Tuesday, 24 July 2012

'Superstar'tling: Nathan James out

Should a reality television star - especially when they are decidedly not the weakest in the competition - be able to make a prediction with such accuracy?

I found yesterday's 'Superstar' a startling piece of television. This was not because of the amazing vocals; stunning staging; eloquent and considered judging; or even the usual reality television villain-edit, which one contestant almost always seems to get. No, just because yesterday's "Tarnish Nathan fiasco" was so very, very blatant.

The morning of the show the Sun posts a story about a diva fit Nathan has allegedly had (the normal 'an onlooker' source) 
Then onto the show itself:
Nathan was in the first singing slot of the show, traditionally a bit of a killer slot. 

Of course his VT is shown before he sings. It was decidedly not a kind edit. It starts with Nathan clearly being quizzed about his twitter followers and what they are saying to him. Presumably he's been asked to read some out:
"Good luck Nathan, every performance you have done is flawless, keep smiling"  Then the researcher asks "Any more?" to which Nathan replies, "There's loads, how long you got?" Now Nathan was neither going to read out a negative tweet about himself, nor did he call himself flawless. And of course he had loads of mentions - he's a celeb of the moment (well, as much as a show consistently rating sub 4 million can make you one. Oh hi Big Brother!) 

His VT continues thus: "
The days are so long and you are tired and sometimes you say things you maybe regret saying" It is then shown that he is talking about him refusing to wear a top hat for his performance of 'Sweet Child O' Mine.' He repeatedly says "It's not happening" - a bit of a toddler tantrum, yes, but would you have agreed to look like this on national television?

For a rock song with women fawning around him, not a production of Alice in Wonderland.

He then quotes his hero Kurt Cobain: "I'd rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not." Firstly, is there anyone with any ounce of self-respect that doesn't agree with that sentiment? If I had to pretend I adored Batman to keep my boyfriend onside, he wouldn't be my boyfriend much longer. Plus once you find out he's singing 'Born this Way' by Lady Gaga (with lyrics such as "there's nothing wrong with loving who you are", the production team certainly were hammering home the 'I'm confident within myself' theme.) it's pretty obvious it was meant to segue into the song.

The next bit of his VT? Just Nathan saying that he hopes his song is enough to get him into the semi-final. No little kids, no grandmothers, no sore throat tales, ITV? Yeah, that was a pretty negative VT when taken at immediate face value. Unless the British public have suddenly taken to confident types over night (the Torys are getting rid of the rest of our British staples after all -- oo satire...)

He sings the song. He's alright. Probably better than a lot that follows. I'm not a music critic.

On to the judging! Italics are comments by me.

Dawn: "Well Nathan, I really did believe you were born that way, definitely. You are riding high (before a fall, perhaps?Nathan, definitely, that was entirely thrilling. You are mind-blowingly talented. For me, personally, Nathan, I think you would make a truly great Judas. (so the antihero, the opposite, entirely not Jesus, entirely not the role you put him on live television to audition for. Hmm.) Now, think about it, think about it, Judas is a very muscular part. Unfortunately for you it is already cast with the genius that is Tim Minchin (you're not *that* good, Nath, you'd only be "truly great") in this particular production. But that's the part (she says, pointing) I think you are right for. 

Mel: "Well Nathan we know that we can count on you to start the show with a big bang. Perfect song for you, fantastic performance, I absolutely loved the arrangement, the choregraphy, the staging, thank you to our wonderful live band, I'll carry on praising our wonderful dancers. Great Performance" (comments on Nathan: 4, comments on everything else: 5 and two of Nathan's comments were the same but with different synonyms.)

And now it gets interesting.

Andrew: Well.. Nathan your voice is amazing. No question. But (hands pulled back in the air) here's my big but. I think you need to love the song more than you love yourself and I'm, I'm, (booing) finding, I'm finding it difficult to reconcile all these tweets that you do, and all these strange things with.. A guy that is going to go into a rehearsal room [Shh a minute, (raises voice to admonish audience for shouting out and booing) if you like this guy, listen to me!]
I want to know what you are going to be like when you go into a rehearsal room where everyone is equal, where you are going in with big stars, people who are I-I-I-just am terribly worried. Nathan: I'm going to have to prove myself then, this is the thing, this entire competition is about (Andrew starts to interrupt and talk over him) me proving that I am ready and I've got enough of a voice to do it] Andrew: Then why do you tweet, why do you tweet, why do you tweet all this nonsense, why did you tweet yourself with a crown of thorns? (Nathan is silent.)

Straight after that the nation is invited to vote for Nathan.

