» Media ¦ What You Can Get Away With

This coveted award is won by the Spectator, who obviously weren’t paying attention to the alternative-Earth origins of the sub-editor who thought the beginning of this article made any kind of sense in our world:

Had the public been asked, before Monday morning, to identify two MPs who stood for honesty and decency, the names Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind would have been prominent among their replies.

Unfortunately, we are not yet able to offer guided tours to the world where Jack Straw stands for ‘honesty and decency’, but we’re assured it’s a very interesting place.

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"an exclaimation of annoyance, exasperation, rage or other negative factor or to expel anger, disgust, disappointment"

“an exclaimation of annoyance, exasperation, rage or other negative factor or to expel anger, disgust, disappointment”

The Pitch: It’s the early days of Twitter, and someone’s had an idea for a parody account. Surely, nothing could be more amusing than a right-wing Tory MEP who continually misunderstands things, gets his facts wrong and continually blusters and insists he’s right regardless? So, our protagonist creates the account, and finds the perfect picture to illustrate it in an illustrated dictionary’s image for ‘harrumph’. The account – called Roger Helmer MEP – begins to pick up an appreciative audience

Soon, though, our protagonist discovers that someone, or something, else is posting to the Twitter account and it’s even more in character than he’s ever managed. Curiously, he also starts to notice references to things that Roger has supposedly done in the news, and gradually he begins to realise that not only has his parody Twitter account developed sentience, it has begun to manifest itself into the real world. Soon, a person claiming to be the real Roger is giving speeches in the European Parliament and having an impact in politics, culminating in him breaking free of his creator by defecting from the Tories to UKIP (which, the film implies, may be yet another parody that’s gone too far). Now completely free of his creator’s control, can anything stop Roger Helmer?

The Cast:
Roger Helmer: A CGIed version of Geoffrey Palmer from Fairly Secret Army
Roger’s creator: Craig Roberts
Nigel Farage: Chris Morris

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Some good news to report: Amazon TV’s pilot of The Man In The High Castle has been commissioned for a full series. It’s rather unsurprising news, as reviews for the pilot were almost universally positive, but still good to hear.

I reviewed the pilot when it was broadcast and look forward to seeing the series. No announcement yet on when it will be broadcast, but I’m hoping to see it appear before the end of the year.

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"You might already know that these are books. But what you might not know is that the words inside them are made up by people."

“You might already know that these are books. But what you might not know is that the words inside them are made up by people.”

The Pitch: There’s been a lot of complaint that TV mainstream doesn’t have much, if any, programming about books (rather than just being based on them). This show aims to change that by finding Britain’s Next Top Writer in a primetime show. Having made one giant leap of originality by doing a show about books in primetime, the rest of the show will be a complete ripoff of other talent formats. Thus, one round will feature wannabe writers reading a small sample of their work to celebrity writer judges, who’ll be sitting in the chairs from The Voice that have been badly modified to look ‘writerly’. Writers will be expected to jump across genre, style and form at a moment’s notice. (An amateur playwright protesting they know nothing about novel structure being berated by an angry Salman Rushdie will become a YouTube favourite) The life of a writer will be presented as effortless luxury, casually dispensing bon mots at cocktail parties between dashing out a newspaper column and being showered in money by benevolent publisher.

The climax will come in a live final at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff where a book-wielding audience of thousands will watch as the four finalist writers discover that the hours they’ve spent sweating over their work, carrying out every edit and demeaning video diary task ordered by the producers, was utterly wasted as the executives have discovered no one really likes reading books, so they’ll be engaging in It’s A Knockout style contests with a vaguely books-that-have-become-well-known-movies theme. The winner will discover that there book was already published for free as a sample on Amazon that morning and they’ve made £2.35 from the millions of downloads.

Initially planned judges/mentors by the producers: JK Rowling, that one who wrote that thing that we were all reading last year in Tuscany, what was it, look, just get me JK Rowling. What do you mean, she doesn’t want to do it?
Actual judges: A generally confused looking Salman Rushdie, three other authors who could be made to look vaguely presentable on camera and are happy to appear on The One Show and regional radio programmes on an almost daily basis to plug this.
Likelihood of actually boosting book sales across the nation: Low

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"I have a very particular set of dietary requirements."

“I have a very particular set of dietary requirements.”

