Robert Hampton

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22nd March 2013

Ogle the Goggle Box

BBC Television CentreI always like to think of myself as someone who doesn’t watch much TV, apart from the odd highbrow drama on BBC4, of course. However, on reviewing my blogs of times past, it’s clear that television has been a big inspiration for blog entries over the years.

The TV I discuss isn’t always high-minded, either. One of the earliest television related entries came in the wake of a massive brawl in the Big Brother House in 2004:

Sorry to go all Daily Mail on people, but BB really is the most reprehensible, morally bankrupt thing on TV. I hope the police investigation results in prosecutions against all the Channel 4 executives involved in putting this vile show on the air.

Good grief, that show pisses me off.

While on the subject of reality TV, let’s skip ahead chronologically and get this embarrassing post out of the way right now:

I’m going to come out and say it: Hooray for good old-fashioned Light Entertainment bollocks on ITV1! Britain’s Got Talent was actually fairly entertaining.

What was I thinking? In my defence, this was before I found out how cynically produced the whole thing is.

A much more pleasant show to watch is Frasier, so I was sad to see the show come to an end:

I think Frasier will stand the test of time much better than that other recently-ended American sitcom. Friends, with its reliance on 90s pop culture and “cool” dialogue (like… you know, whatever), will be irrelevant within 10 years. Whereas Frasier never tried to be cool, just funny, and was all the better for it.

Not sure whether that prediction has come to pass, with Friends filling up every spare timeslot on Comedy Central while Frasier is relegated to the lesser Comedy Central Extra. But I still think it’s a million times better.

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5th January 2010

The Crystal Amazed
Posted by at 7.16pm | Television | 1 response

The return of The Crystal Maze could be great news (if true — the original report comes from the Sun) but why is Amanda Holden’s name in the frame? I can’t think of anyone less suited to the role.

ITV seem desperate to cash in on the success of Britain’s Got Talent by putting the show’s stars on screen at every opportunity. There are more than five TV presenters in existence, guys: try using someone different for a change!

27th December 2009

Posted by at 5.03pm | Television | No responses

The BBC had nine of the top 10 shows on Christmas Day, according to the ratings people. The only ITV1 show to make the list was Coronation Street.

Many criticise ITV1 for not making much of an effort at Christmas. This ignores the fact that ITV1 is a commercial channel which makes its money from advertising, and the advertisers don’t want to spend money on Christmas Day when there are no shops open. The big spend from advertisers comes before Christmas, hence ITV1 devoting its energies in November and December.

It’s an argument which isn’t mentioned much when the licence fee is debated, but it’s one which should be considered: strip the BBC of its guaranteed funding and force it to rely on advertising income, and you’ll see an equally unimaginative schedule on BBC1 on December 25 in future years.

Just look at what happens in America, where the Christmas specials usually go out in the first week of December. On the day itself a load of old films and repeats are usually served up by the big networks.

Would it be the end of the world if Christmas Day ceased to be a big family-around-the-TV day? Probably not, but you can guarantee that those who howl loudest about the licence fee (the Daily Mail and its ilk) would also be the first to complain about the dire Christmas schedules that would result.

19th April 2009

I dreamed a dream in time gone by (last Saturday, in fact)
Posted by at 5.33pm | Music, Television | No responses

So what lessons can we take from the Susan Boyle internet phenomenon?

Well, one thing I’ve learned is that ITV still apparently has no clue how to use the Internet. The YouTube video linked to above is rocketing towards 30 million views and has been shown on television all over the place — but it’s a ropey, off-air recording (in the wrong aspect ratio!) of Britain’s Got Talent. Why haven’t ITV capitalised on the worldwide interest by having the pirated clips removed and uploading an “official” version to YouTube, thus entitling them to take a share of the advertising revenue?

More importantly though, it’s a salutary lesson in not judging a book by its cover: the unpleasant mocking laughter from the audience and eye-rolling from the judges soon evaporated once she opened her mouth. But isn’t it a sad reflection on society that much of the worldwide reaction can be summarised as, “ugly woman sings surprisingly well”?

Let’s not pretend that this is going to open the floodgates for those who (ahem) don’t meet usual standards of beauty. If (when?) she wins, it will change things very little: the British music industry will consist of a lot of beautiful women… and Susan Boyle. It stinks that this is the case, but it’s going to take an army of Susan Boyles to overcome it.

Nevertheless, it’s a joy to see this unassuming lady become the subject of so much attention. I’m willing to bet significant money that I will be buying her album for my mum’s birthday this year.

4th January 2009

Posted by at 1.55pm | Television | No responses

With Gene Hunt talking in a cod-American accent, Christian Cooke spending half the episode wandering around without a top on, and monster makeup seemingly obtained from the Albanian version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Demons could well be 2009’s early contender for best “trashy yet strangely compelling” telly programme.

More than that I can’t tell you, as I… ahem… fell asleep during the last commercial break, only to be startled out of my slumber by Vernon Kay shouting his way through Family Fortunes. Will I stay awake next week? Stay tuned to find out!

3rd January 2009

Ben Shephard fiddles while Gordon Burns
Posted by at 2.13pm | Television | No responses

When I heard that ITV were trying a new version of The Krypton Factor, I was simultaneously excited and worried. Excited, because this was one of my favourite shows when I was a kid. Concerned, because modern-day ITV is not exactly renowned for its cerebral shows.

The first episode went out on New Year’s Day and is now available to view on ITV’s catchup site.

The good:-

  • The new logo looks good, and they’ve kept the idea of the K animating into the current round’s symbol.
  • The set looks lovely.
  • The Mental Agility round was suitably tough; harder, in fact, than I remember the original version.
  • The intelligence test (assemble a jigsaw with only touch and a mirror-image on a screen) was classic Krypton Factor.
  • The General Knowledge round kept the nice touch from the classic series of each question being linked somehow to the previous answer.

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27th January 2008

Thank God for that
Posted by at 5.06pm | Television | No responses

I’ve been reacquainting myself with Whose Line is it Anyway? Not the hacked-to-ribbons versions that are being shown on Dave, mind, but the unexpurgated versions available free (albeit DRM-crippled) from 4oD.

I’m currently making my way through series 3. This is something of a re-evaluation for me. When Paramount Comedy repeated the complete run of the show a few years back, my impression was that these early episodes were “not very good”. Despite the presence of great improvisers such as Mike McShane, Sandi Toksvig, Paul Merton and Tony Slattery on the panel, yours truly had started watching the show in the mid-90s, during the dominance of the Colin Mochrie/Ryan Stiles/Greg Proops triumverate, and couldn’t imagine a show without them.

Now, ten years later (has it really been that long?) I’m able to appreciate these early episodes more. While perhaps not as consistently funny, they have a genuine unpredictability and edginess which is somewhat lacking in the later episodes, and missing almost entirely in the American version.

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