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2010 catch-up: Television

Posted: January 3rd, 2011, by Marceline Smith

Doctor Who has been great ever since new showrunner Steven Moffat brought on a younger, more eccentric Doctor.  And the idea of stranding him on Earth, a-la the Jon Pertwee years, and requiring him to save the day using only his wits and the help of his new companion (Martin Freeman) has genuinely invigorated the show.  (Did you see what I did there?  Did you?) (Alex McChesney)

Wonders of the Solar System
My Twitter friends spent a good deal of time this year debating the general hotness of Prof. Brian Cox without bothering to mention that he was presenting a TV show about the Solar System! Priorities, people! I love the Solar System, having been one of those kids who wants to be an astronaut. I have a telescope and everything. Anyway, having immediately caught up on iPlayer, this was awesome, and definitely my favourite find of the year. He gets to travel all over the world to weird and wonderful places that help explain some of the amazing details of our solar system, from Saturn’s rings of ice to Titan’s liquid methane seas. He even gets to fly up to the very edge of the atmosphere. And Saturn is still my favourite planet if you’re interested – it’s totally got the best moons. (Marceline Smith)

An emotional attachment to Coronation Street has snuck up on me this year. I realised this when they brought back Vera for Jack’s death scene. Trailed in advance, crudely shot and crassly sentimental but the force of 25 years’ casual exposure to these 2 characters won me over. Was I weeping because for them, or for the lost years of my childhood they represent? (Stan Tontas)

Northern Exposure
I’ve been watching all of the DVD box sets. Love it. Heart-warming! (Simon Minter)

If you weren’t aware, and if you live outside the US you probably aren’t, there was a whole new series of Futurama in 2010. Bringing back a canceled show is a bit risky but this is pretty much brilliant – a few clunker episodes at the beginning but also some of the best Futurama episodes ever. Go find! (Marceline Smith)

I haven’t really watched any TV programmes this year, so my default vote goes to Columbo, which is the best thing ever to have been on telly. (Stu Fowkes)

Christmas Catch-up: Television

Posted: December 31st, 2009, by Marceline Smith

Harry Hill’s TV Burp
I can’t select Top Gear for the 10th year running so I’ll opt for Harry Hill’s TV Burp. Laugh out loud funny and genuinely one of the most subversive things on TV. The close-up shot of a pre-vomit Harry with a layer of sweat on his head watching the River Cottage guy cut up a squid in a bath almost put me in hospital. (Chris Summerlin)

Masterchef: The Professionals
Some kind of cookery show, most probably Masterchef: The Professionals, would have to be my choice. Can’t get enough of cookery shows, they fill my head with ideas of recipes and dishes which I will never make. Raymond’s final choice of winner on this year’s The Restaurant was totally wrong, though. (Simon Minter)

Curb Your Enthusiasm
Consistently shows Larry David to be the less repressed, more socially inept Me. Having had a fair bit of attention already on diskant, the latest season is pretty dark and the coincidences coincide too obviously, but this is still classic Curb. With women’s underwear, kiddie lemonade and piss stains on Jesus. (Pascal Ansell)

In the last six months I have managed to squeeze out all six seasons of Entourage and I really am in awe of the feel good affect that this show possesses. I guess I allowed the show to pass by me for six seasons due to the fact that for face value the characters are dicks and unlikable but once you get properly introduced to them (and the show) you suddenly realize that you are viewing the same kind of male team dynamic akin to that of Stand By Me, albeit a Hollywood version. There is a surprising amount of depth to this show and truly you begin to learn in great detail about the Hollywood system. Also in Jeremy Piven playing Ari Gold here is another antihero in the same vein as Malcolm Tucker, a character that any sensible reasoning dictates you should dislike but ultimately you secretly want to be like. (JGRAM)

