Happy 2018 everyone! By the time you read this of course it’ll probably be closer to 2019, but as I write this on the 11th of January, Neighbours has just recently returned to our screens. If you followed my previous posts, you’ll know I started watching the show again after being excited about the Dee returning storyline. That story and its repercussions dominated much of 2017 and in the final episode of the year, as Toadie and Sonia renewed their marriage vows, someone watched from the shadows – is it fake Dee, or could it actually be real Dee? Elsewhere we’ve had dead old Scottish guys, uncomfortable prancing cupids, kidnapped babies, and Elly struggling to keep her clitoris in check. Yes, it’s just another ordinary week on Ramsey Street! Rumours and confirmations that a number of key figures will be leaving this year, so expect some new faces too – that dreaded curse of ‘what do we do with the teens once they finish school’ continues. Lets take a look back at some golden oldies.
Todd and his sister Katie were among the first ‘orphans’ on the street, taken in by other relatives in Erinsborough due to issues at home. In all honesty I don’t remember much about Todd, except for somehow convincing myself when I was younger that he was played by Christian Slater – no idea why. My greatest memory of him is of course his death – being hit by a van when trying to catch up to Phoebe as she was on her way to have an abortion. I remember this being one of the first switcheroos I’d experienced, as he woke up in hospital, apparently fine, then died moments later. Neighbours would pull the same stunt with my beloved Cody a few years later.
Where Are They Now:
In the dirt, though he did return as a ghost shortly after dying. We’re still waiting for Hope, his daughter, to make an appearance, though she did of course return for Neighbours Vs Zombies. Schmid has maintained his acting career, appearing in The Tomorrow People, Sea Patrol, and can currently be seen in Home And Away.
Lori Lee – Michelle Ang – 2002 – 2004
Significant Others: Jack Scully. Connor O’Neill. Michelle Scully. Taj Coppin. Nina Tucker. Madeleine Lee. The Kennedys.
Oh man, I loved Lori Lee. She was one of my favourite smaller characters of the time and of course I had a bit of a crush. She first appeared as Jack Scully’s girlfriend, but it was her one night stand with Connor which brought their daughter into the world. The enduring question from all of this is how the hell Connor had relationships with so many hot women. My biggest memory of her is of course her slipping at the pool.
Where Are They Now:
Lori left with Maddie in 2004, with Connor keeping in touch. When Connor returned to the show in 2012 he let us know that Lori had recently been married and that he was going to move closer to her to spend more time with Maddie. It seems unlikely she’ll return after 14 years, but the time is ripe for Maddie to make an appearance now as a new regular teen. I may have literally screamed when I saw that Michelle Ang joined Fear The Walking Dead – spoiler alert – she only appeared in a couple of episodes and wasn’t shown being killed – she could yet make a return there, or even better on The Walking Dead itself. She’s appeared in some other notable movies and shows too – The Taking Of Deborah Logan, Top Of The Lake for example.
Joe Mangel – Mark Little – 1988 – 1991 (2005)
Significant Others: The Mangels. Kerry Bishop. Melanie Pearson.
Joe Mangel for me was the prototype Australian man. When I was young if someone asked me to think of someone from Australia, I thought of Crocodile Dundee and Joe Mangel. While they’re both drenched in cliche, it doesn’t make their characters any less true. Joe was a beer-drinking, easy going bloke’s bloke but still had a soft hart. Joe was involved in one of the show’s most famous moments when his wife Kerry was shot and killed but I mostly remember him for his relationship with the ever-laughing Melanie.
Where Are They Now:
Joe left the show with Melanie and Sky, leaving son Toby behind for some reason, only to return to Australia and re-connect. By the time Joe came back for the 20th Anniversary show, he and Melanie had divorced. Joe was one of a handful of characters who returned for multiple episodes in 2005, sparking a potential relationship with Lyn Scully before leaving again. I’m not sure if he has been mentioned again in the years since, but it seems likely given his ties to the street. Mark Little has stated he doesn’t want to come back to the show and outside of Neighbours he has remained popular in Britain, appearing on The Big Breakfast, The Wright Stuff, and multiple pantos. He did narrate the 30th Anniversary documentary, so maybe he has softened his stance and could return.
Significant Others: Joe Mangel. Harold Bishop. Serena Bishop. Boyd Hoyland. Dylan Timmons. Stingray. Lana Crawford.
I don’t remember much about Sky from first time around, but when she returned she quickly became a fan favourite. She had an independent and rebellious streak which set he at odds with her Grandfather Harold, but they quickly fell into a cozy relationship. Speaking of relationships, she had a few during the time on her street, including the first same-sex kiss in the show, shared with Lana Crawford. Sky continued an on-off relationship with Boyd, but eventually has a baby with Dylan (though there was some uncertainty over whether Dylan or Stingray was the daddy). She eventually moves away to Port Douglas and in her brief 2015 return she convinces Harold to come join her.
Where Are They Now:
Presumably still in Port Douglas with her children and Harold. I’m not sure if Dylan is there too… or Boyd. There’s every opportunity she could return, and all the more likely one of the Bishops will return given it’s been a few years since we’ve had one on the street. Sky could come back with her kids, or one of the kids could come back now they’d be in their early teens. McIntosh has not appearing in much since leaving the show – a couple of interesting little known films and her own reality show, as well as releasing a moderately successful album.
Let us know in the comments what your memories of these Neighbours icons are and who you would like to see returning to Ramsey Street!
Greetings, Glancers! I’m back again to lovingly twist tinsel around your throats and tug until your baubles burst – in other words – to make you read these words about Christmas. If you liked my Christmas songs post, you should seek counsel with your local priest or GP promptly, but while you wait, why not make things considerably worse for yourself by browsing this post too? What’s the worst that could happen?
In case you didn’t know by now- I love Christmas. I love the TV, I love the atmosphere, I love the presents. I may be in my thirties, but some childhood traditions never go away – I still get the Christmas TV times and highlight all the TV shows and movies I want to watch or record. One of the things I loved most when younger was getting off school in the run up to the big day, and planning out my day of watching – waking up to catch a few 7.00 am cartoons, then seeing which movie I could watch in bed before breakfast. Even on Christmas Day, I would switch on the TV in my room while going through my stocking – Channel 4 always had the best stuff.
