Posts Tagged ‘Channel 4’

The World’s Most Enhanced Woman And Me

February 9, 2009

mark dolan

Mark Dolan first arrived in the public eye on the Richard Taylor Interviews – a slightly amusing Channel 4 comedy stunt show in which he posed as the MD of a fictional company, then put hopeful interview candidates through a gruelling process of humiliating tasks. It was designed, I think, to prove that management speak was a load of guff – featuring footage of these upstarts in the days before The Apprentice discussing just how 110% they are, followed by the satisfying sight of yet another young pretender to the corporate throne making a right royal tit of themselves in the desperate hope of landing a £30k management team leader ‘role’.

So, a decent start to his TV career. But then things started to descend – as anyone who’s seen Balls of Steel will attest. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to do anything other than mention the title and remind folk that it was Dolan who gleefully presented it to get your gag-reflexes swinging.

After that, a stint sitting beside Nick Ferrari in the LBC studio, a punishment in itself, one would imagine. And now he bafflingly finds himself involved in an hour of good-slot Channel 4 TV every week. Without googling or scanning Wikipedia, one suspects Dolan has worked in production or commissioning before, so pitching himself a new show is as simple as telling Channel 4 what hours he can work. Otherwise there’s no way someone so monumentally untalented – either in front of the camera or coming up with concepts behind it – would get this much work. Otherwise there is simply no justice in the world.

This latest outing has been criticised by critics as a tasteless neo-freakshow and coming at it with fresh eyes, having not seen any of the last series, you can see exactly why. In The Most Enhanced Woman In The World, Dolan travels to America (where else?) to track down women who cater to the ‘big boob’ fetish. A dying breed (in some cases literally) since their wobbly bosomed heyday in the decadent 90s.

Dolan doesn’t say why he wants to meet ridiculously augmented women and he neglects to add a Louis Theroux style disclaimer at the start explaining that he’d like to know what these people are all about. He simply dives in there, like an over-enthusiastic public schoolboy, intent on fulfilling his pointless mission. Without any context for the brief, we’re left with a lanky moron going on a jolly to poke fun at the spiritually bereft.

Ho ho!

First he meets a big-boobed blonde who, since the softcore work dried up, recently made the move into hardcore. Her silent (and much younger) husband retrieves two implants from a carrier bag that she no longer fastens to herself because they’re too big and they leak – with the potential for the silicon to enter brain cells and the bloodstream, causing paralysis, brain damage and death. Despite her life choices, this one was quite aware of the inherent tragedy of her surgery. Without any suffering to poke his pointy stick at, Dolan cruised off to find something a little more perverse for the camera.

And he found it. Minka was, once upon a time, an adequately proportioned South Korean lady, doing normal things – like playing tennis and working in a mundane job, all the while with a normal set of dumplings – until Woody entered her country and her life. Woody swept her off her feet and dragged her to America where he persuaded her to stick implants the size of space-hoppers up her armpits so they could make millions of dollars.

Their household, as far as we could tell, was a loveless void where the big-boob obsessive kept his disfigured missus for two reasons. Firstly, so that he could live with a grotesquely adorned doll (that’s what she had become – all trace of personality wiped) and secondly so he could make money out of it. Dolan made steps towards obtaining an understanding of Minka, but so superficially that he needn’t have bothered. It was left to the viewer to use the scantest of evidence to piece together how this relationship worked. The devil is in the detail – owning seven small dogs might demonstrate that Minka is lonely, for example – but rather than go searching for more of this kind of stuff, Dolan just snorted and singgered his way through before committing the ultimate documentary-making sin.

The ‘judgement piece to camera’, where the presenter addresses the audience (or the cameraman), is a major mistake in this sort of television. Especially when the presenter judges the subject and offers his opinion. Notice how Theroux only talks to camera if he’s telling the cameraman to get out of the way, of if totally necessary to give a sense of time and place. Nick Broomfield also avoids it at all costs. This is why they get awards. They’re aware of what documentary actually is. Dolan, however, treats his audience with contempt and attempts to tell us what’s going on despite the fact we already know, and think he’s an arse for not being able to cope with it properly.

Finally, Dolan visits Brazil where Shayla was going for the world record in terms of the size of her waps. Shayla was immediately a sympathetic character, and Dolan initially appeared to make a connection. We were witness to tears and insecurity which came to a head in a scene on a beach, were Shayla admitted she had self-esteem issues due to a lost love, and then a shopping mall scene wherein Shayla hoovered up the curiosity of onlookers, mistaking it for love. There was a lot here that could have been said about the culture of celebrity. With a few more questions along those lines, we’d have got to the heart of Shayla. But Dolan couldn’t be arsed. He was too busy watching her balance her boobs on the table so she could take the weight off her spine.

