was made to end the show in its Monday-to-Friday format. It was great fun to knock The Hour, and I never thought I'd say this, but I'm missing STV’s attempt at the daytime TV format with chat, food and drink, fashion, filmed items and the occasional acoustic number from a musical guest. But wait...The Hour will be resurrected in the autumn in a once-weekly prime time slot. And guess what? Michelle McManus will still be the presenter, so we will once again be able to sit in judgement of all those fashion faux pas :) Hope you get a better stylist this time round Michelle - you deserve it!!

Still on the subject of local TV, BBC4 took the opportunity to take a look back at the golden days of "REGIONAL TV - LIFE THROUGH A LOCAL LENS" when the TV regions got the opportunity to make their own low-budget but occasionally legendary programming.

Finally season 5 of "DEXTER" (FX, Fridays) continues....however I’m not 100% impressed with the emphasis on the Lumen character this time, maybe that’s to do with the fact I’m not really keen on Julia Stiles and might have preferred another actress in the role.

All of the above pictures come from various internet media sources too numerous to mention. If you wish any of these pictures to be removed please contact me and I will do so.

Review: "Midnight Tango" - King's Theatre, Glasgow 30th July 2011

It was a sizzling Saturday afternoon in Glasgow. Outside, the temperature continued to rise (yes, believe it or not, we’d had a couple of weeks of very warm weather!) And inside the King’s Theatre we could have done with some air conditioning as the heat became a bit unbearable at times. Then, before the show even started, we were all evacuated after a fire alert! Happily, all was well and we were allowed back into the theatre, with the show’s start time only delayed by 10 minutes.

And it was about to get hotter when Midnight Tango took to the stage!

A few years ago you couldn’t have imagined a tango show selling out theatres all over the country. But now, when you have the pulling power of Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace, the Argentine Tango champions who have wowed us over the years on Strictly Come Dancing, then we shouldn’t be surprised. It was clear that most of the (mainly middle-aged) audience were here to see Vincent and Flavia, but were appreciative of all the performers involved and there was a standing ovation at the end.

Midnight Tango is set in a bar in downtown Buenos Aires, where the natives come to drink and live the passion of the tango, to the sounds of the tango band. In this case, Tango Siempre and singer Gullermo Rozenthuler, a very talented collective. I loved the way they were part of the show, rather than being hidden away beneath the stage. Their presence on stage added to the authenticity of the show. The musical soundtrack is indeed very authentic, with some classic old tango favourites mixed with new material.

The supporting dancers are all Argentine tango specialists, even if they don’t quite have the same speed or sparkle as the two stars. But they certainly create a very busy environment on stage and you even miss some of the dancing as there is so much going on!

There is also a sub-plot involving the bar owners, played by Teddy Kempner and Tricia Deighton. At the beginning, the romance has clearly gone out of their relationship - but it is re-ignited through the power of tango and they get their chance to shine with their own tango number. They were very popular with the audience too, as they provided some comedy moments away from the drama of the tango.

The main plot is basically boy meets girl, they fall in love, along comes the bad guy and then there’s a TANGO FIGHT!! Anyway boy tries to win back girl from the bad guy and you can guess the rest.

It’s Vincent and Flavia’s show of course - they get the best costumes for example - and when they dance together they convey all the passion of the Argentine tango whilst also connecting with the audience. And no offence Vincent, but the absolute star of the show is Flavia. She is an amazing dancer with terrific technical ability, and she looks amazing too. And I won’t spoil it for those who have still to see Midnight Tango, but she also reveals another very surprising talent later in the show!

Midnight Tango is a high-quality product with incredible dancing from beginning to end - which you’d expect when one of the producers is none other than Arlene Phillips - and with a few tweaks and some development, it could potentially develop into a theatrical phenomenon which could do for Argentine tango what Riverdance did for Irish dancing. However it wouldn’t work in massive arenas as the intimacy of the show requires a smaller stage, and the King’s Theatre was a perfect venue. Even if it was too hot!
Midnight Tango has been on a nationwide tour which ended with the Glasgow evening performance on 30th July. The next stop will be London’s West End where the show will be based from January to March 2012, before embarking on yet another nationwide tour. And the good news is that there’s going to be a DVD of the show released on 14th November so that’s one for the Christmas list this year!

(the above picture is courtesy of

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Retro Saturday: Cock Robin

Either my search facility is not working properly, or I can't believe I haven't featured this 80s pop classic on the blog before now.

1986 was a very strange year for me, which began with a back injury which developed into a debilitating disease and I couldn't do very much apart from listen to music...happily I recovered by May/June though.

One of the songs which I always remember from those 'sick times' was "The Promise You Made" by Cock Robin. It became a massive European hit and also made an impact on the British charts. Even now, 25 years on, it still sounds pretty fabulous.

Lead singer Peter Kingsbery went on to have a big hit in France with "Only The Very Best" from the Starmania soundtrack.

Retro Saturday: Flesh

Another 80s rarity which continues to haunt me...a soulful delight by Flesh, entitled "You Can't Help (Sentimental Sunday)" which at the time screamed hit record, but like so many other great pop wasn't.

Retro Saturday: The Motors

So many destinations, faces going to so many places where the weather is much better....a very topical tune for holiday season I think you will agree!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Zelmerholt is over :(

I just had to interrupt my blogging break with some sad news from Swedish celeb-land today.

Our favourite Swedish pop couple (apart from Vincent and Agnes of course) - Måns Zelmerlöw and Marie Serneholt - have split up. According to Expressen and Aftonbladet the couple's split is amicable and they will remain friends.

Above: M & M in happier times (picture courtesy of

Whilst we're on the subject of Måns, the cynic in me felt that it would only be a matter of time before the Swedish tabloids started their usual carry-on about Allsång, and inevitably, that time has arrived. Viewing figures are dropping, which is usually expected during the hot summer nights, when people have better things to do than watch TV, and then they rise again. But it's not happening this time, and SVT are trying to find a reason...