Alex’s End of Year Prizes 2016

Happy Boxing Day one and all! Hope you are having a lovely Christmas so far, whatever you may be up to (cue festive emojis 🎅🎅🎅 🎁🎁🎁 🎄🎄🎄). Today’s blog sees the third annual giving out of my End of Year Prizes. 

2016 has, it’s safe to say, been an odd mistress of a year, but has been regardless packed full of some great music, TV, film and books. 

So plump a cushion up, make a cuppa and grab some more Fox’s biscuits / Quality Street / Twiglets as I dish out my awards to the great and good of this year…

SINGLE OF THE YEAR

AND THE WINNER IS: DNCE for “Cake by the Ocean”!

It was a very close run thing deciding between this and Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” as my overall favourite of 2016. However, the former Jo Bro, Joe Jonas, rose from the embers of his Disney Channel past in his new band this year, with a unabashedly upbeat, funk driven pop anthem that was just a little bit rude but a sneakily charming track regardless.

BAND OF THE YEAR

AND THE WINNERS ARE: All Saints!

10 years ago, with the relative underperformance of their third album “Studio 1”, it would have been incredibly easy to dismiss the notion of the 90’s coolest girl group ever doing another album. But following on from a successful stint supporting Backstreet Boys in 2014, Melanie, Nicole, Shaznay and Natalie reconvened to record and self release their blinding fourth album and top 3 smash “Red Flag”, as well as sellout a headline tour (which I met them on in Southend. Go 9 year old me!). And 2017 promises to be even more exciting for the ladies as another new album is in the pipeline, as well as supporting Take That on their summer stadium tour. Bring it on, bring it bring it on now!

WOMAN OF THE YEAR

AND THE WINNER IS: Joanna Lumley!

The ever ageless, ever fabulous national darling not only hit the big screen in style this year (more of which later), but also continues to reposition herself as a one woman Michael Palin with her brilliant travel series on ITV, this time taking in Japan and the Transsiberian railway, with all the captivating, witty and engaging insight we’ve come to expect from her.

TV SHOW OF THE YEAR

AND THE WINNER IS: Strictly Come Dancing!

In a series that’s been, as now departed head judge Len Goodman put it, better than a bit of cheese with a pickled walnut, this year’s Strictly has dazzled as the strongest and most memorable series it’s had in years, with a high entertainment factor, dazzling contestants and a brilliantly gifted Glitterball trophy victor in BBC sports commentator Ore Oduba (that Jive. Nuff said). And serious props especially, has to be given to any primetime Saturday night show that gets former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls doing a samba to Gangnam Style. More than a SEVERRRN from me for sure.

BOOK OF THE YEAR

AND THE WINNER IS: Sue Perkins for “Spectacles: A Memoir”!

Again, very close run battle this category, with Miranda Hart’s long awaited “Peggy and Me” also in contention for the title, but the now departing host of “The Great British Bake Off” and one half of one of Britain’s funniest double acts with Mel Giedroyc published an autobiography that was as riotously hilarious as it was genuinely touching. The chapter recounting her filming of a TV show about off road Land Rover driving in Asia with Liza Tarbuck is an absolute hoot in particular.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

AND THE WINNER IS: Olly Murs for “24 HRS”!

Seven weeks after we heralded it the best album of his career, Olly scored his fourth consecutive UK number one album, and is now hurtling to another platinum disc with a record that stays true to his very ethos as an artist and performer that is packed with hits in waiting as usual, but with his most mature and confident approach to date. Expect this to be another million seller by this time next year!

SINGER OF THE YEAR

AND THE WINNER IS: Rick Astley!

The Northern legend who started his career as a tea boy for Stock Aitken Waterman in the 80s, before going onto become an actual pop legend in his own right with “Never Gonna Give You Up” on both sides of the Atlantic in 1987, made a blinding return to the top of the UK charts this year with the excellent “50” album, his first new material in over 10 years. With a new tour planned for next year, he remains as timeless now as he did 30 years on from his debut.

