Archive for July, 2008

Half Ton Dad

July 31, 2008

Some statistics to start. These ‘shock docs’ tend to start with a lot of statistics. I think it makes them feel like they’re some sort of educational programme rather than what they are – which is an electronic version of a Victorian freak show.

 So, the statistics:

  • Americans are so fat that they have now had to create a whole new category of fatness – Super Morbidly Obese.
    Which must make people merely categorised as ‘Morbidly Obese’ pretty chipper, and straighforward ‘fat bastards’ positively incandescent with wobbly joy.
  •  Kenneth Brumley Lives in Houston, Texas and weighs 73 stone. That’s around 1000 pounds. Or, more appropriately, 4000 quarter-pounders.
  • Kenneth’s food intake is around 30,000 calories a day. Which is about what a human consumes in two weeks.
  • Kenneth plans to shed a mere 50 stone and it took 7 burly firemen to remove him from his front room to the hospital.
    (Tree-dwelling cats and randy , female alcoholic divorcees across the greater Houston area were said to be furious with jealousy and immediately went on an eating spree).
  • If you want to picture Kenneth, he makes Mr Creosote look like Amy Winehouse in drag.
    That’s my own statistic, but I throw it in for the reader’s interest.

There are loads of stats like this peppered throughout the show but you get the idea: ‘Boy, will you look at this fat bastard. But kindly do so in a caring medical-type-of-way, if you please.’

The show also introduced us to 19-year-old Billy. And wheras Kenneth seemed like a well-balanced and likeable guy who had the support of his loving family around him, not so with Billy. His mother, no Posh Spice herself, was obviously what they call in the business, an ‘enabler’ (oh yes, I picked up a few tips from the show).

You really had to feel for this poor young guy though. At 19, he should have been out getting drunk and rejected by girls and developing a brooding unhealthy misogyny which would one day blossom into some sort of writing career – like the rest of us. Instead, he was stuck in a pre-fab, eating and shitting with the support of his mother.

Cut back to Kenneth, who is in hospital and in 40 days has lost 12 stones. Fair play to the guy. Only now can surgery safely be performed. And he has two enormous mounds of fat, each weighing around 12 stone, carved from between his thighs and hefted into medical waste bags. (These are then, I supect, rushed to the nearest fast food outlet and sold as ‘chicken’. But I can’t be absolutely sure on that one. They may have been sold as ‘recovered meat’ as I know the labelling guidelines on such things are quite strict nowadays).

 Anyway, you get the general idea. Both Billy and Kenneth go on a ‘Journey’ as they love to say on telly. Not an actual journey, of course. Do me a favour.

There were also, inevitably, moments of unintended humour in the voiceover, which wasn’t helped by it being performed by the excellent Alison Steadman. She has flawless comedy timing with every word she utters, whether she tries to or not. So when she delivered lines like, ‘Billy’s legs can still carry him. But rarely further than the bathroom’ and ‘ It’s now a month since Kenneth’s failed attempt to sit upright’ I have to admit I was on the floor.

I had very mixed feeling about going anywhere near this sort of show. I’ve always avoided these type of documentaries in the past for their obvious salaciousness. But as I watched and was swept along by the ‘journey’ I started to really quite like Kenneth. He seems like a decent man who, despite his appalling circumstances, appears still to have maintained his dignity.

And I liked Kenneth’s family. I started to really warm to these genuine, straightforward people. But then came the bombshell. Whilst her father was in hospital having bits the size of Arkansas removed from his body, Kenneth’s daughter was busy feeding her 9-month-old baby a hamburger.  At which point I dried my teary eyes, went online and ordered a pump-action shotgun and a flight to Texas. 

By the way, Kenneth eventually lost 35 stone by finally having a gastric band inserted. I believe a Gastric Band is something like an Indie band, but not nearly so unpleasant. Unfortunately, I’ve no idea what happened to Billy as my Windows Media Player stopped recording at that point, with probably two minutes to go. Luckily, I can update you on Friday when I fly over there and blow his mother’s evil fucking head off.

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Garnier / Topps Tiles

July 30, 2008

For the last few years the bastards at Garnier have been hissing ‘Take Care’ at me. Anyone else find this particular version worrying?

