Thursday, 30 August 2007

Top Of The Tubes

For a while, we've been chucking out several clips of televised miscellanea (under a staggeringly original pseudonym) on this hot new website called You-Tube. Everyone'll be talking about in next year, you just wait. Now, as we've got the memory span of a gnat, we're not sure which ones we've mentioned on here, so here's a quick chart rundown of our most popular clips.

(Legal notice: When we say "our most popular clips", we actually mean "stuff we've found and put online, and have crossed our fingers that the original copyright holders aren't so litigious they honestly believe someone having put sixty seconds of their work into a tiny flash-video window means no-one will buy their DVDs any more".)

During the following, if you've got to hum a Top Of The Pops chart countdown theme to yourself, we'd much rather it were the Paul Hardcastle one, as that's the best one. A cross section of clip YouTube viewer comments are sprinkled throughout.

10. Channel Four promo, early 1980s

"She seems very relaxed about the fact that her girlfriend has an enormous head."

In a move to enrage Paul Dacre, we stumbled across a trailer for a typically 1980s Channel Four broadcast of movie 'A Question Of Love'. As Voiceover Lady tells us, it's a sensitive love drama about how one woman's love for another woman threatens her family ties. All performed without 'clever' editing, a thumping backing soundtrack, or 'wry' voiceover. A gentler, and probably better, age. Still, The Friday Night Project, eh?


9. Honda Impossible Dream: World Cup Karaoke Version


Thanks to Honda, the entire nation of England could sing their way to a meaningless 2-2 draw with Sweden in the 2006 World Cup. Which gives us a quick excuse to chuck out one of our pet theories.

In May 2002, Terry Venables - possibly the most famous person nearly to get into a lift with BrokenTV but preferring to wait for the next one instead, name drop fans - made a bit of a faux pas. Telling an audience of advertising executives that ITV always fared worse than the BBC for big World Cup Final matches because football fans hate adverts, while he was employed by ITV. Of course, he was mostly correct, but here's how we'd tackle the problem: take a tip from the US coverage of the SuperBowl. A big part of the SuperBowl coverage is the plethora of one-off advertising extravaganzas, so why can't the same be applied to ITV's coverage of World Cup games? Imagine the scene - the morning of the World Cup Final, John Smiths put out a load of newspaper adverts stating how Peter Kay will star in a three-part advert during that night's match, which will never be repeated. Accompany this with teaser poster adverts in the week leading up to the game, even a quick interview on Richard and Judy. There's an extra three million viewers for ITV1's coverage, right there. Do the same for other companies, and you've got so many viewers watching, they'll hardly notice how dire ITV1's football coverage is.

As our Pet Theories go, it's not quite up there with how Paramount should have turned Indiana Jones into a biannual movie franchise with new actors assuming the role every ten years or so, effectively creating a suitable rival for James Bond, but not too bad. And that's almost what happened here, with a few companies used what was bound to be ITV's largest audience of the year (their only exclusive broadcast of a midweek England 2006 World Cup match) being the surest thing they've had to a banker since the 1998 World Cup. A few companies seized the initiative and did something special, so if they could do something similar more often, maybe ITV could get some decent viewing figures for their football head-to-heads. After all, the adverts have only got to be more interesting than Alan Shearer droning on about how he'd wished England were in the final instead of Germany/Italy/Brazil/San Marino.


8. Jasper Carrott vs Monty Python

"piss off LlamaFarmer93 hes much beeter than monty pithon"

Not sure if the above comment was supposed to represent a Birmingham accent, but anyways. The Acocks Green laffmeister waxes lyrical, in an affectionate style, about the Pythons. It's very good, and especially interesting because the whole routine was markedly different to just about everything else he did in An Audience With...


7. Lynx: Billions (full advert)

"hottttt xD"

Smug ZooNutsLoaded berk improbably attracts lots of women. You know the drill. Full length version shown only during England vs Sweden 2006 (see number 9).


6. Journey by a London Bus (1950)

"Where's reg varney?"

This is more like it. It even attracts some proper and good comments. Very much beloved of Victor Lewis-Smith, this production by the Colonial Film Unit tells those finding themselves foreign, how to use London's bus service. And remember kids, even in this day and age, a cripple still needs much kindness.


5. Lazyboy - Inhale Positivity

"green hats lure children equally well."

Featuring the iconic tones of the late Patrick Allen, this offering from Lazyboy (Lazy B in the UK, due to people accidentally buying their CD thinking it was a chair, or something) is the follow-up to Underwear Goes Inside The Pants. It is good. Listen to it, and heed the words therein. We don't normally upload pop videos, but this one was shamelessly missing from the 'Tube at the time. It's quite nice to see how popular it turned out to be.


4. Carlsberg World Cup advert : full version

"ref is amazing joker"

A nice departure from the standard "ZooNutsLoadedMaxim berk walks into building and unexpectedly get mauled by awful FHM Honeyz" Carlsberg template. The premise shatters completely when you consider that no company actually 'does' pub teams, but it's a nice effort all the same. Another ITV's World Cup England vs Sweden advert. Lucky we'd Sky+'ed it, no?


3. Hugh Laurie lager advert, 1980s

"The two guys i love fron TV have the same hobbie. Also Dr. House and Homer Simpson loves beer."

