There’s More to This Than Meets the I-player

W1A, the sort-of sequel to 2012, is a mockumentary about the BBC; specifically, its staff who work behind the scenes in Broadcasting House.  It has been going for two or three years, and at first I found it subtly enjoyable but short on real laughs.  But it has grown on me.  As I pointed out a few days ago:

it’s a sort of cross between The Office and Dilbert with bits of Reggie Perrin thrown in (there’s a pair who say ‘brilliant’ and ‘cool’ which is surely the modern version of ‘great’ and ‘super’:

Most of the characters work in jobs no-one understands, least of all themselves: and top of the incomprehensible heap is Ian Fletcher, formerly Head of Olympic Deliverance, now appointed as the BBC’s Head of Values (or Captain Values, as his colleague Simon likes to call him.)  We first see him arriving on his Brompton; it’s not long before Simon gets a better one, thus beginning a running gag about Brompton bikes.

In series two Anna Rampton, previously moderately competent, is promoted to Director of Better, a job neither she nor anyone else understands:

‘The fact is this is about identifying what we do best and finding more ways of doing less of it better.’  This is pure Dilbert; but as the series went on I found myself irresistibly reminded of Theresa May, another woman promoted beyond her capabilities and reduced to repeating meaningless soundbites.

Simon’s Machiavellian  antics, previously confined to bikes and buck-passing, reach new heights in this third series when a new post is created and no-one tells Ian Fletcher.  When challenged, Simon tells Ian the post was considered beneath his grade.

‘Well, can I sit on the interview panel then?’

‘Sorry, that’s just for the big-wigs.’

‘Great.  So I’m too important to apply for the job but not important enough to sit on the interview panel.’

‘It’s a unique position Ian.’

Brilliant stuff.

Meanwhile Lucy, the only competent person in the BBC apart from Ian Fletcher, is spending every spare moment being pursued by the intolerable David who keeps bending her ear about his problems and then passing off his ideas as her own.

But in spite of the Dilbert connection I suspect this wouldn’t work in the US because none of the comedy would arise if it wasn’t for everyone being just too damned polite.  Siobhan Sharpe of the BBC’s PR company is everyone’s worst nightmare and impervious to – well, anything at all really – but no-one has the gall to tell her so: Simon is a shit-stirrer extraordinaire who dodges every bullet by saying ‘well, I don’t know how these things work and you’ll know how you want to deal with this’ whereas David’s tactic is to go uber-camp: ‘I know!  Tell me about it!  It’s a nightmare!’ when everyone knows it was his incompetence that caused the problem in the first place.  But they’re all too polite to say so – all except Neil, the old-fashioned tell-it-like-it-is head of news who says things like ‘bollocks’ and ‘we’re f***d.’  But alas, his tropes are no more effective than anyone else’s.  The last series ends with Lucy and Ian almost getting together… but I’m sure some nightmare co-worker will turn up and put a stop to it, and they’ll be too polite to tell them to **** off.

I urge you to watch this if you can.  Series 3 is on i-player and if you have Netflix you can watch series 2 there as well.  You can watch it on your syncopatitablet…

Kirk out


Bye Bye Auntie

No more Auntie for me!  For as of today it is no longer legal to watch the iplayer without a TV licence.  To be honest I don’t think this is particularly unreasonable: the Beeb in her infinite wisdom puts nearly all her programmes up for viewing about ten seconds after they’ve aired, so you’re not really losing anything by waiting.  I don’t really know why they do that: it’d be fairer in a way if they left it for a day or so.  They’re sticking with the licence fee for now, although I think that’s going to have to change at some point: subscriptions seem to be the way to go.  Then again, I’m going to be house-sitting in a few weeks so I’ll be able to watch TV in that place.

We gave up TV years ago, partly because it was expensive and partly because our Home Edded children were watching far too much of it.  We were down to a few programmes a week and eventually this whittled down to two: Friends and Frasier.  Then first the engaging Friends and then the infinitely wittier and more intelligent Frasier ran their course and went plink.  And that was that.  The TV ariel socket was disabled so that we could use it to watch videos and nothing else, the licensing people sent us regular threatening letters but never actually came even though we begged them to come and look at our mangled socket; and we took to viewing endless back to back episodes of The Simpson’s.

And then we got a video camera!  The kids had hours of fun with this; as much fun as my sister and I had with our first reel-to-reel tape recorder, making spoof adverts and radio programmes and laughing endlessly at the sound of our own voices.