If you'd been fed a news article over him being a diva, a negative VT about his love for himself, lack of respect for the production and overconfidence and witnessed a Jesus candidate being told he'd be a "truly great" Judas and then slammed by the great Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber in which he restates Nathan's love for himself, his apparent nonsense (in a negative, rather than incoherent, sense) tweets, and Nathan's ego; would you be tempted to vote for him as Joe Public? Especially when every show it's been a similar tale of him being criticised for being confident.

And now let's examine the show's criticisms of Nathan:

1) Nathan loves himself, more than anything else.
Based partially on the fact he has a lot of mentions on twitter (presumably due to being popular with public, the people meant to be casting this?) and would prefer to be liked for who is rather than a false persona that he's put on.

2) Nathan's "nonsense" tweets.
That tweet about Nathan wearing a crown of thorns? A fan had hand drawn him a picture of him wearing a crown of thorns (very nicely) and he'd retweeted it. So somebody who is auditioning to play Jesus attracts fans that draw him in the role he's auditioning for? That's so awful, I quite agree Lord Webber! (catch the sarcasm.) Here's the tweet in question:

Dreadful. Although when I say that I'm talking about the excessive exclamation marks, lack of apostrophe, lack of spacing and missed capitals. (I agree with you, I'm nobody to talk when it comes to bad grammar and punctuation, but it's the only thing I can even vaguely pick up on as being "nonsense.")

3) Nathan's ego and confidence.
The only thing I can really say here? Let's have a shy, retiring Jesus without any stage presence. He'll light up O2. As far as I can tell Nathan hasn't shown much obnoxious confidence (e.g. suggesting he'd win the show easily)

So really, ALW had nothing to say for all his shouting, interrupting and finger pointing. Personally I find that all very conclusive of a sharp, fast and not-very-clever way of trying to ditch Nathan fast. Why? I can only presume that Lord Webber doesn't like him and he was doing well enough in the vote for Lord Webber to be worried. Maybe Nathan is a bit of a diva, he certainly appears (to me) to have large personality and to be full of life and possibly this had caused a clash somewhere. In that case it probably, sadly, is better that Nathan has left - a production with those kind of problems could be very difficult and not good for either show or contestant.

However, this was the wrong way to go about it. Firstly, they could have chucked him out at any time during the audition stages, do so if he's an issue! Secondly, be a bit more subtle about it if you really have to put in a villain-edit 'to make good television' - ITV's last two lots of villain-edits have been so crudely manufactured (Misha B's 'bully-gate') that it's incredibly uncomfortable television to watch. Thirdly, give your contestants a bit of training in social media. The only time Nathan James really didn't come out looking good were his series of bribe tweets when he panicked over the programme shipping him out:

He was also quite unprofessional over his tweets about how Webber hated him and I don't think they did him much credit (as a potential actor in the musical industry, anyway):

However, Nathan does sum up last night well enough:

What could have prevented it all? In my opinion the spiral nature of having everybody in live television every day has taken its toll - it's simply left no time for problems to be sorted out backstage. Go back to a weekly format (it worked well enough on the BBC!) - it'll sort the wandering eliminations out (before the show? after the show? I'll decide whilst watching them sing during the show?) give more time for production and thus for problems there to be ironed out, and help give time to sort out difficulties the production may have with the contestants. Let's face it, other than "Britain's Got Talent" when has scheduling a reality television show across a week worked? Anybody going to watch the next series of "Red or Black"?

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Doctor Who Experience - Opening Day!

Fezes, sonic screwdrivers and excited
fans galore!
So yesterday I went to the opening day of the Doctor Who Experience with the boyfriend, @BBC_Fangirl, @ryanfarrr, @CardiffTimelord, @simon_watkins, @Zial_W and @ZZValleyGirl. It was amazing.
We were roughly aware that the opening would be about half eleven, so myself and @BBC_Fangirl pottered along towards the Bay to see who would be cutting the red ribbon - would it be Matt Smith? Moffat? Unfortunately our timings didn't quite work out so we didn't get to see three children dressed up as the Doctor, a Dalek and Amy Pond open this highly anticipated event.
Coming to a photo studio near you!

However, we did get to watch a yellow, 'fat' dalek, a Silence, a Silurian and a Cyberman mill around in front of a gigantic crowd of people alternatively posing for photos with little kids in fezes and grown men with sonic screwdrivers (it really was a day for everyone!) to moving around menacingly.

The dalek turns to face me:

The new studios in Roath Lock
Everyone had arrived by this point (the boys having been to - as far as I can tell - orgasm together over some man dressed as a bat or something..?) so we started to consider the queue. We had tickets booked for "entry between 2pm and 3pm." So of course - like every other excited Doctor Who fanatic, already dying of anticipation - we arrived early. As did everybody else.

