Friday, December 21, 2012

Live blogging Doctor Who at Christmas


Sorry it’s so late but here’s the live blog for Christmas Day’s Doctor Who. What poor sod’s got to check the site on the day? Make sure they keep an eye out for when it actually TXs: I’ve done all the timings from 6:15pm but last year BBC ran it two minutes late and we looked right prats.

Also, the BBC preview doesn’t include the ending so I’ve just finessed that a bit.

I’m off until the 4th now but you’ve got my number. Phone any time except Tuesday: I’ll be stuffed rigid with the worst Christmas dinner you’ve ever imagined.

Have a good one and thanks for putting this into the CMS for me,

PS I’ve put in as many Google Adsense words as I can but could you add our Amazon affiliate links before it goes live? I’m below my quota for monetising this month.



*****RUN FROM 18:14 ON 25/12/2012*****

18:14 Who’d have thought that pair would win Strictly? Well deserved, mind.

18:15 And we’re off, this is what we’re here for. Doctor Who at Christmas. Does it get any better than this?

18:16 That’s rubbish.

18:16 Oh, pardon me, did you hear that? I belched. Just had the most delicious Christmas dinner of all time. I wish you could’ve been here for it. Bit drowsy after it, if I’m honest.

18:20 What? Missed that bit.

18:21 Oh-hoh, here we go, here we go. New title sequence! New arrangement of the theme music! I love that they do this, it’s so exciting.

18:22 Hate it. What was your favourite Doctor Who title sequence? Bring back Delia Derbyshire. (Did you know that there’s a Delia Derbyshire Day on 4 January?)  The story goes that Ron Grainer penned the Doctor Who theme music and when he heard how the Radiophonic Workshop had realised it, asked if he’d really written it. Delia says: “Kinda.” Or something.

18:23 I’m not following this plot at all. Typical Stephen Moffat. [XXXXXX EDITOR TO CHECK: is it Stephen or Steven? XXXXXXX]

18:24 I do like this new look for the Doctor. What do you call that hat he’s wearing? Top hat, topper, black silk/fur melusine top hat, grey silk/fur felt/melusine top hat, black cloth/silk opera hat, black silk/fur melusine top hat with mourning band. Something like that.

18:24 Hang on, I’ve got a mince pie left somewhere. Just have some nice Bell’s Whisky to wash it down.

18:25 I love Doctor Who. We don’t need this bit, this is just running around.

18:27 Still running around.

18:28 What’s great about live blogging is that we’re doing it together. I’m here, you’re there, the telly’s on. We can talk all the way through the show.

18:29 Didn’t see that coming. As I was saying, I’ve nipped in from the family to see this as it airs. BBC has a previews site now where journalists can download programmes in advance, we don’t get tapes or DVDs anymore but there is just nothing like the real deal, on the TV, on the night. I’m your Doctor Who expert in the corner, pointing out what you need to know to enjoy this properly.

18:30 Oh, come on. The Doctor did exactly the same thing in that other episode. See for yourself right here [XXXXX ADD AMAZON AFFILIATE SEARCH FOR ANY OLD DOCTOR WHO DVDS WE CAN SELL XXXXXX]   Moffat just can’t write anything original.

18:31 I think we’re supposed to get that the Doctor’s upset over losing Rory and Amy. I think he’s just twigged that the Statue of Liberty can’t be a stone Weeping Angel as it’s made of copper. I went to New York last year, you know. Got a very good deal with Virgin flights.

18:32 Finally, some action. That was a good bit.

18:35 What’s happening there is that the Doctor has realised.

18:40 Now we’re in trouble.

18:45 And a corridor.

18:46 Hate this. Bring back Patrick Troughton.

18:47 While you’re watching this, have a look at the many, many galleries of photographs we’ve done on the site from this episode.

18:48 We’ve also got my preview of what all the rumours said would be in this episode and my take on what makes a great Doctor Who Christmas.

18:49 I said they’d do that. It’s so predictable.

18:51 The new companion is rather good. [XXXXX ADD IN HER NAME XXXXX] Of course, I knew how they’d get her in after that Dalek thing.

18:52 Aren’t you glad you’ve got me to explain these things to you? It doesn’t say a lot about a show that I’ve got to tell you what’s going on.

18:55 What’s going on?

