Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Shame about the show...

What makes a show real? Realism or a mixture of stories with something to say? Now Shameless has reached 100 shows, it has changed drama and made a debate about how it should be. Some people may see it as chavs and naer-do-wells upto no good while other may see it as the best drama in a long time. In terms of kitchen sink drama it has pushed the boundaries to the edge, learning that the basis for its drama should be what people see everyday. Of course people don't always live on a council estate, they may live in the country or in a town, but they can recognise characters they know in a show.

But these types of dramas have always tried to hold a mirror upto the nation at various time and said "Have a good look at yourself and see what you see.." Now people may not like what they see, other may see themselves and others may start to see what they are becoming. Through films such as Kes and also Saturday Night and Sunday Morning which reflected a realism which people were crying out for in the 1960's and 1970's came through a spirit, almost akin to their own properties. As we look at the 80's for example with Alan Bleasdale's Boys from the Blackstuff, showing the situation with employment as people got laid off from jobs and had to fight to survive in the atmosphere which had been created at that time. The mantra of Yosser Hughes being 'Gissa Job' was never so true at those times.

Fast forwarding to today, Shameless fills the gap where once costume drama would have filled and the characters are as compelling as any in Dallas. For Frank Gallacher, has become an idol to some but also a clarion call to others. Through the riots recently, people were screaming about this, that and everything. It is convient to show people reclaiming their cities when they think its appropriate, but for the small person it doesn't hold much truck to them. I wouldn't say that it could be claimed that I was a chav myself but in Shameless its the need for something which exists in our minds only. The need for putting everyone in the same box, there are good and bad people out there, never I could say that in judgement I could pick everyone on either side. I might be right, I might be wrong... It might be Shameless to say, that Shameless has pushed the boundaries again...

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Here's a starter for ten...

Like many people I am often to found shouting at the television, where as they maybe not agree with what's on there. Its more then likely I'm shouting out to the answer to a question, well most of the time...

But the game or quiz show is something I've always loved, my earliest memories are of Ted Rodgers and Dusty Bin on Saturday night at my Nan and Grandad's watching 3-2-1. The show always seemed like light years away from my own life, as it proudly boasted at the start of the edition 'It's a Quiz, It's a Game, It's Fortune and  Fame!' Really, I don't know apart from the contestants who guessed Chopin and Beethoven for a question about Handel if any got the fame they wanted from it... Judging by their answers maybe infamy then anything else.
Ted Rogers cartoon not included...

Though the spirit of these shows have changed, from winning a Hi-Fi we got all the way through to Robert Kilroy-Silk asking people to shaft each other. Having said that, that sounds very creepy!

My love for questions for winning what was seemingly tat, came through the old Friday 7pm quiz spot from BBC1 and ITV. Friday represented the start of the weekend and the start of light entertainment galore. Easy on the eye the titles may have not been, but the pure content was almost like a warm lounge fire in Autumn and Winter time. In particular the one show which makes think of those times is 'Play Your Cards Right', following Brucie's move to ITV in 1978, Michael Grade looked to find Bruce a format which would work for him. So over to America and one was found, but not seemingly the one that Brucie wanted to do. His idea was to ask Bob Monkhouse to a swap deal for Family Feud, what was going to turn into Family Fortunes. Grade had bought Card Sharks to be able to make a British version of that, with some format tweaking came forth was 'Play Your Cards Right'.
"Mirror, mirror on the wall... Who's the Bruciest of them all?"

The thrill of 'Higher and Lower!' was something get excited about, the audience were encouraged to get involved in the game. This hadn't been seen by viewers before, the excitement would there in your living room on a weekly basis. On a turn of a card, a car could be won or lost. Some people might say that's random chance, but the build up to that moment was almost as thrilling as the game itself. In those few moments it was evident that Bruce Forsyth is a gameshow god, the pace, the control, the thrill of it all...

As Bob Monkhouse once in an interview, that the pause between the question and correct is the key thing of being a great gameshow host. Tension can be ramped up, the anticipation of the answer, never knowing if it will be wrong or right. We are willingly able to look on at these hosts and look at what they are doing, but not everyone can make a good gameshow host. Charm and charisma are two key factors, likeablity of the host another. This works so well with Terry Wogan, hearing his charm at work also being able to walk and talk at the same time like he did on the radio.

Hmm. I'm sure there a message in there, but I just can't work it out!
A gameshow can be key to a good schedule, but it can hold a place in people hearts for ever, all for the turn of a card...

