Tag Archives: olympics

2012: A review in subtitling disasters

In my similar round-up last year I explained that our telly automatically turns subtitles on when muted, which often then get stuck when we change channels. With hilarious consequences!

The year began with a nasty cold snap, and the BBC Weather Department started to get frustrated at the public's apathy

The year began with a nasty cold snap, and the BBC Weather Department was getting increasingly frustrated at the public’s apathy

And it was a year of austerity measures, with stern advice given daily on the news

And it was a year of austerity measures, with stern advice given daily on the news

Columbo had one last question for Underdog

Columbo had one last question for Underdog

June brought the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, and Fiona Bruce got carried away with some of the terminology

June brought the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, and Fiona Bruce got carried away with some of the terminology

On the Enterprise-D, Beverley was furious that Picard's special nickname for her had become common knowledge

On the Enterprise-D, Beverley was furious that Picard’s special nickname for her had become common knowledge

The Olympics! And Gary Lineker was spoiling for a fight

The Olympics! And Gary Lineker was spoiling for a fight

But it was the achievements of Team GB that really made the nation proud

But it was the achievements of Team GB that really made the nation proud

Over on the X Factor, one advertiser spotted a celebrity sponsorship opportunity during the early stages

Over on the X Factor, one advertiser spotted a celebrity sponsorship opportunity during the early stages

And as the weather turned cold again, one forecaster lost the plot altogether

And as the weather turned cold again, one forecaster lost the plot altogether

Never, Fiona. Never.

Never, Fiona. Never.

Five December talking points that aren’t Kate Middleton’s uterus

At the moment you can’t move on Twitter for people talking about Kate Middleton’s pregnancy and even more people talking about not wanting to talk about Kate Middleton’s pregnancy. So here are five alternative conversation starters to get you through the month.

Pantone book

On 13th December Pantone will announce their latest Color Of The Year. That’s right, just one nail-biting week until we finally find out if African Violet can piss all over Tender Shoots or if Linen will beat off Grayed Jade. The Citrus Sarcophagus’s sights are firmly set on Lemon Zest or Nectarine, but there’s some rather more considered analysis over at Re-Do it Design.

Nick Lachey The Winner Is

On 15th December if you’re in the Houston, TX or Philadelphia, PA areas you could go and audition for NBC’s new singing gameshow “The Winner Is. I like the name, and the convoluted phrases it’ll lead to host Nick Lachey having to say.

“And the winner of The Winner Is is…”

“Sorry, the The Winner Is winner isn’t you.”

“The The Winner Is winner Ida Winner wins Winona Ryder’s rider!”

And so on.

The Krankies and John Barrowman

19th December will be the first anniversary of our hearing the Krankies’ revelations about their “any time, anywhere” sex lives, tourbus shenanigans and swinging sessions. Oh it seemed shocking at the time, but against the increasingly unpleasant reports about other children’s entertainers this year, perhaps we can just celebrate the consensual joy of it all now. My favourite detail remains Janette’s fling with the leopard tamer and Ian’s wry comment that he knew what she’d been up to when she came home smelling of leopards. Brilliant.


21st December is, of course, the end of the world. But let’s not let that get us down. Britney’s shown that we can dance right through it and Jay Sean’s said it might not happen at all.  And as it marks the winter solstice it’s also the traditional day for an annual viewing of K9 and Company (see last post). I don’t know about you but if we’re facing apocalypse I’m going out with an unexpected karate chop and a “Put THAT in your leader, Mr Tobias!” too.

Joey McIntyre

On 31st December Joey from New Kids On The Block will celebrate his 40th birthday. I know! The passage of time, there. Why not use the last day of the year to think about YOUR lost youth, abandoned dreams, inevitable mortality and roads generally not taken? And don’t have nightmares, readers; on the night itself – in a special government initiative – Olympic songstress Emeli Sandé will visit every British citizen’s bedside to aid restful sleep with a soothing dirge. Happy 2013!