Before House, before Stuart Little, before that small part in The Borrowers, before (air quotes) A Bit Of Fry & Laurie (/air quotes), before The Gun Seller (which everyone really should read - it's ace), possibly even before The Crystal Cube, the excellent Hugh Laurie cropped up in this early 80's (we think) advert for Kestrel Lager. Doing Generic Nerd Voice 47, for some reason. Possibly that's why we never see Kestrel Lager on sale anywhere these days.


2. Ford Cortina advert, circa 1984


Perennial favourite of dodgy minicab drivers, it's the Ford Cortina. As, according to this advert, it's also the second coming of Christ himself. And the advert seems massively popular, too. Not sure why. Our uploads of Classic Massingham Majesty should have received at least double the view count of this clip, dammit.


1. Pet Shop Boys - Numb (England World Cup Version)

"footballers are narcisstic fairies"

I say, steady on LeamingtonSteve! Most popular thing we've put on YouTube, and quite correctly, too. The best song the Pet Shop Boys have recorded since Behaviour, and football. This is the sort of reason why, despite employing Mark Lawrenson, BBC Sport will always have a special place in our hearts. While ITV went for the relatively predicable choice of Johnny Cash's rendition of Hurt, the Beeb went for this. And it wasn't even a single at the time they used it. Typically, even though a home and pub audience of about thirty million Britons got to experience this wonderful montage (no, hang on, while we're making completely unformed guesses on viewing figures, make that forty million), Parlophone dithered uselessly and when the single was finally released about five months later, nobody really noticed. In fact, if everyone who watched our upload of this clip had gone out and bought the single, Sir Neil Tennent and Earl Chris Lowe (BrokenTV Birthday Honours List 2006) would have had a proper number one, not just a phoney baloney one from a two-bob telly blog. Gah.



Well, just like with the proper charts, we're slightly surprised and a little disappointed by some of the omissions from the list. No Coughs And Sneezes, no Camel News Caravan, no Beavers? Sold!, but it is good the see the Pettoes back at number one in a chart. Expect another chart rundown the next time we've completely failed to watch any recent telly whatsoever and are really scrabbling around for something to write about.

And as for our earlier mention of litigation:


ITV are about to put out a commercial DVD containing the last ten minutes of an edition of World Of Sport from around 1980, including such gems as "League Division Four", "summary of today's sport" and "later on Southern". Presumably. Otherwise, our video of it getting removed from YouTube at the copyright holders request would be a completely pointless, stupid and spiteful move on their part. Either way, it seems Dickie Davies' excellently rakish moustache is too hot for YouTube to handle. Perhaps it is owned by Viacom.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

"Me And Eddie Have Got Some Wood"

As mentioned (at great length) in the previous update, one of the items we chanced upon today at the car boot sale was the first issue of School Fun comic. It launched in 1983 on the premise that the one thing all kids have in common is school. Unfortunately, this meant to many of the strips turned out to be fairly similar (despite IPC drafting in some artists with markedly different styles to that seen in Whizzer and Chips, Whoopee! or Buster), and the last thing kids wanted to read about when they got home from school was, well, more school. After only a few months, the dread words "Exciting news of all readers inside!" graced the front cover and the more popular characters (School Belle, and - we think - Young Arfur) received free transfers to Buster comic, and it was quietly shelved.

However, it is worth a look today for the way several TV staples were officially and unofficially converted to comic form. Coronation Street School saw the Weatherfield residents as kids hanging out at, of course, the Rovers Return tuck shop. Grange Hill Juniors saw a toned down but otherwise serious rendition of the goings on at the titular comprehensive. Dredge's Young Arfur saw a character called - oho! - Arfur Dally conning unsuspecting adults.

Of course, with no strips from the likes of Tom Paterson or the late J Edward Oliver, it was pretty much doomed from the off. It's not a proper British kids comic without a smelly sock factory or an Abolish Tuesdays sign. But anyway, now you can gauge the effectiveness of School Fun all for yourselves, as we've scanned and uploaded the entire issue. Read and enjoy!


Televetiquette, and The Crap Car Boot Sale/Good Car Boot Sale Cycle

We hate car boot sales. And here's why. If you're as addicted to bargains as we are, the first time you go to one as an adult (on a whim), you'll find some utterly fantastic items that wouldn't be available anywhere else. The first one we wandered along to about eight years ago, we picked up a huge stack of Empire magazines from the 1980s, all going for 10p each. The seller even gave us a free plastic tub to carry them all back to the car with. Now, we blimmin' well love getting hold of old magazines like that (not that we'd ever bother buying a copy of Empire nowadays, it was the fact they were from the 80s that appealed to us. The same thing applies to Radio- and TV Times), so that was it. An oath was made to spend the occasional Sunday morning getting up unreasonably early and visiting a car boot sale. If nothing else, it'd let us practice the art of walking while looking at the contents of tables on either side of us and avoiding cowshit simultaneously.

