Saturday, 31 January 2009

SHEER UNIMAGINABLE TERROR and a kitten

We promised, and for once, we've delivered. The 'missing' Richard Massingham film has now been uploaded to YouTube, meaning the internet has subsequently been improved by 6.2% (we'll assume the lack of comments from excited Massingham fans after our last update is due to a fault with Blogger's servers). And also, a couple of scary public information films, with contrasting levels of success. First up:

Five Inch Bathers
1942, Dir: Richard Massingham



Britons! Hankering for those opulent pre-war days when you could splash around to your heart's desire every bathtime? Well, just because there's a war on, that doesn't mean bath time needn't be fun! Richard Massingham explains. (With a voiceover performed by himself, which seems wrong, as he's clearly too posh to be playing the role of Generic Chump. Luckily, his later films saw him play a mute chump, endlessly bollocked by the off-screen announcer, which was much funnier.)

It's worth noting that there has been a remix of the 5"B video on YouTube at this location, even though the original wasn't on there. Someone in the comments section for that requested the original, so here it is. And only ten months late, too. We're tardy, but cheery.

Stored For The Duration
1945



With World War II having just finished, a beleaguered nation of upright citizens attempt to get their lives in some sort of order. Lots of cars could now be taken back out of storage, and back onto the roads. And into ditches, lampposts and bus queues, if you hadn't checked your motor car after wiping the dust off of it. Tsk. Helpfully, a couple of Cholmondeley-Warner types are here to warn us, by way of scaring the willies out of everyone.

Of course, in actual fact it's not even remotely spooky, despite the intention. But to be fair, after getting bombed by the Luftwaffe for half a decade, the audience probably had a high fright threshold right then.

Grain Drain
1975



Argh! Argh! Argh! Argh! Argh! Argh! Argh! Argh! Argh! Argh! Argh! Argh! Argh! Argh! Argh! Argh! Hang on, is that voice the bloke from Duty Free?



It's worth pointing out that all three of these clips can be found on the excellent Charley Says vol 2 DVD, along with [scrambles for DVD case] precisely 130 other clips, including a lovely one right at the beginning with Michael Palin in it. The cheapest place to buy it seems to be direct from the manufacturer, Network DVD, where it can be sitting amongst your DVD collection for under five or your British Pounds. You can also pick up Volume One for the same price, as well as both volumes in one box for a price greater than the two individual sets added together, so enough said about that.

Having found it when trying to track down a date for Five Inch Bathers, we also feel compelled at this point to mention Noise To Signal's coverage of Public Information Films, which is annoyingly more comprehensive, informative, better written, and generally more good than ours. Damn their eyes and work ethic.

Further Massingham Magic previously uploaded to YouTube by us:
Coughs and Sneezes (1945)
Jet Propelled Germs (1948)
Pedestrian Crossing (1948)
A Warning to Travellers (Five Pounds in Notes) (1949)


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Thursday, 29 January 2009

"It's no good thinking you can have a sleep, or eat your dinner."



We've had the lovely Charley Says: Volume 2 DVD running in the background this evening, and it's jam-packed with Massingham magic. There was even one we've not seen before, telling post-war Britons to only use five inches of water in their bathtubs - cue Richard Massingham with ruler markings drawn onto his shin, and then playing with his toy boats. It's not on YouTube (yet), but as it's in the public domain we should be legally safe to somehow remedy that situation. What we did find on YouTube was this:



The Chemical Brothers. The mighty Richard Massingham. Together at last!

[Charley Says update: Brilliantly, it's got the scare-ad from 1998 warning businesses about The Millennium Bug. Every should get that DVD, it's under a fiver, too.]
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Wednesday, 28 January 2009

This is a different thing, it's spontaneous and it's called (T)wit(ter)

Despite ourselves, we're still obsessed by Twitter. In fact, it's our brand new favourite thing ever that we'll be bored of by the end of next month. You could say that the entire thing is basically a free help desk where famous people can have an army of geeks solve their technological problems (except in the case of Stephen Fry, where it works the other way round, and is why he should be King Of All Europe). You may prefer to say that it's a hugely pointless waste of time which largely involves sending pretend text messages to people you've never met. You might well put up the opinion that Twitter is to Facebook, as Ceefax is to The Internet. Speaking personally, what with our slightly self-destructive habit of welcoming every little distraction from The Stuff That We Really Should Be Getting On With For The Betterment Of Our Future Selves, it's lovely. We can't help but keep a little Grandstand Vidiprinter-style Twitter window in our peripheral vision when on the office PC.

Our highlights so far include:

  • What with the strict 160-character limit on messages, it really does make for good exercise at writing concisely. As this blog (and indeed, sentence) will attest, we're perpetually addicted to using dozens of long words when we'd be much better served just typing out three. Having to spend minutes trying to re-edit a message in order to trim it by five characters, while (and this is very important, because we have standards which MUST BE KEPT) not using horrid txt spk or skimping on punctuation, makes for a fun little puzzle.

  • Miscellaneous thoughts plucked from the head of Charlie Brooker, and plonked straight into your Twitter client. In Monday's G2 column, you're only likely to see the best couple at the foot of the page. Twitterers get to see what is practically a live feed of scatological whimsy.

  • Stephen Fry being funny enough to elicit an audible chuckle at the very least three times per day, often much more.

  • The Daily Show's resident expert and They Might Be Giants' deranged millionaire John Hodgman chipping in with occasional reminders why every family in the English-speaking world should own at least two copies of his book 'The Areas of My Expertise' (and probably his 'More Information Than You Require' as well, though we haven't got around to that one yet).

