Thursday 31 December 2020

Predictions for 2021 (and how badly I did last time)

Every year I try and predict what'll happen in the coming year. Boy did I get 2020 wrong! Let's have a look back, and tally the scores for, my Predictions for 2020:

New Labour Leader will be Rebecca Long-Bailey - WRONG

Trump wins 2020 election - WRONG

Democrat candidate is Joe Biden - RIGHT (Wow. I never get anything right, this bodes well)

Eurovision winner - The UK - WRONG. (Oh come on, who guessed the show would be cancelled for the first time in 65 years?)

Economy tanks because of Brexit - PARTLY RIGHT. Economy tanked but, as I think we all noticed, there was another reason for that.

House prices - up by 2% - PARTLY RIGHT. In fact they went up by 4.7%. (That's what an economy tanking looks like)

Petrol prices - up by 2% - WRONG. The RPI says the price has dropped by 11%. Can't say I've noticed, though I did buy my cheapest tank-full in a decade back in May (it was 99p a litre, today it cost me £1.14).

Marvel superhero movies are unpopular and they stop making them - PARTLY RIGHT. For the wrong reasons, no Marvel movies were released this year, but they announced a slate of a dozen for the next few years.

Cats, however, turns out to be a sleeper hit and makes 100s of millions by the end of the year - WRONG. The latest figures I can find are from the start of the year, when it seemed to have lost $100 million. I haven't heard the shock story of its turnaround. Yet.

Doctor Who movie version is announced and, if not released this year, does get made - WRONG. Though the next series is in production, and will be shorter still than the last two

TV shows that get revived: The Avengers (Steed & Mrs Peel), The Jetsons (live action), Adam Adamant, Catweazle (but female), Whodunnit (as a Saturday night live show), Drop The Dead Donkey, Top Of The Pops - ALL WRONG. Now if I'd have said Worzel Gummidge...

Britbox gets major revamp and starts commissioning new shows, then goes out of business by Christmas - PARTLY RIGHT. They have commissioned new shows, including Spitting Image, but they are still in business. (Apparently. I mean, it's not like I've ever heard anyone mention watching it).

Netflix launches its first year-round soap opera - WRONG

Eastenders features no deaths. - WRONG. It managed to squeeze in four deaths, which is above average even for them. And that was with the show spending three months off screen, its first break in 35 years!

Surprise technological advance - brain-operated exo-skeleton, and downloadable memories. - WRONG

National newspaper to go out of business - Daily Express - WRONG

White Christmas? Yes. - WRONG

So, beating the wipeout of my 2019 predictions, I actually got 1 out of 17 guesses spot on, and score wibbly wobbly half points for three others. Now, let's look forward to my Predictions for 2021...

Kev F's Confident Predictions For 2021

I think we all know better than to make over-confident predictions, after experiencing the most unforeseeable year in my life, and I bet in yours too. So all I can predict is...

The Covid pandemic will EITHER get a lot worse thanks to the New Variants, and drag on all year
The vaccine will work, the New Variants won't be as bad as they might have been, and it's all over quickly.

The Edinburgh Fringe will go ahead as if nothing had happened
The pandemic will remain so bad that Edinburgh is cancelled again and we lose more money

My books will find the audience they deserve and will turn a considerable profit
I will fail to find an audience for them and will be sitting on boxes of unsold books by December 2021

I will be able to return to school and will do more than 100 days of Comic Art Masterclasses
Schools will remain closed to visitors and, by December, I'll have only done online classes, and fewer than 50.

Eurovision winner will be from Eastern Europe
Eurovision is cancelled again (I realise I'm now making guesses both of which could be wrong!)

So, here are some straight-up likely-to-be-wrong predictions:

Boris Johnson will still be Prime Minister by the end of 2021

Brexit will turn out not to have been that bad. There will be some horror stories, but on balance not so many.

