The West Wing Weekly

The West Wing is one of my favourite TV series. First broadcast in 1999 it was smart, funny, heart warming, fast, deep and different to everything else around at the time. It appealed to the politics geek in me and showed a US president that was totally different to Bush who was in power during much of the programs run.

Despite my love I’ve never watched the whole run again…until now.

west_wing

The West Wing Weekly is a podcast from NPR that will break down each episode starting at episode one. The first episode of the podcast launched today and is hosted by Joshua Malina and Hrishikesh Airway. Malina played Will Bailey on the last four series of The West Wing so should be able to offer great insight into those episodes.

So each week I’m going to watch one episode of The West Wing and then catch up on the podcast. I can’t wait! The podcast can be easily found and subscribed too in Overcast by searching for West Wing Weekly or even in iTunes via this link. Anyone else jumping in?

Sky HD EPG Update

It’s been a couple of weeks since the long awaited new Sky HD EPG made it’s way onto my box. Considering all the fanfare about it I’ve been fairly ambivalent about it, so much so I couldn’t be bothered even posting about it. A tweet tonight about ITV HD has nudged me along though.

The ability to watch ITV HD on Sky is the biggest new feature for me. Before the update, ITV HD was available only on FreeSat and only via the red button service – it’s not an actual channel which when you realise how little is broadcast in HD is understandable. To watch it on Sky (new EPG only) you need to do the following:

  • Press services button > System set up > Add channels
  • Change the Freq to 11427
  • Change polarisation to H
  • Leave symbol rate @ 27.5
  • Leave FEC at 2/3
  • Press select to find channel
  • New channels will appear , TV and radio , scroll to the one marked Channel 10510
  • Press yellow to store it , press select , press select press back up , press back up.
  • Scroll down to other channels , highlight 10510 and press select to view.

Not easy and it’s a few button presses to access the channel each time. Then again, Champions League in HD tonight and FA Cup semi-finals in HD this weekend. Nice. Quality is excellent too which makes a big difference compared to the pixelated mess that ITV usually is on Sky.

Other important changes – the EPG is now in HD and much clearer than the old one. It’s also added a mini display. However it cuts off half the display if enabled and also plays the sound from the currently selected channel. This has caught me out already – last weeks Apprentice was recording while I watched the football. Went into the EPG to select it and start watching and I see the three boys sitting in the boardroom. Even worse, disabling the mini tv doesn’t sound the TV channel sound off so you can still hear spoilers. Bit daft on Sky’s part.

Your series recordings are now displayed in stacks in the EPG. Makes sense for me but another daft feature is that the stack isn’t just per series but per series and channel. Miss a recording on BBC1 and record on BBC3 instead will see two different stacks for the same series. Can’t see this affecting me as I don’t build up a lot of recordings but it is a real pain for some which could have been avoided.

HD programs can now be highlighted in the EPG – handy when browsing what’s on. Speaking of which, now and next is a lot better on the new EPG with full info on each program without going in to the EPG. About time.

Despite these additions though the downside is that it feels a bit slower in use and that’s on my box with not much recorded. Some reports in forums from users with lot’s recorded say it is way slower than before. I’m also convinced that to watch recordings it takes more button presses than before. If it doesn’t it certainly feels that way. Considering it’s been in development for so long it’s a shame that usability seems to have suffered. Overall it’s a benefit having the new EPG but still feels like a missed opportunity.

Free Dr Who Episode

A quick post to let Dr Who fans, and those that like freebies, that there is a free episode of Dr Who available in iTunes. From the new issue of The Radio Times (which I still get although I hate the font’s they’ve now moved to using – horrible!) if you visit:

www.itunes.com/drwhofree

you can download ‘Last of the Timelords’ for free. No need to buy Radio Times or fill in any codes etc. Click on the link and download the episode in iTunes. Easy. It’s not too bad an episode either.

BBC's HD Test Card

Calibrating your HD TV is never straightforward. Lot’s more settings than a standard SD set and if you use an amp for your surround sound you will potentially get lip-sync issues too. You can pick up a calibration disk – Digital Video Essentials on Blu Ray for example which will step you through calibrating your TV. You can also use any THX DVD’s as they will include a THX Calibration tool that helps you tweak your setting (Wall-E also has a nice calibration tool as well). Another way of calibrating is to use the newly added BBC HD Test Card which broadcasts a number of times per day on the BBC HD channel.

Andy Quested has posted up a great tutorial on the BBC Internet blog that takes you through how to use test card to not only calibrate your screen settings but also adjust audio settings to fix any sync issues. It looks like the trickiest part of the process is recording the 2 tests. Directly from Andy’s blog post – the HD test card is just over 1 hour into the promo and the AV sync signal is 50 minutes later. To record both signals, check the time the last programme finishes and add 1 hour. So if the last programme ends at 01:30 set your PVR to record from 02:25 to 02:45 for the test card and 03:15 to 03:35 for the AV sync signal. The promo referred to is the rolling HD promo that is broadcast on BBC HD when there is no actual programming being broadcast. It would be far easier if these two tests were broadcast as individual programmes with actual time slots – would make recording far easier. However that’s a small niggle as these two tests are a nice addition from the BBC. I know I’ll be using them to set-up a new TV over Christmas.

BBC HD Now Official

BBC HD Channel is now official and will launch…today! After trialling for over 18 months it looks to be hastily launched and not that much different from the test channel it’s been running as. It will show more content though, around 9 hours a day starting from 15:00. Programmes like Jools Holland and Planet Earth look stunning in HD – it will be good to see Kill Bill and Sin City at Christmas in HD too.

