Friday, 30 November 2007


Whereas this post IS an obvious attempt to increase my activity here in order to hit my self-imposed monthly post count, isn't it?


Killing Jokes

If any of you here, who listened to N* T*m*t**s, would you mind telling me what your favourite sketches were...?
I've got to put together a range of around 5 of my best sketches for someone, or rather my best scripts and ideally ones that show a bit of range.
Basically, if you laughed at the words it might just have a script that doesn't look like gibberish on a page.

Will you do that for me, lovey...?

This message is about a real thing that I really have to do, before Monday evening and not an obvious attempt to increase my activity here in order to hit my self-imposed monthly post count.

Gaurdina acrhiev

Another thing I've just signed up for to help me with the book, which I am liberty to tell you is called The Rise and Rise of the Independents - a television history is The Guardian's Digital Archive, it only goes up to 1975 at the mo, and it costs money almost immediately (the free offer evaporates like snow on the sun, within seconds of getting on to the site) but it's great to poke about in, and saves me spending too much time in reference libraries, very few of which seem to be in my house, despite all the obscure books I've bought trying to lure them in.

It's a bit slow and clunky on my system (I am dial up boy) but it works.

Hey, the future- it's handy for the past and you don't even have to go out!
Sign up before midnight for a half price offer...

Sorry, that was all a bit Whizz for Atoms! wasn't it?

Baby Limbo

In other olds...

The opportunities to have opportunities I hinted at a couple of weeks back- one's fallen through, bummer. The other one is possible still but would now involve a lengthy stay in London which isn't ideal, but might be worth exploring. Bummerish, but still...

There also looks to be faint possibilities on the radio drama side again. It had seemed to me that I was meeting nothing but disinterest on that front (which made it all the more galling when I learned midweek that a biographical drama idea I pitched as radio last year and was told no one was interested in, and was now talking to a TV producer about, is being made as a TV film for BBC 4. It was obviously a story someone should do, I wish it could have been me).
So, I was pleased to get an email towards the end of the week from a radio drama producer who liked my writing, which made a nice change from me having to send in pitches that failed to engage anyone. We'll meet up after I've interviewed my second tranch of TV industry multi-millionaires and see what happens.

Then there's Project X which is a co-writing thing I'd love to do, which is very much in the lap of the gods, so you know, I'm not starving yet.
I might be, come tea time.

Paperback Writer

Where's the month gone? I had it in my hand just five minutes back.
Most of it has gone in book research and then a chunk of it in long emails and 'phone conversations as I start arranging interviews. It's with some alarm I realise I'm about to meet some of the most talented and wealthy people in UK TV over the next two weeks including a couple of personal heroes.

One of the personal heroes I would have dearly loved to talk to properly for the book (we spoke incredibly briefly once at a conference) has of course just died. A number of the people I'll be talking to are women who've reshaped the TV industry, and there's no denying Verity Lambert led them from the front. Her Thames career alone produced some of the landmarks of TV drama, now remember she was the first producer of Doctor Who and what she achieved with her own company, GBH, Jonathan Creek, Eldorado (no, read around, after its tricky start it ended up a very good show.

Talking of meeting personal heroes, last week I did have a brief chat to Terrance Dicks at the National Media Museum, shortly before he had a very long and entertaining chat on stage with Tim Neal, the co-author of The Target Book a guide to those Doctor Who novelisations that so influenced the imaginations of a generation of excitable young men before video recorders went and spoilt it all.

Terrance says half the TV industry seem to tell him his Making of Doctor Who book was partly responisble for them ending up in it! Somehow I don't think I'll be seeking to confirm this with my interviewees, though I bet one or two of them have given it a flick through. I also had the ridiculous pleasure of reintroducing myself Andrew Pixley again, who I've been bumping into on and off since about 1984 when we were both in Sheffield. He was kind enough to praise my chapter in Time and Relative Dissertations in Space about... the making of Doctor Who which drew heavily on his incredible research into the making of Doctor Who.

