July 2007 Archives
The coverage of the Government's rejection of extending performance copyright in Music Week (the industry trade magazine - all behind a paywall) is surprisingly muted. There's just a piece on page 6 indicating that the fight must now be taken to Europe, and an editorial that somehow saw this singular decision as a failure to show that "the superficial years of Blair spin were over."
I may be wrong, but I somehow suspect that Gordon Brown has better things to worry about than this. And instead, the new minister, James Purnell, has simply read the Gowers Report and made his decision off the back of that. The music industry would have preferred that the Government listened to the DCMS Select Committee. The problem is that they rarely get to the bottom of issues in quite as much detail. While they can have decent question and answer sessions, my watching of them tends to lead me to believe that they don't tend to be as informed as someone independent like Gowers, who had time to fully explore the issues.
There is one hilarious piece in the editorial which I think the author, Music Week editor, might have re-appraised before sending to the print:
"The signal from the Labour Government is that it is happy to take all the Brits tickets and boozy nights out on the Thames, but when it comes to delivering on a point of great importance to pretty much everyone in the business - and how often can we say that? - Gordon Brown and co will turn their back."
Far be it from me to tell an industry how to respond if it's disappointed with a Government decision, but I'd humbly suggest that they don't just throw all their toys out of the pram. I wonder which ministers will want to come to the Brits next year?
By the way, there was a great documentary about The Beatles losing their own publishing rights to their songs in a Radio 2 documentary, Only A Northern Song. You've got until Tuesday evening to Listen Again (A shame that there's no radio on the iPlayer to allow downloading and replay without necessarily having internet access).
As many now know, digital television switchover begins in the UK this autumn with Whitehaven being the first town to go fully digital. Then, starting next year, a rollout across the rest of the country begins, starting in the Borders TV regions and ending in London, the southeast, the northeast and Ulster in 2012.
Regular readers will know that I'm still a bit worried about how easily this is all going to work. From what I can see, most retailers are still selling the bulk of their television sets without DTT built in natively despite the fact that a TV you buy today is likely to last well past 2012. And just getting a single Freeview box into a home is not enough; consumers need a separate box for each TV and VCR (if they want to record from it), that they have. This means SCART cables and remotes galore.
A report today from Zenith Optimedia says that they expect 88% of UK households to have digital TV by the end of this year, and it to reach 100% by 2010. That's quite a jump given that the percentage was 78% at the end of 2006, so I'm a little suspicious.
But that's nothing to what's going on in the States. They're also turning off analogue TV and getting everyone to switch to digital. The freed up bandwidth is being eyed greedily by all the telecoms companies, as well as Google. Obviously the industry is different in the States, with 58.8% of homes receiving cable services. On top of that you have to add satellite TV subscribers (relatively fewer of them compared to the UK market), as well as those who've already upgraded to a digital terrestrial signal.
However, according to this Reuters report, there are an estimated 20 million households - something approaching one fifth of all households - who still rely on free analogue over-the-air television signals. The US switchover date is set for February 17, 2009. That's actually quite soon! Less than two years to go, and a fifth of your consumers not ready.
Coupons will be available, on request, for affected parties from next January. But even the relatively low sum of $50 or $60 still needed to buy the converter box might be high for families on, or below, the poverty line. Many of these people don't have medical care, for example.
The situation will be worth watching closely. And as I always do, I'd remind any passing politicians that depriving your constituents of television is never the smartest thing to do if you plan on being re-elected.
I had a bit of a hangover, and despite being one of the few sunny days, I thought I'd go and see one of this week's big movies. I don't normally talk about films as movies, but I think these two count.
So it was either The Simpsons Movie or Transformers. My local multiplex was basically just showing those two films and the latest Harry Potter, so you don't have to worry about start times, as they all basically get a screening every half an hour all day long.
Now knowing me, some might be surprised by my choice - the title above kind of gives it away. And it's not that I don't like The Simpsons. It's just that I really don't watch it all that much. When I do watch it, it's funny, but, it's not the most important thing on TV.
So why Transformers?
