Batty

As some of you might know if you follow me on there, I like Twitter. I like the way it comes alive when certain TV shows are on, the way people have conversations about anything and everything regardless of how geeky/controversial/mundane they are and generally like a lot of the people I come across on there. However, there are some occasions when I would gladly like to collectively bang the residents of the Twitterverse’s heads together too.

I found myself wanting to do this when I woke up yesterday morning and logged on Twitter to find the whole site abuzz with the news that Ben Affleck was to take on the role of Batman in the next Superman film. A lot of the reaction was not entirely positive – in fact there was a fair few who were apoplectic at the very thought of Affleck as the Dark Knight. Their reasons? Well he played a superhero in a film about ten years ago and it wasn’t very good. Then there was that really terrible film he did with Jennifer Lopez when he was all loved up with her, which was also about ten years ago. I mean, those are enough reasons to stop him from playing a character that is so iconic and loved right?

I must admit, I am not too bothered either way about the decision to cast Ben in the role. While I am a fan of Batman, I don’t really care much for the film franchise, being more of a fan of the cartoon and the 60s TV series as well as the comics themselves. However, it does get on my nerves when people start chucking their cyber toys out of the proverbial pram over someone who’s been given a prime acting role before they have even actually played it. Yes Ben Affleck was the lead in Daredevil. It was a poor film, but he wasn’t bad in it. He’d have been even better if the script wasn’t so dire. And Gigli was pretty much not the best career decision he ever made. But those films were made a decade ago. The actor who appeared in them is a different actor now (heck, he‘s an award-winning director now, too). In any case, you shouldn’t write somebody off just because they appeared in a few notable duds. Every great actor has one or two flops under their belt. It’s from doing them that they learn to be better actors.

In general, slating actors before they’ve even had a chance to prove themselves in the role they’ve taken is getting tiresome. You would think that people would have learned by now, given that most of those that have been slagged off prior to their appearance as a major character have turned out to be very good in the role. When Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker, the internet was full of cries of “EWWWWWW! THE PRETTY BOY FROM BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN AND A KNIGHT’S TALE?! HE CAN’T BE THE JOKER!” It turned out to be Heath’s best performance – and sadly, his last. When Daniel Craig was chosen to play James Bond, it was all “NOOOOO! HE CAN’T BE BOND, BOND IS NOT BLOND!” Yet Daniel helped give the franchise the kick up the backside it needed, and for me at least, he is now one of the best 007s – if not the best. The news that Matt Smith was to be the eleventh Doctor was met with horrid comments before he’d even donned his bowtie, all from a section of (mostly female) Whovians upset that they would no longer be able to swoon over David Tennant. And recently the news that Peter Capaldi was to take over from Matt had a small section of (mainly young, female) fans crying “EWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!! HE CAN’T BE THE DOCTOR HE’S OLD AND NOT CUTE!” This latter reaction made me want to hunt down every one of those fan girls, stick them all in a room and make them watch every available episode of the Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee eras. Or any of the old school Whos even.

Only time will tell if Ben Affleck is the right man to play the Caped Crusader, or if Peter Capaldi will be the perfect Time Lord. Let’s all wait until the respective films and shows come out before we pass judgement on them or anyone else who suddenly finds themselves picked to play a major character and in the meantime, reserve our anger for things that really do deserve it, like the existence of Piers Morgan, Katie Hopkins and Big Brother.

That Blog About That Puppet Game Show

Earlier this evening (as I write this), I watched the first episode That Puppet Game Show, a show on BBC1 that was made with the Jim Henson Company. Being a big fan of the Muppets and pretty much everything their creators have done since childhood, I was looking forward to watching this, as virtually everything that they are involved with has some great moments in it.

I thought the show was quite enjoyable myself. It wasn’t brilliant –  there were certain things that didn’t quite work, notably some of the “backstage” sequences, and one or two of the characters are a bit forgettable, but it was fun to watch all the same. It did have a couple of flashes of greatness. The sketch featuring a puppet family, sat at home watching the “Lights Out” game (a game in which guests Jonathan Ross and Katherine Jenkins, clad in suits covered in lights, try to punch as many of them out as they can), was quite funny. And out of all the characters, the two that stand out for me the most are an armadillo called The Amazing Ian, who is the show’s “mental agility expert” (and appears to like a drink) and Clyde, a crab who delivers the scores (who also happens to be a bit, well, crabby). While I thought the show was entertaining, I seemed to be in the minority, if what I saw about it on Twitter was anything to go by. A lot of the tweets I saw were fairly negative about the show, labelling it another bad piece of Saturday night TV. But a common theme seemed to run through most of them, namely that it wasn’t The Muppet Show.

