Friday, September 28, 2007

No Marks

The fact that Howard Marks was on that programme with me this morning has reminded me of the finest ever refusal of an interview offer I've heard from an editor, courtesy of my old Big Ish boss, Matthew Collin - look, he's got his own blog here .

"Howard Marks? What about? 'How I smuggled a bunch of drugs' AGAIN? No. Not till he comes up with something new. Tell him to smuggle something else. Endangered species. Come back to me with 'Howard Marks: how I got through customs with fifteen parrots up my arse', and I'll think about it."

If you can't say nothing nice...

In the effort to get my review of Radio One at 40 down to 835 words for this week's Eye, I did the usual trick of stripping out the positive stuff (but if you look carefully, there are some words of praise for Chris Moyles and Tim Westwood in there. I know, I susprised myself.)

So here is a para that fell by the wayside, but I think bears saying:

And what of the things Radio One does that no-one else does – that public service remit that saves them from privatisation? Newsbeat is astutely pitched to its audience, offering a squaddie’s-eye-view of events in Iraq, and unsnobbishly happy to put football at the top of the running order in the knowledge that if their listeners ever bother to pick up a newspaper, most will start at the back.

Oh, and I got quite huffy about the poster on Digital Spy who pointed out that "all the writers on Private Eye are double the age of the target audience - of course they're not going to like it" - until I did the maths and realised that 15+15=30, and I've got two years on that.

Oh well, the pseudonym was supposed to be ironic anyway.

Post you don't need to bother reading

I've just been on Radio Cambridgeshire to, inexplicably, plug my book The King of Sunlight, which came out three years ago. You can listen to it here if you really want to - the Andy Burrows show, it should be online from about 10am on Friday.

The producer told me that "The USP is that Andy doesn't know in advance what they are so no previous knowledge is presumed on the part of the listener! It's always fun and very informal." Is that not the best way of turning "the presenter hasn't read it" into a positive ever? I hate to tell them, but from my experience of local radio interviews, it's not a USP...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Buy the Eye

Did something I'm really proud of this week... it's a feature called "a new kind of politics" on p.7. It's the thing I'm most chuffed about since the series of Daily Express Madeleine front pages a few issues back, and I hope and expect to see it ripped off in just as many places over the next few weeks...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

story for which the picture below would be more appropriate, but there you go

This didn't make it into the last Eye due to a last-minute injection of Maddieballs into the space it was going to occupy. So we'll call it an online exclusive...

Doctor Who is the nation’s favourite television fantasy. Which might be why one paper doesn’t feel the need to base its stories about the series in reality – or go back in time and correct them when they turn out to be balls.

26 May: “Doctor Who actress Freema Agyeman has been axed from the next series, The Sun can reveal,” writes a breathless Sara Nathan, TV editor of the Sun. “Show chiefs think her performance is not as strong as in her earlier episodes. And they are planning a storyline where the Doctor, played by David Tennant, will lose her and travel through the universe searching for her.” By mid-morning, the BBC has put out a statement: “It is absolute rubbish that Freema Agyeman has been axed or sacked from Doctor Who.” And indeed, it is announced in July that Agyeman will return for much of series four – after moving across to guest-star in several episodes of sister programme Torchwood. How does the Sun greet the news? “The BBC has confirmed Doctor Who star Freema Agyeman has been axed as the Timelord’s sidekick Martha Jones — as we predicted.”

31 May: “Doctor Who to get axe in 2008”. Nathan’s assistant Gordon Smart bears the bad tidings to Sun readers: “Hit show Doctor Who will be EXTERMINATED next year — after the fourth series. Boss Russell T. Davies has decided to axe the BBC1 sci-fi drama and concentrate on other projects. A source said: “It was decided the best thing for the show was go out at the top next year.” That very afternoon a bemused BBC spokeswoman tells the Guardian “there isn't any way it would be axed even if he left.”

5 July: “Easy Rider star Dennis Hopper is set to rev across the galaxy – with a role in Doctor Who,” Nathan shrieks. Executive producer Julie Gardner clarifies this slightly to IF magazine three weeks later: -“That’s an unfounded rumor I’m afraid. He’s not going to be on the show. It was all over the place, but he’s not coming.”

