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Channel 4 …Is Street Magic losing its Mystique?

2 Jan

Magic was once a staple of British TV and  in the seventies and eighties no Saturday night light entertainment schedule was complete without the likes of the late Tommy Cooper, Paul Daniels, Matthew Corbett and other TV magicians. By the nineties as popular taste changed, and the musical hall culture that had driven had driven some much of entertainment in the previous decades waned, so did our taste for these magic shows.

Watching a performer going through his repertoire on a distant stage while we are stuck firmly at a safe distance away in the audience responding to cues from the floor manager was losing its charm. As far as magic acts went we wanted something more immediate, more compelling, more “real”, and with Street Magic we got it.

Street magic as the name implies literally took it performance onto the street. Magicians wondered the streets of New York,  London or any other big city, accosting small groups of people with a selection of magic tricks and it is this close interaction that has given street magic its cachet.

It is not so much the magic that entrances us because we have probably seen similar tricks over the years, it is the reaction of the audience, amazed at what they are seeing at close quarters, the initial confusion as they try to work out what just happened and then the explosion of disbelief as it registers that something “magic” has just happened.



David Blaine may not have been the first street magician out there, but he is arguably the best known and on New Year’s Day he was back on Channel 4 with a new show “David Blaine: Real or Magic”. Not content with wow-ing mere mortals, he stepped up his game by taking his street magic to a celebrity audience including the likes of Harrison Ford, Will Smith, Kanye West, Kathy Perry and former US President George W. Bush, who got his watch stolen as well.

All well and good and probably a sop to the celebrity obsessed times we live in, but celebrities so use to creating controlled personas for public consumption simply do not give that raw visceral reaction that makes street magic what it is.

If this is the direction street magic takes it will lose the very thing that made it great, being from the street.

ITV…Is The X-Factor in danger of becoming The Ex-Factor?

14 Dec

When The X Factor first hit our screens way back in 2004 the world was a different place,  “twerking” and “selfies” were unknown to the masses,  Facebook had just been invented and pretty much no one outside her family and friends had heard of Nicole Scherzinger.

With its ability to create instant success and celebrity, its unashamed and relentless use of the “sob story” to try to create emotional connections with the contestants, and the unleashing of Simon Cowell’s pantomime Mr Nasty persona, the basis for a Saturday night blockbuster were laid.

The first few series achieved good, but not sensational ratings , it still needed something extra, a winner that could step out of the shadow of the show to become a credible artist in their own right. In 2006 the show hit jackpot when it discovered London receptionist, Leona Lewis, who went on to wow the X-Factor audience, the nation and the world. The X-Factor had produced the global star it desperately wanted.

This also proved to be the fillip needed to create a breakout in ratings for the show as it went from strength to strength trashing all comers in the TV ratings battle. So dominant was the show between 2007 and 2011, that for many Saturday night became simply The X-factor night.

The peak of the show in audience figures terms, but not necessarily in quality, was the  Matt Cardle’s triumph in 2010 where the final show saw a TV audience of 19.4 million, a staggering 30% of the UK’s entire population, tuning in.

Those were the glory days, since then by its own very high targets the show has waned, changes to the show’s format, and tinkering with the judges and contestant selection has failed to stop the drift. While it still pulls in an average of 9.57 million people each week, a figure that would make any other show on UK TV envious, it is failing to fulfill its reason for existence, to dominate prime time Saturday night TV.

This year’s final featuring prison office and favourite to win, Sam Bailey , dreadlocked west country singer Luke Friend and the petite Nicholas McDonald are a trio that would probably be loved by grand-mums and grand-dads across the nation, but being one of the plainest set of finalist ever they are unlikely to reverse the declining trend.

ITV’s contract allows for three more series but it remains to be seen whether the show has enough steam to last that long.

