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Mandatory TV parental lock; really great or nanny state?

1 Mar

Televisions sold in Australia are now required, by law, to feature a parental lock system as part of it’s digital set-up system. This means that all parents will have the opportunity to block programming from their children up to the age-ratings that the Australian Communications & Media Authority have set for and every show that goes on the air.

Australian news networks are just cottoning on to this major new piece of television legislation, and it’s an issue that is certainly splitting opinion.

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What Google says about TV shows.

7 Dec

The predictive nature of the Google Search has provided plenty of material for comedians (like here), but I’ve recently found that it’s also a handy tool to find the general concensus of new and old TV shows without having to ask message boards, read reviews or actually watch a show myself.

So to save you the time I’ve compiled some of these here, and will add whether there’s any huge inaccurracies (you’ll notice there aren’t many).

But learn from this and use this method to decide what show you’re going to watch next…

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An Idiot Abroad: the most important Sky 1 show for years?

1 Dec

Sky have had it tough in recent times, with top brass accusations that their investment in content is not up to standard and losing a whole host of their biggest shows (including Lost, 24 and Prison Break) – but there’s been a bright spark on Sky 1 that may turn out to be the most important show in the channels recent history.

But before, let’s consider some of the considerations that Sky has made before commissioning a piece like this:

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‘Mo’vember is incoming; the greatest TV moustaches ever!

22 Oct

The month of November approaches, a month where by the end you may notice a higher proportion of men with well endowed top lips.

This is often to raise money for the Movember charity event, where men (and possibly a very small number of women) get sponsored to banish their razors for the month. It’ll itch, it’ll look a bit silly and it will clearly seperate the men from the boys (I’m in the latter), but it raises millions of pounds for Prostate cancer (and various others) and brings offices and households a little bit closer; a shared enjoyment of silly looking faces.

In celebration of the brave fellas doing it this year, and have done it in the past, I think it’s time to salute those individuals on television that have a mo’ all year round.

I’ve probably missed out countless hairy top lips that have entertained over the years, especially in the decades when it was rather popular, but I’ve tried to include the best ones of at least the last decade or so.

And I think we’ll begin this list with the most infamous one of all…

Tom Selleck – Magnum P.I. and Blue Bloods

Density: 8/10, like a small dog’s tail.

It’s the Selleck, the tash we all know and respect. Years of viewing on Magnum PI meant much of America was greeted with this mighty mo’ for a decade and he’s created quite a standard.

Burt Reynolds – various movies and TV shows, most recently in Burn Notice (above)

Density: 3/10, with the texture of a snooker table.

Ol’ Burt made his appearance on Burn Notice this season and the tash was still snuggled below his nose. It’s wonderfully symetrical and matches his hair colour perfectly, it’s a real mo’-from-a-pro.

Dan Stark – The Good Guys

Density: 6/10, like a hairy pooh.

The new hero of tash’s on television right near is Dan Stark, played by West Wing veteran Bradley Whitford, in the under-rated cop caper The Good Guys. He goes as far to reference it numerous times, and there’s also a scene of the most manly thing a bloke can do – combing it.

Borat – Da Ali G Show (and film)

Density: 8/10, like a wooly bow-tie.

I’ve always wondered if this one’s a fake, but I’ll give actor / creator Sasha Baron Cohen the benefit of the doubt. This one is a true masterpiece, perfectly sculptured to perfection and with a thickness that would seem daunting to a lost flea.

Ned Flanders – The Simpsons

Density: 9/10, like a door-stop made from mud.

Homer’s chirpy neighbour has sported a moustach since the very beginning and he seems to have sculped it perfectly for 20 years. It’s a solid and quite soft looking too – touchable.

Mike Watt – Spaced

Density: 6/10, like a top-lip glove made from a grizzly bear’s back fur.

Most people’s favourite Spaced character Mike sports an awesome mo’ and you can definitely see why Pegg’s character Tim sees in him as a friend (apart from his awesome shot at paintball).

Walter White – Breaking Bad

Density: 3/10, like the skin of a balding donkey.