Except! It's all a great big con. What'll inevitably happen is this: the next half-dozen car boot sales you attend will all be rubbish. Everyone will be selling nothing more interesting than old shoes*, battered boxes of Domino Rally sets with most of the pieces missing, and endless rows of VHS tapes on offer at 50p each - but never anything interesting, just the same old copies of Robocop, X-Files, Barney and Friends, and Friends. Every third stand is manned by a scary looking shaven-headed cockney with tattoos selling copies of Guns & Ammo and books about murderers. Every tenth stand is selling a worrying mix of toys for the under-fives and drug paraphernalia. One stand will even be trying to sell a table full of DVDs from Poundland for £3 each. Nothing even worth considering. No "gold" at all.

* Really. People sell old shoes at car boot sales. Not 'worn-once, didn't fit, good as new' old shoes. No. Worn every day for three years, battered to buggery old shoes. Not classic original 1960s Adidas Stan Smiths old shoes. Shitty Hi-Tec with velcro straps old shoes. And given the number of people who put them out on the mucky bedsheet at the back of their Mondeos, there must be a demand for them. Christ alive.

Then, one Sunday, you'll be up early. It'll seem quite sunny out. There'll be nothing on telly. You'll think you may as well pop along to a car boot sale, but if you don't find anything this time, that'll be it. You'll never spend another Sunday morning in a muddy field contemplating if you really should eat a dodgy hamburger from a van at eight in the morning, or flick disinterestedly through a box of Whitesnake, Dogs D'Amour and Brother Beyond albums in the forlorn hope there's a copy of William Shatner Sings The Ramones or something in there. Never again.

And it'll happen. You'll bloody go and see another never-to-be-repeated bargain. It could be a Sega Saturn with two controllers and Sega Rally for £15. It could be a stall selling ex-catalogue stock from an Umbro factory, meaning you get to pick up a new (well, 2005/6 season) Torpedo Moscow away shirt for a fiver. It could be a box of thrillingly unlabelled E180s that could contain anything - the entire series of Happy Families, a full edition of Tiswas, or three hours of verbatim MTV Europe from 1992 (except they'll inevitably contain several episodes of Friends or The X-Files and nothing good**, but still). And as you triumphantly begin the quest to find your car, you'll be feeling pretty good about the whole car boot sale 'scene' again, and know you'll be back again in a few weeks. The entire "crushing disappointment and waste of time/fleeting success" cycle begins again. It'd generally take about five car boot sale visits for this cycle to occur.

** Which is precisely what happened the last time we bought some Mystery E180s, despite one of them being tantalisingly labelled "Alas Smith and Jones". Bah. One of them did contain an hour of CNN from 1994, followed by an episode of Match Of The 70s which - gah! - came to an abrupt end after two minutes because it was the end of the tape. But it's the thrill of the Mystery E180 chase that keeps us coming back for more, you see.

Since moving house around four years ago, we've managed to break out of this cycle and keep well away from car boot sales. Until this year. Like Renton having one last fix of heroin on the bus back to London, we made the lengthy trip to Chirk airfield at the end of spring. VHS copies of American Carrott, a bootleg of Nirvana Live in San Diego, Bob Monkhouse Exposes Himself, Further Up Pompeii and Britannia Hospital were soon in our carrier bag, and with a fresh injection of bargain juice in our veins we were hooked once more.

Of course, since our car boot hiatus, a certain website called eBay has become massively popular. This has only served to make things a lot worse. In theory, car boot sales should be wonderful events. The people in charge of many of the stands are middle-aged. They'll have had an average of forty-seven years on this planet in which to build up a dizzying array of cultural tat. Tat that the likes of us would never have been able to possess at the time due to the trifling matter of us either not being born yet, or opting to spend our pocket money on football stickers instead. The tables next to their people carriers should each contain an entire lifetimes worth of items deemed worth a purchase in Woolco at the time, and which someone else may well be able to enjoy in the future.

What has actually happened is that anything actually worth anything, if it can be reasonably sent via post, has already gone on eBay. So anything on that table is stuck right at the bottom of the thing barrel. Like old shoes and a VHS of Four Weddings with a sun-faded cover.

We've calculated - and discovered the hard way - that eBay has pushed the Crap Car Boot Sale/Good Car Boot Sale Cycle out to a worrying nine visits. Time to stop going. Forever. Cold turkey. If we never find ourselves tempted by the smell of van-fried doughnuts we know will be horrid but will probably buy anyway at 8:24am on a Sunday again, it'll be too soon. That's it. Final decision. Never again.

Except we were up quite early today. And it was quite sunny. And we had some money lying around. And the car was full of petrol. And it's a Bank Holiday weekend, so there'd be tons of sellers. Bah. One visit. One final visit. After all, when we inevitably walk away having found nothing again, it will prove incontrovertibly that car boot sales aren't worth the bother any more. Yes, it'll be a good idea to go, to prove to ourselves why it isn't worth going to these things.

£18.50 and three hours later:

Frigging hell. The mother lode. From top left: Whomp That Sucker by Sparks (50p), Mask by Bauhaus (50p), the LP edition of Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy (50p), Parallel Lines by Blondie (50p), Warren Mitchell as Alf Garnett Sings The Songs Of World War I (50p), Pieces of Hancock (50p), Watchmen (£1), Father Ted: The Complete Scripts (£2), Frank Muir Presents The Book Of Comedy Sketches (£2), Fawlty Towers: The Complete Scripts (£2), Batman: The Killing Joke (£1), Jamie Hewlett's Hewlican's Haircut (£1), a copy of Uncanny Tales (£1.50), a copy of The Magnet from April 1939 (£2), the first edition of School Fun comic ("The Happiest Read Of Your Life!", £1), and four editions of Punch from the late 50s and early 60s (50p each).