I used to be lithe and slim, I’d never smoked a cigarette in my life and only had a glass of wine at Christmas with the family. On the basis that I refuse to be told what to do by anyone, especially a faceless corporate suit, I’m now so fat I can’t see my own feet (or penis). On most days I’m pissed before 10am and have recently taken up the crack in order to sate my desire to smoke and take class A’s in one convenient package.

I’ll not have the bastards tell me what to do.

So imagine my surprise when, following a night of unprotected sex with a visibly ill 50-year-old European prostitute, another organisation – via the now-pawned TV – hissed ‘take care’ at me.

I thought I must be dreaming (or still whacked, I’d had two and half bottles of cheap Port the night before and had polished off three grammes of really bad speed as Dominika lowered herself for the umpteenth time on my weeping member…) when I turned my swollen head and fleetingingly saw a logo for Topps Tiles fade into the ether.

Of course I was still whacked (or dreaming, not that I have dreams anymore, I hate myself, I’ve nothing to give save sewage) but why the fuck would a company selling tiles want me to ‘take care’?

Take care of what? The tiles? Why the fucking Christ would anyone want to take fucking care of Tiles?

I mean, don’t get me wrong here, I’m not a monster – I’m happy to wipe away the accidental shard of diorrhea or splash of coagulated blood when little accidents occur on what’s left of the tiles in the room with a broken sink and chod bin – but ‘take care’ like that Garnier bird does with her skin? Fuck that.

I can see why someone would want to take care of their hair, or skin, or whatever (penis?). I used to be like that until I waged my one man campaign to prove that I could stick it back to the man as much as his sticks it to me.

But tiles? I don’t understand. Tiles are inanimate. They don’t care, or feel. They’re like my sister since I kidnapped her husband and held him up for ransom for an eighth of skunk and a drink – just a fucking eighth… And a drink.

Tiles don’t give a shit, okay? They don’t fucking care. No one does.

No one

does.

The Dark Knight

July 29, 2008

Very mild spoilers

Let’s dispense with the plot first, shall we?

Billionaire in Kevlar body armour fights maniac with excellent make-up skills in Chicago, mainly at night. Meanwhile, a half-dead looking policeman with a moustache pretends to be completely dead to aid in the capture of aforementioned maniac and a chiselled Fifties film star has half his face burned off, then blames the wrong people for his disfigurement and the death of his cow-faced girlfriend. Maniac kills lots of people, man with half a face kills on the whims of a coin toss, billionaire fights them both and wins, then inexplicably shoulders the blame for the disfigured man’s crimes. The end.

Right, now that’s over and done with, a word of warning.

What The Dark Knight posters and trailers fail to mention is that Eric Roberts is in this movie. That’s right – Eric fucking Roberts. For anyone unfamiliar with the career of Eric Roberts (brother of Julia, and proof that lightning doesn’t strike twice), he’s a fourth – no, fifth – rate action ‘star’ who’s carved a career in woeful kung-fu and mercenary movies that go straight to DVD. Eric Roberts is the Happy Shopper Tom Berenger – cursed to play the villain in a string of films with titles such as Death Force Zero and The Eliminatrix III when the real Tom Berenger is unavailable. Think Chuck Norris without the personality. A poor man’s Ernie Hudson. In short, he’s shit.

Now, until I stumped up £13.50 for two tickets to The Dark Knight, I had never paid more than £2.50 to watch Eric Roberts in anything. The last time I handed over real cash-money to watch Mr. Roberts fail to convince was an ill-advised Blockbuster rental of Best Of The Best II – an ass-kicking kung-fu collective movie starring Roberts, Phillip Rhee (the Black Belt Jones of the modern era) and the late, lamented Chris Penn.

It was shit, but then it was supposed to be shit … because it had Eric Roberts in it. I was happy to fork out £2.50 to watch the monumentally ugly and unconvincing Roberts shove his combat boots up the ass of his enemies because, well, it was only £2.50. But thanks to the producers of The Dark Knight, I now have to confess I’ve spent over a tenner on an Eric Roberts movie. This pisses me off.

OK, so I had to suffer the grotesque Mr. Roberts, but what about Mr. Bale? Did he cancel the toweringly shit performance of Roberts out? Did he make me forget that I’d spent money on an Eric Roberts movie? Well… no.