Clearly, I have been on a JJ Abrams kick this year. S5 of LOST was AMAZING, managing to do time travel in a thrilling and hilarious manner while still making sense and building the mythology to the ultimate point of anticipation. The only thing stopping me from going insane waiting for the final season in February is that, well, it’s the final season and I don’t know what I’ll do without LOST. Fringe has become a reasonable stand-in though, becoming more preposterous by the week (alternate worlds! shapeshifters! Leonard Nimoy!) while John Noble as the mischievous mad scientist Walter Bishop steals every scene. Having been wallowing in Abrams’ previous series Alias recently, I worry that Fringe is going to topple into similar (entertaining) nonsense sometime soon, once they try and make sense of all the crazy cool stuff they’ve just been throwing at it, but we shall see. (Marceline Smith)

Summer catch-up 2009: Television

Posted: July 27th, 2009, by Marceline Smith

As a LOST nerd, obviously I was interested to see this,  JJ Abrams’ new show about “fringe science”, but have had to use nefarious means since no good US TV seems to ever get shown on normal UK telly any more. To begin with, it’s almost hilarious how many of JJ Abrams’ stock trademarks pop up, particularly the floating 3D place names and all the lens flare, but it turned out to be a pretty fun stupid sci-fi show, owing a lot to the X-Files.  The Pacey/Denethor match-up is definitely the highlight for me, though it’s all pretty great if you turn about half your brain off. I mean, it has teleportation, flesh-melting disasters and a man who turns into a giant hedgehog. Must get hold of the last bunch of episodes. [Marceline Smith]

The Thick Of It
I don’t think I’ve watched anything at all on telly since March, so I’ll have to say The Thick Of It by default. Cos it’s great and I did it backwards by watching In The Loop first. Anything with such a consistently high level of inventive swearing deserves plaudits. [Stuart Fowkes]

The Street
Unusually for me, I’m excited that a TV programme is coming back. No polis, no doctors, no lawyers, no explosions, no superpowers, no demands for a whole day of my life to follow story-arcs. The Street focuses on the folk in a single row of houses, one per episode but not (in the ones I’ve seen) in a kitchen sink all-working-class-lives-is-misery way. So hopefully the new series won’t suck. [Stan Tontas]

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
How do I go about explaining this black-hearted gem of a comedy series? Basically, there are 4 key characters, who run a bar in Philadelphia. That the bar is barely frequented by customers, let alone its publicans, is neither here nor there. Each protagonist is convinced that they’re a loveable character in a mildly amusing sitcom series, when in fact they’re all completely self-centred assholes with some major issues. Danny DeVito turns up in Series 2 as the father figure and manages to somehow upstage all of them in his complete and utter cuntery. It’s all incredibly hilarious and surprisingly close-to-the-bone stuff for an American sitcom – “like a more twisted Seinfeld”, I’m told. Unfortunately it’s been fairly well buried on UK networks, but I strongly encourage you to seek it out. [Dave Stockwell]

Yo Gabba Gabba
With parenthood comes the depressing realisation that I am now a member of a demographic worth pursuing by evil marketing types.  “Yo Gabba Gabba” is this kids show aimed a preschoolers, right?  Except it isn’t.  A three year old will watch any old rubbish with bright colours and loud music, and will beg mum and dad for the corresponding merchandise when told to.  TV execs know this, and know that it’s the parents they have to convince.  “Yo Gabba Gabba” is a show targeted with expert precision at hipsters with young children.  The lessons are the same ones we learned from Sesame Street et al – be nice to your friends, share your toys, blah blah blah – but these are accompanied by music from act such as The Shins and Low, and surreal appearances by the likes of Biz Markie and Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh.  In today’s episode, Jack Black flew in on a tiny talking motorcycle and danced with the main characters while wearing a skin-tight orange tracksuit and furry hat.  I am not making this up.  This is the show that, in twenty to thirty years time, our children will drunkenly reminisce about, while maintaining that “those guys must have taken soooo many drugs”, just as our generation continues to do with The Magic Roundabout and its contemporaries.  Our son is too young to be that into it, but he’ll glance at it if it’s on.  His mum and dad, however, have fallen for it hook, line and sinker. [Alex McChesney]

