Don’t Lets Chart 105 – Runaway Puppy Massacre

‘Boogie Legs’ Ben and The All-New Some Biscuits Crew are sure in for a s-s-spooky time when they investigate Old Man Catterall‘s haunted mine to look for the secret hidden treasure of pop culture charts. And as they’ve just run past the same hallway twelve times, it must mean it’s an Animation Special! In today’s episode, we asked you for your top ten biggest Hanna-Barbera jerks, learn about movies got inexplicable TV cartoon transfers and burn down the house in answer to ‘how many Steamed Hams memes is too many’?

Plus: Green Day Vs. Smash Mouth – an ill-advised battle, taking responsibility for Rambo, the most 1991 thing in the world, Skinner‘s burger rampage, Aliens….for kids!, who “did”, a car full of teenagers solving crimes with some mist, enjoy some smashing organ work, Shmoosplaining, a guest appearance from Garreth F Hirons from the terrific Retrospecticus podcast and not a single fighting puppy in sight.

Visit the new Don’t Lets Chart Twitter feed: @dontletschart or visit us separately @benbakerbooks and @fil5000.

And give some love to our special guest @InvaderAce1 from the highly recommended Simpsons and modern history podcast @_Retrospecticus here.

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Parklife (En Plein Amour)

It is a terrifying-to-imagine 25 years since the album “Parklife” by Blur first appeared in old timey record shops like they had back then. Preceded by just one single – “Girls and Boys” released the previous month – the album went straight in at No.1 and has so far hung around for 119 weeks. A lot has been written about how the band came back from the brink after “Modern Life Is Rubbish” failed to find the audience it so richly deserved but being a stat-headed pop idiot I’m more interested in what else came out alongside Blur‘s third record back in April 1994.

Clearly the charts were in desperate need of something to blow off the cobwebs as this very middle of the road selection of records from the previous week shows….

Even that glimmer of light “His ‘N’ Hers” would drop to 48 the following week. But what else lined the “new releases” section of your long dead record shop that week in late April 1994? Other than Blur, the only new entry to the top ten is, perhaps surprisingly, Senser‘s debut album “Stacked Up” at No.4 despite no real breakthrough hit. A lazy person might describe them as a British Rage Against The Machine but while their political rap / rock was tipped for bigger things, it ultimately seemed too noisy for the supermarket shoppers and not heavy enough for the Kerrang! crowd. This is “Switch”, their sole top 40 single to date, which reached 39 that year.

 

Next we shuttle down to 29 for “Anarchy”, the first album to chart for the undervalued Chumbawamba, who were at the stage of transferring into a genuinely great pop act. As if to counter the fact they were now sounding almost chart-friendly it was decided to put a crowning baby on the cover as if to say “AHH BUT WE ARE STILL GRRS, YIS?” As an image, it does upset me but only because it just looks a bit crap. “Timebomb” was the single released before the album and flopped at #59 the previous Christmas. Another deserved hit was the follow up – a pop dance remix of this album’s “Homophobia” featuring the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence should’ve been number one for a year. It reached no.79.

 

Down to 43 and “Listen” by Urban Species, a very smooth British hip hop act on Gilles Peterson‘s incredibly influential Talkin’ Loud label, who I must admit bypassed me at the time. Described as a UK Arrested Development, the album’s biggest hit “Spiritual Love” sounds great in the sun but maybe there was just a bit too much similar sounding in the charts for it to stand out at the time.

 

At 64 we’ve a re-issue of The Bangles“Greatest Hits” although I’m not sure why other than “being great” whilst Bowie‘s “Santa Monica ’72” live set peaks at 74. Originally a much beloved fan bootleg, this semi-official release was apparently not authorised by Bowie himself and would quickly disappear from the market, eventually getting an official release in June 2008. Presumably he didnt want people getting confused with his “Buddha of Suburbia” work.

 

And finally The Wildhearts‘ 1992 “Don’t Be Happy…Just Worry” double EP which had been reissued as a single CD. Another band that deserved better whilst ceremoniously dropping anvils on their own career, they remain beloved by fans and when I saw them live last year were absolutely brilliant. I’m glad they’re still around.

