Sunday, 30 December 2007

The BrokenTellies 2007: Part Three

Unexpectedly Interesting Wallpaper TV Of The Year

Sumo TV

Being male, Sky Sports News usually acts as a sort of 'screen saver' for our TV set when we're at home but doing something else. Sometimes though, such as when there's an England match that Sky have got the broadcast rights to, they're prepared to drone on about events so inconsequential even we can't be bothered with it. As we're not going to start watching Setanta Sports News until it stops being rubbish, we can often find ourselves turning to Sky channel 144. Sometimes, Sumo will do little other than run 'user-generated content' that isn't even good enough for YouTube (yes, that bad), but quite often their output consists of material from's collection of public domain films.

This means we can to do Other Things to a soothing backdrop of American public information films, advertisements and propaganda shorts from the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s. All of which is the sort of thing that excites us tremendously, which is possibly we shouldn't be admitting in public.

While there's a disappointing lack of Massingham Magic (hey James 'Loaded' Brown! They're in the public domain, too! Come on!), it all makes for a lovely diversion if you're awake near a television on a Sunday morning. Certainly better than watching Tim Lovejoy pretend he gives a stuff about cooking and that no, he certainly isn't sorry he'd left Soccer AM for the sake of a few hundred thousand people willing to watch a programme about the MLS.

Things That Should Have Happened In 2007 But Didn't (But Hopefully Will in 2008)

US Television Networks Biting The Bullet, And Dealing With The Writer's Strike Not By Chucking On A Load Of Re-runs and Quiz Shows, But Rather By Actually Showing Something From Overseas For Once

Well, we could but dream. Given the (relative) success of Extras on HBO, despite 98% of the audience clearly not knowing who Hale, Pace or Dean Gaffney are, maybe the bosses at NBC, Fox and ABC could challenge their assumption that the American public will be scared and confused by people saying things in an accent that isn't American. Maybe, just maybe, a showing of Life On Mars, Jekyll or Doctor Who (or even something from Australia, say) won't cause rioting in the streets of Chicago. If the networks are commendably capable of crediting their audience with the intelligence to enjoy House or Arrested Development, why not this? Hey, and it might stop everyone over there thinking British television is full of little else but Benny Hill and Are You Being Served?.


Saturday, 29 December 2007

The BrokenTellies 2007: Part Two

Hey, a new template we're almost happy with! But anyway.

Overseas Drama Series of the Year

The nominations:

The Riches (Virgin 1)

Featuring superb performances from Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard (who has come a long way since chewing the furniture in Mystery Men), The Riches saw the Malloy clan - a sort of travelling sideshow version of The Real Hustle - adopt the identity of the titular family. That's 'the Rich family', not 'the Titular family'. You knew that? Oh. The first episode explains how all this comes about, leaving the remainder of the series to seeing how the family cope with their new environs. While that single concept might have been enough to coast along for the thirteen episodes that make up the first series, the writers managed to keep the viewers guessing which way they were going to go next, all the way up to the marvellously circuitous season finale.

Dexter (FX)

Dexter Morgan is a blood splatter expert for the Miami police department. But! He's also a serial killer, who takes out the criminals the cops just can't catch. All of which wouldn't sound out of place on the back of a low-budget straight-to-rental tape lurking in a dark corner of Star Video circa 1986, but luckily this is a more compelling series than our hamfisted summary suggests. The first season deals with the Miami Metro Police Department trying to track down a serial killer dubbed The Ice Truck Killer. Who, it soon transpires, is keen to impress Dexter with his mad slaughterin' skillz.

Lost (Sky One)

While a lot of people have made a point of complaining about the latest series of Lost ("oh, this is just getting silly now" is usually the standard comment that we've heard), we've been as engrossed as ever. For every major mystery that gets resolved (and despite what some say, they do get resolved - try re-watching season two if you need to check how much we've learned in season three), new and exciting questions are brought to the fore. And we've finally found out how John became wheelchair-bound, as well as discovering that the island isn't a very safe place to be if you're from Manchester. There was even time to spend a whole episode doing a tribute to Tales Of The Unexpected, with Nikki and Paulo as the main players.

Minus points for getting Britain wrong, though. We spell the word 'honour' with a 'u', and the Premier League doesn't work by having the same two teams playing each other twice in two days. Duuh.

The Winner

Dexter (FX)

While the first series successfully introduced us to the character, the background and the motives behind the eponymous anti-hero, the second series (due on FX any month now) raises the bar impressively. Without giving anything away - it's precisely the sort of programme you'll get a lot more from if you don't know what's likely to happen, so keep well away from the EPG info box before watching - the writers are about to take everyone on a long and very impressive journey. The main driving force behind the plot for season two (which we aren't going to mention) merely serves as a backdrop to the events that unfold. We've just watched the whole lot in one enthralling sitting, with help from the Xbox 360's new 'stream stuff you've downloaded from the internet to your proper telly' option. Given we have the attention span of excitable puppy, that's quite an achievement.

It's not just us, either. Dexter is currently just a fraction behind Heroes (which we still can't get that excited about, frankly) as the top-ranked show at

Just time for a couple more quickies.

Repeat Of The Year (UK)

Yes Minister (BBC Four)

Making a welcome appearance as part of the channel's season of politically themed programming, series one of Yes Minister should provide a reminder to 21st Century TV bosses that pre-watershed comedy doesn't have to be along the insipid lines of My Family or Green Green Grass. As the exploits of Jim, Bernard and Humpy show, they could actually be quite intelligent, and indeed, quite excellent. Similarly, it proves that you don't need a script packed with swears to make something for an adult audience.

Another welcome aspect of BBC Four's re-run of the first series was that it led to us finding the DVD bargain of the year. The complete seven-disc box set, which also includes every episode of Yes Prime Minister, delivered to your door for less than eighteen pounds. Fantastic stuff.

Repeat Of The Year (International)

The Sopranos (More4)

Coming just after the end of the sixth and final season, a weeknightly repeat run of every single episode. All of which means the people who'd missed the first season and subsequently had to spend much of the following eight years wondering what all the fuss was about can now try and join the loop without having to spend an absolute fortune buying the DVD boxsets.

There are two problems arising from this. One, the ending of the entire series has been talked about so much, it's hardly likely to surprise us when it comes around the second time (even Hillary and Bill Clinton have performed a spoof of it). Two, having five hours per week of unmissable drama sitting on your PVR is one hell of a time-thief. Still, it keeps us off the streets of a Friday afternoon.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Guest Setting Five: Rum, Humbug and Mind Numbing Tedium, But No Graphs

Hello, and a merry post-Christmas to you. We're hoping you got what you wanted. What did we get? Bored, drunk, loud, ill, a headache, an argument and then drunk again, in chronological order. Oh, and a sat nav. We counted at least three other people on our street wandering around "away from tall building and trees" like an idiot trying to "acquire" a satellite on Christmas morning.

We've only just got around to catching up with our Christmas telly. Doctor Who was predictably good, as was the first of two Still Game specials (which is on BBC Two 'proper' on Friday night). We haven't got around to TV Burp yet. Extras had changed the bits we'd expected them to, even replacing the really poor Sigourney Weaver joke that didn't stand up to scrutiny with a really poor joke about Victoria Wood instead, but was otherwise really good. However, so far there hasn't been much else to grab the imagination. A QI clip show? It's a panel show! It only costs about 7p to make! Just make a new episode! Or at least run the Christmas episode you broadcast a week too early again!

Luckily Derek Williams, off of the Free Market Economy bit of Resonance FM's marvellous One Life Left gaming show (which readers clever enough not to live in London can obtain via iTunes), is prepared to go mediaeval on Christmas telly's 'ass' on our behalf, which means we can sit back, pick the ones we like out of the Quality Street tin, and watch Robbie The Reindeer on Sky+.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Derek had been planning to record his piece as a spoken word track over a backdrop of nicely lo-fi electronica (in the style of his One Life Left segments), thereby providing BrokenTV with it's very first 'pod' 'cast'. Annoyingly, technology has conspired against him, so you'll just have to hum a pleasing instrumental tune in your head as you read the text below. We've used a loop of the intro for The Rah Band's "Clouds Across The Moon" for our mental audio bedding, but you're free to choose your own.]

[ANOTHER EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to the nature of his piece, it might be fun to imagine Derek's piece being read out by the "Point/Counterpoint" bloke from Airplane!, the one who says "I say, let 'em crash!". He doesn't actually sound like the "Point/Counterpoint" bloke from Airplane! in real life, but we've thought of the reference now, and we're damned if we're not going to use it.]
"Hello, I'm a regular contributor to One Life Left. This is Europe's only video games Radio show and is broadcast every Tuesday at 9pm in London on Resonance 104.4 FM. And on the internet too. I've been recruited by BrokenTV to talk about Christmas television despite normally talking about selling video games.