I hope the sellers of these goods realised they were effectively giving Pete Docherty a catering sized bag of cocaine when they sold us all of the above. IT BEGINS AGAAAAAIN.

All the above is the intro text for the picture-based update below, by the way. We got carried away. Possibly it was a time-delayed horrid-doughnut sugar rush.

Back in the days before blogs, people had to write their whimsical asides about television in humour magazines. In order to back this up, here's a snippet from a page of the 1959 Punch Almanack, back when this new-fangled tele-vision was becoming increasingly popular. Click on the image to see the page in full.

So, for anyone wondering what BrokenTV would be like were it printed on paper, written in the late 1950s by people who'd attended Oxbridge University (or indeed, any university) and had less swearing in it, there you go.

Were toying with the idea of scanning the whole issue of School Fun and putting that up. Watch this space. Erm, and refresh the page periodically, otherwise nothing will happen.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

The BBC iPlayer and the BrokenTV iDeas-Above-Its-Station

We've finally had a proper reason to use iPlayer: our scheduled recording of Saxondale clashed with recordings of the end of the current series of House* and The Secret Life of the Motorway**. Yes, despite our earlier post on the subject, we seem to have missed just about the only BBC programme not given the benefit of a same week repeat, not even on BBC HD, where that 19 hours per day of 'BBC HD Preview' just has to be squeezed in somewhere. So, we set our internet to download it (at seven in the chuffing morning, because that's one of the very few hours of the day it actually works at anything like the advertised speed), and what did we find?

* Which is still the best drama currently on television, except it isn't any more because it isn't. Currently on television, that is. For anyone who has yet to catch this programme, go straight to Asda where the first season boxset is an almost criminally reasonable £11.99.

** Which was mostly enjoyable, although it did seem a bit clunky the way the first two episodes generally proclaimed "Hurrah! Motorways are all wonderful!", only for the third to revolve around the premise that "Oh no, they're a bit rubbish actually". We enjoyed the bit where a landowner of territory due to be bulldozed for a motorway quickly sold one-square-yard plots of his land to people scattered all around the globe for nominal fees in order to make the compulsory purchase process horrendously complicated hugely. And that may well be the only instance of the term "process horrendously complicated hugely" has appeared on the internet. [checks Google] Yay! We're special!

Saxondale. Not repeated on Saturday or Sunday nights, even though everything else blimming well is.

Well, the aspect ratio was all buggered up, so we'll be nabbing it from Well-Known-Not-Quite-As-Legal-Programme-Download-Service instead. Bah. This event did send us reeling into the iPlayer feedback message board, though. When we arrived there, after the long-winded Sort Of Semi-Register Again Just In Case You're Not Really You process needed for Aunties message forums, we felt compelled to make two suggestions to make the whole iPlayer process at least one trillion times better. Two suggestions that we're going to repeat here, partly because we can use this post as evidence that we thought of it first when they are both implemented AS THEY SURELY WILL BE AS WE ARE UNFAILINGLY CORRECT ON THESE MATTERS, and also because it's easy copy. Well, you've got to write about anything you can get your hands on when you've started a TV blog and you really don't watch that much actual television any more. And you can't be bother constructing sentences properly. Any more. As. Well.


It was simply a rehash of our plea to put more archive material on there. Luckily, we'd supplemented this point with the thought that it could be used as a means to see which archive material would be most deserving of a 'proper' repeat showing on 'proper' television. If, for example, a chance to see whatever still exists of Q8 did the unthinkable and proved to be more popular than the hundredth chance to see Grown Ups one week, that could be a pretty good indication that a repeat of any Milligna the BBC might still have in the cellars of Windmill Road would be nice to see on BBC Four.

At the other end of the chronological scale, iPlayer could also be used to gauge public reaction to non-broadcast pilots. Pilots could be bunged onto iPlayer, thousands of people could watch them, and then state their approval (or otherwise) either using a complicated questionnaire or a mere Hot Or Not zero-to-ten rating. A focus group made up of a massive cross-section of viewers, all for free. That sounds like a better idea than a commissioning editor tossing a coin or seeing what fits into a largely imagined target demographic, doesn't it? If nothing else, it might lead to pilots such as Biffovision or Be More Ethnic, both of which we really enjoyed, making it to a full series as opposed to Fuck Off, I'm Desperately Trying To Grab Your Attention By Way Of My EPG Listing Please Watch Me, Please.


When a documentary heavily relying on the use of archive material comes around, such as the wonderful Andrew Marr's History of Modern Britain or pretty much any edition of the perpetually engrossing Time Shift, you only ever get to see fleeting glimpses of news reports, television specials or topical comedy shows. Wouldn't it be it be great to at least have a chance to see the shows that have been referred to in full? That's what iPlayer could be for.

