I caught it in that dark little alley off Memory Lane as I was travelling back home from the UK last weekend. And it caused me to pick up a copy of, in its own words, “the legendary Christmas issue” of the Radio Times.
I’ve got to agree with the hyperbole. The double festive season edition of the Radio Times used to be an absolutely essential part of the whole Christmas thing when I was growing up. And I don’t see why it still shouldn’t play a part now we’re living in France. It’s not like we don’t get English telly or ‘owt. Though I wouldn’t normally buy a TV listings magazine. All the listings I need are on the old Sky thingy…and I only watch about three shows a week as it is.
Radio Times is all different these days of course. Get this kids, when I was a youngster we only had three different channels on the box! And as it was published by the BBC, The Radio Times only carried listings for two of them. You had to buy another magazine – the TV Times – to know what was being screened on ITV. Not that we did of course. We were a BBC family. We wouldn’t dirty our hands (or eyeballs) with ITV. I still don’t, as a rule.
But since 1991, when TV channel listings were deregulated and all manner of listings magazines sprung up, the Radio Times has listed commercial channels alongside BBC ones. Though I’ve always suspected that it gives BBC programmes more favourable ratings. “EastEnders – chirpy Cockney types make the best of their lot. Uplifting quality drama” – “Coronation Street – grim northerners moan into their cloudy brown beer. Dour”.
In this year’s legendary Christmas double issue of the Radio Times, each day’s listing takes up 10 full pages of the magazine! With all the channels listed, each day represents more than two months of viewing pleasure. And that’s just TV – radio gets another couple of pages tucked up the back.
I haven’t got stuck into it yet though. Oh no, planning my Christmas viewing is not to be rushed at…it’s something to be done one evening, when the kids are in bed, with a large cognac in one hand and my very best highlighter pen in the other.
This post started from one place and ended up in another. I love that.
As a father of a couple of young children – mine are five and three – I’m something of an aficionado of morning kids’ telly, particularly the Milkshake! segment on Channel Five. Some great programmes (all highly educational, I might add…sort of) and nice cheery presenters. My favourite is Jen, the young upstart threatening the established trio of Naomi, Kemi and Beth (I see they’ve kept Jen’s song off the album). But I digress.
Being a commercial channel, Five carries advertisements and of course we’re well into Christmas stuff now. Having said that, one of my current favourites is the ad for Shreddies…the “knitted by nanas” one which, as you might have guessed, explains that each and every Shreddie is knitted by a lovely kind nana. I like it so much that I was prompted this morning to visit the website, www.knittedbynanas.com.
It’s been very well done. There’s a bit of loading to deal with, but it kept me distracted for about 20 minutes which can’t be bad. My favourite is the games area. Nana vs. Robots didn’t grab me too much, the Skip Challenge appeared a little dull initially but the changing pace of the rope added to the challenge, Teabag Fling was compelling but ultimately frustrating (you get your power sorted and then screw up the angle!) and Slipper Slide is a joy. It’s definitely worth a look.
Now to the other place. While I was thinking about the ads, I recalled one which, frankly, disturbs me. It’s that animatronic pony called Butterscotch. That thing freaks me out. “Don’t worry,” Thea tells me, “it’s not real. It’s got batteries in its tummy.”
Looking around for a Butterscotch clip I was chuffed to find that I’m not the only one who finds Butterscotch a bit weird. David Letterman does too…and you can see a very amusing video here.
“Take that, you lousy nag.”
According to the Guardian, it’s the most expensive TV ad Guinness has ever put together. Surely not? I reckon that dancing fella cost a pretty penny…
The ad’s OK but not my all-time favourite. I liked the old bloke swimming across the harbour.
I reckon they’ll be telling us it was done in one take next, like that Honda one (my backside! Tyres rolling uphill..?)
PS: I started this post 90 minutes ago. That’s YouTube for you.
Disturbing news from this week’s Economist. The EU has recently granted approval to the Audiovisual Media Services Directive which removes many of the current restrictions placed on television product placement (which up to now has been illegal in many European countries).
I can understand the rationale. Product placement in TV shows isn’t illegal in the US, and the television industry over there earns $1.5 billion a year from it. And of course, showing US TV shows in Europe – product placement and all – isn’t illegal (though many wish it was). So you can see why European broadcasters want a piece of the action.
I can’t stand product placement. Some of the stuff in films has become so blatant (for example that utterly crap bit of Casino Royale where James Bond has to drive the Ford Mondeo) that I find it a real intrusion on the film itself. That’ll teach me for watching such dross, I suppose. But the idea of product placement in TV shows does worry me.
Many of the current style of TV shows would naturally suit themselves to product placement. In fact, two of the shows I watched last night would suit themselves perfectly. Sarah Beeny’s property one…”Lovely fixtures and fittings…it’s amazing what IKEA turns out these days…” and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares…”Nice pan Gordon”…”Yes, it’s one of my own fuckers. Fucking lovely. Better than that fucking Tefal shite that Oliver punts. Mockney twat.”
Doesn’t bode well, does it?
Even worse, as The Economist points out, is the chance that governments might enter the fray. One of the product placement companies quoted in the article “is in talks with several European government agencies about using television to promote not products, but behaviour.”
The new series of Spooks…(Sir) Harry Pearce: “Adam, there’s a splinter group of renegade Cornishmen loose on the streets of London armed with any number of jumbo pasties. If we don’t reach them soon, this could lead to an outbreak of obesity the likes of which this country’s never seen. I want you to get over there now. Don’t forget to fasten your seatbelt.”
And of course I can’t ever read anything about product placement without thinking about this bit in Wayne’s World. Genius.
Mind you, I still maintain it was a highly irresponsible piece of programming. I caught Blue Peter with the kids this afternoon. I hadn’t seen it in ages (my kids are a bit young for it) and it’s all gone quite funky. Though it obviously hasn’t covered itself in glory this year.
Anyway, get this. Only days when the majority of the kids in the UK are going to find themselves within eyebrow melting distance of a huge pile of flaming wood – probably for the one and only time this year – what does Blue Peter decide to do? Only have one of its presenters walk barefoot across burning embers!
Any other time of the year, maybe. But sorry, not this week. All programme we joined the presenters in the Blue Peter garden where the ember walking experts were preparing the inferno, telling us how they’d prepared Zoe mentally for the challenge ahead. Then they’d stick a thermometer into the fire to tell us that it was burning at “more than 400 degrees ” and that “human flesh burns at only a hundred and something degrees…”
Only thing was, when we cut back to the final piece, as Zoe was about to take the “walk of warm”, we could see some bloke liberally sprinkling mineral water onto the embers, and though Zoe’s over-excited co-presenter told us that the temperature was”off the scale” we actually saw that it had dropped to about 170 degrees. Shit, I’ve been on hotter sand (honest – Rhodes, summer of 1981).
Zoe skipped across untroubled, into the hugely impressed embrace of all and sundry. Including my little girl.
“Wow, daddy!” she exclaimed, “did you see that? That girl walked on fire with no shoes.
“We’re having a bonfire this weekend, aren’t we daddy..?”