Joe Biden will still be alive by the end of 2021 and will have started no wars

House prices - up by 2%
Petrol prices - up by 10%

Marvel superhero movies prove unpopular and they stop making them (3rd year running for this prediction)

A new Doctor Who will be announced, Jodie to regenerate in last episode of series 13

New Doctor Who showrunners to be Jim Field Smith, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

Britbox goes out of business and merges with iPlayer

National newspaper to go out of business - Daily Star

Major new theatre opens in London's West End

Eastenders manages a year with no deaths

A stupid expensive memorial to the pandemic is proposed, to be built in London. (eg a bridge)

White Christmas - yes, and it's the worst weather for 30 years

TV shows to get remakes: I Claudius, The Prisoner, The Brady Bunch, Jim'll Fix It, The Double Deckers, Black Beauty, Goodnight Sweetheart, Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, Stingray, Z Cars.

Technological advance: Selfie-Drone no bigger than a tennis ball, most popular item for Christmas

Months go by without Donald Trump appearing as a major news headline.

Happy New Year, see you again in 12 uneventful months' time.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries & art centres - AND NOW ONLINE VIA ZOOMemail for details. His debut graphic novels Findlay Macbeth , The Prince Of Denmark Street and The Midsummer Night's Dream Team are available on Amazon. Follow Kev on Facebook, Twitter. Promo video here

My Comic Strip Review Of The Year 2020

Looking back over 2020 I've managed to be much more positive than some recent years. (To be fair, Mum dying on the penultimate day of 2018, and us selling our childhood home in the closing days of 2019 cast a shadow over those years). And, while many have had a truly miserable time through the pandemic, and many more are full of woe as Brexit unfolds, for Hev and me it's been a lot more tolerable than it might have been.

Creatively 2020 was a high watermark for me. Because I wasn't spending whole days travelling to and from schools and gigs, I had more time at my desk than ever before. And because I couldn't perform live shows only Zoom shows, to an audience comprising many of the same people every time, I was obliged to write more new show material than I would do in a normal year.

So, at the end of 2020, I've published three whole graphic novels. That's 365 pages of comic strip, which I think is pretty bloody amazing. The Kickstarter campaigns have enabled me to do it, and made sure that I haven't lost money on the process, but I've not made money either. If I manage to sell every copy of all three print runs it'd still not pay as much as drawing that many pages for Beano or Bible Society, but the books are out there, and I think they're good. 

If they reach a public, as I think they deserve, then I could build to doing more books that reach more people. I am, in essence, doing nothing different from JK Rowling and David Walliams. All we need is for the rest of the world to cotton onto my genius, and said world is my oyster.

The Socks shows, encouraged by Dean Friedman inviting us to guest on his shows, have been quite the revelation. We've got audiences, again not as big as they could be, but bigger than many peoples, and they've made every show as profitable as a touring gig. In fact, once you take away the costs of putting on an Edinburgh show and staying there for a month, it's likely that I came away with more profit from my July & August Virtual Fringe gigs than I do from the real thing! 

Getting the chance to dig out and re-perform four of our classic shows (Space, Boo and Shakespeare in August, then Roll Up in November) was great fun, a reminder that we actually have quite a repertoire we can tour, when touring resumes. And writing the new shows was the best thing. Hallo Ian had more new material than New Material Night, ironically, and the Xmas Special and Hogmanay Quiz Night had as much again, not to mention the stuff we wrote for Dean's shows, of which I think we did a dozen starting in April. 

And we uploaded 86 Socks videos. That's our most ever in one year! (Last year 44, 2018 50, '17 25, '16 56, '15 41, '14 37, '13 55, '12 81, '11 36, '10 79). They were mostly sketches and songs clipped from our Zoom shows and include duets with Dean on things like Lucky Stars, The Deli Song and my favourite new song of the year What Kind Of..., and many other things which would stand up well in a live show but have only been seen by Zoom audiences. The most watched are Giving Granny Covid For Christmas (1800 views), the Rocky Horror Medley (775) and Stay Two Metres Apart (1200). I'm not threatening the money-making levels of Youtube viewership, but it's satisfying to know you're not completely invisible.

