Category: Television

Gogglebox

Television – I know, I watch too much for my own good but have in recent years cut down my dosage due to other commitments in my life. I have to be very selective, as I only have a two hour window in the weekday evenings. At weekends I can be out and about for long periods and only able to catch up on shows briefly (if at all). Even with only a Freeview PVR with limited space (500gb is hardly a mountain of storage in modern times) I still have to be careful with the choices I make.

Almost a year ago, I noticed a tweet from TV and radio presenter Richard Bacon. I had to do a double take because at first I thought he was referring to some new gadget from Mountain View. In fact, he was recommending his followers watch a new Channel 4 programme called Gogglebox (not Google Box as I had initially thought). Reading up about the show on-line, I did not think it could work, and doubt I would watch but thought I should give the first episode a go. Various households across the UK watching the weeks key television and then discussing with their family and friends as the events unfold on screen. On paper, I am sure this was a difficult idea to sell to the top brass. The idea of watching other people watch television just sounds outright boring and uneventful, like watching paint dry. I never used to watch the Royale Family but this new show would use the same conceptual point of view. To be honest, I did not know what to expect. I suppose that was part of the charm at first.

After the first two episodes, Michelle and I were hooked, it was like a drug. We have often thought if people make the same judgements and comments that we are making while watching television and it is reassuring to know that we are not alone. One of the first episodes comments were made which echo the same comments I had made earlier in the week. I cannot recall now which show we were watching or what it was in reference to, it was just great to see collective opinions from people across the country. My two favourite households are Sandra and Sally in Brixton and retired teachers Leon and June in Liverpool with an honorary mention for Step and Dom!

You know something has reached a milestone when it appears on Buzz Feed. Read this article to get just a nugget of the true brilliance of this television show. Stars have been born.

The show returns for a third series and has been promoted from graveyard Wednesday slot to prime billing on Friday at 9pm. I cannot wait, I hope they stick with the same families and do not mess with the formula at all. In series two they introduced a few additional households, including a couple that watch television in bed. While that may not be out of the ordinary, they come across as a couple whom both are in need of a personality by-pass (perhaps this is just poor editing on their part) and yes I know that is quite rich coming from me (of all people) but only those whom watch the show will fully understand. Catch up on 4oD if you can, I urge you! I can wholeheartedly recommend you watch, if not live on the night, on demand later. Many of the characters are now setting themselves up on Twitter, so when you watch live, as we tend to with most ‘event’ television, you get the extra dimension to proceedings by using the social media platform.

Viral Advertising Perfection

Three have realised that by using an advert that could have easily started life on YouTube and mailed around friends and colleagues via Facebook and Twitter is the ideal way to front a fully blown television spot. (They appear to have a website which enables you to star in the advert yourself!) They appear to back up this thinking by deep diving into our love of nostalgia by raiding every favourite song from the 1980s.

You will have to admit that this spot is pure genius, particularly the singing cat and the fact their young girl riding her stabilizer powered pink bicycle is actually only literally going around the block of her neighbourhood. The best television commercial at the moment by a country mile.

Comedy Genius

Stumbled onto this video while switching over from the football on ITV HD. I know I should be more dedicated and sit through all seven hours of the annual BBC telethon but some years are better than others. The first edition away from Television Centre was always going to be interesting and I am surprised they selected Eltree Studios. (However it worked out well, with Strictly Come Dancing being based in Blackpool this weekend) Although it was poor excuse for international football on the other side (even if it is watching England lose!)

Hats off to Harry Hill for coming up with such a brilliant concept and casting each part perfectly. I have to say I miss his Saturday early evening TV Burp show. Just a shame I got into it rather late. Oh well, only a month to go until his movie is released in cinemas.

Becoming Mike Teevee

Friday 27th September will go down in the history of UK television as a bumper day. Perhaps not since Christmas were so many shows starting, returning or saying goodbye on an epic night of television, focused mainly on Channel 4. Late September is always the time that new shows start Stateside and favourites, such as Glee and The Big Bang Theory return for another season.

