Archive for the ‘television’ Category

Straight off, I like Red Nose Day – people doing something funny for money and raising funds for good causes.    It captures the imagination of the UK, and many ordinary people as well as celebrities do daft things.     It is a genuinely laudable initiative, and many people benefit from the considerable sums raised every two years here as well as abroad.

I tuned into BBC post watershed and watched the coverage.   I was hoping to be entertained, but in fact was assaulted (and there is no other word for it) by weepy presenters showing footage  of children actually dying and their coffins being put into the ground.    It was genuinely shocking, and perhaps that was the point.    I just felt very unprepared for, and very uncomfortable with the emotional blackmail.     I was being backed into a corner, and not entirely convinced by the explanations given that money would solve the huge problems we were being asked to get our heads around.     Aid solutions are very much more complicated, and I needed to know more detail.  

I can’t say I am happy about feeling this way, but I don’t think I will be the only one .    I just feel very used as a viewer.

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Laptop Frustration

Laptop Frustration

Towards the end of the second episode of the current series of Spooks, a vital disc containing ‘just in time’ information was delivered to the spook team sitting in a car.    The disc was stuffed into a laptop, and the information downloaded in a very very few seconds to MI5 HQ, with disaster averted.    

So I am desperate to know what sort of laptops these guys have.   One would expect them to have the whizziest kit, but also the most secure systems.   And secure systems take time to load and need passwords to remember.     Nothing in real life works as fast as this.    Most normal laptops take ages to fire up, then faff about with the anti-virus software and download yet another microsoft update – which can take ages and requires a restart of the computer.   

It would have been a lot funnier if the laptop screen had said “This disc appears to be in Russian.   Would you like to download the Russian character set now?   You will need your master disc and the code on the box.”

Just for once, it would be be great to see someone in Spooks throwing a slow laptop out of a window – like we all would love to do at times – but don’t for obvious reasons.

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I caught Jeff Beck’s set from Ronnie Scott’s on BBC Four recently, and have not enjoyed music on TV as much as this for ages – and that includes Later with Jools Holland, good though that show is.

Here was Beck, relaxed and really enjoying himself in an intimate club atmosphere.    His guitar playing was sensational, and the camerawork allowed us to study how he was producing such amazing sounds.    He was joined by Joss Stone for a blistering version of ‘People Get Ready’ – (Joss Stone has changed completely by the way), as well as by Imogen Heap and finally Eric Clapton.

The band were extremely good in their own right:   Vinnie Colaiata on drums, well-known jazz pianist Jason Rebello on keyboards (letting fly at one point with a solo which had so many notes coming so fast that it just sounded impossible to do – did he just play that?), and relative newcomer from Australia, Tal Wilkenfeld on bass – one to watch – at only 22 she has a big career ahead of her.      It was the way all the players interacted that showed us just what a great time they were having ….. and so was the audience.

The BBC i-player has run its course now, but bits of this are on Youtube, like the Joss Stone number. 

Interestingly, Vinnie Colaiata and Tal Wilkenfeld joined Herbie Hancock on ‘Live at Abbey Road’ with Corinne Bailey Rae singing River.

Track listing was:

01. Eternity’s Breath
02. Stratus (2007-12-01 second show)
03. Behind The veil (2007-12-01 second show)
04. Nadia (2007-12-01 second show)
05. Space Boogie (2007-12-01 second show)
06. Angel (Footsteps) (2007-12-01 second show)
07. People Get Ready (with Joss Stone)
08. Good Bye Pork Pie Hat / Brush With The Blues (2007-12-01 second
09. Blanket (with Imogen Heap) (2007-12-01 second show)
10. A Day In The Life (2007-12-01 second show)
11. Little Brown Bird (with Eric Clapton)(2007-11-29)
12. Jeff band intro (2007-12-01 second show)
13. Where Were You (2007-11-29)

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I really enjoyed the opening concert from the BBC Scottish Symphony on BBC2 Scotland last night, broadcast live from Glasgow.    There were a few patchy moments, and we could not hear Karen Cargill very well, but I wish we could have more coverage like this.  

Last year, the BBC covered this concert where The Planets was performed.    I criticised the poor sound and camera work, and lack of a presenter at the end.    Happily, this time the technical presentation was a huge improvement, and at the end we were told who had been singing (well done to all the choirs) and what was up and coming for the BBC Scottish. 

Glasgow has just been awarded a City of Music award by UNESCO joining Seville and Bologna as the only European cities with that accolade.    Perhaps more television coverage of the diverse musical performances going on in Glasgow could help celebrate this achievement.

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Freeview Boxes

Freeview boxes continue to be the most unreliable piece of kit in the house.    

So far:     1 Nokia, 1 Phillips and 3 Daewoo set top boxes have all died within 2 years.   And last night my Matsui DTR3 also died.    Under two years old.    It blew its fuse, and looking inside, it also melted a component on the circuit board, which could have caused a fire.     You can’t turn these things off.

I suppose at around £25, it is clearly designed to be replaced after its life.    But 2 years is a disappointingly short life expectancy for something with no moving parts.   

