Still A Girl's Best Friend?

TV K-9 & Company Lives?

"It would have been a shame to put K9 back in his kennel, so we’ve come up with an idea for another drama," a source told the newspaper. "It’s early days but K9 and Elizabeth Sladen are inseparable characters."

Yes well it is another report from that paper. And we all wrote about what happened last time someone decided this would be a good idea for a show. But 'a BBC spokeswoman said, "We are not confirming any developments at this moment." ' Which is either a made-up quote to infer that things are actually happening or things are actually happening.

In other non-related 'news', Noel 'Mickey' Clarke appeared in the Mark Kermode film review section of the Simon Mayo show yesterday afternoon to talk about his new 'controversial' film Kidulthood and Mayo asked him if Billie was staying on. Noel almost sounds like he's choking on his coffee as he manically fishes around for a diplomatic answer, which is basically you'll have to ask her. You can listen again here. It sounds like a non-denial denial to me. I'm really not sure...


Music? And the horrifying thing is -- nope, speechless.


Weblogs Had a good Saturday? Mine was -- calm. Drifted through the Bergman film Sommarnattens leende (or if you're like me and only know a language that isn't Swedish, Smiles of a Summer Night). Just breaking in because Joss Whedon's been having a 'discussion' with Caroline at Whedonesque about whether site is a weblog and really it's the most unexpected of things. You can see it here. Sorry Joss, it's a blog!


Appeal Since I don't have satellite tv any more I'm going to miss The Oscars with Jon Stewart which is a tragedy. I was wondering if anyone was planning on watching and/or could possibly video record the thing for me? I'll be happy to pay for postage or whatnot. It would be especially fun if one of my US readers could do it because I'd like to see what it looks like on its original network. I have a video which will play NTSC originated tapes... any chance?

[Incidentally I'm also stuck on dial-up so bit torrent or any kind of download isn't an option unfortunately.]


Magazines This month's Doctor Who magazine features a heartfelt editorial regarding the death of Smash Hits.

But it's not dead.

It's just emigrated ...


TV Just as a matter of interest, because of the statistical probability if any of The Apprentice hopefuls had blogs or personal websites. Do they ...

Karen Bremner: "Last night was a bit tough for me as I was not expecting to see Nargis lay into me on the You're Fired show. I have no idea what she was talking about regarding dishonesty but that is pretty rough for anyone to take. In the profession which I have chosen, integrity and honesty are paramount and for someone to question it is for them to question everthing that I have worked for nearly 18 years to achieve (don't do the maths - I went to Uni at 16!)." She also has a personal website. [bbc]

Tuan Lee: "Why did I apply...? Plain and simply; my application to be an Apprentice was borne from the desire to challenge myself. The drive to become better; both personally and professionally." [bbc]

Sharon McAllister: "Sharon McAllister is an original thinker with an innovative entrepreneurial flair. She is an extremely determined woman whose energetic approach to life guarantees her relentless motivation. Sharon has a comprehensive skill set and a natural ability to adapt and excel in any environment." [bbc]

Alexa Tilley: " Alexa enjoys cycling and goes on an annual cycling trip to Norfolk (Holme Next the Sea) with her fellow cyclist friends - the Home to Holme Cycling Club. Alexa and her good friend Karen completed the London to Brighton Cycle Ride in 2005, which was good fun, but took rather a long time!" [bbc]



Theatre I was finally able to see the Manchester Library Theatre's version of Much Ado About Nothing on Tuesday night (after the mishap last week) and thoroughly enjoyed myself. This is a straight down the line traditionalist production were the men are uniformed and the girls are in lovely white dresses in a period setting -- no all white walls or nudity here (except for one bit in which one of the porters well, pissed all over the stage. Was it prosthetic penis? Not sure. It was very small though and the school kids in the audience laughed for nearly ten minutes until the teacher told them not to).

