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BBC3…Tough Young Teachers

4 Feb

The teachers were definitely young but tough? I am not so sure.

Every documentary I have ever watched about teaching simply reaffirms my belief that one of the wisest things I could have done was to avoid teaching as a profession.

Teaching is often said to be a noble profession and the satisfaction of bringing the best out of you proteges can be richly rewarding of that there is no doubt.

However plant yourself in a a modern comprehensive in the middle of  one of Britain’s cities and often teaching can rapidly change into something not too dissimilar to being a warden at a young offenders correction centre.

In Tough Young Teachers on BBC three we saw some extremely fresh faced teachers taking up the challenge of teaching classes of secondary school pupils would in reality were only a few years younger than they were.  Young kids, and particularly young boys its goes with out saying have short attentions spans and are prone to long bouts of hyperactivity, and for the young inexperienced teachers this proved particular daunting for many of the teachers.

There was the case of Walid, who even when he was at his calmest seemed like he had overdosed on a family sized bottle of fizzy pop. He was boisterous, noisy and disruptive and was clearly demanding, and it seem taking, a lion share of the teachers attention to the detriment of his colleagues.

He however does come across a bright pupil, sometime in less than honourable ways, such as when he brought his mum who isn’t fluent in English along for the Parent Teacher meeting and obviously had no choice but to step in as an interpreter. Needless to say his Mum left the school none the wiser.

We did witness an impressive transformation when he was taken by his young teacher (himself only 22 years) on a school trip to Jamie’s Farm, away from school in the rural open spaces he seemed to thrive and engage in what he was doing. We have seen such transformations in many documentaries about young people, but the truth is such opportunities will always be an exception.

Most teachers will need to achieve that engagement in much less idyllic locations, namely the classroom and to do that is what makes teaching really tough.

BBC3…Chaos and Craic at the Nev’s Call Centre.

18 Dec

The workplace that looks so improbable that you know it can’t be fiction is back.  Nev Wilshire and his boys and girls of the Swansea call centre were back tonight for a one-off Christmas edition.

The Swansea based call centre is chaotic enough during normal times of the year, and with Christmas it doesn’t seem to have brought a break in the constant undercurrent of barely contained disorder that pervades the place. Sadly though once you have got over the initial shock of “are these people really running  a business in this place”, it becomes pretty mundane and to be honest a bit boring.

You still had most of the ingrdients that made it a cult hit when it first hit our screens all those months ago, but the WTF factor has well and truely disappeared.

There were glimpses of what it was like back then,  when we saw grizzly call centre veteran Griff amble in off the street into CEO Nev Wilshire’s old office asking for his old job back, and a loan of eight hundred quid as well. Did Nev bat an eyelid? Nope he gave him both his job back and the money.

Griff had left the call centre to pursue a job as a stand up comedian, but that didn’t work out for him. They do say a lot of comedians are manic depressives in real life, if that were true then I expect Griff to have sell out shows at the London Apollo soon, because a more miserable man I have rarely seen.

He spent most of the episode railing against Christmas and being really surly around the office. In one scene he was called into a manager’s office and reprimanded about his behaviour. His defence was that he was the Christian Ronaldo of the call centre, and his creativity was being constrained. “Would you ask Ronaldo to cut down on the step-overs?” ne asked, no came the reply but we would ask him to cut back on the diving.

There were other elements that had made the Call Centre must-watch TV like the office romance between  Johnny and Jodie, who had hoped to keep it secret but were rumbled when the the gossip column of the staff newspaper dropping hints about it and soon it was all over the call centre. Like all things Call Centre related it was transient and before the end of the programme they had both gone their separate ways. Again the whole thing lacked the oomph of the earlier episodes.

Lastly we got one of the old reliables perma-tanned Hayley the tea-lady who  usually seems to spend half her time at work organising social events, so no suprise that the planned Christmas party falls within her remit. That was pretty much all we got from her, none of the hyperactivity, none of pranks. She was, dare I say it, just normal.

Fans of the show might have enjoyed it, but only because it was familiar. If you were watching for the first time, you would be forgiven for wondering what the hype was about.