View from the stairs
The organisation of entry into the Experience was possibly one of the only let downs for me. According to a friendly host (who was doling out free Doctor Who Adventures, including a Dalek trainer bag! - and yes we all had one, this was a day to be 'massive kids') they only let groups of 46 people in every fifteen minutes and had hoped people would just amble in leisurely at some time within their stated arrival slot. In theory this would work well, and probably will after the initial fuss dies down, but on the opening day? Everyone arrived a good half hour early or exact to the minute. We were eventually let in at about ten past three, despite being one of the earlier groups for our time slot.

Inside the Experience:

Was another queue, but we weren't really looking at that. They had painted gorgeous murals of Doctor Who villains on most of the walls, it looked amazing!

The Sontaran/Silence/Ood wall:

The Dalek/Cybermen wall:

The Weeping Angels wall:

The Master:

And then the lovely @WeWinGracie91 started to speak, reminding us that we couldn't take photos during the Experience itself and a fun "allons-y!"  and it was our turn to go in!

[Please note that below is quite a detailed description of the Experience, and I wouldn't recommend reading it if you hope to visit shortly. It's more fun not knowing!]

You begin in a little dark room with a couple of benches, watching a giant screen. A compilation of clips from the Matt Smith years play, netting together a sense of 'wow and cool!' but also - sadly, and possibly only for me - a little bit of 'is this starting soon?'. At this point I was a little worried that they would only be showing clips and was a bit disappointed because it did feel a bit 'YouTube Doctor Who clip mash up'. Luckily my fears were soon alleviated. The image of the crack in Amy's wall rotated 180 degrees and then the screen split in two along the crack and we bounced inside!

You walk into Starship UK and already I was getting overexcited (it involves jiggling a lot, and not opening my mouth in case I'll never be able to stop the stream of squeeing) because I could see the Smilers from 'The Beast Below' - one of my favourite episodes of series five. The throne from 'Vampires of Venice' was there, as was the impressive telescope from 'Tooth and Claw'. Then another screen flickered into life and Matt Smith began to talk to us 'shoppers'. A fiddle with the sonic screwdriver and the tardis materialised with the instruction for us to fly it!
The coral Tardis looked beautiful
in the Exhibition

On we went, crowded around the console, (although bars keep you from being able to touch the actual machinery) and The Doctor hurled instructions at us, with the children all operating different panels to 'make her go.' The hydraulics started up and although it wasn't 'throwing yourself to the floor' strength they were fun and did add to the whole impression. Once we'd landed we ventured out into a mysterious darkened corridor.

Silurians roamed amongst
It led to a Dalek spaceship. Multiple paradigm Daleks slid into view and sized us up. Luckily, before they had a chance to kill us, a fleet of RTD-era Daleks arrived! A battle royale raged in the skies and we escaped through a time corridor where Weeping Angels randomly leaped out at us, highlighted by sudden spotlights and we scrambled into a 3D screening room where we watched the Doctor's biggest foes get sucked into the time vortex.

@WeWinGracie91 was absolutely awesome as an Experience host and really made the tour enjoyable for me.

Then the shoppers that had been on this fun adventure of jumpy moments and heart-bouncing dialogue went on to do what we do best - browse and wish we could take everything home with us.

The Exhibition:

Argh, that Slitheen's amazing!
Two levels of Cybermen, Daleks, Zygons, costumes, multiple Tardis sets and Tardises, monsters, pivotal story items. Yes, we geeked out a little.

It was hard to know where to start! Do you run straight to the coral Tardis with a cry of 'I don't want to go!' (we didn't. You could have locked us up in there happily. Sleep in a dalek, munch at the cafe and loving a little shop once we'd finished going 'argh, that Slitheen's amazing!'

Some exhibits I really liked:

The collection of daleks (and the one you could operate upstairs!):

The costumes of each Doctor:

The Doctor's crib:

Idris' dress and tardis:

The Silence and their tardis:

The 'how to make an Ood':

The collection of sonic screwdrivers:


Face of Boe:

River Song and Astrid's costumes:


Five's Tardis:

Boyfriend abuser.
The interactivity of the Exhibition was great. There was a sound room where amongst other things there was a game where you have to try and hit the right noise at the right time - it was hard! As mentioned there was a dalek that you could walk into and operate. On the ground level they had a green screen set up so you could pose for pictures in the tardis or against various alien landscapes (£10 for the first picture you buy, and £5 for each additional copy.)

It was also fantastic to see monsters walking around the Exhibition. My boyfriend was strangled by a Cyberman (it didn't take to being kissed by him!) and a Silurian terrified me!

