Archive | October, 2012

Channel 4…Dispatches. Getting Rich on the NHS

29 Oct

Has the NHS been privatised? No one told me!! You read a lot about NHS reforms but I personally haven’t equated reforms with widespread privatisation. If what I saw on this programme is reflective of the NHS as a whole then NHS privatisation is starting to happen in a big way, and I guess largely under the radar of most people in the country.

It seems one of the main ways in for private money is buying up self managing GP groups. Once they’re in the pressure to slash costs starts and that means removing permanent staff and replacing them with locum doctors, reducing staffing hours and referring patients to alternative sites. Primary care is an expensive operation and to accommodate the need to make a profit it is inevitable that the quality of patient care begins to deteriorate as the visits to various parts of the country by the programme showed.

One of the main beneficiaries of the unraveling of a totally state-run NHS is Virgin Care, yet another branded operation from the great bearded one. The programme showed how Virgin Care is spreading its tentacles across the NHS having won over 750 million pounds of contracts, but questions were raised about some contracts they have won.

In Surrey they won a Community Nursing contract worth millions despite not being the lowest bid. In Swindon they submitted the lowest bid but questions were raised about the service they intend to supply, ironically not dissimilar to the Virgin Rail’s complaint when they lost the West Coast mainline train franchise.

For me the issue was less a case of who is winning what in the tendering, but the rate and breadth of this privatisation exercise and the implications of this for patients

It would appear the ideological mantra that “socialised medicine”, as the Americans like to call it, being some sort of evil is stealthily making a way into the UK and we are not really being given a chance to say yes or no.

It is not just big faceless conglomerates enjoying the ‘rewards’ of privatisation, your friendly local GP may also be getting in on the act, as the creeping privatisation is opening opportunities for them to make mega bucks despite increasingly glaring conflicts of interest and there is a danger they will make decisions based less on your clinical needs and more on their pockets.

X-Factor…Is James Arthur, the UK’s Adam Lambert?

28 Oct

Any serious fan of the X-Factor and the genre in general will have fond memories of this performance. It is from American Idol Season 8 (2009), this performance of the ‘Donnie Darko’ verion of Mad World lifted Adam Lambert out of a contestant pool of saccharine similarity into being a real contender.

It was stripped back of any distractions, it was technically proficient, it was edgy, and it took you away from the fact that you were listening to a performance on a reality show into a heart of an emotion laden tune. Simply put it was damn good! It also got the only ever standing ovation from Simon Cowell ever in all his years on American Idol.

 

 

In James Arthur I see the same potential. He isn’t there yet but he will get there. His performance yesterday of Eurhythmics’ Sweet Dreams put me in mind of Adam Lamberts performance it had a similar haunting edginess to it.

 

 

It is the X-Factor, so I am not going to predict that he will go on to win. In many ways winning would do him a big disservice, with its commitment to release record after record of teeny-pop drivel. Some name recognition and the ability to his own thing it what he needs and I hope that is what he gets from the show.

X-Factor…Fag Ash Breath-gate

27 Oct

The X-Factor has long thrived on many things, the musical ability of some contestants, a controlled dose of weirdness from other contestants, the rivalry of the judges, etc. These have all been carefully balanced and orchestrated to deliver the Saturday night ratings winner that it has long been – ITV’s golden goose.

X-Factor’s shine has depended on all these parameters staying within acceptable limits. The show could deliver a final of 11 Leona Lewis’s but if it did that it wouldn’t be as entertaining as a show with clear and contrasting contestant abilities.

It could pack a show with Jedward’s, Wagner’s, Chico’s and Rylan’s but that would just be a Victorian freak show and would be probably illegal under some European Human Rights convention on dignity.

It could have the Judges bitterly at each other throats and getting real personal about it…it could and tonight it has, live on air.

In the past we were fed stories about Judges bickering but it generally was of two flavours, over the top in a pantomime fashion, or frosty but professional. It just never became vividly personal, nothing to seriously detract from the main show.

When someone refers to your breath as “fag ash breath” they’ve gone P-E-R-S-O-N-A-L in a big way. The scene was the judges’ comments after Christopher Maloney had sung. Tulisa is giving her feedback claiming Maloney, who Barlow mentors, was delivering poor versions of 80’s hits week after week, she really goes for it and Gary Barlow sits there seething, when he was finally given the opportunity to respond and boy did he do just that…

Tulisa: “I have to stop having a go at you and let your mentor take some blame for you. Gary, how many of these 80s hits are you going to let him keep destroying? He is getting the same critique every week, why not change it up for him? It’s not working.”

