Thursday, 28 February 2008

Television The Man Doesn't Want YOU To See (And How To See It)

Listeners to BrokenTV may remember our commenting on Shaun Micallef's long-awaited return to antipodean screens late last year. A show some lazy commentators might refer to as "The Day Today meets The Daily Show meets The Micallef P(r)ogram(me)", especially if they're as lazy as we are, going by the name of Newstopia. For those that don't remember, we'd mentioned that it was largely disappointing as far as we were concerned, being roundly overshadowed by the similarly Australasian satire show The Chaser's War On Everything.

Welp, the second series of Newstopia has just started in the former colony, and by Lucy Robinson's transmogrifying face, it's very much improved. And splendidly, it's available to be viewed for seven days after each episode on the website of the show's broadcaster, SBS. Everyone's a winner, surely?

Sadly, nope. Despite the show being (a) largely topical, and (b) in part based on the viewers having at least a cursory knowledge of Australian current affairs, the stream is blocked to anyone not currently residing in Oz. Not that it's likely to make it to any other broadcaster in other nations, or likely to ever get a full release on DVD. Clearly, SBS are the most flaming of galahs.

Fortuitously, BrokenTV is able to come galloping to the rescue, like a computer nerd somehow finding itself strapped to a horse. With any luck, the following steps should see you right.

1) Go to this website and select a likely looking Australia-based proxy (transparent should be fine, as it won't really matter if it gets traced back to your ISP. Probably).

2) Put the proxy into your browser. On Firefox, that would be via Tools > Options > Advanced > Connection settings > Manual proxy configuration. On Internet Explorer, it would probably be a lot more complicated that that, so you should use a proper browser instead*. Don't forget to include the port. We used, port 3128, although we can't be sure how long that'll last.

(*Hey, we're explaining someone to do with proxy servers here, we're practically obliged to get pathetically snooty about web browsers as if it matters.)

3) Go to the Newstopia streaming video website. With luck and a benevolent god on your side, you'll be enjoying Newstopia.

3a) Don't forget to change your proxy settings back to "Direct connection the internet" after you're done, or it might have an impact on your download speed.

Spoddishness to one side, this new episode was much tighter that what we'd seen previously, with more of the delicious Micallef wordplay that a disappointingly small number of comedy fans over here have come to know and love. Also: spoof adverts and trailers (slipped in without fanfare at the end of the 'proper' commercials, to be noticed only by viewers paying attention, just like The Goodies used to make), which are always welcome, especially when they're done as well as that. Given the quality of Yasser's Heroes, let's hope Shaun is given another sketch show at some point in the future.

And before any Chris Morris fanboys pipe up with something along the lines of "Waah! It's not as good as The Day Today", that's because it isn't the Day Today. Do you complain that your breakfast cereal isn't as good as The Day Today? No, you don't. So shut up.

"There's nothing Australians like more than having themselves refracted back to them through the prism of overseas news services."


Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Movie of the Day: I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With

Imagine a world where characters from excellent US sitcoms go about their normal lives without any cameras being present. Jeff from Curb Your Enthusiasm is kicked out by Susie, and relocates to Chicago to try and relive his early success as an improvisational comedian, whilst trying to find meet the right girl for him. Preferably one who won't call him a "fat fuck". Sarah Silverman from The Sarah Silverman Program relocates to Chicago, and helps her sister run a diner. Phil from The Larry Sanders Show takes up acting, after relocating to Chicago. The character that Dmitri Martin played in Flight Of The Conchords leaves the band he was part of in Flight Of The Conchords, and takes up a job in a Chicago record store. Amy Sedaris from Strangers With Candy becomes a junior school teacher, at a school in the Chicago area. Dan Castellaneta becomes manager/owner of a convenience store.

You can enjoy all this and more in the wonderful little movie I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With. Which takes place in... guess. No, Chicago. Tch. It begins as if it were some strange alternate universe version of Curb Your Enthusiasm, with Jeff taking the Larry role, and David Pasquesi as his occasional confidante. Early moments include James (the character played by Jeff) wandering over to a hot-dog sample distributor dressed as a cartoon pirate, just to ask what a pirate has to do with hot dogs, only to end up covering the mascot's shift while he dashes off to a film audition. It even has similar incidental music to Curb. Luckily, the film soon finds it's own niche. It's a more gentle comedy than the Machiavellian farce of Curb, but no less enjoyable because of it.

