The Top 200 Sitcom Characters of All-Time: 198

The second instalment of the ongoing series that we’ve been writing on our phone while stuck in various waiting rooms then several weeks later trying to decipher the autocorrected text subseqyuently generated .

Today’s mystery phrase: “Full on Below ski mode”.

198 Alain Degout (Paris)

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Imagine if Alexei Sayle, in full on maniacal Belovski mode rather than the beardily erudite Question Time particpant mode of today, were a struggling artist loitering around Rue de la Skidpan in turn of the century Paris? Because that's kind of where the premise begins and ends in this single series offering from Linehan and Matthews, dipping their respective toes into the sitcom writing pool for the first time, following their work on the criminally ignored sketch show All New Alexei Sayle Show.

Despite suffering from largely terrible reviews at the time, when viewed as a ironic punk cover version of an unmade Blackadder Five this is actually a thunderingly enjoyable gem. It packs all the verve and energy you’d expect from full-pomp Sayle, still standing on the tail end of his imperial phase, includes a guest cast way better than the budget should allow – including Eleanor Bron and (as above) Windsor Davies, plus Neil Morrissey as a winsome foppish combination of Tony from Men Behaving Badly and a latter day Lord Percy. It probably wasn’t helped by arriving in a C4 Friday night schedule otherwise dominated by meticulously engineered US imports – the long-running Friends/Roseanne/Cheers axis – where a variety of homegrown comedy efforts were left looking unfashionable. Some unfairly so – Craig Ferguson appearing opposite Peter Cook in My Dead Dad, for example – some thoroughly deserving of scorn – Captain Butler, we’re looking at you.

But, back to Paris. No wonder a still-good NME seemed to act as sole champion of the show at the time of broadcast. Sadly, chances to reevaluate the critical kicking the series received have been almost entirely absent since first broadcast, with (as far as we're aware) a dawn-skirting 4Later repeat run as being the only chance to reappraise the show without hunting barely seeded torrents. Or, happily, YouTube.

 

BONUS FOOTNOTE FEATURE: The Bottom 200 Sitcom Characters of All-Time

200. The Baby from My Hero

199. Captain Butler from Captain Butler

198. David Baddiel from Baddiel’s Syndrome

Broken TV’s Top 200 Sitcom Characters of All-Time–Part One: 200-199

Hey gang! After spending way too long doing other stuff how about we pour some petrol in this baby and crank it up one last time? Metaphorical baby. Not a real one. That would be wrong. We know that now.

What with the BBC putting on a landmark sitcom season, only to go and invalidate the whole thing by having Mrs Browns Boys as part of it, it looks like it's up to us to do things properly. Having an entire season marking 60 years since Hancock’s Half Hour showed how practically perfect a British sitcom could be, then rebooting several series that failed utterly to learn from it. The clots.

So, Delivering our own sense of Quality First, we're about to compile a list of the best sitcom characters of all time. How many? 200 should do it. Basically enough to get us through to Christmas. Though we’re not saying which Christmas, given the frequency of our blog posts over the last half-decade. So it might be ages until we reveal that John Inman’s titular character from Take A Letter Mr Jones makes the top ten. Or not.

Here goes. Starting with…

 

200 Alex Picton-Dinch (Hippies)

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Unfairly lambasted when originally aired for the crime of being less good than Father Ted, time and occasional repeats on the digital wilderness have combined to prove that Hippies deserves to be remembered much more fondly. While the antics of Simon Pegg, Sally Philips and Darren Boyd would have been enough on their own,  it's Julian Rind-Tutt’s original hipster that really stands out. Much cooler than his crusty cohorts, it wouldn't have been a surprise for Alex to have secretly been the love child of Sgt Wilson.

 

199 Guy Fuddle (Happy Families)

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Hard as it might seem now, in this era of a BBC2 Comedy Zone being the occasional half-hour ghetto six weeks out of every twelve, but a lot of comedy used to get scheduled on the corporation. A lot. And the lack of an overstaffed middle-management at the Beeb meant that some of it seemingly made it to air without Men In Suits And Ties checking the contents.

