Friday, 26 December 2008

Christmas Day Television Musings: All Timings Approximate

Look, if we were at home for the things below, we'd have "live rewound" them. We weren't at home, so couldn't. Which makes this update quite dull and devoid of Topfield screen grabs.

BBC One, 2.29pm. BrokenTV's Dad points out the awfulness of Dizzee Rascal and Calvin Harris's "Dance Wiv Me", and the family television is tuned to ITV. BrokenTV agrees, marking the first time BrokenTV has agreed with BrokenTV's Dad about pop music since about 1984.

ITV1, 2.51pm. ITV1 broadcasts the part of "Bean" where Mr Bean cheerily waves 'hello' at the hairy biker, only to censor out the bit where the titular Bean receives what Still President Bush recently described as "not using not all five fingers" to wave hello back. Such censorship is all very well in this post-Ross/Brand cultural wasteland you might say, but ITV left the following scenes intact, so the relentlessly cheery icon of Britishness somehow went from good naturedly waving enthusiastic greetings to all of America. to suddenly giving it all The Finger, without any reasoning why this would be the case. Still, it's probably not Christmas Day without ITV managing to bugger it up somehow.

BBC One, 3.09pm. Hurrah for the BBC! They've lined up their best schedule on the 25th of December for a good few years, even with the slightly rubbish Shark's Tale on after the Queen or not. However! If you're basing this schedule largely on the most beloved of all Aardman creations, try not to get the name of the dog wrong in your continuity captions - and it looks even worse if you've been using them in your (wonderful) festive idents all Christmas. "Wallace and Gromitt" indeed! Boh.

BBC One, 6.01pm. BrokenTV's sister reneges on her promise not to talk over Doctor Whom by spending much of the proceding hour going "no, I don't like her", "ooh, is he the new one, then?", and "They should just regenerate William Hartnell". BrokenTV - as the youngest, shuffling in the rickety chair, hurrumphs loudly, to no avail. Merry Festivus, everyone!

BBC One, 8.36pm. "Oh, bugger. We've got home just too late to see Wallace and Gromit from the start."

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

An Early Christmas Present to All Readers

Admittedly, one someone else has made. But it makes for an easy update for us. Ahem. It's a webpage hosting a program called: iPlayer Downloader. It allows you to download programmes from the BBC iPlayer, just like Stephen Fry predicted his mum would soon be doing.

If you're anything like us, it might all seem to be written in a special language understood only by people who can remember every word Fred Harris uttered on episodes of Me And My Micro, but skip to the part marked "Pre-built Windows GUI", and you should be fine.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Scariest Thing On Telly This Christmas? The BBC HD Preview Loop.

Ever concerned about the needs of their viewers, the BBC have introduced a High Definition version of the test card.

Check out that linearity of the grey scale, there. Woo. There's only one problem with it.

They've also resampled the original image of Carole Hersee, so that even more of her terrifying clown is visible than ever. This means our childhood nightmares may return. The ones about switching over to a channel displaying the test card, only to see the hair of the clown fluttering ever so slightly, as if he's realised we were about to switch to him, and he quickly moved back into position. We edge nearer to the screen, checking to see if it's just our minds playing tricks. As our faces are now just inches from the screen, the clown's head snaps suddently to face us head on, his felt eyes burning a message of sheer unimaginable hatred into our now panicked faces, his evil, knowing smile somehow becoming even more sinister.

We back away, now noticing that the photo of the girl isn't actually a photo either, rather she's frozen utterly stiff, her eyes flickering frantically, her hand now slowly making minute circles on the blackboard, desperately trying to write the word "help" with the chalk. But the girl doesn't have the chalk in her hand any more. The Clown has taken the chalk. She won't be writing anything.

We flick to Granada, in a vain attempt to make it go away. Maybe Jobfinder can save us. No, wait, that's crazy talk. This can't be happening. It's lack of sleep. Surely. We flip back to BBC-1, to try and put our minds at rest. Only now the clown has gone, the game of noughts and crosses now abandoned, the poor girl still petrified in both senses of the word. Is she trying to signal something to us with her eyes? Her pupils are gesturing toward the curtain. But, before we can look, there is the faintest patter of clothy stumps. We turn, to see the curtain twitch almost imperceptibly. Utterly shaking with fear and with clammy hands, we inch toward the curtain. It can't be. It couldn't possibly be. It was probably the cat. It must be the cat. It has to be the cat. Didn't our mum let the cat out earlier?

"I am made of felt and I haven't got any legs or feet. I just have these two stumps and a piece of chalk. But I'm still going to GET YOU."

So now, all that, in glorious 1080p. Yeah, thanks a frigging bunch, the BBC.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Adventures Of Two Unconvincingly Fake CGI Snowmen and a One

Our oath to update the blog every day in December was always bound to falter, what with us spending the last three nights at different Christmas shindigs, and the last three mornings nursing fragile heads. Right now, a stomach that feels like a ten car pile up on an icy M62 prevents us from making the 'comeback' post anything too strenuous, so we're pleased to see the nicely-timed final part of Applemask's wonderful look back at festive BBC Christmas idents. This time, with end credits you can actually read! Or at least you would, were they not in a weird font. Nonetheless, splendid stuff, and the three parts together make for an enjoyable way to kill half an hour if you're stuck in bed with a killer hangover and a moderately-charged netbook within grabbing distance.

Interestingly, for the most part we can remember seeing most of the BBC2 idents in the clips, but not many of the BBC1 idents. Oh hang on, not 'interestingly', the other one.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Don't Diss The Hart

Last night's Screen Wipe was excellent, as might be expected, but we've a straw to pick with guest contributor John Comedian (oh, alright, we don't know his name). Sneering at the ineptitude of David Liebe Hart (who, as the cool kids all know, is also a part of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! on Adult Swim) just doesn't work, because that's pretty much his deliberate 'gig'. It's like dismissing the work of Tommy Cooper, because he was rubbish at magic. Or us, for writing this blog.