I'm a bit too old to have every played with the toys, so it has no real heritage to me. Indeed, I'd no idea who the good guy was between Optimus Prime and Megatron (OK - the names do kind of give it away, but you know what I mean). But I've not really watched a major franchise film this summer with the exception of Die Hard - and that was a freebie. I didn't see Spiderman 3. I certainly couldn't bring myself to see Pirates 3. Fantastic Four means nothing to me, and I didn't see the first one. Yet, I was intrigued, so I went in.
I really really should have known better. Two and a half long hours later, I saw the four words that every real film lover should hate to read: "A Michael Bay Film."
Yes, I knew it was by him before I went in. And yes I've seen previous examples of his oeuvre. But I'll give the man a chance.
Let me first get out the one decent thing about the film. The effects are really good. It's kind of shame that you don't really get much of a chance to appreciate them, since the cutting and camera work means that everything goes by in a blur. Maybe they're actually terrible, and by not having the camera dawdle, you can't tell.
Everything else is pretty terrible. The script is too long, and is basically rubbish. It makes little to no sense, and while it's always pretty ropey the way that young kids are roped into the plot, in this case it's especially so.
The cast are inoffensive, but that's about the best you can say for them. They mainly come from TV aside from cameos-for-cash from John Tuturro and Jon Voight. Megan Fox is a particularly unlikely romantic interest for Shia LaBeouf, with the camera lingering a little too long on her body when it gets the chance. There's nothing wrong with that per se, except it some way shape or form, this is supposed to be a kids movie - albeit a 12A. She certainly doesn't seem like a high school student. And while we're at it, there's an American Pie moment that also feels like it should be in another film.
Basically, the whole thing just doesn't hang together. The plot makes no real sense, and there are holes all over the place. At various points different Transformers appear and disappear to meet the needs of the plot, but it's never quite clear why Optimus Prime has only just chosen to appear, apart from dramatic effect. And I even found telling the difference between them all problematical.
The dialogue was just about drowned out by the sound effects, although that might actually have been a good thing.
Overall, then, an awful film with very little redeem itself.
Another book recommended by Scott Pack via his blog.
Electricity is a novel about Lily who's a teenage epileptic. She lives in a seaside town somewhere in Yorkshire, and the only real family she has is her brother Barry. There was another brother, but he was sent away when she was little, and she's not seen him since.
Lily's mother, who has just died, essentially abused her kids, and her death means that the kids can now sell their mother's house. But what about the missing brother's share.
And so Lily heads to London to look for her missing brother. We see events through her eyes, and sometimes, after the onset of a fit, it can be a disturbing vision. On the other hand, she's never been to a city like London, and the scale of the place is overwhelming for her.
She meets people, and slowly the story unfolds.
I really liked this novel, and fairly well raced through it. And you can't help but love Lily, albeit that her life has not been a good one.
So what are we meant to think about the proceedings at The Tour de France this year? To re-cap, we first had T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone from a test during the beginning of June.
He was immediately kicked out of the Tour, but in Germany things went a little further. The two state broadcasters who cover the Tour also pulled out leaving Germans with no coverage of the event. I'm not sure if I entirely agreed with their position, although it sends a very stark message to German sponsors - particularly T-Mobile who are behind the team with probably the most funding in cycling.
Then more news came out about Tour leader Michael Rasmussen. The maillot jeune had been dropped by Danish Cycling from events including the World Championships and next year's Olympics.
At the moment the situation remains complicated but it seems that he's missed a series of random drug tests. Like many athletes, he has to inform the authorities where he'll be at given times so that they can come to him to test him. There's a three strikes rule, and he'd missed two Danish cycling appointments as well as two UCI appointments. Normally three together would have been enough, but two pairs of two was suspicious in many eyes.
However the rules did not mean that he could be withdrawn, and despite the Tour organisers' obvious distaste, they wanted to abide by the rules and weren't going to kick him out. They made him do a press conference however which he clearly didn't enjoy.
But the biggest shocks were to come. On Saturday it was the first time-trial of the tour since the prologue in London. Alexandre Vinokourov stormed to victory minutes ahead of the rest of the field. This was all the more amazing since he'd been having a very hit and miss Tour. He started as favourite, but a crash on stage 5 left him with multiple stitches in both legs, and it was then touch and go whether or not he'd be able to continue at all - never mind continue to be a contender.