  • Us getting all excited when Russell Brand adds us to his "following" list. It later turns out that this is actually an imposter using a similar username (rustyrocket) to the real Russell Brand (rustyrockets), who has copied over the names of 2000 people from real Brand's 'followers' list. He Would Have Got Away With It If It Weren't For Those Meddling Kids #1: Real Brand posts messages like "[I am] not vegan yet, i eat cheese made from my own milk, however i am farmed inhumanely and shall report myself to the UN at dawn.". Fake Brand posts messages like "I am looking sexy, I need more mirrors in my chamber", which is pretty much getting it all wrong. He Would Have Got Away With It If It Weren't For Those Meddling Kids #2: Russell Brand knows how to spell his own name -



  • Popjustice and Sweeping The Nation both popping up at various points during the working day to recommend lovely (and not-so-lovely) online pop tunes. Our fave so far: Neil Hannon's brilliant track about cricket. If you liked "Your Woman" by White Town, this should tickle your like-glands too.

  • Peter Serafinowicz replying to us (yes, specifically us), asking about Spotify after we'd suggested it would be a good place to find Philip Glass stuff. It's possible he was being a bit sarcastic in his reply and he'd already been using it for weeks (we're genuinely not sure, it's more likely he wasn't), but in any event someone else nicked the Spotify invite code we'd posted up for him. Tsk, eh?

  • Phil Schofield brilliantly getting all excited about Tweeting live on ITV1, and about lots of other things in general. He even gives Twitterers live updates on how This Morning is going when he's not on camera. "ITV have given me a computer in the studio! I'm on the set now! I'm being encouraged! Gonna tweet during the show!!!!!"

  • Robert Popper putting up lovely links with which to brighten up the day.

  • Graham Linehan posting a live commentary on himself watching the extended version of Tropic Thunder as we're typing these very words.

That's mostly from the last 24 hours, and we haven't even got onto the subject of people contacting us about stuff yet. Look, it's top fun, and everyone should take part in it, just like they should with online FIFA '09 and silhouette pornography.

So: who's the most famous out of everyone in Twitterdom? Probably Barack Obama or Paris Hilton or someone, if you use the obvious and incorrect criteria of the number of followers. The proper way to measure things is to look at the helpful TweetStats site, which looks at the people attracting the most genuine responses. While most of the 'celebrities' using Twitter are doing it for pure PR purposes (and who don't actually know what it is, because their PR department is maintaining it for them), TweetStats looks at people actually using Twitter. Well-known people excellent enough to actually connect with Johnny (and Jemima) Public.

So: who would be top of that pile going by today's stats?

1. An American blogger called iJustine, who seems to be getting paid by Apple or referral links or something. But ignore her for now.
2. Phillip Schofield! That's more like it.
3. S Fry. We think he'd normally be atop this particular pile, but he spent a lot of the day travelling back from Luxembourg.
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Monday, 26 January 2009

Big Brother 2009: A Half-Hearted Round Up

It's over, then.

It seemed to be a lot shorter this year, although maybe that's just the lack of an horribly drawn-out festival of bullying from Jade Goody, Jo O'Thingy and racism's Danielle Lloyd (interesting how the person who actually said the most racist thing from that whole horrid event is the one still getting the most work, isn't it?). Well, we've fed the the lengths of each series into Excel, and assuming Wikipedia isn't wrong (ahem), here's a chart proving incontrovertibly that CBB is now receding faster than BrokenTV's hairline. And, as a special treat (and because we've got a Firefox extension enabled that does it automatically), total Wikipedia wordcounts for each year.



So, onto the 2009 edition. Who won our special Fame-O-Tron award this year?



Meh. Our guess is Ben Adams did so well on Google News because other people called Ben Adams have been doing stuff. Either that, or his appearance at the Buckley Tivoli last night attracted HUGE media attention. It wasn't really the best series of CBB, was it? Even the Mail's attempt at pretending to be outraged about it - "Now Channel 4 gets a dwarf drunk on television" - wasn't making a real effort. If it had been a man in a giant foam Channel Four logo outfit (1983 issue) pouring booze down Verne Troyer's neck - maybe that'd be an interesting headline. It wasn't, so instead you're left with a patronising "aawwww.... poor ickle Vernie can't fink for himself" headline about a perfectly intelligent forty year old man.


Anyway, onto something more interesting. As noted by the excellent Discopop.co.uk, Five Live recently broadcast a latter day version of Frost/Nixon. Or, more accurately, a latter day Self/Littlejohn. That's right, it's Byrne/Morgan, with the odious former Mirror editor on the receiving end of a verbal pummelling from the Irish stand-up.

"Ed Byrne and Piers Morgan Cross Swords" (from Discopop.co.uk)
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Brevity Is The Soul Of (T)wit(ter)

While it might not be immediately obvious from the half-baked meandering that gets posted up here, the BrokenTV gang actually form dozens of searingly insightful and witty opinions about television every single day. Until now, there's been no way to get those opinions from the inside of our skulls to the internet, because we've been busy with the day job, probably in the middle of integrated synergy meetings, in one of the many idea-hub pods to be found in our Centre Of Excellence For Creative Professionals. Oh, alright, dancing for coins in the shopping centre.

