Posts Tagged ‘Television’

The Opening Ceremony

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

I  hadn’t planned to watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony. I’m not a fan of organised sport, so obviously the Olympics is not my cup of tea – I generally refer to it as the Great Egg and Spoon Race. But I was working late at home on Friday night, and had come to an end just as I knew it was starting, so I thought I would stick on the tv and give it a chance.

And most unexpectedly, I was impressed. For a start, there was no sport, which was great. It was also uniquely British – no other country would choose to celebrate the things that Danny Boyle chose, and I like that. It was a good show. And most unexpectedly, there was humour. These sorts of things are usually super-serious, nothing but pomp and ceremony, and viewers usually find the humour in it by pricking that pomposity. But the inclusion of the excellent Mr Bean sketch, and the Queen’s parachuting were completely unexpected, and did a brilliant job of lightening the mood and making it less pompous. A great move, and very daring! And full marks to the Queen for joining in.

But the things that impressed me most were actually towards the end. The choice of people who carried in the Olympic flag was remarkable – when I heard the name Doreen Lawrence, I was really surprised. But I loved that the opportunity was taken to acknowledge people who are actually making the world a better place, as opposed to the Olympics, which is meant to be about that, but isn’t really. We could argue all day about who was or wasn’t worthy of it (probably about Shami Chakrabati), but it was a great idea, and I loved it. And then the inclusion of Mohammed Ali, a man once so great, but now unable to stand on his own, speak, or even smile for the event. The Olympics is all about stronger, faster and higher, but those things are fleeting, and I found Ali’s inclusion a poignant reminder of mortality.

And then I loved the fact that Danny outfoxed all of the bookies by using a group of young athletes to light the flame, rather than any of the famous names from the past. It was nice to beat the media, and do something that no-one expected. And the cauldron was a very nice piece of art itself.

I will of course admit that I didn’t watch all of it – the parade of the nations was more interesting than I had expected, but I still did some wandering in and out at that stage. But I did watch most of it.

So good work Danny, an unexpected pleasure!

Television and Life

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Today I made my television debut, though not under the circumstances I would have wanted. Ideally, I would have been asked to be in Doctor Who, as a scheming villain with an evil laugh. But that didn’t happen. Instead, I contributed to Channel 4’s 4thought series, after the news at 7:55. You can catch up with it at, and also read what other viewers thought of what I said. I’m mainly relieved that I didn’t make an eejit of myself, and the producers didn’t make an eejit of me either. It says pretty much what I wanted it to say, so that’s good, and I’m enormously relieved.

But alongside the continuing tragedy in Japan, there was another tragedy closer to home, as I attended the funeral today of my 19 year old next door neighbour. He died in a motorbike accident on Saturday night, and needless to say, the family are devastated. I guess the same thoughts apply to that situation as to the tsunami victims.

But on a brighter note, I finally saw an episode of Jamie’s Dream School tonight (also on Channel 4, and no I don’t have a sponsorship deal). It was on in the gym when I started on the running machine. I ended up running over 4 miles just to keep watching it! I’ve had arguments about this one, where my friend makes the reasonable point that they aren’t actual teachers, and they’re not actually teaching them very much, and that real life is complicated and quick fixes seldom work. But watching it tonight, there are some kids who are starting to make decisions about who and what they want to be, and I hope it works out for them.

A TV Highlight

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

I caught up on some tv tonight.

The highlight of the 10 o’clock show from last week (warning – as usual it’s a bit sweary, but also contains some really good analysis of the week’s news) must be Charlie Brookers statement that “Nuclear Physics is being explained to me by people who struggled to describe the colour of Kate Middleton’s dress last week”.

Yes, I know, I’m still focusing on Japanese stuff. But it’s perfectly normal; it’s still kind of on my mind a bit.

The End of Lost

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

On Monday, with fanfares and simultaneous transmission at stupid times throughout the world, the final 2 episodes of Lost were shown. Well, sod that silly o’clock stuff. I taped the repeat on Tuesday, and watched it today.

