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Archive for the ‘Things I’ve Watched on YouTube’ Category

 

Over the past few years The Big Fat Quiz has become customary holiday fare round my place, mainly because I force my loved ones to watch it with me. In fact, it’s very much like a family gathering if your relatives include an angry uncle who habitually rants about the state of the world and a constantly snacking, eccentric brother who wears flamboyant capes to Christmas dinner.

Certain aspects of this broadcast have become traditions in and of themselves.  For example, what could be cozier than Charles Dance seated next to a blazing fire reading from a reality star’s tell-all biography? Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow is always a festive addition when he delivers song lyrics as a news story and then dances like no one is watching…but we all are. And it isn’t The Big Fat Quiz until those adorable Mitchell Brook Primary School Players reenact an event of note from the year gone by.

This, of course, is coordinated by a man with all the dominance of an overwhelmed substitute teacher with a really implausible laugh.

 

But in the end it’s the the celebrity competitors who determine how entertaining a given quiz will turn out to be. Let’s look at how well our trio of teams performed.

The Tinsel Sisters (David Mitchell and Roisin Conaty)

 

Famed curmudgeon David Mitchell is the winning-est panelist in the history of the BFQ. He has made twelve appearances and won eight times (whereas chat show host Jonathan Ross needed sixteen tries to achieve the same number of victories). This year David was paired with a newcomer to the year-end quiz, creator and star of the very excellent sitcom GameFace, Roisin Conaty. In terms of an end result, this team worked well seeing as (SPOILERS!) they won the trophy with a total of 35 points. However, it was Mr. Mitchell who stood out in the comedy department with his diatribe about the substandard quality of a sign that was displayed behind Prime Minister Theresa May , a lesson about the specific vitamin deficiencies responsible for rickets and scurvy and finally, his insistence upon the importance of proper chronology and punctuation. It’s not that Ms. Conaty isn’t funny; their interactions just weren’t very dynamic.

Team Pain (Big Narstie and Katherine Ryan)

Now this was a more interesting pairing. If you aren’t familiar with either of these entertainers, Ms. Ryan is a Canadian comedian based in the UK and Mr. Narstie is an English grime MC? Yeah, I’m not sure what that is, but he turned out to be quite impish and entertaining. He had a problem with names, identifying most of the panelists by their CVs. Mitchell was continually referred to as Peep Show guy, Richard Ayoade as IT guy and rather insulting to Noel Fielding was that Narstie clocked him as Nigel Planer who played Neil the hippie from The Young Ones. Just a clarification to Mr. Fielding, Nigel’s age is 64, not 90 as you asserted. To Jimmy Carr’s chagrin, Mr. Narstie repeatedly made a heart shape with his hands and insisted on calling it the “Mo Farah sign” after the gesture made by the British distance runner to celebrate a win. The thing that worked well with this team was that Katherine acted as something of a cultural interpreter without being condescending. She was also very familiar with viral trends and other pop culture references which significantly contributed to their more than respectable second place finish of 33 points.

Cakes in the Maze (Richard Ayoade and Noel Fielding)

This twosome are the most experienced of the BFQ teams on the program.  With twenty-four appearances between them, they have won twice as a team and three more quiz titles separately. Admittedly their win/loss ratio isn’t as impressive as David Mitchell’s,  but it’s not as if they aren’t as smart or culturally aware. David Mitchell and Richard Ayoade were students at Cambridge University together; Noel Fielding has a background in art, a wildly creative mind and a mildly concerning obsession with satsumas. These two are obviously invited to this gig to be, as Jimmy Carr has described them, toddlers at a wedding. Don’t let their contrasting sense of fashion – Gandalf and the Professor – fool you. These two are in cahoots to undermine authority and infuse the proceedings with a bit of whimsy. Whether it’s Noel luring us into a surreal world of sharks with no knees or Richard making an appeal for their responses based on sub-text , several facts are clear. Jimmy Carr loses control of the quiz from time to time and this duo are major instigators of all that lovely chaos. It matters not a jot that Cakes in the Maze came in third place with 19 points. The Big Fat Quiz is at it’s best when Ayoade and Fielding are on the same team.

