Eurovision 2009: UK’s Jade starts early

Mail on Sunday, Sunday 15 February 2009, originally uploaded by Thoroughly Good.

UK Eurovision representative Jade (and potential passport to a lifetime of Eurovision-related bliss should a UK win at Eurovision actually turn out to be a reality) appears in The Mail on Sunday today.

In case you think this is an unneccessarily dull Eurovision-related blog posting let me just point out the blindingly obvious: Eurovision NEVER gets a mention in the press until the run up to the main event. And that’s if we’re REALLY lucky.

In years gone by those Eurovision related pieces in the press follow a predictable angle: Terry Wogan mixed with kitsch mixed with scorn poured over Europe = the UK view of Eurovision.

This year, for the first time ever, we get a profile on Jade and her family with a few titbits about the run up to the final on May 16.

According to the Mail on Sunday, Andrew Lloyd Webber will play the piano accompanying Jade as she sings (I’m not passing comment on this but I’m flagging it up as a possibility nonetheless). The MoS also reports that that the lovely Jade will make an appearance “in Sweden” in the coming weeks and that Lloyd-Webber and Diane Warren’s song My Time will be available to buy on May 4.

In the grand scheme of things this may not seems like a desperately important thing but believe me .. it is. The last time I obtained a copy of the UK Eurovision song it was in the week of rehearsals in 2003 and they were giving them away for free. The fact this year’s is available a few weeks before those final rehearsals and I’ll have to pay for a copy is making this year quite different in terms Eurovision history.

What with this news and Jade’s recent appearance on the Maltese Eurosong selection programme (yes, if you’re a Euro-fan I know the Maltese final was some time ago now) was actually rather good, I’m feeling a good deal more confident that May won’t be a car crash.

Mind you, I haven’t seen any of the competition yet.

TV & Radio for the next 7 days

This posting is one borne out of necessity. What follows are my viewing and listening intentions for the next seven days. Now all I have to do is programme the damn Sky+ box to record it all. I’m not sure I can be arsed now I’ve committed all this to delicious. Maybe I’ll just stay in to watch and listen instead.

Sunday 15 February, Radio 4: Classic Serial – Scoop
Satire on journalism in a dramatisation of Eveleyn Waugh’s work. Starring Tim McInnery (the bloke from Blackadder amongst other things) and Rory Kinnear.

Sunday 15 February, Radio 3: Drama on 3 – Harold Pinter
Tasty rerun of Pinter’s 1993 play Moonlight with a broadcast of his 2005 radio piece Voices. Always very interested in hearing stuff specifically written for radio.

Sunday 15 February, BBC One: Damages “I Lied Too”
Sunday night crime stuff in the return of Damages starring Glenn Close. Didn’t watch the first series but will drop in to see whether I can pick this up.

Sunday 15 February, BBC One: The Victorians – “Painting the Town”
Victorian history delivered by Mr Paxman via his love of painting.

Monday 16 February, Radio 3: Lunchtime Concert
Live broadcast of an all Bach programme of violin music played by Alina Ibragimova from the Wigmore Hall.

Monday 16 February, BBC One: Who Do You Think You Are? – Rick Stein
I wouldn’t normally watch it, but Who Do You Think You Are? has featured a handful of interesting people over the past few years. Stephen Fry was one and now this one with bipolar sufferer Rick Stein. Expect very few laughs.

Monday 16 February, Channel 4: The Gangster & the Pervert Peer
What is it that’s so intriguing about the Krays? Violent thugs terrorising individuals in order to wield power who had relationships with all sorts of unusually important and high profile people. This programme examines a relationship with a Tory peer.

Tuesday 17 February, Radio 4: Talking about Lionel
I’ve never been absolutely convinced about how good Oliver! the musical really is, especially given it’s presently box office sales. There is however something compelling about Lionel Bart – the composer’s – sad life, documented here by Eddie Mair and various contributors.

Tuesday 17 February, Radio 4: Musical Analysis – Ravel
Continuing Robert Winston’s excellent series exploring how illness effected a composer’s output (Gustav Mahler was especially good, it has to be said), this week the professor examines dementia sufferer Maurice Ravel.

Tuesday 17 February, More 4: Here’s Johnny
Multiple scelrosis sufferer Johnny Hinkleton uses his illustration skills to help escape the effects of his dibilitating disorder. Gritty, difficult stuff to watch. A valuable insight, I’m sure.

Wednesday 18 February, ITV1 – The BRIT Awards 2009
I may watch this … merely for research purposes you understand.

Wednesday 18 February, BBC Two: Trouble in Amish Paradise
Amish communities are fascinating and I don’t know enough about them.

Thursday 19 February, Radio 4: The Life & Death of Sarah Kane
Twenty eight year old playwright Sarah Kane died after committing suicide four days after writing her play 4.48 Psychosis. Before that she’d written Blasted, a play about the Balkan Conflict for which she was originally criticised. It’s now regarded as a classic. This documentary sees contributors who knew Kane give an insight into her life.

Thursday 19 February, BBC Four: Britain’s Best Drives
A programme devoted to driving routes up and down the country as featured in motorway guides from 50 years ago. Doesn’t leap off the page does it? Maybe not. But then it doesn’t need to. It’s on BBC Four and sometimes us humble viewers like the simple ideas.

