Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Charlie Brooker’s Gameswipe: Paper Edition Part 2

Gameswipe - quite good wasn’t it? We loved the chiptune version of Grandaddy’s AM180 at the start, along with references to Turbo Esprit, the ZX81 and Your Sinclair. Hamstrung a bit by rebuking lazy media coverage of violent games, but then spending much of the show showing needlessly violent bits from those very same violent games, but hey. One of the most nicely well-informed gaming shows ever to grace television, alongside BBC Scotland’s VideoGaiden. Here’s hoping that despite the total lack of publicity from BBC Four, it attracted enough viewers to make a full series worthwhile, or at least to make it an annual fixture.

x10sctmp18Anyhow, on with the second part of our Scanorama, with several images fresh from the glass of our glacially slow Epson DX3850. First up, the April 1996 copy of PC Zone. This was from the time Brooker contributed a monthly cartoon strip to the magazine, going by the name of Cybertwats. It’s a bit of a shame Brooker packed in doing his cartoons, to be honest. We really enjoyed his Superkaylo website back in the steam age of the internet (no longer online, and sadly blocked by a pesky robots.txt on, and can even remember his work for Oink! comic in the 1980s.

(Disclaimer: at this point, we’d like to point out that, despite any evidence to the contrary, we actually haven’t been stalking Charlie Brooker since about 1988. It’s just that he’s had a habit of cropping up on publications and websites we happen to read or frequent. It’s quite bloody alarming, actually. Oink! comic (which we piggin’ loved as a kid), a Your Sinclair letters page, PC Zone in print, And then in the digital age, Superkaylo, (which was the first home to TVGoHome), the old SOTCAA forum, and a couple of newsgroups we used to post on in the late 1990s. If anything, he’s stalking us. For fuck’s sake, even the first two words of the Guardian Guide’s review of BrokenTV were “Charlie” and “Brooker”. We’re not even joking.)

It’s a thumbnail. You know what to do, with the clicking, and the bigness, and the “open in new tab”.

There was also a Brooker-penned review of some early offerings from Sega on the PC CD-Rom market. Things were so strange with the PC gaming market in the mid-90s, that the utterly forgettable Comix Zone was the better of the three offerings. Even that only got 68%, and as PC Zone was a games magazine likely to give a CD-Rom title that pumped you full of eye cancer a score in the mid-70s, that really isn’t very impressive.


One thing we’ve just had to scan in from the same edition of PCZ was this advert for another of Dennis Publishing’s magazines from 1996:


Yes, CD-Rom! It’s the future! Look what you get on the covermount! Beavis and Butthead! Playboy! Star Wars! Erm, Myra Hindley! That’s right folks, 1996 was a year that you could plonk a photo of a convicted child murderer on your front cover, and you’d still shift lots of units because there was a covermounted CD-Rom.

x10sctmp21On to September 1997, and an edition of PC Zone leading with “Quake In A Codpiece”. So, lots of brown, and a tightly packed scrotum? No wonder the majority of the cover image had a palette comprised wholly of dark grey and black. By now, the letters page had progressed from irate readers whinging about Windows 95 to concentrating on games (or whining about video cards being too expensive, anyway). As for scribblings from the hand of Brooker, there was a review of jolly, family-friendly village-based isometric action-adventure Little Big Adventure 2, a game which was advertised on the back cover of this very issue of PC Zone. Naturally, with it being the latter half of the 1990s, the advert featured a large rendering of the central character in bed with a snoozing blonde, just below a caption asking “Do you remember your first time?”. Ah, the 1990s, when even magazine advertisements for Anusol would probably try to cram in a hugely blatant reference to shagging.

x10sctmp23 x10sctmp24  x10sctmp25

There was also an interview with celebrity gamesmaker Peter Molyneux. There’s a thought – you never really see desperate attempts to paint games programmers/designers as ‘celebrities’ nowadays, do you? We suspect Amiga Format’s rather cackhanded attempts at promoting Andrew Braybrook as “the man who killed pop music” pretty much put paid to that ethos, even if he did look a bit like the one with the glasses from The Chemical Brothers.

x10sctmp26 x10sctmp29 x10sctmp31

More next time!

(Practically no-readers-at-all’s voice: “Hey, what happened to Data Week Day 3?”)

Oh, shush. It might be back tomorrow, or more likely on Thursday.


Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Charlie Brooker’s Gameswipe: The Prequel

x10sctmp16So, hopefully-not-just-a-one-off BBC Four videogaming special Gameswipe, hosted by loveable curmudgeon Charlie Brooker is broadcast tomorrow night (or tonight, by the time you probably read this). In the pre-show bumph, Brooker has mentioned how he “started [his] writing career penning video game reviews, so Gameswipe effectively sees [him] coming full-circle: it’s evolution in reverse basically”.

Well, what with the BrokenTV office having recently been refurbished with a huge Ikea bookcase – large enough to hold our massive collection of magazines, pointless minutiae fans – we’ve been able to pick out a few choice articles from Charlie Brooker’s time at PC Zone magazine. And, because we’re a caring, sharing kind of blog (oh, and because we hope Dennis Publishing are kind of ‘okay’ with this sort of thing), we’re going to put a few scans of them online over the next few days. Not because we’re trying to take a whole Daily Telegraph MP Pay Scandal approach to this, dragging out an idea as long as it’ll go, but rather because our scanner is really, really slow.

First up: July 1997, and what might possibly be Charlie Brooker’s first published article about telly.


Click for bigger. Ah, you all know how thumbnails work, don’t you?

And while we’ve got the magazine to hand, his preview of slightly disappointing Hudson-em-up Atomic Bomberman.

x10sctmp13 x10sctmp14 x10sctmp15
Again, click for bigger. Though if you think we’d be expecting you to read the text from those images, you underestimated just how stupid we really are.

For anyone who might stumble over some issues at a car boot sale, mid-to-late-90s PC Zone was (and still is) a brilliant read. Writers included Charlie Brooker (who also did a monthly cartoon strip called The Cybertwats, and not very good Peter Bagge tribute Late Developers), Your Sinclair/Zero legend Duncan MacDonald, David McCandless, Patrick McCarthy, demented genius ‘Culky’ and several others. Never have a series of game reviews stating “well, you’ll need an extra 8MB of memory if you want to run it through Windows 95” been so entertaining.


More tomorrow, crappy scanner permitting.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Data Week Day Two: Sky One And An Alarming Photo Of Rupert Murdoch

Look, there’ll be a more interesting update along later today, okay?

Anyway, we’ve taken a look at Sky One’s weekly top ten viewing figures over the last 52 weeks. BARB doesn’t have any data for two of the weeks in that period (for some unexplained reason), which leaves us with a total of 500 shows to work from. Which is a handy figure for knocking up charts, so we’ll work with that.