Come on, they've had to go to the trouble of booking out the source material in order to get hold of the clip anyway. How much difference would it make to bung the tape to a resident IT spod to encode up for the good of Johnny Public? A documentary about the threat of atomic bombs that includes just twenty seconds of Carrott's Lib with Jasp poking fun at the Protect and Survive pamphlet? Can't we get to see the whole routine? Or even better, the whole show? We know you've got it. You've got hold of the tape. We know you don't deem it worthy of putting out on one of your networks in full. But we paid for the programme to be made with our licence fee. Well, our parents did, anyway. Why not put in online? It's not as if a topical comedy show from the early 1980s would be a worthwhile commercial DVD release, so you can't be holding it back in case 2|Entertain can make some cash out of it.

Worst case scenario on this subject: Source material is put online. No-one watches it. Barely any bandwidth is used, the overall cost is minimal. An unpopular TV blog with ideas above its station is proved horrendously wrong, otherwise no casualties whatsoever. Live and learn, eh?

Best case scenario: Source material is put online. A notable amount of people watch and enjoy it. Remit fulfilled, and without treading on the toes of any commercial rivals to boot. Hurrah. Unpopular TV blog with ideas above its station is proved unerringly correct, and is thereby chosen as select its own season of archive programming on BBC Four. Said season, containing little more than repeats of Emu's Broadcasting Company, Eureka and Whale performing on Top Of The Pops proves to be massively unpopular, but the net damage in minimal. The overall result is a success, and the government decides to add £10 to the licence fee as a direct result. Hurrah x2.

At this point we'd like to state that the date and time of Blogger posts are ripe for being presented as evidence in a court of civil law (probably), and that if the BBC want to offer us a highly paid job in the Department Of Generally Being Empirically Correct About Stuff (or at the very least a place on the BBC Trust), our email address is at the top of the blog. [BrokenTV crosses fingers and closes eyes especially tightly, just in case the previous sentence comes true.]

This week, instead of finally getting around to launching our football blog (we've nearly three - count 'em! - ideas for posts on it already!) we have been: watching the entire Jason Bourne trilogy, followed by the Harry Palmer trilogy. Despite our initial expectations, Bourne wins. And not just because we've got a framed poster of Lola Rennt (original German release, mind) in the BrokenTV office because we really fancy Franka Potente, either***. Bonus points for Palmer having more 1960s supermarkets and Corn Flakes in his movies, though.

*** Creep was flipping woeful. See? We don't just like films because we're idiots ruled primarily by our worryingly high testosterone levels. [Quickly attempts to hide Post-it note listing provisional release date for Finding Tatu]

Monday, 20 August 2007

BrokenBrother: Latest Underwhelming News

Erm, we've mostly stopped watching it. The Sky+ programme link has been cancelled, and we've only been dipping into it about once a week. We'd pretty much given up on the series when the halfway housemates were chucked in. It was a bit like having quite a good day at work, but then your boss tells you that you're going to have to work for another six hours. Actually, that's a rubbish analogy. It's like quite enjoying a TV show, only for a stupid amount of new characters to be introduced just as it was getting quite exciting, and you realise that you really can't be bothered investing an hour every single day in it, because while it's been quite enjoyable, there are limits.

The current series of Big Brother seems to be having that impact on everybody. Our contact at Betfair stopped contacting us around the time of the Charleygate 'scandal'. At the moment, Betting@Betfair aren't even bothering with their special BB Betting update page, and while they are still taking bets on it, it has long fallen off the 'Popular Events' list on the front page. The Big Brother's Black Eye website only made it past a few weeks, and we're guessing the tabloids are still only sticking with it because it makes for piss-easy copy.

Of course, all that hasn't stopped us compiling an up-to-date BB Fame-o-meter. And here it is. Definitely something we're not going to do again, because it's a great big pain in the arse to do, no-one really cares about it (do they?), and as each new vanful of bungalowmates is dumped into the Big Brother bungalow the whole thing becomes more unwieldy. But, our word is worth its score in Scrabble, so here you go. Feast on those numbers.

Brian and the twins are the big favourites, but if it weren't so obvious Brian is going to win we'd be tempted to put a few quid on Liam at 10.5. Except Brian is clearly going to win, from the episodes we have watched lately. And quite rightly, too. We suspect he could be the only winner of Big Brother who'll remain completely likeable outside the house since Helen from BB2 (and that was mainly because she pretty much scarpered from the public eye not long after, save for a failed attempt to become a part of Banzai).

Second-placed Ziggy and Jonathan are the recipients of a whopping 30% bonus multiplier to their scores, because they've earned their own pages on Wikipedia, but that isn't enough to beat the one woman infamy rollercoaster that is Charley.

Brian, buoyed by his bonus 10% for being our current favourite, currently sits in third place. Will he manage to overtake Ziggy and Charley to take his rightful place as Big Brother Arbitrary Fame King 2007? Time, or more accurately, the Final And Comprehensive BrokenTV Big Brother Fame-O-Meter Awards 2007 will tell, just after the current series of Big Brother finally, mercifully reaches some sort of conclusion.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Stamping Down On: A Human Face, Forever

BrokenTV Goes to ("A Well-Known Computer Superstore" - Ed): A Play In Two Woefully Predictable And Mostly True Parts


(The date: Two years ago. The place: A Well-Known Computer Superstore. On a rare excursion into the big city, BrokenTV wanders into the store clutching an old sock containing several years worth of scrimpings. As BrokenTV gazes in wonder at all the shiny trinkets, a salesman approaches.)

