A trip to the airport

I'm greatly looking forward to The Secret Life of the Airport tomorrow on BBCFour. If it's anything like The Secret Life of the Motorway it'll be fantastic.

The picture shows A Trip to the Airport a lovely old children's book I got a few weeks ago. It's by Desmond Marwood, illustrated by Ben and Stephanie Manchipp for the Young Tripper series.

Recommended on iplayer Time Shift: The North/South Divide which was on BBC4 last night. John Harris travels around England looking at the differences between the north and south and trying to pinpoint the mythical Watford Gap (not the real Watford Gap, which he finds quite easily).

It was like a cross between Stuart Maconie's In Search of the High Teas and Touring Britain, another BBC4 series where David Heathcote travels round the UK using old guidebooks as references. I've been soaking of all these up, and will be looking out for the north-south divide myself as we head to the centre of England tomorrow. Anyway, it was one of the more interesting programmes I've seen for a while, so I thought I'd flag it up.

Service will be intermittent for the next week or so. Thanks for all the travel tips. Happy Easter everyone.

I asked what was good on telly back in January and was grateful for some recommendations. This year I watched less tv than ever before, but what I watched I really liked. As there's already enough misery in the world I mainly stick to comedies and the odd reality tv show. I feel like I should apologise for that, but hey, life's too short. This is what I watched in 2008, in no particular order:

  • Reality: The Apprentice (totally hooked on this), Dragon's Den, X Factor, Britain's Got Talent, Masterchef, Celebrity Masterchef, Come Dine With Me, The Restaurant - the competitive food programme was a rich seam of family entertainment; couldn't get attached to anyone in X-Factor after Laura got kicked out. A travesty, I tell you.
  • Comedy: The In-Betweeners, Outnumbered, The IT Crowd, Flight of the Conchords, The Mighty Boosh, Arrested Development, Peep Show, Gavin and Stacey, Benidorm, Lead Balloon, 30 Rock, Big Bang Theory, No Heroes - particularly the first three. I laughed more at The In-Betweeners than anything for a very long time.
  • Drama: Ugly Betty, Doctor Who, Hotel Babylon, Skins - not sure if they count as drama because they're not particularly serious. That's as dramatic as it got though.
  • Documentaries: Magnetic North, The Department Store, Wonderland, the Jamie Oliver "pass it on" thing and some other things on BBC4 probably.
  • Kids: Sorry I've Got No Head, The Slammer, Hedz (on CBBC) - these are all great family shows
  • Culture/Commentary/Current affairs(?): Harry Hill's TV Burp, Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe, Have I Got News For You?, The Culture Show.

Not watched: soaps, property programmes, Big Brother, costume dramas - not that they're bad I just didn't watch them.
Started but not finished: The Wire, Mad Men. I lost interest in Mad Men near the end of the first series. It was bringing down my Sunday night. After so many recommendations from you lot I enjoyed the first series of The Wire but got stuck at the start of series 2. You're all going to tell me to stick with it, aren't you?

Any surprises there? Anything missing? What did you enjoy?

The BBC has a list of the top 25 TV put downs which made me think of my personal favourite - Morrissey interviewed on Later With Jools Holland last year. After a deeply uncomfortable 5 minutes Moz comes out with a cracker. Morrissey 1 - Jools 0.

After that last post, Mitchell & Webb was a bit patchy and Caledonia Dreamin' was downright awful. Like Seven Ages of Rock which seemed to have been researched by 20-year olds using wikipedia, the explanation of who was influential and in what order was way off. There were some glaring omissions - Lloyd Cole and Aztec Camera were glossed over; The Jesus and Mary Chain and Alan McGee didn't feature. Neither did The Pastels, The Vaselines, Mogwai, Arab Strap and The Beta Band, plus many more. Instead there was too much of what a commenter on The Vinyl Villain eloquently calls "the hated Hue & Cry/Del Amitri/Deacon Blue axis". What a waste. This could have been interesting. Some nice clips of Orange Juice and Altered Images though.

On the upside, writing about the telly got me an invite to Watchification, Russell (and Steve and Roo)'s new blog which curates the best televisual highlights - a sister to speechification which does the same for the radio. First up, Magnetic North which I thought was great. Jonathan Meades is never going to win any Plain English awards but he's interesting and funny. I learnt a lot (like where gin and scousers got their names) and am greatly looking forward to the next part.

