December 31, 2007

No FA Cup 3rd Round in HD

Extremely disappointed to find that none of the BBC's FA Cup third round coverage is coming our way in HD. Last season we had FA Cup and England internationals on BBC HD, but this season's first big games are nowhere to be seen on the schedules. What makes this even more surprising is that the BBC has the pick of the 3rd round games with coverage of the games featuring Man U, Arsenal and Newcastle, all big audience pullers.
I'm at a loss to explain this, especially given the fanfare and promise of the BBC's Head of Sport when the Beeb's HD channel was confirmed (quoted here).

December 30, 2007

Damages, Jan 6

Just been reading about Damages starring Glenn Close and Ted Danson, too. Starts on BBC HD on Sunday Jan 6 at 10.15pm. Radio Times says

Acclaimed American legal drama following a ruthless lawyer's class action suit against Arthur Frobisher, an allegedly corrupt former company CEO. Alleging that he encouraged his former employees to buy the company's stock, only to then sell his own stake after the inflation of the share price, she and her junior associate work to build the case against him regardless of the consequences.

So, is it any good? The American critics raved and it's nominated for four major Golden Globes:
  • Best Television Drama Series
  • Best Actress in a Television Drama Series - Glenn Close
  • Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Mini-Series, or TV Movie - Rose Byrne
  • Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Mini-Series, or TV Movie - Ted Danson
Coming hot on the heels of the BBC HD US quality import The Company this looks like another quality addition to our HD viewing. Thirteen episodes in all, and with seasons two and three already confirmed by FX in the States this could be well worth your time.

December 29, 2007

Missing from BBC HD

Trawling through my double issue of the Radio Times, I've noticed that the majority of prestige BBC dramas are still not appearing on BBC HD, which I find somewhat disappointing to say the least.
Over the Christmas period the following have all been missing from HD whilst we've been treated to repeats aplently on BBC HD;
  • Doctor Who
  • Oliver Twist
  • Sense & Sensibility
  • Ballet Shoes
  • The Shadow of the North
I know the Doctor's special effects preclude its HD filming, but you would have thought the others would have been shot in high definition? I find one of the big benefits of HD is the handling of dark n moody backgrounds, the meat and two veg of winter drama, but these shows are all still being shot on film but broadcast in SD. Most odd.

December 27, 2007

C4 HD on Virgin Media - the votes are in

It’s difficult to know who are the more disappointed with Channel 4 HD – those who don’t have the new channel (Virgin Media customers) or those that do (Sky HD folk). The poll run on this blog received almost 300 votes from VM customers with the vast majority (92%) voicing their disappointment at the absence of the channel from the VM line up despite launching on Sky mid-month. In fact, almost fifty voters sited it as the final straw and have decided to opt for Sky HD, whilst less than 10% declared themselves “not fussed”.

However, a quick look at the Sky HD forums will prove that the other man’s grass ain’t always that much more colourful. Check out the threads here and here: much disgruntlement with the paltry amount of actual HD currently on C4 HD – films apart, there is frankly bugger all HD at the moment. Sky customers say the upscaling is better than the upscaling their boxes do on Channel 4, but we know already that the V+ makes a better job of that than a Sky HD box.

So until Channel 4 start broadcasting in HD, Virgin Media customers ain’t missing that much. Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather be complaining about the lack of the HD programmes than the lack of the entire channel, but anyone thinking of shifting to a dish just for C4 HD should perhaps take their time before making any expensive changes.

But come on Virgin – what’s going on with HD services on cable??!


Listings for BBC HD are now available on the Radio Times site through to Jan 9, and I'm sorry to report it's four hours of repeats a day still. For those who missed it earlier in 2007, they're showing the last series of Hustle in HD at 10pm on Jan 9, but other than that it really is a pitiful line up for what is now supposedly a genuine channel.

