57 Channels (And Nothing On)

Posted on 29th January 2009

This Christmas the UK TV programme schedulers and makers obviously decided to have a holiday like the rest of us. Thus what we got was Dr Who, barely a handful of decent films and a vast amount of dross. I thought it was bad last Christmas, but it was decidedly worse this Christmas. Having cable, you might think we have more choice ... and we do, more choice of dross.

20-30 years ago I can remember pouring over the Christmas Radio Times, trying to figure out what I should watch and what to record. Some nights it was a logistical nightmare as all 4 channels (no Channel 5 back then) would occasionally have something worth watching on. Thankfully I had 2 video recorders so I could cover 3 channels okay, but 4 required sweet talking my parents to let me borrow theirs.

Shows like the Dr Who special were a common feature at Christmas, and made for a great night in. The Dr Who special this Christmas was a gem, but it seems to have been the singleton in a once jewel encrusted crown of British TV. These days we have an overwhelming glut of "Celebrity" reality TV shows, dubious talent shows and soaps. The only saving grace has often been the comedy quiz shows, which these days are the stable diet of the Dave channel on cable, but even then you end up craving for a bit of variety.

Once upon a time I would avidly watch the Christmas Lectures, but these days they're buried in the schedules and it becomes too easy to miss them. I'd forgotten about them this year until I turned over to see the end of one. BBC used to make a big thing of the series, but this year I never saw one advert for them. I've been trying to think why other Christmas schedules were so different, but I can't really pinpoint anything precisely, apart from the feeling that there was, and has been for a while now, a distinct lack of imagination for programming schedules. I'm willing to admit that it may just be because I'm getting older, but to be quite honest, teen shows and those catering for the early 20s market are a bit sparse these days too. I get the feeling that the schedulers must be choosing programmes they don't want to watch, so they can go out and party!

Here's hoping next year we get a better choice for those who stay in and watch TV.

File Under: rant / tv

Somewhere in Time

Posted on 27th April 2008

Heroes started again in the UK this week. Thanks to some scouring of the internet earlier in the year, some friends had manage to get hold of the complete series as broadcast in the US before the writers strike. As such I've already watch it all, but it's one of those shows that it's just as enjoyable watching it all again.

Reading some of the reviews earlier in the year, I was surprised that there was a bad reaction to all the new characters. From the first episode the plot lines are drawn very well, and I felt the new characters complimented the stories very well. In fact in some cases they are pivotal to progression of the characters we have already grown to love from the first series.

I'm not going to give away any plot lines, but after the ending of the first series, there was a huge hole in our television viewing, so this series had a lot of expectations place upon it, both to answer some of the outstanding questions and to be bigger and better than the first series. Some of the questions do get answered, and there are plenty more to keep you guessing all the way to the end, but it's a series that actually does exceptionally well at bringing the expectations back up and priming you ready for the third series.

Due to the writers strike, the second series ends after 11 episodes, but they've ended it very well, and like the ending of the first series has you eagerly waiting to see what happens next. There was also meant to be a off-shoot series entitled Origins, but with all the delays and the work now having to concentrate on Series 3, that has been cancelled. It's a shame as I quite like the idea of there being some side stories that don't detract from the main storylines of Heroes. Mind you, there is also the fact that being one of the best TV series around at the moment, we're in dire need of something decent to watch. Although Medium, Dexter and Pushing Daises are doing a good job too :)

File Under: heroes / tv

New Dawn Fades

Posted on 14th August 2007

The Factory Club with Peter Saville, Tony Wilson & Alan Erasmus (Photo copyright Kevin Cummins)

The Factory Club with Peter Saville, Tony Wilson & Alan Erasmus (Photo copyright Kevin Cummins)

In recent years there have been several people that have passed away, who helped to shape my life. John Peel, Tommy Vance and Alan Freeman all helped to promote different forms of music and introduce me to many styles and genres that perhaps otherwise would never have discovered for myself. They all gave young bands a chance and help to change a generation. My generation. One other man also did that, perhaps more than I realised at the time. Tony Wilson.

Tony Wilson first came to my attention back in around 1975/76 when he used to present Granada Reports. A regional news programme for the North West of England (Lancashire, Manchester and Cheshire), that was partly an alternative to the mediocre Nationwide that BBC put out. Tony along with Bob Greaves presented local news, but also occasionally featured music from the North West too. Tony's passion for promoting music from Manchester enabled him to get So It Goes on the air. Although it wasn't only about Manchester acts, it did help to create the image of Manchester being a vibrant music scene.

The Haienda FAC51 membership card

The Haienda FAC51 membership card

In 1979 Factory Records released their first piece of vinyl, A Factory Sample EP featuring among others Joy Division. On FAC 6 they introduced me to Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, who long before they were a pop band, were a UK alternative to Kraftwerk. They helped to bring several Manchester bands to national notoriety. Although with Happy Mondays that wasn't necessarily a good thing. Tony also created the In The City music festival, which was great way to celebrate music across the city. Bars and cafes would become venues and put on all sorts of music throughout the week. When The Haçienda (FAC 51) was opened it was like a breath of fresh air. For many years one of my most prised possessions was an original The Haçienda membership card, until it got stolen.

I moved from the North West in 1982, but regularly made return trips for various gigs. I met Tony once, along with Rob Gretton, all of New Order and several other Manchester musicians over the years, and always found it an inspirational experience being around the Manchester scene. I still see Manchester as a kind of spiritual home and it holds a lot of memories. That's partly thanks to Tony Wilson, for giving the city pride in itself and its music. Thanks Tony.

R.I.P. Anthony Howard Wilson (20 February 1950 - 10 August 2007)

File Under: manchester / music / people / roadie / tv

No More Heroes

Posted on 17th July 2007

I've been waiting to use this title just for this moment. Last night was the season finale of Heroes. Probably the best TV drama that's come out of the US ever. All the ones that reached the UK in recent years have left me cold, but Heroes has entertained and enthralled me for the past 24 weeks.

The character build up and story lines have been fantastic and the comic book style appealled to the inner teenager in me. The subtle humour was just right and never over stepped the mark and the surprises of who was playing Hiro's dad, Claude and Mr Lindermann were done just right.

One thing I've been really impressed with is the extra online content that NBC have provided. I didn't know about it to begin with, but a few weeks ago a friend pointed me at the extras that on the face it are online comics (sorry graphic novels) that fill in a lot more character background, but in addition there are several easter eggs that include several behind the scene photos.

I would say the DVD release would keep me busy, but it looks like it won't be released in the UK until after Christmas. It has a ton of extras too.

I'm glad there are plans to do a second Season, and I loved the beginning that was shown at the end of Season One. There were certainly some interesting hooks between the two seasons, even withonly a short clip. I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it, but if the story lines, acting and special effects match Season One then, Season Two will be equally unmissable.

The only downside is now I have to wait for the next season to be broadcast.

File Under: heroes / tv

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