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I Can’t Sing! A mediocre musical!

I Can't Sing The Musical

I went to see the production of “I Can’t Sing” last month.  I have held off writing a review as I saw it – ‘pre-release’ ie: whilst it was still developing.  When I saw it – a week before opening – they had already went through a number of production overhauls  and changes to dance routines.  However, it has been out for over a month and the reviews have been at best – mediocre.  I thought I’d give my 2 pence worth.

I Can’t Sing, was created by comedian Harry Hill and tells the story of a young contestant from London who faces the challenges of overnight success.

Firstly the whole premise of this musical is wrong.  It is a musical that is supposed to poke fun at the ever serious Simon Cowell.  Well, the fact that someone has went to all that effort to write a whole musical based around Cowell’s character – kinda has you thinking – who is exactly having the piss taken out of them…him…or us?

Secondly – the show is called – I can’t sing – well,  in fact, all the cast can sing – they can dance and they can act.  I had thought that the show would have spent more time dealing with the part of the Xfactor which I actually hate the most – the bit where they get people who they know are really bad – and shove them in front of an audience to make fools of themselves – for no other reason than it makes good television.  I was therefore, interested in how they might do this.  As it was – not much time was spent on this – which I actually think was to miss a trick.

Turning to the story – ok, let me first say that it is a bit like they have lifted a “how to make a musical” – template and crowbarred the story into it. Template:  introduce the characters; add a disappointment; then a failure;  follow that with sorrow; a desire to abandon; have a break; then – the rally around; a turn of events; a fight back; a triumph – with a big show number to end; hold it all together by a love story.

I Can’t Sing doesn’t stick rigidly to the above – but not far off.  Then they get to the ‘live show’ part – where Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh, Cheryl Cole and Dermot O’Leary are all portrayed in the musical.

The only characterisations which are funny and interesting is Cheryl and Dermot’s.  Louis’s character is as a bumbling old man – which isn’t funny or original.  And Simon’s character – is supposed to mock…but actually – only if you are a Simon superfan would you see the mockery.  I just felt it was another extension of the man himself – and couldn’t help but think….hmmm, like he needs the publicity??

I can’t work out whether these characterisations are the result of lazy writing or just too many people being involved in the process – constantly watering down and diluting ideas.  I think it was George Lucas who said on film making – I won’t quote as this is only from memory….there is the film you want to produce; then think you are producing; and finally get – all 3 are different.

How to improve the show?
Hard to say – I’d get rid of the Simon Cowell character and make him something else – like the devil or an angry fairy – who is always in the air and feet are never allowed to be on the ground.  If you are going to call it “I Can’t Sing” – I’d focus more on that element- the worst elements the Xfactor brings to our screens.

I can’t sing – says it is a piss take – but actually, it’s not.  It’s also part funded by Simon Cowell…say’s it all.

So, it looks like Harry may sadly follow in the footsteps of the last celebrity comedian whose work didn’t survive the crossover from television to theatre – Viva Forever! the musical of the Spice Girls written by Jennifer Saunders.  But I can’t help think – as George Lucas said – the production they wrote – probably wasn’t the productions the public saw.

“Cut BBC Local Radio” says Noel Edmonds

Noel Edmonds
Noel be nimble, Noel be quick; watch him swim & then the oil slick!

I’m not sure what is going on in the private life of Noel Edmonds at the moment.  At the age of 65 – he’s gone past the ‘mid-life crisis’ point – or at least, let’s hope so! Maybe his contract is up soon at Channel 4 and he is just trying to prove to the boffins at C4 – he is still bankable and can create waves?

First he demands to be able to buy the BBC as a commercial enterprise and before he’d managed to take another breath he’d went on to say that if he did get his fake tanned hands on auntie – he’d cull BBC local radio.

I wonder if he was all alone one evening in bed – struggling to get to sleep and weighing up what the world would look like if he was in charge?  If he had his nibble finger on the button of control! Suddenly…an idea….


