Monday, 3 November 2008

Today's 3MW

I can't avoid Channel 4 for long and the '3 Minute Wonder' this evening was definitely worth a mention. It documented an Iraqi man in America, discussing the election and his experience.

He had run a successful restaurant business in Baghdad; he left for America and, because the restaurant trade is what he knows; began a new business there. He had an interesting, American melting-pot style view of his immigration. He stated that once you move to America you become American. He appreciated the freedoms, his freedom to vote Democrat or Republican, to walk down one street or another, to live and be as he pleases.

He was voting for McCain; he explained that Obama was neither to the far left nor McCain to the far right. In his eyes both were in the middle and he chose the middle-right mainly, by the looks of it for Palin bizarrely.

He also, rather interestingly spoke of how he'd prefer it if a woman was in charge, stating that if women were in charge there would be less violence as men as driven by it. That was a surprise, though he went on to talk about how they should look good too which was quite degrading and gave a sour edge to his earlier statement.

Still, I found it an incredibly interested and unpredictable depiction of an Iraqi living in America. Obviously, he's settled and has been there a while but he was a fascinating subject. It's a shame it only gets three minutes.

I watch too much Channel 4

It's true, I rarely deviate from Channel 4. Although this evening I caught part two of John Prescott's documentary about class on BBC2 (probably the only other channel I bother with on terrestrial). He, in his jaguar (one of two as the Tabloids love to point out) travels around talking to people and asking them what class they think they're in. I missed the first part because I was on my way home from a lecture (because there is more to life than television). However, I probably didn't miss out on all that much.

This time he hung out with Jodie Marsh in an attempt to seek out and learn about the so-called 'Celebrity Class' - I'm not sure what, if anything, Prescott or us as an audience could have possibly learnt from that or any of the programme. As a result, I thought it was pretty bloody awful as a whole.

Class is obviously a highly complex issue, just last week in one of my seminars we ended up in a discussion questioning the determinants of class - the transition of classes and the idea of social mobility; that and the mobility of the very classification of class itself. It is no longer a labourer against a business owner. We are not a nation of distinct employment classifications, we suffer from a huge underclass, we suffer from a mid-range, of people who work the jobs of the so-called 'working class' yet might too be students, or recent graduates, who might have been brought up entirely middle class and yet might graduate into the benefits underclass.

The question of class first requires a distinction of how it is to be approached. Do we distinguish class person-to-person on a completely individual level. Where does family or 'class background' come in? Does it only apply when you are still living with or being supported by your family? Can you only have your individual class identity once you have cut the family cord. If a child grows and works its way out of a social class how will their class background affect them? Will they continue to impose that background and mere ghost of social class on their family?

I didn't read about the programme, or see any reviews for last week but my opinion on this second part is none more than a shrug. I didn't gain anything and frankly I found that in parts Prescott and the narrator's interpretation of what some of the children he spoke to were saying and thinking was completely off the mark. I, of course, might have misinterpreted, but the way I saw it when he was speaking to a group of school children who attended a fairly standard comprehensive school, who might consider themselves working class, either didn't see themselves that way or didn't apply class to themselves or others at all. Yet, Prescott's conclusion was that class was still, in part, holding them back from what they wanted. When did they say this?

It really didn't seem like they were of that opinion. I think it was merely to lead Prescott to a point he wanted to make about the way children get more opportunity going to private, paid-for schools. Of course the statistics are difficult to argue with and I won't doubt the programmes research that yes, a high percentage of individuals in top positions in this country were educated in private schools. Those schools and social connections are an undeniable element of the employment structure in this country. However, this does not prove or disprove individual ideas (or ideals) of class and the class system. Many of those people may too be men, but that's another debate entirely and one that is unlikely to be lead by John Prescott.

I am pretty unimpressed by a lack of interest in what could be an entirely separate class of immigrants. If class identity has an historical position in terms of family or even an extended family class identification then what are early generation immigrants? Are they a sub-underclass? Are they below those who are considered underclass merely because they are not strictly 'working'? Yet immigrants do work more often than not, unless their asylum-seeker status forces them otherwise, but they don't have the class history. If John Prescott is desperate to cling to his working class roots then a migrant worker must cling to their own. Perhaps they were part of a middle class in their original country can they not remain so? In spite of what work they may or may not undergo here?

I know that you can only raise so much in a couple of hour-long prime time documentaries. I can see that Prescott is a bit of a class puppet and has little more to say than Punch or Judy on the matter, not truly and comprehensively. You can't desperately struggle to maintain an archaic system of categorising that does not meet with the consciousness of the nation. There are classes, of course there are, there is no ignoring a clear and present segregation of people in many ways, and the programme went on and on about the transition from black/white to grey, but it is more, much more than this. One woman's opinion went quite ignored and I was astounded that she said, before making her point, something along the lines of: "This is a man's discussion" and that the others seemed to agree and thus ignore her. She said that class was a subjective and individual question and I'd be inclined to agree. The programme didn't even try to posit a new set of recognisable determinants. How could they if they ignored numerous factors.

The celebrity class as well was a completely pointless an unnecessary insert. Neither a class nor particularly relevant their social status is more interesting in their position as class idols. Perhaps their elevation in society is due to an existing cultural lower class? Would class be better defined culturally rather than economically? Of course economics do come into it and indeed appear to help create that cultural class; geography and the physical placement of people is again economic yet again, helps to create for an individual a set of cultural guidelines and norms through the surroundings.

My flatmate this evening asked, though wary of sounding snobby, why the chavs all look the same. One's identity, physical, outward or otherwise, is of course negotiated and formed by numerous factors. Surely class, as Prescott sees it as rather an important element of one's identity, has to be the same?

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Dead Set 3 and 4

I'll admit, things were starting to bother me yesterday; not only the fact that zombies can run (in spite of the whole 'different types' argument - in a conversation today my friend pointed out that in 28 Days Later the running is explained by 'Rage' - in Dead Set there is no explanation as to why this whole outbreak has even happened) but my personal rage was getting further than that. I accepted the lady with the big rifle - which she might have plausably found in the country somewhere - as being some kind of Charlie Brooker fantasy woman; angry and ready to kill. However, last night we had BIG GUNS.

The police seemed to be carrying enormous machine gun things which seemed completely ridiculous. Do the police even carry guns in this country? I know there are special armed police - aren't they the ones who drive red cars? Isn't that the rule? Or is it just an urban myth? I frankly don't see why all police patrolling should have guns, no one else has a gun, they'd be better off carrying special police knives if they want an even fight with the criminals.

Anyway, this is all besides the point. Whether the police do have guns or not isn't the issue but, KILLING SOMEONE WHO HAS NOT BEEN BITTEN IS. How could they casually just let one of their own die? I know he was a complete moron but the situation surely could have been dissipated without ensuring his immanent death. Not only that but it mean the subsequent killing of his policeman friend. This thus lead to Winstone stealing one gun and the bloke with her the other. This would be fine if they'd had a little struggle trying to work it, but Winstone managed to use one discarded gun instantly in order to shoot the bloke in the leg and cause said immanent death. She seemed to have no problem working it and even less of a problem shooting one of the zombified housemates (the idiot who couldn't get herslelf out of a pool) right in between the eyes. I would have liked a little more trouble with aim please Winstone. I know you're a gangster hero's daughter but none of it is real.

Then the other bloke tonight was exceedingly comfortable with the big machine gun thing; just flapping it about like he was paintballing, ready, aim and fire...perfect every time. Bollocks.

I'm still enjoying it though, just about. I was a little miffed by last night's uninspiring ending, it all seemed a bit too nice. I don't care that Davina was still outside the door or that being trapped in the Big Brother house with a bunch of undead at the gate isn't a perfect situation but it certainly was rather a calm conclusion.

Tonight, in a lot of ways was no less frustrating. A BOAT?! A CANAL?! RIGHT BESIDE THE LOVELY HOUSE YOU FOUND?! How bloody convenient, especially when there's absolutely no way out of the front gate. I'm glad angry woman died otherwise it would have just been too irritating, boy found it very easy to axe her, probably because she was so nasty to him. Still, I don't like the way he's managed to find the Big Brother house already despite getting to it along water, with trees surrounding him (or at least it looks that way - I suppose we'll find out tomorrow).

Once again, the saving grace is always going to be producer and evictee, the greatest comedy duo I've seen for some time, the 'light machine' especially tickled me. Obviously, once they made it into the house after getting past Davina and Brian (stupid as a zombie as well as a human...what was he eating when they got past? idiot) the producers imaginative heckling didn't stop for anybody, nor did his general wanker-stature.

Final episode tomorrow and they've got a plan - will the boyfriend find them? Will they all get out alive? Might the producer finally stop being a cock and see the others as good people through the valuable bonding and relationship-building only achieved through working together to fight for your life? It's unlikely, especially as that evictee really is a foetus.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Day 2 on Dead Set

"Wifi, God knows what that does to your molecules" - the Big Brother answer to how this might have happened.

In fact, I sense a general distaste for technology across the programme: "How do you turn this thing on? (referring to a mobile phone) fucking robot's bollock."