Unsure why this date was chosen but it was UK premiere of new ABC show Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I had anticipated this show for over a year. Since the post credit scene of The Avengers, it was only a matter of time before Joss Whedon returned to his first love – the small small screen. Televisions shows based on movies are rare, the usual route is for a television show to become so popular and successful for it to transition onto the big screen. The level of success for a movie is debatable. Just look at 2010 A-Team or 2011 Sex In The City 2. The Sarah Connor Chronicles was an intelligently written, well paced action series which was an off shoot of the Terminator franchise. At one point it was mooted that it would have a plot line to lead into the Terminator Salvation movie but in the end this did not happen. You can appreciate the difficulty for a director to consider the plot for the standalone movie and not having to consider canon from other medium. It was a shame the show only lasted two series because it deserved much more. The casting was perfect, particularly Lena Headley in the lead role and Summer Glau as a Terminator, Cameron. They were able to move away from ever becoming a Terminator of the week show to a character driven story, showing the lengths a mother will go to to protect her son. Plus there was the interesting sub plot of FBI agent Ellison on the trail of all these incidents and trying to put the pieces together.

The idea of a television show in the Marvel Universe was great and I liked the idea that Iron Man, Thor and friends would not be making a direct appearance. This allows for the development of the core characters of Agent Phil Coulson and his special team. Although I wish Cobie Smulders had an expanded role. The only character we know and love is Agent Coulson. The other new characters we need to warm to. Nevertheless it was good fun, enough nods to the other (unseen) characters and enough going on to make you look forward to next week. However as Michelle said at the end of the show, she hopes it does not become ‘mutant’ of the week like some other shows. There needs to be a cohesive story arch and if there is one man who can pull this off, it is is creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse. Do not take my word for it, check out the reviews over on ShowRatings.tv.

We have stopped watching The X Factor this year. In reality we kind of stopped watching for the past few years, preferring to watch Strictly Come Dancing as our prime time weekend show. The X Factor would always be an afterthought we would watch on delay and fast forward through the majority of the sob stories and focus on the performances. However the quality of the show has declined in recent years. Although I was a casual watcher of the BBC dance show, in married life I have become converted. There was even a time a few years ago when we would record (and religiously watch) sister show It Takes Two weeknight evenings on BBC Two. I have a great deal of respect for these so called celebrities to learn a new skill such as ballroom dancing before an audience of millions and then be judged by the public each Saturday evening.

I have been a big fan of this show, since it premiered way back in 2006. At the time I worked on a helpdesk and it was my manager Nic, whom brought the show to my attention. Insisting we watch the show on premiere night, even though we had been able to watch online via the Channel 4 website on the Monday before the Friday evening broadcast. Do remember, this was a year before the launch of BBC iPlayer, 4oD and other online catchup services. Luck would have it that I would also have the opportunity to see series two recorded at Pinewood Studios. Probably one of my favourite television show recordings to attend and see all the hard work that goes into putting together a thirty minute situation comedy. We had to wait several months before the episode (episode two in series two) was screen. I was able to secure tickets for a series three recording but was unable to get into the studio on the night due to major oversubscription. Standing Room Only, who provide tickets for this and many other game shows and comedies, always release more tickets than they can accommodate. This is to counteract the large proportion of people that are no shows. The show has generally been good over the course the years and I would even stick my neck out and say the last series, screened in 2010 last series was the best. However, perhaps due to the technical nature of the show, it has always had clever moments and flashes rather than constant laughs. I believe because the scenarios have to built up. Like many fans I was hoping for a proper send off with series four but had to make do with a one hour special. My expectations were high but at the end of the show, I felt a little underwhelmed. It was a good send off and as a diehard fan, there were enough in jokes which linked in with the rest of the series. Check out some of the reviews, some include spoilers.

tv addicted

Pearson, Specter & Litt?