Ah yes, The Muppet Show, easily one of the greatest family entertainment shows ever created. I loved that show. Kermit the frog was my childhood hero (yes I looked up to a muppet, what of it?) I watched practically every episode, including the ones where I didn’t know who the special guest was (who was Madeleine Kahn, for instance?) There is nothing I would love more than to see Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and co on my TV screens again. Thing is though, it ain’t gonna happen. Because save for an odd TV special, The Muppets are a bit too big for television now. And even if a brand new series was made, it would probably never live up to the original. Remember Muppets Tonight? I personally loved it, however looking back it was doomed to fail because of  some of those who remembered the original fondly not giving it much of a chance.  It’s not surprising that this latest offering is getting this reaction. It could be the most amazing programme in TV history, and people would still be going “It’s no Muppet Show, is it?” Its this kind of attitude that stops you from fully enjoying things. How can you fully take in someone’s newest film, TV show or record if all the while you’re comparing it to what they’ve done before?

Yes, That Puppet Game Show is nowhere near of the standard of The Muppet Show. I don’t expect it to be, but I won’t write it off as bad either, as it does show promise. I will keep watching it  because even a below par Jim Henson Company production is better than a lot of the dross that gets served up on TV these days.

I’ll end this post with a clip of one of the more crazier moments of the programme. Scottish, Proclaimers singing hot dogs, anyone?

The Nintendo Download Rip-Off.

I love my Nintendo 3DS. I particularly love the fact that you can download games onto it via the Nintendo e-shop, as they have made a lot of old school NES and Game Boy titles available to download. Thus I have ended up buying the titles that I missed out on when I had both these consoles back in the day, as well as one I did have (I had to get the original Super Mario Bros again).

Recently Nintendo have started to make new titles available to download, which I thought was a pretty good idea. It made sense to me that they should do this, why should it just be the oldies that are available to play within a matter of clicks? I expected that they probably would be around the same price as the physical version, if not just slightly cheaper than the physical. I mean, the digital one doesn’t have any packaging around it, right?

Today I was looking at some 3DS games online. I am interested in getting the new Luigi’s Mansion game, so I was looking at Amazon et all and comparing the prices. They were all just over £30. Around the price you might expect for a new Nintendo 3DS title. Not bad, I thought, but could I get it cheaper?

It was then I decided to switch on the 3DS and had a look for it on Nintendo e-shop. I found Luigi’s Mansion 2 was available. It was £40 to download.

Forty bloody pounds.

I couldn’t believe it. Sure I expected it to be around the same price as the physical, but nearly ten pounds dearer? How can Nintendo justify making a digital version more expensive than the standard? Especially when it is exactly the same version of the game, just delivered in a different format. For a few quid more, I expect some bonus levels and power-ups, like a deluxe edition of an album gives you extra tracks for a bit more money. If you’re just going to give the same old, then sorry Nintendo, but I’ll be sticking to the good old fashioned cartridges. Hey, you’ll still be getting my money whatever. And I’ll still be purchasing retro games via the game shop, which are quite reasonably priced. However I am still waiting for you to make Duck Hunt available. That old NES classic deserves to be revived surely?

 

The Last Broadcast

This evening, the BBC are saying goodbye to Television Centre. On BBC4, I watched Madness play an excellent set in the grounds of the famous studios, while Michael Grade is interviewing some of the BBC’s famous faces on their memories of working there. While all the attention is being focussed on the BBC’s final broadcasts from its legendary home, closer to home another era in television is ending. This evening, the final edition of Granada Reports to be broadcast from Granada TV’s equally legendary Quay Street studios was being transmitted. From Monday, it will be broadcast from its new home at Media City.

Granada Studios, home to some of the world’s greatest television. Next to the Beeb.

