"Introducing John Bishop ..."

TV When at the end of what was a really entertaining Doctor Who tonight, the announcer suggested fans might want to stay tuned for a special announcement, I initially assumed it was the caption revealing that Doctor Who would return. Bit weak, but welcome confirmation even if we know that eighth episodes are in production under COVID rules right now.

Then the Liverpool skyline and some business on a street and well, see above. What looks for all the world like a public information film turns into a casting announcement and feeling of my heart hitting the floor as once again Chris Chibnall turns triumph into defeat, much as he has, at least in the worlds of Doctor Who, since 2006. John Bishop, John bleeding Bishop.

Let's be clear. I'm not a fan of John Bishop. For years he's represented a particular corner of laddish culture which has been anathema to me not least in how he reflects on my city in terms of perpetuating certain stereotypes. There's a moment when his stand-up comedy went from being indentifiably observational to a string of celebrity annecdotes and isn't it funny how a down at heal Scouser gets meet all these stars.

He's currently suffering from COVID and god knows I wouldn't wish that on anyone. He says in that Echo article that he'll be back at work in January and we now know that means filming Doctor Who. Hopefully he'll be well enough to do that.

As some people have noted both Billie Piper and Catherine Tate attracted similarly negative reactions and both turned out to be great and it's entirely possible, if not probably that Bishop will be incredible here too. Neither James Corden and Matt Lucas were particularly fond choices and I agree that Doctor Who brought out the best in them as well even though I have a number of moral objections to both.

But, and this is a huge but, my disappointment isn't just about the cast of John Bishop, it's about what that casting represents.

When it was announced that Brad and Tosin were leaving, I was giddy, not to see the back of the characters necessarily but because of what it meant going forward.

Firstly because for the first time in years we'd be back to the classic paradigm of the Doctor and a plus one in the TARDIS leaving more space within the duration of an episode to introduce more supporting characters and with greater depth because you don't have to service so many lead characters and give them something to do in an episode. Plus it allows for a greater focus on the Doctor as the driving force of the narrative.

Also, because for the first time ever, the show would have two female leads with a whole set of dynamic possibilities. That it was this Jodie and Mandip with all of their chemistry, particularly on show tonight in their short TARDIS scenes together, so much the better. The Doctor and Yaz against the universe. Yaz in particular showed a little of the old TARDIS obsession tonight which creates a whole extra set of possibilities.

Yet instead, we have another person joining the TARDIS and another man and another older white male in the Bradley Walsh mould.

Which means that someone, somewhere decided that Doctor Who wouldn't work going forward without a male lead in the mix and on top of that an older white male. Or as my Twitter friend Lisa-Marie puts it:

Can the next showrunner be a woman? Please?

Review 2020: This Blog.

About Yesterday I attempted to write something about the good things which have happened this year, but unlike 2016 it felt like complimenting the catering at a wake. Even though it's become increasingly difficult to conjure anything longer than a tweet, there has been some writing on this blog so I thought I'd link to some of that instead.

On the 7th January, Elizabeth Wurtzel's death was announced and how we've missed her voice in all of this. As I said then, she "was someone who loomed very large for me, in my life and writing. Her fearless, raw openness and bravery in pushing the barrier in expressing the inexpressible, which often got her into trouble." 

By the end of that month, I'd initiated a new blog project, The Coffee Collection, photos of beverages in their hospitality settings, which reminds me that my visit to Lichfield was this year. For at least six months, I've assumed it was in 2019. 

January also heralded the appearance of a whole new incarnation of the Doctor and in the gap between Fugitive of the Judoon and The Timeless Child, I wrote this speculative post about where the Jo Martin version came from. In the event, I was half right. The whole business of the Doctor not even being a Time Lord in the first place was a conceptual leap too far. 

Just at the start of lockdown, I began cognitive behavioral therapy which was to have been in person but ended up over the phone, with the therapist calling from her own home. In the end, I was signed off because she didn't think there was much more for me to learn - that I already had all of the coping mechanisms in place that she would have taught me. I'd entirely forgotten that back in February, I'd actually posted a lot of these on this very blog

Letterboxd tells me that I've watched 373 films so far this year, which is probably higher than average. In February, I explained my use of their scoring mechanism in all of its tedious detail. 