When Shayla went for her record-breaking augmentation, instead of asking pertinent questions, Dolan stood like a spare prick at a wedding doing bugger all. He appeared to have lost all emotion in the face of truly troubling subject matter. It was obvious that he was in too deep and, without the charm, charisma of presence of mind to deal with it, what could have been quite a startling piece of insightful TV turned into the absolute opposite. Freakshow TV where the host becomes even freakier than his subjects by virtue of his ignorance.

The final piece to camera did nothing to rescue this nasty slice of nothingness. Dolan simply bailed, with words to the effect of ‘I’ve met the most enhanced woman in the world, and I wish I hadn’t’.

He’s all heart.

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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.

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…

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.

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.

Celebrity Big Brother 2009

January 5, 2009

Channel 4 refer to this new series as ‘the long-awaited return of Celebrity Big Brother’, which is a bit like hearing someone blowing their own imaginary trumpet. Like everyone else who watched the launch show, I did so because there was nothing else on the TV in the post Christmas airwave-breakdown, apart from rubbish like Stuart Little, the rubbish QI Christmas special (for the sixth time) and repeats of Top Gear.

But there it was, as though the rampant xenophobia of the Jade-mistake had never happened. The actual launch show was preceded by a documentary – if you could call it that, rather than a series of repetitive clips you’ve seen before hundreds of times – called Why I Love Celebrity Big Brother. This waste-of-an-hour featured huge names like the bloke who edits the entertainment pages of Star magazine, Mark Frith (who is everywhere at the moment, presumably not having anyone who loves him another to invite him over for Christmas) and Dom Joly. The Dom Joly who has nothing to do with Big Brother and hasn’t really done anything in 15 years. Apart from the QI Christmas special.

And so it was that on the second day of the first month, it was revealed unto the people throughout the launch show that everyone they had been told would probably be on the programme was, indeed, on the programme. And they did weep.

The only real surprise among the crowd was Ulrika who we’d all probably considered above this. Only slightly – but still slightly above it. Latoya Jackson’s presence was less of a shock as her brother had probably already briefed her on how the only problems she might encounter might be the mind-numbingly long periods of time she’d have to spend talking to people she’d never heard of and couldn’t understand on top of the potential for occasional racist outbursts from fellow contestants.

We all knew Verne Troy was going to appear. Even if we hadn’t been aware, nothing is really too much of a surprise any more with this knackered vehicle. It’s nice seeing him buzzing about on his scooter and trying to avoid all the helpful hands the contestants fling in his direction out of a mixture of PR-awareness and a genuine will to assist, but the tone was sullied the moment after he’d entered the house when the camera cut back, as it does so bafflingly frequently, for a link and Davina pronounced him to be ‘so cute’. And thus began the patronising tone he’s set to find himself smeared in right up to his exit interview at the hands of the bird-faced crone.

So, who else? Coolio is being Coolio – that is a faded pop star who still believes he’s relevant, amiably but somewhat tragically. Then there’s some large scouse lady off some show I’ve never seen who continually lectures Latoya Jackson on male repression, seemingly unaware of the Jackson’s history of abuse – despite the fact she keeps telling her about it. We have a confused Terry Christian – too much of a good bloke to be doing this in my eyes. We have Lucy Pinder, who is a topless model with a right wing brain and a corrosively dull voice. (And massive tits, eh lads?)

The list goes on, with Mutya, ex of Sugababes in the mix and clearly having been badly advised into a moronic career choice. Then there’s Tommy Sheridan, the socialist Scot, either feeding his ego or… actually, probably just feeding his ego.

Ben from A1 is the no-mark this year, as inoffensive as kitchen roll and with about as much to say for himself.  And finally there’s a girl from Liberty X, who’s just a little bit dizzy, just a little bit orange and just a little bit boring.

So whether you couldn’t care less about the whole palaver or, conversely, if you’re tied up by being equally bemused and entertained by the fact that Coolio (you remember – from the 90s) is flirting with Ulrika (that Y shaped weathergirl, also from the 90s), the fact is it’s on for another 21 days, so steel yourselves or dust off your blinkers.