One of televisions ultimate badasses compensates his lack of hair with some near-ginger fluff on his top lip. It seems to be tailored very short, the mark of a drug dealer always wanting to be in control, but it certainly adds to his hardcore credentials.

Randy Marsh – South Park

Density: 10/10, like a floppy underscore.

Everyone’s favourite South Park character, next to Butters and Cartman, also sports a brilliant piece of face-wear. It definitely adds to his hilarious charm and dimwittedness in crazy events that tend to crop up in the small snowy town.

Stan – Frisky Dingo

Density: 9/10, like the very end of your big toe.

Xander Crews’ strangely loyal associate Stan, who runs the day-to-day operations of Xander’s company whilst he acts like an idiot and tries to be a superhero, is basically personified by his tash. So-much-so that he’s one of the rare characters in the list where you actually don’t see his mouth move at any point. He also seems to have more hair below his nose than above it.

Paul Teutul Sr. – American Chopper

Density: 11/10, like a wooly unicorn’s shoe.

Look at that thing! The domineering head of the pimped up motorbike place that dominates the schedule of the Discovery Channel is one of the kings of the mo’. It reminds me of a simple pot plant on a window sill that ends up growing down the building and mostly out of the original pot – does it still just count as just a pot plant? Whether this qualifies as a moustache or a  beard is a debate for another time though, for now admire that density – if a fly got caught up in that he’d never make it out alive.

Dicky Dastardly – Wacky Races

Density: 1/10, like the eyes of a sleeping Chinaman.

This is almost the most skilled of the lot – crafty Dick Dastardly must have spent years growing just two hairs below his nostrils, whilst shaving all around the top lip, to achieve this mighty look. Some people have argued whether it’s just very long nose hair, but I am positive that this is a sneaky tash grown for the pure purpose of stroking when coming up with genius plans to win that damn Wacky Race (although he ironically seemed to have the best car out of the lot of them).

That’s it for the list this year, although I’m sure there’s many I’ve forgotten and will end up cunningly adding after I post this article.

For anyone taking part in ‘Mo’vember this year – good on ya!

And for those men lucky enough to be able to grow hair on their face but aren’t going it – why not?

Join up, get a few donations and get those follicles out; the weather’s getting cold so just see it as a philtrum jumper.

The Event; will it get the axe?

18 Oct

Arguably NBC’s biggest punt this year was in the conspiracy thriller ‘The Event’, the Monday night drama that got off to a solid start and was also one of the biggest reasons that slot rival Lone Star (on Fox) was kicked off the air after two episodes (it just couldn’t compete in the deeply competitive slot and sadly Fox refused to give it a decent chance and / or another slot).

But the numbers have been tumbling by significant amounts every week though and it looks like this killer slot ‘may’ have another victim sometime soon.  So if you’re planning to tune into this on Channel 4 then stand-by that the hundreds of questions that are brought up may have no resolution in the future.

Check out this graph, that compares The Event to the similarly poor received Flashforward last year (which was given a full season but left many viewers disappointed with no real resolution). It looks at the viewing figures (in adult millions) across episodes, starting from the first episode on the left.

Click on the graph to see it full size.


That’s nearly half of The Event’s original audience gone by episode four!

Whereas Flashforward only lost just over 3 million viewers in the same period, which is quite a fall and did ultimately lead to cancellation. But the steady numbers later in the season, hovering just over 5 million viewers, was just good enough to warrant that full season (and I reckon they figured dramas like this have decent DVD takings, which is helped if they have one full season – poor already-cancelled Lone Star, My Generation and Outlaw will never have that blessing).

The Event may have settled at just over 6 million viewers, if episode five’s numbers are any indication, then it’s still a disappointment for the network but should be enough to get a second season.

But why were the viewers desserting in such heavy numbers?

I think for a number of reasons. Lost, which is pretty much the reason shows like Flashforward and The Event get green-lighted in the first place, has just ended and viewers may like a break from such bafflement and intrigue. A show like Lost often required the viewer to do a bit of homework, be it rewatching an episode to having hearty discussions online, and after six years of this they may just want a bit of a break.