But it was very funny. One of the items I look for in these things is how the director and cast deal with the humour which hasn't aged well. Sometimes jokes will be over emphasised so that the audience will laugh in a fake manner. For some reason this troop and director Chris Honer have managed to make those aspects of the script genuinely funny through such novel things as timing and chemistry. Even the moment when Beatrice asks Benedict to murder Claudio was hilarious -- it's actually very impressive when a story that you know very well, with a quotable script can still throw in shocks and surprises in the right hands.

But really it was a great cast, bringing together actors and actresses who according to the programme have worked on a whole selection of popular tv dramas, from Doctors to The Bill through Family Affairs. I'm not sure which gig they do to supplement the other but it really demonstrates that there's a lot of talent in theatreland and it's such a shame that the same faces keep turning up in starring roles on the tube. Much Ado can really stall if Beatrice and Benedict are badly cast and lack a spark, but Lucy Tregear was funny and passionate and Peter Lindford provided an excellent foil and great intelligence and focus. Similarly you really have to believe that Claudio and Hero can fall in love through a brief glance across the stage, but here David Gyasi was perfectly gallant and Erin Brodie totally loveable. But really the whole of the cast was excellent right through to the Zatoichi style dance climax at the very end. These kids could move...


Elsewhere Partial explanation of my absense can be found at Off The Telly and my review of last night's episode of The Apprentice. Which I was dangerously up until one o'clock last night writing. Looking back at the full version it's a bit rambling but luckily site editor Graham managed to turn it into English... but really Jo to win. Although she won't. It'll be Ansell. But then I predicted Sara Khan last year so ...

The Apprentice.

TV As some of you know, back in the day I had the privilege of writing for the late lamented television review and comment website Off The Telly. In an effort to pull my various bits writing onto the blog, I've decided to post some of these over the coming weeks. Since The Apprentice is back this week, find below a recap/review of one of only two or three episodes I think I've ever watched, and one of those was the week before in preparation for writing this. It's for an episode of the 2006 series and if you're a fan you'll know the personalities.  Please note - it was sub-edited before being posted on Off The Telly which is why it shows the features of good English and grammar.

During last week’s episode of The Apprentice, two particular personalities were highlighted. Jo and Syed found it hard to make a good impression, simply because their estimation of what they needed to do and say, and what was actually required, were so wide of the mark. Where the rest were happy to sit back and carry on nonchalantly as though they really didn’t care if Alan picked them, these two went in with tons of passion from the off – albeit, some of it misdirected. While Jo really seemed to care for the image of her team, Syed just wanted to make himself look good. I predicted then that one of them would be fired before the hour was up. How wrong I was.

Alan Sugar reminds me of an old games teacher I used to have. At the beginning of every term before we could select which sport we wanted to try, he would offer the list (football, basketball, cricket, weight-training etc). Just after my usual selection of bridge, Mr T (for that was his nickname) would say, “There is no two-hour skive, no two-hour ‘go home’, no two-hour going to the shops”. Now here’s Sir Alan with his, “There is no phone-in here, there is no text a number, no panel of judges. I’m the one who decides who gets fired, and I’m the one who ultimately decides who gets hired”.

It’s quite disconcerting (he even shouts and points in the same way) but within the opening titles of the programme, it importantly specifies that, for once, this is a reality game show in which the public can’t vote Penny Smith to stay despite the fact she obviously can’t sing. Time is spent over these crucial initial moments in building up Sir Alan as a captain of industry, with all the planes and paraphernalia. Sadly they don’t mention the joy he brought to millions of school kids who gained friends because they had an Amstrad CPC 6466 with a built in monitor and disc drive. That would do it for me.

Those first few minutes of last week’s show had lulled the audience into a false sense of security. The use of Bill Conti’s music from The Thomas Crown Affair gave the impression this group were like teenagers given the keys to the big house and being allowed to play (I remember a similar scene in the first series of Popstars all those years ago). It wasn’t long before some polite discussions began.

