Television Recommendations — 02/04/09

April 2, 2009 § 2 Comments

Two recommendations today: ‘The Wire‘ and ‘Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe‘.

UK residents are in for a treat lately with two excellent pieces of television; unfortunately, both are on quite late. The BBC seems to think people will bother to catch The Wire at 11:20pm on a weekday, and that’s their call. If I were a working man – which I’m not at the moment, but if I were – I doubt I’d stay up to watch it. Adding insult to injury, it seems that they haven’t got the digital broadcast rights for the programme, so you can’t catch it on iPlayer either. Well done, the BBC, you’ve just gone and shot yourself in the foot again. At first, I was pretty excited to hear that The Wire would be coming to UK television screens, but I’m not going to watch it like this. Luckily, if you know where to look, the internet can provide every episode of the critically-acclaimed series for free and whenever it’s convenient for you.

Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe is on at a better time (10:30pm every Wednesday) and, fortunately, you can catch up with episodes on iPlayer. It’s also on BBC4, so I don’t know how much advertising coverage it’s getting – but probably not a lot. So here I am, pimping it out. It’s funny that the one word that comes to mind when thinking of Charlie Brooker is ‘genius’ – and he’d probably give me a clip round the ear and humorously berate me for saying that. Charlie Brooker isn’t a genius, but he is a very smart and funny guy.

He has around half an hour in his programme, and he dedicates it solely to satirically mocking and analysing the British media. The show surprises me every time by just how good it is at both informing and entertaining. For a start, it’s amazing just how much he covers within that 30 minutes of screen time; there is almost no fluff or padding in the programme (apart from the poetry reading in episode one, which was kind of shit). Added to that, is that everything he says or remarks upon is so absolutely correct – almost all the time. He is consistently spot-on on a regular basis, and he communicates so well to the audience, not with pretension or with condescension, but simply by talking clearly and with common sense. And then there’s his sense of humour, which is a mix between piss and fart jokes and sarcasm — but it’s funny sarcasm. The man, quite simply, is a brilliant satirist.

So, this is good news for people who still watch television. For everybody else with a good internet connection, it won’t really register a blip. Since almost all terrestrial channels have catch-ups through their respective online services, and since most popular television series are readily available via torrents and streaming websites, this blog update is almost obsolete — because, why watch television nowadays when you can download programmes quickly, for free, at decent quality, with no adverts, at your convenience and, sometimes, only a day after they’re first aired on American channels?

Television is becoming obsolete, if it isn’t already so. And the television licencing in this country really needs revamping because, frankly, the system they’ve got going is archaic, and it doesn’t really account properly for those downloading programmes using the internet. This is from the TV licencing website:

You must be covered by a valid TV Licence if you watch or record television programmes as they’re being shown on TV. It makes no difference what equipment you use – whether it’s a laptop, PC, mobile phone, digital box, DVD recorder or a TV set – you still need a licence.

You do not need a TV Licence to view video clips on the internet, as long as what you are viewing is not being shown on TV at the same time as you are viewing it [emphasis added].

Basically, this means I can watch any programme I want, which has been shown on British television, as long as I’m not watching it as it’s being broadcast. This means that you can watch everything on iPlayer (or 4oD) if it’s after the programme has been originally aired.

It’s not that I want to be charged money to watch iPlayer or 4oD or whatever, but, in theory, I can watch almost all of the programmes the BBC aires without contributing tax-wise. And, hey! It’s a great deal for me, but it doesn’t make it very fair now, does it?

Anyway, I’ve kind of gone and hijacked my own train of thought here. I’ll just finish up by saying that The Wire and Newswipe are fantastic programmes, and they deserved to be watched (on whatever equipment you watch television on).


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