Friday, 27 July 2007

Producers of Frasier Admit Callers "Were Fake"

As part of an ongoing investigation into the recent phone-in scandals that have rocked the world of light entertainment, a major newspaper has contacted Grub Street Productions about the supposed callers in Frasier. They discovered that not one was a member of the viewing public, and that many of them were even celebrities. It has been suggested that the producers took some perverse pleasure in this. A spokesperson told that "there was never any chance of a viewer's call appearing on the show".

When asked how they would respond to people who had phoned in to the show hoping for psychiatric advice from Dr Crane, played by Kelsey Grammar, but could not get through to his show and now wanted a refund, their spokesperson was unsympathetic, saying that those people, if they exist, were delusional and should probably seek psychiatric advice.

Ofcom have issued a statement maintaining that fictional local radio shows that were broadcast only in America and aren't on any more do not fall under their remit.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Up! In the sky! It's Producer Man!

There are moments when I genuinely question the sanity of American television producers.

I can't say I watched a tremendous amount of television before I moved to Los Angeles. It became such that if I was sat in front of the TV for any amount of time that it was usually because I was watching Doctor Who or Torchwood. I still don't watch a lot of television here since moving out to the US, but when I do it is statistically likely that I'll be watching something of American origin.

This is not, strictly speaking, accurate. Since I arrived at Los Angeles International Airport I think I've watched more British television or television created by British people than I had in the UK the previous month. When you're sat in a house in LA, drinking tea and watching Jeeves & Wooster, you really begin to wonder if you've slipped into a parallel universe.

One of the channels that I have been keeping an eye on is the Scifi Channel. Being a huge Scifi fan, I like to keep check on what the channel is showing or what it will be showing. I recently discovered that Flash Gordon would be returning in a brand new television series, but that's not even the worst discovery I've made so far.

Upon browsing the Scifi Channel website, I discovered that they're running a Reality TV show called - you're going to love this - Who Wants To Be a Superhero? Ten people have to live as Superheroes of their own creation, wearing costumes they've made themselves, with the winning character becoming immortalised in a comic book.

Yeah. That's American television for you.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Street Wise

Browsing a Non-Specific TV Guide, I discover the storyline of tonight's Coronation Street (ITV1, 7.30pm)

"Blanche stakes out the Rovers toilets to trap the smoker"

Tense stuff!

Friday, 20 July 2007

Ad Hominem

You know what annoys me about adverts? When they cut them and edit them and change them about for no immediately apparent reason. I've seen an advert which, after running for a few weeks, underwent some kind of weird voiceover gender reassignment surgery, quite for no reason that I could see. Possibly it was done to make people notice the advert. It worked, although I couldn't tell you what the hell product it was for. The NatWest advert running at the moment has been changed, and a new, far inferior, "check the lining" sequence has been pasted over the original one, to create a pale imitation of the advert's previous glory. I've seen TV adverts translated into print adverts so poorly that the end result is nothing more than a statement of fact about the service, the phrase "that's better", and a photo of a woman of unclear relevance. (I'm looking at you, Direct Line.) I've seen countless rather good adverts cut down to a shorter length and lose all their meaning in the process — I think this is an attempt to, rather than show you the whole story again, simply jog your memory of having seen the real advert, so they can get the same effect in a shorter timeframe, much like showing you the end of an episode of Coupling without the build-up: you already know all the details, so it's not just a bunch of nutters claiming to be Dick Darlington. But this doesn't work, because in real life people really don't pay that much attention, and those that do will notice that your new advert is nonsense. Even the Sheila's Wheels advert is somehow more annoying in its shorter form, just because the structure of the song doesn't work properly any more. It jumps half a bar without so much as a key change. (I'm picky about these things.)

The other day this was taken to a new level. The Lotus advert that Steven (quite rightly) loathes so (first, let me point out that the lotus is a plant whose leaves are of scientific interest only for their unique inability to keep hold of water and therefore is a rather stupid thing after which to name a brand of paper towel) was cut down to nothing more than the spurious explanation of how the towels are full of tiny elephants which "shlurp" up all the water.

