Homecoming Seasons 1 and 2 on Amazon Prime: TV Review.


Watch Homecoming - Season 1 | Prime Video

Prime’s finest moment to date. IMHO.

They’ve taken Gimlet Media’s astounding podcast and adapted not one, but two, TV series from it.

In the first, Julia Roberts not only allegedly bought the rights but assumes the title role of Heidi Bergman, a case worker at a mysterious ‘facility’ in which homecoming American war veterans are treated for PTSD. Why? You’ll have to watch to find out.

I’m no Roberts fan and although her performance is good I’d like to have seen Catherine Keener take her aural role on-screen. Likewise, I think both Oscar Isaac and David Schwimmer might have made better jobs of their roles than the TV replacements.

But that’s actually a quibble, because what we get is an excellent rendering of the story with outstanding direction, music and camerawork.

It’s an oddity, especially at its 20 minute length (echoing the podcast).

What the TV does, that adds value, is add the aforementioned production values to the already high quality that Gimlet achieved. The design, overall, is stunning; with a touch of the Kubricks.

But I’m left thinking, good as it is, a little was lost in the translation.

The same cannot be said of Season 2.

It’s now a significant diversion from the podcast.

We meet a new lead in Janelle Monae who plays Jackie (or is it Alex?) an employee of Geist (or is she), the company that administered (shadily) the ‘Homecoming’ initiative in Season 1.

She is almost literally lost at sea as the series opens. We have no idea who she is or how she got there, what’s more, neither does she.

This is a big ask for Monae who takes on her first lead role, to my knowledge, and has to rise to the challenge of carrying the series. I felt she was on the brink of failing the task at a few points, after all she’s a singer not an actor, but at each tipping point she just gets over the bar so that by the end I believe we enjoy a fine performance.

Steven James raises his game as Walter Cruz and his character gets much more rounded, but the real ‘find’ is Chris Cooper as Leonard Geist, the mill owner gone rogue, feeling overwhelmed by his own bastard creation.

Show-stealing, on an epic scale, is the filthy performance of Joan Cusack as (Officer) Bunda.

Season 2 shifts a gear. It’s even darker, it’s less familiar to us ‘Poddies’ and it’s found its TV voice. It just gets better and better.

The circular plot device means that nothing is clear until the very end of the final episode and that’s one of the reasons, the excellent Monae aside, that it makes such gripping viewing.

I loved it. More, more, more. Please.

Lost in Larrimah: Podcast Review


Lost in Larrimah

This was billed as Australia’s greatest ever podcast.

Presented by The Australian newspaper it tells the story of a septuagenarian who goes missing from an outback town in deepest central Oz.

It features a ‘cast’ of 11 characters – all residents of the ‘town’, an old railway outpost that has fallen into virtually a ghost town, and the local police officer.

The central, missing, figure is Paddy Moriarty, a mysterious oddball resident with a mildly dodgy past who simply ‘disappeared’ overnight with his dog, never to be seen again.

A writer, the presenter and journalist from The Australian, Kylie Stevenson, and her friend Caroline Graham, visit the town (Kylie had previously discovered it on a writing retreat) to try to piece together the mystery through a series of interviews with the residents who make up such a dysfunctional society as to resemble a war torn republic that is verging on anarchy.

The cast is oddball in the extreme. All ageing, all with their own grudges and vendettas, and all contributing to a story that is as weird as it is almost compelling.

I confess I didn’t really get enthralled by the story because it feels slight and a bit overstated, but I gradually grew into it and made it to the end.

It’s not a favourite and I have to say that if this is Australia’s ‘best’ I’d not like to endure its worst. But it becomes engaging to a point.

Would I recommend it? Not wholeheartedly, but it passes the time and its enthusiasm somewhat overcomes its lack of overall substance.

Dolly Parton’s America: Podcast review.


Dolly Parton's America : NPR

After my last two journeys into the dark side of the human condition this is the flip side.

