Monday, 27 February 2006

Football: broken

.An annoying thing about being a highly principled television related blog such as ourselves, is to see one of our principle, er, principles torn asunder by simple circumstance. It's like resolutely refusing to watch The Friday Night Project (as is correct), only to find out that Friday's guest presenter is Larry David or The Dark Haired One Out Of Tatu, and therefore having to tune in. Or, on a lesser scale, having to eat human flesh to survive a plane crash (or, say, to win a bet).

One such principal we've stuck to for years was that, despite what numerous sports columnists might say, it doesn't bloody matter who the anchorman is for football coverage. We've always been able to put up with Gary Line-acre's weak whimsy, Gaby "Sure, My Dad Both Played For And Managed Wales, But I'm Going To Support England Because It'll Be More Marketable" Logan, Matt "Live and Exclusive only on ITV4" Lorenzo's bland ramblings or HelloandwelcometofootballonfiveI'mJohnbarnes, because the real reason we're here is to watch the football that'll be on in a minute. Since about 1988, we've been telling anyone who'll listen (friends, relatives, people on buses) that anyone claiming to be a football supporter who actually cares whether the person sitting on a comfy chair in a corporate box with a broadcaster's logo in the background is any good, should just go and live in a ditch.

Sure, it'd be nice if all presenters of televised football were as good as Adrian Chiles, but if they prefer to trot out a Ruud Nistelrooy / long face 'quip' instead, we could be less bothered. As long as there's a decent amount of actual football coming up soon (as opposed to the early days of ITV1's The Premiership, or latterly 'Ally and Andy' standing on the touchline with a plastic table for no useful reason whatsoever), we're happy. And that's the way we've felt ever since The Match burst onto our screens, feeling the need to jazz up that whole 'football' business.

So, how foolish did we feel when tuning into five, only to be confronted with ubiquitous radio eejit Colin Murray hosting the coverage of Bolton's clash with Marseille. Granted, it could have been worse (i.e. Moyles), but within seconds he'd already said 'Chelski', which even a jug-eared crisp peddler would have baulked at, and we were scrabbling for the remote control to watch five minutes of EastEnders instead. And we really, really hate EastEnders. So: thanks, Colin Murray. You've ruined football for us.

Saturday, 18 February 2006

The Worst Thing About Lots Of People Not Liking The IT Crowd Is

That in a few weeks, the rubbish Green Wing will be back on, and lots of gushing idiot columnists can start banging on forever about how 'cutting edge' and 'good' it is, despite the fact that it's:

(a) Little more than Jam: The Sitcom, but worse.

(b) About as amusing as a visit to a real-life Serious Burns Unit. Or TLC, and at least that had Tim Brooke-Taylor in it.

(c) A waste of Mark Heap and Tamsin Greig.

Even more so than before, as all the tedious pricks who've heard that it's Simply The Programme It's SO Cool To Pretend To Like since the end of the first series are about to latch onto it.

Mind you, if it'll get this blog mentioned in meejaguardian, we're now going to replicate the Green Wing 'style' (i.e. copying off of Jam) by typing most of this sentence at a normal speed, then typingthelastbitveryfastfornoreasonotherthanitlooks-interestingifyou'rewatchingitinapubwiththesoundturnedoff.

How Times Change, Eh?

1990: Radio 2 listeners needed a specially-made television promo featuring Derek Jameson on a Borrowers-style giant kitchen-table-and-radio studio set, explaining, in meticulous yet easy-to-follow detail, how to re-tune your radiogram to the station's new fangled FrequencyModulationotronic wavelength, now that the old-school Medium Wave transmissions were to cease, making way for the short-lived Radio 5. Just in case that was too complicated for the Radio 2 infirm key demographic, there was even an address at the end, where especially confused listeners could request a written copy of the instructions in even more laborious detail.

2006: Radio 2 listeners are implored to subscribe to RSS podcast feeds of their favourite shows, with no detailed instructions given at all.

You know, we can't help but feel there really ought to be a promo running on BBC One after Neighbours featuring Dermot O'Leary and a bookcase-sized Nano to go along with this.

Saturday, 4 February 2006

If You Don't Tolerate This Another Series Of Space Cadets Will Be Next

(A Disjointed Collection Of Words About The IT Crowd Hammered Out After Two Hours Sleep That Prove Why We’d Never Make It As Proper Writers)

The I.T. Crowd
Fridays, 9.30pm
Channel Four

First episodes of new sitcoms are very often so preoccupied with introducing all the characters, there isn't much room for top-quality jokes. Plucking three examples at random, the first episodes of Spaced, Black Books and Futurama (not to mention the first thirty-odd Simpsons episodes, the first few episodes of Fools And Horses, the first series of Men Behaving Badly, we could whip through half of the BBC Comedy Guide at this point) were all below par compared to episodes that followed, and they're all classics, if only in our misjudged (no, hang on, INCONTROVERTIBLY CORRECT) world view.

