Robin Brown

Journo. Editor. Tutor. Dour northerner.

Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

Katie Hopkins makes me see the light on Question Time

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I started doing another Twitter round-up today, having seen some silly nonsense from a woman called Katie Hopkins who failed to win the Apprentice some years ago.

Hopkins felt that women should, essentially, man up when faced with sexist banter and seemed only one or two steps away from the kind of barking statement along the lines that women should lie back and enjoy a sexual assault.

All sorts of people immediately took to Twitter to complain about it, and I thought I’d pick out a few choice ones. Until I saw this one:

Katie Hopkins is saying some stupid things today. She won’t be called back #bbcqt

It struck me that this is actually completely wrong. It seems to me that there’s every chance that Hopkins will be back on, as Question Time seems to book a lunatic of the week these days – apparently to elicit just this sort of reaction (see Everyone Hates Kelvin).

Question Time seems only a year away from handing out buns and rotten fruit to audience members. Did it ever really function as a democratising tool; a way to expose truth and genuine political debate to the regions; a means for the public to directly challenge politicians?

I’m not sure any more, but I am sure that it has devolved into a stupid bunfight, with a vile baddie-of-the-week the lynchpin to generate some headlines and outrage – and annoy or enervate passing viewers.

This is the kind of homogenisation that seems to go on at the BBC these days; the same kind of movement to the middle ground and the fabled everyman that we can see on news and news magazine coverage, on Test Match Special, on science coverage and – increasingly – drivel like The Daily Politics.

I give it five years before Claudia Winkleman is hosting and Louis Spence is a guest panelist. They may be an improvement on Dimbelby – increasingly like an indulged but bored and ineffectual schoolmaster – and the ghastlyKatie Hopkins.

NB. I did spot the following tweet, from woodo79, which made me laugh and deserved sharing:

Katie Hopkins looking like an evil Romulan warlord

Written by Robin Brown

January 27th, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Posted in TV

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Ant and Dec’s live TV Gillian McKeith nightmare

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For a second it looked like Nigel Kneale’s seminal play on reality television gone bonkers, Year of the Sex Olympics, had come to pass, with Gillian McKeith‘s apparent collapse live on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Our Of Here.

In the play an underclass of dim TV viewers watch, amused, as people are slaughtered live on TV. Although McKeith appears to have suffered an attack of lazyitis (ahem), rather than a psychopath (though Nigel Havvers might be one to keep an eye on), the rabbit-in-the-headlights reactions of loveable Geordie scamps Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly told their own story.

Anyway, I don’t really have a point to make about this, except how amusing it all was, and how much live, blurry freeze frames of virtually anything lend an aura of the eerie and unsettling to the most mundane TV fare.

Written by Robin Brown

November 21st, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Posted in TV

Monica Galetti’s absurd reaction shots

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Needless to say, Masterchef is superb television. This is largely due to spanking-fanatic Gregg Wallace, a genuine comedy genius with all of his ‘beefy, beefy mushrooms’ and delight in tackling ‘puds’.

The early rounds, where a hapless chef is eviscerated for their lack of skill in gutting a turbot, are cringe-inducingly addictive television, not least for the absurd reaction shots of Greg, Michel Roux Junior and especially ice-maiden-cum-chef Monica Galetti, who has obviously been told to, er, ham it up

While she’s generally looking at someone misusing a thermometer, she looks like she’s staring at Dirk Diggler’s pork loin most of them time. Here are a selection of Galetti’s reaction shots.

Monica Galetti's absurd reaction shots

Written by Robin Brown

October 19th, 2010 at 9:05 pm

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

Wot will win the 2010 election?

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There’s been something awful about this election, beyond the stuff that’s usually awful about elections.

Alongside how utterly hopeless the media at large have been in actually reporting the issues – as opposed to some things David Cameron has said, some suits Nick Clegg has worn and some mistakes Gordon Brown has made – there’s been the most naked display of vested interests for nearly 20 years.

The likes of The Mail and The Express adopt frothingly bigoted political lines because it’s what helps them sell papers, and it reflects the unpleasant ideologies of their respective owners.

The Torygraph backs the Conservatives because it’s read mainly by retired Brigadiers who remember the Boer War. The Star… well, who gives a flying one what the Star thinks eh?