It’s been a long ride. I remember being keen to see the pilot, because it started with a plane crash, and I was such a frequent plane traveller at the time, I thought there might be something I would learn in case of emergency. Needless to say there wasn’t! But the first series was quality stuff, and attracted a lot of viewers. As time has passed, and the confusion has increased rather than decreased, a lot of people let it go, and stopped watching, but I hung on in there. It remained a series with remarkable vision throughout – it had deaths of major characters throughout, plane crashes (yes, more than one, and seen from all the possible perspectives), mysterious computers, conspiracies, messages from the dead, time travel, and even a nuclear bomb!

And now it’s over. So what did we learn? In the end many of the mysteries were not answered (how did they keep their hair looking so good throughout?), many of them were (we did find out why the island was important) , and some were sort of answered (what was happening with that parallel timestream?).

The final episode reminded me how much I liked the character of John Locke (the actual Locke, not the Locke Monster), and in many ways, although the actor that plays him won’t get the modelling jobs that some of the others have, I think he stands out as one of the best parts of the show. Mind you, I’ve liked him in other things too. The episode also made me think about how beautiful the real island of Hawaii is, which has been a great backdrop to the series.

But what of the ending itself (spoilers here)?

I guess it did what the makers intended it to do. With the end of any series, there’s often a desire to give some completion, but to make it open-ended enough to give the implication that the characters go on to do other things (“The road goes ever on and on” as Tolkien says). By having two different finishes, on the island and back home, it gave them the opportunity to do that. It’s clear that some of the characters went on to do other things – Hurley’s compliment to Ben about being a great Number 2 speaks volumes of lives spent together on the island in the years to follow.
I liked that Ben continued to be a conflicted character and didn’t get a simple on-screen redemption, but seems to have gone good in the end with Hurley.
I am pleased that they did explain why the island was important (thank goodness).
I liked that Desmond got quite a bit to do in the last few episodes, as I always liked him.
Likewise, it was nice to see Rose, Bernard and Vincent the dog again, as they were always cool.
But we never find out why Walt was so special (he wasn’t even in the final ever-so-religiously-neutral church scene).
Or where the polar bear came from.
Or what Widmore wanted to do with the island.
Or how the Locke Monster interacted with  Widmore’s group when they were living on the island, or why they left it.
But I like that Hurley got his moment in the sun as the new guardian – that’s fitting.

Over all, I am not displeased, though I am still at a bit of a loss how the parallel time-tracks thing fitted together. I guess it didn’t – it would seem that it was invented by the characters as the lives that they would have had if they hadn’t gone to the island. Or something. That could have been better resolved.

But part of me is just glad it’s over – it got dragged out quite enough I think!

The things I didn’t write about

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

As my trip to India went on, it became harder to get wi-fi acces, and I spent more of my time in the evenings working. So the blogging kind of stopped suddenly. But there were a few more things I had planned to write about. So I guess I’ll try and cover a few more of them, before I forget.

One of the things that impressed me while I was away was BBC World, the international news channel from the BBC. During the election, they showed the main BBC coverage, so I was able to watch the middle-of-the-night election results without being up in the middle of the night. I was in a hotel room in Calcutta when I saw the joyous news that Peter Robinson had lost his seat.

But good election coverage would be expected, and was just sharing content from BBC1. What impressed me more was a debate on whether Barack Obama what it took to bring about peace in the Middle East. It was a very balanced, and mainly very reasonable and reasoned discussion about a really complicated subject. I also managed to catch a Hard Talk interview about the capitalist system, how it’s working and its future.

Both of them were thought-provoking contributions on subjects that are not really mass-market, and the opposite of the kind of dumbed-down media we see so much of.

Well done the BBC.


Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

I finally caught the end of Dollhouse tonight, and I thought it was worthy of comment. It was the latest tv show from Joss Whedon, the legendary maker of sci-fi and fantasy programmes like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, its spinoff Angel, and Firefly.

And just like Firefly, it didn’t last very long – its cancellation was announced early in the second season. But I enjoyed it while it lasted. Indeed, I almost think it may have even been better that way – the cancellation meant that the timescale of the programme’s story got accelerated, and the final few episodes have covered a lot of ground.

