Archive for the ‘ TV ’ Category

The Valleys: Why Wales Fumes.

Okay, perhaps the second part of that headline needs to be qualified as ‘why the political community and well to do celebrities of Wales fume’, because there are no shortage of people in Wales who look on at The Valleys and nod with a smirk of agreement. You see for many in Wales, The Valleys on MTV is not a reality television programme designed to shock its viewers into tuning in week after week, it is more akin to a documentary summarising the average Friday and Saturday night out in Cardiff. Most of those living in south Wales will long be familiar with the weekly flooding of Newport and Cardiff railway stations, as hoards from the valleys come down for a night out. It might not always be clever, but it is certainly not out of the ordinary. Yet we have the likes of Chris Bryant and Leanne Wood of the political spectrum lamenting how unrepresentative such scenes are of the valleys, and plenty of Welsh celebs pointing the finger of judgement. Perhaps the outcry over The Valleys can best be summarised as such: everyone knows this sort of thing happens, but we’d rather the rest of the world didn’t know.

And perhaps such attitudes are not unfair, after all, balanced representations are not the name of MTV’s game. Where for instance is the documentary on the communities in the valleys, as opposed to concentrating on people who don’t want to be there. Where is the reality television programme on a valleys rugby team, a valleys choir, a valleys community project? Okay, none of these things might be 100% representative of valleys life, but they are part of the story, and MTV’s offering is certainly not 100% representative (things are not great, but equally they are not that bad). And this is where the real concerns of Bryant and Wood should fall, not that such a programme exists, but that there is no voice for everything that represents the opposite of a cultural cesspool where fucking in a nightclub corner is the limit of ambition.

For instance, type ‘the valleys’ into a search engine. Now, imagine yourself as a potential investor, someone considering bringing business to this place that they have heard of, these valleys. Wikipedia entry aside, potential investor, or tourist indeed, will be met with a block page of reference to the MTV production of the same name, all of which highlight the depraved, base and generally despicable aspects of the programme. A ‘cast member’ of the programme was interviewed in WalesOnline this weekend, where they confidently asserted “people need to realise we’re not in there to represent Wales or the valleys as a whole”. Excellent to hear, sadly though, that is exactly what they are doing.

Chris Bryant and Leanne Wood know perfectly well that the MTV show reflects some of what goes on in both Cardiff and wider valleys communities on a weekend. They also know there are many things in both places that are the exact opposite. But the other thing they are only to well aware of, is that even amongst those who have and never will watch The Valleys, they will have heard of the programme, and this is what they will think of first when the area comes up in conversation.

This programme is clearly exploitative. It is exploiting the idiots lining up to take part in the programme, and the idiots who lap it up as some example of societal ambition – put simply girls and boys, make a career out of waving your genitals around in public, and you won’t have a very long career in anything…apart from porn perhaps, but you’ve already stooped lower than that, because you have found yourself on MTV, something much worse than pornography, arguably worse than genocide…perhaps. But it is also exploiting the name of the valleys, an area historically exploited, abandoned, and then done all over once more. The valleys are not some sort of magical rose garden full of sparkling bunny rabbits granting wishes, with unicorns dancing in ponds of crystal water, they are, in places, pretty rough. The last thing these communities need is for the masters of youth distraction to stomp in with hammer and nail, and close the coffin on the area once and for all. That is what Bryant and Wood are scared of, that is what they fear from this programme, and why they and others are so angry that this car crash of a television programme exists at all.

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BBC Royal Watch: Unharmed and Time to Panic!

Frantic activity in the halls of the BBC this morning as dramatic news regarding occasional Nazi impersonator Prince Harry broke, as it emerged that he was caught in a savage firefight while serving his country abroad. Although details were initially sketchy, it became apparent during the course of the morning that the Prince, arguably the most important member of the royal family* was unharmed. While based at a camp in Violentistan, the Prince was reported as having possibly defended his comrades from a savage attack. Although it cannot at this stage, or at any point in the future, be confirmed that the Prince, having run out of ammunition, picked up a stick and waved it with gusto in the face of his aggressors, it seems almost certain that the young hero did indeed defend the camp, while others cowered around him, possibly praying to the Queen for deliverance in their time of need.

