Archive for the ‘Television’ Category



* Pronunciation: \ˈwərk\
* Etymology: Middle English werk, work, from Old English werc, weorc; akin to Old High German werc work, Greek ergon, Avestan varəzem activity

1 : activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something: a : sustained physical or mental effort to overcome obstacles and achieve an objective or result b : the labor, task, or duty that is one’s accustomed means of livelihood c : a specific task, duty, function, or assignment often being a part or phase of some larger activity d: that which gets in the way of other things one enjoys doing.

Definition ‘d’ applies here.

Hope you are all well, and have been during the past five weeks. Quite the hiatus.

Here’s a job that would be a whole lot easier: I don’t know how the crass and ridiculous TV game show “Deal or No Deal” (or “Do Deal or Don’t Deal”, as I prefer to call it) works in other countries; but in the UK version a cash offer is made after about three boxes have been opened, with the usual faux drama and “dramatic” — although I would say ponderous — pauses. The offer is emphasised, though, by a satisfyingly solid and solitary beat of a bass drum.

I want to be that drummer.

red box

Inevitably, all sorts of superstitions, numerology and, let’s face it, stupidity have become attached to this show, with every contestant touchingly clinging to some “significant” set of numbers — birthdays, anniversaries, dog ages, that sort of thing — as if the universe, or even the producers, cared one jot.

Like the pandemic of an irritating but relatively harmless rash, this show has rapidly spread, and in various guises its boxes or briefcases now seem to be flapping open on-air in 192 countries around the world. This irrationality is common to all.

Here’s an example. Simon, keeper of Box 17, is asked by the contestant (Lori) if he has a “feeling” about what money his box contains. Instead of holding this question up to the ridcule it so richly deserves (“I haven’t got a bleedin’ clue, Lori; for I am invested neither with X-Ray vision nor clairvoyance. You credulous idiot”), he reponds thus:

Simon: “I don’t know if it’s a high number or a low one. It’s difficult to judge.”

Lori (nodding sagely): “Mmm. Yeah”.

Difficult to judge? Difficult to judge? Difficult to judge? It’s a sealed box, y’moron. Where does judgement come in precisely?

The presenter, Noel Edmonds (for it is he), chimes in:

Noel: “Are you going with Simon?”

Lori: “Yeah, Simon. Don’t let me down!”

Simon lifts his lid and reveals £250,000. Chagrin and unnecessary apologies all round. And a drum beat.

Lori, now looking for the 1p, turns to Des: “Des, you say you have it almost every three games…”

Des: “Yeah, that’s right”.

Because that’s how probabilities work, of course.

Just when I start to despair of humanity, I give up instead.


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OK, no announcement just yet on the last contest. Instead, let’s for now take the premise of the literature challenge and head a short distance downmarket, into the area of popular television — specifically, for our first example, American cop and detective shows. Imagine how much more cheaply these productions could have been made:

Shoplifting, She Wrote

CSI Peoria

McMillan and Friend


The Streets of Shawnee, Kansas

Diagnosis: Mugging

Skirting Jordan

Juvie Break

Rhode Island Five-O

Veronica Moon

The Rockford Notebook

Trespassing: Life on the Street


Peashooter, P.I.




You might like to choose your own genre, such as, for instance:

Sci-Fi: Doctor When

Comedy: Acquaintances

Entertainment: Tasmania’s Got Talent

Go on; you know you want to.

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Some awfully tall people inhabit the Netherlands, which is where I am heading for a couple of days. Hence the pathetic excuse to use that title, and a warning that I’ll be in absentia until at least Thursday.

There’s no other reason; I was hoping to find out something fascinating about the cheesey late 60s/early 70s TV series ‘Land of the Giants‘ but it’s a struggle. Even the majority of the cast is “best known for ‘Land of the Giants‘ “, except Kevin Hagen who also turned up in ‘Little House on the Prarie‘; that juxtaposition is about as interesting as it gets. In other words, not very at all.


It was one of Irwin Allen’s productions, following hard on the heels of ‘Lost in Space‘ and ‘Time Tunnel‘. Looking back on them now, it seems that Mr. Allen (later producer/co-director of ‘The Towering Inferno‘) was comfortable sticking to pretty much the same premise: Earth people flung through some sort of dimensional ‘worm-hole’ in either space or time (or both, even) and then struggling to return. Given that each of these shows was cancelled after three seasons at most, we have to assume they are still stuck in the depths of space or time or Brobdingnagian planet.