Save the Surprise: Kat Slater and the Hand of Fear

Over in EastEnders, Kat Slater (yes, technically Kat Moon now, but like all soap characters her true name remains the one she had when the public first fell in love with her – you can keep your “Bet Gilroy”s and “Dot Branning”s, thanks) is having an affair.

Affairs are a soap’s bread and butter (check: mixed metaphor?) and so to make this one more memorable it’s been decided we shouldn’t yet find out who the secret shagger is. Instead there have been a series of remarkable scenes in which Kat pouts and drops her knickers for an unseen force. Particularly startling was the one in which it appeared as a silent shadow on the walls of the Queen Vic’s cellar. Even allowing for the ludicrous idea that any of Albert Square’s gobby residents could shut up for more than a couple of seconds, it lent the affair an odd air of telefantasy – like Sapphire and Steel if they’d left boxes of cheese and onion crisps lying around.

Since then we’ve seen her simpering at a disembodied, twitching hand and glancing guiltily at a sinister creeping FOOT from beneath the bedclothes. It’s all very exciting. Or it would be if, as viewers, we had any investment at all in wondering who it is. We’ve been presented with a series of suspects, each of whom keeps smugly fondling their phone whenever Kat composes a saucy text. But the mystery’s meaningless. ‘It’s been an affair that has left EastEnders‘ viewers playing detective,’ wrote the Daily Mail this week in a tedious article that I shan’t link to. Nothing could be further from the truth. There’s no detective game to play because there are no actual clues – each suspect is shown to be as equally likely as the others. Sure, we can guess at who it might be, but our guessing is based on what we think producers’ intentions are, not on anything generated organically from the characters. It’ll be much more interesting once it’s all out in the open and poor Jessie Wallace – an excellent actress who deserves a lot better than this – has someone to play against.

Secrecy’s pretty big on the telly this summer. EastEnders have loved a whodunnit since their first and best – the Who Got Michelle Fowler Pregnant? saga, which this current plot harks back to with the phonecalls business – but now it applies to big public events too. The audience at the dress rehearsal for the Olympics opening ceremony were asked to #SaveTheSurprise, and I’m glad they did – the two long hours of contestants proceeding in was sorely in need of the clever and moving pay-off it got with the metal petals. Meanwhile, those who saw the preview screening of Doctor Who‘s season opener were begged not to reveal that new companion Jenna-Louise Coleman appeared in it. I’m not so sure about that one – it’s not like her appearance was a big twist at the end of the episode, like River Song’s in A Good Man Goes To War or Rose’s in Partners In Crime; she was in it right from the start, and knowing that much counts as no more of a spoiler than knowing that the Daleks and their Asylum were too. The real surprise was in the exact nature of her appearance, and a press release along the lines of ‘You’ll meet the Doctor’s new companion too, but maybe not as you’d expect’ (and cue speculation) would cover that.

I don’t know, I think we’re too twitchy about spoilers generally, not that I’d ever deliberately spoil something for someone else if I could avoid it. If something’s worth watching then it can’t hinge solely on its surprises, and it should be just as enjoyable if not more so the second time around. That was true for Asylum of the Daleks, and for the Olympics opening ceremony, but sadly not, I’m afraid, for Kat Slater secretly shagging a silent cellar shadow.

This used to be the future… Fear Her today

The Olympic stadium imagined in 2006 for Doctor Who, and as it actually turned out

Six years ago, Doctor Who broadcast the episode Fear Her. It’s set today, on Friday 27th July 2012 – the Doctor and Rose arrive in London on the day of the Olympic Games opening ceremony. Hi-jinks ensue, naturally, and the whole thing was an exciting glimpse into the future a shoddy and much-derided mess.

But how well did the 2006 production team imagine the world of today?

Shayne Ward had a few hits after winning X Factor in 2005, but mostly disappeared from view after his second album and was finally dropped by Syco last year. There’s no Greatest Hits compilation – Rose would be more likely to see a poster for Rock Of Ages, which he’s been starring in recently.