The most popular new blog post this year by far, was this selection of screencaps from Doctor Who's The Timeless Child annotating all of the images in her memory dump. Still bummed they didn't manage to fit in Koquillian or the Monoids. 

The last time I went anywhere nice, or at all was the 9th March when I began visiting all of the London tube stations in order which on reflection seems amazing reckless. But at that point I didn't have any clue about how the virus was spread and even remember wiping down one of the bars in a train carriage before holding it, despite the fact no one was wearing a mask and all crammed in together. God knows when I'll get to Shepherd's Bush Market and Hammersmith.

A week later, yes really, the whole country was in full lockdown.  Still unjaded and full of enthusiasm, I was blogging about how to make the most of streaming services and began offering a daily selection of entertainment which lasted a whole fourteen entries before the magnitude of what was hitting us sent me low for a bit.

The blog mostly became a link blog for the Summer.

Come Autumn, the tyranny of choice in film was really beginning to take hold and I wrote about strategies to cope.

Then in November, Biden won and other than this look back across the year, that's the longest piece of writing I've been able to produce since.  

Hopefully next year the words will flow again.  Until then, Happy New Year!

Predictions 2020.

That Day We reach the time when I assess how well I predicted the ups and downs of the year and look forward to the next. Here we go again:

The Sugababes releases a whole new album.

Fuck no. Siobhan has disappeared, Kiesha has a YouTube channel and Mutya has gone full Qanon. No marks..

A commercial technology is developed to algorithmically convert standard definition material to high definition quality.

Gigapixel AI exists but I suppose I was really looking for commercial releases which use this technology rather than just standard upscaling. No marks.

The Doctor Who Omnirumour turns out to be true, almost all episodes returned.

No, and in fact they've now animated Web 3 and Morris have full gammon.

Piers Morgan sacked.

Not yet. No marks.

The Arden Shakespeare Series Three publishes Arden of Faversham.

No and the publication of Arden Shakespeare Third Series Complete Works indicates this isn't happening. There's always the Fourth series. See you in twenty years. No marks.

0/5 which is seems fitting for 2020. Right then, 2021.

Our family gets the vaccine.

We stay safe until we get the vaccine.

We go shopping in the city centre.

I visit London.

I lose my lockdown weight.

In previous years, they would have seemed like extremely low bars. In 2021, they will feel like major achievements.

Review 2020:

Films The chances are this will be the only "Review" post which mostly exists so that there won't be a gap in the tag list. Hello. I hope you all had a lovely season, such as it has been what with one thing and another. Ours fortunately hasn't been too different to previous years - we're a small family and don't have too many relatives visit most years anyway. 

To the point. Because of the pandemic, most of the films this year have been available for streaming almost as soon as they were released so for once I feel like I'm in a position to produce a list, even though I spent half the year watching back catalogue.  Finally collecting all of Empire Magazine, I've been reminded of a few of the films which I've otherwise missed or forgotten about.  

Anyway, here are the films released in 2020 in the UK which I gave five stars on Letterboxd:

Happiest Season
Totally Under Control
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Queen & Slim
Enola Holmes
I'm Thinking of Ending Things
The Booksellers
A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood
Jojo Rabbit
The Hunt
The Old Guard
Woman Make Film: A New Road Move Through Cinema
Athlete A
The Vast of Night
Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Which even omitting the four star list (which I will because there's too many of them) is still an incredibly strong year for the medium of cinema, if not the physical architecture.

There are a couple of items on the list I've perhaps been a bit generous with (Mulan, The Hunt) but there's not one there I wouldn't want to watch again right now, which has always been my rule when choosing five star films.

If I had to narrow things down to a top five:

Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Totally Under Control
Birds of Prey

Which feels incredibly mainstream, but this has not been the year for watching French people in various stages of grief against a backdrop of rural poverty.  Hopefully next year.