Archive for the ‘telly’ Category


Have I Got Me For You

May 24, 2011

My appearance on ‘Have I Got News For You’. Some other people in it too but this is MY BLOG, DAMMIT.

(I was enjoying Miles Jupp’s lovely, laid-back style so much I neglected to ask myself why he was so familiar. Twitter (the Google that comes to you) informed me subsequently that he was Archie in Balamory!  Holy cow!)


“No more canned opinions.”

January 10, 2011

Andrew Ellard is my script editor on the IT Crowd and this weekend he wrote a very fine, very fair dissection of a lazy piece of TV journalism in the Telegraph. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably already seen it, but for those who don’t, here it is again. It’s quite brilliant.

What did the journalist in question think of it? “I can’t be bothered to read all that” she tweeted this morning.

(pic of the great Clive James via Time Out)


I have a better title for Masterchef

October 23, 2010


How Law and Order writers see gamers

October 1, 2010

(via Reddit)


The controversial new ‘Doctor Who’ logo

October 6, 2009


A lot of people are up in arms about the new ‘Doctor Who’ logo. I have to say I agree with their concerns. There are so many things wrong with it, it’s difficult to know where to start.


What he said!

December 24, 2008


Frank Skinner sums up what I’ve been spluttering about for months.

“I don’t want people using so much swearing that there’s a blanket ban because there won’t be then any room for the clever swearing – the beautiful, eloquent swearing,” he said.

“So I just think we need to back off on the stuff that’s not necessary.”

Back off on the stuff that’s not necessary….well, exactly. The problem with the all-round okayness of TV swearing is that it makes the texture of our lives that much more unpleasant by increasing the level of aggression in our daily discourse. And life in the UK at the moment is plenty unpleasant already without any help from people off the telly.

Frank recently experimented with cutting swearing from his act in an attempt to freshen it up, and to show my support of this kind of thing, I’m taking back what I said about there being only one use of the f-bomb on the next series. We’re going for zero.

(Thanks, Si!)


Funny thing happened on the way to the Emmys

November 27, 2008


Oop, almost forgot!

We’re in a taxi, on the way to the Emmys, and the driver asks us where we’re going. We tell him about the nomination and he says “Oh, my wife, she’s crazy about British television, she loves that show…oh, what is it…set in the Fifties or the Sixties…”

“The Fifties or the Six–oh, is it ‘Heartbeat’? Would that be it?”

“No, no…oh, what is it?…It’s a drama…”

“Eh…there’s a thing about a police detective during the Second World War…”

“No, no, I don’t think it’s a wartime thing….”

“Are you sure it’s not the Seventies? It could be ‘Life on Mars’?…”

“No…it’s definitely Fifties or Sixties– ehh, what the hell is it called? ”

“God, I dunno…eh, do you know which channel it–”

“–oh, wait! I got it! ‘Eastenders’!”


Dead Good

November 14, 2008

Many of you have been singing the praises of Charlie Brooker’s Dead Set and I just wanted to add my voice to the choir. (Charlie’s a mate, so feel free to ignore everything that follows.)

Gosh, it’s good. Charlie thought I’d hate it because it has swearing, but he’s got me all wrong. I’m not against swearing! I just hate it when it’s pointless and cheap or used to make a weak joke ‘funnier’. But if you can’t swear during a zombie apocalypse, when can you swear? A zombie apocalypse without swearing…the very idea! I would oppose such a zombie apocalypse! (That said, Charlie’s swearing on ‘Screenwipe’ doesn’t add much to that program, I think. I mean, even Jamie Oliver swears while presenting now! Jamie Oliver, a man who is proud that he has never read a book! Do you really want to be like Jamie, Charlie? Or any chef?)

Simon Pegg wrote a nice piece complaining about the new trend for speedy zombies and I would agree with him if I had only seen ’28 Days Later’, which I couldn’t take seriously as soon as I saw the angry monkeys at the start (screenwriting tip–never lead with angry monkeys). ‘Dead Set’ pulls off a nice trick of deliberately presenting us with a ridiculous situation and then piling on the horror so that the comedy sort of rises naturally, like a terrifying soufflé. Needless to say, the jokes (at the expense of TV producers, ‘Big Brother’ and its former housemates) are top quality.

And what a cast! In Andy Nyman, especially, Charlie has found his DeNiro. No-one swears like Andy Nyman. He swirls Charlie’s dialogue around like it’s claret before spitting it in the face of anyone who makes the mistake of coming near. It’s an extraordinary performance and if there were no-one else in it worth watching, it’d still be worth watching because of him. But the other performances are outstanding. It’s especially nice to see Kevin Eldon excercising muscles he’s normally not called upon to move and giving us a  touching portrayal of a man who’s not nearly as intelligent or moral as he thinks he is. And as for…well, I could go on, really I could. There are no weak links.

It takes a lot to get me fired up enough to write an appreciation like this. ‘Dead Set’ should act as a spur and inspiration to anyone thinking of doing something similar. Charlie has joined the ranks of those who prove that it is possible to do good genre stuff in the UK, and that if you’re going to aim for anything at all, you might as well aim high, because, man, when you pull it off…you’ve really got something.


‘Canned laughter’, my least favourite urban myth

October 7, 2008

From a review of ‘The Secret Policeman’s Ball’ by Leo Benedictus in today’s Guardian: “Mitchell and Webb’s self-doubting Nazis were much improved by the subtraction of canned laughter.”

Let me repeat that. The self-doubting Nazis sketch was improved by the subtraction of canned laughter.

I’m hoping, Leo, you’ve found this page after Googling your name. If so, please pay attention because I am about to let you in on the best-kept secret in town: Like ‘The IT Crowd’, and every other show where you can hear a studio audience laughing, ‘That Mitchell and Webb Look’ is filmed in front of a real-live studio audience who are actually laughing. Full details here, if you can be arsed clicking the link.

So, to be clear, the laughter you hear is real. Not canned. Real.

The laughter you heard at the Amnesty gig was also real. But you seem to believe that there was something somehow more real about the real laughter at the Amnesty gig than the real laughter on ‘That Mitchell and Webb Look’. In fact, you actually thought the sketch was improved by the subtraction of the fake (actually real) laughter and the addition of real laughter (also real).

In other words, the effect was more or less the same (both audiences being real and all), but you thought it really gave that sketch an extra special something, listening to the laughter that was real instead of the laughter that was also real.

Leo, the reason you believe in canned laughter is because you, like many of the people who feel qualified to write about television comedy, have never had the curiosity to actually find out how a comedy show is made. If you had, you would know what everyone in comedy knows, and what everyone who has sat in a studio audience knows…that outside of old Scooby Doo cartoons and the like, there is no such fucking thing as canned laughter.

(P.S And Leo, you are very welcome to come along to the next studio recording of The IT Crowd on Friday night to clear up any confusion you still may have. These people have the full details.)


Still can’t believe it…

August 31, 2008

Geoffrey’s Telegraph obit is the first thing I’ve seen that goes some way to doing him justice. I never knew he left the BBC because of the contempt the organisation had for comedy at the time: “One annual report dismissed it (comedy) with the phrase “all the way from high-value costume drama right the way down to sitcom”.