TV at Christmas has never been a big thing for me, it has to be said. I'm usually doing other things than watching some inane mass appeal Christmas programming. Most of the time as child it's been playing with my toys. As I've got older, things haven't really changed that much. The toys have been a little bit different, mainly in the form of video games. Though I've always had to find somewhere to run off and hide whilst the mind numbing tedium of the queen's speech is on. Like she really cares in the slightest about delivering a message to us commoners. I doubt she even sees much of it before the filming. Now do I feel somehow betrayed that the queen's speech would be pre recorded? With it being broadcast on YouTube at the same time as it flies through the airwaves to our tellyboxes. We're paying the daft old bint enough money so she could at least perform live.

Probably the worst thing about Christmas schedules is that all your favourite American TV programs get taken off for a month or so in their native country resulting in an irritatingly long wait for the next episode of House. Though perhaps that's not as bad as when they take programs off for no reason mid run and just play "catch up" episodes. But that's another story.

The Doctor Who Christmas story will hopefully be better than the rather poor series that was on this year. I was rather annoyed earlier when the trailer gave away several plot details that would have made a nice reveal in the actual show. Thanks, the BBC. Sorry I've been terribly bah humbug about Christmas TV haven't I? I'll try and make one positive comment about it. Yes. At least it's not new years eve programming. I'm Derek Williams and this is not a Free Market Economy."
For the record, impressive scheduling on the part of Sky's Movie channels allowed BrokenTV's Mark X the chance to spend 3pm on Christmas Day watching Mr Bridger telling Keats of his displeasure that "some of that young mob in E Block don't stand for the National Anthem", instead of watching the Queen's speech with the rest of the X family. Which he duly did. Victory is his!

As pointed out by our guest commentator above, American television basically packs up and starts queueing for the WalMart sale instead of putting much effort into it's festive programming, as this story from Reuters confirms. The largest audience of the big day was picked up by a Deal Or No Deal special (two hours!), with a mere 9.8 million viewers from the potential audience of 300 million. The third place show, "48 Hours Mystery" on CBS attracted a mere 4.2 million pairs of eyeballs (assuming all viewers had their full compliment of optic orbs, which is statistically unlikely). In comparison, the top shows in the UK (EastEnders, Doctor Who and EastEnders again) gathered 13.9m, 12.2m and 11.6m respectively.

There are loads of graphs we could generate out of the above, but we'd made a pact not to, so instead we're going to offer up three facts about The Italian Job that we'd been unaware of until we'd flipped to Wikipedia in order to check we were spelling Mr Bridger's name correctly.

ONE. A resolution to the end of film cliffhanger had actually been prepared, with a sequel in mind. Sadly it wasn't as Harry Hill had supposed, so there were no pizzas topped with firemen in sight. Instead, the coach was to be rescued by helicopters. Helicopters owned by the Mafia. The sequel was to deal with the gang trying to reclaim the gold from the Mafia.

TWO. Excellently, the bus used in the pivotal scenes was converted back to a normal bus after filming, and saw out its days as a school bus in Scotland, right up until the 1980s.

THREE. The film was promoted in the USA using the promotional poster just to the right here. Click to embiggen.This clearly had absolutely nothing to do with the actual film, looking more like a whimsical comedy version of Prison Break, if anything. As a result, the USA had to wait 34 years and then bung Mark Wahlberg at it before it'd give good box office over there. Tsk.

[EDITOR'S NOTE THREE: As you'll have noted, we've altered the template of the blog, but we're still not happy with it. Especially the way quoted text is put in italics. Expect it to change again really soon. Maybe so the blog will actually appear properly in Internet Explorer, except we're not really that bothered because we use Firefox. Hopefully we can make it so there's a 'next page' or 'earlier entries' link at the bottom of the page, like on a proper blog. Anyone able to point us towards one of those?]

[EDITOR'S NOTE FOUR: And while we're here... a current Film4 advert displays a listing of several films, along with snippets of trailers for said films. The 'small print' at the bottom of the screen proclaims "Films available may vary". Given the slogan of the advert, "Great films you know, great films you don't", the disclaimer "films you know may vary" would be much more suitable, not to mention more interesting. Which is why we should be consulted on ALL ADVERTISING EVER, but there you go.]

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Merry Festivus, Everyone!


Sunday, 23 December 2007

The Broken Tellies 2007: Europe's Bloodiest Cockfights and America's Crashiest Car Crashes

Yes!It's time again for our annual festival of brickbats and bouquets. First up - the inaugural brickbat...


Ah, programme sponsors. Those cheeky little advertising blighters. All but immune to the growing threat of the PVR menace, they top and tail each part of prime time programming on most commercial stations. Done correctly, they're out of the way in just a few seconds, almost apologetic about the way they're intruding into your evening's viewing.

"Look, sorry about this. It's just... hey, is that a new shirt? Like it. Looks niiice. It's just that, if you happen to be in the supermarket over the next couple of days, and you're thinking of buying some gin, we'd be thrilled if you decided to purchase the brand of gin that we manufacture. It's very nice. Of course, if you don't, that's your decision, and we respect that. Oh, how rude of me. You were waiting for that nice Mister Ramsay, the catering trade's answer to Billy Connolly. Sorry. Here he is. See you in seventeen minutes!"

Done correctly, they're perfectly unobtrusive and peachy. We end up watching about eighteen instances of's bumpers in one sitting during our regular Friday afternoon mammoth get-around-to-watching-More4's-daily-showings-of-The-Sopranos sessions, and remarkably they don't get on our nerves. Similarly, the Gordon's Gin bumpers during Kitchen Nightmares on C4, or the Hyundai ones during Dexter on FX are politely out of the way soon enough.

However, there's another side to sponsorship bumpers. A darker, smellier side. A growing number of them have taken advantage of Ofcom's newly relaxed code on such adverts, and now they want to be your 'friend'. They'll try to get you on side by being 'a bit chummy'. Unfortunately, that's 'chummy' purely in the sense of the Annoying Bloke From Work Who'll Cheerily Make Shit Jokes About Recently Murdered Children Or National Disasters That Have Been In The News. They'll use every last one of the ten seconds allowed for their mid-show pieces, but they'll try their damnedest to make it feel like a whole annoying minute.

So, what are the worst offenders? We've whittled it down to three. Remarkably, the 118 gimps who pop up during Lost on Sky One aren't included.

The Nominees


That's right, we're not going to give any of these BASTARDS the oxygen of publicity, with their tawdry "aah, but everyone notices deliberately rubbish ad campaigns, so we win after all, bwa ha ha" attitudes. These bumpers (we keep accidentally typing the word 'dumpers', which seems more appropriate) saw a bunch of comedy all-American - in the sense of British actors pretending to be American - cops making bad cop-slash-poker-related-punning quips.

As one might assume, with there only being a limited range of bad cop-slash-poker-related-punnery out there, they were only able to come up with about four different ones. Sadly, they were run before, during and after pretty much every single programme on Bravo. We wouldn't mind if this was restricted to their normal output of Europe's Bloodiest Cockfights and America's Crashiest Car Crashes, but it was also in every single ad break for Adult Swim. And if you get between us and our fix of Sealab 2021, you're walking a thin line, mister.


Barging it's unwelcome way into the middle of the magnificent The Riches, these mini-sketches see a bunch of - and we hate to use this phrase, we really do - office-bound twats making a series of crunchingly PC-related gags. Quite often in an ad-break that appears before we've even seen the sodding title sequence to that week's episode of The Riches, although we can't really blame HIGH-STREET COMPUTER SUPERSTORE WHOSE LATEST SCAM IS OVERCHARGING FOR FITTING ROUTINE PC UPGRADES, FIFTEEN QUID TO SLOT IN A MEMORY STICK? CHRIST! for that.


Oh, alright then. It's Nintendo. More specifically, The Nintendo Family. Making lots and lots of almost-but-not-quite-risque jokes that pop up before 8 Out Of 10 Cats. Seemingly, they're on a mission to slow the demand for the Wii and DS, so that the shops have time to build up some stock. Hopefully, once that's been done, they can start to run the 'good' adverts. We're tempted to link to Deal Extreme's website, so that everyone can buy an R4 cart for their DS, just to make some sort of point, here. Oh, go on then.