And now?  I don’t know.  There’s plenty on All4 which one may view for free; we have a large stash of DVDs and if the worst comes to the worst I can always read a book…


Anyway, I’ll leave you with my favourite ever episode of Frasier, the one where he and Niles lock themselves in a hotel room and try to write:


Happy viewing!

Kirk out

Adolf Hitler: his Downfall’s Part in my Life

I have spent much of the last week trying to watch the brilliant film about Hitler’s last days, ‘Downfall’.  It’s 2 hrs 24 minutes long and downloading Downfall was the downfall of my efforts to watch it because it took almost as long to download as it did to watch.  In the end instead of seeing the whole thing with Mark I had to view it in shifts, occasionally coinciding with him for the odd ten minutes.  Even then I missed the last 20 minutes or so.  But it’s a hypnotic film.  At first it doesn’t seem very interesting but you are drawn in.  At first Hitler doesn’t seem very evil; but little by little his delusions and dementia overpower the viewer as they overpowered him.  The most heartbreaking scene is when Himmler and his wife poison the six children who have remained in the bunker with them: they first give them a sleeping draught and then place a poison tablet between their teeth and clamp the jaws together.  The children give a little convulsion as the pill takes effect.

It’s gone from the iplayer now but here it is on imdb:

Of course no week is complete without watching an episode of Rev; and the series sadly came to an end on Monday.  With the church closed, Adam decides he has the skills to be a management consultant: when this attempt fails he loses hope and takes to lying in bed like a lot of despairing unemployed people do (I know whereof I speak).  In a brilliantly scripted turn-around, the usual ‘talking to God’ slot is occupied first by his wife and then in turn by all his parishioners.  Like the disciples they have all shunned him and judged him – all apart from Alex – but in the end there’s a reconciliation: they break into the church and hold an impromptu Easter service.

Rev is a stunning combination of human failing and inspiration; what’s more, I can never guess where it’s going.  Can’t wait for the next series.  Please tell me there’s going to be one!

Kirk out

Alas, Poor Gabriel

There’s an awful lot of death around these days.  Have you noticed?  I’m just coming out of my news coma – I know it’s a couple of days early but I thought I’d get myself acclimatised so I’m easing myself into it gently.  Besides, I have to do a talk tomorrow at Tomatoes about how it all went, so I need to find out what I’ve missed.  A lost plane, the death of bananas and the greed of Maria Miller, seems to sum it up.  And today, the sad news that Gabriel Garcia Marquez has died, aged 87.  Frankly, I was surprised he was still alive, so it didn’t affect me as much as you might think, but I fell in love with Marquez when I was in Spain.  Everybody was reading him then; especially ‘Cien Anos de Soledad’ (One Hundred Years of Solitude) and Love in the Time of Cholera; and I absolutely adored him.  There are very few people who can do magic realism well – you have to have it in the blood, I think – and Marquez is one of them.  I shall dig out my old copies of his work and re-read them.

Adios, Gabriel.  We’ll miss you.

So I’m slowly coming round and back to the world again – and I’m determined it isn’t going to have the same effect on me as it did before.  I will not get paranoid, anxious, angry and fearful; I will take the news in but not let it dictate my mood.

I find Lenten fasts can be quite life-changing.  For example, we used to give up TV for Lent every year and then one year we just thought; Oh, why bother?  Let’s give it up for good.  And we did.  That was around 1999 I think; and we haven’t looked back.  We didn’t even have the iplayer in those days, just videos to keep us going.  Many’s the video I learnt by heart.  Seriously, what do you need TV for?  It’s mostly ‘reality’ rubbish.

Read a book instead.  Read Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  Go on, read him now.

Hasta luego

Kirk out

PS  Oh, and I’m writing a new story based on Mark’s weirdness.  If anybody knows any magazines that publish trans stuff, let me know.


I blogged a few weeks ago about the advanced technological state of our new GP’s; although the receptionist is perfectly friendly the entire system is geared up to avoid any human interaction at all until you actually see the doctor: from having to ‘arrive yourself’ through touching a screen to the remote ordering of prescriptions (well, with a request slip, anyway) I would not have been surprised to be confronted by a Medibot on penetrating the interior instead of a human being.

