I love cult TV so I jumped at the chance to be involved in this huge undertaking: 1001 articles about classic television series, from the 1950s right up to the present day.
A massive round of applause to editor Paul Condon who took on such a mammoth task, including all the arguments about what should go in and be left out, and turned out this beautiful tome.
I’ve contributed around 2.5% of the content with articles on some of my favourite series, including The West Wing, Columbo, the 1960s Batman, Dark Season and Forbrydelsen (The Killing).
There are plenty of non-fiction shows in there too, plus a good representation of excellent drama from around the world – it’s a truly international book.
1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die is due out in October but is already available to pre-order.
The latest story I’ve scripted edited, Penny Faith’s In the Twinkling of an Eye is out now and available to order from the Big Finish website. It’s an atmospheric character piece with a wonderfully creepy undertone and a great vehicle for Marie Wallace. As with most releases in the series, while there’s extra reward for regular listeners, it’s also accessible if you don’t know anything about Dark Shadows.
I’ve also script edited next month’s release, Deliver Us From Evil by Aaron Lamont (which follows on from the events of my own story, The Enemy Within), and September’s CD, Daniel Collard’s Tainted Love. Plus you can still get hold of the first Dark Shadows drama I script edited, Alan Flanagan’s Carriage of the Damned.
If all that wasn’t enough, it’s also worth plugging the 13-part miniseries Dark Shadows: Bloodlust. It was storylined and co-written by me, Alan, and Joseph Lidster. Joe and his co-producer David Darlington wanted to get back to the TV series’ soap opera roots, so we came up with a tale has that ongoing feel, with character arcs weaving in and out of each other, while also delivering a self-contained supernatural murder mystery.
Big Finish released Bloodlust in twice-weekly installments earlier this year – a nod to the show’s daily television episodes in the 1960s and ’70s – and we’re really proud of how it turned out. The first episode (which I wrote) is available free on Soundcloud.
So Denmark – the winner two years ago – and the Netherlands – second last year – were among the six countries that failed to qualify on Tuesday. Not that we were shocked, were we? There were much better songs in the running.
Tonight’s semi-final has a slightly larger field, with 17 countries competing for 10 spots in the final – so it will be marginally more difficult to quality. It’s also the one where we in the UK get to vote, so let’s take a look at the songs.
- Lithuania – What starts are jangly guitar turns into a country style backing but they’re no Texas Lightning (Germany, 2006). There’s an irritating chorus and in a sea of duets, this is the weakest. It’ll probably get through anyway.
- Remember when Ireland were good at this? They’re not about to return to the top with this dull ballad. Believe it or not, they were better off with Jedward.
- San Marino – Another male/female duet. Now I love a good key change, even if the voters don’t, but this one’s a disaster. Just as the song settles into an interesting sound it modulates into cheese.
- Montenegro – It’s not promising at first but Adio manages to develop a heartbeat in sufficient time. Add a reasonable performance and interesting musicality and there should be enough here to see it through.
- Malta – Georgia’s Warrior deservedly made it through semi-final 1. This is the weaker of the two even while if the sound is more mainstream pop. It would be convenient for everyone trying to keep track on Saturday if this didn’t get through.
- Norway – Technically this falls foul of my “just get going” complaint, but I’ll excuse it because a dark ballad can’t go straight in all guns blazing and it does work, eventually. The strongest of this semi-final so far.
- Portugal – So unremarkable I can barely come up with a remark. Features possibly the dullest key change ever.
- Czech Republic – These two had a fun time at the London Eurovision Party a few weeks ago. I’m interested to see if they manage to bring the charisma on show that night to Vienna or whether they’ll feel the need to go serious. This is a reasonable duet but it needs to be sold in the performance.
- Israel – I think it’s trying to be “fun”. The last line – noting that his three minutes maximum song time is up – is unforgivable.
- Latvia – I see what they’re trying to do but it’s a bit screamy and a bit of a slog.
- Azerbaijan always seem to do better than I think they should. This is a biggish number that does nothing for me so will sail through to the final.
- Iceland – Forgettable. If I had anything else to say, I’ve forgotten. And anyone vaguely enjoying this and thinking about voting for it is likely to be distracted too, because next up it’s…
- Sweden – Let’s not pretend this hasn’t got where it has because of the staging, but that wouldn’t be effective if there wasn’t a good song to build on. This has been the presumptive winner for some time, propelled from the same position in Melodifestivalen, Sweden’s annual selection competition (as big a deal there as Eurovision itself). Straight through to Saturday without touching the sides.
- Switzerland – The opening bass line reminds me of 1995 Beautiful South, and there are lyrical similarities with Jade Ewen’s UK entry (It’s My Time from 2009). Could get a bit lost; could sneak through.
- Cyprus – Sweet and simple and probably not going to make waves.