18:56 Matt Smith should do Strictly Come Dancing.

18:59 Heading for the endgame now. This is what us professional writers call the third act on the hero’s journey from the inciting incident to the last-beat reversal on the story mountain. I could do better than this Moffat.


19:02 That was good.

19:04 The problem is that it’s just not setting up the scene correctly. Back at the start, it should’ve told us that these snowmen were dangerous so we’d understand it now. Not everybody's concentrating as much as I am. Amateur stuff, it really is.

19:05 That was good.

19:06 I see where this is going

19:08 Oh. Didn’t see that coming.

19:11 Listen, I’ve worked out the ending now, but I won’t spoil it for you. You just watch the rest and then get straight on the comments page afterwards. That includes you, Mr Moffat, though I bet you won’t. You never come on comments pages, you just keep writing the next episodes like that’s what’s important.

19:12 Christ, my mum just came in with more mince pies. I’M TRYING TO WATCH DOCTOR WHO! What’s the matter with people?

Friday, December 14, 2012

A movie's Hippo-cratic oath

Someone is making a Hungry Hungry Hippos movie. For real.

If you went to see the blockbuster* movie Battleship this year, please tell me if any character suddenly whines, shouts or emotes: "You sank my battleship!" For when anyone argued that you cannot make a major motion picture out of a two-person board game, I spent this whole year saying wait – they made a classic TV advert and that's got to be a start. Actually, more than one advert.

Unfortunately, that Battleship movie truly was a start. And despite blockbuster* status, it's not the end either.

*I keep saying blockbuster. Apparently Battleship earned $300m, which is somewhat more than I did this year but then I didn't spend $200m making it. 

Someone thinks that's a good deal and – do you know this already? I only learnt it yesterday and it took me 24 hours to believe it –  the big joke when Battleship came out has become real. There truly, genuinely, is going to be a Hungry Hungry Hippos movie.

Prejudice is bad, of course, but just sometimes it's quicker: Hungry Hungry Hippos will not be a good movie. There will be no Oscar buzz. ("For Your Consideration: Jeremy Renner as Yellow Hippo.") If you are over eight years old when you see it, you will have been dragged there by your eight-year-old. (I don't have children: I'm a civilian.)

Everybody whose name will be written on the end credits will at some point or another convince themselves that they are doing a good job and that it's worthwhile. Only the credited accountants will be correct.

But a film is an accomplishment whether it's good or bad, it's a true achievement whether or not you're subsequently willing to leave it on your CV or not. It is a physically hard thing to do to get a movie made and so the core force in a film, the very DNA of getting that project done, the oath that a filmmaker swears, is not to do with quality and it is not to do with artistic endeavour, it is to do with getting the bloody thing made.

To make Hungry Hungry Hippos, you have to fool yourself into thinking that it is at least worthwhile enough that you can look anyone in the face during a production meeting. 

And the first person who has to find a way for all the other people bar the accountants to have anything to do whatsoever, is the writer.

IMDb says Hungry Hungry Hippos is in development and that if I pay to join the IMDb Pro service I can find out who the writer and producer are. I'm not going to do that. I don't want to know the names of people suffering.

But you'd tell me if it were Aaron Sorkin, wouldn't you?

Somewhere out there, most likely in California, most probably within a ZIP code or two of Hollywood, there is a writer who has just opened up a new blank document in Final Draft.

He or she is a pro and, unlike most Final Draft writers, has remembered how to find the title page. Wherein this has been written:



based on
the Hasbro game

Let's just call the writer Al. So far, so good. Got the title. That's important. What comes next on the page has a little air of doom, though:


But that's nothing compared to page 1, scene 1. 


This is where Al goes to make some fresh coffee.

He stands there as beans percolate and ideas don't.

Eventually, he starts speaking out loud to his kitchen.

"Well, look, start with the givens. You've got to have hippos. People are gonna want hippos."

He rushes back to the keys and writes:

ENTER a load of HIPPOS.

All imagination now spent, he goes back to the kitchen. One more pot of coffee later and suddenly:

ENTER a load of HIPPOS 
And they're HUNGRY.
Back to the kitchen.

This is Al's life for the next 120 pages.

Of the first draft.