There’s no sign of a Dame Kelly Holmes Close in London yet either, though it was a reasonable assumption. Dame Kelly has had to make do with a guest appearance on an Absolutely Fabulous Olympic special instead.

Rather than relying on coloured pencils, Chloe Webber would be firing up Draw Something on a Samsung Galaxy Tab. But who could have seen Draw Something coming? Touchscreen phones didn’t take off until after the launch of the iPhone in 2007. This really is the future.

As for the tv coverage, here’s really no need to turn to BBC News 24 for a ‘Countdown To The Games’ as Trish does. No need at all. It’s far harder to find a channel that isn’t breathlessly building up to the event.

Speaking of the news coverage we see, ‘the queues started a week ago’ for the opening ceremony, apparently, which doesn’t seem quite right when everyone’s bought their tickets in advance. Mind you, maybe it was simply people who’d ordered their tickets from CoSport.

Then there’s security. In this story Rose steals a big axe from the back of a council van and starts swinging it wildly in the middle of a residential street. By the time she’s pushed her way brusquely through the crowd on the Torch route, ignored a warning from a police officer, shouted ‘I can stop this from happening!’ and thrown a metal object into the air at the torchbearer, I’m very sorry to say that Rose Tyler has been shot dead by G4S snipers.

And the weather? It’s ‘a wonderful summer’s day’ according to the news. But by nightfall the Doctor senses a storm’s coming. Accurate? We’re about to find out…

Adverts explained: Olympic tie-ins part 2

‘This is the big one!’ blurts Boris Johnson’s recorded message wherever you go on London’s transport network at the moment. And with the Games upon us, many more Olympic-themed adverts have appeared since my first round-up. Have they got any better at reflecting the core Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect?

TAMPAX – “no tampax no glory”

EXCELLENCE: Tampax Pearl offers body-fit expansion and ‘leak upgrade’. It’s all very well but everyday sanitary protection is one of the most mundane activities yet to have an Olympic sheen forced upon it. 3/5

FRIENDSHIP: Friendship between nations is sorely tested here, as our plucky British high-jumper faces off against an American Mother Nature. 0/5

RESPECT: Mother Nature never gets to deliver that little red gift she’s holding, which I’m going to go out on a limb and say represents menstruation. In which case are Tampax claiming they can stop periods from starting altogether? Confusing. 2/5

Total: 5/15 [link]


EXCELLENCE: Yes, it’s another boring everyday product. But this one’s got flag-bearer Chris Hoy, who’s a 3x gold medallist and a Sir, as the ad’s eager to remind us. 4/5

FRIENDSHIP: Hard to evoke team spirit in the solitary world of shaving. And so they don’t. 0/5

RESPECT: Chris Hoy’s got a very square face, hasn’t he. The subliminal message here is ‘A smooth shave even if you’ve got a head shaped like an occasional table!’ Good work. 4/5

8/15 [link]


EXCELLENCE: I liked this advert because it was a good example of a brand that’s not actually affiliated with the Olympics carefully getting around the rules by featuring British athletes and avoiding 2012 buzzwords.  5/5

FRIENDSHIP: The ad featured some pretty awful banter between Anthony Ogogo and Holly Bleasdale about whether to have jalapenos on their sandwiches or not. But still, good-natured. 3/5

RESPECT: Sadly we’re now in a ‘blackout period’ which means the ad’s been taken down – Olympic competitors can’t be seen promoting anything non-sponsored while the Games are on. Still, I happened to have some pictures of Anthony lying around so all’s not lost. 3/5

Total: 11/15


EXCELLENCE: ‘London Calling‘? Really? Lyrics about war, and truncheons, and the underworld? Not to mention ‘phoney Beatlemania’, a pretty savage indictment of a tourist’s view of England if ever I heard one. Best of all, in an ad promoting air travel: ‘Engines stop running, but I have no fear.’ They haven’t thought this through. 0/5

FRIENDSHIP: As the plane trundles around on the busy streets of London we can only imagine the horrible consequences. Not shown: that milkman getting sucked into the jet engine like the man in the first episode of Lost. Or Westminster bridge collapsing under the plane’s weight, sending everyone plummeting to their deaths. SADFACE 0/5