Take Happy Families, for example. An ambitious post-Young Ones sitcom/drama by Ben Elton starring Jennifer Saunders in a variety of roles and Adele Edmondson as hapless lyrics idealistic berk Guy. Containing giggles about cocaine, sitting on the toilet with siblings and paedophilia, by rights this should have belonged firmly on the seedy side of the watershed on BBC2. Instead, possibly because schedulers saw the tidy and assumed it would be a cosy suburbia-set Martin Jarvis offering, it aired at 8.30pm on BBC1. In 1985. A different age.

Jennifer Saunders was the real comedic tour de force behind the programme, of course. Playing the entire female side of the Fuddle family, Saunders displayed a million times more range than subsequent decades trotted out Edina Monsoon would suggest. And yet this place on the list belongs to Ma Fuddle’s idiot offspring Guy. Unencumbered by awareness and tasked with bringing back his estranged sisters for one last reunion with their ailing (if irksome) mother, Ade Edmondson personified Nice But Dim years before Harry Enfield’s Television Programme.

Now, how about a DVD release of the series?

So, Which Is The Most Beloved Premier League Manager?

Hello, everyone. Some proper updates soon, promise. About telly and everything.

For now though, with the end of the football season approaching, who is the most beloved Premier League football manager? And who is the most beloathed? We’ve done fifteen minutes of Google searches so YOU don’t have to.

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There may be other Mark Hugheses and Alex Neils out there, of course. But you can’t argue with cold hard data.

The Art of Deliberately Misleading Comedy TV Listings: Part Three

In which we spend a third day uncovering entertaining Radio Times listings from yesteryear, because just taking things from the BBC’s Genome website is every bit as good as actually creating something ourselves. Still, three updates in three days!

Deliberately Misleading BBC Comedy Episode Descriptions Of The Past, Part Three: There’s a Lot of It About

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Following on from Qs five through nine, There’s a Lot of It About marked the last ‘proper’ series for the arch Goon, with Spike thereafter restricted to sporadic guest appearances and one-offs (like C4’s The Last Laugh Before TV-am). Luckily, with it having roped in prolific mirth-merchants Marshall and Renwick (see also: yesterday’s blog) that meant another great example of wonderfully inventive Radio Times listings. And here they are.

In this programme (which is not suitable for those of a sensitive or nervous disposition) SPIKE MILLIGAN , the famous author and philosopher, takes an in-depth look at all kinds of wild and exotic life abounding in this anniversary year, and poses many interesting and intellectual questions he doesn't understand.
- 20 September 1982

Former stuntman and free-fall parachutist SPIKE MILLIGAN comes out of hospital for tonight's special thrill-a-minute show which is dedicated to all those unseen people who encouraged him in his dare-devil career yet were happy to stand firmly in the background. But for them he might have remained an unknown writer-comedian.
- 27 September 1982

Tonight SPIKE MILLIGAN will be talking frankly to four ravishingly beautiful women - a nude model, a stripper, a rugby supporter and a bus conductress - about their attitudes to the opposite sex in this permissive society, and asking the question ' Does age matter? ' He will definitely not be watching this programme which is not half as interesting.
- 4 October 1982

In a heavily censored programme, SPIKE milligan takes a restrained and patronising look at Unemployment, the GLC Marital Harmony Squad, Japanese Ritual Suicide, the British Space Programme and Hitler's well-meaning attempts to break into the pop-music business and become a household name. The censored bits will be released on a BBC video cassette in 1985. Pirate copies are available now from ' 24 hr Grocers' (24 hr Grossers Ltd), Tooting Broadway, SW1Z
- 11 October 1982

[There’s every chance the original RT listing had ‘SW12’ there, but SW1Z is a better joke so we hope it didn’t. Of course, any of the seemingly mis-transcribed misspellings of ‘Milligan’ that are on Genome could be deliberate.]

