Thursday, February 23, 2012

Big Fat Gypsy Weddings 2

The series returned to UK screens a couple of weeks ago, and there was a good deal more of this:

Yes, that's right, a pineapple and a palm tree. Beautiful dresses, aren't they? Elegant.

But there's also been a bit of a furore this week with the wider traveller community answering back to what they see as negative stereotyping. Pip McKenzie, a Romani gypsy wrote an open letter to Channel 4 accusing them of inciting 'ethnic hatred'. The letter can be read on his blog:

Pip writes that, "We suffer from discrimination on a daily basis and our human rights have historically been violated, yet you deem it acceptable to broadcast a misleading 'documentary' that has been made not to raise awareness of our plight but for entertainment. We are not a joke, we are human beings and your work of fiction is only strengthening stereotypes and ignorance."

Channel 4 responded here:

The key point I think being that - "Despite your fear that people are watching the documentaries simply to laugh at Gypsies and Travellers, I think the films are celebratory and I hope never derogatory."

Interesting stuff. Are Channel 4 being disingenuous by saying that the films aren't made to laugh at Travellers? How do we account for their use of the comedy pizzicato music I noted in my blog last year ( if this is the case? How should we account for the fact that this blog entry regularly pulls in page views, and the fact that the documentary has become something of a world wide phenomena?

The problem is, I can't get enough of that programme, and seemingly neither can others. But we need to think about what we're engaging with here.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Big Brother vs. The Only Way is Essex.

Or 'reality TV' vs. 'some scenes have been set up purely for your entertainment'.

Look, I don't know shit about TV really, not in a sociological sense, but I do watch A LOT and it strikes me that there has been a major shift from the quite naive 'social experiment' reality TV of the early noughties and the more staged series' we have these days. Namely The Only Way is Essex and Made in Chelsea, the latter heavily influenced by America's The Hills.

I'm not stupid enough to think that reality TV was ever actually reality (just) but being able to compare Channel 5's exact replication of C4's Big Brother with TOWIE and MIC, it is patently clear that BB is an outmoded example of the genre. Oh Channel 5 thought they might be able to breathe life into the corpse by putting no-one over 30 into the house and plying them with alcohol, but, as anyone over the age of 30 knows, plying youngsters with alcohol makes them snog and cry. Uncomfortable viewing.

I'm obviously massively into both TOWIE and MIC. How could I not be? There's just so much HAIR.



Not sure.

TOWIE, my favourite of the two, is undeniably funny. But I'm not sure how I feel about the heavy staging of "new" reality. It's so clear when the scenes have been set up 'purely for our entertainment' and it's on these occasions that the programmes are least entertaining. Yes, BB is boring, but aren't people a bit boring? Is boredom preferable to insincerity? Will I stop writing this post so that I can watch the TOWIE which has just started? Yes I will.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares

Gordon Ramsay eats a disappointing meal at a restaurant. He is angry. He uncovers a dysfunctional (familial) relationship among its owners. Ramsay observes a dinner service, stealing off at some point for a closer look at food storage. This is inadequate. Ramsay shouts angrily at the owner(s) and shuts retaurant down. Angrily. The chef is sacked. Ramsay designs a new menu for the big reopening. New chef struggles a bit initially but ultimately triumphs = every Kitchen Nightmares ever.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Celebrity Apprentice USA (2008!)

Lord knows, I love The Apprentice. Lord knows, I love celebrities. And in the States they don't just use this potent combination for a one-off charity spin-off, but afford business-minded famous people entire weeks of TV. Let's take a look at The Celebrity Apprentice USA.

Relatively, the whole series is better than ours because the big boss man is Donald Trump who's an actual, proper businessman with his own skyscraper, as opposed to a shonky, jumped-up, market trader with the title Lord of Hackney. Also, the joke of the surname never wears thin. In terms of advisers, Trump keeps it in the family, employing his son and his daughter. So it's run by a whole load of Trumps.

Re Mr Trump, Jr., a picture says a thousand words, I think. Re Ivanka, well, she's okay, I like her. She's seems clever, switched-on...of course, she's a woman in business so the men talk over her the entire time. But she's no Margaret Mountford. Who is?

There's some fairly big names involved this series, like Lennox Lewis. I'll run through a few of the most interesting ones:

Gene Simmons -

Gene Simmons is a sexist, arrogant twat who looks like Frankenstein's monster in Norman Bate's mother's wig.

Piers Morgan -

Morgan seems compelled to prove that every single Hollywood stereotype of the duplicitous, underhand, double-dealing Brit is in fact correct. In his case, a former newspaper editor who faked up front-page photos and has recently been implicated in the phone hacking scandal, it evidently is. But otherwise I think it's time America let the whole War of Independence thing go.

Tito Ortiz -

A walking potato

Marilu Henner -

Seeing Marilu Henner again plunged me straight back into my amorphous childhood sexuality and the fact that I vaguely fancied her/wanted to be her when she was in Taxi. In that sense she joins the unenvied pantheon of Adam Ant, Shakin' Stevens and Michael Knight who make up my psycho-sexual blueprint. Lucky girl.

Omarosa -

Apparently a reality star of some description who I've seen on Celebrity Apprentice in a former season. I wonder if the Celebrity Apprentice itself made her a reality star, in which case it's all getting a bit postmodern. I don't know how she swung the whole mono-name thing, but it seems a little presumptuous if you ask me.

Nely Galan -

I have no idea who she is. But imagine a cut-price J-Lo who was in a house fire, then had a further 50% off and was still consigned to the bargain bin, and you're getting close.

Stephen Baldwin is also in it, but I don't want to waste any more of my wit on that god-bothering little ponce after Celebrity Big Brother 2010.