Sky One’s hundred most watched shows over the last year (hey, it might come in handy for someone) are as follows, just after an alarming picture of Rupert Murdoch from BSkyB’s Annual Shareholder’s Report for 2003. See if you can tell what we’ve changed.


That’s right, we’ve cropped out some of the foliage from that shot. That top hundred:





Noels Christmas Presents 2 (21-Dec-08)



Lost (01-Feb-09)



Lost (01-Mar-09)



Lost (22-Feb-09)



Lost (25-Jan-09)



The Simpsons (22-Mar-09)



Lost (15-Feb-09)



Lost (22-Mar-09)



Lost (08-Feb-09)



Skellig (12-Apr-09)



Ross Kemp: Return To Afghanistan (01-Feb-09)



Lost (05-Apr-09)



The Simpsons (01-Feb-09)



Ross Kemp: Return To Afghanistan (22-Feb-09)



Lost (17-May-09)



Ross Kemp: Return To Afghanistan (15-Feb-09)



Lost (19-Apr-09)



Bones (16-Nov-08)



Lost (17-May-09)



Ross Kemp: Return To Afghanistan (08-Feb-09)



Lost (08-Mar-09)



Lost (12-Apr-09)



House Season 5 (26-Jul-09)



The Simpsons (11-Jan-09)



Lost (10-May-09)



Lost (03-May-09)



House Season 5 (26-Jul-09)



The Simpsons (30-Nov-08)



House Season 5 (05-Jul-09)



Bones (22-Mar-09)



The Simpsons (16-Nov-08)



Bones (30-Nov-08)



Bones (17-May-09)



Bones (03-May-09)



Lost (29-Mar-09)



House Season 5 (16-Aug-09)



House Season 5 (12-Jul-09)



Bones (10-May-09)



The Simpsons (08-Mar-09)



Bones (24-May-09)



The Simpsons (25-Jan-09)



Martina Coles The Take (05-Jul-09)



24 Season 7 (18-Jan-09)



House Season 5 (09-Aug-09)



The Simpsons (07-Dec-08)



House Season 5 (09-Aug-09)



Martina Coles The Take (21-Jun-09)



Martina Coles The Take (21-Jun-09)



Bones (05-Oct-08)



Bones (19-Apr-09)



The Simpsons (09-Nov-08)



Bones (08-Mar-09)



House Season 5 (31-May-09)



Bones (25-Apr-09)



The Simpsons (22-Feb-09)



Ross Kemp In Search Of Pirates (21-Jun-09)



House Season 5 (02-Aug-09)



Ross Kemp: Return To Afghanistan (01-Mar-09)



House Season 5 (02-Aug-09)



24 Season 7 (01-Feb-09)



Gladiators (16-Nov-08)



Bones (28-Sep-08)



House Season 5 (31-May-09)



House Season 5 (13-Sep-09)



Bones (15-Mar-09)



The Simpsons (04-Jan-09)



House Season 5 (30-Aug-09)



24 Season 7 (08-Feb-09)



House Season 5 (21-Jun-09)



House Season 5 (14-Jun-09)



Bones (29-Mar-09)



Bones (19-Oct-08)



House Season 5 (19-Jul-09)



The Simpsons (09-Nov-08)



24 Season 7 (15-Feb-09)



Bones (12-Oct-08)



House Season 5 (23-Aug-09)



The Simpsons (04-Jan-09)



Bones (02-Nov-08)



Bones (01-Mar-09)



Bones (26-Oct-08)



Bones (22-Feb-09)



Bones (12-Apr-09)



The Simpsons (01-Feb-09)



House Season 5 (07-Jun-09)



24 Season 7 (05-Apr-09)



Ross Kemp In Search Of Pirates (14-Jun-09)



Fringe (26-Oct-08)



The Simpsons (01-Feb-09)



The Simpsons (08-Feb-09)



House Season 5 (28-Jun-09)



The Simpsons (28-Dec-08)



The Simpsons (25-Jan-09)



House Season 5 (06-Sep-09)



The Simpsons (26-Oct-08)



Gladiators (04-Jan-09)



Bones (31-May-09)



24 Season 7 (12-Apr-09)



The Simpsons (28-Dec-08)



Lie To Me Season 1 (12-Jul-09)


Source: The programmes shown were broadcast in the weeks ending in the listed dates.

So, quite a mixed bunch at the top. Slightly surprisingly, as least to us, it’s Noel’s Christmas Holiday Acciden… erm, Present 2 at the top of the pile, with over 1.5million viewers. The majority of the top ten is taken up with the penultimate series of Lost, while the “world premiere” episode of The Simpsons (where the family visit Ireland) also makes the ten. Tim Roth’s performance in original children’s drama production Skellig rounds off the top ten.


No, we’re fine thank you Rupert. So, chucking that lot into a chart that’s never going to be very representative given the fact 84% of Sky One’s primetime schedule is taken up with Simpsons repeats, what do we get?


Pretty much as you might expect. But, what happens when we take account of the types of show making up the 500?


Quite interesting. Only 7% of the shows on the list are actually made in the UK specifically for Sky. Now, we’ll admit that UK-sourced programming was unlikely to eat into the Simpso-Futurama portion of the pie, as it’s so bloody scarce on Sky One, but 7% is really rather poor. It’s also quite interesting to note that not a single live-action US comedy makes the pie – have there been any on Sky One over the last year? At most points in the channel’s history, you could have expected to see shows like Seinfeld, Mad About You, Married With Children, Friends or maybe even Night Court on there (may even I Love Lucy, if you go back far enough), but that seems to have been an entire genre they’ve given up on.

Sky really do seem to be spreading their programming portfolio rather thinly. Of the entire listing, 83.6% of it is taken from just six shows: The Simpsons, Bones, 24, House, Fringe and Lost. Given that three of those shows only interested Sky in the first place was because of the audiences they were getting on other channels (BBC Two, five and Channel Four, you can probably work out the shows yourselves), you might have to question what the programme buyers at Sky One do all day. Apart from sift through BARB’s website so see which shows they can pinch from elsewhere, that is.


Yikes. At this point, you could reasonably say that the US imports dominate the charts because they run for much longer seasons than the original programming commissioned by Sky. A chart compiled of average ratings per programme would probably reveal a lot more, wouldn’t it?


And indeed it would, with the top ten programmes now including a total of six home-grown productions. Noel’s Christmas Presents 2 wins the (notional) annual prize, with Mr Roth in second place. Even Gladiators makes the cut, and with the Simpsons pool being thinned out by repeats in less popular slots, it slips down to sixteenth. Gratifyingly, that means Futurama sneaks ahead of it.

