Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Mumbles

Was last night's episode of Jmaygarin (Oo-arrr-riginal Brddish Drumumble) an improvement ?  Was it really a sound issue - or perhaps the revenge of Mebyon Kernow for their slighting in W1A, as director Philippa Lowthorpe sought authentic Cornish accents ?

We'll have to wait for the audience figures later this morning to judge. Meanwhile, if you're out and about on the roads this morning, watch out for a despatch rider heading rapidly towards the set of Pllldrrk (Poldark 2015) just outside Tetbury, carrying the DG's latest pamphlet, "Valuing Diction in Drama", a follow up to the 1974 essays by John Birt and Peter Jay highlighting "The Bias Against Understanding" in television news and current affairs.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Somewhere hidden in ITV-land, the hosts of Good Morning Britain are up and about doing pilots ahead of next Monday's launch. So expect a dripfeed of pre-publicity photographs and interviews. And, this morning, the revelation of the new logo...

I can sort of imagine the pitch: "It's like a speech bubble for the social media generation, with egg yolk connotations - and a hint of guitar plectrum. It says we'll be connecting with you at breakfast, and plucking at your heart strings with the best human interest stories".
  • 0840 update: Alternate take, from @blogmywiki: "It's a sunrise - but an anchored sunrise, a new dawn - with a point to make"

Are your sound engineers 25 ?

July last year: "I don't want to sound like a grumpy old man," Lord Hall tells the Radio Times, "but I think muttering is something we could look at."

"Actors muttering can be testing... you find you have missed a line. You are balancing people’s needs as they get older – which, as someone of my age, I completely appreciate – with the creative need of a director to put in music or sounds that help to make the drama or the programme more real and vital."

I didn't watch Jamaica Inn; already twitchy over the trailers. But those who did suggest a few letters could be heading to the DG. As far as the two basics of acting  - "Speak up and don't bumb into the furniture" - it seems Jamaica Inn achieved one. Many complained they had to switch on subtitles.

Some who saw previews and others who have watched since online suggest their versions were perfectly clear, and that last night's broadcast may have had a fault in transmission. But there was no apology for any technical problem at the end, which suggests Red Bee may not be across Twitter.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Answering the big questions

What IS Country Music ?  The BBC's new Director of Music Bob Shennan was on a panel to opine on this matter at the recent Country Music Association International Marketing Summit in London. I've highlighted elements of this newsletter before, and the captions have proved unreliable - so here are the originals together.

There's potential for a series here.

James Purnell - What IS Trance Music ?
Alan Yentob - What IS Easy Listening ?
Lord Hall - What IS Dubstep ?

Sunday, April 20, 2014


A couple of odds and ends on Derek Cooper. A correspondent shares an anecdote from the late Robert Robinson, who also went to Raynes Park Grammar before he went up to Oxford University, though he was a couple of years older than Mr Cooper - and studied at Exeter College, whilst Cooper was at Wadham. . 

"Bob used to delight in telling the story that as Derek Cooper was about to flunk his degree, he fell off his bicycle and got himself awarded a degree aegrotat, as he was so injured that he couldn’t hold a pen."

And, on the gestation of The Food Programme, as well as a 1971 pilot, there was a precursor. A Radio 4 series called A La Carte, produced in Birmingham by Jock Gallagher.


The Mail has spotted former BBC DG George Entwistle doing a bit of mike holding at the Tate Modern, capturing the words of Nicholas Serota for a short video about the Matisse exhibition. That's not necessarily against union rules in these straitened times, though Mail claims he's the executive producer; he told an onlooker "I'm supervising a film for a friend of mine".

The video was made for the charity ArtFund, and is fronted by art historian Jacky Klein, sister of Suzy. See for yourself whether or not George still has it...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Derek Cooper

Most listeners will remember Derek Cooper, who has died aged 88, for his radio programmes on food and drink.

But for tv viewers, he was an (often uncredited) voice on early programmes in the Granada series, World In Action, and then, from the start, on Tomorrow's World. His authoritative, gravelly style suited both; the accent was London, but with hints of the Western Isles on his mother's side, and Kent on his father's, and probably deepened by an enduring interest in good whisky. 