December 24, 2007

BBC HD reverts to form

Those investing in an HD-ready TV this month better make the most of the longer BBC HD schedules this week, as from Jan 2 2008 it's business as usual.
The promise of more varied programming and longer hours isn't evident in the first days of 2008's schedules, with a weak diet of HD repeats and precious little to excite. Broadcasts start at ... 8pm. Bloody hell. Very disappointing.
So make the most of the next week or so, which features many of the HD highlights of 2007 in their entirety.
Happy Christmas to all fans of this blog - here's to a lot more HD on Virgin in 2008!

ps Fans of Ghost Whisperer should now find 17 episodes from season one in HD under TV Choice on Demand. Not consecutive episodes, but what did you expect?

December 20, 2007

BBC HD over New Year

Anyone anticipating a scintillating HD extravaganza on BBC HD whilst recovering from the previous night's celebrations is going to have sore disappointment to add to their sore head!
January 1st's schedule features The Electric Proms (yet again) and then five hours of highlights from the worthy but counter productive Live Earth concert.
At 8.10pm the second Lara Croft film is shown in HD - hardly a classic. A truly dire day's offering is salvaged by Terry Gilliam's excellent Twelve Monkeys at 10.10pm. Phew...

Lack of HD programming

Interesting piece from The Times last weekend:
Channel 4 begins broadcasting in high definition next month but there are still far too few HD broadcasts to satisfy those of us who shelled out for the new Sky boxes last year. Happily, the BBC is simulcasting Cranford on its HD channel. So it should. It was shot not only on HD but an expensive HD variation called Genesis. The result is that when an interior is lit by candles that really is all it is lit by. But HD does not work for everything. The BBC’s Oliver Twist was going to be shot on HD but has reverted to celluloid. Those famous chase scenes looked blurry, I’m told.

December 19, 2007

Channel 4HD's miserly HD content

Given how little genuine HD is being broadcast on C4 HD, I'm starting to wonder how much UK TV stuff is actually shot in HD. I heard a year or so ago that the BBC and C4 were shooting everything already in HD, but that doesn't look like it's the case by a long shot. The story last week that the BBC is having to rebuild sets (eg EastEnders) for future HD filming suggests that there's nowhere near as much in HD as people may have guessed. I would have thought the likes of Spooks, Oliver Twist, Fanny Hill et al on the BBC would be shot in HD, but apparently not. On C4, Jaimie at Home, Grand Designs, Shameless - surely in HD? Maybe not.
Almost all US shows from the last few years will be in HD, but the BBC only show a handful (Heroes, Medium, 3lbs) and Channel 4 show fewer these days - Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives are the only ones I can currently think of (Scrubs seems to be E4 only these days and even the mighty Earl seems destined to lose its C4 slot after poor ratings for season two). With the writers' strike in Hollywood hitting hard and it looking like most US shows this season will be restricted to around eleven shows each, HD content is going to be very thin on the ground.
Thinking about it, Five would probably have the most HD as it shows a lot of US stuff now. Maybe the next channel to be simulcast should be FiveUS?

December 18, 2007

Christmas on BBC HD, 30th and 31st

On Sunday 30th the afternoon "complete series in one sitting" is the absolutely mind-blowing Earth: the Power of the Planet. For me, this is one of the year's HD highlights and should not be missed at any cost. Five episodes from 12.50pm to 5.50pm. That's followed by the Chrissie episode of The Green Green Grass and two episodes of Wainwright's Walks. Culture vultures may enjoy Donizetti's comic opera La Fille du Regiment, but I'll probably be otherwise occupied. Worth having a look back at BBC HD though at 10.50 is Vienna: City of Dreams, a 90 minute tour of the city that promises to be an absolute stunner.
New Year's Eve is a mainly music day, with an afternoon of "highlights" from the Concert for Diana, which is preceded by some Tales from Beatrix Potter, especially for those who enjoy prancing frogs, bunnies and ducks. Be still my beating heart. More of the usual concert repeats in the evening, Electric Proms and Later to the fore, topped off with the movie Girl with the Pearl Earring.