 

 

 

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I can’t let a Valentine’s Day go by without sharing some sort of love related telly wisdom. As I’ve been married now for more of my life than not, I’ve learned that love changes with time, age and perspective. I’m not as swept away by stories of infatuated young lovers nor titillated by unbridled desire. (You got it, I will not be seeing Fifty Shades of Grey this weekend.)

The couple I’m most interested in is one that can laugh together, support one another and basically resist bolting for the door every time the other one does something annoying. Meet Sharon (Sharon Horgan) and Rob (Rob Delaney), the most endearing accidental pair you’d ever want to meet.

Sharon and Rob facing one catastrophe after another image credit Avalon Television and Channel 4

Sharon and Rob facing one catastrophe after another
image credit Avalon Television and Channel 4

 

A no-strings one week fling between an American advertising exec and an Irish teacher quickly escalates to a full-blown relationship when Sharon discovers she’s pregnant and shares the news with Rob. He immediately agrees to return to London to work things out with the mother of his child and is eager to take an active role in the rearing of his progeny. Sharon, on the other hand, is not so sure she wants this stranger barging into her life, though the realization that this may be her only chance for a baby does carry weight in her decision.

Rob and Sharon stumble through misunderstandings, introductions to hostile family and unpleasant friends and get blindsided by Sharon’s multiple medical conundrums. Through it all they become an authentic couple out of necessity and, I believe, an true fondness for one another.

 

My initial concern about Rob being American quickly melted away within the first episode or two. He is nothing like the stereotypical abrasive Yank even though his douche-bag friend Dave (Daniel Lapaine) surely is.  Rob’s many positive characteristics, those of openness, emotionally availability and height, could be attributed to his nationality I suppose. I’m just pleased to see a positive and well-rounded American character portrayed on British telly.

This couple is  a realistic example of mature-ish adults making the best of an unexpected and sometimes totally crap series of events. It rings true as a relationship entered into by grownups who are aware they must make practical, responsible choices. I can relate to that. I also like that they really fancy one another too.

Catastrophe is being called one of the best comedies of 2015. It’s a bit early in the year to go bandying that type of praise about; however, I do care about what happens to this trans-Atlantic couple and hope things go as well as can be expected for them. Not happily ever after but happily enough. That’s the type of love that lasts in my experience.

Here’s wishing you a Happy Enough Valentine’s Day!

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I was sick earlier this week. I mean properly sick – headache, weak and achy all over  Being the responsible and considerate co-worker I am, I decided to stay home thus keeping all my germs and misery to myself. There’s really not much to be done when you feel this way besides sleep and lay about watching TV. Never one to miss the opportunity to catch up on my telly viewing, I decided I would attempt to finish a few of the many series I currently have on the go.

I tend to find my “content” from one of these sources – Hulu Plus, Netflix and Acorn TV (subscription streaming services), BBC America (which is part of my extended cable package), and the PBS network which is free, but they very sincerely would like you to make a yearly donation to keep the programming going

But what I’m here to praise and gripe about today is the wonder and the purgatory that is YouTube. This addicting video sharing website has a lot to recommend it. It has given musicians a world stage to showcase their talents. It’s a source for learning how to do just about anything from fixing appliances to applying makeup. And it is the ultimate platform for parents to simultaneously go viral while embarrassing  their children for years to come.

YouTube also gives Americans (like me) the unique opportunity to watch programs from another country (like the UK) that aren’t currently available for broadcast here. As I’m sure you’re aware, a large majority of the clips I feature on my blog come from YouTube. Members of the public upload clips, TV episodes and movies to the site for everyone to enjoy. What could be more democratic, easier or cheaper?

Yes, I know. They say you get what you pay for a reason. That fact was driven home to me that day as I lay upon my couch hoping for a little quality British entertainment.

First off I tried to finish a mini-series I’d started called Remember Me, a supernatural mystery starring Mark Addy and Michael Palin.

image credit BBC drama

image credit BBC drama

I had already seen part one uploaded to an account simply called Remember Me and the second I found, oddly enough, under the misleading moniker Dr Phil_Full Episode 2014. Now I settled in to watch the final episode that would reveal all the questions about Tom Parfitt (Palin), the mysterious deaths that have surrounded him during his “80 odd” years on this earth and, most importantly, the identity of the creepy woman in the red sari.

