New Nixey!

Super Deluxe Edition has posted an interview with my homegirl Sarah Nixey, in which she discusses (among other things) how she was sweet-talked into joining Black Box Recorder back in the day, and what she’s been up to since the band’s break-up in 2010. Aside from her early shunning of “the working world, which I decided pretty quickly I didn’t want to be part of”, I was also cheered by her genuine joy over appearing on Top of the Pops, to celebrate the success of the group’s slinky ode to sex-education, “The Facts of Life“. And the article ends on a very upbeat, with the news that Ms. Nixey will be releasing a new solo album (Night Walks) in “early October”, preceded by a lead-single, “Coming Up For Air”, on July 13th. Hurrah!

Sarah Nixey 5/11Meanwhile, I’m still kicking myself for not going up to London to see Luke Haines play The Lexington in May, where he was briefly joined onstage by Nixey and John Moore for a rather relaxed BBR “reunion”. Thankfully some kind soul has posted videos of them performing “England Made Me” and “Child Psychology” on the tubes, for sun-dodging lazybones like me to enjoy. The impetus for this impromptu musical meet-up was the (then) forthcoming release of Life Is Unfair, a shiny new box-set containing all three of BBR’s excellent studio albums, along with a bonus disc of B-sides/rarities, and a DVD of their promo videos and a couple live performances. I already own about 80% of this material (and several extra tracks which were omitted from this release without explanation), so it isn’t at the top of my personal shopping list… but it is incredibly good value for anyone who has some gaps to fill in their CD collection… and I am very covetous of the DVD, which offers a significant upgrade over the low-res videos that appeared on the (so-called) “Worst of” compilation…

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Best Wishes To Blue

Madeline Blue circa 6/18I was checking a couple Instagram pages yesterday, and was shocked to discover that Madeline Blue has been in a serious car accident. According to her post, she spent twelve hours in the E.R., after sustaining injuries including a burnt forearm and a split lip, but is now recuperating and recalibrating at home.

She also muses on the cost of vanity (both financial, physical, and metaphysical), as she waits to see what scars (if any) will remain as a reminder, and how that may affect her onscreen career. I know it’s none of my business, but the latest season of The Bridge (aka “Bron/Broen”) is on TV at the moment, and that show’s star, Sofia Helin, has a very obvious scar around/across her mouth (from a bicycle accident many years ago), which doesn’t seem to have hampered her prospects, or distracted from her dazzling talent. To quote a 2012 interview she gave to The Guardian: “At first I couldn’t even be grateful I had survived the accident, because I was so upset. But it gave me more confidence in the end, because I thought, ‘OK, I have a scar, but maybe I have something more to me than the way I look.'”

Likewise, there’s much more to Blue’s appeal than her looks… it’s her energy and expressiveness that make her stand out from the crowd. I’d even argue that scars make an actor more “real”, relatable, and recognisable… which could be valuable assets in such a crowded and competitive field… though, obviously I’m no expert, and this sort of thing is a lot easier to say when you’re on the outside observing from afar, rather than the actual person going through the experience first-hand! Either way, I wish her the very best, and am sending healing vibes her way.

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[Contains a literal unveiling and SPOILERS!!!]

It occurred to me t’other day that I hadn’t watched anything with Emily Perkins in for a while, so I swiftly corrected that egregious oversight by checking out her cameo appearances in Supernatural… a surprisingly-long-running series which I’ve already written several grumpy, self-righteous rants about, after watching the first three seasons on DVD many years ago. Skipping to the fifth season’s premiere for EP’s debut as metafictional fangirl ‘Becky Rosen’ was a little disorienting, but thankfully the pre-episode summary of the “road so far” caught me up on most of the major characters and conflicts…

