Friday, January 26, 2007



OhMyGod this is priceless! I thought it was a comedy sketch at first, something lifted from Saturday Night Live. I was peeing myself until the logo at the end, and then I realised. This is a 'serious' show on FOX. This is....hang on, deep breaths...

Okay, I'm good.

...this is a for-real show. The Big Idea? Take a bunch of D-list celebs, dress em' up like police, and have them enforce the law. I'm stunned, simply stunned.

Latoya Jackson looks bizarre doesn't she? She's the only sleb I recognise out of this sorry bunch. There's a bloke in the back row who looks like he might once have been on 'Chips', when he gave his 'not on my watch' speech I spurted coffee all over my keyboard.

Thanks for that.

Jeeeez...only in America for Gawds-sake. Actually, what am I saying? Next year no doubt, the MEN and MOTORS channel will have a similar show - ex-Eastenders dressed up in the blues and patrolling Moss Side. Mind you, I can just about see Ross Kemp in role...Latoya Jackson on the other hand?


This is one very good reason why I stopped watching. Check this first, then come on back here.

Watched it?

Okay, so this girl's a little unhinged, she comes off as a complete loon. But let's pull back the rug on a few things here. Firstly, you're seeing edited footage. Gone are the 'dull' bits where she may well have explained herself better, gone are the bits where the judges might have said something really feckin dumb or inappropriate, mumbled or fluffed a reply. Secondly, the big thing that is kept from us viewers at home, is what a kid like this has experienced over the preceding 36 hours.

Yup...36 hours.

That girl, and a 10,000s of others assembled down at a football stadium up to two days before the auditions were being filmed, sleeping rough inside the stadium for one or two nights. She will have passed two auditions in front of minor members of the production team, who would have been drilled to pass only 'the very best and the very worst'. The first audition would have whittled down the 80-100,000 people who turned up, down to about 3,000. The second audition would have whittled that down to about 150.

And so finally....having survived to the last 150 (from approx 100,000), it's understandable that she might believe she has something to offer.

Having quite possibly slept rough for two nights, and having quite probably travelled a fair way for this audition, she's wheeled in at the last moment, only to be laughed at by three pompous assholes. Christ, I'd be a little pissed off too.

Now to the real point, the reason I felt moved to write about her....whoever she is. She came so close, so-o-o-o-o-o close to blowing the gig, to revealing American Idol (and X Factor) as the complete sham that it is.

Randy says to her, 'Idol is all about great singers.' It's not. It never has been about singing. It's about a lot of other things, the inter-judge rivalry, the in-yer-face raw emotional play-out of young kid's dreams being crushed...

...I mean where else, other than some seedy snuff movie, could you see in realtime, in studio-lit slow-motion, a child sliding from euphoria into borderline suicidal depression in the space of thirty seconds? That's TV-cocaine. That is what this show is all about.

They want tears, they want screaming, they want shouting...and as soon as a contestant starts doing any of those things, the camera man's right in there, shoving the lens into their face.

I used to watch X Factor. I stopped watching it during the audition phase last time round. I stopped when I read a revealing article, explaining how, even at this early audition stage, many of the future finalists had already been agreed, having privately negotiated with Simon Cowell and his production company, via their agent/manager to be on the show. The auditions, the boot camps...that's all, to not put too fine a point on it...staged.

I cringe whenever I hear one of the judges say 'it's all about your voice'.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


I think we all aknowledge that reality shows are somewhat 'steered' by their producers to deliver an entertaining show. But I suspect there's actually a lot more 'steering' going on than we assume.

Of course, we all know that with shows like BB, and WifeSwap the producers deliberately pick participants that are going to spark off each other. We know that they'll pick people with provocative opinions and attitudes, people whose personality traits are instantly unlikeable.

