"Kids love him, parents love him, kids love him, gay, straight – [they all] love him."

TV (Spoilers?) Amusing interview with Mr. John Barrowman on the US broadcast of Torchwood. On Captain Jack:

“He’s something that we’ve never seen before. Going to the obvious, he’s -- in terms of wording from this day and age -- he’s bisexual, but in the realm of the show, we call him omnisexual, because on the show, [the characters] also have sex with aliens who take human form, and sex with male-male, women-women, all sorts of combinations.

“But I think Jack has come across so well with the public is because he doesn’t judge on that. And he doesn’t let people just him on that. Because he is a hero, a sexy – I’m talking Captain Jack here, not me – a sexy hero with an ambition and a mission. The sexuality is completely secondary, and basically the comment is, that’s the way we should be with ourselves.”

Much of anything in here we've obviously read before, apart from the spoilery eye popping sentence about James Marsters, but the more interesting material is between the brackets as the interviewer has to explain the differing contexts that Doctor Who and Torchwood have on UK tv, presumably because the Sci-Fi Channel are knocking out the mother series at 9pm, after our watershed.

Oh and there's a bizarre interlude in which the head of BBC America where the series will appear seems to be under the impression that the episodes are an hour long (please god no), they're given a fifty minute version and then they cut another two minutes out themselves. Does that mean Ianto gets even less to do? [via]


Music Another in a long line of Glastonbury reviews, this time from the attractively surnamed Elizabeth Heritage at TravelMag:
"The glory of Glastonbury lies in its kaleidoscopic variety, which is inspired by its immense size. This year, I was one of more than 177,000 festival-goers. Bang, instant city. Imagine the entire population of Hamilton deciding to pitch tents in a nine-hundred-acre field with mates from around the world, and you will have some idea of the scale."
I suspect the only way to enjoy Glastonbury is with a time machine so that you can go back to the beginning of each day over and over so that you can't miss anything. I always wonder too if there's a tribal effect in which some people shun the main stage for being too mainstream.

Neighbouring Slot.

TV Mark Wright at The Stage considers what the BBC's going to do with the 5:35pm slot when Neighbours has left the channel. The emphasis is on more soap opera, with River City, Doctors and Waterloo Road mentioned as potential replacements. There is of course Grange Hill too, whose latest series, as Graham has mentioned recently ran on CBBC, but has as yet failed to find a place on the main channel -- there's some ready made programming right there which straddles the generation gap in much the same way as Neighbours.

The other option would be to shift the kids slot up half an hour to end at six, extending the daytime programming period by half an hour on the other side.

But as I said in the comments section of The Stage post, why not create far more variety in the slot with a range of series and one off dramas, comedies and documentaries created by up and coming and established programme makers with the only proviso being that each episode of whatever they're making should come in at £90,000 (which is the price that the BBC were paying per episode for the Australian soap).

Some of the best work can be created under this kind of pressure and it provides an opportunity for the BBC to say that they're investing in new writing and directing and acting talent and there's always the possibility that something might find a following in there somewhere that can be developed to prime time. Plus since most of it would be made independently, it would bump up that quota. It would seem like a missed opportunity just to bung in another soap or game show.

On Random

Life The BBC Proms began tonight with Walton's Overture 'Portsmouth Point', a very personal presentation of Elgar's Concerto for Cello in E minor from soloist Paul Watkins and a heart stopping rendition of Beethoven's 9th. That sentence suggests I actually know what I'm talking about, but this is the first First Night of the Proms I've actually remembered to watch and more than that the first in which I actually felt like I was appreciating the music.

Unlike some other art forms, I've had rather a random understanding of classical music -- a bit of this and that, a recognition of individual movements along with a sprinkling of being able to identify the work of a few of the 'a-list' composers. I certainly couldn't recognise the soloist or conductor just from listening to a piece and if you played two different recordings of a symphony, I wouldn't be able to say which orchestra could be heard.

But tonight, watching that choir lurch into the so called 'Ode To Joy' with such a force it seemed to rattle the foundations of the Albert Hall and make the promenaders apparently have to stand rigid lest they be blown over by the shock waves (I exaggerate but it must have been earth-shattering in the hall) I understood for the first time what can be accomplished by professional musicians and singers putting their heart and soul into interpreting the work of a composer at the top of his personal and professional pinnacle.

I can't wait to hear more of this.

"I don't think much of this Earth idea of recreation. Why can't we do something constructive?"

