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).

'The little white lie that grew' – by Clive James

March 28, 2009 § Leave a comment

Link to the BBC article.

I love this article, not just because it is well written, but also because I find the subject an endlessly fascinating one: that subject, of course, of being human. Clive James describes the story as tragic, and the Greek term could not be more apt in this case. The Greek philosophers were lovers of humanity – in all our flaws, deficits and wondrous virtues. They were true philosophers.

The story of a man – a good man, a judge no less – who is brought down by the very principles he sought to uphold every day of his working life, brought down… by a speeding fine. It is nothing short of tragic and, at the same time, humourous that even the best of us are vulnerable to the dangers of being human. If there were no tragedies, there would be no comedies, and without either, life would be an exceedingly dull experience.

'Women on top' BBC Article

March 8, 2009 § Leave a comment

An interesting article about how women are portrayed in the mass media. Obviously, not much of it is new, but I did like this bit:

Apart from our numbers in big jobs, though, what most concerned the conference was the near-pornographic portrayal of women in what were supposed to be mainstream magazines. (I gather the real top shelf is not doing too well commercially, because the most dedicated hard porn seekers can get it harder and dirtier on the net.)

“When we complained about it,” one of the Bristol women said, “we were told that lads mags were part of a young man’s growing up process, that we couldn’t alter them.”

Which makes no more moral sense, I’d have thought, than if you’d said in the 19th Century that you shouldn’t worry about the ghastly conditions of girls in brothels because being taken by your uncle to your first prostitute was a rite of passage for young men.

It’s not so much the lads, though, as the lasses that these women were really worried about, as sexy magazines are aimed at younger and younger markets.

Young girls so often see being able to behave badly as a right to be fought for; that being as sexy and outrageous as the boys is “empowering”.

They don’t have any sense of being bamboozled or exploited.

I’d agree that pornography isn’t something that should particularly be encouraged, especially in mainstream magazines. In general I lean towards it being morally corrupt, but not because I feel that images which are aimed to sexual arouse or titillate are inherently wrong, but because I fear that the circumstances in which those images are produced may well be exploitative in nature.

The stuff about women not being aware that they’re exploiting themselves is certainly true with regards to some young women. You only have to look around in the high-street to see that. The worst example of this is the playboy bunny logo which adorns the tops, hand bags and other assorted accessories of many a fashionable teenybopper. Oh, I see, it’s ironic; it’s women taking power from a predominantly misogynist symbol and making it their own. But, hang on, by wearing that T-shirt aren’t you, I dunno, sort of spreading the advertising dollar of Playboy magazine even further? Aren’t you just adding to the coffers of an empire built upon the promotion of women as sexual objects, not as intelligent, rational human beings? Hmmm.

I get that women like to dress up, wear make-up etc. because they enjoy doing it for its own sake. This hasn’t passed me by. It’s more the wearing of labels, or the impression that Jordon’s career is a sound one for a teenage girl to follow, that is a cause for worry. It’s not a symbol of empowerment; it is emblematic of the level of acceptance we have sunk to regarding the objectification of women in our society.

I don’t know, I just think it’s women selling themselves short. But then, I don’t necessarily feel that the objectification of women is a bad thing, just as I don’t think the objectification of men is. Both are necessary components of sexual desire and, in short, we wouldn’t be able copulate without it; it’s an essential part of our human natures.

I think what I object to is this idea – which is becoming too wide-spread – of women being primarily sexual objects, and everything else after the fact. And that somehow, becoming a page three model is a worthy affirmation of women-hood, when there are plenty of other things women can be known for.

P.S. I love the Jodie Marsh picture caption.

'Women choose dogs over babies' BBC Video Article

February 4, 2009 § Leave a comment

Link

Witness the countenance of undiluted despair and despondancy at 0:23 and 0:53. Probably a segment filmed for ‘The One Show‘ (the BBC’s thinly veiled attempt at rebooting ‘That’s Life‘); they seem to lap this shit up like there’s no tomorrow — Forgive the pun.

Quote of the Day: “Well, looking after Lucy [Miss Monroe’s dog] is equivilant of looking after a baby. It’s probably easier to look after a baby…” Yeah, probably.

I won’t be surprised if I see this on Screenwipe any time soon.

'The Ethics of Scent of a Woman' Article

January 12, 2009 § 1 Comment

Excellent article here by a guy called Matthew Belinkie. Scent of a Woman is a bit of a joke as a ‘serious film’ about ‘making a stand’ but it is hilarious because of Al Pacino’s ridiculous over-acting and general Pacino-ness that we’ve now come to unfortunately know and hate too well. To be fair to the guy, he did get an oscar for that role; it’s understandable that he let that go to his head and for him to think that from now on he should act like that in every film. Anyway, despite the need for someone to tell to really “CALM THE FUCK DOWN”, it’s difficult not to love the guy in Heat and The Devil’s Advocate. Heat is a good film and although it would have lost an element without Pacino it still would have worked well because everything else in that film was great. The Devil’s Advocate on the other hand, only Al Pacino could save us from Neo’s so-subtle-it’s-almost-undetectable acting style by going the complete other way.

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