July, 2003

Blake’s 7

Blakes 7 to come back according to it’s website.
With my finger on the pulse, I heard about this the other day, but forgot to mention it.
I’d love to say that I have mixed feelings as many of the Slashdot lot have, but I don’t. I’d love to see it return. I own all the videos (collected together over about three releases of them), and eagerly await the DVD release.
Still it’s all someway off, since they need financing, a script and some outlets to broadcast it. But I’ll look forward to it nonetheless.

Five In A Row

Armstrong did it. Well, after Saturday, it was no surprise. The green jersey was won and lost on the line, and overall the centenial Tour was the best in years and years.
I still can’t get over the fact that I was able to watch the end of it on ITV live on a Sunday afternoon!

Love Again

This great TV film told me more than I’d previously known about the life of Philip Larkin. Granted, that I didn’t know anything at all before, aside from one famous line from one of his poems.
Outstanding performances from Hugh Bonneville (who seems to be something of a literary actor coupled with his performance in Iris), Tara Fitzgerald and Amanda Root.

The Way We Live Now

Back in the autumn of 2001, this was the big BBC costume drama, and for reasons I don’t quite recall now, I missed it. It’s been on a couple of times since on UK Drama, and I missed it both times, so I resolved not to do so again. Saturday night saw episodes one and two, and despite not being sure if it was going to be one of those series that you end up committing to video rather than watching, I got hooked. Great performances all round, and I now plan to read the novel, which I picked up in a cheap Wordsworth Classics edition earlier this year.
I don’t think that I’ve read any Trollope, so this seems like a good start. The best I’ve managed previously is one of the repeat showings in the late eighties of the Barchester Chronicles starring the fabulous Alan Rickman as the Reverand Obadiah Slope, as well as excellent performances from Nigel Hawthorne, Donalds Pleasance and Geraldine McEwan.
The BBC are filming another Trollope, also being adapted by the all-powerful Andrew Davies – He Knew He Was Right.
Incidentally, UK Drama really came up trumps this weekend, with a repeat showing of Between The Lines. Having sat through The Way We Live Now with advert breaks, I ended up digging out my old VHS recordings of Between the Lines, and watched the first couple of episodes at a slightly faster rate without the ad breaks.

Enduring Love

Enduring Love is the third Ian McEwan novel I’ve read. The first was the very poor Booker winning Amsterdam, which was more of a short story than a novel, and hence exceptionally poor value at 6.99 for 178 pages (of largish type as I recall). None of the characters were particularly likeable, and the whole thing rang very hollow.
Next up on the list was Atonement, which I read last year, and once again I fear the entry here has been lost. This was an execeptionally good novel, and it was reading that which made me pick up Enduring Love, as many had recommended it.
It really is an interesting idea. A freak ballooning accident gathers together a disparate group of people as they try to save a child. Tragically one of the strangers dies and an another forms a seeming attachment to our story’s narrator Joe. As the story unfolds, it becomes unclear who’s head is messed up. Maybe the conclusion is a little unsatisfactory, but overall a thoroughly entertaining novel.

Armstong’s Nearly There

Well this year’s Tour has been superb, and it was all set up for this afternoon’s time trial with Jan Ullrich chasing a lead of Armstrong of just over 1 minute on Lance Armstrong. Ullrich crashed within the last few KM although he was never likely to take much out of Armstrong. At that point, Armstrong slowed up, and David Millar got to win the stage – despite having come off his bike himself!