MAN OF THE YEAR

AND THE WINNER IS: Tom Fletcher!

McFly frontman, singer, songwriter, guitarist. Vlogger. Twice winner of Dad of the Year. Wedding speech legend. Joining that little pool of Tom’s endless talents this year was “children’s author”, as following on from his “Dinosaur that Pooped” series of picture books with bandmate Dougie Poynter, he published his beautifully heartwarming first novel for young readers in “The Christmasaurus”. This time next year he’ll take to the stage for a sold out run of a live adaptation of the book at Hammersmith Apollo – which if this preview at this year’s Royal Variety Performance is anything to go by, will be equally epic.

FILM OF THE YEAR

AND THE WINNER IS: Absolutely Fabulous – The Movie!

So as we mentioned earlier, Joanna Lumley is (sort of) a double prize winner this year, as along with her partner in crime/comedy Jennifer Saunders, they returned in some serious style as Edina and Patsy for a successful big screen jaunt of Ab Fab that proved to be as hilarious as the original TV series was. It’s a two hour caper with gags and cameos a plenty.

COMEDIAN OF THE YEAR

AND THE WINNER IS: Michael McIntyre!

One of Britain’s best stand ups of the last decade ventured unsuccessfully into judging Britain’s Got Talent and hosting a short lived chat show, but he finally came into his own this year with the launch of his “Big Show” variety series filmed at the London Palladium for BBC One, which has already had two successful runs and returns for a third in 2017. The “Celebrity Send to All” game in particular (here’s Geri Halliwell’s one), is the most inspired feature in a primetime entertainment show since James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke.

COMEBACK OF 2016

AND THE WINNER IS: Craig David!

In a year full of some almighty returns, the Southampton boy who bought UK garage to the world’s stage all the way back in 2000 made a triumphant return this year after half a decade out of the spotlight here in good ol’ Blighty. He scored himself a number one album with his comeback release “Following My Intuition”, highly praised live turns from Glastonbury to Ibiza, and top 10 hits a plenty with “When the Bassline Drops”, “Ain’t Giving Up” and “One More Time” to name but a few. And with 2017 boasting a sold out arena tour and further future hits to come, Mr David is well and truly the comeback kid.

SPECIAL AWARD: ICON PRIZE

AND THE WINNER IS: David Bowie!

It’ll be hard not to think of 2016, in years to come, as a year when we lost some of the most recognised and best loved figures in music, TV and film. As I sit here writing this today, the world is coming to terms with the passing yesterday of George Michael, at the age of 53.

But the one that had the most profound effect on me this year, and who is the deserved winner of my Icon Prize is David Bowie, whose first anniversary of his death at the age of 67 is but a few weeks away now. 

It’s easy to dissolve into platitudes, but his music, his innovation, his artistry and his vision broke down barriers and paved the way for much of what followed in the pop culture spectrum in subsequent decades, and it’s unlikely to be bettered or replicated by anyone. He will remain an icon for years to come.
Congratulations to all our winners, and thank you to everyone for reading and supporting the blog this year. See you all in 2017!

Much love always,

Alex  😄 😄 😄 x x x

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Cheers, sweetie: Ab Fab’s best episodes

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It’s time to crack open the bolly, sweetie, as this Friday finally sees the release in cinemas of one of the most anticipated transitions from the small screen to the silver screen in the comedy world. Following months of speculation (and having to hold her comedy partner, Dawn French, to a bet that she wouldn’t ever do it), Jennifer Saunders’ louche, hapless and riotous fashion victims, Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone (played by one of my all time heroes, Joanna Lumley), make their big screen arrival in “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie”.

