Friday, 12 February 2010

Worst pitch meetings ever

OK, just a quick post after laughingly talking through The Past with an old mate... I've been to some terrible pitch meetings, through no fault of my own usually (but not always). Here's the worst.

This meeting was for interweb cartoons, raising money for a new business angle making cartoons online. And it was way back in 1999, the height of the first internet bubble. Some background: we'd done what seemed like hundreds of these meetings and were very bored with them, as everyone talked a good game but no money or commitment ever came out of the hours of presenting (and Powerpoint, and spreadsheets and forecasts and business plans etc etc)

All these people wanted were stupid huge growth forecasts but always, ALWAYS in different areas we simply had no way of getting into. And almsot everyone we pitched to was a twunt - in Shoreditch, in lofts, stupid haircuts and silly shoes.

So this meeting was the third of the day, at some Swedish 'incubator' company who started off new businesses. We'd had a few pints and decided to play a game to relieve the boredom, of trying to insert phrases into our various (well polished) speeches. I had to say 'owning the growth staircase'. My mate had to say 'sit dot com'. Our business blokey had to say 'brussel sprout'. And the senior guy who was helping us do all this had to say something even odder, like 'Heberekie's Puppoon' (a Japanese game on the PC Engine, Obscure Word Fans)

Needless to say we were quite drunk. The winner got his drinks bought all night afterwards.

We went into this triple height warehouse thing, and met three very nice Scandinavian men and sat in a semi-glazed cube in the centre of an open plan office. On two of the walls, the ceiling and the floor, there was bright green astroturf. We sat around the amusingly sixties-retro table and one of the nice men said, in his lilting Swedish accent, "you can see we're an incubator?". We went 'huh?'. He said "look, our walls are covered in grass, they're green, we're incubating you, yes?".

This was apparently a joke.

We went "huh?" again.

My mate simply yelled "BRUSSEL SPROUT".

They looked confused.

A couple of our team started to argue it wasn't fair just to shout out the words, they had to be integrated.

The Swedes looked on.

I said to stop talking now, we need to get onto the business of owning the growth staircase in internet animation. Or cyboons, as we'd called them, CYBer cartOONS.

They liked CYBOONS. But all these idiots did, so that wasn't a surprise.

They then said the internet wasn't what they were focused on right now.

We said 'huh?' again. My senior guy said "why are we here then?"

And then the smallest little Swede said they wanted to know our mobile phone strategy.

We said nothing.

Remember, it's 1999. Phones had little monochrome screens. That one out of the Matrix was just out, which had that nasty WAP internet slow access stuff, but it was pathetic and useless. Even now, cartoons on mobiles aren't exactly mainstream, but back then it was plain odd to think about it.

I started to waffle about, well, technology has to develop a little, that once colour screens came in we'd look at it, and-

Then I simply gave up. Our senior guy said we didn't have a mobile strategy really, we wanted money to make cartoons for the internet, and if they weren't interested we could go to our next meeting at Hebereckie's Puppoon dot com.

And off we went to the pub. I seem to remember buying the booze all night.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Comedy schmomedy

So this weekend I had a quiet time and watched the telly a lot. Had a busy week and just fancied chilling out.

So, in no order apart from how it plops into my brain:-

Why do they show two eps of Top Gear at 9am ... then the SAME two eps at 2pm? Why not four different ones? What with Dave ja vu I seemed to be getting Anne Robinson driving the Reasonably Priced Car all Sunday. (PS: they all looked fifteen years' younger in those eps, even though it was only five years ago. Hammond looked like his kid son or something)

Living has a +2 channel now, so I could watch the same (not that good) Xmas Will and Grace three times in three hours. Parapa-pa-pom.

Oh, and it was v rainy and the dish was giving up, with picture pixellising, sound going and things freezing. All this is par for the course - apart from the fact ladies in bikinis were sort-of visible as the picture froze and broke up, as if a naughty porno show was breaking in, pirate TV stylee. Very odd. By the nighttime I'd lost 50% of the channels - and all the major/good ones - so I think our block dish is boogered.

On Sky+ I watched 6 eps of 30 Rock and loved every minute of it. Made me think again about how dense a US sitcom is compared to a UK one. Well, it didn't, I was too busy laughing, I thought about it after trying to describe what happened in the ep to someone else and it taking around a third of the actual running time of the show. Try it with a British sitcom and it normally can be efficiently done in 2 mins.

Anyway, each ep had some priceless moments. In one we saw the world as Tracey, Jack and Kenneth see it. Tracey saw everyone as him. Jack saw pricetags on everything (including $7 on Kenneth). And Kenneth say everyone else as a proper actual muppet, mainly singing songs. Bestest visual gag ever.