Irwin Allen also produced ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea‘. I don’t know if those plucky submariners made it home either. Or if they ever found the Bottom of the Sea.

And there we have it. The least interesting post ever; but any fans of disappointing pre-mid-70s sci-fi is welcome to add any nuggets they can unearth.

Tune in again on Thursday or Friday for the Word Verification Competition prize-giving, which I am honoured to announce will be co-judged by Julia D of Homemade Hilarity. There’ll be a new contest, too. Contain your excitement.

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jackson afro

OK, BBC. I get it. A fellow who performed for the pleasure of many millions of people has died at the tragically young age of 50. About 78 people, over an uninterrupted TWO HOURS, have so far loomed across my TV screen telling me that he was good at singing and dancing and that. We understand this. Other people — the b*stards — have revealed that his personal life took some bizarre and contentious turns during the last few years. Fancy that.

The band he formed with his brothers when he was (and I was) knee-high to a grasshopper was the first I latched onto as a child; their outrageous afros, in photographs carefully prised (this was the days before Athena) from the centre pages of excitingly glossy magazines like Record Mirror, Fab 208 (I think), and my sister’s stolen and cannibalized Jackie, adorned my walls, covering that rather questionable soccer-themed wallpaper. Until, that is, they were supplanted by fantastical Roger Dean and Bruce Pennington posters, knickerless pretend tennis players, and many things Heavy Metal-y, Prog Rock-y and Punk-y. And Farrah Fawcett in a red swimsuit, of course — who also, lest we forget, has died too young; the BBC has clearly forgotten, even if she did not influence a generation of entertainers in quite the same way.

farrah and nathaniel

When Robert Mitchum (an underrated thespian and a personal favourite) died, his legacy became overlooked almost immediately, because James Stewart happened to hop the twig the very next day. So what chance is there for Farrah Fawcett and her, bless her, rather more modest ouevre?

As an aside, Robert Mitchum was possessed of an admirable modesty and self-deprecation that others might do well to heed. He was once interviewed by the film critic Barry Norman, who began, understandably perhaps, to fawn somewhat; Mitchum cut him off mid-euolgy: “Look”, he said, “I have two kinds of acting. One on a horse and one off a horse. That’s it.”

mitchum cannes

So, anyway, this singer and I go back a fair way; I can still recall the acrid smell of the newly-rained-upon tarmac as I looked through the window listening to “Looking Through the Window”; hearing “Got to be There” immediately conjures up the taste of those peculiar lozenges I had to slowly suck as I succumbed to another debilitating throat infection. Try that one on for size, Proust.

While able to admire, or at least understand the admiration for, some of his later work I admit it was not a genre which at the time excited my interest. Nevertheless, I am happy to stipulate that this death is a shame; I will not, however, subscribe to the lunacy of comments such as this from a random person called Lloyd: “Please do not say a man like Michael Joseph Jackson is dead as I find this disrespectful to say the least. Greatness never dies but lives with us forever. So why say He Michael is Dead, Lets show some respect!!!!

Note the capitalization of the pronoun, there.

Expect more of this over the coming days; but please not from the BBC — who, may I point out to them, do not need to interview five different DJs nor three photographers who happened to snap a few publicity photographs a few years ago, relating the same obvious tales over and over. And over. Nor do we need Craig bloody David’s half-witted opinions.

Other observations the BBC has cheerfully shared with us: Madonna can’t stop crying; Brooke Shields’s heart is bursting; Al Sharpton says everyone should pray for the performer (now I’m no theological expert, but isn’t it a bit late, Al? The dude’s dead); two people in a Glastonbury field think it’s sad, and share with us their whereabouts when they heard the news (listening to a radio, I’d already guessed); and Corey Feldman is filled with sadness. Corey Feldman? Wasn’t that the fellow who …? Never mind. Hypocrisy has never been a barrier in Hollywood obits.