Dolly Parton, sorry Saint Dolly Parton, is such an American dream and institution that it’s about time a tribute as glorious as this was created, whilst she’s still alive, fighting fit and full of vim and vigour.

This extended interview series with the queen of country charts her life and songbook but places it all in the context of an America that exists around her.

We hear much about American politics, religion and culture and how Dolly and her extensive business empire and philanthropy fits into the broader cultural mix.

It’s delightfully presented by fanboy Jad Abumrad and reported and produced by Shima Oliaee at WNYC Studios and OSM (awesome, get it?) Audio.

It’s a sheer delight from start to finish but touches on the darker side of Dolly’s life: her women’s rights attitude that has been in evidence since her earliest, surprisingly bleak output through to her refusal to air a view on Trump (half my fans are Republicans why would I state an opinion on this?)

I’ll predict now that Dolly WILL come out with a view on Trump, before the election, and it WILL NOT aid his cause. Because Dolly is a Bellwether. Her view can influence American opinion – nothing she says is ill-considered or trivial – apart from maybe her own self-deprecating boob gags.

This is uplifting entertainment with a serious undertow.

I highly recommend losing 8 or more hours in Dolly Parton’s America.

You will thank me.

Hunting Warhead: Podcast review.


Hunting Warhead | Listen via Stitcher for Podcasts

I’m almost afraid to tell you how much I ‘enjoyed’ this electrifying podcast, brought to you by CBC Podcasts and Norway’s VG newspaper.

It’s a truly hideous recounting of the search by VG’s top investigative journalist for the man behind the world’s most popular dark web peadophilia sites. Child abuse sites, not child porn sites.

It makes such uncomfortable listening that at times you actually have to switch off to regain your composure, so horrifying is the revelations it uncovers.

At its heart is journalism of the very highest order with two men, the journalist and a hacker, taking on what could have been an extremely dangerous assignment with thought only for the children being abused rather than their own personal safety.

This makes them heroes in my book.

what makes it so enthralling is that we meet and hear extensive interviews from Warhead himself, his victims’ families, his parents and the journalists and police that were involved in the search.

I have to warn you that it is extremely unsettling listening but the presenter, Daemon Fairless, does an extraordinary job of neither sensationalising, nor soft soaping the project.

This is world class ‘entertainment’ of the very highest order and if you ever wondered what goes on in the minds of real life sociopaths this is the listen for you.

Truly brilliant, and important. Pulitzer Prize winning stuff I’d say.

Dr. Death: Podcast review.


My first Wondery Podcast and an absolute peach.

This six parter tells the true story podcasts

of Dr Christopher Duntsch an American Neurosurgeon who is so incompetent that it’s inconceivable he’d ever get past first year in medical school, never mind freely operate on Spinal chord ailments in Texas, again and again and again, leaving a trail of destruction and, obviously, death behind him.

The story is a whydunnit? Why did he do what he did and more importantly why wasn’t he stopped.

It leaves medical practitionership in the US in an uncomfortable place. Ethics are clearly at a premium as money speaks louder than morality, but what really grips is the descriptions of what he did in horrifying detail.

If it wasn’t true you would think it a tad far fetched. But that’s what makes so many great podcasts so great.

Dicktionary pic of the day #26.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 26

What classic album cover is this?

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 25

Dicktionary pic of the day #25.


Apologies for the few days missing. I was in a private hell.

The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 25

What classic album cover is this?

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 24

One Two Three Four by Craig Brown: Book Review.


One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time: The Sunday Times ...

This story of the Beatles, from origin to split, by Craig Brown, a regular contributor to Private Eye, is a hoot.

He clearly has no time for Yoko who is constantly represented as a dolt and his suffrage of 21st Beatles tour guides in their native Liverpool brings tears to the eyes.

It’s a collection of observations told roughly chronologically, but often spinning and yawing from topic to topic with effortless ease, and touching on the lives of the band, their entourage, critics, their fans and The Queen.

