Thursday, 30 August 2007


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.

The Eggs Factor

Lately I've been watching Kitchen Criminals. It's an ingenious show, despite basically being two chefs taking on a crew of utterly hopeless cooks and trying to make them into very good cooks in a fantastically truncated timeframe. That's been done lots of times, of course, and the difference here is that the instructors are in competition with each other, and to help with this they have chosen the most hopeless cooks possible for each other to train.

To do this, the chefs went around the country inviting people to bring in some of their cooking. Then they'd say the cooking was crap and select a few for the next round of auditions, where they chose the dish for the hopeless cooks to prepare. Whoever managed to make the biggest hash of making two very simple meals went through to "boot camp" which starts on Monday. The more astute of you and those who read the title of this post will have spotted that this format is lifted in its entirety from The X Factor.

My favourite part of The X Factor is the early audition shows, where I watch the judges (except Sharon) demolishing people's delusions like some kind of manufactured pop-Dawkins and then watch the contestants rationalise it by convincing themselves (and nobody else) that the judges they came all that way to audition for are "shit" anyway. (See also: the dowser on the real Dawkins' The Enemies Of Reason who explained that the double-blind experiment to test his dowsing ability had failed because “[God was] ’avin’ a laugh”.) This part of Kitchen Criminals is now over. The upcoming early stages of boot camp will likely be better than The X-Factor's equivalent shows because the surviving contestants are still all totally hopeless. This is a clever tweak to an established format which ought to improve it, much like removing the first three questions from Millionaire. (I say this purely as revenge for Paul's "blog favourite" quip the other day.) After that, the remainder of Kitchen Criminals is presumably hoping that I will grow to care about the contestants and instructors and I will have an emotional investment in discovering who wins when my amusement at their incompetence is gone. Personally, I hope that the contestants stubbornly refuse to learn, and continue to come up with recipes such as Microwave Meal, Pie Sandwich, and Leftovers Bolognese.

Nature has the X-Factor!

You can vote for anything on telly nowadays. Outside of your usual voting for your favourite wannabe from a list of wannabes to win Big Brother and your favourite warbler from a list of warblers to win X-Factor, there's been vote for your favourite Briton from a list of Britons, vote for your favourite comedy from a list of comedies, vote for your favourite x from a list of x (replace x with any Channel 4 "100 Greatest..." subject) and, bringing it nearly full circle vote from your favourite classical singer from a list of classical singers. This is for your hypocritical, up-market audience who wouldn't dare watch mainstream TV (it was on BBC Four, natch); the kind who one moment publicly moan about a show that humiliates a singer who is desperate for attention and stardom each week by voting them off till they find the best of the lot and give them a recording contract and a one-hit wonder... then immediately turn around and watch a show that humiliates a singer who is desperate for attention and stardom each week by voting them off till they find the best of the lot and give them a recording contract and a one-hit wonder... BUT, all the while screaming in their heads "IT'S CLASSICAL... AND ON BBC FOUR! THIS IS NOT JUST X-FACTOR FOR THE POMPUS ELITE".

But there's a show on for the next couple of weeks that manages to take this oft-used form of reality TV and place it with a subject so wrong, so boring and so pointless; it's almost as if the channel it's airing on has ran out of ideas of what to make, so have just starting coming out with concepts chosen out of a hat (Sunday, 8pm, ITV1... no surprise there).

Now, i'll admit I've yet to watch an episode of this show, but the title "Britain's Favourite View" did enough to send me into a fit of anger. Yes, out of the billions upon billions of views we can experience in these lovely Isles of ours, ITV is asking us to vote for the best. Unfortunately, from the episode description, my thoughts of the view of watching an already depressed and late office worker run after a bus, desperate to make the driver stop so he can make it to work on time so he doesn't get the sack from yet another job, then giving up and slowly sobbing on the pavement whilst curled up in a ball, seemed to have been disqualified already in favour of the kind of view a hiker would like as they stand on a hill and look at another hill and go "oooh, isn't that hill green Mavis?" whilst Mavis wonders why she married Bob the hiker over that punk rebel she felt a raw, animal lust for in the 60's.