X-Factor’s Average Audience Ratings (2004 – 2012)

Series 1 (2004) – 7.4 million
Series 2 (2005) – 8.73 million
Series 3 (2006) – 8.27 million
Series 4 (2007) – 8.57 million
Series 5 (2008) – 10.51 million
Series 6 (2009) – 13 million
Series 7 (2010) – 14.13 million
Series 8 (2011) – 12.36 million
Series 9 (2012) – 9.63 million

ITV…Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway to go on nationwide tour

10 Nov

Ant and Dec together with ITV are taking the successful primetime Saturday night entertainment show “Saturday Night Takeaway“on tour around the country for their next series. The tour starts in Cardiff on the 6th of August and runs through to the 12th of September when it ends at London’s Wembley Arena.

If you fancy being part of the show tickets are now available for the following dates and venues.

Cardiff - Motorpoint Arena (Wednesday 6th August)

Birmingham - LG Arena (Saturday & Sunday 9-10th August)

Leeds - First Direct Arena (Tuesday 12th August)

Manchester - Phones 4U Arena (Friday & Saturday, 15-16th August)

Nottingham - Capital FM Arena (Tuesday 19th August)

Belfast - Odyssey Arena (Friday 22nd August)

Glasgow - The SSE Hydro(Tuesday 26th August)

London - The 02 (Friday and Saturday 29-30th August)

Sheffield - Motorpoint Arena (Tuesday 2nd September)

Newcastle - Metro Radio Arena (Friday – Saturday 5-6th September)

Liverpool - Echo Arena (Tuesday 9th September)

London - Wembley Arena (Friday 12th September)


Tickets for the shows go on sale on 8 November at 9am. Visit for details

Britain’s Got Talent Final…Simon Cowell gets egg-ed by woman.

8 Jun

Britian’s Got Talent had an unexpected entrant in the final this evening. Blink and you would have missed it but during the performance by the classical music duo Richard and Adam Johnson a woman who it seemed was part of the orchestra left her position strolled up to the front of the stage with what seemed to be a pack of Sainsbury’s woodrange free range eggs and let fly.

She clearly relished the moment as you can see the huge grin on her face. Possibly she was egg-cited? Or may she just got the Eggs-Factor? [I'll get my coat!]

Pics of the moment

Egg Thrower 1

Egg Thrower 2

and the video

Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway…”Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble”

23 Mar

They say Nostalgia is always better the first time around. Sometimes it isn’t. I remember 1994 and I certainly remember PJ and Duncan and their hit single Lets’ Get Ready To Rhumble. It is safe to say my CD Rack feeble as it was back then was never remotely threatened by its addition.

Roll forward nineteen years. PJ and Duncan have become Ant and Dec. The Geordie lads from Byker Grove have become a pair of, not yet middle aged but certainly get closer, Saturday night Entertainers far removed from their suburban “Hip-Pop” roots.

As they evolved they carefully managed the change of their brand leaving behind all the vestiges of what they once were, that is until tonight.

In a nod to a recent reality TV series on ITV2 that saw 5ive, Blue and Atomic Kitten reforming, these bands were invited to perform on the Saturday Night Takeway tonight and the surprise was for one night only Ant and Dec were going to perform their hit single alongside the other bands.

The song might have been cheesy, pop-pish and very Vanilla but the performance Ant and Dec gave tells you everything you need to know about why they are Mr & Mr Saturday night TV. It was stupendously fantastic, especially when you consider that they were busting these same extremely energetic moves close to twenty years ago.

I shouldn’t have liked it but I loved it.



p.s. I you don’t remember the original, thanks to the wonders of YouTube, now I do

ITV’s Ant and Dec’s Saturday Takeaway…My kids are in Paris????

10 Mar

Ant and Dec are British TVs most wholesome double act, so wholesome that they probably count as one of your five a day and ITV’s Saturday night line up is not complete without the dynamic Geordie duo turning up in some guise or the other.

The latest offering is a new series of their successful Saturday Takeaway a mix of prize giveaways,  celebrity appearances, competitions and surprises for the audience.  Nothing controversial and as I said all very wholesome. Sometime even the most wholesome show hits a “this is a bit awkward” moment.