Spike Milligan , recently voted light entertainment's Smiley, in an excerpt from his one-man show.
- 18 October 1982

In a programme celebrating his 63 years with BBC Television, spike MILLIGAN will be looking back on his long career at Television Centre; serving his apprenticeship as canteen manager before graduating to comedian. He will be remembering all those interesting people he worked with during that time who had a profound effect on his life and getting his own back.
- 25 October 1982

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Disappointingly, the 30 July-27 August 1985 repeat run largely re-uses those same descriptions, truncating several of them to fit a less prestigious amount of column inches. That's save for the repeat broadcast on 20 August 1985, which has the following listing. Presumably originally intended for episode 5 of the original run (the one with the phoned-in "excerpt from his one-man show" listing up there), it's nice to see this somehow survived whatever filing system the Radio Times used in 1982.

In a lively programme dedicated to his bank manager, Spike looks at the toupee epidemic, army boots and the perils of smoking.
- 20 August 1985

Unfortunately, the revised repeat showings of ...About in 1989 didn't go as far as including new descriptions, so we're not going to include them.  Instead, here's all of episode one.

The Art of Deliberately Misleading Comedy TV Listings: Part Two

Our scamper through the metaphorical blizzard of entertainingly unhelpful TV episode captions continues. Today, a programme that fits the remit we outlined then ignored yesterday.

Deliberately Misleading BBC Comedy Episode Descriptions Of The Past, Part Two: Alexei Sayle’s Stuff

http://images.tvrage.com/shows/3/2531.jpgWho is that rotund roustabout?

Co-written with unstoppable sketch comedy pensmiths David Renwick and Andrew Marshall, Sayle’s Stuff was unfairly maligned in some quarters when first hitting our screens, variously maligned as being too rude or too reliant on channelling Flying Circus, but happily it was a winningly inventive series packed with barbed satire, sumptuous surreality and an always welcome willingness to play with the conventions of television. Jokes delivered via the medium of Ceefax, messing around with the BBC Two ident and even faking out the viewers by placing fake programme trailers after the end of an episode.

That invention even went as far as the Radio Times listings, which took the form of outraged letters to the RT itself. Here are a few examples:

Leibnitz - Man or Biscuit?
Dear Radio Times,
What a delight Alexei Sayle 's Stuff was this week! My family and I were enraptured by the two young puffins and their hilarious attempts to build a nest using old newspapers. Please, please repeat this soon as it was such a tonic for the eyes in these days of fat b*****ds and shaved heads whining on about Mrs Thatcher.
(Mrs) Josie Pencil
Stratford-under-Lyne
ALEXEI SAYLE replies: Who gives a damn what you think! 
- 10 November 1988 21.00

How to Point at Chickens
Dear Radio Times,
I switched on my TV set at 9.00pm on Thursday expecting to see another edition of Alexei Sayle 's Stuff as advertised. What a disappointment! Due to the whim of those mandarins in programme planning, the series was not cancelled to make way for last-minute coverage of the Embassy Pro-Am Snooker final from the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield.
Spare a thought for the poor sporting viewer, please!
(Mrs) Daisy Hatch
Doncaster
ALEXEI SAYLE replies: Who gives a damn what you think!
- 17 November 1988 21.00

2: From Avogadro to Ava Gardner
Dear Radio Times,
Why oh why do TV producers insist on subjecting us to the inane cackle of audience laughter, completely drowning programmes with an endless cacophony of mindless braying at the slightest provocation?
Fortunately this is not the case on Alexei Sayle 's Stuff where, joy of joys, the studio audience always remains in stunning silence throughout! More of this please!
(Mrs) Sandra Robespierre ,
Chislehurst ALEXEI SAYLE replies: Who gives a damn what you think!
Featuring Alexei Sayle with Leslie Crowther 
- 20 October 1988 21.00

2: Westward H2O
Dear Radio Times,
Being right-wing crypto fascists with fixed ideas and loud screeching voices, my husband Pip and I sat down to watch this week's
Alexei Sayle 's Stuff on BBC1 with Great Trepidation (our 14-year-old labrador). Imagine our delight when we realised that Mr Sayle had lost several stones and spent the entire show sitting behind a news desk reading hilarious government 'plans' for education and health services - keeping us in stitches for the entire half-hour. More of this please!
Mrs Wilhemina ReesMogg ,
Dungeness, Kent
ALEXEI SAYLE replies: Who gives a damn what you think! 
- 26 October 1989 21.00