On the big stage in the Pyranees on Sunday he seemed to have used it all up on the previous day, but then on Monday he was resurgent and stormed to another stage victory. Although overall victory remained unlikely, the Tour's hard man was showing what he was made of and fans cheered him on.
That made it all the more terrible when on the rest day on Tuesday, news came out that he'd failed a doping test after the time-trial and a blood test had indicated that he had someone else's blood in his body. His team, Astana, immediately pulled out of the Tour, and everyone was left reeling.
Then on Wednesday, another rider was found to be positive - Cofidis rider Cristian Moreni tested positive for testosterone.
He owned up immediately and his French team, including British rider Bradley Wiggins, pulled out. This was a particular shame because Wiggins is certainly clean, and obviously still had high hopes for the time-trial this coming Saturday before entering Paris.
But that was small beer compared to what happened next. Wednesday's stage saw Michael Rasmussen win another stage, blowing everyone away on the famed Col d'Aubisque.
But behind the scenes, Rasmussen's claims about his whereabouts during some of those missing were seemingly falling apart. He had claimed to be in Mexico yet had apparently been spotted in Italy at the time. Finally Rasmussen's team, and undoubtedly their main sponsor, Rabobank, decided enough was enough, and even though Rasmussen was leading the race, wearing the famed yellow jersey, he was pulled from the Tour.
So is the Tour dead? Should it have been stopped this year? Is professional cycling over?
I'd answer no to all those questions. It's certainly going through its darkest moment since the infamous 1998 Tour when doping first really hit the big time. But I genuinely believe that these cheats are actually far fewer than they once were, and cycling is washing its laundry very publicly in getting rid of these people now.
It's likely that more big sponsors will pull out in the short term, but cycling will come out the better for it in the long term. It'd be unfair to those clean riders to cancel this year's race now. Everyone's hoping that nobody else is found guilty, but better we find the cheats than we pretend that they're not there.
I wonder if every other sport can really claim to be as clean as it might be?
The government has come out and rejected calls to extend copyright on music performances from 50 years as it currently stands. As I've said on a number of occasions, this is suddenly a hot potato because Elvis and Beatles tracks are suddenly falling out of copyright in this country, and a cash cow is finally coming to an end. At the same time, record companies have managed to screw up their own business models by not adapting to the needs of their customers. So if some traditional revenue streams have dried up, they think they can make it up by increasing copyright periods, just because the Americans managed to do the same thing!
I might begin to have some sympathy if some of the labels - step forward Apple - hadn't been taking the mickey for all these years. I'd say that it was only since Sgt Pepper's 40th that I've seen a reasonably priced Beatles album. Great works they may be, but there's no excuse for still charging a premium price so far down the road.
I'd also be surprised if many session musicians are losing vast amounts of cash. They tended to be given a one off fee. Nope - it's the name artists who are losing out. I don't know the jazz market too well, but I do know that most stuff that's not by famous artists just sits in a vault (like others have said, I'm pretty sure that you can't just go out and rip a freshly remastered CD and issue that yourself). And at least now, some of that stuff will start to become available again, and some of those songwriters will start to earn money from it once more.
What seems to have happened is that the Government has read the Gowers Report.
It's important to remember that copyright doesn't exist to provide a performer or their beneficiaries with a guaranteed income for many years to come. It was originally put in place to give artists an incentive to create new works - without that protection, anyone could record and sing your song, or republish your book.
There's a great quote in Gowers' report from Thomas Babington Macauley made in the House of Commons in 1841:
It is good that authors should be remunerated; and the least exceptionable way of remunerating them is by a monopoly. Yet monopoly is an evil. For the sake of the good we must submit to the evil; but the evil ought not to last a day longer than is necessary for the purpose of securing the good.
The same report also notes that actually very few performers will actually benefit from an extension of the 50 years performance copyright:
Furthermore, it is not clear that extending term from 50 years to 70 or 95 years would remedy the unequal treatment of performers and producers from composers, who benefit from life plus 70 years protection.