This week over the recap it’s all drumbeats, clock-ticks and guitar riffs. Suspense from the off as some of the blokes rankled at the appearance of Syed, rather than Ben, back at the house. The Bangladesh born entrepreneur looked touchingly forlorn as colleague Samuel received all the hugs.

The gloves were off. Lads (and ladies) let’s get to work.

Tonight’s task was to create a design for a charity calendar for Great Ormond Street Hospital. As with last week, Velocity had an early bird on where they wanted to take the design. Then the solid wall of intuition seemed to crumble. The voiceover intoned, “Early research suggests pets sell the most calendars,” and the ensuing discussion began with the decision as to whether they should go with cats or dogs. The website for an American company flashed up on screen. With all the prices in dollars, would this be their first mistake – basing a business decision on researching the US market. Would anyone notice?

Jo was emotional. Quite rightly she thought the calendar should reflect the ethos of the hospital. It was difficult to watch the group’s reaction as she began to cry, only to be shouted out by her colleagues who were increasingly hostile, sensing a forthcoming kill. Suddenly people who last week could sell a tray of fruit for 30 quid simply by batting their eyelids became, well, banshees. As often happens in these situations, a group who are desperate to plough on with the doing of things failed to stop and listen to all the opinions.

Jo was being steamrollered and she didn’t like it.

Wondering how they’d come to that decision, I searched for calendars on Google and found the exact website which flashed up on screen, Their top seller lately is “Thomas Kinkade Painter of Light” with “Hot Buns” in fourth – although after Sir Alan’s reaction to last week’s escapades, I can see why they’d disregard that idea.

When Jo then held up a piece of GOSH publicity, it was abundantly clear the girls didn’t even want to consider the charity’s own branding. As ever, they were going to do their own thing. Within the show’s editing process, Jo had gone from being slightly annoying to quite sympathetic.

In the Invicta camp, Samuel was subjecting his teammates to a training session on how to brainstorm. In excruciating detail he talked through the various approaches until his highlighter ran out of ink. As usual, Ansell attempted to take charge as the group couldn’t decide what they wanted, or how. Margaret Mountford, Sir Alan’s aide, wasn’t happy and told them so. When they finally came to a decision it was as simple as the girls’ … and just as gut-wrenching. Babies. Dressed in work clothes. Syed dashed off the list. “This baby’s gonna be a doctor, this baby’s gonna be a businessman, this baby’s gonna be an astronaut, we’re gonna dress them all up in this”. Poor babies.

As Syed and Paul wandered through a prop department hunting for appropriate dressings, things were looking increasingly dodgy. Paul dithered over whether they should include handcuffs in the politically correct “policeperson” picture. “We could handcuff them together, but we don’t want to look as though we’re handcuffing kids”.

The cracks in Invicta continued to show as Syed, Ansell and Paul had the inspired notion of actually buying some charity calendars so they could get some leads on design and pricing. Alas, Syed garbled the reasoning behind the plan to Sam – he said it was to see if they could guess how expensive they were – and it went no further. Despite this failure, the “business bad boy” actually appeared for the first time as someone with good logical ideas. In the ensuing confrontation over pizza with Samuel and Mani, he was by far the clearest and most level-headed. Almost robotic.

At Velocity, Nargis had called a meeting for all the girls who sat around drinking wine and agreeing with each other. Except for Jo, who was in the kitchen crying. The following day, there was a telling moment, which remained unhighlighted. As they left the house, Alexa reached forward to touch Jo, who was walking ahead of her. We didn’t find out what was said, but it was odd the voiceover suggested one set of circumstances, while these details offered a different narrative.

As the day progressed we were shown a montage from the photo shoots. Michelle explained the high concept behind their cat project. “We don’t want anything climbing out of plant pots or anything like that. We want something that’s quite contemporary, quite sharp, quite classy”. Meanwhile, the boys’ babies were not even dressing in uniforms.

Problematically, they were totally naked with bricks and film cans keeping their modesty. It made for uncomfortable viewing. But not as uncomfortable as witnessing layout man Tuan producing the design and choosing a font horrifyingly like Comic Sans.