Emily Perkins as ‘Becky Rosen’ in “Supernatural” (ep #5.1)Apparently at some point in the fourth season (ep #4.18, in fact), the monster-busting brothers ‘Sam’ (Jared Padalecki) and ‘Dean’ (Jensen Ackles) encountered a prophetic author named ‘Chuck’ (Rob Benedict), who had been publishing his inexplicable visions of their escapades in the form of pulp Fantasy novels. Having since attracted the attention of various ill-intentioned Angels, in ep #5.1 he attempts to use his self-proclaimed (and uber-slashy) “number one fan” Becky as a proxy, to pass a warning on to the Winchesters, without leading his stalkers to their hotel hidey-hole. While there, she gleefully exploits the opportunity to make goo-goo eyes at Sam, and lay her hands on his meaty chest… much to the (lucky?) man’s discomfort. As expected, Perkins is totally on-point, milking her two brief scenes for every laugh she can, with her trademark intensity and drooling objectification of the show’s macho stars. In a word, she’s awesome (as-per-usual), and while the character may have been conceived to gently mock the show’s own (predominantly?) female fanbase, Perkins is such a high-class/hilarious actress, that it has to rank as a compliment, all the same… and the seemingly cryptic information she passes on to them turns out to be pretty useful in the end, so she has that going for her too!

Emily Perkins as ‘Becky Rosen’ in “Supernatural” (ep #5.9)Becky’s second rendezvous with the Winchesters (in ep #5.9) gets off to a rocky start, as she tricks the brothers into attending The First Annual Supernatural Fan Convention, by “borrowing” Chuck’s phone and texting them an alert about an unspecified life-and-death emergency. Luckily (?) for her, the hotel that’s hosting the event turns out to be haunted for realsies, so the boys are too busy saving their fans from murderous spirits to reprimand her too harshly for the initial ruse. Once again, Becky scores an “A+” for adorability… and it’s gratifying to see Chuck getting jealous of all the heated looks (and weird/sexy hand-licking winks) that she directs at Sam, thus acknowledging that she is in fact a total catch, and not the total turn-off that a lesser show might depict her as. I also love the fact that after expressing her disappointment in Dean the first time she met him in the flesh, she completely blanks him in this episode, as if he’s nothing more than Sam’s shadow! Tee hee. Oh, and in the final scene she once again passes on a vital piece of intel, alerting her hero to the possible possessor of his lost demon-killin’ Colt, thanks to a scene she’d read in one of Chuck’s vision-based-books, that Sam and Dean weren’t privy to (because they’re too bitter about being fictionalised to actually bother reading them, apparently). So (ginger) snaps to her for that.

Emily Perkins as ‘Becky Rosen’ in “Supernatural” (ep #7.8)Fun fact: Although the majority of the “fans” shown in this episode are male (certainly the ones with speaking roles, anyway), one blog post I found about a real-life Supernatural convention in 2014 claimed that women out-numbered men by a ratio of 4:1!

After two episodes as a (slightly gropey) goodie, Becky takes a hard heel-turn towards The Dark Side in ep #7.8, doping Sam with a “love potion” that she acquires from a local party-planner/“wiccan”, which works so effectively that the two of them are soon skipping merrily up the aisle for a “quicky” Vegas wedding. Naturally, surly brother Dean is super-suspicious (and weirdly, sounds a lot gruffer than I remember him from the previous episodes), especially when news comes to light of other townsfolk getting their fantasies fulfilled before meeting with mysterious deadly “accidents”, and he sets out to investigate with the help of temporary sidekick/surrogate ‘Garth’ (guest-star DJ Qualls!). Meanwhile, newlyweds Becky and Sam are also on the case, but hampered by the fact that Sam’s under a spell (to which he’s slowly developing an immunity), and Becky refuses to accept that her charming chum/enabler might be an evil demon intent on acquiring her soul in exchange for more of the heartwarming/brainwashing elixir she needs to keep her hubby from wising up.

Emily Perkins as ‘Becky Rosen’ in “Supernatural” (ep #7.8)Objectively, our heroine’s actions are extremely icky throughout the first half of this story, though the writers are careful to establish that she’s “taking it slow” with Sam, and the couple haven’t consummated their vows yet (which would be date-rape, obvs)… even so, the way she hogties him to a bed in her “romantic” cabin-in-the-woods after the potion runs out is straight-up kidnapping, whichever way you slice it. It’s all played for laughs, of course, and Perkins is endearing enough to make you somewhat sympathetic to her character’s long-suffering loneliness, even as she’s crossing numerous moral/legal lines to alleviate it. Thank goodness she eventually sees the light, and helps the brothers (plus one) out by acting as demon-bait, and even personally saves Sam’s skin by killing one of the baddies with a surprise backstab, instead of fleeing to safety as she’s instructed to. Bless.

