Posts in Category: tv

I am not a fan of … but …

Ok, the secret to blogging more ? Reading Twitter, it seems…

This morning’s gem (from the amazing-in-everything Mark Gatiss):

For me this strikes me as part of the same problem highlighted by the also-excellent Charlie Brooker:

…The first face was Bob Hoskins, prompting a wave of respectful applause through the auditorium. He was followed by a photograph of the writer Eddie Braben.


Eddie Braben, of course, wrote most of Morecambe and Wise’s classic material…


So, whilst I happily say I’m not a fan of affirmative action (the fact it exists at all is a damning statement of how wrong our collective decision making is), this feels like something that can be very much more easily remedied for TV and Film writers as it’s obvious that some of the audience are forgetting that the actors are just playing a role and that it’s not real. It would be tempting to blame reality TV for this lack of knowledge, but despite writers names being prominently featured in the title sequence, that’s typically where things stop unless you enjoy using IMDB.

So, BBC, Netflix, Lovefilm – this is your time ! Rather than the dull online categories (and yes BBC iPlayer, I’m looking at you when I find that Arts doesn’t include Music when listing TV programmes… Hmm…) lets have a prominent ‘Writers’ top level heading. It only takes one curious person who enjoyed a drama to go and click to discover a trove of material, although it takes away from the current approach of the all-hail-machine-pesudo-AI ‘Recommended For You…’ and puts control back in the viewers hands.

(aside: this is perhaps no bad move, as for myself I now ignore ‘Recommended’ lists as they are mostly ads which are not even thinly disguised anymore for most part (Lovefilm, hmm…) and easily skewed by buying presents for others…)

So whilst we’re at it, let’s get more useful and have a ‘Strong, well-written female lead’ section – ok, the wording may need some work (but hey, I know where to find some Writers now !) so we can properly address the ‘hero bloke/simpering female’ formula.

Hmm, come to think of it, perhaps we need TwitterRebuttal as a new site, where ranty people have to write more than 140 words to go on about tweets that irritate them…

a use for uk dvb-t +1 channels

After reading about the BBC HD trial, I was idly wondering what the UK DVB-T channel line up might look like in the post-analogue days (2012, at the current estimate) and trying to decide how much HD content there might be (or how many more shopping and +1 channels[1] could expand to fill the space and so force people onto pay platforms for HD content. Not that I’d accuse any other operators of using up DVB-T spectrum as a loss leader in order to force customers to buy better quality[2] from their other arm).

I googled around a bit and found an interesting but unrelated list of channel numbers to analogue video and audio frequencies as well as the digital centre frequency. A bit later I found an introductory FAQ where Q10 tries to explain why some channels might come through fine, and others drop out or are just not available.

Ben managed to find the real gem, though, over at Wikiedia where the multiplexes are listed with the actual data bit rate and not just the bandwidth (they’re all 8MHz of course, to fit into the UK channel plan). Now it makes much more sense when it’s shown that the ‘dodgiest’ channels when it comes to being able to watch them over the neighbours’ petrol lawnmower generated interference are all QAM64 encoded (five, C4, E4) but down the bottom there’s E4+1, sitting on a QAM16 multiplex. Why ? I haven’t a clue. If I were Channel 4 I’d have bumped C4 to the QAM16 and relegated the E4 pair to the others, but then I’ve long suspected that being sensible is the worst thing to put at the top of a business plan.

So if you have a PVR or other timeshifting device for DVB-T (I think that the EyeTV software is well worth a look too) then plump for E4+1 instead of E4 for all of the first run US imports and you ought to get a more reliable signal, and possibly less MPEG artefacts too.

[1] For non-UK readers, channels that have identical content to another bearing the same name, but the content is broadcast 1 hour later
[2] Measured in bit-rate, pixel count or some other tangible metric: actual programming is not included

Tesco DVD Rental – review

Tesco DVD Rentals – the easiest way to rent DVDs:

This (like most of Tesco‘s offerings) is a rebranded service operated by a 3rd party – in this case Video Island who also operate Screen Select: both sites boast a library of over 37,500 titles, with the only difference being the price. At the most basic level, Tesco charge £7.97 per month for a single disc at a time although if you buy yourself a gift certificate it looks possible to get 12 months for the price of 10, albeit tying yourself to paying that amount rather than being able to cancel at any time.

