Monday, October 3, 2016

Monday, Tuesday, Sunday.

First of all, a big thank you to everyone for being so understanding about my poor health and the knock on effect its had on the production of Series 4 of Modern Life Is Goodish.

A few people have asked if it means the series will be returning later than originally planned... and the answer to that is that it won't. While we're taping the final episodes a couple of weeks later than originally scheduled, we'll still be delivering the series by our original deadline. So it won't affect the broadcast dates.

That said, I'm not sure when the first episode is scheduled to broadcast, as yet. But it will be on this year. The reason it's starting later than in previous years is that we started work on it later than in previous years - and that's on account of the Gorbaby.

In other news, it seems that lots of things I recorded at different times during this year are all about to be broadcast in relatively quick succession. In the next seven days there are three. One was filmed in April, another in May - but also in December 2015, January, February and March of this year - and the third was taped in September.

First up, is Dara O'Briain's Go 8 Bit.

Those of you who came along to the last Goodish recording will know that I don't really do computer games. That said, I am a big fan of McNeil and Pamphilon - who are the team captains and creators of this show.

I've booked them for my Screen Guild gigs in the past and have been along to watch their live show many times. The fact that I know nothing about the computer games world but still love that show probably proves something or other... but really, I just don't think the success or failure of a comedy is ever really to do with what it's about.

For what it's worth, I did make sure that they knew I was almost completely ignorant about computer games before I said yes, so they did know what a complete ignoramus they were taking ob.

I already can't remember what happened in the show, other than I came away from it seriously thinking about buying a console. Then I didn't buy one and the feeling soon passed. Anyway, it was huge fun to do... and it's on tonight at 10pm. On Dave.

Meanwhile, tomorrow night, sees the start of Series 3 of Taskmaster. This will be on Tuesday nights at 10pm for the next five weeks. Also on Dave.

This was such a joy to do - in part, I think, because it's such a contrast to how I normally work.

When I'm doing a live show - or Modern Life Is Goodish - I'm running a powerpoint presentation.

My tour shows normally contain between 600 and 800 slides. An episode of the TV show normally contains between 300 and 400. When I press the remote control the next slide - or sequence of slides - appears. And the order can't change. So that's 100s of tiny moments - one every ten seconds or so - that have been planned in advance and that have to run in a given order. It is - and makes no pretence at being otherwise - planned in great detail in advance.

On Taskmaster, nothing is planned in advance. At least not by the contestants. None of us - for series 3 it's Al Murray, Paul Chowdry, Rob Beckett, Sara Pascoe and myself - ever knew what a task would entail until we opened the envelope on camera. We all did our tasks in isolation. Apart from on one day when there were some team tasks. On any given day I was probably set six or seven tasks. Sometimes more, sometimes less. But it was only in the studio that we would find out how our fellow contestants had approached each task and - given how many weeks had elapsed since we'd actually done the things - there were many times when I had no idea how I'd done until I saw the tape play out in the studio.

There are moments of awful embarrassment as well as occasional, odd triumphs along the way. But my main recollection of the recordings is simply of laughing. Because taking part in Taskmaster means getting the best seat in the house to watch Taskmaster from.

And finally - for now - The Chase; the kind of show that seems like a good idea... right up until you first step up to the plate to face your first questions... at which point, it seems like a very bad idea indeed. My team mates were Nigel Havers, Melinda Messenger and Michelle Hardwick and the team spirit turned it into a good day out - but I can't tell you much more about what happened because on a show like The Chase, everything's a spoiler.

There is at least one moment where I make a bit of an arse of myself so let me say this in advance: I didn't hear the year!

Oh, and my chosen charity was, as always, Shelter.

In brief... should you want to catch - or avoid - any of the following, this is when they're on...

Monday, October 3rd, 10pm on Dave: Dara O'Briain's Go 8 Bit.

Tuesday, October 4th, 10pm on Dave: Taskmaster. (And every Tuesday night up to and including November 1st, for that matter)

Sunday, October 9th, 7pm on ITV: The Chase

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

From my sickbed...

As some of you who have bought tickets for the dry runs in Cambridge will already know, I'm not very well. I can't remember the last time I had to cancel a show due to ill-health... but I guess it happens to all of us. My apologies to anyone who had bought tickets.

Unfortunately, the nature of these shows - they were dry runs in advance of the next recording for Series 4 of Modern Life Is Goodish - means that missing them has a knock-on effect. 

