Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Band Aid 1974

DAVID ESSEX It's Christmas time, there's no need to be afraid
At Christmas time we let in light and we banish shade

ELTON JOHN And in our world of plenty, we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world at Christmas time


ROD STEWART But say a prayer, pray for the other ones, at Christmas time it's hard

ROGER DALTREY But when you're having fun, there's a world outside your window

GARY GLITTER And it's a world of dread and fear

BRIAN CONNOLLY of SWEET Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears

LES GRAY of MUD & BRYAN FERRY And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom

NODDY HOLDER Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you

DAVID BOWIE And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time
The greatest gift they'll get this year is life

LULU, GILBERT O’SULLIVAN & SUZI QUATRO Where nothing ever grows, no rain nor rivers flow

ROY WOOD & MARC BOLAN Do they know it's Christmas time at all?

PAUL McCARTNEY Here's to you 
THE WHO Raise a glass for everyone

JOHN LENNON Here's to them 
THE WHO Underneath that burning sun

McCARTNEY, LENNON, HARRISON & STARR Do they know it's Christmas time at all?


Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Merry Christmas from Kev F & The Scottish Falsetto Socks

Hopefully everyone who's getting this through the post has already had it, so here for the world at large is this year's official Christmas card from Kev F the comic artist, and the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre.

On there you'll see just a fraction of the comics I've produced in this year's Comic Art Masterclasses, you can see my major comic productions Woman Of The Bible and Joseph, you can see the Socks' with their Superheroes comic commemorating this year's hit show, and you can see their award that they won for Best Joke at this year's Bath Comedy Festival. You can also probably spot my appearance on The Apprentice, which was my moment of televisual glory this year.

And since you're on, how about a special treat for you. Here's the original version of the card that was almost going to go to the printers before I decided it frankly didn't say "Christmas" enough. Can you spot the difference?

Merry Christmas everyone, and a happy new year when it comes.

(TOP SECRET sneak preview - now don't tell anyone you've seen this cos they're not out yet, but for those of you who've scrolled down this far, here is Hev & Kev's 2018 Christmas card - and it's in 3D. You'll need a 3D viewer to see it properly (sorry we can't send one to everyone. But if you have one, the classic Victorian kind which holds the image about three inches from your eyes and has two little eyeholes with lenses in to focus with, then download this image to your phone - swipe and it should copy - fill the screen with it portaitways, and voila! Let your eyes focus and, bingo, it's in 3D. I for one am very impressed. All Hev's idea, using her Pollocks toy theatre and images from her Lulu book and exhibition. I just helped with the execution. Enjoy)

Here, should you be interested, are my some past cards from...

2017 - Kev F comic card, the Socks' card
2016 - Kev F comic card, the Socks' Shakespeare card
2015 - Kev F comic card, the Socks' Minging Detectives card
2014 - teasers for mine & the Socks' cards, I failed to put the finished things online!
2013 - Kev F schools card, the Socks don't seem to have had one
2012 - Hev & Kev's fairytale card (a classic, above), Kev F schools card,
2011 - Hev & Kev's and the Socks cards
2010 - Hev & Kev's card (below), and Kev F comic card

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here

Merry Christmas from Mum

Merry Christmas from Mum, Corral Sutherland. As you probably know she's not well and is in a care home in Kibworth, so we've helped her out finishing off the card (all the drawings are hers though) and sending them. A lucky few have the printed card, but she wants everyone to see it, and please print it out and stick it on the wall if you can.

Merry Christmas, love from Mum, Jude, Heather, me and all the extended family.

Here are some of the preparatory stages that went into the completing of the card. Mum had a couple of stabs at drawing the final five groups of characters.

The original Maids A Milking and piper, from back in September.

A first draft of the card, from September, which I'm glad we didn't go with. It's my layout and, ouch, it hurts my eyes. What was I thinking?

Mum's revised Maids A Milking, with which she was a lot happier. And in case you never saw her original Twelve Days Of Christmas cards, which began in 2013, here's how the first one looked.

Just to remind you that, when she was on top form, Mum's draughtsmanship knocks spots off anything I've ever managed to do. Merry Christmas all.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here

Hev & Kev in RCA Secrets

Check me out, front and centre on the front page of the RCA Secrets website this year. What do you mean you've never heard of it? For shame. Look, here's one of Hev's entries...

That's just one of Hev's three cards in this year's RCA Secrets, I have three in there as well. And is that Michael Bartlett, to the right, the same man who was head of my 4D Department at Exeter in the 1980s? It would be brilliant if it was.

