Posts Tagged ‘E4’

Quite Like: The Inbetweeners

April 21, 2009

The Inbetweeners E4

Nick T recommended this little gem – hidden away in E4’s dark and sweaty corner – and was largely ignored. But yesterday, lagging behind the times like the blinkered and dismissive old sod I am, I found the first series on Catch Up and tore through the first two back-to-back. And he’s right. Each episode of The Inbetweeners is a brief sojourn in bad taste with the odd moment of expertly-judged excess.

I think the reason it gets away with the relentless boner, wank, tit, shagging and shitting jokes is that it’s set in a school six-form where the predominant source of humour tend to be the sights, sounds and smells of bodily functions. What the writers get just right is the repetition inherent in the average 16 year old’s speech patterns. Especially the way one teenager will go beyond the realms of logic and through the wall of inanity and out the other side in their pursuit of comfirming their quarry is a bummer. Or a ‘bum-der’, which I learnt yesterday is a mixture of a ‘bummer’ and a ‘bender’.

At thirty years old I find The Inbetweeners funny, so logic dictates that the twelve year old me would most likely worship it, catching every episode on VHS for posterity, maybe even editing out the ad breaks to make the viewing process flow.

But 12 year olds don’t do those things these days. They probably sideload epishots onto their e-Phones and share them with friends in their emmy-sens messengers services, before going out and filming themselves happy-slapping emo-goths. The ‘orrible little shits.

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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.

Dead Set

November 3, 2008

Contains very mild spoilers

I enjoyed Dead Set far more than I thought I would. Being something of an obsessive gimp when it comes to all things undead, I saw the trailer and my first thought was…

…zombie’s shouldn’t be fast!

How many times do we have to tell you?!

Zombies are slow, idiotic, lurching beasts. Not hyper-aware, sprinting gut-munchers! For gawd’s sake, film-makers – you’ve tried it, now let’s get back to the shambolic, staggering undead twats we know and love. It worked in 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake, to a point. But LET’S MOVE ON.

However, I now feast upon my own, over-critical words because it worked here.

The crucial difference between your fast and your slow zombie is margin for error. With a super-zombie, its ability to run at full pelt allows it to kill you within seconds. The virus will spread literally like wild-fire and your only hope, really, is to keep yourself at a massive distance from trouble and holed up securely.

The opportunities for fun multiply when you’re dealing with the traditional, slow zombie as they’re only really a formidable opponent when they come at you in numbers. The virus takes days to set in giving you time to find security. When they do eventually get to you, if you’re stuck in a room with three and have even the lightest of weapons, if you don’t freak out you’ve got a chance. You can outpace them if you choose to run or, if you time your hits right, you can kill them.

The classic zombie allegory, the one film-makers constantly strive to include in their work is based around the fact that zombies are essentially us. When coming at protagonists in hords, they represent the mob. Public opinion. The notion of habitual behaviour. Slow zombies, in this instance, represent the fact that people are catatonic in the face of outside pressures and only respond on the most basic of levels.

So what can we take from the faster, modern zombie? That we’re more clued up? Demand instant satisfaction? Are more aggressive?

It certainly adds up when you consider Charlie Brooker’s Dead Set and it’s none-too-subtle mockery of Big Brother viewers. From the cynical media-savvy watcher to the baying crowds who attend live evictions, thankfully nobody was spared. And, with kudos to Mr Brooker, beyond the premise, the execution of his central conceit was underplayed very well.

So, at the centre of the drama we have the fact that BB viewers are not only zombified – they’re also filled with a kind of aggressive, televisual blood-lust. But beyond that any didactic element was expertly hidden. Despite the fact that characterisation was limited in terms of backstory, we learned enough from their actions to grasp the point the writer was making.

Joplin, I feel, was key here. As a weary, supposedly uninterested contestant approaching middle age, he most represented the BB viewer I tend to know, and I suspect he was the closest Brooker came to scripting himself into the story. Through Kevin Eldon’s lines we got the distinct impression that Brooker feels the cynical observer is just as culpable as the less-informed viewer. And Joplin’s being responsible for literally opening the floodgates in the hectic conclusion was a blatant metaphor for where he feels the blame lies. Essentially, we allow this to happen.

The other characters, sadly, didn’t have quite the depth of Joplin. Jaime Winstone portrayed the standard overlooked herione and the rest of the Big Brother contestants weren’t given a chance to shine. Winstone’s boyfriend had some fantastically emotional scenes but, after five episodes I can’t remember his name, which means he can’t have made much of an impact beyond looking moody on a boat.