A decent knowledge of the Beatles catalogue is helpful and a healthy respect for their genius and contribution to musical history will certainly enhance your enjoyment of this sturdy tome, weighing in at over 600 pages. Despite its length though it’s a breeze as chapters (over 150) are short, snappy and often delightful.

I’m no Beatles completist, so to those that are many of the anecdotes will be familiar; a lot of the tales are drawn from previous anthologies and biographies in a well researched journey that happily shares conflicting accounts of some of the more tawdry tales of their shenanigans. Did you know, for example, that Lennon finally gave into Epstein’s homosexual advances and allegedly relented to a bit of man on man action?

It’s bitingly satirical in places but clearly flows from the pen of a man much taken by the Fab Four’s legacy.

A fine read, highly recommended to all.

Enjoy. I sure did.

Dicktionary pic of the day #24.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 24

What classic album cover is this?

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 23

Lidl’s greatest achievement and perhaps its greatest folly.


I am a sucker for Lidl.

Top of my list of greatest product at ridiculous prices is their 1kilo creamy Greek yoghurt in inexplicably cool plastic seaside buckets.

It’s delicious beyond compare.

It’s healthy and nutritious and it’s £1.39 (ish).

I simply cannot get enough of it.

But the shelves have been bare of them for two weeks: until this.

This!

This abomination met my eyes this afternoon.

I am bereft. Beside myself. I am broken.

And just deeply, deeply sad.

Dicktionary pic of the day #24.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 24

What classic album cover is this?

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 22

Dicktionary pic of the day #23


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 23

What classic album cover is this?

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 22

Dicktionary pic of the day #22.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 22

What classic album cover is this? 

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 21

Dicktionary pic of the day #21.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 21

What classic album cover is this?

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 20

Dicktionary Pic of the day #20.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 20

What classic album cover is this? (A tricky one.)

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 19

Dicktionary Pic of the day #19.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 19

What classic album cover is this?

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 18

Guy Robertson. RIP. One of Scottish advertising’s greats.


Screenshot 2020-06-07 at 15.59.17

Generous.  Gregarious.  Gallous.  Great.

That was Guy.

I came to know my great friend, Guy Robertson, initially as a TV icon – upon winning STV’s The Business Game, for his fledgling agency, GRP, not long after its launch in 1986. Soon enough I came face to face with him, 33 years ago, in the Tait and Mclay Golf Cup held at Burntisland GC, where his victory celebrations were cut short by some wee ned stealing his clubs from the car park.

Typical.

It was to be the start of an unforgettable friendship peppered with hilarity, passion and shenaniganery.

You see, Guy was a one off.

He had no peers.

Nobody was like Guy.

Generous

Of spirit.

Of his time.

Of his hard-earned cash.

Guy was one of NABS, our industry charity’s, greatest supporters. Every year, for the last 15, he’d pull together his legendary team of rag tags and bobtails, that he had somehow coerced into the long trip to Edinburgh, even though most of them had nothing to do with advertising. But Guy was paying, because he wouldn’t see NABS short. (And travelling First Class on Scotrail.  Always.  The only person I knew that did that.)

One of the last times I met him was when his team took part in the inaugural NABS ping pong tournament at Maggie Mays in Glasgow’s Argyle Street.  He was there to win (just like he was at the music quiz, and twice did) but sadly the callow youth saw off his beer swilling buddies in the semis.

And, not surprisingly perhaps, he was a mainstay of, and major contributor to, the longstanding Golf Day.

His spirit was defiant and anti-establishment (despite his posh-school upbringing and dubious respect for too many men in blue) but kind, caring and just, you know, inspiring.

He blasted into his term as Chair of the IPA with gusto and no end of enthusiasm.  An enthusiasm that was ultimately extremely rewarding for him as he sat shoulder to shoulder with adland’s great and good and concluded, aghast, that he was just as capable as most of them.