I am sad to see Granada leave its Quay Street home. I have walked past it plenty of times over the years. My Mum and my sister both went to watch shows that were recorded at the studios. As a kid, I went on a school trip to the now defunct Granada Studios Tour. I got to walk down Coronation Street and Baker Street (as it was in Granada’s brilliant Sherlock Holmes series), wandered round a room straight out of The Return of the Antelope and watched a debate in the House of Commons. The trip fuelled my interest in television and I hoped to one day be able to walk through the corridors of Granada for real. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

My main fear for Granada Studios, is that it will end up being demolished like the BBC on Oxford Road did. I went past the site of the latter on the bus only last week and was sad to see the gaping hole (and the car park) that has been left there. As it isn’t a listed building, there is a big chance that the Quay Street site could also disappear from the Manchester skyline. It would be a total shame if ITV allowed the oldest working studios in Britain, which is probably the best known after Television Centre, to disappear. And I would hate to see it become some other pricey housing development or soulless office block that is constantly empty, even if they call it “Granada Court” or “Bernstein Towers” (after Sir Sidney Bernstein, Granada TV’s founder). As with Television Centre, why can’t they just leave them alone and let them keep making great television? It’s not that I’m opposed to change, but when things seem to be working OK, why change them?

 

Rewinding to childhood (or how I wasted a weekend watching the telly of my youth)

This weekend, I spent a huge chunk of my time reliving my childhood watching CITV’s Old Skool weekend, staged to celebrate the 30th birthday of ITV’s children’s TV strand. Some of the shows that I sat in front of the television for back in the 80s and 90s were shown on the channel throughout the weekend, thus bringing joy to twenty and thirtysomethings everywhere while showing today’s kids just how good we had it back in the days before iPods, multichannel telly and the internet

As a child, I was very much a CITV viewer. I did watch CBBC too, but there was something about ITV’s children’s output that I liked more. It had Dangermouse for one, Super Gran for another. CBBC had Gordon the Gopher and Edd the Duck among its star puppets. CITV had Scally the dog, Nobby the sheep and a snotty alien called Gilbert. Neil Buchanan gave us an Art Attack, while we all thought that recording How 2 and pausing it to read the datablast at the end of it was the very height of technology (to be honest, it might have been better if they printed a fact sheet). We watched Press Gang thinking that Dexter Fletcher really was an American (you can tell now it wasn’t that good). And who could forget Knightmare, with its state-of-the-art-for-its-time computer graphics?

If there’s one thing I learned this weekend, it was that I watched a lot of television as a child. A hell of a lot. While I enjoyed seeing the likes of Button Moon, Fun House and Woof! on my tv screen again I realised that the channel’s controllers had shown only a handful of its amazing archive. For every classic they showed, there were plenty of others that had been omitted. There was no Cockleshell Bay, no Trap Door, no Your Mother Wouldn’t Like It, no Zzzap! Worst of all, there was no sign of Round The Bend. How I’d have loved to see that back on screens if only to show kids the sheer brilliance that was False Teeth from Beyond the Stars.

(Round The Bend is not to be confused with Round The Twist, an Aussie made children’s drama that was on CBBC and was also a pretty awesome show).

I was also pretty disappointed that CITV showed the later episodes of Knightmare (when Treguard was not as scary and Pickle had been replaced by an annoying woman), and Fun House, (when Pat Sharp had lost his legendary mullet). Of course they were still great, but they were never as good as the early series. And I was really sad to find out that the bits of Fraggle Rock filmed for the UK that featured Fulton Mackay with Sprocket (and later John Gordon Sinclair and Simon O’Brien) had all been lost.

What also struck me was how the shows of my youth had aged. Dangermouse, Count Duckula and Sooty for example are still capable of raising a laugh to both young and old today, while the only dated parts of Fun House and Finders Keepers aside from the fashions, were the prizes on offer. Out of all the shows broadcast during the weekend, it was Dramarama that appeared to have aged the worst. The standard of acting in those one-off dramas seems very poor nowadays, (I know you don’t expect it to be of the standard of a Shakespeare play, but still). On another note, Rosie and Jim are still pretty creepy. Were they meant to be boyfriend and girlfriend or brother and sister? Either way, it didn’t seem right.

