Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Telly Has Been Fine

I realised today that I've not written a post here for a while. I ascribe this to the fact that the last month or so of TV has been basically pretty good. I have greatly enjoyed Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and Heroes, Heston Blumenthal in Search of Perfection and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, have liked a further few programmes moderately, and have steadfastly ignored others. No scandals have been unearthed for a while, and no game shows with fundamentally flawed concepts have been launched for me to mock. (Well, maybe one.) Idents have become pleasantly festive, and adverts annoyingly so. I have not watched ITV1.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

The Mid-Programme Squeeze

BBC2, not one minute ago, shrank Never Mind The Buzzcocks down into a tiny box to inform me about other shows that will be on later. They've been doing this a while, and Charlie Brooker is very cross. But when he was cross, it was when they squeezed programmes down during the end credits. Today they did it before the end credits, halfway through a sentence.

That had better have been some monkey pressing the wrong button. It was annoying when they started putting those "NEXT" boxes up. This isn't Dave. Get with it, BBC2.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Damn You, Jimmy Carr!

I've never been much of a fan of Jimmy Carr. I think he's overexposed and over-rated. Also he looks weird. I think most of it stems from the first time I saw him, which was him doing stand-up. He told old jokes badly and made no effort to tie them into a coherent act. I've not liked him much ever since.

That said, he is funny when he's off-the-cuff, and he does have a pleasing habit of mocking people who deserve it. He was on Jonathan Ross's show a while ago and they both insulted each other for several minutes before eventually Ross had to bring on a new guest.

But damn, damn, damn you Jimmy Carr for so utterly failing to capitalise on what we now know was one of the greatest opportunities of all time: Anne Widdecombe has promised never to appear on Have I Got News For You again because of his fairly relentless mockery of her (which is of course good news, which combined with her retirement from politics means the number of things she's crap at but does anyway is slowly but surely diminishing). And he was fairly harsh, but to be fair, if she's stupid enough to sit in front of a professional comedian on national television, admit she called her cat "Arbuthnot", and proceed to demonstrate her air-raid-siren-like tri-syllabic call which makes that name a particularly efficient choice, then what the hell did she think was going to happen?

"His idea of wit is a barrage of filth and the sort of humour most men grow out of in their teens," she harrumphs in her Daily Express column today.

You know, because to understand just how infantile the filth that BBC2 truly is requires the kind of well-developed mind that's really only found in the intellectual elite that is the readership of the Daily Express (today's top searches: madeleine; Madeleine McCann; Princess Diana; mccann; [empty string]; Crossword; Kate Middleton; offers; madeline; sunday express), a level of culture and sophistication I naturally aspire to one day achieve.

"The edit got rid of much of it but there's no amount of money for which I would go through those two recording hours again. At one stage I nearly walked out." (from the Guardian)

Nearly? That's not good enough! Think how fantastic it would have been if she'd walked out! And he only had to push her that little bit harder.

Damn, damn, damn you, Jimmy Carr!

(Those were the genuine top searches today. "Princess Diana" is the example search it does if you don't type anything in -- which makes the presence of the null string in the top searches all the more fascinating. I also see Express readers can't spell the name "Madeleine" any more consistently than the hacks who write for the Metro.)

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

It is Also Armstrong Time.

Armstrong and Miller's programme on BBC1 on a Friday, which is pretty good, I guess, has included a recurring sketch lately which confuses me.

The sketch involves Armstrong and Miller dressing as Flanders and Swann, sitting the latter in front of a piano, and singing comedy songs. At first I assumed this would be parody, but really it's not that different from the original. The BBC describe it as "Brabbins and Fyffe, the filthy alter-egos of Flanders and Swann", but to be fair, Flanders and Swann are the filthy alter-egos of Flanders and Swann. Brabbins and Fyffe sang a song about poo, but Flanders and Swann sang at least two songs about date rape. ("Madeira M'Dear", and "It’s Hard To Say Oly-ma-kitty-luca-chi-chi-chi".) Brabbins and Fyffe sang a song about foreigners being filthy, and Flanders and Swann sang a song about foreigners being filthy. ("A Song of Patriotic Prejudice".) Brabbins and Fyffe swear more than Flanders and Swann, but then the latter did sing a song called "Pee Po Belly Bum Drawers".

I'm not sure it's parody at all, so much as it is as surreal a theft of someone's act as I've ever seen.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Have I Got Views For You

I used to love Have I Got News For You. It was an intelligent and topical panel show with a good presenter.

I do not like Have I Got News For You. It is a pathetic excuse to show poor-quality not-funny video clips downloaded from the internet, presented by a parade of people none of whom are TV presenters, just so that Ian Hislop can make the same tired snide comments at them while Paul Merton talks nonsense and generally acts like he's totally bored of the whole thing (which is fair enough) and the guests say nothing at all. Anne Widdecombe, who I hate anyway, presented the show last time, and she was rubbish at it. (She's rubbish at everything she tries to do, in my experience, particularly politics.) The answer to the odd-one-out round was "he's the only one whose name isn't a type of oven". Seriously. That's not satire. It's not even topical -- their names were ovens this time a decade ago. The guest publication has taken over the missing words round, so that's not topical either. The "In The News This Week" routine that bookends the show isn't topical. Last week one of the questions was "how did silkworms cause trouble in 1947", and the answer was "by coming from the wrong countries". That's not topical, and nobody will know the answer. That's more like a QI question, except that it's not remotely interesting.

I find that I'm increasingly watching Have I Got News For You solely for Paul Merton, and he's not at his best on the show.

Probably it's because it's not shown on a Thursday.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

"My Name Is Hiro I Am Thirty One/I Can Bend The Space-Time Continuum" — Ben Folds (credited)

The music at the end of Heroes Unmasked just gets better and better. I presume it's by the same people who do Doctor Who Confidential, whose speciality is ending on a clip montage with music whose lyrics describe the events of the episode, often in painstaking detail. For example, The Parting Of The Ways' clips were accompanied by Snow Patrol's "Run", which is not only a song about losing someone, but also features the lyric "Light up, light up/As if you have a choice".

Tonight, BBC2 viewers were treated to the image of Isaac Mendez shooting his kindofex-girlfriend to the accompaniment of Jeff Buckley singing "Maybe there's a god above/All I ever learned from love/Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya'..."

Well I guess Heroes was never really a show for fans of subtlety.

Oh, and while I'm here, you know what's funny about Mohinder Suresh?

Thursdays. In tonight's episode (on BBC2) Mohinder wore a shirt with black/white/black/orange stripes, exactly like BBC2's Thursdays Are Funny trailers use. I don't mean to post spoilers for those among you who don't watch the BBC Three 'previews', but watch out for his tie next week.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Three Minors and One Major. I'm Sorry to Say That You've Failed. Good Try Though.

I was mostly disappointed with Jessica Hynes' Comedy-Drama Learners that aired on Sunday Night (BBC1). Firstly, I'll admit that I only watched it because David Tennant starred in it, and I'm a sucker for any drama that's Tennant-related. Casanova was good, Recovery was excellent, and there's a little-known drama about time travel that he's in which is okay, I suppose. Sadly, this wasn't.

And it had so much potential as well. It had a good writer, some of my favourite actors (except maybe Laura Solon who so far, in everything I've seen her in, has the one act of 'Look, I can do a Russian accent') and a great plot. It just lacked in story. It may have worked if it were a 6-part sitcom, but the situation that it's in doesn't feel like a ninety-minute drama. It was just too pointless. In sticking with the theme of Learner Drivers, I may as well review it like a driving test:

Minors:

- if you're going to introduce a sub-plot where the mother steals £120 from her own daughter, do something with it. Don't just resolve the situation in one line within a sub-par scene.
- cast people more suited to the character role. Just because you're friends with David Tennant, doesn't mean you have to cast him in a drama that you've written. Cast a lesser known actor who could have portrayed the role so much better. Tennant seemed to confident to play a lonely driving instructor. I didn't believe his character at all.
- A note to Laura Solon: We get it. You can do a Russian accent. Move it along, please.

Major:

- Jessica, you tried to write a drama. Please stick to comedy. You're brilliant at comedy. It's just the stale kitchen sink drama scenes I could have done without.

Better luck next time though.

Friday, 2 November 2007

To Say Nothing of His Clothes, Consant Infantile Sex Jokes, Speech Impediment or That Ridiculous Beard He Was Sporting a Bit Ago

Last week, Heston Blumenthal (whom I think of as the Ben Goldacre of cookery, partly because he insists on having evidence for things like marinades, but also partly because of the amount of quackery he put an end to on Tuesday's show) was a guest on Jonathan Ross' show. Ross said Blumethal was the best chef in the country and much better than Gordon Ramsay who was going to be on the week after.

This week, when Ramsay actually is on the show, Ross describes Ramsay in the trailer as the world's best chef.

So why the hell should I trust him when he tells me his opinion of films?
My brain hurts. Seriously hurts. It's been more than 24 hours since I watched Dirty Rotten Cheater and I have spent pretty much every waking hour thinking back to that show and wondering what the hell was going on. Stephen had a point with Countdown and any game show out there. A good game show has to have an original idea and has to have that basic premise explained in a sentence. Deal or No Deal is "someone eliminates boxes of money at random and gambles accordingly", Who Wants to be a Millionaire is even simpler with "someone tries to answer 15 questions (or however you have to answer since it's re-vamp) or they can use one of three lifelines". Dirty Rotten Cheater however, would take about 175 sentences, 8 full-colour illustrations and 16 mathematical equations to fully explain. And even then you'd still kind of go: "...Eh?"

It starts off pretty well, 5 contestants, cash prizes. Simple enough. Then it starts to go seriously downhill with the introduction of the gurn personified, also known as Brian Conley. I had one of those moments of "aaah, so he's still alive then?" followed one of those moments of "aaah, so he's still employed then?".