Gerald Kaufman

I know that they do it on purpose, but today’s Broadcast (no direct link to the story since they’re subscription only) has a piece by Mr Kaufman once again banging on about how the BBC have handled the David Kelly mess badly.
His main issue is that the BBC talked about an “intelligence source”, and since Dr Kelly didn’t work for MI5 or anything, then he couldn’t be called that. I’d say that anyone who worked for the MoD was an intelligence source, but what do I know. His main issue is that he doesn’t like the way the BBC is governed – he wanted it under Ofcom.
What he doesn’t appreciate, or at least want to accept, is that the BBC loses a lot of it independence from Government. It’s unique, and at the moment, it has no beholdence to the Governement of the day.
And finally in his last few words he threatens, as is his want:
“Maybe it should be funded by subscription. Maybe, even, it should be privatised.”
Brilliant ideas. That should improve the quality of our TV no end. When he was conducting his select committee questioning about films in the UK, the BBC was seen as a possible producer. I don’t see a struggling privatised company going into an area that even Channel 4 daren’t now tread.
And he has the nerve to accuse the BBC of “ineffable smugness” when it might have been designed to describe himself. I’m not exactly alone in thinking this either. The BBC have only themselves to blame because these questions are on the agenda he says.
No, Mr Kaufman. These questions are on the agenda because you put them there.
The BBC is under attack because your government took exception to a piece of independent reporting that has been shown to be in the large part factually correct, and to which no-one is disputing it.
The BBC is under attack because your government took a reluctant country to war without proving the case.
The BBC is under attack because once that war had been fought, the promised proof to show that the reasons given were well founded, was not brought to life.
The BBC is under attack because your government threw a loyal civil servant to the hungry hounds to throw the pack off the true scent.
Saddam was a nasty piece of works which the world is better off without (although I was still perturbed that the death of Saddam’s sons, evil though they no doubt were, was described as “great news” by our Christian PM), but there are many more evil dictators about in the world (one of the ex-ones is dying at the moment). And to a country like Zimbabwe we owe more than most.
But the case for war has not been proved. We’ve been told it would be, and it hasn’t.
Until your government has answered that question Mr Kaufman, do not try to strangle the editorial independence of the BBC.

Football on TV

I must admit to being truly fascinated by the ongoing televised Premiership football wranglings.
Here’s where we stand at the moment. The premier league started off by breaking the rights into three groups: The Gold Package of 38 first choice games on Sundays at 4.00pm, The Silver package of 38 games on Mondays at 8.00pm, and a Bronze package of 62 games to be largely played on Saturdays at 1.00pm and 5.15pm (to avoid clashing with 3.00pm kick offs). There are also a number of highlights and “as live” packages up for grabs, including the rights ITV currently own for The Premiership (the “Match of the Day” rights). The invitation to tender is here (Registration required).
The reason for the breakup of rights is that the European Commission was convinced that it’s not in the public interest that all the games are wrapped up in one package, and was minded to think that each club should be able to sell its own games.
In my view, it’s certainly not a good idea that Man Utd gets to sell all their games for some extortionate rate, while no-one particularly bothers about picking up Portsmouth’s games. That just leads to “the rich getting richer”.
When the news broke, there was plenty of hyperbole about live football returning to terrestrial television for the first time in years. The story made the 10 O’Clock news.
Then a bit of common sense entered procedings as people realised that Sky were absolutely certain to outbid allcomers to win the Sunday, and most likely Monday rights. That left an enormous glut of Saturday (and sometimes Sunday) games available to either a Pay-Per-View bidder, or theoretically, a free-to-air supplier like the BBC. But even if, say, the BBC was willing to pay for all these games, could they actually schedule them? Two full matches a week, with the latter games finishing around 8.00pm in the evening, using up all that primetime, as well as the earlier games. And at least the BBC has two terrestrial channels they could spread the load over. ITV would surely be out of the running since again the 5.15pm games run into primetime, and they’ve already been very burnt showing highlights at 7.00pm in place of fare like Blind Date (RIP).
So at that stage, everyone began to realise that Sky and/or partners, would buy up the Bronze package and offer it as Pay Per View. Sky would have all the games, and the monopoly situation would continue, even though anyone could have bid.
The latest news is that rumblings from Europe mean that this was not a happy compromise, since the monopoly continued. The Bronze package has been broken into two smaller deals. It now seems likely that at least one of these packages – if not both – will fall into the hands of a terrestrial station.
There does remain the question of Pay-Per-View. No-one is ever really free to supply figures for these games, but I have my doubts over how well they do. I suspect that most of the money generated is through subscription packages which don’t earn the headline eight pounds per game. The games are sold abroad, so there is income to be generated there, but the revenue cannot be enormous in the UK market, since the pick of the games are always on either Sundays or Mondays anyway.
We wait for the results of the new bids.

Reversible Errors

I’ve only ever read one previous Scott Turow novel – Presumed Innocent which of course was made into a Harrison Ford film.
I don’t know how many books he’s written since but when this came out in hardback, it seemed to receive good reviews, so I thought I’d give it whirl.
I was a little disappointed overall though, as while it was a perfectly good book, it was nothing special. I’ve never read a John Grisham novel, and I’m quite prepared to believe that it’s better than an average one of his, but it really isn’t that special.
It’s an easy read, although heavy on US legalese as one would probably expect.