I think I'm going to name my phone Robot Bollock from now on, just like those idiots who claim to call their remote a 'Megatron' (see a few posts back)

Indeed, day two was as magnificent as day 1, namely because the producer cunt was trapped in a room with the latest evictee; whether she is genuinely a complete idiot or not is besides the point (although the little dialogue about 'air' was pretty hilarious) - he thinks she is, therefore she is and subsequently becomes unbearable. With Davina on the hunt just outside the door, there's nowhere to go... and I mean literally, to 'go' and after too much obligatory escapism through the consumption of all available alcohol, evictee ain't best pleased.

Another highlight the boy who got trapped in the train station telling zombies to 'shut it' and then to his solo rescue party "I'm a normalite!". It's just gem after gem.

Of course, there's no point in going through the entire episode blow by blow; but I do wonder (something my flatmate pointed out on Monday) is how and why these zombies can run so bloody fast? I mean they all start running after cars and people with olympian determination. I can't imagine when all these people were alive they could run like that, with that same driven movement in their arms. One even managed to get pretty close to a van; she must have been a marathon runner when she was alive. I had always imagined zombies to be quite slow, and if they can run so fast why are they so incapable of opening doors or climbing over anything? I suppose that would ruin the whole Big Brother angle. I mean the whole point is that they can't get through the fence, crawling and clambering over each other to dog-like whistling and pot clacking. It's a good thing really, I'm certainly considering applying for Big Brother just in case of an apocalypse. Would it work for a nuclear explosion?

They're also lucky, that one of the Big Brother imbociles knows something about medicine; not just a pretty face, obviously. ..

Tune in tonight for more! Where hopefully we'll get to see whether they make it to Tesco before it's too late.

edit: I have just discovered that there are in fact, different types of zombies. Those depicted on Dead Set are a bit more modern than the old 'Night of the Living Dead' types. So, I suppose I'll have to retract the above question because, I was a bit wrong. Although, it still stands that if zombies have evolved since movies of old then could it be that in later incarnations they will be able to get through doors? Or over gates? Or even out of pools?

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Dead Set

A show about zombies? The only survivors being in the Big Brother house? Charlie Brooker wrote it? I'm not sure there's anything NOT to like about this concept.

This show no doubt appeals to fans and despisers of Big Brother alike. On the one hand the excellent use of a real eviction night and Davina to 'get Pippa out' and on the other a total mockery and acknowledgement of just how miserable post-apocalyptic life would be if Big Brother house-mates were the sole survivors. Well, them and a couple of TV people though it's arguable whether they're useful (my flatmate would disagree).

I'll admit right now, I don't know a thing about zombie movies; if there were any references, I didn't spot them. Apparently the bit where the runner smashed a zombie over the head with a fire extinguisher was a rip off of 'Irreversible'? I have no idea, anyway who cares! It was amazing!

The gore!
The outrageously disgustingly sickeningly hilarious gore!
The unsentimentality when the runner stabbed the other runner she got fruity with minutes before the 'attack'.
The zombie in a wheelchair?! What?!
Davina zombie! I particularly enjoyed Davina zombie going after that arsehole; was he the producer?

He really was an arsehole, leaving everyone to die as he shut the door on them, what a shit. I like it though; I like that he has survived thus far, it makes it all the more awful. We've got the oblivious Big Brother air-heads and a selfish narcissistic bastard who has absolutely no desire to save anyone but himself at any given moment. Yes, he must live.

Obviously, the runner is a true hero; not only did she stab that guy in the neck with the scissors but once she got in the Big Brother house her fear, her threats and her eventual vomit-inducing repeated smashing the head of a zombie intruder with a fire extinguisher was suitably courageous; if only that had happened on actual Big Brother. I'd be much more inclined to watch that - imagine the headlines!

Though I'm sad that it'll all be over in a week, it's pretty exciting too, give in to the true nature of Big Brother - bombard the audience! Every night! Until we get so sick of these idiots we want to smash their faces in! Except, they might die, so you want to watch, you don't care that it's on every night because it will be really entertaining. Unlike recent Big Brother years...

This is definitely the best thing to happen to Halloween in ages. It's a night almost as pointless and depressing as any other, except you have to dress up in stupid clothes. So, stay in and watch zombies try to destroy the very base of our dispicable society - reality fucking television.

Monday, 6 October 2008

The Story of Maths

Tonight, I got excited. I got excited because a programme called 'The Story of Maths' was on. I like maths, I am fascinated by it and I loathe myself for not taking it at A Level (it was, I'll admit out of pure fear of inadequacy and thus failure so I did easy things instead). I got yet more excited when I found cool things out about the Egyptians and the Mesopotamians who discovered and used a lot of clever things which were actually put into theory much later by the Greeks and beyond. I like the philosophical element of maths which can fit comfortably with the practical; making two pieces of a whole. I like how the 'Story of Maths' demonstrated all these things with enthusiasm, encompassing the history and progression of civilisation as it is linked with maths.

Thanks to some of the things I've been reading and learning I found myself thirsty for more on the practical application and uses in Egypt. They mentioned taxation of land being calculated through measuring the area of a farmer's land. I wanted to see what mathematics and its uses gave to the formation of what we see as civilised society. I didn't really get to see that relationship, though that bit about land was an interesting point.

It concentrated (naturally) much more on the development of mathematical formulae, patterns and uses of patterns. The Egyptians discovered binary through their multiplication system. The mesopotamians figured out a way to establish the area of a circle; figured out pi. The use of Pythagoras' theory 1,000 years before it was written down in both camps and the teaching and fondness for a playful use of maths, tactical maths in old board games like Backgammon.

I might sound ridiculous for getting so excited, but maths really was one of those oddly enjoyable subjects. It was horrific when you couldn't figure it out, but once you had it, that was it, it was a rule, you could stick to it and work through the problems. The fact that maths was always about one answer and finding a method in order to achieve that answer is so appealing when so many other things are chaotic and inconclusive. The axioms that help to build up those rules are fascinating in the way they can be hidden and forgotten purely because they are axiomatic, unless you're clever and good at figuring things out.

The show has a lovely charm to it because it explains things and informs the completely useless and unknowing like me, whilst probably make actual mathematicians smile at the very idea that someone is willing to contextualise something a lot of ordinary people find terribly frightening.

It's just a shame that perhaps, because it was on BBC4 ordinary people might not have watched it. Thankfully, I'm very ordinary so I learnt a little bit at least.

See the second in the series (there are four) next Monday, 9pm, BBC4.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Politics on TV

Jamie Oliver doesn't really do it for me and it has been a while since I've watched one of his bothersome programmes. I cook for myself a lot of the time, try to eat well, yet he still manages to make me feel shit, in some way. There's never any sense of pride when watching Jamie, he just goads and goads. So, last night I watched Griff Rhys Jones getting angry on BBC2. I missed the first episode and I wonder perhaps, if I missed him getting really really enraged? Last night he was reflective, trying to hone his anger with boxing and the like (a little bit like the kids and that ex-con on The Wire).

On a personal level, it was great. It taught me that I'm not as angry as I think I am. I mean, I don't proper lash out at anyone (even though I think about it). I don't have the physical onslaught of anger, the 'seeing red', the boiling up inside. I think, actually, I only ever get angry at myself. I certainly have the insecurity problem of anger. However, I don't direct it at anyone. I'm acutely aware of my low self-esteem, the way I can change it, the things I should be doing, I just don't do it. I get frustrated at myself, I often vent and complain and whine but I'm pretty sure I don't actually get aggressive towards anyone else. Good one me.

Griff however, isn't like that. He gets pissed off, but then, I found it rather amusing and ridiculous when he talked about the way he got angry; the things he got angry about. So petty, for example - the problem with getting to GMTV (or whatever) for 7am only for Ben Fogle to be on the earlier slot and for him to be waiting around until after the news. His story at the group therapy session in LA about some director in a theatre production annoying him because he knew what he was doing, he'd done it before. It all seemed so pathetic. What is there to be annoyed about? He doesn't have to work, sure he probably wants to, and no doubt he works incredibly hard, but as he complained about not having the time for this and that I think: surely Griff, surely you can just quit something? I mean, there are people out there stressed out, on low wage who can barely keep up with daily expenses and children and problems and they are very much entitled to lash out. It's probably those exact people pictured on CCTV lashed and really aggressive. Where do they hone their anger? Except on the streets, on strangers, in booze.

Anger, I think, is culturally dependent. Depending as well, of course, on you as a person and your individual behaviour; whether you're passive aggressive or indeed simply aggressive. Those who are aggressive, I believe in this country are more likely to direct that aggression, as they've got the freedom to be, in some ways. I think, there are a lot of things that happen more in countries like ours because of the freedom and wealth that we have. Even if we're not all that wealthy. It's the notion that we expect so much yet do so little about it, I think, that makes us angry. We expect it all to happen and when it doesn't, when it's a bit hard, we get frustrated. I always go for this theory, with just about everything that is a bit wrong in this country but I do believe it plays a part.

I'd like to compare and contrast anger in different countries, different worlds. Has capitalism helped to make us angry? I wonder.

Jamie got angry, I saw that, because I did watch it in the end, albeit after reading G2 today. The article on class and food was really not a surprise and if anyone read it and was surprised then they obviously live in Jamie's bubble. It has clearly been an issue in all his crusades, in all these health freakouts and not to mention environmental ones. Organic this and that; why do you think all these guys are on Channel 4? People like me watch it; people with money (or parents with money) who have been taught to cook and know good recipes and delicious food and are willing to spend their money on it. Channel 4 is not there for those benefit folk from Rotherham, young mothers with no time or money. Those people that deserve to get angry but probably don't because they've got too many other things to worry about.

