Tag Archives: BBC

Mrs Brown’s Boys is TV Christmas No 1.

26 Dec

To me Mrs Brown’s Boys is not a programme I have really got.  It comes across to me a mix of 1970′s northern variety act and a Carry On film, however the rest of the great British nation clearly disagree. Mrs Brown’s Boys was the most watched programme on Christmas Day beating all comers including perennial chart toppers like EastEnders and Dr Who.

Top Ten programmes this Christmas (2013) (Average number of viewers [percentage of viewers])

  1.  9.30pm: Mrs Brown’s Boys – BBC One – 9.4m  [35.5%]
  2.  7.30pm: Doctor Who – BBC One – 8.3m  [30.7%]
  3.  7.30pm: Coronation Street – ITV1 – 7.9m [29.3%]
  4.  8.30pm: EastEnders – BBC One – 7.8m [29%]
  5.  5.00pm: Strictly Come Dancing – BBC One – 7.3m [35.4%]
  6.  6.15pm: Call The Midwife – BBC One – 7.1m [30.1%]
  7.  8.30 pm: Downton Abbey – ITV1 – 6.6m [25.4%]
  8.  3.20pm: Toy Story 3 – BBC One – 6.3m [38.9%]
  9.  3.00pm: The Queen’s Speech – BBC One – 5.7m [36.2%]  /  7.15pm: ITV1 News – ITV1 – 5.7m [23.5%]
  10.  3.10pm: BBC One News – BBC One – 5.6m [37.4%]







The Royal Baby Boy [The Prince of Cambridge]…So much news about so little news (Part II)

23 Jul

Yesterday was just like an appetizer for today. Today the news networks and BBC went over and above the call of duty in their attempt to report on every little facet of information about the new Royal Baby…HRH Prince No Name.

And when there was nothing to report we were treated to lingering shots of hospital doorways where people of import may or may not be entering or exiting.

Occasional they did hit jackpot when they grabbed an interview with either one of the royals (major or minor) or  the Middletons.

On the Middletons, I am sure the they would have been ecstatic about a grand daughter whatever the circumstance but when they were being interviewed today I couldn’t help but think this scene from Eddie Murphy’s  ”Coming from America” must be running around in their heads.

He got his own money and, baby, when I tell you he’s got his own money, I mean the boy has gotten his own money!

A prince. He’s a prince!Oh, Lisa, you did it this time. You hit the jackpot. Your little goat herder makes Darryl look like a welfare case!

The Royal Baby Boy [The Prince of Cambridge]…So much news about so little news.

22 Jul

The British People have a new future king as Prince William and Kathrine have they first baby boy…and that is essentially the news tonight. So why has the BBC spun in out into a never ending rolling news special so far clocking up 2 hours with no interruptions.

They are telling us over and over either things we already know, have no interest in knowing or simply don’t want to know.

All sorts of  special guests, experts, royal commentators are being rolled in front of the camera largely telling us the same thing in different ways and invariably it is an opportunity to replay endless clips from the archive about Princess Diana.

Congratulations to William and Catherine. To the media it has only been 2 hours and we are already drowning in the media saturation.

BBC..Africa. The Sahara where survival trumps the love of dung.

30 Jan

Over the last few weeks I have probably used all the superlatives at my disposal in describing just how good BBC’s Africa documentary is. Well this week I had to dig into my superlative reserve, because it tonight’s episode was positively biblical.

The opening scenes with massive sandstorms rolling across the Sahara were like some biblical plague come to life, I almost expected Charlton Heston to step up in his robe and staff crying out to “let my people go”.

This week we moved away from the large herds and prides of eastern and southern Africa to a more delicate and precarious battle between life and the environment, but no less intriguing.

The lonely Grevy Zebra roaming the fringes of the Sahara  living a lonely existence for months at a time, and then literally out of the blue along come a herd of female Zebras and an opportunity for our lonely lad to end his dry spell so to speak. It turns out there are were another bunch of male Zebras in the vicinity with similar ideas.

Cue a bit of handbags between the male Zebras which saw our lonely lad come up tops giving him just enough time for a quick bit of ‘how’s your father’ with a lady Zebra before once more returning to his solitary existence.