But surprisingly, he's not the worst part of the show, nor is the fact that it's a load of confusing bollocks. It's the fact that it steals from every game show out there, jumbles them together into one big load, then unleashes. Here's a quick drinking game, take a shot every time you see an idea taken from another show. You'll be legless by the end of the first round.

The game starts with said 5 contestants, and after the usual mundane chat in which Brian Conley tries to pretend he doesn't know what these people are about to say and tries even harder to pretend he hasn't written "comedic" material beforehand to respond with, the game starts. The contestants now proceed to guess the most popular answers of a question that 100 members of the general public (who also happen to be the studio audience) were asked. Shot number one right there. Then after that, the five have to choose who is The Dirty Rotten Cheater, in the exact same style as The Weakest Link, down to the looking down at their podiums, the lights lowering, the tense music, the name of the person appearing on the front of their podium. Only difference it's all a bit more red. Shot number two. But before they vote, they are goaded by Brian Conley to bitch and argue about who is this Dirty Rotten Cheater in front of each other, ala Poker Face with Ant 'n' Dec with it's lying except with this show it occasionally cuts back to Brian, gurning away, looking like he's taking some sick enjoyment in it all and barely holding back to urge to start chanting "FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!".

Now let me explain just what The Dirty Rotten Cheater part is all about. Turns out one of them is a Dirty Rotten Cheater. They know all the answers, sneaky! They're working on the inside! You could possibly even call them... oooh I dunno, The Mole or even possibly... The Enemy Within. They have to try and get through the game trying to make sure they're not found out, and if they succeed, they keep the money they've won!

Now I feel I've done a reasonable job explaining the basic premise of the show in two paragraphs, but all that is pretty understandable. It's only when random things start happening that confuse unless you've been taking notes whilst watching. At seemingly any time, Mr. Conley can say "and that means I have to halve your money" and it is done. I only presume he says it when he's feeling like a bit of a bastard and wants people to feel inferior to him and his vast BBC wage. Then, when someones evicted, Mr. Conley tells them to go to the Losers' Lounge (in actuality, it's a bench in front of the audience) and as they walk off, taunts them with the promise that they can come back later and win 250 quid, despite this never actually occuring at the end of the show. As the fallen contestant meets up with all the other losers where they proceed to hug and kiss like they're family members who haven't spoke in years, not strangers who have spent the past half an hour accusing each other of lying. Halfway through the show, the audience starts voting instead of the contestants. No explanation is given, Conley just seems to decide willy-nilly that he wants the audience to vote instead. Maybe he got a bit bored of being a bastard halfway through and decided to change the was the game is played.

The best of all the confusing elements of the show was near the end, two contestants left and we've found out just who the cheater is, then for no reason that I can fathom other than the need for tension, the final two have to walk up to two clear tubes. It was at this time that Stephen walks into the living room and asks just what is going on, but by this point I'm physically weeping and crawling up in a ball, trying to make any sort of sense what's going on myself. I'll try to explain what I think happened. Y'see... these tubes have a hole, and some cash in them and, in all truthfulness, look spectacularly weedy if they are supposed to be elements in a climatic piece of drama. Conley, in the final act of bastardness, tells the cheater to put their hand in their hole, and as they do, his money falls through a small, hiddren trap door, presumably making the midget that evil Conley has trapped in there, a very rich person. Everybody claps, Conley gurns for a final time, roll credits.

I'm sure this show would make some sort of sense if I watched another episode or two, but unfortunately I've already dedicated the half an hour the show lasts to watching the BBC Three screen that tells me that programming starts at 7pm. It's a hell of a lot more fun.

The Good Kind of Countdown

Today, Channel 4 celebrates their 25th Anniversary. This is a fact that I don't much care for. Sure, they've had a lot of hit documentaries and shows, but all of that becomes pointless when you compare it to the amount of old Simpsons repeats, spectacularly irrelevant chat shows and Big Brother. The channel has had a lot more misses than hits.

However, a fact that does interest me is that it is also the 25th anniversary of Countdown. This game show, for people outside the UK, consists of two people choosing an assortment of letters and trying to make words out of them. It sounds horrendously dull, but it is in fact the perfect game show. And because it is perfect, it has lasted so long.

It's a simple set, the rules are easy and it's a game that people at home can also play. It can be patronising at time, but that's so the old people watching with their cats feel like somebody is visiting them. It's never controversial, never pointlessly mean to their contestants and best of all, the grand prize at the end is a set of dictionaries. Dictionaries! You know what this means? You''ll never get greedy gits who are only on the show for big cash prizes like you get on Deal or No Deal.

I mentioned how it is such a simple premise. Nowadays, when a new game show is commsioned, it has to be original and fresh. My flatmate, JoeyJ, watched the entirety of Brian Connely's new vehicle Dirty Rotten Cheater yesterday, and still wasn't able to explain what the rules of the game were.

Countdown seriously cannot compare with other game shows. It's in a class of it's own. Not only that, even the dumbest of individuals like myself can take 45 minutes out of their day where they can pretend to be smart. And when you compare the fact that the first question The Weakest Link today was "What is the first letter of the alphabet", you realise that you really are talking about two different shows.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Music To Watch Bad TV Talent Shows By

Until yesterday, I'd not seen The X Factor since the early audition rounds, what seems like many months ago. Last night the first thing I saw after the channel changed was someone who looked like Spike from Buffy The Vampire Slayer proclaiming himself to be the Phantom Of The Opera. That caught be somewhat off-guard. I guess my point is, to anyone who watches this program, take a step back and try to see it how I do, coming to it for the first time.

For example, when Sharon introduced the following act as "little Emily", we just laughed. Then there was a boyband called "Futureproof", which is a delightful name for a group whose act is already laughably dated before they've released anything. The little recap showed me a girl group called "Hope", which is again a delightful name for an entry in a singing competition who palpably can't sing. There were others who weren't great, but Hope weren't even okay. I thought by this stage in the competition they'd all at least be halfway decent acts. The idea that out of 200,000 auditions there weren't even eleven who could carry a tune is presumably testament to just how deluded and insane you have to be to want to be on the show.

I'd naturally expect out of a random sample of the population that most would be fairly poor singers and almost none would be amazing. A random sample of X Factor contestants, I would expect more who were awful but loud, but also more who could actually sing really well, because I still think that winning The X Factor would be a perfectly good way to launch a lasting career in pop, provided you actually have some discerning talent -- it's just a way to get exposure. (One day, with luck, this theory will be tested.) But if the judges have done their job, there were maybe four credible singers out of 200,000 applicants, and that's a little scary.

Of course, the judges plainly haven't done their job: Hope is made up entirely of people who were deemed unable to hold a tune in the auditions, but were lumped together in the bizarre hope that they could hold a tune and harmonise.

I also enjoyed the judges repeatedly saying how brave the last contestant (who doubtless had a name but it isn't important enough to warrant another trip to Wikipedia) was to do a Celine Dion song in front of Celine Dion. The implicit and all-pervading assumption that Celine Dion is actually that full of herself that she'll rip you apart if you get the slightest thing wrong, especially compared to the clip of her saying "Well done... I don't always hit that note", was amusingly misanthropic. And aside from anything else, Dion didn't write a word of the song anyway. How her singing it is any different from an X Factor contestant singing it is something of a mystery to me.

There may also be a slight problem with one of the acts: Andy. He can't -- I mean literally can't -- launch into a pop career without changing his name. His surname is "Williams". That would be like us calling this website "Google". But he also can't change his name, because his only apparent selling point is the connection with The X Factor, and I think there's a real danger of people not recognising him if the slightest thing were to change. Presumably, he would have realised this before auditioning, and at least called himself "Andrew", thus limiting the problem to an unlikely confusion with an obscure guitarist.

Oh well, too late now, I suppose. It'll all be over soon enough anyway.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Fridays are Funny

That's how the BBC can get out of the horrible 'Thursdays are Funny' campaign: simply change the day and spend more time advertising Have I Got News For You, The Armstrong and Miller Show and QI. There. Problem solved.

Solve for X

The X Factor certainly do like to dish out drama where there is no drama. At the beginning of this year, the entire gimmick was that Louis Walsh was not coming back. Then, lo an behold, he returned. This didn't really come as a shock to the viewers; mainly because all the adverts running at the time had Simon Cowell looking forlorn into the camera, muttering "I think we should bring back Louis", as if that decision was made then and there.

They've decided to pull this routine a second time by having Sharon Osbourne "storm out" of the show. The reason they gave for Sharon's supposed exit was that "she was upset as two of her acts faced the judge's vote". What a rubbish reason. Thing is, we must remember after the whole BBC controversy about the Queen documentary that the phrase "storming out" doesn't usually mean what it implies. Lo and behold, Sharon has agreed to return to the show.

Well, it certainly was a roller-coaster of high tension drama. I'm so glad we all got through it.

So, how is The X Factor this year? Well, we've finally got through the watchable 'audition shows' where we get to laugh at talentless people have their hopes and dreams squashed through a wave of sarcasm, pity and Irishness. Now we appear to be at the stage of 'Live finals'. These 'Live finals' aren't final enough, for we appear to be having one of these shows every Saturday until Christmas.

For once, I watched one of these live shows last Saturday. Are these really the twelve best groups that auditioned? Who was the scary Aryan-race character who sang Meatloaf? His name sounded like some venereal disease... Rhydian! That was it. It turns out that he's alsobeen through his own bit of drama this week. As TheXFactor.com reports in an enthralling piece of news, "Rhydian Quits X Factor and Then Changes His Mind". Astonishing news.