It's interesting how G2 referred to the programme as being an important comment on our culture because I'm pretty sure all the other programmes have alluded to the same issue; You Are What You Eat for one. Didn't that constantly demonstrate the type of people facing this food/class struggle?

It's funny, thinking we live in a classless society when clearly it's there in red, been there all along, it's on Wife Swap and all those other Channel 4 reality/documentary crossover shows. This is not new, this is simply giving the issue its worth.

Yet, I don't think it is enough. Aside from the part where the woman was crying about her debts Jamie did nothing to try and comprehend the real financial strain these people are under. Not just that, but time constraint. It's a real life problem and what the programme needs to do is focus on money, focus on the price of the food they are using and keep going for simpler, disgustingly simple ways to cook decent hearty food. I don't know the answer, if it was up to me I'd give them a slab of mackerel (ready to eat), a few fillets are less than £2 in Tesco but then that's not something kids would enjoy and goodness knows is probably still too expensive. How Jamie got them to buy salmon I don't know. He really should have been giving them something cheaper like Rainbow Trout to cook with. Even I don't buy salmon and I'm a big fan.

It's still brushing over it really, this is not the social food revolution, this is not the working class struggle. They were showing the good a little more than the bad, and no doubt they'll continue to show the good but then when the show is over it will all go back to normal. I just don't think it has the depth it ought to have.

I also think it could do a lot to show the rest of the working class - the immigrant class. The great majority of Jamie's pupils were white, partially because it was in Rotherham but partially, I think because there is a very different culture in many of our immigrant communities in this country. Whether working or middle class the relational culture is hugely related to food, having dinner together, cooking decent meals and passing that recipe on. Why is it such a white British issue? Why is the family so prevalent in other cultures but not the white British culture? Or at least not anymore.

I've been learning about individualist capitalist societies in the West in relation to relational Eastern ones; they are the growing success, they are emerging out of the economic crisis. Is that individualism part of every aspect of this culture? Including food and meal times? That's a scary thought, that even family has lost out to capitalism and its greed.

Friday, 19 September 2008

The Family

No self respecting tv-lover should have missed Wednesday night's 'The Family' a fascinating fly-on-the-wall look at the everyday life of a British family. A documentary once made, one revolutionary has been reborn in an age of cheap, desperate reality television.

Saying that, I nearly missed it, I was luckily because I came home to see it being repeated later the same evening. I was however, a little bit tipsy and though I had many a comment in my head that night, two days later it's gone.

'Why don't you 4OD it and then bother us with your thoughts' I hear you cry. Well, I can't be arsed so I'll try and piece whatever memory I have of the show and my thoughts on it together, excruciatingly.

Firstly, I remember being quite fascinated by the way they really looked like a family. I mean, they all looked alike. I found that incredible, that on our screens, on a daily basis we are faced with fake families and here they were, really, very real. It struck me and I realised just what this show was capable of: reality.

The focus was the mother's looming birthday and the eldest daughter's total irresponsibility. It was a classic scenario where the mother feels unappreciated, she feels old and disconnected, her daughter doesn't want to be around her and the rest. It reflected my own experiences in a lot of ways, in spite of the situation being completely different. No doubt I'd imagine everyone could relate and reflect each in their own special way.

My personal alliance lied with the younger siblings, the young boy who remained quiet, doing everything to please, trying to be nice but getting it thrown back in his face. It's trouble being the young one, the quiet sensible one. You get lumbered with the suspicion when you're older because your sibling lied and argued and shouted, but all the while you're honest and try to keep on the good side, not wanting to rebel. That's how I saw the boy, the way he didn't even know what to do with himself a lot of the time, quiet...silenced.

I liked it because I'm a voyeur but also because I'm human. Seeing the utterly, abysmally normal is quite satisfying. Seeing successes and failures and seeing the poignant moments where daughter and mother reconcile like the good friends they know they are inside. I feel like the family agreed to do it because they know it's not embarrassing really. They're aware that everyone in every average family will be able to read what's going on perfectly, no judgements, just sympathy.

I do wonder what happened (no, I haven't tried to research it), did they nominate themselves? Were they found for being statistically average? (wasn't that a Simpsons episode? Or Family Guy or something?). How did they agree? Did anyone kick up a fuss or did the media-whore in them get the better of them?

Then, saying that, I don't feel like that fame criticism is there, I'm not sure why but there's something else to it, perhaps the true reality aspect which nulls the whole celebrity hunger bullshit. Maybe they just saw it as important.

Is it important? Is it important for us to watch a family as they plod through their days, struggling at parenthood, struggling with adolescence, struggling with the very essence of the everyday? What does it achieve? I know I (drunkenly) felt some affection towards them through my empathy. But do we need it on our screens? And is it still revolutionary now?

I suppose it could be, because it reverts to the simple and it reminds us of what is missing, if we must be so obsessed with the reality format, then we should return to this level, the Big Brother Series 1 approach of shove some people in a a house, let them read if they want to and don't play stupid tricks on them all the time. It just brings us back to a question of purpose for television; public service or commercial. What do people needs vs what do people want?

I have no answers really, but I'll certainly keep watching, maybe I'll start to figure it out.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

When Women Rule the World

What an absolute pile of shit. I've never been so utterly abhorred by a piece of programming. I like trash telly, trash telly is why I started this blog, but this is appalling. I just can't get to grips with the concept; I can't see what the idea was derived from; I can't envision a producer's desired outcome. I watched it because my flatmates told me how awful it was and I wanted to see for myself. I watched it because I couldn't begin to believe that there was no comedy in it. I can only relay, just like my flatmates did to me before, that there is no comedy, no irony, nothing.

'When Women Rule the World' is an attempt at creating a tribal 'society' on an exotic island where ten women get to tell a number of men what to do. Each woman has their own servant, she their mistress. They tend to her needs, apparently, though you see little of anything except mindless bickering and inconsequential revolts from a hand-picked bunch of prize buffoons.

It is absolutely not a sociological gender-role swapping experiment, I'm sure if it was it would be prime time Channel 4 because they like messing with things like that. I'm not sure it claims to be that anyway, but then I'm really not sure what it's doing, it's certainly not funny, a point I can't help but reiterate. It doesn't seem to want to represent any one gender as 'better' but rather depicts a whole bunch of idiots who have obviously got nothing better to do than run around in hardly any clothes. Shipwrecked does it too but at least they don't assume intelligence, they know we know they're stupid. These people perhaps, do not. No gender is winning any popularity contest by being in this show. The women at times go on a ridiculous power trip, demanding all sorts of pointless things and claim the men are condescending them, taking it all rather too seriously. Whilst the men get way too macho way too often and try to play practical jokes and talk about whether or not they'd want to sleep with any of the women, and also take it all rather too seriously.

The only hint at favouritism comes from an otherwise unnecessary Steve Jones, his pointless unfunny narration tries to play with gender stereotypes but really doesn't try very hard and fails, big time. In fact, it makes the entire programme much less funny than it previously was, which was not funny at all. He occasionally has a manly chat with the men, laughing and joking about the situation with the women and here he shows where his loyalty lies.

The 'sacrifice' is probably the most ludicrous part of the whole thing only because it is so ridiculous it merely epitomises the show in its entirety as an enormous pile of vile stinking, I-must-smash-everyone-involved-in-the-making-of-this-show, faeces. In this 'sacrifice' each woman gets to say her piece and nominate one of the men, this week Mikey an irritating young Liverpudlian with irritating blonde hair swept back with an irritating piece of elastic, lead the boys in a practical joke involving conditioner and condoms. What made him and it more irritating was that he was completely unsuccessful because one of the women went to bed before he could begin planting the seeds, so to speak. The other man on the chopping block was Steve, a muscular type who ensured the men got the booze they deserved, completely breaking the rules made by the women. The woman pick their sacrifice by slapping some paint on their chest, all tribal like, then the queen ultimately decides. In the end one of the blokes wins £30,000, I'm not really sure what for though.

I didn't give a shit who was going, I didn't give a shit because I didn't particularly want to watch the fucking piece of arse so far in, it lasts a whole hour! But I did, because I realised that I had to watch it all before I could really post a full and frank review.

If you want to know, Steve was shipped out, as declared by the idiot queen even though most nominations pointed towards Mikey.

Really though if I were you, I wouldn't go near it, I wouldn't give it enough time to get angry about it, it's not worth it. It is completely absurd, everyone is stupid and it just goes to show the complete idiocy of humankind, and by this I refer not just to the bunch of used nappies on the show, but also to writers, producers, September films or whatever the production company is and every other fucking tosspot who allowed it to be aired.

I'm all for jokes, I'm all for playing around and taking the piss out of gender stereotyping, I'm all for total irony for the sake of total trash television, but this? What the fuck was this? It does nothing, everyone takes the whole thing too seriously and now I'm left completely unable to laugh at it. I was hoping the 'writer' Richard would at least have a bit of sense but instead, he tried to be the big clever one and absolutely failed to start a strike and started talking about Animal Farm at the women, proclaiming along the way that they probably won't have read it. NEITHER HAVE I, WHO CARES? YOU'RE AN IDIOT FOR BEING THERE. If you were intelligent then you would leave. Simple.