Salesman: Can I help you?

BrokenTV (looking up from waving gormlessly at a webcam): Erm, yes. We'd like to buy a computer please. Which is the best computer to buy? Our friend has a silver one. Are they the best ones to buy? The silver ones?

Salesman: Ha ha! You're... joking, right?

BrokenTV: Ha ha! Erm... what?

Salesman: Never mind. Well, that sort of depends, you see. What is it you'll be using the computer for?

BrokenTV: Well, just the internet really.

Salesman: And how much money have you got?

(BrokenTV empties contents of sock onto floor and starts counting the tuppences it contained. After several minutes...)

BrokenTV: ...£799.96... £799.98... exactly £800.

Salesman: Well, there's a happy coincidence. You see, for anyone who just wants a PC to get on the internet with, the best computer to buy is the one that costs that exact amount.


Here you are. The Hewpaq SupeR 1460. This model actually gets a better internet than all the other PCs out there. Any website you look at will be 25% more entertaining than it would be when viewed on other, lesser, smellier computers. And best of all, it's completely future proof. Every single computer in this shop that costs less than £800 will be worthless in about three weeks. Now, it's - chuckle - difficult to predict the future in the world of computing...

Ha ha, yes.

...but I should say if you buy this computer now, at the price of just £800, there's no reason why it won't be worth at least double that in three years from now.

Gosh, really?

Yes, that's possibly a true thing that I said just then. This computer is the best possible thing you could buy in this entire store, and I can guarantee that this will be a product that will never go wrong. If the UK Honours system wasn't restricted to humans only, there's every chance this computer would be given an OBE.

Wow, great. We'll buy that one then. Where do we sign to irrevocably commit ourselves to this purchase?

Just here. And here. Initial here.

BrokenTV (scribbles name excitedly):




(The date: The present. The place: A Well-Known Computer Superstore. BrokenTV wanders up to the store's dedicated team of helpers, "Teh Tech Doodz", as designated by the large banner hanging over their special corner. Emboldened by two years of having to tinker with its PC every single bloody time it had bought a new peripheral, everybody's fifth favourite TV Blog is clutching what it's sure will be the best PC replacement part for its needs. The RRP of said item is £19.99.)

BrokenTV: Ah, hello. Our computer is having a lot of trouble with an overheating CPU, so we need a new CPU fan. Do you reckon this [waves moderately priced PC component at "Tech Dood"] will be the one we need? It's for a 3.4Ghz Pentium 4 HT CPU.

"Tech Dood" : [inhales through teeth] What socket is it, mate?

BrokenTV: Pfffff.... not sure.

"Tech Dood" : What motherboard you got?

BrokenTV: Don't know.

"Tech Dood" : Well, I can't really...

BrokenTV: We did buy it from here if it helps. The model is still listed on your website, it's a Hewpaq SupeR 1460. There's no further stock, but it was last listed at £249.99.

(BrokenTV visibly shudders as it remembers handing over a perfectly good sockful of money for that computer.)

"Tech Dood" : Tsk. Hang on a minute, mate.

("Teh Tech Dood" paws at his terminal for a moment whilst audiably tutting to himself.)

"Tech Dood" : Right, here we go. Oh dear.

BrokenTV: Oh dear?

"Tech Dood" : Oh. Dear. See that? [Points at screen.] It's a Prescott. Oh dear.

BrokenTV: Oh dear?

"Tech Dood" : Mmm. They're notorious for overheating. You're lucky it's lasted this long without exploding and taking out a three house radius, to be honest. How big's your case?

(BrokenTV makes a vague arm movement to try and disguise the fact it has no idea if there are actual names for the differing sizes of PC cases.)

"Tech Dood" : Mmm. We might still have one you can use, but you'll need a big case. Follow me.

(BrokenTV duly follows "Tech Dood" to a section of the store where enormous CPU fans are kept.)

"Tech Dood" : There. There's two of them that could work. See that one there?

BrokenTV: The one marked "£49.99"? Oh dear.

"Tech Dood" : Yeah. That one *might* work on yours. But if you want to make sure...

("Tech Dood" gestures at an even larger boxed item.)

"Tech Dood" : ...that's the one you need.

BrokenTV: The one marked "£59.99"? Crikey.

"Tech Dood" : Yes. If you can get it to fit in your case, you'll be sorted.

BrokenTV: Oh dear. Is all this really necessary? Because when I bought the PC, the nice man said...

"Tech Dood" (making concerned face) : Mmm.




(Now dressed in a dressing gown and towel combo in order to specify being 'out of character', BrokenTV stolls onto the stage in front of the closed curtain.)

BrokenTV: We really frigging hate PCs.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

A Quick History of The Times Newspaper, Almost Entirely Stolen From Wikipedia

The Times was founded by John Walter in 1785 as The Daily Universal Register. Unhappy with Universal being universally ignored by the public, Walter changed the title after 940 editions on 1 January 1788 to The Times. John Walter was also the first editor of the paper. He resigned in 1803, handing ownership and editorship to the second John Walter. The first John Walter had already spent sixteen months in Newgate prison for libel printed in The Times, but his pioneering efforts to obtain Continental news, especially from France, helped build the paper's reputation among policy makers and financiers.

