Archive for the 'comedy' Category

BBC Three

Now some of my best friends work on BBC Three, and let me say that I thought Last Man Standing was one of it’s best successes last year.   However this made me laugh today from Cohen’s launch speech.

“At BBC Three we should be known for pioneering risk, and be obsessed with all things new – new talent, new programmes, and a new relationship between television and the internet.”

On the current BBC Three homepage right now? Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. A show that first went out in 2003 when BBC Three was called BBC Choice and has just started its 7th series. A show who’s own writers explained that the absense of Ralf Little ‘Johnny’ character was due to the fact that he was at a Shark Jumping Event in America!

Can it!

AOP awards and RTS Futures talks

I’ve not posted for a while as my personal life’s in a bit of a tailspin…

…consequently I’ve been seeking solace at various champagne fuelled receptions, talks and awards do’s. First up 4oD was nominated for a Association of Online Publishers awards last Wednesday evening, for best Launch campaign (The big talent-filled vending machine one) After a comedy of errors mix up with the tickets that saw no one wanting to go, then everyone wanting to go once the rumour came round that we’d won, our table was eventually sorted, and I, as feeder of images into the beast duly rented the cheapest tux the Moss Brothers had to offer.

I’ve been to the AOP awards before, it’s a right boozy affair, that normally sees News International lot boo the Guardian, and everyone boo the BBC perhaps rather unfairly. My ex-colleagues at BBC food were robbed by the current bun for best use of video. Anyway, Paul and I went up to collect the trophy which have to be the cheapest in awardland, consisting of a sheet of paper in a plastic clip frame. There’s also a sit down dinner, and the food was just as bad as last year. The starter was salmon and avocado, it was that sort of bright matt pink cold smoked salmon that makes you do the gag reflex, dressing was ok though. Next up the mains, a slow-cooked fall apart when touched with a folk piece of beef in sauce which was actually rather nice, run-of-the-mill dauphinoise and the obligatory squeaky green beans. Dessert was a pongy eggy apple soufflé. I then proceeded to get smashed, talk shit and tumble into a cab home.

A couple of weeks before this I went to the RTS Futures panel talk at Madam Tussauds. The panel was chaired by Hardeep Singh Kohli and consisted of the Ash Attila, Charlie Brooker, Victoria Coren, and Alex Zane. Much telly was discussed, and the points raised ranged from ‘hard work will get you there’ from Ash, to ‘Be nice to people’ from Victoria and Charlie. Alex Zane made a good point about the return to live TV. How with shows like The Word you never quite knew what you were gonna get, they had an edginess to them. There was some rather dull Q&A, with most young people saying things like ‘I’m being made to ask people trick questions so they’ll look stupid in the edit’ ‘my producer’s a bully and I’m doing this because if I don’t someone else will’ and ‘I’m not getting any training on anything’.

The panel very kindly stuck around for a drink and I cornered Alex Zane by the Hitler and Churchill figures. He talked about how shows like Friday Night Project and Charlotte Church should be live, how hosts now are too beholden to agents, PR people and marketeers, about how it’s ok to piss talent off once in a while (as his spat with the Enemy testifies). We talked about The Big Breakfast, Shaun Rider on TFI Friday, and about The Word some more. Alex Zane is probably too young to remember this, but there was a US glam rock band called Warrant in the early 90s who went on The Word to sing their hit ‘Cherry Pie’ as the credits rolled. Little did they know that the audience were planning to pelt them with real cherry pies. The singer stopped mid way through due to taking one right in the face and the whole thing ended in a farce. Live, naughty, edgy, it was obviously the talk of the 6th form common room the next day. It’s this that Alex, coming from radio, is on about. Not juswhat! And give up show business!t a tit flash or swearing, but the potential for things to go wrong, for celebs and guests to actually have to know what they’re talking about and be put on the spot rather than have their handlers shout ‘cut’.