But no longer. It's time we started doing more with the latest tentacle of our web 2.0 squid, that thing called Twitter that everyone on telly and radio has been going on about for the last week (for some reason). We've had an account for a while, and despite not really using it we've somehow attracted almost nine followers. Well, we're going to start using it a bit more, so if you're just gasping to know what we think about the BBC-Gaza appeal-gate or the way Radio One's Newsbeat tries to be all 'street' when there's a story about the reclassification of cannabis, you might want to go to our exciting new Twitter page: http://twitter.com/brokentv

We've put Twitteriffic on our iPod Touch and everything.
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Sunday, 25 January 2009

Film 2009

A film that has a pivotal scene set in the LWT canteen has been nominated for Best Picture at this year's Oscars. That is an excellent fact, and of course Frost/Nixon is a very good film, even if it does also include John Birt's bare arse. Even more exciting is the trailer for another offering that invites the keywords Peter Morgan | Michael Sheen | Inside Of A 1970s ITV Studio.



Squee. We're claiming a spotter's badge for noticing that the first scene in the trailer is slightly wrong, in that Clough's comment to Peter Taylor was originally aimed at Michael Parkinson, and Clough was played the Ali clip on Parky's show.

(Footnotes: Don't worry, it's not the real John Birt's bare arse, and anyone who hasn't already should go and read David Peace's The Damned Utd. Oh, and we'll wrap up the Celebrity Big Brother 2009 thing soon, just as soon as we've watched the last half-dozen episodes of the show, and formed some opinions on it.)
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Friday, 23 January 2009

Incomprehensible Japanese TV Ratings Chart Promo From 1988 Of The Week

It's an international round-up of YouTube TV miscellanea!

With (a) bad hip-hop samples, and (b) line charts. Quite why this is so compelling, we don't know.



Ten years earlier, on the USA's Cablevision network, the most disturbing ident EVER is coupled with the Stateside version of Ceefax-On-View. "Q. What's the best way to turn people's heads? A. Go to church late!"



The second most disturbing ident ever? The Open University one from the 1980s, obviously, but running it a close third is this, from Canada's OECA, dating from 1975. Not only are the visuals disturbing, but the music could have been plucked straight from the very darkest part of Delia Derbyshire's worst nightmare. Also, an early PBS ident.





We could go on with these, even stretching them out to a top ten, but it's late, and we don't really want to wake up screaming, convinced that giant PBS-man heads are coming after us whilst being soundtracked by the incidental music from the Protect and Survive videos.
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Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Now: Then (Redux)

Now That’s What I Call Music”, i.e. the first one, has recently been re-issued. And so, what better time could there possibly be for us to put up the director’s cut of the article BrokenTV’s Mark X wrote last year for Arena Magazine’s website. The article below is quite different from the version submitted last year, mainly because of Mark’s idiot idea to react to the statement “here’s a maximum word count” with the twisted logic of “I know! I’ll write a sprawling piece three times the maximum word count, then just take bits out. This can’t possibly end badly!”. Subsequently, he ended up taking all the ‘extra’ bits out, leaving just an empty husk of an article that didn’t really go anywhere. The clot.

So, here for the first time, with freshly added charts that also take into account the since-released Now 71, is Now: Then – The Eight Month Anniversary Edition Director’s Cut, With Added Charts.


Your nan is wandering around the aisles of Woolworths. It is the 22nd of December, and she still hasn’t found a Christmas present for you yet. Socks? Way, way too clich├ęd. A selection box? You might be getting too old for them, and it’s not really very healthy. A Beano annual? No, your other grandmother has got the monopoly on that particular gift, the sodding cow. Monopoly? Damn, she bought that for you last year.

What now?

> GO NORTH

Your nan meanders into the music part of the store. Of course, an album! You like music. Why, you were listening to some the last time she visited. But what type of music was it? It was some sort of cacophonous racket, just like everything else in the hit parade, but what exactly? Peering over the top of her spectacles, your nan peers at the albums in the current top twenty and scans for possibilities.

She can see: Madonna – Like a Virgin, Wham! – Make it Big, Bruce Springsteen – Born in the USA, A-Ha – Hunting High and Low, Aled Jones with The BBC Welsh Chorus conducted by John Hugh Thomas - Aled Jones With The BBC Welsh Chorus, Russ Abbot – I Love A Party, Chas & Dave – Jamboree Bag Number 3, and Now That’s What I Call Music 6.

What now?

> BUY NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL MUSIC 6



A scene doubtless carried out throughout the UK innumerable times every festive season. Now That’s What I Call Music, that perennial safe bet Christmas present from grannies everywhere, has just notched up outing number seventy. With the series of compilations closing in on its 25th anniversary, it has played host to a total of 2,695 different tracks from 1,466 different artists, ranging from Phil Collins, to Grandmaster Flash, to Carter USM, to Bob The Builder, and most points in between (although it’s fair to say the genre of polka is wholly unrepresented). Listening to every single edition back-to-back would take you precisely seven days and thirty-one minutes, about the same amount of time it would take to walk from London to Aberdeen. Although if you attempted to do so, by the time you reach Stoke-on-Trent you’d be listening to Doop, Culture Beat and Richard Marx, so best stay at home.

My personal experience of the Now albums began in 1984, with a festive gift of the fourth volume. The theme from GhostBusters, Heaven 17, the Style Council, and a cartoon pig in sunglasses on the cover – what more could a ten-year-old ask for from an album? From that point on, concentrated campaigns of cajoling were needed before birthdays and Christmases in order to keep the collection going, with a tricky choice to be made between Walkman-friendly cassette versions (sure to be a boon for travelling on family holidays) and the more impressive-looking vinyl. It didn’t matter that for every worthwhile track within; there’d be at least three from the likes of Chris De Burgh or Simply Red. I was building up a record collection.



The distinctive (not to mention impressive) concept artwork used for the series from Now 6 onward certainly helped spur this newfound collecting instinct. NOWs six through sixteen saw the ‘coloured balls/speech bubble’ trademark depicted via situations such as a neon-lit sign, beach balls on a diving board, a hi-concept spaceship, or fireworks reflected on a lake. By NOW 17, the design team had discovered computers, and churned out a few uninspired text-heavy covers before NOW 20 ushered in the modern CGI logo for the series, used ever since.