TV The Hanover area of Brighton has a special annual festival celebrating local culture. This year there was a Doctor Who theme and the town was invaded by Cybermen and there was an aptly named Dalek race as this video as the local paper's website shows. Jon seems to think it had something to do with John Leeson (voice of K9) living there, but it could also be a reference to The Leisure Hive whose opening scene was filmed on the beach there [spotted at my friend Amy's blog].

Amateur Reports

Elsewhere Gosh, it's me being quoted from this post in The Guardian's Technology section:

I loved the right to reply from Duncan Henry of National Rail Enquiries listed beforehand, his defense essentially being (I'm paraphrasing) 'yeah, it's not perfect, but then again, what is?'

How true.


TV Good lord, it's Ian Jones (from TV Cream and Off The Telly) writing about The Simpsons in The Guardian:
"Plots swung sickeningly from one cliche to another. Jokes arrived out of the blue for no reason. No attempt was made to cling to reality. Now Homer would end up in new employment six or seven times a series. To date, he's held 118 (and counting) jobs, from missionary to garbage commissioner to grease salesman to fortune cookie writer, which wouldn't be such a damning statistic had almost none of them been particularly funny."
Great article too. I stopped watching The Simpsons a decade ago for all of those reasons ...

Too shy.

Life Annette, on being shy: "Some people grow out of shyness but unfortunately I wasn’t one of them. I just couldn’t understand why it was so easy for other people to just open their mouths and say something and why everyone else seemed to have more and better friends than I did. This wasn’t a case of being “a little shy.” This was a bizarre fear where I just couldn’t get to know people. I was a good student but a complete dunce socially. You often hear the adjective “crippling” attached to shyness. It really is crippling, sort of like having two broken legs. You’re not able to get around socially. As a result of being shy, I was a lonely and often unhappy kid. The middle school years, especially, were nearly unbearable."

Cape cod

TV In case anyone is wondering, I did try watching Cape Wrath or Meadowlands or whatever it's supposed to be called on Channel 4 last night and gave up half way through. Despite having the usually committed performance from David Morrissey (whose surely just biding his time now until he's offered the Doctor Who job) and a fabulous turn from Lucy Cohu as his apparent wife there was only what I can describe as a desperation to it, oh so eager to get the viewer involved that it tipped over into the realm of being annoying and creepy in totally the wrong way.

It's as though the writers have looked at the likes of everything from Twin Peaks to The Prisoner to Desperate Housewives and Lost and tried to do something similar within a 'British' setting. The internal mystery is seductive -- what is Meadowlands and why is it stocked with people on witness protection programmes? The local police liaison isn't all that he seems and Morrissey's real contact is a woman in what looks like surveillance room and when they talk its obvious they know more about the past than we do. Which is annoying.

Unfortunately, rather than presenting us with an ordinary family within these extraordinary circumstances which the audience can relate to, they are just as mysterious as everyone else which puts us at one remove which means the audience lacks an avatar in the world, someone to relate to, something which none of the listed shows forgot to do. I suspect the final twist will be that the family we're supposed to be following aren't a real family or something.

In the end, after yet another of the incessant whip pans and uncomfortably stilted moments of drama I simply couldn't take it any more which is why some of the elements of this review are a bit undernourished. Plus I looked in the Radio Times during the ad-break noticed the next episode was on E4, the synopsis for which gave away the ending of the first, offering precisely the climax I was expecting and I simply couldn't be bothered. It's a rare first episode of a new drama that will do that.


Elsewhere I'll you'll pardon my French, I've attempted to goldplate a turd here. I was trying to justify the nine pounds I've just spent buying one of the worst Doctor Who stories ever.


TV Just like everyone else, I've been grimacing my way through the new dvd release, Timelash. On paper there are some great ideas in here which wouldn't look out of place in one of Russell's pre-season episode plans for nu-Who: the return to the setting of an old adventure which is played very much as though we're supposed to have seen it in the series a few decades before; a stable wormhole dropping inhabitants of a planet far in the future into the dark ages (with the effects each of those appearances could have on the timeline) and most squandered the idea of Doctor meta-fictionally meeting one of his inspirations HG Wells.

But no matter what Colin and co might imply in the entertaining commentary it's a shambles and not even gloriously so. Everyone seems under rehearsed, the script is underwritten in places, overwritten in others, the Bandrill is as disappointing a creature as I'd been led to believe and when, not even the overacting and overreacting of Paul Darrow can save a pantomime like this you kind of wonder why anyone would want to buy it let alone watch it.

And on the back of a new series, I really hope that there aren't any kids for whom this is their first classic story -- perhaps 2Entertain should have put a label on the back warning them to go and by Genesis of the Daleks instead or have someone call a spade a spade and call it something naughty in the surprisingly honest document in an attempt to drive up the BBFC rating -- which on the face of it could have least included the description from the sleeve notes on the inside contains 'dull, uninspiring sets and costumes'.

