Miranda’s now Not Going Out: A blog post about the end of 2 sitcoms (spoilers hidden)

(If you’ve seen neither show’s ending, spoilers below are hidden in backwards text…)

Eight years ago, I was sitting in a small office off Oxford Street with Lee Mack, Andrew Collins, and a rogue smell that we eventually pinpointed to a half-drunk cup of coffee hiding behind some scripts from months earlier (before I joined, I hasten to add).

We were writing the first series of Not Going Out, and partway through we turned our attention to casting ideas for some guest parts, including a scary acupuncturist character. I’d seen Miranda Hart on sitcom Hyperdrive (and didn’t know her apart from that), so threw her name into the ring. She got the part, and returned as an apparently-different cleaner character next series. In an entirely unrelated series of events, she got a BBC Radio then BBC TV sitcom of her own, called Miranda.

What I’m saying is: she owes me her entire career.

…Alright she had a good deal to do with it too, as well as a few powers-that-beeb.

I should add you may loathe either or both shows. That’s fine. Some like ’em, some don’t. Comedy’s that weird beast, where, like horror with it’s oohs and arghs, it requires a visceral response to work, and if you don’t laugh, you see it as a failure. Thankfully both have found an audience – the stars aligned.

And the two sitcoms have been oddly synchronistic, ending at the same time. I’ve written on both teams since episode one, and both shows have been written by its star performer, playing a version of themselves with their own name, American-style. Both ended up as BBC1 studio sitcoms, at a time when it looked like The Office had killed off the laughter track. (Not Going Out’s first episode aired the night after a BBC2 documentary about how the studio sitcom was dead; one theory has it that in recessions, people want cheering up so lean towards silly studio audience fare (hence the rise of Mrs Brown’s Boys et al), while in boom-time audiences go for darker shows (Nighty Night, Green Wing etc). Whatever the reason, Not Going Out and Miranda have lasted till now… and alas only till now.)

Both shows have ended within 8 days of each other. The latest series of Not Going Out ended on Christmas Eve, and while Lee has said he’d like to do more, it’s all rather well wrapped up, so we presume for now that that Not Going Out is probably now not going out. I hear from the man on the street that though there was a Tim-sized gap since Mr Vine left, Hugh Dennis has been a great addition, and that a Lee/Hugh double act in the show has plenty of legs yet, were it to return – but seven series may be our lot.

Miranda finished just over a week later, on New Year’s Day. Handily that means the show can say it ran from 2009-2015. Six glorious years (just)! MH has said that that’s it, so again we assume that is indeed it. Hollywood’s calling, as well as midwives. Much as I like to think we’ll get annual Christmas reunions a la Only Fools, The Royle Family and (it looks like) Mrs Brown’s Boys, I suspect that we won’t be popping in to Gary’s bar for Christmas turkey every twelve months. Miranda, Stevie, Penny: it’s been such fun.

To those who’ve been kindly asking how my bills will get paid now both have finished at once, I thank you, but we’re not in America… Auntie Beeb doesn’t pay like Uncle Sam does, so worry not, the difference is negligible. What the shows have done is opened doors to more gigs and more writing opportunities on other shows, so I thank them heartily for that. I’ve a couple of sitcom writitunities for early 2015, on a couple of shows that will hit screens later in the year, so God-willing the viewing public will take to them like they did to Lee the lousy flatmate and Miranda the lovable shop-owner… although I know lucky breaks don’t come along all the time.

But really this already far-too-long blog (which is why both shows have editors) is to reassure anyone who’s seen both NGO/Miranda finales that any similarity is entirely coincidental. Without giving away spoilers if you’ve VHS’d those bad boys, both shows wrap things up in fairly similar ways. (Alright, I’m spoilerising via backwards text: htoB swohs dne ni sgniddew, htiw etaudarG-elyts etal slavirra retfa a dam hsad, sa llew sa tseug soemac morf srats ohw deraeppa a seires ro owt kcab. sulP noisufnoc revo s’ohw tseb nam. dnA skcabhsalf.)

Not my doing! I arrived at the script to spruce up with funny lines after these bits were well and truly embedded. And while in the past I’ve accidentally submitted the same joke for two different shows airing on the same night on the same channel (see chapter 8 of my book So A Comedian Walked Into A Church, available on Amazon and other less-tax-dodging websites), on this occasion it was well beyond worth me mentioning the similarities to anyone. Both had these facets deep in the story structure, and to be honest both were the best (and really only) ways to round off either series. It’s telling that both chose the same route – but that’s what the public want, and it’s satisfying. Sitcom is all about resetting the set-up each week – seeing our characters back at square one. On this occasion both needed to move on, and give our lead characters some plot resolution. That meant… this – a ceremonial tying-up of things.

As the only person involved in both shows on these final episodes, I have no idea if I was the only one to know the similarities in advance. Did someone at Beeb Towers oversee all this, and read both scripts, and know we’d have a bit of a crossover? Or did no one really know until the day of each show? And where are Beeb Towers now they’ve stupidly sold the doughnut building at White City? Who can say.

