Friday, 11 April 2008

"Ram That Up Your Pipe, Dacre"

If you listen to people who pay too much attention to what their tabloid newspaper tells them to think, God's Britain is irrevocably messed up. 104% of teenagers now carrying flick-knives, ghastly foreign rapists pouring into our neighbourhoods with impunity, the BBC pumping raw sewage into our living rooms like the foul left-wing conspiracy they are, house prices not rising as rapidly as those who'd just bought a fourth home in order to make a quick and effortless buck would like, we're all quite literally going to hell in a handcart. Oh, and British society is 'dumbing down', and the only reason 'A' Level results improve year on year is that the exams are getting easier, the 2006/7 Sociology 'A' Level paper included an essay question on Beyonce, y'know.

Except: no they aren't, no they aren't (just look at the official figures from the United Nations and you'll see that there's a much higher proportion of immigrants 'flooding' into those renowned easy-touches Jordan, Israel, Liechtenstein and Western Sahara than the UK*), no it doesn't and isn't, and if that is the case then good. And we'll get to that.

(*Seriously, we can quite easily chuck out ten thousand words on this subject if the need arises. Don't think we won't.)

Being of an eternally sunny disposition, we don't really agree with the school of thought that Things Were Automatically Better 'Before'. With this in mind, let's take a look at the current iTunes podcast chart for These British Isles. Of course, anyone with an iPod and an internet connection can obtain podcasts, for free, on any subject they so desire, and what with your modern iPods costing as little as, well, nothing, everyone from lovely Tory councillors to those horrid People On Benefits can enjoy them. You don't actually need an iPod anyway, any computer connected to the internet will do. With that in mind, we're fully expecting the top few places in the chart to be taken up by recordings of an annoying teenager making fart noises, and his idiot mate chortling approval. Here's the rundown, or at least as much of it as we can legibly crop into the main blog window without looking ghastly.

Crikey, eh? Two Radio Four programmes making the top five, a wordy fop at number three (Russell Brand's Radio 2 show), but most impressively, the top spot taken by official national treasure Stephen Fry talking about (in this week's edition) the story of Oscar Wilde's first visit to New York. Ram that up your pipe, Dacre. Meanwhile, there's only one Radio One podcast in the top ten (compared to two from Radios Four and Two), Melvyn Bragg's history podcast also makes to top twenty, the excellent Richard Herring/Andrew Collins podcast is in a higher position than the Fonejacker podcast, and the Nuts Magazine Video Podcast is less popular than The Archers Podcast. That's a pretty good sign that all is really rather corking with the Britain of 2008's intellect, we'd say.

In case anyone reading this hasn't yet tuned in to (or whatever the appropriate term would be - downloaded out?) Stephen Fry's wonderful podcast, do so immediately. If you do listen to his inaugural podgram before the later ones, please don't be disheartened. For reasons that are explained within, Stephen is clearly unwell, not to mention sedated during the recording of Podgram One, leaving the listener in the slightly uncomfortable position of feeling like you're preventing him from the recuperative powers of a lovely warm duvet because he's got to talk to you instead.

A slightly alarming feeling that we're preventing one of our personal heroes doing just this is what we were experiencing while listening to Podgram One. We still feel bad now. Oh, and that picture is from here.

Things hit the road properly in the second Podgram onwards, where Stephen Fry off of A Bit Of Fry And Laurie drops English on the subjects of dance, the America-versus-irony cliché, and the phrase "off of". All splendid stuff, as you might expect, and well worth listening to. For once, popular is unquestionably good.

With the reassuring discovery that Stephen Fry has the most popular podcast in the UK, we feel compelled to see what tops the charts in other nations around the world. Join us now, and we roguishly log out of the iTunes store (even though we're not really sure we can remember our password for it, how's that for rock and roll?) and see what other countries have in their podcast charts. It'll probably prove to be crashingly dull, but we're guessing our readers have got used to that about now. We were very nearly tempted to do an update about the relative competitiveness of the top two divisions in every national football league in Europe instead of this, so you're still getting off pretty lightly. Yes, genuinely. And we've got a stinking cold and a full cup of hot Vimto at this point, so we haven't got much else to do.


Number One: Oprah and Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth" Online Class (Genre: Spirituality)


Other Things Of Interest: The BBC's World News Podcast is at number sixteen, making it the highest rated source of non-fictional news. That's not a pop at Fox News, it's just that The Onion's podcast is at thirteen. The most popular podcast from an American news provider (CNN) only clocks in at thirty-one, with ABC News at forty-eight. Excellently, on the dedicated US comedy podcast chart, Stephen Fry's Podgram is at number seventeen, beating Ricky Gervais by three places. And the BBC Radio Four Friday Night Comedy Podcast and Russell Brand both finish above Tom Green and (surprisingly) Tim And Eric. Hats off, the USA.


Number One: ECC Podcasting (and some characters that don't display properly in our iTunes software).

We don't know what that is. Or most of the things on here, really.

Other Things Of Interest: The BBC World Service's 'Six Minute English' podcast is at number two. We're more than happy for lots of people from Japan to visit the UK, especially if they being copies of Fantastic Plastic Machines 'Sound Concierge' mix albums with them, as they're really hard to track down over here. We're a bit surprised to see that there aren't any tentacle porn podcasts in the list at all, though. Way to confound our expectations, Japan.


Number One: Summer Heights High

Clearly it's an Australian teen drama of some sort. We bet it's nowhere near as good as Rick Alessi-era Neighbours, though.

Other Things Of Interest: The Chaser's War on Everything, which is excellent from what we've seen of it, is at number three. Wonderfully, the video podcasts seem to be full episodes of the show. Less wonderfully, it seems the downloads are only available for people within Australasia, iTunes isn't as easy to fool as Firefox when it comes to things like this. Gah. Stephen Fry's Podgram is at number twelve, mind. The Brainiac Podcast is at number 28, suggesting the show is a lot more popular down under than it is here - we're sure it hasn't even made the top hundred over here. Looking at the comedy chart. Wake Up To Wogan is more popular than HBO's Entourage, and Daniel Kitson is more popular than Chris Moyles. Which is the way it should be.

Oh, meanwhile, why can't someone work out a way to get Australia's excellent Triple J radio station onto digital radio over here? And criminally, there is no Shaun Micellef podcast. Boo.


Number One: Oprah and Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth" Online Class (Genre: Spirituality)

Jiminy, again. We'd have expected more from North America's version of Wales*.

(*What? Bi-lingual, incorrectly perceived as slightly backwards by their more populous neighbours, not very good at football. The analogy works, damn it.)

Other Things Of Interest: Stephen Fry's Podgram in the top ten. That's the full top ten, not just the comedy chart (he's at number three in that). Wonderful. Also, Radio Four's 'Start The Week With Andrew Marr' is twenty-one places higher than the American Idol Podcast. We take it all back, Canada. You truly are the Lisa Simpson of your sub-continent.

In summary, then:

The BBC's output is popular and respected throughout the rest of the world, which is something we're pretty proud of, to be honest - after all, we are helping to pay for all this. Furthermore, Stephen Fry is now something of an international treasure. Suddenly, the world genuinely is a slightly nicer place.

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