As much as the internet is populated with all the classic American TV specials – The Grinch, Charlie Brown etc – those never entered my Northern Ireland childhood in any real sense. I saw them, but they seemed too cutesy or foreign and as such were not deemed required annual viewing. Much of my list consists of shows which were force fed by my family or which I found myself returning to each year by myself once I gained such critical faculties. Don’t worry US readers – there’s a lot more American content here than there was in my TTT Christmas songs list.
I was too young for a lot of the more traditional British Christmas specials – Morecambe and Wise, The Two Ronnies etc, and I won’t be including any soaps, even if Eastenders and Coronation Street have both had their fair share of memorable one-offs. Remember that time when Bradley fell off the roof, or when Archie was done in by Queen Victoria? No, neither do I. No, old soap episodes aren’t the sort of thing you watch each year as they are ever replaced by new episodes, the Langoliers munching up all that has come before. No game shows or compilation clips shows either, both stalwarts of December viewing – sorry QI and It’ll Be Alright On The Night. Also, The Office will not appear in any guise. Because Ricky Gervais is a dick. Finally (finally!) there’s no ranking because I can’t be arsed.
Alan Partridge – Knowing Me, Knowing Yule
For whatever reason, I never saw much, or any of Alan Partridge in my formative years. It was around the age of 18 that I started watching the odd episode here and there before blasting through it all a few years later. In this episode, Alan is hosting his very own special festive edition of his show and invites guests including a devout Christian lady, a Carry On style innuendo spouter, and the disappointed and increasingly angry Chief Commissioner of the BBC, setting up nicely for the following Partridge series. The format is essentially the same as the others – Alan awkwardly interviewing increasingly ridiculous guests and trading insults, but with a nice Christmas backdrop and theme, and a slightly longer running time.
Beavis And Butt-head
Beavis And Butt-head had the occasional special episode during their run, and while many of the entries on my list are satires on British culture, this one is of course US aimed. That’s not to say it isn’t universal, or at least understandable in Western White culture. There’s A Very Special Christmas With Beavis And Butt-head – the name itself a send up, which sees the useless pair watch a bunch of Christmas songs on TV. It isn’t that exciting an episode, but as always their reactions are amusing and they do get to sing along near the end. Due to those pesky copyright laws, this one is very difficult to find in its original form.
The second episode(s) is Beavis And Butt-head Do Christmas. It’s split into the usual two separate episodes, this time linked with a festive theme. Huh Huh Humbug is another version of A Christmas Carol – but don’t worry, there is absolutely no moral here. Beavis falls asleep while his boss lectures him, and dreams that he is in fact the boss. While trying to watch Porn, he is visited by Ghost Butt-head and a bunch of other familiar faces who show him his past, present, and future – the past being particularly funny. The plot doesn’t go anywhere, but they never do. The second one is It’s A Miserable Life and it has a little more story, with Butt-head being visited by his guardian angel who shows him how wonderful life in town would be without Butt-head messing it up. Again it’s funny seeing the little twists within the world – Stuart and Beavis are now best friends and it seems like Beavis has sunk to Stuart’s level by wearing a Winger shirt – the horror. These ones always take me back to my pre-teen and early teen years and still get a chuckle.
Bottom – Holy
Bottom is one of my favourite sitcoms of all time, with two performers and writers at the top of their game, bringing the unfocused anarchy of their 80s work into the self-referential 90s. Aside from being about getting drunk, ‘doing it’, and slapstick ultra violence, the show has always skewered everything from British traditions to the sitcom format itself.
While Bottom also features a fantastic Halloween themed episode, it’s Holy which really gets the juices going, literally at times. Richie and Eddie, the Hammersmith Hardmen, are trying to celebrate Christmas with Richie in usual jubilant, devoutly English form and Eddie simply wanting to get pissed and watch Goldfinger. We have the unwrapping and sharing of presents, hope and disappointment in unequal measure, charades, Christmas Dinner mishaps (including the hilarious loss of a finger and even more hilarious fixing of said finger), and even a Christmas miracle. It’s one of the finest British comedy episodes of all time and it’s the one which is most quoted by me in the run up to, and on the big day itself. Has heeeee been?
Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Amends
I talked about this episode in my Season Three Buffy Review so I won’t go into details here other than to say that this isn’t your traditional, drop in and watch, episode. There’s a lot of back story going on, as well as plenty of foreshadowing, but if you’ve seen the whole show a few times then you’ll be fine. The story follows Angel still trying to readjust to life on Earth once more, while being tormented by visions of The First Evil, showing his past brutality and encouraging him to kill himself, or kill Buffy. Buffy, meanwhile is trying to host a normal, family Christmas dinner and invites Faith along. If you’re not a Buffy fan it won’t mean a lot to you, but it’s a nice change of pace from the centrally comic or horror themed episodes.
Being (one of) the biggest show(s) of the decade, Friends was obliged to have a variety of Holiday Specials – Halloween, Thanksgiving, New Years, Christmas are all covered. There are a few Christmas episodes, as well as other which were filmed around that time of the year and feature New York in all its snowy glory, so you have a few to choose from. In The One With Phoebe’s Dad, the gang are off doing different Christmasy things – Joey and Chandler leave their shopping too late, Monica is on selfish baking mode, Ross and Rachel fight while the heating is off, and Phoebe drives to meet her father. In The One Where Rachel Quits, Rachel quits, Joey gets a job selling Christmas trees, Phoebe witnesses a tree massacre, and Ross helps a scout after breaking her leg. In The One With The Girl From Poughkeepsie Ross is dating two women at the same time and ends up falling asleep on the train and going to Canada, Phoebe is writing a Christmas song, and Monika a Joey scheme to earn respect and money. The one With The Rockin’ New Year’s Eve features some Christmas fun while The Holiday Armadillo is the most famous Christmas episode and features Ross trying to teach his son about Jewish traditions as well as Christmas. Finally, we have The One With The Creepy Holiday Card which sees Ross and Mona’s relationship at breaking point, and The One With Christmas In Tulsa where Chandler is forced to work on Christmas Eve. Watched together, the amount of laughs, nostalgia, and Christmas tone will definitely get you in a festive mood.