Equally, has anyone else noticed? Was I the only one to spot the similarities between the Christmas specials of Black Mirror and Doctor Who? Both are lightly comedic sci-fis, both within a week of each broadcasting one-offs set in a mysterious snowy North Pole research station, in both cases occupied by characters who, when pressed, didn’t actually know what they were doing there, until it unravelled that (backwardly-written spoilers again) htob erew gnirrucco ni rieht suoicsnocbus. Both used familiar glam rock Christmas anthems (Slade’s and Wizzard’s) in a macabre fashion: in one case to drive someone insane in a dream-world, and in the other to save someone from having their brains eaten by a dream-crab. Small world, ey? But then both used these elements to markedly different – and brilliant – effect. So perhaps I’m worrying over nothing about similarities: like the wise man said, you can use the same ingredients to make an omelette and a trifle, if you just add a few and take some away (the wise man was an awful cook).

So I hope any similarities didn’t affect your enjoyment of either send-off. I think both worked well. And if you didn’t like it, well that’s the last you’ll see of it anyway.

Happy New Year! And Happy New Sitcom.

When is a gig not a gig?

I’ve been lucky of late. Comedy gigs I’ve done have largely had good tech, stage, publicity, even audience members (which of course is thanks to the publicity). It helps that I’ve been doing a vast amount of solo shows, in arts centres, churches, school halls… All fully equipped with everything you need: seats facing the right way, quality PA, and in many cases a regular loyal crowd.

A couple of days ago I visited what can only be described as a beautiful circuit gig: Moonrakers in Devizes is the perfect low-ceiling, huddled eager audience in a basement bar. Throw in a brick-wall backdrop and you’d be in a US comedy club in its heyday… but with the unmistakably British pubness there in all the right ways.

But a Great British pub does not a great comedy club make. At a recent gig, I walked in to hoping to find a function room, or an encouraging sign reading ‘Comedy upstairs’. Instead you see the speakers set up next to the toilets and your heart sinks.

No ticket price
No lights
No stage
No seats facing the (non-)stage, no front row

…At some gigs, for whatever reason one or two of these might need to be the case. For a great gig, you obviously want all of these things to be intact, though I’ve had lovely gigs at places that unfortunately don’t have a stage, or where the audience haven’t paid to get in. But when every item on the checklist is lacking, there is no chance, and no gig.

So at the recent gig (non-gig), where there the audience hadn’t paid to be there (so had no vested interest in the night, and valued the show at £0 – in fact many were just there for a drink), with no lights or stage (so there was little to draw focus to us), with no front row, just seats around tables as a normal pub night (so the few who did want to listen had to really strain to see the comedian)… it was the perfect storm. It was the nearest I’d come in my stand-up career to refusing to go on. Some gigs (non-gigs), just aren’t worth putting yourself (and the ‘audience’) through twenty minutes of shouting jokes in the hope someone may hear them.

Perhaps I should have just left. But I gave it a pop. In part, yes, I wanted to get paid. But also, you think “Well you never know, we might get something going…”.

The MC went on and got the attention of two tables, but he had to roam and pace to grab just their attention. I went on and quickly realised that I just couldn’t be heard. Banter, jokes, you try the lot and it’s a losing battle. There was no heckling – oh for some heckling – just ignoring of the comedian even being there. I got laughs from the handful listening and applause when I left, only to find then that the headliner had done what I’d thought about – he’d gone home early. If roles were reversed and I’d seen him vying for attention from a Friday night pub that just wanted to be a Friday night pub, maybe I’d have done the same.

Some gigs aren’t gigs. If you’re running a show, you need to make sure there’s a mic and lights and sightlines and a stage and a ticket price. If you absolutely vitally need to not have one of these things, the others absolutely have to be in place – and even then you might find the show’s a non-starter. You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, but you do need the eggs to begin with. Tell a comedian to just stand by the Ladies toilet and start talking at everyone in the pub who’s trying to have a drink, and you’re making us just look a bit weird. There’s a reason Live At The Apollo has lights, sound and a stage, and isn’t filmed by a pub loo. If not, you might get an episode when Michael McIntyre hosts it saying, “Apollo, please welcome your headline act… Oh no he’s gone home.”

19.55 Things You Could Know About Secret Cinema’s Back To The Future (without spoilers)

Doc: “It works! Ha ha, IT WORKS! I FINALLY invent something that works!

Marty: “You bet your ass it works

…And my, how Secret Cinema’s Back To The Future works. When new versions of a film are released, there’s often talk of watching it “as the film-makers wanted it to be watched”. I think last night’s BTTF love-in surpassed how the film-makers ever thought it could be watched – but it was joyous.

Things got heavy for Secret Cinema last week when time circuits failed them, and they cancelled a week’s worth of shows. This event is ambitious in the extreme, and it looks like they just took too much on. I really hope that if you’re reading this and were one of those unfortunates who just clicked the wrong date when buying your tickets, that you can reschedule. Hill Valley is finally ready: A Nice Place to Live. We happened to book tickets a week in… which miraculously became the opening night.