The film revolves around a 39-year-old, lonely, overweight, underemployed actor who still shares an apartment with his mother. While we don't know if it is or not (research? Pah!), it could very easily contain scenes that are either improvised, or nailed after the first take (a la Curb). Many of the cast are instantly recognisable to people with a knowledge of Premier League US comedy, with many of them being former contemporaries of Garlin at improv club Second City, which is also featured in the film.

Without giving too much away, here are three little summing up 'facts' about this film.

  1. It's a but like Juno For Blokes. We may well be saying that because we'd also watched Juno today (and very good it is too, not least because Kimya Dawson did the music, and two people from Arrested Development are in it).
  2. I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With is a nice little film well worth watching.
  3. There's a very good reason why we never review films on this blog, and you've just read it.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

About Damned Time, And How Not To Say Things In Magazines

Finally. After being sat on the shelf for what seems like ages (it had previously been scheduled to broadcast at the end of December), Love Soup is back for a second series. An ever-welcome slice of Renwickalia will be screened every Saturday night at 9pm, from the first of March. Despite the slightly disappointing slot for the show (will it get bumped every time the Six Nations knocks Casualty over the 9pm line?), this is A Good Thing.

Despite the Digiguide listing for the first episode making reference to the Gil character, we're making the mental leap of guessing the last couple of months haven't seen Michael Landes rushing around filming a load of sub-plots after being unavailable for the initial filming. Not to worry, because the reliably excellent Tamsin Greig is back as Alice, along with Sheridan "Only Good Thing About Two Pints" Smith and Montserrat "Ashes To Ashes" Lombard. Splends.


Yes, because we're physically incapable of being wholly nice about everything for two consecutive updates, we're going to have to unnecessarily pick fault with one aspect of the show. And here it is: in this month's edition of Word magazine (no-one we know ever calls it 'The Word', despite what Mark Ellen claims), Tamsin Greig takes part in the monthly recommend-gasm "Word of Mouth". In just a few sentences, she manages to make what is quite possibly the wrongest statement ever printed in British publishing. And considering that includes everything Tony Parsons has ever written, that's quite remarkable.
The Extras special over Christmas was extra special, just beautiful. Ricky Gervais has got a way of being able to see the world and go, "Oh, come on!", but also to turn it on himself. He's looking at us in the way Shakespeare does - "Look at these foolish people, these foolish children who only want some attention." It's the same story.
Gnnnn. Maybe we were off school the day our English class went through the scene in The Merchant Of Venice where Shylock interrupts his speech to take a cheap shot at Peter Kay and Big Brother, but really. Come on, Tamsin. A moderately enjoyable collection of fairly weak musings on The Cult of Celebrity interspersed with spiffing pratfalls from Stephen Merchant: yes (and that sounds positively hyperbolic compared to what much of The Internet had to say about the Extras special). "Looking at us in the way Shakespeare does": cause for a bemused sigh and a weary shake of the head. This is why every time we see something by Ricky Gervais that we quite like (and it does happen), we duly have to put up with a gush of media commentators (and that's the correct collective noun for media commentators, by the way) falling over themselves to proclaim the majesty of King Ricky The First. Consequently, we feel compelled to take the polar opposite position, mainly because we're a bit worried the world might otherwise get lopsided and smash into Mercury by the year 2084.

We suspect Ricky Gervais has similar concerns to ours, which is why he made series two of Extras so shit on purpose.

Discounting the possibility that this isn't all a great big media in-joke along the lines of every guest on Soccer AM When It Was Good (no matter how famous) stating how their best friend in football was Coventry City's Gary Breen, we feel the need to dispense some advice. On the off chance anyone reading this knows Tamsin Greig, go around to her house on the 24th of March, and put More4 on at about 10.30pm. Make her watch the final episode of the current series of Curb Your Enhusiasm, all the while whispering the mantra "this is how you bring an end to a series" repeatedly into her left ear. If it helps, feel free to utter the mantra whilst performing The David Brent Dance (Awkwardly Uncomfortable Performance In Front Of A Huge Live Charity Event Audience Remix).

