If someone came up to you and said ‘Yo, you should totally check out this new series that I’ve seen on Comedy Central about two girls living it up in New York’ you’d automatically draw some fairly obvious conclusions: one, that there’s going to be some sort of influence from the Grand Dames of Feminism Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, two, there must be some similarities between this and 2 Broke Girls because obviously, and three, why is this man who is clearly getting paid by Comedy Central harrassing me? But scary Comedy Central enthusiasts aside, Broad City could be one of the strongest outputs from the channel and it’s incredibly easy to see why.
This week came the warning that squatting in skinny jeans can cause severe damage to your nerves after a 35-year-old woman was hospitalised after suffering from “bilateral foot drop and foot numbness, which caused her to trip and fall”.
It may sound ridiculous to us, but the poor woman had cut off the circulation to her calves and had pressed two large nerves in her leg together, causing her to collapse.
In the hunt for acceptable denim alternatives, one of the first things to be discarded was bootcut jeans. The general public generally agreed that there was no way that anyone would be wearing bootcut jeans again, and they would rather run the risk of amputation. Was this a surprise? Not really. Was it disappointing that people started slating the trend of bootcut jeans and brown brogues, as sported by dads up and down the county? Yes.
Picture the scene; it’s 1997. The Spice Girls are at the height of their musical dominance, and platform trainers were being sold at almost six a second to pre-pubescent girls screeching about ‘Giw Powa’ to any man who didn’t really understand what was going on in life anymore. Tony Blair is voted in and starts his War On… whatever was a problem at the time, and Katrina and The Waves win Eurovision. It was a massive year for popular culture, but for a quiet thirteen year old from the North, none of this made a tiny bit of difference (except the Spice Girls. The Spice Girls were brilliant).
All he was bothered about was finally getting the opportunity to own one of the greatest games that he’d ever seen; an accolade almost beaten in the subsequent years, but not quite. Although his fancier friends that owned, the now archaic PlayStation, had been playing it since the beginning of the year, he wasn’t fortunate enough to have parents who threw bad money after good and treat their little darlings to whatever they wanted.
No, he had parents who were stingy and had a Hulk like grasp on their wallets. He had sat, watching in awe as the boxy sprites moved around pre-rendered backgrounds, working their way up towers to save the girl, or fighting through submerged submarines to level up enough to pose a threat in one of the most difficult boss battles that he had ever seen, or silently fighting the tears as the girl who he had saved from the tower ultimately met her death at the hands of videogaming’s meanest villains, who incidentally had the greatest haircut. Coincidence? Rumour has it having a gravity defying haircut is one of the prerequisites to join Team Rocket.
Final Fantasy 7, Squaresoft’s latest addition to the stale roleplaying game series, was that game, and it made an indelible mark on that thirteen year old’s memory.
Boxy sprites moved around pre-rendered backgrounds, working their way up towers to save the girl, or fighting through submerged submarines to level up.
Obviously that thirteen year old was me. It’s not a Stephen King laden surprise to hear that surely? If it is, then you should cut yourself a massive slice of FF7 pie and chow on the twists and turns baked within. How good are pie metaphors as well?
Every game that I download for free, or pay a semi-extortionate price for, is compared to this benchmark. Every time there’s a giant sword hanging around, waiting for it’s owner to claim it at ComiCon, I compare it to Cloud Strife’s. Every time that an overly complicated battle strategy is employed by game designers, I compare it to the simple Materia system that Final Fantasy 7 used. Such is the lasting image on my memory of how amazing Final Fantasy 7 was, I’ve bought versions for the short sighted purchase of a PSP, even though I don’t have the hours of life that it takes to complete it anymore.
Boasting around 60 hours of solid playtime (taking into account leveling up and all that disastrous Chocobo farming), FF7 took a massive amount of dedication. Compared to the shooty shootys like the Call Of Duty series, or beat em ups, like the cursed Mortal Kombat series, it took concentration and a huge portion of your life to fully complete.
You can go through the game, doing the very basics, skirting your way around getting the heralded Knights Of The Round (that noise you can hear is the sudden intake of breath from around the country as grown men remember being told that you can cast it twice using W-Summon Materia), and focus on defeating the nefarious Sephiroth. But if you want to savour the bizarreness that is secret ninja slash thief Yuffie (who looks an awful lot like a Bruce Springsteen era Courteney Cox), or the awful Vincent and Nibelheim Manor, you need to spend time that you could be using becoming fully socialised and appealing to the opposite sex. Or the same sex. Or just to sex.
It wasn’t just the secret characters like Yuffie or Vincent who took the time to find, the essential characters took hours to hone and prepare for battle, searching around shops for their most powerful weapons and armour, and fighting for the chance to upgrade their Limit Breaks (what Square Enix call “going all Chris Brown on them”). And Cait Sith, the Final Fantasy 7 equivalent of Ant and Dec, who had no discernible talent or purpose, took the longest. Mainly because the strategy needed to level him up was based on luck over tactics, it just made him an irritant.