I was also witness to Brother and Sister combination Same Difference, who manage to turn The X Factor into The Steps Factor. It was pure nauseating nonsense. But, it still gets ratings. I'm surprised.

I wish there was a talent show that would only show the rubbish auditions. They are always funny. And, I also suggest to the producers of the show not to cause random bits of drama and suggest that a member of the show is "walking out". Not a single member of the panelists or singers have ever walked out of The X Factor for good. It's as if you're teasing the people who actually do care about the future of pop music in our country. And, it's also a little patronising.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

A Brief History of Time Travel Related Charity Events

Today, I purched the double-DVD boxset of two old Doctor Who stories: Time-Flight and Arc of Infinity. Why? Well, firstly it was only £13 in WH Smith. But secondly, and most importantly, I wanted to watch a lot more of Peter Davison-era stories, especially with the BBC announcing that he is returning for a Multi-Doctor Charity Special.

I'm in two minds about this. I'm quite happy that Steven Moffat is writing the ten-minute episode, but I keep wondering whether or not said episode is canonical. Will it be humourous? Where will it take place? Also, how will they explain that the Fifth Doctor looks twenty years older? The answer to that is simply that if they want to bring back a classic Doctor, Davison is the man to do it. I mean, have you seen Colin Baker recently?

Anyway, I'm trailing off the subject. Whilst you decide on whether it's a good thing or a bad thing that Peter Davison is returning, I shall give you a brief history of the past three Doctor Who Charity specials.

1. Dimensions in Time (1993)

Oh, how unremittingly awful. Doctors Three, Four, Five, Six and Seven are stuck in Albert Square thanks to the Rani. Also, his companions keep popping up through time as well. Not only did this seem to not have a script, it also seemed to not have any cohesion in the slightest. Luckily, both parts are avaliable on YouTube if you fancy having a laugh. If you happen to have a spare pair of 3D glasses lying around, that may also increase your enjoyment of the show. Marginally.

2. The Curse of Fatal Death (1999)

For Comic Relief, a new Doctor was brought to our screens: Rowan Atkinson. A hilarious 23-minute long adventure which is more true to the series than Dimensions in Time could ever dream to be. Although, using farts as a defence mechanism does leave some questioning.

3. Pudsey Cutaway (2005)

A rubbishly-titled first entry for the Tenth Doctor. Also included time-burps and typical Tennant-gurning. Also, the first Charity-episode that is considered canonical.

So, which one of these genres will Time Crash fall under? Will it be a laughably-poor romp through Albert Square? Will it be a humerous adventure with fart jokes? Or, will it be a canonical first meeting of a multitude of the same Timelord since 1986? Sadly, the only way to find out is to watch bloody Children in Need. There's always a downside to everything.

And We Don't Need No Water

Southern California is a little hotter than usual at the moment, seeing as large areas of it are currently on fire. Interesting of note, however, is that most of the big news channels here in the US are only reporting on the areas with Money. San Diego continues to be a hot point, haha, for news reporters, but considering the large-scale evacuation of the city that makes sense. But Malibu, which is home to celebrities such as Ted Danson, Pamela Anderson, and Sting, seems to be getting an inordinate amount of news coverage despite the fact that the fires there are largely under control. We're still receiving updates on Santa Clarita, where you can find some Very Expensive Houses, but the fires there are also fairly contained now.

Of course, no updates on the smaller communities threatened by fires. In fact the last update most news programs seem to have is over two days old. Lovely.

It's not just American media, either - even the good ol' BBC has been tracking the Malibu fire using this handy map:

Meanwhile, we have friends sleeping on our living room floor who were evacuated from their mountain town who have no idea what is happening, or even if they have a home to go back to. It's all bit a stupid, really.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Ones To Watch #1: Pushing Daisies

Autumn coming always leaves me with a large sense of melancholy. It's a stark reminder that I accomplished nothing over a summer break apart from eating excessively and sitting on a sofa in front of endless TV repeats - despite having plans to have "The Best Summer Ever!" and... y'know... step outdoors. It also reminds me that the feeling of happiness that summer instills will rather quickly get progressively crapper, the days will shorten, the wind will become sharper, the rain will become more frequent and Argos & every sofa company out there will start to broadcast Christmas adverts in the middle of October.

One thing that perks me up about the autumn months however is television, namely the Fall TV line-up. Whilst not a big deal over here in Britain possibly due to the fact that we all stay in to watch TV over the summer because going outside involves battling against flood-enducing downpours; in America, the marketing big-wigs realised long ago that as Autumn, or Fall if we're being grammatically American, approaches, people come indoors of an evening and start to watch TV. Hence this is the time that just about every big show on every big network launches, hoping to win the ratings battles in time for sweeps (another explanation for another day). This means that, should you have access to American TV in any sort of way, September brings a a treasure trove of new shows along with new seasons of your old favourites. And 2007 looks to be a good year.

2007's Fall Line-up seems to focus on what I like to call... "lovely dramas". The kind that don't have big, complex plotlines that run through entire seasons ala Desperate Housewives, nor do they have the feature-film pizazz and feature-film budget of Lost or Heroes. Shows like Ally McBeal, Sex and the City, Veronica Mars and even down to shows like Monk and What about Brian all fit this mould. They're light, fluffy, make you laugh and don't particularly tax you in a way The Unit, for example, does.

Whilst I plan to go on about several different shows that have either just started this September or have come back for a new run, there is one show that shines far and beyond any new show this season and so far already rivals the TV elite in terms of quality. And that show is the incredibly hyped (and deservedly so) Pushing Daisies, which broadcasts on ABC.

If you haven't heard of this so far, let me try to explain, although it is one of those shows that sounds terrible in word but brilliant in execution. When Ned was a child, he discovered he had the ability to raise things from the dead. However he soon realised this power had a catch, should he touch that particular thing once more, they will be dead again, and dead forever. He also realised that should he make something alive again for more than a minute, nature balances it out by killing something else of similar value in proximity of him. This is shown in example when he brings his mother back to life when she suddenly dies on the kitchen floor. A minute later, in the house opposite, the father of his childhood sweetheart, Chuck, dies suddenly as a consequence. Then later on that night, when his mother kisses him goodnight, she dies once again, but permanently this time. Thus all this sets up a show that involves him becoming a pie-maker (never fully explained why, but worked so beautifully into the whole show that you won't care), helping a private investigator, and falling in love once again with his childhood sweetheart who he finally sees again after years apart... but who he can never touch since he has brought her back to life.

All this mixes in together to become what is, in both style and story, a modern fairy tale. So sweet you can't help but smile, so beautifully shot with all sorts of bright colours in just about every scene that you can't help but become immersed in their world, and so wonderfully told via a huge amount of original ideas you can't help but smile even more than you already are at each and every one of them. Superbly funny and immensely clever, it proceeds at such a quick, bouncy rate that it never stops to make sure everyone watching understands what's going on, and it just doesn't care when it creates a plot point that has everyone watching saying "WTF!?" in unison. For example, in the second episode, the plot revolves around a company that is making a car fulled by dandelions. Just once is it mentioned that this is not a particularly normal thing to do, and it's this kind of moment that helps you realise that this is a fantasy land where the good guy always wins and people always fall in love. The kind of show that will happily dedicate 2 minutes of it's time to a version of 'Hopelessly Devoted To You' just because it's funny and just absolutely lovely to have in there. It's the kind of show so good you wish that some British TV channel would take the risk and try something like this instead of putting out the safe, stale drivel that is Heartbeat, Casualty, The Bill and all those others. Does British TV really have to stick to dramas that can be described in one short sentence and starts with "Drama set in a..."? But that's another rant for another time.

But back to Pushing Daisies, and one notable mention besides the brilliant and unnamed narrator, has to go to the cast. Built up of relative unknowns, they are superb and are a good chunk of why the show is as good as it is. The only two who are even slightly recognisable are ex-Brookside lesbian turned proper American actress Anna Friel (who plays the slightly eccentric and delightfully cheery Chuck) and Chi McBride (who plays grumpy, dry-witted but ultimately nice Emmerson Cod), who fans of House M.D. will remember appeared in a couple of episodes of season one as the grumpy owner. Everyone, even the dog, plays their part superbly to the point where I'm already starting to think that no-one else could play these roles half as well as they could.

There are bad points however. There are a whole lot of moments when you'll tut and think "well isn't that handy?" when one of them suddenly has something to hand or can miraculously do something that saves the day. Also, for a story full of murder mysteries, so far none of them have been solvable by the audience, a very-very limited "Whodunnit?" situation in each episode, mainly because the killer or the motive is suddenly explained out of the blue by the narrator.

But you know what? I don't care about any of these gripes. This is the perfect show to sit down and just watch for an hour, knowing you'll be thoroughly entertained. And best of all, it's been picked up for British broadcast! Finally, ITV 1 will have something worth watching when Pushing Daisies starts in January. Yes, I know it's pointless me telling you about it now since it's so far away and yes, I shall rant and rave more about this show nearer the time, but I advise you mark your calendars now, this is well worth a watch.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Just For One Day (And Then Again, on BBC Three)

Ah, Heroes. It's a modern classic, in many ways, and it's compulsive viewing on many levels. Thing is, I find myself utterly unable to work out what those ways or levels are. Lost held my interest by being highly unpredictable, feeding me a trickle of answers just more than sufficient to stop me giving up on it, and having a range of exciting mysteries that need answering in the first place. And Heroes doesn't seem to do those things.

It's unpredictable in the limited sense that it's not a parade of clich├ęs like many shows are, so you don't know what specific event will happen next, but you can bet safely that the principal characters will survive. To my recollection (at the pace the show is running on BBC Three), we've had somewhere in the region of two recurring characters killed, and they were unimportant ones -- the closest thing to a main character's death is probably Eden, who may have had incredible persuasive powers but far more probably just asked men to do things and they did them because she was hot. Lost killed the main characters often enough to makes sure that almost anybody could die at almost any moment.

