Tag Archives: BBC1

Channel 5…The Bible

1 Dec

As the UK becomes more secular it is increasingly rare to have programmes with overtly religious overtones on mainstream TV, and certainly not in a prime time Saturday slot.

There is still Songs of Praise on BBC1 on Sunday, but this is increasingly just a travelogue of historic churches mixed in with some choir singing (all the rage at the moment thanks to Gareth Malone and his programmes on choirs).

Channel 5 have decided to singlehandedly reverse the trend with their new Saturday night prime time mini-series “The Bible“. What’s even more unusual about this programme is that it is also sponsored by two religious organisations Spring Harvest and WhatIsInTheBible. It is rare seeing religious programmes on mainstream TV but it is even rarer to see overtly religious sponsors. It is also kind of ironic that is all on Channel 5, a channel that was once known to the readers of the Daily Mail as “Channel Filth” for its less than christian programming output.

As a source for epic stories of faith, betrayal, redemption, love and much more there is nothing better than the bible.  From the creation of the earth to the horsemen of Apocalypse, the stories in the Bible would leave seasoned script-writers green with envy. So the series does have potential with tried and tested material available to it.

The first series which took us from Adam and Eve through to Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. For a mini-series it did not blow me away but was okay, although I am not sure how easy it would be to follow by people not familiar with the Bible.

There is also bound to be comparisons with some great biblical epics of the past like Cecil B DeMille’s  Ten Commandments and Franco Zeferelli’s Jesus Of Nazareth. The epic confrontation between a passionately enraged Charlton Heston (Moses) and sinewed and obstinate Yul Brynner (Pharaoh) in the Ten Commandments makes the The Bible’s telling of the same story like an amateur dramatic society’s production, a comparison compounded by the The Bible’s casting of a particularly chubby and unthreatening Pharaoh.

All in all  The Bible is a mildly engaging watch more suited as a matinee on a lazy Sunday afternoon when nothing else is on, and not going head with the Saturday night juggernauts of ITV’s X-Factor and BBC’s Casualty, where it is certainly to swept aside like numerous enemies of the Israelites in the ratings war.

If you enjoyed the series, or missed out. The entire mini-series is now available from Amazon.

BBC1…Should I be worried? I think I like Citizen Khan

8 Nov

When Citizen Khan first came on air I thought “Here we go another misguided attempt at multi-culturally diverse programming on BBC1″. Don’t get me wrong there have been great successes like the “The Real McCoy”, “Goodness Gracious Me” and “The Kumars At Number 42“, but there have also been abysmal flops like “The Crouches“.

Which way was Citizen Khan going to go? The first few episodes were not encouraging. With its heavy reliance on stereotypes the programme plunged depths that would have embarrassed even the late Bernard Manning. It was like someone had unearthed a scripts from “Till Death Do Us Part” swapped Alf Garnett and his family with a Pakistani family and voila! we got citizen Khan.

Despite my reservations I think the programme has improved, largely because it has moved away from relying too heavily on stereotypes and racially-tinged jokes (largely with Indians as the butt of the jokes). The humour has become broadly based, drawing on experiences that even if you are not of Pakistani origin you could still find amusing.

Is it great comedy? No I would not say so, but it does still raises the odd chuckle as I watch it. It is also a brave attempt to portray Muslims and Islamic life in a way I can’t recall being done on British TV before.

BBC1. Bluestone 42. A hidden comedy gem in the late night schedules

26 Oct

If you were to take a large dollop of the 70′s hit series M*A*S*H, mix in a couple of teaspoons of Channel 4′s comedy ‘Green Wing‘, add just a soupçon of the ‘Carry On’ films, flavour with an essence of the Oscar winning film The Hurt Locker while not forgetting to sieve out any thought-provoking darkness or depth, the end result? Bluestone 42.

Bluestone 42 is a light-hearted take on what is potentially a controversial subject. The Comedy drama follows the day to day goings on in the lives of a bomb disposal detachment serving in Afghanistan. With Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) accounting for over fifty percent of British casualties in the ongoing Afghanistan war it was always going to be a tricky topic to base a comedy on. The writers, by concentrating on the often mundane downtime in the camp that the troops experience between patrols and being called into action, manage to avoid any really tricky issues.

What you get is a very funny comedy with a focus of banter between troops who find themselves with a lot of time on their hands, and a very unlikely wartime romantic “would they, wont they” arc between an officer and the camp chaplain.

Following in the steps of ‘Gavin and Stacey‘, ‘Torchwood‘ and ‘Little Britain‘. Bluestone 43 has made the leap from the youth programming laboratory that is BBC 3 to the mass market, big audiences and promise of multiple series offered by BBC1.

For fans of Borgen, the Danish political thriller that was a big hit for BBC4, yesterday’s episode of Bluestone had a bit of a crossover with Birgitte Hjort Sorensen (Katrine Fonsmark in Borgen) making a guest appearance as a Danish Journalist. Preview is below.