As for The Sun and The Times, well, they back whoever proprietor Rupert Murdoch tells them to back, based on various deals with whichever party he reckons will win the election and deliver the goods.

This time around it’s barely even a secret that Murdoch, or rather his son James, wants to open a new front against the BBC, and has promised David Cameron his backing in exchange for crippling the Beeb.

The Sun always makes a big deal of wanting to look like its support is the deciding factor in an election campaign, but in reality Murdoch backs whoever he calculates is most likely to win.

In years gone by, back to 1997 and throughout the 80s, this was fairly easy to predict. The only recent blip was 1992, where the Sun pulled out all of the stops to virtually suggest that Neil Kinnock was insane.

‘It’s The Sun Wot Won It,’ gloated the Scum, so we know who to thanks for the following five years of the dross from John Major’s crumbling government.

’92 is an election regularly debated by students of psephology – a smart word for voting behaviour – because all the polls suggested that Labour would win. Could it have been the rabidly hostile Tory press than won it for Major? Tough to say, but I’ve never been in doubt as to the potential power of the media in politics.

One need only look at the last 18 months of absolute slating Gordon Brown – like Major, a decent man – has endured from the Sun, Mail and Telegraph; the results of which are that most people in the country now despise him without actually knowing why.

Anyway, 2010 should provide another clue as to the power of the media in elections because, having backed Cameron, the Murdoch press now faces the possibility of their man not actually winning. What will that do for the Sun’s habit of picking a winner? Or Murdoch’s latest ambitions?

The palpable desperation emanating from the front pages of the Sun recently has been almost pitiful, culminating in today’s risible front cover where Simon F’in Cowell appears to give his support to Cameron.

Delve inside the paper (if you can bear to) and you’ll find article after article telling us how much Sun readers love Cameron, and how a hung parliament will mean that Britain will fall into a volcano. Except, that’s not what Sun readers voting in polls on the online version have been saying.

Malcolm Coles has shown as much with some number-crunching on Sun polls, which show that its readers believe that Clegg won the third debate; Sun readers aren’t fussed about a hung parliament; and that a poll apparently showing Mums to be swinging behind Cameron shows nothing of the sort.

The Sun has gone into Cameron overdrive, barely stopping short of suggesting that WebCameron’s cock is bigger than Brown’s and Clegg’s put together, and offering a kind of non-stop tabloid blowjob to the Photoshopped Tory leader.

The rise of Clegg has also sent shivers down the spine at News International, so a full-scale assault was subsequently launched on the Lib Dems.

Unlike the US, where Fox News is basically a propaganda arm for the lunatic US right wing, the UK broadcast media is bound by strict rules of impartiality. Bad news for Murdoch Junior, who wants to extend Sky into a kind of Death Star of the media.

But this election campaign has brought the first whispers that Sky’s news coverage has not appeared to be quite as straight down the line as it should. And David Cameron has appeared to suggest that broadcasting regulations may need an overhaul. What can it all mean?

People have told me that Murdoch Senior is actually fairly left-of-centre, as far as his personal politics are concerned. What’s more he’s fairly friendly with Brown, and hit it off big style with Tony.

But Murdoch doesn’t let politics get in the way of business, and having been persuaded by son James to back Cameron, has had to throw the combined News International weight behind Cameron and the Tories.

What will happen? For the first time since 1992 I have no idea, as far as the election goes. As for the press, it’s been fascinating to see the Sun frantically attempting to shore up its man, knowing that its reputation is at stake. Indeed, the FT suggests that the Sun’s backing for Cameron has had the opposite effect.

A defeat for Cameron may mean that the rise of multimedia and the web has neutered the power of the papers in this regard, and with it the power of print media barons.

A win could open up a new front in partisan media, via Sky News and the humbling of the BBC, because Murdoch’s help won’t come without strings. Then, maybe, it won’t be the Sun wot wins it in the future, but the Sky.

That TV leader debate reporting in full

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After the rollercoaster thrill ride of three men disagreeing with each other and an off-camera man occasionally shouting, I’ve compiled this exhaustive list of newspaper and website coverage taking place both during the debate and over the next 24 hours.

