Sunday, May 31, 2015

Review of 'So Awkward'

CBBC's widely publicised, but only slightly amusing, sitcom series So Awkward began its first run on 21st May. The series follows the lives and mishaps of three teenage girls - Lily Hampton, Jas Salford and Martha Fitzgerald - who attend Cranmede Upper School.

Episode 1 starts with the three girls finding themselves being embarrassed by their parents. Lily has a big crush on Matt Furnish but, in an attempt to avoid embarrassment, Lily tells her mum that her boyfriend is actually the nerdy Ollie Coulton. Mrs Hampton suggests Lily invite Ollie for tea. So Lily has to ask Ollie to pretend to be her boyfriend, and he reluctantly agrees.

Martha, meanwhile, is getting increasingly frustrated by the lack of attention she gets from her mum who, by the way, is played by Carla Mendonça of My Parents Are Aliens fame. Jas tells the normally well-behaved Martha that a few detentions will get her mum to sit up and take notice.

Ollie isn't used to being a boyfriend, so he asks Matt for help. Matt teaches Ollie the basics of romance but Martha walks in and catches them in an embarrassing situation as the romantic music quickly grinds to a halt. It's not yet clear whether Cranmede school has any 'out' lesbian, gay or bisexual pupils. So, in context, the scene perpetuates somewhat old-fashioned homophobic attitudes.

Martha continues to struggle to get noticed by her mum, but follows Jas's advice leading to a meeting in school between the headteacher, Martha's mum and Jasmine's dad (played by Clive Rowe, best known as "Duke" from Tracy Beaker.) The plan works and Mrs Fitzgerald appreciates the need to devote more time to her daughter.

Lily pretends to be upset about breaking up with Ollie, but her mum has worked out the truth - that Lily really likes Matt, not Ollie. She tells Lily that any boy would be lucky to go out with her.

Episode 2 of So Awkward was devoted to fashion statements, and was exceedingly dull.

Jas, Lily & Martha in episode 2

The third episode dealt with the danger of taking studies too seriously at the expense of having fun.

So Awkward is, at best, mildly amusing; less so than Sadie J. And sometimes it has worthwhile points to make.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Part of last night's discussion on Newsnight between Evan Davis and Stephen Dubner, co-author of 'When to Rob a Bank'

Evan Davis: .. why is Britain's productivity - hourly productivity - lower than France's?

Stephen Dubner: Yeah, if I had to take a guess, I would say the one thing we know from this new field of what's called "workforce science" which is where you gather data on your workers on many dimensions - one thing we've learned is that salary, which most economists would say is the most important thing to making people happy and productive, is actually a very distant second, if that. The single most important thing in productivity is whether or not your boss and immediate co-workers are jerks.

Speaking of which, Newsround Blog is awaiting a response to the following email dated 13th May 2015:

FAO: Lord Hall, BBC Director-General

Dear Lord Hall,

I've recently been in touch with your Managing Director of Finance and Operations regarding misappropriation of funds. As I explained to Ms Bulford, whilst a licence fee of £2.80p per week may seem very reasonable, for those on the breadline and forced to rely on foodbanks and handouts, it is a significant sum of money. With that principle in mind, I trust you appreciate why I'm concerned about the wrongful use of licence-payers' money by a senior manager who is paid the better part of £200,000 per year.

Yours sincerely,

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Yesterday, most news channels, including BBC news, devoted tonnes of time to reporting the same-sex marriage referendum count in Ireland - and rightly so. The large majority voting 'Yes' is a hugely significant result, not only for Ireland, but also for gay people around the world, who have been treated as second-class citizens for way too long. Most of the coverage was good and reflected modern-day thinking on the need to treat all people fairly, without discrimination.

TV producers have traditionally sought to include minorities such BAME and disabled people, though virtually no current children's series portray lesbian or gay characters. Hopefully the outcome of the Irish referendum will help to drive things forward.

Making factual programmes inclusive presents more of a challenge than making dramas. The ideal answer is simply to look out for opportunities to report stories, issues and facts relevant to diverse families and children.

Newsround did report the same-sex marriage referendum today. They could have improved their reports by mentioning that many thousands of young people, both gay and straight, returned to Ireland from abroad just in order to vote for equal rights - #HomeToVote
Ayshah Tull reports on the same-sex marriage referendum

Newsround reports at 10.05am ... 12.05pm

Monday, May 04, 2015

There is a discrepancy relating to update information in the BBC's online staff magazine, Ariel. I've contacted the editor, Claire Barrett, to seek clarification. The article in question is about a new mentorship scheme.