I’ll keep this spoiler-free (although we’ve all seen the film, so there aren’t really any spoilers. And if you haven’t seen the film, this probably isn’t the way to see it for the first time, as you’ll be largely confused for a few hours). But there are a few pointers, that if you’re going you might like to know to get the best out of the event. Secret Cinema’s missives have been wilfully obtuse, so this may help clear the manure from the windscreen. Conveniently, there are 19.55 points I have to make. (I couldn’t muster 88)…

1. Mill around, embrace the experience. There are genuine shops, recreated experiences, and drama school graduates doing pretty solid accents. You can interact with your favourite characters, be told you’re a slacker, or a butthead… but if you can’t stand that sort of thing, they won’t trouble you if you don’t want it. You can be as involved as you like (well not that involved – you can’t drive the Delorean, no matter how many lines you quote at them). You’ll spot the ‘actors’ – they look like everyone else, except their 50s apparel looks actually good.

2. Soak up the Hill Valley atmos, but before too long make sure one of your group has reserved some turf. My pitch would be near the very front, ideally on the left. Forget about a good distant view to take in the screen. If stuff happens for real up front, you’ll want to be near it. But even if you’re at the back on the right, they’ll make sure they bring the show to you at some point.

3. The list that Secret Cinema have sent out telling you what to bring… (well a list would have been helpful – instead it’s titbits gleaned from clicking on various links they’ve hinted at) …Don’t break your neck trying to find it all. Photo of me as a kid? Photo of favourite movie star? 3D glasses? Homework? None of it used. I’m sure if you end up in the right part of the square at the right time, then it might be, but I didn’t need any of mine.

4. On that, if you want to get really involved, listen out for announcements about reporting to certain shops, school etc if you work there. You can go if you like, and get some interaction with characters, and maybe even get to march in the parade. Just make sure your friend is still reserving that pitch on the grass (front left, remember?)

5. The grass. A blanket etc might be nice, but it’s astroturf not real grass, so you won’t get muddy. Maybe just check the weather forecast before you go (but whatever it says, expect lightning…)

6. 1955 Hill Valley is a delight. But don’t miss out on the secret 1985 space they’ve hidden there. You’ll have to go looking for it.

7. To unparaphrase Huey Lewis, “DO need money, DO need a credit card to ride this train…” Bring cash. There are cashpoints there, but with a queue and possibly a fee. Beer and wine is available at a premium cost. Food is available at very-much-non-1955 prices. You can get a souvenir T-shirt, and most of the shopfronts aren’t just shopfronts: so if you want to have a 1950s haircut, buy some comic books or even a red puffer jacket, you can do so. Just bring oodles of cash. And if someone quotes you the price in $, they mean £- don’t go asking about exchange rates.

8. On the red puffer jacket… You will see a few. The rare folks who’ve come dressed as 1985 Marty McFly, or Doc Brown, stick out like sore thumbs. Your best bet is to make a 1950s effort if you like – or just wear white T-shirt and jeans if you’re a guy. Can’t be bothered? Not a problem. Wear your normal clothes. But if you can make an effort, do.

9. My advice: Eat at 4:30 before you get there. Maybe you’ll want something later too, but expect a loooong queue for any food in there. You want to bring your own? That’s forbidden. Buried in your bag? Well it would have to be right at the bottom. But wouldn’t security check your bags? Yes, a quick look at the top of the bag sure. You’re still thinking of bringing food? Oh well just eat it discreetly. Maybe wait till the film’s about to start and the square’s full of people. Bring in wine or beer at your peril – security will nab it, and drink it, and there’s nothing worse than a drunk security guard.

10. You will have a long time to meander before the film starts. You don’t need to rush around all the sights in an hour. Give yourselves two. Or three…

11. Secret Cinema have been strict in their instructions about leaving phones at home or in the car. Or in your pocket. That’s another option. You can check it in at the gate, but many brought theirs in. If you do though, just keep it in that pocket. Security will spot you if you take it out. Plus as m’good friend Owen pointed out, the advantage of a phones-free event was that people actually, you know, talked.

12. Of course the real reason they don’t want phones is they don’t want cameras. (Although at the end of the night, people were taking their phones out and snapping away.) Well guess what? They also sell cameras on site. For £6 you can buy a disposable one with old skool wind-on function. You can’t check the picture once taken, and there are only 24, but I look forward to seeing how mine turned out, when I get the snaps back from the chemist in 4-6 working months.

13. While it’s delightfully phone-free, it’s impossible to ignore other 21st century invasions. The giant John Lewis sign hanging over Hill Valley Telegraph looks odd, as does the clock tower being situated within eyeline of the Olympic velodrome, but hey, any minute a Delorean’s about to appear, so so what if everything’s ‘outatime’?

14. Make sure you spend at least 10min in Hill Valley High School. And only be in the middle of the school hall if you really know how to dance.

15. When the film does start, you’ll find yourself cheering and booing at things you never thought possible. You’ll know if you’re sitting near hardcore fans, as they’ll try and cheer/boo before everyone else, at things like Huey Lewis’ cameo (in the film – he’s not there live).

