Friday, 30 March 2012

Top 5 TV Theme Tunes sung by Dennis Waterman

I got into a discussion on Twitter several weeks ago about Dennis Waterman sung theme tunes. This was pre-RulaMadeMeHitHerGate, clearly any discussion about Mr Waterman's activities will now be bound by some serious brow furrowing. Still, I've spent a bit of time writing this top five and it seems a pity to let it go to waste.

Waterman's propensity to sing the theme tunes of shows he was in was one of the better regular sketches on Little Britain. I still have to suppress the urge not to chuckle every time I see the opening titles of New Tricks (one of the few programmes that Mrs Top Five and I both enjoy - a worrying sign that maybe we're getting on a bit now).

Anyway, I began to wonder if Dennis had recorded more that five theme tunes. If he had that would be far too good an opportunity to miss I felt. Well, it turns out ... he did four. This is disappointing for someone looking to base a top five on the subject. However, I didn't get to publish a top five a week every Friday without having one or two tricks* up my sleeve so without further ado ...

* This is another way of saying I cheat occasionally.

Thanks to www.Minder.org for some of the details.

1. Minder – Classic 80s comedy about the dodgy dealings of Arthur Daley and his put upon bodyguard for hire. Minder ran from 1979 until 1994 (though Waterman left in 1989). This has to be Dennis' magnum opus. Clearly it was a formula television producers were keen to reuse.



2. New Tricks – Ridiculously catchy theme to the BBC comedy drama about an eccentric group of ex-policemen brought together to solve unsolved crimes. Currently up to 8 series and still going strong.



3. Stay Lucky – Comedy drama about a small-time gangster Thomas Gynn on the run from London who discovers a new life up North in Yorkshire. Meeting widowed, self sufficient businesswoman Sally Hardcastle after her car breaks down on the motorway. Amazingly this ran for 4 series.

The embedded video takes some two and a half minutes to get to the theme tune so if you'd rather cut to the chase this link should start you at the beginning.



4. On The Up – Short lived sitcom in which Waterman plays Tony Carpenter, a self-made millionaire who turned his South London minicab firm into a successful chauffeur-driven car service. It also featured Sam Kelly as Tony's long-term friend and personal chauffeur and Joan Sims as his cook Mrs Wembley.


I couldn't find a video of this one so here's that Little Britain sketch instead;


5. What We Gonna Get 'er Indoors – In 1983, Dennis Waterman & George Cole capitalised on Minder's success with a Christmas single. Both sides were sung in the characters of Terry McCann and Arthur Daley. Not really a theme tune then but surely worth including to ensure I didn't have to consign this topic to the list of abandoned Top Fives that lurks in the darkest corners of my shed.


Minder.org explains that the record reached number 21, and spent a total of 5 weeks on the UK pop chart. They also provide this link to an mp3 of the a-side (I'm sure you'll want your own copy).

Here's a link to What We Gonna Get 'er Indoors on YouTube and the video below is the b-side "Quids & Quavers".



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Friday, 23 March 2012

Top 5 Meeting Notes

My job requires that I attend a lot of meetings. These have a habit of lasting longer than I can possibly maintain my concentration for. I take copious notes, I drink tea, I chew gum but, after a while, I will inevitably begin to doodle. You can imagine my delight when I came across these examples of Megan Ganz's meeting doodles. They appeal to my sense of aesthetics and my OCD tendencies. Megan is a comedy writer for cult US sitcom “Community”. I’ve not seen the show (I'm not even sure if it’s reached the UK yet) but I love these mini works of art and they make me want to watch it. They also make me want to try harder with my meeting doodles.

1. 12.06.11


2. 11.14.11


3. 07.16.11


4. 10.27.11


5. 11.13.11


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Friday, 16 March 2012

Guest Top 5 Current Formula 1 Drivers by Dotmund

Just as I was starting to worry I was running out of top fives and wouldn't have enough time to write a new one up popped the ever wonderful Dotmund with this perfectly timed work of excellence. Dotmund has been a source of inspiration in keeping this blog going. Last year he managed almost a post a day on his own blog and every one seemed to be funnier or artier than anything I could hope to produce.