This classic BBC sitcom ran for five series and six specials over a 20 year period and followed, with delightfully cutting humour, the flimsy, fly by the seat of your pants world of the culture of celebrity and fashion PR (not to mention cruelty, bad parenting, fags and alcohol a-go-go). I first discovered it properly when I was 14, and the fifth series was airing on BBC One. In the years immediately following, I invested in all the boxsets and books, and it’s fair to say it’s one of my all time favourite TV comedies. With the movie in mind, I have revisited my boxset for the umpteenth time this last week to decipher what I feel are the best episodes of this dysfunctional sitcom that never went out of style, darling…

“FRANCE”

(Series 1, 1992)

The show’s first outing abroad, and one that’s still a hoot even now. Edina and Patsy are bound for some ‘bonne vacances’ in the south of France, but due to their complete inability to read a map (or drive on the wrong side of the road) they wind up not at the exclusive, five star, Tatler approved chateau, sweetie, but instead at a derelict old farmhouse, where painting, board games and yes – Patsy actually enjoying a game of ping pong – ensue…

“POOR”

(Series 2, 1994)

Perhaps one of the best episodes to showcase Jennifer’s love of a good, anarchistic rant, it’s disaster time for Edina when she finds out both her ex-husbands are cutting their alimony payments, and that she and Patsy have to make some harsh adjustments to their Bolly soaked lifestyles. What follows is a drunken trip to the food hall at Harrods (‘You can’t expect people who live in Knightsbridge to eat out all the time!’) and Edina before a judge, demanding a tax on the inept in society (‘Just have a stupidity tax and tax the stupid people!’)

“GAY”

(Christmas Special, 2002)

Following on from the fourth series in 2001 was this feature length special, where Edina and Patsy – the latter now being the executive buyer at exclusive fashion outlet Jeremy’s –  jetted off to New York for Fashion Week. It’s an excursion which results in Edina searching for her long lost son by her second husband Marshall, ‘my pride and joy’, Serge, whom she discovers is gay and living in Manhattan, and not, as previously implied, taking lava samples from a volcano in Tibet. What follows is an outrageous romp, with a hilarious guest turn from acting legend Whoopi Goldberg as a marriage counsellor.

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“SCHMOOZIN”

(Series 5, 2003)

An affectionate nod to the 60s and 70s, the heyday of Edina and Patsy’s youth that is forever referenced in the show, this episode sees Edina briefly dating smooth talking record producer Pete (played by My Family star Robert Lindsay) whom, she and Patsy discover, is mastering some previously unheard Beatles tapes at Abbey Road – which not only brings about some hilarious nostalgia via tales of their groupie days (‘Did you have a favourite Rolling Stone, darling? – You didn’t have one Stone, Eddie, you had ’em all!’) and Patsy’s previous life as an adult film star in ‘Booberella’, but also some painfully funny antics at the recording studio when Edina attempts her own song, ‘Walking Down the Road’…

“SMALL OPENING”

(Series 4, 2001)

A sort of ‘episode within an episode’ this one. Edina is fuming when she finds out inadvertently that her long suffering daughter Saffy has written and produced a play about her life for the local fringe theatre (or as Patsy calls it, ‘your twisted little a***-wipe truth!’) and attempts everything she can to ensure it is a flop (Bubble, her dim witted PA, suggests she promotes it). This episode also contains one of the series’ best one liners to her first husband, antique shop owner, Justin – ‘Being married to him was like being married to an antique shop, darling – full of crap and always closed!’

“OLYMPICS”

(Special, 2012)

The show returned for three 20th anniversary specials in 2011/2012, the last of which being broadcast just as the Olympic games arrived in London. Edina’s full of excitement as Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones are renting a room in her sprawling Holland Park townhouse whilst the games are on – but is hugely disappointed when she finds out they’ve cancelled. Fearing her staying power in PR may be drying up (‘I’m a party girl, not a cup of tea!’), her and Patsy have no choice but to mingle with the great and good at the Olympic stadium – which results in them carrying the torch, and Patsy doing – what else? – but lighting her fags off it.

“Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie” is out in cinemas nationwide this Friday. “Absolutely Everything: The Definitive Boxset”, featuring all the series and specials, is available on 2Entertain DVD from HMV, priced £24.99. Twitter: @AbFabMovie