Gary Barlow: “Tulisa, I don’t know what’s offended me more, what you said or the fag ash breath!”

Tulisa (after a moment of stunned silence) replies rather weakly: “Lay off the red wine, because I can smell that from here as well.”

I am sure an apology will follow and the publicity people will be kicking into overdrive to clear up the mess, but the tight ship that was HMS X-Factor is beginning to unravel, standards seem to be slipping in direct correlation with the drop in its audience share and this does not bode well for the Golden Goose.

Graham Norton…James Bond Special!

26 Oct

With a lineup featuring Daniel Craig, Dame Judi Dench and Javier Bardem it had the big three from Skyfall. I am a big fan of the James Bond films and I really like Graham’s shows but I don’t really enjoy these ‘infomercials’ masquerading as TV shows, blatantly promoting a single film.

They often tend to be boring as they are so focused on what is being promoted, but they can’t really talk about the film for fear of giving away the plot. So you end up with a promotion but you don’t even get details of what is being promoted.

It wasn’t all bad, Dame Judi Dench is always good in things like this. Years in the business means she has so many anecdotes and obviously has done so many chat shows over the years so she’s always at ease.

Daniel Craig was personable enough and got into the spirit of things. Javier was also charming although I found his English somewhat halting.

As always the contributions from the audience are the highlight of the show, and despite the prescence of all the Bond big guns it was the same this evening. The ‘what’s your Bond Girl name’ segment was hilarious….Majorie! really, and the Red Chair segment never lets the programme down.

Brazil with Michael Palin

25 Oct

He has dusted off his trusted linen trousers and cotton shirt,  picked up his well-thumbed passport, kissed the wife good-bye and is heading off again to bring sights and sounds from the distant world into our homes.

Michael Palin  is off to Brazil.!

It is a timely programme. With Brazil over the next four years hosting both  the World Cup and the Olympics , the country is  going to be more prominent in our view of the world than it probably has ever been and BBC gets this rolling with Palin’s latest travelogue.

I am not sure what the remit  is, but at the very least I expect it to be a reminder that there is more to Brazil than football, the Rio carnival and the Copacabana beach. The first episode, centered around the north-east of  Brazil,  lived up to that expectation  featuring  cigar chomping grandmas,  weather-beaten cowboys,  an incredibly cheerful celebrity chef, dancing martial art fighters and much more.

It was slow-paced and genteel, like an Englishman on an idyllic saunter across the world’s fifth largest country, but’ that is Palin’s style. If you missed it is worth a look on IPlayer.

Meanwhile here is one of my favourite ever scenes from Palin’s travels – “Bottom’s Up with Toureg’s in the Sahara”.

James Bond Skyfall…An Interview with Sam Mendes

24 Oct

BBC 2 have an interview with Sam Mendes about his new film, the latest in the James Bond Franchise Skyfall, as well as a retrospective of his other work.  He gave some insight into how the Skyfall plot developed and the tidbits about what to expect.

It is whetting my appetite as I am a big James Bond fan, and  also a big fan of Daniel Craig who I think is the best Bond ever!. Plus Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men was super awesome, so I am keen to see how he shapes up as a Bond baddie

Cant wait to see Skyfall.

plus Adele has done an awesone soundtrack for the movie. I think I might have used “awesome” a bit too much :-)

Movies on TV….The Book of Eli (Channel 5)

24 Oct

The thing I find with Denzel Washington is he exudes earnestness. Pretty much any film he has been in he’s earnest.  In Cry Freedom he was an earnest Steve Biko, in Crimson Tide he was earnest Commander Hunter, in Training Day (bloody great film BTW) he was an earnest Lt. Alonzo. Sometimes he plays an earnestly good guy, sometimes he plays an earnestly bad guy, but earnest he is.

So we come to the Book of Eli, guess what? He is earnest. The film is a bit of a curiosity. Denzel’s character, Eli, can best be described as a mash up of the post-apocalyptic ruthlessness of Mel Gibson in Mad Max, the bible quoting menace of Samuel L Jackson in pulp fiction and the determined spiritual mission of Elijah Wood in Lord of the Rings. Bizarre isn’t it

Eli was a man living in an America reduced to rubble in the aftermath of a nuclear war, He was commanded by a higher power to head west where he will deliver a book, the last bible in the world and it holds the key to man’s redemption.