This is because it is not clear that extension of term would benefit musicians and performers very much in practice. The CIPIL report that the Review commissioned states that: most people seem to assume that any extended term would go to record companies rather than performers: either because the record company already owns the copyright or because the performer will, as a standard term of a recording agreement, have purported to assign any extended term that might be created to the copyright holder.
The Gowers Report goes on to explain why any arguments about record companies not being able to invest in talent are specious - nobody banks on a fifty+ year return when most albums don't sell beyond the first ten years.
Furthermore, Gowers notes, of all the US sound recordings published between 1890 and 1964, an average of 14% has been reissued by the copyright owner and 22% by other parties.
These statistics suggest that the costs of renewing copyright or reissuing copyrighted material are greater than the potential private return, but that these works may have enduring social and cultural value.
The lack of commercial availability impacts upon consumers and users, but it is also worth noting the impact this has for all creators and musicians. Chapter 2 noted the increasing prevalance of licensing and the complexity of rights clearance. If works are protected for a longer period of time, follow-on creators in the future would have to negotiate licences to use the work during that extended period. This has two potential implications: first, the estates and heirs of performers would potentially be able to block usage rights, which may affect future creativity and innovation; and second, this would make tracing rights holders more difficult. Thus extending term may have negative implications for all creators.
Overall, this is good news for music lovers.
But I do look forward to reading next Monday's Music Week. They're going to hate it!
Off to the Barbican to see Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra perform pieces under the heading Full Steam Ahead.
I saw him perform here a few years back and once again it's a sold out crowd with just a couple more performances happening in the UK as part of the JLCO summer European tour.
As ever, the set-up is very simple, clarinets/saxophones are in the front, trombones in the middle row, and trumpets, including Marsalis most of the time, are at the rear. To the left of them are a piano, double bass and drums.
Marsalis is nothing if not an educator, and he introduces each piece with a little bit of background history. The Barbican has supplied a free programme, but one suspects that the exact set-list is relatively changeable, indeed Marsalis' own site suggests that we'll get 'selections' from the Full Steam Ahead repertoire. As a result, I try also sorts of mnemonic devices to memorise the pieces we hear.
For the first half of the concert, it's pieces either written by, or usually performed by, Duke Ellington. And so we get Across the Tracks, part of the Deep South Suite, Daybreak Express, Take The 'A' Train, and The Old Circus Train Turnaround.
After an interval, it's on to their own compositions and we get Due South, Expressbrown Local from All Rise, and Jump from Jump Start and Jazz, a pair of ballets. Then we finish with the final three tracks from 1999's Big Train: Sleeper Car, Station Call and Caboose.
For an encore we get a 1925 piece which I think is called "I'm Alabama Bound" and finally end with a great trumpet solo.
All round, a simply wonderful concert with virtuoso performances from his immense band. Wonderful stuff.
Regular readers of this blog - and there are one or two - may be aware that, although enjoyable, I thought that the recent Channel 4 series Born Survivor featuring Bear Grylls (and know in the US as Man vs. Wild) was probably a little misleading in the way that it was shot.
An example of this was the episode in the Florida everglades where Bear has to cross a river that he believes is probably infested with alligators. He tells us that he's going to cross in the middle of the day when the sun's at its highest, and alligators like to bask rather than seek prey. He also lets us know that he's going to wait 45 minutes, because that's how long alligators can keep underwater for, before the return to the surface to take a breath. Cue long shots of Bear silently watching the stretch of river. Finally he decides to take the plunge, explaining that he'll swim underwater to avoid looking like prey. He takes a large breath and off he goes. An underwater camera is at his side, and we watch him underwater all the way. Except that the camera is awfully stable, and keeps him in focus and visible all the way. An exceptional cameraman who can train his equipment on his subject without fear for his own life, and in such shallow water. Indeed, a cynic have believed that the shot was captured using someone who walked alongside Bear in the relatively shallow waters. When Bear emerges on the opposite bank, he appears very relieved. Fortunately, the hard as nails cameraman isn't shaking too much.
As I've said previously, it's not that I don't believe that Bear did all his own "stunts" - it's just that like so many shows these days, all is not quite as it was presented.
