Category: TV Page 3 of 14

Good-Bye To All That

As a year comes to a close, it’s traditional to look back on the its various events and achievements.

Being a non-traditional sort, though, I’d just like to take a moment to talk about something which I hope we’ll see the end of when midnight chimes. I don’t want to sound overly negative, but it’d be nice to see this one thing go when the year ends. And that thing is…

People taking offence on behalf of other people.

Actually, I should probably qualify that slightly – it’s more a case of people continuing to take offence (or claiming to, but I’ll get to that in a minute) on behalf of other people, when those others have either said they’re not bothered or they’ve accepted an apology.

The obvious example would be the Daily Mail-led campaign to continue to be shocked and horrified about the prank phone calls to Andrew Sachs, but this year we’ve also seen a fuss about Ben Elton making jokes about the Royal Family; there are probably other examples, but the key thing about all of these events to my mind is the fact that the person who was directly affected by the remarks accepted an apology from the so-called offender (or, in the case of the Elton ‘fuss’, saw the joke, it seems. So it is a bit odd that people who are not directly involved should continue to stoke the fires of outrage, when the one whose feelings could be legitimately stung is moving on and getting over with it.

I suggested above that the people who get all offended about such matters aren’t truly offended, and whilst I don’t feel that’s the case about all such instances, I think a lot of the time the vicarious offendees are taking a slightly odd delight in feeling affronted. I’d been struggling to verbalise why people might want to do this – beyond the fact that, unfortunately, some people seem to take delight in being angry more often than not – but fortunately, a line on an episode of The West Wing I was watching summed it up for me:

DONNA: …they’re shocked and appalled and disappointed but really, they’re none of those things, they just wish they were. So, never miss an opportunity to feel morally superior.

And I think that’s at the heart of it – a lot of the time, these ‘campaigns’ seem to be organised not with the intention of ensuring respect for the monarchy, or … er, that people don’t ring grandfathers and talk about their granddaughters’ sexual activity (not actually one of the biggest blights on society today, I suspect), but more of allowing the person being shocked and horrified to feel that they’re morally superior to the miscreant whose actions they’re so very appalled by.

To use a phrase I’ve written before, I question their sincerity. Yes, many of the jokes that people claim to be so appalled by may not be incisive or sharp, and may well be ill-judged, but they rarely seem to merit the big hoo-hah that follows; a lot of the time, the involvement of newspapers (especially in cases where the BBC can be given a kicking) makes me wonder how much of it is a crusade for social justice, and how much of it is a decision to try to have their paper spearhead a campaign against [whatever] by way of making newsprint seem important and current and relevant in the face of stiff competition from 24-hour news channels and new media.

On a meta- level, you might well ask why I’m so bothered by this when most of the attacks have been on comedians and writers and the like; surely, one might think, it’s paradoxical at best and hypocritical at worst for me to be offended on behalf of these other people. And I might agree, but for the fact that I, and everyone else who spends time watching TV or film or listening to the radio or reading, suffers if we live in an environment in which producers or publishers are constantly examining works in case they offend, they might offend, or someone might take offence at the very possibility that they might offend someone else. Whilst many people are aware of the protests at the time of the release of Monty Python’s Life Of Brian (pictured), it’s all too easy to forget that now, just under thirty years later, it’s seen not only as one of the funniest films ever made, but one of the most insightful about the nature of religion and belief. At the time, it was deeply offensive and shocking and blasphemous, but now it’s held up as being a classic of intelligent humour, and without its creators being able to risk offence those insights (and jokes) would never have been made.

I wouldn’t want to pretend that Frankie Boyle’s joke about the Queen’s ladyparts is likely to be as respected as “You’ve got to think for yourself! You’re all individuals!” in years to come, but an intellectual climate in which material which might possibly offend any portion of the audience has to be excised is a perfect breeding ground for intellectual stagnation, and – ironically – TV schedules full of material which, by its sheer blandness, I find deeply offensive (for example, the currently-on programmes All Star Family Fortunes and All Star Mr And Mrs, whose titles and content differ so wildly I’m surprised Trading Standards haven’t intervened).

In 1990, Salman Rushdie wrote the Hubert Reid Memorial lecture, entitled “Is Nothing Sacred?”; due to his life being threatened for some words he had written on religious matters, Rushdie was in hiding, and so the lecture was delivered by Harold Pinter. In the lecture, Rushdie argues the case for literature being allowed to say things and propose ideas that people might not like, and compares literature to a small room in a large house, in which anything might be said:

“The room is empty, but there are voices in it, voices that seem to be whispering just to you. You recognize some of the voices, others are completely unknown to you. The voices are talking about the house, about everyone in it, about everything that is happening and has happened and should happen. Some of them speak exclusively in obscenities. Some are bitchy. Some are loving. Some are funny. Some are sad. The most interesting voices are all these things at once.”

