The chosen one's blog

What can I say....I'm addicted to TV

I don’t know about you but I am certainly finding that there is not much worth watching on TV now.  In particular there is a shortage of drama programmes.  Besides the odd American import such as The Mentalist, CSI or Heroes the telly doesn’t have much to offer these days.

Certainly in the primetime slot of 8pm home grown drama seems to be limited to the soaps – be they nightly versions such as Eastenders and Hollyoaks or weekly versions such as Casualty and Waterloo Rd.  Otherwise the terrestrial broadcasters are offering reality TV (like 10 Years Younger) or informative programmes (like The Gadget Show). Both of which are much cheaper to make than quality dramatic productions.

True, many of the better drama shows don’t start till after the watershed. But even the dramatic offerings after 9pm are meagre at best.  There are a few things on the BBC such as the new All the Small Things, but not much else.  At the moment the only British-made drama programme I make a point of trying to watch is ITV’s Lewis, which is primarily due to the locations and acting.  

As the recession bites and budgets are cut, will broadcasters increasing fill our TV screen with cheap TV instead of well written and produced dramatic productions using talented actors?  I certainly hope that this isn’t the future for British TV.  But if the dire predictions for the future of ITV and Channel 4 (following the loss of advertising revenue) are to be believed, it looks like quality TV may be in for a tough time.  Even the BBC seems to be a bit short on ideas and enticing programmes at the moment.

I hope this dearth of engaging programmes it just a blip as the broadcasters settle into the spring schedule but fear that it may be the sign of things to come.

The nominations for the 2009 British Academy Television Awards (BFTA)were announced yesterday, with the winners being broadcast at the award ceremony to be held on April 26th.

In the best entertainment category Stephen Fry (QI) is up against Harry Hill (TV Burps), Ant & Dec (I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here) as well as Jonathan Ross (Friday Night with Jonathon Ross).  Nominations for the for best comedy performance include Rob Brydon (Gavin and Stacy), Sharon Horgan (Pulling), David Mitchell (Peep Show)and Claire Skinner (Outnumbered).

In the soaps category the BBC’s EastEnders and Casualty compete against ITV’s Emmerdale  and The Bill for best continuing drama, while Charlie Brooker’s horror series Dead Set (E4) has been nominated for best drama serial against The Devil’s Whore(Channel 4), Criminal  Justice (BBC1) and House Of Saddam(BBC2).

Nominations for the best drama series include BBC1’s Doctor Who, Spooks and Wallander verse Channel 4’s Shameless.  BBC2 has two nominations in the best single drama category Einstein and Eddington and White Girl, which are up against BBC4’s Hancock and Joan and Channel 4’s The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall.

In the best factual series category BBC2’s Amazon with Bruce Parry faces off against BBC3’s Blood Sweat and T-shirts, Channel 4’s The Family and SKY1’s only nomination Ross Kemp in Afghanistan.

Nominations for the best international programme include The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (More4), Dexter (ITV1), Mad Men (BBC Four) and The Wire (FX/Blown Down Productions/HBO/FX).

The highly coveted nominations for best actor include Stephen Dillane (The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall), Jason Isaacs (The Curse of Steptoe), Ken Stott (Hancock and Joan) and Ben Whitshaw (Criminal Justice).  Contenders for the best actress award will be selected from June Brown (EastEnders), Anna Maxwell Martin (Poppy Shakespeare), Maxine Peake (Hancock and Joan) and Andrea Riseborough (Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk to Finchley).

The BBC has announced the final 15 contestants for the fifth series of The Apprentice.   There will eight females and seven males in this year’s contest.  As ever, their backgrounds are quite diverse and include an ex-professional footballer, a restaurateur, a science teacher and an estate agent.   For the first time two of the contestants on The Apprentice are from overseas.

Sir Alan Sugar’s advisers Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford are also returning to the show, as will the spinoff show The Apprentice: You’re Fired! (hosted by Adrian Chiles) which will also be on Wednesday nights.

Already there has been a causality of the show, when one male contestant pulled out of the show right before filming began, stating that he could not face leaving his family.

The recession has had an impact on The Apprentice this year.  Not only has its budget been hit, but this series will not include visits to overseas destination.  Mentions of Sir Alan Sugar’s wealth have also been toned down.  As we go through the series you will see some shows that are specifically made towards recognition of what difficult times we are in,” said Sir Alan Sugar.  “At the moment, people are having to consider whether they can go on holiday and so there is one episode about reinvigorating one of our seaside towns.”

The first episode of The Apprentice will be broadcast on March 25th at 9pm and will see the contests heading to Margate to get involved with renovation work in the town.  Later in the series, instead of the usual task of promoting a new foreign product, the contestants will undertake a “buy British” challenge and will be asked to help promote small businesses.

Thursday night at 9pm we were treated to Comic Relief Does the Apprentice.  We saw the girls (Carole Voderman, Fiona Phillips, Ruby Wax, Patsy Palmer with business woman Michelle Mone from Ultimo) face off against the boys (Jonathan Ross, Jack Dee, Gok Wan, Alan Carr and businessman Gerald Ratner of the now defunked jewellery chain).