The way RCA Secrets works is that a number of artists, by invitation don't cha know, are given three postcards each, to decorate as they see fit. These cards are then displayed, anonymously, and sold on opening night, with all moneys going to the support of the Royal College Of Art.

Here's an interview I did with RCA Secrets back in 2011.

Artists who've entered this year include Jeremy Dellar, Grayson Perry, Nick Park, Maggi Hambling, Ridley Scott and hundreds more. And, of course, Kev Sutherland and Heather Tweed.

Both Heather's and my cards were produced during her exhibition at Christmas Steps back in September. Heather's are prints based on Lulu, the circus performer she's doing work on, and my cards were simply biro drawings of the gallery and Hev's exhibition.

I hope our cards have gone to good homes. I've only ever met one person who's ever bought my card, I suppose statistically it's unlikely that I should even have managed that. She was a teacher at The Brit School, as I recall. Hmm, I wonder if my niece Shona has met her. We should compare notes. Anyhoo, here's to being invited to be in RCA Secrets again next time, and congratulations to all the buyers who got a surprisingly valuable card by a top artist. Commiserations to whoever got me again.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here

Monday, 10 December 2018

Top TV of 2018 - Lost It, Also Rans, & Hast Thou Got Crops In Jethro?

My Top TV of 2018 (Part 1: Lost It, Also Rans, and Hast Thou Got Crops In Jethro?)


Winners of the Hast Thou Got Crops In Jethro? Prize (for shows that shoehorn life lessons in in place of drama. Last year’s top three were The A Word, Loves Lies & Records and The Good Place)

3)  Come Home - The wife walks out on Christopher Eccleston and the kids and he does his usual pained face, this time with a Norther Irish accent. Moral: People are complicated.

2) Collateral - A pizza guy gets shot and something something immigration and er politics and lesbian vicars and something something. Moral: Life is complicated.

1) Butterfly - Kid is transgender. Moral: You can never over-explain things too much in an ITV drama.


A dozen shows we lost interest in, or who lost the plot in 2018 (in no particular order)

Plebs 4 (new casting and location, not the show it was)
This Country 2 (novelty’s worn off)
Humans 3 (lasted only a couple of eps)
Press (soapy, one ep)
Wanderlust (one ep)
Hard Sun (one ep, it was laughable)
No Offence 3 (gave up halfway through ep 5)
Black Earth Rising (3 eps, just not gripping, though very worthy)
Lost In Space (half a dozen, don’t know why we watched that many)
Black Lightning (drifted two thirds through, was enjoying it, spread thin)
Orange Is The New Black 6 (gave up after 5 eps, sub par after previous series)
Walking Dead (didn’t even start the new series - we have the whole thing staring at us from the recorder, they’re going to get wiped unseen)


Shows we have watched and enjoyed that didn’t make the Top 25 chart.

Bobs Burgers, Brooklyn 99, Young Offenders, Urban Myths, The Repair Shop, Mrs Wilson, Bodyguard, Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out, Top Of The Pops 1985/6, Only Connect, Strictly Come Dancing, Eastenders, Richard Osman’s House Of Games 

So which shows made my Top 25 TV Shows of 2018? Read on…

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here

Doctor Who series 11 Verdict - 5 likes, 5 dislikes

Well, that was fun wasn’t it? No, I’m not saying I loved the series, indeed you can prepare yourself for some good hating ahead, but I loved the fact that everybody was talking about it.

I say everybody, obviously I live in a particular bubble of the sort of folks who talk about Doctor Who all the time, and whose most exciting Christmas present this year will be Blu Rays of the first Peter Davison season (which, for the record, I hated at the time and have watched with nothing but embarrassment since). But I have been delighted to find lots more people - in particular kids in schools - who have been aware of Doctor Who this year, and in some way engaged by it. 

A lot of this, true, has been tabloids and twaddle merchants banging on about the stories being “too PC”. Though, as Mandeep Gill pointed out in an interview, PC stands for Politically Correct, and “how can something be too correct?” QED. And there’s been heightened attention drawn to the fact that Jodie’s the first woman in the lead role, but most sensible people got over that fact by, oh, July 2017. Didn’t they?