Before the rest of the team arrived, he complained to Mani (who had just returned from mangling Thomas Jefferson into his pitch) that there would soon be another six people arguing over the thing’s colour. In the end, predictably they argued over the whole layout. The resident desktop publisher adjusted his glasses and kept his mouth shut. We couldn’t blame him. While the gang debated, like Jo before him, Tuan was shut out and tearful.

As the third day dawned, Syed, Samuel and Mani were haggling over the item’s retail price. Samuel thought they should go for something a few pounds more than the internet.

“You think?” Syed said pointedly. If they’d gone to a shop and had a look as he’d suggested they would have known. Syed said he was feeling uncomfortable. Mani dropped the f-bomb and tempers finally flared. But, yet again – and I hate to say this – Syed was right and Mani was annoyed about that.

The pitching sessions began. At Harrods, Mani was trying to sell a calendar to a man looking directly through him. It wasn’t clear if Mani thought they had chemistry, but it seemed to me his presence was only being tolerated, especially when the question of money came up and he still didn’t have an answer. Although they had this straight by the second encounter of the day, they weren’t going to win with Virgin Megastore (“It’s not particularly nicely produced if I’m being honest … the inset pictures are quite dated looking … the use of colours has a little bit of a look of desktop publishing about it … I don’t think we’d be able to pay anything more than £2.70, £2.75 for this.”).

However, none of this was quite as excruciating as Nargis’ work. Beforehand, she’d advised everyone to stay quiet even if she was making a hash it. Painfully nervous, she actually interrupted the Virgin man when he had the audacity to ask how much he’d have to shell out – and she too, didn’t have an answer for that.

For all her ability to take charge in meetings, she simply couldn’t handle the random stress of a presentation. Each time she lacked the flexibility to answer simple questions, desperate to keep to the form of her pitch. Everyone watching The Apprentice tonight now knows there are six million cat owners in the UK alone, and that the majority of them live in London. I’m going to take that to my grave. Then the man from the Calendar Club asked: “Why are you selling a cat calendar for children?” Jo wondered about this two days ago. Nargis was flustered. She told him he’d find out if he just let her finish the presentation. “Oh, OK. Oh there’s more …” But what’s this? In the final meetings at Calendar Club for the boys and Harrods for the girls, no matter how awful the pitches were they liked the product. Calendar Club man even congratulated the boys on the design. Because he knows. Because he buys a lot of calendars. Lord.

Then the tension ramped up for the boardroom. Initially, it looked as though the girls had won. They’d managed to sell to all of the vendors and made £7000. But wait. The man from Calendar Club had bought a shed-load of the things from the boys, and they’d made £10,000. For all their indecision, a random variable had meant they’d turned a profit.

Nargis was shocked. She swallowed visibly.

In the ensuing “burn-down” session, Sir Alan pointed out cats had nothing to do with the hospital. Although this reflected well on Jo, her rambling self-assessment made little headway with the mogul. He looked pained. “Jo, will you excuse me for one moment and allow me to appraise the situation?” Karen, who was also brought in for the reckoning by Nargis, was the biggest surprise here. We hadn’t heard much from her, but her strong negotiating skills came to the fore. Sir Alan used her as counsel regarding Jo’s attitude. Could she be redeemed? And then, just when she needed to shut-up and let Nargis take the flack, Jo was back presenting her case, even interrupting Sugar. Frankly I want to her to win on the basis that she seems to be the most real of all.

Nargis was fired. Good.

Given that she was the second team leader to be given walking boots in as many weeks, I would have thought no one else would want the job. But in the preview for next week, it’s clear Jo is next up – no doubt in the team’s hope she’ll finally go overboard. But you know, I’ve a feeling she’ll still be there in the final week.

Her and Syed. What do you think?

Neither. Michelle and Ruth. Michelle was hired.