It's really hard to know where to draw the line between false advertising and averts which merely contain false claims about the product they advertise.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Dealing With Loss

I promise I watch other shows than daytime telly, but today I saw Win My Wage on Channel 4. It's on in the afternoons after Countdown, in the normal Deal Or No Deal slot. Yes, despite what it may seem like, Deal Or No Deal is in fact only on for 48 weeks of the year. Presumably Noel Edmonds needs the time off in order to go on a worldwide bad-shirt-buying spree. Shirts that bad can't be easy to amass. Probably he visits secluded tribal societies whose sacred writings tell of a fabric of unparallelled ghastliness that he might take back to his blind tailor.

Anyhow, Win My Wage. It's quite a surreal experience watching it. It's as if Channel 4 genuinely hopes that the viewers won't realise that Deal Or No Deal isn't actually on, and have therefore constructed a crude simulacrum to put in its place. There's one contestant who plays sat in a chair facing away from the audience, and some more people who face the audience concealing amounts of money that the contestant can win. The contestant chooses between these people, hoping to eliminate the smaller amounts in order to claim the top prize. The difference (and I use the singular purposefully) is that the amounts of money are on cards instead of in boxes, and represent the annual pay of the person concealing them. Host Nick Hancock (who has the same numbers of letters in his names as Noel Edmonds. Coincidence?) drip-feeds the contestant with information about the 'wage-earners' to help them inform the choice. The amounts of money in play are arranged on a vertical game-board that looks strikingly similar to something else I can't quite put my finger on. When three amounts remain, the contestant chooses the remaining wage-earner he or she thinks makes the most, a correct choice resulting in them winning that amount. Before they decide, they can take Nick's offer to play for a lower prize in return for being told what the three occupations are that the remaining wage-earners do between them.

Astute readers may have noticed that this final decision would be easiest (insofar as it's not just a blind guess coloured by prejudice) if the three amounts left are the original highest amount and two lowest amounts. So it's probably not in your best interests to just get rid of the lowest amounts, leaving you with a tricky choice between three people all earning similarly. But they still cheer the low amounts going and boo the higher ones, because that's what they do on that other show. That other show will be back in a month's time. Maybe nobody will have ever noticed.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

It's a Mystery

On Sunday I was working my weekend job at the pub. It was as quiet as anything, so I decided to put something on the big telly. After channel flipping a bit, I settled on a show I had never hear of before: Vanished (five, 10.10pm).

So, what is Vanished about? Essentially, it's Lost. But only one person is lost. Or should I say, one person has vanished. Whilst trying to find this lost vanished person, we get to see a number of flashback to try and find out who The Others Kidnapper is. If this wasn't enough, the show has it's own set of "cursed numbers" (9 and 29). The problem is, despite is being obvious what show it's riping off, it's actually better than Lost. I can imagine them in the writers room. "What should we call it? Misplaced? Stranded? Oh, I know!"

Why better? Well, because most of it makes sense. That's what I like in a drama... sure, mystery and conspiracy is fine, but as long as in the end it makes at least an ounce of sense. It's the sole reason why I like watching Jonathan Creek. When it first started, Lost appealed to me because I like a good mystery. Eventually, I realised that the show was never going to go anywhere as the writers were simply making it up as they wnt along and writing themselves into a corner with no means of escape, so they invent a monster or mircale hatch. But people still adamantly stand by their favourite mystery show claiming it's the best thing since slice bread. Well, Twin Peaks.

It's almost a shame that Vanished got cancelled in America, mainly because those darned U.S citizens didn't get to see the story conclude. Maybe they like mysteries that don't go anywhere. Hell, The X-Files lasted for about nine years, didn't it? It would also explain why their remake of Jonathan Creek lasted only the one episode. I don't really know what their game is. It really is a mystery.

But knowing the Americans, it'll never get solved.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Who'd Have Fort It?

I'm currently sitting in a hotel room in Denmark, watching the French (original) version of Fort Boyard with Danish subtitles. Fortunately, the premise is sufficiently obvious that the language barriers aren't causing me any major problems. I have even been able, using a combination of my incredible deductive mind and my almost uncanny grasp of French (I couldn't solve the wizard's riddle in the tower, so that tells you how much French I know), to work out the differences between this and the English version, and it really hammers home just how poor our version was.