Hero Harry Spits in the Face of the Taliban!

The BBC was quick to repeat that none of these details could be verified, but wanted to make sure that the loyal subjects of the British Empire could sip their Earl Grey tea at breakfast, safe in the knowledge that their Prince was unharmed, and that possible nothing at all had happened to him, certainly news worthy of topping every bulletin throughout the course of the day.

In other news, two US soldiers died in the same attack, but this is really not the sort of thing that the good people of Britain want to hear about over breakfast…so say the good ol’ BBC. God save the Prince and whatnot.

*located in a war-torn region where he can’t embarrass anyone.

The BBC, Boat Races, and the ‘Bastard’ (if you ask the Beeb) in the River.

I forget, is it against the law in Britain to hate rowing? Well it often feels that way, especially if you rely on the BBC for any of your day to day news coverage. I’ve never fully understood the appeal. Oh the physical endeavour is impressive enough, rowing, at the sort of speeds and the distances involved is not something to be sniffed at, mores the point, professional rowers tend to be monsters and individuals best not to be taunted regarding their sport. But when it comes to a visual spectacle, well, it’s like watching long distances running – repetitive and largely incident free. Well, whatever your position might be, it’s difficult to argue with the fact that rowing is a bit of a television sporting obsession with the BBC, and as a result, it is perceived to be a television sporting obsession with the nation as well.

This could not have been illustrated better than the news coverage offered by BBC Breakfast today. Repeatedly and in increasing detail, we heard more and more about a savage, wretched little man, who dared to disrupt the great ‘British’ tradition of the ‘Boat Race’. For those who might have missed the story (and if you are British, then surely for shame, were you not watching live, and then the full race again straight after, already purchased the collector’s edition dvd complete with oar cam footage?!), this relates to a man, portrayed by the BBC as an anti-elitism protestor, who took it upon himself to have a dip in the river, coinciding with the passing of two university student filled boats. The race was suspended, restarted, during which a hapless Oxford cox ignored repeated warnings to actually steer her ship, and then crashed…

The crash is irrelevant, the man is interesting. Well, the man is not particularly interesting at all, but the television coverage the following day certainly was. Every fifteen minutes, viewers of BBC News 24 were treated to more coverage of a man’s head bobbing about in water, ducking under some oars. ‘How could this individual be so rotten as to ruin such a wonderful British past time’, the BBC seemed to be asking. After all, this was a story that put the Syrian atrocities into a state of insignificance, in the eyes of the BBC that is. Put in context, this was the equivalent of a streaker running on to the field in the Manchester football derby and the game being suspended for a short period of time…not exactly headline material, not exactly more important than national genocide, so what makes boats so special?

The obsessional enquiry betrayed the very elitism that was being contested by the lone figure who was hauled from the river. Just as with the monarchy, this ‘cream of the crop’ celebration of all things well to do that is the Oxford – Cambridge boat race, is another example of the way in which the BBC panders to its upper crust minority viewers – insisting upon its audience that this sport is something that the nation wants to watch, a nation of whom the vast majority will never be able to aspire to participate in the japery of university row boat larks that is so insistently forced upon them. We’ll get it all over again in the blasted Olympics…

So what have we learnt from all this – that the BBC is desperate to appease the most well off 5% of the country in its coverage? That’s not something that we’ve learnt, we’ve always known that. No, what we have learnt, is that a boat race is far more entertaining with a ‘head-smashed in with oar wish’ (not as catchy as death wish, but it will have to suffice) protestor than it is without, and long may this new, very British tradition continue!

Sex, Stratigraphy and Stripy Jumpers.