Here's audiovisual proof of the first part of the above. Tim and Eric make an appearance on Hart's "Junior Christian Teaching Bible Lesson Program". Utterly surreal, and quite marvellous.


Tuesday, 16 December 2008

What Merry Hell Is This?

Well, there hasn't been a new low for television in, what, six months? Or if you read The Mail or The Express, about three days. But anyway, earlier on today we took a wander through the Sky EPG to see if it's worth resubscribing after six months away. The main content on the Family Package channels was the usual fare of The Simpsons, Open All Hours, Keeping Up Appearances, Robin's Nest, Road Wars, The Vicar Of Dibley, Roulette Nation and the like, so we decided against it, but not before stumbling over channel 885 (yes, we went that far up trying to find something interesting). On there, we found something quite interesting. Though not necessarily in a good way.

Taking up most of the afternoon on WatchmeTV.TV - a channel in the wastelands of the 'Specialist' section of the EPG* - is a four (FOUR!) hour show called Santavision. That's it just up there.

(*'TV Guide' > "0 More..." > "7 Specialist". It's third from bottom of that list, just before Psychic TV and the OceanFinance channel, neither of which we are making up. No, genuinely.)

What happens on Santavision? Well, here's what we think has happened. One of the companies behind the highly dubious "How Many 0's In This Picture PHONE OR TEXT NOW £2.50 PER CALL" "quiz" "channels" has realised the bottom has completely fallen out of that market, possibly since The Real Hustle on BBC Three ran a special episode showing everyone how to set up your own dubious "quiz" "channel" on Sky. In a big panicky mess, the people behind the channel have had a great big brainstorming session with their entire team of media creatives.

After three hours of lame suggestions ("Erm, what number am I thinking of? Text in your guess, and win fifty quid!" "Guess my postcode and win a Blu-Ray player!" "Eighty-six cups and a ball - text in now!"), a meek voice belonging to someone at the back of the room who hadn't spoken for half an hour and was desperate to seem part of things whimpered out the words "Santa's Grotto, but on the telly?".

You have all disappointed Santa. I kicked a reindeer when I heard of what you've done.

"You dolt! How are we supposed to cash in on that? You berk-brained buffoon!" shreaked the alpha-est of males in Meeting Room 2A.

"Pfft... I don't know. Get parents to text in the names of their children, and we'll read them out on air?"

At this point, Tom "Tommy" Tomlinson, CEO of and looked at his watch, glanced over to the pair of baliffs furiously ringing the doorbell through the frosted glass, sighed and whispered "look, it's probably an idea to stop talking for a bit now. That's the best we're going to get, I say we run with it. Now, the back door is locked and bolted, yeah? Anyway, you ring round the presenters on our books, and see who won't mind doing it."

"But, we'll still need that killer USP."

"OH FOR CHRIST'S SA... [reverts to a whisper] Yeah, the kids go on either a 'nice' or 'naughty' list. Now, does anyone know Enormous Ken's mobile number?"

This is what we're speculating could have, yet quite certainly didn't, happen. We'd better cover our backs, as this'll probably turn up on the first page of Google hits for Santavision UK.

There'll be no Wii Music for the above children this year.

Yes, that's right. Santavision UK. A fairly disinterested presenter, dressed as Santa Claus, asks for parents to text in the names of their children, putting them either on a list of "good" or "naughty" sprogs. In a way, it's genius. Little Timmy won't clean his room? Have Father Christmas tell the viewers in every Sky household throughout the UK and Ireland just what a little bastard he is. That'll get the little shit picking up his Lego set in no time. Best of all, you can even pay to expose Little Timmy's reluctance to eat sprouts over the web! It costs just £3 of your child benefit to give your unruly offspring nightmares from now until the 25th? Barg!

The way it's presented is shambolic, even by the standard of Sky channels in the EPG stratosphere. For no reason at all, Santa will stop talking, leaving the channel with dead air for twenty or thirty seconds at a time. It doesn't seem to be the case that he's expecting adverts to be running when he does this, as every ad break is preceded by him saying how "Santa needs a little break now, boys and girls. This means there's at least a 30% chance of people happening across the programme for the first time, only to be welcomed by a mute Mr Claus staring unblinkingly at the viewer, all the while forlornly wishing he'd taken his mum's advice and took that short-term deal on instead.

Note how "Santa" is so heavily bearded, the tots hopefully won't realise when a different actor starts his shift.

Why stop there, though? If this proves to be as much of a ethically-objectionable hit as "quiz" "channels", ITV are sure to leap onto the wagon. Overnight's could be committed to having Brian Off Of Big Brother reading out a list of viewers' personal nemeses. "And with the clock coming up to 3am, let's have a look at the list of your nominated unrepentent girlfriend gropers! Gary from Sheffield, you really shouldn't ought to have done that, you fucker... [chuckles] that's from Pete and Michelle!"

While it might not take late-night ITV back to the halcyon days of Bea Smith, Alain Delon and James Whale When He Was Good, it's certainly better than repeats of Loose Women. Or, at the very least, have the Loose Women reading out the shitlist, with their audience making noises appropriate for each misdeed. At the end of each week, the scoundrel that elicited the most outraged reaction could be brought on to answer three simple questions, express some cursory remorse, and possibly walk away with a Freeview+ PVR. Job done.

How come it's only £1.50 by text, but £3 on the web?