Video of the Silence in the Exhibition:

Remember me?
Finally we went out to the little shop, which was a bit disappointing sadly. It felt like a Forbidden Planet had been teleported to the Experience, and whilst there were a few new things for the experience it didn't feel very special and personally I left without buying anything.

Overall it was an amazing day. I'll certainly be finding anybody that hasn't been and using them as an excuse to visit again and again!

Doctor Who Experience
@alun_vega's photos and article for Blogtor Who
@willbrooks1989's article for Doctor Who Online
@mugim0e's photos
@CardiffTimelord's photos

Friday, 6 July 2012

#dwsr - Llantristant

Jeremiah, Jenny and Clara
Wow! Today was amazing. For all the set reporting I do I've only ever seen one monster before, and that was the rough outline of an Ood's head in a darkened upstairs window. Fun, and made Church Road far more interesting than it usually manages, but it didn't really feel like I'd seen a monster. Today, however, things changed!

Jeremiah knocks on Vastra's door

As we arrived we watched a scene where Jeremiah (the other character played by Brendan Patricks) knocks on a door asking for Madame Vastra, saying he's travelled all the way from London. Then who answers the door but Commander Strax (Dan Starkey) in a butler's suit!

And later Neve McIntosh showed up in full silurian regalia! And an awesome dress, I might add. In fact the cast in general looks pretty gorgeous in their period costume - certainly one to coo over! TWO REALLY COOL RECURRING CHARACTER ALIENS. (Sorry if that sounds a little excited, I'm still pretty ecstatic writing about it now.)

Madame Vastra, Commander Strax, Jeremiah and Rachael Stirling arrive on set:

Madame Vastra tries on hats:

Matt Smith
What other scenes were filmed? To be honest at times it was hard to tell because they were filming in a little alley way set between two houses (apparently there are more houses set further back into it) so we could see very little. From what we could hear they filmed both the arrival and departing scenes of the Tardis. There was fog and period-dressed supporting artists at the end of the alley way (closest to us.) Jeremiah also appeared to be in that scene. According to some lovely people we chatted to whilst we were there, they had dressed the alley and street in front of those houses with clothes on washing lines.
Vastra and Strax look out on the Tardis

Dialogue heard (thanks @ryanfarrr for tweeting it, my memory and hearing are atrocious!):

Arrival scene:
THE DOCTOR: So not London. Yorkshire, 1890!
CLARA: You're making a habit of this, Doctor.

The Doctor seems to cry out after this, although I'm not certain it's in the same scene:

Jeremiah and Strax
Departing scene:
THE DOCTOR: Thanks as ever, you three.

They also filmed Brendan Patricks doing a fall on to the cobbles (well, crash mat, but presumably that's what it will be edited to look like.) This appeared to be the alternative camera direction to the scene where Commander Strax opens the door.

Set dressing
It also seemed like they intended to use a rather steep, cobbled path going up a hill as it was dressed with fake lamp posts, a wooden cart and various bits and pieces (buckets, sacking etc) However we were nearly slipping walking down it before it rained, and it then bucketed it down, so I'm not sure if it would have been safe for them to use it. We didn't see them film there anyway.

We had assumed they'd be using Llantristant church (which is beautiful, old and offers amazing views out to the valleys) as exteriors for the filming they did at Trinity Church in Barry, but they didn't seem to be set up there at all.

Characters present:
Matt Smith
Vastra and Jenny
The Doctor (Matt Smith), 
Clara (Jenna Louise Coleman), 
Commander Strax (Dan Starkey), 
Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh), 
Jenny (Catrin Stewart), 
Rachael Stirling, 
Jeremiah (Brendan Patricks),
various extras.

It was a really fun day to watch, especially the first few hours where everything felt slightly higgeldy-piddeldy: Matt was fluffing lines, the Tardis' door (and handle!) fell off, the crew were cheering, Brendan Patricks fell over on the steps (but seemed okay bless him)! It really was an incredible day. Thank you to the crew and cast for being awesome enough to allow us to watch and snap away; it makes watching Doctor Who on TV all the more enjoyable for me!
Commander Strax!
Clara in her
first outfit
of the day
Butler Strax answers the door
Vastra and Jenny
Rachael Stirling
A mysterious bell jar was filled with
 crimson liquid
Vastra and Jenny
Clara's second outfit
of the day

Back of
Vastra's dress
Strax wears a top hat!

Matt drinks a hot drink in the rain

Other photos of the day can be seen here:
Ryan's photos
Ryan's videos
Lee's photos
Rhys' timeline (I especially like this one of the reoccurring posters that are featuring in this episode: picture)