There were the  two million Barn Swallows of southern Nigeria who undertake an epic journey from the wet grasslands across the vast Sahara to Europe an epic journey  that given the biblical theme can best be described as an exodus.

Like any decent exodus they need to refuel on their journey and the Sahara offers some surprising options, like the ‘oasis’ in the Ubari Sand Sea – Umm El Mar.

On the surface it looks like a miraculous refuge for any weary thirsty traveller  the cool waters shimmer in the sunshine. This is however deceptive, a cruel trick player by nature.  Years of evaporation have left the water so concentrated with salt that it would drinking from it would be fatal.

Swarms of desert flies also inhabit the lake but here nature plays another card, the flies are able to drink the water and filter out the salt, so they are effectively plump little sachets of water just the refreshment the swallows need.

Sometime though the ferocity of the Sahara makes survival trickier. The Dung Beetle survives on collecting camel dung and in one trip can collect enough to last a life time. The problem though is getting it to storage,  in their trademark approach the dung beetle use their hind legs to roll it along. The problem with this approach is you can’t see where you are going, and can end up down side of a sand dune.

Try as you may rolling up  a ball of dung up a sand hill is a Sisyphean task and in temperatures of 50C, the love of dung wanes quickly.

Probably better suited for the searing temperatures of the Sahara are the amazing silver ants whose reflective body coating allows them to endure the hottest temperatures of the desert for brief burst of time. We see an amazing segment where the ants go a “mission impossible” to hunt a stricken fly and get it back to the den.  Amazing footage.



BBC…Africa. Something very fishy is going on

24 Jan

The cinematography of this week’s episode of Africa was as usual peerless, the stories informative and thought-provoking all in all a masterclass in how to make great and timeless TV.

It reminded us that there is so much we have learnt and seen about nature from the comfort of our living room sofas, but there is still an incredible amount we don’t know.

Like the mysterious journey of giant King Fishes. These enormous fishes which grow to the size of a  man, journey from the oceans around the South African cape and travel deep inland swimming upstream along the fresh water rivers to they reach a point where they stop.

The stop not to feed, not to spawn but seemingly to swim around in a form of synchronised swimming. Why? No one knows.

They are best known as a national symbol of South Africa and we were treated to beautiful shots of  springboks ‘pronking’. This is something springboks are famous for, but why they do it? Again no one knows.  Against a beautiful backdrop of classic music the ‘pronking’ was soothingly balletic.

We also returned to a recurrent theme of the series – the circle of life. A reminder that for all it’s beauty nature is harsh and for some to thrive others must perish.

We saw baby turtles making a dash from where they hatched across beach for the ocean. In scenes that were reminiscent of the Normandy landings in Saving Private Ryan (except it was in the reverse direction), the turtles were subject to aerial bombardment from hawks and other birds who fancied a light snack. There also hazards on the ground as treacherous crabs lurked.

The chances of survival for the hatchlings was something like 1 in 1000, so I was intrigued how the filming was able to pick out one hatchling and follow it from birth as it successfully navigated the hazards of the beach and made it to the safety of the ocean. Was that just luck?

Off the coast of the South Africa cape where the warm waters of the Indian ocean’s Aghulas current meet the cold waters of the Atlantic oceans Benguela current we meet another chapter in the circle of life.  Thousands of sardines are being chased through the Benguela current by a school of dolphins and a nabulus whale. Despite their massed numbers the sardines and nimble and proving difficult to catch. That is until they hit the warmer Aghulas current, suddenly they froze, it is not explained why.

What ever the reason it result  is fatal for the sardines, as an incredible feeding frenzy ensues. Dolphins and the whale swooped from within, birds attack from above, it is a free for all feeding frenzy.

After a somewhat underwhelming episode last week, Africa was back to its best.


Springboks ‘pronking’ to Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers

BBC…Africa. The death of a baby Elephant and the reality of Nature

9 Jan

Africa is back this week and we are given a lesson in the realities of nature. We all know nature can be fantastic, magical and present visions and sensations that mankind can only dream of creating, but it can also on the surface appear cruel, very very cruel. In two poignant moments this week we were reminded just how harsh nature can be.