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Write-ly or wrongly...

For my sins through life and waffling about nonsense, I have been many things. Some would say I was something still, but in my 32 years I've fitted in being a disability swimmer, a football mascot, someone who's written letters to stars and television executives, a mature student who's retaken his GCSE's plus also a hospital radio DJ. Most of which I've failed at of course, but one thread has run through my life and still does and that is comedy.
The old school - Hardly inspiring isn't it?

Now, its easy to watch and pick it apart with such precision to look at the nuances of it all. From an early age I have enjoyed alternative comedy, even before maybe I fully understood it. But it was a language to get through school with that 1990 to 1995 period being dominated by Bottom of course. Not everyone would have understood it with majority looking on at East 17 or Take That as their main course of action, especially the girls. Otherwise it was football for the boys, but entertainment dominates in my mind as wanting to be a continuity announcer when I left school. Though after realising that dream had gone when I sounded like Mr Bean, never the less I turned my attention to getting into writing comedy scripts. They were just put down on A4 paper, I didn't know what it all meant most of my ideas usually would end on television not by my own hand.

"Eddie, there's people looking at us..."
"Blimey, Ritchie... You're right!"

Whether that was my luck or not I don't know, but it was never off-putting and eventually I wrote sketches that and they were sent off for appreciation to people like Danny Baker and Iain Lee, never got a reply back but by putting them out there it would show I was here and not going to go away, even showing them to other people who had a better grasp of the English language. They said they were alright but if that was just to puff me up a bit I don't know. I chose to write still by doing an article for 'Off The Telly' about a programme  I had seen on daytime on Channel 5 and for them to publish it on the site was something to behold. OK, it had needed changes both from my brother and also from others at the site. But I felt justified in what I was doing and I could feel proud that something I wrote was being read by people all over of the world.
So where's the News at One music then?

Maybe it was a case of 'Go Me!' but it felt like there was a freer spirit coming out of me and that rather then speaking words could flow forth on the page or the screen about what was going on in my mind. By this I had tickled my own funny bone and there was something to be said about it all. In terms of everything I might not be a journalist or a novelist, the expression of the word can never be any truer then something spoken by somebody.

The scripts? Well, they are hidden away for a rainy day, so who knows? The words come forth and so do the ideas...

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Off course you can...

Some people may question where about the quest and thirst for knowledge comes from, what makes up someone who wants to learn more and more. I will admit I've never been the most intelligent of beings, but I've always had a thirst for learning new things. After leaving school as a 16 yr old with no GCSE's this made me want to know more about the media and the industry surrounding it. Fine, I could read TV listings from a young age but I wanted to know about the companies behind the programmes and the people who made them.

Like many things nowadays, anything like this is seen in the newspapers as quirky and odd. These stories come with a 'Good for a Laugh' image, but I don't never see this as that. Since I have been tweeting I have learned more and more from various people and their knowledge of such things, where as I would have looked at a book and read now I can discuss with people about all angles of an industry set up to inform, educated and entertain us. 

Learning such information on my own seems like a little triumph for myself, knowing that I can know something that it might not be 100% right, but just the knowledge of knowing that particular fact. Then again some of the most influential people in the media and entertainment sphere have search for that knowing all their lives. By example Jeremy Beadle was supplying information to shows, Bob Monkhouse built up a huge collection of videos of shows and other items as well. We all want to be able to say 'Here's something that you don't know...' Maybe such not as pub trivia but being able to impart knowledge to other people each and every day. I read mostly reference books and autobiographies of people and have done all through my life, knowing what people have been through to get where they are today. A good true life story is as good as a fictional one, where as you could say that you couldn't make it up at all. 

By using this knowledge I can impart thing onto other people and help them in whatever I do, even by doing this and passing on little bits of knowledge to the likes of Iain Lee and Danny Baker, if they used them that was upto to them. But knowing I can provide a little bit of trivia and knowledge with what I do, it makes an audience sit up and listen. I'm not saying that I'm no memory champion as such, but when you are given a hand of cards to be able to sit in front of a television set, it'll be used to do so.

I was never going to be a world champion being able to kick a ball around, but knowing that Mickey Dolenz  
directed Metal Mickey, that's one thing I will take with me....

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The staff are the stars...