60 hours would be a massive chore if it was a dull plot that limped along like a horse staring down the business end of a rifle, but in Final Fantasy 7 there’s subterfuge, intrigue, murder, romance, but most importantly, an allegory on global warming and how corporations are ruining the world, at one point sacrificing thousands of the poorest residents to save their own villainous plans.
You wouldn’t find a well thought out plan to save the planet in Doom, or Theme Park. They’re all about either a) making little Sims sick, or b) yourself sick.
As the number in your party starts to increase to officially make a ‘gang,’ they get thrown into more and more dire straits. Not only are Shin-Ra (it’s not She-Ra’s Chinese cousin) wanting to destroy the planet, but there’s also a blast from the main character’s past causing destruction and chaos wherever he goes. That man, dodging all spoilers, is Sephiroth. Frequently voted one of video gaming’s greatest villains, with an actually believable ethos and a threat level that would scare even the most hardened gamer, Sephiroth travels the planet destroying all that he comes into contact with, his sole goal, possessing the power of his dead “Mother” and ruling over the planet that he thinks is his birthright.
Obviously this is manic video game nonsense, and you’d be forgiven if you gloss over it like a stunned rabbit, but compare it to other games out at the time and it’s one of the most adult attempts at bringing in modern issues and giving them a roleplaying spin. Apart from Grand Theft Auto and Grandia, FF7 sets itself apart as one of the most mature games out that year. Despite it being aimed at children.
But it takes more than immersive gameplay and catchy characters to make a timeless classic. You need a ridiculously catchy soundtrack as well. If there were such things as ear worms, then FF7 is an ear worm colony because you’ll be singing every song well into the night, and bopping along to the Chocobo theme on the way to work.
And everyone who hears you whistling the Boss theme will sport a knowing smile because FF7 has touched so many people over such a wide net. As soon as you mention FF7 on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll get flooded with messages about who your favourite Turk was (always Elena), who was your favourite character (always Tifa) and what’s your favourite feminine product (Always Ultra).
Accompanying Cloud and his band of eco-misfits as they travel around the planet in the search for acceptance, revenge and, maybe most importantly of all, righting a wrong that changes what we know about the main protagonist forever, is at times thrilling, and at times emotionally exhausting, but from the very first raid to the apocalyptic climax, you’ll still be shocked by Sephiroth’s ultimate cock block fifteen years after it first happens.
The fact that I’m writing this, as a PC re-release has just been announced by Square Enix with trophies and a ‘Character Booster’, and also a possible HD release for the console, just shows how much of a lasting impression Final Fantasy 7 has had on me. It’s got to the point that I actually feel sorry for whenever a new RPG is released. Nothing will match the excitement of finding out Cloud’s secret, or the soul crushing realisation that I’ll never beat Emerald Weapon
I had a relatively stable upbringing. There was nothing that Jeremy Kyle would shout at the my mother for, apart from maybe not cultivating an exactly riveting environment to learn in. There was the time she almost burned the house down due to post natal depression, but that shouldn’t be held against her; it was entertaining in it’s own special way. We didn’t like the kitchen anyway. Manmade fabrics had a lot to answer for, even before Anna Ryder Richardson and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen ruined interior design for everyone.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a Mike Baldwin shaped rock for the past few days, you won’t have missed the sad passing of Anne Kirkbride, the soap behemoth behind Deirdre Barlow. Deirdre, the character who ensnared a nation with her unlikely sexual prowess; she once seduced Street lothario Dev Alahan, to the collective disgust of the nation. Deirdre, who swept the nation up when she was incarcerated for fraud. Deirdre, who’s glasses coined their own term and inspired a trend in the late 80s. Everyone has a relative who quickly pulls away faded photographs from the 1980s where they have voluminous perms and even more bigger spectacles. Deirdre Barlow touched a lot of areas that you wouldn’t get with characters from Hollyoaks or, even worse, failed Channel Five soap opera, Family Affairs. But with her inevitable death in Coronation Street, we also get a passing in our living rooms and lives. The goings on between Ken Barlow and his sometimes faithful wife have had us watching for decades. Even when he went through that wanderlust spell with Stephanie Beecham, we still wanted them back together. Ken and Deirdre go together like banana and custard, or really dour Mondays and videos of puppies on YouTube. There’s almost an inevitability to it.
“Yes, I’m done,” confirmed Jessica Lange on Sunday, putting to rest months and months of speculation about whether she was going to continue with the show into its fifth season, or bow out like some people think she probably should have done a few seasons ago. Which means that Lange is leaving an almost bursting cast of – maybe – regulars as well as new additions like Cheyenne Jackson, Matt Bomer and Lady Gaga to fend for themselves against the haunted hotel. Incidentally does anyone else picture Lady Gaga in a bedsheet, creeping around the corridors of a Travel Inn in Prestatyn?