 

Over in the singles chart, Tony Di Bart was holding court over a delightfully odd top 40 featuring new entries by artists as varied as Judy Cheeks, Cypress Hill, The Cranberries, Sonic Youth, Meat Loaf, N-Trance, Killing Joke, Grace Jones and Stiltskin…I wont spoil which one. Ok, it was “Inside”. Man, I miss the charts being weird…

So thank you “Parklife” for bringing a little colour and zing into a chart that much needed it. Even if you did then fall to number three behind the Crash Test Dummies and the best of Deacon Blue the week after. Nonetheless, the kids had something new to get excited about and come the next summer, things were starting to look very different indeed…

For more pop nonsense, buy my music trivia collection ” Never Mind The Quizbooks: A Music Quiz Book For People Who Dont Like Music Quiz Books” in paperback here.

Don’t Lets Chart 104 – Little Jenny Knives For Eyes

Ben‘s not content with the ratings for the last few episodes so he’s decided to refit the whole show to be one of those murder podcasts that are doing insanely well in the charts. However, neither him or Phil are comfortable with the whole “murder” aspect so instead pivot to dangerous toys, murderous songs, the deadliest Marvel superheroes of all time and erm…Richard Nixon. Plus: Hannah Montana‘s crippling addiction to lead reign of terror, Sophie Ellis Bextor Vs W.A.S.P, Enormous Ken’s best cinematic role, hammocks for kids, the first time anyone has mentioned “Fully Booked Interactive” in twenty years, the tastiness of glue, Iron Man‘s terrible crimes, actually nuclear toys, Peter Engel‘s creative process, torpedo babies, a shameless attempt to tie into “Avengers: Endgame”, what Butts Carlton did next and no Easter whatsoever. 

For more movie hero strangeness and over fifty brand new, quirky film quizzes for all the family, “The Long Quiz Goodnight” is the book for you. Buy it in print here or for yer Kindles and eReader things here. Price: CHEAP! And if you’re part of the Kindle Unlimited program totally free!

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Don’t Lets Chart 103 – Inhaling Some Chuckle Musk

Hey you! Are you interested in dead celebrities, Yorkshire heroes and ridiculous Happy Meal toys? Well stick around anyway as Ben and Phil look into why under no circumstances should you let someone fire a gun directly into your face, which action star is incomplete without his arm squirter and why Ben isn’t the greatest Yorkshireman of all time. Plus: Kevin Keegan face moulds, grease-stinking Furbies, Matt Le Blanc has an accident, a lot of impressions that all seem to be Michael Parkinson, Kermit squirts, Hitler‘s last word, a demand for medals and the magical secrets contained within “Disney Cup”. 

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Kill Your Television

TV. Can’t live with it, can’t watch “Cash In The Attic” on Yesterday +1 without it.

My new book “Kill Your Television”, despite its nihilistic and indie disco hit borrowed title, is a love letter to all things televisual – taking in everything from ALF to Z Cars and paying tribute to the programmes, presenters, sounds and strange spin-offs that made the flashing square box in the corner of the room such a powerful friend and, occasionally, enemy. In this collection of essays and articles, I’m diving head first into television of the past and present with new and unseen articles on such diverse subjects as:

– The unseen pilot episodes of Blackadder, Star Trek, Brass Eye, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and The Big Bang Theory;

– The strange world of Russian daytime TV;

– Which comedy programmes made the best video game tie-ins;

– The best Saturday morning TV shows ever, from No.73 to The 8:15 From Manchester;

– Doc Croc and the legacy of one of Children’s ITV’s most dangerous shows;

– Why the Paramount Channel was often better with the teletext on;

– Ace teen detective Veronica Mars and why more people should sing her name;

– Teletubbies Vs Minder: which TV themes became the biggest chart hits;

– Is your favourite programme making a comeback? Probably;

– Thirty years of trying to be a fan of Red Dwarf;

– The rise of Ant and Dec and the importance of “SM:TV”;

– Which acts bombed hardest during the live “Comic Relief” broadcasts;

– The continued dreadfulness of Popeye;

– Why a clip show is in fact the greatest episode of “The Simpsons” ever;

– Series finales – were any of them any good?


And quite a bit more besides!