• Debate clearly won by Gordon Brown, David Cameron or Nick Clegg

• Tiresome analysis of clothes worn by three candidates

• Article on Richard Nixon / JFK Presidential debate

• Infographic making inexplicable use of shapes in three primary colours

• Daily Mail picture of Gordon Brown looking sweaty

• Analysis of various ‘blunders’ by three party leaders

• Composite images of three leaders with mouths open

• Tiresome ‘Have Your Say’ section with numbingly tedious and/or ill-informed user-generated content

• Hopelessly unfunny sketch by Simon Hoggart/Rod Liddle/Amanda Platell

• Shit Sun mock-up of Gordon Brown looking like Compo from Last of the Summer Wine

• Dull profile of Alistair Stewart

• Live blog from short-straw reporter in pub in Hartlepool

• Millions of links to Twitter feeds churning out pointless quotes

• C4 blog by Jon Snow’s tie on what Brown, Cameron and Clegg were drinking backstage

• Swing-o-meter-style mock-up based on how many times each man says ‘change’.

• Live panel quizzed throughout debate consisting of white-van driving racist, muesli-eating hippie and boring middle-aged woman

• Plaintive whinge from Alex Salmond, live from reactor building in Dounreay

Now with added Clegg!

It’s a week later, and I deliberately spent the night cycling, editing photos and watching cricket. Anything really to avoid the dreaded leader’s debate and the ensuing media volcanic ash torrent of drivel. If you did too, here’s what you missed.

• Lots of articles and reports about end of two-party hegemony

• Right-wing press fall in line to paint Clegg as nutter/shirker/gay/gyppo/foreigner-loving liberal who is, quite possibly, a maniac

• Some of the broadcast media inexplicably start reporting rumours they’ve heard about Nick Clegg from hostile briefings

• Someone from Keane backs Nick Clegg

• Lib Dem supporters wonder how much further ahead they’d be with Charles Kennedy

• DPS Observer interview with Vince Cable called ‘The man who would be King’, trailed with front page lead headlined ‘Cable to bring City to heel’

• Marina Hyde writes shit sketch about how she fancies Vince Cable. Called The Cable Guy.

• Sue Malone writes poisonous article about Miriam González Durántez’s wardrobe

• Scratchy radio interview with Paddy Ashdown, saying how great Clegg is, and what a bastard Tony Blair is

• The Sun mocks up a shit photo of Nick Clegg heading down a hill in a tin bath.

Written by Robin Brown

April 15th, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Everyone hates Kelvin

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There’s unreasoning hate and there’s reasoning hate. I have an unreasoning hatred of lots of people, who are probably very nice people. If I ever met them I’d probably be nice to them

But there are a dozen reasons to genuinely hate Kevin Mackenzie, even if it’s just his horrible pudgy face.

I was reminded of this fact last night when watching Mackenzie’s love-in with Paxo and a couple of other media twonks.

Dawn Airey, as it goes, nearly hit on a good point, but the whole thing was overwhelmed by Mackenzie’s depressing luv-a-duck brand of obnoxious ‘straight talk’, which Paxman dutifully chuckled at.

If the whole thing moved the debate on the BBC’s modern role in a multi-platform media age I missed it, and after sitting through Mark Thompson’s execrable performance I was forced to endure this shouting gobshite trotting out his predictable News International line that we’re apparently supposed to think is funny.

Anyway, since I was on Twitter at the time I turned to the Omnipithium (i prefer Omnipithium to Twitterverse) to see what the consensus was.

Admittedly social media types are not largely representative of the general public, but in this case I’d largely like to believe that it was. I don’t think I’ve missed any out in the hour-or-so’s worth of comments, lest anyone accuse me of being selective.

What it shows is that there are genuine reasons to hate Kelvin, but you don’t really need one.

Written by Robin Brown

March 3rd, 2010 at 9:22 am

Edge of Darkness – Troy Kennedy Martin’s masterpiece

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Although he never managed to make the Twitter Trending Topic of Doom, it appears that British scriptwriter Troy Kennedy Martin has merged with the infinite.

It seems possible that Kennedy Martin’s death may go rather unnoticed given the recent deaths of Patrick Swayze and Keith Floyd, so I wanted to commemorate his passing. To throw a few titles at those of you not familiar with the name: Kelly’s Heroes, The Italian Job and Edge of Darkness.