16. Then there are the drunk fans. The three-hour build-up means people will be doing some drinking. Pace yourself. The prices will help with that. No one got out of hand that I could see – the worst it got was that the guys near us were drunk enough to be yelling, “Do it Marty!” every time Marty’s mum comes onto him. (But maybe they yell that when watching it sober.)

17. Secret Cinema implied it could go on till 12-12:30am – Our ended by about 11:20, with not much you need to stick around for. So I think that means you have one tube train you can still catch, if you pace it on a bit (it’s 15min back to the station).

18. If you’ve brought a hoverboard, you will get looks. Wrong film.

19… Watch the screen. Enjoy the movie. But take a look around every so often. If the scene on the screen is in Lou’s Diner, maybe dart a glance to Lou’s Diner…

… .55. My biggest tip of all, is that once you’ve enjoyed it, and months have passed and you’re starting to miss it, and it’s approaching August next year… then that would be a great time to look up my forthcoming Edinburgh Festival stand-up show (for 2015), ‘Back To The Futon pt 2’. I will be there, with Delorean, hoverboard and more jigawatts than you can shake a stick at.

And just to prove my credentials, here’s are two short video inserts from the 2007 show I took to Edinburgh festival that was a kind of stand-up tribute…

“Libyans!” – my version of the chase scene… https://vimeo.com/102323127

A flying Delorean that ended the show… https://vimeo.com/102323666

Your friend in time,

Paul Kerensa

100 Films Tell the History of the World, pt 3/3 (Gandhi-Zero Dark Thirty)


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Here’s part 3 of 3, of an attempt to tell the history of the (mostly western) world through films. Here’s the last 80 or so years, via what I think to be the 35 movies that tell it best. (And yes there are a lot of WW2 films here, but people keep making them.)


66. Gandhi (1982) – 1930s-1940s: A little peace of history.

67. Land & Freedom (1995) – 1930s: The Spanish Civil War, as directed by Ken Loach.

68. Rabbit Proof Fence (2002) – 1930s: Three stolen girls follow the yellow-sand road in the land of Oz.

69. The Battle of Britain (1969) – 1940: In Britain, the Allies take to the skies.

70. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) – 1942-1943: In Burma, POWs battle with what’s right and wrong.

71. Saving Private Ryan (1998) – 1944: In occupied France, D-Day.

72. Schindler’s List (1993) – 1939-1945: In Germany, an industrialist works for his staff.

73. The Pianist (2002) – 1939-1945: In Poland, devastation.

74. Flags of our Fathers/Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) – 1945: In Japan, two sides to the Battle of Iwo Jima.

75. Downfall (2005) – 1945: In the Berlin bunker, the days of Fuhrer past.

76. The Right Stuff (1983) – 1947-1963: The Space Race is ace.

77. Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) – 1953: McCarthy, Murrow, anti-Communist investigations and newscasters who’d smoke.

78. LA Confidential (1997) – 1953: The sign’s not the only thing about Hollywood that’s crooked.

79. The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) – 1955-1967: Che (Guevara)’s the one

80. Thirteen Days (2000) – 1962: A missile crisis: Cuban, heals.

81. Dr Strangelove (1964) – 1960s: Another missile crisis, this one fictitious. But how close we came to: “The bomb, Dmitri…”

82. JFK (1991) – 1961-1966: Garrison does Dallas.

83. American Graffiti (1973) – 1962: A long time ago, in a Californian town far, far away…

84. Platoon (1985) – 1967: Mourning Vietnam.

85. Made in Dagenham (2010) – 1968: “Ford? A Few Dollars More…”

86. Apollo 13 (1995) – 1970: Hanks has a problem.

87. All The President’s Men (1976) – 1972: The Watergate Scandal: Break-in news.

88. The Ice Storm (1997) – 1973: Two families enlighten up.

89. The Killing Fields (1984) – 1973-1979: The Khmer Rouge’s genocide: tough but vital viewing.

90. Dazed & Confused (1993) – 1976: School’s out forever.

91. Goodbye Bafana (2007) – 1980s: The long stay before the long walk to freedom..

92. Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) – 1980s: His war, the Soviets’ war, the Afghans’ war, now our war.

93. The Lives of Others (2006) – 1984: A compelling tale of East German (click) life. Did you hear that?

94. Wall Street (1987) – 1985: Gordon Gekko cleans up, with two Mr Sheens.

95. Black Hawk Down (2001) – 1993: The Somali Civil War: the West intervenes.

96. Hotel Rwanda (2004) – 1994: The Rwandan genocide: the West doesn’t intervene..

97. World Trade Center (2006) – 2001: Towers fall; courage rises.

98. The Social Network (2010) – 2003: Mark Zuckerberg invites old friends to be unfriended.

99. Four Lions (2010) – 2000s: Dad’s Jihad’s Army.

100. Zero Dark Thirty (2012) – 2001-2012: Do not mess with Special Forces…


So there you have it. You don’t agree with some choices? Of course you don’t. It’s a list. It’s there to be disagreed with. Just make sure you’ve watched all 100 films before you do though…

History via Films pt 2 (A Man For All Seasons – To Kill A Mockingbird)


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It’s about time I posted part two of this, a churlish attempt to navigate the history of everything (alright, mostly Western culture, especially England, but I’ve only seen certain films.If I’d seen more Scandinavian cinema, there’d probably be more vikings in this) via 100 movies. So here’s part two of three, Henry VIII to Atticus Finch…


31.       A Man For All Seasons (1966) – 1525-1535: Henry VIII embarks on his film epic ‘Six Weddings & Several Funerals’.

