So, the BBC has an interview with Ricky Gervais.
It’s about the second series of his “sitcom” Derek – and if you think I’m being mean with the scare quotes, Gervais himself invites them in the interview. Those who know me may be absolutely astounded to know that I have an awful lot of issues with what he says. But let’s skip past all the disability stuff, and just focus on the bit where he insults 50% of the population instead:
“The comic is keen to get under the skin of those “real” people – and one of his favourite themes is ‘men acting childishly’, which he describes as ‘my weakness’.
‘They just should know better, men don’t grow up – that’s always the theme I’ve had, women as adults and men as boys. Women don’t act like that! Proper stupidity is fascinating.’”
Really? Women don’t act like that? Bollocks. Utter horseshit. Some of the most fun times in my life have been spent with women behaving absolutely ridiculously.1. I can’t think of a more boring way to write female characters than “women as adults”. Not allowing women to be silly is not only a fairly fundamental flaw when it comes to writing comedy, but it makes you wonder exactly how Gervais sees the world.
It all reminds me of the very weakest parts of Men Behaving Badly. Gary and Tony get to do all the stupid fun stuff, and then we cut back to Dorothy and Deborah being sensible and tedious. The best moments were when Nye realised the women could be ridiculous too, and that just didn’t happen often enough.
If you want a sitcom that’s an antidote to all this crap, may I recommend Mom? Two lead female characters, doing things that are as stupid and as idiotic and as hilarious as can be. Real characters, not “sensible women” ciphers.
It’s not just how I like my comedy. It’s how people are.
■ Posted 15th April 2014 @ 9am in Comedy, Television. No Comments Yet.
The other day, I did a post about how much I loved a series of promos Channel 5 showed last year.1 It reminded me of the above: a promo that – as far as I’m aware – Channel 5 never actually broadcast.
It’s hardly surprising, really. I loved the Ask an Aussie promos because they were perfectly targeted and entertaining in their own right. The above promo cross-promotes – of all things – The Walking Dead and… The Wright Stuff. It’s one of the most entertaining TV promos I’ve ever seen… but how the bloody hell would you schedule it? The tone is entirely unsuitable for daytime, but it doesn’t really make that much sense to promote a daytime talk show late at night either.
But then, that’s the fun. The total incongruity of it all. Any promo which ends with Matthew Wright surrounded by a horde of killer zombies has to be worth something. (It has some particularly good sound design, too.) Just try to ignore the fact that – as with a lot of their US dramas – Channel 5 went on to drop The Walking Dead from its schedule. Ahem.
Fun fact: the breakdown loop that features during the promo is the actual breakdown loop Channel 5 uses if there is a problem, and the announcer is one of the actual Channel 5 continuity announcers. A bit of artistic licence is used for how quickly that announcement would make it to air, mind…
■ Posted 30th March 2014 @ 7pm in Television. 1 Comment.
Here’s something I doubt many people reading this site will have seen: a Channel 5 filler from 2013 called Ask an Aussie.1 (There’s also a shorter version on YouTube, which has worse picture quality but includes some funny sections the above version lacks.)
For a start, this wins points simply for being a specially-shot promo, rather than just being a montage of clips stuck together or using EPK material. I don’t wish to denigrate the art of putting together promos using show clips too much; done well they can be absolutely incredible. But some of my favourite promos have come from using specially-shot material, and it just doesn’t happen enough these days for drama and comedy. Maybe the trailer for Psycho is the most famous example, but what sitcom wouldn’t benefit from something like this? Or this? It’s a shame so many programmes rely on just clip-based trailers these days.
OK, so maybe this promo isn’t quite in the same league as those examples. But it’s still lots of fun, and rather more effort than most people would expect Channel 5 to go to.2 What I especially love about it is that it does something else that’s not done enough these days: it ties the whole channel together. Of course it’s ostensibly promoting the channel’s two big Australian soaps, Home & Away and Neighbours. But it also manages to beautifully incorporate loads of other Channel 5 shows: Robson’s Extreme Fishing Challenge, Cowboy Traders, Benidorm ER, Eddie Stobart. A proper, Channel 5 brand trailer… without just sticking together clips from a load of shows with a Channel 5 logo slapped on the end.