Watching the programmes this weekend reminded me just how good TV was back when I was young, but it also told me just how poor a lot of children’s programming today is in comparison. From the time I’ve spent watching CITV and CBBC’s “new skool” programming with my nephew, nothing in today’s schedules could be given classic status, except Horrible Histories, which would  have most likely been a huge hit if it had been on TV 25 years ago. I think that the state of kids tv today also says a lot about how the major broadcasters have treated it over the last few years. Gradually, both ITV and the BBC have appeared to believe that quality children’s programming isn’t as important now as it once was. Both broadcasters have virtually stopped showing kids television on their main channels and shifted it all to their designated children’s stations. Budgets for such programmes have also been cut. They point to the rise of the digital, multichannel era, computers and the internet as their reasons for doing so. And yet, the kids of today are not much different to the children of my generation. Sure there’s more technology around, but kids are just as eager to be amused and inspired as we were. They are just as curious and have just as vivid an imagination. And if given the opportunity, they would just love to get gunged.

I hope that ITV do another weekend of retro CITV programming at some point, or maybe even create an entire channel just for the classics from their archives. Not just so that this (nearly) 32-year-old can enjoy regular nostalgia trips, but also so that a new generation can be entertained by the shows that their parents, aunties and uncles ran home from school to tune into all those years ago.

I’d like to end this blog post by posting the aforementioned False Teeth from Beyond the Stars from Round The Bend.  They really don’t make them like this anymore, folks.

A little pre – X Factor final post

And so, after what seems like an eternity of it being on TV (not helped by the endless ad breaks), this year’s series of the X Factor reaches it’s conclusion this weekend. The final is being staged in my hometown of Manchester this year. I am not going to it, incidentally. It would have been nice to go to it and experience live TV from actually being in the audience of it, but I wouldn’t have got the chance anyway. Plus I’ve been starting to come down with a bit of a cold, which sucks as I have loads of stuff to do. Ah well, I’ll be at home watching it, which is probably the best place for me really.

I have to say, again I haven’t really enjoyed this series as much this year but it has been marginally better than last year’s, in terms of the fact that there has been at least one contestant that I’ve been interested in this year. I think I’ve forgotten most of last year’s contingent, bar Little Mix (which I still think is a stupid name for a group, nothing against them personally) and Marcus Collins – oh and Janet Devlin, and The Risk. But the latter two is probably down to the fact that I follow them on twitter (what about it?).

So what do I think of this year’s final three? Well there are two of them that I thought would definitely make it to the last stages of the competition and one that I didn’t necessarily think would get to this stage. You can probably guess already who fits each one, but even so, here’s what I think of each of this year’s finalists:

Jahmene Douglas – When I first saw Jahmene’s audition I knew that he would go far in the competition. It’s fair to say that he has delivered pretty much every week, even in the performances that I personally wasn’t really that keen on. His ABBA week contribution was probably his weakest , but hey, it was an ABBA song he was doing. If he wins the show I think he will do quite well if given the right material. My only fear is that he might easily be forgotten about – he’s a nice kid, his talent stands out, but he doesn’t. This is not a dig in any way and it is understandable given what we know about him. I hope the experience of being on the show really does bring him out of his shell, then he will really shine. In any case, I don’t think he will be going back to ASDA any time soon.

James Arthur – Of the three left in the competition, James is my favourite. Again, he has been a very consistent performer. In fact, I don’t think there has been anything he has done on the show I really disliked, apart from when they threw in the dubstep bit when he sang Adele’s Hometown1 Glory (why they did that I will never understand). While it would be great if he won, part of me is not sure he will. What works against him is the fact that he is the only one of the three that has been in the bottom two at some stage of the series, and those who have been in that situation have never gone on to win it. That doesn’t mean to say that it couldn’t happen, though.

However, if he does go on to win it, I hope that Syco do not shaft him the way that 2010 winner Matt Cardle was. It’s not wrong to say that James is similar to him in terms of that he writes his own stuff, has played in bands and done the gigs, but they are different musically. I hope James gets a chance to be able to do his own thing, and that he isn’t moulded into Cowell’s own version of Ed Sheeran (I like Ed Sheeran by the way), as it‘s clear he has got something of his own and I would hate him to lose that. I also hope that if it does go wrong with Syco, he follows Matt’s example and walks away from them, rather than stay with them and end up waiting ages to release new material like Shayne Ward did. James would do well to grow a thick skin too, as engaging in twitter spats with the likes of Frankie Boyle will only result in giving Boyle and his ilk more ammo to fire at him. Not to mention making it more likely that the media will tear him to pieces post X-Factor.

