Monthly Archives: September 2018

First man

I want to write a review of a film that has yet to come out. OK then, a preview…

I am a child of the 1960s really. I was into The Beatles, I had granny glasses and a fringed jacket and could tell you anything about the space race. I remember when man first landed on the Moon. It was middle of the night in the UK and I was not allowed to watch it live, one of the greatest events in the history of humanity, spoilt by my parents under threat of punishment.

There are many shameful things about this world. One is that people do not remember the names of the astronauts who walked on the Moon. Another is that we no longer have the technology to get us there, this 50 years after the main event. Of course, as soon as Apollo 11/Eagle landed, people began to complain it was too expensive, a waste of money. Money that could be spent on wars. Three missions were cancelled. Scientific enquiry counts for nothing.

Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on our satellite. As such, he must go down as one of the most famous men in history. But let’s not forget the courage, skill and achievements of the others who went to the Moon though.

Why was Armstrong chosen? I think, for two reasons, one his incredible skill, the other, his ability to cope under pressure. During the flight and afterwards. For the rest of his life he was bugged by people wanting to meet him, ask questions, have a little piece of his life. In the end, for Armstrong, it got too much. He hated it, and became a recluse. By the time the excellent documentary In The Shadow Of The Moon was made, he refused to participate. He wanted a quiet life. And, of course, in 2012 he died.

There have been feature films about space, especially Apollo 13. There have been documentaries. Now there is a new one coming up, First Man.

Trailers indicate it is to be released in IMAX.

It centres on Armstrong. Presumably the climax will be the trip to the Moon.

Watching space footage on a big screen is as close as most of us will ever get. I hope their cgi footage is correct, and watchable.

I am worried. These types of ‘biography’ take liberties with the facts, for no reason. I am hoping Mr Armstrong will not be portrayed as some kind of swashbuckling space pioneer, just a guy doing his job exceptionally well. If they alter the facts to keep it ‘interesting’, that will be depressing.

Quiz shows I

I wanted to write a short bit about why I hate tv quiz shows. I was sitting, with a glass of wine, plotting what I wanted to say, and it got longer… and longer. I could almost write a book about it.

Well, I am not going to do that, but I will write a couple of blogs. You may not agree.

My friends cannot believe that I have never seen The Simpsons, never watched any soap opera and don’t watch ‘highbrow’ quizzes like Mastermind or University Challenge. But I don’t.

Nor Eggheads.

I don’t want to watch a programme where the entertainment is just how much other people know about obscure topics. Hearing someone answer 12 questions on “The history of Dutch architecture, 1623 – 1684” doesn’t do it for me. I want to have a sporting chance of answering a question or two. Same on UC. The odd questions I know do pop up, but mostly not.

On Mastermind, on odd occasions, there has been something I knew a bit about. When you do, you realise the questions are very basic. I know anything is easy if you know the answer, of course,And on Eggheads, I know the knowledge is not specialised, it is general knowledge, but the nine actual eggheads are not ‘clever’, they just have a gift for remembering facts. I always think it’s funny that they either all, more or less, know the answers, or none of them does. I believe there are lists and books of questions, so you learn those. Then sit behind a desk and look smug.

What’s worse about quiz shows is all the waffle. Eggheads is terrible about this. A question like “What is 2 + 3?” With answers “A: 5 B: 6 C; 23” won’t get the answer “A: 5” straightaway, but it will go something like this:

“Hmm, Jeremy, well, that is a good question. My uncle was a physics teacher and he would know this. I don’t think it’s C. I don’t know why, so it’s between A and B. I know 2 times 3 is 6. Judith would always go down the magic right. Hmm… I’m going for A: 5. I bet my team are shouting at me now. It’s an educated guess.”

Jeremy Vine: “Let’s ask the Eggheads… Eggs, I guess we are talking numbers here, and Maths?”

Kevin Ashman: “Yes, that’s correct”

JV: “Good quizzing, contestant. The eggheads are on the back foot now. You only need to get two more right and you will be in the final to win £1000”

and so it goes on.

I don’t know what an educated guess is. A guess is a guess. If you don’t know, you can’t be educated about it. Reducing the choices from three to two does not stop a guess being a guess.

So, in a 30 minute programme there is maybe 5 minutes of actual quizzing. Record it, and then skip the crap.

Denis Norden

It was announced today that Denis Norden has died at a ripe old age.

You probably know Mr Norden best from It’ll Be Alright On The Night, one of the early bloopers shows for ITV.

I knew him for his radio quiz shows, especially My Music (never a fan of My Word) where he was constantly ridiculed for his poor singing but where he had an in depth knowledge of certain styles of music.

People of an older generation would know him as a radio and tv scriptwriter, with his partner Frank Muir most famously. Their big hit was Take It From Here. You can still hear this. It sounds very safe, polite, rarely funny by modern tastes, rather middle class. The creation of The Glums was a middle class way of looking at working class people, crude, dishonest and loud. It was a programme that never really broke the mould, having sketches and musical breaks.

I do enjoy Balham: Gateway to the South, however.


I once encountered Frank Muir. He and Patrick Campbell were on a train apparently coming from Manchester into Euston, probably recording call my bluff. Odd people kept asking for an autograph, and he was very rude to them. They probably deserved it.