Annoying as playboy billionaire Bruce Wayne (mainly because he hands in the same performance he did for American Psycho – making you think Bruce is butchering prostitutes when he’s not out fighting loonies), he’s awful – truly fucking awful – as Batman. Cursed with a stupid costume that makes his head look like a pool ball with ears, Bale adds to the misery with a dreadful deep rasp of a voice that gets up your nose. Every time Batman speaks, a viewer who isn’t so enamoured of the character that he’ll forgive him anything sits bewildered as they’re faced with one of the stupidest voices ever to grace the screen. I spent the entire two and a half hour running time thinking, “What the fuck is wrong with Batman’s voice?” I don’t think this is what the director wanted me to think.

Gary Oldman looks like he’s got cancer. Aaron Eckhart gives an Aaron Eckhart performance (the same one he gave for Thank You For Smoking, but with half his face missing). Maggie Gyllanhall is wasted, then blown up. That’s all I can think to say about that trio.

So we’ll move on to The Dark Knight’s money shot: Heath Ledger as The Joker. Anyone who wasn’t wetting their trousers at the prospect of a Joker for the 21st Century could have guessed what performance they’d get from Ledger in this role, and they would have guessed correctly. Shoulder hunched up, daft walk, tongue whipping out every ten minutes (because tongue work’s an essential part of any mentally ill person’s madness arsenal, as are trousers that never reach the shoes), wild, darting eyes, occasional high-pitched changes of vocal intonation, etc. Those boxes checked, Ledger plays The Joker in just the same way any actor of any merit would play The Joker. The performance is phoned in – Actor’s Guide to Playing the Insane 101. Stacey’s mum with stupid hair and idiot make-up.

The press has made a lot of this, his final completed performance – yet I would argue it’s nothing special. We can laud praises on the actor all we want, but this is not De Niro in Godfather II. This is an as-you’d-expect performance of a silly character in a silly comic book movie. Nothing more, nothing less. He’s good, but he’s not that good. And – going against the grain here – he’s nowhere near as good as Nicholson, in my opinion. Nicholson at least made the character fun.

Did I say ‘fun’? Well if you’re looking for that, I’d hang on for next month’s Tropic Thunder (which at least promises fun from the trailer). The Dark Knight is anything but fun. It’s ridiculously long for a comic book movie, takes itself so seriously it’s insulting and has a plot that plods along at a snail’s pace.

It’s wordy, morbid and borderline stupid in too many places. Off the top of my head, these are just a few things that pissed me off about The Dark Knight’s plot:

  • Why does a moral crusader agree to illegally extract a wanted criminal from China and bring him back to the United States? Doesn’t that make him the same as the criminals he’s taken it upon himself to fight?
  • The Joker must spend hours getting his make-up to look like that – strange for a man we’re constantly reminded doesn’t give a fuck about anything (with the notable exception of male grooming … weird male grooming, but male grooming nonetheless).
  • Alright, Two Face’s missus is blown up by The Joker, but why does this tip him over the edge and make him an ally of The Joker? His subsequent crusade to get justice for his dead partner (that leaves out kicking The Joker’s ass) makes no sense at all.
  • Is it just me, or was there an actual point to Gary Oldman faking his own death?
  • Who the fuck agrees to work for The Joker? People with a death wish? Suicides who haven’t got round to it yet? He kills everyone who works for him … surely word would have got around about this?
  • A knife slash to the side of your mouth doesn’t kill you.

There were plenty of other things that mystified me about this awful film, but I’ve had enough of thinking about them. If you want to waste your money on an up-its-own arse, overlong action movie that contains hardly any action but does contain Eric Roberts, then by all means waste it on The Dark Knight. If, however, you want to spend your moollah on a comic book movie that won’t bore you, insult you, and annoy you, I’d recommend you wait for Iron Man to come out on DVD. At least that film was stupid but fun. The Dark Knight is just stupid.

And it’s got Eric Roberts in it.

Dragons’ Den – 28.7.08

July 29, 2008

I think we can confidently say that long before yesterday’s show, Meaden twigged that she is desired by not one, but all of the Dragons.

Obviously the real battle for Debs is between Theo and Jonesy and, since the mahogany-skinned makeover and the lovely hair-do, Debs has proved she is more than up to micro-managing a love triangle. Last night saw her assertive and prickly nature reach boiling point in the early stages before she settled into a brooding, menacing sensuality for the rest of the show, watching the boys run rings around one another, all desperate to impress the Debsmeister.

Let’s jump in. Once the opening credits were out of the way it was time to get down to business. And by ‘business’ I mean REAL business, conducted in the business world by business men and business women. And Dragons, obviously. It is a tough and fickle world, the business world. Just ask Samantha from Manchester who went up first in front of the reptilian bastards.