Anyway, this weekend more revelations have emerged about the series (and I believe that series 2 and 3 are forthcoming). According to an article in the Sunday Times, and picked up by the Telegraph, Daily Mail and Sun, Bear often spent nights in nearby hotels, and many of the stunts were not quite as advertised on screen.
Channel 4 has seemingly initiated an investigation into the programme, made by Diverse Productions. A spokesman is quoted as saying "Bear does do all his own stunts and does put himself in perilous situations. But Born Survivor is not an observational documentary series but a 'how to' guide to basic survival techniques in extreme environments. The programme explicitly does not claim that presenter Bear Grylls's experience is one of unaided solo survival."
Well I'm not sure that this claim actually stands up. Yes, there's a survival expert listed in the credits of each show, but the programme is presented very much as Bear being dropped into the wilderness somewhere and having to survive until he can make it back to civilisation. The programmes should simply not have presented the situation as it was. If it was simply a series of survival techniques, then fine. But it's presented as a narrative, and as such, it's misleading the viewer if the presenter is not hiking for three days to get back to a town or village, but instead is spending the night in motels and hotels.
The thing with this series is that there really is no need for obsfucation - Bear's doing these stunts and showing us (semi-) useful things. So present these things honestly, and we'll have more time for his programme.
As I mentioned above, the second series has already aired in the US (although the Everglades edition that was shown on Discovery in June was not the "World Premiere" their website would have you believe). One suspects that the shows will be significantly re-edited and re-voiced before Channel 4 show them over here.
[UPDATE] It seems that Discover is also re-evaluating the series according to Broadcast (free registration possibly required).
Imperium is the latest Robert Harris novel, and following on from Pompeii, he's again set it in a Roman setting. This time, we effectively have the political life of Cicero - the lawyer and politician. The book is told by Tiro, Cicero's slave and personal secretary, who, we're told, essentially invented shorthand to record conversations accurately and quickly.
The book feels as though it's in two parts, concentrating first of Cicero's prosecution of Verres who ran amok in Sicily until finally stopped in his tracks, and his political ambitions leading to his intervention in the Catiline conspiracy.
Harris can't help but draw a few allusions to modern day politics, first with some comparisons which you can only make with the war in Iraq, and then a general attack on the venality of many politicians.
But I enjoyed these, and the book tells a story I really didn't know. Julius Caesar doesn't come out of it all that well, and other incidental characters are alluded to in a knowing manner.
At the end of the book, is a brief advert for The Ghost, Harris' forthcoming political thriller. We're told that this is a return to political thrillers for him. Yet Imperium is nothing if not a political thriller itself. And a very good one. If I was being snobbish I'd say it makes a great beach read. But I'm not, and in any case, I didn't read it on the beach.
I got hold of Sebastian Beaumont's novel Thirteen on the basis of Scott Pack's recommendation on his very good blog.
The book revolves around the life of a Brighton taxi driver who pulls the night shift, and the strange things he begins to see and experience. What's going on? He picks up passengers from a house numbered 13, but going back later the property is not there.
I suppose I'd describe the book as a cross between a Haruki Murakami novel and Mulholland Drive. You have to puzzle your way through it.
In between, are plenty of incidents that the author assures us did happen to him when he was a taxi driver, and they're totally believable.
The book's an entertaining journey and you get sucked into its strange world very easily.
A great piece by Janine Gibson from today's Media Guardian about how producers have forgotten how to tell the truth any more.
Is it a good thing or a bad thing that Tintin in the Congo is currently sitting at number five in the Amazon best sellers list? This follows everyone suddenly noticing that a book first published between 1930 and 1931 is actually a bit racist. I don't believe that this is particularly new news, and tend to agree with Giles Foden writing in today's Guardian - I can't find a link but essentially he says that it should be removed from the children's section but should still be made available, and lists some other classics that have also been accused of racism, fascism or other labels. But the story certainly seems to have reinvigorated interest in the title.
In the week after The Tour de France hits London and literally millions of people come out on the streets, this sign appears on the railings of Golden Square where I work.
One of Mayor Ken Livingstone's main reasons for getting the Tour to start in London was to pursue his encouragement for more people to cycle to work.
Adrian, who took the photo, cycles in every day, and like many others, has to lock his bike to the railings for lack of anywhere else to put his bike. Most businesses in expensive Soho, do not have space to store bikes inside.
