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February 1, 2013

Review: Vince Cosmos, Glam Rock Detective

Posted on February 1, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Vince Cosmos, Glam Rock DetectivePaul Magrs is a very clever chap. He's a lecturer in creative writing, and has written numerous books and audio plays. Not all of them are about Doctor Who, but quite a lot of them are. Indeed, he's written a few Big Finish Doctor Who audio plays, including my favourite ever, the insanely clever Ringpullworld. He was even the author who managed to lure Tom Baker back to Doctor Who for a series of BBC audio plays, starting with The Hornets' Nest.

Largely, if Magrs has a theme, it's to deconstruct Doctor Who, not just as a show but how it's written. Indeed, his most famous creation is Iris Wildthyme, a perpetually drunk, lying, sexually active Time Lady (the clue is in the name) with her own range of books from Obverse Books and a range of Big Finish audio plays that stars former Doctor Who companion Katy Manning. Iris, who travels the universe in a double-decker bus with a talking panda for a companion, originally started as a way to subvert Doctor Who, the Doctor and science-fiction conventions - she did what the Doctor doesn't and that illuminated the nature of the Doctor in various ways.

All this is by way of introduction to Magrs' latest creations, 70s glam rock star Vince Cosmos and his biggest fan Poppy Munday, who feature in a new series of audio plays from Bafflegab Productions, which is best known for producing The Scarifyers on BBC Radio 4 Extra. Starring Julian Rhind-Tutt of Green Wing, Hippies et al, Vince Cosmos: Glam Rock Detective is an origin story that sees Munday moving down to London from Sunderland and meeting her idol, Vince Cosmos… who for some reason seems to think the Martians are intent on invading the Earth. Is he mad? Will the Martians, if they exist be stopped? And will Munday manage to get her end away with Cosmos before the end of the play?

Sound a bit like it might be subverting and deconstructing Doctor Who? You'd not be wrong.

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January 28, 2013

Review: Wonder Woman #16/Justice League #16/Batwoman #16 et al

Posted on January 28, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Wonder Woman #16

I might have made a rod for my own back here. Trying to flag up and review every appearance of Wonder Woman each month in DC's various titles seemed quite easy (and cheap to do) when it was just Wonder Woman and then Justice League I had to pay attention to. But this month, as well as those and the continuing crossover with Batwoman, there's Ame-Comi girls, the H'El on Earth storyline that's crossing over Superman, Superboy and Supergirl, and the alternative reality Injustice: Gods Among Us to deal with, too. Blimey. I'll try my best anyway.

This month, we've had the continuation of the New Gods storyline in Wonder Woman, including the return of pretty much every Old God we've had so far in the comics. Justice League sees the continuation of the Atlantean war against the upper world - and the return of pretty much every Justice League member from pre-nu52. Batwoman gets a little bit back on track, even if it seems to have lost the plot with Wonder Woman, and H'El on Earth gets all 'mantic. Isn't that nice?

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January 24, 2013

Nostalgia Corner: Head of the Class (1986-91)

Posted on January 24, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Head of the Class

Nerds and the gifted are usually the butts of jokes in US sitcoms. Happier with the ordinary, the sporting and those who don't try too hard, even when there is a smarter character (such as in Modern Family), the majority of US sitcoms see that nerdiness or intellect as a weakness, something to be mocked because it separates out the gifted from the rest of us - when, at High School, the last thing you want is to be different. And they're never ever going to get a girlfriend or boyfriend, either. Well, not a normal one, anyway.

The 80s did, however, give us a show that dared to be different. Head of the Class starred WKRP in Cincinnati's Howard Hesseman as an actor who becomes a substitute teacher at a New York high school. His assignment was a class of children on the Individualized Honors Program (IHP): everyone in the class was a genius at one school subject or another. While to a certain extent the class was composed of stereotypes - the science guy is a skinny, pocket protector-wearing, bespectacled wimp; the computer genius is fat and cynical; the political science guy is preppy; the arts girl is airy fairy; and so on - it still had some variety with Eric (Brian Robbins), the motorcycle-riding, leather-jacket wearing cool kid who was a superb writer, a black rich kid (a young Robin Givens) and an Indian exchange student (Jory Husain).

Each week, Hesseman would give the kids life lessons and help to teach them the ways of the world, but with no 'normal' kids around, the IHP students were able to be themselves, to work hard, to be friends and to excel. They could know answers to questions, answer intelligently and debate issues. There were even potential romances, with airy fairy arts girl Simone and cool kid Eric having an on-again, off-again relationship. In a pre-Glee move, thanks to Hesseman's acting background, the IHP kids would even put on a yearly musical.

The show lasted four five seasons, during which time it changed considerably. As well as being the first US sitcom to film in the Soviet Union (for its third season opener), by the fourth season, some students had graduated, bringing in new students to the programme, including a blonde hippie and an aspiring filmmaker (De'voreaux White from the first Die Hard).

The fifth season saw Hesseman's character leave, his acting career finally taking off, to be replaced with Billy Connolly in his first US TV role. More stand-up than teacher, Billy also had to deal with America and its customs, and he was popular enough that he got his own spin-off show, Billy.

Sadly, the show ended that season with everyone in the IHP finally graduating and the school itself being demolished. While you're mourning, here's the rather catchy theme tune and iconic titles, as well as a full 11 minutes of an episode that featured Brad Pitt that shows why Head of the Class was so different from most sitcoms of the time.

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