The Snow In The Summer or So-So

Week of 24 December 2018

Koan

We're all just ending up at Monument whilst trying to find the exit at Bank right? #

The weeknotes
Vintage Top of the Pops + 0 Weeks

25 December 2018 Fearne Cotton and Clara Amfo are back, everyone! Keep clapping! Keep clapping! They want the crowd to applaud and cheer right through the opening speech, previewing all of the coming attractions.

Eventually we start with Jess Glynne performing "I'll be there". It's a long frock coat in silver with black details, and a full band behind her. They've emphasised the tambourine line on the backing track, sounds a bit like sleigh bells. Doesn't alter the way Jess only has one performing voice: shout. Silver tokens are the reward.

Clean Bandit are in the studio to perform "Solo", the joint hit of the summer. It's the real band, with Grace's special silver double-bass. The vocals are provided by a ringer, we know what Demi Lovato looks like and it's neither of these performers. Substitute vocalists are a nod to the Top of the Pops Orchestra, and just as unwelcome.

Jax Jones is back with "Breathe", vocalist Camille is in a checked hoodie-and-matching-trousers set. It's a very simple song, just a repeated groove, and needs a memorable gimmick. They're joined by a bunch of dancing Santas and snowfall.

A welcome return for Zara Larsson, whose "Ruin my life" is jazzed up with sleigh bells and chimes. She's in a silver skirt-top combo, with a backing choir dressed in white to look like the angelic host. They've made an effort, it's a classy and thoughtful performance.

Video clips! Dua Lipa's "IDGAF", Portugal. The Man, George Ezra's "Paradise", Drake, and Ed Sheeran.

Years and Years are here to perform "If you're over me". The singer is in a tight silver top and zebra-stripe trousers. He begins in the crowd, but any dreams of walking everywhere like Cyndi Lauper are dashed - he's heading for the stage where he'll sing his pretty but dull song. It's rewarded with more silver tokens.

Tom Walker has literally just turned up, the "Leave a light on" singer has left his hat on, and is wearing a dark checked shirt. The audience wave their phones, a string quartet mimes, and grabs a lot of the directors attention. Is this a performance by Tom or by the quartet? Who are we meant to be watching, exactly?

Signature hit of the year time! Keala Settle's "This is me", filmed on The Graham Norton Show in February. That's how to do a show - woman in spotlight, acrobats and gymnasts emerge when the lights go up, we get a gospel choir. The director shows much more drinking than we need, and some of the pans are repetitive, but we can see this slotting into a Eurovision top five.

And speaking of Eurovision, here's Rita "turned down a winner" Ora with "Let you love me". She's in an extended feather boa, where the backing tape expands into an off-the-shoulder dress. This is an ofer-staffed performance, Rita would be better alone on stage, or with her backing singers. Doesn't need a full band pretending to play.

Freya Ridings performs "Lost withou you" while sat at her piano. Just her, sparkly jacket, hair scrunchie, and 88 keys. The crowd is silenced, all we see are slow pans and reflections of Feeya. That was your Christmas moment of zen.

More clips: "This is me", "These days", "Shotgun", "One kiss", and more Drake. Mmm, gripping.

Sigrid time, performing her signature song "Strangers". Unlike all of the other acts today, she's not in shiny and sparkly outfit - just the trademark white t-shirt, black jeans, and trainers. It's a uniform that doesn't hold back her performance, a bit like Tom Scott's red t-shirt. Bright as a button, and a breath of fresh air.

Jonas Blue and Liam Payne got together for "Polaroid". It's another of those DJ-and-vocalist combos, this time with clear star talent from both sides. Lennon Stella does half of the vocals, and Liam gives a generous introduction. A tale with the two of them remembering their one night together has to have our couple standing back-to-back, right? The sounds are contemporary, the staging is straight out of music hall, and all the better for it.

Rudimental perform "These days", with vocals by Jess Glynne and Dan Caplen. Dan comes in an oversized green jacket, Jess has wrapped herself in a yellow blanket. There's a confetti drop halfway through, with a piece getting stuck in Jess's hair. That's about all we can say about this tedious, trundly, song.

"Shotgun" from George Ezra and his big band. Actually, that would be an interesting idea; this is a little too laid-back for its own good. George is in a red shirt with spots and a collar, and always finds the right camera. Again, the shot direction isn't there - too many spins from George to the crowd, when we're not here to watch the crowd.

