Blog: entries tagged with "tv"

Niagara notes

Still working at those scripts. Episodes 1–3 are in their second drafts, and I’m at work outlining the next few.

Just as a very oblique teaser, here are a few topics I’ve been looking up online as research, either for fact checking or inspiration:

  • Plumbing how-to videos
  • Niagara Falls daredevils
  • Testosterone
  • List of nearest stars
  • Dandelions
  • The House of Commons schedule
  • Michael Cowpland (founder of Corel)
  • The ROM galleries
  • Niagara Parks Police Service
  • Dramatic Arts at Brock University
  • The Canadian Top 40 from 1982

Some will make it in as background details, some were dead ends.

And below are some of the notes I’ve made for the series. I like to have some rules to go by, so I’ve chosen a fairly strict structure, and jotted down a bunch of parameters and reminders to myself, based on all the things I’ve found enjoyable or frustrating in other audios over the years.

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oo vuf welcome

From the What I Been Listening To department:

Still from JamFor unfathomable reasons, I’ve been hooked on a show called Blue Jam. Aired in the late ‘90s, it was the brainchild of Radio 1 enfant terrible Chris Morris, whose earlier pranks had included a discussion of ludicrous methods to obtain a legal high, and most famously, the “non-announcement” of the death of a still-living cabinet minister. After the latter incident, BBC censors clamped down hard; why they ever let him back through their doors is a mystery.

Blue Jam is a deeply disturbing show, but utterly hilarious. Sketches and monologues drift in and out amid music of all sorts, starting with an always-different introduction delivered by Morris in a sinister monotone (“When thrapping door-knock brings not chums with cakes, but friends of Sweaty Fred, full madding because you failed to sell… welcome in Blue Jam…”) and quickly descending into a nightmarish world of misfits and psychopaths.

Almost every character we meet is unhinged: the doctor who amuses himself by humiliating his patients and prescribing useless treatments; the parents who belong to a baby-fighting ring; the avant-garde artists who disembowel a man and put him in a display case (much in the fashion of the art-murders on David Bowie’s album Outside). Some favorites: Maria, the four-year-old hardened criminal, Rothko the doberman, and the inexplicable club-scene and style roundups from Michael Alexander St John.

Some of the best sketches were spun into a six-episode series on Channel 4 called simply Jam, and lots - probably most - are up on YouTube. I’m almost afraid to link to any, but here’s a typical opening, and a sketch about a television repairman. Browse the Related Videos at your own peril. Expect mayhem, blasphemy, dead babies, dead dogs, sexual deviance and bad language.

UK radio comedy review site radiohaha offers this appreciation of Blue Jam. Torrents of it and other Chris Morris shows are available at the fan site Cook’d and Bomb’d.

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Brain shuffle

Every once in a while, one of those music memes sweep through the blogs I read: put your music-player software on shuffle mode and list the first 20 tracks that come up, that sort of thing. Here’s a twist: keep track of the songs that are in your head at the moment you wake up, and post a list. Here’s mine over the past few weeks. Make of them what you will.

  • Dexys Midnight Runners - “Come On Eileen”
  • Franz Ferdinand - “What You Meant”
  • Massive Attack - “Risingson”
  • Peter Gabriel - “Steam”
  • XTC - “Limelight”
  • Little Eva - “The Loco-Motion”
  • Bruce Springsteen - “Dancing In The Dark”
  • Steelye Span - “Bachelor’s Hall”
  • King Crimson - “Dinosaur”
  • Rowlf the Dog - “Cottleston Pie”
  • Komeda - “Elvira Madigan”
  • The Shins - “Phantom Limb”
  • David Bowie - “Life On Mars?”
  • Mashup: Depeche Mode - “Get The Balance Right” vs Franz Ferdinand - “Jacqueline”
  • Jazzanova - “Mwela”

About half of these are things I was listening a day or a few days previous… but the more interesting ones are the ones that seemed to come out of nowhere, like “Dancing in the Dark”, or “Cottleston Pie”, which I hadn’t heard since I was a kid. (And by the way, here it is on YouTube. A lot faster than I remember - my mental recording seemed to be more wistful.) “Loco-Motion” and “Bachelor’s Hall” are in there too, certainly.