Monday, 15 December 2008

Must Be The Russians!!!!1

It's December the 15th already! That means we've gone through half of the month without even posting one embedded YouTube clip of Bad BBC VT Engineer Acting.

Phew, that was a close call.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

A New Game For Everyone To Play

On last night's Strictly Come Dancing, this apparently happened:

We didn't see it as we were watching the new Richard Herring DVD, which is ace, but it seems there was a bit of a cockup with the voting, and the show ended ten minutes early, to be filled with trailers. We're genuinely disappointed with not seeing this, as we love it when telly goes wrong (as opposed to when our telly goes wrong). But anyway, the BBC have made a mistake - who is going to pretend they're the most outraged even though this clearly doesn't matter at all? In these situations, there's usually a three-way clamour to 'be' the most offended between the user comment sections of YouTube, The Daily Mail and Digital Spy. We've taken ten quotes from the three - can you use your skill and judgement to work out which quote is from which source?

It's a bit like the final round of Every Second Counts, only there's no teletext TV on offer*, and coding the whole thing so it's a proper interactive quiz is clearly beyond us. There are four quotes from Daily Mail Online, and three from YouTube and Digital Spy.

(*My, how excited we were to discover the 'secret' Ceefax page that had the Every Seconds Counts logo on it, so it could be displayed on the telly the contestants could win. They didn't just plug a BBC Micro into it, they actually put the whole page on proper Ceefax. The Beeb did things properly in those days. In case any of our readers are planning on time-travelling back to 1988 to see what we mean here, it was on page 196.)

The quotes:

"WHAT A JOKE! I pay my license fee for this fix?! I feel cheated!"

"The BBC have ripped off everyone who voted and spent their money."

"once again the BBC have hoodwinked their viewers."

"It's a complete swizz and we the public are being played for fools by the BBC."

"They should have showed the test card."

"Terrible from BBC, why still allow the judges to vote at such a late and important stage."

"It just scuppers my confidence in the BBC when they go and do something like this."

"Get rid of the licence fee its a con !"

"What a con! I can't believe the BBC is playing games again in phone vote shows."

"I'm not convinced it's the collapse of British broadcasting as a few people on here have suggested."

Blimey, that last one was a bit of a surprise, eh? The answers are in the comments section.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Pre Awards Show Off

Both regular readers of this blog may recall that we generally round off each calendar year with several thousand words essentially slagging off those who have disappointed us over the previous fifty-two weeks. A bit like Frank Costanza every Festivus, come to think of it. If there's any room left over, we'll probably mention the things that we liked, too. You know, ground breaking revelations like "Peep Show was good this year", that sort of thing.

Generally, we'll spend about thirty seconds tapping in some spurious headings and then putting them in bold, to try to get away with calling the entire thing a kind of "awards" ceremony. In truth of course, there are likely to be twice as many brickbats as bouquets, and it's all a rather limp excuse for a slightly tired old blog to recapture the form that once saw it get a two word review on the culture section of the BBC website. We might even chuck in a few swears, so we can pretend to ourselves that we're like Charlie Brooker.

This year, things are going to be different. We still expect to be in a White Lightning-fuelled fug for the duration of the festivities, as tradition dictates, and we'll still be putting out a spittle-flecked diatribe about how Balls Of Steel hasn't been cancelled yet, but with one notable difference. In an event we'll probably end up trying to pass off as a tribute to the early Stoneybridge sketches from Absolutely, this year's BrokenTV Awards are venturing into the digital age, and will be presented in video form. Yes, really.

We can legally use clips from the shows we mention, just as long as they're under thirty seconds and/or for review purposes (we think), so it can almost be like a proper Awards gig. Oh, okay, it won't even be near to a proper awards gig, but at least it can't be as bad as the year Jack Docherty hosted the BAFTA film awards. Luckily for Jack, that was when it was on Sky, so no-one watched it. With Lady Fortuity on our side, it'll even be better than this year's British Comedy Awards, but that'll hardly be a stretch. As long as Kevin Bishop doesn't burst into our front room in the middle of it and start acting like a colossal twat, that's pretty much a given.

In any event, we've prepared a trailer for The BrokenTV Awards 2008. As you might expect from the levels of professionalism we've displayed in the past, it hasn't got anything to do with television. To be honest, we were mostly toying with doing stuff in AVS Video Editor 4 for the preview video. Anyway, as it should have finished uploading by now, on with the trailer:

While putting that together, we've come up with a couple of questions that we'd more than welcome answers to. If anyone can help with any of the following, please leave a message in the comment section.

ONE. Blimey, AVS Video Editor 4 is rubbish. We've only got it because it was free for a day on (the occasionally excellent but mainly mediocre) GiveawayOfTheDay website. It never quite does what we want, it crashes infuriatingly often, and doesn't allow us to put a text overlay on top of an image overlay, which is annoying as we wanted to slap witty captions on top of the screens in the above clip. Does anyone know of any other, better yet relatively cheap (or free) video editing progs for Windows? Please bear in mind that we will despatch teams of snipers to the streets of anyone saying "Windows Movie Maker".

TWO. Hmm. Now we've said all this, we'd better come up with something to put in it. Does anyone have any interesting ideas for award categories, either 'best' or 'worst'? Or even some nominations that could go in any of the obvious ones? Don't worry, we've already accounted for The Kevin Bishop Show.

oh, and also:

THREE: How do you add YouTube videos in 'high quality'? I didn't see any option for it when uploading the above vid. Nice to see you can now type in all the details while the video is uploading, though.


We've just realised, we didn't do an update on Friday. So, here it is:

Hey, the new BBC One Christmas idents are quite good (and certainly better than those penguins), though we can't help but feel the idea is a little bit familiar.