The 2012-13 Formula 1 season starts this Sunday so over to Dotmund to find out who's hot on the current F1 circuit.


I have a secret shame. I'm obsessed with Formula 1 motor racing. My brain is a little encyclopaedia of useless facts, and the ones that won't go in by themselves I accumulate into comprehensive lists and charts. I hate myself a little for that. But then, there are worse things.

The 2012 Formula 1 season is the first in the 62 years of the World Championship to feature 6 former (and current) World Champions in the field. In my considered opinion (and I'd take the Pepsi Challenge with any of you rabble), here are the five best drivers in the sport's upper echelon today.

1. Fernando Alonso (Age 30. 177 starts 27 wins 20 pole positions 19 fastest laps 1086 points. 2005 and 2006 Formula 1 World Champion)
He's not won a World Championship since 2006 but I still think of Alonso as the best of the bunch. The only possible area where he is lacking is in speed over one lap on a Saturday afternoon. But his performances on race day more than make up for that. No other driver can match him for his speed, pounding consistency or racing intelligence. No other driver is as relentless when he gets the merest sniff of a race win. He just won't let go. Most important of all: he hardly ever has an off-day. With Ferrari looking a little off the pace so far in 2012, Alonso now faces his greatest challenge - can he, like Michael Schumacher did, inspire and cajole the people around him to move up to his level?


2. Sebastian Vettel (Age 24. 81 starts 21 wins 30 pole positions 9 fastest laps 773 points. 2010 and 2011 Formula 1 World Champion)
The reigning double-World Champion is the youngest in the history of the sport and he grows more formidable by the race. He is indisputably the king of qualifying, as 15 pole positions out of 19 races last year proves. More impressive and important than that is his freakish ability to find the grip immediately and go flat out from the very start of the race, which allows him to build up a big lead from the off and control the race. This combination of talents is reminiscent of Ayrton Senna, which is no small boast. It is, frankly, difficult to see anyone dethroning him at this current moment in time.


3. Lewis Hamilton (Age 27. 90 starts 17 wins 19 pole positions 11 fastest laps 723 points. 2008 Formula 1 World Champion)
His 2011 season was a patchy affair, but only a fool would discount Lewis Hamilton. He is a more complete package than any other driver in terms of his skill set. He's better in qualifying and in the wet than Alonso and he's a more assertive, aggressive race driver than Vettel. Sometimes the latter can get him in trouble, but his only real weakness seems to be in his mental approach, allowing things outside of the car to affect his performances in it. Given an ultimately competitive car, Hamilton could win another World Championship in the blink of an eye.


4. Jenson Button (Age 32. 208 starts 12 wins 7 pole positions 6 fastest laps 811 points. 2009 Formula 1 World Champion)
I had my doubts about Button's prospects when he signed for McLaren. But I have to say he has proved me wrong. He is peerless in mixed conditions, a devilishly tricky area to master. He's also a great overtaker and possesses enormous reserves of experience. He probably understands the subtleties of racecraft better than any of his rivals. What he lacks on Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton is his ultimate speed. But there's not much in it, and his magnificent racing brain, feel and tactical nous more than makes up for it, as witnessed by beating his brilliant teammate Hamilton over a 19 race championship in 2011 demonstrates. Jenson Button could yet win another world crown.


5. Nico Rosberg (Age 26. 108 starts 5 podium finishes 2 fastest laps 306.5 points)
Picking a fifth driver is difficult indeed. Felipe Massa is the most statistically successful of the pretenders but there is a real doubt whether or not he will ever regain his ultimate speed after his scary accident in Hungary three years ago. Mark Webber would, I believe, need a bit of luck but has the ability to win a world title. Of the remaining World Champions in the field, Michael Schumacher (1994-95, 2000-2004) is now 43 years old and past his ultimate best, whilst Kimi Raikkonen (2007) is still an enigma: even discounting his two year foray in the World Rally Championship, there were always question marks about his absolute motivation and mental approach - although his speed was never in doubt. I think that Rosberg - who is yet to score a pole position or to win a Grand Prix - is showing very clear signs of being one of the most consistent drivers in the field, held back only by the limitations of his car. He needs to take that step up quickly, but I think that when he does he is the most likely driver in the chasing pack to move up a level.