Entourage is the best TV programme I’ve seen in years. It seems to have been carefully constructed to appeal to me exactly and after watching it I’m convinced that the life for me is that of an international film star, living in Hollywood, being driven around in a Hummer yet still retaining the personality of a decent, nice guy. [Simon Minter]

30 Rock/Saturday Night Live
30 Rock has been the show to make me laugh out loud most since Arrested Development.  Starring Tiny Fey and Alec Baldwin along with the amazing Tracy Morgan it is a half fictionalised account of the behind the scenes happenings of a weekly live comedy show much like Saturday Night Live.  Indeed much like how Eastenders cast members usually end up popping up in The Bill here many of the cast members, past and present, from Saturday Night Live appear as the events off screen are revealed as more surreal as the ones on screen.  There are some truly snappy and amazing lines coming from these characters in addition to great guest spots from Rip Torn (Larry Sanders), Will Arnett (Arrested Development), Edie Falco (The Sopranos) and Fred Armisen who as a suspected terrorist neighbour puts in a great paranoid performance.  At the same time this past season (number 34) of Saturday Night Live has been the funniest I have seen in years.  Again thankfully making me laugh out loud more than anything else Armisen’s Obama is great, Fey’s Sarah Palin was legendary on the internet and in Seth Meyers on the Weekend Update desk they have a writer, satirist and social commentator to compete with Jon Stewart.  Elsewhere Kristen Wiig is one of the finest female performers ever to appear on the show with her endless line of creepy and hilarious characters and  Michaela Watkins “Angie Tempura” blogger character and her “Bitchpleeze.com” website is a definite personal favourite in addition to Kenan Thompson (from Kenan And Kel back in the day) making a surprise and flying transition into adult comedy (especially on “Scared Straight” and as Charles Barkley).  The season finale hosted by Will Ferrell saw the return of his Celebrity Jeopardy sketch and his renowned verbal sparring with Sean Connery.  The UK has never known how to treat/broadcast this amazing show so thank god for torrents.  Additionally I have loved Californication, In Treatment and anything Charlie Brooker touches. [JGRAM]

Mid Nineties Gold

Posted: September 30th, 2008, by Chris S

You Tube Gold, having something of a nostalgia-trip today but how cracking are some of these tunes?




Love this song. The guitar is so bendy. I think I saw Scarce once but unfortunately my brain is shot through like Swiss Cheese and I can’t decide if I dreamt it or not. Phil Welding swears he saw Page & Plant play the Ballroom in Nottingham and there is NO WAY that happened. Mind you, I only know I saw the Jesus Lizard because I can pick me out in the footage from TV show The Beat.




If these guys had done less speed and cider and slowed it down they’d have sounded like Neil Young. Of course that means I wouldn’t have dug them in 1993.  More from The Word in a moment…

Continue reading »

Mmmm white diamonds lovely

Posted: August 24th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

Some ideas people come up with make no sense but they don’t see it.

I appreciate that there are 2 ways to increase profit from a product. You sell more, or you sell more expensively. So any ridiculous item is made to seem luxurious, from bog roll to fabric softener.

But I think some kind of limit has been reached with White Diamond & Lotus Flower-scented washing powder. As far as I know, lotus flowers were the ancient Greeks’ version of heroin and diamonds are solid lumps of carbon that don’t emit chemicals and can therefore have no smell.

I decided to investigate.

I thought that perhaps there’d been a printing error and that it wasn’t the smell of white diamonds, but the smell of the jakey’s favourite £3 tipple White Lightning. (Cider is, after all, pretty trendy these days.)