Of course, the intention with this this is all about building brand loyalty with the channel, etc, etc, etc. Crucially, though, the makers of the promo don’t forget that in order for this to work, it has to be entertaining in its own right. As all the best adverts are. Three minutes of fun, which also does its intended job at the same time.
Something original, that grabs your attention, with actual effort put into it, and is entertaining at the same time? I wish more TV promos were made this way.
■ Posted 26th March 2014 @ 8pm in Television. 2 Comments.
It’s 1969, and America’s ABC FM group needs some new jingles.
“I conferred with Harry Sosnik who was the director of music at ABC, and he said: ‘You know, what we could do is do our own jingle package in London. You know, we might get some cool British sounds and since that seems to be a big part of the rock scene…’ So we packed up, went over to London, went to Marble Arch studio and had a big huge orchestra there all ready that Harry had arranged for, and then we started auditioning lead singers to do the jingles. And this young fella comes in with tattered clothes, an audition disc and we put it on the turntable, played it, and boy, he sounded pretty good…”
— Allen Shaw, head of ABC FM group, 1969
The name of that singer? The answer may interest you, even if you’re not that into jingles. Take a listen to this. Or just look at the filename, of course, but that’s not half as much fun.
(All courtesy of a certain Mr. Jon Wolfert, who originally posted it on JingleMad. There’s some more background information over there, for those interested.)
■ Posted 8th March 2014 @ 4pm in Jingles, Radio. No Comments Yet.
From the series of “articles” which brought you the programme leaflets for The Brittas Empire, Every Silver Lining, and new Yes Prime Minister, comes this: the last episode in the series of the ITV revival of Birds of a Feather, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”.
RX: 24th November 2013, Studio 2, The London Studios.
TX: 6th March 2014, ITV, 8:30pm.
As I was at the recording of the episode, I can let you into a little secret – they shot the last scene of the episode a number of different ways:
- Firstly, as broadcast, with Sharon and Tracey just sitting on the sofa realising Dorien is at the door
- Secondly, with Tracey getting up, opening the door, and Dorien just standing outside.
- Thirdly, with Tracey answering the door, Dorien stepping in, and them both hugging… to the audience going “Ahhhhhhh”.
Bearing in mind the episode was already too over-sentimental and syrupy at times, you can imagine what I thought of that last ending. (For the record, I also predicted they’d use the ending as broadcast.) Also worthy of note: the episode as we saw recorded didn’t have the final outside shot with everyone saying goodnight. Do I spy a last-minute fix in the edit, perhaps?
For the truly anal amongst you, at this session they also re-recorded the first scene of Episode 2, where Sharon sits down with a nice cup of hot chocolate and is interrupted by the phone. (Who knows what ludicrous catastrophe made the first version unusable?) They also recorded a version with her scraping shavings of Dairy Milk onto the top of it, but used a second take which didn’t include this. Why not impress your friends with this fascinating piece of trivia?
Anyway, I’m always interested in these programme leaflets, so if you have any hanging around, please scan them in and stick them up somewhere. I’ll give you a great big girly kiss on the bottom.
■ Posted 6th March 2014 @ 9pm in Comedy, Television. No Comments Yet.
Years ago, I created – along with Jeffrey Lee – a website about two of my favourite RISC OS games, Asylum and Oddball. (I did the design and some of the writing for the site, and Jeffrey did all the ACTUAL WORK involving the software.) Both games were loads of fun – but to get them running these days, you either have to have a RISC OS machine, get a RISC OS emulator up and running, or mess around with an SDL version. One thing that doesn’t need any setting up however, is listening to the fantastic music from Asylum.
From the relatively calm music for the easy levels, through to my favourite track for the medium levels, and this absolute insanity for the hardest levels – and that’s only three of the eight pieces – any lover of videogame music should give it a listen. They aren’t very well known, but I think the tracks are absolutely gorgeous. Aching for a remix of some kind.
So: do you have any favourite lesser-known music from games – from obscure tracks from famous releases, right through to something which once sold four copies in 1982? I’d love to put together a mix of them, similar to my BBC Micro TV themes mix from last year. Add ‘em below, or send a tweet across. Any platform, any genre, any year. GO.
