Thursday, 31 January 2008

Jeremy Beadle, MBE (1948-2008)

We were going to pen our own tribute to Jeremy Beadle, who sadly died on the 30th of January, but the tribute at TV Cream says pretty much what we'd want to say perfectly. While he may well have been a perennial easy target for many a tiresome wag, as if becoming one of Britain's most popular television presenters while being carrying a noticable disability with a quiet dignity is something deserving of mockery, he was a genuinely talented presenter, not to mention being one of the entertainment industry's all-round goodest of eggs.

Here' hoping BBC Four can at least broadcast a repeat episode of the excellent 'Eureka' in his honour, if only to give an all-too-rare airing of his earlier output.

[Late edit] Out On Blue Six have also written a tribute to Jeremy Beadle, which is well worth reading.


Wednesday, 30 January 2008

"My Laser Nipples Will Make Short Shrift Of This Sheet Metal"

[Advert Man is in a small, confined, dark place, with two slender beams of light doing their pitiful best to intrude on the blackness. He tries his actorly best to look edgy and uncomfortable throughout the following statement.]

Advert Man: "This is the actual size of your nasal passages when you've got a cold. That bunged up feeling you suddenly get is not caused by snot, it's the blood vessels in your nose filling up due to infection. The only way to stop it is to expand your nasal passages and increase the air-flow, giving you...

[Advert Man dramatically opens the doors to the dark place, revealing a clear, sunny day outside. He quite audibly expels a large amount of air from his nasal passages as he utters the phrase the highly paid marketing team spend three whole minutes brainstorming in their special room devoted to such herculean feats of word-putting-together-ing] to breathe.

[He places a box of PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCT X into the middle of the screen. The name of PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCT X and the witty slogan "Room to breathe" appear to the left of it.]

Ignoring an easy riff about the warning disclaimer at the bottom of the screen during the advert ("Always Read The Label? Why? Does it somehow magically change on the box after the first time you read it etc"), what's the deal with trying to sell us something with a sales pitch including the word 'snot'? Yes, snot.

It's not an advert especially aimed at the lowest common denominator or anything, markedly different from the adverts you get on daytime television where a cartoon telephone encourages you to take out a crippling loan. It's not as if they're chasing that oh-so-fickle People With Colds Aged 18-24 demographic (speaking of which, we're not entirely convinced having episodes of Spendholics introduced by grainy 3G video of their viewers is going to save BBC Three, nice new logo or not). What with this advert, and the one that declares a pregnancy test "the greatest piece of technology you'll ever pee on", we're wondering (in a rather lazy "we've not watched any telly over the last week, what on earth can we write about" type way) which other products might benefit from being associated with slang terms for bodily excretions.

"When you want to spuff your wad with impunity, it's Durex every time. "

Hmm. Let's not, actually.

Monday, 21 January 2008

A Fun Office Game For You To Try (Ages 2 and Up)

Another quick update. Do you work in an office with at least one other person and at least one computer connected to the internet? Do you ever need something to break the staggering tedium of working life? But have your resident IT Thought Police put a block on websites that could be deemed "entertaining"?

If you're anything like us, you're likely to answer "yes", "yes", and "yes, damn their Hayden Panettiere-obsessed eyes" to those questions. Then here's something that's slightly more fun than staring at a biro and wondering what the little hole on the side is for:


Here's how it works.

  • Player One selects a poll of their choosing from The Daily Mail's website.

  • Player Two must vote for the least popular choice from the options presented.

  • If Player Two succeeds in picking the least popular option, they score one point, and Player One chooses another poll for them to have a go at.

  • If Player Two fails to choose the least popular option, they are deemed to have shot themselves in their stupid wrong face, their score is recorded, and it is now Player Two's turn to do the poll-picking.

  • The winner is the player with the best 'high score' by the time both players' eyes start bleeding from looking at The Daily Mail's website for so long.

It's not quite as easy as you might think. When it comes to something like "Do modern parents spend enough time with their kids?"it's clear the answer will be "No" (with 90% of the vote. Gah, those Modern Parents and their liberal ways), meaning a deft player will select "Yes" to score a point. The same principle applies to stories about the BBC spending money on things, or anything at all to do with Muslims. However, there is the occasional curve ball, such as "Is it acceptable for female politicians to show this much cleavage in the Commons?" Not as easy as it could be, given there's no picture to show exactly what they're on about, but nonetheless we're slightly surprised to see cleavage sneak a victory with 55% of the vote.