Well, hoo-rup-de-do. Despite some pretty stiff competition, the PC upgrade racketeers walk off with the first prize of our 2007 awards 'do'. The panel were swayed heavily by the sheer awfulness of hoping a smug berk answering the question "what are you up to tonight?" with "well, tonight I'm going to save the world, and then maybe win the Indianapolis 500" will actually 'shift' some major 'product'. The rest of their spots weren't a lot better. If you haven't seen them on Virgin 1, we'll put it this way: you know how the 'proper' adverts for This Company are really, really shit? Well, these bumpers are easily eight times as bad.

It's probably on all Virgin 1's other drama shows, too. But we never watch any of them, so we can't be sure.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

So Much For An Update A Day (Blame Xbox 360 SWOS)

We've seen the Christmas special of Extras already! Much like about 60% of people with the internet, so it's hardly worth crowing about, but it is quite interesting to see an HBO broadcast of the show. Splendidly, it seems like it'll be largely the same as the BBC showing, with all colloquialisms intact. Although it seems there are a few references lazily crowbarred in for the stateside audience. Such as this bit near the start, when there's a throwback to an earlier episode's "idiots like catchphrases and will buy T-shirts with them on" shot.

Because, of course, Sigourney Weaver has done some advertisements for American satellite TV provider DirecTV. Except!

(a) Quite obviously, hardly anyone in the UK is likely to even know that. Least of all, people who the Andy Millman character is dismissing as lazy, thick catchphrase adoring chumps. We only do because we've just typed Signourney Weaver DirecTV into YouTube (well, and because we'd guessed from the T-shirt when we first saw it). So they might as well have used anyone, from any advert, ever.

(b) In the advert in question (and here it is), Weaver - in the guise of Ripley - doesn't even say "DirecTV" once, that's left to the voiceover artiste.

(c) It's DirecTV, not Direct TV. Duuh. All of which goes towards one of the most piss-poor jokes seen on our screens this year. But then, we don't allow The Friday Night Project on our screens.

Similarly, there's a reference to CBS Evening News co-anchor Katie Couric later on, too. With her name used as a byword for journalistic integrity. Which also doesn't quite work because just after she was selected to replace Dan Rather in 2006, many US media commentators were up in arms because, as long-time co-host of The Today Show, she'd hitherto been seen as essentially the US TV equivalent to Judy Finnegan. We really suspect Ricky Gervais had only written those jokes to try and get a giggle out of his mate Jon Stewart.

Also, there's a bit where Doctor Who is dismissed as still being a cavalcade of shaky sets, hammy acting, bad costumes and insultingly poor plotlines. But we're guessing there are going to be plenty of other people on the internet prepared to get over-precious enough about that on our behalf.

Luckily, the remainder of the show is really rather good. It's certainly on a par with the better episodes of the first series of Extras, and much better than the disappointing second series. Without giving too much away, it's generally the same as the last episode of series two, only any good. And mercifully, there's only one small part where they rely on the Maggie character being unrealistically dim when Andy is trying to impress a 'somebody' - a marked improvement on series two, where it happened about every four minutes. Hurrah.

Now, we're going to put the title of the programme and when it's on at the bottom of this post in bold type, because that makes us feel slightly like a proper telly previewer. Except Jim Shelley probably doesn't write his pieces in a drunken fug wearing just his pants, with Wotsit crumbs slowly accumulating in his chest hair.

Extras: Christmas Special is on BBC One, 9pm, Thursday 27th December. And all over the internet like a rash.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Guest Setting Four: Kylie in Space, “Tiny” Evan Davis, and Custard Jammy Dodgers

Right now, we're busy simultaneously (a) looking a bit disgruntled at Frank Lampard's fluky goal against Liverpool in the Carling Cup and Peter Crouch's consequent two-footed lunge that earned him a red card, (b) wondering why the images we've uploaded to our new webspace aren't appearing right now, (c) trying to gauge if we'd slightly built up the taste of jam-and-custard Jammy Dodgers in our minds before actually tasting one just now, and (d) trying to get a bunch of Proper Work done. In that order. Luckily, Phil Oddy has prepared his own intro for his guest update, so we can merrily continue looking peeved, confused, disappointed and distracted while he takes over. All yours, Phil.

Phil Oddy is the co-founder of, home of the highly addictive, free-to-play football predictions games Prediction Premiership and – just relaunched for the 2007/08 season - The FAntasy Cup. For all the details on how you can win a pile of football related stuff just by predicting the outcome of some football matched better than some other people, check out The Rules. Remember – Every Game Counts!

Christmas TV. It’s a bit rubbish, isn’t it? Well, most of it is and I, for one, don’t have time to waste on crappy TV. Some of it’s easy – no-one needs to be told to avoid My Family, for instance. But by the same token, I don’t want to miss the good stuff. In my opinion, you can’t argue with form. It’s as true with Christmas TV as it is with predicting football scores (see what I did there?). Maybe Catherine Tate will produce a riotous laugh-a-minute comedy extravaganza. But she probably won’t, just as Havant and Waterlooville probably aren’t going to win the FA Cup. So, to avoid spending your Christmas groaning and shouting at your TV, go with form. Ricky Gervais, for example has a proven track record when it comes to Christmas specials, and whilst Extras won’t ever replace The Office it should be worth some hard disk space on the Sky +.

So here is my verdict on what will be hot and what will not, based on that recent festival of specials-that-aren’t-that-special, this year’s Children In Need.

1. Doctor Who will be ace. Well of course it will, but I mean really ace. In seven minutes they tied the new series into the old with an evocation of childhood that left me with a little tear in my eye, I don’t mind admitting. For Christmas they’ve got 10 times as long, and Kylie Minogue. In space. Can’t wait.

2. Strictly Come Dancing will be painful. I’ve got quite into the latest series (the wife makes me watch it, honest), but they can’t do specials. CIN was their chance to redeem themselves after the ill conceived Eurovision Dance Contest but they blew it as the least spontaneous woman in telly stumbled through a “joke” and they did a bit of a shuffle on a tiny stage. So expect some half arsed dancing (because there’s nothing to compete for) and plenty of scripted ad-libs that Arlene Phillips can’t be bothered to memorise properly. Avoid.

3. Dragons Den will be surprisingly heart-warming. A Children In Need highlight, I’m looking forward to them breaking out of the format again (it is getting a bit repetitive) – maybe Duncan Bannatyne will be visited by a series of ghostly apparitions, including the grim spectre of The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come (played by Deborah Meaden), who persuade him to change his ways to save the life of “Tiny” Evan Davis, whose leg was crippled by a “dramatic twist”. Or maybe they won’t. But I’ll tell you where I am… I’m in.

…and that’s where the analogy breaks down because I fast forwarded through most of Children In Need. But if Boyzone pop up anywhere then watch that because they were hilariously shambolic. I’ll also be watching Harry Hill and Charlie Brooker’s Screen Wipe but that’s OK because they fit under a whole other theory I’ve got about “telly about telly”… although it won’t apply to The 100 Best Clip Show Moments that Channel 4 probably have lined up for the new year. Bah humbug.

Cheers, Phil. We've just registered with PTS, and stupidly backed Claudio Pizarro to start slotting them in for Chelsea, as well as Portsmouth to beat Arsenal on Boxing Day. And unlike betting, it won't all end in us selling our Christmas presents on a street corner in order to fend off a visit from BrokenTV's bookie, Huge Alan. Great stuff.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Guest Setting Three: Pip Schofield Does Adult Telly (And Lyle The Crocodile)

It's time to lay out another guest setting at the BrokenTV dinner table (which is actually our old Pot Black snooker table with a cloth chucked over it. But hush! We've told everyone the pockets are novelty cup holders, and we don't think they've twigged yet). This time round, we welcome untapped national treasure Steve Williams, off of TV Cream and Off The Telly. Cheers Steve!

Still looking for that special present for Mum? You might like to note that Amazon have a special gang of elves more than willing to zip a copy of Steve's cracking read THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CLASSIC SATURDAY NIGHT TELLY to your door in time for Christmas morning.

The first copy of the Radio Times I ever kept was the 1989 Christmas issue, which given I was only ten years old at the time shows massive dedication to telly. Since then, about the first eight pages have been lost along the way and it's full of scribbles where my sister and I faithfully ticked off all the programmes we were going to watch - there's a huge box around the premiere of Grease 2 on New Year's Day, natch. This was a big Christmas in our house, as a Fast Forward goody bag I'd won was delivered to my house on the 23rd and we went away for New Year's Eve, to the Marine Hotel in Llandudno, which was the first time I'd ever stayed up until midnight.

Back then, Christmas telly to me meant the following things...