A similar analogy might be struck for almost any form of media or other means of communication, and whilst I’d strongly urge you to read the entire lecture, if you apply Rushdie’s ‘room model’ to a medium you care about – whether it be film or TV or radio – then the final line of the lecture, even if slightly edited, cannot fail to give pause for thought:

“Wherever in the world the little room […] has been closed, sooner or later the walls have come tumbling down.”

And on that relentlessly cheerful note, this blog bids farewell to 2009 – and, hopefully, to the idea of taking offence, or pretending to take offence, at jokes or comments or ideas, specifically those which relate to another who is notably less concerned by them. I question the sincerity of those who do so on a regular basis, and so perhaps we can close the door (with a hearty slam) on this practice as we leave this year – indeed, this decade.

Dropping One, As It Were

As the year draws to a close, I think that I can presume upon your discretion, and make something of a confession.

When I was growing up in the 1970s, the BBC1 station ident looked like this:

The thing was this; I didn’t really know what the picture was meant to depict, and so I mistook the negative space to the right of Africa, thinking it was meant to be the depiction of something. And as a child of the 1970s, I thought it was meant to be this:

Seriously, it’s true.

…and if the intent behind this post pans out, you might never look at the globe in the same way again. And it works for the Peters version of the world as well.

If you think this post is asinine, you should be glad I didn’t post about how I thought pansies the flowers and chimpanzees the primates were the same thing, which made me scared to get too close to flower beds. Mum, Dad, if you’re reading this, it’s true; at that tender age I was not aware of the concept of a homophone. Oh, the shame of it.

Topical And Obscure At The Same Time

As I’ve mentioned a tiresome number of times, I’m a fan of TV show Twin Peaks.

And, what with it being Christmas Day and all, it seems the perfect chance to link to this…

The Twelve Days Of Christmas, as performed by the cast of Twin Peaks.

As HM Betty might say, a very Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones.

If You Saw The British Comedy Awards At The Weekend…

… you may, like me, have been wondering who did the rather clever depictions of comedians as superheroes.

Wonder no more: Jon Haward did some of them, and jolly well too, I think you’ll agree.

More images, in the form of screengrabs, here.

Mind Your Language

You have to be careful if you’re marketing a product overseas; we’ve all seen articles about funny-named foodstuffs from overseas which have names like Krappi, Bumm and Peroneum.

Take, for example, this current advert for a fine fragrance:

Leaving the whole Catwoman similarities thing, I’d say the name’s a bit of a misfire for international use; in the USA and many other countries, the Name Ricci Ricci will make many people think of the Harvey comics character portrayed on the big screen by Macauley Culkin…

…which at least has the cachet of wealth, if not necessarily glamour, but in the UK people are probably more likely to hear “Ricci Ricci” and think of –

– Rik Mayall as Richard Richard from Bottom.

And whilst I’m no marketing guru, I’d guess that kind of association is probably not what sells fancy perfume.

Or, In My Case, The Whinging Defective

In the classic TV series The Singing Detective, written by Dennis Potter, there’s a scene where the main character, Philip Marlow, is talking with his psychiatrist.

By trade, Marlow is a writer of detective novels which are more hard- than soft-boiled, but his doctor notes that there’s a section about sex in one of his novels which seems out of place; when pressed, Marlow is forced to admit – even if only to himself – that it reflects his own deeper feelings about the subject.

It’s not any kind of insight, I know, that people who make things often reveal a lot about themselves in their work – whether intentionally or otherwise – and so I offer an excerpt from my own writing, so you can play ‘spot the author lurking within the text’.

It’s from a novel called Coming Back To Haunt You (which is unpublished, because it’s unfinished – I was forced to abandon it when I realised it bore a shocking similarity to a film which I genuinely hadn’t seen until I was about a third of the way into writing it).

The novel is about Nick Peters, a seemingly normal chap who suddenly finds himself the target of what looks like a revenge campaign, though he has no idea who’s behind it or why. In the following excerpt, Nick is looking online for any kind of hint as to why he’s now being hounded, and he starts to look for information about people from his past.

He went to friendsreunited, and browsed around it for a while, looking up details of the class he’d been in when he did his GCSEs, and then the class in the sixth form, for A-Levels. There were a few jolts at seeing names he’d long forgotten, and at uploaded photos showing fashions and haircuts which were best forgotten, but there was no-one there who he’d crossed in any way.