By that point I had progressed onto just buying any singles I liked on their own, preferring the likes of Indie Top 20 when it came to compilations (Blaggers ITA seemed the saviours of rock. Well, I was young). And yet, the NOW series muddled through without my endorsement, even attracting a healthy quota of NME-friendly artists. On NOW21 alone, The KLF, The Wonder Stuff, The Jesus and Mary Chain, James and The Cure rubbed shoulders with Brian May, Roxette, Right Said Fred and Curtis Stigers. This variety of styles made the NOW albums a first port of call when it came to pub jukeboxes, meaning there’d always be at least half-a-dozen tracks worth listening to amongst the mum-friendly ‘Best Ofs’.



The series certainly benefited when the full CD versions became affordable. There can’t have been many dance music fans happy to sit through tracks by Boyzone, Damage and 911 to get to Underworld’s Pearl’s Girl on NOW35 (and vice versa), which may have contributed to that volume being the vinyl swansong for the series. The recent rise of legitimate download services also increased popularity – the 43 tracks on last week’s NOW70 (currently £10.99 on iTunes) would cost almost £34 if bought individually. Consequently, NOW70 recorded first week sales of 383,000, making it the fastest selling edition of the entire series.

So, here’s to the next twenty-five years of NOW, by which time I confidently predict NOW140 will be available in pill form.


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Sunday, 18 January 2009

Robert Popper Has A Posse (Blog)

Robert Popper, of Look Around You, The Timewaster Letters and Tarvu fame, has started to do a blog. It's already off to a good start, including things such as the trailers for the forthcoming Adult Swim broadcasts of Look Around You, but what has most endeared us to his new site is the fact it was 'launched' with this embedded YouTube video:



Yep, that's us won over. Great stuff.
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1925-2009


Picture from b3ta.

A truly gifted artist and television presenter, no longer with us. Rest in peace.
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Friday, 16 January 2009

"Almost As Popular as Ben Adams"

It's probably time we had a look at how our Celebrity Big Brother Fame-o-tron is shaping up. Or rather, the Ultimate CBB Fame-O-Tron Redux, because we've adapted it. We're still counting up the current Wikipedia wordcounts for each of the contestants, but now we're factoring in:

* The number of news stories for each celebrity, over the previous month, from Google News.
* A special bonus of up to 700 points, based on the Alexa ranking of each celebrity's official website.

Of that latter factor, here's the skinny. Eight of the contestants have official websites at the moment, with only Tina, Verne and Ulrika lacking their own digital domains. Terry has an official website, but it has a ranking of 'no data' on Alexa, meaning it's blocked by robots or something. Of the others, here are the rankings, remembering that lower numbers are what you're looking for here:

Lucypinder.info 144,034 (700 pts)
Coolio.com 1,626,732 (600 pts)
Latoyaonline.com 1,822,043 (500 pts)
Benadams.uk.com 2,875,997 (400 pts)
Mutyamusic.com 3,700,106 (300 pts)
Solidarityscotland.org (Tommy) 7,247,663 (200 pts)
Officialmichelleheaton.co.uk 22,470,742 (100 pts)

So, despite us allowing the website of Tony's political party, there are still 7,247,662 websites more popular than his. In case anyone's interested, BrokenTV's Alexa ranking is 2,981,135. We're almost as popular as Ben Adams! With enthralling updates like this, we're sure to be peering over our hit-count shoulder at him within a matter of weeks. Eh? What's that? We've gone down 700,189 places in the last three months? Bah.

So, onto the Google News rankings.

Coolio - 3253 stories
Ulrika Jonsson - 2047 stories
Lucy Pinder - 1922 stories
Michelle Heaton - 1625 stories
Terry Christian - 1389 stories
Verne Troyer - 1363 stories
Tina Malone - 1058 stories
Mutya Buena - 1037 stories
Ben Adams - 999 stories
Tommy Sheridan - 682 stories
La Toya Jackson - 600 stories

Slightly surprisingly, it's La Toya at the bottom of the list, and we've counted both "La Toya" and "LaToya" together here. The Coolio NEW CHANNEL FOUR SCANDAL story sees him hit the top of the pile, Ulrika's general mardiness netting her second spot, and we're guessing the sheer volume of stories in the Daily Star about Lucy have been enough to get her into third.

So, onto our traditional (i.e. we can't think of any new ideas) listing of housemates sorted by Wikipedia wordcount:

Tommy Sheridan- 3223 words
La Toya Jackson - 2301 words
Coolio - 1667 words
Mutya Buena - 1430 words
Terry Christian - 1263 words
Lucy Pinder - 1119 words
Ulrika Jonsson - 965 words
Michelle Heaton - 892 words
Verne Troyer - 657 words
Ben Adams - 397 words
Tina Malone - 293 words

So, Tommy remains top of that particular sorted-in-descending-order list. Meaning, by our admittedly roundabout and utterly non-scientific way of thinking about it, he has still clocked up the highest number of actual achievements in his professional life. None of the profiles have changed much since day one of the current series, to be honest.

So, time to pour all of the statistical ingredients into a mixing bowl (Excel), and turn it into a lovely big number pie (chart).




As for the show itself, we're still catching up. We should probably resort to bullet points.

* Didn't Coolio look annoyed that he wasn't up for eviction? It's as if he was thinking "jeez, just how colossal a cock do I need to act like to get out of here? Tsk. I'd better ramp up my dickishness!"

