Currently Consuming: Escape to the Country

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ESCAPE TO THE COUNTRY

Those Beams!

About: Escape to the Country is a BBC produced reality TV show like no other! Well okay, it is very similar to lots of other reality realty shows that are currently available to watch but unlike those other shows, Escape to the Country features the British countryside!

The basic premise of the show is that two people (usually a newly retired married couple who have sold their city homes for a stack of cash) are shown three houses in an area of the British countryside where they are interested in moving. Two of the houses fit the couples ideals, with a third ‘mystery’ house pushing the comfort zone of the pair.

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Currently Consuming: The Thick of It

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thick of itSwearing, confusion, back stabbing, power plays, an angry doctor, what more could you want in a show?

About: The Thick of It is a 2005-2012 show that follows the lives of the people who run the Social Affairs and Citizenship office of the British government. Characters that make an appearance range from ministers, personal assistants, civil servants, journalists, policy advisers, and the scene stealing Director of Communications, Malcolm Tucker.

Produced by the BBC, the show is an excellent mix of political intrigue, departmental stress and chaos. Actor, Peter Capaladi, known as the twelfth and current Doctor from Doctor Who, absolutely shines in the show. The show has since its inception spanned over four seasons and a movie, the HOB show Veep is even set within the The Thick of It world.

Why: The show has always been on my ‘To Watch’ list but the trail of Stan had the show, so I thought I would give it ago.thick_of_it_malcolm

Best Bits: Malcolm Tucker. Literally every scene he is in is a gem.

Thoughts so far: Due of the show being based on British politics, I feel that a fair amount goes over my head, especially in regards to slang and cultural knowledge, however I am loving the political intrigue and twists and turns of the show.

I have just finished Part 1 of the specials and cannot wait to start Part 2!

Top Five Companies that Celebrate April Fools Day

In recent times there has been a trend by companies, especially those centred around the internet and other such net based sources, to pull April Fools Day pranks on their users. Sometimes these pranks back fire, sometimes they are genuinely amusing but the pranks that stand out the most are the ones that are clever. Businesses such as Google, mentioned later in this list, are masters at the funny April Fool prank that some how manage to not enrage their users. In Google’s thirteen years experience pulling pranks, they have ranged from the convincing, to the obvious, to the out right fantastical.

What makes an online prank pulled by a business a success, is not how convincing they are, or how much hype they create but how engaging they are. If someone is pulled into the prank well enough, they are made to momentarily care, the following feelings of disappointment can be overcome quickly if the revelation moment can be turned into a moment of awe. The ‘that would have been awesome if it were true,’ feeling is largely what can be used to signal a successful online April Fools prank. 

  • Starting the list at number five is Hulu and the companies new line of shows that were supposedly meant to première in April 2013.

Hulu-April-2The April Fools Day prank saw the main page of Hulu showing upcoming releases that originated from other fictional televisual worlds. The prank saw the site feature shows such as ‘Captain Spacetime’ (from Community), as well as ‘Sick Sad World’ (Daria), ‘Mock Trial with J.Reinhold’ (Arrested Development), ‘MILF Island’ and ‘Rural Juror’ (both from 30 Rock).

Not only is this prank one that makes people double take but it is one that plays on the interests of its users. The cult following of a number of the shows featured are what make this prank such a classic. The excitement and momentary hope that fans of the show felt is enough to disappoint, however it is also enough to keep people laughing.

  • Although not a company, the hype and following that George Takei receives on the Internet deserves note and thusly he comes in at number four.

george-takei-swThe title ‘Master of the Internet’ should be awarded to Takei as each year, despite the date, millions of people fall for his April Fools pranks. In 2013, Takei posted that he would be playing the part of Master Ceti Maru, a member of the Jedi High Council, in a Star Wars movie. Never before have there been so many excited and then disappointed Trekkies and Star Wars fans. 

In the previous year, Takei had also posted news about a new Star Trek movie. Detailing the characters involved and the cast, Star Trek: Excelsior saw the return of Captain Sulu. Each post was received by many hopeful fans, many of whom expressed glee at such new roles for the actor. I myself fell for this delightful prank and was saddened to know that the Internet explosion surrounding it was not, in fact, real. Additionally it is worth following Takei on Facebook or Twitter, not only for the impending prank but for the wide range of humourous material he shares.