So, Daily Mail Opinion Poll Russian Roulette. If nothing else, it beats checking your Thunderbird RSS feeds every eight minutes so your boss thinks you're working when there's nothing to actually do.

Promises, Promises

Hey, all. You'll have to excuse the tardiness regarding posting over the last week or so, which has been due to Other Stuff. But here's something we just couldn't resist pointing out. Now, we haven't got around to watching Moving Wallpaper or Echo Beach yet (they're on our eternally expanding list of unwatched programmes on the BrokenTV PVR), so we're not quite sure why we'd clicked on this eBay listing, but we're pretty glad we did.

That's right. For the princely sum of One British Penny upwards, you could "win" a 49% share in a Echo Beach fan site. The name of which we've blanked out as part of our campaign against cynical advertising campaigns, but it won't exactly take Stephen Fry levels of aptitude to find it if you need to (not least because we're including a link to the eBay auction at the end of this sentence.) But, the real story isn't the way someone is cynically posting an auction in eBay to get publicity for their site and make some easy cash, it's this promise they're making to the lucky winner.
You will get to accompany the website owner on TV interviews and other Echo Beach and Moving Wallpaper events as well as any cast and crew meets if the site takes off and we are invited.
Ace. By that same twisted logic, we'd like to make the following offer: We're selling a 49% stake in BrokenIndustries. We won't let you post to any of the blogs or anything (not even BrokenFM), but you will get to accompany us to 60 Charlotte Street when we get invited to be a talking head on "50 Greatest Hamfisted Attempts To Fill Channel Four's Friday Night Schedule In January Without Celebrity Big Brother", and you'll get to meet Paul Ross. On the proviso that (a) the blog becomes popular enough to get us noticed by someone in television, (b) we get asked to appear on such a programme, (c) Channel Four ever stoop that low, and (d) by some accident of God, our physical appearance becomes acceptable to television viewers.

Just as soon as those four pieces of the jigsaw fall into place, YOU could be rubbing shoulders and pretending to hum along with theme tunes from 1980s Children's Programmes with such TV luminaries as Mark "Balls Of Steel" Dolan and The Little Cook Out Of Big Cook Little Cook. We've even noticed at least one visitor to the blog coming from Channel Four Television, so we're practically 25% there (although, in the interests of full disclosure, it's quite possible they were just Googling "Beverly D'Angelo shower", like 33% of our visitors).

The bidding starts at [looks at big number in red at bottom of bank statement] £1786.33. Paypal accepted!

Monday, 14 January 2008

Report: "Britons 'want Del Boy TV return'"

No no no no no.

For reasons known only to them, polling company OnePoll have asked 3000 Britons which TV programme they would like to see brought back to our screens. Neatly ignoring the fact that if you were to stop someone in the street and ask them "which television programme would you like to see return to our screens" they're actually going to just tell you what their favourite TV programme is, they arrived at the following list of shows.
  1. Only Fools and Horses
  2. Friends
  3. Fawlty Towers
  4. Brookside
  5. Sex and the City
  6. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  7. Monty Python
  8. The Krypton Factor
  9. Big Breakfast
  10. Absolutely Fabulous
Now, it's a pretty universally held belief that programmes 1, 2, 4, 9 and 10 all went out with a critical whimper after being long past their best. There's a reason there's a shelf full of unsold Friends Season Nine DVDs reduced to a pound in our local Home Bargains. Bringing back Monty Python or Fawlty Towers after so long would clearly be pointless and underwhelming - remember the 'new' Python sketches during 1999's Python Night? Thought not. Buffy and Sex and the City pretty much ran their course, and there are literally dozens upon dozens of episodes on DVD for fans of both shows to be going on with.

(Top Tip: A great way to annoy fans of Buffy The Vampire Slayer is to cheerfully say that you don't really like it, and that you much preferred the film.)

That leaves The Krypton Factor, which would undoubtedly still work as a format. We can't help but feel if ITV were to bring it back to our screens, it would be depressingly lumbered with the prefix "Celebrity", because we're incapable of enjoying a gameshow format from the 1980s unless Fiona Phillips and Shane From Westlife are somehow involved. And the part where contestants solve a three-dimensional perspex puzzle just wouldn't be worth screening in 2008 unless it's Jocelyn Jee Esien doing it in character as her spleen-rupturingly hilarious traffic warden character, clearly.

