Category Archives: TV

John Mahoney

It was announced today that actor John Mahoney had died after an illness.

You may wonder who Mr M is, except his death has been headline news all day.

He was, perhaps most famously, the father of Frasier and Niles Crane in one of the most wonderful comedy series ever from the USA. Yes, Marty Crane.

Now, John M was born in the UK. He had a long and distinguished acting career, and we had the pleasure of seeing him in The Man Who Came To Dinner some years ago. He was a leading light of the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago.

But, of course, it was the Frasier role that made his name, I suppose, outside theatre circles. Marty Crane represented the old fashioned American values, a person stuck in his ways, a lover of routine. He loved his chair, his beer, his sport and his programmes. In real life, John Mahoney was much different from Marty Crane, but why wouldn’t he be?

A fine actor, will be much missed.

Quiz show

I do watch quiz shows on tv sometimes. Not game shows, and definitely not all shows. University Challenge is a no-no, as is Mastermind. My only interest is to answer the questions posed, and the topics for those are specialised and, really, of no interest. Who on earth cares about the History of Dutch cheese 1842 to 1988?

General knowledge quiz shows are just better. You stand a chance. But there are some things that annoy me.

First of all, questions are not easy or hard. If you know the answer, it’s easy, otherwise it’s impossible. Maybe you can make a guess, or pick the mostly likely answer of three in multiple choice, but there’s no such thing in the universe as an ‘educated guess’. A guess is a guess because you don’t know something. Educated means you have knowledge ie you know. You may be able to look at three choices and reject one, but if you don’t know between the remainder, a guess is still a guess.

It’s always worth saying something rather than nothing. A ‘pass’ will never win, but there is a miniscule chance a random guess may be correct.

Quizzers know certain rules about guessing: oceans are often Pacific, simply because it is so huge and contains lots of stuff. Dairy products is probably cheese. ‘Bird’ or ‘fish’ is often a good answer. British royalty is either Henry VIII, Victoria or Queen Elizabeth II. Prime Ministers from olden times can often be Churchill, from modern times Thatcher or Blair. If for no other reason, because they were around for a long time.

It has always seemed to me that, faced with a question about something you’ve never heard of and three choices, one of which you’ve never heard of, then these would be the best guesses. If you had heard of one, you might be more likely to have heard of the other.

I record the programmes and cut out the waffle. I don’t want to know how old you are, what you did/do for a living, the names of your ten children, what you will do with the money etc… I don’t want you to sing, especially if you are a female Egghead. I don’t want the sponsors or the adverts. Mind, if I ever appeared on The Chase and Bradley Walsh asked me “if you was to win some money, what would you do with it?” then I have the perfect answer: “buy you a book about English grammar, Brad.”

The Chase can be good, but there are bits that are more than annoying. The player asking the others what choice they should make contributes nothing to anything, nor Walsh insulting the chasers. And when he says “you got one, but you’re a better player than that” is palpable nonsense. If you get one, that’s how good a player you are. If you answered ten correctly, then ditto. You are as good as you are, no better and no worse. To a large extent, there’s luck to the questions too.

And when they are offered, say, £40,000 and say “ooh, I could have a good wedding with that” except, you share it, you only get a fraction of it and you still have to get through and beat the chaser. Your best bet is to get as many people through as possible, meaning more to share the money.

The worst aspect of quizzes is this: “Which famous king had six wives?” The contestant answers, “ooh, that’s before my time”. Yes, most of the history of the universe is, but it doesn’t prevent you from knowing things!

And oh, the waffle… Filler. On Eggheads, you can always tell how good or bad a team is by how much inane chat Jeremy Vine makes with everyone.

Enough of a rant. Let’s ignore all the inane sports questions, stuff about modern ‘culture’ that no-one knows, Jeremy Vine and Victoria Coren Mitchell (and the whole Only Connect fiddle).


The original film of Network is a product of the mid to late 1970s. Watching it now looks a little dated in the detail, with modern tv cameras etc being much advanced from those depicted, but nevertheless the message is just as relevant now. What started as a satire has become reality.

If you don’t know it, get it and watch. It is the story of Howard Beale, tv news anchorman who has lost his wife and, with falling ratings, is losing his job. With nothing to live for, Beale declares he will shoot himself live on tv.

This, of course, stirs up ratings and he becomes popular again. I will say no more, so I do not spoil it. It is considered one of the great films of our time, not because it is uniformly good but because certain scenes are ust so unforgettable. So while Faye Dunaway is unconvincing and Robert Duvall is shouty annoying, Peter Finch brings tears to our eyes every time with his declarations about the shallowness of tv and all of life’s bullshit.

All the more so when you know that Finch was seriously ill, literally dying, did not have the energy to do repeated takes of scenes. Of course he won a posthumous Oscar.

If you like films with cgi, monsters, rapid cutting, loud music and IMAX 3D, go elsewhere. If you like great characters, impassioned speeches, intelligence and no music, find it.