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Friday, 9 March 2012

Top 5 TV Shows I saw in 2011

I’ve not done this as an annual topic before which, considering I am a bit of a telly addict, is quite surprising. Then again I don’t spend a lot of time watching TV that I actively want to see. Cartoon Network & Disney XD dominate the daylight hours and when we’re trying to find some family viewing we seem to always end up watching something like Come Dine With Me, Four In A Bed or (if I’m REALLY unlucky) Coach Trip. So, maybe it’s down to the lack of time I get to watch what I like but I’m always surprised when people say there’s nothing on telly because I think there’s loads and, thanks to modern technology, you can pretty much watch it whenever you want.

1. The Killing – Not actually a 2011 programme, but last year was the first time I’d seen this Danish thriller mixing political intrigue with police procedure. I was hooked by the characters from the off and the effort of reading subtitles soon paled into insignificance as I got caught up with the plot. By the end of the series I even began to believe I could understand Danish (to the point where I’d be Ironing, and forget to keep looking at screen. It could take several minutes before I realised I didn’t know what was going on). The second series was on just before Christmas and I'm looking forward to working my way through that as well. The success of The Killing seems to have opened the door for a number of other foreign language shows, Spiral & Borgen in particular, that are just as fascinating.


2. The Shadow Line – This had me gripped for 7 weeks. A sophisticated conspiracy thriller that reminded me of the sort of show the BBC made in the seventies, though filmed with a cinematic style that suggested a larger budget. Featuring a fabulous cast of British actors who portrayed a mixture of characters blurring the lines between good and evil. As I struggled to work out if I was supposed to be routing for the cops or the gangsters the plot took twist after unexpected twist. This was breathtaking drama that had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. The final episode was slightly disappointing, trying to clear up too many loose ends in too short a space of time, but still left me desperate for more. That seems unlikely given that most of them ended up dead.


3. Fresh Meat – This didn’t start with the best of premises. Written by the creators of Peep Show & with a star from The Inbetweeners my hype radar was expecting the worst. Add the fact it also featured Jack Whitehall, a stand up comedian I really hadn't taken too, in a major role and it had expensive turkey written all over it. I gave it a go though and was pleasantly surprised by the first episode. By the time the first series ended I was completely won over and my opinion of Jake Whitehall has been dramatically changed. It was unusually long for a British sitcom but I found it properly funny with no sense of lag or loss of interest. I think it's been picked up for a second series which is great news.


4. Rev – A second series of the BBC sitcom that see's Tom Hollander play the Rev. Adam Smallbone, a vicar struggling to run a modern inner-city church in a parish where he’s largely derided or ignored. I'd not seen the first series, it really hadn't appealed at all, but caught the first episode of this series and found it a truly wonderful comedy. As with most of the other entries in this list, one of it's key strengths was the cast of characters. Olivia Colman is superb as Adam's put upon wife, Simon McBurney deliciously devious as Archdeacon Robert and Steve Evets fantastic as down and out Colin. It's Tom Hollander's show though and he pulls the whole thing together. I need to get a copy of the first series, it's classic british sitcom at it's very best.


5. This Is England '88 – The second TV spin off from Shane Meadows excellent 2006 film "This Is England". Following on from the devastating finale of "This Is England '86" '88 is a more down beat affair. Vicky McClure puts in another stunning performance as Lol, even though she has to spend most of the time looking miserable and shouting at people. Meadows originally intended it as a film but I think it works just as well in three parts.