This didn't pose much of a problem in The Olden Days, where the only competition was likely to be The Nine O’clock News, Snooker and Rumpole Of The Bailey, so people would give a new show, say, three or four episodes to hit it's stride. Often, this would lead to programmes gradually gaining an audience until they become a national phenomenon. Equally often, a lacklustre programme would reach the end of it’s run with a still respectable number of viewers, even if most of them were still wondering which were supposed to be the funny bits (ever wondered why Comrade Dad has never made it to DVD? Nor us).

Now, there are all manner of other distractions, so programmes have to make an immediate impact if they want to avoid being shunted to a midweek 11.30pm slot . Say you’re working on a Friday night Channel Four comedy show. One way is make an impact is to go all out to:

  • Appeal directly to braying idiots (The Dirty Jackasses Of Steel Wish Live Project, The Leigh Francis Swearing And Mentioning Celebrities Show, Eighteen Stone Of A Disappointing Johnny Vegas Vehicle).
  • Have a Unique Selling Point (the first-person majesty of Peep Show, or Green Wing, which looks like it might be quite good and interesting if you’re watching it in a pub with the sound off, but isn’t).
  • Do a panel game, so no-one can complain if the ratings are rubbish because it only cost 7p to make (8 Out Of 10 Cats, which we’d give up on like *that* if Sean Lock left).
  • Copy off of BBC’s worldwide smash hit (i.e. some people in America have seen it) That Office, but get it all horribly, horribly wrong (Spoons, The Oh God Turn It Off Or Just Kill Me Where I Stand Book Group).
  • Be Peter Kay, and chuck out any old crap because you’ve turned into The Hitler Of Comedy and can do what you want (i.e. Anything since series one of Phoenix Nights, or as it’s disgracefully called on DVD, “Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights”, even though he only co-wrote it and didn’t direct it.)
  • Have another ill-advised stab at re-creating TFI Friday.

One thing that simply doesn’t happen these days is, as David ‘Grumbleweeds Radio Show’ Liddiment pointed out recently, the traditional studio-based sitcom in front of an audience. And going by the amount of whining on various parts of Science’s The Internet about the first couple of episodes of Channel Four’s newie The I.T. Crowd (or, if you’re a continuity announcer, ‘The It Crowd’, of course. And this is actually one of the things people are moaning about), you can’t blame them.

“I CAN HERE PEOPLE LAUGHING INSTED OF JUST HAVING CHARACTER B STARING AT THE OTHER PERSON IN EMBARISSED SILENCE, I DON'T UNDERSTAND!!!' says BRENTFAN9823. "yes whats with the caned laughter its like watching the flintstones or something" concurs BillHicksReference2133. "There's a woman in it! Women shouldn't be allowed in comedy, because I've arbitrarily decided they're not funny ever. I now hate Graham Linehan and Chris Morris, and have microwaved my The Day Today DVD in protest!" sulks TedMaul23847324. "You're all wrong, of course. The I.T. Team is refeshingly great, and is likely to become increasingly great as the series progresses" corrects the dashingly lithe Mark X.

Of course, going by the evidence of the first two episodes, it’s not as good as Father Ted. But since when has ‘coming up with a new show that’s not as good as the Official Eleventh Best Sitcom Of All Time by the end if it’s second episode’ been a crime? Since never, that’s when, you comedy I like not-liking Nazis.

Sure, there were weak bits in the first episode (“Get back in there and do some work to do with computers”, with the last word pronounced in a way that someone who doesn’t know how to pronounce it would pronounce it, which was just rubbish, and the tiresome stock ‘post modern pratfall followed by heavy bleeding’ gag – it’s the Del Boy Falling Through The Bar for the Balls Of Steel Generation, that is), but there were weak bits saved by great bits (the predictable “do you want me to connect your phone” line was rescued by the delivery of the “no, I’m using my phone”, “But… how!?” follow-up), and a great deal of great bits in their own right (The A-Team picture and their names, the lift button, “Chairman WOW!”, the fairground photomontage over the end credits).

Episode two was even better, with Linehan using the Simpsons Comedy Model system of gags coming through so thick and fast that any duff lines are soon forgotten about, because a great one has gone chasing straight after it (“I’ll just put this over here with the rest of the fire”, the ‘emailing the fire brigade’ bit, the home-made Stress Machine – for all the people on Science’s The Internet complaining about Richard Ayoade: you’re wrong, there’s three examples of Ayoade Gold right there. Also: “Fire? I’m late for GOLF!”).

Also, away from the meat of the programme itself, it was incredibly nice to see a programme finish without the need to dump a massive ‘4’ logo and voiceover over half of the screen. Something ‘they’ should do more often – if we want to know what’s next, we do have a special button for that very purpose on your digital TV remotes, you know. Oh, and what a fantastical title sequence – if that fails to put you in a good mood before the opening scene, you’re not human. See, it’s all good.

Science Fact! If this rate of continuous improvement continues, by episode five a Decent Comedy Vortex may well develop, and both Will & Grace and The Friday Night Project will be sucked inside, only to be spewed out the other side as repeats of Soap and Saturday Zoo. So, that’s something else to look forward to.


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