Seeing as how you didn't even ask, here's our tuppence on the matter. Those programmes are in the past, and while they're still very enjoyable, it's time to move on. Why not pressure television commissioners into producing some brand new classic shows? Stop wasting money on shows that promise to be edgy but turn out to be offensively rubbish like Marc Cunting Wootton Exposed. The success of shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and Doctor Who prove that traditional formats still have appeal, so why not try coming up with a new prime-time entertainment show that doesn't fit any particular 'demographic', but is just good. Remember 'good'? It's what Morecambe and Wise were. It's what The Two Ronnies were. And it's not what TittyBangBang is.

Basically, the point of all this is that the BBC should commission a big-budget sketch comedy and variety show starring Tim Vine and Lee Mack, to go out at 8pm on Friday nights. Twelve million viewers by the end of the second series, guaranteed. Look, if they try it and it doesn't work, we'll admit we're wrong, but until then, we're saying we're right. There could even be an extended sketch set at a cocktail party guest starring Philip Glenister. Can't fail.

Thursday, 10 January 2008


We're still part-way though a proper and exciting update, but a couple of thoughts have just come to light.


Today, we've discovered that the BBC's Freedom Of Information initiative doesn't include allowing the likes of us to view any of their Duty Logs. Bah. There goes a series of thrilling articles about genuine public opinion on tabloid-invented New BBC Fakery Scandal Shock stories. We will get some exclusive information out of the BBC, dagnabbit! [BrokenTV performs Burt Kwouk chicken dance.]


Right now, Sky are running an expensive advert for their Sky+ PVR system, where a scene from a movie has been paused in someone's front room, because they've gone to make a cup of tea. When Johnny Viewer returns and unpauses the action, the explosive scene from an action movie continues in cacophonous sound only.

The silly thing is, they could 'shift' a lot more 'product' by merely donating very nearly all of their advertising airtime free of charge to Slimfast. A dozen of airings of sodding "Tooty! Fruity! Now my jeans fit my booty!", followed by the simple caption "Sky+. It allows you to skip shit like this", would generate at least a 30% hike in shifted units, GUARANTEED.


Maybe we should hunt down some freeware video editing software, so we could generate spoof advertisements like the above and chuck them onto YouTube, or if we're feeling edgy, DailyMotion. We'd be minor UK-media-related internet celebrities overnight!


Actually, maybe not.



(*Permitted only if doing a pirate impression.)
(** Permitted only if referring to a mule.)

Monday, 7 January 2008

"The BBC: Offering a Layer of Cream on Trifles Since 12th October 2006". Oh, and Nuclear War.

Thanks to the spiffing Eyedropper, we've just discovered about the BBC's Freedom Of Information Act site. Got a question about the BBC? You could ask Points Of View or the Radio Times and hope they select your letter. Or, you could fire off a missive to Room 2252 and, providing your question meets the criteria - we're guessing questions along the lines of "Can Sophie Raworth come to our house for tea on Thursday?" will be ignored - you can receive a fully comprehensive reply.


Here are a few sample facts.

There are currently 2787 broadcast copies of post-2002 programmes missing from the BBC archive (from a total of around 200,000), but no master material.

In the twelve months to October 2007, the BBC spent a total of £12,762,858 on taxis. We surprised that hasn't made the front page of the Daily Dacre. There's even a breakdown of how much each member of the executive board spent on taxis. Marks Thompson and Byford spent the least, £865.76 and £677.17 respectively. We like to think that's because they share a tandem.

If you have to wait nineteen minutes for a jacket potato that turns out to be cold in the BBC Canteen, it's worth complaining. You're likely to receive an apology, along with a £10 voucher. Result. However, if your jacket potato is burnt, you may well be the recipient of a dirty look from a waitress. Rather splendidly, here's a full list of complaints received for the year to April 2007 by the BBC Canteen.

Most interesting of all (yes, even more than complaints about being giant fishcakes not being 'giant' enough) is this thing here. From 1984, a script of what was to be read out on air in the event of a nuclear war. These Wartime Broadcasting Instruction Announcements began with the words:
"Here is an important announcement about the broadcasts you will be able to hear after [date]. At [date] all normal Radio and Television services of the BBC and IBA will cease. The will be replaced by a new single Radio service known as the Wartime Broadcasting Service."
From 1988, this is changed to an almost chummy
"You may be wondering, as many people are, what will happen if the current crisis develops into conflict and wondering how you will find out what is happening. Well, the BBC will do everything possible to maintain its broadcasts but it will probably mean that we cannot maintain our full normal service."
We'd like to think this would have been delivered to the nation by Chris Serle. Luckily, details of our impending annihilation would also be listed on Ceefax.

There was also a prepared statement for the re-opening of television ("...from now on we will bring you programmes of information and entertainment that we hope will help us all to resume a normal way of life. Good bye for now"), but if Threads has taught us anything, it's that we'll be lucky to get a really unsettling monochrome video recording of Words And Pictures.