Heroes really only has three mysteries: where the powers came from, why a paper merchant has so much money, and how Nathan Petrelli ever had time to systematically involve himself in everybody's lives from Vegas to New York with a stop in Texas to father a child. That's some impressive canvassing. The problem is that it's hard to create mysteries when you have a character who can fly, turn invisible, read minds, heal himself, move objects with his mind, stop time, and explode a whole city, and another who can hear things 40 miles off, move objects with his mind, liquefy toasters (for some reason), remember everything that ever happens to him in perfect detail, and probably has a whole host of other powers that have never really been explained. There's really no explanation that's going to satisfy, particularly not when they're making such a big show of the whole "evol-yoution" thing -- Sylar calling himself "the watchmaker's son," for example. Evolution doesn't work that way, so we just suspend disbelief, and that's not the same thing as being curious like we are with Lost.

And yet, I still find myself watching it. It's well written and entertaining. It's a damn good show. But I guess my point is that it's not the ground-breaking piece of TV history it often believes itself to be. Not, that is, unless you watch Heroes Unmasked afterwards and listen to what Greg Grunberg has to say.

Grunberg is the thoroughly-oddly-named actor who plays Matt Parkman, the psychic cop who thinks his mind-reading ability is tearing his life apart when in fact his life is falling apart because he's a bit of a twit. And his job, on Heroes Unmasked, is to sit open-legged and excitedly extol the virtues of the preceding show. He'll say things like "I think it's incredible the way the writers gave these powers to just ordinary people", or "this is a really exciting thing to be involved in because I get to play a man who can read minds! Imagine that!" or "my character is having marital difficulties -- nobody's ever done a show about that before".

Grunberg is also entertaining to watch but not the profound creator of TV history he believes himself to be. And again, I can't help but like him for it.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

If you've missed this post, catch it from the start now on Channel Flip + 1

Something that's annoying me recently about the otherwise entirely welcome Channel 4 + 1 service is a tendency for the continuity announcers at the end of hour-long shows to say words to the effect of "if you've missed this programme, don't worry; it's starting now on Channel 4 + 1". This is good and well, except that they don't seem to fully comprehend how the timeshifted service works. They broadcast exactly the same thing an hour later - the same sound, the same pictures, the same thing. This means an hour later, they'll tell all the people watching Channel 4 + 1 that if they've missed the programme that just finished (on Channel 4 + 1) then it doesn't matter, because it's just about to start on Channel 4 + 1, which it manifestly isn't.

You'd think a company capable of broadcasting television signals to an entire country could invent a little button they can press if the announcement they're making won't make sense on the +1 channel, and then the announcement doesn't broadcast on the +1 channel. But apparently not.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

The Home of Witty Banter

Last night, as far as I'm aware, was the launch night of Dave, a new Freeview channel which proclaims itself as "The Home of Witty Banter". I do love the schedule today. Top Gear, followed by Whose Line is it Anyway, followed by a double bill of Airport. Then the same episode of Top Gear, Whose Line and Airport. Repeat a further two times.

Still, if you overlook all the repeats, it is an enjoyable show to watch. Last night they aired some pretty impressive episodes of QI, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and Have I Got News for You. However, for some odd reason, on their launch night the channel decided to air an episode of Coupling. Which one? The Season 4 Finale.

My advice? If you're going to get people to watch a show on a new channel, don't start with the last ever episode of it.

Monday, 15 October 2007

How to Cook the Perfect Roast Chicken in 473 Outlandishly Complicated Steps

Tommorow (Tuesday) night at 8:30 on BBC Two, a new series of Heston Blumenthal: In Search Of Perfection starts. It's the best cookery show ever. And if that sounds like I'm damning it with faint praise, I'm not. It truly is awesome. There's none of that food-can-be-easy, fresh-ingredients-cooked-simply, made-in-five-minutes lifestyle crap here. (I saw the latest Nigella Lawson show earlier today between University Challenge and Dragons' Den. She 'got a call' from a friend having man-troubles, conveniently while the cameras were rolling, so she invited here over for chocolate-chip cookies, which miraculously cured her emotional distress. Lucky these things happen to Nigella, or there'd only have been ten minutes of show. I don't know how they get away with it in these anti-fakery days.)

Heston Blumenthal every week takes one classic dish (tomorrow chicken tikka masala) and spends the whole half-hour striving to make a perfect version of it, using the twin powers of cookery and science. He works only under the two constraints: that what he makes must essentially remain the same dish, and must be able to be made at home. This second constraint is imposed purely for comedy value, because nobody is going to be able to follow these recipes at home. Last series, his black forest gateaux involved getting chocolate, melting it with groundnut oil (I-Spy Heston Blumenthal awards 10 point for spotting groundnut oil - it has no flavour, you know), putting it in an aerosol can, spraying it into a tupperware box with a pinhole put in it, stuffing this in one of those bags you suck all the air out of to compact your luggage, and being attached to a vacuum cleaner until the chocolate aerates. Having made seven other layers similarly, he piles it up and sprays the whole thing with more groundnutty chocolate from a paint gun. This is served up with kirsch (cherry liquer - it's not a proper black forest gateaux without it apparently) in an atomiser which you spray into the air prior to eating (15 points for something in an atomiser).

The fact that none of his recipes are remotely feasible for home use is the genius of the whole enterprise. How-to shows are all very good and useful, but they're rarely especially entertaining. What's always entertaining is watching people do things that we demonstrably can't do - whether it's prefessional sports or Jack Bauer saving the world from terrorists. If this post comes too late for you to rearrange your schedule and you miss it, do what Heston would do - use the power of science and head on over to bbc.co.uk/iplayer where you can download it for free for a week. Hurrah!

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Is it "Good Luck Getting Through"?

In March, after a little less than a year (the service rather tellingly having launched on April Fools' Day), ITV shut down the ITV Play channel, principally because they'd been forced by a sudden and unusual upsurge in national levels of common sense to close all their premium-rate phone lines. This included the ITV Play that comes on at night when ITV have nothing else to show (and, presumably, didn't think anyone up that late would be able to pay enough attention to enjoy a repeat of A Touch Of Frost).

The ‘participation TV’ genre is growing fast and ITV Play will lead the market with higher quality programmes, higher production values and higher and more regular prizes.

So I was rather surprised last night when I switched over after Screenwipe to find a ridiculously cheerful woman soliciting calls from people who knew phrases that start in "good". It looked, as far as I could tell, to be exactly the same as the old-style ITV Play that was so universally condemned, but with one subtle change: every so often, the presenter would remind viewers to set themselves a limit on how many times they were going to play today, and to play within their budgets. She never said you had to be over 18, though.

I didn't watch enough to say for sure if the questions have improved -- though to be honest you could make them as easy as you like and the morons who phoned in and guessed "good likeness" and "good -ie two shoes" still would have been £1.50 of pure profit. Possibly, ITV have put in easy questions so the regulators won't complain and then preyed on viewers who think they've got wise to ITV's game and have started avoiding the obvious answers and guessing "balaclava" to every question instead.

I'm amazed they still get away with this, not least because it has pre-recorded applause and cheers played over it apparently at random, which surely counts as Nasty TV Fakery? Well, apparently, they don't. The show seemed to be taking callers rather less frequently than one might hope -- the presenter managed to go into quite some detail about exactly what she might buy if she won £1,500 on ITV Play that evening. The ideas kept coming -- considering she must have just been ad-libbing for an unspecified time, probably all night, and it was gone 2AM I was actually impressed with her. Except her credibility, obviously, which was in tatters because she was on ITV Play. I usually assume with these things that they charge all the callers and let maybe one in a hundred of them onto the air to have a shot at winning (which they won't, because "good rawlplugs" isn't what you'd call a common phrase), which of course is exactly what they did. But then they "went turbo", which meant they take "more calls than usual". Still nobody got through.

So either they're still running a phone-in competition that's essentially rigged, or else nobody very much phoned in. Which is it? Well, here's ITV's Strategy Update on the subject, published about month ago:

ITV Play’s Call TV programming will be phased out by the end of this year as negative publicity following compliance problems across the sector has seen call volumes drop to uneconomic levels.

So, to sum up, they're running an unpopular feature that's not making them any money. So why are they doing it? Why phase it out? Why not just stop?

Saturday, 13 October 2007

How To Watch "In It To Win It"

The actual quiz show is so dismal on every level it's not worth the bother, but I find it's more fun if you pretend to be the editor of a satirical TV clip show, looking for clips of Dale Winton making embarassing sexual confessions (when in fact he's doing his ridiculous "final answer" routine):
  • 'I accept Jason Bourne.'
  • 'I accept David Blunkett.'
  • 'I accept "cucumber".'
It's very childish, I know, but when In It To Win It is on you just have to make the best of a bad situation.

Gradin' Sladen

I must admit, when they first announced Sarah-Jane Adventures, yet another spin-off of Doctor Who for those who don't know, I can't say I was too thrilled. I enjoy me some Doctor Who; and I know it's supposed to be a family show but there are a lot of times when watching certain episodes that I wouldn't have batted an eye-lid if it was on CBBC. Hell there were times when aliens started farting or used straws to suck blood that I expected to see the CBeebies logo in the top corner and Basil Brush to make a cameo. So when it was said that 'Sarah-Jane' would be a kids-centric spin-off of an already kiddy show, I feared that it would be more Chucklevision than Doctor Who; and that they'd stop the aliens through a series of slapstick mishaps that would end with an anvil dropping on the bad guys head. So it delights me to say that, after watching 4 episodes (5 if you include the New Years pilot), it is so far not absolutely terrible. In fact I'd say it's better than at least half of Doctor Who and about two-thirds of Torchwood.