The French version is, if I have inferred correctly, a clearly fantastic show worthy of counting The Crystal Maze among its offspring. Look, it even has a crystal in it:

The contestants are currently competing in little individual "duels" against oddly bemasked enemies. The duels are very silly tasks, but they win 15 seconds of time every time they win. I have no idea what this time is for, but it will surely involve collecting bits of tin foil from the air.

It also introduced the split-screen format later used by the first three series of real-time drama series 24. This was used because (apparently instead of the silly bit with keys at the start of our version) all the contestants must play in one long game, to get the aforementioned crystal. I saw one player, in a diving suit, reading some underwater instructions to another player, via radio, who had another part of the instructions, while some other players had to work to open a gate. Eventually, they all met up in the crystal room and collected it.

The dwarfs are present in both versions. The French one is also enhanced by apparently having the heterosexual male contestants wear blue t-shirts and the women and homosexual men wearing pink. I'm fairly sure one of them is a transexual.

It appears that importing French TV shows is not a good idea. A holiday to France introduced me to a show called Interville, in which two teams, from different towns, play games against each other and try to win a prize. There was exactly one good thing about the show, and that was the bull which terrorised the players while they were trying to perform some harmless task or other. This was removed for the British version, called Simply The Best.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

I Stand Corrected

So, I just watched Sing It Back: Lyric Champion 2007. It was quite good really.

Friday, 6 July 2007

ITV1's Summer Schedule

Looking good!

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Why is ITV so Unremittingly Awful?

Tonight on ITV1 there's a programme called Holiday Showdown Extreme. I can only assume this is like the old ITV show Holiday Showdown in which two mismatched families go with each other on both their summer holidays, only made more extreme. Seeing as the show previously consisted entirely of the two families having protracted blazing rows for the entirety of the show, I can only guess that this time they're being armed.

Holiday Showdown was occasionally quite amusing, but only by virtue of being a direct rip-off of Channel 4's Wife Swap. In both shows, two families who obviously are never going to get on (posh family/common family, hippy family/strict family, whatever) are put in stressful situations to provoke them into massive arguments, which we as viewers are invited to watch and laugh, feeling smugly superior.

Shamelessly lifting successful formats from other channels is of course something of an ITV mainstay. In the past few years we've also seen Dancing on Ice, Grease Is The Word, Tycoon, Fortune: Million Pound Giveaway, You Don't Know You're Born, For The Rest Of Your Life, Saturday Cooks and Primeval; rip-offs respectively of How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, The Apprentice, Dragons' Den, Who Do You Think You Are, Deal or No Deal, Saturday Kitchen and Doctor Who; hits respectively for BBC One, BBC Two (and now One), BBC Two, BBC Two, Channel 4, BBC Two, BBC One and BBC One.

The tactic is understandable though, since ITV seem to be singularly unable to come up with hit shows off their own back. What might help would be if they stopped scrapping programmes after two shows if they haven't instantly achieved massive ratings. (Interested readers may wish to witness this phenomenon firsthand by watching the optimistically titled Sing It Back: Lyric Champion 2007 which starts and quite possibly ends on Saturday.) So what can ITV do to become a force for television good? None of us wants more carbon copies of successful shows from other channels; we'd much prefer to just watch the original successful shows. They could try giving their new shows more of a chance to find an audience, but while this sounds good in concept, I'm not sure there are many instances where it actually would work. I mean, would any number of episodes of Celebrity Wrestling have made it into a piece of watchable entertainment? Now, there's only so many episodes of Harry Hill's TV Burp that a channel can sustain per year, so what to fill the remaining hours of airtime with? I haven't got any ideas. If you have, I invite you to submit them to the comments box. Or send them to ITV. They need all the help they can get.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

How Very Dare Who

Let's remind ourselves of the 1980's Doctor Who classic that is Peter Davison's finest hour: Earthshock Part 4. Here are the final twenty seconds...

[Adric has just driven a spaceship piloted by Cybermen into a pre-evolutionary Earth. The ship explodes and Adric is killed]

Oh dear. Poor Adric. How we will miss him.

[The Doctor turns around to see Magnum P.I]

What the fuck? It's Magnum P.I!

What is this place?!