To buy a print copy (with 25% of the RRP), visit Lulu Press here.

Or to get a digital copy for Kindle and eReaders, visit Amazon here. £2.99 or free with Kindle Unlimited!

Don’t Lets Chart 102 – I Thought You Said Rapid Rodney

And so it was that our brave idiots Ben and Phil returned for a second adventure that the law of sequels suggests will probably not be as good as the first. With that in mind they look at Rotten Tomatoes’ Worst Sequels Ever with guest appearances from Batman, Jaws and the actor Stan Collymore. There’s also a tribute to this weekend’s Wrestlemania as Ben tests Phil’s near-absent knowledge of wrestling then outrage as Britain gets pies wrong. Plus: Jamie Kennedy’s scientific methods are put to the test, steak is dismissed, Twin Peaks begins, Rob Schneider gets paid, the Shockmaster drops in and a shocking opinion about Marmite. 

Find it at https://anchor.fm/dontletschart

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Watching Russia Closely (Or “Putin The Telly On”)

Trump. Russia. Collusion. We keep hearing these terms so much on TV that they’ve started to lose all meaning. But what about the telly in Russia? Are they as obsessed with the same things as us? Or do they just show 23 hours of Putin‘s face and an hour of state-approved screengrabs from “Police Academy: Mission To Moscow”? Um…

Time to take a look at an average day on Russia’s biggest TV channel. I wondered what strange and enchanting new thing from another world would be the first thing I see when I turned on the channel. What new delights would be offered. What exotic…

…um, oh. Right. Moving on…

The most successful channel for audience share right now is Channel One Russia, an entertainment station in the vein of ITV1 which is co-owned by a mixture of Government divisions, private conglomerates and, as if to be a baffling self-parody of Russian Things, Roman Abramovich.

Daytime TV starts with “Good Morning!”, which follows the pattern of our own morning tv programmes with a mix of rolling news, “real people” and celebrity bollocks presented by whatever these two below are meant to be. I’m sure there was some powerful and hard hitting news in there but the most I got seemed to be “Bloody bugger! There’s bleedin’ loads of snow! Look!” from who appeared to be the Russian Dana and a Boo Radley.

9:55am finds the desperate sounding “Life Is Great!” although “Live Healthy” is probably a more accurate translation as a group of cheery looking medical individuals drag people out of the audience into the insanely bright set to be lectured on all matters health with the help of comedy oversized props. There was also a lengthy cooking slot where they seemed to be making grey food.

Next up is “Fashion Sentence”, a makeover programme that reminded me of a very short lived BBC1 series called “Style Trial” in the early 90s. And nobody needs reminding of that. Looking at the show’s page on the channel website, the makeovers seem to be one step short of threats with previous episodes featuring the descriptions “Colleague accuses a colleague that she breaks the cardinal rule of female stunt – look feminine.”“My husband has threatened to drive his wife out of the house if she did not get rid of Balakhonov (big baggy clothes traditionally worn by pregnant women) in the wardrobe”“The man blames his civil wife in that it does not correspond to his ideal and a brighter future” and perhaps most alarmingly, “The point about why special girl dreams of becoming normal”. Normal? We’ve marched for less…

The panellists make their choice for what that episode’s poor unfortunate should wear whilst attempting to please their master – Bobby Moynihan pretending to be Cyril Fletcher as the Devil.

After some news, “Alone With All” which is less the bleak call to self-harm it seems, rather a one on one talk show with notable Russian celebrities. The talk continues with the surprisingly hard news-led “Time Will Tell”, a programme which is sadly not one of David Bowie‘s few good singles of the late 80s but a forum “to discuss what matters to all of us, citizens of Russia in the discussion attended by experts – politicians, political scientists, journalists, businessmen and simply indifferent Russians”. Which is a nice way of saying ignorant bastards I suppose.

At 4pm its a triple bill of “Mind The Baby Mr Bean” and…oh no, wait…apparently its “Male / Female”, another chat show although with a slightly more Jeremy Kyle edge this time. Followed at 5pm by “Lets Get Married” which is less “Blind Date” and more “Desperate Meat Market” as a contestant is given three potential partners which they must whittle down with the help of family and friends. Today “restaurateur with rich experience 38-year-old Artem is looking for a woman with a good education, bright eyes and a beautiful posture.” I bet they give him an illiterate bozz-eyed one with a hump!!!!!