* Terry Christian is coming over really well, we'd say. Not for the first time, our cursory judgement of a person's entire character was incorrect. Who'd have thunk?

* If Tina doesn't get kicked out soon, we might not bother sticking with this. And not just because she slagged off the internet. Because she's tremendously annoying.

More soon!
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We Should Be Better Than This

It's too obvious. It's too easy. It's tantamount to grabbing a toddler's painting of a house, and roaring into their tiny confused faces about how rubbish the brushwork is, and how they haven't even got a rudimentary grasp of perspective for flip's sake. Ah, what the heck.

RETURN OF THE BBC SHOCKOMETER

And The Big Breaking News Story On The BBC Is... A Stolen Hamster (Daily Mail, 16th January 2008)

The story:

"There is war in Gaza and an economic crisis gripping the world. But yesterday the BBC left viewers slightly dumbfounded by its latest breaking news story. People could have been forgiven for adjusting their sets when they were told in big headlines - that a hamster had been stolen.

[,,,]

Some viewers were forced to do a double-take when seeing the item, surprised that the corporation would broadcast such an obscure story."

What this means:

The BBC's rolling-news channel has included a light-hearted story that took up a couple of moments, taking up a minuscule fraction of the time devoted to coverage of Gaza and the ongoing economic crisis. So, using the same logic, let's take a look at what the BIG BREAKING STORIES are on the Daily Mail's website:



BONG! Britons occasionally swear. Ross, Brand, BBC quite clearly to blame.




BONG! Woman too smelly to buy groceries, by extension Tesco hate countryside.



BONG! Famous woman has hair done. Conflict in Gaza not pictured.

So, how does that story register?



Barely a flicker. Now, if anyone with uber-7337 haxxoring skillz is able to sneak into the Mail's website, please could they adjust part of the story so it reads -

"Some viewers were forced to do a double-take when seeing the item [citation needed]"

- we'd be very grateful.
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Wednesday, 14 January 2009

An Expert Writes

As may have become clear to anyone having stumbled over this blog, we're hardly experts when it comes to assorted matters televisual. Some might say, as a blog based wholly on the medium of television, that might well be a bit of an Achilles heel, but we'd cheerily counter that our collective enthusiasm, spirit, moxie, general doughtiness and willingness to make stuff up is enough to see us through. As such, we're always delighted when someone who Actually Knows What They're Talking About sees fit to help us fill in a few more spaces in our mental sticker-book of TV knowledge.

Step forward one Tony Currie, author of "The Radio Times Story" and listings magazine polymath. After reading our whimsical wander through the world of TV Times programme icons, he quite excellently popped into the comments section with the following background story to the lo-fi monochrome illustrations:



"The "icons" (Billings stock blocks) originated with "Radio Times" in the 1930s. Originally they were individually commissioned pieces of art to illustrate specific programmes, but over the years some got used again and again.

After the war, when "Radio Times" split into seven regional editions there was a problem with making the billings fit - if the London Home Service had a two hour concert of an evening and the N.Ireland Home Service had six half hour programmes, then there would be quite a space disparity. This was often solved by filling the space with graphic blocks - 'fit to fill' if you like.

Now since Associated-Rediffusion's original "TV Times" was perforce a "Radio Times" clone, and since it cost money to commission, take, process and print actual photographs, it was a heck of a lot easier to sling in stock blocks. As other ITV regions came on stream with their own programme guides ("TV Guide" for STV, "Television Weekly" for TWW, "The Viewer" for Tyne Tees, "Look Westward" etc etc) they ALL did the same thing. Different artwork for each magazine of course, but they all had "showbiz", "classical", "news" blocks.

The ones you reproduce (from the later all-UK "TV Times" created in 1968) look like the early to mid 70s, and of course there WAS a "Coronation Street" block. And by this time, with a "TV Times" for each ITV region except Channel, the blocks' purpose became the same as the original "Radio Times" one - to ensure each region's page had no white spaces."

Of course, now it all seems so logical. Thanks for the helpful info, Tony. Anyone wishing to pick up a copy of The Radio Times Story would do well to try here, here, or here. Those wishing to try before they buy might like to know it also be previewed via Google Books.

At this point, we'd like to add a joke along the lines of "Other (books about) listings magazines are available", but we're not entirely sure there really are any others still in print.
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Sunday, 11 January 2009

BrokenTV's Top Ten TVTimes Genre Icons Of The 1970s

We're going to say something which is going to both shock and amaze you. Brace yourselves. It seems that on the entire internet, which is supposedly the greatest collection of human knowledge in the history of mankind, there's not a single website collecting together the programme genre icons from editions of the TV Times in the 1970s.

We'll wait a minute for that to sink in.

We've tried four different search terms in Google (including both the 'TVTimes' and 'TV Times' spellings of the publication in question), and nothing. It's time someone fixed the internet. And that someone is us. Just on the other side of a comically unexciting advert from 1976. If there's ever a UK version of Mad Men, it won't quite be the same, we fancy:


"Jennings! I'm taking you off the Cumberland Pencil People account! That was rubbish!"

[Editors note: The BrokenTV gang would like to point out that, although this wasn't the original intent, reading out the titles of the following entries in the voice of Brian Butterfield will improve your enjoyment immensely. That is all.]


10. Generic Movie




Ah, Hollywood: studio lighting, strips of film spewing out all over the shop, and a clapperboard. Does the job perfectly well, although a more literal interpretation of "Lights! Cameras! Action!" would have been welcome. "Lights! A strip of film rolling off somewhere! Action!" isn't quite the same, as surely they'd want to get that film back into the can first.