This week we moved northwards leaving behind the Namib and heading into eastern Africa. Here we saw how the fertile ash spewed by the great volcanic craters of the rift valley supported the creation of a vast Savannah teeming with millions of wildebeest, and where there is wildebeest there are lions, and it seems where there are lions there very brave agama lizards.

We watched the tiny but extremely nimble agama lizards brave almost certain death crawling amongst the sleeping lions to get at flies which hovered close by. It was daring but captured quiet brilliantly by the film crew.

Further away in Swamps nestling in the shadows of the Ruwenzori mountains we come across the shoebill and our first poignant moment. The shoebill was a mother to two chicks, one three months older than the other. The elder one was bigger and thriving but food is in short supply. It meant a harsh decision had to be taken and the mother just did that, feeding and providing water to the bigger chick while ignoring the pleading cries of the the smaller one. To aid its own survival we also saw the older shoebill chick pecking away quite viciously at its smaller sibling.

The vast plains of the Amboseli was the scene for the second poignant moment. The rains had not been kind to the Amboseli leaving the land pretty much a dust bowl. The elephant herds were struggling to find food, the adults could just about survive on twigs brushed up from the soil but  for the young calves this would barely sustain them. We saw one calf in particular suffering so badly from the food shortage and left struggling to stand let alone walk miles in search of food. His mother faced a stark choice, stay behind with the calf or keep up with the rest of the herd. She stayed behind as life ebbed out of her calf.

Later on in the program the rains came back and nature sprung back to life as nature flourished so once again did the elephant herds, like the song from the Lion King musical it is the circle of Life.

We also saw a pretty scary three day fight between two bull elephants which after the giraffe fight from last week is becoming a bit of a theme.

Across the Savannah at the massive lakes of caustic soda tainted water we came across one of the great sights of Africa millions of pink flamingos gathered by the lake from the sky it looked remarkably like tourist descended on one the more popular costas in Spain.

All in all another great episode from a great series.

BBC…Panorama “Britain’s Hidden Housing Crisis”

15 Dec

Even with the global economic crisis Britain still remains one of the richest countries in the world.  I am not an expert of government finances by any stretch of the imagination,  but when the government announce that despite the recession they have found money to spend a million pounds a day over almost a year in an operation to remove the former Libyan dictator we can’t be that broke.

So if as a country we are still relatively rich why the hell do we have disproportionately so many homeless people? BBC  flagship current affairs programme took a look at this in its episode “Britain’s Hidden Housing Crisis”.

First off  I am not sure why the title refers to a “hidden” crisis? In the larger cities of the UK there is a real and very visible crisis, what  is not in dispute is that there is a crisis.  Identifying a crisis is one thing, working out the solutions is another but one way is to take a look at how people end up homeless which is what this edition of Panorama did.

It followed a number of individual and families and over 5 months documented  their experience of being or becoming homeless.

There was the case of Kevin Browne an investment banker who in good times lived in America running his own business, come the credit crunch it all fell apart and he ended up being repatriated to the UK.

His immediate problem seemed to stem from another of things. Firstly he seemed to have no social network he could rely on in the UK for support on his return, no willing family or friends. Secondly having being away from the UK for a while the local council, in this case Croydon, had to assess whether he was a UK resident and eligible for benefits. Thirdly being a single man he was way down the priority list for emergency housing. The end result was many nights in local park.

He was eventually given support and moved into accommodation  His story ended, somewhat ironically, with him looking for employment back in the investment banking industry.

There was also the case of the 52-year-old Dagenham Grandmother Patricia Taylor who after a battle with breast cancer and a marriage breakdown fell  behind with her mortgage payment to Barclays Bank to the tune £9,000. She was evicted from her home of fifteen years.

The council offered her emergency accommodation which she accepted without having seen it. When she did eventually see the property it was dire and insecure, but there the reality of the housing bureaucracy hit.  As she had already accepted it, if she now refused to move in she would be in effect making herself “intentionally homeless” removing from the council any further obligation to house her.

The phrase “intentionally homeless” was one that came up repeatedly in the programme,  and sadly it is becoming heavily relied upon by hard pressed councils across the country to trim down their waiting lists by proving people are knowingly putting themselves in that position.