So, with those figures in mind, why doesn’t Sky come up with more original programming? The stock answer here would be “because importing shows is cheaper – duh!”, but Sky reportedly pay Buena Vista International a whopping £700,000 per episode of Lost. That’s comfortably enough to make an episode of a home-grown drama series. So, come on Sky, why don’t you?


Brr. It’s okay Rupe, we’ll walk home.


TOMORROW: Not sure. Maybe BBC Four.

(Editor’s note: Yes, it should technically have been James Murdoch in those pictures, but that wouldn’t have been nearly as unsettling as Captain Jowls up there.)


Sunday, 27 September 2009

Data Week: BBC Three (and Sexy Governors)

So, after not updating for a while, what better way could there be to return than with a big list of lovely numbers? (Readers voice: “Oh bloody hell.”)

We’ve been scouring the ever useful BARB website, and we’ve been looking into viewing figures for a number of channels over the past twelve months. To kick off, we’re going to take a look at BBC Three. And to make things even more exciting, we’re going to intersperse our findings with some historic cheesecake shots of the BBC Board Of Governors, like this one from 2001:


Phwoar, eh?

So, here’s what we’ve done. Working from the “weekly top ten” viewing figures from BARB’s website, we’ve compiled a listing of the 200 most watched shows on BBC Three over the last twelve months. Then, we’ve broken them down by show, to see which are the most popular programmes on the channel. We’ve even come up with a list of shows by type, to work out how many of BBC Three’s original shows are on there. Anyway, here’s the list in full, just after another shot of the BBC Board Of Governors. This time from 2002:

x10sctmp0Mmm, ‘playful’. Here’s the list.

