Friday, 21 September 2007


Hello. I've been off in Spanish Spain for a week or so hence the lack of blogitude. Sadly I was having far too good a time to watch much Spanish tv. Here are three tapas-sized factettes about what I did watch:-

  • The 'noticias', the news, usually has thumping bassy music all the way through, like off of Radio 1;
  • Spanish current affairs and discussion shows are mainly presented by forty- and fifty-something women, something you never see here;
  • German MTV, always piped into hotels for some reason, has ten-minute breaks full of the same mobile ringtone ads on a loop. Literally one full minute long ad, then another, then the first one again. Times five. And, by the way, why is it just MTV for our German friends? UK viewers get CNN and, in the poncey hotel I was in, CNBC. News and that, not pulpy pop. Hmmm...

OK, so to the title of this blethering. A friend of mine is a big fan of Deadwood, the cowboy thing with him off of Lovejoy and lots of horseys, wooden houses, dirt, swearing and stuff.

I tried to watch this once and failed dismally. I thought it was my general dislike of costume drama - ie I managed five minutes of Vanity Fair or that one with D'Arcy in it. But, no, it's not.

I can't watch anything where the majority of the cast wear hats. It just really puts me off. "Look, he's got a top hat on!" I keep thinking. They may as well be speaking Spanish, I can't listen to anything anyone says when they've got, say, a bonnet on their head. The theme tune to Bonanza goes through my mind on a loop when Lovejoy was saying the c-word a lot, not "ooh, what a daring piece of drama" or anything. "Dang-deda-lang deda-lang deda-lang BON-ANNN-ZAAA!". Over and over again.

That's why all them fillums with pixies and goblins make me snooze immediately - hats. Also because they're overlong snoozefests full of people with fake noses stuck on too. And Orlando Bloom, who looks like Shirley Temple to me. Typing that last sentence makes me feel very old by the way. Sigh.

Hats. Keep 'em off the telly.

(OK, it's just been pointed out that lots of the South Park characters wear hats and I like that. But it's a cartoon. They're not real hats on real heads. They're just drawn on.)

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

BBCs Three and Four...

Better people than me have been wondering whether the BBC should continue funding BBC's Three and Four.,,2165608,00.html

My view? Hmmm. It's not straightforward. Some people criticise BBC Three's ratings for being dominated by repeats of EastEnders and Little Britain. Er, that's not BBC Three's fault. It's the viewers' fault. They could've tuned in for Ouch, My Bum Smells Of Poo! or Excuse Me, You've Got Mould Growing On Your Ears! but, no, they watch a re-run of the tedium in Albert Square instead.

I won't go on about stupid titles again... well, maybe once - Help, I Smell Of Fish! being this week's corker.

"They cost so much money!" is another complaint. Yeah, well, BBC Choice, the forerunner to BBC Three, had a tiny budget and as a result had no viewers. BBC Four struggles on their budget too, and it was interesting watching a repeat of a 1997 series about the history of gay rights on that channel last week (not sure why BBC Four's Big Gay Week was a month after C4...). The Wall To Wall-produced show was obviously so much better funded than similar docs nowadays, properly researched and filmed, no PDs with Digicams I bet.


"Put the money into news instead, that's more important than Oy Missus, Your Puffin Is Showing!". Er, yes, news is important, but BBC News is well-funded already. You can tell it costs more than Sky News - but not so much more. Notice it's all the not-exactly-poor famous news faces complaining. It reminds me of the scene in top film Broadcast News where celeb anchor Jack Nicholson is in the news office when budget cuts are announced. He commiserates with everyone and as he's leaving someone jauntily says "well, if you gave up a bit of your multi-million dollar salary we'd be OK". The look he gives them is perfect.

"Put all the good stuff on BBC Two". Well, they kinda do that anyway. And whereas I do agree BBC Two has lost a little purpose recently, and needs a rethink, simply transferring more Proms and some subtitled movies from BBC Four isn't going to do it.

