Tag Archive: Birth of Hollywood


To my mind, how you watch television is not just about the physical act of positioning yourself in front of a screen.  It’s also to do with how you consume the content as it plays out before you.  Last September I finally began a media-related course after seventeen years in education.  I have no regrets that I didn’t take this path sooner, but it began influencing the way I think about television and film surprisingly quickly.

Paul Merton investigates the early years of Hollywood

Take the module on Documentary Film Making in the autumn term.  After the very first seminar I found myself questioning whether objectivity can ever truly be achieved, as we debated whether reconstructions should be used in the documentary genre.  The basic argument against reconstruction is that it plants an image in the viewers’ minds which may not resemble the situation it purports to document.  Fair point, but I believe reconstructions can actually be used to positive effect in many documentaries.  Let’s return to Paul Merton’s Birth of Hollywood: not only were situations in dining rooms and hotels recreated, but Merton himself then appeared as part of the scene to guide his audience through what was happening.  I particularly liked the fact that these scenes were shot in black and white, complete with monotone Merton.  Not something I’d seen in a documentary before, but very engaging.

The main reason it’s taken so long to write this blog is that I’ve been filming, digitising and editing footage for my own documentary – and moving house, but that’s another story. The three-part series on the Birth of Hollywood was well-timed, as it also made me consider the practical aspects of making television and films. How interviews are framed; the cut away shots that interviews are interspersed with; transitions between different narrative sections; the soundtrack…it’s surprisingly hard to decide on these things when producing your own work.  So tempting to go for overkill on the effects and forego the content, but Birth of Hollywood proved that keeping things simple with a few innovative touches is definitely the way to go.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s become impossible for me to watch anything without dissecting how it’s been put together and thinking about how I might do something similar in my little Marmite film and my Robin Hood documentary.  It’s not a bad thing, even if I do wonder just how many identical beige suits Paul Merton owns and whether they’re now dispersed across America.  Ideas can come from anywhere and I actually enjoy television all the more for having an insight, albeit a tiny one, into the many decisions that determine each scene.

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BBC iPlayer: Lifeline to TV!

At a recent interview I was asked “how do you watch television?”  It’s a question that’s hovered in my mind ever since, particularly since these past few years both the ways I watch and think about TV have changed considerably.  For starters, the television we had in second and third year of Uni would only tune fuzzily to BBC1, meaning 4oD and iPlayer were essential tools for keeping up with Glee and Strictly: It Takes Two (my somewhat predictable TV guilty pleasures).  Being slow to grasp technology, it was only at the end of my degree that I realised you could stream some programmes live, but by then it didn’t matter, because I was moving into my current house with, finally, a fully functioning TV.

However, as I’ve mentioned before and as anyone who has lived in a shared house will know, merely owning a working television is no guarantee of controlling what goes on it.  In any case, I occasionally forget something’s on, so I’m still a faithful user of iPlayer and 4oD, often over my breakfast toast.  When the box is free though, it’s always satisfying if you find something great to watch by fluke.  On Friday evening I caught episode two of Paul Merton’s Birth of Hollywood, and enjoyed it so much that I iPlayered the first episode this morning.  Has the word iPlayer been legitimately converted to a verb yet?  If not then maybe it should be.  So many of us watch programmes on demand that it seems sensible to just say “I iPlayered it” instead of “I watched it on iPlayer”.  Grammatical wonderings aside, my point is that it’s brilliant being able to catch up on things you missed, forgot about, or heard about from someone else, as and when you feel like it.  (Internet connection permitting, of course).

4oD: Home of Glee

Some people might argue that it’s antisocial to coop yourself up in front of a laptop instead of congregating around the box in the living room, but I disagree.  Generally I catch up on TV at breakfast time, when let’s face it, I’m not in the mood for scintillating conversation.  Plus, not everybody likes the same shows, so I’m really doing my housemates a favour by not subjecting them to Glee every Monday evening.  My final point is that I often watch TV on demand with somebody else anyway.  The boyfriend isn’t a football fanatic so he and I regularly escape the curses and chants of his housemates to stream How I Met Your Mother.

All in all, it’s been a pretty good deal this year, what with having a working TV in the house and getting to grips with iPlayer Desktop.  In a few weeks though, all is set to change: I’m moving in to a house that already has a Virgin Multimedia subscription which, from what I can gather, involves catch up services for pretty much everything.  Are my days of watching 4oD numbered or, given that three of my housemates-to-be are those same football-loving boys, are they just beginning?