Monday, 18 February 2008

Reasons To Be Cheerful. I! T! V!

We've got around to watching some telly. Telly that isn't Sky Sports News, Lost or repeats of The Sopranos.

Of course, you'd expect that to be the absolute minimum requirement of a website dedicated to television, preferably with added "writing about some of it". Well, it does mean we've got something almost worth writing about. Will the usual thing happen, and all the entertaining and throught provoking thoughts about the gogglebox going on in our noggin get caught up in our in-built 'talent filter', and be reduced to cheap personal attacks on Marcus Brigstocke by the time they reach our typing fingers? We shall see, as we attempt to fly in the face of public opinion and come up with several reasons why ITV1 is actually pretty good at the moment.

Reason One: TV Burp.

Well, that's a given. Next.

Reason Two: Thank God You're Here

After having serious reservations about this, we've lazily let the entire series build up on our Sky+ box, ready to fall foul of the dreaded 'yellow button' purge when we're going out on the same night we want to record a film on Channel Four HD. With a bit of spare time on Saturday morning we started watching it and to our slight surprise, it was pretty good. It took a couple of episodes to get going, and to find who the contestants worth asking back are - a shame Fern Britton wasn't asked back, she was a relevation in the first episode, but when it got going, it made for a nicely diverting hour. Even Paul Merton showed signs of remembering how to be any bloody good toward the end of the run.

One gripe, a couple of the choices for contestants left a lot to be desired. As mentioned, Fern did a really good job (although, as someone who has presented countless hours of live television throughout her career, maybe that's not so much of a surprise), as did Rufus Hound, but Jennie "That Ginger Woman Off Of Corrie" McAlpine was easily the worst contestant of the series, clearly being out of her depth in an unscripted environment (because she's an actress used to working from a script. Do you see, People Who Choose Who To Put In Television Programmes?). All the more annoying when you consider Adam Buxton was due to be in her episode (even being billed on ITVs website as such), only to be bumped to make way for Marcus Brigstocke at the last minute. [CLUNK] That'll be the sound of our talent filter kicking in, there. Similarly, Jessica Hynes was billed as appearing in the last episode (indeed, she still is), only to be replaced by Steve "You Know, The One Who Doesn't Usually Say Much In The Orange Cinema Ads" Furst. It would be been nice to see a couple more of the regulars from the Aussie version of the show making an appearance, too. Britain's television screens have been devoid of the majesty of Shaun Micallef for way too long (as long as ITV4 or someone don't pick up Newstopia, as it wasn't very good).

Minor quibbles aside, the performances in the second half of the series made it increasingly enjoyable, and if it's brought back for a longer run we're sure it'll be a welcome addition to our series link pile. As the viewing figures seemed to have recovered from an initial dip to increase after episode three, hopefully that'll happen.

So, erm, travel back in time six weeks and watch it. People really should send us advance copies of stuff.

Reason Three: Dexter.

Tentative hurrahs echoed around BrokenTV's house on discovering this news - our favourite American drama series of the year is to be broadcast on ITV1, from Wednesday the 27th of February. Hurrahs because it's a fantastic show that really does deserve to be seen by a proper audience, not just people with Sky. The hurrahs were tentative because we're not sure ITV1 at 10.35pm (which is ITV-scheduler speak for 10.43pm, for some reason) is where the show is going to pick up a large audience. We're really struggling to remember the last US import to make it big on The Light Channel. Sabrina The Teenage Witch?

This will probably mean FX will hold off showing season two of Dexter (which is where the writers really up their game) until the run of the first has finished on ITV1, which is bad news for people who'd enjoyed the first on Sky's best kept secret (and who don't indulge in illegal pirate downloading of television shows). But then, if the decision to try and bring the show (along with a dash of much-needed credibility) to ITV's weekday schedules is a successful one, then it'll be worth it.

