Sunday, September 30, 2007

A week in the life of a BBC viewer...

Even though they are often encouraged to tune in to BBC radio or television, many students tend not to actually do this very regularly, due to lack of time or access (but there's always the internet of course!), but perhaps also because they associate the BBC with just the news and Newsnight. Excellent programmes though they are, they are certainly not the only kind of thing the BBC has to offer. As an illustration of this point, here's a list of things I would watch over the next week or so, if I had the time (so no, I will not *actually* sit down and watch all of this -- but certainly some of it):

Sunday 30 September
  • BBC Two: Stephen Fry: 50 Not Out. "As the man described as having a 'brain the size of Kent' approaches his 50th birthday, this special programme explores the career many dimensions of comedian, actor, director, writer, presenter and documentary maker, Stephen Fry." -- This programme is part of a Stephen Fry weekend, which saw a Saturday night curated by the man who, as I've confessed before, is quite probably my second favourite Brit. The Stephen Fry weekend was originally broadcast on BBC Four, who set up a website with details of (and video excerpts from) the programmes.

Monday 1 October
  • BBC Two: James May's 20th Century. "Inventing the Teenager: In the 20th Century the teenager emerged as a separate species. But how? Was it the promise of sex? The power of pop? Or the pull of a 50cc Japanese two-stroke?" -- James May is best known as one of Top Gear's presenters (Top Gear being the BBC's car talkshow centred around tv personality Jeremy Clarkson), but he has recently embarked on a series of programmes looking into inventions and discoveries of the twentieth century.

Tuesday 2 October
  • BBC Two: Stephen Fry: HIV and Me. Yep, it's Stephen Fry again. About a year ago, Fry made the very moving and widely acclaimed documentary Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, about the so-called 'bipolar disorder' or manic depression from which he and many others suffer. In this new two-part documentary, he wants to find out how people live with HIV and AIDS in the UK as well as abroad, confronting among other things his own past through a visit to his first love, who later was found HIV positive.

Wednesday 3 October
  • BBC Two: Anita Roddick: Life and Times. "Shown in tribute to the late campaigner and Bodyshop founder. In an interview recorded in 2000 Anita Roddick shares memorable moments from her life and career."

  • BBC Two: Never Mind the Buzzcocks. The weirdest and funniest music quiz on earth. Many outrageously funny clips to be found on YouTube (search for episodes featuring Amy Winehouse or Preston, for instance.)

  • BBC One: ONE Life: The Brick in the Wall Kids. "It's nearly 30 years since Pink Floyd recorded their number one hit The Wall. This is the story of the 13 comprehensive school kids who bunked off classes for the afternoon and recorded the anthem. ONE Life catches up with them at a school reunion and discovers what happened to their lives. Did they need an education and did they get one? How did their school days shape their lives?" -- This sounds really exciting -- at least to a nerd like myself. If you're too young to know what any of this is about, you can read more about Pink Floyd's album The Wall, and the three-part song Another Brick in the Wall, on Wikipedia, and you can watch the famous videoclip of Part two on YouTube (where else?):

Thursday 4 October

Friday 5 October
  • BBC Two: The Tudors. "Historical drama series. After French treachery, angry young Henry VIII prepares for war while Cardinal Wolsey conspires for peace. However, affairs closer to home pose potential threats to the king." -- Judging by the trailers I've seen so far on the BBC, this is going to be a very well-made, exciting and even racy new history series. A separate website is devoted to it, which includes background information, pictures, video excerpts and so on. A must-see, especially for first year students!

  • BBC Two: QI. Stephen Fry's "Quite Interesting" Quiz. An acquired taste perhaps, but very witty once you get hooked on it!

  • BBC One: Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. The UK's most popular talk show, presented by its best-paid host (who, incidentally, can't quite pronounce the 'r', which explains his nickname 'Wossy'). Also well-known for its house band Four Poofs and a Piano. Guests this week include Michelle Pfeiffer, Ewan McGregor and others.

For all of these programmes, remember of course that you have to add one hour to the times listed on the BBC websites.

New and improved

The English Unit's "useful links" page has received an update which includes, among other websites, some which were used in class quite a bit last year (like Urban Dictionary), and several which were discussed on the blog in the course of last year (for instance BBC Four Interviews [originally discussed on 19 November 2006], BBC Collective - The interactive culture magazine [originally discussed on 25 March 2007], 10 Downing Street podcasts [referred to on 3 April 2007], and Icons - A portrait of England [referred to on 23 April 2007]).

Also noteworthy among the new links are the BBC's YouTube Channels, BBC Worldwide and BBC World News. Unfortunately the BBC's main Youtube channel is of no use outside the UK. The logic here (as with video clips on some of the BBC's websites) is that these non-commercial channels are funded through the licence fee paid by UK citizens.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

We're back!

After a long period of inactivity (on the blog that is, not in real life of course!) it's time to resurface -- and what better way to do so than with an announcement of two evening activities! Next Tuesday (25 September) at 6 pm, the English Unit is organizing an informal drinks party to say "thank you" and "farewell" to Delphine, who is moving to Geneva soon. (Click the image to see a bigger version of the poster.)

And on Wednesday 10 October, anyone who is interested in seeing the recent film Control, directed by the renowned Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn, is welcome to join us on our film excursion to Leuven (note: we have had to reschedule; the trip will only be organized if, of course, the film is still on display at the right time and place!). Control tells the story of Ian Curtis, lead singer of the hugely influential Manchester (or "Madchester", as it became known in the eighties) band Joy Division, who had to cope with personal problems in his relationships (with his wife Deborah and with a Belgian woman, Annik Honoré) as well as with a medical condition (epilepsy) and who sadly committed suicide at the age of 23, shortly before Joy Division were to embark on their first big tour of the US. Here's the offical film trailer...

...and for those of you who think they've never heard of Joy Division: you may want to reconsider after listening to their best known song, Love Will Tear Us Apart:

Some live footage of Joy Division performing in 1979 is also available from YouTube, and illustrates (especially in the second song, "She's lost control") Curtis's unique dancing style which according to some recalls his epileptic fits.

If you want to join us to go and see the film, please consult the bulletin board on the fifth floor for more information.

P.S. Anyone interested in the music and/or the period (or simply in great filmmaking) should certainly try to see the brilliant film 24 hour party people, directed by Michael Winterbottom and starring British comedian and actor Steve Coogan as Tony Wilson, the Manchester impresario and tv presenter who co-founded the legendary Factory Label (which released among others the music of Joy Division and its successor New Order) as well as the Haçienda Club in Manchester, and on whom Coogan loosely based his comic alter ego Alan Partridge. Unfortunately Tony Wilson passed away very recently.