December 16, 2007

What's HD on C4 HD

Actually, not that much. Here's a list of all the stuff actually in HD on the new, Sky-only (for now) C4 HD channel 'til Jan 5:
  • Ugly Betty
  • Conquest of Planet of the Apes
  • Knights Tale
  • The Long Ships
  • Solaris
  • Breakfast at Tiffanys
  • Scissor Sisters at the Dome
  • Changing Lanes
  • Keane at the Dome
  • Sky Capt and the World of Tomorrow
  • League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
  • League of Gentlemen - Apocalypse
  • The King
  • Explorers
  • Sexy Beast
  • Oldboy
  • Motorcycle Diaries
  • An American Tale
  • Amy Winehouse @ the Bush
  • Night World
  • Mika live in Paris
  • Golden Voyage of Sinbad
  • Home Alone 2+3
  • Bridge on the River Kwai
  • Vice Versa
  • Golden Child
  • Fantastic Four
  • Harry and the Hendersons
  • My fake body (doc)
  • The Dish

What I find amazing is that, apart from the stuff in italic (which is almost all live music shows) there's nothing there except films. Very disappointing if you ask me - I would have expected a lot more genuine HD content given the prestige of it being the first of the main channels to simulcast in HD. Let's hope they add considerably more before we get the channel on VM.

BBC HD Christmas line up - 28th & 29th

It may be now broadcasting twelve hours a day, but BBC HD are hardly pushing the boat out with new material over the Christmas period :o(
On Friday 28th it's all day Bleak House. Now don't get me wrong - I loved Bleak House - but every episode back to back in one sitting? Why couldn't they broadcast something like the new productions of Oliver or Fanny Hill in HD, rather than BH yet again? They look like they're shot in HD.
Anyhoo, for those interested it starts at 1pm and runs through to 9pm. It's followed by the film of Alan Bennett's The History Boys and a repeat of the Extras final episode.
Saturday 29th ain't much better. All five episodes of the Gryff Rhys Jones' Mountain are shown from 1pm, then it's Robin Hood, Norah Jones is session, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Kill Bill vol one. And the obligatory Jools Holland Later to round off the evening.
Has the BBC really got so little HD content to show? Or are they saving it up for a bigger launch of the channel early in the new year? At the moment, the extra broadcasting time is hardly being used to the maximum. Of course, over on satellite it's not much better - Sky One HD is mainly Simpsons and repeats of the Hogfather whilst Channel 4's HD content on the new channel is primarily films and Ugly Betty. I still think the BBC has the best HD programming around, I just wish they'd show more variety and get us out of this wretched Bleak House - Torchwood - Later repeats cycle.

December 14, 2007

BBC HD Christmas line up - Boxing Day and the 27th

Again, disappointing but an opportunity to catch up with two of the HD highlights of the year from the BBC:

Boxing Day:
1.45 Carmen (opera)
4.25 Cranford (all five episodes)
9.25 To the Manor Born
10.25 The Jackal (Bruce Willis remake)

December 27th
1.15 How We Built Britain (six episodes)
7.15 BBC1 Sessions - David Gray
8.00 Top Gear: Polar Challenge
9.00 Extras
10.25 A Little Later - Coldplay
10.40 Billy Elliot

New to HD (except the films) in bold

December 12, 2007

Somewhat disappointing BBC HD programming kicking off the Christmas break

The BBC HD schedules for the first two days of Christmas show extended broadcast hours but not much 'new' HD content. New HD stuff in bold:

Christmas Eve

2.20 Galapagos
3.10 Galapagos
4.00 Galapagos
4.50 BBC1 Sessions - Corinne Bailey Rae
5.30 Carols from King's 2007
6.45 Coast: From the Air
6.55 A Little Later - Arcade Fire
7.00 Pride (movie)
8.25 A Little Later - Snow Patrol
8.30 Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
10.45 Kaiser Chiefs Live at Doncaster
11.10 A Little Later - Paul McCartney
11.20 Shrek the Halls (animation short)
11.45 Later with Jools Holland

Christmas Day
11.20 The Wind in the Willows (Matt Lucas, Bob Hoskins et al)
2.40 A Little Later
3.00 The Queen
3.10 Carols from Kings 2007
4.25 Romeo & Juliet (Prokofiev's ballet, not the Zeferelli film)
6.45 A Little Later - KT Tunstall
7.00 The Electric Proms
8.00 Beyonce Live at the BBC
8.30 Strictly Come Dancing
9.30 Darcey Bussell's Grand Finale
11.55 Later with Jools Holland