I could be wrong on this, but I think there were two Christmas episodes in the 90s for Harry Enfield And Chums – it’s difficult given the show hasn’t been released on DVD and it changed its name at least once. These are quite difficult to track down, though you can find it them on Youtube. The shows were sketch based, featuring a wide array of classic characters in various scrapes. The Christmas episodes were extensions of these, with most of the sketches featuring a (mostly very sleight) festive slant both simple characters and those with some sort of progression. Along with this, there was usually a sing-song or longer section such as the characters singing ‘Perfect Day’ or parodying Titanic. There’s were repeated every so often on BBC and now on UK Gold, so catch them to remember a simpler time and some of the based character catchphrases ever.
Inside Number 9
Inside Number 9 is undoubtedly one of the finest TV shows of recent years – an ode to film-making, a love-letter to the creative craft. I know quite a few glancers of this blog are massive movie and TV fans, but may not be as exposed to British Television as those over here. I implore you all to watch this show – if you love horror, comedy, film in general, then this will be a new favourite for you, with the show ranging from gut-wrenching emotional episodes, to horror homages, all down with the typical sadistic wit, love of language, and sinister twists that you would expect from Reece Sheersmith and Steve Pemberton.
For those who don’t know, Inside Number 9 is an anthology programme – each episode featuring a new cast of characters and a new self-contained story, generally set in a single room or location. While the absolutely wonderful The 12 Days Of Christine features Christmas in some key scenes and is referenced in its name, it’s the Series 3 premier The Devil Of Christmas which should be a future viewing tradition. It’s a retro piece, set in the late 70s, and follows a family on a Christmas holiday where one of the locals explains the legend of Krampus. The episode, aside from being a faithful attempt at recalling 70s anthology horror and TV, is very funny, and very dark, and should not be missed. Black Mirror made it big – this should be just as big.
Lost – The Constant
Lost, you say? Lost never had a Christmas episode! Well, you’re wrong, and not only are you wrong but you’ve forgotten the single greatest episode of the series. Not only that, but you’ve forgotten one of the best episodes of any TV show, ever. The Constant culminated in the resolution of many crossover-plots and saw, finally, the happiness of my favourite character on the show. There aren’t enough words I can give to praise this episode – the acting, the writing, the way it all comes together – this is how the series as whole should have ended in terms of quality and tone. While I still enjoyed the last episode, The Constant is the pinnacle of the show. My love for it can be stemmed all the way back to all of those 70s, 80s, 90s cartoons and shows I watched and loved, featuring a person or people trying to find their way home – think Dungeons & Dragons or Quantum Leap or Sliders or Battlestar Galactica. Taken further, it all goes back to my love of The Odyssey – a tale I have been obsessed with my entire life. Hell, lets take it further still and say it’s related to those times I got ‘lost’ as a child and didn’t know how to get home or find my parents. Lost brought this idea into the new millennium, in a time when the world became smaller and there were no more undiscovered lands to explore – The Constant wringing out emotion, drama, adventure, tension, romance, time-travel, parallel balls, and all the rest of it into a single satisfying whole.
Christmas though? Yes, because Desmond has to make the call to Penny on Christmas Eve to let her know… well, I don’t want to get into the plot. This is frankly impossible to watch unless you’ve followed the show from episode 1, closely. Even watching as a standalone when you’ve seen the series before is difficult because you’ll miss most of the intricacies and details and will likely forget many of the more minor characters and references. However, if you’re a superfan, then this makes for excellent Christmas viewing and will warm your heart and make you believe in miracles.
Merry Christmas, Mr Bean
Out of all the shows on my list, Mr Bean is the one my kids have watched most regularly at the time of writing. I try to get them to watch this around Christmas each year, but they prefer the one where ‘Mr Bean shows his bum to all the little kids’. Their words, not mine. Merry Christmas, Mr Bean has a load of iconic and hilarious moments – the most famous of which is of course that Turkey on the head scene. The episode follows Mr. Bean preparing for the big day by doing a spot of shopping. His girlfriend drops hints that she wants a ring, a proposal, leading to much hilarity later on, while Bean messes around with a Nativity scene, leads a Brass Band, raises money for charity, and steals a tree. In the second half he decorates his house, posts a card to himself (which always makes my eldest laugh), makes a hash of Christmas dinner, and designs his own cracker. Mr. Bean is one of my oldest and most most favourite series and another which never fails to warm my soul.
Only Fools And Horses
I’m not even going to bother listing the various Christmas themed episodes for Only Fools And Horses…. incidentally, for any of my US glancers – are you even aware of half these shows? What British shows did you get (before the days of downloading and streaming and Kodi etc) on your shores years ago? A lot of these probably don’t translate well, but if Monty Python gets an audience worldwide then I don’t see why others can’t. Out of all the shows on my list, this is likely the biggest British institution. There have been a whopping sixteen Christmas episodes, starting in 1981, and ending in 2003. The ones I am most familiar with are the ones in the 90s, coincidentally around the time I started watching the show, having previously dismissed it as grimy and depressing. Namely, the 1996 Christmas Trilogy which sees Del Boy and Rodney dressing up as Batman and Robin and then, finally, becoming millionaires. It’s classic British humour, but it helps to have a history with the characters before indulging.
Peppa and pals have been around for years now, and with each new generation parents get roped in to watching and end up realising that it’s actually really good. I mean, it doesn’t have the same invention as Ben And Holly but it’s more of a family show. There are now a whole host of holiday themed or one-off Peppa episodes, but the Christmas ones were among the first. Peppa’s Christmas was the first episode to run longer than five minutes, and sees Peppa having to remember what all of her friends want from Santa – then he pops in to say hello. Later on the show started doing multi-episodes where the story followed on from the previous episode – we have one where the family visits a Santa’s grotto followed by an episode where they wake up on Christmas day to see what presents they have, and later still there’s an episode where they see Mr Potato in panto. Due to the short running time you can blast through these quickly, but it’s good to supplement them with some of the snow-themed episodes, like when the family build a snowman, go to a snowy beach, and go skiing. These are great for younger kids and cuddling up to watch and get into the Christmas spirit. At time of writing there is a new Christmas episode coming – by the time I post it should have been shown in the UK.