A young lady was picked out of the audience and Ant and Dec explained how the Mothers Day spa trip her two daughters organised for her was far from ordinary.  In disguise were quite a few of her favourite celebrities.  Clips from the visit revealed to her that the receptionist at the spa was Olympic medallist Louise Smith, her chef was Dancing On Ice Judge Jason Gardner and the  swimming pool attendant was TOWIE‘s Mark Wright.

Each clip bringing lots of audience laughter and humorous surprise from the mum.

All fine and normal, it then moved onto her chance to win a prize – ” A trip to Paris”. The camera cut to her daughters who we were told were in Chesterfield as they read out three clues for their mum  ”Where do they say bonjour?”, “Where is the Eiffel Tower?” and “Where do they wear berets?”. Mum answered the questions and won the prize and then the real surprise she was  told she was off to Paris “to join her kids”.

Then her expression changed she was no longer amused more bemused. You did not have to be a mind reading to see the thoughts racing through her head. What the  h@#! were her  7 and 4-year-old daughters doing in Paris? How did they get there? Who was with them?

She was literally frozen to the spot with incredulity and not of the happy kind, and had to be subtly ushered off the stage. I suspect there are going to be many questions asked back stage.

It deem seem a bit gung ho,  I not sure if there was another parent present but there had been no suggestion on the show that there was, so I can imagine the mum being less than happy. I think Ant and Dec may have dropped a tiny notch on the wholesomeness scale.

ITV…Tom Daley’s ‘Splash’ was like an awkward belly flop

6 Jan

If you have followed Tom Daley’s career with any amount of interest one thing you couldn’t have missed  is that there was always a  media tint to it, so no surprise when the program ‘Splash’ was announced and he was a major part of it.

Tom is an Olympic ‘hero’ of sorts, granted it was just a Bronze medal but it far more than most of us will ever achieve sports-wise. As for the celebrities learning to dive from scratch does take a considerable amount of effort and dedication, so there are positives about the venture, but is it entertaining? With some trepidation I tuned into watch this.

In a summary the programme is like a cheap version of Strictly Come Dancing hosted in a local council’s leisure centre with diving instead of dancing.  Five episodes are to be shown with two celebrities each  from three heats making it to the Semi-finals and after that the final.

Tonight’s heat had Benidorm’s Jack Canuso, Sugar babe Jade Ewen, Comedians Omid Djalili and Helen Lederer, and Presenter Jenni Falconer competing for a place in the semi finals.

There seemed to have bussed in millions of screaming Tom Daley fans off to the Luton Regional Sport Centre, Stopsley where it is being filmed, as every time he made an appearance the volume of high-pitched screams went up several notches. Needless to say there were endless appearances of Tom in’ the micro trunks he’s made his trade mark to keep the fans contented.

The dive order was  Jade Ewen, Jack Canuso, Helen Lederer, Jenni Falconer and lastly Omid Djalili. The dive itself lasted no more than a few second which meant there was a huge amount of time to fill and a lot of it was filled by slow motion shots of the celebrity contestants boogey-ing and high-five-ing their way up onto the diving platform – all a bit weird and random.

The diving itself was mildly entertaining, Jenni was quite ambitious and seemed to have done the most technical of dives to my lay man eye’s , Omid and Jake were adventurous and Jade and Helen didn’t let themselves down as they conquered whatever fears they may have had coming into the competition.

The judging panel had Olympic silver medallist Leon Taylor, Team GB coach Andy Banks and Jo Brand, yes Jo Brand the comedienne  It turns out Jo Brand has previous form as it were, she had previously fronted a programme on satellite channel Dave called Jo Brand’s Big Splash and she dived on that programme after some training with a coach of Tom Daley’s, Blake Aldrige. So there you go

The judge scores were a bit erratic, especially those from Jo. With the judge’s scores tallied up Omid emerged top of the leader board followed by Jake, Jenni, Jade and Helen in that order.

Just like strictly the judges scores are added to a public vote and out of that Omid topped the overall score and went straight into the semi-final, Jade and Helen came bottom and were voted off the show, while Jake and Jenni went into the ‘splash-off’ which jake won to also go through to the semi-finals.

