A Driving Instructor's Blog

Movies & TV

Tom Baker's Doctor WhoAnother one which follows on tentatively from the previous two articles.

I haven’t watched Doctor Who since Tom Baker left, and although the reboot of the series in recent years seemed to take a quantum leap in terms of budget and effects, it just doesn’t interest me anymore – maybe I just grew up? I don’t know. But the BBC loves hyping the show up, and whenever the current actor playing the Doctor announces he is stepping down (as Peter Capaldi, the present Doctor, has just done), “speculation” on who might take over fills the Beeb’s website almost immediately.

Almost by definition, the “Doctor” in Doctor Who is a male character. He was never conceived as anything else. Naturally, to the BBC, this now means that four out of the eleven suggested short-listers are female.

I wonder what odds the bookies will be offering? Could be worth a flutter.

Share

Hellboy and Abe SapienLet’s hope so. This story suggests that Guillermo del Toro is up for making a third Hellboy film.

The only thing stopping it is the small matter of getting $120 million funding.

The first two were brilliant pieces of escapism – the second one in particular – so it would be great to see a third instalment. Del Toro is a genius when it comes to this sort of thing – if you haven’t seen Pan’s Labyrinth, then you really should.

Share

I get email alerts from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), and over the years I’ve seen some funny rulings.

Until recently, ASA was a battlefield for BT, Virgin, and all the other broadband companies to keep trying to discredit each other over claims made in adverts. Every week without fail, BT would have a complaint about Virgin, then Virgin would have a complaint about Talk Talk, then BT would complain about Virgin again, who would then complain about BT. However, this has pretty much stopped now, and although no one ever admitted to it, I’d lay odds that it was a conscious decision on someone’s part to stop the practice once and for all.

ASA frequently reverses some of its previous decisions based on appeals from those it has ruled against (or those who won’t let go, if the decision was not to uphold a complaint). ASA is not government funded, is non-statutory, and it is self-regulating.

Every ruling against someone concludes with the phrase: “The advertisement must not appear again in its current form. We told [company] not to [make whatever claims it has been accused of]”.

Some of its rulings are extremely petty. Most complaints seem to be equally as petty, and it is obvious that they are raised by professional complainers in the majority of cases. What irks me is that some of the companies ruled against may well have spent a lot of money on the ad campaigns in question, and all that money is effectively wasted thanks to an organisation whose CEO, Guy Parker, is on a salary of £120,000 a year.

A ruling in this week’s bulletin against Heinz is a prime example. Heinz has a series of adverts centred around tapping on empty baked beans cans. Now, if ASA had banned it on the strength of how annoying it is, I’d have had some sympathy (anyone remember the Heinz Tomato Soup ads?) But their decision to ban this one is on health & safety grounds!

Heinz is a multinational company with annual revenue of more than $10 billion, and over 30,000 employees worldwide. Any advertising campaign it launches is likely to cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. Heinz Baked Beans are a staple food, and Heinz sells more than 1.5 million cans per day in the UK alone. Nearly one billion people eat Heinz Baked Beans at least once per year. Two million people eat them each day (not necessarily the same people).

The ASA’s ruling came about as a result of just nine complaints.

That’s right. Nine arseholes whose brains have turned to jelly as result of whatever happens when you have children complained that the ad promotes dangerous practices which might cause little darlings to cut themselves. Where have these idiots been living?

I was brought up on cans which looked like this when you opened them. They were sharper than razor blades, especially if you used one of those lever-type openers which had a longish blade and effectively sawed through the metal. And we used to play games like Tin Lurkey with these things – but I’m still around.Old-style opened tin  can

In fact, I’m not aware of anyone having had their lives changed or snuffed out as a result of the most horrendously sharp edges on the cans I used to know, so I find it even less likely now that most cans are ring-pull types with no sharp edges of note.

Share

A week or two ago I was force-fed the news that Alex Jones (a BBC TV presenter) was pregnant at the age of 39. My thoughts at the time were a very vague and nondescript mixture of “so what”, “39 isn’t old”, and “good luck to her”. Stuff like that.Alex Jones

Given the choice, I probably wouldn’t have thought about it again. Mind you, I wouldn’t have thought about it the first time if I’d been given the choice there, either. But then I was force-fed with some more “news” about her today. It seems that the BBC with its master plan to outlaw the condition of being male, has already given her a new show about fertility.