Alas no. I had a sniff in the supermarket this afternoon and can exclusively reveal that what White Diamond & Lotus Flowers smells like is… Continue reading »

Summer catch-up: Television and radio

Posted: June 28th, 2008, by Marceline Smith

Densha Otoko (Train Man)
I bought this off eBay thinking it was the film my sister saw on the plane to Japan last year but it turned out to be the TV series. The Japanese seem very big on extending everything until there is a manga, film, TV drama and anime. It’s the (based on a) true story of an otaku (geek) who stands up to a drunken man on a train who is harassing some women. The pretty girl sends him a thank you gift and Train Man posts on his geeky internet forum for advice on how to interact with her and get a date. Obviously, much hilarity ensues but it’s all very sweet and touching, and all the forum losers learn some valuable life lessons about interacting with your fellow humans. I’m only about half way through but I’m sure it’s all going to work out in the end and she’ll learn to love him and his hilariously nerdy manga obsessed friends for who they really are. Cue blubbing. Not that I’m not already blubbing enough just at the many shots of the JR rail network. I miss Japan! [Marceline Smith]

The Wire
I’m several series in now and waiting for the rest to arrive on DVD. It’s like The Sopranos but with more focus, street-smarts and endlessly cool characters and storylines. Bearing in mind that The Sopranos itself is absolutely outstanding, you can understand how highly I rate this show. [Simon Minter]

I Deal
Although in its fourth series I only discovered ‘I Deal’ this summer. A quirky and endearing little sitcom produced by BBC Comedy North and Baby Cow Productions (home to Gavin and Stacey and The Mighty Boosh). Johnny Vegas stars as small-time dope dealer Moz. Who lives in a Salford bedsit. The entire series takes place in his flat, the hall outside, his timid neighbour Judith’s flat, (Joanna Neary) It revolves around the eclectic array of recurring characters that come to visit Moz to buy cannabis, socialise or both. Moz is a likeable character  who sees himself as providing a crucial service to the community only dealing weed to a group of around 20 or 30 friends and acquaintances, who are a collection of oddballs and misfits. Players include Jenny the childminder (Sinead Matthews): One sandwich short of a picnic, she is dubbed Carol Laudanum by Moz’s character.  The most surreal character is Cartoon Head, who is really hard but always wears a cartoon mask and is flanked by sidekick Psycho Paul. Brian (Graham Duff), who also wrote the series, is a camp scally who has a different boyfriend every time he visits. PC (Tom Goodman-Hill) is Moz’s chief supplier, and is involved with his girlfriend Nikki (Nicola Reynolds.) A delightful cameo comes care of veteran comedian Mick Miller who plays Vegas’s absentee dad. He is always promising to bring his expectant son a big TV! Like Phoenix Nights the supporting characters are played by upcoming talent from across the north of England. As the hapless Moz Vegas cuts a Harold Steptoe like figure, you feel sorry for him. He uses pathos and gentle sarcasm brilliantly in a series chock full of surreal chaotic mayhem. Vegas used the analogy in defence of the subject matter of the show saying Steptoe and Son ‘certainly didn’t make you want to become a rag and bone man!’ [Mandy Williams]

The Apprentice / Hollyoaks
I got suckered into The Apprentice. I think it’s the lack of new Top Gear that’s doing it. Hollyoaks also. I only watch Hollyoaks to spot the one-weekly “Hollyoaks shoulder stare” where a character hugs another character but when they look over their shoulder their face gives away their true intentions. Heavy. My housemate ruined the next few weeks by sussing that Newt’s mate who eggs him on to violence is a figment of his imagination. Maybe the writers have been watching Dead Man’s Shoes? Enjoying the England-less European Championships as well. Today, we are all Dutch. [Chris Summerlin]