No date for C4 HD on Virgin

Over at Digital Spy, a Virgin Media spokesperson is quoted as saying: "Virgin Media does not have a fixed date for the launch of Channel 4 HD yet, though we already carry HD programmes from Channel 4 through our on demand service. Popular shows such as Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, Brothers & Sisters and Studio 60 have already appeared in HD for Virgin Media customers, and we will continue to add more HD shows from Channel 4 to the 4oD area. Having these shows available on demand gives Virgin Media customers the flexibility to watch Channel 4 HD shows at a time that suits them rather than being tied to the TV schedule."
That highlighted piece is simply not true: only Brothers & Sisters was available in HD, and then it was 99p an episode (Channel 4 HD is a free channel). Making false statements like this seriously undermines Virgin's credibility (and that of Digital Spy - don't they verify these statements before publishing them?). Pretty poor show all round...
At least the BBC's HD schedules are looking good for Christmas, with the broadcasting hours extending to 12 hours rather than the promised nine for Christmas Eve. More details to follow

December 10, 2007

No C4 HD but...

A few HD tidbits appearing in TV Choice on Demand today - The Ghost Whisperer Season One (episodes 1, 2 and.... 5). As this a continuing storyline series, it does really make you despair that VM can't stick consecutive episodes up rather than this pathetic haphazard approach.

Channel 4HD launches on Sky

...but not Virgin Media, who remain silent as to when/if the service will appear on cable. Whilst there is probably disappointment a-plenty to readers of this blog, some consolation in the fact that there are actually only three programmes this week being broadcast in HD (as opposed to being upscaled) and two of those are Ugly Betty. There's also a showing of Planet of the Apes in HD, and presumably all films are going to be shown in HD now.
From the Digital Spy thread it looks like the launch has not been without some issues - sound dropping, etc. Still, it would be nice to have those kinda problems ourselves...

December 08, 2007

Christmas highlights on BBC HD

Haven't got my Christmas Radio Times yet, but picked this up from the BBC's website. There's a fair amount here, which suggests extended broadcasting times are a-coming.

* Strictly Come Dancing Special. Simulcast with BBC One.

* Extras Christmas Special. Eagerly awaiting in the Nialli household. Simulcast with BBC One.

* After You've Gone - Simulcast with BBC One.

* Jam And Jerusalem - From BBC One.

* The Green Green Grass - Simulcast with BBC One.

* To The Manor Born - one-off 60-minute special return of the "classic" British comedy. From BBC One.

* The Queen's Christmas Speech - in HD. SkyOne are making a big song and dance about them having this in HD, but Virgin will have it too.

* Festival of Nine Lessons And Carols . Simulcast with BBC One.

* Jool's Annual Hootenanny - welcoming in the New Year on the 31st. Simulcast with BBC Two.

* Romeo and Juliet - Kenneth MacMillan's adaptation of Shakespeare's romantic tragedy. Simulcast with BBC Two.

* Tales of Beatrix Potter - Royal Ballet performance, simulcast with BBC One.

* Darcey Bussell's Farewell Performance - Bussell's series of farewell performance at the Royal Opera House. Simulcast with BBC Four.

* Carmen - Francesco Zambello's production of Bizet's opera. Simulcast with BBC Two.

* La Fille du Regiment - broadcast of Donizetti's comic opera. Simulcast with BBC Four.

* Vienna - City of Dreams - Writer and presenter Professor Joseph Koerner explores Vienna during its Golden Age. Simulcast with Four.

* Wainwright's Walks. From BBC One and BBC Two.

* Wonder Boys
* Pirates of the Caribbean - The Curse of the Black Pearl (simulcast with BBC One)
* The Santa Clause Two (simulcast with BBC One)
* Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
* The History Boys
* Girl With A Pearl Earring
* Kill Bill Volumes One and Two
* Billy Elliot
* Twelve Monkeys
* The Jackal

Updated: HD in Video on Demand

Here's an update (Saturday, Dec 8) on the HD programming available currently to ex-NTL customers. I've put the new stuff in bold, but there's not a great deal of change to report. Lost Season Two is the main one, but it's not quite all there yet (in typical Virgin style). For those who aren't sure where to look, please see my earlier post.