I don't write scripts for what I do - I build powerpoint. When I'm putting the slides together I have an idea in my head as to what I want to communicate; the point I'm making and where I think the funny is... but I find that if I try to learn a script it comes out sounding second hand. I no longer sound like someone with a story to tell to an audience, more like someone with a thing to recite in front of an audience.

Which is why I do the dry runs. It's on stage at those shows that the 'writing' happens. That's where I find the words. It's also where I do the editing; cutting or adding stuff each night until I have a show that works in four parts that roughly fit in the holes required to make the telly show. In short, the dry runs aren't a luxury, they're how the show is written.

Unfortunately, I'm not just ill enough to stop me from travelling to Cambridge and performing... I'm also too ill to sit at a desk for 8 hours powerpointing each day. (What do you mean, that's not a verb? It is now.) 600+ slides take time to build and get right.

Which means that right now - no part of the writing process is happening. The powerpoint doesn't exist and can't be created by someone else because that's how I write material. And the words don't exist because I'm not able to go on stage and find the words. And so, even if I am well enough to walk, talk and think on Sunday - and I hope I will be - there won't be two hours of new material for me to perform because the writer is currently off sick. (That's me. I know you got it... but... well, y'know...)

So as well as cancelling these three dry runs in Cambridge, we've also had to postpone the next recording. And schedule three new dry runs to make sure there are two shows to record. We tried to find dates that worked in Cambridge as that would have been the easiest way of trying to make things as right as we can with those who have bought tickets... but sadly that wasn't possible.

So with apologies for everyone that's been inconvenienced, here's what it means for various folks.

If you had a ticket for the shows on September 25th, 27th or 30th, tickets will be refunded. Contact the venue if you don't hear from them.

If you had a ticket for the recording on Sunday, October 2nd, you should have received an email from TVRecordings with details on how to rebook for the new date if you can. Obviously we want those people to have first dibs. The new date is Monday, October 17th.

If you want to come to one of the new dry runs: They're in Fareham - at the lovely Ashcroft Arts Centre.Those dates are: October 10th, 12th and 15th and you can get tickets for those here.

Once again, I apologise to those who are inconvenienced. Trust me; moving a recording is a big decision that isn't taken lightly... we really don't have a choice.

And now... on doctor's orders, I sleep.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

I Just Realised...

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Apologies... oh, also, the mailing list has been fixed...

It seems a lot of people were left frustrated by my last post... with many of you accusing me of posting clickbait... sometimes in jest, and sometimes, maybe not in jest. It's hard to know at times. 

But the post was called "Free Tickets" for a reason and I promise you it wasn't to bait you into reading a blogpost that was no longer of any use to you. It's not as if I get any benefit from clicks after all. I titled it "free tickets" because, um, well, because the post was about free tickets and it did offer advice on how to get some.

It's not as if it's the first time I've blogged about the mailing list: In September last year, I wrote explaining that series 4 & 5 had been commissioned and that my mailing list would - as usual - get first dibs on tickets. And I'd done much the same in advance of series 3 too.

Of course I have no expectation that anyone slavishly follows everything I ever post. I will have tweeted links to those posts at the time and they will have automatically become facebook statuses and so on... and you might or might not have caught them. But isn't that really the point? That's why a mailing list is useful. It means that information is sent to you when it's relevant rather than if-you-happen-to-catch-it. Being on someone's mailing list isn't about following them more closely... it's about not having to make an effort and still finding out about stuff. That's better. Isn't it?

It is if you're the kind of person that's disappointed about not getting tickets for series 4. You can look on that last post as disappointing news about the tickets for series 4 if you like... but I prefer to think of it as helpful advice for people hoping to get tickets for series 5.

What added to some people's frustration was that many of those who tried to sign up to the mailing list just got this message telling them that the list was full in return. Sorry about that.

I pay to run the mailing list and I had no idea that I was approaching an upper limit for my rate. I had no idea because, based on previous experience, I wasn't.

The numbers tend to creep up at a gentle pace with little blips every now and then as and when I blog something reminding people it exists.

What doesn't normally happen is having a few thousand people sign up in the space of two or three hours. Which is what happened yesterday. It caught me on the hop.

As soon as I realised I paid to expand the service... so you shouldn't have a problem signing up now.

I mean, only if you want to, obviously... 

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Free Tickets...

We announced the dates for the recordings for the fourth series of Modern Life Is Goodish yesterday. The plan, when we do that,  is that I let my mailing list know first of all and then add the details to my site a day or two later. 

