Victoria Wood

2016 hit again with the loss of one of the all time great British comedians, Victoria Wood. She died of Cancer at the age of 62.

I think you’d be hard pushed to find a female comedian working today that wouldn’t claim to owe some of it to Victoria Wood. I was lucky enough to grow up in a house where she was considered to be genius, and that opinion has not changed over the years.

She was a class act and just extremely good at what she did. It’s a sad loss long before her time.

Trailer Park Boys Season 10

Last week the latest series of Trailer Park Boys dropped onto Netflix and I gobbled it up immediately. This latest season sees all your favourite characters return and they’re all up to the antics we all love so much.

The show is such a basic premise that it’s hard to screw it up. There will be many elaborate plans that go wrong, Ricky will swear, Lahey will get drunk, and Randy won’t have a shirt on. All of those elements are present and correct. The specifics don’t really matter. At this point it’s just nice seeing the boys do what they do best.

Long gone are the days of this being an obscure little Canadian tv show nobody had heard of. Now they’re big names and I get the impression that Netflix have given them more money to spend than they ever had before. The new series looks as nice and clean as the previous Netflix based offerings. I miss the days of it looking rubbish but I understand the need for progress. It just feels like Trailer Park Boys should never have moved on from standard definition video. Preferably streamed at a very low bitrate.

TPBs is a glowing example of content creators changing the way they work to better fit the format they’re working on. While older series happily worked with stand alone episodes, TPB the Netflix generation works more like a really long movie split into ten parts. They are meant to be viewed in on go. It’s like The episodes are only there so you can stop at a convenient place if you need to.

Series 10 is bigger than ever before. Unfortunately I can tell you any more without spoiling a few nice surprises to you. Suffice it to say that as a big TPB fan I really enjoyed these new episodes. If you’ve never seen the show before, these new episodes aren’t for you. Start at the beginning and catch up.

Top Gear Should Be Cancelled Anyway

Can Top Gear survive without Jeremy Clarkson? Who gives ashit? They should cancel it anyway. Now before you jump on me as a Top Gear
hater, you have to know that I’m not. I’ve loved Top Gear over the years, and
would happily claim to have seen every episode, some more than once. I watched
Top Gear before it became the show it is today. Hater I am not. But here’s the
thing. How many episodes of the current series have I seen? Two. 

I’m going to blow my trumpet for a little while here. I’m
really good at making shows people want to listen to. That’s how I’ve got a
podcast network that’s still around after a decade. That’s why Simply
Syndicated shows feature highly on charts, and why so many people listen. It’s
as simple as that. I know what makes a good show, and what makes a show bad. It’s
absolutely essential to be able to sort the great from the rubbish. I’m saying
all this because I want to qualify myself to say what I’m about to say about a
beloved television series.

Top Gear is done. It doesn’t matter what the BBC do with
Clarkson, Top Gear is done. It was done long before somebody wouldn’t get
Clarkson a steak. As a piece of entertainment, it’s artistically moribund.

Let’s remove the presenters from the equation. Just imagine
that they’re three people you like, and let’s examine what makes Top Gear good.
They have a few tricks up their sleeve, an episode of Top Gear takes features
from the following list.

  1. Car review of stupidly expensive car. 
  2. A pre-recorded film featuring a race, building a
    stupid new or specialized vehicle, or “can a car do something better than
    something else can”.
  3. News section about stupidly expensive cars
  4. “Star” in reasonably priced car

Throw in a few Final Cut filters and that’s every episode of
Top Gear. Now we know what the ingredients are, let’s take a closer look at

1. Car review of stupidly expensive car

This is your entertainment? You want to spend your Sunday evenings
having somebody tell you that the new Ferrari is a good car? I’ll tell you now,
every car Ferrari have made for the last decade, and will make for the next
decade, is a better car than whatever shitbox you’re driving around in. There
you go, I just saved you 20 minutes of your Sunday evening. Need more? OK. The
new Aston Martin, Lamborghini, Porsche, Bentley, Bugatti, Jaguar, Koenigsegg,
Lexus, Mercedes, McLaren, Maybach, and Rolls Royce, are all better than your
car. Most importantly, you can’t have any of them. It doesn’t matter how good
they are, you weren’t about to drop £125,000 on a car. Do you honestly sit
watching Top Gear for the reviews? And you know what’s worse? People who can
spend the money on a new Aston don’t give a shit about how good it is. The most
important feature of an Aston Martin is that you want one and can’t have one.
It’s for the owners to feel better about themselves. Why else would you buy a
car like that? They sit in the same traffic jams, drive past the same speed
cameras, and search for parking spaces just like you and I do. Only they do it
in a car that cost as much money as your house. A television review of cars
like this only serves the purpose of allowing three presenters to drive expensive
cars for the weekend. Nothing else. It’s a truly despicable feature for the
publically funded BBC to create.

If you really want to make car reviews, then it’s much
better to review cars that most people can actually consider buying. There’s
absolutely no reason why that needs to be dry and unfunny. To be fair, Top Gear
have actually done some great work in that area, sort of. For example, I’m a
fan of their car football events. Even when they’ve done jokey reviews of
cheaper, smaller cars, they’ve been done very well. I’m certainly up for seeing
if you can get a car to drive upside down in a sewer system.

As it stands, the idea of reviewing the stupidly expensive
cars is now a bad one.