* A Song For Christmas - we used to love A Song For Christmas and we always used to spit feathers when, thanks to it being a Daytime Live/Pebble Mill production, it was shown on lunchtime on the 20th or 21st and we'd still be at school, and its scheduling always baffled me as it involved kids and nobody else. I'm not quite sure why we were so nuts about it, to be honest, other than at that point it was always nice to see Phil Schofield doing "adult" telly and the set used to really go nuts with the fake snow. Sadly it was finally axed along with Pebble Mill in the mid-nineties.

* Children's Film Foundation - this is a specific memory from that specific Christmas 1989 because the CBBC holiday mornings rolled out virtually all the old CFF films throughout the festive season. It's remarkable to think they were still being shown in January 1990. In any case, my sister and I roared with laughter at Pop Pirates, shown on the 21st, and its authentic seventies soundtrack. Indeed, this was probably the first time I realised the potential for cheap laughs from archive footage that has kept me in good stead throughout my work on TV Cream.

* Lyle The Crocodile - Nobody in the world seems to have heard of this, but this cartoon was on BBC1 for a couple of Christmasses and my family loved it, considering it up there with The Snowman. It was first shown, I think, in 1989, and the following year we highlighted its repeat - on New Years Eve - in the Radio Times and made sure to record it on a good tape to keep for always. It's based on a book - Lyle,Lyle Crocodile - published in 1965, although the animated version was produced some time in the mid-eighties, and the "Moving Into A New House" song ("It's enough to make you cryyyyyyyy!") has been running around my brain non-stop for the past eighteen years. I think we taped Home and Away over it in about 1994 when we were desperate for tapes, though. In fact we used to have loads of stuff taped off the telly at Christmas, including It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown, which I wish we'd kept because it was preceded by a long clip of Andy Crane in the Broom Cupboard.

Monday, 17 December 2007

"You'd Better Cut..." "Cut."

Time for another look at a Christmas tape. What will we pick out of the official BrokenTV Christmas Tape Tombola tonight?

Granada TV Christmas Tape: Date Unknown (to us, at least. Definitely before 1985, because if was after that it'd be a cert we'd see Fred Talbot up to something) (YouTube Link)

Ooh, cripes. We're off to a dodgy start, with someone doing a 'comedy African' voice whilst pretending to be from the 'Ugandan Meteorological Office'.

"Me been up on de roof, and it pissing down wid rain! Dat de end of de wedder forcast."
Oof. Not the best of starts, we'll wager. Then, we're onto a clip of a stand-up comedian (no-one we recognise) tearing into Greenall's Local Bitter. Take that, The Man! Fortunately, we then get properly under way, with that old VT Department favourite, Local News Reporter Bloopers. Including someone falling down an embankment. Hurrah! A reporter with quite a plummy voice being disturbed by a dry-heaving monkey at a tea party. Double hurrah! And the legendary Bob Greaves wrestling with a female member of the VT Crowd. Hurrahs all round!

Then, we're on a trip to In-Joke City (population: eightly-plour. Eh, Dave P? Eh? Ha ha! Erm, sorry), with a country and western ditty about the in-house fines projectionists may incur for minor misdeeds ("For putting the Elmore Gate in back to front, and scraping all the emulsion off two rolls of Ectachrome original, £6.75"). And then...

...well, that's about it, really. It looks like there's only the last half of that tape online anywhere, which is a bit of a shame. Partly because it makes us look a bit unprofessional for bothering to cover it (of course, that ship sailed a long time ago, as the readers we'd annoyed with our Beta Crisp Review Special will attest), but mainly because it's the only Granada tape on there, and we'd so wanted to see more of Bob Greaves, Tony "Anthony H" Wilson, Charles Foster, Jim Pope and the gang.

So. Er. What else is up for grabs from the same YouTube benefactor?

This interesting slice of non-cockup Nortonalia (Denis, not Graham, of course. Presumably from The Laughter File). A well-regarded presenter on a US Christian network gets arrested in the middle of his show. Bullshit or not? Watch and decide.

Ten minutes of prime Tiswas, from 1980. Excellent stuff. This is, indeed, what we want. Although the 'Bright Eyes' kid doing his song we can pretty much do without. We hated it when we were five, and it hasn't improved with age.

An ITV and IBA joint scheduling meeting, seemingly from Granada's entertaining 1985 documentary series 'Television' (it's an Ian Holm voiceover that leads us to think this, though we're guessing this was one of the scenes removed to make way for extra Vegemite adverts in the Aussie broadcasts that we'd downloaded). It includes one bloke defending the use of 'adult themes' (specifically vasectomies) in a 7.15pm drama programme. There's John Birt (then of LWT) trying to come up with a Wogan-buster. The result: SEX AGAINST CHAT. This is the sort of thing we want to see on the internet (obscure clips about telly, not The Practice, obv).

So, in summary:

The late 1970s/early 1980s Granada TV Christmas Tape with about five seconds of Bob Greaves not making up for the appallingly racist joke at the start: ONE out of ten.

The remainder of Prisoner5's YouTube vids: EIGHT out of ten.

Almost a worthwhile update after all, then.

Sunday, 16 December 2007


Peter Kay is on Parkinson: The Final Chapter tonight, ostensibly to provide an interesting and entertaining guest for all the ladies and gentleman watching. But really, because he's got a cynical cash-in DVD with not actual new footage of him on sale.

We've tried looking at Paddy Power's excellent 'novelty bets' page, in the hope of finding odds on how he's going to sneak in the fact that he's got a cash-in DVD on sale, but left disappointed. So, we're putting on a trilby, standing next to a chalkboard, and making lots of incomprehensible hand signals, as we pretend to be BOOKIES FOR A DAY.


Try to make out that the DVD is his way of 'giving something back' to the 'Great British Public' who have 'made him what he is today'. i.e. Rich Evens
Claim that lots of people have asked him about bringing out a cynical cash-in with which to confuse elderly present-buyers, and he has finally relented 2/1
Indulge in a bit of 'wacky' wandering away from the main set to chat to an audience member/band member/cameraman, like what Lenny Henry used to do 6/5
Walk onto the set carrying a special Christmas present for Parky, which is a copy of his DVD 4/1
Not mention his DVD at all, because his PR people have noted that this exercise would be best served by merely 'heightening the Peter Kay brand' in front of a large audience 2/1
Actively speaks out about Stand Up UKay, because it's a horrendously cynical money-making exercise, and was put out without his consent. And that they must have tricked him into that photo session for the front cover of it 33/1
Waves hello to Alison Mitchell, who is sitting in the crowd. 8/1


Friday, 14 December 2007

Guest Setting Two: Highlighter Pen or Big Biro Circles?

It's Friday, and that means it's time for BrokenTV to stay in (go out), make a nice cup of tea (spend £2.99 on three litres of Tramp Strength White Cider from Bargain Booze), and relax (sit on the wall outside the library to shout at girls). While we're doing that, here's Simon Tyers from the excellent Sweeping The Nation, with a look back at Christmas listings magazines past.

Deregulation spoiled everything, didn't it? Back then one of the myriad joys of the season was making part of the living room your own domain for a fortnight so as to be able to check off the BBC and commercial channels' offerings against each other. Funny things, the Christmas schedules. They're the one set of programming announcements people actively look forward to for weeks, then when they come out everything is for yet another year deemed a disappointment. And funny things, the magazines that went towards relaying the information in the pre-Digiguide age, with pages and pages of cookery columns and celebrities telling us they'd be looking forward to a peaceful family Christmas after their hectic year and hoping for a just as successful new year, not to mention the Radio Times holidays pull-out section. And if that wasn't enough, you'd get a special cover too. The fun never stopped.

While the Radio Times always goes with an overtly elaborate image of Father Christmas, its "so much more than TV times" opposition is far more free spirited than either RT or the modern day set image of Someone From The Cast Of Corrie With Some Tinsel Draped Around Their Shoulders. For a good few years they went the artistry route too - 1985's cover, for instance, features a painting in the style of those cards everyone receives one of every year of a robin in a snowy field, except it's of a sleigh with a representation of Arthur Daley dropping presents out of the back as a concerned Terry McCann, looking in this rendition not unlike Paul Newman, grins on. 1986 gave us Torvill & Dean kneeling at the foot of some sort of ice queen. 1983's handwork is of Charles and Diana bedecking a Christmas tree, but then that's what ITV in 1983 were like. In pictorial terms 1987's Bet Lynch in Santa outfit handing Hilda Ogden a huge festive box as the caption rather gives the game away with talk of "Hilda's last Christmas" is one for the ages but it wasn't always so inventive - while the newly signed Morecambe & Wise had cosied up to a cutout of Roger Moore as Bond a year earlier, 1979 is a straight stock image of Faye Dunaway.