So, all was forgiven in the end… onscreen, at least… I’m not sure how regular viewers felt about her behaviour, but this episode marked her last appearance in the series to date, and seven whole seasons/years have passed since then! According to the show’s unofficial wiki, Becky has been mentioned a couple times in passing by the main characters, but never in a nostalgic “Gee, I miss that crazy gal… let’s go see how she’s doing!” sorta-way, sadly.

Merchandise-wise, she wasn’t popular enough to warrant an action figure, but there are a couple trading cards bearing her likeness, including a limited edition autograph card, and “costume cards” containing scraps of material she supposedly wore on the show… which, yes, I would totally buy if I had more cash to splash…

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Purgatory Pizza Party

At last, everyone’s favourite supercute-psychiatrist-turned-sociopath, Harley Quinn, has returned to the screen in Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay, a sorta-sequel to Batman: Assault on Arkham, in the sense that it boasts the same basic premise*, devilish sense of humour, and grindhouse-y gore as the earlier flick, as well as sharing several lead characters… though they are voiced by a totally different cast here, and there’s no real continuity or narrative connection between the two straight-to-video flicks (or the live-action adaptation, for that matter). Regardless, it’s a rollicking ride, and easily earns a place on the (literal or digital) shelf beside its predecessor.

Harley Quinn in "Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay"Harley, voiced by the ever-adorable Tara Strong, is sadly reduced to a supporting “comic relief” role here, but she makes the most of her limited screentime with some fun visual gags, and sparky one-liners. Other featured female characters included badass boss-lady ‘Amanda Waller’ (Vanessa Williams), sapphic super-villains ‘Scandal Savage’ (Dania Ramirez) and ‘Knockout’ (Cissy Jones), the awesomely goth-y ‘Silver Banshee’ (Julie Nathanson), plus fellow “squaddies” ‘Jewelee’ (Nathanson again) and ‘Killer Frost’ (Kristin Bauer van Straten). The latter looked unnervingly like ‘Ice’ from Justice League International, to my eyes, with her white-blonde-bob and blue/white costume… there’s also a joke about Jewelee biting Harley’s style, and I admit I was a little confused when she first appeared here too, though the character actually made her comic book debut way back in 1967, via Captain Atom (S1, issue #85), a full 25 years before HQ popped out of a cake and into our hearts!

Despite this bevy of tight-bodied beauties, I applaud the movie’s equally-exploitative “eye” for spending as much time fixating on manly flesh (and prominent packages) as it does on old-fashioned T&A, thanks to a major subplot involving a male stripper with a significant “tramp stamp”…!

* A gang of condemned super-villains are conscripted into completing a do-or-die mission for a shady and unforgiving government agency.

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“I Don’t Think Marxism’s For Me.”

[Contains dodgy “diet” smoothies and SPOILERS!!!]

Ellie White and Celeste Dring as ‘Beatrice’ and ‘Eugenie’ ala "The Windsors Royal Wedding Special"Although I couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss about the actual royal wedding that’s taking place up in London today, I will be celebrating the fact that it provided plenty more fodder for the writers of Ch4’s snarky spoof The Windsors, whose one-hour special aired earlier this week… and what a spectacular special it was!

From Meghan’s hysterical pre-emptive acceptance of Harry’s proposal, to Pippa’s plot to fatten-up an unsuspecting Kate, to Fergie’s surprisingly sweet/noble “Golden Ticket” giveaway, to Will’s face-off with the “Tramp-Catcher”, and Beatrice’s rather ill-considered romance with Jeremy Corbyn… the episode was just a super-fun string of hilarious highlights! Haydn Gwynne (‘Camilla’), Louise Ford (‘Kate’), Morgana Robinson (‘Pippa’), Ellie White (‘Beatrice’), Katy Wix (‘Fergie’), Celeste Dring (‘Eugenie’), Vicki Pepperdine (‘Princess Anne’), and Kathryn Drysdale (‘Meghan’) were all on top-form once again, bringing their cartoon-y caricatures to strangely-loveable life… though I was a little disappointed that Dring didn’t get more to do here (beyond describing the ideal night out in London: “Dinner, then theatre, then dinner again”)… thankfully, I can always go back to watch the in-character “wedding fashion vlog” that she and White recorded for Marie Claire, which was also referenced/briefly-cannibalised in this episode.