If you want to trawl the list of responses yourself, they're all catalogued here. Channel Four has a similar policy, but it's much less detailed. A disappointing lack of people asking about Krishnan Guru-Murthy's annual tie allowance here.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Anti-News: "Idiots Are Misled Easily" Reports Daily Mail

Here's a new riff for us - trying to find the most pathetic example of non-news about television. Kicking things off, it's the good old Daily Mail.

Complaints have poured into the BBC over Jools Holland's New Year countdown television show - because the apparently "live" programme was recorded 11 days before December 31.

It meant the Hootenanny was riddled with anomalies that left many people baffled and angry.

And it came at the end of year in which the BBC was embroiled in controversy over faked programmes misleading the public.

The most glaring hoot on the Hootenanny, screened on BBC2, was the presence of Kylie Minogue - who in fact was seeing in the New Year in her native Australia.

Others gaffes included guest Lenny Henry getting the year wrong and the midnight countdown apparently being out of synch with the actual time.

Scores of viewers posted complaints on the BBC's official Points of View website. "In an era where the BBC and television in general is continually accused of conning the public, it amazes me that this sort of pretence of what the date is still goes on all the time," wrote one.
After all, it's not as if this is what's always happened with New Year's Eve specials featuring lots of really famous guests, is it? Really, how dim would you need to be to become "baffled and angry" that Sir Paul McCartney, David Tennant, John Simm and Kylie Minogue actually aren't working at midnight on December 31st, but more likely with their families at home?

Near the end of the article, the paper pointed out how:
Readers of the Radio Times were warned that the Hootenanny show was recorded before December 31.
Inappropriate use of the word 'warned', there. "Don't touch that fence - it has fifty thousand volts running through it" would qualify as a warning, as would "come any closer and I'm going to shoot you in the face with my gun". Stating that a television programme has been pre-recorded, as would be clear to anyone who isn't just looking for a stick to beat the BBC with, wouldn't.

But perhaps we're jumping the gun, here. Maybe the Mail is going to apply the same set of standards it expects from the BBC to every aspect of the media, and will treat them all equally. Just maybe, we'll see the following on our news-stands on Monday morning.

That's right. Someone with a blog on the internet criticising the Daily Mail. We went there. Tomorrow's big revelation: the RIAA - They're Not Very Nice.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

BrokenTV's CultureCheck '08

We've just remembered. What with it being 2008, we're now precisely eleven miles from what is nominally The Officially Most Cultured Place In Europe This Year. We've just checked on Google Earth. So: how much of this culture has seeped southwards and is now coursing through our veins? Given that we're about to post something on the internet about obtaining illicit feeds of foreign television - not very. But still, we'll post further updates if we get around to getting off our arses and going to an art gallery or something.

Yes, we're going to keep posting that image until we've run out of things to give awards to.


Only one real candidate for this, so straight on with the winner.

Winner: Trying To Work Out Which Country The Semi-Legal Satellite Feed Of Live Premier League Football Is Coming From

"Ooh... erm... Norway! No, wait, Denmark! No, definitely Norway! Look, Stig Inge Bjornebye is the studio pundit."

Only of course, it's not that easy any more. Having such obvious clues as a segment along the lines of Canal+'s "Stig Inge's Corner" is a thing of the past. Nowadays, the modern pubgoer must decipher all manner of weird and wonderful logogrammatical systems in order to calculate the origin of the sporting transmissions on offer. This might sound relatively simple to any polygraphs reading this (in which case we'll presume you've found this blog by accident), but the following rules of Working Out Which Country The (etc) apply:
  • If you're a regular in the pub, you're automatically barred from playing, because you've probably worked out the answer a long time ago.
  • Don't think you can get any clues from the commentary ("Steve Sidwell-san" would be one hell of a clue), as these channels generally opt for either taking the Sky commentary or less commonly (but more entertainingly) featuring no commentary whatsoever.
  • The game is over as soon as a dead giveaway clue appears on screen, such as a Coke advert featuring the Olympiacos FC squad appears, or a whopping great South Korean flag on a station ident.
  • If at all possible, idiot males in pubs will make Canute-esque attempts to deny they're in the wrong, especially if it involves football in any way.
Which makes the game all the more difficult. Recently during a poker game, BrokenTV found itself in a pub showing coverage of the Manchester United-Everton, Milan-Inter and Madrid-Barcelona matches. It was only when adverts for the state travel agent appeared that we cottoned on. How dare Albania have better football coverage than us?