There, that'll do.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Campaign Magazine Mess Up

Campaign Magazine have published a list of the ten worst television commercials of 2008. Except, because it's December, they've called the article "Campaign's top 10 turkeys of 2008", the chumps. Most of the choices make sense, some of them don't, and there's one glaring cock-up. Here's the list in full. You'll note that they've missed out the godawful one with CGI germs being voiced by Rik Mayall (doing his 'Young Ones' voice, badly) and Tony Robinson (doing his 'Baldrick' voice, really badly).

1 Gillette

Federer, Woods and Henry chew up the furniture. But then, that's what all sports stars do when asked to do an advert, anyway. More notable would be the choice of bringing in Thierry Henry, being promoted using old footage of him playing for Arsenal at Highbury about four years ago. We suspect it's going to be a similar situation with the FIFA games, and Henry is replaced with Landon Donovan in the US campaign, the Hungarian version stars Balázs Dzsudzsák, and so on.

2 Specsavers

Edith Piaf sings about cheap eyeglasses. This advert reminds us of the sketch in The All-New Alexei Sayle Show, where 'Lex, dressed as Piaf, performs a version of the song about such laments as "I should never have bought that horrible Arsenal away shirt, the one with the yellow splotches all over it", so it's clearly not the second worst one of the year.

3 Renault

Woeful dubbed couple in a showroom. We could go off on one here, about one of our pet theories. Dubbed adverts. You want our money? And yet you can't be bothered spending a couple of grand re-filming three people from the country you're trying to sell to? Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

4 Warburtons

That stock advertising character Foreign Businessman In Britain trotted out for the first time in several years. Not even remotely racist or anything, or notable in any other way. And Warburtons still insist on not putting their bread in plastic bags, meaning it goes stale ten minutes after you get home from the shops. Boo.

5 Country Life

The John Lydon one. Which is meant to be terrible, surely? That's the point. Of course, we'll bet hardly anyone who saw it can remember what the actual brand of butter being promoted.

6 Kellogg

With Dame Kelly Holmes, and which we haven't ever seen. We know we could just click on the YouTube link on the Campaign page, but we've managed to contain our excitement.

7 Orangina

Disturbingly 'erotic' dancing CGI animals. The idea for which the creative director at top agency Burble, Burble and Twatt came up with by visiting furry groups in Second Life when he should have been getting a proper job.

8 Premier Inn

Lenny Henry pisses on the memories of everyone who liked him as Delbert Wilkins. The sad demise of the man who popularised the term "well 'ard" long before the Walford-based alsatian.

9 Samsung

Some Chelsea players doing a really shit advert, but one which crucially can be put out in Dubai without being redubbed, so Sumsung will be happy enough.

10 DFS

The Nickelback one that can give you both ear and eye cancer. This is where Campaign have really messed up. This isn't just the tenth worst advert of 2008. It's the worst thing ever broadcast in the name of marketing in the history of ever. Trying to pretend your sofas are somehow 'cool': a stupid idea. Trying to pretend your sofas are somehow 'cool' by having some gits from a talent agency doing air guitar: a really stupid idea. Trying to pretend your sofas are somehow 'cool' by having some gits from a talent agency doing air guitar to Nickelback's "Rock Star": Well. Take Mike Smith and Dick Rowe passing on signing The Beatles to Decca. Multiply that by ABC turning down The Cosby Show because they thought no-one would want to see the antics of a wealthy black family. Multiply the sum of that by ITV Digital and New Coke combined. You are now one-tenth of the way to the level of sheer and spectacular stupidity shown by the 'creative' who came up with this idea.

Really, it's so bad, we're just not going to make bloody sure we never buy a sofa from DFS, we actually spend every Tuesday afternoon going to our local branch with a tape recorder and performing the most revolting of dirty protests in the shop doorway to make bloody sure no-one else feels like buying one from there either. There's nothing like seeing us writhing around on a pavement in just our pants, rubbing ourselves with our own mess to the tune of "Rock Star" to make you consider that Furniture Village might be a better option.

While it's a long-standing tradition of BrokenTV to avoid naming companies responsible for terrible adverts, in this case we're going to post a load of links to the DFS website, in the hope we show up in the web stats. With an ounce of luck, they'll click on the link to this page and see what we think of them, what their actions have made a once-proud blog resort to, and then do the decent thing and fold the company, just in time to prevent their 2009 campaign, which is exactly the same, only they're using "Rock Star" by fucking Pink.


Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Another Somewhat Lazily Linked YouTube Video, But A Good One, So That's All Right Then

Continuing on from yesterday's super YouTube video "Christmas Wrapping: Xmas at the BBC, 1976-1984", it's another one of the same for your edification and amusement. It can only be "Christmas Wrapping: Xmas at the BBC, 1985-1989", which is handy for us, as we've not got time for a proper update today. Will try harder tomorrow.


Broken TV Doesn't Make Christmas TV Themed YouTube Videos...

... but if we did, they still wouldn't be as good as this. This is splendid.

Hats off to YouTube user "Applemask" for putting all that together, and indeed to TV Cream for doing the article it was based on.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

"It Simply Ain't Right!" "But It's Cheap..."

Unfashionably late with Monday's update, so this will have to do. We've been listening on and off to a brilliant music compilation made available by the mighty WFMU in New Jersey. It's an American radio station, so what else could it be but...

Charlie Drake, Peter Sellars, Morecambe and Wise, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Kenneth Williams, Sheila Hancock, Eric Sykes and Hattie Jacques, Terry-Thomas, Frankie Howerd and June Whitfield, John Inman and loads more. Exceptional stuff, we're sure you'll agree.

Get it here.

