Category Archives: Television

Sky Sports Cricket Commentary: A One-Sided Affair

Perhaps this article has no concern in a feature about television, but then again, for how many of us does commentary affect our sports viewing experience?

Commentary is another layer of the sport viewing experience involving some disputes, jokes, and general amusement.

The India VS Australia Boxing Day test match has kicked off, and whilst being one of the most thrilling matches of test cricket we have seen in a long time, the coverage has been dismal and definitely worthy of a duck. The blame rests on the shoulders of Sky Sports, the self-proclaimed pinnacle of sports broadcasting.

However, their coverage of the India VS Australia test is unreservedly one sided in favour of the Australians.

The match is broadcast on Sky Sports through the Australian Channel 9. The commentary panel is full of Australian greats including Richie Benaud, Bill Lawry and Ian Chappell. There is nothing wrong with their commentary ability, in fact, it is highly amusing and the banter is certainly a plus. But it biased without even an attempt to hide that fact.

There is nothing wrong with the panel itself. Benaud is a fountain of knowledge and Mark Nichols’s analysis is enlightening. They have every right to be biased, and that is what makes cricket commentary so entertaining. But it is only entertaining when there are commentators from the opposition country, who are equally in favour of their own nation, to debate with. This makes for some good fun. We all remember the playful chit chat between Shane Warne and David Lloyd during The Ashes.

Of course, the commentators cannot be blamed for the hand they have been dealt. It is Sky who have created the issues that sees the wise Ravi Shastri and Harsha Bhogle sit out of the commentary for the series. The poor coverage not only creates a lack of commentator debate, but also a new perspective that ultimately leads to poor analysis, a key aspect for an avid cricket viewer.

Sky have already had numerous problems with cricket coverage, particularly on Sky Go, their online player, that allows one to watch Sky TV from one’s computer, providing one has the subscription. Yet Sky was unable to broadcast the recently finished India VS England matches from India on Sky Go due to a dispute with The Board of Control For Cricket In India (BCCI). Bearing in mind that Sky Go is a key selling point for Sky, this is a highly embarrassing and disappointing for the digital TV provider.

We cannot throw all the blame on Sky since some must go to the BCCI for this faux pas. However, the one aspect that Sky Sports has full control over is their studio pundits. So far, Shaun Udal, Vikram Solanki and Ian Harvey have been in the seats for this current India and Australia series. They are English, English, and Australian respectively. Though it is punditry of a relatively high standard, there is still no balance to the proceedings.

But alas, there is solace in the form of spectators and here Sky Sports get one thing right in showing the playful exchanges between the Australian fans and the blue clad “Swarmy Army”. If only this exchange could happen in the commentary box.

Read more Smoovie Features here

Charlie Sheen Praises New Two and a Half Men

Charlie Sheen tuned into the season premiere of Two and a Half Men, the show he used to spearhead. He was one of the 27.8 million viewers to watch as season 9 kicked off with a bang. But Charlie had no grudging words to say to new star Ashton Kutcher, hailing him as “terrific” in the new season.

Sheen had all round praise for the show, and especially for former co-star Jon Cryer. Sheen told Access Hollywood, “Jon is Jon. He’s a freaking genius. I think [the show has] got a real shot. It felt like a pilot. It felt like a really good pilot.”

“It was a little bizarre watching it”, Sheen admitted, “but yeah, for the most part I was really impressed with what they did.”

Death by train killed off Charlie’s character. “That’s got to be the highest attended funeral of all time,” he joked. “And it’s interesting because I’m doing [a] film with Roman Coppola and there is a funeral scene in that. So I’m a guy that’s gonna have to survive my own funeral twice in the same year!”

Sheen appears to be happy, and why wouldn’t he be? Especially now that his TV career is back on track with his new show Anger Management now confirmed.

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Why Are We Hooked On Sitcoms?

When watching one of your best loved Sitcom, do you ever find yourself saying, “the season/series was amazing, a bit slow at the start but definitely got better as it went on”? Despite watching that pilot episode that in hindsight doesn’t look like the most gripping episode of a series, at the time of your viewing, it does the trick and has you coming back for more. The Smoovie looks at why.