But on the way home I started to think about why any 20 year old nowadays would want to work in TV, especially at the moment. Most of the established names in TV got their in a different age. Working with most exec producers these days is like being in a band and thinking it’s ok to let your dad decided the musical direction. There’s talk in TV about ‘getting to the top’, about standing on the corpses of all the other media graduates to make it.. Well perhaps that was fine when broadcasting was based on a scarcity of spectrum and prohibitive costs, nowadays bandwidth, distribution, cameras and mates are cheap. To sum up, if you’re in your 20s nowadays and want to make programmes, get a camera and follow your mate’s band, or interview your family, go on nights out and film that, make the films and programmes no one else is making because they can’t. Sure you might fail, but you’ll have done something genuine and it’s sure better than fetching coffee for Loraine Kelly guests. There’s the old joke about the guy who cleans up the elephant shit at the circus, and when someone asks him why he doesn’t get a different job, he says ‘what! And give up show business!’

Victoria Coren made a good point. ‘Anyone who’s done anything ground breaking or revolutionary in TV has done it because they’ve managed to get it done under the radar with out anybody knowing or finding out’, or they’ve just found away to do it and got on with it I reckon. It’s not so much standing on the dead of your generation as fighting the saloon driving, villa owning generation in front of you. You’ve got to have a blinder of an idea mind. Coren went on to talk about Oz Clark and James May’s Big Wine Adventure – the premise of which is the expert with the sceptic – and how she fielded a phone call from someone at the BBC that went ‘Is there anything you really know a lot about and would like to share with someone, or conversely, is there a subject you don’t know much about but would like to know more?’ And you can bet it was some poor nervous untrained AP who they got to do it.

The Blue Peter cat

MarkThompsonBlofeldThe admission of the new examples of fakery was made by BBC director general Mark Thompson this week as he provided an update to the BBC Trust. He outlined two breaches involving online voting. The first was a vote used to determine the name of a new Blue Peter kitten. The name Cookie was selected by online voters but was overruled by part of the production team in favour of Socks which was deemed to be a “more suitable” name for the kitten.An apology is to be broadcast to Blue Peter viewers in the first edition of the new series on 25 September and the show is to introduce a new kitten next week, who will be given the name Cookie as voted for by viewers. Socks will also remain on the show. From Broadcast

More suitable! What’s wrong with Cookie? Memo to Blue Peter production team, Hitler is an unsuitable name for a cat, Cookie is a fine name. Perhaps they whipped themselves into a frenzy fearing the Daily Mail headlines ‘Cookie linked to Childhood obesity’. That’s the only reason I can think that they’d ‘overrule’ it. Imagine the BP team in a stuffy room at TVC arguing to and fro like the cast of 12 Angry Men, over the name of a cat.

Ratatouille – The movie and the dish.

On Tuesday evening I went to a special private screening of Ratatouille, the lasted animated offering from Pixar/Disney. The event was organised by Silverbrow (he of GFW blog talk I attended) who managed to wangle a screening for some foodie bloggers from Wired, the UK publicity company promoting the film.

In the pre-screening drinks and nibbles I got chatting to the author of cheese and biscuits, as well as a sprightly seven year old called Bee, the only child there, with whom I had a lengthy chat about the collective works of Mr Rohl Dahl, both of us engaged in a ‘favourite bits’ arms race around his writings. We both agreed that the relationship antics of Mr and Mrs Twit were indeed very funny. I mention this because Dahl understood the minds of children very well. when you’re young, you see the world differently, for example the bendy sofa on which Bee, Bee’s mother and I were sat had a small gap behind it, and Bee remarked ‘you could hide behind there… Or store things’. I love this sort of abstract mental leaps.

And there’s something of the child’s eye viewpoint in Brad Bird, Director of Ratatouille. It’s as if he has one adult eye and one childs eye. There’s been lots of press about Ratatouille when in was released in America. (in July!) Most critics and commentators seeking to attach current moral issues to it, ranging from childhood obesity to the cooling of Franco-American relations in light of the Iraq war, so I won’t repeat those here. I just think the Pixar chaps have once again turned out a cracking bit of story telling done through top class animation, animation that is to Toy Story what OS X is to Windows 3.1. It’s the little stuff, stuff you have to actually snap out of the narrative to see and take in, like the fur and the bubbles and the grace of movement. It’s amazing. The way all the rats move for example is spot on.

But I’m sure Bird et al would be the first to tell you that without a cracking script the CGI ain’t worth squat. And while the plot is conventional, as in a seven year old can follow it, the script, the actions, the slap stick and the dialogue is as complex as they can allow.