32.       Seven Samurai (1954) – 1587: In Japan’s warring states, the magnificent Kurosawa.

33.       Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) – 1588: Cate Blanchett doesn’t give a ship, while the Spanish arm harder.

34.       Cromwell (1970) – 1640: Richard Harris as the bowl-cutted royal-rustler.

35.       The Red Violin (1998) – 1681: It begins life in Cremona, Italy, before heading to a Viennese orphanage in 1793, 1890s Oxford and 1960s Shanghai. May contain scenes of violins.

36.       The Crucible (1996) – Salem, 1692: It was this, Witchfinder General, or The Devils. Which witch is best?

37.       Catherine the Great (1995) – Russia, 1729-1796: The lovers of the Russian Queen; a Tsar is born.

38.       The Last of the Mohicans (1992) – 1757: During the French/Indian War, “I will find you.” Makes your hair stand on end.

39.    Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) – 1789: There’s a mutiny, on a ship named after coconut chocolate.

40.    Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) – 1803: During the Napoleonic Wars, Russell Crowe commands his ark. I mean ship. This one was a ship.

41.    Amazing Grace (2006) – 1807: Abolitionist William Wilberforce to be reckoned with.

42.    Waterloo (1970) – 1815: The short fella with the big hat vs the tall Brit named after a boot.

43.    Les Miserables (2012) – 1815-1832: Do you hear the people sing? Course you do, they don’t stop for the whole film.

44.    The Alamo (1960) – 1836: Remember the Alamo. You don’t? Then watch the film.

45.    The Young Victoria (2009) – 1837: Like Eastenders in the 80s, it’s the early days of the Queen Vic.

46.    12 Years a Slave (2013) – 1841-1853: Steve McQueen’s tour de force made him the film world’s greatest Steve McQueen since Steve McQueen.

47.    How The West Was Won (1962) – 1839-1889: …and where it got us.

48.    Gangs of New York (2002) – 1846-1863: The Big Apple was a small pip when Leo DiCaprio took on Daniel Day Lewis and his meat cleaver.

49.    Gone With The Wind (1939) – 1861-1877: The American Civil War, Rhett Butler and frankly my dear, Scarlett O’Hara.

50.    Lincoln (2012) – 1865: The later life of that guy from ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’.

51.    Dances With Wolves (1990) – 1870: The West is laid to rest.

52.    The Last Samurai (2003) – 1876: The East is laid to rest.

53.    Zulu (1964) – 1879: “Don’t throw… bloody spears… at me.”

54.    The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) – 1881-1892: The title’s a spoiler.

55.    Wyatt Earp (1994) – 1880s: All is not O.K. at the Corral.

56.    Titanic (1997) – 1912: Near, far, wherever you are, you’re bound to have seen Rose letting Jack go, just after she says she’ll never let him go.

57.    The Last Emperor (1987) – 1908-1960s: Small boy, big throne, a little trouble, in big China.

58.    Doctor Zhivago (1965) – 1912-1923: World War, Russian Revolution and sumptuous snow.

59.    War Horse (2011) – 1912-1918: The armed horses.

60.    All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) – 1914-1918: All is not quiet.

61.    Michael Collins (1996) – 1916-1922: Liam Neeson as the Irish resistance leader.

62.    The Artist (2011) – 1927-1932: They can walk the walk but can they talk the talk?

63.    The Untouchables (1987) – 1931: Al Capone becomes touchable.

64.    The Grapes of Wrath (1940) – 1930s: The Great Depression and the rocky road to recovery.

65.    To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) – 1930s: The Finch job & the lynch mob.


Part three will follow, which, yes, will be mostly the last 70 years. Cos that’s what people make films about.

History Retold By 100 Films, pt 1/3 (The Tree of Life – Apocalypto)


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About a year ago I posted an attempt to wade through history via 100 films. There were suggestions, tweaks, omissions and additions. There is No Way You Can Get It Right, so here’s the latest attempt. It’s west-skewed by default, because that’s where I know my history, and that’s where I’ve seen my films. I’d love to include more on the history of the Arabian peninsula, the rise of the Indian subcontinent and how Denmark got its Lego, but I’ve just not seen those films. If you have, let me know and the list may yet change again.

If this tickles your fancy, I’ve a wealth of more of this nonsense on my site www.TheMovieTimeline.com, or get a daily tweet of today’s filmic event by following www.twitter.com/MovieTimeline.