Hell, we know all that....but I've noticed how a lot of these shows seem to follow a very predictable story template, not dissimilar to the standard movie 3/4 act script:

Act 1
  • The show starts with participants sharing a wary honeymoon period.
  • An initiating clash ensues, ending the honeymoon period.
  • Usually, this clash occurs just around the point that the first commercial break hits us.
Act 2
  • A feud begins, with several more minor clashes gradually building the tension up.
  • Some specific incident heightens the tension, which lines us up for the end of act 3 showdown.
  • ...and hey presto...another commercial break!
Act 3
  • All the little 'set-up' conditions are established for...
  • ...The Big Shouting Match. Lots of screaming, whinging, crying, bitching.
  • And, yup, another commercial break.
Act 4
  • Some more fireworks, tears, 'video-diaries'.
  • And then a resolution, usually a compromise of some sort, or some tearful making up.
  • The show concludes with a rather unsubtle 'moral message' from the narrator.
Which leaves me very suspicious that a lot of these shows, and I include all those other supposedly 'instructive' ones such as, Tiny Tearaways, Uncontrollable Teens, Nanny 911 etc etc are 'directed' in the way Mike Leigh directs movies - ie: he explains a dramatic situation to his ensemble of actors, what each character is feeling, and what each character wants out of it, and then, with no script at all the cameras roll and the actors effectively play themselves. Ken Loach adopts this technique as well, usually not even using proffesional actors.

You can even see the dramatic template above in the likes 'Time Team' - the contrived race-against-the-clock archaeology show, where instead of having characters bitching at each other to generate the tension, you have some time-critical ingredient thrown in to create tension: 'Oooh, the developers have only allowed us 3 days to dig on this spot of land', or, 'disaster strikes as our JCB suddenly decides not to work', 'a sudden downpour has covered up the exposed mosaic...and with only a few hours left....'

You get the idea.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Oh this is joyous, priceless. A true gift.

So, the executive board for Channel 4 are meeting to discuss the recent allegations of rascism on BB, and there's the very real possibility that they'll can Big Brother as a result of what came out of Jade's big gob (and the other two z-listers).

It's poetic...ironic...poetically ironic even, that the most useless, notorious, creature spawned by that incredibly useless show - I speak of Jade Goody of course - should ultimately be the instrument for the show's demise.

I might even throw a Screw You BB party if C4 decide to axe the show. 'But what about all those fans out there? You know...the ones who watch 10-20 hours a week of that crap?' - I hear you ask. 'What are they gonna do now?'

Shucks, I dunno...maybe spend those 20 hours doing something more useful, like...lemmesee, interacting with their kids (yup, I know the demographic - mostly young single mums) instead of staring slack-jawed at the TV. Pffft...bunch of bloody bubble-heads.

I see in the papers today that she's supposedly suicidal over the whole thing. Well, look, she may be a big-mouthed peabrain, who's been made to look like a spiteful big-mouthed peabrain, but she'll bounce back after a week or two...I hope. Whilst I think she's an idiot with a big ego, I save my venom for the real culprits - the producers of BB.

I could quite happily see the production team all fall on their swords over this, hopefully Davina along with them; a manipulative bunch of overpaid, self-serving, media-muppet w**kers.

And there's always the hope that there'll be a knock on affect on the other Big Brother franchises around the world, and all the other 'me-too' franchises.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


On the subject of the BBC licence fee. Screw it, I'm more than happy to pay a little more. And to be entirely honest, if the BBC promised to stop chasing down the real knuckle-dragger audience out there with programs like that twice weekly Lottery show, Just For Laughs, and various make-over nonsense, I'd even be happy to go the extra mile and pay what they were hoping for.


...the Beeb produce a helluva lot of decent quality stuff that we just sort of take for granted because it's always there.

I mean the only news/current affairs shows I watch these days are Newsnight and Panorama (Paxman is truly first class). The dramas; Spooks, Rome, name the first three that popped into my head. Light entertainment: They Think it's All Over, Buzzcocks, Jonathon Ross etc etc

Not to mention all the radio output. I simply can't survive without Radio 4 now. All those so-laugh-out-loud-funny panel shows that have me pissing myself whilst I'm washing the dishes in the kitchen, or swerving to avoid oncoming traffic during the day....absolutely brilliant.

