Archive for January, 2009

The Friday Question: Opening Music…

January 30, 2009

wwmmusicweb1

A show’s theme tune often defines it. Eastenders wouldn’t be what it is without that striking piece of synth magic, latterly recorded as ‘Anyone Can Fall In Love’ by Anita Dobson, because it scanned. Similarly, Coronation Street relies on the moaning horns it opens with, instilling warmth in the pensioners and students who watch it. Emmerdale probably also has a theme tune, but I can’t be sure as I never watch it. Because it’s rubbish.

Sitcoms also have had some crackers. I’m thinking of Dexy’s singing ‘Because of You’ at the start of the generally awful Brush Strokes, or the wailing jazz mess that sees Bottom in.

Then you’ve got drama – Minder with Dennis Waterman singing the feem toon, B-B-Bread, that intensely unfunny bittersweet scouse comedy-soap, with the lyrics everybody inexplicably remembers.

In my startlingly attractive eyes, the best ever theme tune featured on Dear John, the barely remembered sitcom in which a divorcee struggled to find love among a cast of stereotypes.

What about you? Does the rousing, clattering orchestra of Black Beauty get you going? Maybe it’s the ominous computer purr of the Crimewatch jingle that sets you off? Or you might be the type who gets off on the hard-rocking music that accompanies the snooker…

What’s the best TV theme music?


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Gok Wan: Too Fat Too Young / Horizon: Why Are Thin People Not Fat?

January 29, 2009

abdominal fat

Yet more food-based television for you.

Bet you can’t wait. Like the TV Execs who commission this stuff endlessly, I reckon your hunger for this junk-TV is insatiable. TV is your feeder and you, reader, are its BBV (Big Beautiful Viewer).

So first up, Gok Wan. Channel 4’s Mr Charisma – otherwise known as ‘him again’ – manages to tell us very little of any substance over the course of fifty minutes apart from the fact that he was once absolutely bloody enormous. 21 stone of Gok. If you didn’t see it, all you missed out on were a few historical Gok-shots of Mr Wan when he was obese, wobbling about on a stage with a 90s curtain-cut. Not amusing, not particularly revelatory, just a little bit voyeuristic. All the stuff surrounding it left no real mark, so this ended up as just an anti-vanity piece by Gok – a slice of self-flagellation cum self-congratulation with no real purpose other than to strengthen his resolve not to eat pork pies ever again. Bizarre.

And so we move to BBC2’s latest Horizon offering – Why Are Thin People Not Fat?

I switched this on whilst eating two quarter pounders, chips and mushy peas. It’s a moronic question to which the only logical answer I could muster was ‘because they’re thin’, through a mouthful of masticated junk-cud. Swiftly followed by ‘now stop asking stupid questions and put a sitcom on’.

The brief for this show was to feed a handful of skinny students shitloads of cake and monitor them to see if they put on weight, which they did, in varying  amounts. One kid’s extra input turned into muscle (the lucky swine), one kid grew a massive gut and most just grew love-handles. It was another tiresome example of the Spurlock Effect, in which lazy Producers, lost for ideas, nick the format of Supersize Me for the umpteenth time and film the predictable result.

Some vaguely amusing shots of the young ‘uns gorging themselves to the point of nausea aside, the rest of this was straight-faced fat-facts. It essentially comprised so many differing schools of thought on why some folk are pre-disposed to weight gain that it rendered them all meaningless, with no discernible conclusion amongst the wildly opposing scientific theories.

Pah! Thanks a lot, ‘science’!

The kids lost the weight without any effort after two weeks. Gok lost all his girth years ago. BBC 2 and Channel 4 lost all their substance when this obsession with food robbed us of decent televisual output, which snowballed the minute Jamie Oliver, the Naked bloody Chef, made food trendy – and for that I reckon we should burn the bastard at the stake.

The Culture Show

January 28, 2009

culture show mark kermode lauren laverne bbc2

I like the fact that, among the programmes about thin people purposefully getting fat for scientific reasons on BBC2 and their numerous reality television broadcasts about food, they still find a place for a magazine show about intellectual stuff. It’s good that high-minded people have an outlet for their frustrations. The Culture Show is that outlet.