Liz realised her gorgeous doctor BF (the one off of Mad Men) was "living in a bubble" as he was so gorgeous he never had to try to do anything properly. Just perfect all the way through.

Jack and Liz saying it was the fiftieth episode, what a great time they'd had over the past three years, all the funny things that happened... then pausing... still waiting... thinking... and then the scene continued. Not funny written down but it was so obviously a lead-in for a montage of clips ... and then they didn't show any clips.

This exchange from Liz and Jack, after Jack throws everyone out from his 50th birthday party as he realises he'll never be happy enough to vomit again (not explaining that, see the ep)

(awkwardly, approaching Jack)
Oh, sorry Jack, do you want... er.. to hug or something?

(draining whiskey)
God no Lemon, this isn't the Italian Parliament.

Liz acting in a 1980s ad for a chatline, all shoulderpads, too much lipstick (on her teeth too) and making 'sexy' faces. So funny it makes Jack vomit a bit...

Comedy. GENIUS. Gold.

I channel-hopped and there was the esteemed QT presenter hanging on a rope in front of an old picture. Surely there's no need for that? Isn't he 85 or something?

Surreal, wonderful, warm and stupid all at once, perfect British telly. As Paul Daniels - who came out of a plastic sheep's stomach of course - said incredulously, "You ARE watching ITV1"... no-one would've guessed from this show, I guarantee it.


Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Video games on telly

[RE-EDIT as posted a bit incomplete]

So as you know I've made about a gabillion shows about video games, all for 10p an episode...

[ACTUAL FACTUAL MOMENT: researcher: 67 eps over 2 games series; producer 58 eps, 3 series - total 125 eps... not including developing an entire channel full of shows about games, some of which even existed]

... and I met up with a guy I used to work with back in 1994, on one of these series...

[ACT FACT: he was a researcher and played a newsreader in the show, and got genuine lessons in reading the news off of Crimewatch's Sue Cook. Didn't help him any as I made him not wear trousers for the series, the "hilarious" moment always being when he stood up from a desk and we saw his hairy knees]

... and he said why isn't there a good TV show about video games on now. It's something I've talked about before on here but not for a bit. And I've pondered it a little and here are my thoughts.

TV Bigwigs say that video games are best played not talked about, that it's not a subject for telly, more for the interweb... that the TV audience in general isn't interested in 'em.

Twunty bollocks.

If Top Gear can work about an even more obscure subject, why can't we have a telly show about video games on at, say, 8pm on a weeknight on BBC Three/Two/C4?

[ACTUAL FACTUAL: I have pitched and sold several shows about games for this kind of slot, and know of many more that were piloted and never hit air - like mine]

The answer is suprisingly simple. Top Gear has Clarkson and his producer Willman, and their alliance and passion made the show what it is now. A great TV show - if not quite as unmissable as it once was, in my humble view.

Video games has never had someone like Clarkson. [PAUSE WHILST THERE'S A KERFUFFLE AMONGST SOME READERS] No, I mean it. Dominik Diamond was great on Gamesmaster, but blatantly not a games head in the way Clarkson is a petrol head. Dave Perry or Alex Verrey off of Games World, Aleks (now Dr) Krotoski off of Bits (and her nice if not particularly informative series on the interweb just started this week), Violet Berlin... none of them were really quite the unique talent that Clarkson is. And love him or hate him, he is great on camera.

[ACTUAL FACTUAL: There are many top producers who worked in video games TV back then like Andy Willman off of Top Gear, most of which have left telly now. I wouldn't dare put myself forward as being as good as him, oh no, but ... er ... well ... yes]

Now there is someone. Charlie Brooker. His Gameswipe show was fantastic, and he's superb on camera. And he bloody well knows about games. Imagine a Top Gear-style show presented by him and a couple of others, it'd be champion.

[ACTUAL FACTUAL - is this annoying yet? - series 1 of Top Gear had that used car bloke on it, not James May. Watch repeats of early series and it was even more Clarkson's vehicle - hoho - and the other two weren't that good or important. They've grown, just as any half-decent presenters would on a great well-produced format]

Maybe we revive the idea of a Gamesmaster-type figure - how about gadget guru and all-round techno fan Lord Stephen of Fry as a cartoon 3D head? Maybe not...

It could be popular - Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car becomes Star Playing A Really Old Game (or something)... group tests of similar games... classics... news... I've even got some proper original ideas to cover games differently and make it look as vibrant and exciting as Top Gear but still not just be a 'Top Games'-style spinoff.

Sadly, it probably ain't gonna happen. TV still thinks games = nerds / sad / interactive not sit-and-watch / ratings death. Mr Brooker has his own special bit of Endemol and (I think) is exclusive to them so they'd have to make the show, not me. Hence not posting the Brilliant Ideas here.

[ACTUAL FACTUAL - bollocks, will write it up anyway. Wish me luck]