9. Deity-Based Programming

A faceless vicar reading from a bible next to beams of light shining through stained-glass windows. He doesn't even look annoyed that our scanner has cut off part of his picture. This does raise a question about just why, in this pre-VHS age, the series' on religion were often stuffed out of the way in a post-midnight slot (as indeed, this programme was). Surely all good God-fearing folk would be safely tucked up in bed by that hour, with only heathens still lazing about watching television at such an unholy hour? Maybe they were trying to convert them back?


8. News

And now on ATV, News At Ten. Read by Morph and Chas. And a massive film can. (With the sport read by the nailbrush that thinks it's a dog.)


7. Programming Based On This Being Someone's Life


There wasn't a lot of use for this icon when Eamonn had put his book away for the summer, was there? It certainly does the job, though. The red (well, grey) book! Victorian photographs! Love, weddings and, erm, tiny tricycles. Perhaps the couple in the icon should have waited until they had a child before buying that.


6 It's A Showbiz Spectacular!


Glitter coming out of the set, there. This could be a bit better, in all honesty. The stars representing, well, 'stars' in the showbusiness sense. The shilouetted figures representing the fact that the show has some people in it? At least have one of them striking an impressively entertaining pose, for Bruce's sake! For all we know, this programme is a discussion on astronomy. That said, what a line up - Bob Hope (well, clearly, as it's a programme about him), Michael Caine, John Wayne, Bing Crosby, George Burns, and best of all, Lord Boob Monklouse. If it weren't for the fact we were about six months old when this show went out, we'd have bloody loved it.


5 Non-Pop Music


The icon for 'pop music' has a guitar in it. This is for 'classical' music, but we're not sure Instant Sunshine quite qualify on that score. It's entirely possible the icon was introduced during London Weekend's early months, just after their idea of introducing a bit more culture to the light channel's weekend schedule. Once that idea comprehensively died on it's arse, they were left with a spare icon, and had to cram it in wherever possible.


4 Spy-Based Movie


Crosshairs fixed on a man with a briefcase? Check. Man hiding around corner? Check. Gun? Check. Unspooled film running wild in background? Check. If you'd told us this was the Latvian poster for The Bourne Identity, we could well have believed you.


3 Agriculture-Based Recurring Drama


It has a programme icon, despite it only going out in the afternoons. Coronation Street doesn't even get an icon of it's own (at least in the two copies of TV Times we've got from this period), although this could be because there's a lot more scope for an interesting icon based on farm-themed programming. Bulls, cockerels, flowers, the rising sun and corn are the sort of thing the designer could toss off over a coffee break, whereas a grimy Northern city might not necessarily be as easy to express in felt-tip.


2 Hotel-Based Recurring Drama


Brilliantly, there's no pretence at making a proper effort here. It's as if Independent Television Publishers Limited's Icon Bloke needed to go home early one day. "Not until you've done an icon for our new soap opera, you're bloody not!" would roar the editor. "Hurrumph!" grumbled Icon Bloke, "what's it about, then?" Working from the limited brief ("a hotel, and don't mess this up, you're still on a final warning after your 'Showbiz Spectacular' icon"), this was chucked out with absolutely no regard for perspective. As to whether Icon Bloke would still have a job by the following week, well, he'd better have done something really special for his next piece of work.


1 Action Movie



And with this slice of majesty, Icon Bloke's job was secure once more. Planes! Exploding cars! And best of all, one faceless character walloping another one in the face! This is what we want, a minimalistic piece of work almost good enough for the portfolio of Saul Bass. We're not quite sure what the blob to the left of the plane is supposed to be (a badly drawn zeppelin?), but we don't care. This is the official winner of BrokenTV's Top Ten TVTimes Genre Icons Of The 1970s! In fact, all that's left to do now is to put up a picture from a terrifying childrens' programme.


"Argh! Argh! Argh! Argh! Quick, put BBC-1 on! Oh no, the testcard! Aieee!"
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Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Faux-Fury Fun With The Fourth Estate

As the Beeb LURCHES from SCANDAL to CALAMITY to PUNCHING SPARROWS IN THEIR TINY BEAKY FACES, it's time to unveil our annual new idea. There are so many tabloid headlines screaming sentences beginning with "BBC SLAMMED BY (x)", there really needs to be some sort of scale. After all, how outraged are we supposed to get? Like every vigilant Briton, we've put Ofcom on our Friends and Family list, but we need some kind of scale that tells us just how loud we should be shouting down the 'phone (or how hard to hammer the keys on our keyboard when expressing our anger at the pro-/anti-/NooLabour/TehTories/Europe/USA/Israel/Hamas/Imperial/Metric/Blur/Oasis BBC think-cops, when posting about it on their Have Your Say page). Well, frothing mentalists with usernames like "John England-Not-Britain, Gibraltar" need fret no longer, because we've knocked something up in our shed*.

(*Found a Flickr image with Creative Commons amendment rights and changed it a bit.)

Let's feed a few stories into our BBC Shockometer, and see if we've calibrated it correctly.

BBC slammed after screening porn star's lesbian fantasies (Independent, 6th Jan 2008)

The Story:

"The BBC came under fire today after celebrity lesbian couple Lindsay Lohan and Samantha Ronson were the subject of "gratuitously sexist and homophobic remarks" in an end-of-year show [BBC Three's 'The Most Annoying People Of 2008' - Ed]. Interviewed for the programme, former porn star Ron Jeremy described in some detail the sex acts he wanted to perform with Lohan and Ronson, while BBC Radio 5 Live presenter DJ Spoony said "hot and fit" women should be saved for straight men."

