Here we Go Again

Big Brother 8 has kicked off, netting Channel 4 a 6.2 million average audience last night. The twist this year is that all the eleven initial housemates are women…

For a straightforward run-down of the first housemates head over to the BBC. Alternatively, The Times is once again providing a service to those who want to keep up with the house and is running their Big Brother Blog – their housemate rundown is somewhat more entertaining…

Whilst you’re taking a look at this years selection, check out this rundown of what previous housmates are doing now. There is a real mix of attempted media careers, normal jobs, and even a few who have left the country, but the biggest surprise is George who walked on day 13 last year, and shunned all media contact – he now works for Big Brother on their media relations team!

When Gates met Jobs

If you watched any of the dreadful Ruddy Hell! It’s Harry and Paul you will probably remember a series of sketches they did imagining Steve Jobs and Bill Gates meeting at a party. They are two of the biggest names in the industry, and haven’t appeared together on stage for more than 20 years. Steve Jobs company is running an advertising campaign lampooning key products of Bill Gates to the extent that PC magazines feel they have to run articles defending the PC. As a result how the two get on together is a subject of much speculation, especially as despite all of this, Microsoft is the largest developer of Mac software outside Apple.

With all the speculation, it is impressive that the D5 conference has managed to get the two men together on stage. The full session runs for well over an hour, and is available in seven parts with a prologue. If you don’t have that much time, check out the highlight reel which includes a number of gems and little snippets.

Steve Jobs also gave a solo interview – check out that video for a classic Jobs line when challenged with the point that via iTunes, Apple is one of the biggest Windows software developers…

“That’s right. … It’s like offering a glass of ice water to people in hell.�

Update: You can now get the entire session with Gates and Jobs as a single download from iTunes.

Teflon Simon

Mark Frith on The Apprentice: You’re Fired summed up the result of last night’s episode of the Apprentice pretty well:

“I’ve never, in any series of the Apprentice seen anyone fail so completely and utterly as Simon did tonight, and not get fired.â€?

The basic task was simple. Sir Alan had lined up an hour in prime time for each team with shopping channel Ideal World. Each team split into a single and a pair and selected two products for the other part of the team to sell live on air whilst the others were in the gallery producing, and the winner was the team that produced the most cash. As always they had a wide variety of products to choose from ranging from low value high volume to high value low volume items, although Sir Alan explicitly advised against gambling on a high value item to get through the task. He also mixed up the teams again, swapping Lohit and Naomi. The project managers for the task were the only two candidates to have been on the same team all the way through, Kristina for Stealth and Simon for Eclipse.

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Neither team can really walk away from the task feeling proud – Ideal World quite literally lost thousands of pounds over the two hours, with both teams bringing in barely a tenth of the sales that the channel would usually expect. More than that their appearance actually produced complaints from the viewers of the channel! If anything it proved that selling on TV is a lot more difficult than one might expect. Both teams had an eclectic mix of products, and exhibited various levels of ineffectiveness over the selling ranging from just appearing generally uncomfortable, through unintentional comedy in product demonstrations through to Kristina who in the process of struggling with demonstrating a mop actually swore live on air. Ultimately though it was Simon and Eclipse who sold least, and it was Simon, Tre and Naomi who ended up in the boardroom facing Sir Alan.

It is worth going over quite what a mess of the task Simon actually made. Like Kristina he decided to select himself as the single, and pair up the other two team members. Whilst that put Naomi who was by far the strongest presenter of the three with Tre who for once admitted that he wasn’t good at something, it was a significant mistake when it came to guiding his team members from the gallery as they tried to sell the items he had selected, as he dried totally. Indeed on the live show the professional producer from Ideal World was looking significantly concerned at his lack of interaction.

However his lack of interaction paled into insignificance against the product choices. Naomi and Tre selected some pads to allow craft fans to easily produce decoupage, and an exercise trampoline, whilst Simon ignored the advice of Sir Alan and picked a hair-removal kit, and a luxury folding wheelchair. When the time came around to present the items, Naomi and Tre seemed to have tried to make the best of the choices they had been given and understand their products. Simon however seemed to be trying to wing it. A staff member at the channel expressed concern that Simon had made no effort to understand what decoupage actually was, and had done about the same amount of work to understand the trampoline – and it showed. Simon failed to sell any trampolines at all, and the decoupage pads didn’t do much better. Naomi and Tre did slightly better, even managing to sell two of the wheelchairs, netting more than half of their final total.

On that basis, it seemed pretty clear who was going to go.

Simon had explicitly ignored Sir Alan and gambled on a high value item, he had been hopeless as a producer, and failed to sell when on screen – alongside that he provided some unintentional laughs whilst demonstrating the trampoline – you can watch the trampoline selling for yourself below… (and watch out for a classic Tre moment in there too.)

On the other hand Naomi and Tre had, despite the products Simon had landed them with managed to sell two expensive wheelchairs, and brought in the bulk of the money on the task.