She was trying sell them a strange idea based around home security. A little box with motion sensors would make a fake TV turn on whenever it was triggered, fooling hapless burglars (who obviously would never have heard of such technology) and scaring them into doing a runner. It was a dumb idea, already trumped by the fact that you can get those mains-timer things on the market to make your lamps and electrical goods switch on and off whilst you sip cocktails in Aberwystwyth. Debs stepped right up with her critique, safe in the knowledge that all the Dragons possessed a twitching semi with her name on it. She declared herself out swiftly and effectively. Theo managed to find out that this dotty trembler already owns a successful business so the general response was ‘stick to the restaurant, we’re out’.

Next up, the Sinclair C5 of rollerblades as one Dragon put it. Pedal-powered skates that looked too much like hard work and failed to inspire anyone. Theo had a go as he knows what makes good telly, stumbling about on these monstrosities for laughs. All he needs is a pencil thin moustache and some round-framed spectacles and he’d make a great silent movie comedy-hero. Anyway, they all opted out. I’d have opted out too – that kind of rubbish reminds me of the imbecilic berks you see in Central London roller-blading, skateboarding or even tin-scootering down the middle of a busy dual lane in rush hour traffic.

Clive was up next with his opportunity to join him in a venture he called DiamondGeezer.com (I’ll not include a link unless he pays me for advertising). This was essentially a retail website selling posh-rocks. His manner wasn’t particularly endearing despite the potential in his venture. And to add to his woes, Meaden, cushioned by the certainty that all in the Den hold a blue-veined baton with her name on it, screamed that Clive’s been in touch with her before which is AGAINST THE RULES. She was out immediately, bless her. Bannatyne then rather unfairly laid into Clive with a stream of disconnected questions. He was oot.

But then Clive’s luck changed and the other three opted in for a 40% stake. 30%, countered Clive. The Dragon’s did not waver and Clive idiotically turned down the offer on a business which is currently only making him three hundred quid per calender month.

Greetings cards for dogs, one would think, is the preserve of batty old eccentrics. And ol’ Debs proved this to be true by admitting her horses, cats and dogs all receive christmas gifts. More money than sense. The rest of the Dragons, like us right-thinking folk, thought it was ludicrous and kicked it out of the Den.

Impact Items went next with their Space Putty. The boffin who’d created this stuff had dyed his hair and goatee purple, thinking this was a surefire way to secure investment. In the event he got laughed out of the room. Probably a good thing, as I had a sneaking feeling I’d seen this putty stuff before. And I had.

On the theme of kids’ stuff, the next pitcher was asking for trouble with his sinister notion. Tokens kids have to earn through good behaviour in order to buy TV, DVD and PS3 time struck me as being completely unethical. One of the great joys of being a child, though we don’t realise it at the time, is to be completely free of money-worries. Those decisions are made for you so you’re free to kill ants, hang around in abandoned houses and go foraging for pornography in bushes. Why any parent would want to introduce a complex system of capitalism in their own parlour is beyond me and was beyond Bannatyne who told this chap he hopes he fails. Harsh, but probably fair. Jonesy said it wasn’t a bad idea – it was ridiculously mad. Add to the fact the guy could have financed it himself and it seems we had a bit of a slippery snake on our hands. And he seemed so nice…

The apple juice lolly that followed looked tasty, was healthy and was already selling well. But as it was 100% apple juice, packaged tastefully and completely inoffensive, it obviously wasn’t cost-effective. Quality rarely is these days. So everyone was out.

The penultimate item was an illuminated Baby On Board sign which, sadly, was unreadable during the day. So one presumes you’re meant to stick the Baby On Board sign that lights up next to the Baby On Board sign that can be seen in daylight. Weird. Jonesy used this as a platform to mock Baby On Board signs in general, which I reluctantly agreed with him on. They are bloody stupid, when you think about it. Jonesy, sensing he had everyones’ attention, also had a pop at an enthusiastic Bannatyne with ‘when was the last time you drove anywhere in the last 20 years?!’. ‘Fair point’, responded a humbled Dunc.