My main worry before seeing the show was with the enemies. Doctor Who has always been hit-and-miss with it's enemy characters. For every brilliant evil like The Master or the Clockwork droids there's always been sheer crap like the Slitheen. And whilst the Slitheen are back for the first two episodes of 'Sarah-Jane', you can tolerate them more now they're in a kids show. In fact, it seems the Slitheen have been found the perfect place for them to stay. However, it was with the two subsequent episodes in which I was mostly surprised. My initial thoughts of aliens for a CBBC show would be things kids would think were cool. So skateboard-riding ninja aliens who kill people with Playstation and come from the Planet X it is then. So it was a nice surprise to see that the first original alien was based on the Greek Mythology story of the Gorgons, but with a relatively modern twist. WTF!? Where's my Space ninjas damnit!

Even more surprising is the level of drama outside of the main stories. Sure it doesn't have the adult intensity of the bonk-a-thon Torchwood, but considering it's audience, it has a nice range of child appropriate situations. It ranges from the age-old secret crush story, to hating homework, to the social awkwardness of a teenager starting school (admittedly a teenager that has not only been alive for 3 weeks but was genetically engineered, so quite rightly doesn't get the whole social interaction thing. But still, kids can relate to anything nowadays). But it can also get serious (yet still child appropriate) with the on-going divorce storyline between the main kids parents and her struggle being stuck in the middle of it. A surprisingly well-acted scene occurred with the kid complaining to her mum about her not being around for her anymore. It was quite welcome considering I thought the pinnacle of drama for this show would be the kid complaining to her dad about how he doesn't give her enough pocket money for make-up; and when you compare it to everyone falling in love with The Doctor or the Owen "sex-triangle" in Torchwood, it was quite original.

Overall, I'm pretty impressed with what I have seen so far, the use of CGI, the subtle references to both past and present Doctor stories. Even the two Slitheen episodes were pretty decent, touching on the subject of killing as well as, if not better than The Doctor's scary eyes in last year's Christmas Doctor Who as water poured around him. Let's just hope they don't balls it up now although, judging by the next episode preview, they may just do that. It's based around the gang joining in a game of deadly laser-tag to help find a missing child.

Let's just hope their opponents aren't ninjas.

Friday, 12 October 2007

An Open Letter to The BBC News

When you do a story about climate change, it is not strictly necessary to fly a correspondent to the Arctic in order to film 45 seconds of footage which is indistinguishable from the same footage filmed in the river Thames.

Yours,
Andrew

x

Deal of the Century

I like it when Deal or No Deal feature very odd offers from The Banker. Today's episode had the very odd offer of "£8,000 and a dead magpie".

If it was me, I'd have dealt at that offer. It's a win/win situation. If they don't give me the dead animal, I sue them for false advertising. If they do give me the dead animal, I sue them for cruelty to magpies.

Let He Who Is Without Singing Cast the First Stone

As a formulaic process, you can't really argue with it. Holiday Showdown did it, Wife Swap did it, and both always got the same hilarious results. What formula am I on about? Get two groups of people from different backgrounds and get them to live with each other with astonishing consequences as they attempt to get along with clashing beliefs via the handy method of shouting loudly.

BBC3 have a lovely new show which follows this formula accurately. Singing With the Enemy was an interesting watch. It didn't, as I assumed, give people the chance to Sing with The Enemy. Instead, it gave the chance for two bands with different views to live with each other for a week and then write, record and perform a song. This week showed the adventures of punk band Paparazzi Whore (which claimed to be 'ironic', but I found it to be quite fitting what with them jumping at the chance to appear on BBC3) and Christian rock band Dweeb. Now, I understand why the BBC want to film a week of Punks and Christians sharing a house: for filmed tense content and guaranteed arguments. However, what actually occured during the show was far from this.

The first thing the bands need to do is perform for each other. Firstly, Paparazzi Whore play. Dweeb like them. Then, Dweeb play. Paparazzi Whore like them. This clearly is not what the BBC are wanting. When they filmed a goth band and a boy band together, they started ripping the piss out of each other left right and centre.

So, when the expected conflict you wanted in your BBC show isn't occurring what do you do? You could take the typical BBC approach and fake it. But why not try and make it happen!

For no reason whatsoever, they ask the punk band to play again for the Christians to watch. Only this time, they've brought strippers on the stage! Strippers! With breasts! The punk lead female singer then confesses that not only is she married to her husband, but she's also sleeping with the female back-up singing of the band! Such controversy!

I was wondering if they were going to go the whole hog and just start poking the Christian band with sharp sticks. Sadly, this is television and emotional teasing is just so much better than physical teasing. Hilariously, the Christian band don't really raise an eyebrow. Some may say that this was dull television, but I was loving every failed moment that the producers of the show attempted to add controversy into their otherwise sub-par show.

So what do they do? Cause controversy within the punk band itself!

Over the course of the week spent together, the female back-up singer decided to look back on the punk life she had loved for 20-odd years and starts to lead a spiritual quest to find her true meaning on this planet. Obviously the punks are upset, and begin to blame the Christians for warping the back-up singer's mind.

But, despite all the differences, they were able to record a decent song. Well, half decent. The only decent part of it was when Dweeb were singing. Paparazzi Whore's lead singer couldn't hit a damn note.

Not only was this a very odd hour of television, but it contained one of my favourite snippets of dialogue between the two lead singers:

"I don't know why you can't accept that we are followers of Christ"
"Well, that's where you're wrong. I'm not a follower. I'm a leader. In fact, I'm the leader"
"Heh.. I don't think you're The Leader"
"Well I 'ave to be. If I'm not a follower, I'm The Leader."

You can't argue with odd punk ideology.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Scene and Not Heard

I've just finished watching the 24 Season 6 DVD Box Set. I shan't go into details about how rubbish most of the episodes are, but I will talk about one thing I was looking forward to in this collection: the Season Six Alternate Ending.

If you aren't familiar with how season six of 24 ends, it is essentially the following: Jack has a conversation with his old lover who has recently gone insane thanks to some Chinese people kidnapping her, then he goes outside by some cliffs and looks at the horizon of the sea. It then fades to black and counts down from 05:59:57am to 06:00:00am (not surprising, what with this episode taking place between 5am and 6am). However, it isn't the most exciting television you've ever seen, but there we go.

Now, a lot of people won't fork over £35 for the DVD set, mainly because Season Six of 24 was a giant pile of toss. However, for your reading pleasure, I shall tell you the alternate ending of Series Six for absolutely free!

Jack has a conversation with his old lover who has recently gone insane thanks to some Chinese people kidnapping her, then he goes outside by some cliffs and looks at the horizon of the sea. Then he throws his gun into the water.

Then, for some bizarre reason, the on-screen clocks counts from 07:59:57 to 08:00:00. Because in this alternate ending, Jack Bauer finds a portal that sends him two hours into the future.

You think I'm kidding, don't you.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

A Deadly Game of Cat and Mouse

I've spent the last 24 hours with a mate of mine, his girlfriend and their two year old kid. This means, through no fault of my own, I've witnessed a lot of Children's Television. The main channel on has been Boomerang, a haven for old-school Hanna-Barbera cartoons. It's only through the past day that I've realised that Jerry the Mouse is a right bastard.

I've seen a total of five Tom and Jerry cartoons today. In all five, Tom the Cat is minding his own business, and Jerry suddenly appears from nowhere just to ruin Tom's day. At one point, the cat is trying to flirt and dance with a lady cat at the local discotheque (it was the 70's after all). In my opinion, he was getting lucky with the lady feline and if he carried on his flirtation skills, he'd go back to hers and have crazy wild cat sex. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Jerry the Mouse comes along and steals Tom's potential shagpiece. What is going on? The mouse has no chance of getting lucky with her.

In another episode, Tom's trying to relax in a hammock when Jerry comes along and steals it. What a bastard.

My favourite episode had to be when Jerry teamed up with some canary and actually killed Tom. After the cat's death, the canary and the mouse do an odd little dance. However, when it turns out that Tom was only faking his death (in a rather profound Jack Bauer-esque moment), the throw a pissing bowling ball at his face. What is the point in all this violence? You would assume that in this game of Cat and Mouse, the Cat would be the one provoking the violence. It really isn't. Why do we route for Jerry all the time? Why can't we root for the Underdog?

Or the Undercat in this case.

Also: Scooby Doo has also been playing at my mate's all day. My favourite scene was at the end of an episode where the ghost/mask/villain turned out to be this French guy. As he is arrested, he screams in an hilarious French accent "I would have gottern away wiv dees if it weren't for dose medd-el-ing keedz!". Daphne then responded with the hilarious comeback: "I wonder what 'meddling kids' is in French!".

The entire Scooby Gang pissed themselves with laughter at that line. It was worrying.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Thursdays Are Funny?

I can safely say after watching the online premiere of The Peter Serafinowicz Show that no, they are not.

Monday, 1 October 2007

The Unreal Hustle

A very odd thing happened to me on the way to a lecture this morning. As I got on the bus, I noticed a large film crew sitting on the back seat. It's something you don't miss. I paid for my ticket and sat down. Two stops later, the fat guy from The Real Hustle" wearing a suit. This was odd.

Fat Guy announced that he was from the council and was asked to check everybody's tickets/bus passes, etc... Whilst he was checking them, he kept stealing bags and purses of the bus passengers, only to give them back twenty seconds later.

My stop arrived. In the process of me leaving the bus, one of the BBC cameramen urged me to sit back down as they needed to film some reaction shots.

"And why can't I leave exactly?" I wondered aloud
"Well, if we cut to a different camera and you keep appearing and disappearing from the bus, people are going to think it's faked"
"So, to make it look like it isn't faked.. you're faking it?"

