Critics' Choice

By Jonathan Ross Cerys Matthews Ellen E Jones
Author: Jonathan Ross

Jonathan Ross

Jonathan Ross is a comedian, talk show host, film critic and one of Britain's most successful broadcasters.

Author: Ellen E Jones

Ellen E Jones

Ellen E Jones is The Independent's TV critic and a columnist for The Independent on Sunday and The i Paper. She runs regular review writing workshops and mentoring programmes for young journalists, yet still finds time to squeeze in a solid four hours of TV-viewing a day.

Author: Cerys Matthews

Cerys Matthews

Radio 6 Music broadcaster, MBE, author, songwriter and former singer with the band Catatonia, Cerys Matthews has got music in her bones. She's passionate about all kinds of sounds so let her inspire you too.

Jonathan Ross says...

Wonder Woman has been hailed as a triumph. The first major superhero movie to be directed by a woman with a female lead is an unqualified success making more than £619m at the box office. It comes with a zinging script, is well made and is not actually embarrassing to watch.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Wonder Woman, and not just because she was played on TV by the striking Lynda Carter back in my formative teen years. I love the comic book mainly because it always felt so weird, with villains like Giganta and Dr Psycho. Although the character of Diana Prince wasn’t the only woman in that largely male club of the 1940s when Superman and Batman ruled the roost, she was the only one to keep on fighting throughout the decades.

But as remarkable as any of her exploits is the story of how she was created, and by whom. William Moulton Marston gets the credit, but it’s unlikely that he did all the heavy lifting. He was an American psychologist whose work examining how blood-pressure responds to stress led to the development of the polygraph. At a time when comics were coming under pressure for being immoral, Marston praised their educational benefits. The publisher of what was to become DC Comics hired him as an adviser, and went on to develop a strong female character who was beautiful yet powerful.

There were other female characters in the comics, but most were served up as scantily clad sex objects. And although I’ll admit Wonder Woman bared more of her body than Superman or Batman, it can be argued that, unlike her contemporaries, she held a modern, feminist world view.

Moulton Marston felt the future depended on women gaining complete political, social and economic control. A modern thinking man, perhaps. But when you factor in that he shared his life with not only his wife but their joint common-law partner, Olivia Byrne, you see how far ahead of the curve he was.

I can’t help thinking that Moulton Marston shouldn’t get all the plaudits for Wonder Woman, when he clearly benefited from the input of two independent minded women. They surely played a part in creating the Amazonian superhero?

The irony is that, despite Wonder Woman’s ability to defeat villains, the women who helped to create her lost out to the 1940s patriarchy. Perhaps they can give her a time machine to go back and stick up for them.

Cerys Matthews says...

A new direct destination for British Airways is Nashville, with flights expected to start in 2018. Pack your Stetson and plan a visit to Music City, home to the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Johnny Cash museum, and the Ryman auditorium, where performers such as Hank Williams and Minnie Pearl first graced the stage.

You can retrace their steps, then creep to the back alley for a vodka cranberry at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge or Robert’s Western World.

Alternatively, hire a soft-top Mustang and head off on the road trip of a lifetime from Nashville to Memphis. One road takes you there (the I-40), and in three hours you’ll be watching acrobats on Beale Street, or listening to blues singers in the park. There are ducks at the Peabody Hotel and music exhibits at the Stax Museum. Head to Madison Avenue for Shangri-La Records and eat just down the road at the Bar-B-Q Shop.

Yessir! There’s plenty to do all over this southern state, but if you like, you could start getting in the mood right now, as onboard today we have a native of Bristol, Tennessee inviting us to his front porch for a listening party. Country music fanatics will recognise the name as the official birthplace of country – famous for hosting the ‘Big Bang’ of the genre when, in 1927, Ralph Peer set up his recording equipment and documented the sounds of the Carter family for the first time.

You can bet your cotton socks that Bristol’s Baylen Leonard has some great selections on board, with quite surprising origins, as he’s passionate about sharing country from all over the world. First up, and drenched in pedal steel guitar, is a tender song by an artist from California, Sam Outlaw, who sings about Mimosas instead of bourbon and beer. Next up is Australian Emily Barker, who headed for Memphis to become one of the area’s finest session musicians.

The third featured young artist has a perfect country name: Colter Wall, who, though aged just 21, has the voice of a well-travelled songster such as Johnny Cash and is great to catch live too. Another interesting artist is Joana Serrat from Spain. Leonard’s playlist ends with a veteran, Jason Isbell, from Alabama band Drive By Truckers, who serve us full-bodied country rock with sincere lyrics and earnest intentions. The only thing missing now is that soft-top Mustang. Bon voyage!

Listen to Cerys Matthews on BBC World Service and BBC Radio 6 Music, Sundays 10am-1pm.

Ellen E Jones says...

Our national treasures are usually pretty plummy. Think Sir David Attenborough, Stephen Fry, Clare Balding, the Queen. Then think of Danny Dyer, the TV and film actor, professional cockney and, as of his recent, unmissable appearance on celebrity genealogy show, Who Do You Think You Are?, Britain’s unlikeliest folk hero. At 40, Dyer is also surprisingly young to be so august, but then he started early. He was plucked out of his east London comprehensive by an agent and cast in a string of small TV roles in the likes of Prime Suspect and A Touch of Frost. It was in British film, though, and numerous releases such as The Football Factory (2004) and The Business (2005), that Dyer properly established his diamanté geezer screen persona. None of them were really good and some of them were truly terrible, yet his star always emerged not only untarnished, but strangely burnished. The boy from Canning Town done good. Let the critics moan, and they do, Dyer carries on regardless. And despite an affable willingness to play up to the image (“I’m not Danny Day-Lewis… I’m Danny Dyer,” he once reminded an interviewer) he can still surprise us. For instance there’s his close friendship with the Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter or his moving charity appeals last year, on behalf of Sport Relief in Sierra Leone. Fundamentally, Danny Dyer is not a lad, he’s a dad; an Essex-based father-of-three whose best tweets (in a very funny, very sweary feed) concern feeding the ducks or parenting grumbles. It’s also why his casting as EastEnders’ Queen Vic landlord and proud patriarch, Mick Carter, made such sense. He described the role as, “an alpha male who’s a family man, who loves his children and wife. Not a gangster…that’s what made me think: ‘Yeah, I want to do it.’” It was also soap opera which paved the way for Who Do You Think You Are? It was a series-best appearance in which he befuddled historians with his use of recondite cockney slang, salaciously described an ancestor’s sepia-tinted photo as “nawty”, and discovered that he is the 22x great-grandson of King Edward III. Danny Dyer’s reaction to the news was vintage: “I think I’m gonna treat myself to a ruff… just bowl about with it.”