It’s also the fact that creatively it just isn’t that good. I only watched the pilot, I’ll admit, but I already got that lingering feeling I had with Flashforward; the creators are trying so hard to create something to hook me that they ultimately lost me. It goes full circle. The pilot of The Event was a mess, full of pointless time shifts and twists that it just became boring. It also didn’t help that none of the characters ooze the relatable charm those in Lost had from the very first episode – by the time Jack, Kate and Charlie returned from the brutal trip to the cockpit I was already rooting for them and wasn’t completely bombared with mystery in that first episode.

Maybe Lost was also just an exception to the rule. The most succesful shows on the broadcast networks tend to be procedurals that have a very clear beginning, middle and end for each episode (like House MD, NCIS, Criminal Minds, CSI) or shows with a clear and easy-to-follow storyline that don’t ‘neccessarily’ need a full commitment (like Glee, Hawaii Five-0, Castle). The shows that break that mould need a cast that have charisma and charm that will draw people in week-by-week (like 24, Greys Anatomy, The Mentalist). Lost broke the mould because it ticked the latter box, The Event does not.

It could also be, as already mentioned, the vicious competition in the slot. CBS has the troublesome twosome of Two and a Half Men and newcomer Mike & Molly (a comedy about overweight people that was always bound to rate well) that are watched by 11.5 million people, whilst ABC has Dancing With The Stars that is watched by nearly 20 million people. That’s a majority of the audience on the other channels straight away, and Fox learnt that lesson quickly (sadly for Lone Star, the key demographic for them was the one watching Dancing For Stars).

My prediction? It will probably get a full season order like Flashforward did, just for the sake of the improved DVD sales in the future. I think there’s a much greater chance that the season will be shortened though, to around 18 (or less!), if the numbers don’t rise any time soon. If it continues to fall at its current rate (beneath 5 million viewers consistently or so) then I think that the axe will begin to sharpen and the questions raised will have no answers at the end of it all…

UPDATE

The Event has been given a full season order by NBC (though the terrible Outsourced did too).

MEDIA BITCH: Who will be the ‘Phoenix Idiot’ on The Apprentice this year?

22 Sep

It happens on every season of The Apprentice.

And not just in the UK, but I’ve watched through the American, Irish and Australian versions and the same thing happens every time. The very first task on each series is to decide a team name for each side (usually males vs. females) and there’ll all spend a ridiculous amount of time debating the appropriate name that they want to convey who they are and what they are about. And there it is, every time (I’m willing to put a wager down that it will again). A voice will pipe up, the rest will go silent, and the same statement will echo around the room:

“What about Phoenix?”

And whether they ultimately choose it or not, they seem to always agree that it’s a great suggestion. These statements will usually come out to:

“Yeah, it’s like us – rising out of the ashes and into something great. It’s so perfect and majestic!”

“It’s about rebirth and spreading your wings, something grandiose and powerful like us.”

And the word ‘Phoenix’ is attributed to rather romantic thoughts, but it’s just ‘so’ cringeworthy a suggestion that I always grimace when a usually hopeless candidate suggests it. It’s just so… obvious.

Thankfully the name has actually only been selected once in all English speaking versions of The Apprentice (on the first series of the Irish version), but it is nearly always in the hat at the suggestions table. If I ever get on the show I’m going to make sure I nominate the ‘Phoenix Idiot’ into the board room at any opportunity it arises.

Take a look at all the other team names that have been chosen on The Apprentice over the years, see how many times you cringe as you scroll down.

UK Version

Season One – First Forte and Impact

Season Two – Invicta and Velocity

Season Three – Eclipse and Stealth

Season Four – Alpha and Rennaisance

Season Five – Empire and Ignite

American Version

Season One – Protégé  and Versacorp

Season Two – Apex and Mosaic

Season Three –  Magna and Net Worth

Season Four – Capital Edge (hahaha) and Excel

Season Five – Gold Rush and Synergy

Season Six – Kinetic and Arrow

Season Seven – Empresario (apparently Spanish for ‘entrepreneur’) and Hydra

Season Eight – Athena and Kotu (one of the worst, it stands for ‘Kings Of The Universe’)

Season Nine – Rocksolid and Tenacity

Season Ten – Fortitude and Octane

Irish Version

Season One – Phoenix (yay!) and Dynamo

Season Two – Platinum and Cúchulainn (the name of an Irish mythological hero, the nation’s Achilles apparently)

Season Three – Fusion and Elev8 (yuk)

Australian Version

Season One – Eventus and Pinnacle

New Zealand Version

Season One – Athena and Number 8 (what?)