The Times used contributions from significant figures in the fields of politics, science, literature, and the arts to build its reputation. For much of its early life, the profits of The Times were very large and the competition minimal, so it could pay far better than its rivals for information or writers.

In 1809, John Stoddart was appointed general editor, replaced in 1817 with Thomas Barnes. Under Barnes and his successor in 1841, John Thadeus Delane, the influence of The Times rose to great heights, especially in politics and amongst the City of London. Peter Fraser and Edward Sterling were two noted hacks and gained for The Times the pompous/satirical nickname 'The Thunderer' (from "We thundered out the other day an article on social and political reform.").

The Times was the first newspaper to send special correspondents abroad, and it was the first to send war correspondents to cover particular conflicts. W. H. Russell, the paper's correspondent with the army in the Crimean War, was immensely influential with his dispatches back to England.

In other events of the 19th century, The Times opposed the repeal of the Corn Laws until the number of demonstrations convinced the editorial board otherwise, and only reluctantly supported aid to victims of the Irish Potato Famine. It enthusiastically supported the Great Reform Bill of 1832 which reduced corruption and increased the electorate from 400 000 people to 800 000 people (still a small minority of the population). During the American Civil War, The Times represented the view of the wealthy classes, favouring the secessionists, but it was not a supporter of slavery. Its support of individual politicians was internally driven and did not pander to public opinion.

The third John Walter had succeeded his father in 1847. Though the Walters were becoming more conservative, the paper continued as more or less independent. From the 1850s, however, The Times was beginning to suffer from the rise in competition from the penny press, notably The Daily Telegraph and The Morning Post.

The Times faced financial extinction in 1890 under A. F. Walter, but it was rescued by an energetic editor, Charles Frederic Moberly Bell. During his tenure (1890-1911), The Times became associated with selling the Encyclopædia Britannica using aggressive American marketing methods introduced by Horace Everett Hooper and his advertising executive, Henry Haxton. However, due to legal fights between the Britannica's two owners, Hooper and Walter Montgomery Jackson, The Times severed its connection in 1908 and was bought by pioneering newspaper magnate, Alfred Harmsworth, later Lord Northcliffe.

On May 8, 1920, under the editorship of Wickham Steed, the Times in a front-page leader endorsed the anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion as a genuine document, and called Jews the world’s greatest danger. The following year, when Philip Graves, the Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey) correspondent of the Times exposed The Protocols as a forgery, the Times retracted the leader of the previous year.

In 1922, John Jacob Astor, a son of the 1st Viscount Astor, bought The Times from the Northcliffe estate. The paper gained a measure of notoriety in the 1930s with its advocacy of German appeasement; then-editor Geoffrey Dawson was closely allied with those in the government who practised appeasement, most notably Neville Chamberlain.

In 1967, members of the Astor family sold the paper to Canadian publishing magnate Roy Thomson, and on May 3 in the same year it started printing news on the front page for the first time. (Previously, the paper's front page featured small advertisements, usually of interest to the moneyed classes in British society.) The Thomson Corporation merged it with The Sunday Times to form Times Newspapers Limited.

An industrial dispute left the paper shut down for nearly a year (December 1, 1978–November 12, 1979).

The Thomson Corporation management were struggling to run a business under the grip of the print unions at the height of Union powers. Union demands was increasingly difficult to meet. Management were left with no choice but to save both titles by finding a buyer who was in a position to guarantee the survival of both titles, and also one who had the resources and was committed to funding the inevitable migration to technology-based printing.

Several suitors appeared, including Robert Maxwell, Tiny Rowland and Lord Rothermere; however, only one buyer was in a position to fulfil the full Thomson remit. That buyer was the Australian media baron Rupert Murdoch.

In August 2007, in order to improve its circulation amongst the key 18-49 ABC1 male demographic at the beginning of the 2007/08 football season, a television advertisement for The Times revolved entirely about the thought of a man in a public lavatory, from which the roll of toilet tissue has been fully used, preferring the prospect of walking for the remainder of his day with a shitty anus, as he found the thought of this poo-related scenario more appealing than using a page of his precious The Times Football Section to wipe his shitty anus. Until the new circulation figures are announced, the level of success for this new advertising approach can only be estimated, but all indications are that spending such a large amount of News International's marketing budget on a television commercial which merely serves to associate one of the world's most respected newspapers with a man's shitty anus is sure to usher in a new and exciting period in this history of The Times.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

iPlayer: A Review. Of Sorts.

So, the BBC's latest beta of iPlayer has been unveiled to a select band of alpha geeks, and somehow BrokenTV has found itself on the right side of the binary velvet rope. How does it measure up as a Video on Demand system, and how does it compare to Certain Other Television Download Services? BrokenTV puts on its special investigating hat and takes a look.

(Note: We'd written all of the text for this while taking screengrabs along the way. Infuriatingly, the STUPID USELESS computer we use to compile the site crashed with all the pictures in Photoshop, still unsaved. And we're too lazy to take them all again. Still, hurrah for draft autosaves, eh?)

(We've ended up having to hotlink this pic from Wikipedia. As we hate it when people hotlink to other sites, rudely sapping their bandwidth, we feel massively guilty about this.)