Life I was watching Love and Other Catastrophies again last week just to see how well observed the post-graduate film course culture actually is. For the first time I could actually laugh at the jokes about auteur theory even if the references to Tarantino and Spike Lee seem a bit dated. Anyway there's a scene were one of the characters is trying to study in the college library and some 'lads' are laughing and joking. Eventually he tells them to shut up and then looks embarassed as they continue to talk and gossip.

If only I had the courage.

Some people need to study in the college library. They're either in noisy halls or their home is so filled with displacement activities and distractions that its impossible to do anything meaningful there. Work, reading and writing and learning and remember generally requires quiet. Which you would think you'd be able to get in something like a library. So why do some students persist in talking? And talking. And not getting their own work done but at the same time making sure no one else in the room is either.

I managed to find what I thought was a quiet forgotten area at the library in college. It feels like a proper university library too, the kind I'd hoped to be using when I first started, all wooden overhangs, shelves filled with medical journals and subdued lighting. And the first few times I've used the area you could hear a pin drop, apart from the metalic crack of the pipes in the slightly old heating system. But it keeps me warm and like the tick of a clock you get used to it after a while.

But the talkers have recently moved in. The other day it was actual staff members. A couple came through, one giving the other a guided tour. This meant that someone I've seen actively telling other people off for talking having a conversation louder than some televisions about the content of the shelves and were the staffroom was and (oh irony) how they expect people to be quiet in the library. I glanced over at a fellow student and we simply shrugged at each other. Then two blokes arrived with large rattly trollies and began empty those shelves onto them, shouting over to each other so that they could tick whatever they were collecting off the list. Score on for the library staff.

Today some undergrads were muttering away as though this was the only place in the galaxy they could possibly have conversation about whatever they watched on television last night. I wanted to turn to them, go to them and say 'Look -- I'm a film studies student and I'm currently for various reasons trying to understand a chapter which talks in some detail about superstring theory which as you can appreciate is not the easiest thing in the world for someone who dropped physics at GCSE and originally got in to university all those years ago on a Fine Art A-Level. Now will you please fuck off and discuss whether Pauline from Eastenders is looking a bit old somewhere else?' but I don't. Even when someone else appears and they go through a session of highfiving like they're in a gym.

So instead I try the glare. The sigh. Even the growl. I know if I do ask them to be quiet that in the end I'll spend the rest of the afternoon asking other people to be quiet as well, that I'm becoming pathalogical and boring and I won't be able concentrate on why some scientists simply can't describe what a superstring looks like (inside or outside a particle? You decide). I move. To another part of the library.

This place is even more gothic -- I'm actually sitting at a table which requires a trek through two sets of bookshelves to get to. This should be the place. I put my books down and start reading. Then I realise I've actually stumbled into a corridor. So as well as talking I'm having to listen to the trample of footsteps of people going from the room I've just left into the main part of the library. Talking. Look I'm not asking for this place to be anything like the catacombs in The Name of the Rose but it would be nice to have some silence. Then just behind I hear some more whispering. It's different this time. Sensual. I lean backwards on my chair to find a couple actually laughing and making out.

I somehow managed to do the reading. I'll know in the seminar on Thursday if my notes and memory are sufficient or if I ended up wasting three hours. I've some more reading to do on Wednesday and I'll try the home thing again so Manchester will lose my company for the day. But I think it can probably get along without me. But really I've got to think of something.

An Unearthly Child.

TV The first time I saw An Unearthly Child was in its pilot form in the version which was broadcast during BBC Two's Lime Grove weekend all those years ago. In my memory it double billed with an episode of Quatermass and at the time I found that fairly dreary this was captivating. It seemed like a totally different programme. It was alien to me in every sense. It was closer in fact to The Twilight Zone than anything which I remember from the McCoy era which looked annoying and loud by comparison.