overall rank show viewers (000s)
1 Eastenders (12 July 2009) 1,907
2 Eastenders (05 April 2009) 1,795
3 Eastenders (12 April 2009) 1,782
4 Eastenders (19 April 2009) 1,643
5 Eastenders (05 April 2009) 1,580
6 Eastenders (28 December 2008) 1,568
7 Eastenders (18 January 2009) 1,555
8 Eastenders (24 May 2009) 1,533
9 Eastenders (07 June 2009) 1,495
10 Eastenders (31 May 2009) 1,495
11 Eastenders (04 January 2009) 1,476
12 Eastenders (15 February 2009) 1,458
13 Eastenders (19 July 2009) 1,456
14 Eastenders (29 March 2009) 1,453
15 Eastenders (11 January 2009) 1,442
16 Heroes (21 December 2008) 1,440
17 Eastenders (25 April 2009) 1,435
18 Eastenders (21 December 2008) 1,432
19 Eastenders (16 November 2008) 1,417
20 Eastenders (22 February 2009) 1,415
21 Eastenders (28 June 2009) 1,405
22 Eastenders (22 March 2009) 1,383
24 Horne & Corden (15 March 2009) 1,373
23 Eastenders (14 December 2008) 1,373
25 Film: Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl (04 January 2009) 1,361
26 Eastenders (08 March 2009) 1,328
27 Eastenders (17 May 2009) 1,317
28 Heroes (16 November 2008) 1,310
29 Eastenders (05 July 2009) 1,305
30 Eastenders (08 February 2009) 1,305
31 Eastenders (25 January 2009) 1,290
32 Heroes (07 December 2008) 1,288
33 Film: Bruce Almighty (2003) (21 December 2008) 1,285
34 Eastenders (09 November 2008) 1,272
35 Eastenders (07 December 2008) 1,263
36 Heroes (19 October 2008) 1,259
37 Eastenders (30 August 2009) 1,250
38 Heroes (14 December 2008) 1,239
39 Film: War Of The Worlds (2005) (25 January 2009) 1,222
40 Eastenders (21 June 2009) 1,214
41 Spooks (30 November 2008) 1,213
42 Eastenders (14 June 2009) 1,207
43 Film: Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Cu (04 January 2009) 1,203
45 Heroes (12 October 2008) 1,200
44 Eastenders (12 October 2008) 1,200
46 Heroes (30 November 2008) 1,198
48 Heroes (23 November 2008) 1,193
47 Eastenders (23 November 2008) 1,193
49 Family Guy (19 July 2009) 1,192
50 Heroes (05 October 2008) 1,189
51 Eastenders (30 November 2008) 1,187
52 Eastenders (09 November 2008) 1,171
53 Eastenders (26 October 2008) 1,163
54 Eastenders (12 April 2009) 1,157
55 Heroes (09 November 2008) 1,152
56 Eastenders (13 September 2009) 1,145
57 Eastenders (06 September 2009) 1,144
58 Eastenders (16 August 2009) 1,142
59 Heroes (26 October 2008) 1,135
60 Eastenders (01 February 2009) 1,134
61 Eastenders (19 October 2008) 1,123
62 Eastenders (12 April 2009) 1,114
63 Eastenders (25 April 2009) 1,113
64 Match Of The Day Live (21 June 2009) 1,109
65 Heroes (02 November 2008) 1,108
66 Eastenders (14 June 2009) 1,106
67 Eastenders (05 October 2008) 1,102
68 Eastenders (01 March 2009) 1,101
69 Horne & Corden (22 March 2009) 1,096
70 Being Human (25 January 2009) 1,092
71 Match Of The Day Live (28 June 2009) 1,090
72 Eastenders (03 May 2009) 1,088
73 Eastenders (19 April 2009) 1,087
74 Being Human (01 March 2009) 1,086
75 Eastenders (05 April 2009) 1,076
76 Heroes (19 April 2009) 1,068
77 Heroes (01 March 2009) 1,063
78 Family Guy (19 April 2009) 1,059
79 Eastenders (05 July 2009) 1,049
80 Eastenders (02 November 2008) 1,046
82 Heroes (12 April 2009) 1,042
81 Eastenders (10 May 2009) 1,042
83 Eastenders (09 November 2008) 1,036
85 Heroes (03 May 2009) 1,030
84 Eastenders (17 May 2009) 1,030
87 Heroes (15 March 2009) 1,018
86 Eastenders (23 August 2009) 1,018
88 Match Of The Day Live (28 June 2009) 1,017
90 Heroes (08 March 2009) 1,016
89 Eastenders (31 May 2009) 1,016
91 Eastenders (03 May 2009) 1,015
92 Eastenders (09 August 2009) 1,013
93 Eastenders (19 July 2009) 1,011
95 Spooks (23 November 2008) 1,010
94 Eastenders (23 August 2009) 1,010
96 Film: Shrek (01 February 2009) 1,008
98 Heroes (25 April 2009) 998
97 Eastenders (29 March 2009) 998
99 Eastenders (24 May 2009) 988
100 Match Of The Day Live (28 June 2009) 987
101 Eastenders (28 June 2009) 984
102 Eastenders (14 December 2008) 983
103 Heroes (22 March 2009) 981
104 Eastenders (05 October 2008) 979
105 Horne & Corden (05 April 2009) 976
106 Being Human (01 February 2009) 974
107 Eastenders (01 March 2009) 972
108 Family Guy (31 May 2009) 971
109 Eastenders (11 January 2009) 966
110 Eastenders (05 April 2009) 962
111 Eastenders (03 May 2009) 961
112 Family Guy (19 April 2009) 959
113 Eastenders (19 July 2009) 955
115 Heroes (05 April 2009) 953
114 Eastenders (12 July 2009) 953
116 Family Guy (28 June 2009) 946
117 Eastenders (16 August 2009) 945
118 Heroes (29 March 2009) 942
119 Eastenders (05 July 2009) 941
120 Eastenders (21 June 2009) 936
121 Eastenders (19 April 2009) 935
122 Spooks (02 November 2008) 933
123 Film: National Treasure (2004) (06 September 2009) 932
124 Match Of The Day Live (28 June 2009) 929
125 Eastenders (28 June 2009) 925
126 Eastenders (10 May 2009) 925
127 Eastenders (22 March 2009) 924
129 Film: Meet The Fockers (2004) (12 April 2009) 923
128 Eastenders (13 September 2009) 923
130 Family Guy (19 April 2009) 921
131 Eastenders (07 June 2009) 917
132 Eastenders (17 May 2009) 916
133 Eastenders (22 February 2009) 915
134 Eastenders (30 August 2009) 914
135 Underage And Pregnant (02 August 2009) 913
137 Film: Bruce Almighty (2003) (28 December 2008) 912
138 Film: The Pacifier (2005) (26 July 2009) 912
136 Doctor Who (12 April 2009) 912
139 Film: Shrek (08 February 2009) 909
140 Eastenders (29 March 2009) 907
141 Eastenders (22 February 2009) 907
142 Family Guy (26 July 2009) 906
143 Match Of The Day Live (15 February 2009) 901
144 Eastenders (30 November 2008) 900
145 Blood, Sweat And T-Shirts (24 May 2009) 899
146 Family Guy (03 May 2009) 898
150 Family Guy (10 May 2009) 896
147 Eastenders (21 June 2009) 896
148 Eastenders (25 April 2009) 896
149 Eastenders (25 January 2009) 896
151 Family Guy (19 April 2009) 894
152 Eastenders (09 August 2009) 891
153 Family Guy (17 May 2009) 888
154 Horne & Corden (29 March 2009) 887
155 Eastenders (12 July 2009) 883
157 Film: Wallace Gromit In The Curse Of T (01 March 2009) 881
156 Eastenders (22 February 2009) 881
158 Eastenders (21 December 2008) 880
159 Eastenders (29 March 2009) 879
160 Eastenders (15 March 2009) 879
162 Film: War Of The Worlds (2005) (25 January 2009) 878
161 Family Guy (12 July 2009) 878
163 Eastenders (26 July 2009) 877
164 Eastenders (28 December 2008) 875
165 Eastenders (07 December 2008) 874
166 Family Guy (05 July 2009) 870
168 Family Guy (21 June 2009) 868
167 Eastenders (28 December 2008) 868
169 Eastenders (25 April 2009) 866
170 Eastenders (15 March 2009) 863
171 Eastenders (18 January 2009) 861
172 Gavin And Stacey (28 December 2008) 860
173 Eastenders (02 November 2008) 859
174 Eastenders (02 August 2009) 858
175 Match Of The Day Live (21 June 2009) 855
176 Eastenders (26 July 2009) 853
177 Eastenders (26 October 2008) 852
178 Torchwood: Children Of Earth (12 July 2009) 852
179 Eastenders (02 August 2009) 849
180 Eastenders (07 June 2009) 846
181 Film: Cool Runnings (28 December 2008) 845
182 Eastenders (04 January 2009) 844
183 Live At The Apollo (26 July 2009) 844
184 Eastenders (26 July 2009) 842
185 Eastenders (23 November 2008) 842
186 Eastenders (08 March 2009) 839
187 Eastenders (09 August 2009) 838
188 Eastenders (12 October 2008) 838
189 Eastenders (16 November 2008) 837
190 Eastenders (30 November 2008) 835
192 Family Guy (30 August 2009) 830
191 Comic Relief's Naughty Bits (08 March 2009) 830
193 Eastenders (24 May 2009) 829
194 Film: National Treasure (2004) (13 September 2009) 826
195 Eastenders (15 March 2009) 825
196 Eastenders (15 February 2009) 825
197 Eastenders (14 June 2009) 821
198 Eastenders (10 May 2009) 821
199 Eastenders (21 December 2008) 821
200 Spooks (09 November 2008) 820


Notice a bit of, well, running theme throughout that list? So, with those shows under consideration, here’s a breakdown of them:


As might be expected from the above list, 124 of BBC Three’s 200 most-watched shows over the last year involve the miserable residents of Walford, or 62%. And given EastEnders is often the most-watched show in any given week, how does the chart look when converted into total viewers? A total aggregate of viewers would be quite unfair, as EastEnders is on BBC Three about 150 times per year, so instead we’ll look at the averages:


So, quite interestingly, the ‘Stenders only fall into fourth spot on the list, with first-run Heroes and a couple of films in front of it. Godawful sketch show Horne & Corden makes a mark as top-rated BBC Three original production using this criteria, though it should be noted only the average viewing figure of the four H&C episodes making the top 200 are used here. The remainder of the series failed to make the cut (at least one broadcast not even making the BBC Three top ten for that week). Anyway, we’re boring ourselves now.


Ah, that’s better. The 2003 bunch and a sofa, there. So, breaking the list down by type of show, what sort of chart do we get then?


That’s right: an interesting chart. 64% of shows making up the top 200 had previously been shown on BBC One, with a further 2% being premiere episodes of Spooks, shown on BBC One the following week. Of the lot, just 5% of the top 200 shows were original commissions for BBC Three, ten broadcasts in total (namely four eps of Horne & Corden, three of Being Human, and one each of Blood, Sweat And T-Shirts, Gavin And Stacey, and Underage And Pregnant).

So, what have we learned from all this? Well, EastEnders and films are very popular. “Georgia's Story - 33 Stone At 15”, somewhat less so (it was the 446th most watched show, coincidentally). Nothing you couldn’t have easily guessed, admittedly, but we’re sticking with Data Week until the bitter end. You’ll see.