With Channel 4 rumoured to be launching their HD channel on Dec 10th and ITV in March 08 it looks like HD is finally getting more content. If only Sky would drop their £10 a month HD charge. A lot of people want the HD box and are willing to pay the one off charge but not the monthly fee. The image quality from the HD channels is excellent on Sky, even to the point that I’ll not watch an SD movie as it’s that inferior but I can understand the cost putting people off. Next year may see a TV upgrade!

More HD

After a quite spell there have been some significant HD announcements for the UK. ITV HD channel will launch next spring, BBC HD has been recommended to start as a full time channel as soon as possible, MTV HD is due to land next year and Channel 4 have announced a C4 HD to launch from December. Great news and about time that there is more commitment from providers other than Sky and BBC.

Life on Mars

Well, it ended tonight and has probably guaranteed it’s status as a classic by leaving strands open to interpretation. There may be spoilers ahead if you didn’t see tonights episode so you’ve been warned.

My take on it all is that he never woke from the coma. He had a choice to make and was still in the coma imagining he had made the choice and woke in 2006. Those scenes were all too clean. Morgons quotes about being the worlds best surgeon were very odd. No one mentioned the coma or what he had been through – it was all surreal. Sam jumping off the building was him rejecting 2006 and going back to 1973. But he never woke. So he’s still in a coma but happier with the imaginary 1973 life. The girl switching the TV off – was that Sam’s life support being switched off?

Well thats what I think but there’s a couple of alternative theories that are as plausible. 2006 is fictional and in Sam’s head. 1973 is where he’s from although the first series saw him finding his young self and parents? But then he knows all about iPods etc.

Or he did wake from the coma and he killed himself or put himself back in a coma by jumping off the roof. I doubt this one as the current day scenes seemed really false. I’m sure other people will have more alternatives.

John Simm said in an interview that he wished the last episode finished 4 minutes earlier when Sam jumps of the roof – how confused would we be if that had happened. A classic show – I’m really pleased they ended it after two series though as it went out on a high. I wonder how the Ashes to Ashes series thats allegedly starring Philip Glenister will follow this?

*Update* – The lead writer has spilled the beans on the Manchester Evening News blog. He did wake from the coma, he did commit suicide and the test card girl switching off the tv was an in-joke from the writer telling the viewers to go and do soemthing else instead of watching TV. Class.

TV Talk

Great to see Richard Hammond back on Top Gear tonight. When it happened I never thought we would see him back on TV joking about it, never mind just a few months after the crash. Pity the road laying ‘sketch’ was so lame. The crash film however was pretty shocking – amazing that he came through it at all. Thanks to YouTube it’s available only an hour after broadcasting (and pretty good quality too).

Shilpa wins Big Brother. No big surprise although good to see little mention of Jack’s girlfriend.

Sky HD rocks! Now that it’s back up and running I’m loving Battlestar and 24 in HD. The football over the weekend has also been good. There’s lots of rumours that Sky will be making Sky+ the default box from now on removing any cost for the service (about time). There’s even talk of making multi-room free. I can see the former happening but have doubts about multi-room. I wonder if there will be any announcements during the interim results on Wednesday? I would love multi-room to be free 🙂

Big Brother Tuppenceworth

From the most dull UK Big Brother ever this years celeb version has now picked up a massive amount of news coverage, is the most complained about TV show ever and is now causing international tensions between India and the UK. How bizarre. I’ve not watched it all but I’ve seen and read enough to form some opinions.

I do think there is a hint of racism in some of the comments that are being made in the house but I do not believe that the three housemates (Jade Goody, Danielle Lloyd, Jo O’Meara) are racist. There is however a class divide between the three and their ‘victim’ Shilpa Shetty and that is now manifested in ongoing arguments between Shilpa and the three. The fact that the three seem to know each other outside the house hasn’t helped – there’s a bond there and due to their background and age they were always likely to stick together. Bullying…yes. Racism…no. The three also seem to be from very similar backgrounds – three hairies (great work John) was the best description I heard today. I couldn’t disagree.

Why the arguments – Gordon’s nailed it for me. Lack of education. As soon as Jade starts to talk back to Shilpa you know where it’s going. Two minutes later its rage, arguments, slagging and then her two mates chip in to form the gang. Game over.

Channel 4 could have easily nipped this in the bud, but no. Media hype followed by some good editing means ratings gold. Then a climb on to moral high ground with this statement – “it is unquestionably a good thing that the programme has raised these issues and provoked such a debate. These attitudes, however distasteful, do persist – we need to confront that truth.” Couple that with an eviction vote between Jade and Shipla so that the public can decide on who’s right. Makes me sick.

I hope this is the last Big Brother. Never thought I’d say that as I usually end up enjoying it for all the wrong reasons – trash TV at it’s best. It’s gone to far though and thats with a list of ‘celebs’ who are no more known than the ‘normal’ folk who entered last summer. Normal – who am I kidding!

At least there’s a bit of a backlash. Carphone Warehouse have withdrawn sponsership from this series but potentially not the next one. Shop’s have also withdrawn Jade’s perfume from shelves. Hopefully Channel 4 get hammered for this at some point too. As for me I’ll probably still catch tomorrows nights show. I want it to end but while it’s on…as I said…guilty pleasures.

Oh, one last thing. Jade Goody. Can you just fuck off now?