So – lastly we saw some girl who appeared to have stepped out of the Grazia magazine my missus left in the toilet. She was after money for her venture which went by the dreadful name ‘Neurotica’. She wanted to make fashion for the leading high street stores and was already making headway in the area. Unfortunately, like the apple lolly people, she was only just breaking even. Peter Jones broke all the rules and offered more money than she was asking for in a twist that left a bit of a bad taste in the mouth, from where I was standing.

Jonesy’s always trying to be the cool one. Whether it’s his dalliances with Levi Roots, his foray into publishing with the nauseating rag Wonderland, trying to rock out with Hamfatter or this adventure in fashion, he wants to be a scenester.

Well, sorry Pete. You’re a seven-foot corporate tit who does crap ads for BT and sits in Simon Cowell’s pocket. You’re about as far removed from the notion of ‘cool’ as it’s possible to be, so leave that stuff to Bannatyne – the beating heart of Dragon sophistication. In a couple of weeks time, Meaden will see the error of her ways and lurch towards Dunc’s inimitable, brusque stylings – mark my words.

The Friday Question: Room 101

July 25, 2008

Room 101 has always been a mixed bag. Some contestants really understand the ludicrous premise and put abstract, absurd selections up for discussion – a couple of examples being when Spike Milligan chose Portsmouth and Chiswick Post Office  was selected by Sheila Hancock.

Others opt for uninspired choices – Ricky Gervais, supposed comedy behemoth, opted for ‘annoying noises’ which doesn’t show a huge amount of inspiration. Similarly, witless blockhead Gordon Ramsay chose traffic wardens, summoning all the creativity of a white van man in a coma.

Let’s imagine, like that bloke in the Commitments who pretended he was on Wogan while laying in the bath, we’re all celebrities and have been invited to sit with Paul Merton (or Nick Hancock) to discuss our pet hates.

So – what goes into Room 101?

Wanted

July 24, 2008

It may matter to you, it may not – but this review definitely contains spoilers.

So, just how rubbish is Wanted?

Put it this way; if, after the movie finished, Angelina Jolie herself had come out from behind the curtain and begun to service me with her bouncy chair lips, running herself up and down my shaft and continuously muttering “I’m sorry about the film” for as long as it took before I burst my frothy top, I would still walk away with an overwhelming sense of disappointment.

That’s how rubbish it is.

Normally at this point I would be calling for the heads of the filmmakers and the actors to be brought before me as a sacrificial display of consumer power, but not this time. Here, my irk is squared directly at the people who sold me the movie, at the people who cut the trailers and the journalists who salivated over the orgy of averageness.

This is not the next great leap forward. This is not Angelina Jolie proving her worth in tabloid gossip, nor James ‘Mr Tumnus’ McAvoy becoming a leading man…

It is not the first great action film of the summer and it is not a good example of what can be done by mixing crazed Soviet directors with Western budgets.

It is balls. Pure and simple balls, and I hold those who told me it was anything but responsible.

This film is a triumph of marketing, of deceptive trailer teasing and wilful cohesion on my behalf. It’s as much my fault as anybody else’s because I chose to believe their bullshit this time around. Instead of cynically avoiding it based on past experiences I fell for their fast cuts and hyped hyperbole and it led me into a world of regret. Had I expected nothing, had I been uninformed and unexcited then I would have discovered an ok action film… but I didn’t. I was offered the moon and like a foolish and greedy child I reached for it.

Mr Tumnus plays Wesley Gibson, a pathetic loser of an American accent who has a shit job and a zero result hit on Google. Based on a clear and obvious lie about his lineage he is inducted into a fraternity of assassins who kill targets chosen by a mystical weaving ‘Loom of Fate’ and presided over by the villain – oops, I mean a gravitas-intoning Morgan Freeman. I’m not making this up. A Loom of Fate. Morgan Freeman actually says at one point ‘this is the Loom of Fate’. It’s fucking awful.

For half the film Morgan trains Tumnus by going on and on about the ripples of our actions and how they kill one person to save a thousand. Angelina is there too, playing an assassin called ‘the Fox’ but who may as well be called Emo Teenager’s Wet Dream, such is the gratuitous Nine Inch Nails soundtracking to her slow-motion tattooed fetishism. Tumnus gets beaten up by the guy from Hustle, learns to curve bullets and surfs trains before, six weeks later, becoming a world class assassin with superhuman abilities to slow time.

I know what you’re thinking – that it actually sounds pretty cool, right? Silly and forgetful, but a little bit cool. I mean, come on, a fraternity of magical assassins who kills the butterfly effectors of the world for a greater good. Looks good on paper, n’est pas?