True, we've eaten into the money from Mum & Dad's house, but at least we had that. Without it we would have been suffering badly by now. The loss of earnings in 2020, if they continue at that level in 2021, will be an increasing concern, so I'll just have to redouble my efforts to get school work on Zoom, try flogging my books, and get bigger audiences for the Socks' Zoom shows. Anything's possible, so let's make it happen. Here's to 2021. Come on, what's the worst that could happen..?

My Review of 2019

2018   . 2017 .  • .  2016 .  • .  2015 .  •   2014 .  • .  2013
2012   • .  2011 .  • .  2010

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries & art centres - AND NOW ONLINE VIA ZOOMemail for details. His debut graphic novels Findlay Macbeth , The Prince Of Denmark Street and The Midsummer Night's Dream Team are available on Amazon. Follow Kev on Facebook, Twitter. Promo video here

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre will be touring near you sometime. Catch up with them on Facebook for the latest. 

Saturday 19 December 2020

Corporate gig and Christmas cards - end the year busy

The Socks' final performance of the year has ended up not being a live show in Barton On Humber (Tier 3 has put paid to all the Fingers Crossed Tour gigs), and also not being the final performance of the year.

On Friday night (Dec 18) we did a corporate! And, as far as I can judge, it went well. A company called Big Top produced a series of virtual end-of-year parties for corporate clients and the Socks were able to do one. (Ironically we'd had to decline another because of the Fingers Crossed live shows that didn't happen). We performed two 20 minute sets and, because the clients were in the States, didn't start till 10pm and finished our second set at just short of 11.30. 

The client was, I learnt just in advance, going to be happy with the same 20 minute set twice, but I'd prepared two. So they got I'm A Sock, Halloween, Earth Song, and Magic in the first set, and I Change The Key, Shall I Compare Thee, Little Drummer Boy, Star Wars and an encore of Earth Song in the second. Yes, they actually called for more, which I hope means we'd got away with it. It's hard to tell with a Zoom audience, especially one which had kids in the audience (I chatted with a couple of 5 year olds before each set, and had already tailored the material in anticipation. Though a 'cock', a 'bastard', and a 'sodding' had crept in under the radar, I realised too late).

As I say, that won't now be the Socks' final gig of the year as I've added a show on December 31st. Because it was suggested in the post-show chat at last weekend's Xmas Specials, I'm trying the Socks first ever Quiz Night. Quite how this will work I don't know. I know that, if we get a sellout of 60 tickets, that buzzer rounds are out of the question. I'm thinking on it.

Tell you what, there's a gig before that, I'd almost forgotten to mention. Dec 27th the Socks are co-hosting Dean Friedman's Hanukkah Show, a two hour extravaganza with special guests. Best get plugging that!

I've managed to stay surprising busy in the final weeks of the working year, with Christmas card commissions (eg the one above, and the strip from which you see an excerpt below) including my annual pun based one for Louisa, and the family photo one for Jude. And this week we had a new window fitted in the bathroom (I only mention here, otherwise we're bound to forget when these things happened).

Christmas cards have been posted, we're off for some last minute Christmas shopping today, and before you know where you are it'll be the big day itself. With no way of visiting Aud & Den in Wales, and the decision made not to visit Jude and family in London, we'll be having a quiet one at home. Let's make it a good one everyone.

Now, I'm acutely aware that, this time last year, I was already drawing Findlay Macbeth, and this year I've been so damn busy I haven't written anything on the next book (working title Twelfth Thing) for a month. Maybe work will commence next week. Let's see.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries & art centres - AND NOW ONLINE VIA ZOOMemail for details. His debut graphic novels Findlay Macbeth , The Prince Of Denmark Street and The Midsummer Night's Dream Team are available on Amazon. Follow Kev on Facebook, Twitter. Promo video here

My Books and where to get them:

Findlay Macbeth - Paperback - Kindle - Etsy (signed)
Prince Of Denmark Street - Paperback - Kindle - Etsy (signed)
Midsummer Nights Dream Team  - Paperback - Kindle - Etsy (signed)
Shakespeare Omnibus Collection (all 3 books) - Paperback

Tales From The Bible - Paperback -  Kindle -  Etsy (signed)

