30 March 2011

How to be a successful manager

Head of Olympic Deliverance at London Twenty Twelve, Ian Fletcher, who has asked his employee Kay to deliver a presentation in difficult circumstances, discusses his technique for getting the best out of his staff:

Fletcher: It's never easy when you're asking people to step outside their comfort zone, no-one likes that. But sometimes as a manager it's your job to push people just that little bit further than they think they're capable of.

Interviewer: Right. And are they grateful afterwards?

Fletcher: Not usually, no. They hate it.

Interviewer: Right, yes. You don't think that a presentation on sustainability translated into Portuguese and without any visual aids might possibly confuse them?

Fletcher: I think it might do, yes. So basically so it's a question of how long Kay can keep it up.

- Twenty Twelve s.1 e.2, BBC4, 22 March 2011

29 March 2011

Potentially dangerous levels of Katherine Heigl exposure

'We understand that exposure to this amount of Katherine Heigl is dangerous for anybody, even somebody who doesn't hate her...' - Sony Pictures

In Freak Accident, 34 Katherine Heigl Films Released At Once

28 March 2011

Mixing work and friendship

From a 2007 episode of Channel 4's The IT Crowd, a scene in which office manager Jen tries to avoid inviting her workmates around for a dinner party at her flat:

Jen (Katherine Parkinson): Oh I can't... I can't! It's my home, it's my special place. I can't let you nutjobs into my special place!

Richmond (Noel Fielding): Nutjobs... I hope you're not including me in that.

Roy (Chris O'Dowd): Wait a second, we were all brilliant friends a minute ago.

Jen: Yes, I meant friends in a different way. In a kind of special way that means that you can't come into my home.

Moss (Richard Ayoade): Right, so sort of like not being your friends at all.

Jen: Yes yes! Sort of like that. But in a really special way.

- The IT Crowd, s.2 e.4

27 March 2011

The meaning of true romance

The movies make out that romance is all about heroic displays of emotion, grand passion and running hand in hand through cornfields. But I think what's truly romantic is sharing each waking moment with the same person every day for 25 years and still being able to look them in the eye and utterly mask your despair.

- Charlie Brooker, So Wrong It's Right, Radio 4, 24 March 2011.

23 March 2011

"I've never eaten grits, cropped a share, or ridden a boxcar"

Hugh Laurie knows how easy it would be to mock a Cambridge-educated doctor's son, now the highest paid American television actor, for recording an album of blues music.

So he's got in first with a statement saying: "I was not born in Alabama in the 1890s. I've never eaten grits, cropped a share, or ridden a boxcar. I am a white, middle-class Englishman, openly trespassing on the music and myth of the American south. If that weren't bad enough, I'm also an actor: one of those pampered ninnies who can't find his way through an airport without a babysitter."

Laurie is a clever comedian and knows how to deflect criticism. When he talked about his family's previous musical sessions - sons on drums and sax, daughter on clarinet and himself on guitar and vocals - he joked: 'Nauseating, isn't it?'

- Martin Chilton, Telegraph, 23 March 2011

21 March 2011

The Only Way Is Essex

Perhaps the most off-putting aspect of the show is its staginess. Not so much its much-discussed lack of fly-on-the-wall realism, but everyone's uncomfortably stilted delivery. All the conversations on The Only Way Is Essex are full of weird little pauses, as if they're all communicating via a faulty 1970s satellite link-up. It's like watching an old Open University programme on Advanced Pointlessness.

I'm also slightly hamstrung by the fact that I don't understand anything that anyone says. Maybe there's an inexplicably heavy tax on hard consonants in Essex and that's the reason people say "arrrra?" instead of "hello" and "shaaaaaap" instead of "be quiet". At one point last series a character said "naaaloooor" and it took me about five minutes to work out that they meant "nightclub." Between this and the pauses, The Only Way Is Essex comes off like a nightmarish Teletubbies update starring several florescent Bratz dolls (vajazzled, of course).

Last night's episode didn't help matters. Narratively speaking it had a structure that was somewhere between scattershot and nonexistent. A couple got lost in the woods, an old lady went swimming, a Playboy model got a spray tan, a boy legitimately decided that he wanted to be known as Joey Essex, a woman asked where south London was and a pig urinated on the floor and then started drinking it. In fact I've made it sound much more exciting than it actually was. Nothing was captivating enough to make you want to tune in for a second 45 minutes, unless you harbour an inexplicable fascination with incontinent pigs. If things keep up at this rate, I'll be no closer to understanding the show than I was during the first series.

So if you watched and enjoyed The Only Way Is Essex last night, then please explain it to me. Am I supposed to be rooting for these people? Or does the pleasure come from judging them? Is it supposed to be good, or do people watch it because it's terrible? And, if so, is it terrible by accident or design? Honestly, I'm so confused.

- Stuart Heritage, Guardian, 21 March 2011

[If all this means nothing to you, consult the documentary evidence on Cassetteboy vs The Only Way Is Essex, which sums up all you need to know in two relatively painless minutes]

14 March 2011

Pretending to have read Tennyson

The girl stared at him, dropping her slice of bread-and-butter in her emotion.

'You don't mean to say you read Tennyson, Mr Widgeon?'

'Me?' said Freddie. 'Tennyson? Read Tennyson? Me read Tennyson? Well, well, well! Bless my soul! Why, I know him by heart - some of him.'

'So do I! "Break, break, break, on your cold grey stones, oh Sea..."'

'Quite. Or take the "Lady of Shalott".'

'"I hold it truth with him who sings..."'

'So do I, absolutely. And then, again, there's the "Lady of Shalott". Dashed extraordinary that you should like Tennyson too.'

'I think he's wonderful.'

'What a lad! That "Lady of Shalott"! Some spin on the ball there.'

'It's so absurd, the way people sneer at him nowadays.'

'The silly bounders. Don't know what's good for them.'

'He's my favourite poet.'

'Mine, too. Any bird who could write the "Lady of Shalott" gets the cigar or coconut, according to choice, as far as I'm concerned.'

They gazed at each other emotionally.

'Well, I'd never have thought it,' said April.

'Why not?'

'I mean, you gave me the impression of being... well, rather the dancing, night-club sort of man.'

'What! Me? Night-clubs? Good gosh! Why, my idea of a happy evening is to curl up with Tennyson's latest.'

"Don't you love "Locksley Hall"?'

'Oh, rather. And the "Lady of Shalott".'

'And "Maud"?'

'Aces,' said Freddie. 'And the "Lady of Shalott".'

'How fond you seem of the "Lady of Shalott"!'

'Oh I am.'

- P.G. Wodehouse, 'Trouble Down at Tudsleigh', in Young Men in Spats, London, 1936.

04 March 2011

"I'm a hypocrite, but not an idiot"

From Film 2011's questionnaire slot, Stephen Merchant offers the movie that he "just doesn't get":

The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I just can't get into it - I'm bored out of my mind. Someone made me watch the director's cuts - I think it goes on for nine or ten hours. You can get to Tokyo in that time! And there's just this endless journey that goes on and on and on for hours. And he destroys the ring and you think "brilliant", and then you go, "well how are they going to get home?", and a giant bird turns up and they fly home. Where was the bird at the beginning?!

But if Peter Jackson offers me a role in any of his films obviously I will take it. I'm not an idiot. I'm a hypocrite... but not an idiot.

- Film 2011 with Claudia Winkleman, BBC1, 2 March 2011

03 March 2011

Tim Minchin

From his Live at the O2 album, Australian comedian Tim Minchin sings Thank You God, his in-depth analysis of miraculous divine interventions in cases of middle-aged cataract sufferers from Dandenong.