So I loved my favourite telly show* (*I’ll qualify that when I give my rundown on my Top TV of the year, and you shouldn’t hold your breath in the hope of Doctor Who taking the top spot) being watched by lots more people than in recent years, and lots of them being kids and families. This was clear when I worked with kids in my Comic Art Masterclasses, among the sweetest being a 6 year old kid who described to me the whole story so far in lovely childlike detail, including how her Tardis was her Ghost Monument. That’s what I was waiting to hear. 

But what did I personally think of the series overall? Here are some likes and dislikes.


Personality and characters 

I’ve never been silent on the fact that I’m a Russell T Davies fan. He created and show-ran my favourite 4 years of Doctor Who, and I find the episodes from his run endlessly rewatchable. My biggest criticism of Moffat’s run when it started was that I didn’t relate to the characters. This is the part that Chris Chibnall has got right. Those moments between Graham, Grace, Ryan and Yaz have been the backbone of the series, and the one consistent thread that gets my vote every time. 

Twitter has been alive with Yaz & The Doctor’s girlfriend moments, and Graham and Ryan’s Grandad stuff. This is good TV drama writing and has been what’s led me to describe this series as “Call The Midwife with special effects”. In a good way. 

The topping and tailing of Arachnids In The UK with the scenes where The Doctor nearly loses then wins back her “fam” are the most effective such moments of character writing since Donna, Rose and Wilf.

Non clever-cleverness

I used to be the biggest Steven Moffat fan, especially when he was out-shining RTD during RTD’s own seasons. But when Moffat became show runner, and his love of puzzles, complexity, gag-driven wordplay, and fanboy-pleasing self-referential indulgence took over, it became harder and harder to warm to his stories. While the fanboy in me loved his Missy and Cybermen stories, and the comics reader in me appreciated the ambition of his River Song and other story arcs, reminiscent as they were of the Alan Moore books we both grew up with, the clever-cleverness alienated newcomers to the series. 

Chris Chibnall may be many things, but clever-clever isn’t two of them.

Chibnall has kept it simple, and when that works, it really works. Every one of these episodes, whether you liked them or not, can be easily described to friends the next day. Every one is “that one where”, and they’ve had a great level of quotability to them too. There has only been one episode (It Takes You Away) where any viewer would be left going “what just happened?” and having to explain it to a dozy relative or half-watching mate. And even then, that’s cos the story was a bit bonkers, not cos you had to “keep up”. When it helps accessibility and new viewers to join the party, I’m all for keeping it simple.

No old monsters

This was a brave move and a good one. Treat new viewers as new friends, make the series stand on its own. Russell T Davies almost did this with his first season, though he had to include the Daleks but managed to create mostly his own new enemies. Moffat’s first season had pretty well every old villain there had ever been chucked in there. For Chibnall to manage a whole run with only new characters and challenges is admirable. If only they’d all been… but we’ll come to that. 

Scheduling, presentation, promotion

Sunday night was an excellent choice, the best scheduling choice since 2004’s “let’s bring the series back.” Abandoning the pre-credit sequence was a nice touch. The 10 episodes only was a shame, for those of us who greedily wanted more, but good on him for making the choice and sticking with it. And the promotions, leaking the minimum amount of spoilage in advance, were excellently handled. Even the “Glass Ceiling” trailer was fine by me. 

The PR for this series, from the team’s instagram movies and tweets to all the press calls, have stood out and done the show favours. I cringe when I recall the announcement of Capaldi as the Doctor, way too OTT, and that Doctor Live Afterparty show they did with One Direction and the cast, shudder. Jodie Whittaker has been the best Doctor Who in interviews since David Tennant (sorry Matt and Peter, but she just has). 

And that theme tune

Best theme tune since the 1970s. I liked the 2005 orchestration, but this is just so much more alien and futuristic. Love it.


Lack of visual imagination

One thing the RTD era will always have is visually memorable villains and supporting characters. From the Slitheen and Lady Cassandra (the stretched-skin woman?), through Weeping Angels and Clockwork Robots, to the best ever designs of Daleks and Cybermen, Russell T Davies ensured there were great designs to make into toys for Christmas. Moffat arguably gave us less memorable designs, though you can’t deny he was trying with The Silence, The Spinners (not, not the folk band, I mean those whirly-headed things in The Beast Below), and the worst ever designs of Daleks and Cybermen.

What has Chibnall given us? Household objects but blown up big.

Electric cables that wriggle and an alien in black leather. Shreds of paper that wriggle. A time-travelling Fonzie. Spiders, but big. The Absorbaloff, but small.  Aliens in black leather again. Delivery bots (OK, they were good). Mud monsters from The Curse Of Fenric, but more monotone. A talking frog (OK, that was good too). And the alien in black leather again, who I will confess did have interesting teeth stuck in his face.

