August, 2003

Psychic Nonsense

Living TV is making a very good living with all it’s “psychic” nonsense. This weekend was “paranormal weekend” with such shows as Street Psychic, 6th Sense with Colin Fry, and The Antiques Ghost Show (which I thought was a made up name when I first read it), as well as such American fare as Crossing Over, and Beyond with James van Praagh.
Quite how we’ve got to the point where this is acceptible television, I don’t know.
Meanwhile Saturday night was “Psychic Night” on Channel 4. I only caught The Ultimate Psychic Challenge which I happened to know was going to feature James Randi. In fact it was reasonably skeptical in the first half of the programme, with some detailed descriptions of some of the fake and fraudulent activity that goes on. But quite a number of the audience seemed to be devout believers, and explanations of what they’re seeing in front of them are simply not enough it seems.
Anyway, I’m happy to report that the very same Sky One that I was so scathing about earlier, aired Secrets of Psychics Revealed. I didn’t catch the whole programme, and had evidently just come in after a demonstration of a “hot reading”, but it’s all to be encouraged. It’s just a shame that a lot of the “Psychic Secrets” were nothing more than magic tricks. Yes I know that a lot of psychic chicanery is precisely that, but I wanted more of the John Edwards variety. I did quite like the example given which detailed the tricks that these shows use interviewing people outside the studio before they go in.
But the problem is that the shows that expose this nonsense are just one-offs. In the meantime, Crossing Over and it’s ilk is on every day of the week, and gains credence accordingly.

Between the Lines

My tape reruns have reached the end of series 2, and I guess that by common consent, the quality goes a little downhill from here on – well at the very least, it goes off the rails a bit.
(I know that I’ve inadvertantly taped over at least one episode somewhere along the lines, so it must be in series 3, and UK Drama had better continue their run all the way through!)
But this did make me realise that both of Neil Pearson’s co-stars aren’t exactly in the limelight these days. A bit of trawling through IMDB reveals that Tom Georgeson has been working on one or two TV/film projects a year, even if I don’t always catch them, Siobahn Redmond has been quiet for a while. Could be motherhood/radio work of course.
Pearson himself is in a new sitcom that I’ve missed both episodes of so far by virtue of the fact that it airs on Friday nights.

The Two Towers

Well I bought my copy of The Two Towers on Saturday, but I’ve still to hear the real story about the ins and outs of Sainsburys apparently breaking the embargo on Friday, and all the other chains feeling that they have to follow suit. Only East Anglian Daily Times shows up when you do an internet search. Given that these are the dog days of August, I’d have thought that someone would have the story!

Reliable Sources

What a pity that CNN Europe doesn’t broadcast Reliable Sources over here. There really are few media outlets for the discussion of media. About the only place you can get anything is on Radio 4’s The Message. Years ago there was Ray Snoddy’s show on Channel 4, and the various follow ups of sorts. But even Right of Reply died a death quite a while back.
Sometimes a few of the political shows at the fringes discuss media coverage of politics, but we have nothing really up front about it, and in any case, any show that has Andrew Neil presenting it must be a bit suspect to begin with.

BBC Creative Archive

Was I unnecessarily negative about this idea the other day? There’s quite a lot of detail about the whys and wherefores of how it might work here. Sadly I can see lots of David Attenbrough and Simon Schama footage being available to download, rather than all those Plays For Today that I fancy seeing.
Danny O’Brien has a take on this too. And there are links from there to all over the place.

Commandante

Nice piece about Oliver Stone’s forthcoming film about Fidel Casto, Commandante which has so far not been shown by HBO (yup – the same channel I was praising earlier). Stone was railing against possible media censorship if Americans are allowed in to buy British media concerns.
With any luck the documentary will finally appear with a companion piece detailing some of the appalling Castro clampdowns he “snuck” through during the Iraq war.