So an era ends for archaeology on television, and with it comes the demise of the much loved stripy jumpers made famous by Mick Aston. Yes, the bearded master of television archaeology is leaving Time Team, to be replaced by the breasts, errr, sorry, I meant to say ‘talents’ of Mary-Ann Ochota. With an impressive publishing track record comprising of opinion pieces on websites and exciting comments on reality TV shows, Ochota really brings a level of chest, errr, sorry again, extensive archaeological experience to, what was it again, ah yes, a show about field archaeology.

Now, it is worth stressing that Time Team has long had an issue with gender representation during its productions, with the female archaeology profession often being left as backdrop figures, there but not really there, doing something, but never anything terribly important. So perhaps it should be celebrated that we now have an exciting female presence at the heart of the programme. Except of course Channel 4 have gone down their now traditional route of ‘breasts makes best’, relying on the arbitrary notion of the ‘attractive’ ahead of any recognised credentials. British archaeology is jam packed with world leading female archaeologists with competent track records of to-camera work on television (and radio). Why then did a programme about field archaeology bring in someone with a highly limited background in field archaeology, to front a programme about field archaeology?

It goes much further than that, because in one fell swoop, Channel 4 are able to address both the gender imbalance of Time Team, and the ethnic imbalance present in Time Team’s ‘white apart from Raksha Dave’ team. All good things on paper perhaps, but one can’t help but be concerned with the way in which they have gone about it. Indeed, if you wanted to put a female, ethnic voice at the front of the show, backed up with some sense of experience, why not promote Raksha Dave to the front of the show? Well, perhaps Dave didn’t have quite the right shape, I, errr, of course mean, right credentials, to front the programme…

Did Raksha Dave meet all the criteria to present the show? Probably, except for the dress size criteria perhaps...

With a production commitment to reducing the screen time of the more established archaeologists , the real question that needs to be asked, is what is the future of Time Team after the current efforts to ‘sex-up’ the show? Well, the plans are already in place for future series.

Series 21: Time Team Eliminator

Over the space of three months, vote to save your favourite archaeologist from elimination. Who will be left to have the final honour of re-excavating Silbury Hill for no obvious archaeological merit!

Series 22: Time Team Extreme

In an attempt to tap into the underused potential of the briefly lived series ‘Extreme Archaeology’, the Time Team crew are dropped in to undertake rescue archaeology in war zones: who will find the best Babylonian burial site, who will survive, tune in and find out!

Series 23: Time Team Death Match

What do you do with a complete set of freshly excavated Roman military weapons, well put them to good use of course! The Time Team crew is split into regional teams and using their expertise and degraded Roman weapons, must fight for the ultimate prize, survival and a place in series 24!

Okay, so the reservations might be a little extreme, but the motivations behind the re-boot of Time Team are pretty transparent and ultimately disappointing. The supposed stated goals of the changes could have been achieved in a way that did not require the clear dumbing down of televisions only regular platform for British archaeology. We can hope that it works, because the field needs the coverage, but this direction may well do more to kill the show than give it a new lease of life.

Either way, Mick Aston will be missed from television screens, and his jumpers will, quite rightly, pass into legend.

*EyeOnWales would be happy to offer a full retraction should Mary-Ann Ochota present every episode in one of Mick’s jumpers, and never once find herself in need of a long, lopeing, bend forward Charlie Dimmock style to camera pout, if it happens even once, the deal is off!

RWC 2011: A Final Say on ITV: Steve Ryder Cares.

Given yesterday’s commentary from ITV you would have been forgiven for thinking that the British Isles had been the subject of some terrible natural disaster. A mood of misery overwhelmed the poor men in the ITV studios, as they were left with the heavy burden of having to relay the devastating news to a defeated nation. Brave, brave Steve Ryder was there to hold our hands though and nurse us through this difficult time.