Madness. Exactly. Why would the Doctor say a teary-eyed farewell to one of his companions, only to have the goodbye ruined by the sudden appearance of one of the biggest names in television just appearing in his ship? It's unheard of. Oddly, this is exactly what happened in last year's finalé of Doctor Who, where Catherine "Bovvered" Tate suddenly materialised in the time machine. Not the greatest introduction to a new character, but it seems Russell T. Davies can get away with anything. If he can't, he invents a Paradox Machine which explains it for him.

However, it appears that Russell has gone and "pulled a Russell", which I believe has the definition of "doing exactly what the majority of fans dont want you to do". He's gone and asked Catherine to be the Doctor's companion in the next series. Clever. No doubt we're in for thirteen episodes of high-tension drama which involves hilarious hidden catchphrases.

Why stop there? We at Channel Flip have managed to obtain all of Series Four's storylines for Doctor Who! Here they are, for your pleasure:

"I Want That One": The Doctor and Donna have to fight a bunch of wheelchair-using bald clones. Little do they know that the alien race actually have full use of their legs! What hilarity.

"Smith and Slob": After defeating a council estate, The Doctor has to overcome the power of the chav whilst fighting off two chubby idiots called Wayne and Waynetta.

This Cyberparrot has been deleted. It is an ex-Cyberparrot.

"Return of the GameStation":
The Doctor finds himself stranded on the GameStation. That's Numberwang!

I don't know about you, but I can't wait.

Let's hope this is the last Doctor Who blog post for a while.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Oh No! The Master Has Cannibalised an Old Red Dwarf Script and Turned It Into a Plot Hole!

As much as I hate to disagree with the fountain of modern wisdom that is The Times' Catlin Moran, who is it who keeps letting Russell T Davis write the Doctor Who finales? Whoever it is, they're an idiot. I mean, let's just have a look back here. In series one, the Earth was largely controlled from the Gamestation, which promptly turned out to be Dalek run, then the Daleks conquered the Earth, and then, moments from the end, the Daleks were destroyed by Rose, in an almost literally Deus Ex Machina way. In series two, you may recall, the Earth was transfixed by a load of ghosts, which promptly turned out to be Cybermen, then the Daleks conquered the Earth, and then, moments from the end, the Daleks were destroyed by The Doctor by pulling a lever. In series three, the Prime Minister promptly turned out to be the Master, then a race which are basically Daleks conquered the Earth, and then the pseudo-Daleks were destroyed by The Doctor in what can only be described as a Deus Via Machina way. Is anybody else spotting a pattern here? Does it have to be Earth that's under threat? I think The Satan Pit was "big" enough to make a blinding series finale, and one that didn't conform to the above pattern.

I think this year's finale has a lot to answer for. It stuck like glue to the formula laid out by the last two years, and it added a whole load of plot holes and lazy cop-outs. The two biggest such cop-outs are intrinsically linked. The first was the "paradox machine". It's not what I'd call a clever bit of writing, but I didn't mind it at first. We don't really know what a TARDIS is or how it works, so the idea that it could sustain a paradox is within the realms of what I'm prepared to accept. But its real crime wasn't clear until later.

The Red Dwarf episodes "White Hole" and "The Inquisitor" both ended the same way: the eponymous phenomenon was eventually conned into undoing the whole episode. This is a fairly unsatisfactory sounding ending, so it must be treated with care. Anyone who has listened to all four commentaries on the Hot Fuzz DVD will know that a good writer will introduce the eventual resolution to the plot as early on as possible. The White Hole was making time skip about randomly from the beginning, and The Inquisitor was all about deleting things from the past. The "It Never Happened" conclusion was not so much a cop-out as it was inevitable.

I can only assume that the "paradox machine" was an attempt to do this (as well as a clue as to the "Toclafane's" true identity). It was introduced nice and early, and it saved the day. But to my mind, it didn't set up the ending nearly well enough. Aside from anything else, we know that paradoxes can exist in the Doctor Who universe (which I refuse to refer to as the "whoniverse"); they are merely accompanied by a horde of wingéd black gargoyle-looking creatures. You don't need a TARDIS to keep them up; just a giant strip of flypaper and something suitably old to hide behind (such as most of the script — for the record, "there was a really bad year where almost everyone died because of machines with human brains inside them but it's okay because it never happened really" is a plotline that was used in Star Trek Voyager a decade ago, and The Inquisitor turned the hero into an old man in his bid to survive five years before that).

