Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Cape Wrath

It appears that there is a bit of a surge of new dramas on our television screens, the new one on More 4 with Chandler out of Friends will be starting soon, everyone's been harping on about 'Dexter' with Michael C Hall as a charming likeable serial killer (I'm hoping for an everyday television version of Chopper) and tonight (after Big Brother) began 'Cape Wrath'.
I was intrigued mainly because this has got to be one of the most interesting situations to form a drama serial around: Take a creepily fake looking town and throw in a few misfits, families and individuals unable to live their daily lives as they had before, misfits who, for some reason or another, are placed under witness protection. In amongst these misfits are families, those caught in the crossfire of horrific violent crimes, alongside them are the criminals themselves, those who dish out the violence. The resulting drama is, if it's successful a thrilling and at times squeamish sequence of events, one which I am hugely looking forward to obsessing over.
I didn't pay my full attention this evening I must admit, but I did see the climactic event on which I can only assume much of the series, or at least the next episode will be based around. It was gruesome, bite-into-your-cushion-or-nearby-friend's-shoulder terrifying, in between the rape and the blood and the bizarre psychological suffering of the young (emo) boy it's an admirable and enticing piece of programming which channel 4 have done very well to pick up. It's exciting when they bring us British drama; where the US dole out the somewhat over-the-top 'Desperate Housewives' and the frankly overrated and utterly confusing 'Lost' (I never got it and I never want to get it) it's great to see the Brits bring real monsterous bite. It's' neither cheap nor overdone, it's dark and it reminds me in part of 'Funland' which has got to be another of our home-grown masterpieces. What impresses me most is it is starkly different from anything that is currently flashing on and off our screens and as long as the characters grow and develop as well as I am hoping they do this could be the thing I come home on a Tuesday for.

Friday, 6 July 2007

short and sweet

I have to say, Big Brother is doing what it should have done long ago, yet equally doing it on just the right series. Watch the susicions, the jealousy, the arguments the chaos as they send in a bonafide MOLE. I'm cackling at the thought, every year they wonder, every year they pick a person and muse over their association with Big Brother. Now, not only are they putting in a fake housemate, it's someone they could have easily seen on tv before. She's got Balls of Steel indeed, and i wonder if anyone will notice. I can't wait to see if Charley starts questioning it, it will be beautiful.

Other important Big Brother comment of the night, Chanelle's still in (why god why?! I love Laura) and Ziggy's face was a petrified picture, what will he do now? Oh dear.

This is going to be something wonderful

Pop Politics

When you watch Eastenders have you noticed that if they're watching televsion it is almost always a nature documentary? This was certainly true a few years ago and as far as I can tell it continues this way. The characters of the soap have no interest in anything that is genuinely occuring in the real world, yet, on Monday's episode there was a political undercurrent throughout the episode.

This Monday the Queen Vic re-opened after a (so-called) refurbishment and with it was required to remove it's ashtrays and disallow indoor smoking. Obviously, it makes sense to make a point of it, as though it were reality, as though the Queen Vic had to suffer as all pubs in England have. But bizarrely, it seemed to take up the entire episode and episodes which followed, Dot's frustration, the lack of customers, and Pat's little private book club cum illegal bar where smoking is permitted.

I, unfortunately, have not watched any other English soap opera to notice a difference, I caught a few episodes of Hollyoaks this week but not attentively and usually I sat down in the middle of it feeling pretty knackered after work. However, considering all the goings on I wonder if it was something merely mentioned in passing. I can't say I've really noticed any smokers in Hollyoaks, it seems as though they're all too beautiful and care far too much for their health, I'm sure avoiding the fags keeps their skin clear and glowing.

Another thing Eastenders slipped in, also on Monday was an extremely fleeting comment on Gordon Brown's replacing of Blair. A brief mid-conversation moment along the lines of: 'we all thought it would improve with Brown'. I found it utterly bizarre, oddly placed and somewhat uncalled for. I need to rfresh myself on any rules the BBC may have on political comment in their programming. I'm not sure what that statement was intended to say or how it was supposed to be recived by the audience. It may have been specifically to demonstrate the programme is occurring in absolute real time, that episode, of that day, is very much that episode of that day. Thus, commenting on an affair as important and as date-specific as that demonstrates the attempted realism of the soap without necessarily making any genuine political comment.