Lange is undoubtedly one of the finest actors to appear in the show, and has clawed herself from obscurity to be a pretty big deal, just like Elsa Mars from Freak Show. Perhaps not as great as how people will credit her, but still one of the most commendable things to come from the show. Is she as good as Zachary Quinto and his brief yet significant role as Bloody Face in Coven? Probably not. Or is she better than Connie Britton? Although Britton was only in one series, back when American Horror Story was new and exciting and not a partially woven together mish mash mess, she was still well remembered.
Is this the key to why Jessica Lange in AHS has become a bit of a tired concept? Have we seen everything that she can do, and the writers can create for her? She’s consistently portrayed as a massive bitch who does whatever she wants to whoever she pleases and finally gets her comeuppance by the end of the series, via some catchy musical numbers. It’s the generic megabitch trope that we’ve seen in everyone from Joan Collins to Joan Crawford. Although gays absolutely love bitches, in a world of instant gifs, Tumbr reposts and the desire for everything to go viral, it’s lazy and pandering. And it’s this pandering which has probably lessened Lange’s impact. If we’re not going to be shown something new and innovative, like American Horror Story was at the beginning, then why bother? Lange can absolutely portray more than just that one character, so why not just let us see that?
Sarah Paulson, another one of AHS’ regulars has played characters as varied as a siamese twin, a blind witch and a career focused lesbian who got herself sectioned to expose Lange’s mistreatment of her wards. She hasn’t been typecast as one type of character or resorted to being a bit of titillation like Evan Peters’ characters, and more importantly Evan Peters’ character’s butts. She’s had expansive and cohesive character arcs from beginning to end. Admittedly a lot of them came from a reused mother/daughter situation, but still explored different sides of the relationship.
Maybe a series of AHS without Lange would be a good thing and not an excuse for everyone to drop to their keyboards and start extolling why this is going to be the worst episode of American Horror Story yet. Imagine it, a series where Lange doesn’t pout and murder her way through it, and instead, we see a series where unexpected character interactions rule the day. Imagine seeing Evan Peters kicking back with Cheyenne Jackson without the terror that Lange might just be out of eye sight, plotting her revenge. Or worse, attempting another German accent.
Don’t know who Amy Schumer is? Don’t be surprised; she doesn’t know who you are either, but whereas she doesn’t really have any reason to know who you are, you have been ample opportunities to be aware of her semi-greatness. Actress, stand up comedian, woman, Amy Schumer is like the white noise of showbusiness. Popping up once in a while and pricking a memory about seeing her in something else before but can’t quite remember from where. If this was a British actress, the chances that she once appeared in Larkrise To Candleford as ‘Plucky Apple Wench #1’ would be quite high. As lists of things go, having 30 Rock, Louie, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Girls on ‘Things What I Have Appeared In’ is a pretty good one. Imagine having actually spoke to Tina Fey. And for her to like you instead of just pretending to be Jenna Maroney.
I’ve just sat through six hours of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It’s really early on Mother’s Day and to be honest I’m either too tired or buzzed to celebrate it. I’m too tired or buzzed because I’ve finally found what my heart has been missing since 30 Rock – the GREATEST comedy ever created – finished. And my new love? Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Some things in life are very hard. Trying to understand how “Carry On…” films should be viewed in our modern society, for example, is very tricky. Just like trying to learn how to tie your laces. Our lives are filled, from cradle to tomb, with some very difficult problems. So any small help, in whatever form, can be eagerly anticipated.
I suppose this is one of the reasons that this very good website was created, to help you lot find the very best places to eat without having a massive meltdown in the middle of Northumberland Street. But what helps us help you is when we turn up to places, not sure what to expect, and we’re given great food, in great surroundings, with a minimum of fuss and effort. And this is precisely where Tyneside Bar Café stands out.
Situated, some might say snuggly, just underneath a railway bridge, The Central Bar Gateshead, helmed by the guys and gals at the burgeoning Head Of Steam, is a sight for sore eyes. Just a quick walk from the Sage and the Quayside, and repurposing the abandoned building that it is situated in, Central Bar could be your new home from home; if you don’t mind washing in a sink and never having a bed.
The Central Bar takes up three floors; function rooms at the top, as well as a terrace for when the weather isn’t totally shit. The homely and back to basics set up has enough additional tricks and treats that you’d find in more established, ‘fakey’ bars like wooden clipboards with menus on, flavoured mayonnaises and free copies of Vice to digest, which keep the business up to date, vibrant and interesting. The food itself, basic standards of any restaurant (burgers, vegetarian selections, nibbles and Sunday lunches) are pushed to the extremes of what people might order. Of course there’s the inclusion of the standard salted beef burger, but there’s more than that. There are flavours from around the globe to help make your life that little bit harder.