Never underestimate the power of television to change your mind. Characters you actually hate, can turn within the course of a television season (or in the case of Suits, half season – a mere ten episodes) to the point you warm to them and perhaps even have great affection for. In case of Louis Litt, he was always the comic relief, the clown of the piece if you will. Something I referred to, in my first post on this gripping television drama. However, while at times I have watched the television and squirmed as he takes yet another mud bath the writing has been perfect on so many levels. The duels with his English counterpart from Darby International, Nigel Nesbitt (played with such gusto by Adam Godley), where you see Louis at times at his most vulnerable but somehow still being able to recover. At times I have even felt pity for the guy, particularly when he had a cake baked (or had he baked himself) to present to Mike only to throw it in the bin minutes later as Mike returns to Harvey’s bosom.

Louis Litt File Photo

The mid season finale aired on Tuesday night (last night) and while my dearest wife Michelle may not have found it riveting, I loved every minute. The reason I find this show so compelling is the the realism of life as a corporate lawyer. While I have been lucky to been able to be part of this world at close quarters albeit in a limited support role, I found the cut and thrust life at the top fascinating. Probably not since Greek have I enjoyed a show as much as this. However, with the college drama, I was perhaps ten years too old to be enjoying the life of girls and boys in their individual frat houses. What can I say, I just want to stay forever young.

In the past I was not very fussy about the television shows I watched. I had the luxury of several hours in the evening to watch two soaps plus three episodes of my US TV imports before finally catching a glimpse of Newsnight and going to bed. Oh how different the life of a bachelor is! Now, several years later, being married and being an avid gym bunny, the number of hours available in an evening are condensed. I am sometimes lucky to have ninety minutes before hitting bed. Plus there are additional distractions of my Nexus 7 or the laptop. Being selective on television shows we watch in the week, means we pick quality over quantity and give new television shows an opportunity of two episodes to impress before abandoning. A case in point is on girly Freeview channel, Really the medical drama Emily Owens MD. With the star power of Meryl Streep’s daughter you would think it was a unquestionable hit but it was cancelled after one season. Nevertheless, we gave the first episode a go one Sunday afternoon but did not find any of the characters or the writing worth the effort. The main cast even featured Greek alumni Michael Radly but even that could not save this ship. Plus you have to factor in my squeamish nature with regards to any medical shows. I do not watch Casualty or Holby City, since my sister Samantha is a number one fan of both BBC dramas (or are they soaps?). Blood is fine but the other gory parts I cannot stomach.

Normally I would be extremely disheartened by the fact that my favourite television show is now off the air for over three months and not returning until 2014. However we have plenty of new shows arriving from across the pond and the return of some old favourites to keep us entertained all the way to Christmas and the New Year. Back in May, The Guardian posted this article with previews for the up coming Fall Season. September is my favourite month of the year. As a boy, I was strange and actually liked the idea of going back to school and seeing my friends again and getting into the grind of things. Most of my peers wanted the Summer to last forever. Nothing ever does, not even your favourite television show.

Who’s That Girl?

Series Three of Suits started over six weeks ago and every minute has been gripping. Although the humour too has hit completely new (and unexpected) levels. It is too early to perhaps judge, only seven episodes in, but I believe it is as good as Series Two (perhaps even better). Watching the episode which aired Stateside on Tuesday night (27th August) with my dearest wife this evening, I noticed an extra playing an associate and just want to know who she is. Without revealing too much of the plot away, she features in the mock trial (observing rather than an active role) but then later is seen talking to Mike outside Harvey’s office. Before Donna bumps into them.

A big group of my friends watch the show and I have successfully converted at least two of my new colleagues in the office onto the show, so hopefully in a combined effort we can identify this young lady. Do not read too much into the title of the episode though – She’s Mine.

Mystery AssociateMystery Associate, Mike Ross & Donna

Beaming With Pride

After his television premiere in July last year, my dear friend Ali is appearing in his second Barclays advert currently on regular rotation on the television networks. In fact, the advert was screened in the peak ‘prime time’ slot during Celebrity Big Brother on Channel 5 on Thursday evening. As I am now such a keen follower of this up and coming actors career, I thought it only just to include his latest appearance.

The State Of British Comedy

When did British comedy hit such an all time low? I am unsure of the exact moment of this decline but it has continued for several months. I feel very disappointed in the quality of recent brand new comedies on television. Now, I do not have Sky, so perhaps I am missing out on the top quality material (such as the return of The Kumars at No. 42) but I refuse to shell out a big fat subscription fee every month. Particularly as my viewing habits are actually limited to a set number of shows and channels. Back when my parents had the service, we still watched a minimum amount of material and even that was when there was something available. In most cases, even with hundreds of channels available, sometimes there was nothing worth watching and we would switch back to free-to-air terrestrial.