Tomorrow: Sky One.

Monday, 21 September 2009

What IMDB Says, And What It Ought To Say

Who watches a Pixar film, and instead of being enthralled by the magic within, simply sits there taking mental notes of things that might not be 100% realistic? IMDB contributors, that’s who.


It’s a animated movie about an old man who FLIES HIS HOUSE. We don’t think it’s based on a true story, you guys.


Tuesday, 15 September 2009

BrokenTV Movie Club: Special Bulletin (1983)

This is something quite special. Special Bulletin was a TV movie broadcast on NBC in 1983, depicting a threat from US-based intellectual-pacifist terrorist cell to detonate a nuke in a Charleston harbour. At this point you might be mentally composing a Photoshopped screen-grab plastered with the words PACIFISM FAIL, but bear with us. The twist is, all events are relayed through simulated live rolling news coverage from the fictional RBS Network. It's all put together very well, being shot on video as opposed to film in order to capture that newsy feel more accurately, and it even opens with a authentically 1983-ish promo for forthcoming shows being interrupted by a - hey! - special bulletin.

On the original broadcast, it was deemed realistic enough to warrant disclaimers after each commercial break reminding viewers that events aren't real, along with the occasional on-screen "Dramatization" caption, lest it kick off a huge War Of The Worlds-style panic. All we'll say is: we dipped into it out of curiosity, and ended up sticking engrossedly with it, right to the end. Why, at several points our traditionally cynical expressions melted away to make room for something approaching actual concern for the participants. Enjoy, and try not to let your suspension of disbelief drop as soon as you realise one of the terrorists is played by David "Sledge Hammer/Warmongering Senator From In The Loop" Rasche.

Oh, and try not to get distracted by the Washington correspondent who looks a bit like Dan Rather, but who isn't Dan Rather. While the whole thing is slightly deflated by a couple of aspects (one being the slightly histrionic performance of Kathryn Walker as co-anchor, the other we're not mentioning, but you'll spot it), it's otherwise a decidedly engrossing depiction of what such coverage possibly would have been like at the time. We could go on about it some more, but it's the sort of film where seeing events unfold without knowing too much in advance - and being able to make comparisons with how such events would be reported now - really adds to your enjoyment. Oh, and a quick nod to the splendid SOTCAA forum, which is where we read about it.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

So, Derren Brown’s Lottery Prediction Thing

So, Darren “Stop Calling Me Darren” Brown’s lottery prediction stunt passed over without a hitch – he actually did successfully predict the numbers before they were drawn. Well, something like that anyway. Luckily, because we’re astonishingly farsighted*, we recorded both the More4 and BBC One transmissions between 10.34pm and 10.41pm in our Topfield Freeview box’s picture-in-picture mode.

(*Well, because TV’s Steve Berry** tweeted a comment at us mentioning the idea at 10.29pm, leading to us scrabbling around like berks trying to remember how Super PiP works, but you get the gist.)

(** Are you famous? Unlikely, as you’re reading BrokenTV instead of eating a cocaine in That London, but anyway. If you are, why not contribute to Steve Berry’s charity Doctor Who book? Go on, it’s for a good cause.)

We’ve even uploaded it to YouTube. Here’s the video. Try to ignore the fact it isn’t in proper widescreen mode because our DVD recorder isn’t very good. In fact, we’re willing to be ‘sponsored’ by any companies willing to send us a free Blu-ray recorder.

So there it is (yes, we know there’s a “Config mode: ON” banner there). How did he do that, then, eh? Here are three of our potential explanations:

1) The far side of the balls were covered in an E-ink surface, which could be controlled remotely by a crew member. E-ink is a real thing, by the way, not something we’ve made up. However, while it’s relatively flexible, we’re not sure you can coast a ball with it like that.

2) Some kind of remote controlled Etch-a-sketch type pen inside each of the balls, again, remotely controlled by an unseen crew member. After all, we reckon the first time Etch-a-sketch was unveiled it would have been regarded as tantamount to witchcraft.

3) Brown had simply used an invisible man, or possibly a ghost, to hide inside the draw machine on the Lottery Draw set, and simply place the designated balls inside the tube at the correct moment. The simplest explanations are often the right ones.

Frippery aside, there’s some clever misdirection from the mouth of Brown on tonight’s live feature. The mentioned legal reasons for not screening more than a snippet of the live BBC One show on Channel Four was surely true enough, but his claim that “after a meeting with Camelot […] I can’t show you the numbers until just after the result of the draw has been announced” is likely to be misdirection - he could easily have countered "What? I'm just stating my prediction of the numbers, you're the ones announcing them? I'm not even going to claim I'll get all six correct". His claim that “we don’t know exactly what time the draw will be shown on BBC One, we just hope it’s while this ten minute show is live” is certainly misdirection, as the timing of the lottery draw is assuredly fixed (apart from during exceptional circumstances – if a huge breaking story had kicked off at 10.20pm things would have been derailed) – especially as the Thunderball draw was going on at the exact moment Brown was saying those words. He even says “we are hoping it will happen at some point in the next ten minutes” as the Thunderball draw is finishing.

Also, he states that “tonight, I’m going to try and predict at least five of the six lottery numbers”. Clearly, the chances of doing so are still as close to astronomical as dammit given the surrounding hype, but then that’s merely akin to an old car salesman’s trick of saying “is that more than you’d hoped to spend?”, with the aim of Johnny Carbuyer feeling compelled to prove he does have that extra few hundred quid to splurge on a motor after all, thank you very-bloody-much. In this case, Brown slightly lowers the bar for success, knowing that when he clears it comfortably after all, his feat seems more impressive.

You’ll note his repeated claims (both in recent press for the show, and in the show itself) that it had taken him “a year or preparation” for the live Lotto stunt. If that really were the case, and if the “prediction was made earlier on today” (as he claims), why weren’t the numbers displayed as a great big fuck-off painted mural on brickwork behind a silk curtain, instead of “on some ping-pong balls”? Because, quite clearly, the numbers were added to the balls after the draw was made.

All that said, it’s still great to see things like this going on. We especially like the way Brown makes out he’s so excited and uncertain about the events as they unfold, as if it were the first time he’s done something like this. It’ll be interesting the ‘reveal’ on Friday, just as long as he doesn’t go along the made-up “well, I felt that we were due to get number 39, because I’m magic” route. By definition, all “TV magic” is merely distraction and/or illusion, but for everyone over the age of ten, the fun really comes from working out how the frigging chuff they actually did the thing they’ve just done. On Friday night, hopefully, we shall see.


