Monday, 7 October 2013

BBC R4’s Today programme – it’s so yesterday!

I’ve recently stopped buying a national newspaper each day. The main reason is that I’m not remotely interested in any of the things that Miley Cyrus, Sharon Osbourne, and Simon Cowell say or do.

From now on I'll be restricting my reading in print to the following journals – The Economist, New Scientist, Private Eye and The Catholic Herald, where you find some of the best and most intelligent writing and analysis. My daily news intake I will get online in future.

Similarly, I’m about to change habit of the past 30 years and stop listening to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme each morning. I’m just not any more sufficiently interested in its main ingredients …Westminister politics, middle class “humour” and the literary pontificating of James Naughtie.

I think Naughtie is off to offer his tedious insights in the Scottish referendum on independence soon. I won’t be listening to that, either. And while the Today programme’s new presenter Mishal Husain is actually rather good, her presence is not enough to save the show as a daily part of my life, Monday to Saturdays.

Take this morning’s offering from Today (Monday 7 October 2013). It was especially bad at the tail end. Shaun Keaveny made what was supposed to be a wry, amusing plea for the Glastonbury music festival to be switched from being a summer to a winter event.

The “peg” for that item was the likely move of the Qatar football Word Cup 2022 from a summer event to a winter one. Pathetic. Almost as pathetic as the main test for standing up a news story on BBC Radio 4, namely – “errr, has it been in The Guardian?”

Keaveny’s piece made me cringe. It was pisspoor colour-writing – formulaic and predictable. It even included a suck-up reference to John Humphries, which Humphries wisely chose not to respond to.

The only thing that the Today programme is good at these days is crashing the pips.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Father Figure - spectacularly unfunny

The BBC – so easy to despise in so many ways – does at least have a reputation for making good TV sitcoms … or did have.

One thinks back to Steptoe and Son, Dad’s Army, Black Adder, Till Death Us Do Part and, more recently, Outnumbered.

But the latest offering, Father Figure, starting on BBC1, last night, was simply awful.

A self-penned sitcom by Irish comedian Jason Byrne, it’s about a chaotic family – err, that’s it, basically. 

There were some terrible visual gags with cooking material and foodstuffs being split and smeared. I sat po-faced through those.

And we got the old chestnut of a person (played by Father Ted’s Pauline McLynn) wearing headphones and therefore not hearing what someone is saying to her. When she takes off the headphone, she tells the guy speaking to her that there’s no need to shout. Sigh.

And this show has a very annoying track of canned laughter – which only makes it seem more tragic.

Byrne “stars” as a hapless father with a boozy and somewhat stroppy wife. 

I think the main “situation” last night was Tom’s messy, slapsticky, attempts to cook a meal for his neighbours, who were uptight in a Central Casting sort of way.

Does the Beeb have any quality control in place at all? 

Not amused.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Why does the BBC drop for NGO and charity puff pieces?

The greatest pests and destroyers of good feeling in our world are the overbearing NGOs and 'guilt-trip-to-you-sir' charidees.

They waste millions of your donations on spurious campaigns, the launching of logos to big up their own corporate brands, paying massive salaries to PR pygmies before handing what's left to corrupt officials in Third World countries.

Hey, it needs saying!

And, of course, the BBC - and particulalry the news on BBC Radio 4's Today programme - drop for all the bleeding heart liberal crap spouted by NGOs and charities.

Why does the Beeb do that? Are its "journalists" not properly trained; never told the difference between genuine news and puff-copy?

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

What’s this? Funny sitcoms on ITV?!

I had a curiously old-fashioned evening last night, watching sitcoms on ITV1 in real time.

They weren’t half bad either - considering ITV’s lamentable history with sitcoms.

Yes, the new shows, ‘Vicious’ and ‘The Job Lot’, were much better than ITV offerings of yesteryear, such as ‘On The Buses’ and ‘Love Thy Neighbour’.

First of the new shows, ‘Vicious’, has quality actors Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi playing two long-term, elderly lovers with a penchant for putting each other down and trading OTT insults.

Frances de la Tour – a sitcom star herself in ‘Rising Damp’ (one of only two good sitcoms ITV ever produced; the other was ‘Shelley’ starring Hywel Bennett) – plays something of a vamp in ‘Vicious’ and is a good foil to Jacobi and McKellen, the principal characters.

There were lots of sharp lines last night; including McKellen as a struggling actor bigging himself up by shouting: “And I got to murder a prostitute in Coronation Street!”

This elderly-flavoured and elegantly camp sitcom was followed by ‘The Job Lot’ – a brand new one set in a humdrum midlands JobCentre, and quite topical at this time of benefit reforms. Russell Tovey – and actor much-used by trendy BBC3 in recent years and famous for his bizarre sticky-out ears – is one of the lead characters.

But best character in ‘The Job Lot’ is the neurotic centre manager, played by Sarah Hadland, who has the unnerving habit of mentioning personal dysfunctions such as her “self-harming” and “night terrors” at inopportune moments.

All in all, good stuff from ITV1.

And these two sitcoms, watched back-to-back, certainly beat dull old Crimewatch on BBC1 in the same timeslot.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Why 'celebrating' Thatcher's death is shameful

I am currently ashamed to be British. The continuing determination of quite large numbers of people to 'celebrate' the death of Margaret Thatcher has made me feel this way.

I was NEVER a supporter of Mrs Thatcher, by the way. But the widespread willingness to celebrate her death betrays a big loss of compassion and a weakening of moral discernment among people of the Left in politics.