It's fairly well documented by now that the software is only available to people running Windows XP, or to people with Vista who are quite handy at tinkering with settings, but it's also worth pointing out that you need to be using Internet Explorer to use the interface. Hopefully this will be remedied before the final version is unveiled, because we much prefer Firefox, and we'd wager a sizable proportion of people likely to use the iPlayer do too. Alongside the username and password supplied in the email from the iPlayer team, you'll also need to be registered for, which only takes a moment. The whole select-a-programme interface is handled over the iPlayer website, and it's only when you select a programme you want to download that an option to install the iPlayer client is offered. With a minimal bit of meddling, we were able to get it up and running. Once you've got everything out of the way, your next download should be much simpler.

The selection of programmes on offer is pretty limited, offering a much less varied selection than the earlier BBC iMP trial. That's a pretty big minus point as far as we're concerned, especially when we'd heard that the earlier trial (which we weren't privy to) offered such delights as Emu's Broadcasting Company, The (1986) Domesday Project, and quite excellently "Programme Links for BBC1: 17 Nov 1969". Hopefully, once the full system is up and running, archive material will become available. We'd only signed up for the beta because we so badly wanted some of that EBC and hot continuity action. Until more archive material is added, it’s all a little bit like arriving at a party only to find all of the booze has gone, save for a four-pack of Tesco Value lager. But anyway.

After selecting a programme to download (we've chosen single episode of Still Game on offer, as opposed to the ten (TEN!) different episodes of Two Pints Of Sodding Lager, for chuff's sake), the iPlayer client takes over. The download rattles along quite nicely, and a half-hour sitcom takes up around 100mb of space. That's quite an improvement on the 170mb per half-hour show on Divx or Xvid from a file-sharing site, and is sure to be quite handy for anyone saving their programmes to a laptop with a modest hard drive.

The picture size on playback looks a bit disappointing when viewed in the default window size, but knocking it into fullscreen mode proves perfectly watchable (and better than our rubbish mobile phone photo made it look. Except, erm, we lost all the pictures that we took anyway). And... that's about it, really.

All of this is dodging a more pertinent question, though. If the service is restricted to recent broadcasts, who exactly would be using this service that regularly? It could prove to be useful for catching an episode of something you’ve missed, but there are plenty of other options for doing just that: catching one of the numerous repeats scattered throughout the week for most programmes; waiting about two weeks after the end of the series before the whole lot is repeated on BBC Three or Four; waiting about eight weeks until the whole run appears on UKTV Gold; downloading the programme from somewhere else and not having to put up with it self-destructing in seven days; waiting for the DVD boxset to hit the shops two days after the end of the series; waiting a bit longer for the RRP of the DVD boxset to be slashed in HMV because they’ve gone and made too many of them. Or, alternatively, just getting on with your life instead.

There seems to be a kind of mass hysteria with the traditional broadcasters at the moment, where they seem to be utterly petrified that somebody somewhere might miss one single episode of their output. A journey through an EPG usually takes in an ever expanding array of ‘+1’ channels, just in case you narrowly missed the live coverage of Halfway Housemate Jonti farting in bed the first time around. Each +1 channel offers yet another chance to see the fifth repeat of the week for a spin-off from a reality makeover show that barely cobbled together 4% of the audience share when shown in primetime on a flagship channel.

Forgot to record The Real Footballers’ Wives Uncut Extra when it was first broadcast using your stupidly-easy-to-operate PVR, which you can even set if you’re hundreds of miles away by using your mobile phone? Never mind, you can use that same mobile phone to watch a repeat going out live, even though you’re clearly outside and therefore doing something less boring instead. And they’re winding down the mobile phone TV service anyway because no-one actually wanted it.

So, if you’ve managed to miss When Pets Go Ballroom Dancing at every single one of the eighty-six different opportunities to do so, quite why you’d be so very keen to go online to watch it, we’re not quite sure.

What with there being so many alternatives to television nowadays – the internets, videogames, you all know the drill by now – it’s as if broadcasters are increasingly determined to remind everyone that they’re still around. Back in the 1980s, back when Auntie’s flagship still featured a hyphen, it would have been unimaginable that the Corporation would spend good money on a billboard campaign reminding us that BBC-1 exists. The five main channels have decided we need every station ident for the main channels to be a twenty to thirty second epic, as if to say “There! You don’t get things like that preceding YouTube clips. REMAIN IMPRESSED WITH US”. As if seeing a thousand planets explode into the shape of the BBC Two ‘2’ makes the coverage of live bowls it precedes somehow more exciting.

(We feel less bad about hotlinking to the BBC's website though. Hey, our licence fee probably covers the hosting costs of a 15kb jpeg.)

In other news, BBC Sport have proudly proclaimed that the new season of Match Of The Day will be marked by, not better pundits or friendlier scheduling, but new logos for both the Saturday and Sunday night shows, “updated to give them a more contemporary and three-dimensional feel”. Even better, “the logos will also have a much greater prominence throughout the programmes”. Phew, eh?

Not that any of that’s needed. If we hear Mark Lawrenson make a monumentally tortuous pun and then wait for a few uncomfortable seconds of silence to pass before John Motson says ‘heh’, we know we’re watching Match Of The Day.

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