Dollhouse tells the story of a group of “dolls”, people who have chosen to have their personalities erased as part of a contract with the mysterious Rossum corporation. Rossum then use their bodies to fulfill various jobs by implanting new personalities into them, so that the dolls aren’t merely actors, but completely believe all of the false memories and skills that have been implanted. But as the story goes on, the dolls start to redevelop personalities again, despite having their brains repeatedly wiped. Victor and Sierra find love in the sterile environment of the dollhouse, while Echo’s desire to help others despite her programming (or lack of it) asserts itself.

There’s been some good stories about the effects of this unexpected technology (a highlight was the story of the woman investigating her own death in the body of a stranger, which was very poignant), and the morality of science and power. There’s also been some great acting, as the cast have played such a variety of different people inhabiting the same bodies. But I think the strongest thing has been the storytelling along the way, getting sucked in by the unlikeable as well as the likable characters, and some marvellous plot twists.

The premise behind Dollhouse has always been hard to explain (see above!), and I suspect that made it quite hard to sell to viewers and other television channels, but I think it’s been worth following. I suspect it won’t quite receive the critical acclaim that Firefly did, but I predict that in retrospect it too will find a niche in the sci-fi hall of fame. I might even splash out on a box set.

Okay, I was wrong

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

In my watching of videos, I’ve finally caught up with the beginning of Stargate Universe.

When I saw a couple of episodes in Dallas last year, I said it hadn’t impressed me a great deal. But when my friends challenged me on this, I did say that I had missed the first episode, with all of the scene-setting and introduction that would have given, and that this may not have helped.

Well, now I’ve watched the first four episodes, and I have to say that I am enjoying it after all. The conflict is much more understandable now, and makes more sense. There’s a part of me that even finds it quite touching that people cross galaxies to tell families that they love them. But best of all, the synthesizer music makes it sound like sci-fi – I really like that.

So I admit I was wrong about it, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of it.

Doctor Who – The End of David Tennant

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

Well, it had to come sooner or later, and it came too soon.

But last night, New Years Day, brought the final episode of Doctor Who as we have known it, with David Tennant, Russell T. Davies, Julie Gardner, and Phil Collinson. The next time we see it, almost everything will be different. So how did it end?

Warning – if you haven’t seen it yet, then stop now – spoilers follow.

What was good:

  • I have to admit that it was a real joy seeing Bernard Cribbins’ name in the titles. He is a legend, and it was cool to see him get a major role. And it worked very well. As a side note, I noticed that the Doctor seldom accepts salutes from anyone, but he accepted them from Wilfred. I liked that too.
  • In some ways, the timing was good – I’d hate to have to wait a year for the next episode.
  • The Master was good. As a crime of opportunity, cloning himself onto the entire human race was very in character, and John Simm was fantastic as all the different copies of himself at the end of part one. In part two, there was less of that comedy, and instead we see the Master as the ultimate survivor, happy to join any side as long as he survived. I’ve always liked the Master, and though I think the character has been all wrong recently, I liked him in this.
  • It was great to see the return of the Time Lords. I’ve been waiting for this. And to have Rassilon as president was a gorgeous touch. The Time Lords, in their desperation, reached back to find a leader of dubious integrity, but unquestioned power. That seems in character for them. And the plan to end the war by ending time itself seemed in character given the mood they were in.

What wasn’t so good:

  • The Time Lords finally return, but leave again. That sucks. The Doctor has always rebelled against authority, and that stemmed from the fact that he was a rebel and an outcast from his own people. When he was the last of his people, he went from poacher to gamekeeper, which I think explained his actions in the Waters of Mars to some extent. I think it would have been better to have kept the Time Lords in place after their return, for the possibilities that it would have given. But it was not to be.
  • How long can we drag out an ending? I was watching it online, so I could see that the plot ends had been tied up, but there was still a lot of time to go. I wondered what kind of plot twist was to come. What I didn’t expect was a farwell tour from the Doctor. I know why Russell wanted to do it, but I didn’t love it. And I don’t like Martha’s new hairstyle.
  • In some ways, the timing was terrible – I complain quite a bit about Eastenders at Christmas, where they put so much effort into making sure that all the characters have the most miserable time possible, which I think is horrible. To be honest, I’d rather have had a Christmas special that was more upbeat, and kept the regeneration until later in the new year. But of course, then the BBC wouldn’t have had the huge ratings, and I suppose that’s what it’s all about (and not the okey cokey, as is so widely sung).