For now, here’s the first third or so, from 1-30, from Scrat to the Mayans…

  1. The Tree of Life (2011) – The beginning of time: The universe begins, volcanoes erupt, a dinosaur feels compassion, then is wiped out by an asteroid.
  2. Ice Age (2002) – 100,000BC: A mammoth, a sloth, a saber-toothed squirrel, and two Brontops (odd, since they became extinct four million years previously) try to avoid the oncoming ice age.
  3. Quest For Fire (1981) – 80,000BC: No ‘One Million Years BC’ interaction of humans and dinosaurs here. Homo sapiens and Neanderthals vie for control of fire, with Desmond Morris making sure everyone aped apes.
  4. Land of the Pharaohs (1956) – 2580 BC: Joan Collins builds the Great Pyramid (with help). Can’t say Pharaoh than that.
  5. The Ten Commandments (1956) – 1400 BC: “Let my people go!” Charlton’s athletic.
  6. Troy (2004) – 1200BC: Horsey, horsey, don’t you stop… Beware of Greeks bearing gits.
  7. King Lear (1971) – 800BC: Shakespeare’s earliest-set work sees us among British Celts.
  8. 300 (2007) – 480BC: Controversial, took liberties, but it got people who don’t like history to watch a version of the Battle of Thermopylae.
  9. Spartacus (1960) – 73BC: A version in 1953 said, “I’m Spartacus!” And a 2004 remake also said, “I’m Spartacus!” Then the TV series in 2010 said… you get the idea.
  10. Julius Caesar (1953) – 44BC: He came, he saw, he invented a salad and some dogfood.
  11. Cleopatra (1963) – 48-30BC: The biggest sets, the most extras… what a Carry On.
  12. The Nativity Story (2006) – 2BC: The very first Noel.
  13. Ben-Hur (1959) – 26-35AD: Chariots of ire.
  14. The Passion of the Christ (2004) – 33AD: The Long Good Friday.
  15. The Life of Brian (1979) – 33AD: Because some leaders weren’t Messiahs, they were very naughty boys.
  16. Gladiator (2000) – 180AD: A commotion for Commodus: “Gladiator, you will go on my first whistle…”
  17. Red Cliff (2008) – 208AD: In the Three Kingdoms era, broken China.
  18. King Arthur (2004) – 400AD: Arthur lances, a lot.
  19. Attila (1954) – 406-453AD: Hun, I Shrunk The Army.
  20. Macbeth (1971) – Scotland, 1050: Is this Keith Chegwin as Banquo’s son I see before me?
  21. Mongol (2007) – 1170-1206: The wrath of (Genghis) Khan.
  22. The Lion In Winter (1968) – England, 1183: Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine nil.
  23. Kingdom of Heaven (2005) – Jerusalem, 1190: Orlando Bloom’s crusading for a bruising.
  24. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) – England, 1190: No dodgy Crowe accents, no dodgy Costner’s bottom, just Errol Flynn in green tights buckling some swash.
  25. Ironclad (2011) – England, 1215: Paul Giamatti can’t get into Rochester Castle, even though he chews all the scenery.
  26. Braveheart (1995) – Britain, 1290s: William Wallace fights for freeedommmm till he’s blue in the face.
  27. The Seventh Seal (1957)­ – Sweden, 1349: Things get plaguey. Knight takes on Death: “We’re gonna have chess on a beach…”
  28. Henry V (1944) – 1415: Henry v the French: “Once more unto the breach…”
  29. Joan of Arc (1948) – France, 1429: During the Hundred Years’ War, there’s a lot at stake.
  30. Apocalypto (2006) – 1502: Mayans choose favourite REM song, either ‘The End of the World as We Know It’ or ‘Losing My Religion’.

31-60 coming soon… 


Noah – My problem with the film (and it’s not the rock-monsters)


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(Probably best read after seeing the film, due to spoilerishness)

I’m later than many, but finally got on board this new Noah film, in which Russell Crowe plays a crow-rustler (and rustler of every other animal). Overall I thought it was a bit wet with a strong narrative ark.

Much has been made of the rock-monsters. And while no Bible mentions the word ‘rock-monsters’, fair enough it does in one verse hint at a race of large descendents of angels. So all Darrenarren Aronofsky has done is interpret them as pebble-dashed Transformers.

Weirdly I had far less of a problem with that than with what happens on the ark itself. The biblical Noahic account is just under 100 verses long. Barely enough for a short film. So they had to add stuff. So why did they take stuff away? Genesis 7:6 speaks of Noah taking his sons’ wives on board. So (SPOILERS!) why did Russell Croah only take on one son’s missus? In fact he goes out of his way to make sure his middle son doesn’t take a wife on board. Now I understand that the film I saw needn’t be a word-for-word retelling of the Bible story (my recent publication ‘Genesis: The Bibluffer’s Guide’ certainly doesn’t – have I mentioned that book? I have but you’ve yet to buy a copy? Well it’s here then: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Genesis-Bibluffers-Guide-Paul-Kerensa/dp/0232530750/). It’s an interpretation. But I see no benefit to re-interpreting it so that Noah practically kills off his future daughter-in-law, when all versions till now have had him bringing on-board enough spouses for all his chiddlers. It just causes that giant question-mark at the end of the film: Is the human race going to develop entirely from Hermione Grainger?