Bowie By Robot - Paperback -  Kindle
Eurovision Colouring Vol 1 Amazon -  Lulu £10.94 - Etsy £6.99
Eurovision Colouring Vol 2 - Amazon £15.32 - Lulu £10.72 - Etsy £6.99
Doctor Who Colouring - Amazon £11.84 - Lulu £9.98 - Etsy £6.99
Punk Colouring - Amazon £15.61 - Lulu £10.98 - Etsy £6.99
70s Pop Star Colouring - Amazon £10.98 - Lulu £10.98 - Etsy £6.99
60s Pop Star Colouring - Amazon £12.69 - Lulu £10.98 - Etsy £6.99

Friday 18 December 2020

Merry Christmas from me and all my characters

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year when it comes to all my readers, and anyone who chances to cross my path!

In this year's card, which has gone out in printed form to friends and family but few else, you can see (clockwise from bottom left) Horatio, Ophelia, Bottom, Joe Hamlet, Puck, Findlay Macbeth, Titania, Oberon, Inspector Philostrate, Moira the secretary and myself from, variously, The Prince Of Denmark Street, The Midsummer Night's Dream Team, and Findlay Macbeth; and in the centre of the table The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre. They are, as I rather absent-mindedly forgot to put beside my signature, posed in a pastiche of Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving picture, which is actually called Freedom From Want.

Thanks so much to everyone who's supported my work in 2020, from those who joined the Kickstarter campaigns for my three graphic novels, to those who had my Comic Art Masterclasses into their schools and online, and to everyone who came to the Scottish Falsetto Socks events. It's been a weird year, but a creative one if nothing else.

Here's to 2021, see you all then and there.

Dec 31 - Hogmanay Quiz Night

Tuesday 15 December 2020

My TV Of The Year - The Top Ten

 My TOP TV Of 2020 - Part 4 The TOP TEN

You’ve seen the Top 40 (40 to 21 and 20 to 11) and the best of the rest, now brace yourself for Uncle Kev’s wholly unrepresentative choice of what he thinks is the Best TV of 2020. Prepare to disagree …

10) Doctor Who (BBC) - Okay, I am stretching things in a big way here, cos I realise there is no way Chris Chibnall’s Doctor Who writing compares to anything else in my top forty. But this show is such a big part of my life that when this season turned out to be better than its predecessor, and pulled out the stops to make as big an impact as it possibly could, it deserved ranking as high as I allowed it to last time. I actively like a number of episodes in this series, loved The Master, loved the revelations about the Doctor’s history, and loved the ending. I also loved how much it wound up other Doctor Who fans. And Jodie is great. I hope (beyond hope) that she gets some top notch scripts in her next series (which would, by usual standards, be her final one). Hope springs eternal.

9) Upload (Amazon) - The best sci fi comedy of the year, from Greg Daniels of The Office and King of The Hill fame. Looking at a virtual afterlife and a corporately dystopian future, it out Black Mirrored Black Mirror, getting new and original twists on technological futurology at every turn, without losing its grip on the comedy and the characterisation. If it can keep this up for another season that will be a good thing.

8) All Creatures Great & Small (Channel 5) - This may well be the first time a Channel 5 show has made it into my TV Of The Year, and it so deserves it. The cosiest, sweetest, family telly of the year, winning extra points for being filmed in Grassington, where I worked for a week with my Socks and classes just last year. A splendid achievement, boding well for the revitalised underdog of terrestrial TV turning some tricks in the year to come.

7) Devs (FX) - The best pure science fiction of the year, it is to the credit of writer and director Alex Garland that I didn’t even get the secret hidden in the word play of the title until it was revealed in the final episode. Equally cosmic and down to earth, both murder-mystery and techno-thriller, it had concepts done so well it’ll be a stick to beat less imaginative writers with for years to come.

6) The Crown (Netflix) - Season three was variable, and it took us a time to adjust to the new casting, but season four more than made up for that. The Charles and Di story is a corker. Once again every episode is a film drama in its own right, and this time all Peter Morgan’s tricks have been brought to bear making every chunk of this series a stand alone delight. BAFTAs all round.