Now THREE HOURS into this non-stop festival of mourning and sycophancy, with only the weather forecast as light relief (there’ll be thunderstorms — “ooh, that can’t be a coincidence”), and we are treated to texts from people we have never heard of — in Benin, for example — telling us how this music has “touched their hearts” (a recurring cliché), and some words from three people outside the theatre where they are going to see “Thriller – The Musical”. Yet another unnecessarily live on-the-spot reporter asks: “Lou, how did you hear the news?” My question would have been: “Lou – why, in the name of sanity, are you outside the theatre at nine in the morning?”

Please, as your remit demands, tell us what the hell else is going on the world. Perhaps some other 50-year old people have died somewhere. In Darfur or Burma or Iran, maybe.

Or at least invite Jarvis Cocker to make a comment.

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Far be it from me to pass judgment, but if life has brought you to the point where, on live television, you are inserting fruit from a herbaceous plant of the genus musa into your fundament, then I might suggest that you have taken a misstep along the way.

I am given to understand that just such an occurrence was presented to startled viewers a matter of days into the latest series of ‘Big Brother’ on Channel 4. I say ‘startled’, because surely even the infamously eccentric and bawdy standards of behaviour of this show would not have prepared the gentle viewer for the sight of a tall, skinny, naked gentleman introducing part of a delicious fruit salad into his person. And particularly not for the additional spectacle, after extraction, of said fellow beginning extravagantly to peel it before, mercifully, the screen went blank.

For those with a robust constitution, the tale is gleefully related – and photographically illustrated – by the Daily Star. I would not advise looking, though; I really mean it about the robust constitution.

Evidently the reason given by the young man was that he “could not get to sleep”. Now, call me old-fashioned, but I’m not sure that I recall the list of “things to try if you cannot sleep” reading as follows:

1. Make a warm milky drink.

2. Count sheep.

3. Stick a banana where you shouldn’t.

Or stuff a banana into a sheep, perhaps; that sounds like quite a non sequitur, and to be honest it’s just an opportunity to see what it might look like:


This is “SuperLambBanana”, by Japanese artist Taro Chiezo: a public sculpture in Liverpool,  commissioned in 1998 for Britain’s Art Transpennine exhibition.

At least the rather disturbing image with which we began has led us to a singular work of art.

And, by the way: dude – just try the cool side of the pillow.

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One of the early discussions on this weblog revolved around Tony Robinson: thespian, comedian, writer, jolly nice chap and presenter of that urgent populist archaeology television show, ‘Time Team’.


This programme has been on air for about fifteen years now, and remains true to its original premise: that of uncovering some heretofore undiscovered Iron Age fort or Roman villa or Mediaeval bawdy house or somesuch, within a wholly artificial time frame: “As usual, we have only three days!” Hard to  imagine that some other professional would not pick up the slack in the ensuing un-televised few weeks.

timeteam_presentersJust like the civilizations it reveals, however,  the show is not immutable. Fast forward through the several series, and T Robinson’s waist grows subtly wider, his hairs fewer and shorter, and his spectacles less orbicular and owlish; the geophysics teams become less nerdish and their charts less impenetrable; and Phil Harding’s shorts get shorter as his speech turns ever more rustic.

Omnia mutantur nos et mutamur in illis (a phrase, incidentally, that could only be enhanced by Mr Harding’s rich Devonian vowels). The only thing evidently stuck in its era is Mick Aston’s irascibly loud candy-striped sweater, and the similarly-patterned cold-weather beanie-hat that was evidently fashioned from the left-over wool.

You know what else must be changing? And here’s the crux of this increasingly rambling treatise: the Earth itself.

Here’s the thing: these archaeologists always need to dig down (as opposed to up, I suppose) to disinter their finds. The older the subject the further they have to dig – layer after stratum after layer of soil and spoil. This can only mean, therefore, that the Earth has grown steadily fatter; and presumably gravity has increased. I bet the Ancient Egyptians couldn’t half jump high.

Nothing important here; parva leves capiunt animas.

And tempus fugit, so I must be off.

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Since we have visited the subjects of birds and colourful 1970s dancing, there can no better opportunity to combine the two and bust out this cracking video of the delightful mannequin bird, inventor of the moonwalk.

This is from the BBC comedy panel game ‘QI‘, and as it is presented by the estimable Stephen Fry, surrounded by funny people of every stripe, there is very little I can add to make anything more chucklesome.


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