Alas no resolution was forthcoming because the final episode was not available anywhere on YouTube, not under the previously aforementioned accounts nor any other.

No matter, I thought. I’ll move on to The Missing, another mystery mini-series. This time about a couple who take a holiday to France only to have their young son go missing right under the father’s nose, lost among a crowd of enthusiastic football fans. A rare occurrence to be sure, this series is being broadcast in both the UK and the US at the same time. Unfortunately I do not have the purposely misspelled Starz network as part of my cable subscription so I’m out of luck there – though I did watch the first episode courtesy of Starz YouTube channel.

Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt play traumatized parents in The Missing credit image BBC/Starz

Frances O’Connor and James Nesbitt play traumatized parents in The Missing
image credit BBC/Starz

Someone had established a The Missing channel on YouTube and I was able to get to the second episode before the videos were taken down by administrators with a message to the effect that “this video is no longer available due to a copyright claim” or some similar wording accompanied by the YouTube un-smiley face.

image credit YouTube

image credit YouTube

In my weakened state I still had the presence of mind to think logically. Perhaps I’d have better luck if I moved on to older shows that the weren’t as likely to be on the radar of those who do the policing of videos and dismantling of channels. A few weeks back I had started watching a 2011 sitcom called White Van Man about a reluctant son (Will Mellor) who takes over his father’s handyman business when he’d rather be starting his own restaurant.

credit image ITV Studios

image credit ITV Studios

Thanks to MrWhitemanvan I was able to see the first five episodes each in two 14 minute intervals. On this particular day planned to tie up loose ends and watch the sixth and final installment. Here is the point where I began to feel cursed because who would have thought after my proven success with this series only the first half the episode was made available to view. Despite the cries for part two in the comments section, the remaining section of this cliffhanger was nowhere to be found.

My final desperate attempt was to mark another sitcom, Chris Addison’s Trying Again, off my list.  The first seven episodes uploaded by Kfw jhs had been of perfectly acceptable quality. You can imagine my chagrin when I found the final chapter in this state:

The sound and video were so out of sync I ended up just listening to it rather than watching. I discovered too late that, with such an unexpected ending, I really needed to be paying attention to both the words and the pictures.

At this point I’d finally gotten the message. YouTube is a fickle creature. Whatever I can watch is a gift from some kind soul willing to break copyright laws. I’ve even gotten used to watching shows with these obtrusive title borders around them if need be.

I guess this is irrefutable proof that I am indeed addicted to telly. I spend hours checking to see if new attempts have been made to put other people’s intellectual property on-line. Usually my searches are for naught but sometimes I get lucky. Case in point, just last night I was able to locate the final Remember Me episode and decided to watch it on the spot at 2 in the morning just in case it got taken down yet again.

No matter how poor the quality or small the screen if there’s a buzz worthy series I want to see, I will watch it. Portuguese subtitles? No problem. If I know I  won’t be getting access to a show anytime soon (if ever) I will peer around the foreign words to get yet another new series under my belt. What do you think, is it time for me to move to the nefarious world of VPNs? Who knew YouTube was a gateway drug?

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As other WordPress bloggers reading this will know, we get daily statistics on how frequently our posts are read and the search engine terms used to find them. I have noticed a recent uptick for a post I wrote about a year ago entitled Lessons I Learned from Watching Bad Education: Series 1 . (If you plan on reading the rest of this piece, I suggest you click the link above and peruse it first so I don’t have to reiterate the premise of the sitcom here. Don’t worry, we’ll wait for you.) Shortly thereafter realized that people were probably looking for things written about the final series of Bad Education which just finished up three weeks ago in the UK.

Feeling I should respond to the demand, I went to YouTube with the intention of catching up from where I left off. Alas I was not able to get access to series two of this school-based comedy. Sadly I am subject to the whims of those who upload video content to YouTube and those who come along and take the aforementioned content down. Nonetheless, I was able to see all six episodes of the third series and believe I can guess at the sort of transitions which occurred in between without losing too much context.