Perhaps the all time great, however, comes from 1980. Picture the meeting that ended with agreement into this photo session - Janet Brown (plugging the first Janet And Company) as Margaret Thatcher, in a fur-lined skidoo, being supposedly pushed by Roger Moore (The Man With The Golden Gun) practically drowning in bearskin, while alongside a fully Santa-outfitted Eric'n'Ern ski. I hope it was all done in the one shot.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Yule (B)Log XIII: Scha-ha-ha-denfreude

Being a bit of a gullible lot, we've spent much of 2007 frittering away our child benefit on ITV's 'Make Your Play', entering 'You Say, We Pay' at the very last minute (we thought that'd be the luckiest time to call) and trying to claim our winnings from the European Internet Lottery (every week we fall for that one), we haven't actually got any money left to buy any of our friends and relatives a Christmas present.

Usually, the long wait until the 25th, when we get to spend an entire day avoiding eye contact with members of the BrokenTV clan as they admonish us for giving them a personalised paperweight (brick with their name crudely Tipp-exxed on the side) again, is a painful one. Seeing all those lovely shiny trinkets in Asda as we shuffle towards the "Whoops! 75% off" meat counter makes us feel all sad and wish we hadn't fell for the "GET AN 80GB IPOD FOR £10 OMG L@@@@@K!!!1" eBay pyramid scam for the fifth year running.

One crumb of comfort, though. There's going to be bit of company in the "oh dear lord, no" segment of the Christmas Emotional Rollercoaster Venn Diagram (usually it's just us, and men who've got a 'little too relaxed' next to their partner in bed after a Christmas Eve booze-up).

Ah, it wouldn't be Christmas without there being a chance for Peter Kay to rake in mountains of cash without the troubling task of 'doing anything'. Hot on the heels of 2003's Live At The Bolton Albert Halls, 2004's release of exactly the same stand-up set performed 16 miles down the road, and 2006's Peter Kay: The Live Collection, comes Peter Kay: Stand Up UKay. A once in a lifetime chance to see... highlights of his other live DVDs. Or, as the blurb puts it, "With unique insight and interviews with the Great British Public, ‘Stand-up UK’ is a joyful celebration of not only the comedy of Peter Kay but of British humour in the 21st Century."

Yes, it's Peter Kay: The Clip Show. Without even having ANY new footage from the Boltonian Gigglesmith himself. All for £12.98, although Amazon lists the RRP as £21.99. That's twenty-one pounds, and ninety-nine pence.

Fun Peter Kay Fact!
If an elderly grandmother living alone on a state pension decides to buy this DVD at full retail price for her grandson, it will cost precisely 25.25% of her weekly income!

So, what else will granny get for the large proportion of her only weekly income she's going to spend on this, because little Johnny likes that nice Peter Kay, and he won't already have this one because it says "NEW!" on the sticker?
"Classic routines especially chosen by the British public, including Garlic Bread, Dipping Biscuits, the dancing skills of people at weddings, as well as the video for the No. 1 smash-hit ‘(I’m Gonna Be) 500 Miles’."
Hurrah! On top of all that 'saying garlic bread several times' business, he'll also get to see that pop video Peter Kay made for Comic Relief. And we know he made it, because he was the only person to direct a segment of Red Nose Day 2007 to insist on a 'directed by' credit. Although interestingly, the back of the DVD case doesn't state that Comic Relief are getting a cut of any profits from this DVD. Hmm.

Fun Peter Kay Fact!
This DVD is at number 11 on the Tesco DVD chart, just above Ricky Gervais: Fame.

But what about that 'Great British Public'? What are they saying about the Peter Kay DVD that THEY compiled? Amazon has the answer:

"you would be better paying an extra 3 kwid and buying the box set of the albert halls and top of the tower"
"this kind of cynical moneymaking exercise is morally wrong and Kay shouldn't be allowed to get away with it"
"don't be a mug like me and fall for this limp, stale compilation of old comedy crumbs swept up from the floor of the Bolton Albert Halls and Blackpool Tower DVDs"
Our favourite review is the following one, though:
"Peter Kay IS a national treasure and I'll certainly be buying myself this little beauty for Christmas! Like that other Christmas essential, a good stilton, the sketches of Peter Kay get even better as they mature and I can't wait to see all the classics in one place!"
Interestingly, we can't see any other reviews by Alison Mitchell of London. Although when we Googled "Alison Mitchell (London)", the first hit was for "a highly specialist advertising, incentives and marketing agency based in the City of London".

Presumably a coincidence. And never mind, once next years' Peter Kay cash-in DVD, "Max And Paddy: Punching Kittens In Their Stupid Mewling Faces", hits the shelves, that reputation will be restored.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Yule (B)Log XII: Breaking News

BBC One has got itself a Flickr account.

We mention this mainly because we haven't got the time to do a worthwhile update today, and we found it by accident it was only created yesterday, so there's a chance this is a BrokenTV World Exclusive. It's not even on their press site yet.

There are only twelve promo pictures of the interesting looking remake of Oliver Twist on there at the moment, and nothing else. BBC One have a long way to go before they match the Flickr accounts of BBC North East Wales (88 photos, including loads of pictures of where we used to live) and BBC Persian (3330 photos). Come on, BBC One!

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Yule (B)Log XI: Extra, Extra! Xmas TV Not As Good As It Was Shocker! In Other News: Shit Stinks! Extra!

MediaGuardian have revealed the SHOCK TRUTH that Christmas television isn't quite as good as it used to be, with 57% of people responding to their online poll that, hey, crazy concept, Morecambe and Wise were actually better than seeing the Brannings sitting down to their first Walford Christmas dinner (NOTE TO EDITORS: That's something to do with EastEnders, apparently. We don't know either, we stopped watching it once we got sick of the Slaters). They're also trying to claim that the internet is now more popular than television, based on the fact that 56% of people will check their emails on Christmas Day. Because that takes all day, doesn't it?

Now, we promise that our new year resolution really is going to be "stop making the effort to bother ourselves with laughably easy targets", but we can't help quote the following:
Instead we will be going online, with 56% of people checking their emails, 38% surfing the net and 10% beavering away social networking.
That's according to a survey carried out by media idiots "UTalkMarketing". What, is the word "you" too troublesome to type out, or does that conflict with your NuMarkeTingWorldVu™? There's a pretty notable difference between "instead we will" and "less than half of us will bother spending a few minutes doing something that allows us to pick up any goodwill messages any friends and relatives not in the immediate vicinity may have sent us on this, the one day of the year designated towards contacting friends and family that we might care about to wish them seasonal greetings, even from afar. Even if it's only leaving a message on our Facebook wall".
"The chocolate box image of families crowded around their TV sets next to a roaring log fire simply doesn't exist in today's Britain," says Niall McKinney, founder of UtalkMarketing.
Yes. No-one is going to even glance at their television screens on the 25th. Not for Doctor Who, not for TV Burp, not to see Captain Mainwairing get gravy all over his nice clean shirt (BBC Two, 8pm), or even for a quick snatch of whether the reporters on Sky Sports News are expected to turn up for work that day, not at all. No, not even a tryptophan-induced doze in front of Leela's Homeworld (Sky Two, 8.30pm). The whole family is going to be crowded around the nearest DS in order to see if Nan predominantly uses the left or right side of her brain. You stupid fucking marketing dolts.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Yule (B)Log X: Good News, Unrelated Thing

Love Soup is back over the Christmas period. A very welcome sight, but the show does seem to have ditched it's USP (the character played by Michael Landes) and been trimmed to half an hour. Still, more Renwick on our screens can never be a bad thing. Well, unless Mark Lawson is interviewing him. Anyway, what's Mr Spoon up to today?


Sunday, 9 December 2007

Yule (B)Log IX: With Apologies To Creamup

Well, the ITV1 Christmas schedules are out. And do you know what? They're making a bit more of an effort this time out. There's no cynical attempt to cash in on a popular BBC One comedy by chucking out a South Bank Show Special on the big day this time round.

The following shows are flagged up as highlights on ITV's Press Centre. Which we've got access to, because we've somehow convinced them we're a legitimate media outlet (although they'll presumably let anyone in there, as long as they've got a valid email account).