In actuality, the show, hosted by Sir Trevor McDonald who still seems to be trying to find something he's good at besides reading the news (I think we can all safely assume he's crossed out Comedian from his list of maybes) flies over the countryside in a helicopter (and in this day and age, makes him ripe for criticism with the words 'carbon', 'footprint' and 'destroying the nature you're presenting' involved) as dazzling celebrities such as that one from Corrie, that Lib Dem with a drinking problem and the unfunny presenter with no neck from Whose Line Is It Anyway? (remember, you can't spell 'ITV reality show' without the word 'celebrity') presumably present their favourite views to Britain. Then I guess we have to vote which is the loveliest, at which point it'll probably win £100,000 and a recording contract... or the promise that it won't be paved over to make a super-duper shopping centre in the next year or so.

As someone who doesn't have much appreciation for the beauty of nature (you've seen one hill, you've seen them all...), I presume that just about every view will be described thusly: "look at all those trees, and the sky, this view has got sky, I know technically there's sky wherever I go in the world, but still, this sky is better. And Look! Water! The stuff that comes out of taps but in some sort of pool!". Maybe I'm a cynic, but I just can't see how that makes for enticing television.

Still, I'll be watching, I've got a tenner on Lake Windermere...

Dead Ringer for Loathe

Earlier, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire started it's nineteenth year on television. Paul's already talked about the new format and how rubbish it is. Sadly, I have nothing to add to this because Millionaire isn't on my top ten shows to rush home from work for. I did, however, watch today's episode. Possibly because it was showing on the giant TV screen at my pub. This aside, I couldn't help but notice they had one of my idols playing: Jon Culshaw.

Jon Culshaw, in case you didn't know, does impressions. He's been doing them for some time. He's also very good at these impressions, so much so he was given his own ITV1 program which showcased these. He also voices some cartoon about snails on CBBC, but I shan't go into this.

The thing is, Jon Culshaw is a very funny guy when he is mimicing others. Parodies of Tony Blair's speeches: funny. Spoofing Steve Irwin at a Tesco: funny. Impression of Tom Baker on the London Eye: hilarious. The problem is, Culshaw is only funny when he's pretending to be somebody else.

A few months ago, I caught him on a repeat Never Mind the Buzzcocks (BBC2). All he did was sit there agreeing with the panel, and occasionally doing a Tony Blair impression, much to the chagrin of whichever guest host was presenting that episode. The problem is, TV shows try to book Jon Culshaw because they know him as the funny man from Dead Ringers. Sadly, as himself, he is a little boring to watch.

To make up for this, a lot of shows which book him as a guest try and fill up the half hour with him doing impressions of people... but when it isn't planned, there's not a lot of humour that can be derived from just somebody's voice.

Culshaw is a talented man, and still one of my favourite people in the world, but leave his airtime just for his hilarious impersonations.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Not Like This I Don't

I just watched the first episode of the new revised Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? on ITV1. Christ, it was dismal. I shall now list the things that are wrong about it:
  1. The theme music has had an infuriating dance beat pasted over it. Like almost all of the new changes, this has clearly been done only because they thought this aspect of the show needed changing somehow since they were changing things anyway, and this was the only way they could think of to change it. It is much worse.
  2. The title sequence is dismal. It's got all the new amounts of money in it. At the end the big circular logo jumps about so you can read the 'Who Wants To Be A' bit at the top. You know, in case you were a simpleton who didn't know what the programme was called.
  3. The graphics have been uglified. They look like you would expect the graphics to look on a sketch show that was doing a Millionaire bit and didn't have the rights to use the proper graphics so had to knock some up in a day to use instead.
  4. The new prize amounts are boring and are all just stolen from Deal Or No Deal (anyone who says you can't steal a number is lying). And they're all round numbers so there's no good subtraction going on anymore ("You've just lost two hundred and eighteen thousand pounds").
  5. The Knorr sponsorship ads were broken and kept going all fuzzy and screechy.
  6. Despite having got rid of the easy questions, they don't seem to get through any more of the difficult ones in the hour.
  7. It's on after The X Factor. This isn't strictly new, but is worth mentioning anyway.
For comparison, here is a list of things which were better:

  1. They didn't do the text game.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Is It Because I Eat Rubbish And Never Exercise?

You know what I’ve realised spending a few days living alone? TV is great.

Earlier today I watched Honey I’m Killing The Kids, which used Science to prove that a family’s son would grow a beard. The equivalent picture of the daughter was described by the parents as “gobby”. One of the rules was the family was allowed only two hours of TV a night. Here’s some genuine dialogue of the mother trying to convince the daughter not to get pregnant...

“ it in’t all that, in’t sex.”
“Well, for you, wi’ Gary...”
“Really. I can think o’far more interesting things to do... with my time. Read a book, watch a bit of telly... But no more than two hours, obviously...”

