Wednesday, January 04, 2017

The Grand Final

Here's some trivia for you - the world of social media thinks it's National Trivia Day today. The internet is full of these national days (I suppose they at least give people something to talk about in their blogs, unimaginative dolts that they all are), but never say what nation it is. I mean, I always assume it's America and so nothing to do with me, but you never know. Maybe it's that glorious nation that is the Internet.

Anyway, Simon Reinhard and Jan-Hendrik B├╝scher are contesting the grand final of the first Memory League Online Knockout tonight, and it's sure to be an exciting event! The technology doesn't yet exist to let people watch it at home (I can't think how they'd go about making that work without taking the competitors' word for it that they won't cheat...) but it's still been a lot of fun to watch the results. Jan knocked me out in the first round, so the further he gets in the competition, the less bad it makes me look, and consequently I'm cheering for him tonight. But Simon's the hot favourite as always, and having beaten the hot second-favourite, Katie, in the semis, he's looking unstoppable.

The point is, though, I'm still loving the Memory League, and keen to improve my own ranking (number 11 on the leaderboard right now), which can really only be done by fixing my longstanding black spot with names and faces - it's like I'm starting with a handicap of 20% of the available points if I don't learn how to do the things... it's really high time we found out whether an old dog like me can learn some new tricks.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Groggy groggy groggy

Getting up and going to work in the morning after eleven days of idleness is really bad for you. I'm just going to go to bed now. Tomorrow, wide awake again and refreshed, I'll talk some more about the Memory League!

Monday, January 02, 2017

It's finished, Jaga

Thirty years ago today, January 2nd, 1987, the BBC broadcast the first episode of Thundercats. Actually, they broadcast the first two episodes, edited together into one 40-minute story. And it was so good!

Britain lagged strangely behind America when it came to Thundercats - the other big toy ranges of the time, Transformers and He-Man came out more or less simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic, but at the start of 1987 the first Thundercats toys had only recently appeared on the toystore shelves, while America was almost getting bored with them by now. The second range of toys showed up over here a couple of months into 1987, and the third the following year.

The cartoon, though, was something else. Definitely a cut above the other toy-commercial cartoons we all loved back then (at the age of ten, they were pretty much the only things I watched on TV). He-Man used the Hanna-Barbera style of very limited animation, Transformers was also made on the cheap, but this time by taking the attitude of "it's only a kids' show, it doesn't matter if we draw the wrong robot now and then or colour them in wrong...". Thundercats is much more professional and well-made. And the scripts were fantastic, too, and the voice acting!

Couple that with the weather that winter - the heaviest snow I've ever seen combined with the layout of our back garden to give us six-foot snowdrifts to play in - and you've got the perfect childhood experience! Thundercats Hooooooooo!

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Big Daddy

It's a new year, and there's sure to be something to blog about every day, right? I haven't deluged the internet with my long-winded thoughts nearly enough these last couple of years.

So let's start by talking about World of Sport Wrestling, the one-off special from last night! As I've mentioned before, I quite like watching American wrestling now and then (although I've gone off WWE since they sacked Damien Sandow...), but the old British World of Sport was before my time - according to the internet it ended in 1985, when I was eight, but I don't recall ever really watching it. I knew Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks, because they were household names, but that was as far as it went.

This new series (because they obviously want to sell it as a regular series, which would be awesome) is entirely modern in tone (looking very much like the WWE but in a slightly smaller-scale way), just interspersed with a few old clips of the original series and reminiscences from minor wrestlers who are still alive and remember it. It was really really good! I was pleasantly surprised, and now I want to see more! It's available on ITV player for the next 30 days, I'd recommend that you check it out. With that in mind, I won't spoil the results (although if you've ever watched any wrestling before, or even heard of the concept, you can probably guess the plotline and winners), just a few thoughts about the wrestlers and the show...

Dave Mastiff is definitely the biggest star, in every way. Amazing physique (how do you pin the shoulders of someone who hasn't got any, the commentator wonders - he's basically a ball), great moves and agility for someone shaped like that, great personality. Everyone loves the bad guy, although the crowd were very obedient in cheering the goodies and booing the baddies. He's not that great an actor, but all he needs to do is look fierce, and he does that really well!

Grado, the plucky underdog hero, is a great actor as well as a great wrestler, so you can see why he got the main hero role. He's very loveable.

Johnny Moss and Sha Samuels are Mastiff's evil henchmen, and they play the part well, especially Samuels, who's got a brilliant costume and personality. We definitely need to see more of him.

The smaller guys - Kenny Williams, Sam Bailey, CJ Banks and Delicious Danny - had the misfortune to be put in a ladder match, something that really never works in wrestling (the winner is the first one to climb up a ladder and grab the prize dangling above the ring - in practice that means a lot of silly scenes of a wrestler very slowly climbing up, looking over his shoulder to make sure the opponent who's supposed to stop him is close enough) but they do a good job anyway. Delicious Danny has the most stylish appearance, CJ Banks is scowly and evil in a very cool way, Kenny Williams is the young hot newcomer and looks great - pink works well on wrestlers, I've never known why, Sam Bailey is sort of lost in the crowd. But they all perform really well, and I definitely want to see more of them all on a regular basis!

There's a women's match, which apparently they never did in the old days, between the really great Viper and the less impressive Alexis Rose, but it's treated like a bit of an afterthought. With that and the rest of the night's lineup consisting almost entirely of white guys, it's not what you'd call inclusive. I'm not sure what they'd do if it becomes a weekly thing; Viper looks like she'd be fine wrestling with the men, but maybe there's a load of female superstars in Britain who we just haven't seen yet...

Tag team action with Ashton Smith and Rampage Brown against Mark and Joe Coffey is a lot of fun too - Rampage is the real character of the foursome who gets all the best moments. To keep it interesting going forwards, I hope there's more tag team stuff, just because it helps develop the characters of the wrestlers.

Then there's Zack Gibson, who's perhaps a bit too similar in appearance and character to CJ Banks, but has the advantage of apparently having a degree in accountancy and finance from Liverpool John Moores University. I like that a lot - we need more wrestling accountants! He wrestles El Ligero, masked Mexican wrestler with a very cool mask, horns and everything, and they both show some cool moves.

The last wrestler to show up is Davey Boy Smith Junior, The British Bulldog, who looks like the traditional square-jawed hero that's otherwise lacking from the show, but since he doesn't do very much I assume he's just there for the olden-days nostalgia. But that's seventeen genuinely good wrestlers in a really really well-designed and written show. It could definitely make an ongoing series, and I'm all in favour!