The most pertinent parts of it being included here would be the smashing Christmas songs on there, such as Freddy 'Parrot Face' Davies (his stage name, not us being 'clever' again) performing "Give Us A Kiss For Christmas", or a pre-Braben Morecambe and Wise doing "The Happiest Christmas Of All" with a great bit of Eric and Ern banter over the last two minutes of the track. Our favourite however, is a track from 1963, called "Merry Christmas You Suckers", performed by Paddy Roberts. Politeness prevents us linking directly to the MP3, but if you want to leap straight to it, check out track seventeen on the album linked above

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Great Christmas Specials Of Our Time, Part One

It's a collection of lazily embedded YouTube links!

"I love that bike!" "You dirty devil!"

"La Plage"

"Out of the cowskin, and wake up the sleeping princess."

"First, peel two shepherds."

"And now for something completely different."

Saturday, 6 December 2008

"No Pun Intended. Or, Indeed, Delivered." MASSIVE NEWSTOPIA PICTURE SPECIAL

Well, it looks like that is that. Shaun Micallef introduced the most recent midweek portion of antipodean lampoonery with the words: "This is the last Newstopia. Let's make it the best one ever." And if the SBS messageboard is anything to go by, he possibly ain't messing. That really is it.

Having cruelly neglected our campaign to raise Britain's standards by allowing Britons to legally view Newstopia without having to move to The Rubbish Hemisphere, we were dismayed to discover that new hard-hitting Dave show "Argumental" aims to improve our satirical lot by attacking such topically thorny issues as "Simon Cowell, is he a bit of a dick?" and "ooh, that global warming, eh?" The time couldn't possibly be more right for a MASSIVE picture special on why Newstopia simply HAS to be shown on BBC Four, or More4, or Paramount, or Dave, or ITV4, or even Open Access 3. Come on, television controllers of Britain. Don't cock this up. You all sat on your hands long enough to miss out on Mr. Show, DO NOT allow that to happen again.

Here are some, or more specifically twenty-six, reasons why Newstopia would go down a storm with the ABC1 demographic who just maybe would rather see something like Yes, Minister on their screens than "Fuck Off, I'm A Hairy Woman". It's an update so packed we haven't even got time to ruminate on the fact that while the most desirable viewer demographic used to be "ABC1 adults", it's now the "25 to 34 year old idiot" market that is now courted most enthusiastically, because it's a lot easier to do so. On with the jpeg-o-rama!

(Editors note: please note that in the following update, we've deliberately avoided including anything from the Final Ever Newstopia, save for a couple of quick bits, because it really is worth building up to. A pre-emptive thank you for your time.)

Reports from Africa Correspondent, Sir John Gielgud. Despite him being a British actor, and all impersonations of him in the early episodes of Spitting Image being automatically hilarious, it's now left to current affairs based comedies from the colonies to provide us with our RDA of Gielgud-based whimsy. Our own home-grown glances of a newsily sideways nature are restricted to hackneyed comments about Amy Winehouse and cramming in any unused Bush/Brown based snickers while they still can. Oh, and Prescott, yeah? He's, like, fat and that! GUFFAW.

A spoof advert about the Dutch government bailing out financial institution ING which allows Micallef to do his excellent Billy Connolly impersonation previously seen here.

A spoof of a German-language canine-based crime drama that is quite improbably broadcast in Australia? Only swapping Germany for Russia, and dogs for ghost fish? But surely we'd want comedy that merely confirms our own prejudices? We'd rather have a naughty little snicker about Polish people being good at plumbing, wouldn't we? Wouldn't we?

A kitchens firm run by the baddies from Superman II? Yes, please!

An interview with Ariel Sharon that gives Shaun a perfect excuse to do a piece in his New York Jewish accent? Heck, yeah!

A during-credits monologue by Shaun, dressed as Pope Benedict XVI but in character as Doctor Strangelove? All of these questions are wholly rhetorical, because all of these bits are brilliant.

The Bunnings Warehouse price cards have now quite wonderfully spiralled out of control, and now pop up throughout episodes with a cocky impunity.

A post-US Election piece where Shaun speaks to the Democratic Party's Campaign Manager Bryte Viper, desperately keen to find out if Barack Obama likes, or has mentioned, Australia yet, or at least if he laughed at Kevin Rudd's joke in the G20 summit.

A song about Australian current affairs, done through the medium of Shaun's Bob Dylan voice. As with any of these selections you may be pulling unimpressed faces in front of, we can assure you it's the performance that truly makes it worthwhile, and it is only our cackfingered ineptitude that fails to do them due justice. Why, we don't even know if "due justice" is a proper phrase.

Post-show instructions on how to find Newstopia on the SBS website, delivered by a hologram.

A piece about the sentencing of British loyalist paramilitary Michael Stone for breaking into the parliament buildings at Stormont while armed, and his subsequent attempted murder of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. Hmm. Don't remember seeing much about that on Have I Got News For You.

A report on the latest computer game madness in London by Newstopia's Youth Correspondent, Sir Alec Guinness, delivered "with all the exuberance of Chaucer". But is it too much of an obsession? Ripped straight from the BBC coverage of the World Of Warcraft thing, then given a wry Newstopian sheen.

A brilliant bit (that we're in the middle of ruining for people who haven't seen it yet) where Shaun is joined live by satellite from Buckingham Palace by himself from fifteen years earlier, in a piece recorded for another show on another network that was never used.

A story about a since-banned invention that will assist people in Britain finding out how pissed they are.

On the anniversary of Waco, an interview with the relentlessly cheery FlavorAid salesman who'd landed the contract to supply David Koresh with a really big order. "It didn't really plan out, because of the... thing."

Alien Kitchen, with Barada Nikto. "So too, the banana, offering at first token resistance, then off it comes, the SLUT!"