It’s terribly entertaining, as is BBC’s ingenious new show Kitchen Criminals, which is, if I’m honest, nothing more than The X-Factor with food. Both shows suffer from the BBC’s apparent ignorance that they don't show adverts: every few minutes there’s a musical sting and the logo appears, and then the announcer will recap what's going on for people who tuned in during the imaginary commercial break. Possibly this is done for the benefit of UKTV.

Right now I’m watching BBC Three’s brilliant Is It Because I Is Black?, where Adil, a Muslim DJ, Karl, an Average White Guy (the “control”), and a wheelchair-bound comedian who Adil just referred to as “Disabled Dave” compete to get preferential treatment from companies and members of the public. For the record, the Muslim fared worse than the control, and the wheelchair user did much, much better. I love it. It’s delightfully anti-PC. So far, possibly on purpose, David has been described as a “stand-up” who is “walking” the challenges. (“So off we trot,” says Adil, “well, except Dave, obviously.”) Also well done to it for being an hour-long programme without using the phrase “political correctness gone mad” even once, which puts it about a million points ahead of Richard & Judy.

I think I might have to get myself a wheelchair. They’re fantastic. They make people lovely.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Top Five Thursday #1

Welcome to the first Top Five Thursday. This week, I'm looking at the Top Five Discussion Topics for Jeremy Kyle this week (ITV1, Weekdays, 9.25am)

  1. "If I Stop Drinking and Hitting You, Will You Take Me Back?"
  2. "Is My Parner Ignoring Me Because I Slept With His Mate?"
  3. "Can I Marry A Man Who's Lost Half A Million Pounds Gambling?
  4. "Should I Let My Dad Back In My Life?"
  5. "My Jealous Daughter Has Stopped Me Seeing My Grandchildren!"

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Can I Poke a Friend on Facebook, Chris?

A new series of blog favourite Deal or No Deal started on Monday. (I use the phrase 'blog favourite' only to annoy everyone else who contributes to this blog.) I found it slightly disturbing watching it really. You see, I occasionally have dreams where I'm watching TV shows, and these shows are invariably different in subtle, slightly freaky ways. These are really astonishingly mundane dreams, but that's not the point. The point is that Deal* has been made slightly different in largely the same way. These are not changes what would concern any normal person - the set is slightly new, the opening credits are a bit different, some new incidental music, and the phone-in competition has been changed to appease ICSTIS (see How Dare You Mislead The Very Stupid? below) - but they concern me. Why can't everything just stay exactly the same?

In a move desired to drive lovers of routine and of slightly tired game show formats to nervous breakdowns, the same has been done to ITV1's premiere quizzer Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, only, this being ITV1, they've done it to a much less forgiveable degree. When Millionaire* returns on Saturday (with a special celebrity edition of course; this is ITV1) some changes will be afoot. Most notably, contestants will only have to answer 12 questions to win the prize. Cleverly, this has been accomplished by removing the first three questions that are pathetically easy anyway, so that the first question is now worth £500. Hopefully, this has been done with an eye to getting through more contestants and more interesting questions, but a more worrying and likely scenario is that it is so the show can be padded out with more crap like the 'text game' that has blighted recent series.

Not content with this change, the middle rungs of the money ladder have also been messed with. instead of the pleasingly mathematical-looking £4k-£8k-£16k-£32k-£64k-£125k-£250k-£500k-£1m, it will apparently proceed: £5k-£10k-£20k-£50k-£75k-£150k-£250k-£500k-£1m. While I can see some kind of logic in switching things around to put a smaller increase after the last milestone (now £50k) where there's no effective risk anyway, this clearly is just change for change's sake. It's wrong. I'm personally too old to be said to have grown up with Millionaire, but I assume kids today are born with an innate knowledge of the rules of the show in the same way I was with The Crystal Maze or Family Fortunes. I'm sure ITV1 will say they're trying to 'refresh the format' and 'shake things up', and the falling viewing figures may seem to justify this. That's all well and good with The X Factor. But there's a higher responsibility here. ITV are messing with our culture! (More specifically, 2waytraffic are, having recently bought the rights to the format from creators Celador. Just so you know who to write in to.) I frankly don't care if their viewing figures fall to three people and their pets. This sort of fiddling isn't going to help. Neither is finding contestants by audition as is now going to happen - it would take an entire new rant to cover what's wrong with that.

So stop it, ITV. Stop being useless. Please.

