Somewhere in the dark and nasty regions where nobody goes (Bromley I believe – Ed. ), stands an ancient castle. Deep within this dank and uninviting place lives Darren, the long suffering co-host of the Thing Upstairs, Lee. But that’s nothing compared the horrors that lurk within the Black Dog Podcast – there’s always something in there, in the dark, waiting to be reviewed…
Yes folks, it’s podcast review time again - another helping of aural delights for your edification. The Black Dog is another ‘cast delving into the world of genre movies and TV. Here you’ll find in-depth discussions of all your geek favourites – from classic scfi like the Star Wars and Alien franchises to cult comedies such as Withnail and I and Monty Python.
And your hosts for these trawls through the worlds of the cult and the classic are Lee and Darren, two affable gents whose infectious good humour is only matched by their insightful opinions and in-depth knowledge. Now there are many similar podcasts out there competing for your ear time, but The Black Dog is somewhat different the usual reviewing stuff fare.
For a start, they have their own resident jingle singer, the infamous Darron Diamond – a rhinestone spangled, lurex legend in his own lunchtime. Each week his golden tones introduce the assorted regular features and segments of The Black Dog… well at least until the forces of darkness, those bitter, twisted souls seething with jealousy at his success in rocking lounges across the nation, attempt to silence him, leaving us with the mournful sound of Spinny the Hubcap clattering out an epitaph! Fortunately for us though, Mr Diamond shares the same amazing recuperative powers as Captain Scarlet and he’s always back to take the mic again.
Now some very cynical people have claimed that Mr Diamond is actually none other that co-host Darren singing in a Reeves-esque club style. However, nothing could be further from the truth. For a start, one is ‘Darren’ and the other is ‘Darron’ – see, completely different spellings! Definitive proof that they are in fact entirely separate people… and you’d be a fool to think otherwise!
But what are these weekly features of which I speak? Well, firstly we have the introduction – each week the boys loving spoof a famous intro or title sequence. Always inventive and always hilarious, these intros get the ‘cast off to flying start. For example, their version of the famous Renton monologue that opens Trainspotting can be heard here. Then the show usually opens with some chit chat detailing our heroes’ latest adventures in Real Life – often what they’ve been watching, playing or reading. And this is normally followed by a round up of the week’s geek news.
And after discussing all the latest announcements and developments in the genre world, we have the Ten Minute Spoiler Zone. In this recently minted feature, Lee and Darren have a no holds barred spoilerific discussion which is strictly ten of your earth minutes. And there is much fun to be had hearing our heroes trying to beat the clock!
>Next up is Shitty Superheroes – an ongoing investigation to expose the worst characters ever to disgrace the pages of comics. Now superheroes are often somewhat ridiculous but if you thought the Green Lantern was a bit on the silly side that’s nothing compared to assorted freaks Shitty Superheroes has unearthed. Each week, Lee presents Darren with some product of an exhausted if not thoroughly deranged imagination, usually to stunned incredulity – sample quote “That’s not a super power! That’s an affliction!”
Previous subjects under the spotlight of shame have included Squirrel Girl and Flat Man, and the likes of Plaid Lad and Estimate Boy. And as well laughing yourself stupid, I guarantee this feature will have you firing up Google to confirm that some one did indeed actually see fit to print such nonsensical characters, and to see them in all their spectacular rubbishness!
But all of this is just a prelude to the main body of the show – and here’s where The Black Dog’s patent twist comes into play. Each week the main review is either a Rose Tinted Specs or a Shit Covered Goggles. Now what the hell are they? Well allow me to explain…
In Rose Tinted Specs, an old film or TV show that is widely regarded as a classic is reviewed with a critical eye. Is it really one of the greats or is it a case of nostalgia colouring its reputation. Do we revere them simply because we saw them in our youth or because the received wisdom tells to?
Now Shit Covered Goggles is the recently introduced evil Mirror Mirror universe twin of Rose Tinted Specs. Instead of a well loved classic, a film whose reputation in the gutter is fished out and held up to scrutiny. Does it deserve its manure caked status or should it among the stars?
This novel approach of looking afresh at a film, putting aside all the critical baggage accrued over the years, yields some fascinating results. For every subject that emerges with its reputation intact, another will stumble and fall. Obviously some contextual passes are handed out – after all, you can’t criticise the effects work in 1951’s The Day The Earth Stood Still for not being up the standards set by Avatar, or moan a film as influential as Psycho is dull because you’ve seen its best tricks redone in countless subsequent films. However you can have a pop when you discover that the movie that thrilled when you were eight years old is actually full of acting so bad it that curls your nose hairs and plot holes you could lose a giraffe in.
Their coverage also differs from other podcasts in that while many shows have a feedback section, in The Black Dog the audience is actively encouraged to join in the dialogue. As the immortal Darron Diamond croons in the latest Rose Tinted Specs jingle -
You’re gonna watch a film you liked when you were young,
Stick it in the player and send us feedback when you’re done
Hence after Lee and Darren have said their piece, they open the floor to the listeners. So The Black Dog in addition to delivering informative reviews, a good proportion of the show becomes an intelligent discussion of the subject of the week; critiques transforming into dialogues. This all gives the show a wonderful dimension of community, and recently with the Shit Covered Goggles being held up to the likes of The Phantom Menace and Batman & Robin, the shows have turned into massive group therapy sessions, with all and sundry venting fan steam, exorcising geek demons and healing psychic scars.
And it has to be said, The Black Dog has an excellent supporting cast of feedbackers. Time and time again Black Dog listeners have proved themselves to be witty, erudite and frequently very inventive. And if you do your The Black Dog homework, you can be part of the fun too.
Overall The Black Dog is insightful and frequently hilarious. Lee and Darren are the perfect double act; well informed and naturally very funny. And although some weeks the subject under the spotlight may take a bit of pasting, it’s always done in good humour and they are always very fair in their assessments. For example, an early show tackled one of my personal favourites - Doctor Who - and the old classic series took some heavy fire to say the least. But I couldn’t take any offence at the drubbing my favourite show received as I was too busy laughing like a drain. But more importantly they raised some very valid critical points which the usual rose tinted vision hides, and delivered that rarest of things, a truly fresh look at the old series.
There’s a Black Dog Facebook group too – find it here.
And they are on Twitter too – follow Lee, Darren, or even the lounge king lizard himself Mr Darron Diamond by clicking their names! Sadly Spinny the Hubcap has yet to make his presence felt in the Twitterverse…
JIM MOON, 28th July 2010