Funny captions mask the pain of incalculable levels of human suffering.

Hitler's Diet. Again, these comments are our fault, and the performances really do make etc.

Brilliant attention to detail, such as blurring out the CNN logo on a report about obsolete computers in Ludlow, Maine being buried in a pet cemetary once the local landfill is full, leading to undead technology making it's own way home, in a pretend attempt to cover their news gathering tracks. Although we may well have thought about this too deeply as usual, and they've probably just been refused permission to use the CNN trademark after the piece had been put together.

Repeated references to Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, because she's so lovely. At this point you may wish to make your own joke about Sarah Palin. To us, she's like a one-woman political Tatu.

The spoof "tomorrow's headlines" piece including - majestically - The Beano, which according to Shaun is "giving us it's usual crypto-fascist take on events".

A mad commentator woman with foliage sprouting from her nose peers into shot.

Shaun Micallef finally gets to interview Mrs Tymoshenko, and so tries to impress by dressing up as Robert Smith from The Cure.

And yeah, that really is it for Newstopia, or so it seems. With the cast performing a special death dance as the final (and brilliant) episode closes, we're left to reflect on a marvellous little programme. It operated with what seems to have been a fairly modest budget and a small team of writers (50% of the episodes were penned by a core of just four writers, with another six pensmiths contributing to the remainder), from a network which isn't especially popular in it's own country. Having clocked up thirty (thirty!) episodes over three series (three series!) in around fourteen months (fourteen months!), Newstopia really was way better than it had any right to be.

While The Daily Show has vast warehouses full of writing talent on the payroll, and pads out half of every episode with an interview and Jon Stewart's smooth affability, leaving the scripted minutes culled almost wholly from US-centric affairs, programmes like The Half Hour News Hour and This Hour Has Twenty-Two Minutes proved just how difficult a science this sort of thing is. Newstopia is tightly scripted, to a largely agreeable standard, from start to about thirty seconds after it finishes. And beyond that, it will happily spend one-sixth of it's runtime riffing on a story about elections in Africa or Eastern Europe, or three times that on various stories in the good old U of K. And if nothing else, when there are subjects in the UK news being whimsically tickled by a comedy show on the other side of the planet, yet which remain untouched over here in the land of Jonathan Swift, then something is quite wrong. Something which can only be remedied by putting out Newstopia on UK television. Probably at about 11.30pm in a slot usually reserved for repeats of The New Avengers. We're nothing if not realists.

(Readers voice: "Hang on, wasn't Jonathan Swift Irish?")

Ah, shut up, we're busy watching BBC Three anyway. It's just really refreshing to see a new comedy programme from outside the USA making such a concerted effort. See all those bits we've screenshotted above? Those are mainly from the second half of a single series. No single ideas are merely repeated (or at least, in the few places where they arguably are, as with reference to Yulia Tymoshenko, something new and worthwhile is added each time). If a shot could be better served by driving to a boxing club to record ten seconds of Shaun Micallef talking about someone for a spoof trailer, it was done. If an ominous looking subterranian cavern would better illustrate the delivery of a short segment of narration, it would be visited. They didn't need to. They could have blue-screened it in. But they didn't. They cared. They gave a shit.

It's the same sort of work ethic that made shows like Monty Python that extra little bit of special. The "New Cooker Sketch" didn't have to have all those extras queueing up in a suburban street merely to illicit just one more laugh, but they did it anyway, and it improved the bit tremendously. Do you see? Putting in 60% of extra effort to elicit 20% more enjoyment from the audience is a hugely worthwhile endeavour, and (not-quite literally) fuck any beancounter who says otherwise. In this case, it only adds to the alluring majesty of Newstopia. It's this kind of thinking that elevates a show from being "good" to "great". Furthermore, it's this kind of ethic that spurred us on to make this very update another "took way too long to compile" mini-epic rather than the collection of lazily embedded YouTube links you'll be getting tomorrow.

The Pythons giving a shit, even if they do so over the course of a long, sweeping shot, meaning we can't accurately portray their givedness of said shit in a single YouTube screen grab. Bah.


Friday, 5 December 2008

"And They Have Babyshambles As Their Ringtone"

A bit behind the times, but seriously, how fantastic is Countdown going to be from now on?

Move, over Noel! There's a new king of daytime!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

This Peter Kay Thing (Part Three of a Three Part Series)

Previously on our misguidedly elongated review of Peter Kay's latest cash-in: this pre-amble, and this breakdown. And on we go.

0:44:33 The second part of his first appearance on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, with Kay seguing a mention of the theme to Van Der Valk with an anecdote about an annoying boss he had whilst working in a cash and carry. Interestingly, he makes the following statement which was supposedly tongue-in-cheek at the time: "fuck 'em! I'm 'ere! I'm coming! Getting me mum a bungalow, and then I'm out of this business!" Who knew?

0:45:44 Peter Kay's linking appearance in Live 8: The Final Push. Not the one in London where he comprehensively died on his arse, but rather a daytime appearance at (we think) Murrayfield, where he plays (well, mimes) the pan pipes in tune to "On Top Of The World". It's not as good as the version by Shonen Knife, obviously. It's intercut with an interview at the same event with Edith Bowman, saying how he did it for a bit of a laugh. It's received well enough, and he doesn't even have a pop at any roadies, so clearly better than his other Live 8 spot.