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Friday, 2 March 2012

Top 5 Books I Read in 2011

Not a vintage year on the reading front for me. I struggled with a couple of books and even those I enjoyed took me longer to finish than they would normally. I blame the allure of my smart phone and the ease of in bed internet access for this. I intend to read a lot more next year.

1. Cormac McCarthy “The Road” – The second year in a row Cormac has provided my favourite read of the year. This novel is a very different kettle of fish to “No Country For Old Men”. A tale of a father and son and their efforts to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. The sub-heading on some paperback editions call it “beautifully harrowing”, a term I think sums up the story very well. The characters find themselves in a miserable situation, living in conditions that seem dreadful yet all too possible, but McCarthy manages to retain some sense of hope throughout their journey. It is emotionally draining and there are moments where I could imagine being on the journey with them, but despite the sadness I felt at their plight and the state of the world I ended the book with an overall feeling of positivity. That said I did also feel the need to stock up on canned produce, you know … just in case. It’s not a difficult book to read at all, the words flew by for me, and once I’d started reading I didn’t want to put it down.


2. John Peel “The Olivetti Chronicles” – Whilst I enjoyed Peel’s unfinished biography it was a huge shame he did not live to complete it himself. His wife and children did a fabulous job and the book stands as a marvellous testament to Peel’s influence, but the parts written by himself are wonderfully witty and self-effacing and I felt a renewed sense of loss at the end of the self-written half. “The Olivetti Chronicles”, a collection of articles, columns and reviews for various newspapers and magazines, provided another opportunity to enjoy the man’s writing and his unique sense of humour. Short essays on everything from the strange joy of Eurovision to the horror of being sick in trains and musical comment on a diverse array of sounds from Tubular Bells to Berlin punk, interspersed throughout with references to Liverpool Football Club and his deep admiration of Sir Kenneth Dalgleish. There’s something to enjoy in every chapter and this is a must read for any Peel fan.


3. Kurt Vonnegut “Cat’s Cradle” – A lucky find in my local library, this is the third Vonnegut book I’ve read and proved to be yet another intriguing read from the author. It starts out as a satirisation of the arms race but develops into a study of religion (albeit a completely fictional one). This is one of the books I struggled with in places but I think that was more my fault than Kurt’s. It's not a book to dip in and out of, once I focused on getting the book finished it was a joy. Vonnegut has a very different view of the world to almost any other author I could name. A book to re-read at some point I think.


4. Lemmy “White Line Fever” – Lemmy’s a proper rock legend, an old fashioned Rocker who doesn’t care a great deal if you don’t like him very much. Maybe he’s not always done himself the best of favours with his choice of collectibles or public appearances but I’d always suspected that deep down he was a bit of a softy. “White Line Fever” tells his story pretty much from birth and is surprisingly open about his early life and the events that made him the man he is today. It flies through his move from local bands to touring Europe (with The Rockin’ Vicars) and from roadie (for the Jimi Hendrix Experience after flat sharing with Noel Redding) to Hawkwind. The first 5 or 6 Motorhead years take up a fair chunk of the book and provide some of the best stories. I was soon digging out the ‘Head albums I own and went out and bought a couple that I didn’t have. The last few chapters get a little repetitive as the pattern; Motorhead record an album/fall out with the producer/blame record label for poor sales/play blistering live tour to recover their money, is repeated several times. It’s a great read for anyone with fond memories of any of the bands Lemmy was in.


5. A.D. Miller “Snowdrops” – The Man Booker Prize hit the headlines towards the end of 2011 with arguments over readability vs literary ability. I flunked A-Level English so am in no position to judge but considered reading them all to form my own opinion. I haven’t got very far yet, partly down to my dislike of hardbacks (which are, I think you’ll agree both too heavy and too expensive) but mainly down to my lack of effort. “Snowdrops” was the only contender I read. After hearing Germaine Greer slag it off on Newsnight (along with just about every other candidate on the list it seemed) I was all the more determined to like it. It's nothing hugely original but is an engaging and (appropriately enough) readable story. Something I read quite quickly and was just what I needed after two months of failing to get very far with “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”.


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