4: Six Body Builders of the Italian Renaissance
Dear Radio Times,
When, oh when, will the BBC stop concocting these appalling fake Radio Times letters from obviously bogus people called 'Mrs Noreen Gripper -Rod' and the like to publicise Alexei Sayle 's Stuff. Even I am completely dummy and do not exist in any rational sense - so stop printing this at once!
Dame Judi Dench , The Bafta Awards,
Attenboro'tfgh-on-Hankies, Surrey.
Alexei Sayle replies: Who gives a damn what you think?
- 9 November 1989 21.00

The Art of Deliberately Misleading Comedy TV Listings: Part One

As anyone likely to be reading this blog (the new bits of it, not just bits we wrote five years ago that are still ranked bafflingly highly in Google searches) will be aware, the BBC Genome Project is probably one of the finest achievements of humanity. Probably nestled between ‘free healthcare’ and ‘the invention of the Jaffa Cake’ at number seven in that particular list.

For the uninitiated, the BBC Genome Project compiles all listings – both radio and television – from the Radio Times between 1923 and 2009, including all text as it was printed at the time. Save for the occasional misjudged correction by the Beeb’s OCR software, of course.

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Since corrected, luckily/sadly

If nothing else though, this does give us good cause to flip through some of the wonderful times the creative teams behind the more inventive comedy shows of decades past were given free rein to pen their own programme descriptions. Normally of course, these would be a brief summation of the plot suffixed with the trad “hilarious consequences” rejoinder, or (for sketch comedies) something along the lines of “more madcap mayhem from Duncan Whimsy and company”.

Some programmes – Not The Nine O’Clock News or The Young Ones to name but two – went in completely the opposite direction, treated their Radio Times listings as an opportunity to squeeze a bonus bit of fun from the programme, submitting increasingly outlandish episode descriptions. Why? Well, why not. If your comedy series is to become the cult hit it sorely deserves to be, your battleground for viewers isn’t the listing in the RT, it’s the school playground, the factory canteen, the whatever-they-had-instead-of-water-coolers-in-offices-in-1981. That episode description can happily alienate casual viewers more attuned to Terry & June, because it’s not for them. It’s for the cool kids who already love the programme, and will lap up this extra bonus bit of content. A wonderful little secret treat, like reaching for the last After Eight envelope in the box and finding it contains a crisp fiver.

For the next few blog updates, we’re going to celebrate that golden age of Deliberately Misleading BBC Comedy Episode Descriptions Of The Past by collating some prime examples. Starting here. Now.

Deliberately Misleading BBC Comedy Episode Descriptions Of The Past, Part One: Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell

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What was that about being deliberately misleading? Yeah, we’re actually going to kick things off with the programme that brought this very practice to mind. That despite the fact it’s a current programme, not even British and not even by the BBC (though it is produced by ITV’s Australian offshoot), it fits the remit perfectly with the episode descriptions that start from the perfectly sensible:

Shaun Micallef presents a round-up, branding, inoculation and crutching of all the important news stories of the week in a brand new show that's guaranteed to blow the lid off an entirely different kettle of fish. - Series 1, episode 1

but move very quickly to the slightly silly:

Shaun gets more than he bargained for when a car he was buying turns out to be an ocean liner. Meanwhile, Roz and Francis are up to their old necks too when a horse they were impersonating has to be put down. - Series 1, episode 2

to some of the marvellously unhelpful EPG descriptions ever:

Mongoose. Winter is closing in. It is not safe. Go into hibernation. Further instructions to follow. Cobra.  - Series 2, episode 5

Here are a few more of our favourites:

Voula, if you are watching this, I am so sorry babe. Please do not let the trust we have built up over the last two weeks go to waste just because I screwed another chick. Call me? Stav.  - Series 2, episode 7

Yo! Join Kook and the Bambino tomorrow morning at 7am on 103.6 Smash FM for your chance to win $10 playing Puzzling Noise. - Series 2, episode 6