Speaking of whom, the whole dramatic crux of the film (although crux is really a New Testament concept) is (MORE SPOILERS!) Russell Crowe being convinced that his job is to ensure no future humanity survives. So he chases after Emma Watson and her newborns. I should have been moved by this. I was utterly devoid of worry though, as we all know he won’t do it. And in today’s day and age, given the international reach of cinema, I find it worrying that the film purveys the attitude that male babies should live while female babies should be instantly killed. There are cultures today that still practise or preach this – it is a centuries-old attitude that is far from being extinct on this planet. How utterly unhelpful to add this to the Noah narrative, when it doesn’t feature at all in the Genesis account. Portray what’s in the book by all means, add extra plotlines, dialogue and characters – even mad old King Tubalcain – by all means. But to fabricating something like this that adds nothing, yet only creates possible harm in the world? Personally I found the ‘female babies to be scrapped’ plotline at best unhelpful and at worst potentially damaging. I never thought I’d be glad that the film was banned in Qatar, UAE and Egypt, but given that these are some of the scarier countries when it comes to gender difference, I found myself glad of it.

On a lighter note, the effects were good. And the whole ‘creation retold by Noah’ was excellent I thought. It showed how evolution and the biblical creation narrative can co-exist, and also how Cain & Abel’s tale can be seen as an allegory for all human violence, rather than just about two rowing siblings.

All in all, a miss, but I’m glad they’ve done it. It’s good to see a bit of Bible on-screen, and it helps visualise it a little. But to those who’ve not read the book of the film: the Noah I’ve glimpsed in those 99 verses is a little less child-killy. And Mrs Ham seems to come out of it a little better…

As for what Ridley Scott and Christian Bale will make of Exodus, we’ll find out this December.

Darren Aronofsky’s vs my Noah

So there’s a new Noah film in cineplexes, directed by Darren Aron, of Sky. Sorry, ‘Darren Aronofsky’. It stars Javert Gladiator as Noah, and features Hermione Billionaire as Noah’s daughter-in-law and Sir Odin Lecter as Noah’s granddad, and DI Beowulf Sexy-Beast as Noah’s ark-enemy.

I’ve not seen it yet, as you can probably tell from the above paragraph, all of which I’ve gleaned from the trailer. All I know is that it’s taken Hollywood by, well, it seems wrong to say ‘storm’, but it’s taken millions, largely thanks to its star names and properly epic nature. The Bible TV series shown on Channel 5 over here last year promised some of this, but its biggest star-draw was that Samuel was played by the head evil Nazi from Raiders of the Last Ark. And its budget, though big, just wasn’t big enough. As ‘Noah’ has shown, if you want to top the box office, you need to throw every last penny at it, making it something you just have to see at the cinema.

‘Noah’ has upset some by taking the odd biblical liberty, but as I see it, good on it. If you took the entire Noah story from Genesis – all 97 verses of it – you’d have a film short. By even casting Russell Crowe and Ray Winstone, the producers are instantly taking a slant on the original legend, by saying that they’re going to interpret it as some kind of action thriller. I’m all for words added, subplots altered… whatever it takes to tell a compelling story. Maybe it’ll even make some people look at what’s in the original.

Certain parts of the world have had major problems with Noah even being depicted at all. We all knew that pictorial depiction of the Prophet Muhammad is a no-go for Muslims, but who knew that Noah’s face is also banned from being put out there? Plus other prophets who crop up in Islam as well as Judeo-Christianity. It means that any poster for Lloyd Webber’s ‘Joseph & His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ has all this time been problematic for Islam. Chartlon Heston as Moses falls foul of this too (as will Christian Bale in Ridley Scott’s new version out this Christmas). Michelangelo’s David breaks this rule too, as do any depictions of Adam, and of course any facial detailing of Jesus. Whether a school nativity, a stained-glass window or a Christmas card – they all fall foul of this rule. Oddly Monty Python’s Life of Brian, by deliberately not featuring Jesus in it, passes this test while King of Kings doesn’t. I’m curious to know which of those films is banned in Qatar.

I was invited on to Radio 4’s ‘Sunday’ programme to give my tuppenceworth about how Hollywood could make an inoffensive Bible blockbuster, and you can hear it here (16mins in): http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03zxmyh I think it’ll disappear by 12/04/14 though.

Darren Aron of Sky’s version of Noah is just one way you can interpret and retell that story. I’ve tried doing mine recently, which has involved an Ikea parody and one of Noah’s sons speed-dating… and you can get the rest of the story here: www.amazon.co.uk/Genesis-Bibluffers-Guide-Paul-Kerensa/dp/0232530750/ 





The Missing Page 10



My new book Genesis is now officially… out. If you’ve bought one, thanks. Please do leave the kindest review you can muster on Amazon, or indeed just tell folks if you liked it. If you haven’t bought one, well don’t worry, you’ve been busy.