The latter is unquestionably one of my favourite TV serials of all time, and I urge any readers (there are readers, right?) who are interested in such things to check it out.

The late-80s serial mixes nuclear paranoia, militant environmentalism, cold war politics, coal, Irish provos, James Lovelock, grief, loss, Willie Nelson, an iconic theme and score from Eric Clapton and Michael Kamen and age-old feudal battle. In the original draft the script’s protagonist, Craven, turns into a tree at the climax.

Out of all of that Martin, along with director Martin Campbell and producer Michael Wearing, fashioned a cohesive, intelligent and hard-edged thriller, with the mystical and ethereal overtones still integral but muted.

A spectacular cast also helps, with the sadly-departed Bob Peck perfect as lonely, unglamourous and rather dour Yorkshire detective Ronnie Craven.

Ian McNiece and Charles Kay are also particularly good as mysterious government suits Harcourt and Pendleton, while there’s solid back-up from John Woodvine, Jack Watson, Joanne Whalley, Zoe Wanamaker, Tim McInnery and, pleasingly, Blake’s 7 stalwarts David Jackson and Brian Croucher.

Stealing the show, though, is Joe Don Baker as Darius Jedburgh, a fun-loving, vaguely unhinged CIA agent gone rogue – a great, if slightly hyper-real creation, made believable by Baker.

Pretty much everyone involved went on to bigger things, including Kennedy Martin, who spent time on various underwhelming action scripts for Hollywood.

Speaking of, a Hollywood movie of Edge is planned which, although directed by Campbell, threatens to be awful.

The touches that made Edge of Darkness so superb in the first place – Jedburgh’s love of Come Dancing, the grimy London settings, the coal board corruption, the black flowers and the duality between the real world and the mystical – are likely to be missing. Small but important details whose significance is likely to be lost on US producers.

Edge of Darkness was a product of its time, a rare example of every element combining to make something even greater than the sum of its parts. Troy Kennedy Martin’s masterpiece.

• In the clip below, Craven discovers his murdered daughter’s double life as an environmental activist.

Written by Robin Brown

September 16th, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Twitter Trending Topic of Doom takes Patrick Swayze and Keith Floyd

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There’s always a little somersault in the pit of my stomach whenever I see someone’s name trending in Twitter’s most popular topics.

The column on the right-hand side of Twitter’s page relates the most popular mentions over the millions of Twitter accounts globally. If something gets in there, it’s big news.

This means that the first inkling of a celebrity death is likely to come from Twitter trending topics as rumours and news stories get retweeted and people start tweeting their sadness. Sad tweets.

I learned of the deaths of Mollie Sugden, Sir Bobby Robson and JG Ballard this way, and today spotted Patrick Swayze and Keith Floyd’s names in the list.

Kanye West’s frequent appearances in trends is always a false dawn, however.
Trending topics

I assumed Floyd was up there because of his rather depressing appearance in the Keith Allen documentary last night, but it appears that he’s shuffled off to the great kitchen in the sky.

I loved Floyd as a youngster, and could probably say that he stirred my early interesting in cooking. Finally someone who talked about food as if it was enjoyable and fun.

He always reminded me of the kind of family friend who have a sense of danger about them – they could swear at any moment and they smelled of booze and fags. Other adults disapprove, but kids loved old soaks.

We shared a love for The Stranglers. He went as far as having two of their tunes as his shows’ title music. Brilliant!

TV chefs these days revere Floyd, and rightly, but he seemed rather disappointed by them – blaming himself for the rise of the modern TV celebrity chef.

It couldn’t happen these days. Guys like Ramsey may swear and shout, but they tend to revel in a weird kind of puritanical discipline. No fun.

Hellraisers and TV drunks seemed to go out of fashion after the 80s, after which they seemed to crawl away to go bankrupt, get involved in unseemly drunken incidents and develop various illnesses. Finally they keel over, generally in penury.

But Floyd was a glorious product of the time, when a sozzled BBC producer can get his sozzled restauranteur mate a show on the Beeb because he thinks he’s funny.

I’ll raise a glass of wine to Keith, and pop on a Stranglers CD while I cook tonight. But I’ll just have the one.