 Transistor radios go on for ever, so why not set-top boxes?   I blame the manufacturers for not testing the plastic boxes these things are housed in.    I will be adding ventilation holes when the replacement arrives today.

Interestingly, my DAB radio has a tiny cooling fan inside.

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Oh my goodness.

Last night, Newsnight (UK) was right in the think of it, doing a great job trying to make sense of the situation in Georgia.    Difficult, but important interviews, and the presenter was not afraid to challenge both sides.    It was really good viewing.

But at ten to eleven Newsnight Scotland came crashing in, right over an interview.    Newsnight Scotland is supposed to start at eleven pm, but they must have set their watches a bit too early in Glasgow.   After about 15 seconds of an item about the Fringe Ticket fiasco, they realised their mistake, and we rejoined the interview.

At eleven o’clock, again, in mid interview, Newsnight Scotland came back in and restarted their Fringe story.    No apology or anything.

There must be a better way of doing this.    Really, there must.

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Takin’ Over the Asulym

Great excitement as the BBC TV series Takin Over the Asylum is about to be shown on BBC4.   It has also been released on DVD – and David Tenant’s audition tape is included as an extra.

I loved the series first time round.   This was in the heyday of really great BBC Scotland TV drama being shown UK-wide.   The cast is really strong, with Ken Stott as a hospital radio DJ, and a host of other now well known names to Scottish theatre audiences – Paul Blair, Molly Innes, and of course, David Tenant.    It was well written, but so well filmed and directed.    Anyone who saw it first time round will remember what happened to Fergus – the way it was filmed was just stunningly effective.

Donna Franceschild was on Radio Scotland today, and was explaining that these sort of dramas just don’t get commissioned these days, which is such a great shame.    TV drama has gone seriously downhill recently, although The Street was good.   It is high time Tutti Frutti was shown again, as well as Lipstick on Your Collar  with a young Ewan McGregor.     I also really enjoyed seeing Edge of Darkness again a couple of years back.

Why can’t we have more good original drama like this?

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The loss of normal Newsnight last night, and the complete absence of anything relevant to Scotland in the entire The World at One program on Radio 4 yesterday lunchtime has got me thinking about the news in Scotland.

The Times newspaper in Scotland has dedicated coverage to Scotland, with pages that the rest of the UK simply don’t see.    Yet this regional coverage is not available on their website, while the UK stuff is.    And of course, there will be other stories which Scotland does not get because there has to be room for the Scottish pages.

It has all become a bit messy.    I like a UK, and indeed a worldwide perspective on things, yet like to know what is happening in Scotland too.     I would like to think that those living outside Scotland would be intested in what is going on in Scotland.     Perhaps there is a bit of ‘having ones cake and eating it’ about this, but it needs sorting out, and I am not sure whether a ‘Scottish 6’ (campaign for a Scottish 6 o’clock news) will improve things.    Probably not – we already have Reporting Scotland on the BBC which does OK, and the early evening mix of national news at 6 and regional to follow works as it is.

I like Newsnight, and I tolerate Newsnight Scotland – tolerate, because the program is too rushed, the technical presentation is typical BBC Scotland (not as good as it should be) and the presenters don’t exactly set the heather alight.    I also resent being deprived of the last Newsnight story every night.

 The BBC were taken to task recently for not covering important regional stories in the National News.    I agree with this, and the organisation will have to get smarter about how it handles stories from around the UK.

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I have just turned on the TV tonight hoping to see Newsnight, but instead there is a program interviewing the main candidates for the Glasgow East by-election.    They have spent all the normal Newsnight time doing this, and now are in over-run time interviewing the minority candidates ‘in the interest of fairness’.    I can’t say I have been very impressed by any of the candidates, major or minor, and for my money the Lib Dem performed best on this program.   

Newsnight Scotland has been featuring the Glasgow East by-election nightly for the past while.   I know that this is an interesting by-election, but this coverage is overkill.

I want BBC2 Newsnight back please.   There is a lot going on in the world beyond Glasgow East.   And it is now midnight and I can’t even see tonight’s Newsnight on BBC i-player yet, which makes it missable on the day of transmission, which kind of misses the point after all.

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This is always a competition worth watching.    Started as a reaction to the complete absence of UK entries to the Leeds Piano Competition 30 years ago, Young Musician of the Year has produced a stream of excellent first rate players in its time.     Every night this week, BBC Four is showcasing the instrumental finals, and tonight it was the woodwind.   Four really talented musicians competing for a place in the grand final on May 11th.

But someone should remind BBC Four that this is about performances.   What we got tonight was 45 minutes of biographies, 10 minutes of performance, and 5 of judging.      The biography parts included footage of the contestants writing to eachother on their facebook wall pages – hardly groundbreaking stuff, and about as interesting as watching paint dry.   

The 10 minutes of performance were interspersed with judges comments.   It would have been better for BBC Four to give some credit to the viewer – give us a chance to make up our own minds about what we saw, and not be spoon-fed.

BBC Four will say that you can see everything on the internet, but that is hardly the point for a TV program.   It is a shame to dumb down the coverage  of Young Musician, because the talented players put so much serious work into their playing.

I am not alone in this view.    Put on your hard hats and visit  this Radio 3 messageboard.


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