Britain Sings Christmas, Star Traders: The Christmas Challenge, An Audience With Celine Dion, Parkinson, Catwoman, Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Heartbeat, Vanity Fair, Christmas at the Riviera, Little Town of Bethlehem, Lights! Camera! The Queen, The Polar Express, Harry Hill's Christmas TV Burp, That's What I Call Television, The Old Curiosity Shop, The South Bank Show, The Bill

Clearly, several of these can be discounted at first sight - it might look like an obvious target, but we genuinely suspect that if we were forced to watch An Audience With Celine Dion, we would start cutting ourselves. But one gem stands out from the crowd.

As anyone who'd heard him being interviewed on Radio One yesterday will already know (just before becoming slightly dismayed at learning he likes TittyBangBang), Harry Hill's TV Burp makes the prime "not a soap and not a film" slot on ITV1 on the 25th. At 8pm. Lawks.

It might well seem this is ITV1's dead rubber slot, marking the half-hour gap between Emmerdale and Corrie while BBC One show the ratings juggernaut EastEnders, but hey. Harry Hill, on primetime Christmas Day telly! There's hope for the light channel yet!

But how does the ITV Christmas Day schedule of 2007 compare with that of the past? There's only one way to find out...


Yeah, not as snappy as 'fight!', but hey.


The Big Hitters:
The post unwrapping a Tiswas annual slot gets going properly with A Christmas Runaround, which we really hope began with Mike Read disguised as Santa, only to take off the costume and shout "it was me all along! RUNARRAAAAAAARND!" From there, after Digby The Biggest Dog In The World, it's onto perennial easy target Christmas Crossroads, and Billy Smart's Circus. The main event comes at 8.30pm, with one of the last proper Morecambe and Wise Shows. Of course, post-move, it was a bit less of an attraction by then (like the FA Cup is going to be next season), but welcome nonetheless.

The Big Film:
Six o'clock saw 1974's The Man With The Golden Gun being trotted out (up against Paul Daniels, The Gen Game and Dallas on the other side), presumably because the schedulers at Thames didn't think it'd be worth spending any more up against that lot. The proper big movie arrived at 3.10pm, with the world première of the excellent George And Mildred movie. Great stuff. If ITV1 had decided to put this out again this year, we'd certainly watch it. It's certainly more entertaining than Lights! Camera! The Queen and All Star Family Fortunes.

Phoning It In:
The apres-monarch timeslot is taken with 'Pantomime', about which we know nothing, but that's not going to stop up claiming that Cannon, Ball, Little or Large were in there somewhere. This Is Your Life is trotted out at 9.30pm, which of course never included a commercial break halfway through, just like Jam. We say this because we don't know who was in that, either.

Overall: 7/10. The BBC One schedule for the same day could only muster 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Dallas, Mike Yarwood and Airport '75. We don't like any of those, so ITV wins.


The Big Hitters:
The post TV-am day kicks off with a double bill of Dangermouse, which is a promising start. There's something for the mums to hum along to on the kitchen portable at 2pm, with a "Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean Special" taking the nation into the Queen. Sadly, things are slightly disrailed at 5.30pm, with cheap panel game Give Us A Clue making an appearance (up against a Blankety Blank special on the other side). Surely the family would have had more fun actually playing charades themselves. Back on track at 6pm, with a mammoth 150-minute tribute to the late Eric Morecambe, that we're betting didn't have annoying talking heads popping up every sixty seconds during the sketches, unlike the M&W tribute show UKTV Gold are trotting out every day this week. The evening is rounded off with Des O'Connor Tonight.

The Big Film:
Two main offerings here. First up, in the post-Queen slot, is the disappointing choice of... 1974's The Man With The Golden Gun! Again! It was only up against Mary Poppins (which we think we were forced to bloody watch instead), so it's a shame it wasn't swapped with the evening's big offering (as featured in Central's 1984 Christmas Tape), the première of Raiders of The Lost Ark. Our disturbingly verbose memory tells us that we made it into the living room just in time for the "sword versus gun" bit, so we didn't get to see the start of the film until later on. That Whizzer and Chips annual must have been really engrossing, is all we can say.

Phoning It In:
All ITV could muster to rival the Beeb's ToTP extravaganza was "Top Pop Videos Of '84". That, coupled with flinging out Give Us A Clue (Blankety Blank wasn't that big a draw by 1984 was it?), go towards a disappointing effort from the ITV team. If only they hadn't given up on The Goodies.

Rating: 6/10, mainly on the back of Indy, Eric and Dangermouse.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Yule (B)Log VIII: Indiana Jones and the Pint Of Lager

Central TV Christmas Tape 1984 (YouTube link)

It's time for the second of our looks back into the world of Christmas Tapes. Way back when, we looked at ATV's Bongotastic 1977 effort. Today finds us seven years into the future (erm, from then, not now, obv), where ATV has transmutated into the more regionally focussed Central Television. As we lived in the region at the time of the changeover, we could fill a whole update about how a seven-year-old BrokenTV eagerly awaited the first sighting of a whole new ITV region. Except, showing an early sign of the lackadaisical timekeeping that would blight our later life so frequently, we overslept and missed the big 9.25am launch party. We would probably have been slightly scared by the new 'slowly exploding good morning orb' ident, anyway.

But that's all by the by. Here's a look at their Christmas tape from 1984, by which time BrokenTV's parents had moved to the Granada region, so we're not going to get any of the local references unless they're Shaw Taylor-based. Will it feature little more than eighth-generation bad VHS soft grot? Let's take a look.

By Christ's soupy beard, the tape gets off to a marvellous start, with a wonderfully lo-fi rendition of the Central ident, accompanied by a BBC-Micro-SOUND-command-issue reworking of the Central jingle. As it plays, a Zaxxon-ish spaceship flies around the Central orb. This is more like it!

The tape then fades to a short clip of a proper film, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, or more specifically the bit near the start where Indy has just avoided lots of booby traps in order to reach an ancient idol. Only, in a nice bit of inventiveness, in place of the idol is...

...a refreshing pint of lager in the middle of the Central TV Bar. Yay. By using a cunning body double (a member of the VT Crowd in a jacket and fedora), the scene is recreated in full. Not quite up there with Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, but nice to see nonetheless. As (real) Indy runs away after claiming his prize, the scene is intercut with VT Bloke dashing down the corridors of Central HQ. Sadly, the 'real' footage of the giant boulder scene is used - we were hoping for a giant can of film or an irate Central canteen lady to pursue VT Bloke, but thems the breaks. Instead, we cut to the VT clock, and we're into the Christmas tape proper.

Now we're into more traditional Christmas tape territory. A montage of local news reporters fluffing their lines ("it really does seem as if Spring is... erm... oh, fucking hell"), local dignitaries falling over on ice rinks, a man with a quite magnificent beard being distracted by the set collapsing behind him, VT staff mooning the camera, Emu chowing down on a boom-mic, Jimmy Greavsie Greaves saying "oh, for fack's sake", Spitting Image mis-takes. All the stuff you might expect.

Then, hurrah, a spoof ad-break. Brilliantly, there's what seems to be a genuine faux pas from a continuity voiceover, with the announcer stating how "[The Fall Guy] is going to need a stunning cunt to get him out of this scrape... I'm sorry... I... (dissolves into fits of laughter)", followed by an advert for The Ronco Electro Shocker, and a slightly misogynist take on an old Impulse advert that actually turns out to be a dull joke about Ampex Tapes (which, at nearly five minutes in, sets a new record in self-restraint for VT staff compiling a Christmas tape).

From there, it's onto "Part Two", and quite possibly the weakest joke ever committed to tape. The title sequence to Blockbusters, but with a soundtrack of... the theme to Ghost Busters. With changed lyrics to suit to pictures ("We're not scared of Bob Holness... we're not scared of the Gold Run!"). Far be it from us to denigrate anyone else's stab at comedy (Radio Four's comedy department still haven't got back to us about our radio sitcom detailing the funny goings on in an abortion clinic), but our sides remained intact throughout.

Then, a slice of camp croonery with... is that Joey Boswell off of Bread? One final out-take from a regional news broadcast later, and it's time for the traditional shot of The VT Crowd dancing about in party hats and bad jumpers. The end. And there was only one visible nipple in the whole thing. Crikey.

Verdict: Better than the 1977 effort, if only for the Fall Guy continuity mishap. Although, disappointingly, it's not the one with the 'adult' version of Bullseye, despite what the YouTube comment says. 7/10.


Friday, 7 December 2007

Yule (B)Log VII: Guest Setting One

It's time for BrokenTV to put out the first of several guest settings to our pre-Christmastide jamboree. First to be seated is disc jockey and journalist Matthew Rudd, who has popped around to offer a recollection of telly Christmas past. While we rummage through our cutlery drawer to try and find a matching knife and fork for him (whilst wondering if using a pretend Christmas dinner analogy when it's only the seventh of December was the right way to introduce this), we'll leave you in his capable hands.