Written by Robin Brown

September 15th, 2009 at 9:24 am

Frank Field and the future of the BBC

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Every time I see Frank Field in the news he’s making another pronouncement on some aspect of the state and how it requires a radical overhaul.

This has generally extended to the welfare state, with particular emphasis on social security and pensions.

But Frank has recently branched out by claiming that the BBC should be scaled back to being a minority public service broadcaster with two TV channels (BBC2 and BBC4) and two radio channels (Radio 3 and Radio 4).

Field was, for a very short time, social security minister in the Tony Blair government, having been priased for his radical forward thinking on the welfare state.

That was until everyone realised that just about the only person who agreed with Frank Field was Frank Field. It has to be said, he was remarkably prescient on a number of issues, probably too much for his own good.

Double F was swiftly sent back to the Wirral, where he has spent the last ten years arguing that everything should be scrapped, scaled down or broken up – cropping up with a new headline every couple of years when he’s got another headline-grabbing report out.

Here’s Frank on the BBC in his report, called Auntie’s Dying: Long Live Public Service Broadcasting.

“The BBC cannot continue to impose a version of the poll tax on every TV household.

“They are chasing viewers by producing rubbish programmes which, frankly, would make the founders of the BBC turn in their graves.

On a pedantic note, the licence fee isn’t a poll tax. Just to be straight on this, you don’t need to pay the TV licence if you don’t want to. Ergo not a poll tax.

Field argues that the public-fund nature of the licence fee compels the BBC to produce populist programmes that mirror commercial TV’s offerings.

He believes that diverting the licence fee to other content producers, who bid for the right, is a better idea – and one that is more likely to preserve public sector broadcasting in the long run.

The cultural value of the BBC is clearly a subjective one, but Field seems to have applied his own personal philosophy to everything in life. Who’s he to say which channels and stations are worthy and which aren’t? His continued references to the Proms highlight a peculiarly fusty idea of what’s of value and what isn’t.

I actually agree with Field that the BBC is going about things completely the wrong way by chasing viewers, and the continued existence of BBC3 – surely due to be renamed PramFaceTV* anytime soon – is baffling to me.

The problem is, and always will be, differing idea of what constitutes good public service broadcasting. Field has his own idea, I have mine, everyone else in the country will have theirs.

His paper recommends asking everyone what they understand by public sector broadcasting.

Frankly, I’m with Sid Vicious on this one – these are the very people who lap up the dross from commercial broadcasters at the moment. I dread to think what would be on the Beeb if it were decided by Joe Public.

Field would dispose of BBC management and an independent body would decide which broadcasters got their hands on the licence fee cash. I don’t see how this could really be much different from the current situation, where a largely unaccountable elite decides what gets made.

Field has earned a reputation for thinking the unthinkable, but it’s rarely pointed out that many ideas previously thought beyond the pale are unthinkable because they’re fucking ridiculous.

There’s certainly a debate to be had over the ways the digital revolution is changing the broadcasting landscape, and the way the BBC and other terrestrial broadcasters are funded has resulted only in a fudge thus far.

The commercialisation of some of the Beeb’s output is also problematic, as is the reach and scope of bbc.co.uk – but I’d rather have the BBC in the muddled state it’s in at the moment than a neutered niche broadcaster envisaged by Field.

Despite its intention to save public sector broadcasting, I rather fear Field’s paper will be more grist to the mill for the Beeb’s many and varied enemies – generally ranged across the right-wing and generally for economic or political purposes.

They’ll be rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of getting rid of a mortal enemy and competitor, plus all that lovely licence fee cash.

The BBC needs to be at the centre of British broadcasting, reaching out to as many people as it can while remaining true to its core commitments. I don’t think it currently does, but it only needs a little tweaking.

Under Field’s disastrous vision the Beeb would be cowed, a little-viewed curio amongst a sea of digital shite. His suggestions would be the first shots in the eventual destruction of public-service broadcasting.

I’ve always found it odd that while the rest of the world looks at the BBC in envy and admiration, in Britain we spend all of our time trying to destroy it.

*It was the BBC itself, lest we forget, that actually had the temerity to call a programme about teenage mothers Pramface Mansion.

Written by Robin Brown

July 29th, 2009 at 7:04 pm

Posted in Business,Media,People,TV

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