If he's lucky, he'll be bumped from the project by no later than the fourth rewrite and go into a credit arbitration that he's secretly hoping he might lose so that he keeps the cash but sheds the "written by".

I told you it took me 24 hours to believe it but I think now that it might take 25. A film with no possibility of a story and no possibility of any characters. A film with a certainty that it will have every possible fantastic visual effect.

All visual and no substance.

I've just heard that as well as Hungry Hungry Hippos there will be a Monopoly movie.

Directed by Ridley Scott.

Suddenly, you believe everything.

Friday, December 07, 2012

The Princess and the Li-On

Princess Hard Centre had a secret temper. It wasn't the same temper she had when Prick Toffee-Caramel lost her spinning wheel up a beanstalk, that was a fine and reasonable temper that anyone would've torn him apart for.

This was a secret temper.

Everybody knew about it, obviously, as a temper that you really keep to yourself isn't a temper, it's an ulcer.

But Princess Hard Centre believed it to be secret and it's impossible to find out the truth about anything when you're a princess. Try it. Ask anything.

For when a princess asks you, say, whether you think she’s clever, your first word had better not be “Well...” because there’s a fair chance it’ll be your last, too.

The good people of Chocolate Box Land and especially those who enjoyed being alive at Castle Cadbury had long ago learned to begin any answer with “Of course!” and a big smile. It wasn’t foolproof and it had caused some beheadings but all the heads on the castle railings were smiling and statistically speaking it was the safest reply.

It just wasn’t a useful one. “Tell me, my little Fondue Set, who is the fairest in the land as ranked by height, weight, academic achievement and fashion sense?”

“Of course!”

“Are you being funny?”

“Well -”


To be fair, the well-gets-you-beheaded rule had begun generations before when royals were much more powerful and consequently much more angry because they could be and you couldn’t stop them, so there. Princess Hard Centre was just the latest in a very long line and she was genuinely clever, she had figured out that the secret to a good answer is the right question. But that’s harder than it sounds.

For instance, it means really having to figure out the answer before you ask the question so that you could instead ask: “My little Fondue Set II, is it correct that Princess Boiled Sweet is the fairest in the land as ranked by height, weight, academic achievement and fashion sense?”

“Of course!”


The mistake there, of course, is that it might be correct that Princess Boiled Sweet is the fairest in the land as ranked by height, weight, academic achievement and fashion sense, but it isn’t right and I hate you. Princess Hard Centre knows much more than Boily ever did and everybody says they can’t see the spot on her nose so that clearly doesn’t count.

Late one night, as Princess Hard Centre lay down to sleep and Fondue Set III applied just a little bit of acne cream, the princess suddenly shook. “Hang on,” she said. “There’s a logical fallacy here, isn’t there?”

“Of course!”

“Unless I can get accurate charting and a reliable system of data tracking, I can’t work out who is the fairest in the land as ranked by height, weight, academic achievement and fashion sense. So I can ask if rotten Boily is best but then I have to ask if Milk Duds is best and then I have to ask about M and then I have to ask about the other M. There’s no end to it.”

“Of course!”

“You’re no use at all,” said Princess Hard Centre. “Give me that cream. And one more thing.”


Fondue Set III fell towards the floor. Servants never hit the ground, that would be unseemly, so they were always caught by the Palace Guards who had become terribly well trained and even more practiced at swooping in to catch falling bodies.

“Oh, where will I find a Fondue Set IV?” cried the Princess.

“Craigslist,” muttered a Palace Guard.


It was a disaster. The surviving guard who had already caught Fondue Set III exactly one half of one pixel off the ground now had to throw her body up in the air in order to catch the dead palace guard before he dropped to the floor too. For a single precious moment, it was a frozen tableaux. The one breathing, sweating, panicking guard held himself off the ground with all his weight on just his little pinky finger, scooping up the dead palace guard with his other hand exactly as Fondue Set III landed on his upturned feet.

The acrobatic guard stretched out a second finger and used the two to make teeny tiny steps back out of the room.

Princess Hard Centre didn’t notice.

She was thinking about Craigslist.

She was thinking about Google.

The next morning was a new day.

It was a new world.

Suddenly, Princess Hard Centre was floating around her castle. Instead of asking questions, she was answering them - and you’d better have a question.

“Um, how far is it from Castle Cadbury to the nearest Hershey Bar?”