Ellie White as 'Anne' and Vicki Pepperdine as 'Alison' ala "Ellie White & Vicki Pepperdine's Summer"Oh, and while we’re on the subject of cast-members moonlighting, Pepperdine and White wrote a (NSFW) Summer Comedy Short for SkyTV together, starring themselves as a morris-dancing mother and daughter preparing for an “important” public performance… while Wix (who also appeared in the aforementioned short) wrote a (NSFW) sketch about an eccentric hypnotherapist and her unfortunate new patient, played once again by White! Besides being very funny, these comedy collabs suggest that the cast are all good chums off-screen, which always warms me cockles…

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Die Harderer

Stephanie Beatriz as ‘Detective Rosa Diaz’ in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (S5)Jinkies! Last Thursday (10/5) Fox cruelly cancelled Brooklyn Nine-Nine, after five consistently funny seasons… then the very next day, NBC picked up the tab, and ordered thirteen shiny new episodes! Hurrah! In the show’s remarkably brief “limbo” period of non-existence, there was a loud outcry from fans online, including some surprising celebrity supporters, such as Academy-Award-winning writer/director Guillermo del Toro, who tweeted: “[B99] has given us fully human characters, beautiful, powerful, flawed, vulnerable, majestic… In whichever form, B99 must return. It will. And I will be there to watch. And, it is my hope that, this time, a lot more people do too.” Amen.

That said, I can’t help wishing they could tweak the show’s formula a tad, to shift the focus away from ‘Jake’ (Andy Samberg), and give the rest of the cast more to do. When I read a SPOILER that last week’s episode (#5.20) would see ‘Rosa’ (Stephanie Beatriz) getting caught up in an “active shooter situation”, I naively assumed that meant the story would be centred around her being heroic while isolated from the rest of the squad (just as “The Box” (ep #5.14) was a two-handed showcase for Jake and ‘Holt’ (Andre Braugher)), when in reality it meant she was absent for almost the entire episode, while everyone (but especially Jake) fretted over her off-screen safety. Meh. The same thing happened at the start of the season, with the comparative weight (and screen-time) afforded to Jake’s incarceration, over his fellow-victim-of-injustice. Is equal representation for Rosa and ‘Amy’ (Melissa Fumero) really asking too much, in this day and age…?

Edit (15/5/18): Mea culpa (me a idiot?), I wrote the above before I’d seen this week’s episode (#5.21), in which Amy and Rosa (aka “The Sleuth Sisters”) got a subplot all to themselves, teaming up to catch a major criminal who’d eluded them in their younger days. This was absolutely glorious, and much appreciated. More, please!

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Taskmaster Infinity?

Liza Tarbuck a la "Taskmaster" (S6)Quirky-celebrity-challenge-show Taskmaster (still one of the most reliably/painfully funny things on British TV, despite my lingering disapproval of the gender imbalance/uneven teams) returned for a sixth “season” this week, with an expanded run of ten episodes (as compared to last season’s eight, and the first season’s six). Hurrah! Meanwhile, it was announced that three more (ten-episode) seasons have already been commissioned to follow along at some point in the future, so this format could well outlive us all! Oh, and a much shorter-and-shoutier American version was launched earlier this week on Comedy Central, but the less said about that the better… though obviously if you’ve never seen the original (from which all the tasks were recycled), it might be more enjoyable in its own right…?

Anyhoo, this time around the female contestants are actress/presenter Liza Tarbuck and model/presenter Alice Levine. I’ve had a long-standing crush on Tarbuck since the late-1980s (thanks to the sitcom Watching), and she’s always been very high on my hypothetical-dinner-party-guest-list, so it was great to see her mucking in here, with her trademark warmth and wit… by contrast, Levine was an unknown quantity, but she won me over in the very first round with the nonchalant announcement that her submission for the “Best Liquid” prize was a vial of her own blood! Her entry in the “Wheelbarrow Stunt” task was also a well thought-out and flawlessly executed visual gag, with some properly Hitchcockian suspense leading up to the shocking punchline. So, snaps to her for that… though I refuse to choose between them at this early stage…

P.S. The Radio Times site has an interesting interview with series director Andy Devonshire, which reveals how the show is assembled… in case you’re curious…

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