Ryder wanted us all to know that they in the studio shared our pain, us poor viewers were not alone in that difficult time, that he would do his best to help us come to term with the grieving process, and that no matter how bad things seemed in the moment of that crushing defeat, we could take heart from the fact that the commentary team suffered the same agonies as those being endured by the television audience at home. But wait, what we were all supposed to be so sad about…?

In one final, epic effort of indulgence that firmly shoved two fingers up to the other home nations, anyone of an impartial nature, and certainly to any French fans unfortunate enough to be left relying on ITV for their World Cup coverage, ITV veritably vomited their disappointment that England, World Champions elect, had failed in their duty to the nation, to overwhelm all opposition with the most mundane of performances. Yet, many of those tuning in were Welsh and Irish, many of those tuning in were in no need of a comforting pat on the back from Steve Ryder, not in the slightest.

It would be interesting to garner the views of the English rugby community regarding ITV. Do they love it? Do they find every nonsensical reference to England regardless of their relevance to the subject matter, a moment for giddy joy? Do they wonder why, given the enthusiasm that ITV have for their beloved Red Rose, why on earth so many other non England fans have such an issue with them? After all, ITV kept telling us how good England were, they kept assuring everyone that England were certain to waltz into the final. Well, whatever they think, the rest of us hate it. We hate the constant talking up of a team that offered nothing, we hate the constant references to the English during games not involving them, we hate detailed analysis of their cliff jumping leisure pursuits while we should be talking about other rugby teams and other rugby matches.

You never know, we non English might have found the capacity for some sympathy for England’s demise, had we not had their faces forced into our living rooms during every single unit of World Cup coverage. Now, we are delighted that they are gone, we can revel in the fact that ITV have no legitimate reason to talk about the English at all from this point on (yet we know they will, again and again and again). We have no sympathy, because we never wanted them to win in the first place. Yet having been told by ITV week after week, game after game, that we should be backing England, that we should care about what they did on their days off, that we should give a damn about whether an aging flyhalf can kick a ball in a straight line or not – only served to reaffirm and consolidate our position, that we really don’t care about any of that, not one bit.

So thank you Steve Ryder, thank you for looking after us as you presumed our state of despair. I can assure you though that we were far from despairing, we were jumping, bounding out of our seats as France sealed victory, and laughing at your miserable face as you did your best to convince us that we should be sad.

Yet, we should be sad about one thing. Come the next World Cup, hosted, of course, by England, ITV will be there covering the whole thing once again. Nothing will have changed, and the four yearly cycle of having a whole host of new reasons to hate ITV will present themselves all over again.

Bugger off ITV.

S4C: Plaid Find Their Inner Gwynfor.

Finally, after years of being nice and keeping their heads under the parapet, Plaid have decided at their annual conference that they actually have a voice, and some guts behind it as well – at least from a policy point of view. Of course it is yet to be seen how many of the Plaid delegates will actually go through with the proposed boycott of the licence fee in order to protect the current status of S4C, but the mere fact that the proposal has been supported is an indication that Plaid are finding a little of their former strength and conviction.

 

Most with an interest in the future of S4C will be well aware of the threatened hunger strike pitched by prominent Plaid politician Gwynfor Evans in 1980, and the key role it played in the creation of the essential Welsh language channel. While the consensus from Plaid today is not one that goes quite as far as Gwynfor’s plan, it is one that shows a degree of intent not seen from the core party for some time. The key distinction here is that the party membership are actually committing to breaking the law.

 

TV licence payment is a legal requirement, not paying it, or any fines that follow an initial reluctance to pay the licence, can result in imprisonment. Make no mistake about it, Wales’ nationalist party is inciting its membership to break the law, and potentially risk going to jail, and good for them. Again, it waits to be seen how many of those who raised their hands in favour of the motion would actually see through such measures, but one hopes that a statistically significant proportion of members would actually go through with their commitment, to make the sort of difference that Gwynfor did by risking, not his freedom, but his health and his very life in order to achieve his goals for the protection of Wales.

