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Posts Tagged ‘television’

The latest series of Horrible Histories has been full of genius moments and memorable, mischievous songs. When it comes to music, between the classical and the metal I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for that 70s guitar sound. I’ve always loved John Denver and Simon and Garfunkel – and the more I see of Horrible Histories the more I think it’s aimed as much at parents of my generation as the kids.

This alternative take on the Viking story is a little different to their earlier rock-out version.

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I meant to post this earlier, but work and elections got in the way. Sometimes, something comes along on a show like Britain’s Got Talent that makes you stop and think and marvel at just how creative we can be.

Last week it was Hungarian shadow dancers “The Attractions” who dazzled the judges, the theatre audience  and the watching public with their incredibly emotive performance. I’ll happily admit to being one of those left with more than a small lump in my throat.

Sadly, some lame idiots  decided to throw social media abuse at the dancers for not being British. Depressing, yes, but it says more about the abusers and their insecurities than it does about a group of highly talented Hungarians who clearly see Britain as a tremendous place to showcase their mesmerising act. Presumably they hoped we would show some of that tolerance and British hospitality that we like to believe is part of our national character. Or perhaps they just hoped we would share in and appreciate the beautiful telling of a very human story that transcends national barriers.

Anyway, if you missed them, and if you are someone who can see that this is a stunning piece of performance art, and you aren’t going to get wound up about the fact they are Hungarian, please take a look below and enjoy.

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So I realise even before I make this post that I am, in my own small way, contributing to the viral marketing success of this latest advertising campaign from IKEA. So, let me say up front, that whilst I like their tubes of fish paste and their crackers, I’m not a fan of the store. Too big and the whole one-way thing is a bit annoying!

That doesn’t stop me appreciating a good ad when I see one and the latest offering from IKEA is a hoot.  With the current success of The Walking Dead on the telly and The Evil Dead in the cinema, an invasion theme is a pretty canny one. This mischievous take, though, sees an army of gnomes attempting to resist a couple’s determination to transform their garden. Hats off to Mother, London and their creative team.

For anyone wondering about the soundtrack, it’s Mötley Crüe’s Time for Change, performed by The Palace Of Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra and The Heritage Singers.

Brilliant.

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A slo-mo highlights reel from the Danish TV show Dumt & Farligt (“Stupid & Dangerous”) has been posted online. A series of madly hypnotic stunts, usually involving some form of explosive energy, there is something beautifully hypnotic about the results. Shot at 2500 FPS, you get to witness aspects of motion that you would never ordinarily see.

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I admit to finding much of today’s children’s telly incomprehensible. My brother and sister-in-law, who have four scarily bright and funny kids, assure me that it is so much better than when we were younger.

For someone who holds a certain nostalgia for Mr Benn, Trumpton and Finger Mouse, I confess I find In The Night Garden beyond my ken, though The Gruffalo and Room On The Broom have an understated, calm charm.

However, one series that excels at sharing knowledge in a fun and mischievous way is CBBC’s Horrible Histories. It has a wickedly entertaining way of making history fun and accessible, often accompanied by tunes better than those pumped out by better-known acts.

Now, I absolutely know I am not the only one who has found myself in front of a laptop at 3am, having imbibed far too much wine and whisky, playing clips of favourite rock and metal. There is a standard format for such occasions. Both participants (there are usually two, occasionally three) open with a standard metal classic (Nightwish’s Storytime here or AC/DC’s Shoot To Thrill), before choosing more and more classic rock numbers until all semblance of sobriety is conquered by peace songs and revolutionary anthems (from the Dropkick Murphys etc).

To this exemplary canon has been added another clip which forms a part of the “must see, must hear” experience: the Horrible Histories team’s Viking song.

There are rock groups around the world that couldn’t do this – and its pastiche of Queen, symphonic metal and rock ballads is a gem.

Enjoy.

And more from the Horrible Histories crew in due course.

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Every now and then you see a piece of advertising genius. I know it’s not completely new, but I love the style and sentiment in this ad for Twinings Tea (I am clearly feeling soppy after a long day!):

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Last night I stumbled across one of the most inspirational and best-presented documentaries I’ve seen in years. Typically it was on in the middle of the night and a brief summary (a history of statistics presented by a Swedish professor) might make you think it was one from the early canon of Open University spectaculars.

However, Professor Hans Rosling is one of the most exciting and engaging presenters I’ve seen on television in a long time. After a long day in the office, his quirky, amusing and insightful jaunt through the past, present and possible future of statistics was gripping. If you missed it, you can look at The Joy of Statistics on BBC iPlayer.