IF I RAN THE BBC….(dot dot dot)

I can’t claim to be an expert on BBC local radio as I very rarely listen – but then, I don’t suppose Noel does either.  What I do know is that BBC local radio is cheap and provides a service that commercial radio doesn’t want to compete in.

The nearest thing to this would be Community Radio – that is unshackled from the need for speeding through 15 songs an hour – with a DJ occasionally telling the listener about their ‘crazy night’!

As independent commercial radio seems to be homogenising  into one or two branded blobs – culling a service that is geared to get the community on the air – is not the way to go. In fact, more BBC resources should be put into local output – and not more managers – more presenters – getting out in the community.

So, I say No to Noel.  It seems like there is more than one Banker on Deal or No Deal!

BBC technical mistake

The BBC said that a ‘technical’ human error was to blame for some unfortunate sound effects being broadcast over their news item about the  Oscar Pistorius trial on the local station for Coventry and Warwickshire.

Radio Today spoke to the BBC who sheepishly stated  “There was a technical mistake where sound effects being prepared in another studio for an unrelated item were accidentally broadcast over the news bulletin”.

Personally given the nature of the sound effects and their timing…I can’t help but wonder if someone was attempting to put the news reader off his stride…classic school boy prank…but I guess we’ll never know.

BBC R6 Launches new music programme

BBC 6 Music

The BBC have announced that it’s digital radio station 6 music will launch a new late night show called “6 Music Recommends” in the wee small hours between midnight and 1am.

6 music which has a weekly reach of 1.96 million listeners, said the idea of the show is to give their audience the chance to hear new songs that have been specially found by it’s presenters.   The presenters are Lauren Laverne (Tuesdays) – Tom Ravenscroft (Wednesdays) – Mary Anne Hobbs (Thursdays) and Steve Lamacq (Fridays).

Jeff Smith Head of Music for 6 “alongside our well-established and influential weekly new release playlist, highlights BBC Radio 6 Music’s different and innovative approach to new music and music programming.”

Some of their listeners might be surprised that such presenters didn’t already have oodles of input in to the music that they play on their show, but alas the modern day radio station is often run top down – rather than bottom up.

Mary Ann-Hobbs
Mary Anne Hobbs

Mary Anne Hobbs said “I have 60 minutes every week to change people’s lives with sound, and that’s exactly what I’m aiming to do.”  

I just hope all those nocturnal spliff smoking ‘get up and go’ students are prepared for Mary’s onslaught! 

Poised for that life changing moment
Poised for that life changing music moment

An End To Benefits Street

james turner street
AKA Benefits Street

And so it came to pass that a programme which told it’s participants they were recording a show about “community spirit” and how individuals “were working together and helping each other in tough times” finally ended.  The fact that the programme makers lied to the participants (they filmed lots of working people and community events over 18 months that was just dumped) – doesn’t seem to matter as they would have been made to sign contracts waiving any rights to what material was used and how the show was edited (under the guise of – we are programme makers – we understand this process – you are poor and stupid…errr you are in need of some well deserving attention brought upon you and (fairy dust sprinkle) (annoyingly enthusiastic voice) – we can make it happen.

The series ended with a ‘live’ debate, involving  the participants and other interested parties including MPs and journalists who written some nasty stuff – about these benefits scum…I mean those people who claim additional financial support from the state.

Two of the documentary participants
Two of the documentary participants

Mass hysteria had been whipped up in the press and from commentators about the fairness of the welfare system and this programme was all the evidence they needed.  “It’s not fair that people should sit about all day doing nothing and then get paid money for it” they shrieked!!  Really?   so what do these so called commentators do with the rest of their 37 hours after they’ve spent just 3 slagging off lazy, idle, work shy scroungers into 500 words?  Does yet another afternoon lunch with Sebastian and Felicity for a skinny Mocha -chocca-latte -chino-frappo crapo chato – followed by attending yet another pretentious “must see” exhibition at a tiny art gallery – quaffing free champaign – really count as work?