The Characters

One of the first striking things about any TV Sticom is the characters. Everyone remembers the womanising Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother or the well intentioned but highly inept Phil Dunphy from Modern Family. It is these stand out characters that stick in our heads and draw out our intrigue. “What else do these characters have to offer?” “What is their relationship with the other characters we have met?” These questions run through our heads as viewers and it is memorable characters that are part of the appeal of any good TV series.

The Plot 

Naturally we begin to think about the story. “Who does what with who?” Another key question that keeps us hooked to the screen. This is where the characters come in. What is old school Jay’s response going to be to his gay son Mitchell in Modern Family? How will Liz cope with new boss Jack in 30 Rock? Hence we get the situation and our eyes light up for the comedic potential.

The Writing

The writing is of course the machinery behind the gags, characters and situations. It has to be catchy, edgy, and clever. Originality is what it comes down to. The “legendary” joke in HIMYM is, well, legen…wait for it…dary. And it is a joke that is reinvented along with Barney’s million and one other catch phrases. Clever jokes and even funnier situations is what we like to see and the best Sitcoms deliver just that. Modern Family is brilliant at pitching a fastball packed with crazy situations involving children and adults alike.

The Lasting Potential

Finally as a viewer we have to invest in this show and we think, “will this show last?” The best shows last if they can successfully pull together unforgettable characters, and enticing plot and masterful writing. Two And A Half Men (before the whole Charlie sheen thing) had lasting potential with Jake growing up and Charlie teasing the idea of a wedding. HIMYM’s potential is in its name, the story of how Ted met the mother of the title. Little in-jokes such as the pineapple, the goat and slap bets keep the situations running making a long term investment in the show seem worthwhile.

So next time you are watching your favourite Sitcom, just remember why you cant get enough of it. We were all tricked by some great writing, characters and situations, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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How I Met Your Mother Season 7 Sneak Peek

With How I Met Your Mother season 7 just around the corner, and many mysteries to be revealed, there is no doubt that it has the makings to be legen…wait for it…dary! The Smoovie takes a look at what to expect from the upcoming season.

 

Barney’s Wedding

The shocker at the end of season 6 had to be that Barney, author of the elaborate Playbook, and a prolific record of over 200 women bedded, finally settles down as the last season ended on the elusive wedding. But who is the bride? That is the question.

Robin and Nora are the two most obvious choices, but Craig Thomas, one of the producers throws a spanner in the works. Talking to IGN he said: “Don’t assume we are beyond or above doing a little bit of Mamma Mia in Season 7 of How I Met Your Mother. There will be some choices. I’ll say this, officially: We will meet who Barney is marrying in Season 7. We’re not going to string that along. Because we were very vague when that wedding day is – we said, ‘It’s a little ways down the road.’ We will learn who it is in Season 7. It’s the big central question, though there are many, many new questions.”

Co-Producer Carter Bays adds: “We’ll definitely find that out, and we’ll find out a couple of other things along the way.”

It’s all very alluring at the moment and we will be waiting at the edge of our seats to see the outcome.

 

Lily and Marshal’s Baby

After season 6’s back and forth questioning of “is Lilly, or isn’t she pregnant?” Craig Thomas clears things up for season 7.

The plan is set as he explains: “the great thing is a TV season is the length of a pregnancy and Lily’s pregnant in September – in the finale of Season 6, we jumped ahead to September. So we have this mapped out. Our costume designers know exactly which clothes to put her in – in episode 12, we know exactly how pregnant she’ll be. It’s the perfect duration. There’ll be a baby at the end of this year and before the end of this season”.

Another bombshell dropped by the producers, which makes the potential for season 7 to be life changing for all the characters involved.

 

The Mother of the Title

And of course, we cannot forget Ted, in desperate search of his soul mate and the mother of his children, the mystery of the yellow umbrella and its owner will become clear. The only problem is the question of “when”.

How I Met Your Mother has a big two season pick up taking it through to season 8 in spring 2013, so it is doubtful whether we will find out who the mother is before the end of season 8 at least.