With LOST finished for the year and S5 of The Wire not due on DVD for a while, I found myself panicking. Srsly, I live for LOST. I’ve been getting up at 8am every Friday to download the latest episodes (I am self-employed btw, I can stay in bed all day if I like) and spent part of Friday evening at ATP watching LOST at Greg Kitten’s chalet. It’s possible I will have chewed my fingers off by the time February 2009 comes around so I need to find some televisual distraction that Amazon DVD rental can pump out at regular intervals and keep me sane. I tried Heroes first, after many recommendations, but found it totally lame in characterisation and storyline. I then turned to 24 which is much more to my liking. The storylines are completely ridiculous, yet so many things happen so fast that you never have much of a chance to pick at any plot holes; it all seems simultaneously predictable and surprising, and stupidly entertaining. Plus there’s like 8 seasons – that should keep me quiet for a while. [Marceline Smith]

Arrested Development / Trailer Park Boys / Japanorama
cheating again, I just can’t keep to one and it is thanks to torrents that ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT season three and every season of TRAILER PARK BOYS are making me laugh out loud.  Additionally downloads of JAPANORAMA fill me with glee and expand my horizons. [JGram]

Doctor Who
As an unreconstructed geek, Doctor Who is still the only tv programme I tune in for regularly.  This series seems to be following the pattern of the last – starting off with frothy, lightweight episodes and getting increasingly dark.  I just hope they don’t ruin the finale with anything as bad as last year’s “the Doctor as Jesus” nonsense. [Alex McChesney]

The Wire
If you don’t already know all about this series you really should do something about it, because it’s the television equivalent of heroin. It really does make me wonder if DVD boxsets were invented purely to allow you to mainline 3 or 4 (hour-long) episodes in a row. And this is coming from someone whose usual TV-watching schedule consists of switching the fucking thing off whenever I can. [Dave Stockwell]

Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour
The highlight of the week for me is Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour. Presented by, Elbow frontman and ‘all-round thinking woman’s beardy crumpet.’ The show is on Radio 6 at 10-12 on a Sunday night or listen again, and again and again.  Guy’s style is incredibly warm and intimate. He entertains with tales from his showbiz lifestyle and chats with up and coming artists such as Jesca Hoop and Emmy the Great. From Band of Horses to Ella Fitzgerald you wont find a better show on radio. He brings a musician’s taste to the playlist so it’s always an education but like listening to tunes with your mate too. The broad range of musical genres is in stark contrast to the usual mainstream offerings . Features include “Wasn’t Les Dawson Great?” His favourites include Ivor Cutler and Talk Talk. While his oracle Beccipedia tells us stuff ‘we need to know.’ Sometimes he even has his mum phone in to tell him to ‘have a couple of large brandies and make summat up.’ Curl up in bed with a hot drink and ease yourself into the working week in the best possible way. [Mandy Williams]

Continue reading »


Posted: March 26th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency on TV the other night was so charming that it would be churlish to criticise it. But as a non-servile peasant, when I see the words “Written by Richard Curtis” I get angry so as to avoid diabetic coma.

I freely admit I know nothing about Botswana. Maybe it really is a sunny, idyllic place where problems can be solved with goodwill and 2 typewriters. However that’s not where No.1 is set. This looks more like Comicreliefland to me.

Comicreliefland is where Africa’s problems are related to us by wealthy Londoners. It’s populated by wide-eyed, tragically cute children. Without shoes. A land whose poverty is unrelated to Western exploitation. Not a result of the deliberate policy of “our” governments, but a fact of nature, cruel fate to be borne in stoic silence until a rich man gives you charity, for which you thank him respectfully in over-annunciated English (so charming!). Most insidiously, all the continent’s problems are waiting to be solved by honest businessmen, if only they weren’t hamstrung by corrupt African politicians.

Let’s look at the problems here and how they’re solved. We have an insurance scam perpetrated on a businessman so saintly he offers to pay the money to charity and the same charity as that favoured by the fraudster. Moral: don’t try and improve your lot, your boss is your friend, he has your best interest at heart.

There’s sinister human sacrifice hinted at. Moral: muti and by extension other traditional ways are dark, sinister and evil. Only corrupt politicians and backward peasants practice it.