It was truly an odd morning.

FTN RIP

Oh, FTN, how I will miss you. For the uninitiated (and oddly, judging by the lack of advertising for the latter, it seems a lot of you are), today is the day that FTN finally bites the bullet. But lo, like a fat, ugly caterpillar, you have spurted from your cocoon and are now pretending to be one of those proper, grown-up telly channels! You've got a number at the end of your name and everything! Virgin 1? Perfect!

But before I get onto Virgin's brand new, sparkly TV channel, I feel a moment is needed for the awesome crapness that was FTN. Now you have left our lives, gone is the ability to turn on Freeview at 6pm and know that for the next 12 hours you can watch cast-offs from Virgin-owned channels that you've either a) watched a hundred times before or b) don't ever want to watch ever, or even worse, some kind of late-night quiz show. Gone is the chance to watch Gladiators, and realise that no, Saturday Night TV isn't worse nowadays compared to the past, but that it's always been shit. And I'd rather look at Ant's screen-encompassing forehead than Cobra's screen-encompassing trouser bulge, if I'm going to be fully honest.

I remember back in the day, when you first appeared on the scene, you said you were going to have NEW programming! What happened FTN? I was rooting for ya! You were better than the Most Haunted marathons every other day made you out to be. You could've been something!

Anyway, that's enough fake sympathy for that load of crap. We've got Virgin 1 now! It's going to have NEW programming! Hold on a moment...

Quite obviously Virgin's answer to Sky One, Virgin obviously felt that they needed to do something now that Sky have yanked Sky One from them and stuck their tongue out at them. And Virgin did indeed do something. They have pretty much stole Sky One's template, crossed out Sky, drew Virgin in red felt tip pen instead and stuck it on Freeview. As many American imports as they can get, poorly made homegrown efforts and even more American imports.

However, credit where credit's due; they have started well over at Virgin 1. A nice logo, some in your face marketing (as sparse as it's been) about it being 'Proper Telly' and Richard Branson pretending to give a crap about it in a load of press conferences.

However, criticism where criticism's due; it falls at the most important hurdle for a TV channel, TV shows. Tonight, it starts with more of a quiet whimper than a loud bang, starting off with Criminal Minds, yet another American Crime show that from what I've seen (I'll be honest, I've yet to see more than previews for this show), blends perfectly into that Crime show genericness that CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY and Law & Order (again, with added spin-offs) have managed to create and bore with.

Also tonight is Penis Envy, a 'Cockumentary'. How very BBC Three of them. Closely followed by a double of Dog the Bounty Hunter, poker and then more repeats. The only highlight of the night is The Riches, starring the wonderfully delightful Eddie Izzard and the wonderfully round-faced Minnie Driver. I urge everyone to give this a watch at some point. Please.

The shows don't fare much better in the future; Terminator spin-off and bound-to-be-as-bad-as-the-new-Bionic-Woman The Sarah Connor Chronicles appears next year. The so good it was cancelled after 9 episodes Ted Danson show Help Me Help You will show up at some point. More generic drama starring some kind of armed force in The Unit (again, I'll avoid ripping into it too much till I've seen more than one episode). Good shows in the future however include Boston Legal, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia and the hopefully awesome Viva Laughlin (based on the actually awesome Viva Blackpool).

And to finish it all off, REPEATS, LOTS AND LOTS OF REPEATS!

And that right there is the problem with virgin 1, their advert can proudly mouth off how they have 'No Soaps, No Makeovers, No Nonsense, Just Proper Telly' but that means nothing when 90% of the shows you plan to put on are 5 year-old repeats. As much as I love Seinfeld, That 70's Show, Star Trek and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, it just sounds like FTN all over again but with Will Smith swapping roles with Derek Acorah.

You're supposed to be a 'Proper Telly' channel now, so show some proper telly.

Marketing departments in Need

What the Bloody Hell have the BBC done to Pudsey the Bear?

Sunday, 30 September 2007

And Now, CCTV footage from Australia that Shows a Clerk's Misunderstanding of a Customer's Request for "Fork Handles"

Through no fault of my own, I ended up watching the slightest bit of Tarrant on TV the other night. Now, you'd have thought with the entire "Why is television lying to us?" scandals that have been happening throughout the television nation that ITV may have tried to tell the truth a lot more often. This wasn't the case.

Chris "I Can Do Stuff Other Than Millionaire" Tarrant introduced a "hilarious advert" that apparently originated from South Africa. Cue an advert for a shampoo designed for pubic hair called "Short and Curlies". Oh what hilarious penis jokes those South Africans have! Such wit.

If only that was the case. You see, the hilarious "advert" was actually a sketch from American Variety Show "Saturday Night Live". One of the actors in the advert was comedian Will Forte. But of course, the British public have no idea what or who this is, and ITV1 know it.

Tarrant on TV seems to have been going on for fifteen years or so now, and I'm surprised that they needed to lie about the context of the advert. Why not introduce the clip as "here's something intentionally funny from America". No. That wouldn't work. It becomes more hilarious if we think the product is real and then we can toss our heads back and laugh merrily and the thought of South African's needing a product for their pubic hair. Ha! Hahaha! Oh, ITV1, you truly are hilarious.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Consumer Activism

On Thursday I was watching Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (which is excellent by the way), and they put the first commercial break several minutes before the opening titles. This has made me more angry than the relative placement of paid advertisement really has any right to. So in protest against this, I hereby provide a free plug for the direct competitors of More4's sponsors for Studio 60:

MoneySupermarket.com - the price-comparison website.

The Void You Occupied in the BBC2 Schedule Will Be Allocated to a Show That Was Never Given the Gift of Air-time.

I just read this poorly-written news entry on reddwarf.co.uk. It makes three main points, which I shall summarise here in a less sanctimonious way:
  • Miramax would have been happy to make a Red Dwarf film some time ago if Doug Naylor had agreed to use a brand new cast, which he didn't.
  • The BBC have opted not to bother with a ninth series and aren't interested in TV rights to the film.
  • There's interest in a stage show based on the movie script.
As a long-time Red Dwarf fan, the news that the BBC don't want to make any more of it makes me very happy. If this seems odd to you, it won't soon: the sixth series wasn't as good as the three before it, the seventh wasn't as good as the sixth, and the eighth wasn't as good as Property Ladder. It wasn't even Red DwarfRed Dwarf is a clever sci-fi comedy about the last human trapped in outer space with a dead man, a cat, and sometimes a robot, whereas Red Dwarf VIII was a ridiculous The IT Crowd-style nonsense show set in the brig of a fully populated spaceship. (I like The IT Crowd, but it's not what Red Dwarf is for.)

Of course, as has been pointed out to me today, the opinions of fans often shouldn't be considered when they disagree with those of the programme makers, but I respond to that by pointing out that when BBC Wiltshire asked Rob Grant (co-creator of Red Dwarf and co-writer of the first six series) what he thought of the eighth, he said that he hadn't watched it because the seventh was so bad. He said it "wasn't what [he] set out to do and ... nothing to do with [him]".

If the BBC change their minds and commission Red Dwarf IX, I won't watch it. Unless Rob Grant comes back and they all start work on Red Dwarf VII, I have no confidence at all that any future Red Dwarf will be at all worthwhile. That the BBC have chosen not to spend my licence fee making it can only be good news.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

An Apology: After I Typed This Post, I Went Back and Changed Bits. Please Forgive Me.

This recent trend for complaining about "faked" things on TV is, I think, getting out of hand. (Luckily it seems to be on its way out, but it's hard to tell with that end of the media these days — I thought the whole "Princess Diana" thing was going to die off as well.) When it was phone-in competitions that you couldn't win or members of the public who were actually production staff, then fair enough, complain. And when you're making it look like the Queen threw a hissy fit then yeah, that's probably not on. But as ever, the more-than-slightly insane media have tried to string it out with a seemingly unending parade of increasingly flimsy 'scandals'. Gordon Ramsay pretending to catch a fish was about the end of the sensible ones. But... noddies? I think it's safe to assume interviewers do nod. Okay, so you're not seeing the specific nod that happened at that time, but it's close enough for jazz, surely?

I've seen TV shows being filmed. All of two of them. That's what they do: if something didn't go right then they reshoot it afterwards. I've seen Jeremy Paxman asking a question on University Challenge after the final scores were announced, and I've seen seven contestants politely wait and let the other one answer because that's what happened the first time round. And it wasn't quite the same, and they showed it anyway. And nobody cared because back then people had better things to do with their lives. Once, I gestured while talking to a camera, and after I was done they had me redo the gesture for a close-up. Then I had to do it again but more slowly. And it was all cut together like some magic two-camera setup. And again, nobody cared. They also showed events out of order to add tension, and I don't think anyone cared about that much either. I mean, technically you're misleading the public, but it's not deception. It's just TV. Nobody ever said it was a 100.00% faithful representation of events. Didn't they teach you anything about primary sources of evidence in history class?

The point, though, is that... what, you thought that was all real? Do you have any idea how difficult it would be to make an entire programme without making any mistakes? How many cameras and microphones you'd have to run to make sure you didn't miss anything or get any unusable shots? How bad a programme would look if you just showed the first take of everything, the raw, unedited, not-'faked' footage?

Well, I don't. And I like it that way. So quit complaining about it in case they stop doing it.

Oh, Grow Up

One of the most upsetting moments of my life occurred this week after I sat through an episode of Grown-ups. During the end credits, I realised that more than one person worked on the show. It was actually written, produced and directed by different people. How come not a single one of the seventy-or-so cast and crew members realised that the show they were working on was pure concentrated awful? It's times like these I wonder why I don't have my own show.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Ask The (Dwindling) Audience

According to The Sun (four words that form an inauspicious start to any blog entry,) the idiot bosses of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? are creating a spin-off quiz show based on - get this - the show's '50:50' lifeline. In the show, contestants will be presented with four answers to a question, and will have to pick the two most obviously wrong ones while claiming it to be a random choice. No, only joking. In fact, according to what "an insider" told the "newspaper":

“The couples will be asked a question and then given an answer.

