Tag Archives: BBC

No Masterpiece

When I was in fourth grade, my class had a geography bee with another fourth grade class.  It was held in their classroom, and one by one the kids were eliminated when they couldn’t find a country or city in the allotted time.  I won by finding Argentina.  The other teacher was in charge of the prize, and as I stood watching, she began to reach for one book on her desk.  She hesitated, then quickly grabbed a different one.  It was a well-worn Childcraft volume.  When I got it home, I discovered it was the free sample volume,  filled with illustrated stories and poems….but just the beginning of each.  If I wanted to find out how a story ended, I had to buy the set of books.  I was so frustrated I cried, because I knew that teacher had a real prize if one of her own students had won the bee.  What a cruel thing to do to a child, especially one who loved to read.

This is how I feel now when I try to watch Masterpiece on PBS.  I suppose over the years the dramas from the UK have had a little bit trimmed here and there to fit into a 90 minute time slot, but the cuts haven’t been noticeable.  Starting for me with Downton Abbey, I was painfully aware that 2 full hours had been trimmed from the US broadcast.   You have to order the DVD to see the full version that the Brits viewed.   The new Upstairs Downstairs had approximately 30 minutes trimmed from an already rushed series.   Masterpiece itself is now only 60 minutes instead of the usual 90, although I don’t know if this is temporary.  South Riding has lost one hour, or 25% of its original four hours.  It’s not quite the same as my geography bee prize—they’re not showing us the beginning and then making us order the DVD to see the end.   In some ways, it’s worse.  By editing scenes throughout the program, we don’t know exactly what we’ve lost.

Besides, it’s even more complicated than that.  There’s no guarantee that the DVD you rent or buy will be the full version.  It depends on who produces and releases it.  If it’s a BBC release, it will most likely be the full version.  If it’s a WGBH release, it will probably be the cut version.  With some titles, you can only get the full version if you order a region 2 DVD from the UK.  I have a region-free DVD player, a necessity for an anglophile, but money is tight and I’d rather rent than buy.  Not an option.

So, for now, I’m boycotting Masterpiece.  I don’t want to watch DVDs of programs I saw on Masterpiece trying to figure out which scenes are the ones that were missing.  I want my first exposure to these programs to be untainted, so I can sit back and get lost in the worlds they create.

My geography bee story had a happy ending.  I went to my own teacher, lovely Miss Daigle, and tearfully showed her my prize.  She understood perfectly, and she gave me a real book.

Update:  I found out later than Downton Abbey did not lose 2 hours from the US television broadcast.  It was bad math and bad reporting on the part of The Daily Mail and Telegraph.  South Riding and Upstairs Downstairs felt choppy to me, so I’m not sure about those programs.  I’m back to watching Masterpiece, but with caution and an eye on the DVDs available.


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Filed under Complaints, Television

One Thing Leads to Another

The San Francisco Frameline Film Festival was held this year June 17-27th, showing LGBT films from around the world.  It’s the oldest LGBT film festival, and this year they had an Andy Warhol retrospective and many films from South America.  This was my second year as a volunteer.   I like to staff the hospitality table, where volunteers and staff greet the filmmakers.  It’s great fun, and as a volunteer you get a movie voucher for every shift you work.  Unfortunately, I’m still recovering from this malingering virus that’s been going around, so I had to cut back on my shifts and missed seeing most of the films on my personal list.  I did get to see the opening night film, a BBC production called The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister, about a Yorkshire woman from the early 1800s who left coded diaries about her various romances with other women.  It was based on a true story, and it was sure different from Pride & Prejudice

I didn’t get to see the closing night feature, a film called Howl about Allen Ginsberg, starring James Franco.  Franco came to the screening, so I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to check him out.  I’m not obsessed with Franco like I am with a few dozen other actors, but he’s certainly on a roll right now.  The Film Festival showing came just before Franco’s return as a guest star on General Hospital.  Now, I can follow a couple of other soaps (I grew up with a mother obsessed with Days of Our Lives), but I’ve never watched General Hospital regularly enough to follow the storylines.  In spite of that, I started tuning into GH this last week to see Franco.  A few trips over to soapnet and wikipedia helped me to understand key plot points.  A friend who used to watch filled me in on more background character info.  This same friend loved Jonathan Jackson as Lucky Spencer (back in the 90s), so I started paying particular attention to him.  Next thing you know, we’re watching Jonathan Jackson in Tuck Everlasting and On The Edge, and I’m spending hours on YouTube watching GH clips of Lucky from 1993.  And this is how one of my obsessions begins. 