*Why anyone uses abbreviations like DoND and WWTBAM is beyond me. Look how stylish I look referring to Deal and Millionaire like that. Lovely.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Paul No Grady

Well done ITV1. In order to make sure viewers feel comfortable with the timeslot Paul O Grady left when he moved to channel 4, you've decided to give the campest man on your network his own hour-long show where he basically dies on his own arse.

That Anthony Cotton Show (Weekdays 5pm, ITV1) has just finished it's first airing. Not my own choice of watching, but since starting this blog I've started to give new shows a chance. His style of interviewing is original, if not odd. Instead of talking with the B-List celebrities about future projects, he muses about their life and tells them his favourite projects that they've been in. There's your typical "banter-with-the-audience" section, where a few members have gifts for Anthony, and it's up to the audience to decide which gift will be diplayed on Anthony's "nik nak shelf". I swear to you the following dialogue occured:

Anthony: "So, which gift should go on my shelf? The cake, the sphinx or the foot-warmer?"
Audience: "The sphinx!"
Anthony: "Well, I didn't like the sphinx. Should I take the cake?"
Audience: "Yeah! The cake!"

Oh brilliant. We've got an audience full of nodding dogs.

Near the end of the show, we have our typical family-show messing around at the end. Here, we had a nudist painting who printed up a flower by painting her body parts. It must state somewhere in Anthony's contract that he must say something every fifteen seconds, because he wasn't letting the poor woman have a word in edgeways, simply by repeating the last two words of everything she said.

Painter: "And I use non-toxic paint"
Anthony: "Non-toxic paint.."
Painter: "For the petals I paint my forearms"
Anthony: "Forearms, yes..."
Painter: "And for the centre, I'll have to improvise"
Anthony: "Improvise, of course."

It got to the point where I was able to predict what he'd say next at the same time of which he said it. It's quite an odd interview style.

Paul O Grady he isn't, but I must say the show was entertaining... albeit for the wrong reasons.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Ghosts in the Machine

Last night I saw part of a quite delightful programme called Ghosts Caught on Tape: Fact or Fiction?, on obscure digital-only fringe channel Zone Reality. The show was essentially nothing more than a succession of amateurish looking videos, all claiming to show ghosts. These were paraded, one by one before first the viewer, and then a group of experts who all dutifully pointed out that the videos were probably the most feeble attempts to prove anything since the Ontological Argument. There was one where the ghost moved quickly down a flight of stairs, but did so in front of the banister and in perfect synchrony with the movements of the camera, which the presenter seemed to find entirely convincing. There was one made by some students, on purpose, using video-editing software. They'd essentially done nothing very complicated, and the programme makers were clearly stringing out the interview to make it seem like a long, complex process was needed to make such an obviously convincing video -- at one point one of the students told the viewer that the part that had taken longest was "making the effects look right".

Another video showed a large dark patch which moved in a slightly odd way. It then panned round to show the same patch in mirror, which the announced claimed "proves it isn't an artifact", because an 'artifact' would of course have not appeared in a mirror. One of the experts immediately pointed out (in as many words) that that wasn't true and they moved on to the next video. This went on until we grew tired of it, and then presumably some more time.

As long as nobody took it seriously, I love this kind of show. If anyone did take it seriously, they probably need locking up somewhere soft but secure.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Advertising Space

Earlier this week, Andrew noted an interesting theory about ITV's detective shows. It's a shame that the same theory can go for BBC comedy.

If you succesfully pitch a sitcom to the BBC, there's one of two things that will happen. It will either air on the main two channels at a late slot on a weeknight and get no advertising, or it'll air Prime Time on a digital channel and get lashing of advertisement goodness. I've been lucky to be able to find out, all on my own, about Still Game (BBC2, Thursdays at 10pm) and Not Going Out (which at the moment is Not Currently Airing, but I'll tell you when it is). These are two brilliant sitcoms with plenty of wit and humour, but not enough recognition.

On the opposite end of the scale, we have dismal The Visit (BBC3) and Grownups (also BBC3) whose adverts seem to be getting more airtime on BBC3 than the regular news updates. There's definately something wrong with that.

The problem is that the BBC are too busy advertising sitcoms on their channel that are genuinely rubbish, and never advertise the well-written ones. The latter includes all the American imports they tried to air when the Simpsons was taken off their channel. I'm just shocked that Grownups got a second series. It truly is rank.

How Dare You Mislead The Very Stupid?