“They can either accept that answer or gamble on another one.

“It’s quite a tense game as the first answer will often sound like the right one.”
Now, this all sounds like a relatively sensible idea, were it not for the facts that a) there's already been a game show called 50:50; and b) the precise format of the suggested show has already been done. Now, to be fair to them, Take It or Leave It is on a relatively obscure channel (Challenge on Sky Digital and maybe Virgin Media or something) and it's possible that 2waytraffic have simply bought the rights to the format. Or already own the format and in fact produced Take It or Leave It and are simply retitling it and flogging it to ITV. (Don't think I've researched this blog.)

Anyway, since it may be heading to an inferior mainstream channel near you sometime, maybe I should explain a bit about the show. Take It or Leave It is a show themed around the idea of deciding between taking what is on offer or rejecting it in favour of an unseen alternative (I know! I had that idea in 2002. It's so obvious!) and more importantly, shoehorning in the question "do you want to take it... or leave it?" as many times as humanly possible. So to begin with, one of the competing couples (couples - how quiantly early-nineties) sees a little video of another couple, and decide whether to take them as their opponents or leave them for an unseen couple. The main section of the game is incredibly dull, and takes ages to explain, but suffice to say it boils down to a true or false quiz and some Deal or No Deal-ey guessing. At the end of it, one couple wins, and goes through to the final round to play for the money they accumulated in the main game - likely ten grand or so.

The final, thankfully, is very clever and quite fun to watch (so if you see the show in the listings - it lasts an hour - only watch it for the last twenty minutes or so). The couple see five questions, each of which comes with a suggested answer, which they either take if they beleive it to be correct, or leave it in favour of the alternative answer which they haven't seen. Now, when this happens in the main game they're then told whether their answer is correct straight away, so all this taking-or-leaving business is just dressing up a true or false question. But here it works a bit differently. They answer the five questions without being told which (if any) are correct. Six safes are presented, one of which contains the prize. The contestants can guess at a safe, or else try to eliminate empty safes with their questions. The five questions are randomly re-ordered, under the condition that the questions that were answered correctly come first, followed by the ones they got wrong. After being presented with each question, they can decide whether to play the question with the answer they came up with, or stop and guess a safe. Playing a correctly-answered question removes an empty safe; playing an incorrectly-answered one ends the game and the prize is forfeit. So if you're confident of a question that hasn't come up yet, you can breeze through all the ones that come up before it, since you must still be on the questions you got right. But if you get right to the end, and the last question you're not quite sure of, it gets trickier. Do you take the 50:50 chance on the questions, or on the two safes remaining? You probably reckon you're more than 50% sure your answer is right. But what would have been the odds you got all five correct, and then they happened to put the slightly dodgy one last? It's all good tense fun.

So, if this show does come to ITV, what do you think they'll do? Come up with a better main game to bring it up to the standard of the final? Or just make the whole thing a sub-Deal guessing game with a few true-or-false questions? If you answer after lines have closed, your entry will not be counted but you will still be charged.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Identity Crisis

I haven't had that much time to watch TV recently. It's mainly because I've moved in with some mates in Newcastle, and the television priorities mainly lie with Film 4 or whichever Rugby match is showing. Talking of which, I've really started getting into Rugby. It's amazing how you can get a score as astonishing as 97-3 in less than ninety minutes.

However, yesterday we were all able to catch a bemusing new quiz show. "Identity" on BBC2 showcases the latest notch of Donny Osmond's career. The rule of the game involves a middle-aged person trying to guess what twelve people did for a living. The occupations listed as choices varied from proper jobs (such as "Magistrate" and "Club Dancer") to just simple facts about about a person (including "Doctor Who Fan" and "Had a Hair Transplant")

If this didn't sound bemusing enough, the twelve people are basically dressed up for their jobs. It came as no surprise to see that the guy in the leotard was the gymnast, and the guy dressed as Doctor Who was the damn Doctor Who fan.

Another pointless gameshow with no questions. Deal or No Deal has ruined a generation of quiz shows.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

These Four People are Amongst the Greatest Quiz Players in Britain, and CJ is Among The Greatest Quiz Players in Britain

Eggheads is getting ridiculous now. I drew this a while ago and it's just getting more and more relevant:

(I didn't upload it right away, not least because it very quickly reminded me of an old Far Side cartoon which used the same exact premise, although didn't make a point about Eggheads, possibly because Eggheads hadn't been invented then.)

It's what, fifty-eight shows in a row now that the Eggheads have won? It's hard, sometimes, to imagine that it isn't rigged, when there are questions assigned, supposedly at random, that are anywhere from blatantly unanswerable to the downright simplistic, and the same team wins every week. I don't care how smart they are, you'd think random question assignment would have done for them by now.

This is made worse by the format: I have done a Monte Carlo simulation (oh, yes) of 10,000 games of a slightly simplified version of Eggheads and 10,000 games of a more straightforward game. I've assumed that all Eggheads know 90% of all answers and all players know 60% of all answers. If the players went one-on-one for 15 questions and the team with most correct answers won, the Eggheads ought to win 98.66% of all games. Under the current rules, the Eggheads should only win 94.25% of games. That's still a lot, obviously, but there's a 96.77% chance that they should lose at least one game out of any random fifty-eight game sequence. Especially since for every ludicrously easy question (that any team would know) and every ludicrously hard question (that even Eggheads don't know) the balance between my guesses of 90% and 60% get nearer and nearer together. If it was all questions like that, the challengers ought win every other show.

So can we have a win for the challengers soon, please? If not, I may end up genuinely believing the show is actively being rigged. And nobody wants that.

Update:
Another thing about Eggheads is that the general knowledge questions in the last round are often very easy (I can tell because even I can answer a lot of them), and the sudden death games are almost unwinnable. You can answer all fifteen multiple choice questions correctly, and still lose out just because of one ludicrously difficult sudden death round.

It's almost as if the show is designed to make the Eggheads look better than they are: the several-round mechanic and the contestants-pick-of-competitors mechanic ought to put the Eggheads at a disadvantage, but when you get down to it, the whole game boils down to one round at the end, and that round is very hard for the Eggheads to lose: the questions are mostly of a level that no self-respecting Egghead should ever get wrong, and the challengers can't win unless they do get them wrong. The head-to-dead questions are very difficult, allowing a lucky team to knock out many Eggheads, but then the difficulty level of the questions is suddenly dropped, meaning the remaining Eggheads are still probably going to win. A conspiracy theorist would suggest that this was deliberate.

I don't see why they'd do that, though. Personally, I'd think the show a lot more exciting if the Eggheads lost sometimes. This isn't Takeshi's Castle. Even Knightmare and The Crystal Maze didn't go fifty-eight weeks without a win.

Monday, 3 September 2007

The Factor of X

I've been working with a mathematical theory recently. It's nothing too taxing, it's just my mind tends to wander when my C:\Drive explodes leaving me with no internet to rant about television with. Basically, I've been watching The X Factor recently and have realised how formulaic the show is. Not the show itself, we all know that's formulaic as hell. I'm on about the actual episodes themselves.

Dermot O' Leary introduces the city we're in. We see 4-5 rubbish auditions. The judges voice their concerns about how this city is rubbish for singing ability. Then, we get a good singer, followed by 6-7 good singers all being accepted into "boot camp".

We then get a couple of weird people. Dermot interviews one of these weird people whilst stifling his giggles through clenched teeth. We then see their hilarious bad audition.

Ad break. We're introduced to a new city. Repeat previous formula until the last audition we get to see which includes some heart-tugging back story about how the person trying out for the competition was inspired by their dead mother who has no legs, but also had to sell their dog on eBay just for the bus fare to get to the audition. They then sing, and the judges are wowed.

Every. Single. Bloody. Episode.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

"BEEN FEELING TIRED IN THE NIGHT? THEN YOU ARE DEFINITELY ILL!"

Being on holiday in America; naturally, rather than actually do stuff, I've been taking in the splendor of American TV. What's incredible about American TV is not the programmes - but the adverts. I'm not saying they're brilliant themselves (although, Bud... Weis... Er? Classic!), but what they can get away both frightens and pleases me. Their medical adverts are the scariest of the lot, pretty much both telling you that you're ill and what you NEED to do about it. Luckily, what you DEFINITELY HAVE is easily cured by their medicine, and with only a 30 second list of side effects! Who cares if your anus is now bleeding continuosly; at least that rash on the back of your leg has gone! For example, in the first 24 hours of watching TV in my hotel room I'd convinced myself I DEFINITELY HAD... cramps of 3 kinds, erectile dysfunction, the menopause, insomnia, boils on my hands, 8 diseases that ended in 'ia', trouble staying awake and a child with ADHD. Hell, I don't even have a child let alone one with ADHD, but when he pops out, he's getting it, and I'm gonna make my non-existant health insurance pay through the nose to treat it, the nice voiceover lady told me to after all, she said everything would be OK, all the while lots of happy children ran around in a park smiling at the sun, and they all wouldn't lie to me, right? They all must have had ADHD; they seemed so happy!