What quickly became the Daddy of the festive episode, thanks to the yearly Treehouse Of Horror episodes, and later more regular Christmas episodes. Even though the show is largely unwatchable now, you can still revisit those classics, including the very first episode – Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire. It looks terrible now, but it still sucks you in and avoids a lot of the terrible, flat humour of Season 1 by piling on the charm. I’ll move next onto the least best episode of the classic era of the show – Gift Of The Magi. By this point in the series the scale was tipping over to having more misses than hits, this one following an evil toy company trying to unleash a new must have on citizens. It’s an okay episode, but not one I’d recommend watching every year. I’d say the same about Skinner’s Sense Of Snow except I remember less about it aside from people being trapped in school. There’s also one about Lisa becoming a Buddhist. No, stick with the good ones; Miracle On Evergreen Terrace sees Bart accidentally burning the presents and lying to the town and features the immortal ‘where is Christmas’ line, and the best of the lot, by a huge margin – Marge Be Not Proud. This one nails what it’s like being a boy at Christmas, from putting up with the lovingly bought, but terrible videogames or knock off action figures (I am Carvallo), to jealousy, to wanting to be loved, and all that other junk. This is the one to watch every year. Recent years have seen almost annual Christmas episodes, but I haven’t seen any of those that I’m aware of – I’ll get round to them eventually, but watching the show now is at once a chore, depressing, sad, and infuriating.
What is there to say about this – you have to watch it. Is this a thing in the USA, or anywhere else? Let me know. Like Mr Bean, it’s universal because it’s mostly silent, even though it’s inherently British. Follow it up with Father Christmas and The Snowman And The Snowdog for added points.
Wallace And Gromit
Although none of them are honestly Christmasy, the fact that they were released and are always shown at Christmas means they have become part and parcel of the whole package. You can take your pick of any of them, but you’re best watching them all over a few days – A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave, A Matter Of Loaf And Death – and while you’re at it, watch a few Timmy Time and Shaun The Sheeps too.
The Vicar Of Dibley
I say this is just as much of a British institution as Only Fools And Horses and any other sitcom which has lasted more than a few years. It is harmless, family oriented humour which anyone can ‘get’ which makes it great for watching with older kids. I hope my kids end up with a similar sense of humour to me, tending towards the zany side, playing with conventions, playing with language, more on the bizarre, non-sequitur side of the scale. The Vicar Of Dibley has just enough of this, mixed with traditional laughs to make it cross borders, and its Christmas episodes work well enough as standalones, though you’re better with a grounding in the characters. There are a few Christmas episodes, the one where Geraldine has to go to all the different meals on the same day, the one where Alice has her baby, the sort of double episode where it’s Geraldine’s 10th year in Dibley and the anniversary of Live Aid.
The League Of Gentlemen – Yule Never Leave
As mentioned above, my sense of humour was waiting for this show to come along. I already loved Bottom and everything Vic & Bob did, and this came along to merge both styles as well as my love of horror. The League Of Gentlemen instantly became my favourite show after its premier, but this Christmas Special is one to whip out and return to thanks to its anthology nature. Sure it means more if you know about the characters, but it’s a better choice to watch on the spur of the moment than any other episode as the series was fairly plot heavy.
I love anthology series and movies, and in this special episode, the Vicar is trying to have a bit of peace at Christmas but is disturbed by three visitors, each with their own macabre tale – the highlight of which is the Herr Lipp story. If you want to laugh your balls off this Christmas, this is the one to watch – I highly recommend you watch the series from beginning as it’s an all time great. Even better is that we’re getting new episodes this year as part of the 20th anniversary!
The Royle Family
This was grabbing all the headlines around the time The League Of Gentlemen first came out, and as such it was like Oasis Verses Blur all over again. I didn’t watch the show for quite some time, and the pieces I saw of it, all the slow panning cameras of people sitting, eating, yawning, scratching themselves, pissed me off. When I finally did watch, I began to appreciate it. I mean, I still hate all that slow panning stuff and the repetition, but I love the characters and the dialogue. The series last for three seasons, and had two Christmas episodes, but since the original run it has been brought back a number of times for specific new Christmas episodes. Again, it’s perfect for family viewing, but better suited to having teens in the house as the kids won’t understand any of it. I’m not sure I’ve even watched any of the other later Christmas episodes, but I must do that this year as we won’t be getting any more after the tragic passing of Caroline Ahern.
The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air
The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air remains, well, fresh. It’s still LOL funny today, has more one-liners, yo momma, and fat jokes than anything else, and is still a better written sitcom with more fully formed characters than most around today. It’s one of those shows which influenced me to the point that I can’t answer a simple question without including some sort of joke or sarcasm. I used to tune in to every new episode on BBC 2 and laugh my ass off, and the show still gets regular viewing by me today. The show had a bunch of Christmas episodes – all are worth revisiting in December, from Will decorating the house, to the one where they are robbed, and the one with Boys II Men, or the one where Hilary decides she wants a baby…. or does she?
The Fast Show
The Fast Show was the master of one-liner, catchphrase character based, surreal skits and sketches. It feels weird now looking back at a show which was often based around building up to a certain character saying their unique catchphrase, but the show was so much more than that, creating a world of interesting and weird characters with a wealth of humour and drama. As the name suggests, the show was quick moving, with sketches rarely lasting over a couple of minutes. Everyone had their favourites – while most loved the likes of Ted and Ralph, it was always the weirder side of the scale that I enjoyed – Johnny Nice Painter and the ‘what if you feel down a hole’ guy. Johnny Depp made an appearance, many of the characters featured in spin-offs, other shows, or ended up having their own dedicated series, and it has been brought back for various new series or specials over the years. The Christmas Episode as exactly as you’d expect it – more sketches with the usual suspects, though with a Christmas twist or backdrop. It will either be entirely bewildering to any newcomers watching now, or you’ll be sucked in and left gasping for more – for regular viewers it’s another great one to watch at Christmas for a quick collection of laughs with old favourites. SLAP. IT. IN.
The X Files
Like Lost, you may think it’s a bit strange that a show such as The X Files would contain a Christmas episode. Why not, though? WHY NOT? There are two episodes which overtly features Christmas – in Christmas Carol, the ongoing saga of what happened to Mulder’s sister is avoided and instead we look at Scully’s dead sister Melissa. Melissa had been killed off in an earlier episode, but here, during a Christmas trip with the rest of her family, Scully begins receiving phone calls from a young girl who sounds just like her sister – investigations and twists ensure. It’s not the most festive episode, and you’d need to be a longstanding fan to follow everything, but it’s still good. On the other hand, How The Ghosts Stole Christmas is a monster-of-the-week festive experiment. By this point in the series, the writers were creating more outlandish and unique episodes outside of the main arcs, and this was one of the most popular – I can remember watching this in bed in its original BBC run and chatting about it in school the next day. It’s Christmas Eve again and Mulder ropes Scully into investigating a haunted house – ghostly hijinks ensue in what is simply a good fun romp – its standalone nature makes it a strong candidate for one-off viewing.