Eli is not just an iterant bible nutter he is also a ruthless fighting machine, as an assortment of villains find out as they are ruthlessly dispatched. His main nemesis  Carnegie, is played by Gary Oldman, Mayor of a town along the route  going west who realises the power of the book and wants it for himself.

Carnegie initially entices Eli to stay in his residence with hospitality but Eli realises the danger and after a lot of mayhem escapes taking along Solara (Mila Kunis) a girl who lives in Carnegie’s home. Carnegie chases him down to a homestead in the middle of the desert where the showdown happens.

The homestead was occupied by an elderly couple, and lady of the house was none other than Frances De La Tour, who some may know as Mrs Jones from the 70’s TV comedy Rising Damp.  She was a bit of a man eater in the show back then, and it seems not much has changed as in this film she was also a man-eater except in a very literal sense. Her husband and she are machine gun wielding cannibals.

They team up with Eli to try and thwart Carnegie attempts to steal the bible. It all goes wrong Eli is shot and left for dead, the elderly couple killed, the bible stolen and Solara seized. Had the bad guys won? Get real, this is Hollywood.

The Bible was in braille and useless to Carnegie, it turns out Eli was blind.  Carnegie died from the injuries he had sustained. Solara escaped went back to homestead and revived a badly injured Eli and together they journeyed to San Francisco which apparently is the Promised Land.

It turns out Eli had memorised the entire bible and  he lived long enough to recite its entire content to a commune of monks with a printing press who produced thousands of bibles and presumably saved the world in the process.

I said it was bizarre.

Panorama…Jimmy Saville What the BBC knew

23 Oct

Panorama yesterday delved into the increasingly murky world of  who knew what about  Jimmy Savile at the BBC, the organisation that propelled him into uber-stardom, and it seems also provided him with a ‘hunting ground’ for his depraved activities.

It came on the back of the controversy  over the revelation that  BBC  shelved an investigation into Jimmy Savile  by its Newsnight programme  seemingly in favour of a fulsome tribute to the man we now know to be one of the worst sexual molesters ever unearthed in the UK.

Even more shocking are the reasons being given for dropping the programme.  A reporter who worked on the Newnight investigation Liz MacKean  claims in an e-mail referring to Peter Rippon the Newsnight editor.

 ”Having commissioned the story, Peter Rippon keeps saying he’s lukewarm about it and is trying to kill it by making impossible editorial demands.

“When we rebut his points, he resorts to saying: well, it was 40 years ago…the girls were teenagers, not too young…they weren’t the worst kind of sexual offences etc.

“He hasn’t warned BBC1 about the story, so they’re beavering away on the special, oblivious.”

The big question is – Is this  the whole matter  a cockup or  a coverup.  Is this symptomatic of a gross institutional failure or a naive attempt to bury a festering bag of worms?

Aside

Strictly Come Dancing…. Reality TV Judge Funny Comment of the daaaayyyyy!

20 Oct

In homage to the Harry Hill’s much missed TV Burp show. I bring your “Reality TV Judge Funny Comment of the daaaaaaaaayyyyyyy!”

Len Goodman to Jerry Hall after her dance with Anton Du Beke to Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs Robinson on tonight’s Strictly Come Dancing.

He started off his comments on the dance by saying it was more Upstairs Downstairs in some vague reference to the TV  drama from the 70′s before ending by saying to Jerry Hall “you have a problem upstairs but downstairs you’re quite neat and tidy”…Ooooh Matron!

He tried to plead innocence that he was referring to her footwork but the audience were having none of it and were in stitches. Saucy geezer.

X-Factor USA…unearths a diamond!

18 Oct

Before you watch either of these two videos just bear in mind she is 13 years. ‘She’  is  Diamond White and she has blown me away. I am sure in the deepest recesses of my wardrobe I have clothes older than her.

Incredible eh! and then after that she then goes and delivers another faultless performance at Boot Camp.

As great as she is I still think 13 is way too young for these shows, cos when it gets tough a 13 year old will simply not have the mental strength to deal with difficult situations that are bound to come along. I think 16 should be the minimum age. If she is this great at 13, imagine what she will be like at 16!!