The worst part it, I can feel myself watching it again, for want of something better to do, and getting angry all over again. If I do, I hope things start to get funny, maybe that's just the nature of the show? It takes time to get the irony? No? I didn't think so either.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Generation Kill

I had initially given myself a set of rules, a guideline of what would be valid on this blog, or at least, I had imposed on myself one particular rule, that I would stick only to television programmes I watch on television. However, I've had to ignore that rule, if only in favour of cool points.

I haven't mentioned The Wire yet, partly because of my underlying blog law, but also partly because I was thinking of having an ultimate Wire special where I would allow myself to spew uncontrollably about every aspect of the show, from beginning to end. I would allow myself to break my rule, only after watching all five series'.

But, I haven't finished yet, I'm anxious about beginning series five, I know it is supposed to be conclusive, drawing together the themes and characters of the past by finally bringing in the media, but, well, I'm biding my time, at least for a weekend or so.

Instead, tonight, I took to watching 'Generation Kill' written by David Simon and starring our friend Ziggy from The Wire Series Two, it's a gritty drama delving into the sandy depths of the recent Iraq war. A hefty challenge and one that many others have undertaken, usually in feature format, and often quite easy to ignore.

It's not as instantly gratifying as The Wire, not for me anyway, perhaps because the issue is a little too close to home. I find it difficult to watch documentaries and dramas which concern themselves with the events of the past five years or so, I find little solace in any anti-war stance and sometimes I take offence too easily at any mistreatment of Iraqis.

Generation Kill does have a nice script, naturally, though perhaps verging on being a little too smart - it doesn't have the Baltimore twang that made The Wire smarts fitting and acceptable. But then perhaps, I want to be critical. It also has the satisfying difficulty of figuring out who you like and who you don't which came with the first few Wire episodes. I liked the comic relief, the gas mask situation particularly, and naturally the nazi walk. I like the ridiculous Godfather character and the reporter and even Ziggy is a bit less unbearable - not that he's called Ziggy.

In all, I could like it, but that doesn't stop me being cynical about war dramas. I worry about their ability to get the two sides of the coin quite perfectly sculpted. I wonder just how much of it really is bullshit, as I don't know how far the writers have been in all this. I suppose it is something I'll have to research.

I might be proved wrong as the ending of the episode hinted at a promising series; a group of Iraqi's who surrendered to the Americans were turned around, back towards death, the unified guilt completely erased all previous behaviour, however disgusting. Yet, the point is, they did engage in such behaviour, it's as though they don't know what they're thinking half the time; some proclaiming the Iraqi's humanity, other seeing them, dark skinned, foreign, wearing unfamiliar clothing, holding unfamiliar belongings and crying out to be mocked, face down in the mud. It needs to be sympathetic to the marines, but equally, it has to show their filthy habits, and I think, it might just be worth moving on to episode two, just to see if both heads and tails look as well drawn as the other.

Perhaps I'll break my rule again soon...

The Wrong Door

Thanks to a friend at the BBC (ha) I was made aware of BBC Three's new sketch show some time last week. Their attractive interactive website and numerous fake government organisation type sites to coincide with the show were enough pull to switch over from Charlotte Church's (olympic swimmer winner) Becky Bashing and have a gander at the sketches I didn't see online. I recommend the main site highly for its entertainment value and its quirky little games. However, exploring the Urban Zone will take you to the TIT website (Tactical and Intelligence Training) which induced real, out loud, laughter when I first saw it.

So, clearly, I had spent enough time on the website to see the destructively forgetful robot looking for his keys but it was no less amusing. The annoying little shit Nemesis III was as annoying as I could ever have imagined and Dance Mat Girl looked like she was having a whale of a time.

I was pleased to see Matt Berry pop up though he's becoming little more than a comedy cameo of late, it's almost as if putting him in will make everyone thing the show has more comic credibility. In some ways, it sort of works, he certainly manages it better than Rich Fulcher whose last effort (or at least, the last thing I saw) Trixie and Whateveritwas, was so unforgivably appalling that I barely lasted ten minutes into it before switching over in disgust.

The show made use of keeping it to a few sketches and giving each piece a little bit of a story but I know there's more to come. It felt a little bit of a slow burner but it was not entirely devoid of laughs, the bit towards the end with the car crashing into the lamppost was a personal highlight, but I don't think I'll ever get the dinosaur boyfriend bit.

Giving it that alternate universe edge is nice and it could really develop into a darkly funny bit of British comedy. I want more and just by looking at the website(s) I have no doubt I'll get more.

Start here: The Wrong Door, have fun.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

I'll make this snappy

My computer's having a slow day but it's only right that I mention something I caught on BBCThree this evening. I think it was called 'Britain's Most Disgusting Food' or something to that effect.

It was presented by a charming young man by the name of Alex Riley, with his rectangular, dark rimmed glasses and rather floppy hair he looked great in a lab coat and even better in a wet suit filled with 40% his own weight in water. He was out on a mission to find the mos disgusting, crap-filled food in Britain and it was a wonder what he came across. 'Bangers with Beef' was a favourite, with only 5% beef, these 'bangers' because it's illegal to call them sausages, were fall of the most appalling, sickening, science-experiment, lab rat crap you could imagine, E numbers, 'connective tissue', pork fat, reconstructed chicken (or something) and he made it all, into a lovely sausage, and fed people with it at the Good Food Show. He even tried to ask Gordon Ramsey about his endorsements of this Cash and Carry, at a book signing; this didn't go so well.

In some ways he was the antithesis to Hugh Fearnley Whittinstall (forgive spellings, I can't be bothered to Google him) in that everything he did was concentrated on 'food' that came barely anything close to a farm. He made pies, 'meaty' and 'sweety' and tried to fob them off. He, in true journalistic fashion, got told to stop filming, asked if he had permission to be filming he said: 'no', because he's a trooper.

Of course, he wasn't really the antithesis to lovely Hugh, he plays a supporting role to his quest, look at this bad food, so Hugh can kep plugging the good food.

I'm not even fed up of these programs though, in fact I want more, I want a constant reminder that I should, wherever possible, be cooking my own food using good quality ingredients. For example, this evening, I made burgers (to Jamie Oliver's recipe on the 'feed the family for a fiver' ads) and they were delicious and all good, aside from the fact that they were fried, I FRIED THEM. Well done Jamie, well done Mr. Riley.

Of course the best part about tonight's programme on disgusting food were all the comedy interludes, he set to market his pies and made a hilarious advert with a child asking for 'more connective tissue please' then at the end he goes to his 'mum': 'can i eat one' and she slaps the pie out of his hand: 'no, they're disgusting!' Beautiful.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008


I'll admit, there are a lot of reality TV shows that I only watch because of Alex James (because, let's face it, he pops up a lot, that rock band show for example, or that time he was in a jury). However, what resulted was not just his warming smile and farmer pot-belly but another reality TV veteran: GOLDIE! Not to mention some agreeable faces like: Peter Snow, cousin of news favourite Jon Snow and the delightful Sue Perkins, who, someone told me, was the Guarian readers' answer to Jodie Marsh. Nice. Such comments don't really bother me, perhaps Guardian readers need their own Jodie Marsh. Anyway, she's both intelligent and entertaining...Sue Perkins that is...not Jodie.

So, why might the BBC have brought these eight rather interesting celebrities together? (Bradley Walsh is another; balancing it out a little from the middle class-ness of it all.) Well, it's only to go and teach them all the be conductors for the BBC Concert Orchestra! What's more, they help those low-culture masses by using familiar pieces of classical music like, you know, the one that's used for the opening titles of The Apprentice, and the Fantasia one oh and err the Alton Towers tune...that way we can 'do do do do' along and flail about ourselves, really getting to grips with what the stars are going through.

It started with a demonstration of precisely why it's difficult to be a conductor, thanks to the delightful Alex James' sweetly nervous and frankly piss poor performance. Asking his orchestra for help and desperately unsure of the tempo of the piece he bumbles and stumbles and stop-starts his way through an abysmal version of 'Carmen' by Bizet (don't think the audience can't learn a thing or too as well, I learnt all about those four pieces of music, like, who they were by and, what they were called...) but it's all okay because he hasn't been taught a thing yet, we figure they will all be like that. Quite unfortunately for lovely Alex, they're not. It appears most people seem to grasp it pretty well, all considering.

It's feature-length and thanks to BBC, no loo breaks (I do find films on the BBC are just a little bit too much for my small-screen attention-span) but always absorbing as each of the eight contestants and their individual tutors support them, yell at them and laugh with them. Poor Goldie has to DJ somewhere along the way and gets a bit sleepy and David Soul enjoys acting out a silent short full of, er, passion, to his mentor. Katie Derham wiggles too much and Jane Asher is just a bit too much of a natural, not much fun to watch really I worry the women (apart from good old Sue, let us down).

The final showdown comes about and there's a royal fuck up to an unfortunate favourite character, it means an unsurprising end but a real shame. I worry that we'll lose the most entertaining individuals to stuffy, well-educated types, but at least Alex James is all over the front of the 'Maestro' webpage so I'd like to think he'll be sticking around another week or so. Not to mention Goldie's incredible final performance was an absolute treat to watch.