In The Inquisitor, the ending was inevitable because it was the natural conclusion of the preceding events. In Last Of The Time Lords, the ending was inevitable because Davis had clearly written himself into another corner and we all know he's far too much of a softie to allow the episode to end with the Earth practically in ruins.

In fairness to Davis, he's done a good job getting Who back onto TV, and he's been good at setting up storyarcs and setting a coherent and engaging long-term plot. But in general, I don't like episodes he writes as much as the ones other people write. Steven Moffat can produce something as good as Blink with 45 minutes and a strict instruction not to tie up David Tennant's filming schedule (bear in mind that when Davis was given this same brief he wandered off and wrote the almost universally hated Love And Monsters), and Russel T Davis can't produce a good plot given six months of buildup, the lion's share of the effects budget, and two and a half hours of screen time. If the BBC really want people to watch Doctor Who, then they should give the big important episodes that lots of people will watch to the most competent writers, and so far I don't think that means Davis.

Though well done to him for making the "gun in four parts" plot a red herring. That would have been just stupid. Silly Master, falling for a trick like that.

What's On This Week - 2nd to 8th July

After a week in which many of the must-watch or even just slightly interesting shows of mine ended; the finishing on a rubbish note Doctor Who, the surprisingly excellent Talk To Me and the not that interesting yet still oddly unmissable Seven Ages Of Rock all coming to mind, the next week of TV brings a mix of some interesting, if not essential, shows, yet another massive concert that will destroy more of the environment than it’ll save, and most importantly, the return of a simply superb comedy. Time to grab the Radio Times and see what is worth watching this week.

Wimbledon continues to take a huge bite out of the BBC for the second, and luckily final week ending on Sunday and being annoying until then. Big Brother does the same for Channel 4 and E4 but unfortunately does not terminate on the same day, unless it’s dire ratings become even worse. The Saving Planet Earth series takes a smaller bite with it’s half hour shows every day till Friday, in which a celebrity of some kind makes some noise about an endangered animal; coupled with a marathon live show which lasts pretty much all evening on Friday (think Children In Need without Terry Wogan getting paid) hosted by Alan Titchmarsh and Graham Norton (the new Ant ‘n’ Dec) where they’ll be presenting music from such animal activists as Natasha Bedingfield and Avril Lavigne. Let’s hope Avril’s singing will distract at least one hunter enough so a tiger can avoid being skinned or mounted and go on to live a happy life killing deer, cause that’s the only way I can think that Miss Lavigne constantly singing “Hey” and “You” as well as a bit of “I don’t like your girlfriend” will help the environment, but what do I know, Keane will be personally stopping the polar ice caps from melting on Saturday.

Monday brings nothing of interest unless you like repeats. Eastenders looks to have a powerhouse of an episode in which “Peggy lays on a spread to entice punters through the door at the grand re-opening of the Queen Vic”. If this was Carry On Barbara Windsor then that storyline would be ripe for some innuendo-filled shenanigans, but as it is, Eastenders Barbara Windsor is probably just doing some food, in which case the episode is probably gonna be a bore-fest. Shrink Wrap on Channel 4 continues the theory that you can’t just have a normal talk-show anymore, this one has Pamela Connolly (nee Stephenson) put her Psychology degree to use and front a show that plans to get deep into the mind of their guest… Sharon Osbourne. Coupled with 24 Hours with…, me thinks chat shows are getting too deep now, I just wanna hear Peter Kay tell a funny story and something about his past, not whether the psychological pains of growing up in Bolton mentally scarred him for life. On the digitals, we’ve got a new episode of the terrible Touch Me, I’m Karen Taylor and a new series of Britain’s Next Top Model on Living, if you want to look at some marginally attractive skinny women.

The One To Watch: Crimewatch – Purely cause you might win some money if your mate flashes up on the screen robbing a house.