Also against Simon was the fact that throughout all the previous weeks he had never been in the board room which usually means that the candidates aren’t adept at defending themselves, plus the fact that he was project manager of the whole sorry affair. When he walked in, you could see from his face that he expected to go – he knew he had messed up.

However that wasn’t the way it went. When criticised over selecting the wheelchair, Simon countered that he thought that there would be housebound people watching who would be interested in the product. Whilst due to it’s high cost it wasn’t exactly an impulse buy, two people had bought. Sir Alan seemed to give Simon credit for this, but no credit at all to Naomi and Tre who had managed the sale. When it came to the fact that Simon had failed to sell any trampolines, or many of the decoupage pads it wasn’t down to SimonNaomi and Tre were to blame there too for poor product choice. When it came down to the firing, Simon didn’t even figure, it was Tre for moaning too much, and Naomi for her poor product choice and unimpressive performance previously. Tre seemed to narrowly escape, resulting in Naomi getting the boot.

I didn’t agree, neither did any of the panel, nor most of the audience on the Apprentice: You’re Fired – it was an amazing decision. I guess ultimately it comes down to the fact that by this point Sir Alan is very much picking based on the ultimate job he has for the winner, but still it was incredible that Simon survived.

Next week though, comes the interviews, where the remaining five are reduced to the final two. Often it is this round that throws up the biggest changes, with someone who has done comparatively well up to now heading out the door – Paul last year being a prime example. In terms of who will get through, despite her faux pas this week, I think Kristina has a good chance. I still think that Lohit and the way he quietly and efficiently gets on with things is great, but he may well be too quiet to get through. The mauling that Tre got this week seems to make him an outside bet, however the survival of Simon certainly implies that Sir Alan thinks a lot of his abilities. That just leaves Katie. The problem with her is that she is very two-faced. Yet again we had a fired candidate this week who regarded her as a friend, until she saw footage of Katie comparing her to a golden labrador

Through the Looking Glass – Jumping the Shark

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So we’ve just finished watching the season 3 finale of Lost, Through the Looking Glass, and to be honest I’m vaguely uninspired by the whole episode. Certainly I’m left wondering quite what they are going to do to fill the remaining 48 episodes, and getting the definite thought that after questions early on in series 3 as to whether it had, I may have just seen the moment when the series has well and truly jumped the shark

Partly I think it’s because I thought at the point in the pre-credit sequence where Jack was about to jump off the bridge that this was maybe a flash-forward, events occuring after they had been rescued and Jack couldn’t cope, indeed I was half-expecting them to actually have him jump. When the car crash occurs and he doesn’t I put that to one side, but then once Jack on the island manages to get the phone working, and you then see the flash back/flash forward Jack surrounded by maps, I’d pretty well concluded that this wasn’t a flashback. The thought that maybe it was some sort of parallel reality briefly occurred, but then he meets Kate and it seems certain it is a flash forward. Having said that, the title of the episode is apparently very much an allusion to the Lewis Carroll novel of the same name.

The other part of it though is that in much the same way that the later X-Files episodes disappeared under a conspiracy that was so convoluted as to be totally unbelievable, Lost seems to be very much going the same way.

It has to be said though, that after last weeks episode, things were looking quite promising, we had finally found out what was on the other end of the mysterious cable, and Charlie and Desmond are heading down to investigate. At the conclusion Charlie had discovered that the apparently deserted station in fact had two occupants. Following on from that, in the early part of the episode tonight it was fairly obvious that things were starting to get pretty uncomfortable for Ben, with various of his people starting to question his decisions.

However, later on in the episode things start to go a bit pear shaped. We have some apparent resurrections. Firstly, Locke wakes up, having been shot by Ben a couple of episodes ago. He then sees what looks like Walt – someone we last saw heading off on a boat with his father. My thought is that this is a vision of some sort, but equally if what has been revealed previously about the crashed Oceanic 815 having been found, having Walt and Michael reappear would pose a big question, so it could well be Walt brought back. To some extent I had been expecting Locke not to be dead, as one of the core themes of the series is the tension between faith and science represented by Locke and Jack.

However we also had Mikhail come back from the dead having been shot with a harpoon gun by Desmond, in order to apparently kill of Charlie. What is bizarre about the whole sequence is that it comes across as Charlie killing himself. He sees Mikhail outside the window with the grenade after he has shut off the jamming signal and picked up a transmission from Penny, who is nothing to do with the boat off the coast, knows nothing about the island, but somehow has a transmission connected to the island. Having seen what Mikhail is about to do, he then runs to the door and locks himself inside – the simple question is why? He has the time to get to the door, and can easily step through and close it, but instead he locks himself in, it just makes no sense, and ultimately left me feeling that killing him off was just a pointless exercise. Indeed I’m half expecting to have him resurrected come next season, especially as he’s died once already anyway.

There is one more apparent resurrection, Jack’s father Christian. It has previously been established that Jack was bringing his father’s body home when the plane crashed. However early on we also saw his father walking around on the island. In the flash forward at one point Jack is arguing with another doctor in the hospital, and demands that his father is brought down. Could it be that Jack is so totally drugged up on Oxycodone that he doesn’t remember that his father is actually dead, or did the island resurrect his father also?

