Is it just me….?

Anyone who’s come across my Twitter account on the average Saturday or Sunday night will realise that for me to become infuriated in front of the television is hardly a rare occurrence.

Just lately though, there is an advertisement which has incurred my silent wrath, and the regularity with which it’s shown has left my blood pressure at a dangerously high level.

The ad in question is the BT Infinity Halloween party advert which, if you haven’t watched any commercial channels for longer than 15 minutes in the last couple of weeks, can be viewed below:

Now, evidently, there’s a lot to hate about this video, the lazy stereotypes and wooden acting to name but a couple. But I can forgive that. It’s a 40 second spot for a telephone operator, not The Shawshank Redemption.

What I cannot forgive is the self-centred actions of a member of the ensemble cast. And I’m certain that I’m the only person on the planet to have noticed the incident, let alone become incandescent as a result of it.

Skip to the 35 second mark.

The disgruntled party goers, complete with DJ lass who seems to have been convinced that she is DJing at a major Ibiza club rather than operating a laptop in dingy suburbia, have moved to an alternative venue which – praise the Lord! – is equipped with BT Infinity broadband.

As the camera moves through the room to take in the full party scene, the villain strikes. And he does so disguised as a gravestone.

Realising that he’s not in prime position to be seen on screen in the final edit, this amateur dramatics knobhead barges his way front and centre, doubtless in the hope that the producers of Hollyoaks will stop and think to themselves: “HEY! This guy’s good! Get him signed up!”

Watch it again! The self-obsessed tosser!

Am I right to be irritated by this? Should I just calm down and get on with my life and not worry about it? Absolutely not. I firmly believe that this is the greatest media scandal to have been exposed in recent weeks, and people need to know about it.

And because I’ve convinced myself that Mr. Gravestone is the sort of fella who probably Googles “BT INFINITY ADVERT GRAVESTONE DANCER” in the deluded hope that he will find a stream of compliments about his starring role, I will say this in the expectation that he comes across my blog:

THERE IS SO MUCH I HATE ABOUT THE WAY YOU ARE.

You know there is. There really is.

A dark day. You know it is…

For around three years now, I’ve finished various status updates, tweets, emails and blogs with a derivative of the immortal phrase; “You know I am. I really am.”

Some like it, some find it irritating, but I’m often asked one thing: “What does it mean?”.

The truth is it’s mere plagiarism of the legendary Frank Sidebottom. Seeing as the famous last line of almost all of his songs tends to figure heavily in my online musings, I was shocked and genuinely saddened to hear of the death of Frank – or, to give the name of the man beneath the papier mache head, Chris Sievey – earlier today.

While I’d heard that Chris was unfortunately battling cancer, I was blissfully unaware that the situation was as grave as it sadly turned out to be. The sad irony behind today’s news was that merely minutes before the announcement was made, news of his next gig had been published on his official Facebook page. It seems that even his management didn’t realise quite how serious things were.

Frank Sidebottom had already enjoyed the height of his fame long before I became aware of his work. I first encountered the act in around 2006/2007 when Frank guested on Iain Lee’s superb former LBC show.

Frank, typically, was loud, brash, arrogant… and brilliantly funny. I wasn’t entirely sure I really ‘got’ what I was listening to – in fact, I’m still not sure I ever did get it, or if there was indeed anything to get – but I liked what I heard. From that moment I became an avid fan and first ‘borrowed’ the ‘You know I am…’ signature shortly afterwards. I’m currently weighing up whether or not I should drop it out of respect, or keep it as a tribute.

It’s almost ironic that as the world of showbiz lost one of its most original and creative talents, my former colleagues at Global Radio were once again going through the harsh upheaval that’s become an all too frequent occurrence in the world of modern media.

I’m no longer well placed nor qualified to comment on the ramifications of  decisions made by my former employers, so I shan’t declare any opinion of whether I think it’s right or wrong. It’s simply not my business to do so.

However, the changes are indicative of the state of broadcast media in general. Factors influencing the changes in the industry are the financial climate, obviously, but also the general dilution of media outlets.

It was easier to take risks and do something different way back when, because there were less outlets to lose your audience to. Four TV channels, truly independent radio stations broadcasting live content 24 hours a day, and that was your lot.  These days, there’s not only multi-channel TV to contend with, but also the user-generated content behemoth that is the internet – and much less opportunity for people to actually make money from their talents.

Of course, there’s pros and cons to that. As somebody who writes blogs like this and presents on internet radio, I pretty much love the fact that anybody can put their work into the public domain. Conversely, as somebody who sees how watered down TV and radio has inevitably had to become in the face of such competition, I do mourn that much simpler time.

It’s understandable, really. I was brought up on formats like The Big Breakfast, TFI Friday, Fantasy Football League, Shooting Stars – shows that weren’t afraid to break new ground, to take chances, to create something truly different, truly memorable, truly entertaining.

Where does the new talent get to shine now? Every programme is presented by the same few people. Dermot O’Leary, Ant and Dec, Davina McCall, Vernon Kay. Stale, unadventurous formats. So frightened are programmers of their new competition that the only option seems to be to play it safe and familiar. That lack of cojones, together with dwindling revenues demanding cheaper production costs, makes broadcast media on the whole terribly boring today.

Take Gladiators, for example. The original series was filmed in front of thousands at the National Indoor Arena and screened to millions on Saturday nights. Resurrected a couple of years ago, the new incarnation was filmed in a small studio before an audience of a couple of hundred at most. Quite evidently made as cheaply as possible, Gladiators v2.0 received audiences so tiny it was eventually withdrawn with no more than a whimper. Television today summed up in a nutshell.

Currently, James Corden’s World Cup Live is being hailed as some sort of second coming of TFI. The fact of the matter is it’s not in the same league… however, it’s undoubtedly one of the most creative formats that’s been on TV in a long time. I find that so depressing I could hammer my head repeatedly against a brick wall in frustration.

Look at Frank Sidebottom. Had the act launched today, its best hope probably would have been to become a cult hit on the internet. No programmer would be brave enough to give him a spot on radio or TV.

Despite that, people who care will never stop putting content out there for the love of it, regardless of how little reward there is for it.

To that end, I’ll be back on Rhubarb Radio tomorrow night from 6…

You know I will. I really will.

Chris ‘Frank Sidebottom’ Sievey
1956-2010