BBC3…The Revolution Will Be Televised

10 Nov

This is the most hilarious thing I have seen on TV in a very long time. A topical satirical sketch show in the  the best traditions of Dennis Pennis, Chris Morris’s Brass Eye or the early days of Ali G .

The audacity of the some of the sketches was incredible.

How they got away with the Network Rail sketch, where they walked into the companies headquarters and closed three doors for “engineering works”, or even the Nike Store sketch plastering slogans enjoining customers to “Work Hard, Work Hard” a play on the “Work Hard, Play Hard” slogan, but twisted to reflect the working condition of many workers in the South East Asian textile industry.

The “BBC in need” sketch was also genius.

What was particularly funny was often how in the face of what seems like an official request people will agree to even the most outlandish requests as typified by this clip from a earlier episode.



If you like your comedy topical and laced with social commentary, this BBC 3 comedy (Sunday nights at 10.25) is definitely for you.

The Call Centre…Looks like it is real, after all

11 Jun

Last week I wondered if BBC3′s The Call Centre was real or some sort of parody. Well it turns out it is real. The main star of the show is Neville ‘Nev’ Wilshire, is the CEO of the Save Britain Money contact centre and if you have ever received phone calls out of the blue offering to help reclaim your PPI, save money on your electricity bills or home insulation there is a good chance one of Nev’s lads or lasses would be on the other end of the call.

There were more romantic woes and eye brow raising antics. Having said all that as Nev pointed out most of his staff are under 25 and ordinarily the job, cold calling tens of people every day, would be soul destroying,  so the non conventional motivation techniques may not be so strange.

Still the extent to which he goes to set up dates for his staff is still a bit worrying. This week call centre agent George was the man who Nev was out to help but dragging all the girls in the call centre one by one into his office  to ask them if they would date George is not the stuff of modern human resources.

He finally gets a “victim” , Alex, and proceeds to drag George through the call centre to meet his date and promptly embarrasses both of them in front of everyone else.

You almost get the feeling that Nev is trying to recapture his own youth through the lives of the people he employs with some of his more extreme antics, or maybe he is just misunderstood and is an all round good egg.

As for George the lesson learnt was love has to come naturally as Alex decided he was not right for her.

The Call Centre…It can’t be real, can it ?

4 Jun

If you are watching this “fly on the wall” documentary on BBC what’s the first phrase that comes to mind. For me it was employment tribunal!

I am not sure what the collective noun for employment lawyers is but what ever it is I can see a whole mass of them programming their Sat Navs for Swansea.

I worked briefly in  call centre and it was as far removed from this as Torquay is from Tokyo.  The interview techniques of parading would be call centre agents down the hall way and asking the staff to shout yes or no, organising speed dates to get his staff “laid”,  throwing stuff at staff who doze off in particular boring meetings, were all sailing close to the line and would certainly have had the corporate lawyer nervously fiddling with their briefs.

I suspect a lot has been exaggerated for effect. If the boys and girls of TOWIE went to work for David Brent the result would have been exactly this.

I think I will be keeping an eye on this it has the potential to be quite amusing, and has a similar style to The Armstrongs shown back in 2006.

Movies on TV….UP (BBC3)

12 Jan


This review contains tons of spoilers, so if you just here for the movie on BBC iPlayer skip to the bottom.

Animation films are tricky not just because they require a huge amount of detailed and sustained creativity but they have to appeal to two different audiences simultaneously. To the kids who want an amusing day out watching a nice colourful tale with a happy ending, and to the adults accompanying them who need to need to enjoy the film but require more nuance and subtext to keep them engaged.

The best animation films do this superbly, with UP I think it did more of the later, providing more subtext for adult viewers than it needed to particularly so in the first half.

UP is the story of Carl Fredricksen a shy boy with a love for adventure. We meet him as a child amazed by the adventures of a legendary explorer Charles F. Muntz, Muntz however has been ostracized over  what were assumed to be false claims that he had discovered a new giant bird specie.