One of the most engaging aspects was his demonstration of how the stories of numbers are often best told through visual depiction.

For instance, I had no idea that Florence Nightingale was a statistician. It was her meticulous record-keeping translated into startling pictures that drove the changes in nursing that she instituted:

Over a hundred years later, people like David Mccandless make their living finding ways to translate complex information into more readily understandable pictorial form.  On his Information Is Beautiful blog he finds different and exciting visualisations of statistical data. The Billion-pound-o-gram is his way of making those mad, large numbers more comprehensible:

Perhaps the most spectacular use of animation was Professor Rosling’s depiction of the progress of countries in terms of their life expectancy and their income. His enthusiasm, love and knowledge are a real joy to behold. To really see a story told in numbers, watch this little snippet below:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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My future brother-in-law, Mr Bagnall, reminded me of one television programme that must be one of my all-time favourite childhood memories. Who could have thought that a five minute short animation of the simplest kind could create such a comforting sense of timelessness?

When so many of today’s children’s programmes are such a disruptive mess of loud music, rudeness, primary colours and inane bouncing around, the undramatic stories of The Merioneth and Llantisilly Rail Traction Company Limited, that recognise children are capable of being entertained in far quieter, more thoughtful ways, seem almost revolutionary.

Please give a big hand for Ivor the Engine.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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There’ll be plenty of people of my generation (mainly men with nerdy secrets I suspect) who, notwithstanding the CGI wonders of Michael Bay’s special effects-fest, have a special fondness for the animated series of Transformers and the tinny beep of “Tranformers Robots in Disguise” over  the dark thunderings of Linkin Park’s “New Divide” (I imagine my younger  brother Seth is among them!).

Very amusing then to open Metro this morning and to see a story about Drew Beummier, a contestant on American Idol, who has discovered that “chicks find it sexy” when he wears his home-made Transformer suit.

Apart from wondering if Em thinks I’ve missed a trick somewhere along the line, I do wonder if this is taking fond childhood memories a step too far?

Anyway, he’s hoping to have the suits on sale in the UK soon…

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You could be forgiven for thinking that part of the appeal of “Never say ‘No’ to Panda” is the peculiar novelty of seeing pretend animals acting in unexpectedly violent ways.  However, I was shocked to discover possible antecedents in the early work of Jim Henson and an era of “muppet ultraviolence” that hitherto had passed me by.

In 1957, Henson was contacted by Washington DC-based Wilkins Coffee. They asked him to produce a series of 10 second adverts for local tv stations. Between 1957 and 1961 he made – according to the Muppet Wiki – 179 ads, in which Kermit-forerunner Wilkins, the Wilkins Coffee-lover, attacks Wontkins, the Wilkins Coffee-hater, in varyingly violent ways.

The question I have is… Whatever happened to Wilkins Coffee?

Surprisingly, there’s very little information out there, even in the vast cyber-wilderness of the Internet. According to a poster on Michael Procopio’s blog Food for the Thoughtless:

Wilkins sold the roasting plant to The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company in 1970 and continued to distribute Wilkins Coffee from Landover, Maryland. Halco, a public company, purchased Wilkins in 1974 and the division was called Halco/Wilkins Food Service. Wilkins was once again separated and sold in 1982.

There the trail seems to go cold and there are few if any references to what happened to Wilkins Coffee. A second poster on the same site reports that the name was bought by Royal Cup Coffee but notes that there are no products sold with that branding.

Frustratingly, there appears to be very little information available about Wilkins Coffee before its murderous muppet adventures. The only thing I could find is a tantalising early reference in this list of radio programmes which details a 15 minute transmission on WRC (National Broadcasting Co.) at 6.30pm EST on Friday 3rd October 1930 by the Wilkins Coffee Orchestra.

I wonder how big a phenomena that was? I wonder how proud the members of this now-forgotten ensemble must have felt to hear themselves broadcast over the airwaves?

There must have been countless numbers of similar artistic ventures sponsored by companies that are now barely footnotes in our global industrial history. Wilkins Coffee, boasting advertising budgets that could fund hundreds of television ads, now really only survives in the global consciousness as an interesting chapter in the early history of the lunatic puppets created by Jim Henson.

If you can cope with the undoing of happy childhood memories of Kermit’s nephew Robin singing “Halfway Down The Stairs”, take a look at the clips below.

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