Monday, 9 October 2017

Arrrgh! Stop being jokey and cheerful, Sky News

I'm not enjoying Sky News as much as I used to - and I think the main reason is the expectation on news anchors to display their 'personalities'.

Particularly vexatious to my spirit is Sarah-Jane Mee. Hmmm ... if ever a name was designed for the rather narcissistic world of TV, eh?

In real life (and come ON! - telly is NOT real life) Sarah-Jane is a nice human being and a good journalist, I'm told. I can accept that.

But my point is that her on-screen persona is too bubbly, too cheerful; it detracts from the news, rather than communicating it clearly and giving some heft and appropriate colour to what is happening in our troubled world. The same can be said for many of her colleagues at Sky.

I've never worked in television, but I am a craft-trained and professionally-qualified NEWSPAPER journalist. I object to the way TV news expects women to be ... blonde, glamorous and chirruping away. As a feminist myself, I do not like to see that, and I don't think women should go along with it.

Regardless of gender, most of the Sky News reporters and presenters seem skilled. They recognise a news story, and don't spoil it too much by speaking words that must always match or 'speak to' the filmed images. I guess they're trained to do that rather too much; unnecessarily, in my view.

But even some of the male news presenters are too much into projecting humour, nearly always unsuccessfully. Some can't resist flirting with the studio guests and smiling archly at the camera in a smug way. Urgh ... stop it!

I think what makes TV news presenters behave in such a way is that they wrongly think that they have achieved a special status by being on the telly, being a 'TV star'.

They are deluded. Being on the TV is rather naff, frankly.

As for the newspaper reviewers, Sky News has some terrible umm-ing and errrr-ing ones. Only recently, I watched some dork from the Huff Post honking away, and a 'news editor' from some silly 'think tank' crapping on in a most annoying American accent.

And Sky News will keep inviting 'jourrnalists' from the Daily Express to be on-screen pundits. What?! No proper journalist takes the Express seriously any more. It's a joke.

I'm seriously thinking of offering myself to Sky News as a new gob-on-stick for the nightly paper reviews.

Well, at least I'm a real journalist ... and I'm eloquent.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

UNtelevision - the show no-one dared make

Even back in 1990, I could tell that British TV was becoming ever blander, and turning its viewers' brains to mush.

So with my friend, Diane, I decided to do something about it. We created this pitch (below) for a new and very different kind of telly show, and sent it off to commissioning editors at Channel 4, and (I think) BBC2.

We hoped our idea would be picked up and the show would get made. At the time, I was the 'outspoken' TV critic for ITV's ORACLE Teletext service. Sadly, our idea for a show called UNtelevision never got turned into reality. 

Instead UK telly continued its decline into cultural cack and moron fodder such as X Factor and Britain's Got Talent, and endless dumb-ass cookery shows.

Shame. But do read our pitch below for UNtelevision. It should raise a few titters. And maybe such a show will get made one day. One day ... 

Introducing … UNtelevision

UNtelevision is the TV show for people who hate TV. Probably Britain’s biggest minority.

UNtelevision is TV with a sneering face. Two sneering faces, actually.

UNtelevision scorns tricksy graphics and fancy camera work. To be honest, it doesn’t much care for the visual at all. But it is well-written.

UNtelevision is basic. It doesn’t pose and it doesn’t offer a platform to poseurs. It despises most rock stars and all showbiz fluff-heads. It does not accept the premise that someone (however thick they might be) is a ‘celebrity’ ... just because they’ve appeared regularly on the telly!

So just what is UNtelevison?
It’s a weekly show, presented by Sam Brady and Diane McD, who aren’t exactly strangers to British TV but who feel it is suffering from terminal blandness.

Sam and Diane are young(ish), bitter and twisted. You’d be if you’d had their lives.

UNtelevision is anchored in their untidy ‘front parlour’. Their introductory chat on each show sets just the right tone of cynicism. These are the regular features of UNtelevision …

· GREEN – “live” from an endangered ancient wood in Sydenham, Sarf London, including a weekly visit to the home of Darren, Britain’s last surviving forest fairy. His mind, like his habitat, is heavily polluted.