I thought so too. I was wrong. It’s one of those films where opening a door takes 15 different cuts, angles, whip pans and needless CGI shots to achieve – where what should be gleefully celebrated as silly is taken as the height of seriousness and where every action sequence is undermined by the relentless safety net of computer highjiggerypokery.

What is particularly frustrting is that this should be a good movie. The director, Timur Bekmambetov, made the awesome Nightwatch which, while equally ludicrous and self indulgent, still manages to makes sense and is hardly shy of creativity. The action scenes, where he normally excels, are empty and marred by such bad editing that they don’t make any sense whatsoever – hiding their flaws and rampant inconsistancies behind flashes and shakes of post production meddling. This film should have been a two hour version of the Hotel Lobby scene from the Matrix – instead it was like all the bad bits from the remake of Gone in 60 Seconds.

Half way through, the plot thus far is switched and the potentially good setup is squandered on needless story twists and the sense that we should take the story seriously and care for these characters. McAvoy handles the role well, but Jolie is like a bored Lara Croft, her performance a phoned-in montage of seductive glances and blank stares. Morgan Freeman is wasted as the leader of the assassins, intoning as if at a bible meeting and wearing a huge flashing sign around his neck saying ‘Bad Guy.’ Terence Stamp pops up and then pops down again with little or no influence. It’s all so… corporate… and hardly the anarchic gunfest I was led to believe it was.

That said, it’s got style and some really nice imagery and the ideas for some of the sequences, if not the sequences themselves, are very nice. Unfortunately the tone is all wrong and instead of thrilling and delighting it bores and annoys.

This is all the fault of the marketing people. Movies have to be big these days. Big, big, big, big, BIG. They have to have big stars and big openings and big press and it all ruins the final effect of the film. Had Wanted been a slow burning word of mouth movie, it would have been so much better. Had I not been exposed to all the hype and reviews and relentless plugging I may not have expected so much and may have enjoyed it more.

Like I have said, though, this is as much my fault too. After so many years of being disappointed by movies I thought were going to be great I should have learnt my lesson. Nothing will ever be as good as you want it to be, or as you’ve heard it is, or as they tell you it is. Wanted could have been a pleasant surprise, instead it was just another rubbish movie.

There’s still The Dark Knight and Hellboy 2 to come though… and they’re obviously going to be great.

Eating With The Enemy

July 23, 2008

It must’ve looked fairly appealing on paper.

Great idea for new reality / cooking / lifestyle module – a Dragons’ Den vs Masterchef fusion. Import the same chefs who mete out the nasty judgements on Masterchef and get them to judge food made by the Great British public. Like Masterchef without the constructive criticism. Like Dragon’s Den without the real business opportunities and vast sums of money. A chance to see restaurant critics really lashing out on poor, unsuspecting, non media-friendly fools. Guaranteed success.

It looks like a ratings-grabber on first sight but after five minutes viewing, the obvious flaws poke out like impetuous tongues.

Sweet Baby James presents Eating With The Enemy, playing the exact same role as Evan Davis in the old double ‘D’. He’s the go-between who liaises with the judges and cosies up to the contestants. He’s the viewers’ representative. It works with affable Evan, who humbles himself in front of contestants, folding his fists in front of himself and smiling from behind those kind, slightly off-kilter eyes. With Sweet Baby James it doesn’t quite work the same way, given his abrasive attitude. He spends the show mocking the efforts of the contestants to their faces and getting in the way. Yesterday he made a scene when he got splashed with a tiny dribble of custard, the big jessie.

The judges are vaguely known restaurant critics. You’d recognise them if you saw them. They are:

Toby Young – Probably the most famous. Likeable buffoon.
Kate Spicer  – Evening Standard food critic. A sour-faced grunt of a woman who starred in possibly the worst television show ever, Super Skinny Me.
Jay Rayner – Son of Clare. Observer food critic. Pompous man-mountain with ludicrous hair and facial trim who appears to climax every time he makes a weak, food-related gag.
Charles Campion – Miserable, fat knacker who looks EXACTLY like Peter from Family Guy.

The show’s structured really badly. Dragons’ Den is so straightforward you’d have to be lobotomised to misunderstand the formula. Masterchef is slightly more confusing – with semi finals here and restaurant rounds there – but usually we know where it’s at.