Wednesday, 9 September 2009

First Of The Summer Skins, Plus A Lottery Prediction Prediction

In precisely the kind of channel-hopping stunt that we absolutely love, Darren “No, I Think You’ll Find It’s Derren” Brown is going to appear simultaneously on Channel Four, Film4, E4, More4, 4Music and 4-Tel (one of those is a lie) at 10.30pm on Wednesday (or, by the time you read this, tonight). But wait, that’s not the remarkable thing (even though it is kind of remarkable). When he’s live on air he has vowed to predict the numbers of the Midweek Lottery draw, broadcast live on BBC One five minutes later. So, guessing (sorry, predicting) which six numbers will be drawn, before they’re drawn. 


Of course, his predictions will be made after the tickets stop going on sale, no doubt to the annoyance of thousands of viewers hovering over the National Lottery website at 10.33pm that night. Anyway, it’s all going to be some kind of clever jape involving the words “I’ve written down the six numbers, and put them in this sealed envelope - tune in after the Lotto draw to see me open it”, and 13,999,999 spare envelopes hidden in crafty places around the set. Or he’ll hypnotise the nation at 10.40pm into thinking he’d got it right. Or maybe, Derren Brown will use a method such as this: at 10.30pm, flash up the following image for a split second:


Then show the image again at about 10.40pm, only this time with all of the wrong digits subtly dimmed by 20%, giving the impression the winning numbers were clearly visible all along. That’d fool us into assuming it was just our cold, closed minds that had prevented us from ‘getting’ it.

Anyway, whatever happens, we’ll be watching it. Much as we will be and have been watching Land Girls on BBC One (also on BBC HD). The trailer managed to confuse us on Sunday night, with what seemed to be a relatively expensive WWII period drama being shown at the surely-it-must-be-a-Bank-Holiday time of 5.15pm, but no, that’s the timeslot for it. And in our defence, we’d spent around 80% of Sunday in bed drowning in a sea of the most devilishly feverish visions – the concept of cricket or toast would probably have had us similarly floundered by the time we finally made it to the sofa. It’s on every weekday this, er, week at that time, suggesting it’s geared towards elder children.


Not a bit of it. Episode two alone featured 1940s teenage pregnancy and subsequent attempted abortion, a nine-year-old boy selling bootleg whiskey, arguments aplenty, a bar brawl, thwarted equestricide, and three cast members from the magnificent Early Doors to boot. All in the traditional Blue Peter slot.

Despite us just making it sound like First Of The Summer Skins, or BBC Three’s Fuck Off I’m A Civilian Landworker, it’s all handled as sensibly as if it had been filtered through the typewriter ribbons of Michael O’Neill and Jeremy Seabrook. All the characters you’d expect to find in a classic BBC children’s drama are there:

The plucky teenage girl who’d lied about her age in order to help with the war effort, spunky and idealistic, and who’d think nothing of marching into the American soldiers’ mess to demand they improve the lot of their black compatriots.

Her steadying influence of an older sister (Christine Bottomley, below left), ready to pluckily corner any American GIs who’d try to take advantage of her young sis, and prod their chests so hard their medals will leave indentations in their ribcage.


A plucky pre-teen scallywag happy to aid the scam-hungry farmer (Mark Benton) with some wizard carrot-related wheezes.

A nosey parker Sergeant willing to spend as much time peeking into the business of his own men as carrying out his duties. If this were being made in 1983, he’d be played by Stephen Lewis.

The Lord Of The Manor – a well-meaning war hero who is always on hand with a word of cheery encouragement or some first-aid tips gleaned from his time in the Somme

The deceitful Lady Of The Manor, on hand to pass on the valuable lesson to children that at least 50% of posh people throughout history were evil (legal note: may not be true).

The perpetually cheery (and plucky) midlands girl who refuses to dwell on the hand life has dealt her, lest it cause her to waver from her land-tending duties.

The superficially plucky land girl who is probably Up To No Good, We’ll Wager.

And at least half a dozen more characters more interesting and well-rounded that you’d find in a great deal of post-watershed dramas. We’re happy to make that judgement call after seeing just one-and-a-half episodes, and recommend everyone visit the Land Girls iPlayer page to dip into it. Go on, do it now.


Thursday, 3 September 2009

The Top 100 Comedy Albums on Spotify: Part Four - The Grand Finale

At last.



Demetri Martin – These Are Jokes (2006)

One of the nicest finds on here.

“I find at most theme parks, the theme is: ‘wait in line, fatty’.”

“Every fight is a food fight, if you’re a cannibal.”

“A musical is the same as a burlap sack. I wouldn’t want to be in either.”

“I think vests are all about protection. A life vest protects you from drowning. A bullet-proof vest protects you from getting shot. A sweater vest protects you from pretty girls.”

It’s the deft verbal steering that really warms us to Demetri Martin’s act. On that last joke, 99.99% of American stand-ups would have said “gettin’ laid”, “pussy” or something similar. Martin goes with ‘pretty girls’, which is that extra bit funnier. Sure, it might not hit home as well with the drunk frat boy in a comedy club on a Saturday night demographic, but it’s better in every way. It shows he has thought about every last word in his act, instead of merely coming up with the idea for a joke, then getting there as quickly as possible so he can move onto the next one. A happy blend of Stephen Wright-type economy, and Jack Handley-esque absurdity. Marvellous. One more? One more.

“Swimming’s an odd sport. Sometimes you do it for fun, but sometimes you do it to not die. When I’m swimming, I sometimes forget which one it is. I have to check my outfit. Pants – uh oh. Bathing suit – okay. Naked – we’ll see.”



Bernard Cribbins – The Very Best Of (2004)

A collection of musical musings from the saving grace of Doctor Who: The Catherine Tate Era. There’s nothing too challenging, but everything here is jolly enough to hold your attention for a while, even if it’s only to play “identify the dodgiest double entendre”. If nothing else, check out “Right Said Fred”, the Telegoon singalong that inspired the name of a certain set of hairless 90s pop irritants.


Neil Innes – Re-Cycled Vinyl Blues (1995)

While this may not technically fit into the cubby-hole marked “comedy albums”, former Bonzo Dog Innes was a surrogate member of Monty Python, and an integral part of The Rutles, so we’re saying that’s reason enough. This is basically a fleshed out version of Innes’ 1973 solo debut album “How Sweet to Be an Idiot”, and that’s not even remotely a bad thing. Entertainingly, Michael Palin guests on the title track, and (as you might expect) it includes the majestic How Sweet To Be An Idiot. Indeed, an ‘idiot’ you would be to not give this download a spin.