Ms Jones has been pregnant all of five minutes, and she is already an absolute and complete expert on the subject, telling us not to judge older women as selfish career hunters when they wait to have kids.

It’s funny. Two weeks ago, the possibility that Alex Jones was a “selfish career woman” hadn’t entered my head. But now, I can’t get it out of my head that Alex Jones IS a selfish career woman as she harangues us about age and fertility for her new show.

Share

They say that Christmas is the happy season. Andy Williams sang that it was “the most wonderful time of the year”. So why the bloody hell do we have to put up with a glut of maudlin and depressing adverts in the UK?Christmas baubles

One of the worst at the moment is for Save the Children, with the most irritating piano tinkle being played with what appears to be a lump hammer. My TV gets muted the second that one comes on.

Then there’s my favourite radio station, Planet Rock. It’s not their fault, but being a commercial radio station they have to have adverts and they have little control over what they air. All year long you’ll be listening to great classic and modern rock music, only to have your mood repeatedly ballsed up by either the damned Co-op with its sickening funeral ads, or Macmillan rattling on about death from cancer. It ruins your listening pleasure. And before any do-gooders start going on about it, the situation would be precisely the same if I donated – I’d still be made to feel depressed. That isn’t right.

Out on the road, billboards are covered with “No one should be alone at Christmas” ads, and the BBC picked up on it last week to the extent that on Breakfast they had interview after interview with one homeless charity after another. As I write, there is an annoying Salvation Army advert with a suitably depressing and badly-sung rendition of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. This was followed by the f***ing Save the Children one again just as I was about to un-mute – and it was an extended version, running to considerably more than a minute. Of course, going back to the Beeb, they’ve had their world-class roving reporters stationed in post office sorting depots telling us how busy it is this time of year. Yes, we know. Just like last year, when you did precisely the same thing. And the year before that. And every other year. We get it, all right? The. Post. Office. Is. Busy. At. Christmas.The Hound of the Baskervilles

Actually, now I think about it, a much better story would have been how the Post Office’s utter incompetence throughout the year is merely exacerbated at Christmas. This week, I’ve taken delivery of an item which was two weeks late (so late, in fact, that I’d already reported it to the vendor), another which took 10 days, and a 1st class/signed for/next day shipment which came… the day after the next day. But I am still waiting for a replacement shipment for a further item which never turned up (after three weeks) – the replacement was sent last week has all the hallmarks of also having been lost. As I say, the Post Office is incompetent.

Last month, my parents had a letter from the local sorting office informing them that from immediate effect all post to their address would cease until further notice. You can imagine the effect this is going to have on people who are in their 70s and 80s, one of whom is almost blind, suddenly being told that they have got to travel to the sorting office to collect their mail. When I read the letter, I began to understand – and it was far from clear – that a postal employee had been “attacked” by a dog some 15-20 doors away. The letter gave the distinct impression that the Hound of the Baskervilles was on the loose, and it seems that mail for the entire street was stopped on this basis (houses round the back were unaffected, though laughably some of those were around a quarter of a mile closer). In actual fact, and as far as I can ascertain, the dog in question had apparently barked at the postal employee a couple of times in what was construed to be “an aggressive manner”. The dog – unfortunately an Alsatian, so likely to have been trained to tear the throats out of people under the guise of having been bought as “a guard dog” – is never let out and, to my knowledge, hadn’t managed to get out either. So it seems the Post Office is now applying Health & Safety (and, no doubt, Union stupidity) to imagined scenarios as well as real ones.