He’d never bullied anyone, or been bullied, never gone head-to-head with anyone in sports clubs or chess or debating or public speaking, and never denied anyone a prize or an award through a sudden show of academic ability; he’d never broken anyone’s heart – or even dented or vaguely bent one, as far as he knew – dished out a black eye or a brutal insult, never scratched a pencil case or broken a pair of glasses; he’d never stolen from anyone, never cheated in an exam or forged a signature on a permission slip or school report; he’d never gone to school drunk or high, even on the last day of his final term when all the A-levels were done and his college place almost certain.

[…] he trawled through the screens of names from the past, photos of buildings which he thought he’d forgotten but still occasionally dreamt of, and read reminiscences about teachers and end-of-year plays and school trips which made it sound as if these funny happenings had been the everyday and usual, and attending lessons or hurrying to hand in coursework on time or copying homework at lunchtime or revising or turning over an exam paper or hearing the words “Stop writing now, please” – all these things had been the exception, the distraction from the whole process of being a teenager, and he had the horrible feeling inside that he’d wasted the best years of his life, that all the best parties with the prettiest most fanciable girls had been taking place somewhere else, and that he wasn’t invited, never had been invited, and certainly hadn’t been missed.

Further comment seems unnecessary, really; I feel oddly exposed by that chunk of text.

Thinking about it, it may be for the best that it didn’t make it into print (though I’d imagine an editor would probably have asked me if this section couldn’t have been pruned, if not removed entirely).

Anyway: hmm.

One Of Us Has Matured Into A Deft And Skilled Writer

Back in my teen years (yes, that’s right, it was a very long time ago), I had a bit of a crush on a music journalist who used to appear on TV occasionally – impressively, she seemed to be about my age, but somehow was a lot more eloquent than my spotty teenage self.

Lo and behold, in the intervening decades, it turns out that Caitlin Moran – for it is she of whom I speak – has become even better at writing, while I… well, my skin’s cleared up, if nothing else.

Anyway, here’s an example of her current work in reviewing TV shows (cut and pasted from the Times website, as Mr Murdoch likes us all to do):

…the voiceover began with the insistence that the Queen’s story “is all our stories” — surely to the annoyance of everyone’s internal fomenting peasant. You can claim a lot of things on behalf of the Queen — admirably consistent hair, biggest jewel collection in Europe, magically tolerant of Prince Edward — but “being like everyone else” is a difficult ball to lob across the courts of reason. Indeed, when it comes down to it, The Queen is pretty much the apogee of singular stories, given that she is the only person in the world who owns 16 countries.

I like that a lot, and there’s more of the same quality of material to be found here. I think her stuff reads like a less venomous, but equally well-honed, version of Charlie Brooker’s work.

Go now. Read columns. Make fire. Ug.

Oh dear, I seem to have regressed to my teenage self. Is this a blackhead I see before me?

At Least It Was Tastefully Lit

Michael’s bid to become a professional photographer floundered; not only did he insist on framing the shot like a scene from the 1960s Batman TV show, but he pointed the camera towards himself instead of the subject.

Fascinating fact: Despite media reports, Michael Buble is not a blood relation of Bubble from Big Brother 2001. They are in fact related by marriage.

See The TV Show, Read The Script (This Offer Valid Today Only)

I’ve only just spotted it, so there’s not much time for you to take this up, but better late than never and all that, eh ?

My point is: you can download the Doctor Who episode ‘Partners In Crime’ from iTunes for nought pence by clicking here, though that offer expires at midnight tonight, so be swift.

And then, by way of wandering backstage after the show has finished and everyone has gone home, you can download a copy of the script from here and see how it was all done.

I think it’s a pretty decent episode, even if the scene where the Doctor and Donna are miming to each other always reminds me of the pictured ‘reunion’ from Halloween H20

You’re Aware Of Miranda, Right(s)?

So, slightly tucked away in an odd-ish slot of the BBC schedules (8.30pm on BBC2), is a bit of a gem: the sitcom Miranda, starring and written by Miranda Hart – a name you might not recognise, but you’ll probably know her by sight; look, there she is in the picture on the left there, not enjoying a cup of tea. See, told you that you’d recognise her.

Anyway, as I said to m’Mrs yesterday after watching the second episode, it’s an almost classic sitcom – packed with jokes and silly situations, it’s just the sort of thing I’d hope to see in the 8.00pm slot on BBC1, really, but I guess the slightly rude nature of some of it is what’s pushed it to the channel next door. Bit of a pity, as I think this is the sort of show which deserves wider exposure because (a) it’s very funny and (b) I’d rather see this kind of show as the standard, not the exception.

But enough plugging, you’re probably so completely won over by my praise that you’re wondering how you can go about catching up on the series so far. Well, lucky you, the BBC iPlayer is your friend, and you can read more about the programme, and play catch-up, by clicking here.

And if slapstick’s your thing, be aware that she does some of the best falling-over work I’ve seen in quite a while. What with that and verbal gags, I reckon that makes it pretty much something for everyone.

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