Which means, that in the same way everyone has their favourite Doctor, I'd choose the pilot version of An Unearthly Child any time. With the chance to rewatch both very close together on dvd recently I still believe that something essentially mysterious was lost in the remount. It might make more perfect sense story wise for Susan to be reading a history book but how much more exciting is the ink splot which seemed to me her attempt at creating a paper representation of the time vortex. Then there is the shot of Susan entering the junkyard seen from inside the back of the car that Ian and Barbara are driving, and the excellent attempts at noir lighting (even if in the case of that car scene they didn't get that quite right and Ian's face is obscured by a shadow created by Barbara's head).

The Doctor's an even grumpier old man but that would have meant that when he finally did warm to the TARDIS crew, the effect would have been sweeter. He's just plain shifty, the kind of man who should be visited by social workers let alone teachers. Susan too is slightly more mature and has an even greater ageless quality. Spot the moment in this version when Barbara bursts into the TARDIS and Susan is firmly working at the controls of the ship not randomly standing in the middle of the floor as she is in the second version. The former suggests that they've been travelling for years and this is her usual station. The attitudes of the teachers change far less between the two although the performances of Jacqueline Hill and Bill Russell are slightly more earthy I think, more real.

Something I've always done which tends to annoy people so I do it some more is treat An Unearthly Child and the following three stone age episodes as separate stories. To have the whole of the serial named after the first seems a nonsense since Susan is far from the suggested focus of the story -- caveman politics is. That way we can happily call the second story The Tribe of Gum or 100,000 BC or The Cave of Skulls or whatever we want to whichever week and the purity of the opening episode can be contained.


Elsewhere Just posted The things I will not do when I direct a Shakespeare production, on stage or film at Metafilter


Sport I think I knew the exact moment when the we collectively decided that Barry Davies' commentary during the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony had finally reached annoyance critical mass. It was when my Dad, seemingly from nowhere shouted:
"It's called a trampoline you stupid idiot!"*
I'm sure Barry has his fans but really after a while his often useful bits of information gave way to noise. "That's very nice." He'd say, or "That's just spectacular." We know Barry, we're watching it. There was a commentariless broadcast on interactive but when the speechs scrolled around you had no recorse but to put up with the stilted translation from Davies.

Overall the closing was a more exciting spectacle than the opening, even if the fixation on clowns reminded me of all the reasons I'm not a big fan of Italian cinema. To be honest I was more concerned with why the other half of the dancers were dressed in the same alpine gear the rebels wore on the ice planet Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. The overall carnival theme felt lost in the midst of the madness, with the constant cutting back to the king and queen during the athlete's parade a bit pointless. The big highlight was the appearance of hundreds of brides although the inadvertant metaphore conjured when you realise that their appearance led to be extinguishing of the Olympic flame. Exactly what are you trying to say will happen when all of these flawless looking Italian girls will enter wedlock?

At least the live music this time was slightly hipper. For some reason the organisers thought Yoko watching Peter Gabriel butchering her late husband's song Imagine would be the perfect thing to set off a fortnight's worth of sporting events. No. This time during the Canadian presentation, Avril Lavigne appeared to sing what must be theme song next time as the new mascot was created in large blocks of fake ice. Much has been written in the past couple of months about Lavigne's new look and here she was de-fauxgothed and looking amazing with a mass of blonde hair. What will the fans think? Later, Italian singer Elisa was introduced as the token artist from the country that no one else has heard of. Except all of the way through I had the nagging feeling I'd heard the song before and dashed into my cd collection to find a copy of her album. I do not have a Ricky Martin album, although he seemed to enjoy himself and worked the crowd who were excited even if the act was just a touch the wrong side of Hasslehoff.

[*he didn't say 'idiot' though. Expletive deleted.]

Hamlet Conundrums

"Looks at major issues of interpretation of Shakespeare's classic play that have occupied the minds of audiences, directors, designers, performers and critics during its 400-year history. In doing this, we hope to give a sense of the history of people's preoccupations with and thought about the play."

Raymond Chandler's Hamlet

"Something was rotten in Denmark, rank and gross, as rotten as a dame named Gertrude in bed with her husband's killer while the caterer recycled the funeral baked meats for the wedding reception, at which the bride did not wear white."