There's a pattern emerging here.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Invasion of the Polaroid People

When you get a piece of phishy spam it’s often instructive to analyse the hidden assumptions behind it, assumptions deliberately put there in the hope the spam will hit the intended target more times than not. However I’ve been getting rubbish spam of late, which doesn’t even give you the pleasure of a bit of close textual analysis.

Firstly, I don’t live in America, secondly, I don’t bank with who you’re claiming to be, thirdly, if you don’t get my name right I’m unlikely to trust you, fourthly, I can recognise a redirected address when I see one and fifthly, you’re sending it to an email address I don’t use alongside any passwords. Poor show.

They remind me of nothing so much as the time two older kids in junior school who’d just heard my first name called by a friend in the yard, asked me if that was my name, told me they’d been sent by the headmaster and that I had to come with them at home time because my mother had died and so there was no one waiting for me back at my house.

They addressed me as if they had more knowledge than they had, used the spurious authority of a trusted figure, attempted to play on a general weakness and totally cocked up. They’d failed to realise they were mimicking the way real authority would work very, very badly indeed and that my mother worked at a school across the city and thus was never home before me on school days. Poor show.
I wonder sometimes what they wanted, I think it was just to make smaller kids cry. I wonder if being rubbish at it stopped them in their tracks, or just taught them greater cunning.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

London (KLAR mix)

The media have been in touch...
Not my words, the words of track 4 of Penny Broadhurst's poptastic Allons-y! EP, but they have anyway.

Two calls from that many headed Hydra the BBC today... One, a request at stuff all notice to go on a local 'phone in and discuss a gay kiss on Emmerdale (luckily, I was out for that one and it was too late by the time I got back, so I didn't have to be rude and decline), the second, a tantalising chance to maybe do something a bit more interesting.
We'll see.
Coupled with another opportunity that may (or may not) materialise shortly (the chance to have a chance to have a chance of doing something more interesting) and a chat with an agent which is nothing yet but might be one day, things could get fun quite soon (or might not), not to mention chancy.
Better get this book done then...

Tuesday, 6 November 2007


Chief excitement on getting home, bar fevered message board reading was the arrival of three comp copies of

Time and Relative Dissertations in Space, Critical Perspectives on Doctor Who

which is a cracking read, even with a peculiar last minute design blip on the cover (not pictured), Royal Mail having inflicted an impressive gouge on the cover of the lovely hardback edition and there being a few tiny details to quibble over inside.

These are teensy little niggles basically- a minuscule typo in Paul Magrs wonderful freewheeling finale, Tat Wood's curious memory lapse on Monoid voice treatments, me calling Day of the Daleks "THE Day of the Daleks", Dale Smith's terrible double sin of misspelling Jac Rayner's surname as Raynor and calling The Myth Makers "The Mythmakers", that kind of stuff that makes you cross because everything else is so very good, basically.

Even my chapter reads all right- bits are a bit tortuously phrased as I tried to cram in as much as I could into my word count and it ends abruptly simply because to do the next bit of the story properly would have taken far too long again (it would have taken James Chapman's Inside the TARDIS basically), but you know it's okay and I get a couple of pictures too.

Really proud to be part of this line up- David Butler, Jonathan Bignell, Daniel O'Mahony, Matthew Kilburn, Tat Wood, Alec Charles, David Rafer, Fiona Moore and Alan Stevens, Me, Dave Rolinson, Kevin J. Donnelly, Louis Niebur, Andy Murray, Alan McKee, Lance Parkin, Dale Smith, Matt Hills and Paul Magrs, many of them people whose work I'd just read before.
It's almost like finding you've got a short story in a book alongside Terrance Dicks (Doctor Who - Short Trips: A Christmas Treasury, copies still available), or you've been on the proper real radio next to proper real comedy from the olden times- I'm on after Hamish and Dougal, I've gone from interviewing Barry Cryer to being in the same business as him!
It just makes you beam and feel slightly grown up and childish at the same time.