And it won’t end until I’ve watched every video, rented every DVD, checked out every website and fansite, linked up on twitter and facebook…it’s exhausting, but at least with the internet everything is faster.  Before the internet, DVDs, and even VCRs, it used to take me ages to work through one of my actor obsessions.  I would search through the TV guide looking for movies that were airing (yes, kids, there actually used to be movies shown on regular, non-cable TV!) and take endless trips to the library searching through periodical indexes and microfiche machines looking for information.  As a teenager I kept a card file of my favorite actors and all their roles—my very own low tech imdb.  Now with everything at my fingertips on the internet, I can zip through an actor’s entire body of work  in days and weeks instead of months, so then I have to move on to somebody else.

So at the moment it’s Jonathan Jackson.  He’s a musician as well as an actor, so a couple of his CDs should arrive in the mail this week.  His band is called Enation, and I like the brief clips I’ve listened to online.  I have no idea if I’ll actually like a whole song.  My taste in music is obscure, eclectic and weird.  Most people wouldn’t even call it taste.  It was a risk ordering the Enation CDs, but I love ordering music from CD Baby, and their summer sale is awesome (selected CDs, three or more, five dollars each).  The best part about ordering from CD Baby is the email you get when they ship your order.  I would describe it, but I wouldn’t want to spoil your fun.  Just order from them and see, if you haven’t already. 

Enation is doing a free online concert this Thursday, and here’s the poster:

Enation internet concert

I’ll be checking it out.  Hopefully my CDs will have arrived by then so I’ll already be familiar with some of the songs. 

Well, I’ve got to go back to YouTube now.  I’m up to early 1994, and little Lucky Spencer is in the hospital trying to avoid a mob hit.  Tomorrow I will tune into the current episode of GH to see who survived the car bomb.  It’s such a full life.

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Filed under Actors, Movies, Music, Television, The Internet, Volunteer Work

The End of EastEnders


EastEnders is being discontinued on KTEH, the San Jose PBS station.  This is very bad news for many Bay Area viewers.  I’ve only been able to watch KTEH since I got my digital converter box.  I’ve come to rely on my biweekly visits to Albert Square, although I’m not as devastated as this fellow commenting at the KTEH website: “This is one of the biggest disappointments that I’ve ever experienced in my television viewing life.”

KTEH says they’re cancelling EastEnders because it’s one of their most expensive programs and it has the least number of viewers.  I’m not sure how they’re counting viewers, but they claim that the show has lost half its audience in the last year.  Sounds to me like they simply can’t track DVR style viewing.  Plenty of folks are protesting the cancellation, but I can’t complain because I’m guilty of not being a member of KTEH.  (Can’t afford it right now.)

There are places online that  Bay Area viewers can watch current episodes of EastEnders, but here’s the problem:  KTEH viewers are SEVEN YEARS behind the UK’s broadcast.   How are we going to catch up?  We won’t recognize the new characters, and we will wonder what happened to our beloved characters who are gone.  Yes, the BBC has an archive on their EastEnders webpage where you can read a description of every episode for the last seven years, but that’s like reading the music of your favorite song.  It’s not the same.

So, this week and next will be my last visits to the Albert Square that I recognize, with Alfie serving up pints at the Vic.  Alfie is my favorite, and I know he won’t be there when I find EastEnders online….

Alfie Moon (actor Shane Richie) in EastEnders. A sad good-bye.

AN UPDATE TO THIS POST:  Oh, goodness!  I just discovered that Alfie Moon is coming back to EastEnders!  It’s like a consolation prize.  I also discovered that the BBC has removed the episode archive on their website.


Filed under Television