Joyful and Triumphant

The new series of Doctor Who ends tonight. I know you don’t come here for Dr Who blogging (you go here, instead, and hasn’t he been doing a good job?), but it’s all been so much fun that I wanted to enthuse in this space ahead of this evening’s finale.

I missed the first episode, watched the second out of a sense of obligatory nostalgia and sort of enjoyed it, but didn’t think it was great; more or less ditto episode three; but the aliens taking over Downing Street were great fun, the first Dalek episode was one of the great TV programmes of all time, ever, and since those shows I’ve been quite uncritical about the whole thing and enjoyed every minute of it all (though I missed episode eight, alas).

It’s been splendid, and I hope there’s a lot more of it to come.

I think (though I may be forgetting something) that it’s also the first time in almost fifteen years that I’ve followed a TV show from week to week, so becoming a regular viewer feels like a very strange thing to be doing (though I think most people find this quite normal). Usually I only watch news and sports programmes on the telly, and when I watch episodes of things, it’s tended in recent years to be from the DVDs (Inspector Morse, Father Ted, Rising Damp, that kind of thing).

TV Heaven

FA Cup Final… a new episode of Dr Who… The Eurovision Song Contest… I know how I’m spending the rest of the day.

All we need for complete TV perfection would be to have a night of General Election coverage after the end of the Eurovision. But we’ve just had one of those.

Right, they’ve just had “Abide with Me” (which I want at my funeral). Better go and start watching.

Jerry Springer the Aftermath

I woke up this morning expecting to find news reports of BBC Television Centre having been burned down by Christians and Mail-readers, what with the unprecendented levels of outrage, etc. That would have been dramatic, but it was not to be.

And wasn’t JS:tO fun? (Not to be confused with JSTOR, which is useful but not much fun.) I saw it last Summer in the West End, and thought it transferred very well onto the small screen with two exceptions, one minor, one major.

The minor problem was that it seemed to me that Jerry’s inner Valkyrie didn’t work so well on TV. The inner Valkyrie is great — everyone should have one — but she makes a far greater impact in the theatre.

The major problem was that the real stars of the show are Satan’s shoes, and they were barely visible in the TV broadcast. Satan has a splendid pair of red shoes that create a fine devillish-hooves effect, and which deserved several lingering close-ups, which they didn’t get. Instead, often the shots of Satan either cut him off at the knees or had his shoes in shadow. You could see them a few times during the show, but not nearly enough. And that, for me, was a problem.

(I also can’t find a photo of a shod Satan to link to on the intrawebmesh in order to prove my point, which shows that the conspiracy to deny the viewing public their rights runs deep, alternatively that I’m not terribly efficient with Google Images.)

I hear that the Birmingham Rep has a slot to fill now that they’ve pulled one of their productions. Perhaps JS:tO could play there for a bit?

I Didn’t Get Where I Am Today By Knowing The Difference Between Foreign Countries

So farewell then, John Barron: obituary in today’s Guardian.

By one of those funny coincidences, Jo and I have just finished watching our way through The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, two episodes at a time, me for the second time, she for the first, on DVD. And there is still much joy to be had from John Barron’s performance as C.J., boss of Sunshine Desserts…

C.J.: We aren’t one of those dreadful firms where people can engage willy- nilly in hanky-panky with their secretaries.�Reginald Perrin: Certainly not, C.J.

C.J.: Neither Mrs. C.J. nor I have ever engaged willy- nilly in hanky-panky with their secretaries.�

Perrin: I imagine not, C.J.

More scripts, etc., here.

University Challenge

I’ve never watched it myself, but I’m told that Magdalen College won University Challenge last night, which means that I’ll have even more undergraduate application files to wade through than usual at the end of the year…

Less well observed than Magdalen’s unprecedented domination of the modern [i.e., Paxman] incarnation of University Challenge (three wins in the last half dozen years or so) is this College’s almost comparable domination of the world of politics commentary. In addition to providing just about the entire senior editorial staff of The Economist, there’s a surprising number of Magdalen people running politics blogs out there, including current undergraduates (Uninformed Jason and at least one other), former undergraduates (Matthew Turner, Andrew Sullivan), current postgraduates (David Adesnik of the Oxblog), former political theory tutors (Chris Bertram of Crooked Timber), current political theory tutors (well, me), and other assorted hangers-on (Mike Smithson of Political Betting). There may be many more…

John Craven’s Newsround

An excellent birthday yesterday — the 30th anniversary of John Craven’s Newsround, the people’s panda propaganda machine. Excitingly, John Craven himself was back to co-present the programme yesterday, for the first time in thirteen years — which induced me to watch for the first time in almost twenty. (It’s still very good). And they played the original theme music, which they seem to have jettisoned at some point with the passing of the years. The BBC website has its own tribute pages, from which this fine image from 1978 has been usefully culled.


There’s some entertainment over at the ever-dreadful CNN:

“A gaffe,” Michael Kinsley once observed, “occurs not when a politician lies, but when he tells the truth.”

CNN made a terrible gaffe over the weekend and told a terrific truth.

It was refreshing to see somebody finally spit out what we all know but what the networks go to ludicrous lengths to deny: They hire and promote news stars based on looks and sex appeal.

About 10 times over the weekend, CNN ran an ad promoting Paula Zahn’s new morning show, “American Morning,” with a male announcer purring, “Where can you find a morning news anchor who’s provocative, super-smart, oh yeah, and just a little sexy?”

The word sexy then flared onto the screen, accompanied by a noise that sounded like a zipper unzipping.

The ad’s naked truth stunned television insiders. “If they’re sexy, so be it,” said Don Hewitt, executive producer of “60 Minutes.” “It ain’t necessary to say it. It’s undignified.

“Whatever Paula brings to television,” he said, “it’s despite the fact that she’s nicely put together. It diminishes a first-rate woman journalist to label her sexy. Why doesn’t CNN say that Wolf Blitzer is sexy? He must be sexy to somebody.”

On Monday the embarrassed CNN chief, Walter Isaacson, yanked the spot. “It was a bad mistake,” he said. “I’m really sorry. The promotion department didn’t get it cleared. You can say sexy about a man but not about a woman.”

A CNN spokesman explained that the noise was not supposed to be a zipper sound, but more like a needle scratching across an LP record — a sound effect sometimes used on “Ally McBeal.” …

From Maureen Dowd’s column, in yesterday’s New York Times.