Yet, really, I don't understand why it was necessary and whether subtly it may have been a comment, a quick dig at Blair slipped in, or simply the BBC speaking on behalf of the everyday people, the average individual within the nation that we're happy with Brown, we didn't need an election and we don't care that he was the only person who had been seriously considered for the post. I think it would be absolutely apalling if it was acting as this spokesperson but it's interesting that it was mentioned.

Eastenders has been attacking some slightly diffifcult debates which are very much in tune with current affairs yet I've found their attacks less attacking and much more of a stroke, a flippant and unconsidered gesture which comes to no conclusion and does little to open up any kind of discourse on a subject. Look at their poor attempt at involving an Eastern Europen immigrant recently, a co-worker to Dot, a baby, a difficult situation. She, the caring individual, playing it comfortably on the left. Jim, bowled from the right, angered and apalled and ready to get her deported, back to where she belonged regardless of her suffering, regardless of what broght her to the country. I felt that in the end the story didn't last long enough, it got thrown away and i din't really understand what was done with the woman or her baby, not enough people were involved.

Now, we've got the Polish builders, disliked by many, though a form of amusement for others, I can't figure out what exactly the intention of the writers is. Am I suffering a cynicism that emerges from some sort of insitutionalised racism? Does it make sense to have Polish builders? Maybe we should mix it up a bit, you get all sorts of builders, from all sorts of places, I know, I've been working in an environment with builders for the past week.

It's funny because on the on ehand Eastenders can tackle the issues or simply try and present an accurate reality but equally, such as with the Polish people, it can feel oddly uncomfortable. But maybe it's because in actual fact it's a utopia of majority white, mixed class people living in East London. This is hardly the case, city bankers and market traders do not live on the same square, there is not only a token Asian or Black family, there are many more and they play a bigger role in the community, their culture, if thre is a dominant community, will be hugely influential on the types of shops and trading which exists in the area and I just don't believe Eastenders has any kind of true check on reality. So, I figure that's why I find myself unsure and uncomfortable when they try to pop a few pieces of our lives in, either pretend with your little white fantasy or stir it up as far as your imagination/observations will take you. I really thing the decision ought to be made because these bizarre political infusions are removing us from the real juice, like the family love affair between Stacey and the father/son pair Max and Bradley, oooh...

Monday, 18 June 2007

Big Brother Comment v2.0

I keep losing my way, Big Brother is getting away from me this year and it's painful. A fellow BB fan felt the same, she didn't think it was as good as previous years, but I'd actually be willing to give this year a chance. I'd like to see Big Brother getting cheeky again, I'd like to see some more classic Diary Room moments of which I don't think have been since since 2005, or even 2004. I mean obviously we haven't got Victor's excellent monologues, Nadia's nicotine neediness or even god help us, Antony's inebriated come-ons when one of the Big Brother ladies was on the other side.

However, last week excited me, extraordinarily so, when they put Jonathon in, the boat well and truly got rocked. A 49 year-old self-made millionaire is going to have something to say in that house, he's going to command and he's going to bother people. Predictably, that's exactly what happened and no more than two full days after his arrival, there was no exceptions for nominations, the house spoke and Jonathon was too much to handle. They've got Mummy and Daddy in he and Carole and the kids want the nest to themselves. Admittedly, I missed tonight's show but in desperation to keep up to date I checked the website, Seany has been evicted. I'm pleased that Mum and Dad remain, Carole's cracking to quite dramatic proportions. She's evidently despising every minute of her time in the house and is nothing of the lively, liberal lady that bounded in a few weeks ago.

I look forward to seeing Jonathon be more controlling, patronising and somewhat disturbing over the week. He has to be interesting, he has to give us something, because he's one of the most unexpected characters to enter, especially this year when everyone is evidently there for a reason.