After complaining about the telly a few weeks ago it's starting to improve. Coming up:

  • Magnetic North (tonight, BBC Four, 21:00-22:00) - Jonathan Meades goes in search of "northerness". Hard to imagine anyone more "southern" but he's usually good value. Pies and Prejudice by Stuart Maconie also explores this topic in an entertaining way. This clashes with
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look which shows all signs of being brilliant.
  • Caledonia Dreamin' (BBC Four, Friday, 22:00-23:00) - the history of Postcard Records of Scotland. The influence of this tiny label is so huge and the people involved are so engaging. This should be great.
  • How to Murder Your Wife (BBC Four, Saturday, 22:30-00:25) - I do love this film. Jack Lemmon as a put-upon cartoonist; Terry-Thomas as his valet, shot in 1960s New York. So good.
  • I've got drawn into Masterchef but not enough to be too bothered about who wins. Emily seems sparky though.
  • Pulling (BBC2, Mondays) is half-way through the series (and I've seen it before) but it's great.
  • Started and not finished: Grand Designs, Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares USA, Ashes to Ashes.

Anything else?

I do hope the telly's going to get better this year. People think I'm dedicated to I like, but sometimes I only write so much because I get restless and there's nothing on the box. During the dark winter nights I come home and just want to belong. I turn on the telly (about 8.30-9ish) and want to watch something but it's totally dire. Last week I thought "I'll go back to Grand Designs" (an old favourite which I went off) but after one episode I remembered how irritating the people on it are. I don't ever watch that much telly so it must be bad if I'm noticing it.

My 2007 viewing habits:

  • Watched religiously: Flight of the Conchords, The Mighty Boosh, Californication, Lead Balloon, Ugly Betty, Outnumbered, Harry Hill's TV Burp, Doctor Who, The American Office, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, The IT Crowd, Still Game, Kath & Kim, Armstrong & Miller, Dragon's Den, Gavin & Stacey, Nigella Express, The Sopranos, Drake and Josh, Spongebob Squarepants, 30 Rock.
  • Watched semi-religiously if there was nothing better to do: X Factor, Have I Got News For You, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, QI - anything else from the "men in chairs" genre.
  • Started but didn't finish: Shameless, Heroes, ER, The Peter Serafinowicz Show (dear god, how bad was that programme?), Saxondale, Big Brother, My Name is Earl, The Sarah Silverman Show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, Cranford, The Culture Show, Coast, Wife Swap.
  • Don't watch: Lost, 24, Life on Mars. soaps, daytime TV, anything mildly depressing, loads of other stuff probably.

Am I missing something? Is there some great programme that I might like? Does all the great telly start in February? So many questions. I'm ready to commit. What are you guys watching? What's going to be big in 2008?

Tuesday nights won't be the same without Flight of the Conchords. I thought it might be a bit heavy on the whimsy at first, but it came up lovely. With The Mighty Boosh on on Thursdays, all it needed was The Likely Lads on a Wednesday for a perfect midweek run of great comedy duos. Here are most of the songs (if not all), roughly in order. It's hard to pick a favourite although Foux de fa fa is up there.

There's a full run down on the Flight of the Conchords (TV) Wikipedia page. Haste ye back, as we say in Scotland.

A relatively fruitless Max Wall search on YouTube led me to a bounty of Stanley Unwin. I'm guessing most readers will know who Stanley Unwin is, one way or another, but in case you don't he was a lovely old man who spoke his own particular brand of goobledygook called Unwinese. Growing up I remember being very excited when great British eccentrics like him and Max Wall came on the telly. In celebration here are a few clips:

From Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, the collaboration he did with the Small Faces (how cool is that for an old geezer?). The story begins once a polly tie toe with:

Secondly, an appearance as Father Stanley Unwin, the first live action figure in Gerry Anderson's The Secret Service. The headquarters of B.I.S.H.O.P were in Centrepoint. Deep joy. Also note the 70s-in-a-nutshell Swingle Singers-style theme tune [actually the Mike Sammes singers - more info].

Two more:

  • a really wonderful advert for Amstrad's (old) new wordyprocessy. Easy on the eyebold, oh yes.
  • an extended clip from Carry On Regardless where he and Kenneth Williams get something going.

More info on Stanley Unwin.com site. Oh, and here's Max Wall and his silly walk.

This is all I can hear in my head right now - Adam & Joe's "ball ball ball, footy footy footy" song (lyrics here). Praise be to You Tube.

Alain de Botton has a new series on architecture starting tonight - The Perfect Home (More 4 Mon-Wed, Channel 4 Thu-Sat). There is a book that goes with it The Architecture of Happiness, which I've bought but not read yet. I have however just read his book On Seeing and Noticing, a slim Penguin 70 which covers boring places, sadness and Little Chefs ("ugly places full of bad food that are nevertheless resonant with poetry"). And his book The Art of Travel is one of my favourite books ever. One of these books where I savoured every single word. But back to houses: 1. Does anyone know how I can get hold of The Dilapidated Dwelling, Patrick Keiller's film about housing? 2. My new house: a Flickr set.

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