Vivian Stanshall – Sir Henry At Rawlinson End (1978)

Speaking of former Bonzos, here’s Viv Stanshall cataloguing the goings on at Rawlinson End. Now, we’re probably going to get a three-week ban from the internet for saying this, but despite repeated attempts, we’ve never really ‘got’ this album. Sorry. Nonetheless, if you’re better at liking comedy than us, this is for you.


Lewis Black – Rules of Enragement (2003)

Here’s something more up our street, a shouty American who yells expletives frequently while pretending to get angry about stuff.

“The only people who buy penis enlargement pills must be so dumb, they’re feeding them to their penis.”


Dave Attell – Skanks For The Memories (2003)

“Do you think that was homophobic? I think that it was, ‘cos I hear that a lot. “Dave,” “What?” “You’re talking about being gay. You probably secretly are gay.” And I’m like, “listen, Voice In My Head, I’m not!””


Mel Smith and Griff-Rhys Jones – Smith & Jones Live (2003)

Another of our favourite Spoti-finds (clever wording, we know). This disc sees highlights of the duo’s One Night Stand live show, of which a different recording was available on VHS in the mid 1990s. Sadly, one of the best jokes from the live VHS is missing (“well, can you describe him?” “He’s a cunt!”), but that doesn’t mean the material making the compilation album is tame:

[In a sketch where Griff is worried that he’s contracted VD.]

Griff: “I’ve got this unsightly lump on the end of my cock.”

[Pause while the audience giggling dies down.]

Mel: “Well, that’s your body, isn’t it?”

[Huge reaction from audience.]

Mel: “Look, don’t worry about it. Just go down to the clinic, and… let them have a look at your ‘old man’.”

Griff [alarmed]: “I’m not takin’ ‘im with me! I wanna go on my own!”

Look, it’s all in the performance, okay? Meanwhile, as for that long-deleted live VHS show, YouTube shall provide. (Actually, that’ll make an excellent ‘holding update’ while we finish writing this, so you’ll have probably seen it by now. As a special bonus, you can measure the time between whenever it was we posted a link to the Smith & Jones Live video and now. That amount of time is how long it takes us to get things like this done! We’re rubbish!


Bob Newhart – Something Like This… The Bob Newhart Anthology (2007)

File under ‘quietly splendid’. Bob Newhart puts himself into the notional shoes of people in a number of different situations, giving each monologue that special Newhart spin, along with more traditional riffs on subjects such as ‘the difficulty people who happen to look like Adolf Hitler in using commercial airlines’. While much of the humour getting the live crowd going in these recordings is mainly down to 1960s-era shock value (i.e. mentioning toilets or making oblique references to sex), the remainder still has plenty to be said about the human condition.

“Look Johnny, sometimes daddies get ‘weekend colds’.” – Daddy Of All Hangovers.


Harry Shearer – Songs of the Bushmen (2008)

A more contemporary slice of excellence now, from the pen of Harry “Derek Smalls Monty Burns Ned Flanders Etc Etc” Shearer (and mouth, along with that of wife Judith Owen). This recording compiles his recordings from NPR’s Le Show, purporting to be a series of songs performed by members of the Bush administration. Great stuff.

Example lyrics: “gym buds,  the pres and me, / no gifts or taxes / could buy a gal such access / gym buds / but how soon I learned / mornings to me he'd respond / but by noon, he'd been neoconned”, from Gym Buds, a plaintive yet techno-tinged ditty from the perspective of Condoleezza Rice. Lyrics are contained on Shearer’s own website, coincidentally.

See also the Harry Shearer’s other collection of songs from Le Show (this time taking on a broader range of topics), Songs Pointed And Pointless (2007).


Emergency Broadcast Network – Telecommunication Breakdown (1995)

Now, you might well argue that this doesn’t belong in a list of comedy albums. For starters, it’s a techno album, rather than something with jokes on it, and for pudding, you don’t get the full impact of the album without the graphics-and-video-packed CD-ROM issued with the original (ah, remember when CD-ROMs were the big thing? It was what computer magazines in the mid-90s decided were going to be The Future, not jumped-up BBS The Inter-Net). Well, we’re saying the mesmerising fusion of cut-up samples from US news networks, movies, TV shows, thumping beats and deft lyricism are worthy of inclusion here, especially as BrokenTV is meant to be about telly. So there.

If you do get a chance to see the videos from this (they’re all on YouTube. Look, here’s one), do so. If nothing else, they help to highlight how shit-scary it must have been for tiny children to tune into tests of the Emergency Broadcast System itself in the 1970s and 1980s. The eerie lo-fi graphics and chilling tone would have scared the living bejesus out of us, even more so if it was after the time we’d watched Threads at the foolishly young age of 11.



Tenacious D – Tenacious D (2001)

Yeah, yeah. So what if most people thought Tenacious D were brilliant for a month in 2001 before filing them at the back of their minds, until they saw the adverts for Pick Of Destiny, which they then didn’t watch because it was pish? After giving it a rest of several years, this album is still enjoyable even now. Plus, lest we forget, the ace video for Fuck Her Gently was directed by John Kricfalusi, so there’s another plus point.



Arthur Askey – The Best Of: The Bee Song (2008)

Ah, that seldom-used segue from “Fuck Her Gently” to “Arthur Askey”. It’s one of the hardest links in the world of competitive blogging, and it’s safe to say we haven’t quite pulled it off. Still, at least we haven’t tried to mine the limited comedy potential of Askey’s song about a young girl begging soldiers to bring her a banana back from the continent during wartime. It’s called “I Want A Banana”. ANYWAY, here's Arthur Askey. We can't help but wonder what the listening figures for this are, given the limited correlation between the "those who embrace bleeding-edge online technology" and "people who like Arthur Askey" demographics. A bit like the way Last Of The Summer Wine is recorded and broadcast in HD, even though most of its fanbase haven't even got around to buying a widescreen telly yet.



Rolf Harris – The Best of Rolf Harris (2003)

Perennial target of mean-spirited shitbag stand-ups, Rolf Harris is, of course, utterly splendid. If you’re going to claim Rolf is crap, can you honestly say that (a) you didn’t love Rolf’s Cartoon Club, or that (b) if he was your uncle, you wouldn’t think he was absolutely fantastic bloody  fun? This album includes Rolf’s cover version of Stairway To Heaven, which we’re saying is immeasurably superior to the original, by way of not even infuriatingly po-faced. It made the top ten singles chart in 1993, for flip’s sake, and not everyone who bought it was an achingly ironic student, surely?