Great for a Tuesday evening, fun and absorbing and you can learn a thing or two about the subtleties of classical music...maybe. Hopefully they'll give the audience a bit more credit with some lesser-known pieces next time. Though, admittedly, I really have only heard the ones that are used on the telly so it's likely that if they did presume we were more intelligent, I'd certainly get lost and lose enjoyment.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Time Off

I went away from three weeks to Japan and thus had to take time off telly. I have no idea what's going on in Big Brother, who knows who's still in Beauty and the Geek. Home and Away probably had a few accidents, a wedding, three funerals and introduced a couple of new characters in a matter of days without me getting to see any of it.

But, alas, I return lost in a word of BBC dramas about Sadam Hussein. Something I caught a few minutes of last night before switching over to something more bareable: Why couldn't they either speak in an English accent or speak in Arabic?!? Why did they have to do that awful Disney style 'Arabic accent' it makes neither sense nor difference to anything. The guy looked like Sadam, wasn't that enough to demonstrate that this was a show about him and about Iraq?

I learnt a little about Japanese telly whilst I was away, not much, I'll admit, I saw no cool anime and they seemed to enjoy showing Western films dubbed in Japanese in all the hostels which was no use to anyone. However, the odd moment presented me with visual gems.

There was one riveting piece of weekday afternoon programming, presented by a woman so easily impressed and so talented at producing just the right sound to convey her awe. One episode involved a sort of magic man performing various tricks and illusions and seemingly (though, obviously I couldn't understand a word of it) he was teaching the viewers how to do them. All the while lovely lady was aaaah'ing and ooooh'ing and Japanese style 'ooaawwwaaahhh'ing' away quite wonderfully.

Another episode involved BUBBLES. Now, I think it could well be argued that just about everyone loves BUBBLES right? So, a couple of blokes were pissing about in the studio making bubbles. They demonstrated how to make the perfect bubble formula, they blew bubbles through their own hands, they made little bubbles inside big bubbles, they split big bubbles into two smaller bubbles, they even put lovely awe-struck lady IN A BUBBLE. Then, whilst she was still in said bubble, they shook her hand, bubbles in tact. Frankly, Richard and Judy need to step up with educational bubble and magic trickery. It's a winner.

The rest of my televisual experience, much like the rest of my experience in various cities of Japan involved a lot of bright coloureed and a lot of excitable Japanese talking, fast, excitable, loud, noisy talking. And more bright colours. There was also a lot of baseball, which I don't understand, oh, and some sumo.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Instant Gratification

I couldn't have two posts in a row referring to the disgraceful behvaiour of people and their televisual experiences so, here's post number two of the day, all about my favourite ever reality show (for the good reasons, not the 'it's so bad it's funny' reasons I went for with 'rock of love' below) 'BEAUTY AND THE GEEK'.

Of all those standard format shows 'Average Joe' and 'Joe Millionaire'?, the 'Age of Love' and the rest 'Beauty and the Geek' is a piece of highly commendable genius.

The US version is back for a fourth series whilst sadly it's british counterpart has stagnated at one, albeit quite beautiful, series a few years ago. (I will never forget the blossoming relationship, a kind so unheard of in our daily media experience, the kind between an unattractive man and a beautiful woman...actually...wait! I'll go into that later...)

The first episode, which began a few weeks ago, displayed the auditioning process not hiding our final 18 from the shame and embarassment. Men who have no love life and women who answer the question of 'who won the civil war?' with 'we did, we win everything'. There's an adorable professional 'Betty Boop', an aspiring playboy model, cocktail waitress and a babysitter. In the geek court there's a guy who got a 5.0 at MIT (?), an astrophysicist (probably), a who who enjoys 'LARP'ing' (Live Action Role Playing', and a software engineer. All typical components of the Beauty and the Geek sphere.

Yet, this time there's a brilliant and fascinating twist! Not only did the individuals NOT get to pick their own partners (this was decided by the most socially inept geek and the stupidest beauty following their first challenge), but, a tenth couple was introduced. That tenth couple is different, the formula changed by one variable. The beauty is a man and the geek, a woman.

This, is what I've been waiting to see, as much as I'll always adore the Beauty and the Geek format at it's most basic and heart warming, the addition of this gender-bent team will give a fascinating insight into whether this show could ever work in the opposite format. I am in no doubt that there is no shortage of male beauties and female geeks. However, how would it really work?

Instantly, in episode three, the male beauty is a freakish looking, possibly steroid-fuelled arrogant tosser. His eyes and head dart about like a pidgeon on alert and all he can talk about is how he's going to give those girls what they need. I'm not entirely sure they require anything from a man more cartoon-like than Jonny Bravo, but then that's me.

The openness of both beauties and geeks to learn and be taught in this series is quite clear. With the emphasis on personal development and progress throwing this spanner in the works, neither one of the new team has anything to say about their growth, they talk about the game, winning and the fact that they could be a potential target.

What will they gain from this experience as the lone swapped couple? If they were to do a series with a full line up of male beauties and female geeks will it be as touching? Will the men be sensitive and open to the geeks or will they barely want to know? Where the women clap and giggle at Tony's bow-tie, will men be moved by white cotton ankle socks? Something tells me it would never work and the idea that women, however beautiful are more likely to warm to a man who may be less attractive than her because of his brains (or indeed his money) remains. Whether it's because they just want the money or because they truly are the fairer sex, the opposite situation doesn't appear to meet the public eye. Is this because it never happens? Or does it say something both about men and women that doesn't adhere to the agreed standards set by society? Can a successful women have fun with a toyboy? Will she be shunned when a man is celebrated?

So far, the male beauty comes across disgustingly badly, perhaps because we're never presented with such a vacuous and idiotic male as he (except maybe, Jonny Bravo, but he's a cartoon, and perhaps Joey from 'Friends' but he had a sensitive side). This guy puts himself across, from what I've seen so far, as pure macho evil.

Definitely a required addition to the otherwise brilliant format but whether they make it very far or not, it's always going to brilliant, and this year it looks like the girls could well give the boys a run for their money in the comedy department.

Advertising Standards? What?

THIS is probably the most ridiculous news story I've ever read.

The story refers to a mayonaise advert. As I began reading it I wasn't sure if I'd seen the ad before, I couldn't even tell if it had been made in this country. The distinction of it as a 'men sharing a kiss' completely threw me. Even I felt shocked, though mostly impressed. I thought to myself, wow, what progress, what a campaign, how was it used? Was it a natural, home situation style ad which used a gay couple instead of a straight one?

No, is the answer to that. Not at all. I had seen this advert and never in my life would I have considered it, or recalled it as two men kissing, because of the set up of the ad. The article, excrutiatingly objective as it was got me so outraged I stopped reading and began writing this. Thankfully, I see they put forward the full synopsis but, why not tell the story like it is? These people who complained, who were offended, who protested that: "the ad was "unsuitable to be seen by children" and that it raised the difficult problem of parents having to discuss the issue of same-sex relationships with younger viewers" are utterly repressed, buttoned-up morons.

WHAT PROBLEM? I'm certain that there are PG comedy films with two men in hilarious predicaments due to mistaken identity, I can't think of an example, but I'm sure anyone can imagine a scenario. I've got 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles' in my head, which I'm sure I saw as a young child (thought I can't be sure of its rating), whereby John Candy and Steve Martin are forced to sleep in the same bed and end up spooning by the morning. This is all for the sake of light entertainment.

The situation in the advert is hardly different, if a child was paying any attention I'm sure they'd have got the jist of it. A man in an apron is making the kids lunches, he's a big New Yorker, alluding to the fact that he might run a Deli. Queue the kids, taking their lunches in which he has used this 'Deli-style' mayonaise. THEY CALL HIM 'MUM'. They all, quite clearly do this so as to make the representation crystal clear. The use of situation comedy comes with the classic line as the husband goes to leave: 'aren't you forgetting something' with a gesture to the lips. This isn't an unrecognisable scenario to any of today's media-junkie youth. There is no need to explain the possibilities of same-sex relationships because it quite clearly isn't advocating any.

I just can't believe I continue to be surprised by the British public's pathetic reaction to just about anything. I'm sure the majority of people would not have batted any eyelid, would never have seen it as a 'gay kiss' and would have laughed, because it's a funny advert. And what of it, if there was the representation of a gay relationship on a British advertisement people ought to welcome it. Children should be informed early, just as they're informed about anything else. It is undeniable that homosexuality exists.

Our society, I thought, was finally beginning to accept it, but it's not good enough. The media is constantly bombarding us with homogenised images, heterosexual relationships, families and the like. It may well be that heterosexuality does represent the majority of people but there are instances in advertising where a better representation of the general population could well be addressed. For example, Wrigley's 'Extra', their current 'get closer' campaign, both as a regular ad and a Hollyoaks sponsor, involves various young, beautiful heterosexuals, 'getting closer' to each other. In an ad, you see numerous people getting together, in a big room, why not shove in some same-sex couples in the pack. Out of all those people, in that enormous room, are you telling me that not one of them is gay? Or even curious? I find that hard to believe.

This truly needs to stop now, the sooner they just let it out into the open, the sooner they won't think children need protecting anymore. You can't stop them from seeing it in the street can you? This is real and this happens and I daresay there is nothing wrong with it. People continue to make it wrong, make it outrageous and offensive. Why not call all pre-watershed bouts of affection offensive? Because I'd say it is, why ban one kiss when you can ban them all? Let's be completely oppressed, let's ensure that no women are ever seen with men unless they're married, oh and let's just mark out a strict 'zone' surrounding each indiviudal whereby no two people can cross.