0:48:26 More appearances of his on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, this time two bits cut into one clip. It includes two separate introductions where he wanders off and does impromptu singalongs with Four Poofs And A Piano, taking the time in his second appearance to mention how the first time had been cut out of the BBC One transmission by killjoys. Any goodwill is diluted by him doing bloody Amarillo, however. We think this was before it was used as a Comic Relief single, but still. Interesting Local Colour Corner: "Show Me The Way To Amarillo" by Tony Christie 'featuring' (i.e. not actually featuring) Peter Kay was played in the Millennium Stadium immediately after Wrexham were awarded the 2005 LDV Vans Trophy, so you'd expect us to have fonder memories of the song. And you'd be quite wrong.

0:52:23 All goodwill is totally dissipated now, as it's another John Smiths advert. One bonus point for it being the one with Danny Baker co-starring, however.

0:52:53 Back on track with another segment of Peter Kay's World Of Entertainment from The Sunday Show, and he's on about Christmas Telly. That almost makes this on-topic as part of our ongoing festive theme. Rather delightfully, the piece revolves around Peter Kay choosing his own Christmas Day schedule on BBC One, which is pretty much the sort of thing we used to fantasise about when we were twelve years old. Do not judge us.

Peter Kay does an impersonation of Robbie Coltrane in a Cracker Christmas special, which is nice, and later on refers to "The Cast of Tenko On Ice", as well as rubbish second division double-acts recording Christmas specials in August. Not a dig at the likes of Morecambe and Wise or The Two Ronnies, but rather the likes of Little and Large or Cannon and Ball who were expected to fill the tinsel-trimmed shoes of the comedic giants once they'd decided to call it a day, only to discover they were nowhere near up to it. A good bit, all in all.

0:55:27 Kay on Parky again, and another part of his appearance with Lulu. Not much of it though, because we're on to...

0:55:59 Peter Kay dying on his arse at Live 8! He certainly gets a (relatively) euphoric reception, much larger than the one Ricky Gervais had received earlier on the same day. All he really does is try to sing Amarillo acapella to the nice ladies and gentleman, except he keeps getting interrupted by a sound engineer trying to get the levels right for The Who, who Kay subsequently calls 'dickhead'. The sound engineer, not the band, obv. Clearly not part of the act, and the sound engineer tries to take it all in good stead, even after being told off by Kay more than once, but given Kay is on in amongst the proper musical headliners he really should have realised he was only there to fill in a non-music bit. Then again, maybe he did realise that, as he clearly didn't bother doing any actual comedy material. But he didn't come over very well. Tsk.

Being fair, he didn't just evoke a reaction of stony bewilderment from the crowd like Ricky Gervais' "yeah, I've just had a phone call, and we've just sorted out poverty, so you can all go home now" performance did. But then, at least Gervais did actually prepare something new for the global audience of millions. Oh, we don't know what to think now, but either way we can't help but wonder if this is at least partly the reason Ricky Gervais spent so much time on his Extras Christmas special making quite blatant digs at Peter Kay.

0:58:25 "Now, something really special" says a man in a tuxedo we don't recognise. It's the Andy Prior Big Band Show, the caption tells us, so we could be in for something interesting and unexpected. The Big Band strike up a big band rendition of "Jump" by Van Halen, and Peter Kay wanders out to sing the lyrics. In a perfectly serious manner, and sporting a Rafa Benitez-issue goatee beard to boot. Slightly worryingly, we're just happening to get into big band music of the late '60s and early '70s lately (and if anyone reading this has any material by Orchester Günter Gollash other than the (fantastic) version of Es steht ein Haus in New Orleans, the BrokenTV are waiting for your call). A nice little bit of Peter Kay being a tad indulgent, only in a really good way. Using his powers for good, if you will.

1:01:20 Meanwhile, on the other side of the quality control coin, it's the Brian Potter BBC One Comic Relief Wheelchair Basketball Idents. Both the 7pm and the 10.30pm variants. We would never have suspected we'd be so underwhelmed by seeing a BBC One ident on a commercial DVD. Gosh.

1:02:01 Jim'll Fix It! Another bit from The Sunday Show, but with the actual real Sir Jim'll on presenting duties, reading out a pretend letter from Peter Kay, from 1978. While Kay very probably did send such a letter at the time (Kay certainly does made clear his fandom of Saville on that old interview trotted out by Paramount occasionally), the handwriting here is too neat for a six-year-old for that to be the original. We're not fooled that easily: NEW BBC FAKERY SCANDAL. Assisting Kay in with his wish to sing the end theme to Jim'll Fix It is... Mike Flowers from the Mike Flowers Pops! That's 1997 in a nutshell, right there. Maybe a bit self-indulgent, but it was a programme on BBC Two at a time of day when the EastEnders omnibus hadn't even been on yet. We'd argue you're perfectly entitled to do that sort of thing just before Sunday Grandstand.

1:05:58 Parky fawning over Kay again. This time Parky is on about the likelihood of Peter Kay taking on the USA comedy establishment. As you might expect, Kay pretty much admits he isn't going to translate, even though he'd given it a cursory stab in the recent past. He could always have changed his references from crap pop Rola-Cola to things like RC-Cola, we'd have thought. His 'performing in the US' anecdote revolves around doing a Karaoke spot in Vegas, so we're still not sure if he's tried doing an actual set over there. If he ever did try to crack North America, we suspect his parochial observations would go down even less well than Reeves & Mortimer did at the Montreal Comedy Festival (i.e. Just For Laughs) in about 1991. Pop fact: The biggest laugh R&M got from their performance that night was with the line "from a shop that sells carpets!", which wasn't even an actual punchline.

1:11:53 And with a reference to Vegas, it's time for another John Smiths advert, this time the Engelbert Humperdinck one. We remember this being shown 'exclusively' by an excited Tim and Helen on an episode of Soccer AM before it went shite. It's still not very good, though. We'd remember there being at least some half-decent John Smiths adverts with Peter Kay in them, but it seems we were mistaken. The Jack Dee ones really were loads better, what with them relying on being any good, rather than hoping someone really famous being in them would be enough.