Try it! It’s a cross between “what you’ve been listening to” and “where’s your head at”.

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RTD Drinking Game

Russell T. Davies is the man the BBC turned to to kick-start and produce the new Doctor Who series. From the start, everyone involved in the program showered him with praise, calling him “brilliant” and “a genius” and “the best TV writer in Britain today”. But his Who episodes have been generally the weaker ones. I think of him as a bit like (former Who script editor) Douglas Adams - bursting with neat ideas but seemingly unable to string them together into a coherent, satisfying plot.

So, here’s the first edition of the Oh No Not Another Russell T. Davies Episode Drinking Game. Contains spoilers, of course. Suggestions welcome.

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TVO

I had been secretly hoping that some totally unknown 80-year-old country singer from Kapuskasing would kick all our asses with a witty, heartfelt tune and a glint in his/her eye (shades of a certain David Hein song)... but it was not to be.

Nah, we didn’t get the encore either. But whatever - Julian said it best in his email: “It’s public broadcasting, so there are no prizes, and everybody wins!” We sang really well, people seemed to enjoy it, and they edited our mini-interview down to one sound-bite so we didn’t sound like total knobs. I’m happy!

They also cut the pre-song chatter with Steve Paikin, where I accidentally admitted to not having a television… aheh. It got a laugh, but oh boy. :D

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Three shows

Tune in to TVOntario this evening to catch Flickershow on Studio 2! We’re first on the bill with an acoustic rendition of “Erratic Satellite Aphrodite”, and from what we saw, the rest of the show should be great as well.

STUDIO 2 ONTARIO SONG CONTEST
Thursday 23 June - 8 pm on TVO (repeats: 11pm, 2:30pm Friday)

And as if that weren’t enough…

“INVINCIBLE” VIDEO LAUNCH PARTY
Friday 24 June - 9pm - The Renaissance Café
1938 Danforth Ave, west of Woodbine [map]
with Archery and Jessica Graham

CANADA DAY SHOW
Thursday 30 June - 9pm - The Pour House
182 Dupont Ave, east of Spadina [map]
with Some Of The Parts

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the devil in the details

With all the ruckus surrounding the return of Doctor Who, I got to thinking about that theme music.

The classic rendition, of course, is by the late Delia Derbyshire - now spoken of in hushed tones by electronic music and science fiction geeks - recorded in pre-synthesizer days using test-tone oscillators and splicing tape. Built up note by note, its phrases are all individually shaped, each note with a unique timbre and tuning - like that gorgeous detuned note right at the beginning: wooo-waaa...

(For the full story, see Mark Ayre’s history of the theme.)

You just don’t get that kind of richness and character playing a typical synthesizer, not without a comparable amount of hair-pulling and sweat. Having a keyboard with all the notes right there at your fingertips, properly in tune and identical from one to the next, makes the playing easier, but not shaping the nuances of the sound. Peter Howell did manage a gripping remake of the theme for the 1980 series (according to legend, using every piece of equipment in the Radiophonic Workshop to do it), but it was all downhill from there.

For the new series, according to composer Murray Gold, the production team had originally intended to use the original arrangement - but it didn’t “sit right” with the new titles and the general feel of the new show. So they opted for something of a remix, using Derbyshire’s melody but a new orchestral backing. From the snippets I’ve heard, it’s certainly a step up from the late-‘80s versions, but still…

When I read that I started to think: surely, with today’s instruments, you could pull off a unique version that’s just as nuanced and hopefully as thrilling as the original, if you were willing to put the time into perfecting it. But no one has, that I’ve yet heard. I know Orbital gave it a half-decent shot, but dammitall, their version was a straight 4/4 dance number which - I’m sorry - is just not right. *twitch*

So I’ve started it as an occasional project: creating a better cover version. I’ll post it if it comes to fruition, but it may take a while to stew.

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