Then we have the cookery shows, with recipes that only the most pretentious of Daily Mail readers would ever think of using on Christmas Day. I mean, Brussels Sprouts are supposed to be boiled in salted water then eaten – they taste great like that. So why screw them (or carrots) up by tossing them in butter, honey, and bits of bacon. And that’s just one of the “simple” recipes. God help you if you turn on Nigella. Oh, yeah. And I already KNOW how to cook a turkey without injecting butter under the skin, rubbing Ralgex into it, or hanging it in the garage next to a jugged polecat for a fortnight. We get the same lecture – well, lectures, actually – every year, so I think I’ve got it now. And there’s only ONE decent stuffing for turkey – it’s called Norfolk Sage & Onion (Paxo if you really must). There’s no way I’m experimenting with pile of slop made using Italian sausage, ginger, or cranberry. And the same goes for gravy. All you need is stock or stock cubes and some of the bird juices and Brussels water (all right, and some onions and maybe a little garlic). But no chestnuts, Allspice, lemon grass, ginger, or anything else like that. And call me old fashioned, but I’ll also be serving it on something called “a plate”, and won’t be flinging it across a plank taken from the side of my shed. As for dessert, don’t get me started. Why is every Christmas dessert in this country bloody dark brown, filled with nuts, and tastes like freshly laid tarmac? I detest mince pies, Christmas cake, and Christmas pudding for this reason (well, that and the marzipan). I always have.Lindt Lindor truffles

On the plus side, while I was shopping in Asda last week I saw a display of Lindt truffles, to which I’m not particularly partial, and was immediately drawn towards the unusual packaging of a white chocolate version. I love white chocolate, and to cut a long story short I ate a whole box! They ought to be illegal.

Why can’t other Christmas desserts be like this, and why does it take the Swiss to show us how?

Back to TV, and Apple – which specialises in pretentious adverts at the best of times – has come up with a really annoying one featuring whiny soul singers. That’s another mute button job whenever it comes on. The satellite music channels have been playing “classic” Christmas songs since at least November – the only problem being that their idea of “classic” is Mariah Carey, Wham, and various rap songs that were released in the same year as a Christmas and so meet the required criteria. I have only seen Slade’s genuine classic “Merry Christmas Everybody” once, and Wizzard’s “I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day” twice.

 

These are real classics. No one will ever write better Christmas songs than these – they’re happy and jolly, whereas modern attempts always dwell on depressing subjects (or sex and violence, however mild, if they’re rap-based).

Share

I just saw an advert for Colgate Max White toothpaste. It was filled with catwalk models with teeth so white you needed sunglasses.Colgate Max White - put your shades on

The fun part – if you don’t include how it was shot in pseudo-black & white to emphasise the whiteness – was in the small print at the end which says it contains 0.1% hydrogen peroxide. This is the maximum amount allowed in consumer products in the UK (well, the EU).

When a dentist uses it, he may use up to 35% concentration. So Colgate’s toothpaste is 350 times weaker than the stuff a dentist would use. And that’s before you take into account hydrogen peroxide’s instability, which means it will be weaker than ever by the time it gets anywhere near your teeth.

There is absolutely no way – no way whatsoever – that the models’ teeth became that white simply by brushing with Colgate. However, being models, there is close to a 100% probability that at some point they have paid around £1,000 or more to have their teeth whitened professionally – either by bleaching, or by the application of some sort of coating (veneer) which hides the stains. Judging by how goofy they always seem to look, my money is on the veneer option – where a thin porcelain shield is glued on to the tooth to hide what’s behind it (often needing some tooth grinding so the goofiness isn’t too apparent).

Share

And another past hero(ine) of mine is consigned to history’s graveyard. Yvonne Craig, who played the original Batgirl in the 1960s series, has died of breast cancer at the age of 78.Yvonne Craig - the original Batgirl

She appeared in the third season of that series (1966) in an attempt to manage falling viewer ratings. She also appeared in the third series of Star Trek (1969) as the green woman (who I think also appears on the closing credits of that show).

She appeared with Elvis Presley in two of his films in the early 60s.

She also had roles in episodes of other shows I remember such as The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Land of the Giants, and The Ghost and Mrs Muir.

2015 has seen the demise of a lot of these well-remembered icons.

Share

Sad news today that Stephen Lewis – the actor who played Blakey in On The Buses – has died at the age of 88.Stephen Lewis (left) with Reg Varney and Bob Grant

On The Buses was another show I grew up with and it was incredibly popular when I was at school. Stephen Lewis was one of the reasons why.

They don’t make them like that anymore.

Share