Big Fat Quiz Of The Year: 2008

December 30, 2008

Another year, another Big Fat Quiz Of The Year. Previously, this was decent, low-grade Christmas TV fodder. You could even stand Jimmy Carr and his casual bigotry as the outing relied more heavily on the panelists, made up of, if memory serves:

  • A pre-Manuel-trouble Jonathan Ross, gamely trying to keep up with the cool kids and acting the giddy goat, managing to be funny for ten percent of the time.
  • A pre-Manuel-trouble Russell Brand, putting in a good spot in conjunction with partner in crime…
  • Noel Fielding. Noel Fielding is one of those annoying swines who personifies likability. Thus, anything with him in it is generally alright.
  • David Walliams – like Ross, trying a bit too hard, but keeping the thing afloat with enthusiasm and idiocy.
  • David Mitchell – always good quality, even when he’s in something shit.
  • Someone else I can’t remember. [update] It was the comedian and good egg, Rob Brydon.

This year, things went horribly, horribly wrong. Ross is on a forced holiday because he done a naughty on a phoneline. He couldn’t appear as a result, presumably. Brand was unavailable for similar reasons, in addition to promoting a proper career abroad. Mitchell must have been busy and Walliams is in America. Consequently, we were left with a real horrorshow. Barrels were scraped and dogshit scraped ceremoniously from shoes as Channel 4 booked, presumably whilst drunk:

  • Claudia Winkleman – that woman off Liquid News in the 90s who looks like a goth nine-year-old who’s being continuously tasered.
  • Dara O’Briain – a man who claims he’s a comedian but is actually just Irish. And, disgustingly, he can’t even spell his own name.
  • That posh man – who is infrequently funny on Have I Got News For You.
  • Sean Lock – a cracking comedian whose usually brilliant humour was sullied for the second time this year by that arsehole:
  • James Corden – why? Why, why, why? Why is this bastard even… even…. Why is he…

…I can’t be arsed.

  • Oh – and Davina Fucking McCall.

Need I go on? Does the resultant car crash even warrant description?

Does it buggery. Even the bit where the kids from a primary school do an amusingly amateurish and endearing take on an event from the preceding year fell flat, thanks to the berks on stage following the clip, hooting like gorillas and revelling in their own crap jokes. What a ruddy letdown.

Willie’s Chocolate Christmas

December 23, 2008

unbearable oafs

That Willie arsehole (only on TV because he’s mates with Marco Pierre White) gets a Christmas gig, apparently with a hyper-budget, for reasons we can only grasp at like the blind, intolerable worms they consider us to be over at Channel 4.

Channel 4! Home of morons!

Is he sleeping with Isadora Buck-Tooth, the channel controller? Maybe he’s blackmailing the scheduler, Julian Tit? Are ALL the people at Channel 4 complete wankers?

So Willie, who apparently sells a chocolate lozenge for a living (big bloody deal), gets some people over so he can show off his enormous house, nauseating offspring and revolting wife.

His wife deserves special attention, as it happens, as she’s an example of all that is wrong with this particular class of brainless, born-rich, constantly-on-the-box bastard. She’ so proud of her lobotomised husband and the father of her dribbling kids that she spends the entire episode talking about just how crazy they are, how life is so tough but so much FUN!

She goes about proving just how gruelling her life is by spending the whole hour busy making goodie bags for 20 locals. It’s hardly spending a 15 hour day at the pit. Judging by the size of their manor, life must be a real fucking slog. ‘Boo’. And, indeed, ‘hoo’.

Later on they again demonstrate that money is tight, by cooking an entire fucking lamb for dinner. And, being a ‘crazy madman’, Willie cooks the lamb underground. Just as we’ve seen the Hairy Bikers do before. Just as we’ve seen on TV before, umpteen times.

Apparently, he keeps telling us, this is the first time he’s cooked for his family all year and it feels so cosy to be back for Christmas. At this point, the viewer can’t help wondering why he’d invited a fucking camera crew along, if he wanted the proposed quality time with his family.

Are these people complete unfeeling chancers – prepared to film even the most intimate or private family occasions? Do none of these idiots – Nigella, Jamie and the rest – realise that we see through this pathetic illusion and know full well that they filmed their sentimental, elaborately expensive schedule-grout in October?

I genuinely reckon that they think we believe it’s Christmas because they said it is. They think those of us with a gravel drive instead of a garden will start re-laying it so we can stick a dead sheep under it to cook. They think we’re going to start calling our beef stews ‘tagines’ and they think we’re actually going to make chilli popcorn at some point in our lives.

They can get fucked.

Happy Christmas.