The truth is, seeing laziness in others is easy.  Seeing it in ourselves – when we spend so much time flapping and “frapping” about from one “rendezvous” to another….not so.  And therefore I don’t rush to criticise nor condemn the people that channel 4 made minor celebrities out of.

Actually, I think on the whole they came across ok.  There are much worse streets out there where the people aren’t full of witty remarks and camaraderie – but nasty and truly awful to each other – where stealing from their neighbour is just as commonplace as stealing from the state.  Streets where the police only go when required and for whom society and it’s morals might as well be on another planet.

And then, like the benefits themselves – it all finished.  I’m hard pressed to come to a conclusion about what the merits or otherwise of watching the programme had on me – or for that matter, the general debate on welfare.  In the first episode I learned that if you want to try and shoplift something – try wrapping kitchen foil in the bottom the bag – as it stops…something….from doing…something… or something like that?  Then in the second episode I learned that gangs of european men come over here on a promise of easy work and easy money – only to find themselves in squalid conditions, working 12 hour days and only receive token payments for their labour.  When they try to report the dodgy gang master who is not paying them money  – and our police and state seem impotent in it’s ability to deal with the situation…”go after the bloody businesses where these men work and are being exploited” I shouted at the TV screen.  Nothing happened.

There were of course other characters:  the rather annoyingly chirpy church woman who is keen to transform James Turner Street from a rather downtrodden, ugly, messy street into a downtrodden, ugly clean-ish street; the guy who knocks on people’s doors selling things for 50p – hence why he is known as the “50p man” – but doesn’t have much luck and (capitalists look away now) seems to take pity on every other person he meets – and gives them stuff from his bargain box free.

Deirdre Kelly or White Dee on Benefits Street
Deirdre Kelly or white Dee on Benefits Street

Finally, we got to the “Live Debate” – hosted by Richard Bacon and stuffed full of people I think I’d heard of and faces I think I recognised.

This mass-debate was pretty poor – lots of uncoordinated shouting or cheering – depending upon what point was ineloquently made.  White Dee (it seems she prefers to be called Dee – real name Deirdre Kelly) was the only human from the programme that was allowed (or trusted) to speak more than one sentence.

There was the Minister for Work and Pensions – whose name I forget, but who used to be a fireman in a previous life (told us twice) and whom at one point, if I heard correctly, made a joke about shagging white Dee’s mum??  The Minister’s shadow Minister (do try and keep up) had been too busy to watch the programme (too many functions with free booze & cold sandwiches to attend) and so watch 3 of them that day and was appalled by stuff that I can’t remember and don’t care to regurgitate.

One of the interesting angles that came out of this debate for me was seeing those hard nosed columnists, who normally write whilst cocooned in the safety of their middle class homes – their venom slowly dripping onto the page – come face to face with those people whom they’d slagged off.  Being people on benefits – of course they had actually read any of the articles and so weren’t offended in the least – but Mr Bacon did try and get a bit of a confrontation going – alas there was nothing to bite.  The columnists didn’t want to say things such as “I wish you hadn’t had any children you couldn’t afford” or “I have not met such nasty dole-scum since one traveled on a train in London”.  More of this – commenter -v- commentee would be interesting.

James Turner Resident Dee Roberts (Black Dee)
James Turner Resident Dee Roberts (Black Dee)

The debate only had Richard Bacon as it’s thread and I didn’t feel he really managed to weave it together very well and generally it seemed the pre-production of it had been sloppy and lazy at best.  So, basically, it couldn’t have finished better.

Stroud FM Off Air

Stroud FM logo
Stroud FM logo

Sad news today – I heard that Stroud FM had ceased broadcasting due to a funding gap of £8,000.  The station launched it’s full time 107.9 FM schedule in 2008.