I don't even know why I've gone on to discussing geniune gay relationships or kissing in the first place, because frankly this advert doesn't warrant that discussion, it has nothing to do with homosexuality at all. It's so separate from that that I'm actually outraged at myself for daring put the two together.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Tech Telly

Bobbie Johnson does a technology blog for The Guardian. A few days ago he posted a pointless piece called 'What do you call yours?' though the study of British 'kitchen table lingo' is quite interesting I am concerned at the reality of the comments which follow the post.

I remember a girl at school calling the remote a 'channel changer' which I found particularly absurd in that it takes so much longer to say. The need for the remote is inherently lazy so why the hell bother giving it a longer name, a whole duo-syllabic word longer!

According to one comment on the page: "Anyone who calls it "the remote" is bourgeois, not to mention boring. End of"

I'm sorry, I didn't realise that using the given word in the English language for an object is suddenly so passe. I mean goodness, I'm surprised that whole piece wasn't written in slang for only the filthy proletariat to hear.

Not to mention someone who proclaims to call it the 'MEGATRON!'. Well, I like the use of describing a device associated with the television using a term that you gained from watching it but I simply don't believe it. I'm sure you wanted to tape together all your remotes the very second you saw it but I can only assume this never happened and as much as you thought about using the word MEGATRON, and you may have even used it straight after Peep Show ended that night to see what else was on. But you definitely never used that term again.

A similar cry goes out to the person who decided it was a 'Ramone' blatantly came up with that one and decided to post a comment in reponse without ever having used it.

Zapper, clicker, presser, buttons are just about understandable and I suppose the proletariat need some sort of entertainment so playing with language to suit their working class needs will have to do, but Frank?! Which by the way I didn't get when I read it and had to read the comments for clarification. I get it now, but I'm yet to believe it. Unless you actively use rhyming slang in your daily life I just don't think this applies.

Clearly, it's a remote, or, when you're lost for words, the thing, or it could even go unnamed...'where's the....?' if you're sat in the lounge and a programme's just ended, everyone knows what you're talking about anyway.

Incidently, I am glad someone made the comment that: "denying us all access to our very modern TV system which itself no longer has any buttons of its own." an incredibly annoying situation because most of our remotes have been lost for good.

Still all that being said, it is a really entertaining discussion, especially when people get ansy about the very fact that there is even a discussion of this nature. I like it, it's a debate!

It's Summer Heights High

Strictly speaking, the way I was introduced to this was not on telly. For a moment there it was like being one of those morons that proclaims they don't watch TV but have all the special edition DVD's of the Mighty Boosh and Garth Morenghi's Dark Place. My Australian friend stuck it in my face quoting all the best lines so naturally I was intrigued.

Now, I'm finally allowed to discuss it because last night I spotted that episode 2 was on BBC Three. This was lucky as I'd seen episode 1 but the DVD started skipping on episode 2. Another win for TV.

It's a mockumentary based around three central characters all played by the same hilarious individual. A drama queen, drama teacher; an 'islander' deliquent kid; and a bratty posh girl who is involved in an exchange programme between private and public schools.

In this episode the drama teacher Mr. G (he thinks calling himself this makes him cool to the kids) gets to be acting head of drama because the real one's going to be off school for a while. This he takes as his queue for all around dramatic destruction. He insists on being referred to as 'Director of Performing Arts' and forces music teachers and the like to take his lessons for him because he's so excessively busy being 'Director of Performing Arts'.

Jona, the bad kid from the wrong island, gets up to all sorts of mischief that doesn't deserve my reeling it off in an utterly un-comic manner. He's the most quotable, if you can do the voice, and his attempt at breakdancing deserves at least an attempt at imitation, just for the fun of it. He can't read and he doesn't want to, he hates school, he's disruptive and the equally comedy teachers have to deal with it.
This is another tick for Australia; a mockumentary style and the ability to play various characters is akin to the genius of Christopher Guest and though perhaps it's not quite that brilliant (let's face it, that's a pretty steep ladder to climb), it certainly warrants favouritism above a lot of the comedy that's appearing on television. In fact, I can't really remember the last time I truly enjoyed a new comedy except for 'Flight of the Conchords'. Currently, it seems like it's all about the southern hemisphere, the british have no chance unless Matt Berry bites back with an equally dark but painfully comic series of 'Snuff Box'.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Alternative Reality

If you think Big Brother simply isn't trashy enough, if you think the stark mix of controversially placed contestants like blind people and albinos and muslims is all front with no substance then look no further than TMF. The channel that brings you the likes of 'Rad Girls' - the 'sexy' answer to Jackass has come up top for 10pm on a Monday evening. The antidote to Big Brother is here, or rather than necessarily curbing your addictions it only serves to make them much much worse, consider it the morphine to your heroin.

If you were as into watching brainless destructive television as me and my flatmate were last year, then you might know of a little gem called 'Flavor of Love' VH1's televisual masterpiece and arguably one of the best contributions to sucky American reality TV EVER. Goldie ruled the hardest, listen out for her chicken comment - gold is her name, comedy gold is her game.

Rock of Love is the exact same format except it involves former Poison front man Bret Michaels, the backstage passes he gives out don't quite match up to Flava's oversized clock pendents and I'm yet to see anything as disgustingly ridiculous as appears on the above clip. Still all the girls in spite of their tattoo's, piercings and hair dye are still decidedly bitchy and manipulative and poor old Bret has to try and be the diplomat in between having some alone time with a snitching back-stabbing girl. Some of them are 'star-fuckers' others say they're the real deal. It's a total lose for feminism I know but my goodness it's hilarious. I just can't believe each show has had two series, what do they do with the girls? I thought it was meant to turn into a real relationship man.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Halifax Advert

Now it goes without comment that the Halifax adverts with that incessant man and his singing cronies are among the worst ever created. The fact that he's got a waxwork at Madam Toussauds says more about the sheer idiocy of this country and the individuals who are celebrated than the advertising industry's ability to provide us with decent, non-flicking, non-toilet breaking, non-tea making commercials for our viewing pleasure. I mean I don't expect Guiness-style epic spectaculars from a simple bank like Halifax but please, would you stop covering well-known, usually god-awful, pop songs and changing the lyrics in order to make them about loans or savings accounts.

The only advert that was worth saving was pre-annoying man whose name I'm glad to say, I have completely forgotten. It involved a jolly chubby fellow who sang 'Who Gives You Extra' (instead of 'Who Let the Dogs Out' and, though still ridiculous it had it's own slice of perfection with his brilliant momentary wiggle at the end.

Now, that was way back in the early part of this millennium. Now, unfortunately, we've been subjected to more and more and more songs, more idiots singing idiotic songs and the only form of progression is trying to surpass every expectation by choose the most annoying song and creating the most annoying advert. It's got candles being waved around, a deeply disturbing 'Titanic' moment and it lasts far far too long as far as adverts tend to go.

Why is it that the best ones get cut short really quickly and the worst seem to get longer instead?

Thursday, 29 May 2008


Let it be known that my all time favourite film is Animal House. I don't believe any other film will ever come close to being my all time favourite film simply because if I'm ever in the mood for an unashamedly enjoyable movie, no fuss, no brains, then Animal House wins every single time (perhaps Mean Girls would come in a close second but I think Animal House survives repeat viewings with much more vigour i.e. watching it daily).

This is an important point to make from the start. It is also important to note that beyond Animal House my knowledge of American university fraternities is limited, if not completely null and void. For these reasons I make no claims that I could have ever watched BBC Three's new comedy series 'Greek' with true objectivity. In my mind, it's trying to make a series following Larry from Animal House, but with a little more fruit.

Greek is about Larry, I'm sorry I mean, Dusty, he's just reached College, a fresh faced nerdy 18 year old with a passion for statistics. His older sister studies at the same college but is his polar opposite. She's pretty and popular and dates one of the most influential boys at College; the president of Omega house. This is the back story Larry was never allowed in Animal House, it removes that silly fat one and replaces it with a differently silly fat one, a room-mate who abhors fraternities and cannot begin to understand why Dusty would ever want to be a part of one. It also provides a little more spice with a much cooler friend who he meets as he's touring frat houses.

So far, I make it sound almost nothing like Animal House (besides the basic setting) but, their equivalent of Delta came incredibly shy of simply blasting out 'Louie Louie' the entire episode. They walk in to a wild party, like nothing they'd seen that evening, tequila shots, licking the salt off a 'hot girl' and a streaker, well, streaking through the middle of the party. Not to mention the secretly gay ones (a theme much alluded to in AH) and of course, the lazy, ridiculous nature of voting for who can pledge. One's got a good name, he's in; the other (Dusty) spat in the face of aforementioned 'hot girl' he's surely in. And moreover, how could I forget, the most blindingly obvious parallel: Main frat guy just so happens to have strange cheating relations with popular sorority girl, the sister. Always in competition; the prim and proper Omega guy and the wild, oddly charming animal house ringleader. A perfect setting for college court situation no?

It's not that I didn't laugh, you had to laugh at the tequila spit, the bar-fight and the other tequila spit. But it's hard to watch without drawing comparisons and always being bitterly disappointed that it doesn't step up. It's not outrageous enough to be Animal House but it's not removed itself enough not to always be playing up to the idea. Perhaps it'll grow into it's own, maybe Dusty will be a lovable 'Seth from the OC' type character that will erupt in unexpected popularity (I think on a non-AH level, this was also part of the plan) but he needs to be funny, really funny and they need to cut any sappy drama right out. I wait for episode 2, but meanwhile, I'd rather watch The Inbetweeners.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Late Night Discover y

Channel hopping on a lonely Monday night, the flatmates are sensibly tucked away, one worked all evening, the other works tomorrow and I mostly unemployed have just discovered that 'Due South' is back on our screens. ITV3 to be precise and there's more than one episode showing!