2. The Pre-Recorded Films

These used to be brilliant. I always liked the race based
ones. But a couple of years ago, somebody had the idea of having all three
presenters behave like complete morons. Not just in their usual xenophobic,
racist, sexist way, but in a way that would mean they couldn’t possibly function
as human beings if they were really that dumb. The first time the team went
camping and burned their tent down, it was funny. The 17 further times, not so
much. Now they’ve reached the point where the aim of any challenge is to make
the three grown presenters behave like children. It’s not really all their
fault. They’ve fallen victim to the law of doing something until it’s too much.
It happens in television all the time. You make one joke about Richard Hammond
starting a small fire in a caravan, and people like it. So you do it again, and
people like it. Then you want to do it again, but you can’t because you’ve
already done it twice. You’re faced with two options. Either you come up with a
new joke, or you make Richard Hammond do something even more stupid. This being
Top Gear, the new idea was out of the question, so Richard Hammond and his colleagues
became dumber and dumber every time they left the office. I’ve been driving a
car since 1996. I drive a normal amount, not for work, with most trips under 30
miles. In that time I have forgotten to use the hand brake maybe twice. I’m
guessing, but I’m probably not far wrong. Richard Hammond, who is a motoring
journalist, who’s job is driving cars, for miles and miles all over the world,
forgets to use his hand brake pretty much whenever there’s a camera near him.
Was his head damaged in that crash more than I realise? Or do the makers of Top
Gear think I’m fucking stupid?

That’s just the one type of film they make. Others are
worse. What’s the point of that one where Hammond makes an Ambulance that
shoots people out of the back with an air cannon? Really, what was the point of
that? It’s done with the premise that the team will try to make an ambulance
that’s better than an actual ambulance. Fine, except we know they aren’t really
going to do that. They’re going to pretend to do that, whilst actually making
cars that are obviously not as good as an actual ambulance. Why am I meant to
find that funny? Would it not be as funny if they actually attempted to take a
serious crack at something and then fuck it up along the way? We have to go
through this level of make believe based around the concept that Clarkson, Hammond,
and May, are suddenly the intellectual equals of Father Dougal McGuire. I just
find it really patronising. It’s slapstick humour done badly. To suggest that
the show would fall apart simply because Jeremy Clarkson wasn’t there to strap
a hole cow to the roof of his car is just dumb.

With things the way they are, it’s impossible to go back.
They just have to increase the dumb. I’m bored with it now so I’m not watching
it anymore. That means it’s time to shit or get off the pot. Come up with a new
idea, or stop making the rubbish one.

3. News Section About Stupidly Expensive Cars

For most of my opinions about this, read section one. That
said, I always thought this was a section of the show that worked well. The
three presenters always worked well together and their ability to take the piss
out of each other was a refreshing change from the norm. If anything, it always
reminded me of a podcast.

However, things changed, and this became the part of the
show where one of them was most likely to say something offensive. That’s when
the heavy hand of a producer should have come in. If you can’t do it without
pissing people off, then you stop doing it. It’s totally unfair to blame the
presenters for what is said in this section, but I’ll come back to that concept
in a bit. 

I’ve always felt that news on a show like Top Gear is a
pointless idea. When I say shows like Top Gear, I’m including shows like The
Gadget Show, and any other show that covers a specialist interest topic. People
who are really interested in that topic already know any news stories that you
might cover. Everyone else doesn’t care. If I only got my tech news from The
Gadget Show, at the very most I’d only get that news for the few weeks out of
the year that the show is actually on. If you want a good example of a
specialist topic news show, the BBC’s Click show is actually pretty good, but
it’s on News 24 every week, not BBC 2 for 12 weeks per year.

Scrap the news section. It’s pointless.

 4. The Star in the Reasonably Priced Car

 I’ve always hated everything about this section and have
absolutely nothing good to say about it. It hate it so much. I hate the stars,
I don’t care how fast they can drive, it’s a break in the flow of the show, it
drags on forever, and I hate the Stigg. Everything about it is just bad. I
never watched the show live because you can’t skip past this section. I even
find the pretence that Stigg isn’t just a failed racing driver to be really
patronising at this point. Mind you, I can’t really complain too much about
that, unless you believe that I really do own a machine that creates random top
5 lists. (If you haven’t listened to Top 5 yet, get to it right away!)

I’d bin it simply because I hate it so much and never want
to see it again. 

That’s your four sections of Top Gear totally blown away.
They’re all pointless now so it’s time for the show to end. Perhaps you could
blame people and decisions they made, but there’s no reason to. Shows come to
an end and we have to be OK with that. Remember that there are only two series
of Faulty Towers, and three series of Father Ted. There doesn’t always have to
be Top Gear, and it doesn’t have to be the last show about cars that’s ever
made. People need to let it go and move on with their lives and careers.

People also need to stop blaming the presenters alone for
ruining the show. Remember that they aren’t the only people making it. When
Jeremy Clarkson makes a racist remark, the soundman and cameraman both hear it.
The director and producers are both ok with it. It then goes to an editor who
decides to leave it in. Then the BBC will have broadcasting standards people
who will go over it before it gets broadcast. There are a lot of barriers
between Clarkson’s mouth and your television screen. The fact that any of his
comments make it all the way to your ears is indication of a monumental failure
by many people.

 It’s time for the BBC to recognise that while Top Gear is
making them a lot of money, it’s hurting them in other areas. It’s making them
look like incompetent idiots. They’re flogging a dead horse of a show, and are
being made to look like fools in the process. Apparently you can put a price on
dignity, and for the BBC it’s around £50 million per year.