The worst (or, best depeding on how you see it) of the lot however, was about children with diseases that confined them to wheelchairs. A very sad thing to happen to a child, sure, but this is telly land, they know how to make it seem like the best thing in the world. What you need to do... is buy them a dog... seriously... a wheelchair-assisting dog... and they'll be the most popular kid on the block. If they have a dog (and they live in telly land), it's like they're not even in the wheelchair, or even disabled in any way! This dog you buy (on your medical insurance of course) will do everything you ever need, in the advert, he bought the kid ice cream (with cash, I presume Wonderdog can't get a current account for a credit card), played baseball and even, at one point, seemed to be washing the dishes. And like all adverts, this product needs a tagline... what's the tagline for a dog that helps the disabled in any small way it can?

"With this dog, your kid will be the coolest kid around"

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Fuck the fact it'll be helping your child out, they'll be cooler than the Fonz with a dog about.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Detecting Gravity Waves? You Haven't got a Prayer. Here, Have a Boxful.

Last night's The Enemies Of Reason raised the bar somewhat for the standards of lunacy on TV today, but Channel Five are never ones to shirk from a challenge, unless that challenge involves not being rubbish. To this end, they put out a show tonight called A Very British Apocalypse, reasoning that shows called A Very British something are sometimes alright. Here is a quote from one of the more insane sects featured, whose particular contribution to the end-times is to pray into a little green box:

We actually store the prayer energy in a container... The reason we store the prayers is because this way we can have hundreds or thousands of man- or woman-hours of prayer stored up, and that way if there's a crisis... Take the tsunami... We actually responded to that faster than the government!

The BBC, not wanting to be left out of Crackpot Night, broadcast The Cosmos: A Beginner's Guide. I'm sure this is normally a very sensible show, but the fact is that tonight I was taught all about a project called Virgo, which is an experiment to measure gravity waves. This is a very ambitious project, not least because when Einstein first postulated such waves, he also calculated that they would be far too feeble to measure. Virgo is attempting to measure them anyway, and so far Einstein has done what comes naturally to him, and beaten the researchers every single time, and so tomorrow's researchers will be playing for £47,000. It should come as no surprise to anyone at all that this plan has failed. The theory is that gravity waves will alter the length of a 3km long tunnel by a distance Adam Hart Davis compared to a hydrogen nucleus. To put that into perspective... is impossible. It's too short. It is beyond the reach of metric units; beyond even the reach of metaphor. Even if you pick a very small thing, you still need to divide it down so far that the numbers become meaningless. The upshot of this is that the effects of any gravity waves that may pass by will be billions of billions times smaller than those of the vibrations caused by Douglas Adams spinning in his grave and demanding his title back.

Possibly I'm being unkind here, because I haven't read any of the literature on Virgo and I don't really know much about it, having never heard of it until tonight, but I know that while I was watching it and the woman presenting that part of the program was explaining what Virgo was hoping to achieve and how it planned to do it, I was thinking "well, that won't work," and then ten seconds later she explained that, no, indeed it didn't work. (Agreeing with Einstein is sort of a shortcut to being correct. Doesn't always work, but it's a good bet.)

With Dawkins' series finished, it was left to a small boy on Newsround to be the voice of reason for today's TV. A reporter asked him what it was about Hurricane Dean that had worried his family enough to make them cut their holiday short, and he told her that it was, "er, it hitting the hut and destroying everything."

Hard to fault his logic. Small boy for Prime Minister, I say!

You are an Enemy of Rea-Son! You Must Be Ex-TEEER-Minated!

One more thought on The Enemies Of Reason... Did anyone else think that famous homeopath Peter Fisher looks and sounds (mostly sounds) a lot like famous homeosexual Russell T Davis? Also, their respective brands of science fiction make approximately as much sense.

Annoyingly, I Can't Even Accuse Her of Being One Strand Short of a Double Helix

Last night, Channel 4 showed the second half of Richard Dawkins' The Enemies Of Reason, in which the esteemed professor didn't bother to demolish a variety of silly quack "medicines". As another blog said, "Today’s episode of the Enemies of Reason series has people promoting such odd theories that Dawkins only has to smile politely and give them enough rope..."

Here is my favourite, the first one in the show:

A woman who had played tape-recorded chanting and spoken a lot of nonsense about sunbeams and pearls told Dawkins (author, let's not forget, of The Selfish Gene, and whose website has a DNA molecule prominently on every page) that "most people's" DNA has two strands. Dawkins questioned her on this, so she dutifully explained that some people have a few more strands. This, apparently, is because "in Atlantis," (back in the day) "we had twelve, but since then... we've forgotten who we are". After that, she waved her hands about in a rather stupid way and acted as if this had boosted Dawkins' DNA to the full Atlantean dodecahelix.

An enormous pair of scissors has appeared in the sky directly above the laboratory...

Sunday, 19 August 2007

The Bad Kind Of Countdown

Two nights in a row. Two. Nights. Two nights the BBC have decided to not bother making proper programmes for BBC Three and have just let the newest un-paid intern at the office go crazy at lunchtime with a top 100 list of their choosing. You just know they thought this was their big break, they had to do an original countdown show! "100 Greatest Plants!" they'd think. "Top 50 Scandals in the North of England!" they'd counter. And, suddenly, whilst making the 48th cup of tea that morning; they had a masterstroke. "POP MUSIC!"

Billed as "an affectionate, light hearted countdown", "Most Annoying Pop Moments" (parts 1 & 2, apparently) on BBC Three is your cookie-cutter countdown show; with just about every part of the show being as generic as possible. The slightly-popular and rather annoying TV presenter is your host for the evening,Richard Bacon and his annoyingly smug voice taking control for the night. You've got commenter's a-plenty, but, as it's a BBC show, not only have you got your usual comedians so unfamous that even their mothers don't know why they are and journalists desperate to get on telly; but the range is just immense! Only the BBC could rake in so many people for one show they decide to give up finding people related for each entry and just get a musicologist (a what?) and a comedian that was once on Mock The Week to talk about how annoying G4 are; who, for those who are interested, are just missing the Top 20 at number 22, but I'm sure they'll be happier to know they're more annoying than Fergie's tits. The highlight of these "celebrities" has got to be 'Celebrity Stylist' Philip Bloch who, aside from being a stylist (obviously), a celebrity (more obviously) and randomly appearing on TV saying how annoying pop stars are on planes, seems to make a bit of extra cash starring in kids TV series Lazytown as Sportacus 10.

The most confusing part about the whole thing is, they seemed to have ran out of annoying things in pop by the time I started watching, just putting in random things that have happened in the world at some point that are pop related in some form. Another adjective and this whole thing wouldn't have become the head-baffling train wreck it ended up being. It really did just become "Most... Something To Do With Pop Moments" about halfway through. For example, in at number 25... Phil Spector Murders An Actress! I'm just struggling to comprehend how the BBC found so many people who upon reading the news that Spector had killed Lana Clarkson thought to themselves "Darn, well isn't that just annoying?" that they managed to get it to number 25. And worst still, the commenter's gave their thoughts and witty remarks with the compassion and sympathy of a wet sandwich. "And you know what the most tragic part of the whole case?" The needless death of a young woman? "His ker-azy wigs!" Oh. "He came into court once with a giant afro!" He also, y'know, killed a woman. "Maybe he put the murder weapon in his giant afro!" LOL! Who cares about the life of the dead woman, let's not bother commenting on her, "the reason he needs to go to prison? Those wigs..." Wow, how did this Entertainment Journalist not get a career as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court with logic like that? Light hearted subject indeed...

Other shining example of annoyance in pop. "Take That Re-Unite", yeah! Damn them for coming back and making one of the most popular pop albums of 2006! "The Sugababes never dying!", "Top of the Pops ending!", "Sexy Girls in Dance Videos!" featuring a comedian moaning how it's sexist and objectifying women. Woah woah woah! So you can get serious about girls in bikinis dancing about, but murder? That's a hilarious subject to joke about!

Then it got to Number 15, R Kelly's 'Trapped In The Closet' series. Stop right there! This isn't annoying, anyone who watches these will agree that this 'Hip-Hopera' is without a doubt the funniest thing on this planet. Is unintentional comedy all of a sudden an annoyance?

It was at this point I turned off, giving up on this pathetic excuse for filler. Not only was it rubbish, it wasn't even entertaining rubbish. I gave a sigh of relief, thinking I'd forever banished this crap from my TV... until the next day... oh look, it's on again! So for 2 and a half hours on a Sunday night, they had nothing to put on BBC Three so did a quick repeat of something that had last been on 24 hours ago. Maybe we should all band together and give the BBC some money so they can make TV shows for us or something...

If they have to repeat, Monkey Dust hasn't been on for more than a year, people might like to see repeats of that, it was funny. However, chances are, people aren't going to flip over to BBC Three and think "Oooh, this was good when I watched it yesterday, but since it's still so fresh in my memory... I'll watch it again!"

And so, watching again, wondering what the hell the Top 10 could be, it slowly became apparent that even the poor intern themselves had given up on his idea to make a fun, pop-based countdown and just started listing things they pointed at blindly in the Daily Mirror. The Top 10 was as follows...

In at 10... David Cameron! (Including, rather brilliantly, a man over 40 on a pop culture show saying "Men over 40 should not have any interest in pop culture")

Number 9... Lily Allen's career! That's right, her whole career!

Reaching number 8... Paul McCartney's hair!

Peaches Geldof annoys at number 7! Look! She's got a famous dad! How annoying!

Number 6... Various facets of Bono's life!

Reaching the Top 5... Pete Doherty... and his hat.

Reaching the Top 4... Britney Spears... and her vagina.

In at number 3... Joss Stone at the Brits, I never noticed what exactly happened there. Rather brilliantly, 3 of them talking about it fully said it wasn't annoying, they've started rebelling against the system!

Just missing the top spot... Robbie Williams gets help for addiction! So annoying when people try to get help!

And at the top spot... Alcoholic Amy Winehouse!

Stopped caring at around number 6 or so? Yeah, so did I, and I was watching the damn thing.