It was through this that he met his, and GRP’s, beloved mentor; Adrian Vickers.  They made an odd couple in truth, but it was a relationship that thrived on Guy’s generosity, gregariousness, gallousness and greatness.  Adrian played his part too, genuinely enthralled by Guy’s wit and his willingness to soak up the great man’s greatness.

And it’s a funny old thing, but that rubbed off on him in an unexpected way, because he’d recently begun applying those mentoring skills with the most important person in his life, the light of it really, his daughter Jemma, and in such a way that he found a renewed passion for the business.

After graduating from Aberdeen, with a degree in Business and Marketing, Jemma formally joined Guy’s new business, GRA Independent Marketing and Advertising last year and has displayed the same vigour in building the business with him as he always did and she fully intends to build on his legacy in the years to come.

Guy and I relished our roles as self-proclaimed advertising outliers.  We both eschewed the establishment but, in our own ways, eventually embraced it.

We liked to sit at the back, giggling, talking when the talkers talked.  Being naughty schoolboys.  Sneaking that wee extra glass of free wine.  Him in his blazer.  Me in my soup-stained t-shirts.  Sara Robertson shooshing us with a heavenward look and a barely concealed smirk.

Gregarious

Guy lit up rooms.

He couldn’t help it. Flashing a pearly smile at the ladies.  First at the bar for the boys.  Telling tales.  Rarely of woe.

Even when he had to break the news of his, Garry and Iain’s partnership finally succumbing to the financial crash-fuelled recession he spiced the gloom up with glee.   So much so that I was moved to share, on my blog, his message to friends to tell us of ‘GRP no more’.

He began his valedictory note thus:

Warm felicitations from the West End of Glesga,

And ended on a typically self-deprecating note…

So, thanks for reading my rambles and apologies if it comes across as somewhat self-indulgent, I guess that’s because it is!

(The full email is posted here.)

Gallous

I don’t need to explain to any of Guy’s many friends why that great Glasgow adjective, gallousness, was Guy’s very essence.

Guy was gallous, it’s as simple as that.  And I mean that in the most respectful of terms.

To me, as an Edinburgher, it means bold.  It’s immutably Glasgow and Guy was immutably Glasgow.  I was jealous, deeply jealous.  When we were on the town together gallous Guy made me feel like his accountant sidekick.  I was a great admirer and always savoured his dazzling personality, wit and repartee.

Great

His personality sometimes shrouded his greatness.

A quick thinker.  A sparkling wit and a gift for selling.  All givens.

But also strategic, opinionated, scholarly and a great lover of his art.

GRP didn’t thrive on his personality.  It thrived on his substance.

And greatness comes in many forms.  Guy’s greatness encompassed the many qualities that I’ve shared already but true greatness, to me, comes from the heart, from the essence of a good human and Guy was as good as they get.

Guy, your tragic and, frankly unscripted, denouement was in keeping with a life that refused to follow convention.

Your legacy will be one of greatness.

One of uniqueness and, once the grieving is over, one of joy.

Thank you for every moment my friend.

I will miss you terribly.

 

 

Dicktionary pic of the day #18


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 18

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-06-05 at 19.12.49

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 17

Screenshot 2020-06-05 at 19.12.39

Screenshot 2020-06-05 at 19.13.01

Dicktionary Pic of the Day #17.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 17

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-06-05 at 19.12.39

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 16

Screenshot 2020-06-03 at 18.14.16

Screenshot 2020-06-03 at 18.14.27

Dicktionary Pic of the day #16.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 16

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-06-03 at 18.14.16

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 15

Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.23.27

Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.23.21

Dicktionary pic of the day #15.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 15

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.23.27

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 14

Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.22.56

Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.23.14

Dicktionary pic of the day #14.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 14

What classic album cover is this?Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.22.56

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 13

Screenshot 2020-05-29 at 19.37.51

Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.23.07