I think this year has subtlety on it's side, where the girls at first appeared to be the same person, you realised they weren't, but some seem to be regressing to what you didn't think they could ever be (see Nicky and the interesting dress-off over Liam last night). People have been pleased she's smiling some more but frankly I prefer her moody. I see a little of myself in her and I know that if it was't for the cameras I would do Big Brother in a second. It seems to me that she was curious to know what it would be like, she's intelligent and interesting and creepily that's something Jonathon often likes to vocalise. But, I can understand why, because she is. I'd like to think Liam sees more in her than that ridiculous sharade. He certainly sees right through Charley and I was in fits after he hi-fived Seany for plunging her into the pool.

I think potentially, this could continue to be a year for getting to know people, getting right under their skin with much less bullshit than previous years, less of the irritatingly loud individuals and school-playground style cliques and more of what Big Brother is ultimately about. I'm just waiting until they pull some more tricks and twists out of the bag because frankly Wednesday's was a little too simple and pleasant, no one had to sweat for that and no one has suffered any blows.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Second Coming

My flatmates and I have a guilty pleasure, I'd imagine most people would be repulsed by it, but we can't help it, it's an addiction, a desperately tragic addiction, and it's to some of the worst television known to man. It's not only shown on ITV2, but it tends to be a fairly late night affair.

This guilt comes twofold, one: 'Test Drive My Girlfriend', something which hasn't been on for a while and which, maybe, just maybe, we've seen every single episode of. Then there's two: 'Calum, Fran and Dangerous Danann', a programme which has been given a new lease of life and the whole series is being shown again.

These two programmes however, are merely examples of our shame, there was of course E4's tragic 'Hollyoaks in the City' which not only ended on a gripping cliffhanger, but got axed so no one will ever know what happened. We also dare to dip into programmes like 'Generation Xcess' and 'The Villa' which are so atrocious even I wince at the 'Ibiza Uncovered' style terror of it all. It's certainly not for the faint hearted and you must ensure that there is absolutely nothing better you could be doing while you're watching it, because if there is, then the guilt will simply devour you.

But alas, these are not what I'm here to discuss and they're certainly not my favourites, no, they're something I view out of complete curisioty, almost as a challenge to myself, just to see if I really mean it when I say I enjoy bad television. A show like 'Test Drive My Girlfriend' though, aa well as 'Calum, Fran...' can be appreciated on a slightly less primitive level, there's a more obvious and satisfying irony to watching those programmes, and by the looks of it, that's essentially why they get made.

'Test Drive My Girlfriend' has many points and layers of hilarity. The concept is simple, Paul Danann helps to find a girl for a desperate boy. He starts by auditioning them, making them do catwalks, and dance provoctavely, and occasionally making them do something relevent to the boy's interests/ideals, so they might make them cook, or demonstrate their knowledge of the offiside rule. There are rarely any more pressing matters than these to attend to. Paul then picks to girls to date, one after another, and finally chooses one he thinks is best suited to the poor lonely batchelor.

Now, as you can see, the very premise of the show is funny enough, Yet, there is more to it, it gets better, and you're looking for more levels of amusement as you watch more episodes, trends begin to form and thus makes it all even funnier. Here are a few of my favourite elements as I have become almost too familiar with the programme:

  • The fact that Paul Danann as any kind of womaniser, or indeed, anyone who knows anything about dating women

  • The additional and wonderfully sarcastic female narration

  • The girls, oh the girls, each evidently handpicked from agencies for young women who just want fame and glamour. If you watch carefully you can see some of those girls in the 'text date' style adverts in the middle of the programme.

  • The dates, Paul being useless at everything he tries, the girls being better and his subsequent falling in love for at least one of them, each week.

  • The big date, the desperate boy's useless demeanor, Paul's 'batchelor pad' complete with pink corner group and goodness me, the ear piece, Pauls 'advice'.

  • And finally, every week, they try to meet up again and the girl never ever shows, so sad...