Fill-in host Lee Lin Chin gets laughs with an over-sized torsion wrench. Also stars Emilio Tahoeny, Veruca Millstone and [TROUBLE CODE E01. THE DOOR OF YOUR MACHINE IS OPEN.]- Series 3, episode 3

Voula, I reckon I'm dead or something. Do you think it's from that pact we made because our love is too much for this world? Where are you? Shouldn't you be here in the White Void too? Stav. - Series 3, episode 9

Dave, it’s me. Sorry I didn’t get back to you, been flat out writing this EPG. I guess you want to know about the rocket? Well, good news – Derek Jacobi’s on board! Call me. - Series 4, episode 7

Just a few examples of why Mad As Hell is a lovely programme that deserves to be seen by more people outside Australia than just the 17 Shaun Micallef fans befitted with a hefty sense of tenacity and a list of likely torrent sites. Or, we suppose, access to YouTube. Here’s a full episode of it. Yes, we know it isn’t as good as Newstopia, but still. Australia gets this, we get The Revolution Will Be Televised doing jokes about Bill Clinton.

 

A more British-based example next time, listeners.

ChartBeat Day Two: Mock The Week’s Totally Non-Sexist Booking Policy

It’s good now that Mock The Week has vowed to give equal opportunities to female comedians, isn’t it? We’re sure that their protestations that they have plenty of female comics on the programme even before the BBC Trust dropped their diktat on them were absolutely based on fact.

Hey, here’s a pie chart.

 

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Surely though, things are much better now. Here, with data taken from the MoW Episode Guide on Wikipedia, is an episode by episode breakdown of just how many women are allowed to take part in, y’know, having a go at Eric Pickles for being portly and Jordan for being dim. All that kind of modern satire that probably made Peter Cook especially glad he’s long dead.

 

mockthesexists

 

So, in summary:

 

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Chart Beat Day One: World Cup Winning Nations and Population

NEW THING: Regular chart-based updates. Not that we’re trying to steal Ampp3d’s idea or anything. Heck, no.

Anyway.

You know when you’ve got an idea for a brilliant pub quiz question, only you’ve no idea what the answer actually is? Well, what with the World Cup being on at the moment, we got to thinking: what IS the smallest nation ever to win the World Cup (after Uruguay)?

Not a bad one, assuming your local pub quiz isn’t one of those where any reference to football will have half the teams rolling their eyes in irritation. It’s one that sets the mind racing to think just which teams have won the World Cup, and what would their respective populations have been at the time of winning the Coupe De Monde? Yes, populations at the time of winning each final. You’ve got to do these things properly.

Well, because we’re blessed with the kind of brain that will make us forget where our keys are because all runtime has become irreversibly devoted to some stat-related miscellany, we’ve worked it out. No need to thank us NOT THAT YOU EVER DO.

Historical census data has been taken from the splendid Geohive (with the caveat in place that Uruguay didn’t collect census data until 1963, so we’ve have to use the 1963 figure for 1930 and 1950), and – as Geohive only list historical census information for the UK as a whole, A Vision Of Britain for the English historical census data.

Anyway. Numbers!

 

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So: it’s Argentina 1978, with the piffling population figure of 23,978,532. And knowing is half the battle!

What does this mean for the last eight of this year’s tournament? Could any of those take the, erm, much sought-after crown if you discount Uruguay? Another chart.

 

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So, there it is. Three-fifths of the quarter finalists could become the brand new second-smallest-nation-to-win-a-World-Cup. And who is most likely to win the 2014 World Cup? Well, the average population of a World Cup winning nation is 58,557,534. The nation still in the competition with the closest population to that is FRANCE.

And there you go. France will definitely win the World Cup. That’s the lesson from today’s Chart Beat.

TOMORROW: HOW SEXIST IS MOCK THE WEEK?