 

Final Thoughts

With ongoing in jokes, a network of storylines and a group of wonderful characters, How I Met Your Mother heads into the season 7 premiere with gusto, and hopefully the whole season will continue in this fashion. With some issues needing clearing up, and a two season pickup around the bend, you can be sure that this upcoming season will close some doors, and open many more in the process.

Below is the trailer for How I Met Your Mother season 7:

Sangat TV Heroically Cover Birmingham Riots

Amongst the television coverage of the UK riots last night was Sangat TV (Sky channel 847). Taking broadcast journalism to a new and bizarre level, the Sangat TV team, an independent British-Asian news channel, got to the heart of the action in Birmingham.

Cruising around in the ‘Sangat Mobile’ with a camera, the news crew entered the eye of the storm in the Birmingham riots. An instant of heroism on their part came when they assisted a policeman in catching a rioter, by giving the copper a lift to the criminal. This kind of civilian help was a theme of last night’s riots across the country as residents protected their towns in ‘vigilante’ style’.

There was immense response to Sangat TV last night viewers were full of support. Facebook and Twitter users posted and array of status updates.

One Tweet by @SeetohLang read: “Sangat TV with 1 reporter, 1 driver, and 1 van, have tonight delivered far better reporting than @bbcnews and @skynews put together.”

An inspiring Tweet by @MarkyMarkMB read: “What Sangat TV proved last night is that news isn’t about flashy graphics or technology. It’s about getting out there into the communities.”

Footage from Sangat TV is raw and unadulterated, but it is the very up close and personal nature of this footage that has made it a success. Major news networks such as Sky and Fox News have used some of the recordings.

“@sangattv @howard_scott @neilcocker well done Sangat TV for your amazing brave footage and commentary”, Tweeted @SaqiRoadshow.

This certainly sums up the feeling towards Sangat TV’s outstanding reporting last night and the way that communities have come together to protect against the riots. A very welcome mood indeed.

Below is a clip from Sangat TV footage:

The Campus: Series 1 Review

THE CAMPUS SERIES 1: Aired Tuesday 5 April 2011 – Tuesday 10 May 2011

The crazy antics on a university campus usually revolve around inebriated ‘intellectuals’, with more knowledge regarding the layout of the local off license, than the subject of their degree. However, Channel 4’s The Campus, written by the brains behind Green Wing, focuses on the bizarre, quirky and often supernatural ventures of a group of university staff in the fictional Kirke University.

Series 1 follows Vice Chancellor Jonty de Wolfe (Andy Nyman) as he strives to forge excellence out of the mediocrity that is Kirke University. Senior mathematics lecturer Imogen Moffat (Lisa Jackson), propelled into the academic limelight by her bestselling book “The Story of 0 (Zero)”, is the Vice Chancellor’s key to pushing Kirke up the university rankings.

Constantly being badgered by Jonty for a second book, Imogen hits a writing wall. Enter English professor, Matt Beer (Joseph Millson). Hedonistic, lazy and exploitative, he offers to ‘help’ Miss Moffat to write her sequel so he can get VC Jonty off his back in order to continue being the indulgent womaniser he is. However, Beer’s task gets more complicated as he must contemplate the idea that he might actually be in love with Imogen, all the while his sidekick, Flatpack (Jonathan Bailey) is chasing the same Maths genius. Throw in perpetually enraged Mechanical Engineering lecturer Lydia Tennant (Dolly Wells), and quick fire confrontations are a regular sight.

The university faces closure as seductive but calculating George Bryan (Katherine Ryan) puts it under the microscope and Jonty faces the task of placing Kirke on the map (too literally at times, by suggesting to paint the university so it can be seen from outer space).

