Posts Tagged ‘news’

Charlie Brooker’s 2013 Wipe for BBC Two

28 December, 2013

I am a proud member of Team 2013 Wipe, the fruit of whose toil will be on BBC Two tonight:

Update 6 Jan: And the second series of Weekly Wipe begins on Thu 9 Jan on BBC Two.

Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding for the BBC

7 November, 2013


A short-form Smashed Hits piece for the BBC News Magazine about Shipbuilding, pegged to the closure of the Portsmouth shipyards.

It would have sounded very different if Costello had written the song for himself – or written the music. Shipbuilding was originally a piano piece written by Madness’s producer Clive Langer for a gentler performer, Robert Wyatt. Langer bumped into Costello at a party and suggested they go out to his car and listen to a cassette of the tune. Costello subsequently called from an Australian tour to say he had “the best lyric I’ve ever written”. Wyatt’s song was made – and in 1983 Costello recorded it himself.

No room, sadly, for Chet Baker playing at London supper-and-jazz club The Canteen, approached by Costello and offering to play on EC’s version for scale. “I think we probably doubled it,” remembered Costello.

Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe for BBC Two

28 January, 2013

I am a proud member of Team Weekly Wipe, which starts on BBC Two on Thursday evening at 22h00.

Update 01-02-2013: Here’s the programme, while it lasts:

Charlie Brooker’s 2012 Wipe for BBC Two

1 January, 2013

I am a proud member of Team 2012 Wipe, the fruit of whose toil will be on BBC Two tonight:

Update 02-01-2013: Here’s the programme, while it lasts:

Looking like a scraper site, DM? The Daily Mail flaunts its spam-a-like pages with content from… the BBC!

31 December, 2012
Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe in A Young Doctor's Notebook

Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe as Older Doctor and Young Doctor, both inspired by Mikhail Bulgakov’s experiences in a rural hospital

The Daily Mail’s TV & Showbiz pages include many non-stories which look uncomfortably like a dump of content the paper doesn’t own…

Mikhail Bulgakov is the Russian author of the original stories on which we based the mini-series A Young Doctor’s Notebook. I recently googled Bulgakov’s wife Yelena and came across a piece which begins:

This is the story of the Soviet authorities’ persecution of the Ukrainian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, as told through the diaries of Yelena, his third wife, and Bulgakov’s own letters.

The curious thing is that the link takes you to the Daily Mail, which isn’t the first site I associate with literary biography. And the page doesn’t read like a piece of journalism, exactly. Here’s how it looks:

It seems to be the programme note for a BBC Radio 4 drama from 2001. There’s no embedded audio, link or TX details; it’s not a review – just some contextless content. Which makes the Daily Mail look uncomfortably like a “scraper” site: those odd-looking, often illegal bits of the web which use other people’s property as padding around the real point of the pages, adverts:

Some scraper sites are created to make money by using advertising programs. In such cases, they are called Made For AdSense sites or MFAs. This derogatory term refers to websites that have no redeeming value except to lure visitors to the website for the sole purpose of clicking on advertisements.

When I accessed the Mail page which did well in search for Yelena Bulgakov, it had ads from Play, M&S, WeightWatchers, Ariel, Always and Google Ads. Perhaps it’s an anomaly, I thought. A one-off test page with some placeholder text which should have been deleted to avoid any risk of looking like the Mail was covertly bringing users to a page with content they don’t own to generate commercial revenue. I had a look around the TV & Showbiz section of the Mail and found a similar looking page:

And another one:

Again, lots of ads around both and in the second one, some information about other Radio 4 programmes. As it turned out, I found it difficult to think of a Radio 4 programme that hasn’t been surrounded by ads and made into a Daily Mail page.

Very odd. Someone had even added a picture to the Archers episode description, like with this documentary about Gandhi:

It’s a while since I worked at the BBC; perhaps these pages are part of a project where the Beeb has generously handed over its own content – or that of independent production companies – to help with the Daily Mail’s revenue streams, even while the Mail takes every opportunity to bash the Beeb. Perhaps there’s a reason none of these pages seems ever to have been linked to from the Mail’s front page. Perhaps it’s a good use of your licence fee. Who knows?

Other advertisers who find themselves next to BBC content include Marriott, Sky, Toyota, Dell, Lotto, Virgin, Nokia, Nationwide, Direct Line, Reiss, BA, Corsodyl, HSBC, JP Morgan, BT, Barclays and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. On all of them are Google Ads, the terms and conditions of which have a questionable relationship with the content.

10 O’Clock Live for Channel 4

19 February, 2012

I am back at 10 O’Clock Live. When it isn’t live, you can again watch clips, like this one people like [NB: the final “…unless you count all those times they had a go at witches” is unforgivably omitted and archivists should note that what sounds like “Tory boys” is in fact “toy boys”]:

Screenwipe Review of the Year 2011 for BBC Four

29 December, 2011

I am a proud member of Team Screenwipe 2011, the fruit of whose toil will soon be on BBC Four:

Black Mirror: The National Anthem

4 December, 2011

I made a thinkribution to The National Anthem, the first story in the Charlie-Brooker-yielded Channel 4 drama collection Black Mirror, but (a) barely perceptibly and so (b) you should watch it — with a caveat about adult themes.

Black Mirror: The National Anthem

  • date/tx/channel: Sun 04 Dec/2100/C4

Party Conference Music: Primal Scream or Dandy Warhols?