3rd Rock From The Sun
I was a huge fan of this during its original British run, but it was one of those shows that no-one else seemed to watch. It was the right mixture of surreal and traditional, the performers were excellent, and the writing and jokes were always top notch. Jolly Old St Dick is probably the best festive episode, with Sally and Harry getting part-time Mall jobs at Christmas, leading to plenty of laughs, Dick being arrested, and Tommy again becoming frustrated with August. Happy New Dick almost qualifies but focuses more on New Year, while Gobble, Gobble, Dick, Dick is based on Thanksgiving.
The Twilight Zone
The Twilight Zone must surely rank as one of the greatest, most rewatchable, and most influential series of all time, and even it was no stranger to the Christmas episode. The Night Of The Meek deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as other Christmas Classics such as A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life, being a hope-based story in the midst of troubling times. It centers on an alcoholic store Santa on Christmas Eve, a well-meaning character who wishes that just for one day all the beaten, downtrodden, and hopeless people he knows could be happy. This being The Twilight Zone, his wish comes true, and for a change there isn’t a stinging twist in the tale. Next up is The Changing Of The Guard in which Donald Pleasance learns on Christmas Eve that his job is going to be given to a younger man, so he contemplates suicide. Enter a guardian angel to show him that this would be a mistake. There are plenty of other episodes of the show which feature snow or moral quandaries suitable for watching at this time of the year, and as always if you’ve never seen the show, there’s no better time to start than today.
I’m not going to bother listing all the festive or Christmas related shows here – any or all of the Mr Hankey episodes will do nicely here, and most are delightful and hilarious send ups of various tropes and cultural norms.
I freely admit that anyone not from Northern Ireland and of a certain age will have no idea what this is. It’s a bit of a cheat given that it’s not actually a TV show, but a comedy recording – I have it on cassette but you can find it on CD or online. What is it? It’s a comedy recording by one John McBlain – a wonderful impersonator from my country whose voices are second to none and whose comedy centers on British and Irish politicians. Even if you listen to it as a non NI person, you’re unlikely to understand the voices never mind the references or know who the various players are, but for me it’s a vital part of Christmas tradition. There are actually two versions of it (at least) – Christmas at Adams’ and Christmas at Paisley’s but they’re essentially the same.
For existing fans of McBlain’s Spittin series, this is a joy – you’l already be familiar with the characters (caricatures of their real life counterparts) – the ultra violent beast Ian Paisley, the cowardly pervert Gerry Fitt, the shit-stirring Adams, John Cole who tries to hold it all together, and many more – even Bill Clinton pops in. They are all getting together for Christmas dinner in one of the homes which Gerry A owns (or should I say frequents, for various reasons) and to have a bit of a chat and a party. Naturally all hell breaks loose, there’s piss in the soup, Robert craps himself, Fitt cuts down a tree and wrecks himself…. yeah, I’m laughing my head off typing this but you are likely losing the will to live. It’s packed with one-liners, hilarious gaffs, great moments, and it’s also fucking disgusting. Click the link above, but be warned, this is racist, sexist, makes jokes about the handicapped, pedophilia, and anything else you could possibly be offended by… but it’s all funs and games.
Warehouse 13 is such a wonderful show – it’s the geek show that not even geeks talk about. It’s a lighter take on something like The X Files with a great cast, interesting ideas, lots of sexy ladies and (sort of) lads, and it’s written by Jane Espenson – if you’re not sold, you’re not worth talking to. Basically, there’s a big warehouse in the middle of nowhere which houses mysterious, mystical, and powerful artifacts – items with the ability to stop time, to give super powers, to hurt people etc, and they are typically based on some historical moment or famous person. A group has been protecting these artifacts for hundreds of years, preventing them from doing harm or falling into the wrong hands. Each episode follows a different artifact, though there are larger arcs too. Oh yeah, loads of Buffy people and other famous guest stars pop up too.
Anyway, the show has a couple of Christmas episodes which are, again, best viewed if you’re already a fan but still are entertaining standalones for the uninitiated. Secret Santa sees Claudia trying to reunite Artie with his father, while Myka and Pete investigate a Christmas artifact which seems to be making Santa evil while The Greatest Gift is a little more trippy as Pete accidentally sends himself to a parallel universe where he doesn’t exist and has to convince his friends to save him and send him back. Both episodes are a lot of fun, have plenty of drama, laughs, and Christmas cheer, and are good as an early December entree.
I think that’s enough yapping for now. Even as long as this post was, I’m sure there’s a load of shows and episodes I’ve missed. Let us know in the comments what your favourites are, what your Christmas viewing routine is like, which shows you absolutely couldn’t miss when you were young, and if I don’t speak to you again before the big day – Merry Christmas!
Here is a thing which I will plan to update each time I add a new review. This should make it easy for anyone who is sufficiently depraved enough to enjoy what I write and craves more. There isn’t a huge amount yet, but I do have a tonne of reviews written years ago for IMDB which I haven’t posted here yet, along with all my other Album reviews for Amazon. This list will grow. For now, click on anything you like!
Well. That’s all over with. The ‘Dee’ storyline has come and gone, wrecking numerous relationships and apparently pissing off a lot of viewers. I found it all desperately sad and was holding out for some miracle that fake Dee was real Dee in the end. Alas. Presumably Dee/Andrea or the kid will come back in the future, but for now they are gone and Toadie is a hundred grand poorer and has been thrown out for slipping one in.
Elsewhere, we’ve had the revelation of who Leo and David’s father is and the associated fallout, Brad and Lauren left, and Toadie’s brother Shane and his family have moved in to the street. But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here so I can drone on for a while about some of my favourite residents, past and/or present, and today we’ve reached the letter KAY. And that can only mean one thing – MISTER….. KENNEDYYYYYY!……………. KENNEDYYY (Anderson). Wha?
