Category Archives: TV & Movies

Falklands Night

Watched the archive coverage part of BBC Parliament’s Falklands Night yesterday evening.

The Falklands War is one of my earliest memories of the news (I was eight years old at the time), so it was fascinating to watch old editions of the BBC News, Question Time, and Newsnight from that time.

It’s being repeated on the 17th June, so if you’re in the UK, and have the slightest interest in the Falklands War, make some time to watch it. It’s just a pity that such a gem has been hidden away on BBC Parliament. Surely it’s at least worth showing on BBC Four, where it’s likely to find a larger audience.

The Gadget Show

Just a quick note about The Gadget Show on Channel 5 here in the UK. I’d always avoided it, as techie TV programmes usually end up being complete rubbish. Recently however, I somehow ended up watching The Gadget Show, and I have to say that I quite enjoyed it. The presenters were up-to-date and were giving out genuinely useful advice. It was also refreshing that the prices displayed were realistic Internet prices, rather than irrelevant manufacturer prices.

Celebrity Big Brother

With the possible exception of very first series, Big Brother has been a blot on the TV landscape as far as I’m concerned. However, the current row about the treatment of Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty is showing the UK in a poor light.

I’ve not seen enough of the actual footage in context to offer informed comment on the situation, but from what I do know, I’ve decided to cast a vote in favour of keeping Shilpa in the house (by evicting Jade).

I’m rather annoyed that the programme makers are getting all this attention with their car crash TV, but I’m holding my nose, and hopefully casting a vote in favour of tolerance and diversity.

BBC Licence Fee

With the 3% BBC Licence Fee rise being announced, I just thought I’d take the opportunity to say how much I value the BBC, and that I think it’s astounding value for money. In my view, they should have received a more generous rise.

If I ever left the UK, it’s the BBC that I’d miss most (after my family and friends). In particular:

  • BBC Four and Radio 4 – TV and radio that don’t pander to the lowest common denominator.
  • Word class current affairs programmes such as newsnight, Dateline London, Head 2 Head, Straight Talk, This Week, and Working Lunch
  • Top Gear – It’s a bit uneven at times, but when they get it right, it’s bloody great
  • BBC HD – 80% of my justification for buying Sky HD
  • CBBC and CBeebies – I don’t have children, but if I do have them, I want them to be able to watch TV, without having advertising being shoved in their face every 15 minutes
  • Planet Earth – Looks wonderful in standard definition, and simply beautiful in HD
  • MotoGP – I don’t own a motorbike; I’ve never ridden a motorbike; It doesn’t matter – this is the most exciting motorsport on TV, and the BBC do a fantastic job of covering it
  • – In my view, this is a near as the UK gets to a national web site

p.s. Channel 4 are also great, and deserve much credit, but they just don’t have the strength in depth of the BBC

Topfield TF5800PVR

A few weeks ago I took the plunge and purchased a 250Gb Topfield PVR. I already have SKY+, but I wanted a Topfield for the following reasons:

  • At some point in the next six months, I’m going to switch to SKY HD, but I want to empty my 160Gb SKY+ box before I make the switch. An extra PVR with a large disk will make it easy to manage the switchover. I’m recording everything new on the Topfield, whilst I’m mostly watching the programmes I’ve already got on my SKY+ box
  • When I switch to SKY HD, it does appear that the HD recordings use a lot of disk space, so the standard SKY HD disk would be too small for both my HD and SD recordings, and I don’t want to void the warranty straight away by replacing the disk
  • The Topfield allows you to extract its recordings off its hard disk over USB. They can then be edited and burned to DVD on a computer. This should be easier and produce better picture quality than recording on a DVD recorder via a SCART cable
  • The Topfield is massively customisable using add on programmes called TAPs. For a geek like me, this is hugely appealing

Having lived with Topfield for a few weeks, here are my initial impressions. First the negative points:

  • It’s a bit loud. I’ve gotten used to it, and using the HDD Info TAP to turn the hard disk acoustic management on helped, but it could still be better
  • The remote is not the best – the buttons are a little too small, and the IR beam needs to have a good line of sight
  • The default software is pretty basic
  • It takes a while to start up from standby – 10 to 15 seconds or so
  • There are quite a few quirks to get used to. No showstoppers, but it’s not a product that I’d expect non technical users to get the most out of

Positive points:

  • TAPS such as HDD Info, eit2mei, and especially MyStuff transform the Topfield. If only SKY+ was as customisable…
  • There’s a fantastic support site at
  • I’ve extracted programmes off the Topfield onto my Mac mini over a USB cable, and the quality when played through VLC is very impressive

Overall, I’m very happy with my Topfield. If you’re willing to spend some time customising it with downloaded TAPs, it’s probably the best Freeview PVR available (I’ve used a DigiFusion FVRT200 and Humax PVR-9200T in the past, by way of comparison).

Xbox 360 HD DVD addon for £130

Cheaper than I expected, and it includes a remote and a copy of King Kong. I had no plans to buy an HD DVD player, but this is pretty tempting. Pity there’s no HDMI connection though.

Microsoft aren’t pulling any punches with Sony, who really better their act together. So many Xbox 360 games are turning out to really rather good. For example: Test Drive Unlimited is pretty much my favourite racing game since the original PS1 Gran Turismo and the original Need for Speed.

Compare this to Sony’s recent announcement of Gran Turismo HD, where Sony seem to want to charge hundreds of pounds if you want all the cars and tracks. If they go that route, I’ll stick with the Test Drive, Project Gotham, and Forza series on the Xbox 360 thank you very much.

Fifth Gear

Watched the first episode of the new series of Fifth Gear last night.

What a load of rubbish…

No Jason Plato (Jason and Tom Ford were the only decent reviewers), new incredibly annoying presenter Tim Lovejoy, rubbish banter from the presenters, and lots of sub-Top Gear stunts – Wreck my ride, racing a plane and a radio control car.

Tom Ford’s review of the Ferrari 599 at the end of the last series was great. More of that please, and less of the nonsense we had last night. I’m a total petrolhead, yet I fast forwarded through about half of last night’s programme… 🙁