Carl meets a young neighbourhood girl Ellie also a fan of Muntz, they become friends, promising themselves one day they will go on an adventure to South America like their hero Muntz. The film rolls forward to their eventual marriage

Here is takes a somewhat dark twist. Ellie suffers a miscarriage and it seems cannot have children of her own. Various hiccups in life meaning the money they are saving for that trip of a lifetime continually gets used up. Eventually by their old age they saved the money and Carl plans to surprise Ellie but it turns out she is sick and eventually dies. All a bit bleak, but it gets bleaker.

Carl is now an old age pensioner, a man in the last stages of life with a big unfulfilled ambition, a widower stuck in big house and with little or no contact with the outside world. Except that is for the construction folk who are tearing down the old neighbourhood to build shiny new flats and have tried in vain to persuade Carl to sell on move to a retirement home.

Carl gets into a confrontation with one of the construction workers, assaults him and is arrested and taken to court. There he is found guilty and forced to sell his house and is scheduled to move into the retirement home.

This is all in the first 20 minutes of the film, but fortunately, especially if you are a kid, it is at this point the bleakness ends and the fantasy begins.

Carl it seems had no plans to go into an retirement home and has rigged the house with thousands of helium balloons. As the staff from the retirement home come to cart him away he releases the balloons and his house is uprooted from the ground and he sets sail with a picture of his beloved wife on the adventure they had promised themselves all those years ago.

The flight presumably a metaphor for leaving all his worldly pains and problems behind, or maybe that it is never to late to chase your dreams, but a small problem pops up, Russell. Russell is a local Wilderness Explorer (read Cub Scout) who had been pestering Carl offering to ‘assist’ him as a means of he, Russell, getting his ‘Assisting the Elderly’  badge. He inadvertently gets trapped in the house and is now also bound for South America much to Carl’s consternation.

After a bumpy ride they land in South America. There come across a very exotic looking ostrich like creature and it turns out it was the creature the explorer Muntz had claimed he found but was ignored so many years back. Not only that but a much aged Muntz was in the area still trying to capture the creature aided by a pack of ‘talking dogs’.

At this point you might say a happy ending would be Muntz takes the creature and Russell back to the USA restoring his reputation and reuniting Russell with his family and Carl lives happily ever after in South America. Well as any film buff would tell you you can’t have a film without a ‘Climax’ and the ‘Denoument’  and without these UP probably would not have got its two Oscars.

So we get the ‘Climax’, Muntz’s plan to capture the animal is transformed in a ‘dastardly plot’. It turns out the bird is the mother of several cute chicks and Muntz is prepared to take the bird  (named Kevin by Russell, he didn’t know about the chicks) back dead or alive.  Karl and Russell battle Muntz in their bid to rescue Kevin. The battle in involves dog flying propeller planes, chases across vast canyons, and the use of false teeth as weapons of limited destruction. Eventually however Carl and Russell triumph.

Kevin is restored to his family, Carl finds out that for Ellie married life with him was the adventure she wanted and she hadn’t held him to the promise to move to South America, and Russell proudly got his helping the elderly badge. Denoument done!

If you are quick you can catch it on BBC’s iPlayer (available to Jan 17, 2013).

If you were not so fast, you can still enjoy the trailer :-)


Channel 5 – Terrestial TVs enfant terrible has come of age…

13 Oct

The Easter weekend of 1997 saw the launch of the UK’s fifth terrestial Channel, tapping in to the zeitgeist of the time it was launched by the Spice Girls.

After the fanfare and publicity of the launch the real work started and this meant fighting for audience share with the four existing terrestrial channels (BBC1, BBC2, ITV and Channel 4) as well as an ever increasing number of satellite and cable channels.

The battle was fierce, their well-funded terrestrial competitors with a customer base built up over decades were not going to be dislodged easily and the initial audience figures showed this with Channel 5 languishing with only 2.3% of the viewing audience.

In the chase for audience share the channel gradually morphed into what the tabloids christened Channel Filth or as a programming executive of Channel 5 was quoted when describing their programming output as  three F’s,  football, films and what can be best described as the present continuous tense of the f-word.