Eating With The Enemy has so many segments that we seem to meet the contestants three times, say goodbye to them twice and have the main courses described (in some detail) endlessly throughout the shows fifty minutes.

Another flaw, possibly intended, is that the food is bloody awful. Walid, a Lebanese gentleman, made steak with a ‘stilton vein’ running through it and bacon wrapped around the outside. It was completely over-complicated and rammed with essence of cardiac arrest. His sparring partner was Sam who made ‘rag pudding’ which seemed to be a weird arctic roll made out of mince and fat. Not to mock Sam or Wally – I probably couldn’t do much better myself – but surely it just meant we were going to have to watch culinary assassination as the non-professionals lined up their wares in front of people who talk shit about high end food for a living?

In the event, the judges shrank from the task and praised the dishes where they could. The rubbish in front of them was barely worth comment so they opted for the positive. And therefore the ‘fearsome’ judges pretty much turned the show into an irrelevance. They’re referred to throughout as ‘The Enemy’ in the same way Theo, Jonesy and pals are called ‘The Dragons’, but it doesn’t make any sense as they show sympathy, which is weakness, which drains the element of threat from proceedings. The closest they got, really, was asking Walid why he’d attacked an ‘innocent bit of meat’ and saying he’d ‘pushed it off a cliff’.

So what we have here is a redundant piece of programming. A pretty despicable concept in the first place – four twats who get paid to be pissy to waiters criticise some nice normal folk for giving something a bash – is then completely weakened when ‘The Enemy’ go all soft and praise food you’d clearly send back if you were served it even in a greasy spoon. So what, my friends, is the fucking point?

I’ve not even started on some other major weaknesses. Dragons’ Den works because the prize at stake is a large amount of money. Remove the return and you’ve kicked your programme in the groin. Masterchef works because those participating already have some degree of flair. Serve up two shit cooks and you’ve gone and slapped your show’s arse. Use restaurant critics as your judges and you’ve pretty much decapitated your own creation.

Restaurant critics, as any fool knows, are generally sniffy berks who lack any experience or expertise in what they do. They’re professional moaners. Where the Dragons have all worked their way to their personal wealth, this lot are promoted hacks who are now so far removed from the man on the street they think writing cynically about a fucking pudding represents a meaningful existence. I remove Giles Coren from that generalisation, as he barely even mentions the food, preferring instead to waffle on about his life – which is generally far more interesting.

These four ‘enemies’ and their supposedly daunting presence is acceptable when they’re asked to bitch for three minutes in Masterchef, but try and extend that three minutes to fifty and the whole thing collapses like an undercooked cakey pie.

I just hope they don’t make this rubbish prime time.

Dragons’ Den

July 22, 2008

A new series of Dragons Den then. A kind of apology for The Apprentice having ended. The wafting hand clearing up the final aroma strains from an Alan Sugar trump. No changes to the line up this time round – it’s the same sour faces as last time sitting in a moody row on plush leather seats in a miserable loft conversion. And, of course, perma-grinning Evan Davis scuttles around downstairs like a friendly cockroach to apply soothing balm to those contestants who descend the stairs shell-shocked and pitch-beaten. Unless they’ve won – which is a rarity and depends on a Dragon’s mood. It also depends on how the result of the inevitable game of one-upmanship between the four bastards turns out.

It’s the dynamic between the Dragons that’s made this show work since the first ever episode graced our screens. Remember when that weird sideburn man who runs disgusting Japanese food-theft disaster, Yo! Sushi was in it? Thank God they got rid of that corporate hippy. And thank God they got rid of the Red Letter Day woman – purchase ledger nightmare that she turned out to be – and replaced her with the woman of all our dreams, Debbie The Bombshell Meaden.

So, to briefly analyse the interpersonal relationships between the mediators…

James Caan: The silent shit. Caan is an outcast who keeps his balls to the wall and strokes his top lip like a semaphore artist waggles his flags. His body language attempts to say ‘I’m taking this all on board’ when it actually clearly says ‘I haven’t a clue what to do as nobody likes me’. His independence means he can’t as easily arrange split ventures with other Dragons, so he’s prone to making easily usurped offers. All sympathy for the outwardly pleasant Caan drops when you realise he made all his money in the slime-soaked recruitment industry.