Conclusion: it's all very watchable and we have to watch something before the big move of Big Brother to Channel 5, don't we? About which I am intrigued, if not excited. I'll let you know my thoughts soon.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

OMG! With Lily Geldof

Mouth agape last night. MOUTH AGAPE. I'm going to come back to this mess

in another blog.

Suffice to say that it was 'lives of the rich and famous daughters' on Channel 4 and ITV2 last night, as viewers got to choose between the produce of Geldof and Yates' ill-judged 80s rut, or the offspring of Keith Allen and some woman who doesn't even seem to LIKE her daughters. But then, would you?

It really was a case of OMG! with these two twats. Lily Allen came across as spoiled and bossy and gauche, and these were just the most prominent of a whole HOST of undesirable personal qualities. For instance, like a simpleton, Allen laughs uproariously after almost EVERY THING that she says. Apparently the funniest person in the world for Lily Allen is Lily Allen. The programme followed Lily and her sister's philanthropic mission to set up a business giving us mere mortals a taste of their couture lifestyles. Lucy In Disguise (shit name) will allow plebs to hire designer dresses for a night or two.

An hour of these two little arseholes demonstrating time and time again how divorced they were from the 'current economic climate' ensued. The best bit of the doc was when Mary Portas confronted the privileged siblings with a few facts about the sort of money they thought their customers had available versus the reality of most people's lives. But it wasn't enough for the penny just to drop for Lily. She had to state, "Well, yeah, I suppose I can just go and spend £2000 and it means NOTHING to me, but it's not the same for others." No it's not, Lils, NO IT'S NOT. But the galling thing was when she dared to suggest that she has money fears and worries to equal that of the public who buy her records. She spoke of her fear of going to cash point and "finding there was nothing there"...or 'the end of the month' as everyone else calls it.

The interesting aspect of this documentary is going to be how the story of the Allen sister, Sarah, unfolds. It's clear to see that Sarah has a dark heart and a fetid soul. It's written all over her. Witness this offguard moment.

Ugh. There's just something really mean about her. At one point she came back from a 'business trip' sniffing and jittery and coked up and it became clear that she's going to fritter her sister's fortune away on a habit disguised as a business - you see, Sarah thinks it's really cool that she's partied 'two decades' away. She's like the Charlie Sheen of the Primrose Hill set.

Can't wait to see how this one pans out over the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


The best programme by a country mile on TV in 2010 was Swingtown, an exploration of the sexual anomie brought on by suburban boredom in 1970s America, starring Molly Parker and Jack Davenport among others. Like The Ice Storm but without the nuance, stunning aesthetic or complex performances.

Swingtown posits that every female during the era looked like a bargain basement Sissy Spacek.

My fella and I largely became addicted to this programme on the basis of Jack Davenport's APPALLING Amercian accent. From week to week we could barely wait to see what parts of the script he would murder next in a generalised US drawl. He was obviously so self-conscious of how bad it was that sometimes he just didn't bother at all. Witness the phrase 'out and about' in the clip below:

You'll note Davenport's characteristic performance mode in the clip is smug; as if a leering conceitedness will detract from his foundational failure to adequately portray an American. You will also note that every weekend is Studio 54 time in Swingtown. The plethora of cliche and stereotypes in the show was mind-boggling. The one thing it was missing was sex - strange for a show which titularly entices through suggested orgies. Don't be fooled by images like this:

It was more like this:

But with flares.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Big Fat Gypsy Weddings

About time I addressed this sure-fire hit from C4 which enjoyed the third documentary of the series last night. I always get excited on Tuesdays that it's on, but actually found myself a bit bored by the end of yesterday's episode, wondering how much more they could say about this particular minority. The constants in each episode have been a repressive gender formation in which female travellers do the housework while the men bring home the bacon, and the hilarity of the tacky weddings of the traveller youth (I mean youth. The girls are all aged between 16-22) - the key joke being the huge, ridiculous, fairytale/Disney/burlesque/sex show dresses.

The dresses sum up the paradox of traveller femininity. The girls are sexually oppressed; forbidden from having pre-marital sex which leads to teenage marriage and such cultural activities as 'grabbing' (females being dragged off by males and coerced - sometimes violently - into giving up kisses). At the same time, the clothes and the dancing and everything else that surrounds adolescent courtship is hyper-sexual and overt. And it's not just adolescents...we've seen tiny little girls bumping and grinding. Imagine Princess Price bogling.

Actually don't.

Herein lies the problem. The viewpoint of the audience is clearly imperialistic. In line with a thousand other C4 'documentaries' we are expected to laugh at this economic underclass and their funny ways, and we are encouraged to do so by the ubiquitous 'plinky plonky', pizzicato, comedy-doc music constantly (and tiresomely) used to turn media subjects into laughing stocks.

The other problem is that we've been shown no resistance, no challenge to the overarching sexism of traveller ideology. The closest we've come was last night's Violet-Ann who managed to hold off marriage until 22 through working, and so was granted a longer period of independence before the inevitable role of housewife and mother. Let's hope that Violet-Ann doesn't marry a Violent Man.

But there is no hope really, not according to what C4 are showing us. There's no space for change. Racism has hardened the cultural mores of this group and made them cling on to their difference from settled people. That traveller doctrine is so entrenched makes this rather gloomy to watch. And in the absence of really critical journalism, I'm finding the condescending 'gaze' uncomfortable.

Not that there haven't been jaw dropping moments, like the revelation that 50% of gypsies have a a life expectancy of <50. Now that is something about which questions should be asked. That, and WHAT THE HELL do travellers do with those wedding dresses after the big day? There's no room for them in a caravan! Is there a warehouse somewhere full of gypsy wedding dresses? I need answers!