· ISLINGTON BISTRO – we join Upper Street’s Sancerre set, who tell of the pain of inner city living in Thatcher’s Britain.

· YOU GOTTA HEAR THIS – an old fart insists you stay long enough to hear his all-time favourite LP track.

· TURN OFF – poisonous TV reviews by Sam and Diane.

· I WISH – the show’s totally straight and serious bit. Live from Wigan, from the traditional wish-making statue in the town’s park. Each week a notable person publicly makes a wish and explains why in a simple and moving ceremony.

· SHUT UP, SU POLLARD – the ultimate game show. Who can shut this woman up?

· Also, these occasional features – GET SEXY! …. NOT RICHARD AND JUDY … VALERIE SINGLETON SPEAKS.

For more Information contact Sam Brady (landline numbers supplied, no longer operable).

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Nothing is easy just now …

The fearful, heart-stopping image of smoke-shrouded burning tower against the blue summer sky in London; then tragedy, deep emotions, grief, community solidarity, and unbidden acts of kindness.

Then thoughts of social injustice, and justifiable anger, mixed in with huge stress and worry for the people caught up in the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Then irresponsible, opportunistic posturing by mainstream politicians (including Jeremy Corbyn and London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan).

Plus, what appeared to be an appalling lack of pastoral skill and human dignity from our Prime Minister Theresa May on her first visit to the scene.

Also, a lack of leadership and co-ordination, leading to chaos on the ground – where officials ought to have been providing constant reassurance, guidance, attention and care from the start of this tragedy.

And after all that came a very shouty demo, plus some depressing demonstrations of corporate blandness and ineffective PR training by emergency services spokespeople.

There are big questions to be answered about the tower’s recent cosmetic revamp. Why no sprinklers?  Were the fire alarms adequate? Why only one stairwell in and out? And the exterior cladding?  Did that help spread the inferno?

Of course, now we have a relentless targeting of the besieged Theresa May. She was under so much pressure already, with Brexit negotiations starting and her election gaffes.

A Christian pastor said he saw tears in her eyes when she talked, during a hastily-arranged private meeting at 10 Downing Street, to some of the victims of the fire.

So, were May’s tears those of compassion for people affected by the blaze? Or was she weeping for her own woes, as she faces widespread scorn and hatred among the public and the media, and the prospect of being forced from office by Machiavellian schemers in her government.

Perhaps both …

Nothing is easy in our country just now, but something is certainly wrong when a housing tower for poor and struggling people goes up in flames with such loss of life – and amid such opulence in the wealthiest borough in the mother city of the biggest empire in the history of our world.

I was glad to see the Queen struck the right healing note in her statement in which she drew attention to “a very sombre national mood”.

Referencing the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London as well as the Grenfell Tower fire, she said: “I have been profoundly struck by the immediate inclination of people throughout the country to offer comfort and support to those in desperate need.

“Put to the test, the United Kingdom has been resolute in the face of adversity. United in our sadness, we are equally determined, without fear or favour, to support all those rebuilding their lives so horribly affected by injury and loss.”

Amen to that, Your Majesty. Let’s say it again. Amen.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

A small break from Westminster politics? PLEASE!

Sky News and other broadcasters must be busting their budgets right now on fees for pundits - and on taxi fares to get them to the studios.

So many gobs-on-sticks are being invited in to give their views on the Westminster impasse and related political issues such as Brexit.

Nerds from think tanks, piss-poor columnists from ailing newspapers (yes, I’m  thinking particularly of you, Susie Boniface), and loads of failed politicians … they’re all there, droning on, making me feel short of oxygen.

Look, I know politics HAS become a bit more interesting in the wake of the referendum in which a modest majority voted for Brexit.

And the hung Parliament resulting from the recent General Election has certainly added to the intrigue and the emotional impact of politics.