But (surprise) I don't come to completely bury Timelash. Because there is one good scene. Or rather shot. And here it is:

As film theorist David Bordwell explains in this brilliant exposition, this kind of shot is becoming increasingly common in film, in everything from Wes Anderson's movies to underrated I, Robot. He describes:

"The camera stands perpendicular to a rear surface, usually a wall. The characters are strung across the frame like clothes on a line. Sometimes they’re facing us, so the image looks like people in a police lineup. Sometimes the figures are in profile, usually for the sake of conversation, but just as often they talk while facing front."

That's not exactly what's going on here -- the studio camera is at a slight angle, but it's not often that you see the Doctor and his plus one simply in repose like this waiting for the next bit of plot to come along (unless they've been captured for the umpteenth time and it's that point in the story when Pertwee gets to deploy his moment of charm).

More often than not the Doctor is moving around, making plans, investigating. But here he is almost relaxed. But more than that, it's almost as though, in midst of some of the blandest direction known to the series, Pennant Roberts has, at least for a few seconds, decided to show the state of the relationship between these two travelers and their attitude to adventure.

They look used to one another, like the old married couple they're often described as because of the endless bickering, not even looking at each other, looking into the environment. There's a stillness to it. There was a paparazzi photo taken during the making of the first new series of Chris and Billie sitting side by side in their own star chairs texting someone and their attitude was the same as this, relaxed yet also somehow tense in one another's company.

The close ups within this scene are within the same plain -- in other words when we see Colin and Nicola's heads they're positioned as they are now, which is the kind of editing language prevalent in old Hollywood (you can see it often in Frank Capra's films) and that helps to elaborate on this mood. Then as the scene progresses, the effect is spoiled as the story kicks in again and anything related to real human drama goes out of the window.

Does this one shot save the story? Oh good god no, it's utter garbage, the whole other eighty-eight minutes. But just for a few brief moments, both of these characters become interesting and mysterious and there's a window into what could have been.


News It's the mid-Eighties Rank-financed farce with Ronnie Barker that writes itself as seen in the local news headlines. Add Eric Sykes as the owner of the parrot and you're onto a winner.

"halo there non-evil ex-bf"

TV It's that phone conversation from The Sound of Drums rendered as lolcats, oh yes [via].


Film There's life in the old bulldog yet:
"Other highlights of BBC2’s fall season include “British Film Forever,” a season celebrating British movies featuring interviews with more than 200 leading Brit thesps and helmers. Michael Caine, Anthony Hopkins, Kate Winslet, Ewan McGregor, Gurinder Chadha and Richard Curtis are among those featured. The series, which will see 40 British flicks broadcast by BBC2 as part of “British Film Forever,” is being made with the support of the British Film Institute and the U.K. Film Council."
What do you think are the chances that Channel 4 will get involved and make it truly comprehensive -- Big Brother should be finished by then and they'll be looking for something to fill the several hours of space on the channel which can't instead be filled by property shows and Deal or No Deal.

The Soil Eaters

Music Madonna does a cover of the Holby City song. Simon sums up the final set of Live Earth:
"It turns out it was surprisingly apt when the cast of Holby City chose to do Hung Up for their Children In Need slot last year - listening to Madonna doing her song tonight, it really did sound like the sort of song a junior doctor who played in a covers band for fun might put together for a medical revue. Something that people would hear and say "that's good... for a junior doctor."
But leave Kate alone. I've woken up with her many a morning and I've not seen a reporter/presenter who can cover the Oscars and the war in Iraq with such equal intelligence and precision. Obviously I'm in love.

So yes, I watched Live Earth although stuck with the interactive channels for most of the day, only joining the rest of the kingdom when it became apparent that they were beginning to repeat themselves and not including anything from Wembley. Shakira was excellent, as was, Toni Collette who can really rock out (did say that out loud?). The Pussycat Dolls had the Queen moment (I was checking ebay for the album even before the set ended) and although I didn't think Madonna was that bad she didn't do Ray of Light any favours.

On the whole though, the BBCs coverage seemed much fairer and balanced than Live Eight, presenting the promotional films whilst at the same time questioning whether the concerts will actually do any good. I was impressed though with the way they purposefully asked the question repeatedly about scientific consensus and repeatedly underlined that the disagreement isn't about whether the planet is heating up any more and whether it was down to everything we've been up to since the industrial revolution but rather the rate at which it's happening and how far into the future the tipping point is and when we're actually so fucked there's nothing much we or our kids can do about it (see I too, like Phil Collins, can swear).