So I sat down this afternoon with the intention of adding a link to the tickets here... only to discover that all of the shows are already fully allocated. Which, I suppose, kind of changes the point of this post.

As there's no point plugging the tickets, I guess I ought to plug my mailing list instead... after all, we'll be making series 5 next year and I'll be giving the mailing list first dibs then, too.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Few Short Words About That Referendum

We started work on series 4 of Modern Life Is Goodish this week.

Obviously, I didn't wait until Monday morning to give it any thought - I started a new run of Screen Guild gigs last month (and the next one is this Friday) so obviously I've been mulling over new ideas for a wee while now... but collectively, Team Goodish - or at least a few key players - gathered together on Monday morning for the first time this series. We have our office back. There are deadlines.

All we have to do now is remember how we do it. We will. I'm sure we will.

Of course one topic of conversation inevitably came up. The referendum. It's been impossible to avoid these last few weeks and - since we hadn't seen one another for some time, everyone was keen to discuss it. It is, after all, a vote that will shape all of our lives one way or another. At least for a year or two when we'll get another chance to vote for our favourite new soap star at the TV Choice Awards 2017. But for now, the 2016 vote shapes our lives.

Is mentioning it crass? Or is pretending I don't know about it weird? I don't know. But if you want to vote, it's all here.

I'll have details on some recording dates for series 4 soon... in the mean time, the second of three compilation episodes goes out tonight. At 10. On Dave.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Phishing, Smishing.

I received this text a little while ago. I've been receiving texts like it once every two or three weeks for a wee while now.

I know it's a scam. It's been well documented that this sort of thing is doing the rounds... but what doesn't seem to be so well documented is what I'm supposed to do with it.

For those that don't know, this is what's known as a phishing scam. Or, seeing as it's sent via SMS message, a smishing scam. In any case, the key fact is that it's basically an attempt to commit fraud.

When someone falls for it they click on the link contained in the text... which takes them to a website that looks exactly like a corporate,  Apple website.

It's a very convincing clone... and if you'd clicked on the link believing the message to be genuine, there isn't really any reason to suspect that it's not legit when you land here.

So I imagine plenty of people end up surrendering their Apple ID and password to the crooks responsible.

In some cases that would give them the ability to spend your money.

I used to see what I could see about who had registered the domain and when. This is what I found...

As you can see, it was registered via on  May 14th 2016. That's today.

Using a site with a dot BS domain seems rather fitting, although it turns out that the BS actually stands for the Bahamas.

It claims it was registered by someone called Peter Dawson although I'd be highly surprised if they were foolish enough to use their real name.

I don't really know, but from the outside looking in, I reckon it's fairly likely that a Peter Dawson has paid for it... it's just he's someone who'd fallen for the scam previously and is, as yet, unaware that his account has been compromised...

If the text had come from a number I'd know how to report it.

But it doesn't. It comes from an account called 'WARNING'. It's impossible for me to reply to. Or to block. Or, it seems, to report. Apparently the only course of action available to me is to delete it.

Which doesn't seem very satisfactory to me. It's not very community minded, for sure.

If someone tried - but failed - to mug me in the street, I can't imagine many people advising me to just ignore it. Because surely they're the sort of person who'll move on and try and mug someone else. Surely we should report attempted crimes, not just successful ones.

But that doesn't seem to be possible when someone tries to mug me via my phone. Ignoring it and deleting the text is, I'm told, the only thing to do. I don't even have a way of preventing those responsible from sending me more of the same. It's only if I fall for it that people will do something.

When I get spam emails I know how to block them. Or how to block emails that are like them. I know that, even if an email is lying about where it came from, someone, somewhere is able to follow the chain and work out where it really came from. I assumed the same would be true with text messages.

It seems not. It seems it is possible for someone to send thousands - probably hundreds of thousands - of texts to people without anyone being able to unravel where they originate from. Is there a good reason for this route to my phone to exist? Is there a sensible way of shutting this path down? Are there buttons I could press that would mean I could only receive text messages from identifiable sources? If there isn't... um... why isn't there? I guess there might be a reason. Is it achievable? Wouldn't less people end up getting defrauded if it were?

I know a handful of vulnerable people who would absolutely fall for this. Certainly I know one person who's fallen for a similar scam that arrived via email. It just seems a little odd to me that the phone companies provide this route to us - but don't have departments devoted to preventing this sort of abuse of the system.

Have I been given bad information or is there genuinely nothing for the community minded soul to do about this?