Oh, and let's not forget the BBC has got to fork out the cost for putting freebie digital boxes in Gawd-knows how many hundreds of thousands of homes.

All that for about £11 a month.

And then you got SKY...and it has basically, Battlestar Galactica and the Simpsons, and that's pretty much it...except of course, you have to wade through an avalanche of commercial breaks to enjoy those gems.

Oh, and there's the other channels, the only noteworthy ones being the Discovery bunch, which is fine I s'pose if you want to see endless doccies on 'Hitlers Henchmen'.

And finally, there's Carol Vorderman, in virtually every single commerical break, the little tramp, selling you finance with that ernest I-do-the numbers-on-CountDown, you-can-trust-me smile of hers....

And Sky hits you up for a minimum of £17 (I think) a month.

Trust me, the Beeb is the envy of the world. Amongst all the cock-ups, over-spends, and complete dogs-dinners that seem to be the hallmark of everything we do in this country, the BBC is the ONE thing we've got right.


Jeeeez, this is absolutely crazy, ridiculous. Ahhh, you're thinking, 'this blogger thinks the allegations of rascism is yet another example of over-sensitivity.'

Au contraire.

I think those stupid, half-witted morons - the blonde one and the scouser - with their little to-and-fro about how 'them indians is all thin coz they eat wiv there fingers.' Jesus wept. Thanks to their ignorance, and boy...are they ignorant, that's how all us Brits will be viewed around the world. Because that little clip, rest assured, is being played over and over today on news programs around the world.

And boy, did they sound dumb. I mean, they successfully managed to make the trailer-trash studio audience of Dr Phil look smarter, and that's no mean achievement.

Should Channel 4 have aired it though? On reflection, I think, yes. For one simple reason, it demonstrates very clearly, to any would-be plancton-IQ ignoramuses (ignorami?) who intend to spout some wisdom on a foreign culture they know nothing about, how completely stupid they will look whilst doing it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Despatches: Undercover Mosque

I watched the Despatches program last night, in which an undercover reporter went into Mosques around the country, presenting himself as a dutiful muslim. Now, I have to say, I am deeply sucpicious of documentary makers these days, knowing how manipulative they can get in the editing room, adding ominous background music, cutting soundbites out of context etc etc

With all that said, I found it to be quite unsettling. There did seem to be a very unambiguous message coming across, but that's just my interpretation. Watch some of it for yourself:

The Despatches program

As an interesting exercise, watch it back to back with this:

Griffin's Encitement speech

It's Nick Griffin's (BNP leader) speech for which he was arrested and tried. A very similar language being used, albeit somewhat codified and carefully couched...certainly more ambiguous (deliberately so) than the forthright opinions being expressed in the Despatches program.

I nearly didn't post this blog...because I was concerned that showing these two videos side by side, implied, albeit very tenuously, some sort of bias on my part. What I believe these two videos show are two equally despicable flavours of hate-talk.

So...what do I feel about this? Well to be honest with you, my first reaction on watching the program, was that I hoped the police were watching this too, and that the public speakers shown inciting violence will be paid a visit by the police and interviewed, possibly even charged.

But, thinking about it some more....I'm not sure there should ever be an opinion - no matter how reprehensible - that when expressed, will get you arrested. That's really the thin end of the wedge as far as I'm concerned.

With that logic stated, I can say without feeling like a completely rascist thug that...yup, Griffin should never have been arrested.

Wow, that feels weird saying that.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


That was fun to put together. Seriously, I love doing this kind of stuff.

But anyway, this is the year ELLIE QUIN comes out in print. By hook or by crook. Having recently finished my second thriller, and having lined up what I want to write about in the third, I've now got time to devote to getting EQ off the ground.

It's the sort of book that could be a cult book, an underground success, a natural for viral marketing and word-of-mouth promotion. It's also the project I'm most passionate about. I'm so desperate to see where these adventures will take Ellie, and I want to see more of this universe in which she lives; I want to know more about jimps, podkins and boojams!