So this morning I went along to see if my prescription was ready and it wasn’t: apparently they can’t sign them remotely but have to come in and do it in person.  Who knew?  Anyway in spite of this technological weirdness it seems to be a good GP practice, so I’m going to stick with it.  It’s even closer than our old surgery was, and that’s saying something since that was virtually just across the road.  But this is literally just across the road…

So: back to the iplayer and what I’ve been watching this week.  Now that they’ve taken Father Brown off I’m lacking an anchor for my viewing schedule, but this has now been filled by a copper: to whit, WPC 56:

It’s set in 1956 and features a WPC; so to that extent it does what it says on the tin.  The series treads the line between good period drama and caricature; there’s a black-and-white fogginess to the OB shots: dark streets, sinister alleyways, split windscreens etc.  It’s a bit issue-y; recent episodes deal with arresting gays, prostitution, and sexual harassment in the workplace, but it’s entertaining nonetheless, and punctuated by cries from me of ‘I remember that!’ and ‘We used to have a car just like that one!’ to which the children roll their eyes.

Holly is in Lancaster as we speak, having got up at the crack of doom to get a coach up there to an open day.  I really hope she gets something out of it; the plans went awry when her promised lift backed out, leaving her to get the only affordable National Express leaving Leicester at 3 am.  She’s doing the same coming back, though her boyfriend is going with her so I’m not worried.  Good job it’s in half-term week…

Must go now as I have to pop across to the doc’s and see if my prescription has been arrived yet…

Kirk out

And a Very Happy Nineteen to the Dozen

Yes, that’s the date today: 19/12.  One day till the shortest day and one week exactly till Christmas!!

And am I ready?


This week on the iPlayer I have once again watched ‘Film 2013’ and concluded that it ain’t what they say, it’s the way that they say it.  Come back, Barry Norman! I hear myself crying (and why not?)  The whole programme has been sofa-ed: it’s been smartarsed; it’s been kohled and mascara-ed and chatted and packaged in a ‘don’t-let-the-viewer-switch-channels’ panic.  Claudia Winkelman comes across like a ’60’s diva; all mascara and kohl and very little self-confidence, while her guests rattle off smartarse comments at nineteen to the dozen (see how I worked that in there?)  Still, it does all make some kind of sense and if you can disentangle what they’re saying from the way they’re saying it, it is worth listening to.  Viz. this week’s review of the Hobbit, summed up in the words ‘this isn’t a Tolkein trilogy, it’s a Peter Jackson trilogy.’  That one has disappeared from the iplayer, alas, and I have yet to catch up with this week’s which reviews the latest (yawn) ‘Anchorman’ and more interestingly a remake of ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’.

‘Mastermind’ continues to be compelling, even hosting a special ‘Dr Who’ edition where the chair was filled, predictably, by a succession of geeks; three men and one woman.  Endearingly they focussed on the old Dr Who’s; and although the woman didn’t do brilliantly in the first round, she won in the end as the others were terrible at general knowledge!

‘Last Tango in Halifax’ continues to fascinate, though I haven’t quite finished this episode:

And finally, thanks to both Jane and Peter for cheering me up yesterday.

Kirk out

PS  Seen anything you like on iplayer?  Let me know

The Late, Late Breakfast Show

Rather a late post this morning – after yesterday I’ve been having a laid-back start to the day.  The day began (yesterday, that is) at 3 am with insomnia which lasted until I got up; however it got better when I went out to see Daniel’s exhibition in town.  He and some other yoof have a photographic and art exhibition which they set up themselves in a disused shop-unit in town.  I thought it was great: when we arrived at 2 pm they had already had more than a hundred visitors and they’d only been open a couple of hours!  By close of play four photos had been sold (though not Daniel’s) and a lot of enthusiastic comments made in the book.  So head along and take a look – it’s open all week:

Then we walked down to the Western where there was a Cornish beer and cider festival on: we tried a half of two different beers which were hoppy at first but pronounced ‘twangy’ after a while.  This seems to be the case with all Cornish beers – maybe it’s the water.  Anyway, after that we went indoors and stuck mostly to the Billy Bitter although I did try a half of White something-or-other which was extremely pale and somewhat citrus-y.  i enjoyed it though Peter turned up his nose at the very sight of my brew.  Half-way across the afternoon a jazz-band set up and played mellow, slightly experimental jazz for a couple of hours; towards the end Mellow Baku came along and sang a couple of numbers.  My own taste in jazz runs more towards the traditional than the experimental end; this band were somewhere in the middle I guess.

After that we were starting to get hungry, so we toddled on down to Saardaar’s where we split a couple of delicious dishes washed down with a mango lassi apiece.  Lovely.  And then home, where I watched a couple of old episodes of Black Books (see next Thursday’s post, life on the i-player) before having a drastically early night.

And so to bed.

Kirk out