Before I got any further an honorary mention must go out to Citizen Khan which broadcast last August on the Beeb. The trailer was cut well but the overall comedy value was low. Extremely low. It was like being taken back to the 1970s. The world has moved on a great deal since the time before I was born! They had to bring in housewife favourite, Kris Marshall from recent BT adverts and BBC sitcom My Family as a Muslim convert just to appeal to Middle England. Proof that a Muslim comedy could not apparently perform without some kind of outside ‘established actor’ help. I did not want to watch any minute beyond the first episode, however we decided to revisit and watch the entire series. Give it a chance, was what my wife, Michelle said was the best option. We had another reason, as we had seen one the stars, Maya Sondhi (who plays daughter Shazia) perform at The Tara Arts Centre with Ali back in December 2011. The BBC have renewed Citizen Khan for a second series, which I am willing to give another chance. However, this is the exception to the rule. I am just not sure if the original Citizen Khan shorts featured in another programme, Bellamy’s People was the ideal avenue for Adil Ray’s talent and a full blown series was too much too soon.

Plebs had been heavily trailed on ITV2, so I watched first episode. However, please note I watched the first episode, several weeks after it aired on television. My wife is a big fan of Celebrity Juice and we have recently started watching The Only Way Is Essex. As these are jewels in the crown of the channel, we were bound to get a great deal of exposure to Plebs. I was extremely disappointed in the comedy. Maybe I am a little outside of the target demographic but that does not mean I am banned from watching. The plot was limited, the jokes were poor and the overall taste was extremely low. This was comedy for the brain-dead generation. I could not stomach watching another minute, so gave up. If you are going to heavily advertise a new British homegrown comedy please please ITV ensure the quality of the writing is up there with the best comedies on television. Even with guest stars such as Danny Dyer, I believed this show was flawed from the start. Transferring modern day twenty-first century life into Ancient Rome, with the ultimate of socially awkward guys outside of the in-crowd trying to meet pretty girls. Sure not much in modern day Britain has changed and most boys of a certain age, are attempting the same thing in bars, pubs and clubs in towns and cities across the country.

I did not know that Ben Elton was working on a new comedy until I read an article in The Guardian one lunchtime at the office. I was looking forward to catching The Wright Way when it finally aired. However, due to my work life balance, I am usually in bed at 9:30pm. I would record the show on my Humax PVR and catch the following evening. I did not watch any further than episode two. While I really love David Haig as an actor, I am sure even he appreciates that we have moved on from 1996. He appears to perform this new role, as Health & Safety Council Office, Gerald Wright in a carbon copy format of Inspector Grimm from The Thin Blue Line. Ben, surely you have honed your technique over seventeen years. Try new ideas, formats and even actors. Do not get me wrong, I loved The Thin Blue Line, it was my favourite comedy when aired, but that was in the previous century and we have moved on a great deal since.

Back to ITV with their late night comedy, The Job Lot. The situation here is a job centre in the Midlands. This proved for me a little funnier than the other comedies I have mentioned. Mainly for the inclusion of a larger talented group cast and the fact that in this environment you can have many different characters appear to sign on the dole. In particular I was looking forward to seeing Zahra Ahmadi, whom you may recognise as Shabnam Masood from Eastenders. However her part was relatively minor and after episode four, I gave up once again. While it began well and did have some funny moments, the comedy fell back into the comfortable rhythm of type. Routine, we all enjoy but not from comedies, particularly those that are supposed to be fresh and brand new. I enjoyed seeing Sarah Hadland step out of the shadow of Miranda Hart and perform a comedic role in her own image. She was good but it was not enough to keep me hooked. Far too quickly the characters returned to type. Look out for one of the actors from Four Lions.

People constantly ask me why I watch some much US imported television. I rest my case. I just hope this is a minor blip and better talent is in the pipeline.

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