Robin Brown

Doing journalism. Teaching journalism.

Archive for September, 2010

Despite everything, I’ll miss Big Brother

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There was something quite affecting about the end of Big Brother, which came to end last night after ten years of often-engrossing TV.

Chief among these oddly affecting moments was the Big Brother funeral, which saw the final Ultimate Big Brother housemates saying their farewells to the show in a staged funeral administered by narrator Marcus Bentley.

Whatever you thought of Big Brother, there’s not that many programmes that would have the freedom, the wit or the sheer po-mo profile to stage a funeral for itself on that very programme.

And then there’s the retrospectives, with all the former housemates on. People you’d forgotten you’d ever known, like friends you are no longer friends with for one reason or another.

And, later, a video of a load of ex-housemates in a tableau while The Craig and Josie mimed along to Time To Say Goodbye.

It was a moment that made explicit what a unique television programme Big Brother was, and how much of a new niche it created on British TV. Because BB made normal people we’d never met our friends, and also gave them a weird kind of volatile fame that I suspect has finished many of them, where a few prospered.

In that degree it’s fair to say it did continue as some sort of social experiment, highlighted by the return of a lot of ex-housemates in the last few weeks. What has happened, and will happen in the future, to those people? What kid of life must it be to experience that flash of overwhelming fame, followed by years of trying to readjust to normal life?

I watched most of the series, from the first through to the sixth, at which point it was clearly on the wane with a lot of WAG-type tit-flashing girls and empty vessels of either sex. And the out-and-out freaks.

I didn’t watch seven, eight or nine; but enjoyed the tenth when I watched it and all of the celebratory stuff. Perhaps it wasn’t such exciting TV as it had been in the past, but it was able to keep going on reputation and nostalgia alone.

And I think this is why I felt rather sad last night, because when a TV landmark shuffled off our screens it reminds us of times past; not just on the show, but in our lives too.

I watched the programme in a number of different houses, with different partners and housemates and family. And discussed it with dozens. I watched it live during Nick’s Waterloo in season one, sat around my Mac at work with my mate Walton.

A few years later I was texting my mate Ben while working very late one night, speculating as to exactly what was going on during FIght Night.

It was extremely addictive, engaging television – and I’ve never been that impressed by the cultural snobbery often directed at it. It’s fascinating, because it’s other people – and other people are always interesting.

There was a lot of rubbish in there, and a lot of horrible stuff. But the fact that gay, black and transsexual people won Big Brother is pleasing. And there’s a lot of wit to the show, the Tree of Temptation an amusing case in point.

So, I’ll miss Big Brother. I’ll miss the housemates, I’ll miss Marcus Bentley’s absurd narration, I’ll even miss Davina McCall. I’ll miss the excitment of glimpsing the BB eye in ad breaks in the weeks preceding a new one, I’ll miss the first look at the new housemates, the daft interviews and the silly ritual of it all.

A great bit of television, and a real slice of TV history, has come to an end – having covered a good proportion of my adult life.

And as the final echoey voiceovers of the old houses played at the end of the show, it was hard not to think back across my own ten years of life, loves and evictions.

Written by Robin Brown

September 11th, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Twitterrific: Hero to Zero

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In the grand scheme of things, what Twitter client you use on your mobile device is small beer by anyone’s standards, but it’s recently become a big deal to me.

Having taken the plunge with the iPhone, the search was on for a decent Twitter client so I could enjoy sitting in pubs, ignoring my friends and e-wanking away on my shiny new Apple thing (shamefully, one of five products I now have from the company).

Hootsuite, which I use on my computers, was discarded as being rather too clunky and busy: Echofon, used previously, didn’t do it for me either. Having asked on Twitter – where else? – someone suggested I use Twitterrific.

It was by far the simplest and most user-friendly of all the applications. It looked nice; it was simple; you could change the font sizes and themes; you could have multiple accounts; it made a tweeting noise when it updated. I particularly noticed that.

There were problems. The Twitter API seemed to be at lunch half the time, and this became more and more of a problem as Twitter began cutting back on third-party app API use.

Then, without warning, Twitterrific just stopped working completely. It said my login details were incorrect, but I re-entered them several times to no avail. I noticed an update, but that didn’t help either.

So I went to Twitter – where else? – to see what was wrong and learned there was a new version. They’d simply switched the old one off. Pretty poor, I thought to myself, but hey ho.