By far my favourite Christmas telly memory was when the whole family, approximately nine of us, were gathered round my parents' television watching the festive edition of my lifelong obsession, Coronation Street.

Christmas Day in 1991, and Alma Sedgwick is sobbing as she struggles to come to terms with her guilt over sleeping with old flame Mike Baldwin, despite now being escorted by his old enemy Ken Barlow. As she begins to break down entirely, heightening the drama (and Amanda Barrie was and is a brilliant actress), there was a hush around my parents' lounge.

Then my uncle, not the biggest fan of the show to say the least, made the following remark:

"God she's ugly. She's never been the same since that bus hit her."

I couldn't watch the rest of the episode through a mixture of giggles and teenage indignation. I waited for the omnibus edition on December 29th instead.

More from Matthew at his ace blog: Does That Make Sense?

Meanwhile, just to prove we haven't been completely idle while outsourcing parts of BrokenTV to proper journalists, here's a completely unrelated picture of the moon landing that we've done. About four years ago, that we've just found on our hard drive, but still.


Thursday, 6 December 2007

Yule (B)Log VI: Meanwhile, in ITV's Plus Column

A mercifully brief update today, because we're off out to watch The Magic Numbers. While our thoughts on the current state of ITV1 were delivered pretty comprehensively just the other day, credit where it's due. While the proper ITV Christmas schedules haven't made Digiguide just yet, at least one of the regional outposts is making an effort.

Yes, it's a Barry Welsh Christmas Special. If you're not sure who that is, it's a creation by John "Absolutely" Sparkes, and Harry Hill aside, it's the best comedy show broadcast on ITV1 this decade. Essentially, it's a continuation of the seminal Absolutely, but with less money and more single entendres. Which is a good thing.

Of course, given that it's only broadcast on ITV1 Wales, most people won't have heard of it, so here are a few primers, courtesy of YouTube:




Rather wonderfully, there's also a congressman in Indiana called Barry Welsh, so when his supporters search for him on YouTube, they can't be sure if they're clicking on his speech to Indiana's 6th District Caucus, or if they're going to get Hugh Pugh talking about the latest antics of Mayor Kenny Twat.

Given that the only national terrestrial outing for the show was a short sketch in the pilot of failed Daily Show rip-off Not Tonight With John Sargeant (a show so popular, we're the top-ranked Google search for it), the only way you're likely to see it outside the Principality on the 19th is to add ITV1 Wales to your Sky Digibox or wait until it appears on an evil puppy-slaughtering file sharing site (or maybe ITV Local). It's worth it, mind.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Yule (B)Log V: The Telly Schedules Are Out

The proper ones, not the 'To Be Confirmed' saturated travesties that pop up in the tabloids at the end of November. And here are the links that'll help you decide whether it's worth investing in a bunch of DVDs to watch in the last week of this month:

BBC Three
BBC Four

As ever, a bit of a mixed bag, and a selection that brings up a nagging feeling that Christmas television was a lot more interesting in the 1980s and early 1990s. But was it? Thanks to the excellent BBC Programme Catalogue, we shall see, as we take a wander through a couple of


The Big Hitters:
Erm... nothing much of note until a pre-Queen TOTP, with the likes of Ziggy's Gift, Bugs Bunny and The Christmas Raccoons making up the numbers. The prime post Liz slot was taken up with Blankety Blank, and it didn't even have Kenny Everett on duty, with Freddie Starr taking his turn on the 'bottom middle' position rota. Patrick Moore, Roy Kinnear, Ruth Madoc, Beryl Reid and, erm, Sabina Franklyn making up the numbers. Cripes. Jim'll Fix It also made an appearance, featuring "Hi-Di-Hi sketch, 1918 Hero, cracking walnuts, Father Christmas, reading the lesson at Norwich Cathedral and blind horse riders". The proper big guns came out late at night, with festive editions of The Two Ronnies and Only Fools And Horses (hopefully the ace one where Grandad forgot to take the giblets out of the turkey).

The Big Film:
Treasure Island. Which we don't think we've seen, because that would have been the time BrokenTV's Mum made the family turn the telly off for Christmas dinner.

Phoning It In:
Songs Of Praise, because the 25th fell on a Sunday, and the BBC was duty bound to show it. Still, a good excuse to put on the CalecoVision, so the family can see who can get the best score on Donkey Kong. Before Top Of The Pops there was also a show called 'The Glitterball', which the BBC Programme Catalogue excitingly describes as "A television programme".

Overall Christmas Aceness Rating: 3/10

The Big Hitters:
Ah, now we're talking. Despite the likes of Ziggy's Gift (again!) making up the early morning schedule, Songs Of Praise is banished to 8.24am, where it's missed because everyone in the United Kingdom is busy opening their prezzies, freeing up later on for a proper Christmas Day line-up. Christmas Morning With Noel? Check. A repeat of a classic Porridge? Check. Imperial phase EastEnders? Check. The Russ Abbott Show, ah shut up, he was enjoyable enough at the time? Check. Only Fools And Horses (the "Frog's Legacy" episode that told everyone Rodney was only Del's half-brother about eighteen years before they tried to use that as a dramatic selling point for the last ever episode)? Check. The last ever (and most expensive) Two Ronnies Christmas Special? Check. In Sickness And In Health? Check. Now that's proper scheduling.

The Big Movie:
Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. Get in!

Phoning It In:
Well, we never liked Miss Marple. But then, that gave everyone time to play Trivial Pursuits. And yup, we did leave that 's' there to deliberately annoy unspeakable bores.

Overall Christmas Aceness Rating: 9/10. So close. If there had been something like a Big Deal Comeback Special instead of Marple, it could have been a ten.

And what of 2007? On the plus side: Doctor Who. On the negative side: A Catherine Tate Special dirtying up BBC One. Eeeh... 5/10.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

We'll Say It Again: Pain

Given our position of Britain's favourite telly blog that was once described as "gleefully acerbic" by the BBC website's pull-out culture section (if by "favourite" you mean "only", that is), you'd expect us to dance a little jig of joy every time ITV mess something up. But you'd be wrong. It kind of hurts.

As hard as it might be to remember those dim distant days, but ITV used to be great. There was a time when ITV gave the world (yes, the world) programmes as good as The Naked Civil Servant. Rising Damp. Brideshead Revisited. Cracker. Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. Tiswas. Hot Metal. World in Action. An Audience With Jasper Carrott. Prime Suspect. End Of Part One. Spitting Image. Minder. Dangermouse. Jeeves and Wooster. The Kenny Everett Video Show. TV Burp.

ITV was the network that commissioned The Avengers, the last British television programme to be broadcast on American network television.

ITV was the network that commissioned The Muppet Show, which went on to become the most successful British television show of all time.

ITV was the network that made The World At War, the most acclaimed and arguably the greatest television documentary series of all time.

ITV was the network behind 7 Up, quite possibly one of the greatest social experiments of the modern era.

ITV was the network that played host to four, that's FOUR different vehicles for Tony Hancock (Jack Hylton presents The Tony Hancock Show, Hancock, The Blackpool Show and Hancock's), and doesn't even go on about it. Sadly, because surely that's what ITV3 is there for.

At 10pm on the sixth of December 2007, all of the above is unceremoniously spunked up the wall of television history.

We don't care that the above image messes up the template of the blog. That it probably obscures the link to all the stuff we wrote between January and May 2006. Because the image we've not bothered to resize properly displays the moment where ITV finally give up the good fight. Where Britain's Independent Television Network finally gives up the ghost and decides the broadcasting equivalent of "Ah, to fuck with it. I can just quit my day job, get a load of cheap vodka from Netto, lie in my bed in an alcohol-induced stupor all day, and just toss off occasionally. Lying in a matted combination of my own piss, shit, spunk and vomit, failing to care, barely remembering to breathe, shifting only to shuffle my way to the dole office every other week. What's the point? What's the bloody point?"

Thursday. 10pm. "How To Get More Sex: Keen to demonstrate the power of smell in attracting a mate, celebrities were asked to identify which out of three T-shirts smelled the most attractive. One had been worn by a man, one by a woman, and one by a kuhne kuhne pig - which gives some very interesting results."

It's the timeslot that really gets to us. It's not being shown at 1.35am, the slot that was home to God's Gift or The Good Sex Guide. It's at 10pm, the traditional home to News At Ten. The same hour that used to be home to This Week. It's not even that we're being annoyingly pretentious and pseudo-intellectual about the whole affair. Heavens, we can't help but giggle at the word 'ploppy'. Will Self is hardly shaking in his expensive boots when we're in the room. Not that we're ever in the same room as Will Self. Unless he visits the Flint branch of Home Bargains while we're there stocking up on cheap biscuits.