Since 2002, when the then Radio Authority licensed 15 so-called “Access Radio” stations, community radio has gone from strength to strength offering people in the local areas where they broadcast – something different to listen to – or not.  They offer choice.

Stroud FM broadcast area
Stroud FM broadcast area

It is this diversity of programming and choice that is on offer which make these community radio stations a rich addition to the often glossy but mundane non-stop, music pop; non-repeat, but all the same beat; non-interesting, ear blistering; 10 dull songs in a row groan-some guarantee.

I’m not saying there is not a place for glossy radio.  However, if I wanted to listen to non-stop music – I’d use iTunes.  When I need access to news – I don’t wait until the top of the hour – I go to the internet.  In fact, my iphone often reminds me how little texts I get by annoyingly beeping me news flashes – with my initial thought – wow someone’s texted me.

Any radio station is only as good as the content it pumps out – the stuff they do between the songs.  The great thing about community radio is that they genuinely try and fill the content gap between the glossy 10 in a row and make programmes that are that bit more local and a bit more unpolished.   From the local business to the zlist celebrity doing a one man/woman show in town – the beauty of community radio is in the voices that wouldn’t otherwise be heard.  And yes, it’s ok to get angry at the radio/radio presenter for what they say/don’t say.  That’s how we engage.

I visited Nottingham in January for a couple of days with my partner and we ended up in Manchester – at the weirdly opulent (money was sloshing around) Trafford Centre.  The one thing I noticed most when travelling?  That the radio stations I often landed on, and stuck with (range permitting), turned out to be community radio stations.   Of course, you can rightly point out that if that was the one thing that stuck out most on my journey –  I should get a bloody life and my partner should get another boyfriend.  With that, I cannot argue.

So, it is sad that another community radio station has hit the buffers and sank in the often choppy and vastly overwhelming funding ocean.  Ofcom is often good at initially supporting community radio stations – but most find that support dries up quicker than a free bar at a Scottish wedding – giving all an equal headache.


It’s pleasing to learn that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have started their community radio consultation to relax the current financial restrictions on community radio – and other things too.

Let’s hope that something good comes from the DCMS consultation and that it offers greater support to local radio stations that might be small in size when compared to their commercial counterparts – but punch well above their weight in ambition.

Whether or not the relaxing of finance rules would have saved stations like Stroud FM – I simply can’t judge.  I’ll leave it to station director Richard Joyce to give some insight into what led Stroud to do the one thing that sends a shudder down the spine of all radio station owners/managers – switching off the transmitter.

Speaking to local newspaper Stroud News Richard said “It’s been a really difficult time for community radio over recent years with grants getting smaller and smaller, making it very difficult to keep going. We were struggling to put plans together for the future and unfortunately it got to the point where we just couldn’t continue.”

Volunteers at Stroud FM

LBC goes national

Image(there is a graffic with ladies on it too but couldn’t find it at the point of posting)

Today, LBC went from being merely 97.3 (London frequency) to being on our national dial – for those who tune in to digital anyway.  By the looks of things, LBC owner Global radio, whom don’t shy away from ambition (as can be seen by the name they give themselves) – have spent a fair amount of money on this launch – getting new presenters lined up…even having a big photo shoot to make their website and publications that little bit more glossy.

LBC's presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer
LBC’s presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer

Getting on a national dial isn’t the same as getting into the national consciousness,  but unlike so many other music based commercial radio stations – LBC really does seem to care about the content they broadcast and also don’t mind forking out a pretty penny for presenters/journalists as well (I don’t see any former children’s TV presenters or singers whose hits now mainly involve the ground – stumbling out a taxi after attending another envelope opening) [think the Birds of a Feather lot].

It’s good that we have another station that deals with speech based current affairs, as when Talk Radio – turned into Talksport, like the fans of West Ham, I felt deflated and beaten.  So, I really do hope that LBC are not only able to hold their own against the big boys – both BBC radio 4 and mostly BBC radio 5, but also hold a national conversation – NOT on their own.