June, 2006

Logic in Adverts

I know it really shouldn’t annoy, but some of the internal logic of some current ads defies belief.
For example there’s a PC World ad at the moment featuring a young woman being shown around a branch by an exuberant salesman who’s explaining some of their great summer deals. First she’s shown an external hard drive, then some anti-virus software before finally seeing an HD TV. Who, precisely, is this strange customer who’s looking for three completely diverse products? If someone tried to sell me all that stuff without me asking, I’d tell him where to get off.
But that’s nothing compared to the truly awful Euro-fest that is the latest Samsung HD TV ad. I say “Euro-fest” when I mean “Euro-pudding”. It’s one of those ads that’s dubbed into whatever local language is needed. The “story” revolves around a man who works in an office and has tickets to the “world football finals” (note: Samsung is not an official sponsor). All his friends and colleagues want to be the person he takes with him. But then he sees the picture on his bosses HD TV. So he gives away his tickets to the football, buys an expensive TV, and watches the match on that. What? Someone scripted this ad? There have got to be better ways to explain how wonderful the picture quality is. What football fan, anywhere on the planet would give away his tickets because he can watch it on a 28″ TV? Dreadful.

The Truth With Jokes

A couple of years or so ago, I read Al Franken’s Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them which took aim at the conservative right wing broadcast media. In many respects this is just too easy to do, but then they stay on the air, and millions of Americans listen and watch them.
This time around, he takes George Bush as his subject. He goes through the reasons why Bush won the 2004 – fear mainly. He gets into Bush’s ill-fated and ill-conceived attempt to take Social Security private. And then gets into the administration’s dreadful handling of Iraq – before, during and “after” (although that might still be during).
Although he begins this book acknowledging that the conservative right are soft targets and he won’t lay into them time. But sometimes it’s too easy not, and he still fires his guns in their direction.
The book’s accompanied by plenty of notes and sources towards the back, which I always think is essential in this kind of a work.
All in all, well worth reading, even if none of it is all that surprising.

Burger King Celebrating England

I’m sure that no businesses in England at the moment would be concocting clever plans to make many out of England’s [relative] success in the World Cup at the moment. You know what I mean, selling Ikea chairs at 1p, offering 2-for-1 on pizzas on England match days at Pizza Hut or offering 10% off on England match days at MUJI – to pull three random examples out of the air.
So I was impressed that the staff of Burger King in Piccadilly Circus were feeling so patriotic yesterday, that they were all wearing white England home shirts. You know, the ones available for £11.99 in Lilywhites across the road.
The one teeny weeny flaw in this patriotic display is that this particular branch is Burger King is renowned for its multi-ethnic non-English staff. Indeed I always think that their recruitment policy must solely revolve around the Spanish press. The majority of their serving staff are not English – they seem to all be Spanish. Indeed, tomorrow sees a massive clash between France and Spain, so I’d expect plenty of red shirts to be in evidence then.
Oh yes, and white probably isn’t the best colour to wear when you’re working in a busy fast-food environment…

Battle of the Genealogy Shows

I notice that ITV has commissioned it’s own version of the BBC2 (and now BBC1) hit genealogy programme, Who Do You Think You Are? The BBC version is produced by Wall to Wall Television.
So who has ITV got to put together it’s show, provisionally titled Get A Proper Job? Wall to Wall Television is who.
In the original presenterless series, celebrities trace their family trees to see how their ancestors lived their lives and earned their livings. In the presenterless Get A Proper Job, a series of celebrities will trace their family trees and find out what their ancestors did for a living. The clever “twist” is that the celebrities try to perform the job for themselves.
Someone has basically watched Who Do You Think You Are and Tony Robinson’s Worst Jobs In History in quick succession and just merged them together.
I think that if I was the BBC commissioning editor responsible for Who Do You Think You Are, I might be a little peeved that ITV is not only ripping off my idea, but using the same production company to do it.
ITV’s in trouble, but copycat programming is not the way to go.

Tour De France 2006

I know we’re still in the midst of the trials and tribulations that are watching England progress through a major football tournament, but things just get busier.
As well as Wimbledon starting today, next weekend sees the return of my sporting highlight of the summer – the Tour de France.
When ITV4 started last autumn, I knew that ITV planned to move most of its sports coverage to the channel and worried me a little because since it doesn’t start until 6.00pm in the evening (it shares a channel space with CITV), that would mean the end of live weekend coverage.
But looking at some of the upcoming listings, it looks as though live coverage is still with us on ITV3 with coverage of the prologue on Saturday and Stage 1 on Sunday. With any luck this’ll continue into the following weekends, particularly that of the 15th and 16th July when the Tour’s in the mountains.
It looks as though weekday coverage is ITV4 between 7pm and 8pm which is fine.

Portugal 1 – Holland 0

I know I should be talking about England 1 Ecuador 0, but I got fed up of listening to the loons on 606 to bother with that (and I include Alan Green amongst their number).
But I’ve just witnessed a match that saw more cards than…, than…, Clinton’s!
So who exactly are Portugal going to have available next Saturday? I assume Valentin Ivanov, tonight’s official, will be heading to the airport this Wednesday alongside Graham Poll and their “Thanks, But No Thanks” greetings cards.
And fair play to Gabby or whichever ITV sport producer spotted that the official Fifa stats say that the match only had 25 fouls. That’s a great foul to card average.

