September, 2005


While watching part 2 of the Dylan documentary, there was a brief sequence showing the position of Like A Rolling Stone in the charts. I’m pretty sure that the top four entries of that chart read:
1. Help – The Beatles
2. Like A Rolling Stone – The Beatles
3. Unchained Melody – (Unsure exactly who)
4. California Girls – The Beach Boys
OK – so records did tend to hang around for quite a while in those days, but that’s a hell of a top 4 tracks. Number 5 downwards might have been classics too, but I wasn’t quick enough to read them.

Casio Shops

Why is it that while other shops are happy to change their window displays every so often, when there’s a new season or whatever, the Casio shop in Carnaby Street in London seems to completely renovate their premises.
The shop’s been closed down for the last three or four weeks – for good I thought. But no. They re-open at the weekend.
This comes less than a year after they “re-branded” as Casiology, which also involved shutting the shop down and included an expensive advertising campaign at Oxford Circus.
There’s bigger margins in digital watches than you previously realised obviously. (Incidentally, this is the Casio shop that was unable to change the battery in one of their own watches when I went in once. They insisted I needed to send it away to their head office. The bloke in Piccadilly Circus tube managed it in about five minutes.)


As the world goes Bob Dylan mad, BBC2 last night aired part one of a major new documentary on the man, directed by Martin Scorcese. And very good it was too – I’ll be tuning in tonight (or recording it at least, since it clashes with Arsenal’s Champions’ League fixture).
But I do laugh when the overnights come in. According to Broadcast Now it “found only a modest audience last night with 1.8 million (8.4%) tuning in.”
Mediaguardian was a lot more honest in its interpretation, pointing out the ratings were an improvement on the same time last week, and highlighting the first-run popular drama series airing on BBC1 and ITV1 at the same time.
I mean, come on. How many people did anyone honestly expect were going to spend watching a two hour documentary on Bob Dylan? Frankly, it could have been a two doc on The Beatles and the audience wouldn’t have been that much better.
As it happens, I don’t care how few people watched it, as I thought it was thoroughly excellent. And the BBC are putting out a whole lot of additional programmes on various channels to support it. BBC Four gets the majority, but I still need to listen to Radio 3’s Andy Kershaw documentary repeated from 1999 and broadcast on Sunday.

Sky Three

So finally Sky Travel is to morph into Sky Three (while Sky Mix gets rebranded as Sky Two). With ITV4 and More4 about to launch, and Freeview getting ever bigger, Sky were running the risk of missing out.
Sky Travel had always been seen as a bit of a stalking horse; don’t forget that Sky was always part of the original consortium that set up Freeview in the first place.
Their big programme will, of course, be 24. Sky have started buying up rights to some of their programming and keeping them exclusively – 24 was the big first case. Having said that, Freeview only gets to see the third series at the moment. And with healthy DVD sales, Fox isn’t going to lose out too much from this. Sky have also now got exclusive rights to Nip/Tuck (C4 viewers won’t get to see the resolution of the car park cliffhanger), so expect that to show in due course.
It’ll be interesting to see what, if any, of their SF programming they show on Sky Three. One of the problems Sky has is that much of its programming is shared with a terrestrial broadcaster, like C4 with Enterprise. Once these deals expire, expect to see regular Star Trek on Sky Three. But it’ll be interesting to see when, if ever, they show some of their real premium programming, like Deadwood. And I imagine that hell will freeze over before The Simpsons comes on board.
Expect lots of programme junctions explaining whats on the other channels at the same time. And copious promos for Sky One and Sky Two, as well as sports and movies. Unlike Sky Travel, Sky Three might be a channel they want to watch.
Finally, have a look at the attached, now appearing on poster sites around the UK:
Everyone around me seems to think that the public service broadcaster Channel 4 is starting either a porn channel or a season of sex programmes. Actually, this is a teaser for the forthcoming, and aforementioned, More4. And from what we know about More4, I think a lot of people titillated by the idea of a C4 sex channel are going to be disappointed in More4 which is going to be the home of The West Wing, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and loads of C4 documentary repeats.
Sir Alan Sugar was on Room 101 last night, and one his moans was advertising that doesn’t clearly explain what it’s selling (they showed that “3” ad with an Asian child running around sheets). I think that this is probably a good example of stylish advertising on a serious budget failing to fully engage the audience they’re seeking out. More4 will be successful in spite of, rather than because of this advertising.


On TNT, The Closer ran Mondays from 9.00-10.00pm EST.
On C4, The Closer’s running Tuesdays from 10.00-11.10pm BST.
On ABC, Lost starts its second series tomorrow, from 9.00-10.00pm EST.
On C4, Lost runs Wednesday from 10.00-11.05pm BST.
Why do US shows seem to run over an hour in the UK where, theoretically, we have less advertising than they do in America? The first episode of The Closer, might be a little longer because it’s the pilot, but even though Lost sometimes over-runs a minute in the US (for marketing purposes), there’s no excuse in the UK. And isn’t there also a little bit of speed-up due to NTSC v PAL?
Could it be that C4 are just packing their shows with too many ads?