Billy Kennedy – Jesse Spencer (1994 – 2000, 2005)
Significant Others: The Kennedy Family. Anne Wilkinson. Melissa Drenth. Caitlin Atkins. Toadie. Lance. Amy.
Billy was arguably the central figure of The Kennedy family when he first arrived, his friendships and romances a focal point for many years. He was good looking, a little naive, was always getting into trouble even though his heart was in the right place, and his friendship with Toadie and Lance became a major draw, along with the other core members. It was however his on again off again romance with Anne Wilkinson that kept viewers intrigued – the closest thing to a Scott and Charlene that the show had in the 90s.
Special Power: Grows cabbages under his fingernails.
Where Are They Now:
Billy left with Anne in 2000 and subsequently got married and had three kids – a new generation of Kennedys to appear in the future no doubt, hopefully not after Anne and Billy divorce. Billy appeared in the 2005 20th Anniversary show, strolling along a beach in LA. That’s because Jessie Spencer landed a hot job in the US – main role in House, followed up by a starring role in Chicago Fire, which sounds like an American London’s Burning.
Libby Kennedy – Kym Valentine (1994 – 2014)
Significant Others: The Kennedys, Drew Kirk, Ben Kirk, The Kinskis, Darren Stark, Daniel Fitzgerald. Steph Scully. Taj Coppin.
It’s fair to say that Libby is one of, if not my favourite Neighbours character. Bad ass all around. Her introduction greatly pleased my adolescent self, thanks to her assets. She was smart, feisty, yet always got involved with the wrong man. All until Drew came along and she finally felt settled. Till he was killed by a horse. Of course. Libby became a teacher, following her mum’s footsteps, and drama continued to follow her until she began a series of departures from the show – first in 2005, returning in 2007, and popping back and forth until 2014 where it appears she has left for good. I missed many of those last years after I stopped watching around 2007 or 2008.
Special Power: Breasts
Where Are They Now:
Kym Valentine has sadly had several health issues in the last few years which contributed to her leaving the show. Of all the characters I’d want to see ending up happy, whether that means in a stable relationship or whatever, I’d love to see her coming back to reach that dream as Kym does such a great job in the role. There’s always a chance she’ll be back of course, given that Libby’s teenage son Ben is in the show now while she is teaching in China. Fingers crossed!
Mal Kennedy – Benjamin McNair (1994 – 2014)
Significant Others: The Kennedys, Danni Stark, Stonefish, Catherine O’Brien.
There are many rumours and suggestions for the origins of my nickname – Mal – it’s part of my name, it’s Latin (etc) for evil, and because people knew I was a Neighbours fan back in the day and thought it was funny to call me this after one of its characters. Anyway, Mal was never a major figure, at least to me, in the show – he was the one Kennedy with the less interesting plots and the least screen time, so it seemed. Still, he’s a familiar face and has popped back every so often, typically with some new personality traits, and he’s alive and well so can return again at any point.
Special Power: Can swivel his pelvis 360 degrees.
Where Are They Now:
He left after three years and it looked like he wouldn’t be back. Then he came back in 2002, his mischievous ways replaced by a ruthless, money-driven ego. Since then he was been away and been back several times, never staying longer than a few months. He and Catherine are still together in London now, both successful business types or something.
Karl Kennedy – Alan (1994 – Present)
Significant Others: The Kennedys, The Kinskis, Sarah Beaumont, Darcy, Izzy, Ben Kirk, Holly Hoyland, pretty much everyone on the show for the last 20 odd years.
The legend. The daddy of the show’s longest running stable (sort of) family, Dr Kennedy, a some time singer, womanizer, and tight-wad, Karl has had several spicy affairs, fights with his kids and their partners, brushes with death, law suits, and everything else. But he’s still standing, and now acts, along with Susan, as the show’s emotional, nostalgic, and humourous core, like Harold and Lou before. That’s not to say he doesn’t still get his fair share of interesting stories, but more often now Karl is there to put a smile on your face or a laugh on your… feet? We’ve known him for so long now, he is Neighbours.
Special Power: Obscene limericks.
Where Are They Now:
Still on the show! 23 years now, and still going strong.
Susan Kennedy – Jackie Woodburn (1994 – Present)
Significant Others: See Karl’s entry (matron)
The other legend. I’ll be honest, I had a crush on Susan too. Maybe it was some adolescent fantasy that, while I was more interested in Libby I didn’t think she would ever like me so I’d have a crack at her ma instead (never mind the fact that we were thousands of miles apart and they were fictional characters). Fun fact – I did eventually have a Maths teacher who looked an awful lot like her, though I did not have a crack at her. Fun fact 2 – I did have a crack at her daughter though – more than a crack in fact. MUCH MORE. Susan has seen and done it all in her years on the show – she has been teacher and Headmistress at Erinsborough High for decades now and has had her fair share of sexual escapades. She did a Twin Peaks, losing her memory and thinking she was 16, she has had to put up with Karl’s cheating and singing since the 70s, and has been through surrogacy and health scare storylines often being the character who most honestly depicts difficult real life plots.
Special Power: Her long black hair isn’t gone – it’s hiding in her tear ducts and it can be spooled out at a moment’s notice and used to garrote unsuspecting visitors.
Where Are They Now:
Also still on the show, and still with Karl, and still in the School, and still taking on strays and family members such as Ben, Elly, and Angus. This pair and Toadie and Steph are my main ties to my peak viewing period so long may they continue!
How many more of these things will I write? To find out, keep coming back for more – it’s torture! Feel free to add your thoughts about The Kennedy family or any of the other Neighbours characters in the comments below.
One for the kiddies today, and one for mums and dads and weirdos who enjoy children’s programming. I’m going to split this into a few different parts mostly divided by channel. Many channels now offer similar shows for kids, and several shows jump between channels so while some of the shows I’m covering may be exclusive to a particular channel, quite a few of them do hop around a bit. Not that any of that matters of course, it’s just providing me with a loose format to write within.
In my day (and I’m sure that regardless of the age of anyone reading this you will say the same for your own generation) TV for kids was at its pinnacle. I grew up in the mid-late 80s to mid 90s, and therefore had the likes of He-Man, Turtles, Transformers, Thundercats, Hey Arnold, Jumanji and countless others in their original form. While my girls are still at the age to enjoy the even younger oriented shows, they are beginning to get into more character and story driven shows.