Sir Alan Sugar got into the swing of things by trying to be stern and telling the group of celebrities they would need to forget all of their “luvie luvie behaviour”, but his wry smile showed that he only thought of this as a fun comic fund-raiser.    The celebrities too, did their bit to ratchet up the tension with Ruby Wax stating that she will be a “Rottweiler” and Gok Wan promising to be “the most competitive man ever” on British TV.

The task given to the teams by Sir Alan Sugar was to develop a toy for five to eight year olds and to pitch it to toy companies. Part of the challenge was for each team to create a jingle and an advert – a task the teams seemed to relish.

The girls started well as a team and chose business woman, Michelle Mone, as their project manager. The team’s toy idea was a Velcro suit that could be used to stick kids together.  Problems soon arose between the highly competitive Mone and Patsy Palmer following a clash over the choreography for the ad.   After a bit of a breather, order was restored and the team pulled together to present their pitch to the panel of toy companies.

The boys also decided to have the business expert lead their project – even though his business pedigree is a bit questionable.  Their toy idea was a swapping belt – where kids collected and exchanged figures that attached to a belt.  While there was less obvious tension between the team, they soon became fed up with Jonathan Ross’s constant babbling (nicely balanced by Jack Dee) and Gok Wag became fraught as he went into super –organise mode.

So, you ask….who won?  Well the girls just managed to clinch it – owing mainly to the fact they had costed their idea better than the guys.

And who ended up being sacked?   Well, somehow Jonathan Ross managed to survive.  Instead, Sir Alan Sugar fired comedian Alan Carr saying: “I’m doing it for your benefit, young man, really. I don’t like you mixing with this lot here, they’re deluded.”

The BBC has announced that Gavin and Stacey star Rob Brydon is to replace Angus Deayton as host for the third series of BBC1’s panel show Would I Lie to You? 

Would I Lie to You?  has been around since 2007.  While not as popular as comedy panel shows such as Have I Got News for You or Never Mind the Buzzcocks, the show has steadily gained in popularity for the past two years.  It regularly has viewing figures greater than 3 million.

The show also features David Mitchell and Lee Mack as team captains.  Its format has the panel of celebrities make short statements about themselves (or other topics) which they then try to convince the other side are true (when they are lies) or lies (when they are true).

Brydon said of the move, “I’m a big fan of Would I lie to you? And I’m really looking forward to joining David and Lee in my new role as host”.

It is not clear why Deayton is leaving the show, but his fans will surely be sorry to see him go.  Brydon seems to be a capable replacement and it will be interesting to watch the success of the next series of this game show.

There will be eight half hour show in the new series which is due to be broadcast later this year.

The BBC also recently announced that Brydon was to join Stephen Fry and Jack Dee on Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue.

The Culture Secretary James Burnham has decided to keep the ban on product placement on UK television.  The Government has reassessed the product placement ban as part of its review of the UK’s implementation of the EU’s 2007 directive on audio visual media services.   The directive allows EU member states limited product placement on TV.

In his statement, Burnham said: “My priority has always been to make sure we maintain levels of trust between audiences and broadcasters, and protect the standards of broadcasting for which Britain is known worldwide.

“I have listened carefully to the arguments on both sides around product placement, and concluded that it should not be permitted in programmes made for this country. There is a lack of evidence of economic benefits, along with very serious concerns about blurring the boundaries between advertising and editorial.

“Britain is known around the world for the high quality of its broadcasting output. We need to continue to preserve editorial integrity as technology advances.”

Burnham recognises that commercial broadcaster were facing hard times, but felt that other possibilities needed to be examined before allowing product placement.

Channel Four has come out in support of the Culture Secretary.  In a statement it said, “We have consistently taken the view that confusing the lines between editorial and advertising raises serious issues of trust for viewers.”  It went on to say allowing product placement would have marginal commercial benefit. 

On the other hand, ITV has campaigned in favour of product placement on TV claiming that it is vital for its long-term survival.  The broadcaster’s Executive Chairman, Michael Grade, has expressed disappointment at the Culture Secretary’s decision and is considering its options.

I think we all believe that we would cope in a disaster.  Come what may, the adrenalin would kick in and we’d survive.   And yet, I remember just how frightened I became when I was actually faced with a minor incident.  How would I really cope if my ferry sank, my plane crashed or my tube carriage blew up?

This Horizon programme made me realise that there was more to surviving a disaster than meets the eye. 

Undoubtedly the most memorable bits of this programme were the interviews with the individuals that survived.  This includes the man that survived the sinking of the Estonia by climbing out of the canteen on to the hull and jumping in an upturned lifeboat.  His determination and self-confidence helped him to get off the sinking ferry and to survive the long cold hours in the life raft waiting to be rescued.  A female survivor of a plane crash explains how she lost all sense of time – just a few seconds felt like minutes as her brain went into survival mode.  The survivor of the 11/7 London bombing had some medical training. This proved vital and kicked into action, enabling her to give herself life-saving first aid.