But, actually, I was not personally impressed by the surge in support for Corbyn. He’s still a loser, unpatriotic and na├»ve. And the fact that he has a young fan-base is a negative thing, in my view.

I do feel sorry for Theresa May, who was herself politically inept in following silly guidance from her (now resigned) advisors Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, and in running a presidential-style campaign (very unBritish).

So now May’s trying to form and keep going a minority government by reaching an agreement with hugely intransigent, anti-gay Ulster unionists, while at the same time surviving a Machiavellian mega-bitch-fest underway among MPs of her own party.

Good luck with all that Theresa! It won’t work, of course. Soon there will be a putsch, or something approaching one in terms of rancour, and May will be finished.

Just for the moment, however, before any Tory leadership election can be arranged, it's right there should be a bit of a political lull, and a postponement of those talks on Brexit with the political and bureaucratic twonks in continental Europe.

And during this wee hiatus, I hope we can perhaps see some REAL news on Sky News and other networks – instead of the endless political ‘analysis’.

I certainly don’t want to hear young Owen Jones offering any more pearls of his self-proclaimed political wisdom – that’s for sure.

Friday, 10 March 2017

POLITICS – dangerous but VERY interesting right now

Although I'm a Lefty (a libertarian one, mind), I do like Theresa May. She has very British teeth; a pleasing mix of yellow, grey and black. They are  so impressive she deserves a cameo role as a pop-up Brit on Family Guy.

More importantly, her smile has a worked a kind of magic in recent times as she's outlined bits of her Brexit strategy. In particular her elegant threat to get tough on trade if the EU doesn’t play nicely in negotiations has been accompanied by warning flashes of her fangs.

As for her recent shoulder-heaving guffaws during Prime Minister's Questions ... that was spectacular, and marked her out as a winner, frankly. 

Politics sure are interesting and entertaining just now – as well as scary. With Trump and all his ramifications, plus Brexit, it’s good to see the world’s two leading English-speaking nations causing such shock waves. And I must confess to having enjoyed all the discomfort and huffing and puffing of the snooty, and quite intolerant, left-liberal types in this country over what’s been happening to politics. 

Regarding President Trump, who knows what plotting is going on behind closed doors across the pond? Trump has colourfully, publicly and emphatically criticised the US intelligence agencies. Given his new job, that’s a potential game-changer.

But let’s ignore all the procedural stuff for now; all the claims and denials about Trump; his intemperate tweets; and his spats with various luvvies and the media. What will, sooner or later, finish him is the belief held by many sane, morally-upright and intelligent people in the USA that The Donald lacks the personal dignity and temperament to be President. It’s a view shared by many senior and experienced people in politics, the law, and the secret services.

Barack Obama has reminded millions of people in the recent past of just how important dignity, eloquence and personal grace are in a leader.

Having Trump as President is fraught with instability and danger, of course, especially with so much bubbling potential for armed conflict – on Europe’s Baltic borders, in the South China Sea and in the Middle East.

Just where is the world heading politically? It's an important question.

Politics is vital for the survival of humanity. Wild beasts can get by without politics, and so can angels, but mankind cannot. Politics stops us ripping each other apart – though it hasn’t exactly seemed like that in recent times.

How politics has traditionally worked in the West is by using various forms of representative liberal democracy to deliver freedom under the law within nations to citizens.

But, quite apart from the Trump effect, many people feel that model is no longer fit for purpose. We live in a globalised world made politically and socially dysfunctional by terrorism, a rise in tyrannical leaders, massive migration, rampant capitalism, growing inequalities and climate change.

On our own shores, we face great uncertainties in the Brexit negotiations. It will take more than the power of Theresa May’s smile to resolve everything. It isn’t even clear if the European Union will exist for much longer in its current forms and levels – if right-wingers do well in elections later this year within member nations.