Last night the show was all about the Scotch (I’ve no idea why), so we were treated to Robert Carlysle talking gibberish under the guise of reciting some Burns poetry. Victor Meldrew talked about if for a bit and then the bloke out of Idlewild did a nice little song.Then they talked to the cumulatively irrelevant Franz Ferdinand and finished with an obligatory (but decidedly non-Scotch) African musical collective.

All very nice, inoffensive and aimed at a specific market. Most folk will prick their ears up for the film bits and the musical sections, then go back to their copies of Titbits when an item comes on about theatre – King Lear last night – presented by the woman with the unmoving mouth, Miranda Sawyer.

My main issue with The Culture Show lies with the presenters. The odd couple being, of course, Lauren Laverne and Mark Kermode. The chemistry between these two is really, really odd. When it comes to Kermode’s film reviews, Laverne indulges him with mock-shock gasps when he says something supoosedly scathing and tickles his fancy with scripted questions with blindingly obvious answers so that he can do that thing he does. That thing where he acts like he knows absolutely bloody everything about everything.

Admittedly, Kermode is a very intelligent bloke. He knows a lot about films, but there is one major issue with his style, which is that he’s started to resemble Michael Portillo’s Spitting Image puppet.

His hair is a plasticated lump that looks like it’s been nicked from Gunther Von Hagens’ spleen collection. I can’t get over his ridiculous quiff no matter how hard I try, and whenever I look at Laverne, I can’t get past the fact she works with Steve Jones over on Channel 4 on a weekly basis and doesn’t smash his blasted face in to a mushy pulp to save us from the builder-in-a-skinny-tie idiot.

For my part, I’ve been brainstorming better presenter couplings for the Culture Show – and here are some ideas:

  • James Bardem and June Brown
  • Jermaine and Latoya Jackson
  • Cosmo and Dibs from ‘You and Me’
  • Avon and Stringer from The Wire
  • Karl and Susan Kennedy from Neighbours
  • Harold and Lou from Neighbours
  • Toadfish and Stonefish. From Neighbours.

If anyone at BBC 2 wants to get in touch, I reckon I’d revolutionise your casting sessions. Email at the usual address.

Chickens, Hugh And Tesco Too

January 27, 2009

hugh fearnley whittingstall, chickens, tesco

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall again, taking his annual break from being an irritating bastard so he can talk a bit of sense about chickens, remarkably abstaining from going over the top and self-righteous about it. It seems HFW is capable of making interesting TV, and this kind of  thing just about compensates for the scabies-like irritation of his usual guff.

River Cottage is a saccharine, utopian vision of farming, in which Hugh is  free to  till the land without the pressure of the industry  and overheads looming over his  shoulder as most normal farmers would experience. Instead he’s able to  drain his book-royalty fund to pay for all the technicalities, making it nauseating, patronising bollocks.

But his chicken campaign has some relevance and feels current, raising it above the River Cottage standard. In this latest instalment, HFW buys a single share for about 500 quid in order to be able to speak to major shareholders and try to convince them that the industry standard is to harsh on the bird, and that the much more humane, RSPCA backed Freedom Food standard should be the base level. And it’s hard to argue with him.

Last time round, he was rewarded with only a bloody nose when trying to change Tesco’s ways as the marketing bods at the top of the tree steadfastly refused to speak to him, so it followed that by buying a share he would get more of a say. Hard to know how much of what followed was pantomime contrivance, but it was all good fun.

One fact that shocked me, early on, (though it probably shouldn’t have) is that Friends of the Earth have shares in Tesco. Isn’t that a bit weird? Probably not. You just expect a charity to make ethical decisions when it comes to investing – but then you remember ethics don’t really come into economics.

Anyhow, the first move was explaining his case to some shareholders, City types, in pinstripe with public-school floppy hair. All were left unmoved. The deadly silence that followed HFW’s little speech spoke volumes on why this wouldn’t actually, physically make a difference and could only succeed as a point well made. The welfare of a chicken, pecked-half bald as it sits in its own shit is of very little interest to people who want to put some money somewhere and return a few weeks later to find it’s doubled. Chickens be damned when cash can be reaped. Eventually, one long haired suit-wearer saw the correllation between Tesco’s reputation and the improvement of standards, but the reputation card didn’t work last time round, so was unlikely to this time.