What this means:

BBC Three isn't getting any more watchable, a male porn star likes to think about sex when he sees attractive women, and DJ Spoony is a tosser. That's a triplet of non-relevations, right there.

The Shockometer says:



Nope, hardly moving. Time to try another story.


Daisy's whitewash: BBC race row over Night Garden doll's pale face (Daily Mail, 5th Jan 2009)

The Story:

"On the face of it, a small furry doll from a magical secret world seems an unlikely subject for a row about racism. Yet the BBC has found itself under fire about the colour of Upsy Daisy, central character in the children's programme In The Night Garden. Parents have complained that while she has dark skin on screen, an Upsy Daisy doll on sale in toy shops at upwards of £28.95 is much whiter. [...] Blogger Melanie Howarth wrote: 'I realise that the toys have been manufactured in order to make a profit and it has clearly been decided that a black Upsy Daisy will not make as much money as a white Upsy Daisy."

What this means:

Clearly, everyone in Britain is racist. And that's racist in the sense of "doesn't like people with dark skin", as opposed to the "anyone in Britain who wasn't born here" that closely mirrors the editorial policy of The Daily M.. ah, you're ahead of us. Or, someone with a bone to pick is clutching at straws, and bloggers are full of crap. Yes, including us.

The Shockometer says:



Ooh, a bit of a wobble there. Pointedly saying that the dolls cost almost £29 sent it all the way up to 'tepid'.


BBC accused of 'pandering' to No10 after Andrew Marr visits Downing Street for fireside chat with Gordon Brown (Daily Mail, 5th Jan 2009)

The Story:

"The BBC was facing severe criticism last night for 'cosying up' to Gordon Brown on a flagship political programme. The Prime Minister was interviewed yesterday on BBC1's Andrew Marr Show. But instead of travelling into the studio, Mr Brown agreed that the entire programme could be filmed in No 10. Other senior politicians are asked to travel into the studio when appearing on BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show."

What This Means:

The BBC have done the same thing as they've done with every other British Prime Minister since Churchill. And when you're the one accusing someone of doing something, it's not a story. Unless you're really desperate to fill in those editorial pages and you've run out of photos of actresses walking down streets.

The Shockometer says:



No, you really need to try harder, The Daily Mail.

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Sunday, 4 January 2009

Weak Headline Pun Along The Lines Of "Bluey-Ray Player" Goes Here

Here's how BrokenTV's Mark X's brain works. He sat down at 6pm to start writing about the 'rights based approach' to business ethics, and then to complete two vastly overdue assignments for college, after having had all Christmas to do so. After 'just quickly having a look at the football news', then quickly at Lifehacker, then quickly at some of the links on Lifehacker, and so on for several hours, it's come to this. Downloading and reading the manual for a Blu-Ray/HDD Freeview recorder that is only available in Australia. Well, that, and then blogging about that fact in the third person, because there are some annoying running jokes we're just not prepared to give up on.

But anyway, here's the exciting discovery worth delaying a soul-destroying look into shareholder rights. Because it's a machine only currently available (in PAL) in Australia, the manual for the Panasonic DMR-BW500 has a suitably Antipodean line-up in it. ABC1, ABC2, that sort of thing. Look:



That's right, they've just changed the first two channels from BBC One and BBC Two, and not even bothered changing the programme names. And left the other channels there. Even S4C!



"What's on ABC1 tonight? Ah, Action News on BBC1. Just after The Bill." Panasonic have gone to so little trouble for the Australian market, and yet they're expecting our colonial cousins to shell out 2,200 Aussie dollars for it. That's over £1,000 in proper money! And it's not as if they're adapting the UK manual, as that model isn't even out over here. Furthermore, you'll note that while the programmes for each UK channel are mostly correct in the first screenshot - DIY SOS on BBC One, Scrapheap Challenge on Channel Four, it's all gone to cock in the second screenshot. Emmerdale on BBC One?! We sure hope somebody got sacked for that blundeOH GOD WHAT ARE WE DOING WE'RE WASTING OUR LIVES

Erm, so. Manuals for models of PVR from foreign countries. With hindsight, not something we should have allowed to interrupt our studies. But then again, what channels will the pretend EPGs list in the PVR manuals of South Africa? Or India? This is a new riff that could run and run! (Reader's voice: "Not if I smash it's legs in with a brick, it won't.")
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Friday, 2 January 2009

Celebrity Big Brother 2009 Live Blog!

Happy new year, everyone! We've been a bit quiet recently, as we've been working on The Big BrokenTV Awards for 2008, so what better time to break our silence than on the launch of Celebrity Big Brother 2009? Live Blog ahoy! Refresh for updates.

[20.57] First thing we've noticed - Barrymore is back on our screens, playing second fiddle to George Lamb on Big Brother's Little Brother. Surely, that must represent the furthest anyone has ever fallen in the history of entertainment. We mean, it's not as if he'd kil... ("Stop right there" - The BrokenTV Legal Department)

[21.02] Fleeting, Question Of Sport style shots of a few of the participants for this year. Amy Winehouse, Tom Cruise, Rafa Benitez and Madonna, we're saying. Quite clearly, when the real contestants are announced, we're all going to need to be told who they actually are. You know, like when Jon Culshaw does his impressions.

[21.04] Davina does the obligatory tour of the house. There's a jail, which could be fun once someone who once had a top five hit (and an agent good enough to get them on this) starts getting a bit uppity.

Oh, by the way, welcome to anyone who found BrokenTV after we were mentioned on the BBC Internet Blog. As you'll soon see, we're not always as good as one hastily Photoshopped picture of Bubbles The Clown might suggest. We're also now linked to from the BBC's Flickr page, which is quite exciting. Well, it is if you're us.