The producer character obviously had the best lines – despite being overwritten at some points. With one too many Brookerisms – referring to a PDA as a robot’s bollock, for example – he was in danger of reaching uber-stereotype proportions. But this was remedied by the amusing sight of him literally gutting former housemates with demented glee. And not much needs to be said of the symbolism of his shitting into a bucket in a confined space. It explains itself.

Inevitably, we had the zombie Davina – an idea I was hoping the makers would resist. But, to her credit, Davina makes a far better zombie than TV presenter and it was actually quite gratifying to see her whacking her head against a door – putting those twitching mannerisms to excellent use.

The real problem for anyone approaching zombie film-making in a world where even Romero himself is treading water is what novel amendments can be made to the format without polluting the genre. Fast zombies kind of worked, but have had their day. The first person perspective worked brilliantly in The Zombie Diaries and at the end of the Dawn remake – but faltered somewhat in Diary of the Dead. So one option is to change nothing but the location where the survivors hole up. The location itself becomes the source of tension. Romero was the first to twig this and located his first three movies at, sequentially:

  • The home – looking at how family, friendly and neighbourly relations were compromised.
  • The shopping mall – questioning our consumerist habits. 
  • The nuclear base – playing on fears of nuclear war and military aggression.

Placing the action in the BB compound replicates this structure. Also replicated were several scenes from other zombie movies. Picking zombies off whilst standing on the roof, a la Dawn of the Dead. The producer ripped to shreddies, guts hanging out and all, like the army boss in Day of the Dead. A winking nod to the brilliantly weird Living Dead at Manchester Morgue in the script here, a dash to the van sourced from Night of the Living dead over there… you have to question when homage becomes a tiresome tribute.

It’s this reliance on the genre archetypes that makes Brooker’s outing a worthy addition to what’s becoming a vast pantheon of quality zombie output rather than an outright, genre-busting classic. I’d imagine, to his mind, that’s probably the job wholly done.

Can we get back to the good old days of the stumbling, bumble-fuck undead now? Before it’s too late?

The Friday Question: Scary stuff

October 24, 2008

Charlie Brooker’s much-anticipated zombie homage / Big Brother parody ‘Dead Set‘ is on our screens on Monday and Hallowe’en is just around the corner. It’s generally a time of year when the channels stick a load of old horror films on, into the night, in a half-hearted nod to the time of year.

The scariest things I’ve ever seen in TV haven’t been late night horror films, however. They’ve been from far less likely sources.

Stranger danger adverts that should really have been laughable, ‘Charley Says‘ miaowing like some freaky banshee, anything by The Children’s Film Foundation… I wasn’t a particularly nervous child but all of these things gave me the willies.

So – think back and let us know…

What TV stuff has scared you silly?

NewsGush: CBB + Mini Me = Good TV?

October 7, 2008

According to DigitalSpy (who actually know about this stuff, rather than just picking it up and ranting about it like us), that little fellow who was in Austin Powers is going to be in Celebrity Big Brother next year.

Channel 4 are reviving the format after the race row incident put them in hot water all that time ago, and we’ll once again be invited to watch has-beens as they do nothing.

Hurrah!

According to DS, other stars in talks with Endemol are:

  • Cliff Richard
  • Lembit Opik
  • Whitney Houston

Admittedly, of all these kinds of shows, Celebrity Big Brother is the most entertaining because we get to see stuff like this. And witness nasty goings on like this.

But, as with the pleb version, surely even it’s most ardent followers must think that the enterprise has run out of steam?

NewsGush – Dead Set

August 27, 2008

An update on that Charlie Brooker thing can be found below…

Click

Personally, I’d say an appearance from Davina McCall and former Big Brother contestants automatically devalues it, but time will tell. No doubt Aisleyne will get plenty of airtime in Brooker’s bewildering, ongoing campaign to get her work…

Vanity Lair

April 14, 2008

Kasey

Now don’t get me wrong, readers. I quite like Alexa Chung. She’s from the Miquita Oliver stable of young female presenters who are at once quick-witted, affable and presentable. Offscreen they’re probably monsters (and I have it on good authority that Oliver acted like a twat in a West End Wagamama once, flouncing about shouting into her mobile), but they have onscreen charm and I liked ’em when they first appeared.

Harder to like them now. In Oliver’s case, she’s apparently been demoted to the lowly position of being Steve Jones’ stooge. His barrage of unfunny, clunky spiel makes T4 unwatchable, compounded by the fact that the Sunday morning hangoverathon features nothing but Hollyoaks repeats, Friends repeats and crap like Smallville. It also features ‘Vanity Lair‘ – a Big Brother style reality gameshow extravaganza. Alexa Chung presents this show, coming in at supposedly crucial points to set tasks for the ‘housemates’, lowering any kudos she may have attained beforehand, be it from her likable charm or the fact she hangs out with vaguely cool pop stars.