I only wish I could give you a clip just to show you how addictively good it can really be. I find myself screaming with laughter on some many occasions, getting to know how useless Paul is at almost everything he tries to do.

Which leads me on nicely to Calum, Fran and Dangerous Dannan. I found myself only really eallowing myself any enjoyment from this show after getting to know Dannan in Test Drive... He's a character, he's useless in a lot of ways, physically unfit and unable to do most of anything, he's lazy and has no concept of what exactly is going on in the show, the fact that they are skint, the only way they can get money, is to make money. Poor Paul though, he just doesn't like work.

You see, this show is basically 'The Simple Life', you know, where Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie have to drive around the US and work and live in people's houses and generally live a little less luxuriously then they are used to (of course, not at any point in this programme do they have to survive prison but I'm sure they can create a little reality sitcom out of that one). Though, for Calum, Fran and Paul there is less of The Simple Life and more of 'The Easy Life' they've got paid for hotels each night so accommodation is not a worry, they just have to earn enough money for petrol to get them across Route 66 to their final destination. In fact, I know little of Route 66 but I've been told that they do not even have to travel half of it. So, there's not much to it really, earn some money for food or petrol, the former of which they have been given by their employers in some episodes, and then go on your merry way. What they often find themselves doing instead though, is once they've been handed their cash, they go straight for the nearest boozer. They get ver drunk, spend all their hard-earned cash within the first hour, hunt for girls and all manner of naughtiness, and get into fights with each other.

Yet, this isn't even the most interesting element to this reality road trip. The beauty is in the obvious manipulation by the producers. Each job pays by the amount of work and effort the boys have put in, so they'll often be given different amounts at the end of the day. Paul, as mentioned earlier does very little in most job situations, and yet he gets paid almost the same as either Fran or Calum every time. There's always one winner, and both Fran and Calum always deserve the most cash. However, somehow, someone says 'ooh, let's just give Paul a little more than he deserves, just to see what happens...' the faces on those boys are priceless.

I realise now though, I began writing this when the programme had been given a little rebirth, but alas, I've not seen it since. So, we'll just have to wait until I find some more ITV classics to throw in. Unfortunately I can't give The Villa the benefit of a full post, it's not worth it, I couldn't even stoop that low.


It seems as soon as I start a blog about television I seem to stop watching so much of it. I thought this would allow an acceptable guilt-free way of enjoying television and creating an occupation out of it. However, something went a little wrong.

I think a bit of a Big Brother lowdown is in order. It won't take long as I've barely seen it this year.

I am one of those suckers who loves Big Brother. I like to think of it in psychological, social experiment terms in order to make myself feel a little less ashamed of this fact. But in reality, it's fascinating just for the characters, the egos, the disgusting love stories which involve about as much romance and sentiment as watching two intoxicated individuals eat face at All Bar One on a Saturday night. I love it for its shere absurdity yet this year, two weeks in, I'm hard pushed to form those all-important imaginary relationships which have served me for the past seven summers.

It may be because I only watched the opening night, then proceeded to go out and have real fun with real people on other nights, or it may be because it's excrutiatingly dull this year, i'm not sure which it is. The launch show was interesting to say the least, a house taken up mostly by the same girl. Though what has developed are some stark differences but no real characters. Charley obviously is a fiesty little one who talks so fast I find myself dizzy and out-of-breath every time. I'm desperately glad she's not up for eviction because really, where would we be?

My biggest problem with Big Brother is the voting public, surely the beauty of watching Big Brother is the extreme Pleasure/Pain sensation. At times you want to rip out your own eyeballs whilst crawling naked over a thickly lain bed of broken glass because you despise the characters so much and you watch them destroying everyone else, destroying themselves and their own life, creating a reputation for themselves that no tabloid journalist will ever let them shake off. But no, it can't happen, because the public are pussies, they just can't take the pain.