2 August: “Word has reached TV Biz that the Beeb have found the man to take over as Doctor Who from David Tennant - Cold Feet star James Nesbitt,” enthuses Nathan in the Sun’s TV column. “David, 36, is expected to quit at the end of the next series and insiders say Irishman James, 42, is a cert to get the Tardis key. The Jekyll star is pals with Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat, tipped to replace show chief Russell T Davies when he also stands down at the end of the next series.” This story circulates for nearly a full 24 hours before Moffat himself shoots it down in flames on website Outpost Gallifrey: “A total fabrication. Made up. A fantasy. Just a guy sitting at a desk and just inventing stuff.”

30 August: “Rock legend David Bowie is set to star in Dr Who — as an evil alien abductor,” reveals Smart. “Producers reckon the Ziggy Stardust singer, now 60, makes a perfect villain because of his ‘great other-worldly look’.” Breaking all previous records, Bowie manages to deny this before it has even appeared. “Tomorrow’s Sun newspaper has a half page exclusive,” his official website announces. “The whole story is news to him. David Bowie is not planning to star in Dr Who and the whole story is ‘absolute tish and tosh’.”

4 September: The BBC announces that Doctor Who has been recommissioned for two further series. Both Russell T. Davies and David Tennant will remain with the show until at least the end of three special episodes planned for 2009. How does the Sun greet this news? “BAD news for fans of Doctor Who – the show’s fifth series has been shelved until 2010.”

Friday, September 07, 2007

Not a Portakabin

Just to prove I do really understand the importance of trademarks (sorry Dick), here's a story I sold to the Radio Times five years ago, when the Doctor Who revival was still just a fanboy's dream. The story got picked up everywhere - including the BBC news, which hadn't noticed up until then...

From the Radio Times, published October 22 2002

As any fan of Doctor Who will tell you, the Doctor stole his Tardis from the Time Lords of Gallifrey. But the question of who actually owns the time-travelling machine has been keeping lawyers busy here on Earth.

Due to a malfunction in its chameleon circuit, the Tardis spent the 26-year run of the show disguised as a blue police public call box of the kind common on thestreets of London and other British cities from 1929 until the sixties. London's blue boxes were owned by the Metropolitan Police - but a ruling by the UK Patent Office has ended a six-year legal battle by giving all rights in the design to the BBC. They decided the boxes are now "more associated with the TV series" than with the police themselves.

"We're disappointed, but philosophical, " says a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police. The Met has, however, registered the rights to the traditional blue police-station lamp and its metal identity badge, which might cause problems forany remakes of Dixon of Dock Green or Juliet Bravo.


Four years ago, the Eye's esteemed architecture correspondent, Piloti, used the word "Portakabin" in one of his columns.

We promptly received a letter from one Dick Ellershaw, Trade Marks Officer for Portakabin ltd, upbraiding us for using the word "as a generic term" and suggesting the use of "portable building" or "relocatable building" instead. Our even more esteemed editor ran his letter beneath the headline "What a tragic way to make a living", and headed every other piece of correspondence in the issue "Portakabin".

Two weeks ago I was, as usual, writing up the Solutions column for the magazine. I got to "Kensite Services Ltd: the fullest range of Welfare Solutions" and tapped in next to it "portable toilets."

Then I thought fondly of Dick Ellershaw, deleted it and put in "Portaloos" instead.

And lo, like clockwork, this week a letter arrived at the office:

"Dear Mr Hislop,

I am writing to point out that 'Portaloo' is a registered Trade Mark which may only be used to describe buildings manufactured by this company..."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Finally... that exciting news in full

My first novel, Topped of the Pops, is to be published by The Friday Project in April 2008.

They're a small but groovy publisher, and their distribution is done by Pan Macmillan, which is a big and groovy publisher, which means it should be in bookshops across the land.

For more details of the book, see my website. But if you missed your chance to buy a first edition when I self-published it on Lulu earlier this year, bad luck - I'm taking it off there now. Those'll be worth, ooh, not a lot in a few years time...