Brazil Version

(just, you know, because someone might be interested)

Season One – Ginga Brasil and Solidez

Indian Version

They don’t tend to even have names, their version is split into four smaller teams and don’t bother with petty things like team names.

My personal favourites, in terms of high cringe-factor, include: Elev8, Versacorp, Stealth and Capital Edge – that last one is simply ridiculous. But remember that many of the first tasks are really simple and degrading, and having to use some corporate shiny name to phone up fruit suppliers (“hi there, we are from Team Fusion. Can we have some free apples from you please?”) will just make you sound like a lemon.

What’s in a name anyway? Does it really matter?

Probably not, but I have instant respect for the team that chooses a name that doesn’t want me to vomit every team it’s uttered for the twelve weeks after it’s chosen.

– MB

RIP Bravo 1985-2010; the death of a true icon of British television.

16 Sep

One of the first non-terrestrial channels in the UK, the often risqué men’s brand Bravo, has been cast aside by new owners Sky in a recent channel shake-up after the succesful buy-out of the channel (and others) from Virgin Media.

It’s a seemingly quick-thinking, corporate decision that brings to an end a channel that’s been synonymous with softcore porn and gritty masculine shows since the days Thatcher was in charge and TV channels were run using videotapes and aerials. And it’s over that 25 years that this television brand did something that many must have thought was impossible – they transformed the word ‘bravo’ from just a word rich people in tops hats use to congratulate each other into something that resonates and completely defines what it means to be a ‘Burly British Bloke’.

In recent months the channel has gone through a significant rebrand, with a new logo and tagline (replacing the original ‘entertaining men since 1985’) which I think you’ll agree is a definite modernisation (and improvement) on the retro one at the top of the article:

So whether it’s a rushed, ill-though out decision that should be re-thought or the end of the brand that was tiring (even though the recent success of Spartacus: Blood & Sand and the recent acquisition of Hawaii Five-0 suggests not) remains to be seen. I personally can’t think of another channel that has the succinct brand identity for edgy male-aimed content, so the excuse from Sky that Bravo ‘is too similar to Sky 1’ is laughable – on a graph showing age and sex (with bubbles for each channel, with female channel Living the opposite end from Bravo) the bubble of Bravo and Sky 1 are next to each other, but the two channels show very different content. If you added a similarly younger male brand Dave into the mix it would fall right on top of Bravo, but they clearly attract very different audience (to put it simply, Dave attracts a high socio-economic class of people generally – Dave is obsessed with Stephen Fry and Bravo with Danny Dyer).

Could you imagine Dog The Bounty Hunter on Dave? Exactly. There’s a greater context that Sky seems to have ignored, and a huge chasm of content that will have no natural home any more.

But in memory of Bravo, here are some of the best (and worst) shows that makes Bravo the second most recognised  entertainment multi-channel name in television today:

I’ll admit I needed Wikipedia to tell me about the ‘really’ early days of Bravo, but apparently the channel began as a mostly black-and-white venture. It showed repeats of The Avengers (above) and The Prisoner. In the nineties it moved into horror and science fiction, with naughty content later at night, which has slowly moulded into the channel we see today (though if you’re reading this in 2011 then I guess the end of that sentence doesn’t make sense).