The style of programming reached its zenith in 2000 with the infamous reality TV show ‘Naked Jungle’ which introduced us not only to totally naked contestants but distressingly a totally naked host, Keith Chegwin.  The show almost ended Chegwin’s career and unleashed a wave of moral outrage against Channel 5.

Channel 5 has moved on from those dire days the football is still there occasionally, there are still films, but the third F is now  F for Foreign TV shows and good quality shows as well.  The CSI franchise, Law & Order, House MD, The Shield, Breaking Bad, The Mentalist  have introduced great US TV shows to the UK and have seen a solid and sustained rise in Channel 5’s audience share.

Are you a fan of Channel 5? What’s your best programme?

Be Your Own Boss – BBC3..Cycles, Chairs and Cardboard

10 Oct

Another week and another edition of Be Your Own Boss

I like Be Your Own Boss it has a touch of realism that is absent from the Apprentice, and makes far tougher decisions than you see on Dragons Den.

This week there were no surprise Billionaire appearances, but lots of pitches by budding Entrepreneurs  As is the format Richard Reed had to choose 3 entrepreneurs to work with with and from the three he will end up investing in one.

For the shortlist, we have a young and very creative dude, who was looking to build a business making cardboard dinosaurs and dinosaur themed greeting cards. There were the hip young twenty-somethings looking to build a social online community around their love of cycling. Last but not least there was an old school inventor, who was looking to to build and sell a car seat, that could turn into a suitcase you can wheel around…Inspector Gadget eat your heart out.

It was tough this week as none of them looked like a real winner. The young dude was creative but seemed to be put off by the nuts and bolts of running a business, the marketing, the sales calls etc. Plus he didn’t really want the cash just guidance.

The social networking guys had really not got anything to show, plus it didn’t help that one of the guys was stuck in America during the evaluation period. They were keen, but the idea seemed more community focused and as Richard probably wanted to say but was too polite…Show me the money!!

The last guy had what on the surface was a cool looking idea child car seat to suitcase. Sounds good but when he said he needed £300,000, I think he left Richard in a state of shock.

Well he had to go with one…Tough call, but he eventually opted for the inventor of the convertible car seat, investing £25k. Cue tears of joy from the inventor, who had already offered to leave his day job if Richard invested.

Smooth as you like…”Be Your Own Boss” – BBC3

3 Oct

I have seen his products all other the place, Innocent Smoothies, Innocent Juice, etc. It seems squeezing the odd fruit into a plastic bottle and flogging it can make you seriously rich and it has for Richard Reed, the smooth looking boss of Innocent Drinks.

He has kindly decided not keep all that juicy cash just to himself and on BBC3′s ‘Be Your Own Boss’ he is out looking for investment opportunities.

This programme starts off frantically like Dragon’s Den on LSD, morphs into the The Apprentice and ends with X-Factor style rejections.

The would be entrepreneurs are first corralled into some sort of exhibition hall where Richard blitzes his way through tens of pitches. He is assisted by a couple of helpers including Tim Campbell, the first winner of the Apprentice (I wondered where he got to).

After the pitches he chooses three entrepreneurs with a view to investing in one. The three chosen were a swimwear company, a “potted beef” company  at least that’s what I think they were selling (potted beef ? sounds yummy, not!), and finally Ash selling some sort of clever device for keeping baby milk warm.

All three were called in for follow on interviews. If a millionaire wasn’t enough, the programme upped the ante with a billionaire as Richard Branson made a guest appearance for no discernible reason other than it seems to reduce Ash to a quivering nervous wreck when he came in for his follow up conversation.

Well at least on the positive side Ash got his first customer as Mr Branson promised to by six for his Grandchildren to be (no pressure on Holly then).

Few months later they all came back and after reviews of progress made so far, Richard (Reed that is not Branson) decided the best place to splash his cash was with Ash and he got a 65,000 to develop his idea.
An honorable shout out to the ladies who pitched the wonderfully named Man Meat Spices….apparently it is barbecue sauce.