Thursday 19 February, BBC Four: Penelope Keith & The Fast Lady
Penelope Keith isn’t on television enough. Here she tells the story of motoring lady Dorothy Levitt and her journey in 1905 from London to Liverpool. Cue lots of shots of rural countryside (surely?) And .. ooh look. It’s in HD too.

Radio: Musical Analysis

I’d originally intended to make this blog post ramble on for ages and ages but energy (or a lack of it) has got the better of me.

It’s been an arse of a day. There’s been far too much noise going on in and around the office today. Far too many people suddenly appearing wanting to talk to me about one or two little concerns they have about things leaving nothing but a sour taste in the mouth and an even worse odour in the air. What with a friendly warning from some Twitter people about my seemingly prolific output (for “prolific” read “you’re overloading us with twitter messages, please stop”) and a late-afternoon meeting in which I really didn’t stand a chance I was completely exhausted at the end of the day.

An hour and a half on the tube didn’t help either. I spent the entire journey home obssessing. Bitter about blogging, even more bitter about twittering and practically foaming at the mouth at the idea of seemingly hoards of people who found it difficult not to keep away from Twestival. (No, don’t worry if you don’t know what Twestival is. I don’t and I also can’t be arsed to research it for you either, so do it yourself.)

The bitter about blogging bit is the most important, however. Trying times sometimes flick switches making the whole writing process difficult to kick-start.

That’s what this blog is, you see. It’s daily writing practice. It presents the opportunity to sit down at the laptop and force myself to write something – anything – every day. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes the day’s events makes blogging seem like a waste of time.

The same situation may have arisen with composer Gustav Mahler it seems. During the second episode in Robert Winston’s Radio 4 musicology programme (What? You don’t know what musicology means?) focussing on the influence of illness on a composer’s output, it seems possible that Mahler may well have lost his creative mojo after his session with Sigmund Freud. And to think .. Mahler only went to go and see him because he was suffering from impotence.

Well worth a listen.

Does Blue Peter need a change?



Top of the tree, originally uploaded by Thoroughly Good.

The spotlight shining on the BBC children’s magazine show Blue Peter as a result of the BBC Trust’s report into how young audiences are served reminds me of an interesting conversation I had recently with a radio producer.

In a predictably confessional-type conversation, I revealed that I had a serious problem communicating with children. I admitted I was scared of them. I explained that I found it almost impossible connecting with children fearing their acute-awareness for ineptitude and lack of style.

“Why is that exactly, do you think Jon?” he said, his notepad and pen in his hand.

“I suspect it’s because they don’t get sarcasm. If they did, then I’d be fine.”

It was then we both looked at each other, him looking thoughtfully at me. Me looking like I’d hit upon a brilliant idea.

Now I come to look over the printed version of Nicholas Lezard’s piece in G2 I notice that my brilliant idea may well have some mileage.

Nestled alongside the copy in the newspaper was a picture of the Simpsons family. Elsewhere in the piece Lezard explains that his youngest child watches the likes of The Simpsons and Futurama.

Why is the Simpsons such a popular programme amongst audiences? Because it appeals to a variety of different age groups because there’s stuff for the adults which the kids don’t get and stuff for the kids which the adults don’t get.

So, if it works for The Simpsons and Nicholas Lezard’s kids like the Simpons, why on earth couldn’t it work for Blue Peter?

It might. And if it could work then I’d suggest that a mixture of scripted enthusiasm for the kids and a spot of healthy sarcasm for the adults may well turn Blue Peter’s fortunes around (assuming it needs it).

And if that’s the case, I’d suggest what Blue Peter might need is a presenter who is reasonably easy on the eye, reasonably excitable, up for anything, good humoured and passionate. A presenter whose middle name might as well be “sarcastic” based on most of the things he utters and writes on a daily basis.

Should you be in agreement with this proposal, please send a postcard to: The Editor, Blue Peter, BBC Television Centre, Wood Lane, London, W12 8TQ stating that Blue Peter should take on a new presenter, adding my name Jon Jacob.

Simple really, isn’t it?

TV: It’s time to go Nationwide

Esther on the box

Esther Rantzen (marvel at her as she was in the 1960s above) was one of a handful of TV yesteryear celebrities who shared their recollections of working on tabloid-style magazine TV programme Nationwide in the shamelessly self-indulgent documentary “It’s time to go .. Nationwide” recently. 

I remember Nationwide although didn’t realise how long it had gone on before I started consuming it. Being a relatively spring chicken, I hadn’t appreciated it actually started out in black and white or that it was produced at the Lime Grove studios in London once owned by the BBC. 

There’s plenty of footage of life at Lime Grove in the programme. Cramped surroundings, ridiculous look corridors designed to confuse visitors and occupants alike, an appalling canteen (according to former Nationwide presenter John Stapleton at any rate) and … horror of horrors, people smoking in the production office. 

It’s a completely different world, one laden with glamour guaranteed to seduce broadcasting history junkie who finds names like Lime Grove, Alexander Palace and Bush House evocative. It’s exterior was hideous and even I can see that working conditions were pretty awful – no surprise it was knocked down – and yet it’s exactly this kind of BBC history which gets me ridiculously excited. 

Watch it via the BBC iPlayer whilst it’s still available or check in at BBC Programmes to see when it’s next on.

There’s always the  blurry footage of Lime Grove below before it was demolished to salivate over in case those other two options fail to register a modicum of interest. </p>