For example. They actually got to call it Ratatouille. There’s a bit in Douglas Copeland’s Mircoserfs where the lead character, Dan, says ‘American’s can only absorb one or two foreign words per year, Hagen Daz etc…’ This is a kids movie with a French food word as a title, yes they’ve had to put the phonetics ‘rat-a-too-ee’ underneath on the webpage, but isn’t this how kids learn to say words? Your child now knows a foreign word and how to say it… from a movie title, that’s a good thing right? You know in the blandness of Corporate America ™ this could so easy have been called ‘The little rat that could’ or ‘Rat chef’ or something. Also, job descriptions and the words and phrases of the kitchen are maintained, the chefs tall hats are rightly referred to as toques, the chef’s positions as chef, sou-chef, chef de partie, plonge etc. This lets kids figure stuff out and learn. I remember as a child learning the names of dinosaurs just so I could say what I thought were big complex words. It’s why a baddie race in the last series of Doctor Who was called Raxacoricofallapatorious. Kids love all that tongue twister stuff.

For me what really hit home as too why Pixar have pitched it perfectly was that after the 20 adults in the room had stopped chuckling as a particular gag, there was Bee down the front still laughing for a further 15 seconds. Look out for the bit where Linguini is asleep but being ‘driven’ by Remy, and how, with his shades on, they’ve captured French aloof coolness. Also a bit near the start where two lovers are quarrelling, and one shoots the ceiling, only then to start passionately kissing.

The food. Bird spent some time with top chef Thomas Keller of the French Laundry, who also created the signature dish (recipe) of the title that Remy cooks for Anton Ego (voiced splendidly by Peter O’Tool) when Ego reviews the restaurant at the end. There’s a wonderful bit where Ego, the bitter cynical vampiric critic pops the first mouth full into his mouth and…. Wooosh.. is transported back to his childhood, and his mum’s home cooked ratatouille. The animation used to express how things taste is also novel, Skinner mini version of Chief Inspector Dreyfuss skulking around trying to find the rat is also spot on. It’s sheer class from start to finish, and a great piece of family entertainment that restores your faith in story telling and animation, but then it’s Pixar, they’ve never had a dud.

However… If there must be a fly in this otherwise excellent soup, it’s the distributors (Disney) launching schedule. And this applies to lots of content these days from everyone.. Out in the US in July, but not here till October?! Come on guys, this would have been a fantastic summer holiday release here in the UK where it rained all summer, maybe it was to keep it away from Harry Potter?

(More on what I think about this here (soon)…. as it’s sort of grown into a new post.)

Streats of London – a photoset on Flickr

Haunch of Venison Yard

Streats of London – a photoset on Flickr

Stumbled on this on Flickr whilst doing some foodie research, it’s a great little project looking a time when street names reflected the contents of what what sold on them. He’s not taken Poultry yet though, home to the Coq d’Argent, but you got to love Haunch of Venison Yard as a name though – class.

Maestro vs Cash

London it seems is under the grip of an ad blitz from the Maestro debit card, which we’re told, is The New Cash ™.

I think this campaign is advertising something that few of us really care about, why? Because we nearly all have a cash card able to make debit transactions. It’s like advertising the oxygen in the atmosphere. It’s one of those ubiquitous products that you don’t really choose, they just come with your bank account. Was it Bill Hicks or Jack Dee who the sketch – Customer:’I’ll have a Coke’. Barman:’We’ve only got Pepsi’. Customer:’Whatever’.

I, like most people I imagine, carry around £10 to £20 in cash for small purchases – sandwiches, drinks, gum, etc. And buy everything else – shopping, clothes, books, magazines, tavel card – on a card. It’s this under £20 section of the market, the realm of small change, that the ads are targetting with the promise of a trip to Paris.


‘R.I.50P’.  Not a chance.  Not until paying with a debit/credit card is as easy as a ‘touch here’ Oyster card. The promise of that particular technological marvel crops up from time to time, before the tech hits the skids and it all goes away for another year or so.

Micro payments are something that the banks are keen to do as ‘It is estimated that using cash costs UK banks and retailers up to £4bn a year, so replacing it has the potential to be cheaper and quicker for all concerned.‘ – Yay, cheaper for the banks who made a total of £40bn profit this year. That’s belt tightening.