 

For far too long Plaid have been content with gains, small, measureable political gains, a syndrome seen most clearly in the last Assembly election campaign where point scoring became the core of the parties strategy. This move marks a new sense of intent. This is not a move that will appeal to the broadest range of voters in Wales, but a move that will appeal to its core voters, and its historical core intentions, fighting for Wales. We might hope that this is a move that will signal a fresh start to Plaid policies. Remembering where the party comes from, and remembering its core Welsh nationalist goals are essential for the party to grow and reclaim its position as the second party in Wales. Under Ieuan Wyn Jones, the party tasted government, and concentrated on working with what is had, rather than fighting for what it wants. Now as one of the true victories of Plaid’s history, S4C, is under threat, the party now rises to fight for what it might lose. Perhaps this will be the start of the party reclaiming its desire to fight for what it wants once more, though actions still speak louder than words.

 

Hating ITV at RWC2011.

Well, it can’t be said that I didn’t try. I knew from the moment it was announced that ITV would yet again be poised to cover this Rugby World Cup (and the next one to boot) that it would be awful. Yet, as the opening ceremony geared up to its spectacular opening, number 3 was pressed on the remote, and we found ourselves sitting in front of ITV’s coverage. Granted, this was done out of an act of kindness for my non-Welsh speaking partner who was struggling with the commentary on S4C, but for whatever reason, I found myself giving ITV a chance. It did not take long for the hate to bubble to the surface.

Opening ceremony – you don’t get many of them, because you don’t get many Rugby World Cups, yet ITV took this as an opportunity to cut back to inane babble in the studio. Tune in for the opening ceremony, and get four blokes sitting down blowing smoke up each others’ arses. Off to S4C then for the rest of the ceremony. My partner may not have understood everything that was going on, but then again, despite being fully furnished with the Welsh language, it was a struggle to really explain what was going on anyway, opening ceremonies being as bizarrely devoid of logic as they always are.

For the start of the game, we were back with ITV, and it only took 13 minutes for the most irritating trait of ITV commentary to creep out. That was the time marker for the first random England reference, as Phil Vickery became a brief talking point. I challenge viewers of this tournament to find a game when ITV will not mention England during the coverage. Go on, I dare you, put yourself through the whole tournament and see if ITV can hold its tongue about the only nation it gives two craps about!

The commentary team generally though were as hopeless as we expected. Forget the irrelevant England reference, explain the tennis reference. Richard Krajicek? Richard bloody Krajicek? Tennis fans don’t talk about about Richard Krajicek anymore, so why the hell does he deserve a place in the Rugby World Cup lexicon? Andy Gomarsall as second pundit was just headache inducing. The most flat, pointless self referential gibber based nonsense heard from the commentary box since, well, since the last World Cup. ‘Go forward’, ‘great offload’, ‘thought that was harsh’ ‘guff’, ‘guff’, ‘guff’. If there was only an option to switch the commentary off and just enjoy the crowd noise…if only. He couldn’t resist chattering in the second half about England’s world cup final defeat when a TMO call came…shut up Gomarsall you irrelevant little bastard, just shut up, You were a terribly overrated scrum half during your career, and it is clear ITV has made the same mistake regarding your commentary skills.

I know I’ve started this tournament biased, I hate ITV rugby commentary, I hate ITV sports commentary generally (I gave up following Formula 1 for around 3 years thanks to them). But that is their fault, they are the one who are consistently awful, and two thirds into their coverage on day one, nothing has changed. Fortunately, my partner has stepped out, so back to S4C we go. Insightful commentary, a general knowledge of the game, even a general knowledge of the players that goes beyond the match programme blurbs shoved in front of the ITV team. Just such a standard that goes above and beyond anything that the goons of the No.3 channel has to offer. Thank you S4C, and sorry that you can only show us a few games – certainly everyone you do show will have an audience in this house – and we’ll just have to endure ITV for the rest of it.

Just to summarise, if good reader you hadn’t got it already – I bloody hate ITV!