The Pitch: Following a freak accident on a previous mission, inexplicably Irish-accented CIA agent Brendan McPuncherson must now eat a raw egg, crushed in his own hands, every thirty minutes or he will die a slow and agonising death. Now he’s back on the job (and carrying a large amount of eggs in his car) when he discovers some disturbing news. The chief terrorist he thought he killed in his egg-related mission is still alive, and is now planning to kill every chicken in North America in an attempt to gain a twisted revenge on McPuncherson. High-speed chases over cobbled streets, cardboard tray tampering, the world’s highest stakes egg and spoon race, Liam Neeson eating a quite incredible number of eggs and the catchphrase ‘No! Duck eggs don’t work!’ feature in this high-albumen thriller.

Likelihood of this movie actually happening if the Liam Neeson Punching People genre continues: Higher than you’d hope
Likelihood of endless sequels with minor twists and increased punching: Depressingly high
Likelihood of Fox News headlining a discussion ‘Are Our Chickens Safe?': Pleasingly high

(Based on an original Twitter conversation with Justin McKeating, who writes much better stories than me)

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After it flared up into media prominence over the last week, the Telegraph today eagerly covered the news that the Green Party won’t be including Citizens Income as a policy in their General Election manifesto.

However, there seems to be a problem with that news: it’s not true. Reading an account from a Green Party member, it seems that the party’s conference has insisted that the policy is included in the manifesto, and the Telegraph’s report is merely extrapolating wildly from some comments by Caroline Lucas. The member’s account suggests that she has opposed the inclusion of it in the manifesto, but even with that news, the Telegraph appears to be stretching her words. It reports that she said:

“The citizens’ income is not going to be in the 2015 general election manifesto as something to be introduced on May 8th. It is a longer term aspiration; we are still working on it,”

The key point they’re not factoring into their story is ‘as something to be introduced on May 8th’, instead focusing on the first part of the sentence. Let’s be honest, I don’t think even the most hardened support of a basic income scheme thinks it could be introduced quickly, and it helps to show the ignorance of reporters who believe that is the case.

However, I think this comes back to the point I made a couple of weeks ago about how journalists don’t understand how policy making within parties actually works. As someone with experience of seeing similar things in the Lib Dems, it’s almost pleasant to see another party being similarly misunderstood. Journalists like to believe that all political parties are run from the top down, not the bottom up, and of course ‘senior party figures’ are always happy to encourage this impression. So, when Caroline Lucas says something (and it’s misheard) it’s easy for them to leap to ‘the party has changed its policy!’ rather than ‘hmm, better check that for accuracy.’

It does make me think about the Iron Law of Oligarchy – the idea that all political organisations will progress from democracy to oligarchy over time – and whether the media have a role in encouraging and fostering that process. Could one even argue that social pressures and the expectation that an organisation will be run from the top are as much a pressure making it happen as the role of bureaucracy concentrating power in the organisation? Something else to add to the list of things I need to think about and write about some more…

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Mr_Benn_Gladiator_book_coverThe Trailer: Voiceover man begins with ‘some heroes wear many costumes’. The whole trailer is shot through heavy filters, mostly dark and grey just to ensure everyone is clear that this is a Serious Film taking the source material Seriously. As it’s a trailer, we see all the best bits of the film mashed together through hyper-kinetic editing, complete with out of context quotes scattered over them.

We see Mr Benn (Benedict Cumberbatch) in a pinstripe suit and bowler hat, hear the Shopkeeper (Jim Broadbent) give a garbled explanation of how this is a role handed down from generation to generation to protect history and fantasy. There’d be flash cuts of fighting as a knight and as gladiator, doing complicated things as a spaceman and casting magic as a wizard, all shot in glorious Grimdark-Serious-O-Vision.

‘Protecting them from who?’ he asks, and the trailer shows the designated Bad Guy (Matt Smith), possibly interspersed with occasional shots of the Official Love Interest (Sienna Miller), cropping up in various times and places. Then the trailer slows to show us the Big Dramatic Scene.

Mr Benn, in a cowboy outfit celebrating something, when a bloodstained fez rolls across the screen and lands against his feet. He picks it up, looks out and sees the Bad Guy wearing a suit and bowler hat.

“You wore a costume and stepped into my world. Didn’t you realise that I could wear one and step into yours too?”

Another blizzard of disconnected images then the screen goes black. Voiceover Guy: ‘This summer, choose your outfit carefully.’ Graphics tell us MR BENN: THE MOVIE is Coming Soon.

Likelihood of director and writer claiming that this was always the intended vision for the character: High
Likelihood of anyone who’s seen the TV series keeping a straight face while watching it: Low
Likelihood of straight-to-streaming sequels with a tiny budget and none of the original cast: High

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