5 October, 2011

Staithes rocks

A rapid-response piece for the Guardian about Primal Scream’s outrage over being played at Conservative party conference:

“But whoever initially misidentified the music must have a tin ear. Bohemian Like You sounds like a Rolling Stones megamix with an emphasis on One Hit (To The Body) off Dirty Work, while Rocks sounds like a Stones megamix with an emphasis on Little T&A off Tattoo You.”

I am also compiling a Big List of all music played at all party conferences, politicians’ Desert Island Discs, etc. This will help.

Twittiquette – or Twemes among Tweeple who Tweetup for Twirting and/or Twisticuffs

5 September, 2011


I’ve written a piece for the BBC about words beginning with “tw-“, and why people enjoy coining them on Twitter.

“Flick through a dictionary and you’ll notice something about the English language’s ‘tw’ words. We have a few related to ‘two’: twin, twelfth, twilight and so on. And there’s a tiny minority of what you might call fairly sensible words: tweezers, twig and of course tweed.

“The rest, though, tend to be of a type that’s more playful or, depending on taste, more grating. ‘Tw-‘ words can be about inanity or ignorance: twit, twerp, twonk or twaddle. They can suggest lightness, smallness or delicacy: tweak, twiddle or twinkle. Or they can flag up that you’re being self-consciously old-fashioned: ’twas and ’twere; ‘twixt and ‘tween. All very twee.”

Sadly there was no room for the etymology of “twonk” – coined/popularised, according to the Telegraph, by John Sullivan to give Del Boy a non-sweary swear word; nor for gay slang “twink” (“with a slender build, little or no body hair, and no facial hair”).

Also, now that we know that “twilight” relates to “two”, why not let’s enjoy some twilights I’ve seen?

Murdoch ‘Pie’ Attack: I Was There

20 July, 2011

'Jonnie Marbles' getting handcuffed

Above is an image of “Jonnie Marbles” getting handcuffed outside the Wilson Room in Parliament. Below are images of the rest of us in the room being ejected. Here’s why everyone there found the stunt infuriating:

  1. The queues had started over seven hours before the committee began. It was like the Royal Wedding, but – genuinely – with normal people. Oldies, supermarket employees, families – normal. And while it was a festive mood, it was also tense: the official line as to how many people would get into the room kept changing, and some people were certainly facing a wasted day. Questions popped about. Was space being cleared for the Dowler family? Had the tiny Wilson Room been chosen so as not to look like a show trial? Was Jemima Khan trying to hop in? At one point, we were told that the Doorkeepers were considering letting us sit on each other’s laps if we so fancied. Westminster reporters were heckling sketchwriters about their slim chance of making it in. So when we later found out that the front of the queue had been a gang with a bag full of shaving foam, “comedy” wasn’t the first word that sprang to mind. Nor was “activism”. “Shabby oaf” and “stupid tit” were some of the descriptions I did hear.
  2. The dynamic in the room was entrancing – until it was cut off. Murdoch Jnr’s longer spiels were worthy of your favourite guest on Just A Minute – circumscribed vocabulary expressed with eerie diction, fending off attempts at interruption. “I’m happy to answer that,” indeed. As for Murdoch Snr, each time he rhythmically rapped his fin on the desk, the Wilson Room started by going instantly silent and then seemed to get more so. It wasn’t possible to tell whether this was deference on the part of the MPs, or anticipation of a juicy detail – but it was spell-binding. Knowing that the Murdochs, as non-subjects, were not compelled to attend meant that the ultimate authority never seemed to settle, though Headmaster Whittingdale had the lion’s share. Some of the questions felt a little random, but might have been leading somewhere that’ll become apparent in the months to come; we simply couldn’t tell. The experience was like those Richard Norton-Taylor inquest-recreation-play things, except real. Except – again – sometimes it didn’t seem real. There was Rupert Murdoch! In a room! Boom! Gone! For one afternoon, a functional room filled largely with shirted men was the greatest show on Earth. I swear I never once heard anyone whisper “You know what they should send in? Some clowns.”
  3. Which brings us to another shared source of exasperation. Moguls don’t tend to hang out in public space. This was like seeing Thor in a Job Centre. You don’t have to be fanciful or grandiose to feel proud that This Is How We (Eventually) Do Things – after all the tales of deceit and connivance, here was an open, public event, open to the public, where the public would show it was decent and fair. The public wasn’t supposed to be baffling, threatening or in any sense dickish. People were surprised that they were allowed to nip to the loo, drink fizzy water and chew gum. Hey – The Authorities don’t think we need to be treated like infants! Hmm.

Then, at just after ten to five, it was all over. An amazing, inspiring event ceased to exist as a piece of public property. I’d even missed the affray itself, because I was incredibly preoccupied with another bag-holder behind me, who had also stood up and seemed to be working his way round from the other side. Next we shuffled around as per the coppers’ yelled instructions, before eventually and sullenly trudging down the corridor to join Jemima Khan in the Boothroyd Room, cursing Jonnie Marbles. The committee was on the screens there, but what’s the point of watching something on TV if you have to remain decently dressed and you can’t even nip off to get a sandwich during another of Murdoch Jnr’s sixty-second dashes?

Finally, the speculation started again, including the inventive theory that News Corp had put the jackass up to it. “Because,” a punter noted, “that was the best thing to happen to Rupert Murdoch all day.”


10 O’Clock Live

25 February, 2011

I’ve been working as a writer and producer on Channel 4’s 10 O’Clock Live. When it isn’t live, you can watch clips, like this:

The Nerd Who Broke The World

1 January, 2011

This is a rough cut of an attempt to explain the economic crisis, especially the credit-default swap. It still contains some green screen. Do not adjust your browser.