About the only criticism I can give is how off message some of the performers were; it strikes me that given the occasion some of them could have been given a few more suggestions in relation to the information they needed to put across. The nadir was the usually brilliant KT Tunstall in New York who told the crowd and the people at home that they should unplug their mobile phones and eat soil (although she could have been a bit disgruntled after Kevin Bacon told the crowd the half-Irish Edinburgh born singer was from England). Its easy to understand that you can stop war by not fighting with one another (and perhaps follow Marvin Gaye's advice to Get It On) and you can beat hunger by feeding people. But global warming has thousands of related causes and thousands of related solutions which makes it really difficult to fit into a sound bite.

"Hey! Hey! You! You!"

Music Avril Lavigne fan uses You Tube to persuasively refute the impending lawsuit: "the only similar thing about the song that *I* can hear is that one is about a girlfriend and one is about a boyfriend (Gee, how many songs have been written about THOSE subjects over the past 1000 years, including many many of guys/girls saying they want to be their girlfriend/boyfriend..? LOL) and the fact both have the phrase "Hey! Hey! You! You!"... followed by Avril singing "I don't like your girlfriend" or "I want to be your girlfriend" etc and those Rubes singing "I wanna be your boyfriend"..."

Cultural vandalism

Film It's not often that I’ll read the Sunday morning newspapers and read something genuinely eye-popping, especially not in the Review sections. Then I read Colin MacCabe’s column in The Observer:
“When I left the BFI in 1998, it was regarded worldwide as the outstanding example of an educational and cultural film institution. It had experimental film and television production arms, a postgraduate programme and a cutting edge publications division. It hired the greatest clustering of film expertise in the world ranging from its curators to its academics. These had at their disposal the best film library and film archive in the world. They also had the National Film Theatre.

“Today there is a renamed cinema complex but every other activity has been abolished or is under threat while talent has haemorrhaged away. In international circles the BFI is now mentioned not as an enviable model but as an awful example of political vandalism. Variety magazine talks of the 'tipping point' at which the institute will cease to exist. In recent weeks the institute has announced that it can no longer support its publication division; its great library, the recipient of hundreds of valuable donations, from Derek Jarman to Richard Attenborough, is being offered to any university that will house it; and most recently the film archive itself has been declared in grave danger through lack of resources. This is the archive which houses not only the films of Hitchcock and Lean but also the biggest collection of silent film in the world and documentaries which record British life in every decade of the 20th century.”
As Claude Raines exclaims in Casablanca, ‘I’m shocked, shocked!’ that given the number of film blogs I read, and the magazines and the newspapers that I should hear about all of this at the ‘tipping point’. There’s been narry a word anywhere else. To look at the BFI’s own Sight & Sound publication it’s business as usual and nothing in The Stage. It says a lot too of the current editorial policy at Empire Magazine that something so fundamental to the UK’s own industry has gone without comment, especially when, in the past they’ve covered such stories as who would be appointed as the director of the BFI and the reduction of tax breaks for film makers.

I’m with McCabe, this is cultural vandalism of the worst kind. The BFI was once the envy of the world, for reasons examined in the column. To think that it should come to this; if an institution dedicated to an art form which is supposed to be so culturally important in this country is being treated with this kind of contempt what hope have the so called arts of the rich? It’s the nightmare of the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden all over again, the difference in this case being that the materials held are of a much clearer national and international importance.

Obviously I have a vested interest in this because I always saw my inevitable career aspirations in the BFI or an institution quite like it. Whenever asked what I want to do when I grow up (?) I’ll always say -- ‘I don’t know’ quickly followed by ‘Work in a film library or archive, like the BFI’. It’s one of the reasons I studied film as a post-graduate subject and now I can almost see that bit of the possible future fading away. It’s not hard to take it personally, to be honest.

Perhaps the plan would be to go over the head of the film minister Shaun Woodward and invite the new Prime Minister (if he can find the time) to the film archive where a mature, attractive woman who looks not unlike Lindsey Duncan (or in fact Lindsey Duncan if she’s available) could spin him through social history presenting his ancestry through the films they have in their archive, carefully underlining the importance of keeping the collection intact. Perhaps someone who looks like Timothy Spall (or indeed Spall if he too is in the mood for a reunion of cast members from Stephen Polikoff’s series Shooting The Past) could take Brown about the book library explaining how film can not only entertain but inspire, the studying of the media illuminating the human condition as much as the filmmaking process.

Failing that, let’s start a campaign. Who’s with me?