■ Posted 23rd February 2014 @ 2pm in Computers, Gaming. No Comments Yet.
I just read two articles. Two articles about two entirely different subjects. Oddly enough, however, they both managed to annoy me in exactly the same way. (Incidentally, congratulations – you’ve just managed to find the only site on the internet to tie together Mrs Brown’s Boys and Flappy Bird.)
Firstly, Rachel Cooke interviewing BBC director of television Danny Cohen:
“Would he explain to me the success of Mrs Brown’s Boys, watched by 9.4 million on Christmas Day? “Yes. There are huge numbers of people – and I’m one – who love studio-based sitcoms. The joy in the room!” Again, I peer at him, trying to work out if he’s being sincere. Oh, Lord. I think he is.”
Secondly, Patrick O’Rourke on Flappy Bird. He starts off with an interesting question:
“After about 10 minutes, I came to the realization Flappy Bird is an absolutely horrible video game and began to wonder why it’s so extremely popular.”
Somehow manages to contradict himself within two sentences:
“It’s Flappy Bird’s simplicity that makes it so addictive. What I don’t understand is how people genuinely seem to be enjoying playing Flappy Bird.”
And then just gives up:
“So do yourself a favour and stop playing Flappy Bird; it sucks.”
Now, what I think about the two topics is irrelevant. (For the record, I really like Flappy Bird, and haven’t seen enough Mrs Brown’s Boys to be able to judge.) What irritates me is the acknowledgement of how successful they both are… and a complete lack of engagement on behalf of the writer as to why.
In the case of Mrs Brown’s Boys, I genuinely don’t understand the interviewer’s response to Danny Cohen’s statement. Which bit is she disagreeing with? That people like studio-based sitcoms? That Cohen specifically likes studio sitcoms? The bit about the “joy in the room”? Or does she think he ducked the specific question and just spoke in generalities, and that’s what she’s perturbed by? It’s not clear at all. It’s just a dig from someone who doesn’t like the show, expecting the reader to happily go along with it without a single further thought.
The Flappy Bird article is even worse. It claims to be a piece where someone who hates the game genuinely tries to find out what people love about it… and yet the writer makes little effort to actually figure it out. The point of the article having now completely disappeared, instead he throws out an order from on-high to tell people to stop playing the game. I would hope that last part at least has some level of irony attached, but it’s still pointless. The entire article is ridiculous.
Let me be clear. I’m not saying that just because something’s popular, you have to like it. You hate something popular, you should write articles in deep and penetrating detail saying exactly what you don’t like about it. (God knows I have.) What annoys me about these two articles is that both specifically bring up the fact that something they hate is popular… and then refuse to engage with any potential answers as to why. Instead, they prefer to sit back and sneer.
My suggestion: have a go. Listen. Engage. Think about why people might like something you don’t. You don’t have to suddenly agree that something is brilliant – but at least have the discussion. You’re more likely to come up with something that’s actually worth saying.
■ Posted 9th February 2014 @ 9am in Journalism. 1 Comment.
Take a spin-off of a spin-off: a 1995 SNES game, based on The Flintstones live action film, based on the Hanna-Barbera cartoon.
Take a music track found in the cartridge, which isn’t even used in the game1.
And from this obscure origin, find one of the most gorgeous chiptunes you’re ever likely to hear.
Funny how life turns out.
■ Posted 19th January 2014 @ 12pm in Computers, Gaming. 1 Comment.
Emotional Public Domain Software.
That’s what the opening title of the program reads. This is BBC Micro public domain disc BBC PD #171, “Something About Me”. The catalogue description reads: “…by Oliver Debus. A personal anthology of graphics, digitised images and scanned pictures.”
And that’s what we get. Dated 1989 in one of the program files, you can download the disc image file from 8BS – but I’ve captured a video of it below, to save you the trouble of emulating. (Contains brief, low resolution nudity.)
At first pixellated glance, at a slideshow of 320 x 256 black and white photos, this might seem far removed from anything teenagers are doing now. But come on – pictures of yourself, of famous people you like, of things you’re interested in, of silly cartoons, all with captions – sent out into the world for other people to see?
This is just a 1989 version of Tumblr. How fabulous.
■ Posted 14th January 2014 @ 12pm in Computers. No Comments Yet.