At various points, we might have seen Ariana Grande here. Then we could have seen poisoning and bondage with Ava Max, just what we want for Christmas lunchtime. Instead, it's a cold intro to Ladbaby's "We built this city", starring the blogger, his wife, and his son. And some pigs in pastry.

Stars of the show: Zara Larsson's always given good performances, this was one of her best. Sigrid made an assured debut, Freya Ridings was a pleasant change. Thumbs up to George Ezra, and to the combo of Jonas Liam and Lennon.

A TOTP-skating ham named Saturday

And so on to Saturday 29 December, Fearne and Clara have changed into glittery black dresses, and we start with George Ezra's "Paradise". Good use of the backing band, let them shout the response parts of the verse. He's changed into a blue shirt, and rather than crowd shots, we're distracted by glitterballs. George writes catchy songs, and he's a fine singer, the stagecraft needs a little work.

"A whole new generation of girl power," promised our hosts. Great! Dua, Zara, Ariana, Netta, Roksana? Oh. It's Jess Glynne, everybody. She's performing her new release "Thursday", and the sound you hear is all the excitement George created fizzing down to nothing. Jess sounds like a foghorn, by all reports she's a petulant diva, and hence is the right booking for the Spice Girls tour - she won't upstage even Victoria Posh Spice Beckham-Aadams.

"Rise" is from Jonas Blue, with vocals from the real Jack and Jack. These lads boss the stage like it's their home, dance moves and pacing, and each knows when to step back and let the other Jack lead.

From BBC Introducing, it's Tom Grennan with "Found what I've been looking for". There's a raw energy to his performance, reminds us of the Scene bands from about 2005. Tom's stagecraft may look shallow and ramshackle, but you can be sure it's been rehearsed to within an inch of its life. Decent talent, there.

Story of the year: musical films, mostly. Greatest Showman, Mamma Mia 2, A Star is Born 3, Bo Rhap. Then a nod to Calvin Harris, the baby shark, BTS, and the floss dance fad.

Back to the show, with Mabel and "Fine line". Performer in pink, four backing dancers in silver - one of them wallops a floating snowflake in each chorus. The song is simple and repetitive; if this was a Eurovision Song Contest entry, it'd sink. No hook on the song, nothing from the performance.

Jax Jones is spinning the discs while Years and Years sing "Play". Here's the problem: Years and Years have one good thing, the upwards riff from "King". That's it, they're selling on image and being one of the lads, not on any musical merit.

Lewis Capaldi is next up, singing "Grace" from within his Pringle jumper. So, given that we've just slagged off Years & Years, we must be into "quality" "rock" like this, right? Wrong: Lewis needs singing lessons, he's got a very limited range. His stagecraft is limited to pacing up and down the stage. That he's nominated for a ROPRA Rising Star award just shows how out of touch ROPRA is these days.

Sigrid! Save us! Before the chorus of "Sucker punch", we've seen a greater vocal range than Lewis, better stagecraft than anyone tonight. PLayful in the verse, powerful in the chorus, exactly what the song demands. The stage is too bright to go dark in the breakdown, but we can't fault Sigrid for the show.

More review of the year: Biggest Weeken, though they seem to have missed footage of Rio... Three lions fever... Greg James to breakfast on Radio 1, and Cliff Evans yields Radio 2... Obit reel - from Mac Miller to Chas Hodges... Glastonbury sells out (no change)... Spice Girls are back, Robbie's off to Vegas.

Tom Odell and Rae Morris do the slushy bit, "Half as good as you". He sits at the piano, dressed in black, and doesn't make eye contact with the camera, but looks at Rae. She's standing to the side in white, and uses her soulful voice to make the song. Tight shots don't include the audience, but do include a roundel with "The" not illuminated.

Clean Bandit are still in the house, with Marina on "Baby". She's in a bronze fooled top, Grace is wielding a guitar-keyboard like she's Howard Jones' successor. A strangely static performance. Everyone is standing on the spot, apart from two dancers who walk about. They could do better.

What can Christine and the Queens do for us? Clear a space on the floor, they're doing "Girlfriend" in the crowd. Six male dancers - something here for everyone - go through their intricately choreographed routine, Chris moves with the grace and purpose of a cat to keep them in order. Ths really worked, using the very limited stage to do something very different.

Follow that? Another chance to fast-forward through "These days" from Tuesday.

Which leaves the new number one, Ava Max's "Sweet but psycho", a tale of low cleavage, latex gloves, poisoned wine, scissors, light bondage, and burning your dead lover's body - or stashing it in the closet. Hmm. Not exactly Pointless Celebrities, is it.

