Review: Crossing England in a Punt: River of Dreams

Tom Fort in his Trent Otter puntFrom the Staffordshire hills to the Humber estuary, spirited explorer Tom Fort embarks on a 170-mile journey down Britain’s third longest river, the Trent. Beginning on foot, he soon transfers to his own custom-built punt, the Trent Otter, and rows many miles downstream. Along the way he encounters the power stations that generate much of the nation’s electricity, veterans of the catastrophic floods of 1947, the 19th-century brewers of Burton and a Bronze Age boatman who once made a life along the river.

In typically British fashion, a restrained middle-aged white bloke in shorts and sand shoes paddles off along a non-descript English river doing that low-key, under-stated and quite reserved presenting of documentary that only restrained middle-aged white blokes in shorts and sand shoes can pull off. Continue reading

Review: The Thick of It – The Inquiry

Peter Capaldi as Malcom Tucker; The Thick of It, BBC2Madness in their method acting made this bravura episode of BBC2’s political satire one of the finest episodes of TV ever made.

The hour-long special (season4, episode 6) mounted a Leveson or Chilcot-style inquiry into the sucide of NHS campaigner Mr Tickell after his flat was sold off.

What ensued was one of the funniest, most painfully accurately observed assassinations of politics ever made.

Armand Ianucci’s too-clever-by-half comedy saw politicians Nicola Murray and Peter Mannion, with their spin-doctors Malcolm Tucker and Stuart Pearson, quizzed under oath at the Goolding inquiry. Continue reading

Review: The Gadget Show World Tour – Dubai

The Gadget Show World Tour on Channel 5Season 17 Episode 5 of 16
“Jason Bradbury and Pollyanna Woodward see what technology the Middle East has to offer on a trip to the United Arab Emirates. They compare consumer and professional fitness monitoring devices during a dune buggy ride, test high-end compact cameras in Dubai and try out a solar barbecue – although the food is not to everyone’s taste. They also review the latest mobile-phone games, go flying underwater and embrace the national sport of camel racing, but with one slight difference – their animal is ridden by a robotic jockey.”

What happens when Channel 5’s flagship show decides to take on a Top Gear style format and send its presenters around the globe on gadget-themed adventures? Not much difference actually; it still has the inanely grinning, relentlessly kinetic presenting style of a CITV kids show – it always has.

Except this time Jason and Pollyanna travel to the United Arab Emirates with no cliché ignored. They take a dune buggy ride, testing vehicles and medical monitoring devices. There’s a spectacular fail with a parabolic solar powered barbecue – hint, 40 degree humidity doesn’t equate to solar cooking if the sky is clouded and hazy. Throw in the Soukh, the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Creek, the dunes and camel racing and no box is left unchecked. Continue reading

Review: Robert Peston – The Party’s Over, How the West Went Bust (BBC iPlayer)

Review: Robert Peston - The Party's Over, How the West Went Bust (image copyright BBC)The Party’s Over: How the West Went Bust
On BBC iPlayer, duration: 2 times 1 hour episodes

It may not be a new show, but believe me, the the ongoing Eurozone crisis, the US debt crisis and pervasive economic doom and gloom, this is a finance show that will prove you’re not going insane and may broaden your understanding of how we got here.

Love or hate his peculiar delivery, the BBC’s business editor Robert Peston (Britain’s own cross between William Shatner and Allan Whicker) takes a sane look back over the events of the International financial sector meltdown, the one that some of us saw coming. Peston produces a string of experts who all say: “nobody saw the downturn coming.” Which is to say that none of the so-called ‘experts’ saw it coming through the shiny rainbow wall of the financial bubble, when the rest of us outside it clearly did. And these bozos are running banks and universities because…? Continue reading

Review: Mark Zuckerberg Inside Facebook BBC2

Mark Zuckerberg Inside FacebookMark Zuckerberg: Inside Facebook BBC2, December 2011

The BBC’s Emily Maitlis reports on life inside Facebook, with a rare interview with Zuckerberg himself.

A non-controversial re-cap of Facebook’s creation skipped over the court cases surrounding the intellectual property, skipped over the accuracy of The Social Network movie and focussed instead on Facebook’s plans to use the personal information it has collected to power the new wave of on-line advertising. If you thought Google advertising was a license to print money, take a look at the unseemly scramble presented by the goldmine of Facebook’s user data; all information freely given by a needy, nerdy and emotionally insecure human race… Continue reading

Review: BBC World Service The Secret War On Terror

BBC World Service The SecretWar on TerrorThe Secret War On Terror reveals the astonishing inside story of the intelligence war which has been fought against al-Qaeda over the last decade since 9/11.

It’s a typical Bush-ism “the War on Terror.” Leaving aside that you can’t declare war on an emotional state, neatly wrapped and justified in a simple, direct and hawkish term, does Peter Taylor find any answers to two questions? To what degree has the west sacrificed its democratic principles in the fight against terrorism and has this campaign made us any safer? Continue reading