Christian Aid Week

May 19, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Christian Aid’s advert certainly strikes a chord these past weeks what with recent events in Burma and China.  Taking the form of a computer game, the ad, publicising this week’s Christian Aid Week (11-17th May), points out that “natural disasters always hit the poorest hardest? while far-off characters are hit by a hurricane.  The village is then rebuilt and fortified against the next hit, which they survive demonstrating that with the right equipment these catastrophes can not only be predicted, but also often prevented.

The fitting computer game style, without doubt, says something about the unreal, other-worldly sensation westerners often experience when greeted by coverage of natural disasters that occur abroad.  Not only this, but also the elevated viewpoint, putting us well and truly in the position of the button pusher, certainly goes some way to commenting on the significant power that we have to donate to these causes and make a difference.

The only hang-up I have with this advert is the way its detached form in effect borders on economic dispassion.  When shocking photos appear daily on the front of numerous newspapers how is a cartoon about little computerised faceless people going to trigger them to sympathetically reach into their pockets?  I’m not saying it’s not a clever point about the insignificance this magnitude of victims has in many people’s consciousness, but is Christian Aid’s ad truly hard-hitting enough to get an immediate donation?  This week we shall see.

BBC HD Channel

May 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Last night was the very first airing of the new promo advert for the BBC’s new high definition channel.  Celebrating the launch of their latest service that will offer an enhanced picture quality, this advert certainly aims to make an impact. 

Taking the spectacular form of an Antiques Road Show mock episode, the ad, developed by agency Fallon and produced by Red Bee Media, starts with the revelation that a vase is worth at least £2 million.  As the owner’s son faints causing the piece to catapult into the air, everything turns a bit Tomb Raider.  Things are smashed as people let go of their prized possessions in shock as the soundtrack builds epically and slow motion ensues.  Starring newsreader Fiona Bruce as the action hero who drives head on through a table of ornaments in a vintage car (nice touch), it culminates in a dramatic explosion from which the BBC favourite runs and dives just in time to save the piece.   

Further confirming that HD is the future of TV, this is the perfect choice of show to demonstrate the cinematic sexiness that the channel promises to inject into its content, both established and new, though there is, no doubt, a limit to what it can do for the Antiques Road Show – just imagine if HD actually meant turning everything on telly into an action film?!  No Jolie-inspired, cleavage-enhancing attire here though, Fiona is, of course, in true BBC style dressed sensibly for the occasion.

Peep Show

May 7, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Peep ShowChannel 4, Friday 2nd May 2008

Friday night finally arrived and with it came the first in the latest series of Peep Show. I must admit, I was somewhat apprehensive, this being the fifth run and of course, there was considerable hype surrounding it due to their recent Bafta honours. So, as the familiar opening music started and I blissfully revelled in the fact that this was not simply an old episode from my DVD collection regularly watched for its comfortably familiar and certified funny gags – this was brand spanking new, I actually faltered a little in the worry that I might not laugh. Or, if I laughed, it might not be hearty enough or worse still, maybe I would just laugh out of habit.

I was soon put at ease though as the first joke came and I chuckled without much thought at Mark’s pondering over the irony of misery while drinking champagne and from then on I was quite sure that there was no need for concern. The episode sees Mark the jilter venture into dating territory again after his disastrous non-wedding day when Jez organises a double date for the two of them. This largely involves Jeremy discovering that he quite probably has Chlamydia and that it’s definitely not sexy while Mark, with his British Museum mag as prop actually manages to set himself up on a second date with a girl he’s convinced is “the one? from the moment he sets eyes on her. The finest moment here is undeniably the theatre scene where both guys lament the fact that they’ve just paid to be mind-numbingly bored by actors on a stage when they could have just watched television.

Still, I have to hand it to the burglary storyline for the best laughs, not only when Mark comes back from the theatre to discover that they’ve been ransacked and Jez has done sod all about it, but more so after his second date when he apprehends the burglar, or “sh*t-muncher?, as he describes him. A pretty awkward/inspired scenario ensues where Mark insists on continuing his date (calling through to her in the kitchen, “there’s wine in the fridge? as he sits on the intruder and brags about his financial stability). Of course, it all gets progressively more farcical as Jez helps the burglar get rescued by his gang, who proceed to steal everything else and Mark vengefully tells Jez’s ex, who he’s brought back to the flat that he has, or may have Chlamydia. The programme ends splendidly with Mark pinning Jez down this time, while both of the women walk out leaving them to sort out their own sorry mess.

This is, undoubtedly, Peep Show returning on form proving that there certainly remain several directions in which to take the characters and plenty of room to keep the content fresh. Indeed, I wait eagerly for the subsequent surprises in store from the Peep Show crew.

By Susan Allen

Blood, Sweat and T-shirts

May 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Blood Sweat and T-shirtsBBC3, Tuesday 29th April, 2008

The creators seem to have hit upon a particularly engaging format with Blood, Sweat and T-shirts, a docu-reality show about six young fashion lovers working in Indian factories making clothes for the British high street. With the aim of promoting a little more thought among young people about the world of cut-price fashion, Tuesday’s second episode continued to provide an enlightening glimpse into the daily toil of the sweat-shop worker – the grimy reality behind that pristine garment and its astonishing price tag on the mannequin in Primark.

In fact, the beauty of this programme lies largely in its crude reality-show approach essentially forcing us to address the issues based upon how much each individual presently gets on our nerves and whether this makes them the kind of person whose opinions we truly give a toss about. Take self-made man, Richard. Last week, his astounding cockiness at the sewing task planted a seed of dislike that only grew as the first episode went on and he proceeded to sneer at the people on the street about their littering. Before long, this turned into a full blown desire to shake him until his inapt, uncompromising grimace disappeared and he realised how ridiculously repulsive his attitude was.

This week, we saw him run into trouble shooting his mouth off about the “lazy? people around him as if this was perfectly ok because, as he later explained, he must “express? himself. He was lucky some geezer didn’t express themselves right back in the form of a punch in the gob, which he no doubt deserved, prancing around like some hard-nosed, drunken yob adamantly explaining over and over why exactly they’re entitled to their opinion. And, just like those not wishing to fuel a drunk with a bee in their bonnet, the others just sat in silence flummoxed at the incomprehensible rudeness of his ‘entitlement’.

Towards the end of the instalment, having threatened to leave the show, microscopic flickers of compassion began to appear in him as he started to realise that perhaps it wasn’t a case of straightforward indolence in the Indian nation after all and it was actually pretty hard to live the dream with such few opportunities available. Of course, the producers know how to stir up a bit of drama and plonk the subjects into “good guy / bad guy? boxes but what they’re really interested in is a journey, and it looks like Richard is going to be going on one of these.

With viewers following this and the others’, it no doubt serves to encourage fairly comprehensive thought about the grubby truth of the fashion industry in a way that an expose simply won’t cut it. This season, shocking but pretty remote documentary footage with voiceover stating ineffective facts in an admonitory tone is out, authentic empathy via hard-core reality-show experience is in. Nevertheless, as emotive as these contestants might make Indian sweatshops, it may take more than Blood, Sweat and T-shirts aka I’m British (and simply buy, not make these clothes), Get Me Out of Here to change an entire industry’s habits.

By Susan Allen