The only thing that really matters on Tuesday is the return of The Thick Of It, an absolutely brilliant comedy on BBC Four, back for a one hour special. I’m not gonna say much, just watch it. There’s literally nothing else of interest on. Lenny’s Britain is alright but is on at 9, so clashes with The Thick Of It, but it’s worth a record I suppose, he’s not as funny as he used to be. Two new Family Guy episodes show up on BBC Three if you haven’t downloaded them already. A documentary on Jack The Ripper gets an extremely odd presenter in the form of Vic Reeves on Sky One whilst BBC 2 hosts Paris, a documentary about the city, not the whore.

The One To Watch: The Thick Of It – Not only cause it’s brilliant, but there’s also nothing else on.

BBC 2 continues it’s rush to get Rome over and done with before the ratings slide too much, with this Wednesday being 3 weeks since it started and already halfway through. Shame really, it’s actually pretty good. BBC One has both The Real Cherie Blair (we’re all dying to know the real gurning witch with shit hair, aren’t we?) and also the final Imagine…, which details was Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett of Gorillaz fame did next. It involves China, opera, and the classic TV show Monkey. BBC Three shows Tomb Raider for the second time this week for some reason. E4 has Runaway and Living has Boston Legal, two American imports I’ve planned to give time to but never have, so are going to be my nights watching.

The One To Watch: Marcus Brigstoke’s Trophy People – Cause he’s usually pretty funny… even with Trevor McDonald.

Something big happens on Eastenders on Thursday, hopefully without a spread. I don’t know exactly what, I stopped caring a quarter of the way through the synopsis, but it got to be one of Today’s Choices in the Radio Times so it must be big. Straight after is The Big Day, which I’m only watching because my mum is in it, and I’ll be killed If I miss it. Holiday Showdown Extreme sounds fun to me because it conjures up a mental image of a family from Stoke running down a sunny beach in Majorca wielding Samurai swords, but the actual show will probably be a lot more sedate. Elsewhere, Scrubs will be nice if it hasn’t been on your hard drive for months, E4 really are terrible at bringing Scrubs overseas at any sort of quick speed, this episode two days shy of being 7 months late. Still, it’s a cracker, and ends even more lovey-dovey than usual for an episode of Scrubs.

The One To Watch: The Hampton Court Palace Flower Show – Seriously, can you get any more gripping than finding out how they change a garden pond into an aquatic paradise?! Yes, yes you can, on Five at the same time in fact, House is on.

Friday will mark a departure to the usual Friday night watching schedule for me; Paula Abdul is on The Friday Night Project. A horrible show, but that Paula Abdul likes a drink, especially before she does something that people will actually watch. See here for what I mean. Apart from that, there’s the usual Big Brother dominance on Channel 4 and the aforementioned Saving Planet Earth-athon on BBC One, with a Doctor Who repeat on BBC Three for those who are still confused as I am about the whole blandness of the finale. Also on the digitals is America’s got Talent, some more Glastonbury on BBC Four, and very little else.

The One to Watch: Inside… Spontaneous Human Combustion – Sky One really do know how to make the most serious of documentaries.

The second huge televised concert in a row takes over most of Saturday, with Live Earth starting at 5 and ending at 4am altogether, showing bits from around the world, along with the usual VT every 15 minutes on how to save the earth by taking out your charger from the plug socket, turning off your lights and not kicking endangered birds with a big leather boot when you see them. That takes over BBC One and 2 (also HD), Three and Four pretty much relegated to showing repeats. Channel 4 gives up without much of a fight for the ratings by showing the 100 Greatest War films, ITV puts up a bit of a fight with Harry Potter stuff, and a new series in which the public battle to become Lyric Champion 2007 or something odd like that, the kind of show that makes you want to become a TV show pitcher, if this really is the best idea the professionals can think of.

The One to Watch: Al Gore and His Ego – Not a programme, but just watch his smugness level rise every time he comes on stage at Live Earth; I predict a crown on his head made of recycled cans by 9pm, a velvet robe with energy-saving light bulbs spelling out “Al Gore Is The King Of the Earth” on his back by 10, and a throne that is pulled by actual penguins by the time of his final speech.

And to finish of the week with Sunday… nothing, absolutely nothing is worth particularly noteworthy. Repeats? Yet another episode of Rome? F1? Tour De France? Heartbeat? Anyone? Hello?