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:


- 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.


- 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.