Brazil with Michael Palin…Into the Amazon.

1 Nov

This episode was part sociological, part geographical.

First the sociology, should indigenous people be left to their devices protected from the encroachment of what is an increasingly a monoculture? That is the challenge that faces the myriad of indigenous people in Brazil’s Amazonian regions. There is need for modern medicines and they can see the benefits of some technology, but how easy is it to pick and choose what you want from advancing universal culture?

This was one of the topics Michael Palin touched on in the second of his series on Brazil. There seems to be no easy answer. Like King Canute, the waves of global culture are almost unstoppable and already the trappings of modern life are slowly but surely seeping into the villages. I spotted motor cycles, TVs and DVD players as well as the ubiquitous football shirts in the villages Michael Palin visited. I fear the price for the things you want, are all the other things you don’t want.

Yesterday also included a visit to ‘Fordlandia’, a long abandoned attempt to create an Eldorado in the middle of the Amazon by Ford Motor Company in the 1930’s.


It was pretty much preserved in the state that it was abandoned all those years ago. A remarkable memorial to what the founders hoped would be a little piece of American suburbia slap bang in the middle of the dense Brazilian rain forest. It was eerie.

I also loved the scenes with the boat trips along the Brazil’s mighty rivers. Relaxing in a hammock in the bright sunshine on a gently lilting boat is my idea of a good time and Michael Palin seems to share my view. The trip went up to where the Amazon and the Rio Negro meet creating an incredible two-tone river.

A great travelogue for Brazil.

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”.


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.

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?

The Town that Never Retired – BBC1

9 Oct

An interesting and thought provoking insight into the challenges many of us are going to face in our later years. Nick Hewer and Margaret Munford, better known as the right hand man and woman of Alan Sugar from The Apprentice, set out to find what was it like working through to your seventies.

Scary thought you might think dragging one’s old bones up at seven in the morning and slaving away to six in the evening. Doesn’t bear thinking about. Unfortunately as the programme pointed out that is the reality for many of us as retirement ages are set to rise to the 70s in the coming decades.

So what would it be like? The Apprentice duo got a couple of retirees to work on a Building site, Restaurant, Chocolate Factory and Estate Agents over 2 weeks.  The pensioners acquitted themselves overall admirably, but it was clearly a case of the “the mind was willing, but the body could not hack it”.  To spice up things they also got a couple of kids looking for their first jobs to work alongside the pensioners to see the difference in what they had to offer.

The Chocolate Factory, which was nothing like Will Wonka’s, was mind-numbingly boring to work at. I  have worked in a factory before so I know what it is like.  The youngsters pretty much said “screw this…I am out”, but the older folk are as you expect were more old school, a school were you don’t approach a job with a sense of entitlement or privilege and where there is dignity in all forms of labour. Admirable qualities but you still need to be able pack a target of what seemed like a 100 of boxes of chocolate a day, which they simply could not do.

The other blue collar jobs, the building site and the restaurant, were similar in that the physical demands they required of their staff was the undoing of the oldies, they realised they could no longer put in the hours demanded of them, even though they had the skills needed.

The one real “victory” was at the Estate Agents.  To be a good Estate Agent (if that’s not an oxymoron) you need a certain amount of empathy, develop a aura of trustworthiness, and little or no muscle, and those are skills that do develop with age. Here the elderly lady did come into her own to a degree, although her parking and navigational skills were pretty suspect.

However you can’t but come away with the feeling that if the camera was not there would the employers be so nice and positive about the experiment. I am not so sure.

Am I Scouse-ist?…I can’t stand John Bishop

5 Oct

or his TV programme on BBC1….It is dire. I was going to tag this post with a comedy tag but I am not sure  that’s the right thing to do.



OMG!!! Eastenders was so emosh!!!!

5 Oct

That seemed to be the universal response on twitter to tonight’s episode. It ended in a heart rendering scene where the police and Social Services took teenage mum Lola’s baby away from her. I haven’t watched EastEnders on a regular basis for years but two things about the soap never change.

Firstly no other soap does abject misery and despair like the script writers of ‘enders.  From the Arthur Fowler’s Christmas day breakdown to Tiffany’s death on New Years day. If you feel everything in life is going too swimmingly and you need to balance it of with a little bit of misery then ‘enders is just what you need.

Secondly EastEnders is like having a “Friend With Benefits”. It requires little or no commitment. You pop in out and out, go away for months at a time and the story line are such that you can pretty much pick up from where you left it .

Tonight’s episode was no different I got into the plot pretty quickly and was served a man size does of misery at the the end with the a scene where the lady from Social Service and two extremely burly police men decided that Lola’s baby had to be taken into care being pretty poignant to put it mildly.

There is often a helpline advertised at the end of episodes like this. I am pretty sure they get their biggest call volumes after episodes like this.