Of course, maybe we should sit back and enjoy the ride. We don't even watch much ITV1 these days, unless TV Burp or the Champions League is on. We should just relax on our sofa, and giggle smarmily at ourselves while we flick through our EPG to find the following:

ITV1 Schedule: 28th November 2008.

20.00 The Bill
21.00 Drama With Lots Of Murders In
22.00 How To Get Loads Of Fanny And That
23.00 ITV News
23.01 Watch This Programme And Michael Grade Will Send You A Free iPod Shuffle
23.30 That Film Where You Can See Halle Berry's Tits For About Three Seconds (Clue: That Bit'll Happen At 00.37. See Looping Repeats Of The Tits Scene On
01.45 QuizGasm Live

BrokenTV's Telly Yule (B)Log: Day Four

Radio Times to Potential Customers: "There's Nothing On Next Week, Don't Bother Buying Me"

The Radio Times. Circulation: 1,046,601 (ABC, Jan-Jun 07). Readership: 2,959,000 (NRS, Jan-Dec 06). Price: £1. Advertising rates: quite high.


Not only does that mean they've rather shot their wad re: the most likely programme to appear on the cover of the big Christmas issue, but also suggesting quite clearly that out of the several thousand programmes across the proclaimed four hundred television and radio channels over the next week, none of them is really worth getting excited about. But still, Doctor Who and Kylie Minogue! Woo!

Our prediction for the cover of the double Christmas issue: Either they're using a traditional Generic Non-denominational Winter Festival Icon (i.e. a snowman or Santa), or, as we're hoping, Bruce and Tess, on a Photoshoppedly shiny ballroom floor, dressed and Mr and Mrs Claus.


(Speaking of Kylie, we're still slightly annoyed that the first single to be taken from "X" was the mediocre "2 Hearts", because "Sensitized" is genuinely the greatest three minutes and fifty-seven seconds of pop produced all year. Oh well, released in early January replete with Pet Shop Boys remixes to guarantee the song a guaranteed four weeks at the top, hopefully.)

Monday, 3 December 2007

BrokenTV's Telly Yule (B)Log: Day Three

Sorry about yesterday's update, everyone. Just plonking a graph onto the site and expecting everyone to be entertained was a bit lacklustre, a bit like when Sky One advertise a new episode of The Simpsons, only for it to be a clip show.

Luckily, we'll pulled out all the stops, and can promise everyone that today's update is literally five times better than yesterday's effort.

YULE (B)LOG DAY THREE: Five Pie Charts About TV Ratings

Ho, yus. Today's second and final (promise) part of our Excel rollercoaster takes a look at the three most watched shows for each Christmas week since 1998, and compares how varied each channel's output was. The single programmes named are used, apart from where a number of shows receive a single hit, so we've grouped those by genre.

Who had the most eclectic line-up of the Big Five? Well, top of the heap, winning a commemorative bag of mixed nuts...

A tie between BBC Two and Channel Four. Traditionally the two channels with less to risk over the big Christmas day schedule (often resulting in them flinging an old film or opera on), the last nine years have seen the channels wheeling out some of their big hitters. Channel Four saw Deal Or No Deal take up the top six slots of their 2006 Xmas week ratings, and for the past few years The Weakest Link has been BBC Two's main offering. Both have used The Simpsons to good effect for a short period, BBC Two until they lost it to Channel Four, Channel Four until they got a bit confused and started shifting it all around the schedules. Both have had a special Christmas Pie (chart) containing the fruits and nine different shows and/or genres, suggesting above all else that we really haven't thought this through properly.

Third on the list, Five have always had trouble finding something to fling into their Christmas schedules. While this has led to some actual hidden gold in our festive Radio Times (Jerry Sadowitz vs The People Of New York), it's only been the twin guns of Home & Away and CSI that have given them a more respectable share of viewers too full of turkey and After Eights to go out or prance around in front of Wii Sports.

Fourth place falls to 'The One' (as absolutely no-one outside of Television Centre calls it), with a possibly surprising four different shows making up their pie. While the 'comeback' episodes of ...Badly, ...Dibley and ...Horses all failed to trouble the chuckle muscles of discerning comedy fans (or, at least, us), they clearly got enough of arses on the nation's couches to be considered a big hit. And if we've got to say something nice about The Vicar Of Dibley... erm, the bit where Carol Vorderman knelt on the floor to beg for votes during the final of Britain's Favourite Sitcom made us feel a bit funny in our 'special area'.

In last place, ITV1. With it's one 'Christmas' show. That pie chart probably says enough about their efforts over each festive season, really. It'd be great if a TV Burp Christmas Special did well enough to sneak into that pie for this time next year, though.

Right, we're going to leave Excel well along for the rest of the month. No more numbers. Promise.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

BrokenTV's Telly Yule (B)Log: Day Two

Onto the second day of our Christlemas Parade, and it's time to look at one of the traditional complaints about modern Christmas telly. "Eeh, it's not as good as it used to be. You used to get thirty million people watching Mike Yarwood, you know", is something uttered quite often, even if it's usually from the mouth of someone who used to be on our screens in the 1970s, and they're about to start going on about Political Correctness. And, of course, they're not completely wrong.

It's clear that the rise of digital TV, the increased popularity of videogaming and DVDs (and hey, maybe even going out and doing stuff) has had an effect on viewing figures for the 'proper' channels over the years. But then, we're saying the fact that where you once had Morecambe & Wise or The Two Ronnies strutting their stuff over the schedules on the 25th, and you now have Lucas, Walliams and Tate doing their catchphrases in slightly different settings instead, that's got to be a factor too. But anyway, let's take a look at a dull graph.

All figures are taken from BARB's website, and only the viewing figures for a single broadcast of a show are used (meaning there's no figure padding from omnibus editions). The figures for each year are taken from the full Christmas Week (that is, the week containing the 25th of December for each year).

And there you go. Note how the figures are on a rather obvious downward trend for the big two, save for a Trotters-comeback spike for BBC One from 2001. However, the others have remained largely consistent over the nine years, with Five even posting a notable increase in viewers over the years. Most of the years show BBC One winning the ratings battle, but given the cliche that ITV never bother making an effort over Christmas, they don't perform too badly. Unless, of course, all their figures are from Coronation Street alone. Maybe we'll say whether that's the case in our bullet points of

  • BBC Two's most popular programme over Christmas Week in 2001 being a repeat of Dad's Army (5.16m viewers).

  • Brookside managing to remain Channel Four's most popular festive offering, right up until 2002, where it promptly disappears from the list.

  • 100 Greatest Films making Channel Four's top 3 Christmas shows of 2002, and top stop with '...Musicals' in 2003, inspiring them to churn out increasingly desperate (and disparate) imitations. This reaches its nadir in 2007 with 100 Greatest Catchphrases (we're not making this up), at which point we predict Channel Four will promptly disappear up Andy Duncan's arse.

  • The disappointing Only Fools and Horses comeback specials giving BBC One a boost from 2001. The show did drop 4.97m viewers between the first and third of the specials. And quite right, because they were pretty bad.

  • ITV's top threes for each year all being Coronation Street. It's worth noting that the show they'd imagined as being their Christmas saviour on Christmas Day 2003, World Idol (it's like the World Cup of Pop Idolitary!) attracted a meagre 4.55m viewers, sneaking just 29th point on the ITV1 top 30 for that week.

  • BBC Two's biggest Christmas week audience since 1998 being for 2005's Catherine Tate Christmas Show (5.66m). That was more than the same year's ill-advised Big Family Christmas Day Comedy on BBC One, The Green Green Grass (a piffling 4.59m). Boycie's mirth-lite adventures also attracted less of an audience than the same week's showing of big hitters Watchdog, The National Lottery: Millionaire Manor and The Six O'Clock News (Tue). It just beat the repeat of Open All Hours, though.

  • Five saw it's audience grow notably from around 2002, where it realised flinging on episode of various CSIs was a lot more popular than actually commissioning a programme itself.

  • In 2006, BBC Two's most popular Christmas Week programme was It Started With Swap Shop (3.99m). This almost makes up for that Catherine Tate thing two bullet points back. The same year saw Deal Or No Deal become possibly Channel Four's biggest Christmas Show since The Snowman. A stunning nine of their top ten shows for the week involved Noel and The Banker, with just The Big Fat Quiz Of The Year spoiling the party in sixth place. That's an aggregate total of 29.59 million viewers. Jeepers.

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