Robert Hampton

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March 2010

1st March 2010

Eyes on the Prize
Posted by at 8.20pm | It's My Life, Work | 2 responses

Last week the office I “work” for held a guess the number of sweets in the jar competition. 50p to enter, all proceeds to Haiti (I think it was).

I guessed 225 and thought no more of it until today, when I discovered that not only had I won the prize, but that my guess was EXACTLY right. What are the odds?

OK, it’s a tiny victory in the grand scheme of things, but I enjoyed my moment in the sun:

10th March 2010

Glee, sir? Can I have some more?
Posted by at 11.36pm | Television | No responses

How friggin’ brilliant is Glee?! Of course, it wasn’t exactly difficult for this one to win me over — anything which features uptempo singing and dancing on a regular basis already has me drawn in.

It’s just so… upbeat. I always seem to end each episode with a warm fuzzy feeling in various parts of my body. I don’t know what it is: even when bad things are happening on-screen, there is an overall positive vibe which permeates the show and leaves me feeling happy.

Comparisons with High School Musical are inevitable, but Glee contains just enough sharp comedy to balance out the syrupy sweetness.

I suppose my one criticism is that most of the characters are generic American high-school stereotypes (dumb jock, cheerleaders, a bully, sassy black girl, gay kid, etc) but by episode 10 they’ve started to flesh out the characters a bit and made them seem a bit more 3-dimensional. It is good to see a successful US show set in a high school which focuses on the misfits rather than the super-popular kids.

Right at the centre of the show is someone who could be the greatest villain in the history of television: Sue Sylvester (played with relish by Jane Lynch), who steals every scene she appears in with rants about curly hair and kitty-cat related threats. Marvellous stuff.

There’s always a danger that Glee will be unable to sustain this momentum long term and struggle to keep going past the second season. For now though, it’s an amazing show fully deserving of the praise and awards that have been heaped on it.

If you’ve missed the first few episodes, E4 are repeating them all on weekday afternoons starting next Monday. You won’t be disappointed. And that’s how Sue C’s it.

14th March 2010

Train Porn
Posted by at 1.36pm | Trains | 2 responses

Or as close to it as you can get, anyway. This late 80s advert for British Rail was usually only broadcast in a 60-second edited version. On a couple of special occasions, however, the full length two-and-a-half minute version was wheeled out, and here it is:-

It could be like this again. Renationalise!

18th March 2010

Copyrights, copywrongs
Posted by at 8.29pm | Web | No responses

One of YouTube’s lawyers has just put up an excellent blog post about the current legal battle with Viacom. For someone like me who is frustrated that he can’t watch Daily Show clips online, it’s an interesting read, especially this little nugget of information which I was not aware of:-

For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site. It deliberately “roughed up” the videos to make them look stolen or leaked. It opened YouTube accounts using phony email addresses. It even sent employees to Kinko’s to upload clips from computers that couldn’t be traced to Viacom. And in an effort to promote its own shows, as a matter of company policy Viacom routinely left up clips from shows that had been uploaded to YouTube by ordinary users.

The smart course of action would have been to let the clips stay on the site and earn money from the ad revenue, as BBC Worldwide, The X Factor and others have done. Viacom instead spent what must have been a considerable amount building their own sites for clips from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. They’re very good sites (I assume, since they’ve blocked UK users from accessing the video), but by not being on YouTube they are missing out on potential eyeballs. How many extra views and ad dollars would Viacom get if a Daily Show clip popped up as a “related video” to someone’s Keyboard Cat mashup?

In general, I would love a sane attitude to copyright infringement by the Big Media companies. People uploading short clips of their favourite TV shows is not depriving anyone of any income. A 14-year-old girl who posts a two-minute video of herself lip-synching to the Sugababes should not be punished (except, maybe, for crimes against music). Lumping YouTube uploaders in with those who are torrenting gigabytes of stuff on a daily basis is a tactic that’s sure to backfire.

23rd March 2010

Get into the Flashback Booth
Posted by at 4.58pm | Television | No responses

It was Autumn 1996 (I think) and your humble webmaster was flicking around the channels on his Telewest analogue cable box (Channel 7 is YOUR local channel!), alighting on the nascent Paramount Comedy. This was a time before the channel could rely on Frasier and South Park to prop up its schedules, and instead relied on two main sources of programming: old US sitcoms from the 1970s, and old US sitcoms from the 1990s which were cancelled after 7 episodes.

Amidst all the rubbish was the occasional gem, and the one I discovered that cold October night was It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, a wonderfully surreal sitcom starring the titular comedian and his neighbours. What marked this show out was that all the characters “knew” they were in a sitcom — cue much fourth-wall breaking and subverting of the genre. It wasn’t unusual to see the show play around with time (“It’s now two weeks later!”) or turn the cameras around to get the audience involved: one memorable episode saw the audience invited to Garry’s mother’s birthday party, only to give her a heart attack when they yelled, “Surprise!”

Running for four seasons from 1986-1990 (and originally screened in the UK on BBC2), it was somewhat overshadowed when Shandling made The Larry Sanders Show in the following decade, and nobody really seems to remember this show. There’s not even many dodgy clips on YouTube to jog the memory.

But I have found a morsel of Flash video goodness for you, so while you’re waiting for that essential DVD to arrive, here’s the ace opening titles in full, setting the tone for everything that follows:-