My own not-too-snappy view is that channels, in the main, are dead or dying. Yes, there'll still be a core of people who switch on ITV1 or BBC One and sit there for a full evening. I don't know who these people are but they apparently exist. The hideous trailer-and-recap fever that infects all channels proves it.

Look at a six year-old kid flick through the EPG - they don't care about Nick Jnr, CBBC, Cartoon Net or CBBC Two, they just wanna watch Spongebob. Does anyone apart from schedulers and animation nerds obsessed with the little Plastercine logo blobs care whether Torchwood is on BBC Two or Three? I don't, I just want to see the fairies attack Cardiff again.

Sadly, the "programme-is-all" mentality leads to Whoops, I Tumbledried The Cat Again!-type titles. But the main fact about BBC's Three and Four is that the BBC are simply making more stuff. The extra £150m they spend on these channels is justified if the stuff they make is good. And it's wasted if the stuff they make is crap. That's the debate to be having.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Watching Me Watching You Watching Me...

Watching your own shows go out is a very important thing to do. Obviously, not so easy if you work in live tv, but otherwise I encourage everyone who works in telly to tune in when their shows are broadcast.

When I worked on shows that went out at 6:00 or 6:30 that was easypeasy. Working day over - hey, it's the meeeeja, we do 10 'til 6 - sit down and watch the show on air. But there was usually an issue. The Boss.

Bless my first telly boss, I got to call her Aunty after a bit (but not to her face), she looked after me and gave me all the opportunities I could ever dream of. The justification for the first aspect was that she specialised in hiring newbies to telly and to That Big London, so she had to look after us otherwise we'd bugger off in the middle of something important, leaving her high and dry.

The justification for all the opportunities, I like to think, was that she really wanted us all to learn a lot, get further and progress as tv employees. Not that we'd do everything dead cheap 'cos we were young and enthusiastic.

Anyhow, watching the shows being broadcast with the boss there was always a rollercoaster ride. On one daily series, each night was a different show. I made the comedy one, and as the boss had no sense of humour it was always a nightmare to watch with her. Especially as the show was made on the extreme cheap with bad sets and with scripts bursting full of innuendo that passed by her Antipodean sensibilities.

So just me and her watching a show was a dreadful experience, as she'd crumple her face up, bury her face in her hands, and snort derisively at the (rare) proper gags. But watching the show go out, alongside 15 other staff who all loved it and thought it was "Rentaghost for the 90s" (and that was praise?) had a different effect. As everyone laughed at the knob gags she'd look round smiling and join in. When people guffawed at the innudendo from the lady out of Gladiators in a rubber dress, she'd howl.

And at the credits rolled, she'd think I was a genius. After one especially good episode, she promoted me AND said she wanted me to produce the company's flagship new show for terrestrial telly.

But one of the problems with watching shows was she'd call me in to sit and watch the ones my contemporaries produced. This was usually OK - the shows were well-made in the main and the weeny budget wasn't quite as apparent as on my show - but the weekly live show was a different kettle of fish. The first presenter was a cheesy DJ, and he was fine if, er, cheesy.

The second presenter is now a telly exec and a great guy, but the odd format and convoluted scripts meant he was hamstrung. The boss hated the show, and - in her everything-is-shit-or-brilliant way, blamed the presenter. She tried to make him look cool, in a leather jacket and trendy trousers, and told him to relax. He just appeared to be drunk. She actually rang the control room up and asked if he WAS drunk, at the commercial break, as me and my writery mate sat in her office horrified. He wasn't, he was trying to be "laid back and cool", as instructed.

Oh well.

Now I make shows that go out at 7.20am, and I do force myself up out of bed to watch 'em. It's a lot easier than when I made little inserts that went out from 12.30am to 4.30am at night, inbetween hour-long shows. I only caught a full night once. It ruined how I thought our lovely comedy things worked. They did on a tape of twelve minutes, but nothing can carry a story over four hours of other stuff.