But a guy with teeth on his face, delivery bots and a frog on a chair aren’t going to be the toyshop smashes that the Cybermen helmet and the remote controlled Daleks were. They’re not even going to give The Face Of Boe a run for his money. (Yes, I still have a Face Of Boe, worth nothing on eBay I’ve found.)

Lack of drama

I went into The Tsuranga Conundrum in some detail in this blog (and don’t get me started on stupid titles like this and The Battle Of Ranskoor Av Kolos) so I won’t repeat myself. Suffice it to say I’m disappointed in Chibnall’s dramatic writing. We believe in the characters, that bit he’s nailed. But then they get into situations which they explain and re-explain every single time, with exposition taking the place of action at every opportunity. It’s like he missed the Show Don’t Tell module of a creative writing course. 

This has resulted in every episode coming across more like a radio drama than a TV show. There has been so much standing around - in space ship control rooms which all have their operating system in the middle of the room, like a Tardis but with less imagination - and talking through situations. And how many times did the nature of the problem and/or the solution just pop into The Doctor’s head? Rather than being a surprise, a discovery, a twist, a revelation, or the work of one of the characters? Not often enough.

It is this fault that has been my biggest complaint of the series. Moffat may have been too clever-clever, but when you got to the solution of one of his twist storylines, at least you’d get some Keyser Soke-like satisfaction (eg The Empty Child, Silence In The Library, Missy is The Master etc). With Chibnall, whatever you expect is going to happen is exactly what then happens. Often with the help of the “Get Out Of Jail Free” overuse of a Sonic Screwdriver.

And slow bloody motion! How much more slow motion did we have to go through before we all started crying out "wait a minute, this 45 minute show only has 30 minutes of script!"

Lack of ambition

By the middle of this series I was full of praise. Chibnall had set up the best start of a series since Russell T Davies. He was even following the same template as RTD’s first season. Episode 4 had a title that riffed on a pop song (Aliens Of London / Arachnids In The UK), there was an episode title with 4 letters, the first 3 if which were Ros, and most importantly it made you believe in the central characters, rooted in their hometown, and now we were off to enjoy the ambitious stories. 

With RTD it came with Dalek, then Fathers Day, then The Empty Child, then the brilliant finale. The best TV episodes Doctor Who had ever seen. RTD found great new writers and broke new ground in storytelling. He kept doing it himself, with stories like Love & Monsters, and Midnight, stories you couldn’t tell anywhere else. Moffat did this too, bringing in writers like Simon Nye, Richard Curtis, Neil Gaiman, Jamie Mathieson, and Frank Cottrell-Boyce, and giving them a creative carte blanche. To mixed results, but at least they tried.

Chibnall managed this once, with Malorie Blackman’s Rosa. And it’s possible that Kerblam and It Takes You Away will be seen kindly as such standout episodes. But was anything trying to do stuff that you’d never seen on TV before? I’m not sure.

The same damn things over and over again

How many times was there a ’thing’ on the floor in a clearing in a forest? How many times did The Doctor stand her gang round in a circle and explain things? How many spaceships did we get sucked into whose console was in the middle of the room? How many villains spoke in cliched dialogue like a 1970s kids TV show, usually with their voice modulated to sound deeper? How many times did the Doctor suddenly remember who these aliens were and then explain their entire history? How many times did the whole gang and some hangers on walk down a big dirt track in the middle of a quarry/desert/bit of Punjab/junkyard while the camera panned down to show objects in the foreground.

I’m sure someone is already putting together a compilation of all the bits of this season of Doctor Who that just looked the same as each other, if they don’t get too bored.

And no new series in 2019?

I am reminded of the Woody Allen joke. The food here is awful. Yes, and such small portions.

I know everyone will disagree with everyone else’s opinions, I just wanted to get mine down for the record. And, as I’ve said a million times before, if I’m so clever why aren’t I writing Doctor Who? I should put up or shut up, but for the time being here I am doing a bit of neither. Allons-y.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here

Friday, 7 December 2018

It's Beginning To Smell A Lot Like Christmas 1955

A fantastic find, recently unearthed from the vaults, the original 1955 TV appearance of the Scottish Falsetto Socks' classic It's Beginning To Smell A Lot Like Christmas. Do please share and enjoy.

And here's the square embeddable version from the Facebook and the Twitter. I hope we all have fun with these.

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