Friday, 20 February 2009

Television about television

A slight theme to today's post, after the last ragbag of stuff.

I watched Tne Money Programme last night. Well, I did and and I didn't. I watched a show recorded by my Tivo at 10:30pm, made by The Money Programme team, presented by Max Flint who does most TMP duties, with the iconic theme tune and titles, in the 7:30pm slot where TMP usually goes. But it was called Tomorrow's TV in the schedules, hence my DVR wouldn't have recorded it as you can't set a season pass for a one-off show. The fact it did was because I'm sad enough to go through the TV bits of the papers on a Sunday hunting out good content, and set it manually.

Blinkin' BBC types, thinking that the phrase 'money' will put off people from watching. Really? Nowadays? When money and finance is so in the news? And the target audience, up against EastEnders, isn't exactly a big one? Like me, they DO want to watch sensible serious programmes. And their DVRs are probably set to record EVERY Money Programme, yet they'll have missed this one.

The Beeb did this a while back, then reverted to calling the show by it's actual title so those of us with Sky+ or other DVRs can record it

And why was it on a Thursday too? It's usually on Fridays? And-

OK, I'll stop there. Check it out on iPlayer or here

It was good telly about telly - well made, great talking heads - as in proper experts and big names in the tv world - and a good analysis of why telly is in such a state. Seeing the Macedonian version of Millionaire was funny too (it's even sold to Iraq, 109 countries or something now), and the fact that 53% of ALL tv formats worldwide are originated in the UK. That made my Union Jack waistcoated-chest swell with patriotic pride.

But we're all deep in the shit; as someone said, the model for funding telly is the same as it ever was, yet 25% of all ad money has switched to the internet, leaving a big hole. Even though people watch more telly than ever.

Grrrrr, boo, hiss, come on Ofcom / the Government / someone - sort it out!

And, on the theme of telly about telly, my fave sitcom is back on air. And it's on Five.

It's 30 Rock and it's proper good funny boom-boom sitcom fare. No laugh track but still way better than almost any other sitcom on tv. It's set in NBC's HQ - 30 Rockerfeller Plaza, hence the title - and stars Tina Fey as the producer of The Girlie Show (I kid you not), a sketch show that doesn't seem that girlie at all, to be frank.

But it's hardly about telly at all, it's a simple workplace comedy about nutnuts who work together. Alec Baldwin is superb as the mad boss, and the show specialises in digs at NBC and GE, General Electric, who own the network. The Baldwin character is head of East Coast programming, comedy and microwave ovens, for example, and gets huffed when the latter is taken off him.

One day Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) comes into his office and the GE logo just has an E. Jack (Baldwin) says he's sold off the G. The first episode of season 2 has Jack using new technology to digitally insert Jerry Seinfeld into every NBC show, using old footage from, er, Seinfeld. But Jerry isn't best pleased - hence his guest-starring role in the ep...

I'll stop blethering and just say please watch it. Good on Five for buying it - even it's up to season 4 in the US and they're just starting season 2 here - and it's repeated in blocks on FiveUSA too, so no excuse for missing it. A sitcom with actual jokes, funny characters, a real 'sit' and some great performances. Kenneth the page is hilarious, Tracey Jordan (a man), the 'star' of the show less so but still funny, and the rest of the team (sad writers, nice guy who fancies Liz but she'll not touch him, great cameos and guest stars) perfect.


Monday, 16 February 2009

Even more random jottings than normal

Look I've even put in links for once. That's like journalism and everything.

New Simpsons Titles in HD
Yes, they're remade the classic title sequence for high-def. It's brilliant, as ever, with some of the long gone/dead/unused characters replaced by newer ones (Apu's kids!) as well as more visual references than you can shake a stick at... and all in super-duper Expensive-O-Mation more like the movie than the TV series.

But... well, twenty years of seeing the same titles (with different sofa bit, agreed) means it's a big change. The sofa gag on this one was a bit poo as well. Love the plasma screen falling off the wall at the end though. I suppose they could either do a frame-by-frame remake, a bit pointless, or try something new. Two-and-a-half cheers for the latter.

Note that the new HD titles were introduced only when US HD/digital tx was supposed to be compulsory, ie now, and analogue telly switched off. Obama has delayed that until the summer because of the recession. Britain plods along until 2012 with bits'n'pieces changing over. Sigh.

ITV in even more trouble
Not surprising in some ways, worrying in others. Talk of an 'emergency schedule' of soaps and repeats? Makes it sound like the three-day week in the seventies, or wartime, not as if they're just somewhat strapped for cash. I also can't help but thinking that if, as this article states, The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent really cost £1million an hour, that ITV is being charged an awful lot of money from Talkback Thames for what are, essentially, shiny floor shows. The former surely is cheaper than that overall, what with endless weeks of cheapo auditions?

Blue Peter sinking
100,000 viewers? Eeek, that's bad. The article mentions it was eight million way back when, but that was without any cabsat, C4 or Five...repeats on BBC2 and more kids on ITV. I produced a show for CiTV when Blue Peter moved to three nights a week, and between the two of us we had ten million viewers. Although the offical ratings were much smaller, as they were supposed to only look at 15 and unders.

Still, it looks like shuffling all the children's programmes forward to accomodate the stunning innovation of moving Weakest Link from Beeb 2 to 1 hasn't worked for the very fragile kids' audience. Won't grind my axe again here (too much), just say that hopefully something will be done to help CBBC/BBC One audiences, as well as lovely BRITISH telly producers making lovely BRITISH programmes for lovely BRITISH kiddiewinkies.

Thanking you.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Televisio Espagnol

So I was in Barcelona for the weekend and watched some Spanish TV. Indigenous, local television, like AXN, Fox and, er, Sony Television Entertainment.

They show programmes in English then have Spanish ads and idents. Que? But in the trailers, all the shows are dubbed into Spanish. I was a bit confused then remembered the olden days before Digiboxes, when the lovely Amstrad satellite box had an audio button you pressed on each channel to get different languages (if available).

Sometimes on German channels you got undubbed versions of US or UK shows, at very low volume. Often with the American content this was before it was on UK tv, so somewhat useful for episodes of, er Murphy Brown or 21 Jump Street, two particular favourites of mine. Google the first one, it caused a presidential stir...

Anyhoo, so I assume Spanish TV is doing that same thing when supplying hotels like the one I was in. I got to watch a CSI, not something I've managed to sit through before - OK in a flashy way - and Brothers and Sisters, which was full of very good-looking people either shouting or having sex with each other. With the most awful effects between each scene, the picture sliding off with a comedy sound effect, like out of 1980s sitcoms like Parker Lewis Must Die. Again, Google is your friend if my ancient US references are too much for you. Think Ferris Bueller, but more like the movie than the dreadful TV series, and on Sky before digital happened.

But the oddest thing are the commercial breaks, sometimes twenty solid minutes of ads in a block, and then nothing for an hour. Why? After fifteen ads they all blur together. Even BBC World News did it - every channel at the same time shows a block of ads. I s'pose it means you can't channel hop but it was so tedious. The German MTV clone showed the same ringtone ad SEVEN WHOLE TIMES in one break.

Err, otherwise there wasn't much new - except as I was in Catalonia, there were two soaps going on different channels at the same time, one in Catalan and one in Spanish. The only reason I mention that is they both had a plot with a lady in a green deep-pore-cleanser-type facial mask, where the green wouldn't come off. Maybe they've two soaps with the same scripts but different locations and actors for no reason - apart from to employ extra people. The Catalan one, by the way, had ugly actors, dreadful sets and laughable music. The Spanish one was merely shit.

And that was my adventure in Spanish telly. I thank you.