It's time for her to emerge from stasis; to emerge from where I left her at the end of this first book. I'm going to use this blog to talk about Ellie Quin, my plans for the book, the series. to bed (it's late) ...and start mulling over the next book in the series.

Friday, January 05, 2007


Back when I was working in the computer games biz, we were commissioned by a leading phone network company to design some cool games for their brand new WAP phones. (Showing my age now eh..?)

Anyway, as the company's ideas man, I was sent away to design some games within the severely limited boundaries specified by the WAP system. Just to give you an idea; there could be no MOVING graphics, two tone images only, and a tiny resolution to work with...equivalent to about two windows desktop icons sat side by side.

I managed to come up with this cool cops and robbers game. Believe was fun to play, incredible that we managed to get a prototype of this design running that was actually FUN, given the ridiculously limited hardware and connection bandwidth.

Anyway, the game was presented to the phone company and they blanched in horror at the graphic violence I'd depicted on the tiny screen. I think the headshot was what frightened them off.

I look back now, and can sort of see why. I mean...half the guy's head's coming off - hardly the sort of game little kiddies should be playing on their cell phones.

THE FUTURE...oh boy

I read a very interesting article on how the book business may well change: Linky-winky

Fascinating stuff, and a little frightening too. The traditional, comfortable model of having some big business come along, take your precious work, pay you a chunk of money, and then go away print up thousands of copies and ship them around the world - is something you grow used to.

Now, the future may soon be very different. Your precious work isn't printed up and shipped anywhere...instead, it's a licenced digital file, that will end up in the equivalent of a literary jukebox that will 'play' (print out there and then, with nice glossy cover, properly bound just like a normal paperback) whatever you select.

You should read the analizes who exactly in the 5 node delivery-chain (Writer, Agent, Publisher, Retailer, Reader) should be the one quivering away in his shoes.

Obviously from my crudely Photoshopped images above (ahhh, gotta love P-shop) you can guess it's the retailer who would have the most to fear.

Those large book shops would have to downsize, no longer holding stock on shelf space, instead having a load of terminals - internet cafe-styled - where punters could sit down and make their jukebox selection and grab a coffee whilst they wait a few minutes for the book to emerge, freshly printed, from a slot.

Just like a mars bar.

My guess is the role of publishers and agents would remain unchanged. Their job of filtering content, signing up the good and rejecting the crap would continue.

But you know, I got mixed feelings though about this though. I like bookshops. I really do. But if the bookshop experience becomes little more than surfing through digital offerings on a screen...? Surely you might as well just save your money on the bus trip downtown, the over-priced crappacino whilst you wait, and buy from Amazon instead.

One thing's for sure though. The industry is right on the cusp of a change. Whether the future is dinky little Print-On-Demand coffe shops, or downloaded digital content on eReaders...or both, it's coming fast.

I can feel the approaching wind-rush.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


I saw the 'sanctioned' footage of him being led out onto the scaffold. The first thing that struck me was how composed he looked. I think, secretly, I'd been hoping he'd be blubbing like a baby, kicking and screaming as they dragged him into position.

Why? Because the world's future would-be dictators need to see that an undignified and messy end awaits them if they decide to abuse humanity further down their career path. But also, those who might rally around Saddam, use him as some heroic figurehead, might have a slightly harder task rallying support if he'd departed this world kicking and screaming like a baby.

But, unfortunately he didn't. He seemed to be quite calm, with a steely look of defiance in his eyes. And that, I found very unsettling. I wonder if that minute and a half of footage will come back and haunt us all in years to come. I wonder if in the decades ahead of us, his face will return as the logo or banner of some future jihadi organization....and arab-centric historians will rewrite his brutal past as some sort of noble attempt to unite the middle east against the infidel west.

For this reason, I believe the execution should not have been filmed...perhaps images of his body shown, to confirm to disbelievers that yes...he IS dead - but not this footage, that shows compsoure and defiance in the face of death.

Like I say, I think that's going to come back and bite us.