The high point, for me, was HFW’s attempts to speak to someone of importance from Tesco on camera. Instead, he was greeted by a Media Spokesperson, or Head of Talking On Telly as she was dubbed. This creature, both attractive and coldly empty, spoke in  wittering circles of sales guff. She repeatedly bleated that Tescos ‘lead the way’ on this topic – a term she had clearly been encouraged to use as it’s such blatantly contrived bullshit, she couldn’t have come up with it herself.

‘Lead the way’ means utterly nothing. Where is ‘the way’? How are they ‘leading’ towards it? Who are they leading? Where will they end up? Why not just say something quantatitive and substantial instead of talking unmitigated shit?

It got worse. One of my pet hates is food packaging and how, these days, it’s virtually impossible to work out where meat came from, what the terms mean and whether the food you’re buying has been fiddled with. Apparently, according to the Media Spokesperson, to have anything resembling a description of conditions, even something as basic as the two words ‘indoor-reared’, would be patronising to the consumer.  And if that doesn’t display contempt for the customer, I don’t know what does. You don’t need any more evidence to prove that Tesco aren’t in the least bit concerned by what their customers want (unless it involves undercutting their competitors).

Eventually HFW’s target of converting 75% of shareholder opinion (an impossible task, with the rules set by Tesco) failed, as was destined. But this was a point well made.

The sad thing is, the core customer-base of Tesco – those who may have been influenced into not buying the lower end offal – were probably put off this transmission by the very fact of Hugh’s presence, and will be purchasing two-for-a-fiver chickens as I type these very words…

The Friday Question: You Produce!

January 23, 2009

production booth

EDIT

The remit has been expanded to include any current affairs, news or magazine show.

Good morning.

Today’s Friday Question concerns the folk who lurk behind the scenes. The button-pushers, the format-tweakers and the devils in the shadows. I speak, of course, about the Reality TV Production Team.

They are the unseen heroes and villains of Reality TV. If it wasn’t for them, nobody on Masterchef would go on about how winning would be a dream come true, because they wouldn’t be asked constant, leading questions along the lines of ‘just how amazing would you feel if you won it?’.

The Apprentice cast wouldn’t be urged on with cumulatively aggressive questioning and Big Brother housemates wouldn’t, at audition stage, be encouraged to act like complete arseholes the second they get in the bungalow…

SO… If you were behind the scenes of any reality show, be it Wife Swap, Maestro, Strictly Come Dancing or any other that come to mind, how would YOU tweak the format?

You can add or take anything away from the usual progression of events. You can guide the participants to act in a certain way. You can even make everyone take all their clothes off! So that they’d be naked! With all tits and arses everywhere!

You are the Producer.

What will you do?

One Minute Review – CBB so far…

January 22, 2009

With only a couple of days to go before the final of the show nobody’s talking about – Celebrity Big Brother 2009 – I’ve just about got time to note the performances of contestants so far, but sadly am limited to five words per remaining head.

Here we go.

Verne:
Bad drunk, afro suited him.

Coolio:
Only entertaining character, despite sexism.

Ulrika:
Stop moaning about your children.

Terry:
Lung cancer is clearly imminent.

Ben:
Walking, talking, smirking, personality-vacuum.

Tommy:
Terminally boring, laddish, hirsute socialist.

My apologies. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

Just a Thought – Eastenders Quarantine

January 21, 2009

ben mitchell

We’ve mentioned this before, but where the hell do soap characters go when they’re not required?

Any one episode will feature three or four theads, right? These usually involve around six families. So what happens if a character’s not required? Are we supposed to imagine that they’re still about, just doing their usual thing whilst all the drama in their life is put on hold until the cameras can be arsed to start rolling in front of them?

For example – where the hell has Gary been in Eastenders for the past month? Minty too has been missing for a while – only appearing in what might be considered a cameo role, having a chuckle about the new massage parlour for all of a minute before wafting off back into the ether.