And that's that. Tom and Rae were brilliant, Christine and the Queens as wonderful as ever, Sigrid was solid, and George Ezra had merit. An awful lot of filler in the middle, though.

World news

The Arab League voted to re-admit Syria; it had been suspended for eight years, owing to domestic instability. There will be early elections in Israel, taking place in April; Benjamin Netenyahu is favoured to retain the prime minister's job.

A French court closed its investigation into the 1994 crash that took the life of President Habyarimana of Rwanda. There is too little evidence for the involvement of seven accused Rwandans, including the defence minister at the time.

Japan will withdraw from the International Whaling Commission, in order to resume a commercial whaling operation. Andry Rajoelina won the Madagascar presidential election, defeating Marc Ravalomanana. Marble Bar registered the hottest temperature on Australia, 49.3°C.

JKR O'wling criticised "Saint Jeremy", pointing out that the arch-traitor had backed treachery since he was in short trousers. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre listed him fourth in the Most Very Horrible Antisemitic Thing, behind October's massacre in Pittsburgh, Louis Farrakhan, and Yankee college campuses.

Festive messages from European monarchs seemed to have been co-ordinated. "We are less powerless than we think," said the King of the Netherlands. "Tackle problems by our open minds," called the King of B*lgium. "Even if the differences are large, the first step is to understanding the treatment of the other with respect and as a human being." said the Queen of Windsor. "There is far too much consumer pressure in the world," said the Pope of Vatican.

Biathlon champion Anton Shipulin announced his retirement. The 31-year-old has been one of the most consistent performers in the last few years, finishing second or third for four seasons. He was placed under suspicion of doping earlier in December.

Wild Oats XI won the Sydney-to-Hobart boat race.

The death of Wendy Beckett, art critic and nun; Amos Oz, author and "Peace Now" activist; Norman Gimbel, songwriter ("Killing me softly with his song"); June Whitfield, comedy legend. Music-and-technology retailer HMV called in the administrators again, for the second time in six years.

Other television

Watership Down went out on BBC1 on the Saturday and Sunday before Christmas. It wasn't well received. Christmas Eve featured new comedy Click and Collect, while ITV gave up and flung out Gremlins. S4C's highlight was a new rock musical arrangement of Handel's Messiah, shown on Christmas Eve.

BBC1's Christmas Day had the usual mix of animation and religion in the morning, broken only by Top of the Pops at 12.30. The post-Queen film was live-action The Jungle Book, followed by animated short Zog. Strictly Come Dancing returned for the 13th Christmas Day running, but Dr Who was absent, replaced by Michael McIntyre's Big Christmas Special. Call the Midwife, The Eastenders, and Mrs. Brown's Boys were back later in the evening yet again.

ITV had children's shows up to the film Jack Frost, then skewed much older with Countryside and Doc Martin. After Queenie, a repeat of Christmas Chase from 2017, then Monsters Inc and Paul O'Grady on Dogs. Hourlong Emmerdale Farm and Coronation Street took them to the big docudrama, Torvill and Dean.

Channel 4 continued its campaign to be family-friendly all day: movies of Postman Pat and Rugrats Go Wild, later The Simpsons, Father Christmas, and The Snowman. Later there were more movies: Arthur Christmas, Muppet Christmas Carol and Home Alone 2. As last year, the big new shows were Christmas Bake Off, with First Dates at Christmas and Alan Carr's Christmas Cracker proving a solid evening.

BBC2 was as highbrow as ever, Guys and Dolls and An American in Paris in daylight hours, specials of popular quizzes Only Connect and University Challenge early evening. Shakespeare comedy Upstart Crow concluded its run, and Gregory Porter gave a concert.

BBC4 showed Swan Lake, Channel 5's classic movies included Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Sky 1 broke the subs paywall and showed the year's biggest movie The Greatest Showman, with a football triple-bill on Boxing Day.

BBC1 showed Agatha Christie-inspired mystery The ABC Murders from Boxing Night to the 28th; BBC2's Boxing Night had a tribute to Ken Dodd and recovered Morecambe and Wise episodes. The Snow Wolf (27th) was BBC2's big nature documentary. Channel 5 went with a lot of their one BAFTA winner Jane MacDonald, featuring her for the entirity of New Year's Eve. Madness gave the concert on BBC1, Michael Buble and Jess Glynne headed the Hootenanny on BBC2, and Artsworld gave the television premier to Dinner for One, a television institution in Germany. Same procedure as every year.