The beauty of this show is certainly its style of humour, gliding from awkward, to uncomfortable to racist although at times its offensiveness looks for a cheap laugh. Nonetheless, it is precisely those moments where either cringing, laughing or screwing your face up into an indescribable reaction seems appropriate. Spearheading the hilarity is Jonty de Wolfe, and here Nyman shows a brilliant exhibition of deadpan acting, making you believe that his threat to shrink Jason Armitage (Will Adamsdale) is a possibility. Strutting around with the hardiness of a seven foot person, Nyman demonstrates the snappy wit of his five foot character, showing little regard for the sensitivity of the situation, telling one colleague to, “turn that frown upside down, and fuck off!” as a way of firing them.

The array of characters and their individual personalities inevitably collide in some punchy comedic moments, from the bitter exchanges between Moffat and Tennant, to the sexual tension between Moffat and Beer. The dynamic between the Maths and English professors conflicts the frigidity of Moffat against the quick-witted but abrasive seduction of Beer.

The smaller subplots and characters are as important in keeping the series moving. Awkward flirting between accountant Jason Armitage and Nicole Huggins (Sara Pascoe) provide some truly embarrassing moments with the latter falsely saying she is a lesbian to take away any scent of her attraction towards Jason. This move is a catalyst for many compromising moments of the series including a cheeky boob grab from Armitage.

The Campus offers a fantastic combination of surreal moments and quick-witted comedy in a wonderfully vivid picture of Kirke University. Just like a BA, BSc or any other BS that is studied in university, The Campus takes time to develop and find its true potential, but in the end, succeeds to finish with a first class degree in hilarious.

March of the Dinosaurs Review

MARCH OF THE DINOSAURS: Aired Saturday 23rd April 2011, ITV, 5pm

From its name, March of the Dinosaurs sounds epic, with an air of grandeur and majestic stride, which is very true of this programme. The computer animated drama focuses on the prehistoric creatures as they embark on a 1000 mile trek from the hostile, sub-zero temperatures of the North Pole, in search of food and warmth down south.

March of the Dinosaurs follows two young dinosaurs – Scar, a newly hatched herbivorous Edmontosaurus, and Patch, a carnivorous but incompetent Troodon. As winter approaches and darkness encroaches upon the North Pole, the terrain becomes dangerous forcing Scar, along with the rest of his herd, to undertake an arduous journey in order to leave behind the threatening presence of the Gorgosaurus, a 30ft long, two tonne monster that hunts in the dark with night vision eyes.

Patch however remains in the harsh north but is faced with a battle where only the fittest prosper.  The two must quickly learn how to survive in their environments, experiencing life lessons in both painful and inspiring ways.

The success of March of the Dinosaurs has much to do with the impressive CGI. Brawls between dinosaurs are vivid with bite marks, gashes and blood clearly on display. The magnificence of the odyssey is captured through fantastic landscapes from barren wastelands through to tantalising sunsets. Not only does the CGI highlight the large scale of the expedition, but also does well to highlight the delicate relationships between these rough beings. One of the most heart-rending moments of this story comes from such an instance where Scar looks back on his helpless Pachyrhinosaurus companion with a regretful expression. Even the voices of the dinosaurs encompass their emotion, from the angry roar of an Albertosaurus, to the helplessness of the Ankylosaur.

The actions of these prehistoric animals truly highlight a quite extraordinary resemblance to humans. One only has to look at poor Patch, essentially a dinosaur on the pull who doesn’t get the girl because he lacks a stable home. His attempts at seducing the female are futile as he participates in the mating ritual which involves a rather awkward and uncomfortable looking dance off with another Troodon. How many times have you looked like a prat to impress someone of the opposite sex?

March of the Dinosaurs is a beautiful blend between graceful storytelling and the latest in arctic palaeontology. It is a treat that certainly caters for children and adults creating a truly family drama that takes you back 70 million years, to a remarkable event and gives you a lesson in the harsh realities of growing up.

Help My House Is Infested Review

HELP! MY HOUSE IS INFESTED: Aired Monday 18th April 2011, C4, 8pm

“We’re cornered, we’re absolutely cornered” says one rat infestation victim. Help! My House Is Infested shows the devastating effects of bedbug, rat, moth and fox infestations. The pests spread quickly and they achieve lethal results causing damage to houses and families that often leave a hole in one’s pocket.