The sum of what I just described could have been over and done with in 20 or some minutes how on earth this programme ran for 90 minutes is nothing short of a master class in how to pad out a TV programme, over 30 minutes of commercials also helped.

Was it quality programming? No. Was it worse than other Saturday early evening filler we have endured over the years like Total Wipe out  Bring on the Wall, etc? Not really. Will I be making a point to catch up on it? No.

But if you want to judge for yourself you can watch it on ITV Player here .

Strictly Come Dancing…Is Denise Van Outen Just too darn good for this?

25 Nov

First off I have to declare that I have always been big fan of Denise Van  Outen.  It started with the Big Breakfast on Channel 4 where Denise and Johnny Vaughan created the best Breakfast TV show ever.

She has always projected a cheerful, warm and humorous personality and I have no reason to think that that is not a true reflection of what she is.  I know people for reasons I have never fully understood  like to think of  Cheryl Cole as the ‘nations sweetheart” but if I was given a choice I definitely would not see past Denise for this accolade.

But, and there was a but in this and a very big one at that, I think she was (and still is) too too good for the Strictly Come Dancing journey, a journey that should share with the viewer a transformation from ‘dancing rags’ to ‘dancing riches’.

The leader board ‘journey’ for Strictly Come Dancing 2012

She has been flawless, watching her with James Jordan and you often don’t see a celebrity and her dance partner, you see just two professional dancers.

A few years back Alesha Dixon wowed strictly audiences with her near perfection. The difference though was she had a journey, granted she became very good, very quickly but there was still a journey.

Denise on the other hand has been spectacular from day dot and the stats show it, she has dominated from almost from week one, while past strictly greats like Jill Halfpenny and Alesha had to fight their way to glory. With Denise the Coronation as the queen of the dance floor just seems inevitable.

While Denise may be crowned Queen of the Dance Floor I think this year Dani Harmer and Vincent Simone while unheralded typify the journey we expect on strictly.

X-Factor…Can we use Twitter to predict this week’s results?

3 Nov

One of the biggest developments to come out of the slew of reality TV programmes we have had over the last few years is the engagement between TV and social media. One of leaders in this regard is the X-Factor. In contrast to the traditional view of TV programme makers, this programmes have has gone out of its way to leverage all the outlets offered by digital and social media to reach out to its target audience.

All the contestants have Twitter and Facebook accounts they actively use to engage with their support base, at the end of programmes all the performances are loaded to YouTube to allow the audience relive the moments, and the programme strongly encourages its audience to interact with the show using Twitter and Skype. It is a positively 21st century show in this regard.

As the programme promotes itself with social media, but can I also use social media to find more about the programme. In particular can I use social media to predict the relative popularity of the contestants?

I have tried a little experiment for tomorrow’s progamme, to determine the most likely contestant to be in the bottom two on Sunday. The experiment data gathered mainly from Twitter is outlined below

No of Followers: I compare the number of followers each contestant has, this is the major input we use to determine popularity but it is not the only factor.

No of Tweets: I use the number of tweets to determine how much the contestants interact with their fan base. A higher level of interaction would encourage loyalty and loyalty is a strong indication of the willingness to vote.

Daily Mail mentions: This is an odd one, but I have to take into consideration that there are fans that are not active on social media and are influenced in other ways. In general these will be mainly from the older generation, a generation more in tune with the sensibilities of the Daily Dail.

We apply our formula to turn these into points by giving  a different weighting to the number of followers, the number of tweets posted, the dailymail mentions and  taking into consideration groups versus indivduals and this gives us the table below

X-Factor - Can twitter predict results?

X-Factor – Can twitter predict results?

Now this is only indicative and does not take into consideration the performance on Saturday night which can change the the popularity stakes significantly, but we are taking our measure before Saturday to see if popularity is a greater inidicator of who wins than actual performance.

By our reckoning the bottom two will come from Christopher Maloney, Kye Sones, District 3 and surprisingly Ella Henderson. Unexpectedly Rylan Clark looks very safe. It will be very interesting to see how accurate our prediction model is.

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.