It’s the guilty pleasure of old repeats that cemented Bravo’s place as a daytime favourite, and A-Team was one of the shows that was seemingly endlessly repeated but was a nice one-stop place for any need for explosions and cheesy dialogue. Other brilliantly aged shows that were / are a staple on Bravo includes:

  • Airwolf
  • Knight Rider
  • Dukes Of Hazard
  • The Detectives
  • Starsky & Hutch
  • MacGyver
  • The New Adventures Of Superman (I know it’s nineties but that has aged wonderfully too)

Bravo was one of the only channels to really connect with a gaming audience (after Channel 4’s foray in the nineties with Gamesmaster and the embarrassing Sky 1 attempt ‘Gamezville’). A selection of the gaming shows that Bravo shows, usually on weekend mornings includes:

  • Gamer.tv
  • Gamepad
  • When Games Attack (with the brilliant Dominik Diamond)
  • Playr
  • A Gamers Guide To…
  • Gameface

Yes, there’s been quite a few but no other channel has fully committed to ‘trying’ to attract gamers like Bravo. I always thought, with a bit more of a budget, that the sister channel Bravo 2 would be the perfect place to have a gaming channel (and not one of those terrible foreign funded ones from the past, with presenters speaking in broken english around old trailers).

Monster Trucks!

Arguably the face of Bravo in the last five years or so, tough-as-nails ‘Dog’ (woof) and his motley crew of bounty hunters stalk the criminals (and often the innocent) of Hawaii (a small group of islands with, apparently, a large proportion of bad people). This show has shown a miraculous 7,500 times since 2002 (the most of any show on the channel, since ’02 at least).

Bravo has been pretty much the only channel to give a home to some of the absolute gems that has sprung out of Adult Swim and Comedy Central in recent years. Although FX has recently picked up the rights to Adult Swim, well for three of the biggest shows, Bravo went the proper step of dedicating all the late-night content to the ten minute long episodes of shows that would not normally find a home anywhere else on UK television (usually crude and not-at-all commercially sellable animations).

Some of the shows that Bravo have shown from Adult Swim (unbeknown to most people, which meant ratings were so low they had to drop it) include:

  • Frisky Dingo (pictured above)
  • Moral Orel
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force
  • Sealab 2021
  • Robot Chicken
  • Venture Bros.
  • Harvey Birdman
  • Squidbillies
  • Tom Goes To The Mayor
  • Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job!

Most of these are shows worth seeing that the team at Bravo wanted to expose to the limited audience who would enjoy them. They even tried anime (like Afro Samurai) too – another genre with such limited appeal, and with nearly no chance of a real reward in terms of ratings or ad revenue, but it was catering to an audience the Bravo team seem determined to deliver content to that they love.

Bravo (and Bravo 2) has also not shied away from showing sporting content (and any channel aimed at the male audience usually goes down this alley, as Dave’s association with World Rally has shown). TNA: Impact is a regular peak-time show at weekends, as well as taking up a lot of Bravo 2’s current line-up, and the new seasons of Ultimate Fighter and other UFC content were often shared with (the now non-existent) Setanta. Bravo also recently paid host to the World Darts Championship and also attempted to bring back Football Italia a few years ago (it bombed though, sadly).

Seriously, Monster Trucks!

Don’t they just make you want to go ‘raaaaaaaaa!!!‘?

Classic sci-fi has also been a staple on Bravo, especially with the (relatively) recent co-rights the channel has with the Star Trek brand. It’s Channel One (formally Virgin 1, which is also getting killed off by Sky) has taken the brunt of the content and repeated it to no end (with many now seeing Channel One only as ‘the channel with Star Trek repeats and Chuck’), but Bravo has aired the galactic adventures of Spock as well as a number of other sci-fi shows including:

  • Babylon 5
  • Battlestar Galactica (original series)
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
  • The Outer Limits
  • Earth: Final Conflict
  • Battle Of The Planets

Bravo has never shied away from showing the gritty and stark reality of ‘the normal bloke’, and they don’t portray it in the judgemental way that many do (looking at you Daily Mail). Shows like Street Crime UK show louts on the streets of Britain and teaches us all, in a strangely watchable way, the things that many of the actual viewers would probably partake in the next night. The channel also seems to have a massive respect for our national services – police especially – and revels in portraying them on television in a realistic manner.

The guys at Bravo seem to have sat down, compiled their research and found the programme genres that would best appeal to the type of ‘bloke’ that is so often misrepresented and bullied (in a sense) by the mainstream media.

One quote I’ll always remember from a scheduler at Bravo, about what types of shows they consider buying, is: “Sharks. Sharks always rate well on Bravo.”