“What’s the calorific content of chocolate? Are you sure?”


“If a man leaves Castle Cadbury at 92mph in order to leave a box of Milk Tray, how far is it to the Mars Bar?”


“Ask me something sensible. ”



“My dear Fondue Set VIII, ask me something useful right now.”

“Of course! What’s the speed of light?”

“It’s 186,282.4 miles per second in a vacuum, approximately,” beamed the Princess.

She did a lot of beaming now. All knowledge was hers. Nothing was filtered by wells and of-courses. She was more informed than any royal in the history of Chocolate Box Land. “And that damn well includes Boily and Prick Toffee Caramel and I don’t care that they’re getting married. It won’t last. I give it 20.8 years, based on current census averages.”

All morning, every morning, Princess Hard Centre was a mine of information and everybody loved it, they absolutely said so.

But come the afternoon...

If it had been a hard day of serious and useful questions with brilliant answers, the darkness could even begin around 3pm.

If Princess Hard Centre took it carefully, then maybe she’d make it to 6pm.

Once she’d even gone to 10pm but that was then the same night that Fondue Set VII failed to plug the Princess’s iPhone in to be charged. She never made that mistake again.

For Princess Hard Centre’s beaming, her entire demeanour, her very life became tied to the battery power on her beloved iPhone. She loved no one like she did her iPhone and her iPhone didn’t love her back because it was just a phone but that was okay, it would learn to, she was quite sure.

Its lovely screen made her face glow. And the way that Siri was connected to Wolfram Alpha’s research database made her heart sing. It was very handy for eBay too, and she’d hired the last seven Fondue Sets through

But come the low battery, come the darkness.

Servants who previously pretended that the hadn’t seen how the Princess got all this wondrous information were now openly peering over her shoulder to see what percentage battery life was left. From 100% down to maybe 80%, everything’s fine.

From 80% down to 60%, well, chop

It always seemed to Princess Hard Centre that, try as she might, she couldn’t make the battery last as long from 60% down to 40% as she could 100 to 80 or 80 to 60. She considered turning it off.

But as she stroked the iPhone, she knew she could never leave it alone. And so she’d ask it less and less as the day went on, she’d hold it and cherish it and nurse it and hope that the battery would last.

It never did.

Slowly, so very slowly, as the battery would die, so Princess Hard Centre would begin to stoop and to slow down herself.

“Well,” said Fondue Set XXV. “That’s a fine thing to be seeing.”

The Princess just looked at her. Spent. Unable to raise a blade.

Dependency on iPhone is a recognised medical condition, she’d asked it that and it had said “Of course!”, but it didn’t help.

Until one day...

One bleak and lonely day when the union of Fondue Sets had said enough was enough, we’re all for job creation but we want our members to survive just a little bit, the Princess was left alone.

A storm began to rage outside.

Good, she thought. That’s the only bright spot in my day.

Between the lashing wind and the crazed rain, though, she could still hear the sound of laughter from Boily and Prick’s wedding party and Princess Hard Centre wept.

A tear fell on her iPhone’s Retina display.

It was a royal tear.

It was a Princess’s tear.

And the iPhone’s multitouch display registered it.

With its last spark of battery power, it brightened up its screen – and at that very moment, as if conjured by the phone itself, the castle door opened.

The roar of the storm rose. Rain smashed in. And there were flashing lights and strong language from the start.

Prince Dark Chocolate stood in the doorway.

His princely tunic was torn, ravaged by battles unseen until the prequel, and his chest rose and fell with the breath of a strong man with a stronger heart. He gave one manly shake of his head and a single drop of rain ran down his face, ran down his chest, ran down across his hairy, strong, masculine chest. The Princess’s gaze followed it down, down, far further down than you should be thinking about right now.

Life stood still.

Time stood still.

Prince Dark Chocolate’s lips parted with a breath and a faint smile, a faint but knowing and so very commanding smile.

The Princess’s heart skipped a beat to catch up with where her eyes had looked, where her mind had gone and where her other organs were none of your business. “Yes?” she said.

“Delivery for a Princess Illegible Squiggle?” he said. “Sign here.”

And so Princess Hard Centre finally took delivery of her Mophie Power Juice extra battery with lithium ion pack for her iPhone. It was a good day.