RESPECT: The tagline is ‘Don’t Fly. Support Team GB.’ British Airways are basically saying they’re making so much money out of people travelling to the Olympics that they don’t need us any more. What a massive fuck-you.  0/5

Total: 0/15 [link]


EXCELLENCE: This house of broadband-guzzling students has been the biggest bane on the ad break since, well since the last godawful BT ‘family’. I can’t verify if BT fibreoptic speeds are any good these days, what with having switched providers years ago because they were so shit, but the ad does make it look impressive. 1/5

FRIENDSHIP: Global understanding be damned. Latina girls are all tricksy vixens, laying on their feminine wiles to get free internet. And British boys have only two things on their minds – sex and custard creams. Actually that last bit’s fair. 2.5/5

RESPECT: They actually use the BT hub as a metaphor for cock. 0/5

Total: 3.5/15 [link]


  • Bronze: Gillette
  • Silver: Tampax
  • Gold: Subway (This blog endorses wily underdogs. And nice arms.)

The Olympics opening ceremony vs Richard & Judy

Four billion people are expected to tune into the opening ceremony of the London Olympics this Friday. Massive numbers like that are hard to process so let’s compare it with some other globally important TV moments and their reported viewing figures.

(click it for full size)

There you go. It’s on the large side. It’ll influence how the rest of the world sees the UK for many years to come. But maybe you still don’t want to watch. So how are the other channels competing? Well BBC2 have got Hermione Norris narrating a documentary about isolation in Snowdonia, which seems like quite a pointed attack on anyone not interested in the Isles Of Wonder show.

ITV1 has pretty much rolled over and surrendered, with a repeat of the first episode of Vera, while Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky 1 are going for business as usual/heads in the sand with The Million Pound Drop, Big Brother eviction night and Stella respectively.

Well done to those channels offering something genuinely different on the night then. BBC3 are turning their backs on Britain with dog frolic pic Beverley Hills Chihuahua (in which Drew Barrymore voices a spoilt lapdog who runs off with a gruff, sexy German Shepherd). BBC4 are celebrating Irish rock with a profile of Thin Lizzy. And best of all, the gold medal goes to ITV2 who have an episode of The Only Way Is Essex prepared – it’s a genuine alternative to national pride.

If popstars were… Olympians

When pop and sport meet, it can make for a nasty mess. Chart history is littered with appalling anthems for official athletic events. But what about when our stars, in the course of their everyday pop lives, sing about the actual grunting, shoving and leaping that goes on at the Games?

Girls Aloud – Jump (2003)

What’s the discipline? Trampolining

Does it sound right? Yes. Xenomania give the dusty old Pointer Sisters song a chrome finish that turns it into something exhilarating and pneumatic. Listen on headphones and you’ll believe you can fly. Let it take you in the disco and you’ll have someone’s eye out. ‘If you want more, more, more… then jump!’ shriek the Girls, in fine competitive spirit. Gold medals all round.


What’s the discipline? The 200m.

Does it sound right? Hell no. What a dreary trudge. No-one in their right minds would run in a serious competition to this. In case  you think I’ve been unfair assigning this song to a sprinting event rather than a long-distance one, bear in mind that the key lyric is ‘And we’ll run for our lives,’ delivered with none of the urgency that implies. Cut to Gary Lightbody standing around with flares on the Olympic track, singing ‘Slower! Slower!’ He DID have a choice. Disqualified.


What’s the discipline? Dressage.

Does it sound right? Yes, it really does. The beat’s prissy but determined; the perfect soundtrack to prancing around on a long-faced friend. ‘I want blisters, you’re my leader!’ breathes Alison, demonstrating the commitment to training that will take her as far as she likes in the competition. Silver.


What’s the discipline? Men’s Freestyle.