There's one bike stand on the square serving probably over 1000 people. It has spaces for ten a maximum of ten bikes. It's full. If there's nowhere that you can leave your bike, then you're not likely to cycle to work. Joined up thinking at the heart of government there.
This is something I still can't quite get my head around.
If you're an actor, sportsperson, artist or musician, you're probably regularly asked for an autograph. It's something personal, and I understand why people like that personal touch. When I'm buying a book, if there are copies that are signed, then I'm likelier to pick up one of those. This isn't because I've got pound signs flashing in my eyes and I'm about to get on Ebay; it's because I quite like the idea of having something the author has written in themselves. Similarly, I've been known to collect sportspersons' autographs in the past.
So I've no issue with the idea of collecting signatures, although I wouldn't collect them for their own sake.
I also understand that if I'm an actor in a successful TV series or series of films, I'm likely to be asked repeatedly for autographs wherever I go. I guess that depending on circumstances, I'd be happy to either sign or not sign accordingly. But I'd also understand that my success comes in large part from lots of people enjoying my work.
There's the possibly apocryphal story of a film star who used to write cheques instead of paying with cash wherever he went. He knew that most people wouldn't cash the cheques, preferring to keep his autograph.
But what I find truly incredible are fan conventions - particuarly in the SF world - which largely involve people showing up to queue and pay for a signed 10' x 8' photo. I've only ever seen it at first hand many years ago when I saw Dave "Darth Vader" Prowse offering his signature for something like £10 a go on a black and white photo of Darth Vader. Not having ever seen such a situation before, I found it very strange. I understand that colour (or even black and white) photos cost money, so there's something fair about charging for them. But it was clearly the signature that people were paying for. Actually, not that many people were paying for the signature, which made the whole enterprise even sadder.
And it didn't escape me that next to him was a box of cash. This wasn't a cheque or credit card operation. Even in my naivety, I understood the "tax-free" possibilities of such schemes.
But now you have operations like Collectormania which holds large scale events in places like Milton Keynes and Glasgow where dozens actors from "genre" series and films (sometimes with very small parts), gather together to sign autographs over a weekend.
The FAQ notes: "There will be a charge for each actor's autograph. This will generally be between £10 - £25 per signature depending on which guest."
So there's a market there, like everything else, and I guess that your worth as an actor is determined by how much you can get away with charging.
It's a nice little earner for the actors, many of whom will be flying into the UK specifically for this event. When you've factored in the cost of a decent hotel room, first-class flights, and the fact that many events don't charge an entry fee, you can see that there's obviously money to be made. Additional cash can be generated by buying your way into parties, receptions and dinners.
I can't quite put my finger on why I find the whole enterprise quite so squalid, but I do. Maybe if you had a small part in Dr No and the parts subsequently dried up, charging a few Bond fans might help your pension go further. But if you're currently starring in your US network's only breakout hit of the last season, and are on between five and six figures an episode, then do you also need to charge for autographs? Yes, meeting the fans can be fun, and better that than being aloof and dismissive of them. But the whole thing just can't shake that taint of seediness. Showbiz isn't the glitz and glamour that we sometimes think it is, but this industry is just low-rent.
This Friday sees the start of the new Proms season, and I really must try to make time to get along to a few again. I actually quite fancy Saturday's Music from Great British Films concert that ties in with BBC Two's Summer of British Film, although being a Saturday will mean getting there early, and you can't beat a bit of Sibelius.
There's a guide to promming in The Guardian, and I must admit, you do get some odd folk down there.
This is written as a review of the most recent, and sadly last, Zen novel. But really, it's a reflection of Michael Dibdin's work. And a fine body it is too.
I see from today's Media Guardian, that Shed Productions' Waterloo Road is one of the series that the BBC is considering using to fill the Neighbours slot once Five get the rights to the series next March.
I'm not enormously surprised to learn this, since I imagine it's Shed who told Media Guardian that it was under consideration. Shed is a production company that's had its fair element of success, yet possibly wants to be bigger than it actually is. It just seems to me that it's not as creatively strong as other indies like Kudos who are riding the wave of Spooks, Hustle, and Life on Mars amongst plenty of others - of course they've now been bought up by Elizabeth Murdoch's company.