5) The Other One (BBC) - Had it not been for the pandemic, this might have been snuck out as a BBC Three programme (ie a TV show on a channel that no longer exists) and been missed by everyone. As it is we stumbled across it and loved it. Written and directed by Holly Walsh, who’s becoming a bit of a comedy powerhouse, it took its central premise of surprise sisters and made it compelling and funny throughout. It had the anguish and angst that Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant used to wring out of The Office while keeping up the funnies. And left us on a cracking cliffhanger for the second series.

4) The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix) - This really was as good as everyone says it was. The thought that the story of a chess playing orphan in the 1960s, adapted from a book by the guy who wrote The Hustler and The Man Who Fell To Earth (I know), would work is far fetched enough. That it worked so well, at the hands of a Scottish screenwriter and the guy who wrote the movie Logan, is all the more stunning. 7 perfect episodes, check.

3) The Goes Wrong Show (BBC) - “Alright if you like laughing” is the sort of criticism this show probably gets a lot of. Extended from their stage shows of the last few years, a couple of these episodes threatened to show up the “you had to be there” nature of its transfer to television. Then they pulled off the episodes with the tiny set and the upside down set, and delivered farcical coups de theatre on screen that I can’t remember seeing before. Not only did they play with the form bravely and imaginatively, but most importantly they were funny. Very very funny. Regardless of its place in my chart, I laughed to tears and beyond more with this TV series than I have with any TV shows I can recall. To take unfamiliar actors and deliver a show within a show conceit that is eye-wateringly funny is incredible. Genius.

2) I May Destroy You (BBC) - Michaela Coel’s slightly autobiographical drama is brilliant. It has done things with TV storytelling that are state of the art and beyond, allowing for magical realism and fantasy in a totally gritty and down to earth drama. The portrayal of characters through time was punishingly realised, letting no one come away with their halo intact. Our heroine walks around wearing devil wings at one point, if we were in any doubt. Playing with expectations and techniques, and with realistic worlds portrayed that I can only assume are accurate cos I’m way too old and way too not-urban to know better, this is the show Fleabag wishes it could have been.

1) Ghosts (BBC) - The second series of this comedy, devised by and starring the team from Horrible Histories, managed to be even better than the first. Every character is a comedy gem, every back story brilliantly realised, and so many stories left to tell that one can only hope this runs and runs. I’ve watched every episode of both series twice and can see myself rewatching it in decades to come. The most original sitcom concept since Red Dwarf (no, it’s not just warmed-up Rentaghost), the most complete range of distinct comedy characters since Dads Army, and the most perfect casting since Cheers, genuinely no comedy show, British, American or otherwise, has impressed me as much as Ghosts. 

So, that was my favourite TV of 2020. I bet they weren’t your favourites, I look forward to hearing what was.

UPDATE: Special mentions must be made for this year's Christmas Specials. Ghosts, The Goes Wrong Show, Motherland, and Upstart Crow Lockdown Christmas 1603 were all brilliant.

My Top TV of 2019

My Top TV of... 2018 •  2017 • 2016 • 2015 • 2014 • 2013 • 2011 • 2009

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries & art centres - AND NOW ONLINE VIA ZOOMemail for details. His debut graphic novels Findlay Macbeth , The Prince Of Denmark Street and The Midsummer Night's Dream Team are available on Amazon. Follow Kev on Facebook, Twitter. Promo video here

My TV Of The Year 2020 Part 3: 20 to 11

 My TOP TV OF 2020 Part 3: 20 to 11

I've looked at my 40 to 21, and my Runners Up & other categories. So... 

20) The Eddy (Netflix)  - Warning, requires extreme tolerance to jazz music. The work of Damian La La Land Chazelle, this drama pulled off some brilliant storytelling tricks and made them seem effortless. Told in a variety of languages, including French and Arabic, it transported you into the most realistic world. And filled it with jazz which, as I say, can be hard going for many, myself included. It is forgiven its shameless “give us a second series” ending, which rather soiled things.

