The Unofficial 4oD Blog

Because every video-on-demand service needs an unauthorised blog

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Sex Education Show

There's a favourable and very fair review on The Guardian website about The Sex Education Show. Bearing in mind the painful and just downright strange conversations I had about sex and relationships with my parents this is what caught my eye in Heidi Stephens piece:

This is not my kind of thing, as a rule - people talking openly about sex, how much they're getting it, what kind they're getting. I'd rather clean the oven. But this show claimed to present both teenage and adult perspectives on all matters sexual. And because I have both a 16-year-old son and a nine-year-old daughter, any advice on how to broach this stuff in a way that is less likely to scar my offspring for life is gratefully received.

As it turned out, I didn't need to make notes, because teenage son decided to watch it with me. Which I guess was what Channel 4 intended when they gave it a pre-watershed 8pm slot, but was entirely unexpected and potentially horrifically embarrassing (no, for ME, not him). He wandered in at the start, asked what I was watching, and decided to "give it five minutes". By the end he admitted it had been "interesting" and "useful". And in the mumble-heavy vocabulary of a 16-year-old boy, I believe that counts as a glowing review.

You can see it on 4oD. Alone. With your teenager. Or even with a parent.

The Channel 4 Sex Education website is here (and it's well worth checking out).

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Four Wives, One Man

I always mean to watch these True Stories docs on More4, but then find something easy and trashy on another channel and give them up. But last night when I got in and switched the TV on it just happened to be tuned to More4 (I think I'd probably been watching a repeat of a Grand Designs I'd seen before) and this doc was about half an hour in. And I was completely hooked. It was absolutely fantastic.
It follows a family in an Iranian village: a man, his four wives, twenty children and his mother. The women all have a story to tell of divorce, sadness and betrayal and watching the man squirming when they nag him or answer back is at least a little pay-back for the beatings they say he gives them. The mother pitches in with her view that her husband was a real man, who loved only her, while all five of her sons are 'just sheep'... And yet it isn't ultimately a tragic story. It is full of humour and banter between the women.

What's great about the way this is filmed is that there is no intrusive narrator, or interviewer. It is just the family, talking to camera or to each other.

I have already recommended the programme to everyone I know, and now recommend it to you.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Even more Super Botox Me

Kate Flett in the Observer writes a nice piece about journalist Kate Spicer's entertaining investigation into Botox treatments. I always like reviews that make me want to watch programmes that I'd otherwise decided weren't for me. While I'm not, as Flett puts it "your average female viewer of a certain age", (I'm of the age but not the gender) I like the fact that Spicer tried the treatments out on herself. Further, Flett's piece makes me wonder if and when I'll switch over from my purely natural beauty regime (mostly trying not to drink a bottle of wine a day) to taking a more man-made solution to the visible problems (mostly caused by my natural beauty regimen). Anyway, this is what Flett says:

In the latest of C4's feisty-femmedocs, Super Botox Me, the likeable, funny journalist Kate Spicer investigated the seductive world of Botox and beyond. At 39, and with an attractive but undeniably lived-in face, a combination of journalistic curiosity and pure vanity led her to have 40 Botox injections and something called a Fraxel Laser Facial, which left her looking as if she'd been blowtorched by a Dalek.

Spicer was amusing and honest about her ambivalence towards procedures which were painful but also painfully addictive. The results were fabulous, knocking five years off her age, which, for your average female viewer of a certain age, was the problem. Being a wuss about needles, I am still stemming the tsunami of time with excellent haircuts, pots of SK-II skin cream and what I call 'Photox': picture-retouching. But who am I kidding? For my 45th birthday I'd be happy enough to look like Kate Spicer's Before, never mind her Afters.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Super Botox Me

Another programme in the G Spot strand - Super Botox Me - is on the service now. It's another look at cosmetic surgery, but this time above the neck. The clip on the homepage is pretty funny too...

The Devil and Daniel Johnston: trailer and on 4oD

For a long time musician Daniel Johnston's fame was one based on notoriety more than anything else. Whenever his name came up it was almost always in the context of David Bowie and Nirvana's Kurt Cobain being huge fans of his. For me I first encountered him at London's Chisenhale gallery as part of a show by Peter Friedl that dealt with the King Kong theme. Daniel Johnston's soundtrack, recorded at a live performance of his song 'King Kong' and its lyrics, are the things that stays with me. There's an unease that comes with the artistic output of those who suffer obvious issues around their mental health and the audiences they attract. In Johnston's case his depression and schizophrenia aren't the only things: there's his drug abuse and violence to take into account. I've seen him twice now and both were thrilling and painful in equal measure. If anyone sang the Bond theme 'Live and Let Die' on the X Factor as badly as he did at the Royal Festival Hall they'd be booted out the door straight away, but seeing him on stage with his beat up guitar and out of tune voice it's impossible to not stare, marvel and finally revel at what you're seeing and hearing. It's not that he sings so badly it's good at all - it's just that he sings it like nobody except Daniel Johnston.

I'm not sure if I want to go and see him play again as much as I love playing the tapes and CDs - the second time he looked scared and in worse shape than the time before. Like Kurt Cobain I have the Hello How are you? Daniel Johnston t-shirt except that mine is white text out of black. I think of him whenever I wear it. Maybe that's enough.

4oD on The Devil and Daniel Johnston:

Daniel Johnston is an acclaimed singer and artist who suffers from manic depression. Jeff Feuerzeig's Sundance-winning film is a unique portrait of his work.

In the course of a career which stretches back to the 1980s, Daniel Johnston has written well over 100 love songs. What makes them unusual is that they're all about one woman, Laurie, the object of his unrequited affection for over 20 years. Despite the fact that Laurie rejected Daniel and eventually married an undertaker, his ardour has never dulled. Johnston does have other creative muses though, most notably Jesus, Captain America, The Beatles and Casper The Friendly Ghost. The interview subjects, including Johnston's elderly parents and long-suffering manager, are refreshingly honest about life with a manic-depressive. Home movie footage doesn't just serve as a visual backdrop for anecdotes, but shows that despite initial appearances, Johnston is one extremely smart and self-aware cookie.

Read about The Devil and Daniel Johnston on More4 and watch it on 4oD.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dying alone...

It's something that everyone secretly fears, but doesn't believe that it could happen to them. Except that sometimes it does. The trailers for Watch Me Disappear have definitely got me worried... The programme is part of Channel 4's Generation Next initiative - a season of programmes by new talent throughout August. The Indie's Emma Love talks about the programme and the event here.

Watch Me Disappear is going out on C4 this Friday, but if you miss it, it will of course be available on 4oD for 30 days.

Take a look at other programmes in the Generation Next season, as well as some from people C4 has given a break to over the last 25 years in the Generation Next: Then and Now page.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New features

A recent addition to the service was the Most Watched Films page. An attempt to give users some idea of what others are renting as inspiration for their own choices.

This has now been extended into the Archive section as well. So, the Free Archive page is now the New in Archive page - flagging up programmes and series that have been added recently - and there is a new Most Watched Archive page. To start with, it's an overview of the top 15 series for the last six month, but when it gets updated it will use data for a shorter time-period. Also, you may notice that perennial favourites such as Shameless and Skins are missing, because they are considered on-going series, which will be returning on-air.

Take a look.