ITV4 sounds quite exciting with some good purchases. They’ve got a few “big” shows which aren’t actually quite as big as they might be painted, like Kojak and Wanted.
But aside from the shift of sport onto the channel, including Champions’ League and the Tour de France, it’s the details that make it more interesting. It looks like we’re getting the return of David Letterman on the channel, and they’re also going to run Homicide: Life on the Streets, Dark Skies and Larry Sanders.

Random Theory of the Day

While I was shopping in Waitrose (look it’s the closest supermarket to me OK?), I was chatting to the woman on the checkout who noticed I’d been in a clothes shop. She went on to share with me her theory that men’s clothes are more expensive than women’s clothes because women buy far more than men. If we men went shopping a bit more and didn’t treat it as a chore, then our clothes would be cheaper.
While I dispute the fact that men hate shopping (I can’t think of anything more enjoyable than a trip to HMV or Waterstones), I do agree that men’s clothes are more expensive.
I was reminded of this conversation when I saw the posters for Uniglo, the Japanese clothes shop, at Picaddilly Circus this morning. They’ve just re-opened their flagship store, and they’re proudly advertising their cashmere sweaters. Women’s ones start at £39 while men’s start at £59. Eh? Why the discrepency?
I suppose men are, broadly speaking, larger than women so need more material in their garments. But twenty quid’s worth? I think I’d feel agrieved if I was a small man, paying that much difference.
It could be that the women’s clothes are more flimsy. Women have more clothes ergo, they don’t wear them as often and hence don’t need as much wear in them. But women are much fussier shoppers than men, so they’d return inferior products at the drop of a hat.
No, I think it’s because men have no idea about how much a cashmere sweater should cost, and are probably just happy to have made the purchase and escaped from the shop intact.
(Of course, not having visited Uniglo since they reopened, I’ve no idea what the true reason is. Although prior to them closing down for their refit, £59 would have been at the seriously high end for anything they sold in the store. Have they gone “upmarket”.)

Random Notes

After reading Ben Goldacre’s scathing attack on poor media coverage of science the other week, and then his new Saturday column in the main paper. It was slightly disappointing to read this in The Observer today. It’s presented as slightly humourous in that it costs an absurd amount of money. But only in the last paragraph does anyone point out that the premise of the liquid is ridiculous. I trust that these aren’t the same people who closed down Penta water…
Last night I was watching a documentary on the 15th anniversary of the Hubble space telescope. I think that it was a BBC re-edit of the original ESA produced documentary, since it was strange that it was presented by Bob Fosbury of ESA, yet narrated by Chris Lintott, who regularly appears on The Sky At Night. I suspect that as a European co-production, each country was left to dub on its narration with just a handful of presenter links left on. That’s largely what happens with David Attenborough narrated BBC nature documentaries. Anyway, it was all very informative and a worthwhile enterprise. But I did a double take when I read the “thanks” bit in the credits at the end. After a long list of astronomical associations around the world, it ended (and I freeze framed this to make sure “and off [sic] course: our girlfriends and families”.
You are rather left with the impression that ESA’s documentary-making arm is peopled with only married personnel, single males and lesbians.
(OK – I suspect that the titles weren’t done by someone for whom English is their first language, but it doesn’t do the image any good does it?).

The Guardian and Doonsbury

Well the new look Guardian emerged yesterday, and the biggest surpise to me was the fact that it was still folded. Seen like that on newstands, it’s now the smallest paper there, although the bulk of the paper means that the stack is pretty tall. This might be a problem on some days. And the jury’s still out on the introduction of a daily science page, which is fine for covering science news stories, but less so for big detailed features which Life managed.
The other surprise was the newsprint – not much different to the previous paper. The only reason that I thought we might get something different was because the previews that appeared in Saturday’s Guardian and Sunday’s Observer were printed on premium stock.
But the worst decision was to ditch Doonsbury by Gary Trudeau. It seems that the first complaints rolled in early. Then there was this? And finally, today, this!

Ofcom on Make Poverty History

Today Ofcom have published, at great length, a document on their findings of the Make Poverty History campaign being in breach of the Broadcasting Act. I’ve spoken before about this – to a limited extent.
As I’ve always said, nobody could rightly complain about the aims of this coalition of charities. But they do have a political aim, and in that respect, broadcasters have to tread very carefully when dealing with the cause. Of course, if the UK had looser rules on political broadcasting, then this would never be an issue.
But I for one, am glad that we don’t allow political advertising to pollute the airwaves come election times. You only have to look at the kind of fare you get in America come elections to realise that we’re probably better off without it.
Of course, working for a commercial broadcaster, my employers would do enormously well out of it. As it stands, one of the country’s biggest advertisers, the Central Office of Information, has to stop advertising in the run-up to an election (indeed they stop well before an election is even announced – which means that they’re spending, or lack of, is an excellent guide to when an election is truly to be called). The advertising spend from political parties during an election campaign might make up some of that shortfall. Except the parties in this country don’t really have the cash. They’d have to go cap in hand to big business to get it, and then they’d be even more beholdant to the corporations than they already are.
So, worthy cause though it may be, Make Poverty History can’t be given some kind of “exceptional” status, however right it might seem.