CBBC spent the week showcasing its greatest comedies, with a 2.15 repeat for the Blue Peter Christmas show. The end-of-year review included clips of when they unveiled the diamond badge, viewer's pictures, the time they set a diamond badge on fire, and Jonas Blue from the birthday party. There were competitions: the balloon, the time capsule, the RAF, the Kew dragons, animations. The experiences: flying with the RAF, electric Radzi, the Navy, Radzi in a tank. There were guest presenters, circus performers, and the world record show; we get the Lindsey-lifter again. Guests and pop stars, and show daughter Sophie Ellis-Bextor. The Gold Badge roll of honour, including Will and Kate, and his brother Ed Sheeran. And, as it's 2018, there were plugs for the website and the coming year, and finish with The Vamps from October.

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Next Week's Top Telly
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This week's top 40

The number one singles this week:

14dec 02h LADBABY - We built this city [10d21h]
24dec 23h AVA MAX - Sweet but psycho  [+07d23h]

It's all about the numbers. Ladbaby built up a big lead on Friday and Saturday, but then turned off the tap and stopped selling around Sunday evening. Ava Max regained the lead, but couldn't quite do the numbers to regain the best-seller crown. A shame.

Former number ones hold down the entire top 5, with newlywed Miley Cyrus and still-single Mark Ronson at 3, Ariana Grande back up to 4 with Thank u, next, and Pink rebounding to 5. Ari's new single Imagine plunges to number 60.

Post Malone's Sunflower reaches a new peak at 14, after the release of Spiderman Spiderverse; there are TOTP bounces for George Ezra (15-8), Keala Settle (21-11), and Rita Ora (23-15). Indeed, the whole Greatest Showman soundtrack bounces up after it was shown on accessible television.

There is a new entry this week, Sam Smith's Fire on fire lands at 34. But there are plunges - the Fire Tones go from 5 to 76, and Flakefleet Primary drop out of the top 100 from number 3.

ROPRA's completely made-up sales and airplay chart puts Mariagh Cantsing at number 2; she's really number 20. The ROPRA fiction includes "streaming" "sales" from Friday to Wednesday, plus an assumption that Thursday sales are the average of the rest of the week. This is complete nonsense, making up sales that aren't there. It almost bit them in July, when Three Lions made the top even though sales and streams stopped on Wednesday night. And it almost bit them this week, when Mariagh's streams stopped on Tuesday evening. Next year, Christmas is on a Wednesday, and Mariagh gets seven days' streaming "sales" for her six days of work. If you're a betting type, might be worth a flutter even at this distance.

The Greatest Showman remains number 1, same procedure as all year. It's the album's 22nd (TWENTY-SECOND) week at the top, tying with Elvis's GI Blues from 1961. Next week: tie with Adele's 21 for the 21st century record.

With Michael Buble slipping 2-4, there's room for George Ezra and Roy Orbison to climb a place. The A Star is Born soundtrack advances 10-8, it's the best merchandise to download seeing as the DVD isn't yet available.

No new releases on the album chart, so we'll note 100 Years of Nine Lessons and Carols spends its fifth (and final?) week atop the Specialist Classical chart. Andrea Bocelli's Si is nine weeks on top of the Classical Crossover. Curious scenes on the Country chart, last week's leaders Ashton Lane are not in the top 20 at all; ROPRA records Kacey Musgraves' Golden Hour as the best-seller.

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Weather

A south-westerly flow took control during Monday, bringing a lot of cloud and some mild weather. There was patchy fog most mornings, persistant until lunchtime on Wednesday.

With everyone back on the roads this week, the weather's going to turn, clearer and colder from Tuesday, with frosts possible from Wednesday night. Doesn't look there's much rain in the new year, so do avoid fascists.

24 Mo cloud               0/ 6
25 Tu rain o/n, cloud     1/ 8
26 We cloud               8/10
27 Th cloud               7/ 9
28 Fr bright              8/10
29 Sa sunny intervals     9/13
30 Su cloud               9/12

Rainfall in December: 112mm; monthly average: 70mm

Degree heating days: 207.5
2017-18: 262/834
2016-17: 257/677
2015-16: 86/585
2014-15: 215/718
2013-14: 245/630
2012-13: 352/1151
2011-12: 190/751
2010-11: 587/1056
2009-10: 299/1107
2008-09: 336/927

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