So far the service has behaved exactly as advertised with postage taking one working day, and the turnaround being sameday – I can’t expect this to hold up over busy postal periods but it does show that their system is working very nicely. Until I have a dispute or another problem I can’t comment on the full service, but given that this is around the same monthly rental as the totally pointless TopUp TV[1] it gives far better value for money, and access to more content – e.g: 24 series 3 and 4 are available without having to wait for wrangles over the UK terrestrial rights to be concluded.

When browsing a page of thumbnails, clicking the Rent button will not only add the title to your selection but also removes the disc from the main list: a very nice touch. Another neat option is the ability to rent an entire TV series in episode order, but this does have one drawback: when the next disc is not available you will receive a totally different item from your list of titles, which is nice because there is something else to watch, and not-so-nice as it does interrupt the flow a little. Not that I can complain too much, as just the single disc of Stargate: Atlantis has put us 4 weeks ahead of the terrestrial broadcast, plus we got to watch it with DD 5.1 sound and no adverts…

One very useful feature is the ability to reserve films way in advance of their release: I was able to add Corpse Bride to my list even though it’s not hit UK cinema’s yet. Oh, and that film also has one of the coolest bits of trivia I’ve seen yet (the DSLR one).

[1] It wouldn’t be pointless if they let me choose from the full set of channels at £7.99, or pick and choose as many as I want at £1 per channel per month.

tv shows in programming languages

In Forth, nip tuck could also be described as swap drop dup -rot

Which is why Forth programmers should never get to come up with names for TV shows.

actually useful, or washing their hands ?

BBC NEWS | Technology | Digital switchover firm launched:

So does this mean that we’ll have an educated, ordered and event free switch over, with dates being advanced and held back per region, acurately refelcting local takeup ? Maybe I’m jaded, but I feel it’s just a move to allow whichever government is in power to deny any wrong doing in switching over early, as there’s an easy target to blame. Of course, selling off the spectrum early would not be the govt. idea. Oh no. I bet SwitchCo will come up with that one in the next four years…

BBC – Doctor Who

BBC – Doctor Who – Homepage:

I started watching this with a fair amount of trepidation, having grown up watching the series and having very fond memories of it which have remained largely untarnished even when watching them 20 years later on UK Gold. Yeah, the sets wobble and the acting can be hit-n-miss, but it’s still got appeal. I was pretty turned off by the DVD padding program that preceeded the actual episode by an hour (I found doing the washing up was more satisfying), but I have to echo the views of the friendly paparazzi interviewed for that show: it really is good.

Now I’ll wait for the second episode before getting too excited, but I reserve the right to upgrade that opinion to very good if it carries on in the same vein. I was worried about both the choice of Doctor and assistant, but Chistopher Eccleston does bring a new style to the role, and his rather intense looks have been translated slightly away from rather sinister and mildly terrifying (28 Days Later) towards a character that feels almost full to bursting with knowledge and is impatient to apply it. The best part of the dialogue of the Doctor was the utter and uncompromising geek nature of his reponses: no extra information was offered, and if you couldn’t keep up that’s your problem – no free ride of easy answers either: if you want to impress him you’ll need to not merely keep up but manage to be nearly a jump ahead at times.

Billie Piper was for me an odd casting as assistant, and whilst she was better than I had expected in The Canterbury Tales, I didn’t have high hopes at the start. She was, however, as much of a suprise as the script: apart from a couple of screams that had an echo of Bonnie Langford about them (for me, the worst assistant of the lot), the role was much more interesting with Rose actually bothering to find out more about the Doctor on her own (rather then simply jumping into the Tardis for no adequately explored reason), and the Doctor actually admitting that she had been helpful by the end of the episode.

No, not a Jelly Baby in sight, but special effects that were in keeping with the show; aiding the story without dominating. Not typical Hollywood fare. Nice.

I’ve no idea what my two will think of this in 10 to 15 years time, but they were both silent, with an occasional cuddle along with the comment “I’m not scared” from the big one, and a “Liked it. Little bit scary” from the small one after it ended.

Sounds like the Doctor is indeed back.

yay, but is it good news ?

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | TV and Radio | Daleks back to fight Doctor Who:

It’s good to see that both sides could reach an agreement, but I’m worried about the script – the series is supposed to be broadcast next year, and in my naive little world I would have assumed that such basic items as, say the scripts had been written and were in the process of being revised and shot.

Is it going to be a simple bolt-on-the-daleks episode ?

Have the BBC had them in all along and were just holding off until the legal wrangling settled (hoping it was in their favour) ?

Am I hopelessly optimistic about the time spent on the story, and writing a 6 or 8 episode series takes mere weeks, and filming slightly less ?