In these posts I’m going to briefly cover a variety of the shows they have been watching regularly – some of which they stopped watching a while back, and some which they have only recently picked up.If you have young children then you should be familiar with some of these, if not then maybe you’ll get some insight into how programming has changed since you were a cub. That being said, this post will mainly focus on Cbeebies.
Launched in 2002, Cbeebies has a tonne of original programming aimed at 0-8 year olds and as it is part of the BBC we don’t get commercials interrupting and corrupting us. Instead, between shows we get little skits and stories and songs by a variety of the presenters. Many of the presents will be known to British people for appearing on other shows, and it is a good format for some of these presenters to create their own shows. As you would expect, there is a lot of smiling and light-hearted joking as well as all the playful educational stuff. One thing which is notable too about the channel, is how it changes with the Seasons – each Christmas they put on a pantomime, along with other festive shows, while during the other Seasons there are one-off episodes and targeted programming, songs etc. My eldest was glued to it for the first three years of her life, before she discovered other channels. My youngest therefore does not get as much exposure to it. It really is a great channel though, and plenty of the shows are interesting and fun for kids and adults alike. As there are so many shows on Cbeebies which my girls have watched, I’ll split this post into two parts – today’s focusing on animation. Alphabetical order, ahoy!
3rd And Bird
What’s It All About (Alfie): Short 10 minute episodes featuring a variety of feathered friends overcoming basic problems through social interaction. Most episodes had a song or musical interlude.
Good For Kids: Definitely one for younger kids, pre-school age. My girls only occasionally watched this and I don’t remember them showing much interest. Nice social lessons, cute artwork.
Good For Adults: I don’t imagine there is anything here of value for adults, though I quite enjoyed it – the songs were always decent and the short running time meant it didn’t become annoying.
64 Zoo Lane
What’s It All About (Alfie): A girl who lives beside a zoo and chats with the animals who tell her a different story every night.
Good For Kids: It features stories with morals and a wide variety of bright and lively animal characters – the stories themselves are moral based but not moral heavy – they will entertain primarily, with an overall lesson being something like ‘don’t boast’. The girls liked it but would get bored before the episode was finished.
Good For Adults:Good for teaching the value of a bedtime story, and the stories are fine, but it’s all very basic and child-oriented obviously. I think I’ve only seen 1 or 2 complete episodes.
What’s It All About (Alfie): Three story book animal characters come to life and play with a boy, teaching him about new words and having adventures along the way. Each episode focuses on a search to learn about a new word, with one of the three animals taking the lead.
Good For Kids: The learning aspect is there, but the voice acting, animation, and music are all extremely enchanting.
Good For Adults: Another one that I quite enjoyed, mainly because the recurring song and intro song were good.
What’s It All About (Alfie): A more zany, less plot driven version of Abadas, this teaches children about language by having animated letters holding hands to form new words. Various escapades ensue.
Good For Kids: The episodes are all very short – only a few minutes long, and the blocks themselves are funny enough to capture attention and aid learning.
Good For Adults: It’s another useful learning tool, and because episodes are short adutls shouldn’t get bored and can use the time to help spell with their kids. I quite liked the way the blocks shouted out the letters and words, and the amusing animation while holding hands.
Andy’s Wild/Dinosuar Adventures
What’s It All About (Alfie): Andy, one of the Cbeebies presenters has taken a job at the Natural History Museum/Safari park along with his friend and monkey Kip. Each episode they are given a job to do, but end up going on an adventure through time and/or space to learn about a particular animal.
Good For Kids: For older kids primarily, and those interested in animals. My girls again would watch pieces of this, but get bored before the end.
Good For Adults: I like the idea of this, but for whatever reason it just didn’t work for me. Andy is a decent presenter, and Kip is an okay sidekick, but the jokes and effects aren’t great.
What’s It All About (Alfie): The youngest member of a huge windmill-living family goes on daily adventures with an assorted of imaginative friends.
Good For Kids: Absolutely. There may not be much educational value in it, and I think some fools criticized it for having a lot of baby speech (goggy gi-ah etc), but it’s bright, funny, and is filled with ideas and charm. Although my girls don’t watch it anymore, it was one of the first and longest loved shows they found. We even have a Jake doll.
Good For Adults: Well, I enjoyed it. There isn’t much in each episode, but I loved the music and the funny animals who play with Jake, and the amusing merge of real time with animation. Again each episode is brief, so you don’t mind watching a few in a row – just be ready to have the tunes stuck in your head.
What’s It All About (Alfie): A CG show about a Bunny toddler and his pals who overcomes simple problems and fears with the help of their carer.
Good For Kids: This is quite a recent show and one of the few which my youngest loves more than my eldest. Of course it’s all bright and detailed and lovely, and the ‘problems’ encountered in each episode are the sorts of things kids would worry about – wetting the bed, sharing, noisy fireworks etc.
Good For Adults: Yeah, again I like this one, again each episode is under 10 minutes, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the charm and simplicity of it all. One of the main characters is voiced by Oscar Winner Mark Rylance too.
Well, that’s enough for now. Feel free to share your thoughts on any of the shows above – which shows your kids watch, what you used to watch etc.
G’day mate, howz it goin’ ya flaming ga-lah! Wait, that’s Home And Away. Anyway, I’m back with another list of Neighbours characters and some recollections. I know you loved the last one, so please enjoy another!
Lou Carpenter is now the soap’s longest serving character and Oliver the longest serving actor. Appearing briefly in 1988, he returned as a regular in the early 90s and immediately became a hit with viewers, mainly down to his womanizing ways, his banter with Jelly Belly Bishop, and that laugh. As you would expect, Lou has had his fair share of tragedy and interesting storylines – most notable being him becoming the owner of Lou’s Place, getting it on with and then losing Cheryl after a car accident, and becoming a dad again at a mature age (sort of). Of course he has had a number of other realtionships over the years, but it’s his backstory and on screen chemistry with Madge and Harold that I remember him most fondly for, the three growing old together, falling out with one another, and helping each other through tough times. Always ready to sneak a buck or two when the opportunity arises, Lou’s house has also seen any number of tenants and neighbours over the years. Lou is a legend on the street and the show, and though he is only a recurring character now every few months, it’s always a joy to see him.