- Slovenia – The vocals are a little odd but there’s a nice bit of fiddle – always a good sign – and it’s got a decent tempo and a memorable chorus to help it qualify.
- Poland – First, let’s give thanks for this not being last year’s awful Polish entry – to which the UK phone vote promptly gave douze points (thankfully cancelled out by the wisdom of the jury). This is a 1980s ballad. It’s perfectly pleasant with a good climax but will be lucky to sneak through.
The semi-final is on BBC Three and live streamed on YouTube from 8pm. Be there or be not there.
Oh my god, we’re back again.
Conchita’s storming victory in Copenhagen last year means the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest finds us in Vienna. Last year 31 countries were competing for places in the final. This year it’s 33 so the semi-finals, of which tonight is the first, are extra important.
Tonight’s winners will head to the final to join the Big Five – France, Spain, Italy, Germany and the good ol’ UK – plus reigning champions Austria and guest competitor Australia.
The show will be on BBC Three this evening, with Scott Mills and Mel Giedroyc hosting. If you’re in the UK, don’t try to vote: we get to have our say in the second semi on Thursday.
Here’s a quick rundown of what to expect tonight:
- Moldova – This is very Europe, as befits an opening act. Eduard Romanyuta is Adam Rickitt’s 90s pop career reborn with a mainstream pop song that I seem to like more than everyone else, even if the verse could do with livening up. He appears to have recruited his dancers from Uniform Dating.
- Eurovision entrants are allowed six performers on stage and Armenia are taking full advantage, opting for six vocalists. Unfortunately, they appear to be singing six different songs. This is the musical theatre entry and that’s not a bad thing, but they’re trying to squeeze so much into their three minutes that the audience may be left baffled. Still, key change.
- Belgium – Now this is different. 19-year-old Loïc Nottet channels Adele in places with a song that could do really well. Its success will depend on how it comes across live but it deserves to breeze through to the final.
- Netherlands – They came so close last year (albeit with a song I wasn’t fussed about) but this doesn’t stand out. It’s perfectly serviceable but not a winner, and after a while you get sick of the incessant “why-why-yi-yi-yi”.
- Finland – They’ve not had a winner since Lordi and this won’t change that. It’s great to see a group of artists with learning disabilities represented at Eurovision. Alas, the song itself is dreary.
- Greece – One Last Breath is, in the video at least, performed suitably breathily. A key change kicks it into gear and then it tries to squeeze all the dramatic stuff into the last third. Regular (well, annual) readers of these posts will know that this is one of my biggest Eurovision bugbears. Don’t write a song that’s boring for two minutes and only good for one. That’s not building to a climax, that’s wasting two-thirds of your stage time. And yet, as Greece are perhaps aware, people still vote for them. Grr.
- I’m always well disposed to a strong duet, and there are several this year. Estonia‘s is suitably upbeat and the closest to last year’s Netherlands near miss. I’m concerned that at times they’re singing parts too low in their ranges, which detracts from the power. There’s room for improvement but it’s a solid entry and should go through.
- FYR Macedonia – It’s a strong, contemporary song, if a little slow for me. It’s biggest danger is being overshadowed in the final by the Swedish entry, of which more on Thursday.
- Serbia make a welcome return with Beauty Never Lies. This starts quietly but instead of suddenly getting good too late, it builds steadily into a full-on dance track. Could be popular.
- Hungary – The curiously-named Boggie goes for the Eurovision stalwart of the anti-war message. Over the last few years, Hungary have had a very strong run of songs without being rewarded with a win. This is different and not particularly to my taste but it’s not bad. The version in the promo video is pleasantly chilling. It might struggle to have the same effect live.
- Belarus – This is the love child of 2014’s Azeri and Hungarian entries and gets a boost from a well-utilised violin. Very toe tappy.
- Russia – Them again. The worst of all the options for 2016 host. This is a song about peace and healing and how we’re all really the same. From Russia. And it’s as twee as that sounds, although the chorus is good.
- Denmark – Tonight’s only guitar pop entry. McBusted could release something similar tomorrow to disprove my point but this still feels dated to me. Retro is fine but it needs an original twist. Competent filler.
- Albania – This is a classic example of my bête noire: it washes over you for two minutes and then suddenly there’s some syncopation and you remember you were supposed to be listening.
- Romania – After a night of songs in English, a sudden change! For a while anyway. It’s OK but we’re all flagging now.
- Georgia – Bizarrely, there are two songs this year called Warrior. This is the first and I think demonstrates what is meant by “fierce”. It’s a pumped up Evanescence (remember them) but will need big drums on the stage to work. One to reevaluate after the semi final if it progresses, which it should.
There we go. Only 10 can make it through to the big night on Saturday. And on Thursday, we’ll be back like the gluttons for punishment we are for 17 more songs.