Our cynical instinct tells us that within six weeks, the Friday night repeats on ITV4 will be become the only broadcasts of the show as it's shoved off the ITV1 schedules to make say for a signed repeat of The Royal Today (effectively making Dexter the new Millennium for the new millennium... anyone? No?). But of course, we've been wrong before, and we're quite sure we will be again [glances over at shiny and expensive HD-DVD player].

To be honest, the real reason we're hoping ITV1 can turn it around is so they'll get an excuse to come up with publicity photos like this one again:

Dating from 1990, and showing improved ratings figures for Central, if you were wondering.

Our cursory Monday lunchtime glance of Mediaguardian would be a much brighter experience with more pictures like the above. Sadly, they won't get to feature Jeremy Beadle, but come on. Huge photos of Harry Hill and Felicity Kendall larging it in front of a huge graphic trumpeting a 1.4% year-on-year rise during pre-watershed hours for the 25-49 demographic? What's not to like?

Monday, 4 February 2008

The BrokenTellies 2007: Slight Return

We hadn't forgotten about this. Here are a few more awards from the increasingly inaccurately named 2007 Broken Tellies:

Single Worst Moment of Television in 2007

Patrick Kielty performing the lyrics to Gold Digga, a capella, for a good thirty seconds or so on Live At The Apollo. Yes, including the ‘proper’ lyrics. A truly horrible experience, even worse than when Marcus Brigstocke says something in street patois, because y’know, he’s a middle class bloke in a suit, and he shouldn’t nevar be doin’ no street patois, innit. An ting.

Most Infuriatingly Underrated Pilot of 2007: Biffovision

Saddled with what was very probably the single worst slot given to a new television programme in the entire history of television (at 3.30am, on BBC Three, and billed as a signed repeat of Two Pints Of Lager), Biffovision was up against it right from the start. This was a major shame, as the pilot episode showed a lot of promise, being a slice of inspired lunacy in the vein of Q, Big Night Out and Rutland Weekend.

While it certainly divided opinions amongst the viewing dozens, almost exclusively people who'd been fans of the late lamented Teletext videogame section (although we'd argue it was less like Digitiser, and more like Mr Biffo's Bubblegun website), it was inarguably unique amongst the BBC Three catchphrase-stroke-tedium packed comedy canon. And, given the single show to be broadcast was just a pilot, a series proper could have been packed even more tightly with quality fare. For example, here's a recovered draft of something not included in the pilot (and which itself has become deleted from the internet. Nice try Mister Rose, but our deft Google Cache skills have thwarted up your plan deliciously).

These are all things that happen in the first five minutes of BiffoVision, because we couldn't be done waiting for all of the YouTube video to buffer before taking the screenshots

Sadly, what with the show being loosely based on a pastiche of 1980s kids TV, it was decided that it was unsuitable for modern, hip and street yoof demographic now pandered to by Ver Three, and it was ditched (even though none of the actual jokes required even the merest knowledge of events between 1980 and 1989). Meanwhile, BBC Three’s main source of nightly comedy is the two episodes per night of Family Guy, a show largely comprising of throwaway cutaway non sequiturs featuring various 1980s pop culture references that didn't even make it the this side of the Atlantic.

Luckily, the show is available for viewing on YouTube (start from here), so everyone can bask in the Biffo magnificence.

Cripes, Not Another New Template. How About A Decent Update For Once?

Guilty as charged. But we've just noticed the last one (i.e. the green and black one) made our eyes hurt when looking at the blog on our work PC, so in the ocular interests of the viewing several, we've changed it again. Yes, we're rubbish.

Oh, and another thing worth mentioning: now redirects to the blog (because we've finally rescued the domain from the useless domain redirection service we'd gone with about a year ago, only for them to bugger up the redirection after about two weeks, and then ignore all of our emails about getting it working again). So, if Blogger explodes or something (we've been waiting for an excuse to go to Wordpress, where all the cool bloggers hang out), we'll still be at 'Kay? 'Kay.

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