I downloaded the new version. But it looked confusing: I couldn’t change the font size; I couldn’t add more than one account; and I couldn’t work out how to do anything. It still made the tweeting noise, but that wasn’t quite enough to swing it.

I browsed the reviews on the new application to see a column of one-star reviews. And what made it so frustrating was that everyone, like me, loved the previous version.

The new version costs £2.99 but that doesn’t bother me in itself. If it was as good as the previous version, with a few more bells and whistles, I’d have gladly swallowed the expense.

But the way the previous version was simply turned off annoys me, and I’m not the only one. Have a look at some of these reviews from iTunes.

People who used V2 of Twitterrific loved it. They were classic brand evangelists; people who would recommend an app to someone else simply because they really liked it.

With its cack-handed upgrade and attempts to monetise the new version, Twitterrific has gone from a social media success story to a villain almost overnight. Those evangelists have lost their faith, and they’ll be more than happy to tell you about it.

Written by Robin Brown

September 6th, 2010 at 9:32 am

Dodge in the UK: An American Abroad

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The Dodge brand has apparently been axed in the UK, with the Journey large MPV removed from price lists.

The Journey was the last model remaining in the Dodge range, following the removal of the Caliber large family car and Nitro mid-size SUV earlier this year. The Avenger saloon was deleted in 2009, while the Dodge Ram pick-up was removed in 2007.

Dodge, part of the Chrysler family, has suffered poor sales in the UK, with its small model range saddled with a poor reputation in comparison to other volume models on the market.

Dodge sold 3,911 models in 2008, but that figure fell by a third the following year and sales collapsed completely in 2010. Just 18 Dodge models were sold in August 2010, with a mere 526 sold over the year to date.

With no new volume Dodge models on the horizon, tumbling sales, a poor reputation and Fiat juggling a number of brands; Dodge may be gone from the UK market for good.

Chrysler Family

Chrysler has not fared much better since the company went into a managed bankruptcy, followed by a shotgun wedding to Fiat in 2009.

The Chrysler marque sold only 895 models to the end of August 2010, with sales for the month nearly 80 per cent down on August 2009.

The Chrysler family has also been steadily whittled away over the last two years, with only the Chrysler 300C exec and Chrysler Grand Voyager remaining following the deletion of the Chrysler Sebring in saloon and convertible formats and the PT Cruiser.

Jeep has fared a little better, with generally stronger products selling 1,231 from January to August 2010. Its model range currently consists of the Wrangler, Patriot and Grand Cherokee.

Dodge UK Range
Styled as a budget model range in the UK, Dodge models were presented as inexpensive and striking alternatives to more traditional volume fare from the likes of Ford and Vauxhall; a tactic adopted by the likes of Asian manufacturers trying to gain a foothold in Western markets over the last three decades.

But, despite competitive pricing and discounting, Dodge models rarely won favourable reviews and poor residual values will also have dented buyer confidence.

The Avenger saloon, a rebadged Chrysler Sebring, sold only 1,138 models in total and I described it as ‘not a sensible purchase’.

The SUV-cum-hatchback Caliber initially won plaudits for its looks and aggressive pricing, but was judged to be short of European standards.

The Nitro large SUV was tasked with taking on inexpensive mid-size SUVs like the Hyundai Sante Fe, Kia Sorento and Chevrolet Captiva – offering distinctive styling, strong specification and an attractive price tag, but was criticised for the quality of its interior and drive.

The Journey was, perhaps, considered the strongest Dodge model on sale in the UK, with a strong VW engine, high versatility and non-MPV styling.

However, the Dodge offering was not up to the standard of competitors, and sales collapsed in the last months of Dodge’s presence in the UK market.

Future For Chrysler And Dodge?

Dodge will continue to be sold in some European markets, though Fiat is known to be considering introducing the budget Lancia brand to the UK market.

Whether that means Dodge or Chrysler models will be rebadged as Lancia – or Lancia models rebadged as Chryslers – in the future remains to be seen.

The Dodge Viper muscle car in still scheduled to hit UK shores in 2012, though there must now be some doubts about the car’s arrival.

The car may sell in the UK as a niche offering in Chrysler dealerships; though it may be offered as an import only through third-party distributors.

The prospect of the Charger or Challenger making it to the UK, although never appearing particularly likely, looks non-existent in light of this recent news.

Written by Robin Brown

September 4th, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Posted in Car reviews

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