Everywhere, the people, the voters, are unhappy. Not just with the old-fashioned system of ’democratic’ politics which allows each person just one tiny moment of freedom every few years to vote in elections. The rest of the time, certainly for most people in West, the way we live and work results in profound alienation. Why should most people be expected to travel to a workplace five-days-a-week just to survive? Why are we over-producing and over-consuming in such a way? Why are there so many street beggars and rough sleepers? 

I’m not sure what system exactly can replace the old politics but I feel we need to focus on: working for the common good; ensuring everyone gets enough cultural and family time; and recognising the essential dignity of all human beings across the world

The situation is so worrying that I’m considering making a modest contribution to getting us all out if this mess by founding a new political movement – the Humane, Intelligent, Libertarian Left (HILL). Anyone up for the ascent?

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Talentless telly luvvies, I'm on your case ...

Let me get this right. To be regarded as 'talent' on British TV, and get paid a fortune for it, you need to: wave your hands about and say 'amazing!' a lot; be thick (or pretend to like thick people); and have your teeth whitened. Err ... that's it!

Forgive me. I’ve been watching rather too much of the stuff in recent times, because I’ve been ill. Thinking about it, I’m surprised that staring at the telly for so long, with all its energy-sapping effects, didn’t finish me off.

An author I greatly admire, John Irving, rightly satirised the medium in his superb novel A Prayer for Owen Meany. One of its characters dies in front of the TV; she’s found in the morning with her cold thumb stuck on the remote-control button that’s relentlessly roaming the channels. She’s died in a hopeless search for something good to watch.

Irving comments: “At the time, in 1989, it seemed a fairly unusual way to die. Nowadays, I suspect, more and more people are dropping off that way. And we’re still looking for something good on television. We won’t find it. There is precious little on TV that can keep us awake or alive.”

In my former life as a TV critic (as Sam Brady on ITV’s ORACLE and Teletext services), I struggled to take seriously anything I watched. And I found myself despising all the luvvies and jackass presenters I met at launches.

The one question I longed to put to the TV actors I met was this: So, you dress up and pretend to be other people for a living; now where is the dignity in that? But, of course, that’s not how the industry works. I guess I wasn’t cut out to be a TV critic – but my attitude didn’t half give my reviews an edge, and the readers seemed to love them.
Back then, in the ‘90s, I regarded television as a huge and sinful waste of creative energy. I still do. I’m mystified by the success of things like Strictly – camp tosh which encourages physical narcissism. Likewise, X Factor, with all its gormless caterwauling karaoke monkeys. As for Ninja Warrior UK, oh pur-lease!

The undoubted ratings success of the Great British Bake-Off was something I couldn’t really fathom. The show was harmless enough, I guess, but hardly exciting or about anything important. It’s main problem for me was Sue Perkins and her incredible innate smugness. I find her, and lots of other successful presenters, to be vexatious to my spirit, frankly.

There are new versions of trash formats coming up, apparently. Gary Barlow looking for boys to be in a musical, for instance. Arrgghh! And The Voice is back – this time on ITV. My reaction to the new series is SWF (so f***ing what!) – I won’t watch, whichever channel ‘poaches’ it.

Then there are programmes where adults simply behave like kids; whooping and cheering and having tantrums, such as on Celebrity Big Brother. The only celebrity I recognised on the current show is Angie Best, and only because I once took her for lunch to interview her, and found her to be quite charmless.

Of course, television is greatly expanded now, with masses of digital choice; catch-up stuff and all. But very little of that appeals to me. Certainly, Game of Thrones is a turn-off.

Sci-fi and the supernatural are genres particularly poorly served by contemporary TV. Doctor Who has lost the plot. Seriously, it’s plots are now incoherent. As for The OA on Netflix, it’s bonkers.

So, is there anything I will watch? Yes, I quite like Sky News, though not when Kay Burley is presenting or reporting.

I love Family Guy. Its creator, the American Seth MacFarlane, is a genius. I’m a big fan of the Gimme, Gimme, Gimme repeats. And I’m very much looking forward to watching the new series of Not Going Out. Otherwise, I’m very much in favour of going out.