19) The Marvelous Mrs Maisel (Amazon) - The best writing on the telly, top of my chart in 2018, No 3 in 2019. It would be expecting a lot for a third season to have maintained its novelty, but it has retained its quality and is a delight throughout.

18) Mister Winner (BBC) - Nothing about this suggested in advance that it was going to be any good. A British sitcom, co written by and starring Spencer Jones whose stand up schtick is very silly and unlikely to translate to narrative. But by golly it worked, giving us one of the best laugh out loud sitcoms for a long time.

17) Mrs America (FX) - FX, whose shows we get on BBC2, have done some good biopics in recent years, and nailed the verissimilitude with this one. Getting the audience to sympathise equally with a right wing Republican whose work led to the involvement of Evangelicals in US politics, and the progressive women striving to bring the Equal Rights Amendment into being was quite the achievement. Telling what could be quite a dry story with such insight and personality was exceptional. Showrun by Dahvi Waller.

16) Life (BBC) - Another one-word title that’s a bugger to Google, this piece by the writer of Dr Foster, Mike Bartlett, punched well above its weight, having all the makings of a run of the mill middle-budget BBC drama, likely to be swamped by the big budget fare on offer from the streaming companies. Instead it proved that writing is almost everything, brilliant acting and directing being the other part that, often, the big budget dramas don’t manage. If everything made on this budget could be this good, old fashioned TV would have nothing to worry about.

15) Dracula (BBC) - Divided a lot of viewers, as I think Steve Moffat and Mark Gattis’s writing will always do, it was full of so many devious tricks and conceits - and, let’s face it, gags - that it was irresistible and delightful. Had enough “why has no one ever done that before” moments to qualify as their best work in a while.

14) The Righteous Gemstones (Sky Comedy) - A hidden gemstone that, to my mind, I haven’t noticed anyone mention, it kept us gloriously entertained. Savaging American TV evangelicals while giving us a rollicking comedy adventure spanning the decades this was a must see this Spring.

13) Stateless (ABC/Netflix) - Another one that’s slipped under most peoples radar, this Australian drama told the stories, based on true life, of detainees at an immigration camp. Another show that didn’t shy away from other languages and subtitles, it gave us more sympathy for the devil in getting inside the stories of both guards and refugees, management and underlings, and examining the political situation behind the stories. (The true story has a less happy ending than you hope since, and this is spoiler free by the way, since these camps caused so much controversy in Australia, they were subsequently moved offshore and have since, apparently, become even worse).

12)  Lockdown Specials -  Lockdown was a big challenge to regular TV. Dramas just went off the air and will have long gaps, if they even return. But for chat shows and lifestyle it was interestingly different. So full marks to everyone who accommodated conditions so well. 

Graham Norton won chat shows, and HIGNFY won panel games, both getting back in the saddle from their laptops at the earliest opportunity, and in the States The Daily Show and Jimmy Fallon did the same with aplomb. 

But by far and away the best of these was Grayson’s Art Club (Channel 4). Created during lockdown and filmed against the odds, early on when everyone was still reeling, it was the greatest bringing together of hearts and minds, and the public and celebrities, in the name of art. Culminating in an exhibition that instantly got shut down by the ever changing rules and has yet to happen, this programme made you feel the collective pain and joy of so many people this year, better than any other.

11) Small Axe (BBC) - Steve McQueen’s set of five film dramas are outstanding and will be hailed as landmark TV. In turns challenging, especially in getting unfamiliar viewers to tune their ear to Jamaican and other accents, this was the year’s best and most direct political storytelling. Some flourishes were so arthouse, especially the lingering still shots that McQueen lets carry on even longer than David Lynch would, they deserve rounds of applause when they happen. This is the TV that the BBC exists to bring us.

And so to my Top 10. What could they be? Here lies the answer…

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries & art centres - AND NOW ONLINE VIA ZOOMemail for details. His debut graphic novels Findlay Macbeth , The Prince Of Denmark Street and The Midsummer Night's Dream Team are available on Amazon. Follow Kev on Facebook, Twitter. Promo video here

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