Winner: TVUPLAYER (software link)

In a year which has seen the influence of Sopcast diminish under the leather-clad fist of the Premier League's team of ninja-lawyers, the world of Being Able To See Really Low-Quality Video Feeds Of Football Matches That Aren't Even Available On British Telly No Matter How Much Subscription You're Willing To Pay, And That You Can't Even Buy A Ticket For Without Lining The Pockets Of A Scumbag Tout has been looking for a new hero. Luckily, despite falling from favour a few years ago, TVU Player is back, with beta version 2.3.4. It now manages to actually tell if your channel is about to start streaming or not (instead of just leaving you hanging like a big fat fool), proper names for each channel, as well as giving a decent quality feed of non-sporty channels. Such as channels from:

The USA!


Or Korea!

As you might expect from the world of streaming TV, timezones play havoc with the concept of actually seeing something that's any good, but a simple bit of Googling pays dividends. For example, a schedule for the US feed of (what is currently, although channels change frequently) NBC's KXAM affiliate can be found here.

And yes, that is BrokenTV's shiny new monitor in those low-quality mobile phone photos. Well, we're impressed by it.

(Moral disclaimer: What with our licence fee and dowry to the Evil Murdoch Empire, we pay over £700 every single year to watch the meagre amount of good television that we do. And that's before all the DVDs we buy. Therefore, we're claiming that we're morally, albeit not legally, obliged to dip out toes into the waters of foreign TV now and then. And hey, due to the nature of TVU Player, we watch all the adverts, instead of magicking them away with our remote control. It's the future of sub-RealPlayer picture quality television, all right.)

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

The Broken Tellies 2007: Telly About Telly (Warning: Contains Graphs)

Happy new 2008, everyone. On with the awards.

Best Telly Programme About Telly 2007

The Nominations

Harry Hill's TV Burp (ITV1)

As pointed out on this very blog, during this year's series of TV Burp, it was (at the time) Britain's most watched comedy show. This was probably the first time ITV have been able to boast such a thing since Mr Bean, so it was all the more odd that they didn't even bother scheduling any commercials in the middle of each show, preferring to save the valuable 'number of minutes advertising per hour' quota for Dancing On Ice.

On a whim, we've popped to the ever reliable Barb website, and looked up the viewing figures for four other "Britain's Most Popular Comedy Shows", and taken an average reading for each. We've used the most recent series of each, so the respective shows ought to be at their peak of popularity. Here's the first Official BrokenTV Graph of 2008:

And yes Ricky, we're pretty fucking sure they're the 'right' 5.52 million viewers. So, in summary, TV Burp: popular and good.

Children's TV on Trial (BBC Four)

A pleasingly detailed look at sprog-friendly visual broadcasting over the last 5.7 decades. Each programme looked at a different decade, including proper interviews with people who know what they're talking about, and a refreshing lack of Russell Peters types humming theme tunes and snorting "The Chuckle Hounds! What was all that about, eh?"

Best of all, the series concluded with a group of 2007-issue kids dropping English on the children's television of the past. Possibly to the disdain of those who'd like to claim we're all on the road to hell in a Polish-made handbasket, they generally liked it. Showing that kids nowadays can still appreciate the genius of Johnny Ball's Think Again is something that makes us feel the world actually isn't irrevocably knackered after all.

The Winner:

Charlie Brooker's Screen Wipe

Able to switch from ranting furiously (and entertainingly) about the BBC's credit squeezing to a considered critique over the media's handling of the Madeline McCann case in the blink of an eye (except those pieces were about three episodes apart, but bear with us), one-time Your Sinclair's Letters Page Star Letter Winner Charlie Brooker crammed in a couple of series of his Screen Wipe during 2007. Granted, it's a bit of a shame this year's Christmas special didn't get the time to explore the year's TV in any great detail, but hey. It's just nice to see something this inventive, invective and another word meaning "enjoyable" ending in '-tive' on our screens. And yes, we were really chuffed when the Guardian Guide likened us to him, although that's not why he wins this (we just were just lucky that the Guardian Guide found our blog during the short period we were any good, clearly).

It's almost worth having a load of rubbish on our TV screens, if it means we get to see Charlie and his Zeppotron pixies tearing it all apart. (Note to Commissioning Editors of BBC Three: We said "almost", so it doesn't make another series of Tittybangbang or Fuck Off I'm Ginger justifiable.)

Worst Telly Programme About Telly 2007

The Winner:

Anything with Mark Lawson in it, obviously.

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