I read today that Deal Or No Deal's phone in competition has landed the producers with a hefty fine because "some viewers of the Noel Edmonds-hosted show may have been induced to take part because they thought it was broadcast live, whereas it was actually pre-recorded".

And maybe they could have, but those viewers would have to be quite monumentally stupid. Because they watch Noel in his bad shirt refer to the winning caller whose name is on the screen now while carefully avoiding using the caller's name or any personal pronouns, a blindingly obvious sign of a pre-recorded show, but perhaps not as blindingly obvious as that time the newspapers reported the results of the quiz days before it was on TV. And they see him, wearing the same bad shirt, ask an audience member to pick a box and then have it opened and then he reads out the amount of money. Nobody could possibly think this is a live broadcast, and if they do they are so stupid that Channel 4 probably should have their money because they're likely to put it to better use.

And in any case, even if the boxed sums of money were predictable, given the right information, they were still random, so nobody has been misled. Besides which, at no point have Channel 4 ever pretended the show is live, and at no point did anyone claim the contents of the selected box weren't known -- except people in the pre-recorded show, who genuinely didn't know what they were.

Essentially, this is a rather chilling precedent: producers are now liable for the consequences of any insane nonsense that morons may choose to infer about their shows. I think I shall sue the producers of Heroes because I may have been induced to panic because I thought it was true, whereas it was actually fiction.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

42 Minutes Until We Crash Into The Sun

[I suppose I should say that the following article may contain spoilers for Doctor Who. However, all of these said spoilers have been debunked by various staff members, so marking them as "spoilers" would be a bit redudant.]

This week, comic of all tabloid The Sun appear to have ran out of news to report and starting making up stories. Again. Sadly, the majority of these stories seem to be all about Doctor Who. Within the space of three days we've had James Nesbitt confirmed as the Eleventh Doctor and Ben Kingsley confirmed as Davros. Also, within those same three days, we've had both rumours debunked.

However, this isn't the first time that the Doctor Who production team have denied rumours which originated from The Sun. "Christopher Eccleston to quit after one season!" was a headline denied by Russell T. Davies, and then confirmed a week later.

"Daleks to fight Cybermen in Season 2 Finalé!" shouted the tabloid from the rooftops. "Poppycock!" replied fans and staff, but again, this happened.

"Kylie Minogue in Christmas Episode!" they reported. "What?" screams Russell, "it takes two years to book her!". It then turns out that Russell booked her about two years ago.

I love how everybody debunks all the Doctor Who news reported in The Sun to be nothing but rubbish and fantasy, but they obviously have some sort of leak at the BBC. I think it's Moffat that leaks these stories. Cheeky minx that he is.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Frost Among Equals

Some time ago I noticed a bit of a pattern emerging in ITV's programming and since I've just found a new programme which follows it roughly to the letter, I think it's well worth spelling it out for anyone who hasn't yet noticed. Here's how it works:
  1. Find a famous actor. Ideally one known mostly for one or two really iconic roles.
  2. Put them in a slightly over-long detective show.
  3. Surround them by minor characters too stupid to solve even the simplest cases on their own.
  4. Give it a name slightly more pretentious that the last one.
  5. Tell no-one.
So this started, as far as I'm aware, with David Jason (whose big iconic role, of course, was the parrot in Victor And Hugo) in A Touch Of Frost, which ITV now use mostly to plaster over cracks in their scheduling. Next, possibly skipping over a dozen or so that I never heard about or watched, comes Robson Green (whose iconic role was playing Robson in Robson And Jerome) in Touching Evil, then Jericho starring Robert Lindsay, and that was followed up by Eleventh Hour starring Patrick Stewart.

And now Robson Green is back, in Wire In The Blood which Wikipedia tells me has run since 2002 but apparently nobody bothered to tell me, thus robbing me of the opportunity to tire of it aged 19 instead of tiring of it aged 24 when Heroes appeared and took over its slot, but equally granting me the chance to learn the word "nocebo" about a week earlier than I otherwise would have.

I can only presume that there are loads more of these programmes out there. I'd never heard of Touching Evil until now and had Wire In The Blood run for three or fewer series I'd never have heard of that either. I can only assume that while ITV are happy to advertise Coronation Street, a show which everyone in the world knows exists and must by now either watch or be bored of (or both), they don't like to advertise their slightly over-long detective shows featuring respected actors (or Robson Green). Which seems odd to me, because they're about the only thing ITV can do passably well. (That said, if they will insist on showing it opposite Heroes, advertising it would probably be a lot like throwing money down a big hole.)