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.