What I’m not sure about:

  • The Doctor’s speech before he saves Wilfred. I can understand it, and it was a very human thing to do. But the Doctor isn’t human, and I’m not sure I like it – I don’t think it’s very in character for him. But I can certainly understand it.
  • The regeneration setting the Tardis on fire. It didn’t do that last time, or any other time, so why should it this time? I believe I know the reason why – I’ve heard that the new series will have a refitted Tardis. But it still doesn’t make sense.
  • There was an opportunity to show the Doctor’s actions in the Great Time War, but once again, it wasn’t done. It’s clear that he was fighting in the war, but not quite on the side of Gallifrey, which I guess we already knew. But it’s still a great untold story, unfortunately.

So there we have it. The end of an era. I said to someone recently that I could now die happy, because after all these years I have been proved right – that Doctor Who really is cool, and extremely important, as shown by the complete media saturation over Christmas. It’s extremely pleasing for those of us who kept the faith through the poor years of Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, and the wilderness years of only books and CDs. It’s been wonderful to see Doctor Who back on top again.

And yet I keep having the same conversation with friends. We are all worried about what will happen next, when a whole new team takes over. But I have some faith in that new team, with Stephen Moffat at its head, and we haven’t too long to wait. In the meantime, in the words of the Doctor himself:

One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine. 

Dallas Day Twenty Five

Friday, October 30th, 2009

When I am at home, setting my video (yes I know, a video recorder – how 20th century – but it works for me), it always seems to me that I watch quite a bit of American television.

I am now in America, the home of American TV. The television in my hotel room has 79 channels. So have I enjoyed my tv-watching experience?

I have to say, no, it’s been pretty underwhelming.

Here are the main things I’ve been watching over the past 4 weeks:

  • Robot Chicken – this is just extremely silly and childish. It’s made up of a series of very short sketches, many of which are parodies of other tv shows. I suppose it’s a cartoon for teenagers, since it appears in the Adult Swim part of the Cartoon Network. It hits the mark enough to be watchable, and the individual sketches are so short that it’s not too painful when a sketch is rubbish.
  • Family Guy – I could watch this at home any time on BBC3, but I usually don’t. Here it seems to be the most watchable thing I can find between 9:30 and 11:00. An amazing fact I recently discovered is that Seth MacFarlane does the voices of Peter the dad, Brian the dog, and Stewie the baby. They don’t sound at all alike – I’m impressed.
  • Stargate Universe – this is a new programme from the people who previously brought us Stargate and Stargate Atlantis. I’m not convinced that it’s going very well.
  • King of the Hill – again, I could watch this at home, but usually don’t. But at the end of a hard day’s work, it’s a much more gentle comedy than Family Guy, and a reasonable background for blogging.

So where is the quality television? Heroes, Fringe and Dollhouse are all being shown, but I haven’t caught any of them. There must be some funny scheduling going on. Oh, I did catch a repeat of Lost one night too.

So it’s true what they say – there’s 57 channels but there’s nothing on.

Things I learned this evening

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009
  1. I hate it when I get to the gym and realise that I’ve forgotten my headphones, and can’t listen to my own music. Instead I have to listen to Kiss, which is truly awful. Why is the music in the gym always so bad?
  2. At the end of the stupid house-buying program that was on tv (in the gym), it said in the credits that he house prices were accurate in Autumn 2007. That’s nearly 2 years ago, and house prices have dropped like a brick since then. That explains why the people featured looked so smug – they’d sold their old house for a fortune no doubt, and had no fears of their new mortgage. Channel 4 – shouldn’t these episodes be dumped in the bin rather than be shown?
  3. Big Brother is still irritating when you can’t hear what they are saying. That was on tv in the gym too – I promise!!