The debate over being “intentionally homeless ” came up again in the case of  Nick Bull and his family of six. Employment problems had led to mortgage arrears. The Council argued that by failure to make regular rent payments for their Council flat  and also to file paper work to maintain housing benefit meant they had made themselves “intentionally homeless”. This resulted in protracted fight with the council and the family being moved from one emergency accommodation to another.

At the end council upheld their initial ruling and family were ultimately left to fend for themselves.

Successful businessman Lee his wife Sharon and his kids were a victim of the recession. His engineering business collapsed and their income plummeted,  they tried to negotiate with their mortgage lender the Bank of Scotland, but bank rejected offer and they were evicted. Their case was illustrative how over the years the government support for home owners with mortgages who are caught out in a crisis has been rolled back to virtually nothing now.

Four different stories, different reasons and different outcomes, some had questions of self-responsibility others just ill-luck but all reveal that beneath the veneer of affluence is a very dark and depressing world into which an increasing amount of people are being pulled into.

BBC…I don’t enjoy paying my TV Licence but sometimes…

22 Nov
English: This image of a document is from &quo...

Jim Jones :  Credit  ”the Jonestown Institute” at San Diego State University. 

…BBC shows a gem and we would be much the poorer without it.

Two nights ago I stumbled upon a repeated edition of Storyville on BBC2. There are certain things the BBC does better than anyone else in the world, not just in Britain, not just Europe, not just in the West, not just in the Northern hemisphere, but the whole wide world, these are nature programmes and factual documentaries.

They do a lot of other good things but on these two they are beyond compare.

Storyville is a excellent example of  the world class factual documentary shown by the beeb. Storyville rarely gets any publicity, is often shoved into late night time slots, but the gradual way the documentaries in this series dissemble and present even the most complex subject matters is second to none.

On Tuesday we were taken back to the swinging sixties and psychedelic seventies. To a time when civil rights was just making a break through in the USA and we met a charismatic preacher Jim Jones.  In ”Jonestown: The World’s Biggest Mass Suicide”, we are taken through Jim Jones life from his early days as a preacher, through his rise a powerful local politician in San Franciso and finally to a commune in the South American country of Guyana.

It was here in Guyana that events unfolded which shocked the world. The documentary carefully charted the events that led to 909 people committing mass suicide far from home in a sweltering jungle. We meet the survivors and witnesses to events that led to this, talking poignantly of their experiences at the camp and the loss of those they knew.

The closing segment with short shots of the those contributing survivors as they contemplated their memories was particularly powerful. Very powerful.











Dr Who…Christmas Special “The Snowmen”. Details announced.

17 Nov
English: The current TARDIS seen at BBC TV Centre...

Doctor Who’s Tardis credit © zir.com

Christmas Day TV on the BBC has some certainties, Eastenders will depress us, Strictly Come Dancing will amuse us and the Dr Who Christmas Special will wow us. Just how the latter will wow us has been revealed today. A new look for the Doctor, a new companion and a monster are some of the big changes promised in the Christmas Special.

Matt Smith will be back as the Doctor. Jenna-Louise Coleman will join the show as his new companion Clara, and together with the Doctor will battle to save Christmas from  the villainous Doctor Simeon (Richard E Grant) and his army of icy snowmen.

If Matt Smith’s verdict is anything to go by it sounds like it will be well worth watching

For this year’s Christmas special we have the wonderfully villainous Richard E Grant as Doctor Simeon – as well as lizards, Victorian assassins and deranged warriors from the future, who all return to convince the Doctor that he should board the TARDIS again and save the world. Add to that Jenna-Louise Coleman, and so begins the Christmas Special 2012. I hope everyone enjoys it!

Strictly versus X-Factor…Whats’s the nation watching

6 Nov

It is now an autumn TV tradition now. The head to head battle between Strictly Come Dancing and X-Factor.  For years X-Factor bigger, brasher and more “glittery” won at a canter.  Strictly though was a dogged foe, it was tenacious and arguably delivered a more consistent level of entertainment and it seems it is making a difference as Strictly has squeezed past, and stolen a lead on the X-Factor as the infographics below shows.


Strictly Come Dancing v X-Factor

Strictly Come Dancing v X-Factor