Having watched the programme I realise that there are very simple things I can do to help me cope with a disaster, such as paying attention to where exists are on a plane or knowing where the life boats are on a boat.  By taking a minute to plan a strategy in case the plane has a problem, the hotels catches fire or the boat sinks, I’ll be ahead of the game and better able to get out intact.

Whether I’ll remember this the next time I’m jetting off on my holidays remains to be seen, however.

 

On Monday night TV audiences had a choice between watching soaps, railway walks, vet bills and wasteful government spending.  I plumped for the later hoping I might learn about more about the escalation in government spending (even without bank bailouts).

The programme started by covering some of the better known Government overspends such as the Department of Health’s IT initiative to link health records throughout the UK.  This very ambitious project is well behind schedule and billions over budget. 

Not to be out done by the Department of Health, the Military has squander billions on several very costly projects.  From not-fit-for-purpose helicopters to unwieldy mobile communications, the military has wasted billions of Pounds on poorly budgeted and managed projects. 

Even the refurbishment of the militaries headquarters in central London has been needlessly expensive.  This contrasted nicely with a brief examination of the poor accommodation and facilities for military families.  I would seem that the military has the budget for expensive chairs for top brass, but can’t find the resources to renovate the dilapidated home it expects the families of military personnel to live in.

The programme also highlighted the wastage of PFI projects for schools and hospitals, and how this attempt to fudge the true cost of expenditure on infrastructure may well back fire for the Government. 

As you may expect, this Dispatches programme made for some depressing viewing.  All governments pledge to cut wastage and save taxpayer money.   It would seem that this is much easier said, than done.

For all you Heroes fan out there who missed Monday’s programme here is a quick recap of this sci-fi thriller.

Although she is meant to be behaving herself and attending community college, Clare can’t help getting involved.   When the mysterious Rebel texts her and asks her to warn Alex about being abducted by the US governments she feels compelled to get involved.  No sooner is she at the comic book store warning Alex when “HRG” shows up to take him away.  Some quick thinking by Clare gets Alex and herself out of a tight spot.  She also tells her mum what her dad is up to which causes them to spilt-up for a while.  While drowning his sorrows in a local bar, Noah is drugged and captured by Peter, Matt and Mohinder.

Sylar and Luke are still on the road trying to find Sylar’s father.  So far, Sylar hasn’t given in to any temptation to kill Luke and steal his abilities.  The US authorities spot Sylar on a motorway CCTV camera and track him down at a roadside coffee shop.  They send in the Special Forces to try and bring him in.  Of course, once again, they are no match for Sylar who gets away, although Luke is left behind.  Have the authorities captured their next killer with special abilities?  Well no, not quite.  Sylar shows a most uncharacteristic change of heart and rescues Luke (as well as taking government communication equipment so that he can monitor their activities).  Is our villain changing….?

The show also included the antics of Hiro and Ando sent to India to stop a wedding.  Between them they manage it.  Again the mysterious Rebel makes contact and tells them to protect Matt (who now has Isaac’s ability to draw the future). 

The big question in my mind is who is Rebel?  Angela Petrelli is the obvious choice, but perhaps we are about to be introduced to someone new on Heroes.  What do all you Heroes fans out there think?

 

While I wouldn’t describe myself as a prude, I found this programme made for some uncomfortable viewing.  It was an odd combination of examining theories on why and when humans became hairless and “quasi” research into our own discomfort at being nude – two very different subjects.

I found the explanation of the theories on why we as humans are hairless (or at least not as furry as say primates) quite fascinating.   The programme started with Darwin’s own theory that our hairlessness is due to women’s natural preference for less hirsute men.  This has lead to our evolution as “furless”.  Darwin’s theory has only recently been empirically tested and findings do indeed suggest that women prefer less hirsute men.

Then the programme moved on to consider when humans became hairless.  Odd enough research in this area examines our parasites – lice to be exact.  By comparing our lice with those of our nearest evolutionary neighbour – primates – researchers in California have projected that human became hairless very early on in our evolution.  It all turns out to be due to the size of our brain and temperature regulation.  In other words, we sweat to keep cool and we wouldn’t be able to do this if were covered in fur. 

The other aspect of this programme (why we are uncomfortable nude) was less informative.  It came across as little more than titillation for voyeurs.  It tried to examine why humans (whatever the culture) are naturally modest and embarrassed to be nude.  The programme took a group of volunteers and had them go through a variety of “experiments” to see if they were embarrassed to be nude and whether they could overcome their embarrassment.  This bit of the programme drew some very obvious conclusion – yes we are embarrassed to be nude and yes it is tied up with sexuality.  The programme theorised that we are naturally modest so that we remain monogamous.

I’m not sure why the programme makers felt the need to mix between these two topics as they have.  More importantly, I really don’t understand why they needed a group of volunteers to go nude to show us how embarrassing nudity can be.  Being a bit of a cynic I wonder if they felt they had to add in something a bit sensationalistic to liven up this slightly nerdy scientific programme.

Am I just being a prude or did anyone else feel this programme to be leaning toward titillation?

 

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