I'm not even sure there is much else to discuss, there's no point in rehashing the 'race rows' (of which I'm not sure there were any, i mean, it wasn't exactly balanced, it was more of a knockout sucker punch) We all have our opinions and some have their conspiracy theories. The less said about all of them the better. We could also discuss the blossoming romance between Ziggy and Chanelle but I'd like to nod back to my previous point concerning a certain type of bar, on a certain night of the week.

There is the two new lads of course, though I've barely watched the show this week, much like I barely watched the show last week. Have there even been any fun interesting tasks? What happened to the person who created the inspired 'box-task' of Big Brother 6. Science and Kamal in a ferocious verbal battle exchanging words like:'you shut up!' 'No, you shut up' 'you shut up' 'you shut up', all beautifully edited. Bring those creative minds back, give us some entertaining tasks...though admittedly that could have happened, I could have just missed them.

I am looking forward to seeing more of Gerry, a researcher; so he's intelligent, but wonderfully camp and sounds very much like Nadia, who has to be my favourite BB winner of all time. It is in fact rare that I agree with their choice of winner, I was certainly in Glyn camp last year over Pete who bored me to shreds by the end of the series. I watched a live segment the night they entered of him discussing 1984 and the real 'big brother' with the twins, it was so sweet to watch, he wasn't being patronising in any way, he was genuinely trying to discuss it with them and they were interested in what he had to say. Beautiful. I'm glad they got to nominate this week, I like them, in all their innocence.

I also like, what I've seen of, Nicky, she smokes, she moans, she barely smiles and I love her. There's no reason to be all chipper all the time now is there? She's diplomatic, she's intelligent and seemingly not the usual Big Brother candidate, well done to them. Equally, I miss Lesley dearly. I'm disappointed in both Carol and Tracey and I'm yet to form an opinion on Seany those his Irish/Muslim comparisonintrigued me enough to give him a chance. Let's just forget about the 7" vinyl/CD necklace he wore on the first night for now, it's not worth dwelling on the rave.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Embarassing Illnesses

I have a confession to make; I couldn't handle it.

All week I saw the adverts for Channel 4's 'Embarassing Illnesses' a new programme about a clinic whereby people unafraid to step up and recognise that they've got piles, or dodgy nipples or whatever else can find treatment, safely, unashamedly and on prime time terrestrial television.

This excited me, my little antenna of curiosity had been tingling since Tuesday's 'Virgin School'; the one where a 26 yr old virign actually lost it, on television and I just wanted more. More outlandish attempts at uncovering the hidden voyeur inside us all. This had to be it I thought to myself, this had to be the ultimate series, loads of different people every week, coming in with more and more fucked up, disgusting, bizarre bodily issues.

I missed the beginning but I sat, and watched and saw the girl with the inward nipples. That's alright I thought, she's okay with it, she'd rather breast feed her baby than bother with this nipple issue. That's nice, comforting almost...but then I saw the man with the piles...

Oh no...oh no no no.

Those pictures, those awful unbearable photographs displaying the painfully stomach-churning vomit-inducing images of arseholes, of hemorrhoids...I can safely say I had no idea what they looked like and now I know and it's etched into my brain and it feels like it's itching and bleeding like those puss-ridden balloons...

That's all I saw, that's all I wanted to see, in fact, I left the television well alone after that, well well alone.


This is 'It's Not An Idiot Box': a blog about telly, because I like it.

Now, don't get me wrong, I like films with subtitles, I like to read, I have a degree (almost) and I can even, sometimes, appreciate real art in galleries and that...

But, see, I have a problem. I feel that television goes underrated. I feel that people are too quick to call it an 'Idiot Box' and frankly, I'm against such judgements.

Those people probably watch The Simpsons and Family Guy, they probably watch The Office, The Mighty Boosh and Extras. They probably haven't seen Snuff Box because they're too busy rubbishing television.

I'm fed up of these people, I'm fed up of DVD's. I'll watch a film when it's on telly, I'll watch Channel 4's weird and wonderful programmes, I'll watch ITV2's programme documenting the life of Jordan and Peter and I will watch all this with the greatest cheer.