But post ‘God that’s stupid’, I got to thinking about all those occasions when cash, and more particularly coins, are actually useful. We’ve a strong social history around money, it peforms a lot social functions besides just paying for goods.  So here’s my take on the Maestro Adverts… if you can think of any more, add them in the comment section.

Mastro vs The Tooth-Fairy

Maestro vs Wishing Wells

Maestro vs The Johnny Machine

Maestro vs lots of machines

Maestro vs The Scouts

Meastro vs Kids

maestro vs the homeless

maestro vs refs

Finally, another piece of quality advertising is this…
fish and chips healthy?!

The search for the elusive Sunday roast..

Today was probably the worst Sunday I think I’ve had for a long time… It started out simply enough with a plan to drive to the countryside with some friends and have a roast dinner followed by a walk. And although we sort of achieved these things, it came with a great sacrifice.First up, having left the house after a row we approach the car to find a parking ticket issued for having two wheels on the curb. £50 that’s going to cost me. What’s annoying is that it wasn’t even like I’d mounted the curb, in this case the curb was as flat as the road. So all we’re really talking about here is gradations of stone.. I was simple on the wrong strata by two inches. The ticket was issued at 08:52 this morning. What kind of crazy jobsworth traffic warden is out and about at that time?! Furthermore the only reason I parked in this spot and not my usual high curbed road was that a funeral was taking place at the church next door and loads of weeping relatives had clogged the street with their cars. I’ve a good mind to go to the reading of the will and demand £50 – pah!So… not the best start. We then drive to Streatham and pick up some other friends and head off. Two hours later we’re lost somewhere near Sevenoaks. There then follows frantic texting and phone calls to determine where we’re susposed to be. At one point I stopped and asked a man who it turned out was an architect, so his directions were peppered with things like “turn left at the new school I designed”. Anyway, he drew me a lovely map, however I did glean some satisfaction from pointing out his school boy error it drawing the symbol for a church with a tower when in actual fact it had a round spire.You’d think we were in the back of beyond for all the mobile reception you could get… each dip in the road would loose the call. We then found the pub, only it was the wrong Fox and Hounds, they had no reservation under our name and said they were full. Look how many Foxes and Hounds there are near Sevenoaks.By this time I was facing a mutiny from the back seat, things had turned rather feral and there was a fight over the last Polo and who should have the chonch. We headed back towards Sevenoaks to a pub we’d past 45 mins ago called The Woodman, oh dear.Look at this menu. Far too much, over forty dishes (fresh from the microwave). I hate the way these sort of pub menus are written almost as much as what’s on them. Gammon Steak served with your choice of pineapple or fried egg…but not both! Thai Red Chicken Curry served with white and wild rice & naan bread. Naan? With Thai curry? Pork Saltimbocca fillets of pork with sage and prosciutta. Served with a red wine jus. Saltimbocca is supposed to be made with veal isn’t it, and oooh we all luv a jus…. And finally lines like this “In the unlikely event that our chalkboards can’t tempt you, perhaps we might suggest something from our snack menu below.”Okay, so the menu is standard English pub, far to ambitious and you know that a pub like this isn’t exactly going to be getting deliveries fresh everyday. But hey, maybe they’ve got a Octopus God at the range who can pull it all off… alas no.“Are you doing food?” “Yis”, “all day?” “yis, bat there’s a 45 minute wit”. Now the pub wasn’t that busy, but three roast dinners and a fish pie took an hour. All served by confused chalkboard parading white South Africans. When the food did arrive it was dull, insipid and bland.Still at least they were attempting food all day, most places we rang up were ‘only from 12 till 2’ Two hours! Eat in these 120 minutes or it’s another seven days till we can roast some meat again. Shuttle Launch windows are wider than that.So, in short fuck the countryside, fuck crappy English country pubs, fuck the fuckwit teenage chefs who can only microwave things one at a time, fuck chalkboards, fuck bits of agricultural hardware screwed to the walls, fuck old photos, and fuck the other dull diners who didn’t even complain, fuck it all. Next time I want a roast dinner I’m staying in London. I think we’ll be well into spring by the time I’m up to attempting a day trip to the countryside and it’ll be warm enough then to pack a picnic.On the way home we swerved to try and hit a pheasant but he got out of the way…

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
April 2020