Street-Porter Nonsense

I know that it’s practically the job description for newspaper columnists to spout complete nonsense, but Janet Street-Porter really annoyed me in today’s Independent On Sunday.
(I’d link to the article, but the brief intro you can get on the Indie’s website doesn’t include it. Brilliantly, The Indie charges a pound for a single article – the printer paper only cost me around £1.70 and I got a lot more than a single article. You can buy a subscription, but I prefer not to. Still, The Indie’s Ivan Fallon calls newspapers giving away their content “insane“. Indeed reading that article in the Press Gazette, Fallon’s not rushing to do anything. Who’s website do we think is making more revenue? The Independent’s or The Guardian’s? I wonder….)
Someone somewhere has suggested using some of London’s parks as campsites during the 2012 Olympics. Street-Porter thinks this is mad because we’re building lots of hotels and if visitors can afford Olympics tickets then they should be able to afford a hotel.
Clearly Street-Porter’s not stayed in London hotels on her own penny recently. London remains one of the world’s most expensive cities. Poor quality hotel rooms can easily top £100 per night. Yet the average price of a 2012 ticket will be £40, with tickets starting at £15. Nevermind free events like the marathon, cycling and walking.
The Olympics will see visitors from all over the world – in particular they’ll include visitors from poorer nations and continents. They’ll only be able to afford to camp. The London parks may or may not be good places to put camp sites, but we are going to need them. London has uniquely few campsites for a Western European capital city. And Street-Porter is a renowned rambler too!
Seriously, I was always told that if you haven’t got anything sensible to say, say nothing.

ITN Report on Aaron Spelling

Is this a sign of things to come? I was watching the early evening ITV News from ITN and they’d put together a report on Aaron Spelling, the TV producer extraordinaire who made so many hits in the 70s and 80s. They came to Starsky & Hutch, but the clip they showed had obviously come from the internet. It was hideously pixilated. To compound matters someone had gone out and got an interview with David Soul.
Over on C4 where the news is also put together by ITN, someone had either been in touch with Sony Columbia TV who would normally supply the clip, or perhaps they’d just popped out to the nearest HMV and bought a Starsky & Hutch boxset.
But then we got onto Dynasty and Beverly Hills 90210, and both clips were sourced from the internet. The commentary talked about fans keeping the series alive by putting clips on websites, but just going to YouTube or wherever is not good enough. Surely there are tape libraries that you can get decent quality clips from, even on a Saturday? It’s not like the package was put together in five minutes since news of Spelling’s death was on Breakfast TV this morning.
A sign of the television times?

Which Match

Last night the BBC chose to show Brazil v Japan rather than the simultaneous Australia v Croatia. This was pretty disappointing because even though Japan took an unlikely early lead, it was obvious that Japan needed to rely on the other result and then score a hatful against Brazil to get through.
I was watching Australia v Crotia in a pub and it was a much livelier affair. Croatia needed a win and Australia just a draw. So when Croatia took an early lead the many Australians in the pub were a little disappointed. On a nearby table was a group of Croatian girls, so we decided to side with them (actually it was one Croatian and her Swedish mates). So when Australia equalised for a second time, a big Australian bloke decided to almost pick a fight with me for not supporting Australia. Something to do with us both being in the Commonwealth or something.
I didn’t bother getting into why the English are always likely to prefer the other side to Australia – if only to wind up a sports mad nation. In fact, I was pretty neutral in reality, and was only cheering Croatia because the Croat girl was really pretty.
So there it is then. My allegiance can be bought by whoever has the prettiest fans.
I see that the ratings for BBC 3 are some of the best they’ve had with that game.

Documentaries v World Cup Football

The one thing that’s really annoying me during the current World Cup finals on ITV and BBC1 is that other channels are still launching some good quality programming in the middle of the tournament – programming that I’m going to miss because I’m watching the football.
A few examples. On Monday, Channel 4 launched a major new history series, War of the World by Niall Ferguson. Meanwhile on BBC2, there was the new Steve Coogan series, Saxondale. This started at 10.00pm so you could watch the football. But if you strayed into the post match analysis you were going to miss some of this. On Tuesdays, BBC2 has started a major new documentary series on China. And later in the week on Thursdays, Horizon has just returned.
Now of course I could record all these to watch at a later date, but in a digital world where most of us only have a single tuner device (e.g. a normal Sky box or a Freeview box), that’s not as easy as it once was. And let’s be honest. Once you’ve got a four part documentary series on China backed up onto VHs, how long is it really going to be before you get around to watching it.
Perhaps schedulers think that fans of football are entirely different to fans of serious minded documentaries. Not the case.
I understand that the other channels have to offer some kind of alternative to the football, but maybe it should be more feature films, repeats of Midsomer Murders and Poirot. Don’t put all your good stuff out while millions are watching the other side.
Digital TV does allow some sollace – More 4 is repeating the Niall Ferguson series on Saturdays, but BBC2 isn’t streaming China like some documentaries it carries.