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American TV, what happened to you?

American TV, what happened to you?

I’ve now been in the USA for two weeks. People may go on about the greatness of American television, but based on my limited sampling experiences so far, it’s not exactly a fabulous thing to watch. For instance:

– they think nothing of putting heavy-taxing dramas like House or CSI: SVU on at 9am. And really, my brain does not want to be processing the implications of a 16-year-old pregnant girl trapped with a ranting religious nutcase at 9am on a Tuesday morning.
– they showed Casino Royale (the testicle-crushing version) at 10am
– Fox News’s morning show is called Fox And Friends. And features two staidly white men in suits and a blonde woman sitting in the middle, wearing a short skirt and a top that looks like she stumbled out of a New York nightclub three hours ago. And it makes no pretensions about its’ core viewership – it endlessly goes on about the potential Republican frontrunners for a Presidential election that’s 18 months away
– the Disney Channel has an endlessly perky computer-animated Mickey Mouse Clubhouse that has all the subtlety of a brick hitting a television
– Reality TV has truly gone mad here, with a speciality in watching privileged women act like they’re still in school, and accuse each other of ‘dissing’ each other, before burying the hatchet and being best buddies again. Usually in 45 minutes.
– MTV and VH1 seem to have just become entertainment channels – VH1 has reality shows instead of music
– Comedy Central dearly needs to break out of stand-up comedy specials from 5 years ago, and repeats of The Daily Show and the Colbert Report
– the one time I was in a house that had BBC America, it was showing …. Blade Runner. Very British.

And the commercials. Oy vey, the commercials. It’s an endless cycle of relentless plugging of fast food and buffets, which will probably deteriorate your body to the point when it needs a wonder drug. Luckily, the next ad is for said wonder drug that may cause side effects “including heart attacks which may lead to death”. Then up next is an ad for a hospital that promises the very best in health care. (And a part of me wonders how can a hospital that has to spend money in advertising be really promising the very best in health care?)

Of course, I could just be missing Dave and their endless re-runs of comedy panel shows and Top Gear… but darn it, it suited me down to the ground!

McSpace revealed…

McSpace revealed…

So, it has come to pass that four minutes of the failed US version of that seminal British classic sitcom Spaced has made it onto YouTube:

It’s amazing how the mere addition of American accents and standing studio sets make it seem more polished, more ‘other’ and more glamorous. Which takes away the original charm of Spaced in that it was rooted in an earthly reality we could all recognise.

Worst of all – the American version of tortured artist Brian has somehow become Jim Belushi with an easel. It’s pretty much the same dialogue, but he seems less of a sweet, likeable tortured artist and more of an escapee from a fraternity who’s convinced himself that being arty with an easel will get him ladies. Though all he’s gotten so far is Marcia (at least that plotline stayed).

The interludes also seem bizarre to the point of pointlessness. Why have a disappearing tram?

On the plus side, Daisy somehow seems more real with an American accent, because in my head a flighty not-sure-what-to-do young woman seems more real with an American accent. Having said that, it’s very hard to see her miming a gunfight with such fabulous gusto as what happens later in Spaced…

One image to represent America…

One image to represent America…

Imagine you’re quintessential Englishman Stephen Fry – who, naturally, is a geek of Jewish Hungarian stock. He’s spent the last few months travelling the land of the United States, and naturally, has written a book and TV programme about it.

Now you have to publicise said book in a book launch. What’s the one image of America you need to sell the book to a British press? Find out.

This – no doubt hilarious – book joins other ones on the shelves dedicated to explaining America to a European readership. Although given the huge amount of press coverage the American elections get in the UK, I’m not sure anything needs explaining.

Wired UK – take two…

Wired UK – take two…

A sample issue of Wired UK


Wired UK magazine

Originally uploaded by jovike

Back in 1994, Wired magazine tried to launch a UK version, working closely with the Guardian. Since I was barely in university, I couldn’t afford to waste precious money on such a future-looking magazine, so it came and went from my local newsagent but Jem Stone has kindly linked me to a fantastically grimly hilarious email about the trials and tribulations of Wired UK take 1.

Skip to today, and Conde Nast (the current publishers of Wired) have also announced plans to take Wired to the UK – to be edited by the Jewish Chronicle’s editor, David Rowan.

Not being part of the A-list (or even C-list) crowd of tech journalists, I can’t help but to wonder if it’s going to work second time around, just when the credit crunch is slowly being felt and the second dotcom boom is beginning to fade as a consequence. Besides which, I can only think of a couple of Brit-based tech journalists off the top of my head. And one of them only because she has a fantastically unique name.

There is a rising appetite for gadget magazines in the UK, already well served by the likes of Stuff and T3, but merging that with the internet era on a dead tree format? I’m assuming that TechCrunch UK and sites like it aren’t exactly burning up page impressions – and that’s on a free website.

But of course this gets back to my personal flaw in offering problems and reasons not to do something – but never to point out a solution.

Goodbye Dixons ?!

Goodbye Dixons ?!

When the Dixons Store Group bought Currys back in the last century, I wisely said to myself that it wouldn’t be long before the chav-esque brand of Currys would disappear from Britain’s high streets and be replaced by the slightly-upper-class-chav-esque brand of Dixons.

Fortunately, I wasn’t blogging in those days since I’d have to eat my words with the news that all the Dixons stores in the UK are to be re-branded to Currys.digital. The idea apparently being that we would all go online to buy our electronic goods instead, leaving Currys to sell the white-goods to the non-broadband-savvy.

This is interesting news, except for one huge flaw. I’m obviously broadband-savvy. but yet, when I find myself in times of trouble (like every 30 seconds these days) I like to pop into Dixons, just to gaze in wonder at all the electronic gadgets that would bring joy to my miserable existence for precisely 17.5 nanoseconds. And then if I was going to buy one, I’d look a darn site more seriously at the big-screen TVs, how they look in the real world etc.

It’d be a huge shame if all that were to go.

Two nations seperated by a common light bulb

Two nations seperated by a common light bulb

Over here in the antiquated sometimes-backward UK, we have a simple system for lighting up a room. In the middle of a room lies a lightbulb fitting, to which you fit your lightbulb. Connected to said fitting is a switch by the door – so that when you go in the room in the dark, you can flick the switch, and lo, there is light. Simple. Easy. It works.

It was obviously engineered to ensure you could walk into a room with light. So why do all the American apartments I’ve walked into seem to flout this basic piece of design common-sense? I can’t count how many times I’ve walked into a room in an American apartment, thoughtlessly flicked the switch on the door, and instead the tv / video / stereo / computer has flicked off, leaving a rather angry person in the room just when I’m trying to ingratiate myself on the people who have offered to show me their house.

Instead, there’s usually only one light source. Some tiny tiny lamp to the side of the room. And tiny tiny windows, so you can’t take advantage of the huge sunlight opportunities by being in a vast open space.

The only conclusion I can come to is that American eyes are just incredibly sensitive to light. Nothing else explains the sometimes pathological determination to minimize the amount of light in a room. Either that or it’s a huge design flaw that has escaped the attention of the best minds in America over the last 50-100 years.

Scary thought: do a search for lightbulbs UK in Google, and see how many small adverts for light bulbs pop up. It’s almost enough to make you think you need to start a blog on lightbulbs to get all that Google Ads traffic…

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