(And I count myself as someone on the Left in political terms.)

Also, the powerful bitterness and hatred exhibited to a frail old woman who has died after a debilitating illness – quite simply it disgusts me.

This is not about politics. It is about respect for the dead – i.e. respect for human life.

Particularly galling was the outpouring of wormwood from the sneering gob of Glenda Jackson during the tribute debate in the Commons last week.

If only the Hamsptead luvvie understood the words 'respect' and 'dignity' as well as she does 'bitterness' and 'showboating'.

And now the BBC and other media are starting to report the prospect of demonstrations and 'turning of backs' along the route of the London funeral procession as a morally neutral issue. Such displays will not be morally neutral. They will be bad and degrading to our country.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The pouting, preaching crap that is Holby City

Just because broadcasters CAN aim endless crap docs’n’cops dramas at thick viewers, I really don’t think they should be allowed to.

I’m not usually a fan of State regulation of broadcasting, but there is simply too much TV of the stupid kind in the digital era – and most of it is a sinful waste of creative energy.

Broadcasters’ airtime should be heavily cut back by force of law – to give quality broadcasts a chance to stand out from the sea of mediocrity and worse.

Holby City, for instance, has been running since it started in1999, but it is rubbish and gets abysmal ratings.

Essentially, a hospital-based soap opera, it features a string of moody medics displaying dysfunctional attitudes to personal relationships, and emotional incontinence at every medical case that comes their way.

The casting is appalling. The characters don’t behave like medics and they don’t look like medics. Most of ‘em have the appearance of thin, blandly good-looking young models and drama school graduates who like to pout. Which is presumably what they are.

Rosie Marcel as consultant cardiothoracic surgeon Jac Naylor is the worst of the bunch. She tries to cover the whole emotional range between A and B but somehow her perma-pout just always gets in the way.

And the writing is crap. Some of the life-or-death dilemmas are so clumsily-written that the viewer needs a heart of stone not to laugh.

I suppose Holby City has been useful for the BBC – as yet another platform on which to push racial and sexual justice agendas. I have no problem with those values in ethical terms but I do deeply resent all the heavy-handed preaching the BBC gets up to in drama.

Holby City has rightly been criticised for its lack of realism, not least by the British Medical Association which denounced the portrayal of organ donation, for instance. Also, an accident and emergency nurse at the 2008 Royal College of Nursing conference accused the programme of fostering unrealistic expectations of the NHS and fuelling compensation culture.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Seeing life humbly from a golden throne

A difficult day in a tortuous month. By 5.45pm today, following a call to the car mechanic, I’d had enough.

New furry hat on (thanks Oonagh!) then up the perishing hill I went to the MASSIVE Ss Peter and Paul Church, New Brighton, Wirral (well, if you’re gonna do the Church Triumphant you might as well do it New Brighton-style).

Six o’clock and I’m on my knees at the shrine of St Philomena the Wonder Worker – in there saying the special words provided and inserting my ‘special intentions’ at the relevant points. She was an early martyr of the Church, and my mum in Wigan carries her name. Powerful stuff indeed, whichever way you cut it.

Philomena is a great intercessor with God. You either get that or you don’t. Most ‘reformed’ (non-Catholic) Christians don’t. But then their forefathers didn’t ‘get’ how Satan messed with Luther’s head – and theirs.

At 6.30pm I’m down the hill to the bar I helped name ... Tallulah’s. A large red and then I sit on a huge golden throne (remember this: nothing in New Brighton is normal).

Sometimes you need to sit on a golden throne to see the world in its humility. Truth often comes in drag as a paradox. It’s like war – often you must take up arms, fight and kill, if lasting peace and justice are to be established.

So I sip wine, and a man – also called Stephen (after the Protomartyr) – comes to my table and talks to me. He’s a security guard at a store in Liverpool, and something of an expert at spotting 'bagheads'.

We talk of love affairs and the struggle to be human. It’s a nice interlude. I like it when strangers come up to me and spill. It's something that happens quite often.

As we talk some great 1980s music is playing – Go West, Spandau, and Sheena Easton, then Terry Hall’s soulful vocals for – what was it called? – ‘Ghost Town’. It takes me back to my time in Norwich (happy days), where I'll be going for a reunion weekend soon.

But then I suddenly also recall the video for ‘Ghost Town’ which I think featured the band driving through the Blackwall Tunnel in East London, and I’m transported to the many times I drove through that tunnel, journeying between my job as news editor of the Kentish Times in Gravesend and my flat at the Angel Islington.

And at this point the TV is showing many scenes of London – some sort of railway journeys programme fronted by Michael Portillo, who seems very good as a presenter, I must say,

So now I’m thinking of Philomena, and those problems that I laid before her, and I’m wondering whether this emphasis of London and Noriwch is some sort of early sign or omen.

Next, The Proclaimers are belting out on the sound system, and I’m reminded of Scotland where I had such a good time as a journalist in the '90s and made brilliant friends who I see to this day.

Finally, up to me in the bar comes a young man who I know vaguely from around the local manor, and he’s spouting poetry at me, Browning, I think. It’s all so lovely ... this experience. I can feel Philomena’s wonder kicking in benevolently, step by steady step.

I'm being shown what joys and riches my life so far has contained, and I'm being reminded of how good and warm people can be.

At about 9pm I get up to go home. As I leave the bar there’s a woman outside the entrance, smoking. She flashes me a big smile, fixes me with a look of affection, and says ‘bye love’. It this simply the natural warmth of Merseyside people – or is it Philomena sending me more signs?