6pm is “First Studio” time and guess what – its more political debate! Imagine if Question Time took away the chairs, added some IKEA furniture, more shouting and stuck it on the set of every Channel 4 programme from 1982-1992 ever. And yes that is the Zapruder film playing happily in the background at teatime…

A change of mood at 8pm with…oh come on, another bloody talk show – “Let Them Talk” – which looks bloody identical to “Male / Female” earlier only with a host that appears to be played by Patrick Barlow in the 80s. Wikipedia tells us “The program is inspired by the American Jerry Springer show, although it was originally conceived to be a clone of the Oprah Winfrey show” so shouting and consistent recriminations then? Smashin’.

After some more lovely news, its finally time for some scripted television and Russia likes to strip their programmes Monday-Thursday so all this week at 9:35pm is “Greek”. Not the American teen drama series but more “Howards Way done in some unfinished offices”. According to the guide, it is a “melodrama about an unequal marriage, willpower and overcome. History of a simple girl from the provinces, to prove their right to be part of a wealthy family of the capital, will not leave anyone indifferent. The more melodramatic series in doing stunt they had to portray the paralyzed man and Why participate in the filming of the stud dog came up with a woman’s name”. Look, Google translate doesn’t always make sense, alright?

At the same time as this, Channel One‘s chief rivals seemed to be showing something that looked almost identical with the same stark lighting and blueish tint, only one was set in a hospital and the other in some more unfurnished offices. Only this one has a flag.

After some more smashing news, the TV schedule gave me the following information…

“23:30 – “City Slickers.” Premiere. “The Bureau”. 6th Series”

They made City Slickers into a series? And they opened up a bureau!?? Well, no. I’ve no idea where the hell the title of Billy Crystal‘s fourth most alright movie fits in but this is a dub of French political thriller The Bureau. Which has so far had two series so we’ll assume this is instead the sixth episode. Other imported TV programmes shown by Channel One include Lost (Translated title: “To Stay Alive”), Boardwalk Empire (“The Underground Empire”) and Ray Donovan (“Ray Donovan”)

And that’s a day of TV from Russia’s most popular station. Little changes at the weekend with Friday replacing “Let Them Talk” with the trouser-moisteningly exciting sounding “Man and Law with Alexei Pimanovym” and “Field Of Dreams”, their version of Wheel of Fortune but with more singing. Oh and every episode is themed, such as…um…

Saturday has fun for all the family with favourites such as “Play, Accordion favorite!” and child intelligence game “Good and Clever” mixing with much the same as we get over here, including cookery with “Gusto” (This week: “the singer and the composer Dmitry Malikov with daughter Stephanie will share their favorite family recipes, including “Devil’s paste” and “Not steamed chicken”), house renovations in “A Perfect Repair” and “10 Years Younger” which is um..“10 Years Younger” off of Channel 4. The imported formats continue with identical looking versions of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and “The Voice”.

So maybe we aren’t so different when you get down to it. We still eat, we still sleep and we still have a load of old shite on the telly.  Yes, I think things are going to be alright after all….

We’re doomed.

This post was originally written in January 2017. Except this super topical intro, natch. For more on Russian TV – albeit without so many Presidential nipples – pick up my book of articles on TV past and present “Kill Your Television” available in print here and digital for eReaders here.

Don’t Lets Chart 101 – Clooney’s Catbox Comedy Company

We can all agree that pranks and April Fools’ jokes are invariably god awful and not in the slightest bit funny  – but what would you do if it was the Hollywood superstar George Clooney pulling them on you? Ben and Phil put on their best “the actor Richard Kind” masks to explore the comedy back catalogue of The Cloon. But before that, we take time to celebrate Phillip Schofield‘s birthday and the first ten programmes he ever introduced on Children’s BBC from Mike, Mop and The Moke to The Kwicky Koala Show. Plus: authentic American accents, Hanna Barbera‘s cruelty to animals, teacher beating, bad bumper stickers, cat constipation, the ill-advised american remake of Paddington and an alarming amount more. 

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