Richard Ingrams

Yesterday’s Observer carried an interesting piece by Richard Ingrams – Ppp-Up TV. Ingram’s main point was that Stuart Murphy, BBC Three’s wunderkind controller, has been quoted as saying that BBC Three’s news directly targeted its 16-34 audience, and it did that by skewing its news towards stories that specifically interested them. These, he’s reported as claiming, include stories about mortgages and kids, since most have them.
Ingrams rightly berates Murphy’s news values since we shouldn’t just be interested or indeed told about things that just affect us directly. An earthquake in Indonesia killing maybe hundreds of thousands, is not ever going to affect me, unless I happen to know someone there on holiday. But does that mean that I shouldn’t be told about it. But that’s only part of what annoyed me.
Now I’m at home just now, and not sitting in front of one of work’s computer systems, but I’m reasonably sure that “most” 16-34s do NOT have mortgages, and certainly don’t have kids. I would guess that 35-44s are much more likely to have both. Murphy may well have both, but one should never mistake ones own peers for the population at large.
In any case, on that basis, all our news would be about mortgages and children since the vast majority of the whole population have one or the other or both. Fortunately the news editors of the Ten O’Clock News have a slightly broader outlook on news to present to us.

K Street

Can some kind TV channel in the UK please show K Street? It’s an HBO production (come on guys – I thought we bought anything by HBO these days?), set in the Washington world of political consultants and spin doctors. I’d love to see this – particularly as it apes in part the Gary Trudeau series Tanner ’88 which I loved to bits – it’s one of the few reasons why I still have laserdiscs, as I have the whole series in this format.
A few weeks ago, Mediaguardian reported that several new HBO series were being fought over by various British TV stations. However, none of those shows mentioned K Street. To be fair, even the HBO site doesn’t mention it much, but I read about this some time ago, so it’s not like people didn’t know.
Actually, to head off on something of a tangent here, exactly what the hell are Sky One up to? You read that above report and you read that Dawn Airey’s “very determined” to get as many HBO dramas as possible to “attract a more upmarket audience to Sky One.”
That’s fine, we could probably do with something like that in the UK. But then we read about Sky One’s classy new commissions for the autumn: “Laid Bare, The Big Fantasy, When Sex Goes Wrong, Vivid XXX and Six Degrees of Penetration.”
Now undoubtedly HBO’s always had it’s share of this porn nonsense, but not in quantities that Sky One is seemingly piling it on. Alongside The Villa, the various Uncovereds, and Kirsty’s Home Videos, the fit just isn’t there. Science Fiction and US action shows, with a large dose of Simpsons and other sitcoms is one thing, but Sky One is trying to be too hard to be all things to all people.
The same problem is true of E4 which is addicted to a ridiculous degree to Big Brother (err, does anyone at all honestly care about US Big Brother? I don’t think that even they do). Then they chuck in four quality shows – Sex & the City, The Sopranos, West Wing, and Six Feet Under. They sit so far removed from the rest of the schedule that you can’t imagine why they share a channel. OK so there’s Friends and ER as well, but many of these series are coming to their ends (Friends and Sex & the City), and the end is in site for more of them – The Sopranos has two series to run.
My point is that these channels are trying too hard in too limited arenas disenfranchising all around them.
Personally, I hope that someone like BBC Four gets K Street. I can’t see the Channel 4 that showed Tanner ’88 on Monday’s at 9.00pm doing so with this.

BBC Archives Online

How exciting is this? I can’t wait.
OK – time to step back a little. I think that while old news programmes and a number of documentaries will find their way onto websites, episodes of drama series won’t. There are already discussions under way to limit the amount of time the BBC can hold onto the rights of independently produced productions so that the indies can make best use of them. I think we can safely assume, that the latest episode of Kudos’s Spooks won’t be on the net anytime soon. In any case there are plenty of TV stations around the world paying good money for some of this programming, and they’re unlikely to pay quite as much if everyone’s watched it on the net.
I shouldn’t be so negative I know. It’s a good thing, and I still can’t wait.