However, presenter Sarah Beeny shows that there are solutions. She calls in different “pest busters” to deal with the problems. From heating the house up to 50°C with industrial heaters, to finding ingenious ways to fill an inaccessible pipe, the professionals effectively remove the pests.

Help! plays off the battle between pest and people well, highlighting the grotesque nature of an infestation through vivid images of bedbug bites and dead rats caught in traps. Focusing on specific families certainly helped underline the deep-rooted impact that an infestation can have. The battle is intense as creative detective work from the infestation controllers, using thin tube cameras to look down drains, and placing UV powder to track rats, fought back against the pests.

Yet these moments of gripping action are infrequent. Much of the documentary is quite unexciting with quite obvious questioning from Beeny beginning, “if you were giving someone advice who was in this situation…”, hence the documentary was not provocative enough. While excrement was an important clue for the infestation control people, there appeared to be an unhealthy affixation with it as Beeny seemed to respond to any black speck on the floor with, “errr, is that [insert appropriate pest here] poo?”

Help! also gave the impression that it was dealing with too much. The interjection of the fox pest scenario in the community was thrown in with no attempt at a conclusion and evidently just broke the already staggering flow of the documentary.

With any moments of interesting viewing undermined by unnecessary and predictable structure, Help! My House is Infested is indeed a pest to evening viewing.

(Originally published at onthebox.com)

Sold?: Djalili Haggles For Moneysupermarket

Wouldn’t life be amazing if fat Iranian men popped out of nowhere to save you from wasting money? Well this is the picture that Moneysupermarket.com paint for us in their adverts starring comedian Omid Djalili. Possibly inspired by the shenanigans of GoCompare, the company has taken the humorous route for the new adverts as opposed to their previous efforts – which were pretty lifeless: White background, cheap computer graphics… oh and Peter Jones on a trolley (just making another quick buck). Just as Moneysupermarket.com save us money (apparently), they have now saved us 40 seconds of rubbish by making an entertaining advert with Djalili.

Known for his racial humour, exposé of stereotypes and “Nigerianitis” (the disease where one slips into a Nigerian accent for no apparent reason), Djalili’s comedy blends well with this advert. “In the Middle East there is a name for people who are born without the ability to haggle. They call them, British.” It is apparently due to an “overactive cringe gland”. So true and it certainly has one thinking about losing that haggling phobia. Djalili delivers in his trademark Iranian (or general Middle Eastern) accent with destruction wherever he goes.

The ending comes straight out of the cheese factory with the patent, radiant smile of Djalili and the magical music as he rises “above the high street”. And in classic Djalili fashion, there it is, the switch back to the English accent, haggling to get down from above the high street. One thing that still bamboozles me is: who decided that all price comparison sites would advertise in a foreign accent? There is Gocompare.com with the Italian opera singer, Comparethemarket.com with the Eastern European meerkat and now the Iranian problem-solver for Moneysupermarket.com…

(Originally published at onthebox.com)

X Factor Hit By Betting Scandal

After being hit by more scandals than the England football team last year, X Factor is back in the news this morning following a betting scam which saw Virgin Media employees using inside knowledge to place £16,000 worth of bets every week last autumn.

The individuals followed phone voting patterns in order to place the unfair bets, but following a tip off from Betfair’s Integrity Unit, the Gambling Commission voided them under the Gambling Act 2005, the first case of its kind under this law.

“Following a multi-agency investigation led by the Gambling Commission, we are satisfied that the bets placed were substantially unfair as the individuals involved had inside information,” said Nick Tofiluk, the Gambling Commission’s director of regulation. “Appropriate action has been taken to prevent a recurrence of such activity in the future.”

The commission quickly ensured that there was “no evidence that the integrity of the public voting or the TV shows involved were compromised”.

Virgin Media emphasised that this was an “isolated incident” and preventative steps would be taken to ensure that this does not happen again. Apparently the employees have now been dismissed.

With this scandal, amongst hazy futures for Louis Walsh, Dannii Minogue and the make up of the judging panel, The X Factor moves forward tentatively as the new series approaches fast.

(Originally published at onthebox.com)