Shed meanwhile has been through their trash heyday of Bad Girls and Footballers' Wives, and has since come up with, er, well, Bad Girls the Musical and Footballers' Wives (US version). Shed floated back in 2005 while its main two franchises were still stalwarts of ITV. Yet since then, things have not gone quite as well. The share price has dipped, and they haven't really had a replacement hit TV series. There's a series called Bombshell which ITV commissioned but has yet to show, despite the fact that it aired in Australia last year. Sitting on a shelf for a year or so is never a good sign.
Footballers' Wives hasn't been picked up by ABC, despite having a strong cast including Lucy "Xena" Lawless,Ving Rhames and some bloke from Dawson's Creek. Recent press reports say that it may not be completely dead yet, with the suggestion at the end of last month that ABC was keeping its options open.
And for all I know, the soon to open Bad Girls the Musical may run and run.
I dearly hope not.
But Waterloo Road aside (and it does have a healthy 20 episode order for series 3), Shed is not on a winning streak just now. Which is why when I read stories about how well they're doing, and are in the running for a massive daytime soap order, I tend to suspect a PR offensive. Perhaps I'm just cynical.
[Update] This week's Broadcast has a piece (supplied by Shed PR?) highlighting the fact their forthcoming Rock Rivals has been sold to four territories before it has even been made. Is this because it's seen as a successor to Footballers' Wives, or because it's a Simon Cowell co-production positioned as "X-Factor meets Dallas"?
[Disclaimer: Once upon a time Shed Chief Exec, Eileen Gallagher, worked for the same company as me]
I didn't see Ricky Gervais on either Live Earth or, god forbid, the Diana thing. But I can't help thinking that this Jim Shelley piece has a ring of truth about it.
BBC Two is going to be showing The Summer Of British Film with a major seven part series entitled British Film Forever. Of course, there was previously the not-at-all-bad The Best of British Cinema which seemed to be a bought-in series at a time (1987) when indie productions were pretty rare on the BBC. I particularly remember the episode that looked at Olivier's version of Henry V.
Anyway, alongside this new series will be around 70 films showing on BBC Two. Among these is the UK Premiere of A Cock And Bull Story amongst others.
What I find especially peculiar is that the BBC press release says that they'll also be showing From Russia With Love. Is this the first time that a Bond movie has been shown on the BBC? I'm not talking about the original Casino Royale or Never Say Never Again. I'm talking about the "proper" Bond films.
Interestingly, there also going to be some cinema re-releases of various titles across the summer with showings of Goldfinger, Brief Encounter, Billy Liar, the aforementioned Henry V, The Wicker Man, The Dam Busters (ahead of the Peter Jackson backed remake), and Withnail & I (Can I just admit at this point, that I've never seen Withnail & I. Yes, I know. It's incredible. But I haven't).
There's also an unnecessary "user generated content" element - although perhaps some will enjoy remaking old films. I'd have thought that encouraging new ideas might be a more worthwhile idea (I just recently discovered Propeller hidden away in the depths of Sky. There are some very good shorts on it.).
Finally this weekend, the Tour de France arrived in London.
I love cycling, and I love the Tour, which has become an important part of my summer of sport for many years now starting when Channel 4 used to cover it. Channel 4 long gave up on showing much over the summer except reality trash. So we're still in that unlikely state of affairs where ITV carries the mantle with the continued exceptional commentary of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin.
An aside, there was a good piece about Sunset + Vine's coverage of the Tour in this week's broadcast magazine, written by Brian Venner who has been working on the race for twenty years now. They have fifteen people in France and another fifteen in the UK. And between them, reporters Matt Rendell and Ned Boulting speak nine languages, which is better than Katie Derham who struggled when Vinokourov answered her English language question in French at the presentation on Friday.
But for me, the commentaries were something to catch later, as I was going to hit the course. Aside from managing to forget to bring my large memory card for my camera (I stopped by John Lewis to right this wrong), I was soon on the course.