Maria Bamford – The Burning Bridges Tour (2005) | How To Win! (2007) | Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome (2009)

A lady comedian, and not just a lady comedian we’ve included as last-ditch attempt to avoid being called misogynistic. Hey, it’s not our fault Sarah Silverman isn’t on Spotify yet. Best known to us as Alarming Home Shopping Presenter from Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Maria Bamford hasn’t really popped up on our comedy radar in her capacity as a stand-up comedian until now, but she seems rather good. We’ll check out her work more thoroughly when we’ve finished Trying To Listen To About 200 Comedy Albums Within A Few Weeks To Work Out Which Ones Are The Best. Honestly, it could’ve been the thirteenth task of Hercules. Yes, we do want a sodding medal, actually.

“I was in a lot of plays. We had a weird drama teacher in that he was incredibly enthusiastic about a high school drama program and would talk to all the kids for hours. He ended up marrying one of the kids, but that's neither here nor there.”



Jonathan Miller, Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, Alan Bennett – The Complete Beyond The Fringe (1989)

“I could’ve been a judge, but I never ‘ad the Latin.” And so on, in this three disc monster. Rigorous, but hugely worthwhile.

 x10sctmp11The Goons – The Goons Vol. Two (2001)

“Withhold your two-octave conk punch, while I unfold the tale of a certain story.”

From as far back as 1954, here’s another three splendid episodes of The Go On Show.

Red Bladder: “OK, and don't forget to put the cat out, he's a British spy.”
Bluebottle: “You rotten swine, you give me away now. My disguise was perfect until you said that.”

Notable mention: Unchained Melodies – The Complete Recordings 1955-1978, a collection of songs by The Goons.


Various – The Greatest Comedy of All Time (2007)

Taking in the likes of George Burns, Gracie Allen, The Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Lucille Ball, Red Skelton, this huge two-disc compilation is your one-stop low-quality radio recording destination for enjoyable elderly American comedy.


Lenny Bruce – The Lenny Bruce Originals (1991)

A handy guide to one of the most important comedians of the 20th century, even if he wasn’t necessarily that funny to our ears. To be fair, if it wasn’t for Lenny Bruce, Lord Bob Monkhouse wouldn’t have used the word ‘cunt’ in the first chapter of his “Over The Limit” autobiography, which certainly surprised us. He also mentions Mortal Kombat later on in the same book. Bob Monkhouse was brilliant, but as his work sadly isn’t on Spotify, this is probably the only excuse we’ll get to mention him.



Dov Davidoff – The Point Is (2008)

”I don’t get why frustrated drunk guys in bars would want to beat up a gay guy. If you’re having trouble getting laid, take on the enemy – beat up a good looking straight guy.”



Russell Brand – The Best Of What’s Legal (2009)

Oh dear. We won’t be able to get through the synopsis of this compilation (of prime cuts from Brand’s BBC Radio shows) without mentioning a certain cast member of Dead Ernest. We’d better restrict ourselves to saying how it’s a shame that this seems to be the only BBC Radio show compilation currently on Spotify, which will be because Brand’s show was produced by his own production company, who’ll have given permission for it to be on Spotify. Fingers crossed for the BBC Radio Collection appearing soon, mainly so we can hear staggeringly great The Mark Radcliffe Show (Graveyard Shift Years) ‘Best Of’ on there. Seriously, that’s the sort of thing which should really be on BBC7.



 Marc Maron – Tickets Still Available (2006)

Another chance to enjoy the work of Marc Maron, as mentioned a couple of times before now. Ignore the badly drawn cover picture (this is where someone posts a comment saying it was scribbled by a quadriplegic war hero, making us feel like twats), and dip into the above-par meanderings within.

“You ever hated yourself so much, you had to take a nap?”



Daniel Tosh – True Stories I Made Up (2005)

“I love the internet, because now we have rappers that used to be gangsters and thugs telling us not to download music, because it’s stealing.”

x10sctmp19Christian Finnegan – Two For Flinching (2006)

“I used to work in an office which had a condom machine in the bathroom. Now, let me tell you, I’ve had some pretty good days at work, but not so good I’ve had to call on Trojan Man at the end of the day. That’s got to be one impressive Excel spreadsheet you’ve put together, for there to be pussy at the end of that rainbow. “Your choice of font gets me so hot. Was that Helvetica Bold?” Come on, nerds, where are you going to hear a better font joke than that? San-serif, motherfuckers!”

Jokes about Microsoft Excel and Helvetica Bold? Brilliant!


Tom Lehrer – In Concert (1960)

We’ll round things off with US comedy colossus Tom Lehrer. Hey, this disc is from 1960, so it’s all going to be then-topical riffs on bubblegum and malt bars, isn’t it? Well: no. While Lehrer was a respected Harvard mathematics professor with a penchant for performing wry ditties whilst sat at a piano, the subject matter of his songs could rival Stephen “Baby Bird” Jones at his darkest (yes, Baby Bird, listen to the lo-fi albums, tsk). For example, “I Hold Your Hand In Mine” is a love song, performed by a man kissing the severed hand of his long-dead lover. “The Irish Ballad” is about a young girl from the Emerald Isle who murders the other members of her family. Meanwhile, the song “Oedipus Rex” is about… well, you guess.

He didn’t just perform material that could just as easily be the result of Richard Stilgoe teaming up with Cannibal Corpse, he later became pianist-in-residence for the short-lived NBC version of That Was The Week That Was (and indeed, was featured in the great Billy Crystal-fronted PBS/TLC/BBC Wales documentary Make ‘Em Laugh on this history of US comedy, performing a brilliant wordplay-heavy song defending the use of smut in comedy), but his material makes for a refreshingly acerbic antidote to the clean-cut fare from many other comics of his age. He also pops up in compilation Hey Mr Producer!: The Musical World of Cameron Mackintosh, singing a lovely tune called “Poisoning Pigeons In The Park”.


And, with talk of Harvard tunesmiths pumping pigeons full of toxins on municipal land, that’s it. The end of the list. A quick count reveals that our Top 100 has actually linked to a total of 114 comedy albums, so if you dislike fewer than fourteen of them, the original boast is still accurate. Here’s a Spotify playlist link to the whole lot of them, with the link also including a couple of dozen other albums we’ve not mentioned, either because we’d felt we’d already covered the artist in question, they didn’t quite fit in with what we’re doing here, or that they were a bit rubbish.

Finally, a quick word of oh-they’ll-probably-never-read-this-anyway thanks to both Graham Linehan and Spotify itself, for both mentioning our list in their Twitter feeds, which made The BrokenTV Gang feel like they were running a proper website for a bit. Hopefully, if the iPhone app and eventual North America launch make Spotify even more popular, we’ll see more comedy acts added to their roster (fingers crossed for the BBC Radio Collection), we’ll be able to compile a Top 100 Comedy Albums On Spotify That We Haven’t Mentioned Yet at some point in the future. Until then, stay classy Spotiverse.


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