  • google mapComing third is Google which features numerous pranks on its sites each year.

Google always seems to embrace April Fools with pranks, starting with the MentalPlex hoax in 2000. Other past examples have seen numerous parts of the site embrace the day with pranks such as an 8bit Google Map, new Comic Sans font for everything and a Google Translate that could let you talk to animals, just to name a few.

Last year saw Google Maps, YouTube, Gmail and many more feature April Fools pranks. Google Maps transformed into a treasure map, YouTube announced it was shutting now, Gmail revealed a new blue look with many more announcements being made across the Google-sphere. Every year Google rolls out numerous April Fools pranks and hoaxes such as Google Nose, a new product that allows you to search for smells and Google SCHMICK which allowed you to redesign your house on street view.

Needless to say, do not believe anything you see or hear about Google on April Fools Day.

  • Coming in at second is ThinkGeek which is a wonderful shop that caters to all things geeky. Every year there is a perfectly time product release that, if one is caught out, is quite devastating.

thinkgeek_april_fools_2011Starting in 2001, the site released caffeinated meatloaf, a new Atari system, and remnants of the Mir Space station. Last year saw a release of a 3d Play-Doh printer, Bane Mask walkie talkies, an interactive Adventure Time Beemo, and an Eye of Sauron desk lamp. Sadly I as caught out and fell in love with the desk lamp. Upon entering the shopping cart page, I was sadly informed that, April Fools, the item didn’t exist. There is a silver lining however as due to the popularity of some of the items, ThinkGeek has actually manufactured a few of them. So no matter what is released, there is still a glimmer of hope!

  •   The BBC comes in at number one because of the long history the channel has of pulling April Fools pranks with the channels first one taking place in 1957.

swissspagThe BBC has a long history as a reputable news and entertainment channel, therefore whenever the company releases a prank, it is one that causes a few moments of second guessing, none more so than the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest Hoax. Airing as a five-minute documentary, the prank details the process of one family from Switzerland who pick and grow spaghetti trees. Similar to that of Orson Wells, War of the Worlds radio play, when the video was screened on television a number of people saw and believed the clip.

Since then the BBC has kept up a long tradition of April Fools pranks. Other pranks include a Brawl taking place behind a calmly speaking news presenter, the replacement of the national anthem with a German anthem, smell-o-vision television, and in 2008, footage of Flying Penguins.  The BCC tops the list though because it is believed that the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest was the first time that a company had used multi-media for April Fools.

Honourable Mentions: Netflix, deviantART, Virgin Airways, and Twitter (or Twttr)

The IT Crowd

ITThe BBC show The IT Crowd, created by Graham Linehan, focuses on the IT department of fictional Reynholm Industries. Roy, played by Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, The Sapphires), is an Irish IT consultant whose good natured lack of enthusiasm coupled with Moss’s (Richard Ayoade) very intelligent yet socially awkward mannerisms merge to create a dysfunctional workspace. Due to the pairs ‘antisocial’ and ‘nerdish’ behaviour are assigned a new manager whose job title is ‘relationship manager.’ Jen (Katherine Parkinson) has no knowledge of IT, however it is through her interaction and management that the department and the two men continue to function.

As a multi-camera sit com filmed in front of a live studio audience, the It Crowd is a typical British comedy. With only six episodes a season, the show manages to deliver good natured laughs with every episode. Classic episodes such as ‘Return of the Golden Child’ (S2E2) and ‘The Dinner Party’ (S2E4) have the power to still resonate  years after viewing. One liners such as ‘Who’s a Peter File?’ and the Box of the Internet (The Speech, S3E4) prove to be just as funny years later. The humour of the show is often drawn from the Roy and Moss’ ability to interact and be misunderstood by the company and characters.

The IT Crowd has had such an impact on viewers that, to this day the phrase, ‘Have you tried turning it off and on again?’ has become a staple in any sort of technological situation. The resonance of this quote is not only from the humour of the show but also from the actual mouths of anyone who has ever been asked for tech support. No matter your technical proficiency The IT Crowd is a show that does not discriminate as even the most low tech person will enjoy the show, indeed they may even learn something (such as the hilariously explained (S3E3) revelation that IT stands for Information Technology). If you have not seen the show, it is one that I highly recommend.