Since about two weeks ago I have been logging my collection of books, DVD's, VHS' and also other items which has given me a chance to look at some things I knew I had, other I didn't and some 'What was I think recording that?' moments as well. But over time there has been a trend occurring as I go, with the most of the recordings being about television naturally though with a twist. Its seems that people are always more then willing to appear in front of the camera if they have been behind it for so many years...

So I have seen the excellent Stewart Morris talking about swinging Shirley Bassey off an ship to get a good shot and then coming back and turning the air blue at him, Greg Dyke remembering about saving a sinking ship by getting a rat to help him and Paul Jackson getting caught by the fuzz with Denise Van Outen and Ray Burdis as well. 

"If you rub cream onto it Sammy, then the chaffing will go double quick..."
By all of which television likes talking about itself, but one thing which surprise me though was when watching the 'Finger' episode from Bottom was a bellboy who turns up who's just delivered Ritchie and Eddie's bags to their room at the Marvelouso Splendido Hotelo in Wolverhampton demanding a tip from Ritchie for doing so. It took two turns, well after a 'Nah, it wasn't him was it?' It was, he was Jon Plowman head comedy honcho at the BBC making a cameo in the episode and making a darned fine job of it as well. At any time the staff would have been their offices coming up with the next idea for a programme or making sure they run off like clockwork. Even those of the old school have been running off programmes such as Michael Grade's History of Variety on BBC4 and also Bill Cotton appearing in The Story of Light Entertainment as well. 
"Match.. of the day?"

When usually they would be associated with appearances on Points of View having to defend what they are putting on their channel from people who've written in using a Crayola, it must come as a relief to impart what they know to the public by explaining what they do rather then just having the public running at them screaming 'ARRRGGGHH! Taxpayers Alliance are right!' At the moment there's another furore going on about the vetting of contestants on ITV's Red or Black, seemingly they have tightened up the rules by eliminated two contestants who could also possibly sue the network now for just dumping them and finding a moral compass down the back of the sofa at Gray's Inn Road. 

Seemingly we've gone from old Uncle Bill Cotton to grab the money and run, its little wonder why old school producers put themselves out there to explain what they did in programmes, maybe lessons can be learned from these people. Because if you don't know who started it all, then who knows where it will end up...

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Hire and higher...

Whilst listening to Danny Baker this morning talking about television repairmen this morning, it provoked a thought. Some of you might say 'What a first one in years?' But it begs the question, is the box the corner just like a chair?

In our family we were a renting family for many years from Radio Rentals, until a win on the pools got us a brand new Goldstar television set (Goldstar? Nah, me neither...) thought that for me was the last of the television sets which were a portal to world away from my own and rather a bit of furniture. Nostalgia maybe rose tinted but there was always a thrill of a set looking like it was carved rather then just being moulded from plastic, plus it gave something to the viewing experience. Can you imagine watching Brucie and the Generation Game on what is amount to an ice cream tub?

"Thunderbird Seven is go!"

The set itself way before FST, Fasttext was a rudimentry affair it seemed. Though the workings needed a gentle touch from a repairman with the valves inside or a good old whack on the side whenever the vertical hold went,
take for instance my grandparents had a repairman who was local to them in Cosham called Mr Head, he would come out brown jacketed and booted to twiddle with knobs and recalibrate the set. But it was a skill to be able to this, with proper workshops and tools which seemed they were from the Soviet Union. A set could be gone for ages whilst it was repaired, but it made the love for the set grow even stronger like a child going into hospital.

"Good wood?"


"No, its true!"

My first set me and my brother had was an old Pye set high up on a wardrobe, until it let out a puff of smoke telling us that it was knackered. But that set had seen everything, watching The Muppets, the launch of Breakfast Television, the launch of Channel 4. It was a friend to me and I got over it, we got a new set to replace but in this age of widescreen when I see a set like the Pye Colourmaster, it gives me a warm glow. Overall, with televisions today I would always take HD and stereo sound. But the thrill cannot match getting a new set from Radio Rentals, it might seem like a joke to have set with 'Supersound' years before a full stereo service but those touches made it for me, even Danny Baker reminded people that he had a set with a hue button to be able get the skin tone right by increasing the browness or blueness. These quirks are what make greats sets great, the clunk of the buttons as you switch it over, even with a Grundig set we he, there was that ability to tune it in yourself without any micro technology to do it for you and you knew you had done it.

To some, looking at old sets maybe boring, but think how far we've come from the early days of a disc spinning around to create a picture. The love of an old set is something, but nuturing them like a classic car is another thing...

 Pure sets machine...