Blog Archives

Advert: ‘Tom’ (Google+) – 31 March 2012

It’s almost exactly two years since John Lewis aired their renowned Always A Woman advert for the first time, which followed one fame from infant girl to loving grandmother. After seeing it in that night’s edition of Britain’s Got Talent, I took to this blog to share it with readers. And that I intend to do with another advert – or ‘commercial’, as the marketers of the American company it promotes would say – this one for Google and, specifically, their Google+ social network.

Google have effectively given their own take on that JL Never Knowingly Undersold campaign, using Jaques’s All The World’s A Stage monologue from Shakespeare‘s As You Like It as the ‘soundtrack’ to the 90-second commercial, read by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Personally, I still prefer the beautiful colouring of the 2010 ad even though, unlike this one, it’s technically impossible: the child at the birthday party could not have been wearing clothes from the same era as the elderly lady seen at the end of the video if they were indeed the same person (in this one, there’s two ‘real time’ eras, with Tom’s son, Tom today, and Tom as a grandfather illustrating the ‘seven ages of man’, getting around that problem). But even still, it’s a great clip, and interesting to see Google (a long-pioneering web company) advertising through a much older and less-targetable medium (one that they don’t have any control over) for what is really the first time.

My Thoughts: Top Gear 18×01 – 29 January 2012

(Just so you know, I’m not going to review every Top Gear episode, but I had strong enough opinions of this episode to warrant a My Thoughts blog.)

BACK FOR MORE: Jeremy Clarkson, as ever, began the show.

The first episode of this new, eighteenth series of Top Gear was to be, for many once-loyal fans (myself included), a make-or-break episode. Cock it up, and we’d lose interest and leave it to suffer a plunge in ratings.

The producers (to whom the TG brand is worth millions) and presenters knew this very real threat. Though part of a joke, Jeremy Clarkson made no secret of the controversy that’s followed the disastrous Christmas India special, opening the show in simple terms: “Now, even though this programme has taken a terrible battering in the newspapers in recent weeks, we have made every effort we possibly can to make sure this series is unaffected.”

Indeed, the preview tape looked similar to those of the old series, with beautiful photography, great co-presenter chemistry, and a wide range of upcoming films included. But as the first episode progressed, it became obvious that it was not all ‘same old same old’. In addition to the addition of a plinth in the studio for the Hammerhead-i Eagle Thrust from Series 14, there were far greater changes in programme feel.

In recent series (and most noticeably in that Christmas 2011 episode), the style of the main films has felt hideously patronising, where it seemed we were meant to fall for the blatantly-staged, unfunny ‘accidents’ (many of which, like the crude ‘Eat English Muff‘ and ‘Sh IT For Your Company‘ train stunts, were merely repeats of virtually identical stunts from previous series).

IN THE CAR ON THE TRACK: Hammond follows the camera car.

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Blue Peter Moves North – 26 September 2011

TOUCHDOWN_Barney Harwood and Helen Skelton arrive by boat and helicopter respectively, at MediaCityUK.

When it was announced that Blue Peter was to be one of the first BBC shows to be broadcast from the new MediaCityUK site in Salford, there were mixed reactions. Most prominently, there were fears that the programme – now over fifty years old – would change beyond recognition. The Blue Peter garden at Television Centre was to be modernised on one of the complex’s roofs. One of the faces of the show was to change, after Andy Akinwolere declared that he would not move north. There were even worries that the pets – a lifelong staple fixture of the show – would not be part of the new format.
Eager to see exactly how different Blue Peter had become, I tuned into my first episode for years (save for the ‘Goodbye W12’ show), and was pleasantly surprised. The show’s theme was still Barnacle Bill – albeit a new, remixed version (though there’ve been far worse renditions in the past). Barney the dog was still on-screen, and presenter Helen Skelton gave a nod to the rumours by saying, "He got here before we did". Unfortunately, the garden still needs to be landscaped, so I doubt viewers will see much of it until the spring.

Over the years, Blue Peter presenters have arrived in the studio in everything from a giant trolley to a double-decker bus. Likewise, today’s programme saw Helen arriving by RAF helicopter, and Barney Harwood coming in by jet-ski. This sequence had been pre-recorded and edited, allowing for the incorporation of aerial footage of the new MediaCityUK site, and its surrounding area.

As for the show’s main content, it was apparent that the refreshed programme was trying hard to engage the children of today. Following last week’s claim that 10 percent of under-tens have a smartphone, the main film saw Barney and guest presenter Pollyanna Woodward making apps. It had a very Gadget Show feel, not just because of Pollyanna’s presence and the challenge, but the rivalry between the two presenters to get the favour of the panel. It’s thought that there’ll be a number of guest presenters like Pollyanna throughout the series, with Saira Khan lined up to present cake-sale tips for the appeal, Bake A Difference.

Although the new studio is greatly smaller than any they used at Television Centre, I hope Blue Peter bosses will use the courtyard area where the helicopter touched down frequently.

Of course Blue Peter‘s changed since ‘my day’, but, in spite of fears over its future, it still remains a brilliant programme, and I hope it will continue to be in the schedules for years to come.

Blue Peter is available on the BBC iPlayer until 8 October 2011.