I am pleased as punch frankly. It's about time ITV brought their freeview reputation up with some all-time classics. The last time they did this they really brought it home with ITV4's nightly double bill of 'The Larry Sanders Show' a true comedy classic that needed to be remembered or indeed seen for the first time. In my eyes it's the original 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' only with a more conventional sitcom set-up using characters like Hank and the hilarious producer played by Rip Torn. It was always worth enduring ITV4's late night ad breaks which concentrated solely on those who 'want to chat to girls in your area'. It ended up being a case of spotting the ones that appeared in multiple ads and spotting the new ads.

Seeing that the ad breaks don't involve girls and last about one commercial, I'm also grateful for the fact that it's the original Due South with the original friend, that guy was always a personal favourite of mine. A great comedy duo from episode one. In fact, I only wish I'd discovered this for episode one. I can't believe I'd forgotten about the soundtrack, slow building power ballad style guitars and programmed drums - beautiful. That says nothing for the classic theme tune of course, a sing-a-long gem.

Seeing this only reminds me of previous freeview classics on Ftn. A channel cruelly replaced by Virgin or Dave or both used to show the greatest of all 90s programming: The Crystal Maze. Certainly a childhood favourite alongside Gladiators - which by the way they also showed, in a fantastically timed early evening daily double bill. Dave's relentless reel of panel shows and old episodes of Top Gear will absolutely never compare to Ftn's brief moments of unassuming nostalgic quality. Though I would argue that Crystal Maze will always be good, regardless of when you watch it for the first time.

Although, was it ITV3 that brought back Quantum Leap? If it was, I wish they'd do that again. I started watching it last year (often when my flatmates were out; they tended to take the piss) and went through a short phase of being completely besotted with Al. I never stopped wishing I had that little bleeping machine: I suppose now it's called 'Wikipedia'.

Oh Fraser, what a man, when in a department store he asks the clerk with a completely unironic smile: "Excuse me, I'm looking for something unusual for my wolf". I don't think I'll be sleeping before 1am for a while if this carries on.

Letter to Gok Wan

This isn't by any means a feminist and the media blog (though that would be an interesting idea...). However, sometimes Gok drives me to it.

I must begin by saying: I love 'How to Look Good Naked' I think that show began at a time when makeover programmes were taking up too much screen time and rather than being a harmless bit of chat show fun (the makeover episodes of old chat shows were always my favourite; either that or ones involving lie detector tests - obviously), they often if not always involve some level of surgery.

Plastic surgery should never be encouraged in this way, it should also never ever be advertised. I think the Harley Medical Group are seriously breaching advertising standards by doing so. Those 'before and after' style ads on the tube displaying an unhappy woman with small breasts and a happier version with bigger ones, are an absolute outrage and surely a violation. I hope that I haven't seen them in a while because people complained and not because they succeeded.

Anyway, I digress, this isn't a complaint about ads for plastic surgery here, this is about Gok's very noble mission of making women feel much much better about themselves without '10 years younger' or the 'help' of that god awful blonde woman whose mission in life is surely the absolute opposite.

The first series really said something and it continues to do so in challenging ways. Yet, he does still very much look towards and adhere to the conventions of fashion and beauty. For example, if a white woman is looking a little pasty he has to slap on the fake tan before she bares all. Though there is often an element of natural beauty in their make up, I think quite often he makes them feel a million dollars at a price. It's the hair, the make up, the fake tan and the waxing. It's not true beauty, it's not a simple procedure. These women feel incredible because they've been pampered and though that's not entirely a bad thing, it removes the show from what ought to be its essence.

'How to Look Good Naked' should, I think, translate as 'How to Feel Good in Your Own Skin', you might look at yourself, look at the photo and see not your everyday self, but a special moment where you were made to feel particularly beautiful. You might not fully come beyond that, you might not have that spring in your step for long. After being given one or two outfits and a session with celebrity stylists and beauty experts, everyday you just isn't going to compare.

What really would be revolutionary is a 'How to Look Good Naked - Naturally' but is that possible? Will people look good naked naturally? Their skin won't have had the exfoliating treatment, the unwanted hair will go unremoved. The whole thing makes me wonder and consider that it probably is a short term feeling. I want to be told that everyone looks good without surgery and without all that other stuff. I want to be told that whatever your skin colour - it is beautiful, however you make yourself look everyday - that is beautiful. Perhaps with some small adjustments and enhancements but simple ones, the sorts of things you can and would do everyday, rather than getting the beauty brigade out.

I think the consumer tests are great, the women parading around in their underwear a la the 'Dove' adverts but the crux of it is, the show doesn't go far enough away from convention and it doesn't tell everyone they are beautiful nearly as well as it should do. Ultimately, I don't see prime time television going far enough, presenting people as they ought to be presented and celebrating it, truly giving them their worth.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives is arguably my favourite American serial. It has been a while since I've really appreciated one of these shows, since the demise of Six Feet Under and the way Channel 4 failed to show the final series on terrestrial television (at a time when I lacked freeview and the luxury of E4) I haven't really found a drama series I've adored. Lost was, well, lost on me and Brothers and Sisters failed to capture my heart when I watched the first episode last year.

Now on its fourth series over here, Desperate Housewives is an absolute guaranteed win in terms of quality programming. Putting Terri Hatcher aside (clearly the programme's only downfall) every character has been created from the minds of geniuses. I can never choose a favourite and as a result am constantly proclaiming my favouritism for each one. I suppose the only one I wouldn't choose is that cold calculated newbie on the street, whose constant lies make it impossible to sympathise with. Though an equally intriguing and brilliant addition to the story and obviously not intended to capture hearts in the way others might, her addition to the new series has been vital in keeping it fresh.

Although, having said that, her mysterious return to Wysteria Lane hasn't really been enough to turn me on. The confusion doesn't allow for intrigue and waiting but more downright frustration. I'm not sure if I can be arsed with knowing what the deal is with that girl's father and why she remembers nothing. She's been sneaking about with it for so long and she's just too clever. Did she find that bit of paper the old lady dropped on the floor before she died? Goodness knows, frankly I can't remember and I don't care.

Though I've been ensuring to keep up this series, nothing could have prepared me or make me want more more more as much as this weeks hugely destructive panic-stricken tornado episode. It was the narration at the start which drove the episode and left a viewer guessing, wanting. Someone would lose a husband...everyone would lose a friend...and as you watch you're trying to figure out who the husband is, who the friend is. Victor still counts as a husband, are they just going to fob him off once and for all? Before the going gets too tough for Gabrielle and Carlos. Or, is it simply Susan's loss of Mike to rehab? Who can they realistically kill off? None of the main girls, that wouldn't be proper.

The guessing made every minute that much more tense and the papers, those 10-million dollar papers flying off in the wind was, though completely predictable, a necessary inclusion. The devastation at the final moments of the episode was so incredible, so intriguing and forced me to download the next episode even though I vow to keep up only with terrestrial scheduling. I still haven't watched it, but my god I want to.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

More Apprentice

Noooooooooooooo not Raef!
Admittedly, I knew he wasn't a winner, as much as I adored him for his humorous one-liners and overall well-groomed presentation; the deep blue dressing gown and slicked back hair at 8am was a particularly favoured point, I knew that Alan wasn't going to take him all the way. But to leave before that snake Michael? NO! I protest!

I watched the follow-up show 'The Apprentice: You're Fired!' and it looks like the general public agree. Despite Michael's hilarity, especially in this week's episode, he does not compare to the sheer comedy of Raef. Can I remind you of the big teddy bear suit? Walking around with his arms crossed behind his back as if he were wearing a dinner jacket? He is a prick turned good, and that's the best type of character, one you grow with. In a reality show, you always get tired of the instantly appealing characters. That's another reason why the Apprentice is such a great piece of programming; no one could ever be instantly appealing. What is attractive about a money-hungry rat who will stop at nothing to achieve everything, regardless of who they run down along the way? Well, nothing, unless you're in to that sort of thing.

Of course everyone on the Apprentice is going to come across brash and abrasive. Of course they're going to be a complete nightmare but you watch them grow, you watch them fail and after failure comes remorse. Raef lived the failure and came out on top because of it. Perhaps Alan was right, perhaps it was all hot air, but frankly I liked his version of hot air as opposed to Helene. I'll ask again, what does she do every week?! Never in the boardroom, never says a word and if she manages to get through to the final because of it I will be quite concerned with the editors capabilities because that is not conventional reality show format. You focus on the people you know are going to win, you don't just ignore them until suddenly the audience realises there's another candidate, a winning candidate that they can neither support nor care about because they've seen nothing of them. Learn your audience research! Learn the theory! It ain't on.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

The Apprentice

I am an unashamed Apprentice fan. I take pride in being an Apprentice fan, in its intelligence and high capacity for entertainment. It always introduces some top class characters and this year has been no exception.

Last week was a stonker of an episode, a double whack of firing by Sir Allan left the two Jen's kicked to the curb and arguably the two most awful people - neither entertaining, nor capable of successfully completing a task and always always cringeworthy. It's becoming incredibly clear now who's really got the knack for the game.