Special Power: His laugh can both raise the dead and kill the living and immediately causes those who hear it to imitate without pause for the duration of the episode.
Where Are They Now:
Still on Ramsey Street, and recently got (re) married to Kathy. Expect guest appearances every so often.
Taj Coppin – Jamie Robbie Reyne – 2002 -2004
Significant Others: Tahnee Coppin. Jack Scully. Nina Tucker. Libby Kennedy.
I could have done without including Taj because I never really liked him, at least at the time. I think this was more bias on my part because he was getting it on with my beloved Libby Kennedy and was a bit of a knob. Still, he was involved in some decent storylines with some of my favourite characters so I’ll include him here, namely his relationships with Nina and Libby.
Special Power: If he lived in Royston Vasey he would most certainly work in the local shop for local people.
Where Are They Now:
As a minor character I doubt he has been mentioned much since leaving. After cheating on some film school exam he nevertheless got a job in the film industry and left the town. Jamie Robbie Reyne has released a number of albums since leaving the show, and while they don’t appear to have been very successful he has toured with my (other) beloved The Bangles so plus marks there.
Helen Daniels – Anne Haddy – 1985 – 1997
Significant Others: The Robinsons, The Martins, The Bishops – basically everyone who lived on the street in the first 15 years of the show.
One of the original and longest running characters on the show, Anne Haddy’s Helen Daniels is another legend. She was the unofficial matriarch of Neighbours, offering advice, taking in strays, and always willing to lend a hand in stark contrast to the more typical busy-boddy or nosy archetypes. She is one of the few characters whose death received the famous ‘sad Neighbours theme’ and she was a great loss to the characters and the show as a whole. Helen of course had plenty of her own juicy storylines from marrying or getting involved with dodgy types, to being kidnapped but most remember her as being the one person anyone could go to for help – everyone wanted a granny like Helen. Everyone remembers her death, surrounded by her family, in her own home, while watching a video of Scott and Charlene’s wedding.
Special Power: Curing any malaise.
Where Are They Now:
Her death left a gap which has never really been filled. Anne Haddy was forced to leave due to real life ill health and died a couple of years later – she was so popular that her death was announced after the airing of that day’s Neighbours episode.
Mark Gottlieb – Bruce Samazan – 1993 – 1995
Significant Others: Serendipity Gottlieb, Stephen Gottlieb, Annalise Hartman, Gaby Willis
Mark was just such a likeable chap, helped by Samazan’s cheeky performance. Mark was a typical good guy, though always came across as a little awkward which made his heartthrob tendencies all the more amusing. I was pretty pissed when the character turned to God and became completely different, even ditching Annalise on their wedding day to become a priest instead. After a few weeks or months of that nonsense he regained his senses and went back to normal, but by that point the damage was done and he left the show after a few months of reconciliations.
Where Are They Now:
It always seemed like Mark and Annalise would get together finally, but it never happened. Mark left the street after getting a job as a TV chef and presumably that is where he remains – as usual I’ve no idea if he has been referenced again in the years since. Samazan remains the only actor to have appeared in all three of the major Ozzy soaps – EStreet and Home And Away along with Neighbours. He quit acting in 2000 and apparently became some sort of Sales Consultant for Real Estate firms.
Serendipity Gottlieb – Raelee Hill – 1994 – 1995
Significant Others: The Gottliebs, Luke Handley.
Pretty much the opposite to Mark with regards to how I felt about the character – I never liked her and found pretty much everything about her irritating. But if I include Mark I may as well throw her in too. She started off as a bit of a hippy, then became a business woman, then moves to Japan.
Special Power: Attracts fists.
Where Are They Now:
Maybe still in Japan, maybe back in Oz, no idea. Naturally, we all know Raelee Hill for starring as Sikozu in the last couple of seasons of Farscape.
Let us know in the comments what you think of any of the characters above and share your favourite Neighbours moments!
A gripping tale of captivity during the Holocaust which tows the line subtly between being engaging and off-putting, and sees a stellar cast highlighting the plight of hundreds of innocents waiting to die.
As the title suggests, the film is based in the Sobibor death camp during World War II, and is based on true events. In 1943, another train packed with Jews from around Poland arrives at Sobibor, and they are divided into groups for immediate processing – if you’ve watched any Holocaust movies or read about the death camps before you will be familiar with these scenes. Tricked into believing that it is a temporary work camp, those with a particular skill such as tailors or goldsmiths are sent to one side, everyone else is sent to the gas chambers. The survivors are put to work and are subject to random beatings, punishment, and live in terrible conditions. Yet still there is hope, as some of those survivors begin to plot any sort of uprising or escape. It is clear that the survivors are treated as little more than temporary slaves and that once they have outlived their usefulness, they will be executed. Alan Arkin stars as the leader of the revolt, conspiring with an intelligent and strong new arrival – Rutger Hauer’s veteran soldier.
The plan is risky and based on blind hope, but the best they could have possibly hoped for. The camp isn’t huge and there are not very many actual Nazi’s present. The prisoners hope that if they can trap and kill the Nazi officers, that the Ukranian prison guards will not care enough and simply allow the prisoners to leave. For this to work though, everyone has to be on board and some prisoners will take convincing. There are plenty of shocking events and emotional moments without sentiment – the realization of what the chimneys represent, one young boy trying to run out of his queue leading to the gas chamber, the inevitable conclusion to the story of a mother and her baby who had been hiding, and the result of a previous attempted escape as each escapee is forced to choose someone to be shot with them.
As mentioned, the cast here are very good, dealing with some of the most horrible things anyone has had to endure let alone imagine. Many of the faces you won’t recognise, a few you will, but their deeds will stay with you. These sorts of films have more impact when they don’t contain a bunch of stars, just great actors with memorable faces who are capable of generating empathy. The film is not bloody, nor does it need to be. The writing is fine, based on recollections of genuine conversations, and the direction is solid. As we watch the prisoners running for their lives at the end, as we watch some get mowed down by bullets, run free, or head into a minefield, it is all the more heartbreaking knowing that these events happened and that history has a habit of repeating itself. Where there are humans, there is hope and despair, good and evil in varying degrees – when will we tip the balance so far to the good side that evil will finally slip off and drown?
Let us know in the comments what you thought of Escape From Sobibor and what other Prison Camp movies have made an impact on you.