A few folks read some advance bits – a crack team of brilliant proof-reading friends. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for their time dotting ‘t’s and crossing ‘i’s. No one read all of it, just bits, not to safeguard or anything (we’re not in JK Rowling territory here, and any plot secrets are already out there. Sorry to break it to you folks, but Cain kills Abel, Noah gets a bit rained on, and Abe doesn’t sacrifice his son – SPOILER ALERT), but so as not to bombard anyone with too much proofing to do.

Unfortunately I didn’t send the Foreward to anyone to proof-read (even though it opens the book, part of your brain is saying, “It’s only the Foreward.”) – a mistake, it now seems. Somewhere between me submitting the original manuscript to the publishers and the big book factory clicking print on several thousand copies, a whole page of the Foreward sort of… vanished. Looking back, every draft the publisher had send back to me for checking had it absent. A page had vanished, and I hadn’t even noticed. It’s my fault, and in my defence, the baby’s been waking all hours. But rest assured the rest of the book is thoroughly checked, proofed and accurate (except at the top of page 33 it says ‘Cain’ when it should say ‘Abel’ – oh I might as well start again…).

We all know Forewards just get in the way of the actual book in any case. Perhaps this was the Good Lord’s way of saying, “Paul, you don’t need that bit. You should have asked Me to edit your book.” (NB: Not sure if God would capitalise Himself as ‘Me’ – must ask a proof-reader) So on the upside, the actual book kicks off a little more quickly than it otherwise would have. But alas it means the thankyous are lost, unless I handwrite them in each book (which is what a truly thankful person would do, but unfortunately I can’t find a pen).

So to the proof-readers, I apologise. I’ll make it up to you in the next book, if there is a next book. Know that I did write a big ol’ thankyou, and should anyone want to read it, here it is below. It does of course follow on from the first page of the Foreward, so, you know, if you’ve got a book already, maybe print this bit out and glue it in on page 10. It begins with my explanatory notes on what I was trying to undertake…

I’ve left very little out, and goodness knows I’ve thrown a few bits in. Trust me, Genesis has no reference to Adam & Eve sharing a flat, or God calling a technical support helpline before The Flood. There was never a Sodom & Gomorrah edition of Come Dine With Me, and as far as I’m aware Joseph never appeared on The Apprentice. Throughout I draw on various translations and commentaries, and I’ve even gone back to the ancient Hebrew, who said, ‘Oy gevalt, who you calling ancient, you shmendrik!’

A thousand thankyous to my patient wife and kids during this undertaking, and to my folks and in-laws for extended periods of childcare. As for the proofreaders, their worth they’re wait in gold. So thanks Mark Woodward, Jon Holloway and James & Tabitha Smith. And thanks to Helen & Robin Bateman, whose names I left out of the foreward for my previous book (which is, of course, still available). Thanks too to David Moloney and all on the DLT ark, and Nick Ranceford-Hadley and the tribe of Noel Gay.

…And yes I appreciate the irony that this included a thankyou to two people who I forgot to thank in the first book. So their thankyou for book 1 will now appear in book 3.

So that’s what happened to the missing page 10. As for the other 127 pages, you’ll have to buy one… http://www.amazon.co.uk/Genesis-Bibluffers-optimistic-66-part-collection/dp/0232530750/


New book, review-begging + guest bits & pieces



So my new book ‘Genesis: The Bibluffer’s Guide’ is out this week. It’s my 2nd book, and hopefully not the last, but that just depends on whether people buy it. So if you’d like to help this noble pursuit, then, well, you know… http://www.amazon.co.uk/Genesis-Bibluffers-Guide-Paul-Kerensa/dp/0232530750/ And nice reviews welcome on the Amazon site of course!

(On which, if you’ve read, liked and not reviewed my first book ‘So A Comedian Walks Into A Church’, please consider this a humble begging for one… A quick and nice review would go a long way, thanks!)

And there are further deets, chapter samples etc of the new book here: http://us4.campaign-archive2.com/?u=425070d9d6f61d9a0b40edaea&id=777173f2fc&e=017e7d0f1c If you think of anyone who might like it, I’d love it if you’d forward the link to them – or even buy them a copy! Simply put, if it sells enough, the publisher will seek future books, and if it doesn’t, I’ll go and work down a coalmine, and there aren’t many of those left.

Slightly accidentally as a result of all this Christianity/comedy crossover, I’ve been invited to contribute to a number of things in the Godosphere, so should you require more religious programming featuring yours truly, you’ll find me on the following in the next week:

– Co-hosting BBC Surrey’s Sunday morning radio show, this Sunday, 6am-9am – http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcsurrey

– On Radio 2 from next Friday 28th March with a Pause For Thought, at about 1:30am (repeated 3:30am, or on iPlayer!), and for the next eight Fridays.

– A contribution to the www.40acts.org.uk project, appearing one day in your inbox this Lent if you sign up (different daily articles/challenges on generosity)

– An audio interview on the Methodist Podcast – http://t.co/4xbw98Hzy9

– A written interview with Christian Aid magazine – http://www.christianaid.org.uk/aboutus/who/ca-news/winter-spring-2014/paul-kerensa-interview.aspx

That’ll do for now. Looking a bit too omnipresent, and that’s Someone Else’s job.