It struck me that most people would place themselves near the major sights of the city. And wandering down from Green Park to Buckingham Palace, revealed that to be very much the case. I didn't want to watch the race from behind six other people, so I headed out towards Hyde Park, and in particular, The Serpentine. Although I was planning on taking plenty of photos, it was the cyclists I was looking to see, not necessarily the sights of London.
Just an aside to say that the people running the concession stands were some of the most stupid people I've ever met in a position that requires them to collect money. There was no issue with communication - they were from Birmingham rather than Boulogne - but they were clueless, and I had to look elsewhere for a t-shirt.
But otherwise, the organisation was exceptional, with barriers everywhere, a people's village in Hyde Park, and plenty of big screens scattered around the course. I'd specifically avoided arriving by bike because I wasn't sure where I could leave it and I was planning to move around a bit.
In the end I needn't have worried, with massive bike parks in Green Park and Hyde Park - if only they were there all the time.
(Yet another aside - I didn't mention that I got a free bike from Orange on Wednesday did I? Orange is an official sponsor, and on Tuesday night I read that on Wednesday morning, Orange would give 500 mountain bikes away at Covent Garden. I decided that if I got up early I'd see what the queue was like. Arriving at around 7.30am I found a decently long queue and saw the bikes all being laid out. I reckoned that there were a maximum of 300 people in front of me, so I got in the queue. In the event, there were actually about 495 people in front of me. Nonetheless, Chris Hoy handed me a bike. Since Orange is French owned, I was hopeful that the bikes might be some good. They weren't really. Suspension on a cheap bike is just something to make the handlebars move when you break heavily. And the bike was tiny. I felt like I was riding a BMX as I took it into work. Still, I've got a spare bike for any small people who visit.)
I found a really good spot where the road widened, affording good views as riders came around the corner. As a consequence, I ended up with pictures of all the riders. You can see the set here.
On Sunday, I traveled down to Kent to my brother's home village, where we waited in the sun for the caravan to again appear, and swiftly followed by the bike riders.
We got a bigger haul of tour freebies this time around including copious Skoda hats, some Haribo sweets, and a Kent t-shirt.
There was a breakaway group through first, which included David Millar amongst its number. I tried to explain as much to all and sundry who were suffering a lack of information. BBC Radio Kent was "covering" the race, but nobody at the studio seemed to have tuned into ITV4's coverage, so we were left fairly much in the dark about what was going on. Instead, we were left with lots of interviews with people who had turned out to watch, regardless of whether or not they actually knew what they were seeing.
When the peleton finally arrived, it swept through in a few seconds, and that was it. I was burnt more than every, although I did at least have a hat to keep the sun off my head this time.
After watching more of the action on TV, I headed off home and Five Live gave live coverage of Robbie McEwan's incredible victory.
More photos from Stage 1 can be found here.
A good weekend. Let's hope we don't have to wait another thirteen years before the the Tour returns again.
Before I head off into town, I thought I'd share this, which I made to watch riders as they go past. It's a list of start times, rider numbers and names. I could find names and start times, and names and numbers, but not all three together. So a quick bit of Excel has left me with this. A handy print-out guide for roadside viewing.
Hope it helps at least someone. More on today's stage later.
I love The Thick Of It, and I've just been watching tonight's new hour long episode in which we discover which "nutter" is going to stand forward for leadership of the party. Cracking swearing as ever.
But can someone tell me why we had to have twenty minutes of it - the opposition's point of view - hidden underneath the red button? The announcer, on a BBC Four programme, said that "those of us watching on digital television" could press the red button at the end for an extra bit. I suppose that in an age of DVD extras and deleted scenes, this is somehow a good thing. But BBC Four is only a digital channel, so there were surely no viewers that couldn't press red, aside from perhaps those watching on analogue cable, and anyway, why couldn't they just have edited in the opposition's point of view and made the thing last one hour and twenty minutes?
I guess we all know what DVD extras are coming when this two parter's released.
And one final thing: if we do have to have continuations after the end of a programme, please allow the slow digiboxes to get us across to the right interactive channel before the action all starts. I was pretty quick on the keypad, and still missed the first couple of lines.
Anyway, the show's fabulous, and if you missed it tonight, catch it on one many future opportunities that BBC Four (and BBC Two) are giving us.