This week was obviously going to be brilliant from the team switch. Clearly Allan wanted to sack more than one of them because he stuck all the strongest candidates in one team and all the weak in another. There was no way a team of Alex, Helene (whoever she is), Sara (though I hate to admit it because I was certainly a supporter of hers) and that god awful Michael were going to win.

Lets look at the facts: Alex, a big beautiful northern wally. He does so brilliantly but is also weakened by his team, extremely unlucky and has in the past been picked on despite his sales skills, I do worry for his overall ability. I don't think he's going to make it, however lovely looking he is.

Helene...Helene...who the fuck is Helene?!?! I don't know about anyone else but I've watched every episode this series thanks to BBC Iplayer and it wasn't until I saw her face last week, though never hearing her say a ruddy thing, that I realised she existed. Thank goodness she got to lead so I could get a bit of action out of her, not that it was much. All I know now is she used to model wedding dresses and she makes absolutely awful decisions. I seriously can't understand where she came from, did they just pop her in hoping no one would notice? Was she ill? Whatever Helene, you won't last, no way, and youve got absolutely none of the character and charm I've come to expect from the best Apprentice salesmen/women.

Michael, is it even worth talking about Michael? The abysmal 'Jewish boy' who didn't know what the fuck Kosher was. WHO DOESN'T KNOW WHAT KOSHER IS? I should have blogged about last week's show really but it was so ridiculous and annoying, especially when it followed the other ridiculous annoying show about the greetings cards that really it was tedious to think about these terrible people. It made me want to cry that they were the chosen few. I'm sure the other 20,000 applicants knew what Kosher was. I also would imagine that the other 20,000 applicants would never ever consider a greeting card preaching about environmental issues a worthy idea. What a complete bunch of dildos. I've never been so concerned for the state of humankind as at that point. If they are the real deal, the smartest, most talented and the best then there is absolutely no hope for anyone else. What a lack of common sense.

Michael was funny, now he's just unbearable, how can I look at that? Listen to it? It's torture. He needs to go, he needs to go very very soon and I cannot believe Sir Allan pussied out, so much so, I want to remove the 'sir' from his name...I cannot believe Allan, pussied out. Knobjockey.

Now to the winners, that clear, true winners. There is no one from that team I would ever have wanted to leave. Lucinda is classic, I love her gentle approach and her ability to stop people like Lee from undermining her with it. Despite Lee's hideous outburst on Sara a few weeks ago, I like him, a lot. He's brilliant, he was brilliant in Marrakesh, he is Brilliant.

Claire is a classic Apprentice character. You can't have a series without someone like her. She exactly what Allan is in to and she is so fucking smart. Every comment she makes during the show turns out to be the correct thing to have done. Though maybe she was wrong on the BHS dresses she saw the positive in the risk. She knew striaght off how to split the teams and last week she was the only one who KNEW WHAT KOSHER WAS. The poor thing thought she was the stupid one. She thought that Jen, being all posh 'n that, knew better. I felt so sorry for her at this point because she was constantly pointing out the mistakes. She knows and thus she 0wns.

Raef though, is my absolute number one favourite ever of all time. He is comedy gold. His comment on fat people and cake today was priceless. If you're a woman of size 16-32 then you're probably going to like cake. His attempt at putting a teddy costume on this week was just the cherry on top. He walked around in it in exactly the same way as he usually walks; pacing with his hands crossed behind his back. It was the most bizarre sight you could ever see, imagine being there, poor scamp didn't do that well this week but he got it right with the expensive dresses. He's reasonable and pleasant and likeable and still ridiculously funny in all the right Apprentice ways.

He definitely became number one for me when he defended Sara after Lee's psychotic attack, and made the very clear point that it was unnecessary to be doing so. I can't believe how badly he came across in the first episode, like one big self-wanking cock. I've never experienced anyone develop from that so brilliantly.

I can't even predict a winner and irritatingly I've been told about an interesting twist which I'm not sure whether to reveal here. I don't want to know about it myself though it makes questioning the ending that little big more a way. I want Raef and Claire in the final though Lucinda and Lee are definitely in the running. Michael and Helene may as well have fucked right off this week because there's no way either of them are going to make it much further.

Monday, 12 May 2008

The Inbetweeners

I probably should have written about this show after I watched the first two episodes on 4OD, however, I didn't get around to it because I was busy watching the complete 4 series' of peep show, all of Spaced and a bit of series 2 of IT crowd. (Internet telly is great - maybe one day I'll do a post dedicated to it)

Anyway, I'm here now ready to stand proudly and say it is brilliant. I don't know whether it is underrated, or is not being talked about or whether the great majority of my friends really are not television watchers. Yet, it feels a little like it's not being given it's worth (perhaps I should check if ole Brooker has mentioned it, I hope so). It's a simple situation and perfectly appropriate for comedy, a boy (Will) from a boarding/private school being forced to begin his sixth form at a comprehensive. It's a little like watching 'Mark Corrigan - The Early Years', in fact Mark did first attend private school before being forced into a comprehensive.

Will has to find some friends and manages through cunning to attach himself to a group, he hardly aimed high, merely a step above the rest of the new kids. He uses all his charm to buy the group drinks and make them like him but every attempt fails miserably. He solves problems in bizarre ways and has a severe case of saying without thinking resulting, once more in hilarious consequences.

It doesn't really have the gags or the one-liners. It's not a show for quoting. However, the four main boys are all excellent at depicting idiotic teenage boys finding themselves in situations that are just at the right level beyond normality. They say the things aloud, that people only think and their complete incompetence in being even slightly adventurous or rebellious is most satisfying. It's the show Stuart Lee was asking for when he talked about 'Skins' on Charlie Brooker's 'Screenwipe'. He wanted insecurity, he wanted hormones and embarrassment, he wanted the reality of teenhood and I think it is quite clearly being presented here.

It's easily a teen-based comedy on a par with all the best adult ones, the aforementioned Peep Show quite definitely the most obvious example. I can only imagine that the more you watch it the more you get out of the characters and the more you love them, but I'm frankly craving more as I write. I could easily watch the first three episodes again, in a row, right now.

An unexpected treasure, most certainly.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

The Human Spider...

....just reminds me of the hairdresser off the salon who went on to be in the Tresemme adverts.

It's hard to take this seriously.

Strictly Baby Ballroom

I was watching This Morning one morning (incidentally, not this one) when the second-class Paul Ross was discussing this week's television. In between recommendations of every ITV programme that was one he mentioning this evening's 'Cutting Edge' documentary on Channel 4. They've been advertising it a fair bit and I wasn't really sure what to make it. On 'This Morning' Fern was quite vocal about how appalling she found it, ready to boycott it and tell a nation that adores her to do the same.

I have to say, within the first few frames I was shocked. It wasn't just the kids fighting, it was the parents. within the first few minutes there was a young girl crying and crying; whether it was because she hated fighting or because she was losing remained to be seen. Allegedly, she still wanted to fight. In a talking head situation the father said he offered her ballet dancing or disco dancing lessons instead. I wonder, if he did really offer these things she might have refused on the grounds that she'd probably never heard of 'disco dancing' anyway.

It soon took the focus off the one girl and gave all its attention to three fighting champs: Thai, named after the sport by his psycho parents, Connor whose 10-year old voice had a creepily strong East London accent which frightens my Middle Class self to the core because it screams: VIOLENCE! GANGS! DRUGS! Of course, violence was exactly it, he talked about he fights all the time, how he loves to fight and his mother would intentionally get him worked up to fight by saying certain kids had called him names behind his back. She told the camera this, cackling evilly, happy that she's very likely to be bringing up a sociopath.

Of course, this documentary did nothing but present the situation, 10-years olds fighting in rings, sometimes in cages, working out constantly and having their parents shouting, yelling at them to fight properly, do a fake kick, throw him etc etc. They would get extremely angry, there would be pressure on them if they weren't performing between rounds. They presented it purely at face value, yet, this week boxing happened to be given an incredibly positive approach in the London news this week.

Frank Bruno has opened up the first boxing academy, designed to give kids who leave school at 16 a fighting (ba dum bum) chance at getting more out of their adult life. It showed Bruno's dedication to getting kids doing something positive with their lives and the kids getting so much out of it. Fighting in that way, it is argued, promotes discipline, motivation and gets them working towards something that they truly care about.

The question is, how beneficial is hardcore fighting to young children, how much does it really teach them if they are being groomed into thinking, living and being Thai Boxing. Kids should be out and about they should be playing and enjoying different activities. They should be learning and developing through communication with other kids not squaring up to them with hundreds of people screaming around them, being forced to throw punches and kicks.

It was disturbing, and I do believe it was not unbalanced, because there were moments when the kids were sensitive about their fighting careers, but there too were those points where they would talk at length about the money they were to make. Little Connor in his flat cap and earring talking about his Bentley's and his 10 million pound house. Wearing a hat so symbolic of an older man was a signifier into what his parents and coaches had created. He thinks he's bigger than he is, he thinks he's indestructible when he deserves to be a 10-year old. It didn't go into details of whether these kids get into fights at school, whether they're disruptive in the classroom and are just waiting to get out. It's very possible that's not the case, that they have learned discipline and respect but I do think that so much, so you could be massive detrimental to their development.