[21.10] Housemate One: LaToya Jackson. Cripes. Because we can't think of anything more original to do, we're going to continue our tradition of marking the celebrity of each contestant by the word count of their Wikipedia entries, before, during and after their stay on the show. La Toya even has her own sub-section bar at the bottom of her page. We reckon she'll be the only person to have one of those. Of course, this means that CBB has now played host to 40% of the Jackson Five.

LaToya's Wikipedia wordcount: 2349.

[21.15] Mutya Buena, of whom we know nothing. An ex-Sugababe, it seems. She does have a Wikipedia page, and indeed can be found by typing 'Mutya' into the search box. She also has a sub-section bar thing on her Wiki page, which shows what we know.

Mutya 's Wikipedia wordcount: 1368.

[21.17] Will anyone we're actually a fan of appear? Both members of Tatu are probably a few years away from resorting to CBB, so that avenue is exhausted. Will Self? Chris Lowe? Dennis Skinner?

Hey, it's Shasta McNasty's Verne Troyer. Not much of a shock, as it's been pretty well known he'll be in it. He was quite good in Postal (which we liked, despite our better judgement), and could be fun here. If nothing else, he'll make for an easy target for whoever's the biggest twat on The Sunday Night Project.

Verne's Wikipedia wordcount: 558

[21.26] An advert looking for applicants for Regular Big Brother 2009. If you know anyone who is a self-centred imbecile, the dates listed would be a good time to burgle their house. And now, a Muller advert voiced by Derek Griffiths. Now he'd make a brilliant contestant in CBB. Him or Johnny Ball.

[21.30] Next contestant: Tommy Sheridan. A socialist politician from Scotland (albeit only from the comedy Scottish Militant Labour party), and alleged lover of PVC bondage, it seems. It'll be brilliant if everyone recognised him on entry to the... no they don't. As he walked in, he said "the madness!" in his Scottish burr, leading to someone else saying "oh, hi Angus".

Tommy's Wikipedia wordcount: 3240. Yikes.

[21.35] Page Fwee Stunna Lucy Pinder. Wants to prove she's not thick, but with her very next sentence says she's "a bit of a Tory girl", and she is frightened of clowns. Write your own Ben Elton-style punchline. Hates left-wingers. Boh. Will she realise it when she loses a lot of arguments with Tommy?

Lucy's Wikipedia wordcount: 1060.

[21.38] Despite Wikipedia claiming the next contestant is J.K. Rowling, Michelle Heaton, Coolio, Terry Christian, Steve Strange, Tina Malone from Shameless or Ulrika Jonsson, it's some bloke from a boy band. Ben Adams. Our prediction: he won't win.

Ben's Wikipedia wordcount: 346.

[21.42] Next: Tina Malone from Shameless. Someone on Wikipedia didn't lie shocker! A self confessed gobby scouser. Blimey, we put up with enough of those at work. We've just thought of a TV Burp style joke - she's just said how she's probably the last person you'd expect to do something like this. We'd say someone currently famous would be a bit more unexpected. NAILED.

Tina's Wikipedia wordcount: 184.

[21.51] Next up, we have Coolio, as 'predicted' by an anonymous Wikipedian. So, who else on the above list will be right? Terry Christian we can believe. Ulrika possibly. J.K. Rowling, never. Anyway, with Coolio in the house, at least we've got someone who was once a guest star in an episode of Duckman. Top Coolio fact! Gangster's Paradise was one of about three half-decent records in the pub we used to drink in. Much like a lot of pubs in the mid-1990s, really. It was a pub featured on an episode of Sky One's Britain's Hardest Pubs, although we're not sure why, it wasn't even bad by Wrexham standards, let alone national ones.

Coolio's Wikipedia wordcount: 1727.

[21.55] Michelle Heaton from Liberty X. There should be some sort of quota for People Who Used To Be In Pop Bands, which should be capped at two. Come on, someone good had better be the next participant. Someone we'd actually recognise who isn't American. They're all going to miss Obama's inauguration.

Michelle's Wikipedia wordcount: 996.

[21.59] Annoying Northern Twat (his words. We would have left out 'Northern', as we're not letting him try and use his locale as some sort of excuse) Terry Christian. Told you. At least now there's someone in the house no-one will feel bad about voting out in the first week.

Terry's Wikipedia wordcount: 1280.

[22.03] Who will be the first newspaper columnist to write something about how the events of Dead Set really should happen within the next week or so? Final participant: It's Ulrika. Probably going to be our favourite participant in the house, as she's always seemed genuinely intelligent, witty and entertaining if you ask us. She probably won't win, but won't be too bothered if she doesn't.

Ulrika's Wikipedia wordcount: 977. That's fewer than Terry Christian, which is quite unfair on her.

Ah well. That's the lot. Unless the producers have a trick or two up their sleeves, there's no-one that exciting here this year, suggesting everyone is still wary of another Shilpagate. Not even, as had been suggested, Andrew Sach's granddaughter. Is it going to hold our attention? The last 'proper' series of Big Brother didn't, and unless Coolio talking about hair straighteners is going to be the low point of the next few weeks, we're not holding out our hopes.

Ho hum. Time for a chart.



Latest Betfair Odds:

Verne Troyer 2.86
Ben Adams 6.8
Tina Malone 12
Terry Christian 12
Ulrika Jonsson 13
Coolio 13.5
Lucy Pinder 25
Tommy Sheridan 42
Michelle Heaton 28
Mutya Buena 32
La Toya Jackson 38

Our tip: Lay Terry Christian, and try to put that mental image out of your heads.
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