Does it sound right? As soft and seductive as the sea. Frank sings about driving off into the ocean and seeking a personal transformation in the vastness of the water – perhaps death, perhaps enlightenment and rebirth. In other words no, this is hardly suitable subject matter at all. The dirty old ocean is no clean purpose-built swimming pool and the Olympics are all about certainty, endurance and strength. Away with your beauty and ambiguity Frank Ocean. Away.

USHER – DIVE (2012)

What’s the discipline? Diving.

Does it sound right? ‘These waters can get a little busy but I got experience!’ boasts Usher. It’s a promising start from this well-practiced performer. ‘I don’t need a life saver, baby going deeper ain’t gon’ kill me!’ he goes on promisingly, presumably readying his position on the board. ‘It’s raining inside your bed,
no parts are dry, loving makes you so wet, your legs, your thighs…’ he adds, as the commentators begin to exchange worried looks. ‘I’m in so deep, it’s up to my waist… I don’t mind playing in the rain!’ he concludes, at which point we must all accept that Usher is diving in a different Olympic ring to the rest of our competitors and turn sadly back towards our lives.

Wenlock and Mandeville – MONSTERS at large

The official mascots of this year’s Games are, to be blunt, creatures of nightmare. I’ve done this post as a public service. Monsters belong in monster movies, not out and about scaring small children in our streets and stadia. Sleep well everyone.

TV Pitches: Muse

Will Muse’s rock career be alright after billions of people around the world have heard their official 2012 Olympics song Survival? I mean, it’s awful, isn’t it. It’s ridiculous. (Yes, it’s both those things but I love it.) Here are some TV pitch ideas for the lads in case they have to step back from music after this.

Muscle Museum

The concept: Horrific documentary in which the boys investigate body parts left behind by serial killers.

Dom: That’s a nice peroneus longus you’ve got there Chris.

Chris: Yes it’s in very good condition isn’t it. Shame they couldn’t salvage the mucous sheath after this poor fella got flayed.

Matt: I can’t find my guitar. What’s happening?


The concept: Ill-considered revival of the mediocre Michelle Collins vehicle. Nicki and the gang are back from the Med and working on the pier in Muse’s home town of Teignmouth. Matt and the boys play amusement arcade attendants who get into all sort of hilarious scrapes.

Chris: If we don’t find that bag of 5p coins before Brian Conley gets here Nicki’ll have our guts for garters!

Michelle Collins: I heard that! Go and clean out the Penny Falls machine with a toothbrush.

Chris: (muttering) At least no-one’d ever make a shitty tv show out of Penny Falls.

Plug In Baby

The concept: The boys get their own shopping channel segment selling electric baby substitutes to the lonely and/or barren.

Matt: And THIS one will crucify your enemies!

Dom: No, Matt! That’s the gentle tears and real nappy action model.

Matt: (flipping baby roughly over) Aha! I’ve exposed your lies, baby! The underneath is no big surprise! Now it’s time for changing! And cleansing everything!

Dom: (sigh)

Time Is Running Out

The concept: Sapphire and Steel spin-off in which the boys chase the physical embodiment of Time through a building and try to stop it “running out”.

Matt: Bury it! Why can’t we bury it?!

Chris: We tried that Matt. It regressed us all to toddlers and made us dig it up again.

Matt: Murder it then. Why don’t we murder it? Or smother it! Or–

Dom: I wish we could take time back to before the Olympics.

Supermassive Black Hole

The concept: Science exploration show in which the boys join forces with Professor Brian Cox for some fun with astrophysics.

Matt: Oh baby, don’t you know I suffer?

Chris: That’s because the Schwarzschild radius is directly proportional to mass, while density is inversely proportional to the volume. Since the volume of a spherical object (such as the event horizon of a non-rotating black hole) is directly proportional to the cube of the radius, the density of a black hole is inversely proportional to the square of the mass, and thus higher mass black holes have lower than average density.

Dom: You got that off Wikipedia.

Professor Brian Cox: Hey you do all realise this song sounds exactly like Do Something by Britney Spears, don’t you.