I found that since my last visit to Abbey Grove School there had been a fair amount of changes in staffing. Several teachers and administrators have come and gone. For example, Alfie’s dad Martin (Harry Enfield) was made the new deputy headmaster.

As should be expected, some of the students had notably altered their appearance and attitudes over the past few years.

Mr. Wickers' Form K image credit BBC

Mr. Wickers (Jack Whitehall) and his Form K class
image credit BBC

Sure, sweet Joe’s buzz cut and Rem Dog’s transformation into a goth are obvious at a glance; however,  it’s Ying’s shift from driven Asian star pupil to a more relaxed and almost rebellious young woman that is the bigger surprise. We even discover why Frank Grayson is such a relentless bully.

The biggest changes that occurred between series one and three could be found in Alfie himself. When young Mr. Wickers started as the new history teacher at Abbey Grove School, he had very little control over his class. It was obvious he was more concerned about his popularity with his students than their educational accomplishments. The Alfie of series three has become more authoritative while still maintaining his ability to connect with his students.

We see Alfie on his way to becoming a more selfless human being which is a good thing for someone who works with children to be. He gives up on a teachers’ strike that would save his job because he realizes the strike is hurting his students. He takes on housekeeping duties for the school caretaker when he is led to believe he has paralyzed the man in a car accident. He even leaves his job at Abbey Grove because he concludes that working elsewhere will help him be a better boyfriend to fellow teacher, Miss Gulliver (Sarah Solemani).

At their last hurrah, the Leaver’s Prom, Mr. Wickers’ class doesn’t seem to be enjoying themselves much until their beloved teacher shows up fresh from quitting his new job at the DIY store. He still isn’t sure about coming back to work there, but he wants to see his kids off on their last night before they enter the big adult world.

Alfie at the prom image creidt Tiger Aspect Productions

Alfie at the prom
image creidt Tiger Aspect Productions

Alfie’s  students have grown up right along with their teacher and some have even changed their minds about what an educator can be.

I have to admit that by the end of this silly, sometimes rude sitcom, I shed a few tears right along with Alfie. And though this was the end of Bad Education, you might want to know (SPOILER ALERT) he does return next term to start all over with a new group of pupils. Ah, the circle of life and the endless, if not perfect, wonder of YouTube!

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When I was a kid I heard that “bloody” was considered a bad swear word in England though I could never figure out why.  The Pythons used it all the time, but it meant nothing to me.  From my cursory research (Wikipedia) I have learned that it could be a blasphemy relating to the Virgin Mary or Jesus, a minced oath (?) or a smear against Charlemagne.  Apparently it was still considered a controversial word to use on television as late as the 1970’s.

Fast forward to the naughties – the other day I was enjoying an episode of The IT Crowd.  Keep in mind, I watch all my British shows on DVD so I was a little slow on the uptake.  Then it occurs to me, “Hey, Jen just said f**ker.  And at one point, this was on TV.”  The use of the word didn’t offend me, but it made me curious about the rules for swearing on British television.  The only place you would hear that particular expletive on American televison would be on an HBO series or some similar pay channel.

I googled around and discovered in the UK there is a Broadcast Code and an agency (Ofcom) to investigate viewer complaints against the television and radio industry.   There is mention of the “watershed” hour, 9 pm, when more mature subjects, language, etc. are considered acceptable.  It’s not really that different from our FCC and more family friendly programming in the early evening hours.

So why is it, in the US anyway, that a rap song with thinly veiled, sexually exploitative lyrics can play on the airwaves at any time of day? But if a singer utters the word “goddamn”, it’s bleeped out.  In my opinion, sometimes the power we give words is misplaced. A few well-timed swear words among adults is unlikely to turn us into savages after all. People say things every day that may not be considered obscene, but are toxic enough to cause damage.

Update 2018: This is still my most viewed post nearly eight years after I wrote it. Mainly, I’m sure, because people want to know if “bloody” is a bonafide obscenity. Today I came upon a YouTube clip by Susie Dent, an English lexicographer and etymologist who appears regularly on the game show Countdown. In this video she reveals the origins of the aforementioned curse word. And though it’s now considered by most to be a quaint expletive you can use in front of your mother, it still has the power to cause controversy.

 

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