World Cup 2014 Stat-o-thon 2: Top Scorers (Slight Return)

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Okay, last time in BrokenTV Looks At How To Game The Bookmakers Out Of All Their Hardearned Money, we looked at World Cup Golden Boot odds offset against international goalscoring records.  That gave us the following top five bets:

 

1) Neymar (Brazil) – 10/1, 0.64 goals per game

2) Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast) – 80/1, 0.64 goals per game

3) David Villa (Spain) – 40/1, 0.60 goals per game

4) Gonzalo Higuain (Argentina) – 20/1, 0.58 goals per game

5) Klaas Jan Huntelaar (Holland) – 66/1, 0.57 goals per game

6) Edin Dzeko (Bosnia) – 80/1, 0.57 goals per game

 

All promising enough – putting a month’s salary on Drogba would mean you can definitely just take the rest of the year off. Clearly. Except! For that goals-per-game ratio to mean anything, each player’s respective team kind of needs to be around play as many world cup matches as possible. And trading on Betfair at around 149/1 to win the tournament, Ivory Coast aren’t especially likely to be knocking around at the latter stages in Brazil.

 

So, we need to add in another measure of likely success – number of games to be played. The later the matches are in the tournament, the less likely each player is to score a goal (after all, a cagey semi-final against Spain isn’t likely to generate as many goals as a group match against Honduras, at least in theory. So, we’ve added in some multipliers to come up with a ‘final score’ for each contender, based on the current team betting. So, the four tournament favourites are most likely to take part in the maximum number of matches (three group stage, round of 16, quarter-final, semi-final and final/3rd place play-off) – they get an accumulator score of 10. The next four teams are statistically likely to go out at the quarter final stage, meaning they get two fewer matches than the ‘big four’ – meaning we’re giving them an accumulator score of just eight.

 

This carries on through the rounds, leading to the following accumulator scores (based on Betfair odds):

BRAZIL – 10pts

ARGENTINA – 10pts

GERMANY – 10pts

SPAIN – 10pts

BELGIUM – 8pts

FRANCE – 8pts

ENGLAND – 8pts

ITALY – 8pts

PORTUGAL – 6pts

URUGUAY - 6pts

HOLLAND - 6pts

COLUMBIA - 6pts

CHILE - 6pts

IVORY COAST - 6pts

RUSSIA - 6pts

BOSNIA - 6pts

CROATIA – 4pts

GHANA – 4pts

CAMEROON – 4pts

 

This makes things feel a bit weightier. Note that we’ve only included nations who have a named player priced at 100/1 or lower for top goalscorer. After all, no-one is expecting an Australian striker to get anywhere near that list. This brings us the following top-table of likely bets.

 

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So, erm, it’s still Neymar who is the most likely bet. Away from that though, and avoiding the temptation to go for a surely-won’t-make-the-starting-XI-this-time Klose, the likes of Fred, Higuain and, er, Andre Schurrle could be a more tempting offer.

 

Maybe.

 

[Trots off to Honest Harry’s Betting Parlour and puts a £1.50 each-way bet on Messi.]

 

HEY! Our World Cup 2014 Prediction League is now free, FREE we tells ya. Go join in the fun NOW.

The BrokenTV 2014 World Cup Prediction League: Now at the low, low price of free

WorldCupPredFree

 

That’s right, due to… let’s say ‘disappointing’ levels of uptake for our World Cup Prediction League at £2-to-charity a go, we’re going to make it free to enter. Though, of course, it would be utterly lovely if you choose to donate a couple of quid anyway.

 

Anyway, if you’d like to enter simply take a ‘form’ and fill in your predictions for match results along with our special bonus categories of ‘competition winner’, ‘top goalscorer’ and ‘First letter of the first word Adrian Chiles says at the start of the opening match coverage’ and send it off to us at brokentvworldcup@gmail.com. We’ll feed your predictions into our specially adapted punchcard mainframe, and update the league table regularly at our specially-fashioned Tumblr page http://brokentvpredictionleague.tumblr.com.

 

Your list of fixtures can be nabbed from here: http://pastebin.com/zDhpyC66 or alternatively here: http://textuploader.com/0hk3

 

Copy-paste them into an email or text file, fill in the results of your choosing, and fire them at brokentvworldcup@gmail.com. Easy as pretending to fall off a log because there was definitely contact there and you can’t expect to get away with that at this level, Clive.