1:12:37 Peter Kay's appearance on Glasgow Nights. An actual stand-up set! This time, it begins with a nice little piece about how easy a job playing the keyboards for in Soft Cell's "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye" would have been. The YouTube clip we've just linked to might give you the gist of the piece if you're not familiar with the track, and it's a pretty amusing observation.

1:13:48 But that's all we're getting of that particular set, because here comes the bit stickered onto the front of the DVD case: Peter Kay (or 'Geraldine') in the promo video for cynical cash-in single "The Winner's Song" from his 2008 shit-fest Britain's Got The Pop Factor Ha Ha Look Everyone, Even Pete Waterman Is In On The Joke, or whatever it was called. And then the end credits roll, at around 1:17:16.

Yeah, that's right Kay. Remind us why we don't like you any more.

It's a pretty disappointing end to the disc, because while they could clearly have included more of his early stand-up sets, it seemed a lot more of the runtime was given over to Parky fawning over him. We didn't get the remainder of his Gas routine after all, nor did we even get any of his appearance alongside the late Lord Bob on Parkinson. From what we'd seen of it, Lord Boob Monklouse had been pretty enthusiastic with his praise for Kay on that episode of Parkinson, so it would have made a really nice addition to the disc, but maybe there were complicated rights issues involved, so we'd better not get too uppity on that score.

The trimming of the stand-up sets is less excusable, however. They could easily have stretched out the runtime on the DVD to include the sets in full - they were from the time where Peter Kay was bursting with new ideas for routines, quite the polar opposite from nowadays, and surely a more worthwhile attraction than a bunch of adverts. With a load of archive goodness at your fingertips, especially when you've got a load of material that won't become otherwise available, why not put it out in full?

Enough of opinion. What does the cold hard arithmetical brain make of the contents on offer? We'll pour all our timings into the steampowered BrokenTV computational engine, B.U.G.G.E.R.L.U.G.S. That stands for "BrokenTV's Ultimately Great Graphical Engine Running Largely Unimpressive Graphing Software", if you're wondering. B.U.G.G.E.R.L.U.G.S.?

[A series of computing noises are played, mainly lifted from a downloaded torrent of Choc-A-Bloc .]

Thanks B.U.G.G.E.R.L.U.G.S.! First, a look at how many of each type of clip was present on the disc:

Ick. While Peter Kay generally does make for a relatively entertaining interviewee - say what you like, but it's certainly better than "well, what we were trying to do with the new album is..." - that's over egging the pudding somewhat. Especially when you consider that the above total is made by cutting a half-dozen interviews on three (three!) different programmes into several chunks. How about his full "first ever recorded stand-up set" (and not his first ever stand-up set as suggested on the DVD, as we've since been informed by someone in our blogroll) being shown in full? Or any of this stand-up sets? I know we've made this point already, but still.

What about a listing sorted by duration?

Interviews come top again, with the three most interesting flavours of offering languishing in fourth, fifth and eighth positions. Maybe that should be in some sort of graphical format:

Yeah, we know. "You should get out more." Well done, now shove off. Those quite small pieces of pie on the left? They should be a lot bigger, essentially. Although at least this way, the John Smiths adverts take up a lot less space. Strange, they seemed to go on for AN INTERMINABLE ETERNITY when we were watching the DVD.


Hmm. At this point, we can't help but refer back to something we'd said in the original pre-amble, before we'd even watched any of the disc. If such a disc had been produced cataloguing the televisual miscellany of Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Morecambe and Wise, Reeves and Mortimer, Mayall and Edmondson, Lee and Herring or pretty much any worthwhile comedian of the last forty years, we'd be besides ourselves with excitement, and we'll wager so would any other comedy geek.

However, because it's perennial cash-in merchant Peter Kay gurning away on the front cover, suspicions are immediately raised. "He's only after the money!", "I want the three hours of my life I spent watching Max And Paddy's Road To Nowhere back!", "He can't even be bothered popping up to offer a personal introduction or commentary track, even though it's his own production company Goodnight Vienna that are responsible for this DVD, the lazy money-grubbing sod", you may well be saying right now. And you'd be largely correct.

However! A compilation DVD of never-to-be-repeated appearances from many people's favourite comedian is certainly preferable to shameless practices such as, oh we don't know, tossing out the exact same stand-up set two years in succession, or shoving out a 'Best Of' DVD compiling bits of your last three DVDs. The people who like Peter Kay want to see Peter Kay doing things they haven't seen before, or at least doing things they haven't already spent their hard earned money on, and this disc does just that. Except it does it in a really hamfisted, incomplete, and ill-considered way, and it's packed with phoned-in appearances in television commericals, charity shows and annoying pop videos.

Whatever we think, a number of things are incontrovertible. One: this DVD will still sell by the bucketload, and will probably sell for less than a fiver on Amazon Marketplace twelve months from now. Two: it's no wonder a lot of the people who helped Peter Kay get to where he is today think he's a cock. Three: No matter how many copies this DVD shifts, it won't spur any production companies into compiling similar efforts for Kenny Everett or Bob Monkhouse, even though they would clearly be a thousand times better. Or even a Bill Hicks DVD, so we could finally see his appearance on Pebble Mill - that's right, Bill Hicks was once a guest on Pebble Mill, and we'll NEVER get to see it again. Four: We've wasted a huge chunk out of three days of our one and only lives writing about a cash-in compilation DVD that we're only going to give a mark of FOUR OUT OF TEN.

After all this effort, you'd expect that we'd have an especially witty sign off to all this. You'd be wrong, though. So here's a picture of Peter Kay laughing at us.


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