Christopher Maloney – I am going to admit it. I actually don’t mind Christopher at all. Really I don’t. Sure he is cheesier than the most mature cheddar, and his performances don’t float my boat (probably because it’s not a cruise ship), but he can sing. He was voted in by the public as the wildcard at the start of the live shows, and the public have kept him in each week. However sad it is that some other singers who we thought would be in to the end have gone while he’s remained, it’s not his fault he’s still in it. In fact, a lot of the negative press surrounding him has made me feel uncomfortable. There has always been at least one contestant each year that has been painted as a kind of pantomime villain by the media since the show’s inception. This year, however it has been nastier than ever before, to the point where I’ve felt sympathy for Christopher and also for Rylan towards the end of his time on the show. Not enough to make me want to vote for them, but enough to make me think that certain sections of both the media and the public have overstepped the mark this year somewhat. I don’t know, nor care, if Chris is a diva, or anything else that he has been accused of being in the tabloids. But even if there’s even a hint of truth in the stories about him, are those spreading them and giving him abuse any better people than he is? Somehow I doubt it.

If Chris wins, it will more likely be because of the hate towards him, rather than in spite of it. That said, there are probably as many people out there who haven’t read the tabloid stuff and voted for him because they like him, as there are those who have voted for him just to stick it to Cowell and his minions. To some, he might not be the most marketable act that ends up on Syco’s roster, but he will probably still sell records to more than just his Nan. Whether anyone will own up to owning one is another matter entirely, but whatever happens fair play and good luck to him.

So there you have it. This has turned out to be more than a little pre – X Factor final blog post. Whatever, this is the only one I have done this year. Lucky you.

Re. Stacey Solomon and smoking while pregnant.

When I caught a glimpse of the photo of a seven months pregnant Stacey Solomon puffing away on a cigarette on the front of a down-market Sunday rag while shopping, I admit I was really disappointed in her. I thought that she would be the last person I would see doing something like that, that she would more considerate of her unborn child’s health than some other celebrities. However after seeing the way the whole issue blew up across the media and of course on the internet, I did start to feel sorry for her.

At this point if I was writing this on twitter or FB I would probably get at least one person screaming “OH MY GOD HOW CAN YOU FEEL SORRY FOR HER SHE IS HARMING HER BABY THE SELFISH BITCH!” at me or maybe far worse than that. As is often the case when commenting on situations like this in a reasonable manner, it’s hard to say anything without the odd person immediately thinking you’re defending the behaviour of the person in question (these individuals often don’t actually read the thing as much as see the first sentence and immediately react).

Let me make it clear:

I do not condone Stacey’s actions. What she is doing is stupid and is potentially harmful to both herself and her unborn child.

HOWEVER, I believe that a lot of the flack she has received since those photos were made public has been uncalled for and could also cause harm to her child (newsflash twittermob and tabloids, stress is not good for pregnant women either).

I have little time for the people who say “it’s her life, her body and she can do whatever she likes with it” – yes it is true that it is her body and at any other time she can put what she wants inside it. But when you’re pregnant, it’s not just your body you’re looking after. That said, I don’t think that anyone who for example, has the odd glass of wine while up the duff is immediately evil for doing so. The way people have pilloried Stacey, you’d think that she was up there with Hitler and Bin Laden. Say what you want about the fact that she was caught fagging it in public, but she didn’t ask for someone to photograph her.

What also irked me about the whole reaction from some people, is their attitude to smoking – or rather towards quitting the habit (make no mistake, it is a disgusting habit and you’d be better off not starting it in the first place). The way some people talk about it, it’s as if they think that someone, pregnant women in particular,  are able to stop just like that. Truth is, smoking is a hard habit to break and it’s harder for some than it is for others. I regularly deal with people who want to quit as part of my job and it’s not uncommon to come across someone on their third, fourth or even fifth attempt. On this I do have some sympathy for Stacey. I don’t think the fact that she continues to indulge in the habit is a big “fuck you I won’t do what you tell me” to those who advise that you shouldn’t, or to the general view that it’s wrong to. I don’t believe that she has not attempted to quit during the course of her pregnancy and she most definitely is not the first woman to smoke while pregnant, nor will she be the last. Feel free to disagree with me, but I don’t think that a woman with a bump is automatically a bad mother if they have a fag now and again.