Some of the shows that Bravo shows around cops and thugs and general loutish-ness:

  • Cops Uncut
  • Booze Britain
  • Cops On Camera: Disorderly Conduct
  • Costa Del Street Crime
  • Brit Cops: Frontline Crime
  • Beach Patrol
  • Sun, Sea and A&E
  • Brits Behind Bars: America’s Toughest Jails
  • Motorway Patrol
  • Surf Patrol
  • 24 Hour Booze Britain: Boozageddon? (actual title)

We had to talk about it because, well, it just isn’t Bravo without a bit of smut.

It’s not just ‘porn’ that Bravo is renowned for, hell that would be boring (Channel 5’s first few years of late-night softcore porn was the savior of most kids born in the late eighties), but some very ‘out there’ programming that would honestly have no other place on UK television. It would be no surprise to pass Bravo on the EPG and notice they are airing ‘My God, I’m My Dad!’ or ‘3001: A Sexy Odyssey’ (both of those are actual titles of Bravo shows).

Some of the erotic and weird series that’s featured on Bravo over the years have included:

  • Laid Bare
  • Eurotrash: The Sexy Bits
  • Sin Cities
  • Das Crazy Sex Show
  • Porno Valley
  • Vegas Virgins
  • Inside Spearmint Rhino
  • Striperella
  • Is That A Nail In Your Head?

And some of the brilliantly dishy and oddball sounding movies that have appeared on the channel include:

  • The Pleasure Planet
  • Femalien II
  • The Exotic Time Machine
  • The Virgins Of Sherwood Forest
  • The Exhibitionist Files
  • Dangerous Sex Games
  • 13 Erotic Ghosts
  • Naked Encounters

And a further plethora of similarly racy names (or bad puns on normal movie titles). With the end of Bravo (and Men & Motors) this type of late-night steamy action leaves, pretty much, the subscriptions channels and the internet the only place for worked up teenagers to find out ‘things’ in the midst of wooden acting, cheesy music and plots that are purely strung together to roughly connect sex scenes.

Big names (well, by ‘big’ I mean ‘quite well known’) have also associated themselves with Bravo. The two most notable are Danny Dyer (who presented various shows including ‘Danny Dyer’s Deadliest Men’ and ‘The Real Football Factories’) and Alex Reid (Katy Price’s other half, who has signed up to do various fighting-type shows this year – culminating in a live fight sometime in the next couple of months), showing that the brand has resonance for celebrities looking to up their presence on TV but would simply not be looked at on a ‘bigger’ network…

Seriously, is there anything more manly than Monster Trucks though? Bravo are the only channel to my knowledge that shows monster truck content on British TV to any decent extent (1,500 episodes since 2002), and although it’s not really my cup of tea (I’m not masculine enough for it) it’s just one of those charmingly raw, noisy and dirty things that completely exemplifies what Bravo stands for.

And lastly, Bravo’s reputation has peaked in the last year or so thanks to a re-energized team who were determined to modernize the channel, commission some ‘quality’ content and attract a wider audience. It began tentatively with Leverage, the American drama that is much like Hustle, which has been a runaway success on the channel. The big, big game-changer for Bravo has been, of course, Spartacus: Blood & Sand. Averaging over 700k for each episode, well above anything previously seen on the channel, it has transformed Bravo into a channel to be reckoned with – and with the recent acquisition of Hawaii Five-0, one of the biggest new shows of the US television season, it looked like this rebirth of the brand was to continue unabated.

That is, until the beast of Sky came in…

There’s never been a channel like it before and, to be honest, I don’t think there ever will be again.  The content of Bravo will be sifted off to other broadcasters )in a mish-mash way probably) and will probably never be given the exposure that Bravo offered so many shows to bloom with. My guess is that much of the content will be thrown on to Sky 2 (currently a time-shift channel for Sky 1, basically), Sky 3 or FX, which I imagine a board of suit-wearing directors at Sky must see as a great idea – they don’t seem to realise the brand of ‘Bravo’, even just the name, is important and should be treasured.

But alas…

Bravo – we salute you!