Adverts explained: Olympic tie-ins

The Olympics are coming to Britain! Oh have you heard already? Either way they’re about to become impossible to ignore. Advertisers have been clambering over each other to get an Olympic endorsement and the results of their efforts are starting to take over screens now. So how are Britain’s ads shoehorning in reflecting the core Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect?


EXCELLENCE: Holiday Inn are helping to run the athletes’ village at London 2012 and Shanaze Reade is 4x World BMX Champion, so that’s all fair enough. 4/5

FRIENDSHIP: Shanaze appears very much as a lone wolf in this ad. We don’t see any evidence of teamwork or global understanding. 0/5

RESPECT: Is Shanaze showing respect to Holiday Inn when she rides her bike through the corridors? Or “sneaks thirds at breakfast”? No, no she clearly isn’t. 0/5

Total: 4/15 [link]

VISA: “Flow Faster”

EXCELLENCE: Well you can’t accuse them of just jumping on the bandwagon. They’ve been on this campaign for over a year and with the main event getting closer the latest ad is an hysterical overload of London landmarks and British athletes (Usain Bolt’s been imported as the star, but we also see Louis Smith, Shanaze Reade (again), Khalid Yafai, Phillips Idowu, Aaron Cook and Stefanie Reid). Equating one of the fastest men in the world with the convenience of Visa’s new contactless card system is fair enough I suppose, but “paying for things” isn’t exactly an Olympian ideal. 3/5

FRIENDSHIP: Lots of athletes hanging out together – on the bus, at the barber’s – is a decent way of conveying “team spirit”. Sadly though, Britain’s welcome to Usain Bolt appears frosty at best: the man he races across London takes perverse glee in outsmarting him at every turn. 2/5

RESPECT: Respect for the rules and regulations of the Games is openly flouted here as Usain and the starter pistol man both turn up at the track with seconds to spare. It boggles the mind how many pre-race processes have been skipped or overlooked. If it’s any comfort, a Bolt victory in these circumstances would presumably be ruled void. 0/5

5/15 [link]


EXCELLENCE: Adidas have never made a bad advert so there’s nothing to take the piss out of here. And their product is the most relevant of all. 5/5

FRIENDSHIP: Another ad in which you can’t move for stars hanging out together, whether sporting, musical or Keith Lemon. 4/5

RESPECT: Wretch 32’s rap is all about making something of yourself. This zero-to-hero narrative is only slightly undercut when he brings millonaire’s daughter Stella McCartney into it. 3/5

Total: 12/15 [link]


EXCELLENCE: A classy piece of advertising which refrains from using the word Olympics or any athletic imagery or stars. The focus is on how BA will bring the world to London in 2012, with the commentary soundtrack left to evoke the big event. 4/5

FRIENDSHIP: Nice use of flags to suggest a closeknit global community coming together. 3/5

RESPECT: Yes, it – oh sorry I’ve dozed off. 3/5

Total: 10/15 [link]

OLAY: “Challenge what’s possible”

EXCELLENCE: On the one hand Jessica Ennis is a world champion heptathlete with an MBE for her troubles. On the other hand moisturiser is as unsporty and unachievey a product as you can imagine, despite some guff on the voiceover about how “daily discipline” is important to both. Actually I’m secretly impressed with how they’ve done that. Anyway on this evidence, the change from ‘Ulay’ to ‘Olay’ a decade ago now just seems like a cynical advance move to make their brandname sound marginally more Olympic. 2/5

FRIENDSHIP: Jessica is seen training alone in an empty stadium and only reacting to other people when the camera bulbs are flashing towards her lovely moisturised face at an evening do. 0/5

RESPECT: Well, moisturising shows some respect for your body I suppose. And, as for some reason the only video of this ad I can find is an adjunct to a Mail Online article about Jessica, if you do click through you can read for instance how Jessica confesses that she always ensures her skin is clean and moisturised, and insists that she never leaves the house without mascara and eye liner on. 2/5

Total: 4/15 [link]


  • Bronze: Visa
  • Silver: British Airways
  • Gold: Adidas