There’s a powerful and corrupt political figure. But where does he get the money for his Merc from? The muti? Not from any Western agency or corporation (nowhere to be seen). Moral: Corruption is a property of Africans, not a result of Western economics.

The problem’s not that No.1 isn’t a reflection of Africa’s real problems. It’s escapism, that’s not what it’s there for. But it would be nice to see Africa through the eyes of Africans just once. Make a change from Edinburgh doctors or Notting Hill writers


Posted: July 3rd, 2005, by Chris S

It’s nuts. I hated Big Brother with a vengeance – even when they were all kicking shit out of each other last year. But this year has been GOLD television.
It’s like someone handpicked the scum of humanity, put them in a laboratory and just picked on them. Praise be that someone had the common decency to televise the results.
Take yesterday’s activities in the house for example.
The contestants were set a task where they each had 15 mins alone in the diary room and they had to wear a bizarre set of goggles with little test tubes attached. The task for the day was for them to collectively cry enough tears to fill a tea spoon. I SHIT YOU NOT.
When they were in there, the voice of Big Brother advised that if they needed beating down, belittling or upsetting then he would oblige. They then bombarded the contestants with tearjerking music and read them upsetting and heartbreaking stories.
Seriously, I fully expect them to lock a housemate in a glass box next. The ceiling will then begin to slowly descend to crush them slowly to death. They will be informed that if they confess to everything bad they’ve ever done then Big Brother will let them go. On the bottom of the screen it will flash to the audience
In the same day one of the contestants wanked off another in the swimming pool after he had asked to feel the fake breasts of another contestant and she had happily obliged.
This is amazing, perfectly orchestrated, car crash TV.

Once again, God bless Popbitch

Posted: May 13th, 2005, by Dave Stockwell

“The Fall are on Jools Holland’s show next week.
Mark E Smith is the only artist in the history
of the show to have a clause in his contract
inserted to state that Jools will not play
boogie-woogie piano over any of his songs.”

Fucking yes!

Almost as good is this email that I imagine every single member of the diskant team received:

Hi, Mr. Stockwell!
I work at Stick Figure Productions here in New York (www.stickfigureproductions.com). We are currently beginning production on a new reality show that’s going to break the mold of reality shows
– it’s the first ever on-line reality show. Showing on AOL.com. Warner Music head Lyor Cohen is headlining a new “Apprentice”-like show for the music industry. The final contestant will produce an unsigned band’s first album and sign them to his or her own label in the WMG family. A good opportunity for any young man or woman looking to make a big leap into the record business.
Now we are looking for possible contestants. Basically asking them to put together a short video about themselves and the local band they believe is the overlooked diamond that they’re going to help break out. If you had any tips or resources
that could help me out, kind of get the word out, I’d appreciate it. It looks like your site speaks to the kinds of people we’re looking for.
Please feel free to e-mail me back or call me at my office: ***-***-****. Thanks for your time and I look forward to talking with you. –Darren

Personally, I’m thinking of recommending Orthrelm. Or maybe Hotototogisu. Or The Skaters. Oh, so many TV-friendly bands to push towards stardom!

Last night

Posted: April 26th, 2005, by Chris S

Did anyone else watch the documentary on the AIDS epidemic that swept through the LA porn industry that was on Channel 4 last night? Pretty crazy stuff. Don’t you just hate it when some American (usually) man gives this as an excuse for his actions?
“We live in America. Wasn’t this nation built on the right to freedom of expression?”.
This was used by some producer guy to justify making a ‘Gonzo’ porn movie where the female character is a reporter in Iraq who gets captured and raped by Bin Laden before being rescued by the Marines, whom she blows off as a sign of gratitude.
I have no issue with porn and neither do I care what anyone does to anybody else as long as both parties are equally willing and able to decide. But justifying the rise in aggressive, nasty, humiliating, non-sexual (i.e. not related to the act of sex itself) pornography by saying it’s a person’s given right to make it? Hmmm….