Anyhow, it's a great big fat fanzine for grown ups who can still be childish some of the time, and recommended for everyone who always knew The Unfolding Text was a prime exhibit in the case for TV studies not quite getting it, yet. I think it's also a massive tribute to the Gary Gillatt era DWM which is quoted from extensively and really raised the level of discussion (and fun) in fandom.
I reckon TV Studies has grown up as much as us in the last couple of decades and Doctor Who is finally getting the attention it deserves particularly since Barker and Britton's excellent Reading Between Designs, we can come out from behind the sofa, if we like.

Other academic books about Doctor Who are available.


Back, fresh and destressed, from Herefordshire- Goodrich castle, the Mappa Mundi, a cider maker’s and second-hand bookshops visited to much excitement. Look, I don’t get out much, old stuff is as good as it gets.

The Mappa Mundi is brilliant - a world view, quite literally, and liberally dotted with those bits of dubious mediaeval zoology and anthropology that make any modern reader of Othello go "He's making it up- he's never been anywhere!"
The chained library which accompanies the Mappa in Hereford Cathedral is possibly even more exciting to a more specialist saddo like myself. Look- really old books chained to shelves with built in work desks and benches! Just fantastic- everything from early Caxton volumes to Doctor Johnson's dictionary in vaguely sensible shelving orders.

Goodrich castle is also worth a poke 'round, an excellently preserved site, with everything you want from a castle and with the layers of occupation clearly exposed too- you could see it was a space that had evolved, which I always love.
Paradoxically, I think the old Ministry of Works sign saying bits are a bit unsafe so it's your own fault if you break a leg or anything was one of the things that transferred me furthest into a different time zone.
No friendly visitors' centres with dragon glove puppets and opportunistically labelled fudge or audio tours and bits fenced off for health and safety reasons back then, just a lot of trip hazards and the assumption you'd behave sensibly enough not to come to any great harm...

I was reminded of that sense of history as a layered process in a location watching the new Poliakoff, which had a brilliant twenty minutes slowly built up to over almost an hour of watchable TV. Quite theatrically paced, and featuring a bit too much curiously disengaged rumpery between not quite convincing people for my tastes, the film repays your attentiveness in the end, particularly for the lovely use of archive film and for the revelation that the evil in a man's past his son was seeking to make reparations for, was the time when he'd stood by and done nothing as evil began to assert itself.

Still more thrillingly, on my return, the person on the BBC 7 message board who didn’t like No Tomatoes after episode 1 has had a “road to somewhere in the middle east but not Damascus yet and there’s no guarantee they ever will go to Damascus” experience.
The show has been growing on them and they mentioned a couple of items from show 5 they’d enjoyed, which was very nice, and comforting too.
However, they still feel as if the show is “written by a disgruntled mathematician whose thought processes are too close to my own to be funny”.
I’m almost certain I would be disgruntled as a mathematician actually. I’ve met one, he colours in maps, and tries to come up with a justification with writing and stuff for how many crayons he uses.
All day, apparently.
I only got O level Maths grade C, which essentially means I turned up and didn’t defecate on the exam paper. I was also famously bad at colouring in.

I suspect this disgruntled mathematician tag comes from the writer getting a couple of references I chucked in to Cantor in show 5 which they assume only a maths expert would understand, coupled with a couple of infinity and pi related items in earlier episodes. I reckon it means the esoteric scatter gun approach has hit at least one target anyhow. It’s just a shame they don’t think us appearing to have similar thought processes is nice. I suspect it means they think the shows are a bit too predictable and obvious, it's either that or they’re riddled with self hate (in which case their thought processes are indeed too close to my own).

If you want to hear No Tomatoes again, or even for the first time, you can’t, well not now, but it’ll probably be ‘round again in a year or so, they've paid.