This gameshow / reality nightmare has rules which, after watching both the opening episode and the final episode, I still find pretty much impossible to fathom. Chung sets them tasks and, from what I can gather, their attractiveness is ascertained based on their performance in these little mind-games.

But it’s stupid. Completely and utterly stupid. As with Big Brother, all of those involved are failed or wannabe models who’ve all walked straight out of Gap via Toni & Guys with their stupid just-gone-out-of-date haircuts and togs, as thick as pigshittle and dripping in irrelevant bullshit. Not one of them is in the slightest way attractive. Even any surface, God-given beauty is masked by smug grins, vacant, gorm-free eyes and enough foundation to drown a foal. They are a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with one section of our uneducatable, celebrity-worshipping youth. Sadly, that demographic who always seem to make it onto the TV.

Why do we never see smart teenagers and early 20-somethings on the TV? I’m sure they exist. Instead, Channel 4 lines up the thickest bunch of deadbeats and shoves them through the E4 mangle so we’re presented with a seemingly endless parade of fuckwitted juvenile twats, day-upon-day… and it’s not on.

Even worse, Chung refers to the contestants as ‘beautiful people’. It’s clearly scripted, but does she not lose sleep over going on TV and referring to clearly clueless grotesques such as these as ‘beautiful people’? I know I would. You look for an ironic twinkle in her eye – some sort of indication that her heart’s not in it or she’s playing it for laughs. But there’s nothing there. Not a jot of self-awareness. She’s turning up, doing it and getting paid. 

Even worse, the ‘beautiful’ people’s attractiveness is worked out based on what their fellow contestants think of them. So you have unattractive people judging other unattractive people on how attractive they are. No wonder this shit-heap went under everyone’s radar. For something to be bad, it has to at least have a concept behind it. When something’s as meaningless as Vanity Lair, as chaotic and pointless, viewers can’t even form judgement on it. They just wait for it to fucking end before they can get on with their lives.

To top it all, the ugliest, most sneeringly awful Johnny Borrell-alike bell end won it.

Don’t expect a second season.

Skins

April 4, 2008

Skins 2 

Lordy me. 

LORDY ME.

What’s happening in Skins at the moment, eh? Or more correctly, what isn’t happening in Skins? They are busy little bees at present. In a quick rundown we currently have:

  • Jal’s pregnancy to fit-Skin Chris, shortly before he is swooshed off in an ambulance with a secret brain tumour of the hereditary kind.
  • Sid and psycho-Skin Cassie are back together after Cassie’s flirtation with being an accidental prostitute and a lesbian. A lesbitute if you will.
  • Tony and Michelle restarting their relationship after Michelle and Sid’s short-lived romance – key phrase “You’re the only man to ever make me come, Sid” – poor old Tony having that broadcast on E4.
  • Anwar finishing his relationship with gay-skin Maxxie’s stalker, Sketch, after looking in a mirror and realising she’d been cunningly turning him into the Asian version of Maxxie, blond locks and all.
    Maxxie with a new boyfriend, cue scary looks from Sketch.
  • Effie, Tony’s fifteen year old sister, adding to her pocket money through the medium of drug-dealing.
  • A-Levels. 

I am a bit worried about the A-Levels thing. Does this mean that series three (and there will be a series three; they are currently inviting all and sundry to open auditions on the Skins website. Could I pass for an 18-year old Bristolian? Maybe one who’s had a very hard life) will be set in halls of residences around the country? The Skins must never leave Bristol. Never. Maybe they could all go to Bristol University and UWE. That would solve it nicely. Sorted.

In my last review, I pondered which ageing comedian might be wheeled on next, after appearances from Harry Enfield and Bill Bailey in the first episode. Well, the casting people should be patting themselves on the back. Not all ageing, and not all comedians, but so far I’ve spotted Josie Lawrence, Peter Capaldi, Josie Long (playing a Careers Adviser, which is sort of what I do, and I love her, so it is obviously a sign of our impending union) and Shane Richie (playing the drama teacher directing the school’s production of ‘Osama: The Musical’)… the list goes on. Well it sort of stops there, but still more impressive than *spits* Hollyoaks.

In other Skins-related news, I was in London with some drunk people recently, and one of them pointed at me and shouted “CHRIS FROM SKINS” in my face. I was momentarily quite chuffed, until I remembered I am a thirty-year old woman. I can sort of see the resemblance though in a round-faced Somerset-farmer kind of way… maybe I will go to those auditions after all.