Cooper (Raynes Park County Grammar School, Portree High School and Wadham College, Oxford) joined Radio Malaya in 1950, after service with the Royal Navy. For a time he and his wife Janet lived in Mount Pleasant, Singapore, and entertained guests like James Michener and Louis MacNeice to dinner - but the station began a re-location to Kuala Lumpur, and, by 1960, Derek was back in the UK looking for work. He produced a series of 15-minute "Roving Reports" for ITN, on topics such as Kenya, Malaysia and the Royal Tour to India and Pakistan of 1961. And he took a few chances to be the narrator as well, deciding that production was not a long-term ambition.

The move to food journalism followed a package as a freelance reporter on Radio 4's Today in 1966 - he talked to foreign visitors to the UK on their response to finding menus stuffed with ersatz versions of their own national dishes, like coq au vin and lasagne, rather than good British staples. It created a buzz, and he soon followed up with an article for The Listener, and a book, The Bad Food Guide, which became a bestseller.

He first mooted the idea of a regular radio show on the food "industry" in the early seventies; there was a pilot, but it was 1979 before The Food Programme was finally commissioned.


Taking stock

We find Lord Patten of Barnes in reflective mood as he approaches his 70th birthday next month. At a recent lecture on universities in the 21st century, he claimed to be the holder of more Chancellorships than anyone in history, and reckoned he also held the record for most degrees handed out.

This, he said, was largely due to his appointment to the role in almost every university in Hong Kong during his governorship, but is helped by his ten years at Newcastle, and the fact that his role as Chancellor of Oxford University is for life.

The first of May will be the third anniversary of his arrival at the BBC Trust, for a four-year term; so the new Culture Secretary will soon begin the hunt for a successor, doubtless with some suggestions from Chris himself. I reckon someone will be identified before Christmas comes.

In other anniversaries, it's ten years since Lord Patten invested in his holiday home in the Tarn area of the Midi-Pyrenees - a rather shambling 17th century farmbuilding, but complete with ageing tennis court, small pool and frog ponds. Next year he'll have more chance to visit.

Cultural archive

Here's an idea for a season: a selection of the plays produced by Richard Broke for the BBC. Richard died this week at the age of 70.  His catalogue is immense, and reminds you how different drama was at the BBC before it became a "brand". I'm not sure it's necessarily remarkable because Richard did his job from a wheelchair, after a car crash while working as a BBC trainee. Here are a fewer nuggets...

In 1979 he produced The Serpent Son, an adaptation of Aeschylus’ Oresteia trilogy (translated by Frederic Raphael and Kenneth McLeish). The three parts ran at 9.25 on BBC1 on successive Wednesdays - a tad more cultural than a four-parter, say, about car parking. The cast included Diana Rigg, Helen Mirren, Flora Robson, Denis Quilley, Claire Bloom, Billie Whitelaw and Sian Phillips. Costumes were by Barbara Kidd, taking a break from Dr Who. There was also a follow-up mickey-take, as was a tradition in Greek drama, from Raphael and McLeish, starring Diana Dors as Helen, Freddie Jones as Menelaus, and Bob Hoskins as the servant Mr Taramasalatatopoulos.

In 1986 he produced The Monocled Mutineer, a four-part dramatisation by Alan Bleasdale of a book about the Etaples Mutiny, and the story of deserter Percy Toplis. No-one disagreed about the fact that there were mutinies in the 1914-18 war, but they did about the scale of them, and whether they mattered - particularly at the Telegraph and Mail. Here's also an early example of the BBC getting into trouble over marketing - in newspaper ads, this drama was branded a "true life story". DG Alasdair Milne blamed the agency - but it added to his woes, and he was forced out the next year.

In 1991, Richard produced a tv version of A Question of Attribution, originally a one-act stage play by Alan Bennett, starring James Fox and Prunella Scales, and directed by John Schlesinger. Schedulers can pick from more than 20 plays produced by Richard in the Screen One series that ran from 1989 to 1993 - one of the more recent attempts to bring back the great days of The Wednesday Play and Play for Today.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Dragging out your part

If you're thinking of "getting into" EastEnders from tonight, as the producers hope, be aware that there's going to be at least nine months before the death is cleared up. This from EE boss Dominic Treadwell-Collins this morning..

Other people who read this.......