So where does the series go from here? The last scene we saw on the island, before the big reveal of the flash forward was Jack talking to the boat off shore. Both Ben and Locke have told Jack not to make the call, Ben even warning that everyone will die if he does so, but he makes the call anyway, getting an answer from someone who says they will be there to collect them.

The flash forwards seem to imply that Jack regrets being rescued and wants to get back to the island, and we’re clearly meant to think that he regrets having made the call in some way. However equally they’ve got another 48 episodes to fill, so I’m expecting that either Ben and Locke are right and season four becomes the survivors and the others having to work together against a common enemy, or maybe that we’ll see Jack trying to get back to the island, or events after the rescue.

There are a number of questions thrown up by the flash forward. At the opening of the episode Jack sees a notice in the newspaper, and goes and visits a funeral home with somebody who he tells the attendant is neither a friend or family – however we never find out who it is. In the final scene with Kate he shows her the notice, and she responds angrily asking “Why would I go?â€?. She also says that she can’t stay long as “He’ll wonder where I am.â€? You are never told either who Kate is with, or whose funeral it is.

So much as it has done for a while, the final episode actually generated a lot more questions whilst answering no major questions at all. Last season, the finale did at least give some answers, but many of the questions it posed, such as the Portuguese team at the south pole, and the whole Penny plotline seem to have largely been forgotten. I don’t doubt I’ll probably watch the first episodes of season 4 – however quite how much longer I will keep watching will depend on the evidence that the show has got back on track – sadly for such a promising start, the series does seem now to have jumped the shark

You can join the discussion over Lost has indeed jumped the shark over at JumpTheShark.com.

Suddenly Human

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One of the favourite techniques used by regular weekly shows is to have an episode that plays with the underlying concept, so for example we have the Mirror Universe stories in Star Trek, or stories such as Superman II where the hero either looses or gives up his powers. Doctor Who has done similar concept breaking episodes at times in it’s history, and this week was one of those times, where we had a story where the Doctor wasn’t himself – indeed he wasn’t even the same race – as in order to hide from a group of aliens referred to initially only as ‘the Family’ he uses a device in the TARDIS called the Chameleon Arch that creates a new character and biology for him, allowing him to hide. His Timelord persona is safely stored away in a device disguised as a pocket watch ready for when he is able to come out of hiding.

The episode, Human Nature is based on the 1995 book of the same name, however whilst a number of plot elements and character names are reused, the plot is somewhat changed. The basic concept of the Doctor becoming human, and the main location as an English public school in the winter before the Great War are retained, but characters are changed. For example the widow Joan Redfern who falls in love with Doctor John Smith becomes a nurse in the TV episode, whilst in the book she is a science teacher. The reason for the Doctor becoming human is different than in the book too.

The episode operated on many levels. On the surface you have the story of the Doctor hiding from aliens who need the last of the Timelords, however as Beth pointed out in many ways it is a tragic story. Alongside the simple surface story one of the boys, Tim, appears to have telepathic powers and can see the future. Whilst these are partly in the main plot to allow him to see visions of Martha’s real life, he also at times gets premonitions of the impending war, including his death alongside a fellow boy from the school in an attack. There is also an element of tragedy surrounding Joan Redfern, who having lost her first husband is attracted to Doctor John Smith, but who you ultimately know will loose him as the personality and life are artificially generated and will disappear when the Doctor regains his previous character.

The episode is also a great opportunity for Freema Agyeman to shine as Martha Jones. Doctor John Smith obviously doesn’t remember who she really is, and believes she is just his maid. Whilst the Doctor is blissfully unaware, except through strange dreams, of his true identity, she is tasked with keeping him safe, and if something goes wrong bringing him back, her only guide being a list of instructions that the Doctor has left behind in the TARDIS, also hidden away so as not to attract attention.

Quite aside from having a great multi-layered plot, we also have some nice moments for the fans. Doctor John Smith has been keeping a journal of his strange dreams, and as he shows Joan the notebook, we see pictures he has drawn of creatures from the new series, but then for the first time an on screen acknowledgement of the previous series with the journal including images of many of the previous Doctor’s. Later on when Doctor John Smith is talking about his family he mentions that his parents are called Sydney and Verity, acknowledgement of Sydney Newman the Canadian TV producer who created Doctor Who, and Verity Lambert it’s first producer.

All in all I thought it was one of the best episodes of the new series, nicely evoking the atmosphere of the period, along with some scary badies whose traits were more unnerving compared to the cringe-making give-away of the Slitheen. Amongst all of that you also had a noticeably different character in Doctor John Smith at the centre, who even when he is confronted by the badies in the cliff-hanger, still can’t remember who he is. Great stuff, and I’m now really looking forward to the conclusion next week. Hints about that episode seem to imply that ‘the Family’ are part of a bigger plan. Part of the Mr Saxon story arc? We’ll have to wait and see.