Duncan Bannatyne: Everyone’s favourite male Dragon. Looks like a washed up 80s crooner – is in fact the head of a fitness empire. His cute quiff, gangly legs and gruff Caledonian manner make him a lovable bastard. He has a tendency to call a spade a spade. In fact, he has more of a tendency to call a spade rubbish, before demonstrating how flimsy it is by cracking it over his knee. He pretends he gets on with Caan (he has to – he sits next to him) and has the respect of the others, but really this guy is the very definition of ‘loner’.

Deborah Meaden: How do I love ye? Let me count the ways. Meaden takes no bullshit, because she knows bullshit like the back of her bullshitting hand – and you’ve got bullshit all over you, you bullshitty bastard. Deborah is transparently in love with Theo as she’s always trying to find ways of striking a deal involving the two of them, and she visibly crumbles when he mentions ‘Missus Paphitis’ in jealous despair.

Theo Paphitis: Despite being loyal to his enormous wife (he said it, not me), Theo is battling constantly with the true love he can’t conceal for enormo-breasted Debs. Well-liked due to his being a tiny little man, Theo often plays the fool before kicking in with a hard lesson in the steely world of business. Never mess with the little man.

Peter Jones: The villain of the piece. Everyone despises Jonesy. Everyone. He’s a physical and financial giant the other Dragons simply can’t measure up against. More likely to make a big money deal on his own than with any other player – he’s occasionally up for splitting the odd deal but is more likely to go off on his own, like some demented cyborg. You mess with Jones, you mess with the force of death. N.B – Jones’s pubes are shaved into a perfect circle – click here for evidence.

A brief rundown of last night’s episode:

Hamfatter
Likeable indie lads with a generic sound got signed up by Jonesy in a three-way stand off against a Meaden/Theo vs Dunc/Cann pair of alliances. How a band can be treated as a business I don’t quite understand, but Jonesy has contacts in Sony, apparently. Don’t expect them to be number one just yet.

Travel Cushion
Nice enough idea – but you wouldn’t buy one. Labelled stupid by the Dragons who rounded on the poor sod because he worked at ASDA. Doesn’t really seem fair. We’ve all got to start somewhere. Death nell sounded when, pushed for financial reports he stated he was ‘never a fan of maths’. Derided by the Dragons for that, elevated to hero status for me.

Air Oasis Ltd
Water from air, apparently. These alchemists (and ex-hoover salesmen) claimed they could make water from the atmosphere then demonstrated their magical abilities. Unfortunately Barry their salesman was a rapid-fire arse and he sank the pitch, even before the water was declared to taste awful – with much theatrical mouth-wiping from the Dragons.

Baby Supporter
Nice couple who aimed to convert all children into couch potatoes in infancy. Didn’t get very far.

Strike Trainer
Unimpressive punchbag that counts calories burned. Shot down in flames.

Lay Line Sheet
A comical item, suited to the novelty rack in Urban Outfitters. This sheet had a territory line marked for couples arguing over bed space. I could relate to this one and might’ve made it a whimsical stocking filler. Clearly the Dragons sleep in separate beds to their partners as they weren’t buying it and made a mockery of the Morgan Spurlock fellow who was trying to flog it with his lovely wife. Weirdly, Debs gave them hell despite her involvement with You Doo doll – a similarly amusing and novelty project made by friend of WWM, Sarah Lu. ‘Let’s draw a line under this’ said Theo, in the first weak pun of the series.

Graduate Social Networking
An unprepared contestant tried to sell this idea that nobody could understand. Bannatyne unfairly dismissed it as he’s grumpy he had to pay his kids’ university fees.

Paradise Panels
Stupid, sub-kitsch panels that display exotic backdrops in your back garden. On your fence. ‘Don’t take offence (a fence)’ said Theo, doubling his crap joke quotient.

Party Organisers
If there’s an industry which is based more in nothingness, I’d be keen to hear about it. Party Organisers are usually good-looking, horribly trendy idiots. Yet these two were likable types, and James and Duncan won the battle to get involved despite another multi-Dragon stand off. I couldn’t see the attraction, but then I don’t go to the types of parties where moving trees and silver living-statues are part of the backdrop, thank Christ. Having said that, I don’t go to any parties at all as I’m a miserable turd.

And that was that. By episode three I’ll wager Theo and Meaden will be on the floor in a naked embrace, as Jonesy and Evan Davis slyly thwack their bald marmosets through pocket-lining.

Pre-order that Kleenex, boys and girls.