There’s a new channel in town and it called W. Or it could be Channel W. Or the W Channel? It’s part of the UKTV family of channels that was originally formed by BBC Worldwide and Thames TV way back in 1992 when digital TV meant using your finger to change the channel. It’s now owned by the BBC and someone else (I have lost track who. They’ll be a multinational I have never heard of) but it now has 11 channels in its portfolio. Its most famous one is probably Dave, so called because everyone knows someone called Dave and it reflected the blokey nature of the channel. It’s become synonymous with repeats of Top Gear, QI and Mock the Week but they also do original programming such as Alan Davies as Yet Untitled. So if Dave is for men then W is for woman….I think.
Presumably there was a brainstorming session and a focus group where they had to come up with a new name that fitted into the quirky naming pattern of all the other channels.
“We could call it Women Only”
“No there is already one of those on the “upper channels” and is not the sort of clientele we want”
“We could call it For Women”
“But that would exclude men who make up half our potential audience”
“Ok, how about just Women”
“Hmmmm…ok….how about W”
“Which stands for?”
“Whatever you want it to. We know it means Women, but men may think that it stands for something they like”
“No, we already have that covered on Yesterday with all those documentaries on the Nazis. What do men like beginning with W?”
“That’s it! Crack open the Prosecco. We have a name!”
(NB After writing this I Googled and apparently W is the new name for Watch. So presumably Dave will soon be D; Alibi, A; Gold, G; Yesterday Y, Drama, D; Really, R; Eden, E; Good Food, GF; Yesterday, Y; Play, P and Home H. Together they form the Countdown conundrum of RAGGEDWDFYHP. Glad we got that sorted out).
This week W’s big offering was Sophie on Fame where Sophie Ellis Bextor investigated the phenomenon of people who share their lives, their innermost thoughts and their entire lives on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. The premise was simple; Sophie is famous for having a talent (singing and writing) but was familiar with fame from a very young age as her mum is Janet Ellis who was a Blue Peter presenter in the 1980’s. On the other hand these Vloggers are famous for being…well…on YouTube.
As part of the exercise, for a week Sophie had to emulate the Queen (I use that expression guardedly) of Twitter, Kim Kardashian. Sophie had to start posting more selfies of herself on her Twitter feed and basically talk more about totally irreverent stuff. Some of her followers loved it, others hated it.
During the course of the programme she went to a YouTube conference (yep, I never knew such a thing existed either); met a couple of girls who were obsessed with Kim Kardashian (but struggled to explain why); discovered that half of Ms Kardashinan’s followers were robots (compared to only 22% of her followers) and met the unassuming couple from Wakefield who started the Ice Bucket Challenge craze in 2014. And she took a lot of selfies. By the end of the show she was still bemused by people being famous for doing nothing, but realised that she could use social media more to connect with her audience. However there was one major mistake Sophie continually made. She smiled in selfies when those posing with her pouted like Donald Duck doing a Mick Jagger impression. #epicfailsophie.
The big idea behind The Computer Says Show on Sky Arts (that will be the Arts channel owned by Sky then? There is a channel name that does exactly what is says on the tin) was to see if a computer could write a musical. Now those of you who remember the 80’s film Electric Dreams will know that Edgar (the computer) could play the cello and write music, so what’s the big deal? Apparently that was fiction (another childhood memory dashed. Still got a fantastic theme tune by Giorgio Moroder and Philip Oakey). So in the programme Ben (composer, doesn’t like computers) and his partner Nathan (lyricist, does like computers) have to use computer technology to create the plot, music and lyrics of a musical.
A lot of this was using computers to do what computers naturally do i.e. crunch vast amounts of data to conclude that their musical should be a love story, someone needs to die, it needs to get really emotional before the interval (presumably to put you in a good mood to swallow paying for an overpriced ice cream) and it needed a happy ending. They then went to Cambridge for the structure, Madrid to meet Pablo who produced a plot and finally ended up in Durham with a man who had produced a programme called “Android Lloyd Webber” which spat out compositions at a click of a mouse. Admittedly, most of them were rubbish, but it did at least give it a go.
At the conclusion of episode 1 Ben and Nathan had increased their number of frequent flyer points, had the plot for their musical and were getting ready to write the score. A lot of the elements had been produced by computers but turning random thoughts into a meaningful theatrical experience still seemed to rely on two blokes and lots of Post-it notes on a wall. One thing really struck me during the course of the programme; all of these scientist seem to be working on MacBooks but they said that a computer on the other side of the world was doing the calculations. So are we now even outsourcing our computer power to other parts of the world? Are UK laptops refusing to work on anything that is seen as below themselves? “You want me to work out a formula in Excel? Forget that mate. I only do Photoshop and create memes for the internet now. Get a Polish computer in. They are cheap and fast.”
Talking of memes, my favourite line from episode 1 of series 2 of Raised by Wolves came from the ever-insightful Germaine who declared to a librarian “I’m part of the digital generation. I only think in memes”. The series, written by Caitlin and Caroline Moran, is loosely based on their home schooled upbringing in Wolverhampton. The younger members of the cast are great and have some killer lines, but the show is stolen by Rebekah Staton as single mum Della and her dad “Grampy” played by Phillip Jackson. The comedy is broad and lurches from risqué to ridiculous but there was one revelation that resounded firmly with me. I’m not the only person who gets angry when they have to work with their arms above their heads. Don’t make me put up a curtain rod. You wouldn’t like me when I put up a curtain rod.