Free TV

Ant Attack
Desert Lions
Diana - Last Days of a Princess
Hotel Babylon episodes 2 - 8
Planet Earth: episodes 1-5
The Blue Planet: Frozen Seas
The Blue Planet: Coasts
The Blue Planet: Coral Seas
The Blue Planet: Frozen Seas
The Blue Planet: Open Oceans
The Blue Planet: Seasonal Seas
The Blue Planet: The Deep
The Blue Planet: Tidal Seas
The Innocence Project 1-8
Rick Stein and the Japanese Ambassador
Superstorm 1-3

Filmflex HD
(all £4 unless mentioned)
Alpha Dog
Amazing Grace
Apocalypto (£4.50)
Arthur & the Invisibles
The Breed
Gone in Sixty Seconds
The Illusionist
The Messengers
The Painted Veil
Until Death
Wild Hogs

"Hidden" HD Programmes
Check under the TV Choice On Demand High Definition
Criminal Minds Season One 1 - 22 (exc. 7, 17)
Day Break 1-12
Grey's Anatomy Season One 1,2,5,6,9,10
Lost Season One 1-25

Check under the TV Choice On Demand A-Z
Dog Fight 2 episodes
Engineering an Empire 3 episodes
Lost Season Two 1 - 24, missing 12 and 21 and 3 is listed at the end! The full season is listed in SD, btw
Mega Movers 3 episodes

December 04, 2007

Some tinkering with the On Demand stuff

The double listing of episodes of Lost etc in the HD TV Choice on Demand category has been removed, and three more episodes from Grey's Anatomy have been added from season one. But they're random episodes rather than in sequence from the first two, so I wouldn't recommend anyone start watching just yet until Virgin get their act in gear.

December 03, 2007

BBC HD this week

Well, it's now officially a proper channel, but you wouldn't know it from the schedules. Still running from 8pm til around midnight (except at weekends), the schedules are very much business as usual this week. Which ain't bad as there's some real gold there, but ain't exactly exciting either.
Anyway, highlights this week:
Monday: more Bleak House; the Monarchy thing, Silent Witness, Twenty thousand streets under the sky
Tuesday: documentaries ahoy, mainly repeats but with Earth: the Power of the Planet as a real gem in HD
Wednesday: the conclusion of season one of Heroes!
Thursday: Electric Proms, the marvellous Cranford and the not-as-marvellous Who Do You Think You Are?
Friday: Glastonbury (Manics), the Green Green Grass, the Tudors, Not Going Out, The Visit, Lead Balloon and Later

December 01, 2007

Finding the HD On Demand programming

I've been asked to clarify where you can find the Virgin Media HD on demand programming as Virgin seem to be doing their darnest to hide it, so here's where you go (at least in the ex-NTL areas):

Press the Home button to access the On Demand Home menu.

Under 3. Movies On Demand there's no specific HD category, but the HD versions of around a dozen of the Filmflex films are listed in 7. All Movies A-Z next to the SD versions. They are normally £4 a pop, 5op more than the SD ones.

I can't be fussed to go through all the Music On Demand listings, but there may be some HD content in there; I've never noticed it though.

in 5. TV Choice On Demand select 9. More>. Under 1. High Definition you'll find Lost Seasons 1 and most of 2, some episodes of Grey's Anatomy and the first seasons of Criminal Minds and Day Break. For some reason, most are currently listed twice but they'll sort this out. The same programmes are listed in 2. A-Z alongside their SD equivalents (where they exist) plus there's some documentary programming like Mega Movers and Dog Fights (full details here).

Finally, there's the second listing of HD under 6. More On Demand in the Home menu, option 2. High Definition. This is where you'll find five pages of the BBC HD stuff (which gets changed pretty regularly, albeit subtly), the FilmFlex HD stuff all together, the lone Music On Demand offering and some 4OD Pay TV in the form of Brothers & Sisters.

Hope that helps. Virgin say they're adding more each week (and so far they are good to their word, though we all want MORE!). Still no word on the Channel 4 HD simulcast which is now imminent on Sky HD, nor any Channel 4 HD on demand.