Ben’s gone AWOL too, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some reports have inferred that he’s shaved his head, stuck on a white smock and is currently trying to rebrand Little Chef, but these are unconfirmed.

ALL of the Bianca clan have vanished. My better half tells me they’re on holiday – but I suspect that, like the others mentioned, they’ve been packed off to Quarantine.

Shirl’s in quarantine too – with a suspected dose of madness, what with all the lusting after Phil she’s been up to recently. Another character who’s currently surplus to requirements, she sits in plot limbo, idly twiddling her thumbs until the voyeurs demand she come back.

Eastenders Quarantine is, I presume, a lonely place. Surely there must be a more humane way of freezing time for the Walford residents as we viewers, standing like Greek Gods over their fates, get on with the most important plot points, or take a break from the more intense storylines? The thought of them shivering in Quarantine until such time as they’re recalled – or sent off packing to The Bill for eternity – leaves me cold.

Big Chef Takes On Little Chef

January 20, 2009

The Great British Food Fight, alternatively referred to as ‘more cookery rubbish’ by the public at large, kicked off last night with Heston Blumenthal’s much-touted attempt at reinvigorating Little Chef’s branding, by way of the focal point of their operation – their rancid menu.

Like Blumenthal, I’ve not been inside a Little Chef in twenty-odd years. When Channel 4 eventually ventured in, it was both heart-warming and disturbing to see that absolutely nothing had changed in there. Not only in terms of the style of the interior, but also the actual interiors themselves. No broken chairs or peeling wallpaper appears to have been fixed. Now, this may not be true of every branch. Channel 4, devious bastards that they are, are probably using one bad example to tarnish the whole change. All the same, wilting pink walling isn’t what you want to see as you eat a leathery mixed grill.

Speaking of the food, it’s hard to defend what Little Chef were putting out. Hardened, overcooked, frozen meat. The fish pie looked like mixed bodily-fluid with the skin of an old woman floating on the surface. The Hawaiian Burger looked like roadkill. Heston and pals even gagged as they sipped the coffee. It could have been pantomime snobbishness, but it looked the real deal. Even as someone who despises the meaningless, middle-class bullshit of the word ‘foodie’, the food here simply looked unappetising

The strange thing with Heston Blumenthal is that, despite his running one of the most celebrated ponce-kitchens in the world, he comes across like a very decent bloke (and the kind of boss we all wish we had). He reminds me most of certain posh kids at secondary school who were almost embarrassed of their accents and sought to rid themselves of their upper-middle class roots by selling hash by the teenth in the playground. He comes across, essentially, as a stoner schoolchild with a frying pan.

Heston B’s approach to food is, fundamentally, at odds with what Little Chef seek to do. They’re operating in completely opposing markets – as Channel 4 knew full well when setting this absurd venture up. And fireworks have already started to fly, with the show’s one special ingredient turning out not to be the not-very-nutty professor Heston, but rather the Head Honcho at Little Chef, Ian Pegler. Pegler gifts Channel 4 the tools with which to make entertaining television, and from the moment he refused to give the company’s GP (or any figures at all, as it turned out) to Blumenthal, we knew we were on to a winner.

Ian is the anti-Alan Sugar, by way of Alan Partridge. From his bewilderingly misplaced use of the term ‘bluesky thinking’ to his assertion that Heston B could do absolutely anything he wanted with the company (so long as he didn’t change the menu), the befuddled swine was a trove of amusing vignettes, no moreso than the point towards the end at which, when pressed, he hung up on Heston Blumen-heck in a mild panic – a comedy moment which had to be seen
to be believed.

So far it’s a curious little programme this. You can’t help but feel HB is the only one of Channel 4’s four chefs who could actually do something with the idea. Hugh FW would start blubbing straight off the bat, Ramsay would fail, then blame everyone around him and Oliver would fail whilst pretending he’d succeeded, playing some Snow Patrol over the end credits by way of insisting he’d changed the world.

It’s interesting watching snobbishness battling inverse snobbishness and so I’ll watch this through to the end. It’s worth it for the guilty pleasure of the hilarious hatchet job on Ian Pegler, which would be cruel rather than amusing, if only it wasn’t Ian himself himself holding the hatchet.